The 29th of February

For three years this day doesn’t exist.

If fact, there are all manner of jokes that can and have been made about today.

Like, do people who are born on this day only have a birthday party once every four years, and, for a 20-year-old, you don’t look a day over 80!!

It seems to be a pivotal day, this year, for a variety of reasons.

The first, we’re sitting on the precipice of a worldwide health disaster brought on by something called the coronavirus.

And, no, I’m not talking about THAT brand of beer.

Some people are calling it a pandemic, some are saying its arrival in their country is inevitable, and others are saying it will not happen.

North Korea, of course, will be the only country that doesn’t have an outbreak.

Period.

It will be interesting to see what happens in America.

In Australia, we acknowledge its coming and are getting ready.   We’ve been rather good at keeping prests and bugs at bay for many years, but this one, this is a little trickier with its ease of transmission from carriers who don’t even know they have the virus.

But that’s probably the least of the problems.  With the financial markets in meltdown, we all sitting back and watching our retirement funds disappearing before our eyes.

This has happened before, fund managers ignoring the warnings and letting investors funds halve so that yesterday I had a million dollars and was looking comfortable in retirement, today, that’s only half a million, and not nearly enough.

And the markets are likely to sink lower as the fallout from the bug continues.

What happens when China (and Asia for that matter), where most of the world’s manufactured goods come from, completely come to a stop?

Panic buying, or panic in the streets?

I thought the Iran/America crisis was going to shut down the oil supply and cause problems.

It seems that a more simple problem, like a bug, is going to do a far better job of it.

And, what will the world be like next 29th of February in four years’ time?

Reality television, just why am I watching this stuff?

If I was ever in doubt that there was one medium that could produce a thousand storylines, it’s watching reality television.

It is truly horrible, and is somewhat akin to a ‘train wreck’.  Why, then, do we watch it?  And why on earth am I watching it?

Currently, where I live, there was a show called ‘Married at first sight’.  Going by the title, you can guess the premise, two people are matched by ‘science’ (or perhaps by the number and size of the tattoos they have) and meet for the first time at the altar.  They then live together, with and without external influences for a number of weeks before deciding if they want to continue after the show ends.

As it happens, the experts here have yet to get it right in a number of series (or, I think they may have succeeded on one occasion).

Whilst the fact it looks to be scripted, a fact the Producers vehemently deny, it is impossible to wrap your head around some of the antics, and especially the words used by the ‘participants’.  Decent people do not ‘act’ in the manner of some of these people, and more often than not, several of the ‘participants’ are labeled by the public as ‘actors’.

I guess, in most reality television, ratings can only be achieved by controversy.

Certainly, the Twitterverse goes off after an episode, championing the good and railing into the bad.  Each will, good or bad, get their fifteen minutes of fame.

And, is it not surprising we have learned one of the participants is going to write a ‘no holds barred’ account of her time in the show, but given the fact all participants have to sign an NDA,  I don’t whether it will ever hit the bookstores.

I was considering doing the same, from an armchair perspective.   But, sadly, when I thought about it, it would never sell.  No one could believe or even identify with the antics these people get up to.

It’s the reason why Big Brother disappeared.

But, never fear, there’s a new disaster, I mean series, on TV called Love Island.  I’ve seen the promos.  Perhaps I should leave it at that!

Past conversations with my cat – 48

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This is Chester.  I’m not sure if we are still speaking.

For a few days now he has been skulking around the house, turning up, under my feet, without me knowing where he is.

This, I’m getting to understand, is his stealth mode, and to be honest, he’s getting quite good at it.

I’m wondering if this is because I told him to be seen but not heard, because in the last few days he’s been sitting by the back door, and making a lot of noise.

It’s unfortunate that several birds have decided to drop by every morning, and sit on the fence.  Perhaps they are doing the avian version of thumbing their noses at him.

Then, I thought it might be just another ruse to get outside, thinking that if he makes enough noise I just let him out to get some peace and quiet,

We’re now at the getting under my feet phase of the escape plan.

But…

With all plans, there is always a tiny wrinkle that comes out of left field and sends everything spiraling towards disaster.

Someone, someone who will remain nameless, left the back screen door slightly ajar, thinking they’d closed it.  It’s a little tricky that way, and I had been promising to fix it but hadn’t got around to it.

And, yes, Chester is clever enough to realize that a slight gap is all he needs, along with a few unsupervised moments.

And silence.

That’s what brought his cunning plan undone.  Days and days of annoying me, then suddenly nothing.  If it was a child you’d be immediately suspicious.  But a cat?

Damn straight.

He was half out the door as I caught him, just six inches from freedom.  Six inches.  And good living, because the gap was just not quite wide enough for him to squeeze through quickly.

Now we’re definitely not speaking!

 

“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

Now only $0.99 for a short time at https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums. Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

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“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way:  Editing becomes re-writing (2)

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section is the one that involves Annalisa, and her boyfriend, Simmo:

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her.

