In a word: Fourth

When you realize you are the fourth child, you are really hoping that the split is two boys and three girls.  Woe betide you if you are a boy and you have three sisters.  It could also be as interesting, notice I didn’t say intolerable) if you are a girl with three brothers.

Hang on, I know someone who was in that exact same situation.  Fortunately, being a girl and the youngest, she could do no wrong in the eyes of her father.

But I digress (as usual)

The meaning of fourth is self-evident, just count to four and it’s the fourth number, perhaps better explained by the fact it is one after the third in a series

Then we use it with other words like,

Fourth-gear, usually reserved for the highway where one expects to geta clear run.  Of course, with more and more cars on the road, sometimes it’s difficult to get out of second.

The fourth estate, no, not what a rich person owns, along with a lot more one guesses, but another name for the press.

One fourth, your share of an estate, if of course, you have three other siblings.  And, in murder mysteries, usually those fourths seem to die mysteriously, and your fourth becomes a third, a half, and then you go to jail.

in fourth place, where it seems all the horse I back run


This is not to be confused with the word forth, which sounds the same but means something entirely different, like

I’m sure we’ve all been told to go forth and be something or other, which means to go forward or come out of hiding

It is also a Scottish river, one notably called the Firth of Forth, and if it sounds odd, so do a lot things in Scotland

You could also place back and forth, much the same as you would in a hospital waiting for the birth of your first child.

I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 26

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


When I woke, I was outside the warehouse near an ambulance, and when I opened my eyes, I could see my mother, looking close to hysterical.  Further back, behind her, was Benderby himself, looking concerned.

A voice was saying, on the other side, “Just take it easy.  You’ve had a nasty knock to your head.”  I tried, instinctively, to move my hand there, but it was not responsive.

That scared me.

I tried wiggling my toes, and it felt like something was happening.  That was a good sign, wasn’t it?

Then I realised there were more people around the gurney I was lying on and a lot of chatter about a break-in and possible casualties.  There was only one, wasn’t there?  Me.

I went to say something to that effect when I stopped.  Not a good idea to say two masked assailants came to interrogate me about a map.  Firstly, my mother would be annoyed I was wasting my time on frivolous matters with Boggs, and secondly, everyone would think the blow did more damage to my sanity.

If they were calling it a break-in…

“What happened?” I asked.

I moved my head sideways further and could see the Sheriff standing next to Benderby.  The sheriff moved closer.

“We think one or two unknown persons got past the perimeter security, disabled the alarm system, and broke into the warehouse where you were.  One of the night security guards was doing his rounds when he found you on the floor in the main office.  Can you tell us what happened to you?”

One of the paramedics answered for me, “We need to stabilise the wound, check for concussion and any other side effects before you can question him.  That might have to wait until we get him to the hospital.  Now, I need everyone to stand back.”

And he meant everyone, including my mother.  I guessed they would let her come to the hospital with me, but if not, I was sure Benderby would bring her.  He actually had his arm around her, talking to her.  I didn’t think she liked him that much or was I just delirious?

I was about to tell the paramedic to tell the sheriff to go check on Boggs, but that would only lead to uncomfortable questions, and since Boggs had been so cavalier in putting the assailants onto me, I wasn’t very happy with him.  But I did wonder if they had gone back to him about my lack of co-operation, and what they might do to him.

Or, I just remembered, maybe nothing, because they thought it might be an elaborate hoax.  I was beginning to think that myself, despite Boggs giving me a copy of the map.  When I looked at it, on the surface it seemed to be the same as the one Osborne was peddling.

Whilst getting my head bandaged, I saw one of the sheriff’s men come running up to him, speaking and gesturing wildly.  I thought I heard a name, but the paramedic chose that exact moment to accidentally wrap the bandage around my ear.

Then I heard it, sharp and clear, perhaps as an answer to a question by Benderby.

“It’s Boggs.  Looks like someone gave him a severe beating and left him outside his house.”

The result of an equally forceful interrogation, or had it been a warning not to waste people’s time?

It would have to wait.  I had problems of my own.

© Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 51


This is Chester. Our standoff continues.

I can tell he’s not happy because when he’s going down the paasage and I’m going in the opposite direction, he changes sides.

Instead of coming over to see what food he’s getting, he waits in another room. Tgat is fine by me because it takes a liitle longer to find out he’s not in an eating mood.

