In a word: Pear

Now, how did such a simple word that described a piece of fruit become so tangled?

The English language of course.

It throws up many a variation of the same sounding word, just to confuse us.

Just think, there is also pair, and pare.

But a pear, that’s a piece of fruit.

And if you’re not careful things can go pear shaped very quickly.

Then there’s pair, which means there’s two of something the same, such as a pair of socks

Except in my house it’s more than likely that pair of socks are an odd pair.

Then there’s pare, which is to take the outer layer off such as an orange.

It can also mean to cut down, as in staff after restructuring an organisation.

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Actions have consequences

It’s time for the policewoman to arrive.

There is such a thing as pure dumb luck.

If she did not walk through the door when she did then Jack would have walked away.

From the policewoman’s perspective:

 

She crossed the street from the corner instead of remaining on the same side of the street as she did every other night.  When she reached the other sidewalk, she was about 20 yards from the nearest window of the store.

As she crossed, she got a better view of the three people in the store and noticed the woman, or girl, was acting oddly as if she had something in her hand, and, from time to time looked down beside her.

A yard or two from the window she stopped, took a deep breath, and then moved slowly, getting a better view of the scene with each step.

Then she saw the gun in the girl’s hand, and the two men, the shopkeeper and a customer facing her, hands up.

It was a convenience store robbery in progress.

She reached for her radio, but it wasn’t there.  She was off duty.  Instead, she withdrew, and called the station on her mobile phone, and reported the robbery.  The officer at the end of the phone said a car would be there in five minutes.

In five minutes there could be dead bodies.

She had to do something, and reached into her bag and pulled out a gun.  Not her service weapon, but one she carried in case of personal danger.

 

Guns are dangerous weapons in the hands of professional and amateur alike.  You would expect a professional who has trained to use a gun to not have a problem but consider what might happen in exceptional circumstances.

People freeze under pressure.  Alternately, some shoot first and ask questions later.

We have an edgy and frightened girl with a loaded gun, one bullet or thirteen in a magazine, it doesn’t matter.  It only takes one bullet to kill someone.

Then there’s the trigger pressure, light or heavy, the recoil after the shot and whether it causes the bullet to go into or above the intended target, especially if the person has never used a gun.

The policewoman, with training, will need two hands to take the shot, but in getting into the shop she will need one to open the door, and then be briefly distracted before using that hand to steady the other.

It will take a lifetime, even if it is only a few seconds.

Actions have consequences:

 

The policewoman crouched below the window shelf line so the girl wouldn’t see her, and made it to the door before straightening.  She was in dark clothes so the chances were the girl would not see her against the dark street backdrop.

Her hand was on the door handle about to push it inwards when she could feel in being yanked hard from the other side, and the momentum and surprise of it caused her to lose balance and crash into the man who was trying to get out.

What the hell…

A second or two later both were on the floor in a tangled mess, her gun hand caught underneath her, and a glance in the direction of the girl with the gun told her the situation had gone from bad to worse.

The girl had swung the gun around and aimed it at her and squeezed the trigger twice.

The two bangs in the small room were almost deafening and definitely disorientating.

Behind her, the glass door disintegrated when the bullet hit it.

Neither she nor the man beside her had been hit.

Yet.

She felt a kick in the back and the tickling of glass then broke free as the man she’d run into rolled out of the way.

Quickly on her feet, she saw the girl had gone, and wasted precious seconds getting up off the floor, then out the door to find she had disappeared.

She could hear a siren in the distance.  They’d find her.

 

If the policewoman had not picked that precise moment to enter the shop, maybe the man would have got away.

Maybe.

If he’d been aware of the fact he was allowed to leave.

He was lucky not to be shot.

Yet there were two shots, and we know at least one of them broke the door’s glass panel.

 

Next – the epilog

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Adding a catalyst

Just when there’s enough complication in the story, we could leave it there with the current three protagonists and see what happens.

But I like mayhem.

So rather than another customer, it’s time to add a complication; an off duty policeman, or more to the point, policewoman.  A beat cop, if they still exist.

Her back story in a sentence or so:

It had been another long day at the office for Officer Margaret O’Donnell, or, out in the streets, coping with people who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the law.

