Out of Time (14.2)

Fast Forward

Part 2

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…Now, being a project of sorts, over the summer holidays, I have pieced together the story from beginning to end, and then revised it. A main thread has evolved. Something to do with murder and Letitia’s unfortunate involvement in it. I have worked on developing some of the other characters. In this episode (14.2), we obtain some character insights with the interaction between Gunter and his mother.]

Change of Plan

Gunter

Gunter sat bolt upright in his bed. He was determined and focused on what he must do. He tiptoed into his absent brother’s room to “borrow” some of his money, hidden in a jar behind his H.G. Wells collection in the bookshelf. Mrs. C down the hallway, was asleep; he could hear her snoring like a band saw as he passed by her room. He gritted his teeth and hoped that the door would not creak. It did.

With a fist full of dollars, Gunter slipped out of the boarding house and then pelted across the road, the solitary streetlight witness to his race. He paused as he reached the solid wooden doors of the local church. The suburb had paused to sleep at three in the morning, but Gunter’s heart was thumping. He decided that this front entrance was too risky, so edged around the side of the church until he found a side door. Actually, a metal gate.

He fumbled with lock. It was not budging. He groped around in his trouser pocket for old faithful, his mama’s hair pin. Mama’s pin had not let him down yet. With the pin, he poked around the keyhole until the click and the gate sprang open. In the moonlight, another door, challenged him.

Nervously he maneuvered the pin around the wooden door lock and hoped that it wasn’t a deadbolt. As if a mantra for luck, he chanted under his breath, ‘Dumkopf! Open!’ The words made him feel less anxious if nothing else.

The door fell away from him, and he lurched, then tripped, sprawling on the rug covering the jarrah floor. ‘Sheisse!’ he cried. He was sure that he had been found out and that his life was over.

‘I thought you would never make it.’ A woman’s voice floated over his head.

He recognised that voice. ‘Mutti?’

‘Ah, Gans, immer spaet! (Ah, Goose, always late).’

‘What are you doing here?’

A slight woman, aged somewhere in her thirties, flaxen hair tied in a bun, locked eyes with him. ‘To rescue my future grandsons, naturally. Why else would I ask you to come here?’

‘Yes, I know.’ Gunter pulled himself from the floor, dusted himself and sneezed. ‘But, I was expecting someone else…’

‘Have you got the chocolate box? You know, the time travel bon bons? I left it here last time.’

‘Oh, Mutti! Always leaving your stuff wherever you go! We could trace you through time and space the trail of chocolate you leave.’

‘Just as well I did, or I’d be lost forever.’

‘Ja, natuerlich.’ Gunter paced down the hall. ‘Let’s do it!’

‘Hoi, not so fast.’ His mother caught his sleeve. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’

‘Saving the boys.’

‘Aber, I have the matches and the bomb is all set up.’

‘Bomb? What bomb?’

‘The one to blow Boris to little pieces. You know, kaboom.’

‘But, but you can’t just go around killing people. I mean, look what happened to Letitia because of you.’

‘Hmph! What’s she? Your papa’s second child? With that woman? Hmmm? How could he do that to me? Tossing me aside because I’m…I’m…’

‘I’m sorry, Mama, but we thought you were…’

‘Tot? (Dead?)’

Gunter shrugged. ‘So, then how’s the bomb going to work?’

‘Oh, the bomb will work very well, indeed.’ She grabbed her son’s hand and dragged him out to a courtyard and onto a patch of lawn.

‘But, but, how are we going to save the boys, then? I cannot believe I will be the father of boys.’

‘Simple.’ She struck a match and tossed it onto the porch. The flame flared and then fizzled.

‘Ja! And your point is?’

‘The point is, Gans, that the flame is a signal.’

Gunter stood scratching his head. ‘For what?’

‘Come on.’ His mother sighed and tugged at her son’s shirt. ‘You must get back to the house before they notice you are missing. I think Mrs. C is cooking you Bratwurst and fried onions on her outdoor barbeque.’

Gunter gazed back at the house. The weatherboard with its untamed cottage garden. The driveway, concreted but cracked. He realized that since the flame throwing, the night had morphed into midday. A fine summer’s day. An afternoon southerly breeze cooled the air slightly. The smell of BBQ sausages wafted, making Gunter’s stomach growl.

‘How did that happen?’ Gunter asked.

‘Come,’ Wilhelm Thumm nudged him. ‘You can introduce me to the famous Mrs. C.’

‘How did? Where’s my…?’

‘Don’t ask. By the way, do you have the money?’

Gunter nodded and handed Wilhelm the wad of notes. ‘I don’t see why you need so much.’ He clocked the Aston Martin parked in front of the boarding house. ‘You look like you are…’

‘All for a good cause. Besides, that greedy brother of yours can do with a bit less. So, I hear.’

As they approached the house, a slender blonde leapt from the car, slammed the door and marched down the street, away from the house.

‘Who is that?’ Gunter asked.

‘My wife,’ Wilhelm replied. ‘Remember Frieda?’

‘She has not changed.’ Gunter stared at the gravel on the footpath. ‘She saw me, and she does not like me.’

