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fresco_rescue 

Hello,

I hope you are enjoying the story so far. Part 3 is below. You will need to have read Part 1 and Part 2 to follow the story. Click on their links here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Enjoy Part 3.

Four or so hours earlier…….

Choice. Decisions. The stuff of life. Without them we would not possess happiness, sadness, regret or relief. And without these we would not experience life.

Everyday we exercise free will to determine the shape, pattern and direction of our days. Perhaps these events are of the nondescript kind, such as buying a Tuna and Sweetcorn sandwich at Taunton station.  He used to buy her Tuna and Sweetcorn sandwiches.

But being free to choose when for so long his actions have been scrutinised, monitored, prescribed, reviewed, sanctioned and judged, is a small step to the symmetrical world of decision and sanity.

Along with the sandwich, he had bought a packet of ready salted crisps for the long journey to Durham. Six hours give or take.

He  returned to Father Stephen who was checking the departure board. He hummed the now familiar tune of “Welcome Home” The Peters and Lee classic.

“Good choice. That should keep  you going until you reach Durham. Got your ticket?”

“Yes.” He patted the breast pocket of his overcoat.

The train arrived.

“Got your ticket?”

Yes,”

Father Stephen shook his hand vigorously.

“Well, good luck David. It’s been a pleasure to work with you. You have my number in case you need to talk but I will see you in two weeks in any case.  I won’t wave you off. I haven’t bought a ticket for the car park. Father Sidney will meet you at Durham. Give him this letter. It contains the terms of your rehabilitation up there. Safe journey.”

“Thank you. For everything.”  Both men flushed. David placed the letter in his jacket.

He boarded the train and found his seat. A table seat. Good.  A woman and a young boy sat opposite. David and the woman smiled the cautious pre-emptive smile of strangers thrown together. The child was engrossed in colouring in a picture. Clowns by the look of them. White faces and red noses. As a child, the Priest had always been afraid of the menace that lurked behind that make up.

After a short struggle, he managed to stow his case in the overhead shelf and settled in his seat, catching her eye again. Once more they smiled weakly at each other. The train pulled away. There was no sign of Father Stephen. He really was eager to avoid a fine.

David unwrapped his sandwich.

He thought of first time he had met Stephen as he bustled into David’s room/cell clutching a lever arch file. He paid scant attention for the first twenty minutes or so. This was unsettling.

His angular, busy face scanned the file notes, humming “Welcome Home” as he did so. Occasionally an eyebrow would arch at a particular detail in the file, or he would take a deepish breath after reading another snippet.  Finally he spoke in a broad Mancunian accent.

“Father Patterson, I am Father Stephen Joseph, the Society’s chief counsellor. You can call me Father Stephen, Father Joseph or anything you like really as long as it does not contain profanity.”

He  was not thinking that. He was only thinking when he would be given his Methadone.

Stephen  continued,  “Heroin addiction is very rare. Thankfully. Alcoholics, Manic Depressives and Pederasts I see plenty of, but Class A drug addicts? I believe you’re the first one I’ve dealt with.”

Where was his methadone?

“I must understand your own belief systems and those factors that underpin your faith. That is all. No more and no less. If and when I can address what committed you to a life of Christ and all that goes with that then I can, in all likelihood, find the key to rebuilding your spirituality, seek an explanation for your addiction and what led you down this path and the trouble with this…….Girl, Susan.” He studied her photo. His eyebrow arched once more.

David blanched at these words. He did not understand. Why should he? All he wanted was Methadone.

Father Stephen scribbled furiously into his notepad as he spoke. He tore the page out of the book, held it aloft and muttered, “Good legs, poor tail, that one’s not so bad.” He passed the drawing to him. It could have been one of several animals, but it was mammalian.

“Yes it is a mammal. That is a good start. Reptiles are a no-no for me I must say and as for amphibians? Don’t get me started.”

Thus the pattern was set. At the end of each of their sessions, David was handed a badly drawn animal to consider. They became a daily treat, blistering the routine of therapy and forced contemplation.

“Just think about this for tomorrow, tell me about this tomorrow,” and each morning at the start of their session they would spend five minutes discussing experiences of and feelings towards the animal so laughingly depicted.