And come to think of it, he no longer climbs up on the tab l e when we’re having fish. I’ve told him mire than once that eating off someone else’s plate is just not good manners.

Perhaps i should not be so concerned he’s not talking to me, because he’s almost become the cat I’ve always wanted.

What’s that expression, cut your nose off to spite your face.

But, it isn’t going to last. This morning when I go down to the library, which is just a fancy name for my writing room, he’s sitting on top of my closed laptop.

I never used to close but the last time I cleaned it I found cat hair, an alleg a tion he vehemently denied, and tried to tell me it the dog we used to have.

I didn’t bother telling him the laptop is new, and the dog’s been gone for 12 years.

I ask him to move.

He yawns and makes him self more comfortable.

He still hasn’t realised that all I have to do is pick him up, and move him, which I do.

I sit down to start work, he jumps up on the table and gives me that ‘I dare you to do that again’ look, I stare back with the ‘do you really want to do this’ look.

Fifteen minutes later…

In a word: Straight

Yes, that man is straight as an arrow.

Well, in my experience based on the fact many years ago I used to play Cowboys and Indians, and I was always an Indian, I used to make a bow, and arrows, from the limbs of a tree in our back yard, those arrows were never straight.

How they got them so back in the middle ages without a lathe is anybody’s guess.

We all know what straight means, level, even, true, not deviating.  It could be a board, a road, the edge of a piece of paper.

But, of course, there are other meanings like,

He was straight, meaning heterosexual, a question not 50 odd years ago anyone would ask you, and 100 years ago, you wouldn’t dare admit anything but.

In poker, a card game, it is a sequence of five cards, and the sort of straight I’d like to get is ace high.  Chances of that happening, zero per cent.

It can mean being honest, that is, you should be straight with her, though I’m not sure telling your wide you’re having an affair would be conducive to continuing good health.

It could mean immediately, as in, I’ve got a headache and going straight to bed, probably after hearing news of that affair that was best left unspoken.

Perhaps that would be the time to have a whiskey straight, that is without mixers or ice.  I’ve tried, but still, at the very least I need ice.

This is not to be confused with the word strait, which is a narrow waterway between to areas of land.

But, here’s where it gets murky because a company can be in dire straits after being in desperate straits, and a person can be strait-laced, and just to be certain, most lunatics finish up in a straitjacket.


What happens after the action-packed start – Part 30

Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.


At the end of the discussion, which began to get quite heated, I was escorted from the room and taken to another interrogation room.

Fresh from his intimidatory success with Jacobi, Lallo was, no doubt, going to try and press on his advantage with me though I was not quite sure what it was he thought I could help him with, other than to dissuade him from his current plan.

I had to wait an hour in that small, stuffy room considering the possibilities.  Surely he wasn’t expecting me to join his band of merry men.

When he finally came, he arrived with a folder and two bottles of cold water, one of which he gave to me before he sat down.

I took a sip of water out of the bottle, after checking the seal hadn’t been broken.  I still didn’t trust him, and with good reason considering the trick he’d played on me.

“Now, I’m sure you saw and heard everything that happened with Jacobi.”

I nodded.

“He’s the reason your mission failed.  He met the other team on the ground and was supposed to lead them to the building where the targets were hiding.  Instead, he told the Government forces, Bahti, the plan for their rescue and their location.  It was a double-cross brought on by greed.”

“It always is.  But he’s more than likely right about the fate of the two prisoners.”

“Half dead, yes, pressed into working on a prison farm, but neither has been cracked yet.  After the last attempt at rescuing them, we cultivated new agents on the ground.  Their advice has led to us being able to formulate a new attempt to rescue them.”

Had they asked my opinion long before the first attempt, I would have told them to have more than one source, and particularly if they were paying handsomely for information.  It was always an opportunity for double-cross.

There still was, but I don’t think that eventuality was factored into Lallo’s thinking.

“Who’s the fool you have in mind to lead this disaster.”


Good thing I’d braced myself for the bad news, and it came as no surprise.  In that hour of considering possibilities, they all seemed to come back to one person.  I was the only one left who’d been there, if only for a few hours.

It had also given me time to work on an excuse not to go.

“I don’t think so…”

Lallo put his hand up to stop me.  My protestations might have worked on a reasonable man, but Lallo wasn’t reasonable.

“Well, you, too, have a choice.  Stay and be court marshalled for your failure to follow orders in the last attempt or redeem yourself and volunteer to lead the next.”