‘Don’t be so hard on yourself.’

‘She blames me for what happened to Letitia.’

‘She’ll get over it.’ Wilhelm patted his back. ‘You’ll be friends, one day.’

Gunter locked eyes with Wilhelm. ‘Yeah, sure. Pigs fly, as they say here in Australia.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Stain Glass windows, Notre Dame, Paris © L.M. Kling 2014

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (14.1)

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…Now, being a project of sorts, over the summer holidays, I have pieced together the story from beginning to end, and then revised it. A main thread has evolved. Something to do with murder and Letitia’s unfortunate involvement in it. I have worked on developing some of the other characters. In this episode (14.1), we get to see inside the younger stolen boy’s (Liam’s) head.]

Fast Forward

10 Days before Murder

Saturday 28th of January 1967

Barbeque Battles

Liam

Liam remembered sourly the call that changed everything. One minute the fourteen-year-old was blissfully ignorant; aware only that his father was almost no-so-unhappily widowed, that his mum had returned but with that smelly character Boris, and two ratty kids, that there is no God and when he died, that was it, no accountability. The next minute, the phone rang and his whole world view was cracked. That minute there was a Jemima on the other end of the line demanding to speak to his father. It was then as this intruder insisted, demanded and hollered on the line, that Liam began to change his mind about God. Liam remembered considering, “How dare this lady invade my space! There has to be a God and my parents have to be accountable to him! This is too much! I can’t handle any more! What right had she to interrupt my life?!”

Liam clutched the telephone receiver in one hand and fended off Jemima’s advances with firm “Nos” and lies that Dad was not home at present. He could hear the rising beat of his heart, punctuating Jemima’s whiney protests. Clueless he was, how to combat this woman.

‘What do you mean he is not home?’ Jemima persisted.

‘He’s just not,’ Liam fibbed. He watched his Dad slink behind him, his old clothes high on manure.

‘But he said he would be home,’ she said.

‘Well, he’s not.’ He fanned the pungent passageway air. ‘Poor, Dad, you stink!’

‘Ha! Did I just hear you mention your dad in conversation?’

‘No.’

‘I did,’ Jemima, now a smug Jemima, ‘you said to him that he stinks.’

‘I never.’

‘You did.’

‘No!’

‘Look, Liam, dear, it is very important that I speak to him. He said, he promised that he would be home. Your father, he keeps his promises. He’s a man of his word,’ she spoke in a softly and evenly.

‘Yeah, right!’ Liam remarked cynically. ‘Like he promised us a holiday in Tasmania but all we got was mum going off to Antarctica and getting herself…’ He paused unsure whether he should be passing on classified information. After all, his mum had returned, wearing kaftan and beads in her hair, in possession of a new Kombi Van, and unscathed. Liam had been delighted to acquire a new cool van, but not so pleased to have his mother back. Of course, the novelty of kaftaned mother and new Kombi wore off when the van broke down and had to be towed away for repairs. S

Still, Liam couldn’t complain. Just before the recent, yet brief escape up north to Alice Springs, his dad had bought a new Holden Premier. Liam was pleased with his art of persuasion as he had convinced his father to purchase this icon of motoring history. Well, so a recent Wheels magazine had recommended.

‘I know! I know!’ Jemima cut in. ‘He told me all about it. Isn’t it obvious why she did that?’

‘Nup?’ Liam bit his nail. Jemima’s argument was advancing into areas that were uncertain. ‘She won a prize, a competition.’

‘Who are you talking to?’ Dad’s voice boomed in the background.

Liam had to think quickly, but Max who was passing by was nimbler. ‘A girlfriend. Ha! Ha! Liam has a girlfriend. What a loser!’

Liam covered the mouthpiece. ‘Yeah! So?’.

Meanwhile the Jemima intruder had come to her own conclusions. ‘He is there! You liar! Put him on! Now!’

Liam had had enough. ‘No!’ he retorted. ‘Go away, you freak!’ with that he slammed the receiver down. He then picked up the phone and hurled it towards the bookcase at the end of the room. A few unfortunate ornaments, namely Max’s prized “Lord of the Rings” dragon figurines crashed to the floor.

‘Oi! What do you fink you’re doing? You could’a smashed the tele,’ Tails yelled.

Max emerged from preening himself in the bathroom. His face turned red, and he pulled at his hair. ‘My dragon! You killed my dragon! How could you do that?’ He cradled the broken bits of ceramic dragon in his hands. ‘They are so hard to get in 1967.’ Then, with teeth bared, he cried, ‘Why, I’ll get you!’ With one swift move, he lunged onto his younger brother and began to throttle him.

‘Oi! Oi! Stop that you boys!’ Dad tore the fighting youths apart. ‘Right, that’s it! no tele or suppa tonight for you lads! Go to your rooms! Bof ov you! Right! I’m pulling out the plug to the tele, now!’ Tails marched both protesting Liam and Max to their rooms with as much strength as his fatherly muscles could muster.