People who couldn’t cross the road where there were crossings and lights to protect them, silly girls shoplifting on a dare, and boys who thought they were men and could walk on water.

The one they scraped of the road would never get to grow up, and his mother, well, she was not doing another call on a family to give them the bad news.

That was her day.  So far.

What is she doing near the shop?  She lives around the corner.  Perhaps she knows the reputation of the shopkeeper or perhaps not.  It’s not relevant, then, as it is a place she avoids.

Now, she may not have the option.  She sees the shop is still open, past the usual closing time.

Let’s continue:

She came around the corner into the street where she lived and saw the lights were on in the corner store.

She looked at her watch and saw it was ten minutes to midnight.  Long past closing time.  She looked through the window but from the other side of the road and could only see three heads and little else.

Damn, she thought, I’m going to have to check it out.  There were rumors, and she hoped they were not true.

Meanwhile, back in the shop how are the others faring?

The shopkeeper is in an invidious position, he can’t supply the kids with the drugs and get them out, not in front of the customer.

The fact the girl has a gun makes the situation almost impossible.  What would happen if he suggests the customer leave?  Without him, the situation would be simpler.

Alphonse had only a few moments to sum up the situation, and the sum of those deliberations was the remove the only problem, the customer.

He could still salvage this:

The shopkeeper changed his expression to one more placatory, and said quietly to the girl, ‘Look, this is not this chap’s problem.’  He nodded in the direction of the customer.  ‘I’m sure he’d rather not be here, and you would glad of one less distraction.’

He could see she was wavering, she was not holding the gun so steadily, and the longer this dragged on, the more nervous and unpredictable she would become.

And in the longer game, the customer would sing his praises no matter what happened after he left.

The girl looked at Jack.  The shopkeeper was right.  If he wasn’t here this could be over.  But there was another problem.  It didn’t look like Simmo was in any shape to get away.  In fact, this was looking more like a suicide mission.

She waved the gun in his direction.  ‘Get out now, before I change my mind.’

As the gun turned to the shopkeeper, Jack wasn’t going to wait to be asked twice and started sidling towards the door.

What happens next?

 

And the story for this section, with a few minor changes:

 

It had been another long day at the office for Officer Margaret O’Donnell, or, out in the streets, coping with people who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the law.

People who couldn’t cross the road where there were crossings and lights to protect them, silly girls shoplifting on a dare, and boys who thought they were men and could walk on water.

The one they scraped of the road would never get to grow up, and his mother, well, she was not doing another call on a family to give them the bad news.

That was her day.  So far.  For now, she was glad to be getting home, putting her feet up, and forgetting about everything until the next morning when it would start all over again.

Coming around that last corner, the home stretch she called it, she was directly opposite the corner shop, usually closed at this hour of the night.  It was not.  The lights were still on.

She looked at her watch and saw it was ten minutes to midnight, and long past closing time.  She looked through the window but from the other side of the road and could only see three heads and little else.

Damn, she thought, I’m going to have to check it out.  There were rumors, and she hoped they were not true.

 

The shopkeeper changed his expression to one more placatory, and said quietly to the girl, ‘Look, this is not this chap’s problem.’  He nodded in the direction of the customer.  ‘I’m sure he’d rather not be here, and you would glad of one less distraction.’

He could see she was wavering, she was not holding the gun so steadily, and the longer this dragged on, the more nervous and unpredictable she would become.

And in the longer game, the customer would sing his praises no matter what happened after he left.

The girl looked at Jack.  The shopkeeper was right.  If he wasn’t here this could be over.  But there was another problem.  It didn’t look like Simmo was in any shape to get away.  In fact, this was looking more like a suicide mission.

She waved the gun in his direction.  ‘Get out now, before I change my mind.’

As the gun turned to the shopkeeper, Jack wasn’t going to wait to be asked twice and started sidling towards the door.

 

Next:  Actions have consequences

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

In a word: Piece

Aside from the fact that it really means part of something else, we’ve got to remember that it is one of those ‘i before e except after c’ things.

I have a piece of the puzzle.  Well, maybe not.  You know what it’s like when you’re assembling a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Yes, you get to the end and one piece is missing.

\You’re so angry you want to give someone a piece of your mind.