“I did nothing wrong the last time.”

“Not according to the investigation I’ve just completed, the one that I intend to submit to the JAG if you are unwilling to follow orders.”

And there it was.  All the time I’d been in Lallo’s hands he had been compiling a feasible case against me, just so that I could be induced to do his bidding.  I was stupid not to connect the dots long before this and shut my mouth.  Everything I had denied, was the same evidence he could use against me.

n typical military-style, someone had to shoulder the blame for the previous mess.

And to be given a choice, one that made me as expendable as Jacobi, was, as far as Lallo was concerned, a masterstroke.

If I went and was killed in action, he would have a scapegoat he needed.  If I didn’t go, I would be court marshalled and thrown in a cell for the rest of my life.  And if I went, and succeeded, he would become the golden boy in the intelligence services, and the same fate as any other scenario would befall me.  It was lose-lose.

“You’re not throwing out any bones?”

“Don’t have to.  But you get to pick the team you want to go with you.”  He tossed a file across the table to me, and I opened it.  Several pages, with photos attached.

A who’s who of the military types that spent more time in the stockade than on the battlefield.  Men who would do anything to stay out, men who had nothing to lose.  Men who were expendable.

“You’re kidding?”  I looked up at him, but his expression told me he wasn’t.

“Are you sure any of these will obey orders?”

“You have my assurance they will.  We’re sending an observer, just to make sure everyone stays on mission.  You have three days to pick a team of four men, establish command, and prepare to leave.”

Something else I thought about in that hour, other than it was probably the last time I would have for reflection, was that it would have been better to die in the helicopter crash.

I waited until he left the room before I reopen the file.

© Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 50


This is Chester.  He knows it’s time to visit the vet.

And we have the same problem every month.  Any other time he would be in one of three places, at the back door, watching the birds on the fence, in his basket contemplating whether to check out the mice situation or sitting at the front door hoping some kind person will take him away and give him a better life.

But, come vet day, he’s nowhere to be seen.  Or heard.  I suspect he hears the sound of the pet carrier.  Certainly, the moment he sees it, if he is anywhere near, he runs.

Odd that, because he has one of those bell neckbands that alerts us, and the birds, if we ever let him out.  Today, in fact now that I think about it, it is not to be heard.

Has he managed to figure out a way to walk without it making a sound?

So, it’s time to mount a search.  WE have to be going if we’re going to make the appointment on time.

He has six favourite hiding spots, one in a cupboard in the spare bedroom.  It took a while to discover this one, and the discovery he could open the sliding door with his paw.  What was hard to understand; he could close it too.

Today, he’s not there.

Under and one of three beds, all very low, and very hard for us to get down to see.  And dark, needing a torch.  Woe betide us if it is in the middle, just beyond our reach.

No, not hiding under the beds, but we do find one of his toy mice, destroyed.

Nor is he hiding under the lounge room table, a new spot since we put an overflowing table cloth on it, making it look like a tent.

Almost at the end of my tether, I hear a bell.

There he is, sitting on the end of the bed, a grin if it could be called that on his face.

Where have you been, we have to get going or we’ll be late, he says.

Yes, and all I have to do is get you in the carrier.


He realizes his fatal mistake and tries to run.

One day he’s going to make this easier for me.

Conversations with my cat – 49


This is Chester. We are at the delicate stage of peace negotiations.

The ceasefire has been rocky, to say the least.

Blame is being thrown about like confetti at a wedding.

And to top it off, it’s Friday the thirteenth.

Im fuĺly expecting Chester to change his coat to black, and walk in front of my path with an evil grin on his face.

There’s already been signs of his mischievousness.  A long time ago we bought him some fake mice to play with since he didn’t have the inclination to chase the real rodents. Little did we know he had hidden these away, to bring them out on black Friday.

And, sitting on the floor, giving me the death stare, I wonder what his intentions are.

Not good.

So, I ignore him. I go back to the computer and get on with the day’s work. I have episodes to write, some research for a project one of my granddaughters is working on, and a novel in the throes of a third edit.

Still, I can feel those beady eyes drilling into my back.


Do what you like, I say, turning suddenly on him, causing him to jump. Just go away and let me get on with my work. Instantly, I realise I’ve lost the battle, as he stands, gives me a final smug look, and leaves the room.

Was that a swagger?