Meanwhile the phone chirped, unheeded and ignored.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature painting: Kombi from the Hitch-hiker © L.M. Kling 2015

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (13.1)

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…Now, being a project of sorts, over the summer holidays, I have pieced together the story from beginning to end, and then revised it. A main thread has evolved. Something to do with murder and Letitia’s unfortunate involvement in it. Characters such as Frieda have been developed. Plus, characters, like Ella, have emerged from the shadows of past backstories that never before have been in print. In this episode (13.1) we have the meeting of these two characters…]

An Untimely Visitor

Part 1

Frieda

Meanwhile in Tasmania, the grass was dry and the weather about to heat up for the start of school.

The first rays of dawn filtered through the lace curtains of Frieda’s bedroom. After glimpsing the start of a new day, she turned over and settled back into a deep sleep.

‘Mummy!’

Frieda groaned. ‘Go back to bed Johnny.’

‘Mummy!’ Johnny pushed at her back, rocking her. ‘There’s a funny lady in our good room.’

‘What’s she doing there?’

‘I let her in, Mummy,’ Johnny sighed. ‘She says she’s my “Cross-mother”.’ Another sigh. ‘But she doesn’t look like a “Cross-mother”, she looks too young and pretty to be cross.’

‘Now you are making me cross, Johnathon, dear. Go back to bed. You must’ve been dreaming.’

Johnny tugged at Frieda’s hand. ‘No, Mummy, she’s a real cross-mother. You must see her. You must!’

Frieda rolled her eyes and gulped down a rising sense of seediness. ‘Oh, alright, if I must.’

Mother and son pad down the stairs and into the lounge room.

A petite figure dressed in a blue dirndl stood gazing at the panoramic view of the Derwent.

She turned and flicked a platinum plait away from her face.

Frieda gasped.

The stranger smiled, her deep blue eyes twinkling. ‘Beautiful view. I love it when the sun rises over the sea. Don’t you?’

‘Who are you?’

The woman stepped towards Frieda and took her hand. ‘Come, sit down. There’s something I need to explain.’

‘What?’ Frieda asked.

The German lady paused.

‘Well, don’t just stand there. Tell me.’

‘You need to sit. It’s important.’

Frieda exhaled and shook her head. ‘Fine, then, I will sit.’

She perched on the edge of the couch. The German lady sat beside her and caressed the frills on her baby blue dress.

‘I’m sitting,’ Frieda said.

‘So, you are.’

Johnny peered into the German lady’s blue, blue eyes. ‘Why are you cross, lady?’

‘I am not cross.’ The lady smiled. ‘My name is Ella and I am a friend of your mother’s.’

‘I find that hard to believe.’ Frieda leaned back and studied this strange woman called Ella. ‘You must’ve been a very young friend, my mother died during the war. So did my father. I am an orphan.’

‘To tell the truth, Frieda, your mother is very much alive. She is living in Melbourne now. You see, you were not an orphan; you were kidnapped.’

‘Really? All this time, since I was a child, I have believed I was an orphan, Lebensborn, they called me. Bred pure for the Reich. And now you tell me my mother is in Melbourne?’

‘Yes. Are you not happy about that?’

‘Ecstatic!’ Frieda scoffed. ‘And how long have you known about my mother and me?’

‘Um…’ Ella shrugged. ‘A little while.’

‘And why did it take you such a long while to come over to Tasmania to tell me?’

‘I have been elsewhere…on business. Out of…’ Ella touched Frieda’s arm. ‘But I am here now telling you. And she wants to see you. She wants you to come to Melbourne and for you to meet.’

‘And how exactly are we to travel to Melbourne?’

‘You have a sailboat, don’t you?’

‘Yes, but…I can’t…’

‘But I can.’

‘But my husband Wilhelm won’t…’

Ella’s eyes twinkled. ‘Don’t worry Frieda, I have been in close contact with your husband. In fact, I met him in Melbourne recently. One of the reasons he went there, to meet with your mother. And yes, he has agreed to lend us the boat.’

‘Not too close, I hope.’ Frieda frowned. ‘You and my husband.’

‘No! Not at all!’ Ella laughed. ‘We go way back, Wilhelm and me. Just old friends, to tell the truth.’

Johnny danced on the spot. ‘Are we going on a sailing trip, Mummy?’

Frieda nodded. ‘Yes, my darling boy. And you are going to meet my mummy, your grandma.’

Ella

As Frieda and Johnny packed clothes and essentials into a suitcase, Ella sipped a cup of tea that Frieda had prepared for her. Ella watched them and while the pair were busy packing, she chuckled. I remember Gunter, my youngest at Johnny’s age, she mused. So sweet, so innocent.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Morning on Derwent, Hobart, Tasmania © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (12.4)

Time In-Between for the Queen

Part 4

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (12.4) Once her most annoying visitor has gone, Letitia gets down to work…]

A Time to Work

With Monica absent, Letitia trawled over the mess, room by room, section by section in the vain hope of finding the elusive keys; the ones that worked. As she hunted, she systematically dusted, wiped, sorted and cleaned. She was sure that the owner would not recognise the place when he returned. ‘I hope they don’t curse me,’ she mumbled.