Just remember not to give too many people pieces or you will become mindless.

We might be listening to a musical piece, which can be a movement, I think, in a symphony

Or we might piece together the parts of a child’s toy, especially on that night before Christmas when everything can and will go wrong.  I’ve been there and done that far too many times.

I’ve been known to move a chess piece incorrectly, no, come think of it, I’m always doing that

Some people call a gun a piece.

This is not to be confused with the word peace, which means something else, and hopefully, everyone will put away their pieces (guns) and declare peace.

And, every Sunday, at the church, there’s always an opportunity to say to the people around you ‘peace be with you’.

I wonder if that works very well if the person standing next to you is your enemy?

Weddings and weather

Yes, they probably the most unlikely of pairings, but so much of one depends so much on the other.

So, in the days leading up to the wedding, the weather was kind.

But all of us were glued to our smartphones, forever studying the forthcoming weather, often with bated breath and with a measure of trepidation.

All the forecasts were for terrible weather on the wedding day.

And what was worse, the day before was perfect with blue skies and a temperature that hovered between 27 and 30 degrees Celcius.

Even then the forecast was for overcast conditions and with a 40 percent chance of rain.

Late at night the day before, still no clouds.

We go to sleep.

Yes, you guessed it, next morning we wake and, outside, it’s overcast and drizzling.  Further rain was on the horizon, and I think some time during the morning there was thunder.

But, it stayed away for the tea ceremony in the morning.  Everyone was crossing their fingers the fine weather would hold for the wedding later in the day.

Even so, the prospects were ominous.

And, just to add a touch of drama to the occasion, the wedding ceremony was going to be held outside on the lawns.

When we were driving to the wedding venue, it was raining.

When the ceremony was about to start, the rain died away to a few spots.  It stayed away for the duration of the ceremony.  It was as if someone up there had decided to help out.

In fact, despite the fact it was overcast, the rain came and went when it didn’t matter, end even if it hadn’t it had no effect of the occasion, there was nothing that could possibly take away the happiness of the occasion, or the wide smiles on both the bride and groom.

Not even when we lost power for two hours at the reception.

In a word: Flower

It’s what we expect to see when we walk past the front of some houses but instead sometimes see lawn, rocks, or a disaster.

They are what makes the difference between a delightful street and an ugly one, and by that I mean flowers.

By definition though, it means the state or period in which the plant’s flowers have developed and opened/

Just beware the man who turns up with a bunch of flowers that look vaguely familiar to those that grow in your neighbour’s gardens.

They are also in abundance in horticultural gardens, and in florist shops.

My favourites are roses.

And just a word of warning, look out for triffids.  If you read John Wyndham science fiction you’ll know what I mean.

Another mean for the word is to reach the optimum stage of development, though the word bloom could also be used to describe the same thing.

There is another similar-sounding word, flour, but this is the stuff used to make bread, scones, and puddings.

By definition, it is the result of grinding wheat or other grains to a powder.

If something is said to be floury, then it means it is bland.

 

Searching for locations: Rome, Italy

We visited Rome in August

It was hot.

It was verrrry hot.

We flew into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino airport after a rather bumpy flight from London.  Unlike most other airports the plane parked at a satellite terminal and after we disembarked we had to catch a train to the main terminal.

The most notable memory of this airport was my daughter’s discovery of a salami shop.

We had booked a transfer to take us to the hotel the Roma Corso Trieste Mercure in Via Gradisca from the airport.  It was a white air-conditioned van and so far we had avoided the heat.

One of the rooms had a faulty air conditioning an absolute must as the rooms were very hot without it and necessitated a room change which was done quickly and efficiently.

The hotel was in the suburbs and without a car we were dependent on public transport.  According to the reception staff, there was a bus stop nearby, and a longer walk to the tram or light railway.  The bus seemed to be the best option as it would take us to the central terminal near the railway station, where all tour buses also operated from, and particularly the open top buses that went to all the major tourist attractions.

That first day basically was given over to traveling, arriving by plane and settling into the hotel, thus we didn’t get to feel the force of the heat.  That came the next day.

After a walk around the hotel precinct to get our bearings and see what shops and restaurants were available, on returning to the hotel we were faced with the limited choices of room service or to go out for dinner.