He  admired this abstract method of communication. Clearly, Stephen  was not as intelligent as he, not many in the Society are, but his love of anecdotes, similes and metaphors made their sessions entertaining and at the very least an amiable distraction from the rote of addiction recovery and its physical manifestations or tortured abstraction.

“Is it a Gorilla?”

“No, it is a Goat. It’s not that bad is it?”

He wondered when his methadone would be sanctioned.

The train pulled into Temple Meads Station. The kerfuffle of humanity boarding and leaving the train took him by surprise. So much nervous energy expended on such mundane tasks. Life in all its glorious pointlessness. He had missed this.

Susan.  He would love to see her again, but the gagging clause in her contract with the Diocese made that impossible. What she thought of him now he could not begin to imagine. That was the worst part not being able to apologise. And to let her apologise to him.

In the six months he had known her, he had turned his back on his Vocation to instead live a life based upon the impossible pursuit of intellectual ecstasy via opiates. All to satisfy her.

He opened the slim volume of The Collected Essays of St Thomas Aquinas. As always the book fell open at the same spot,  “In such reading I find devotion, whence I readily ascend to contemplation”.

Thick bloated raindrops began to fall against the carriage window. It would be good to feel the rain on his face. The rhythm of the train moving over the tracks instilled a sense of calm in him.

Nine months cooped up in a room containing a bed, dressing table, chair, armchair and wardrobe. No mirrors, not even a carpet and a large black crucifix hanging over the bed. The only utensils allowed in the room were the small plastic beakers. Room searches on a weekly basis.

Part Monastery. Part Prison.

It felt inspired to be amongst people once more, revelling in the anonymity and freedom from inquisition. And carpet underfoot.

His mouth felt dry. He searched for a packet of mints in his jacket. As his hand searched he felt another container in the pocket. Small, made of leather with a button fastening. His rosary beads.

He opened the case. The beads nestled comfortably. He wondered. There it was. Wedged in the bottom of the case. Enough for one smoke, in an emergency. They must have missed it.

But was this a final test from Father Stephen? His possessions had been thoroughly searched. Two wraps had been removed from the lining of his jacket. Perhaps this one had slipped through. Perhaps, it is a sign. Designed to test his faith, his resolve to keep off smack for good.

Stephen had provided him with the platform to refute her doltish advances in the future. His mental strength was such that the addiction could be controlled via a combination of  intellect, strength of will and methadone.

But.

Nobody would know.

He knew he could give up any time he wished. He had proved that in the clinic. He had stopped smoking to. He popped the case button shut and returned it his pocket.

One more time?

Maybe.

Why not? I love it.

Don’t. Think of the struggle you have been through.

But the struggle shows that I can overcome it. Use it to my advantage. To reach God in that uncluttered manner.

Besides I love it.

“In such reading I find devotion, whence I readily ascend to contemplation”.

There it was again. The symmetry between free will and choice. Only this was a choice for good. For the benefit of his spiritual self. His devotion.

Fuck it.

He stood up and made his way to the toilet. The child scribbled with a toddler’s delicacy of touch and his mother, who was reading a magazine, gently stroked the boy’s back.

He glimpsed at the clowns. He and the mother smiled once more.

He recalled watching clowns on a Saturday Night Variety programme with his parents as a child. They had scared him. But he never expressed this fear. It had been a silent upbringing in so many ways.

The sign on the toilet door indicated it was occupied. But then it opened.  An old man stepped out, clattering the toilet door with a walking stick as he left. They smiled as they passed each other.

A number of sodden hand towels littered the floor. He closed and locked the door, flipped the toilet seat down and sat. The frailties returned. The guilt returned. Why was he so fragile? Weak? He needed to distance himself from these feelings. He double checked that the door was locked.

He loves it.

He  retrieved the case, removed the beads and held the wrap of heroin. The train rattled over a set of points.

Fuck it.

The heated tinfoil reduced the brown powder to an oily residue. He watched the transformation from powder to oil and thought of extreme unction. He placed the Biro casing in his mouth and drew in the fumes.

There was little reaction for a few seconds. Then the HIT.