Three o’clock and Letitia had progressed to scrubbing the shower alcove, followed by hospital grade disinfection regime on the toilet. The tiles in the shower were so coated with mould that their original white was no longer visible to the naked eye. She used a full bottle of Ajax toilet powder on the toilet bowl before she was satisfied that the brown streak down the back of the bowl was scrubbed away.

At four in the morning, with the home unit sorted and sparkling, and the bathroom overloaded with the smell of bleach, Letitia flopped onto the main bed of renewed clean and ironed sheets, to sleep. She still had not found the keys. With a cool breeze flowing from a slightly open window, she sank into a satisfying dreamless slumber. After all, she figured, If worse comes to worse, I will be able to climb out the window.

Rest only lasted a few micro-seconds, however. As soon as Letitia was still, she became cold, very cold. Groaning from stiff joints and aching back, she hoisted herself from the bed and edged past the bed end to close the window. The wind howled. Moments later, a flash of lightening and a loud bone jarring bang of thunder. She peered outside through the curtains. A bolt of lightning hit the unit at the end of the driveway and accompanying that was the clap of thunder.

Letitia jumped. Heart thumping. Goosebumps rose on her skin. ‘Goodness, it’s like an Antarctic blast,’ she said. ‘Need to find more blankets.’

She tried the lights. They wouldn’t work. In semi-darkness, with the first shades of morning light beginning to seep through the cracks of deep-purple brooding clouds, she could see just enough to stand on the bed and reach for the top shelf of the built-in robe. ‘I hope there’s a blanket there, maybe a torch.’

Success! Letitia touched something soft but scratchy; something very blanekety. With a sense of achievement, she pulled the blanket from the shelf and onto the bed. A thin piece of paper fluttered to the floor. She picked it up and tried to scrutinize it in the non-existent light. A brief lightening flash lit up the images. They appeared strangely familiar. But all too soon, the light was gone, and the picture became indistinguishable. She placed the photo on the bedside table and nestled under the itchy woollen rug. The sky was putting on a show, but she was too weary to enjoy it. Comfortable at last, Letitia fell sound asleep to flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder as the storm travelled over Melbourne.

Meanwhile in Tasmania, the grass was dry and the weather about to heat up for the start of school.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Hello Storm! © W. Kling 4 February 2009

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (12.3)

Time In-Between for the Queen

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (12.3) While flat-sitting in Melbourne, this most unexpected and frustrating visitor wears out her welcome…]

Part 3

A Time to Rest?

Letitia revisited the radiogram. Still hissing. Twiddled the knob and watched the needle swing from left to right while the hissing, though louder then softer, remained infernal hissing. ‘Maybe it’s not on,’ she said. Her finger searched for the control panel, but was at a loss to find the on-off switch. ‘How did I switch it on? Did I switch it on?’ Her hand waved over the knob-challenged panel in search of a switch or knob. After removing the tapestry cover (German looking), and folk-art decorated box, she lifted the lid of the radiogram. Well, look at that, a record player. She lifted the arm and watched the table spin. ‘At least I can listen to some music. It must be on if the table spins.’ Next, before getting down to the business of cleaning, she resolved to put on some music. ‘Now, where would a Walter Wenke put records?’ she muttered.

Peace reigned for only a few seconds. While Letitia hunted for unscratched records, scratching started in the laundry. She ran there only to discover, Monica adding to the pile in the way she obviously knew best. And it stank! The baked beans had done their magic and the putrid mess was running down the sides of the litter tray as if the mountain had suffered a virtual volcanic eruption.

Letitia scrambled to the kitchen and grabbed some paper bags, and a wad of newspaper, before entering the room of suffocating stenches. She raked the rank rubble onto the newspapers, wrapped it briskly and crammed it into the paper bag. The bag, being paper, and for the purpose of carrying dry groceries, rent the inevitable hole at the bottom and Monica’s muck excreted through the gap oozing all over Letitia’s hands. Letitia dumped the useless bag on the fruit and vege section of the newspaper advertisements and with disgust ran her hands under the tap in the laundry basin. Monica joined in the excitement, trying to butt her head in above Letitia’s hands and take licks at the running water.

Even when Letitia had turned off the tap, Monica continued to catch the drips with her little pink tongue. She left the moggy to her amusement and wrapped the putrid disaster in more wads of The Sun News Pictorial. Then with resignation, and washed hands, and remembering that the backdoor was deadlocked, Letitia walked to the front door, and turned the handle. The door refused to budge. Also deadlocked. ‘Just my luck the keys are on the other side and Monica will decide to start a fire,’ she said.

Letitia was contemplating climbing out of the kitchen window when she trod on something cold and hard. She lifted her foot and found the clutch of keys on the green and white tiled floor. She plucked them up with renewed enthusiasm and began jabbing them, one by one into the deadlock. None obliged to work. She tried them repeatedly with no success. Attempted the lock on the back door. That lock too would not budge. With a sense of doom, she lifted the cat door open and squeezed the ball of putrid paper through and into the porch of darkness.