My daughter and l go for a long walk up Via Nomentana to find several shops and a restaurant.  We went into the restaurant and sat down.   We waited for 10 minutes and got no service nor did anyone come and ask us if we wanted to order food so instead we left somewhat disappointed and go next door to what seems to be the Italian version of a delicatessen and order sandwiches and beer.   I bought a half dozen cans of Moretti beer two of which I drank on the way home.

It was still very hot even at eight at night and the sandwiches are delicious.  It just might be by that time we were starving and anything would have tasted great.

The next morning we are up and ready to chance the weather and some history.  Breakfast at the hotel is limited but very good.

We were going to use public transport and I’d studied up on the Internet.

Traveling on the bus required pre-purchase of tickets which could be bought in certain shops and locally when exploring the area near the hotel, l found a tobacconist.

Next, we needed to understand how to use the tickets. There was no one on the bus who could help so when l tried to scan the tickets and it failed, l gave up.  We had the same issue each day and in the end, the tickets never got used.

The trip to central Rome by bus took about 15 minutes.  In the morning it was reasonably cool and showed us a little of suburban Rome.  We also saw the trams but we would not be able to use them because our hotel not on a direct route.

That first full day we decided to go and see the Vatican.

Not understanding buses and which one we needed to get to the Vatican, we took a taxi.

Wow.  It was the metaphorical equivalent of driving over the edge of a cliff with a daredevil.  It was quite literally terrifying.

Or maybe we just didn’t know that this was probably the way people drove in Rome.

Shaken but delivered in one piece we found ourselves in the square opposite St Peters Basilica.

The square is impressive, with the statues atop a circular colonnaded walkway.  The church is incredible, and took a few hours to take in and to top off the day we did a tour of the Vatican museum which took the rest of the afternoon.

Then it was back to the delicatessen for more sandwiches and beer, and an interesting discussion with several elderly Italian ladies, of which I did not understand one word.

The second full day we decided to use one of the open top bus tours and eventually decided on the hop on hop off tour simply because the bus was at the central transport terminal for trains and buses and it was getting hotter.

Our first stop was the Colosseum.  There were other monuments nearby, such as the Arch of Constantine, but as the heat factor increased we joined the queue to go into the Colosseum and gladly welcomed the shade once we got inside.

The queue was long and the wait equally so, but it was worth the wait.  It would be more interesting if they could restore part of it to its former glory so we could get a sense of the place as it once was.  But alas that may never happen, but even so, it is still magnificent as a ruin.

Outside in the heat, it was off to the ruins which were a longish walk from the Colosseum, taking Via Sacra, not far from the Arch of Constantine.  This day in the walkway there were a number of illegal vendors, selling knockoff goods such as handbags and watches, and who, at the first sight of the police, packed up their wares in a blanket and ran.

Included in these ruins were The Roman Forum, or just a few columns remaining, the Palatine Hill, Imperial Fori, including the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Caesar, and more specifically the Forum of Trajan.  It was, unfortunately very hot and dusty in the ruins the day we visited.

We walked all the way to the Foro Romano and the Septimus Severo Arch at the other end of the ruins, past the Temple of Caesar.  I found it very difficult to picture what it was like when the buildings were intact, so I bought a guide to the ruins which showed the buildings as ruins and an overlay of how they would have looked.  The buildings, then, would be as amazing as the Colosseum, and it would have been interesting to have lived back then, though perhaps not as a Christian.

I lost count of the number of bottles of water we bought, but the word ‘frizzante’ was ringing in my ears by the end of the day.  Fortunately, water did not cost a lot to buy.

At the end of the day, we caught the hop on hop off bus at the Colosseum and decided not to get off and see any more monuments but observe them from the bus.  The only one I remember seeing was Circo Massimo.  Perhaps if we’d know it was going to be twice as hot on the bus, yes, there was no air-conditioning; we may have chosen another form of transport to get back to the hotel.

The third and last day in Rome we decided to go to the Trevi Fountain, see the pantheon and walk up the Spanish Steps.  We spent most of the morning in the cool of a café watching the tourists at the fountain.  By the time we reached the top of the Spanish Steps, we were finished.