Simmo, the boy on the floor, had told her that the shopkeeper would be a pushover, he was an old man who’d just hand over the drugs, rather than cause trouble for himself.

Where Simmo had discovered what the shopkeeper’s true vocation, dispensing drugs to the neighborhood addicts, she didn’t know, but it was not the first place like this they had visited.

She had always known Simmo had a problem, but he had assured her he had it under control.  Until a month ago, when he had tried something new.

It had changed him.

The breaking point came earlier that day when, seeing how sick he was, she threatened to leave.  It brought out the monster within him, and he threatened to kill her.  Not long after he had changed into a whimpering child pleading with her to stay, that he hadn’t meant anything he’d said before.

All he needed was one more ‘score’ to get his ‘shit’ together, and he would do as she asked, and find help.

She believed him.

He said he knew a place not far from the apartment, a small shop where what he needed was available, and said he had the money.

That should have been the first sign he was not telling the truth because she had been funding his habit until her parents cut off the money supply.  She suspected her father had put a private detective on to find her, had, and reported back, and rather than make a scene, just cut her off so she would have to come home or starve.  Her father was no better than Simmo.

And, as soon as they stepped into the shop, Simmo pulled out the gun,

Instead of the shopkeeper cowered like Simmo said he would, he had laughed at them and told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won. 

That was just before the customer burst into the shop.

It had been shortly before closing time.  Simmo had said there would be no one else around.

Wrong again.

Now she had another problem to deal with, a man who was clearly as scared shitless as she was.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  There was a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth and Simmo was making strange sounds like he was choking.

Any other time she might have been concerned, but the hard reality of it was, Simmo was never going to change.  She was only surprised at the fact it took so long for her to realize it.

As for the man standing in front of her, she was safe from the shopkeeper with him around, so he would have to stay.

“No.  Stay.”

Another glance at the shopkeeper told her she had made the right decision, his expression said it all.  Gun or no gun, the moment she was alone with him, he would kill her.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

Writing about writing a book – Day 29

Still working on Chapter One.

It requires re-reading the previous writing and making sure there’s continuity.

 

It was my responsibility since I’d recommended it and then won the support of management over his objections, and following that it had become a point of continual contention, a petty war neither of us was going to win.

I tried to keep the joy out of my voice.  He’d also vetoed my recommendation for a full-time network engineer as my alternative, making my job become single point sensitive.  There was no one to replace me if anything went wrong.

“Sounds like you’re having fun.”  I had to work hard to keep the amusement out of my tone.

“Fun nothing.”  His tone was reaching that exasperation point.  “There is no one else.”

“Why did you approve my holiday if I can’t have one?” I’d stretch his patience just a little more.

“You promised me the network was stable.”

“It is, and has been for the last six months.  I’ve said so in my last six-monthly reports.  You have been reading them, haven’t you?”

Silence.  It said all I needed to know.

I had a choice sentence to deliver, but an ignominious thought popped into my head.  He could probably use this against me, and would if I gave him the opportunity.  Perhaps I should shelve my differences with him for this morning.

Aside from that, there was a shooting, and we didn’t get one of those every day.  Not that it would probably amount to very much.  During the previous week, the office grapevine had been working overtime on the rumor Richardson was having a relationship with one of the ladies in the Accounts department.  It was just the sort of scandal the data entry staff thrived on.

A shooting and a network failure.  I didn’t know which was worse.  Perhaps if it was Benton they’d shot, there might be some justice…

I decided not to argue with him.  “Give me an hour.”

“Half.  Aitchison wants to see you.”

Werner Aitchison was head of Internal Security and a man who took his job seriously.  Enough, that is, to annoy my staff, and me.  He was ex-military intelligence, so ‘they’ said, but he appeared to me like a man out of his depth in this new age of communications.  Computers had proliferated in our company over the last few years, and the technology to go with them spiraling out of control.

We dealt in billions via financial transactions processed on computers, computers which, we were told often enough, was insecure, and easily taken control of outside their environment.  Aitchison was paranoid, and rightly so, but he had a strange way of going about his business.  He and I had butted heads on many occasions, and we may have had our disagreements, but we were good friends and colleagues outside work.

Just in case Benton was accusing me, I said, as sincerely as I could, “I didn’t do it.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.  He has requested a meeting with you at 10 am.  You will be there.”

“I said I would come in to look at the problem.  I didn’t say I was staying.”

“Let me know when you get in.”  That was it.  No ifs.  No buts.  Just a simple, ‘Let me know…’

I seriously considered ignoring him, but somewhere within me, there was that odd sense of loyalty.  Not to Benton, not to the Company, but to someone else, the man who had given me the job in the first place, who had given me every opportunity.

I was doing it for him and would tell him.

When I found out who it was!

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020