No sooner had she stood up from this almighty effort, than the mass of white fur vanished through the hole and into the night. She detected a faint rustle and squelch as paws landed briefly on the mess that she had created. Letitia gazed at the swinging door flap. Even after all Monica’s antics, she did not have the heart or fortitude to lock the cat out. So, left the door swinging, open to allow Monica to freely come and go as she pleased.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Oshin © L.M. Kling circa 1995

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (12.2)

Time In-Between for the Queen

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (12.2) While flat-sitting in Melbourne, Letitia entertains a most unexpected and frustrating visitor…]

Part 2

Time Out

She arranged herself again to the tune of intermittent mournful mews that wafted from the depths of the laundry. Still, if Letitia had to choose between the meows of discontent and being kneaded to shreds, she would choose meows most days. She was persistent that puss, though. Letitia thought after a certain point, Monica the moggy would curl up in defeat. However, not this cat.

Letitia calmed herself and concentrated on listening to the radio. Was the radio incredibly soft? Or had the whining from the laundry escalated? She could hear the door being scratched. Letitia pulled herself up from the couch, shuffled to the radiogram and placed her ears by the carved-out section of timber with cloth behind it. She assumed that inbuilt part of the radio’s equipment was the speaker, but all she heard was hissing. Then beyond, in the laundry, crashing and smashing.

‘How much fuss can a cat make?’ Letitia said as she ran to the room.

She flung open the door. On the limited span of chipped and cracked tiles, an entire box of laundry powder was dumped. An insolent pool of methylated spirits lurked in the corner. Some other toxic powder, probably borax had landed neatly in the cat litter covering a pile of poo. Monica perched herself on the top shelf, her paw precipitously playing with a plastic bottle of turps.

Letitia shook her fist at the cat. ‘You would, wouldn’t you!’

‘Meow!’ the puss gazed at her, paw hovering behind the turps.

Letitia lunged, catching the toppling turpentine before it too was due to splatter on the unforgiving tiles. She placed the bottle in the sink and from the safety of the passage carpet, groped in the laundry sink cupboard for anything resembling a banister brush and pan. True to the absent Walter Wenke form there was nothing of the cleaning variety. Not in the laundry. Not in the kitchen. Nor the toilet. Not that she looked long enough to see in the loo of disgrace. The stink of months of neglect and lack of sanitation determined Letitia to hold on.

However, in her quest for the elusive cleaning equipment, she found a hoard of cat food. The sink cupboard was loaded with packets of dried food and can upon can of cat’s meat. The bottom cans were rusted, while the stash of the dry food was mouldy and soggy from recent assaults of a leaky sink drain.

Returning for a second look, Letitia stuck a tentative toe in the middle of the small room. Monica had not moved from her station. This menacing moggy crouched, peering down at her, ready to strike. There was a tall narrow cupboard with long slatted doors at the far end of the small square laundry room. The room so cluttered the doors had no space to open. She shoved the mop bucket with mop glued to one side and opened one slatted door. The banister brush tumbled out. Letitia then ferreted through the wads of plastic bags for a dustpan.

She found no dustpan but did find a tin of copper pennies. She collected the mess into one pile and began the search for the dustpan or anything that could pass for one. Along the way, she picked up several scratched records, a plate of dried spaghetti, a vacant can of spam (sharp edges still attached), a shrivelled-up slice of pizza, a homeless telephone receiver, an odd shoe, a mouldy sock, and a bagful of stamps. None of these items, even came close to being useful as a dustpan. Although, she did consider using a scratched LP record, but decided against it. Frank Sinatra? Nah, let him do it his way.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2022

Feature Photo: Show-off, Holly © L.M. Kling 2006

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (12.1)

Time for the Queen

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (12.1) While flat-sitting in Melbourne, Letitia has a most unexpected visitor…]

Part 1

Demanding Her Time

Ten Days Earlier…

Letitia should have realized, should have understood at the first hint of mission brown. She heard an odd, incessant clunking at the back of the unit and went to investigate. The door of peeling cream paint vibrated from its base. A shabby cat door, the metal flap held in place by a pair of hooks. Thumping emanated from this spot. She attacked the doorknob first in an attempt to open the door. Deadlocked, it refused to budge. The thumping escalated with intermittent howls. She groped for the keys. ‘Where are they? I can’t find them! Where did I put them?’

She took a deep breath and stood still. Meditating. ‘Ah! An idea.’

Letitia bent down and unhooked the flap. Howling, a monstrous ball of white fur and claws jettisoned through the hole and sprinted psychotically across the greasy brown carpet. Once the near-feral feline had stopped to manically sharpen its claws on the carpet, she noticed that certain burnt umbers and siennas of its tortoise-shell coat matched the colours of the carpet exactly. ‘I dare say, puss, your markings are much more complimentary, than this brown carpet,’ Letitia said.

After scratching, the cat nonchalantly evaporated around the corner. Letitia followed and found her in the laundry wailing over an empty bowl. She assumed that the puss was female as she vocalised at every given opportunity, much like females tend to do. This queen of the flat planted herself on the chipped tiles and emitted more pleading meows. Letitia crouched down to check her collar. On it was engraved a name. She stroked the puss under her chin and read the name. On the red shiny tag was the name “Monica”. Letitia had to laugh. ‘So, this is what you’ve been reduced to?’ she joked to the cat. ‘Come on, I will go and find some food for you.’