He floated into an ether of peacefulness and stillness, sat back and let this balm cleanse. Even the train’s dullard voice failed to disturb him. It added to the intensity of the experience.  After months of enforced abstinence, the deep rich insights into the world of ecstasy and spiritual certainty returned.  His convictions were reconstituted into a set of sharp, focused reasoning’s that had eluded for so long. Tranquil subsidence and contentment seeped into him.  He began his ascent, like a glider released and tossed upon the thermals of his imagination. He was one with his soul again.

He Loves it.

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fresco_rescue

Hello!

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of the Story. Here is Part 2.

You will need to read Part 1 and can do so here!

The Priest – Part 2

She held out her hand. He noticed the self tattooed dots on each of her knuckles. He had asked her once what they represented. Her answer was, “Nothing. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” That summed her up. Live for the moment. To hell with consequences.  Not like him, a man who weighed each and every action before committing to it.

“I miss you,” he said, “Come back to me. I am nothing without you.”

She smiled. That gap toothed smile. Her green eyes sparkled. “Be still Father. Be still.” Her eyes, despite all that she had suffered still radiated kindness. Cramps rented him, but Susan remained.

“She’s come back for me!”

He had tried to help her. Find the heroin she needed. Give her life. If needs be with his life. He had started to buy it for her. To help her overcome her addiction. Get away from Luke her pusher and pimp. He could save her, his very own Magdalene.

He had found her in the Church on that distant Summer’s evening, asleep on one of the pews sporting a black eye and split lip.  Her visitation was a sign. He was sure of that.

A sign that his duty was to help her. Through his faith and his magnanimity. But it would also prove to be a test of faith. A test that he had failed. The wrap of foil and the smoke stained Biro casing lying on the floor attested to that.

At first he left her food. Sandwiches,  Tuna and Sweet corn or Cheese and Pickle. Mars Bars.  Coffee even though she preferred Coke. He began to leave small amounts of money, loose change from his pockets,  a fiver now and then.

He had asked about her parents. There were none. She was taken into care as a baby. Her mum was dead. Heroin she thought. Couldn’t be sure. Didn’t care either way.

He had told her about the night shelter in the Town Centre, but she didn’t want to go back there. Too dangerous. Besides, she liked being alone. Something a Care System never allowed. People prying into her business, her “welfare” when the only people who ever took interest in her were the men who wanted to groom and pimp her.

Here in the Church, she was alone. Safe. After all that is what churches were at the end. Havens.

She would return to Luke each morning and earn the money to pay for the heroin he sold her, but at least it was safe here in the church. And after all, she told the Priest,  one day Luke wouldn’t come looking for her and she would be free then. Then she could make some choices about her life.

The Priest was uncertain at first. It wasn’t his job. He wasn’t a Social Worker or trained in this world. He had had a quiet word with Detective Inspector O’Leary, a parishioner. “Watch her, she’s trouble that one. If you want I will sort her out for you.”

It was not the reply he had been expecting. A tad harsh. The girl was a victim of fate or at least circumstance. He should help her. More to the point he could help her. Demonstrate to her the love of His God for all people.

The train began to move. Station lights bled through the opaque glass. He tried to read the station sign but couldn’t. He threw some cold water on his face. The shock was welcome. He was on a train heading to Durham. Good, he was beginning to feel in control again.

Luke. A spindly urchin of feral design and mindset, who reeked of cannabis and Lynx body spray. At first, he was aggravated by a Priest interfering in his affairs. The Girl was popular. Cheap to run and earned him more than the other girls. He would be mad to let her go. Not until she was spent and the punters wouldn’t want her anymore. Couple of years away at least. Then she could just fuck off and the Priest would be welcome to her.

The Priest spent a month caring for her, leaving the sandwiches, drink and money. He had even sought out Luke to score for her. Small amounts to  help her wean herself off the stuff. On the third occasion, Luke had said to him, “Try it Father? I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. You seem the sort. You lot always need something to cling to.”

He refused the offer. Naturally. Heroin was dangerous. Evil. Like the asp in the Garden of Eden. At first he was impervious to its mendacious whisperings, but the voice grew louder and attached itself to him, wrapped itself around his sub-conscious.  He now saw it as a test of his faith. And if it would bring him to a closer understanding of the Girl’s struggles, then that could only be a good thing. He had given up smoking and knew he had the strength of will to refute the narcotic’s siren advances

He smoked it. Luke showed him how. He reminded himself it was to get closer to her suffering and understand what agonies she must be enduring. Why she needed to escape her life.

He had enjoyed it.

No.

He loved it.

Fuckin’ loved it.

It instilled the peace his restless mind had always sought and brought him closer to a God who had become distant in the past few years. He forgot about her, Luke and everything else he had concerned himself with.

Heroin loved him and helped God find him again. Intellectually as well as spiritually. He had craved this insight all his life and the Girl, as if a messenger had shown him the way to enlightenment.

Luke was right.

Blackmail is a cruel trick to play.  But Luke being a shrewd business man knew that extorting a priest for two hundred a week was a much easier way to earn than scoring, pimping or robbing. He granted Susan one  night a week off as part payment. “Fair deal, your holiness!” he said without a glimmer of irony.

The train drew to a halt at another station. Through the frosted glass he made out the  comings and goings of other passengers. The train cranked and cussed as straining metal cooled.

Susan stroked his cheek. How could she have been oblivious to his feelings for her? If  he had heard once “I love you Father,” it would have been enough, even a simple thank you would have sufficed.

No, no that was wrong. He had not sought or played for the girl’s affections, she was the one at fault not he. She must have understood his life as a priest, his celibacy and his devotion to the poor rather than himself. Through his haze, he felt anger rise.

Good, an emotion. The drugs were beginning to abate.

No, it was plain to him now that she only saw him as an amusement. A conduit. Less risky, an idealistic fool who supplied her drugs for free, kept her from the clutches of Luke and the punters who beat her. Let her sleep in the church. She probably thought he was a perv. The Bitch.

Where was he? What was he doing here? Who is this girl smiling down at me?

“You have to go Susan. Can’t you see you led me to this?” She withdrew her hand. The  smile tipped from her face and in its place a scowl darkened her gaunt features. She was at fault. If only he had never met her. If only he had not taken Confession that night in the Church.

Did she not see that in this confined space, her Christian duty and duty as a woman, was to help him? What was she doing here anyway? She didn’t belong here.

She faded and the warmth of her touch returned to being a memory.

“Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Please.”

She did not reply.

Again there was a knock on the door. “Are you alright in there?” The voice outside displayed some concern.

“Yes, yes, sorry,” He replied. Guilt was his companion now. The opiate rush dulled further. The anger and confusion were replaced by the crimson shame. It had been so easy to succumb to his addiction once more. It had not been conquered, merely fettered for those months of rehabilitation.

He stood.  Stronger this time. Good. The train jerked forward. He fell towards the wash hand basin, wrapping left knuckles in the process. The pain was welcome. Real.

He opened the door and gingerly stepped out, expecting to be confronted by the impatient voice that had been knocking earlier. There was no-one there.

He cast a glance backwards. The foil wrapper lay on the floor by the flush pedal and the smoke charred pen case lay at an angle to it.

He began the unsteady journey back to his seat, stumbling into other passengers as he did so, earning agitated glances. He mumbled apologies, his pallid features and sweat matted hair presenting a disturbing, deranged portrait to other passengers who averted their gaze.

He was thankful that he would never see these people again. Thankful not to be wearing his priest’s garb.

The train slowed. The scent of asbestos lined brakes filled the carriage.

He inhaled deeply. The carbonated taste of the air brought him back to his current location.  He estimated that he had been in the cubicle for nearly four hours. The Guard announced that they were now approaching York station.

He moved through the carriage trying to remember where he had sat. Several rows away he saw a young boy furiously colouring a drawing. He remembered. He had been sitting opposite the boy and his mother.

“Look mummy, I’ve finished!” The child held up his crayon scrawl for his mother to view. She praised the boy and shot an uncertain glance at the catatonic man now sitting opposite her.

The boy sat back with a furrowed look on his face before saying, “It’s a pig mummy can’t you tell?”

“Of course it is Jake.”

“Oink! Oink!” the little boy said gleefully. His mother laughed to. She tidied the pile of coloured pictures the boy had completed on the journey. The Priest’s eyes scanned them and noticed the clowns faces peering up at him. The boy had been colouring in that one when he had left them. White faces and red noses.

A residue of vomit had collected in the corner so his mouth. He pulled out a tissue and wiped it clean. He felt his Rosary Beads in the pocket too. A memory. Of only a few hours ago. Four hours.

He thought back to the final session with Father Stephen,

“Your own conceits and half baked assumptions about your own intellectual rigour and proximity to the seat of God were your undoing David. Most people turn to God in times of personal or national crisis. You on the other hand turned to God to seek adulation.”

“I always thought I was different Stephen, somehow set apart from everyday life. I was created for something else.”

“David, accept what you have been given and revel in that. Lose this self deluding notion of saintliness and you can still offer something to God, the Church and people.”

David ruminated on Fr Stephen’s belligerent assessment. He could admit to being a little self obsessed, he had the treatment to thank for that, but he was surprised that Stephen could still not see how different he was to everybody else.

 

Part 3 Tomorrow……

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fresco_rescue

Hello!

Something different this week. A much longer, darker short story which will go out in 4 parts (So I can focus on other things!) – hope you enjoy it and look forward to your comments.

The Priest – Part 1.

He had forgotten.

He lay on the toilet floor. Time; Relative or absolute? Time along with choice are our most precious possessions. A luxury we are all afforded.

The train rumbled onwards.  At first, its mechanical voices were welcome, amplifying freedom and the beckoning ability to choose once again. But now the chatter irked.

How long had he been in here? What was he doing here? Where was the train taking him? Why was he locked in the toilet? He was confined once again. The train rumbled on. He was powerless.

The vision; Where had it come from?  Standing in a church pulpit casting down on a garishly dressed congregation of alabaster models, their faces obscured by fluorescent light, impervious to this impassioned vision of his God. The finest sermon he had ever given. Probably too clever for this congregation.

Only one face revealed itself as he spoke. An elderly man who tapped his stick on the church flagstones in a shiftless, artless fashion as the Sermon enunciated the joys of forgiveness and fortitude to this catatonic congregation.

He began to laugh and cajoled the other  lifeless figures to join him in applauding the words. None did. Instead, The alabaster figures grew into bloated, distended shapes. Sores and weal’s fixed themselves to their skins. But they remained motionless.

The old man spoke, “Bravo, Father David, Bravo. Such success in preaching cant to your flock.  I now count myself as one of your disciples. How temperate you are. How prudent! Your faith, your precious sacrosanct, conceited faith. I come to claim that faith from you Priest.”

The Priest was confused. What had he had done to deserve this?

“You already know the answer. For your own glory, your own sense of destiny, you have aborted your faith.” The old man melted from view.  The priest remained still, silent. He heard a noise.

Someone was knocking on the toilet door. The door handle moved rapidly up and down. Were they were coming for him? A wraith of fear gripped him. Thankfully the knocking stopped and the handle was becalmed.

Thirst. He stood but his legs could barely support his weight. Where was he? Panic. He had no control. No choice. He vomited.

Again there was  a knocking at the door. More insistent this time. Fear returned. His heart raced. Again he threw up, a dry, incessant heave.

He was alone, isolated from a world that had never understood him and shunned him. Only the toilet door protected him from this harsh world.  He wished he was back in his room and his choices were made for him.

The train stopped. Its clanking, harsh voices returned to torment him as it idled in rest.

For a fleeting moment, the heroin had reconfirmed his genius. Cooled the scratching madness in his mind’s eye. He could depend on it as always.

He had found Peace.

He realised he was not alone. She was there.

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Hello,

With Bill Clinton on the stump, we have unearthed several remarkable photos showing how Monica’s Lewinsky’s dress complete with spill, became haute couture amongst the great and the good a few years ago.

You couldn’t make it up! (But we did) You can see some here! and here!

Is that Mother Theresa wearing Monica’s Dress?

Good God!

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We welcome Agnes DuPont to tell us more about her previous lives!!!!!! Her first instalment can be read here

To connect with previous lives, Agnes eats cheese.

PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME AS CHEESE IN THE WRONG HANDS CAN BE LETHAL.

Hello People,

A few years ago I spent a most enjoyable fortnight as Albert Einstein. It was great being brainy for a while.

During my time as Albert Einstein I discovered that light has slowed down a bit. This is good news for all those who rely on torches to see in the dark as the batteries will last longer.

The formula E=MC2? It doesn’t mean anything. Albert just thought the letters sounded nice when arranged like that. Apparently it could have been P=KF2 – too clunky in his opinion.

I also invented the dashes to add to the dots in Morse Code which up to that point hadn’t worked very well. As you can see, —…— tells a whole different story!

Yep, It Was Fun Being Albert Einstein.

You may think I am a fantasist who eats cheese late at night……….I would beg to differ. I was there.

Regards,

Agnes

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Tending My Frock

Dear Oily,

I am a Catlick priest here in Conemememarrarara. However I am having a severe crisis of conscience. Namely, can a real man ever look good in one of those big dressy frock thingys we have to wear? 

Fr Eugene, Knock 

 

Oily Replies;

Hi Eugene,

You know wearing a dress can be very liberating. However it is very important that in doing so you remember 3 things.

Firstly, apply the correct eyeliner (demon black).

Secondly, ensure your buttocks are shaved at all times.

Thirdly always go Commando.

This will give you the confidence to give good sermon of a Sunday.

It helps your freedom of expression. I hope this has helped. Now go get ’em rolling in the pews.

Yours reverendly.

Brother Oily (I’m C of E by the way)

 

 

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The train hurtled west toward Exeter.

The buffet manager had just announced the unavailability of hot drinks or hot snacks due to his “nerves being at him”. This proved disappointing news for a number of passengers desperate for a cuppa.

Except one.

For train journeys, Sidney Sheldon always carried a thermos flask with him. Partly from experience of defunct buffets but also due to his parsimonious nature.

The woman opposite him, thirsty, tired and irritable watched as retired Civil Servant Sidney, poured a cup of coffee for himself. He sipped, savouring the chicory taste and looked out of the carriage window. The train sped past a field. In the field were sitting a herd of cows.

Rain on the way, Sidney thought to himself.

The cows watched the diesel leviathan thunder past and hove out of sight.

“It’s gone. Fooled them again!” lowed Melinda, the matriarch of the herd and champion milk producer. The cows stood up and wandered to the north west corner of the field.

“Are you alright Buttercup?” Melinda asked.

“It’s me guts,” Buttercup replied, “Last night’s curry has gone right through me.” A mountain of slurry emitted from her back passage, “Careful where you walk everyone.”

“So, who thinks Bolt will win the one hundred metres?” Melinda asked. A number of the herd mooed appreciatively.

“Blake?” Fewer moos.

“Gay?” One or two foolhardy souls gave their support.

“Powell?” Silence, save for the buzzing of a few flies. “He’s a bottle merchant,” Buttercup muttered dismissively.

“Can I ask a question Melinda?” It was Cindy the three week old calf, who a few minutes earlier had managed to jam her head between the bars of the field’s gate.

“Certainly Cindy.”

“Why do we have tails?”

“Tails?”

“Yeah.”

The herd looked amongst each other.  No-one had ever thought to ask this question before. They then turned to Melinda. If anyone knew, she would.

“Why do you ask?”

“Well I’ve seen foxes, horses, dogs and even that old tomcat around the farmyard. They all run fast, use their for balance. We don’t run fast or even run for that matter. So why do we have tails? And why are the pigs tails all curly? And why are sheeps tails so small?”

“Have you heard of Darwin’s theory of Evolution?” Melinda said with authority.

“No” replied Cindy, “Mum’s a Creationist.”

“Right. Ok. We will talk later. First things first though. The 15.28 to Paddington is due. Everyone to their positions!”

The herd retraced their steps to their allotted spaces and lay down for a spot of Bovine japery. Clementine and Maude even laid on their backs with their legs in the air!

Onboard the 15.28 Audrey Tordrey sat in first class bemoaning the fact that there was no trolley service due to “recent relationship difficulties”. She was weighing up whether to walk to the buffet and claim her free beverage and snack of choice.

She stared out of the window as the train sped past a field. In the field were a herd of cows. All were sitting save for two who were lying on their backs with their legs in the air.

Lucky I brought my brolly, Audrey thought.

The cows watched the diesel leviathan thunder past and hove out of sight.

As Melinda pondered Cindy’s question, there was a kerfuffle from the direction of the gate. She heard Cindy cry out, “Mum! Mum! I’ve got my head stuck again!”

Melinda swished her tail and pondered the mysteries of life.

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