With tail held high, Monica followed her substitute mistress directly behind her left heel as she found the kitchen and hunted for elusive cat food. A few times as Letitia stepped back from another unsuccessful foray into a cat-food-challenged cupboard, she almost trod on a paw or tail. Finally, she wrenched open the corner cupboard by the sink.

Normally, any logical person such as Letitia would have reserved this cupboard for crockery. But not obviously this owner, whoever he was. Man obviously. And of the 1960’s variety. Almost Neanderthal, she thought. There was no rhyme or reason to where items were placed in this particular kitchen. The bench was loaded with stuff, mostly unopened letters addressed to one Walter Wenke.

Back to the corner cupboard. She opened it and there crammed full into the depths of cupboard oblivion, were stacks of cans of all shapes and sizes. This Walter Wenke must have lived on canned food, Letitia mused. But can I find just one tiny can of cat food? No! No, cat food to be found. And I’m not going to empty someone else’s can cupboard for cat food.

She grunted and grabbed the nearest tin of tempting tuna and hunted for the ring. No ring. That’s right, it’s the dark ages, she muttered. Now, I must find the can opener in this almighty man-made mess. The thought of hunting for a can opener did not thrill her at midnight.

With a sigh, she emptied several drawers until she found plan-B of can-opening ventures—a knife. With the knife, and Monica wailing at her feet, she wrenched open the can by jabbing a series of holes on the can’s top, then, carefully, so as to not cut herself, peeled the top enough to empty the fishy contents into a waiting bowl. Monica thought it was Christmas. She licked the bowl clean in seconds and looked up at Letitia, pleading for more.

‘Oh, okay! Now that I know where the cans are kept,’ Letitia yawned and produced another tuna tempter for her. Oops! Not tuna, baked beans. Oh, well. She wasn’t sure how a cat’s metabolism would handle baked beans, but she was too tired to care. Monica polished the bowl with gusto. She then wandered back to lounge room and contentedly licked her paws in front of the radiogram cabinet.

Exhausted, but too wound up to sleep, Letitia switched on the radiogram and settled herself on the divan. She shifted the detachable cushion to rest against the wall and put her feet up to maximise comfort and minimise the pain of her nagging confusion. No sooner had she settled, than Monica leapt upon her lap and began kneading knees and thighs. Her claws dug into her skin leaving gaping holes in the thin cotton material of Letitia’s dress. She gently detached the cat and expected to listen to the calming tones of music by radio.

Letitia had barely arranged herself in a reclining position when Monica was back again, digging her nails in as if she had a grudge to grind. She probably did if she’d been named after her future namesake. Letitia chuckled, How old would the human Monica be? Four? The human Monica had never forgiven Letitia on Mirror World. Permanently struck off her Christmas card list; not that being struck off Monica’s Christmas card list bothered Letitia. However, it had worried Letitia when she had heard vague rumours that Monica had been after her brother Gunter. Letitia with her family on Mirror had done their best to thwart those efforts.

She looked at the cat Monica. ‘You seem to be enjoying torturing me with your claws.’ The puss purred. Letitia lifted her off and placed her on the carpet. Then she placed a nearby cushion on her lap to deter the puss from making her knees a pincushion.

However, like the human version, this moggy Monica did not give up. She pounced on the cushion and began kneading Letitia’s chest and neck. This cat meant business. She was relentless. She was ruthless. She was plain stupid. This cat took no hints. As she began to gouge more holes in her dress, Letitia tore her off and dumped her on the floor. But Monica the cat sprang up on Letitia again. In went her claws, deeper, her purr louder, more menacing.

In exasperation, Letitia climbed off the couch, cat attached to her neck like a politically incorrect fashion accessory, and strode determinedly to the laundry. There she deposited the persistent puss in the over-flowing clothes basket. She spied the litter tray there, so she knew she was safe from nasty parcels of puss-processed tuna and baked bean surprise. Before Monica could unravel herself from the tangle of dirty washing, Letitia slammed the door shut and walked away to the lounge.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Lofty © L.M. Kling circa 1985

***

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Out of Time (11.5)

Barbeque Battles

Part 5

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (11.5) Meanwhile in Adelaide, all does not go according to plan at Maggie’s “Welcome Home” party…]

Party Time

The celebration day of Maggie’s return was one of those brilliant late summer days that Adelaide, in 1967 could be proud of. There was not a breath of wind, the skies were clear and deep blue, and parrots squabbled in the ancient gum tree that towered from the neighbour’s backyard. Maggie sat on a fold-out director’s chair under the pergola, where she savoured a glass of sparkling champagne.

While the Tails cooked sausages and lamb chops on the charcoal barbeque, Liam feasted his eyes on the latest “Wheels” magazine, dreaming of a car that would fly him out of this dreary world where he suspected he did not belong with parents he also suspected weren’t his.

Family friend, Boris Roach, bearing two bowls of salad stepped out onto the patio to lay his offerings on the old wooden table painted mission-brown. He sidled up to Liam. ‘Hello, there boy.’

Liam, eyes fixed on the latest Valiant, muttered, ‘Hi, there, Boris.’

The telephone trilled from within the house. Faintly he could hear Max’s voice. ‘Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?’

Instantly Liam froze. He sensed trouble.

‘Jemima? Oh, Jemima, I remember you from…’ Max said. Then the patter of Max’s sandshoes on the wooden floorboards. ‘Liam! Liam! Come quick! It’s J…’ The pattering slowed, as did the voice. ‘Oh, hi, there Mr. Roach.’

‘Ah, my lad, do I detect more visitors for our welcome home party?’

‘N-no, nobody…Prank call.’

Footsteps shuffled up the hallway and in a low voice that only Liam’s keen ears could hear, ‘Best not come…cockroach…’

Then click. Receiver once more resting in its cradle.

While his Aryan-born charges, Monica (4), and Wally (6) cavorted on the lawn under the sprinkler, Boris leant over the wooden table. Tucked in his collar, a large napkin. With two pincer-like claws he held the lamb chop and gnawed at it. ‘Delicious!’ Boris slurped the juices dribbling on his poor excuse of a chin. ‘A fine piece of meat. On par with some humans, I’ve…You know, Maggie, you can have these two chikadees if you like.’

Maggie blanched. ‘Nah, thanks, them two I’ve got’s enough.’

‘I’d hate to put them in Seaforth, or up there in the Orphanage.’

The phone’s bell shrilled again.

Maggie who was bustling past on her way to collect the tomato sauce, picked up the receiver. ‘Hello?’

‘Hello, I was wondering if I could speak to Maggie Taylor, or is it still Cowper?’

Maggie thinned her lips. ‘This is she. And who is this?’

Click! The receiver buzzed and crackled.

‘Hello? Hello?’ Maggie banged the receiver with her fist. ‘Hello?’ She stared at the receiver and then slammed it on the cradle.

Tails called from the kitchen. ‘Who was that, dear?’

‘Nobody,’ Maggie snapped.

‘Where’s the sauce? I can’t seem to find da sauce!’ Rustling and doors banging. ‘Mags where do you put tha sauce?’

Maggie sighed as she strode into the kitchen and opened the fridge door. ‘Here! Are you blind as well as deaf and dumb, dear?’

The afternoon lulled in pleasant sunshine. The boys entertained their mischievous minds and young guests, propelling plums with their sling shots onto the neighbour’s newly laid concrete driveway.

Max discussed upping the ante and ferreting out his dad’s slug gun to take pot shots at the pigeons perched on top of the stobie poles. But when old Mrs Plunket emerged from her home and growled at them, Max abandoned the idea.

Monica whined, ‘Oh, come on! Don’t let an old lady spoil your fun.’

Wally danced on the spot. ‘Slug gun. Slug gun. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.’

‘Maybe not the slug gun; the plum gun will have to do,’ Liam said and stretched the slingshot with plum and took aim. Mrs Plunket grew as purple as a ripe plum and roared at them over the fence. She threatened to have a word to their parents and have the boys clean up the mess. Then she chased them inside. In Liam’s room, they played trampolines on his bed while unstuffing his feather pillow with a robust battle of the pillow versus Liam’s head.

He fought their blows and screamed, ‘I’m hating you more with each minute! You ferals!’

Meanwhile, Tails, Maggie and Boris, full of food and wine, reclined on deck chairs in the balmy afternoon and drifted all three of them into a post-lunch coma.

Boris, still with napkin tucked under his collar; a napkin decorated with smatterings of tomato sauce, smacked his lips and dreamt of roasted human flesh. His latest quarry, August. In technicolour and smells combined, he fantasised how he would marinate his nemesis and then smoke his matured meat on the barbeque.

‘Sweet revenge,’ Boris mumbled. He still hadn’t recovered from August spoiling his fun during the last World War. ‘How dare August take the girl, Frieda from him.’ He had plans for Frieda. Once. ‘Oh, well, there’s always her children,’ he consoled his hurt pride, and then chuckled, ‘And grandchildren.’

The doorbell rang. A mournful “ding-dong”.

‘Yes, coming,’ Maggie, half-filled champagne glass in hand, shuffled through the house, corridor, lounge room and to the front door. ‘I hope it’s not the neighbours complaining that you boys are shooting pigeons again.’

Maggie opened the front door. She paled. The champagne glass dropped from her hand and smattered on the green-painted concrete porch.

‘What’s going on?’ Liam, who had escaped the battleground of his room, asked. He ignored the smashed glass and watched dispassionately as his mother and a blonde figure scrambled to mop up the glass shards and bubbly.

He turned to his brother. ‘Who’s that?’

‘Our salvation,’ Max whispered. ‘Now will you believe there is a God?’

‘If she sorts out the “ferals” in my room, I’m a convert.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Sky above the gum tree © L.M. Kling 2016

***

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The Lost World of the Wends–Free

Cockroaches

World of the Wends

The rooster crowed. Amie yawned and stretched her hand slapping against Wilma’s pillow. ‘Oops! Sorry,’ Amie mumbled. Wilma did not stir; she slept like the proverbial babe.

Amie peered at the window.

The rooster crowed again.

Amie eased her way out from under the doona, and then tottered over to the window. The landscape was cloaked in shades of violet, the black blocks of village buildings barely discernible against the nightscape. Standing at the window so long she shivered, Amie studied the stars, trying to make sense of them. Stars sparkled through a cloud shaped like the hand of God. She thought it must be a cloud. Why do the stars all look so different? She examined the clusters but couldn’t make sense of any constellations. None seemed familiar. ‘Must be I’m tired or perhaps dreaming,’ she murmured.

The rooster crowed yet again.

‘Oh, go on, you! It’s the middle of the night,’ Amie said. She returned to her bed and crept under the quilt.

The rooster continued to herald the dawn. Cockle-doodle-doo! Cockle-doodle-doo. Amie lay awake. Cockle-doodle-doo. Cockle-doodle-screech! Squawk! Squawk! Screech!

‘Don’t tell me—foxes.’ Amie turned over and tried to steal a few more hours’ sleep. But sleep eluded her.

The hens clucked. The rooster squawked. A gate squeaked and then clunked. Then the noise of chooks in the chook yard sounded like a party with a cacophony of squawking, clucking, cockle-doodling and footsteps scrunching.

Amie heard a thud. Shrieks and the sound of wings flapping followed.

Must save the poor rooster. Wearing only her nightdress that Frau Biar had lent her, she raced out of the bedroom. She stumbled in the darkened living area as she made her way to the door. The squawking spurred her on. She fumbled for the knob. No knob. She groped at a long metal thing—a latch. She worked the latch, tugging it, pulling at it, wiggling and waggling trying to open the door.

[Extract from The Lost World of the Wends]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature photo: Chook on the run, Tasmania © L.M. Kling 2001

***

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The Hitch-hiker

Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (10.5)

Doors of Time

Part 5

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.5) Letitia becomes acquainted with the flat Gunter has allowed her to stay in…]

Further Back In Time

She was prised out of her travel-stupor as a light-coloured concrete driveway magically absorbed them into a cluster of flats. Under the thin cover of carport, Gunter terminated the engine and yanked the handbrake to almost vertical.

‘So, here we are! You can stay here as long as you like. Okay, a couple of weeks, anyway,’ Gunter said unwinding his lanky frame out of the car.

Letitia pushed open her door with some effort and watched as he placed a brick under the back tyre. The Austin creaked as if in protest. She noticed a bent pole opposite. Obviously, the pole had suffered such a fate at the mercy of this car.

Gunter jangling some keys, loped up the narrow path framed with a few withered sticks of trees. She shuddered at the gazanias attacking the rocks that marked the dried-out lawn. Reminded her of some of the housing trust houses near where she had lived in Mirror. Different era. But same kind of houses, and same level of neglect.

‘I’m looking after this flat while my friend is away on tour; he’s the clown in the circus. Actually, it was his mother’s house,’ Gunter explained as he fiddled with the with the key in the lock of the door. ‘It must be all in the wrist action.’ He muttered with frustration as he jiggled the key in the lock. ‘Das ist eine Dumkopf!’ He rattled the door and twisted the key willing it to work. ‘See, it is not my house. There is a knack to it – I mean getting the door unlocked.’

‘Let me try,’ Letitia said as she grabbed the keys from Gunter. The cream painted wooden door appeared like the one possessed by her Mirror house. ‘It seems to have a similar temperament to a house I once lived in.’

‘Mirror?’ Gunter sighed as Letitia took over.

Within seconds the lock clicked in compliance and after unlocking the door with ease, they were inside staring at hideous brown carpet with accompanying musty odour.

‘Well, I will leave you to it,’ Gunter said. ‘I must get back to the boarding house or old Mrs. C will lock me out. I am sure you will be fine finding everything. I mean it is just a home. You will be right. Tschüs.’ His voice was beginning to trail off down the dimly lit path. ‘I am just down the road if you have any questions,’ he called out from the hidden darkness of the carport. ‘I think my phone number is somewhere there. Must go. Bis später.’

With a thunderous roar of the engine that caused the metal roof to vibrate, Gunter’s Austin rolled out of the carport and vanished around a corner of apartment complex.

‘Thanks for the tips,’ Letitia muttered to the greasy brown carpet. She sank onto an iridescent green felt cushion that garnished the white vinyl clad armchair and gazed, her eyes glazed, on her surroundings. There were the cream painted walls, lolly-green kitchen cupboards, the brown carpet sucking in life and light, the white wood framed curtain-challenged window, and finally an ebony veneer radiogram cabinet that engulfed the front end of the tiny lounge room. If it wasn’t for the 1967 calendar that was placed neatly under the austere mini-Christmas tree gracing the cedar dining table, she would have been sure she had been thrust further back in time to the 1930’s. Instead, only the décor and furnishings had been preserved, frozen in time, not her.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Dolls House © J. Gross circa 1965 (most probably arranged by me as I was the owner of the dolls house from the age of around 2. I’m thinking that the photo was taken in our front yard soon after I received it as a gift. I remember playing with the doll’s house in our front garden. I also remember “painting” the doll’s house when I was about 3. But that’s another story where my escapades got me into strife…)

***

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More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

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And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling