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

***

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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

***

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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

***

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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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Out of Time (10.4)

Doors of Time

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 (10.4) Gunter drives Letitia in his old (even for 1967) Austin …]

Drive Time

By the time they had reached the part of the street where the human traffic had thinned, Gunter had pulled out a key for his car and was muttering. A few steps behind him, Letitia could not catch a word, let alone the thread of his monologue. By the time she caught up to Gunter, he had stopped by an ancient, even for 1967, mottled green, Austin sedan. The talk had ended, and Gunter having opened the car and seated in the driver’s seat, was reaching over to unlock the passenger’s door.

As Letitia waited to climb in this almost classic car, he tossed a few books, junk food wrappers and greasy spare tee-shirts from the front passenger’s seat. He then jerked the door open and urged, ‘Come, I’ve got just the place for you.’

She crept into the Austin with a cursory, “thank you” and adjusted her seated body around the vinyl cracks in the worn bench seat. Before she had a chance to survey the damage of years of neglect, Gunter apologised, ‘Sorry about the mess. I must clean out the car sometime.’ He inserted the key in the ignition slot and muttered, ‘I hope I don’t have to crank it. She can be cranky when she wants to be.’ He laughed at his own joke, and repeated, ‘Cranky.’

‘You’ve obviously never been in Trigger after a Flinder’s trip.’ Letitia jested in an attempt to ease Gunter’s embarrassment. ‘Actually, neither have I, but my friends on Mirror World told me all about that machine.’

‘Come on baby,’ Gunter coaxed the old girl as he turned the ignition. The Austin squeaked and then roared to life. ‘That’s the girl!’

‘Are you old enough to drive?’ Letitia asked.

‘I’m seventeen!’ Gunter replied. ‘I pilot spacecraft, what is the difference?’

‘How did you get the car?’

‘Don’t ask.’ Gunter paused as he brought the old car to a literally grinding halt at the lights. Four lanes of cars, headlights blazing attacked the highway intersection in a seemingly seamless stampede of rubber tyres grunting over bitumen. As the traffic light suddenly turned green, Gunter lurched the Austin over the wide highway, and continued the conversation. ‘I suppose I should clean up the car and take it to a car wash. You can get it free with a service. They even polish the hub caps. Cool hey? Don’t worry about the car, Lettie, this one has got a new engine and the body is solid. Although there are few rust spots, and the paint is peeling. But it is not a bad car really.’

‘Pff! Don’t worry, Gunter, Jemima’s been in worse. I mean, her father never had a car. Caught the tram everywhere in Sydney.’

‘Oh, Ja, Jemima’s father; was that Nathan?’  Gunter slammed on the brakes and the car jerked to another stop, catapulting Letitia forward into the dusty dashboard. ‘You need to put your seat belt on. If we had one. They say they save lives. I know that is true for spaceships, but a car? I hate to think it is taking away people’s freedoms.’

‘Seatbelt,’ Letitia murmured while feeling for that life-saving device, ‘that’s what’s missing.’

‘What is it like in future? In this Mirror World? Do they have seatbelts? And must everyone wear one in a car?’

‘But of course. And it does save lives. Actually, in my time, fifty years from this time, cars have airbags, and computers that sense objects and stop before you hit them. Oh, and we have driverless cars as well.’

‘Driverless? Take all the fun out of driving? I would not like that.’

The Austin roared and grumbled along the dark empty main road. Letitia caught the black letters on a white sign that read, “North Road”. In this part of town, the recently built cream brick houses were falling asleep, while episodes of sparsely lit shop strips remained singularly uninspiring. As she was swept along the quiet roads of suburbia, her thoughts became numbed with exhaustion. She watched dumbly as the houses changed from brick to weather board, and as the dark expanse of some high rise or factory rose and then sank on the roadside.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Car Wrecks on display, Hermannsburg Historic Precinct © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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 (10.3)

Doors of Deception

Part 3

Black Hole Bag of Time

[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 (10.3) Letitia tries to get to the bottom of Gunter’s baggage …]

‘Hmm!’ Letitia persevered on the box track. That this was what Jemima used to transport them back in time. ‘That black box was precious to her. It’s very valuable. Did you ever happen to see it?’

Gunter shook his head. ‘Nein! She had this big black bag though. I used to call it the black hole. She was always losing things in it. Yet, she always had everything — everything she needed. It is amazing what she had in that bag.’ He gave a short snort of amusement. ‘I half expected her to pull out a kitchen sink. I mean she had everything!’ He looked directly at Letitia. ‘Hey, where is your bag? Don’t women always have a bag with them?’

‘Yeah, usually. I travel light.’ Letitia was rather pleased with herself for the clever play of words. ‘Anyway, mine got stolen after I got off the boat.’

‘Oh, that is a shame. Were you on a boat? You get around!’

‘Oh, just a bit of Tassie actually. That’s where I disappeared to if you have been wondering. Top Secret IGSF Mission business. Then after completing the mission, I stayed with her name which I won’t mention and husband. They’re the ones who have sent me on this mission to Adelaide.’ Letitia leant forward and whispered, ‘I have to pretend to be Maggie, Tail’s wife, can you believe it?’

‘That won’t work.’

‘How so? I thought I could say I’m Maggie in disguise.’

‘Still won’t.’

Letitia reclined on her seat. ‘How do you know it won’t?’

‘I just know.’ Gunter puffed out his chest. ‘Besides, I saw Maggie this morning. Dressed like a Hippie. And Bo…’

Letitia grinned and bobbed her head. ‘I see. And you were saying?’

‘Nothing,’ Gunter flushed, ‘it is nothing. I am making it up. Like you make up time travel backwards.’

‘No, I don’t think so, love. Is this a trap, my brother?’

Gunter looked away. Mute. Caught in his own trap of pride.

‘Is Boris going to walk into this café and abduct me?’

Gunter wrung his hands.

‘Or is he hiding outside, waiting to catch me?’ Letitia slapped the table making Gunter jump. ‘Come on! I know he’s around. I can smell him. And I know you are working for him. You reek of him, brother!’

‘No, you are wrong,’ Gunter whimpered.

‘O-o-oh, I do hope I am,’ Letitia said while glancing at the darked bun-haired woman who glared at them in a “I’m-about-to-close-shop” fashion. ‘I hope, for your sake, Jemima’s safe. Or you and that bleeding Boris will pay!’

‘See what I mean? Nobody understands me.’ Gunter looked up. ‘I can’t just—can’t just…you would not understand. Nobody gets it.’

‘Get it? Understand? I get and understand only too well. Two bomb blasts well. Exile in another universe well. Over twenty-five years well. I’ve seen my friends suffer.’ Letitia served her half-brother a withering look. ‘Do you think what happened in the last war was a Sunday School picnic? What happened to my friend, Frieda? Hmmm?’

‘You have no idea!’ Gunter ground his teeth before continuing. ‘That woman—that girl who waltzed into our lives, our family, like it was hers, which it was not. Nothing happened to her. Not compared to my mother.’

Now, we’re getting somewhere, Letitia thought. ‘Your mother? What did Boris do to your mother? Tell me. I’m listening.’

Gunter waved the air between them. ‘It’s complicated.’

‘Try me.’

‘Let’s just say, she is who I owe my debt to.’ He laughed, a bitter kind of laugh. ‘And Frieda? She has no idea who she is married to.’

‘Now, you have my full attention. I always thought Wilhelm was a little strange.’ She reached over again and took hold of his hand. ‘I’m sorry for my outburst. Look, if you can keep me from, you know, the cockroach, I think I can help you. And I get the feeling that Jemima is already doing just that too.’

Gunter and Letitia thanked the vendor before stepping out onto the steaming pavement. Gunter hung back from a passing Friday night crowd. He seemed uncertain which way to go. He looked at Letitia for inspiration. ‘So, where’s your hotel? I’ll give you a lift.’

‘Hotel? My bag was stolen. I have no money. I have no hotel. I have no place to stay, actually.’

‘You are homeless, then.’

‘Yep.’

‘That’s convenient,’ Gunter remarked. He looked about him as if Letitia were a stray in search of a home. He then dug his hands in his pockets and scuffed the pavement with his shoe.

‘I’m sorry. Have I put you out?’ Letitia said.

Gunter began to stride towards the highway away from the beach. ‘This way, I have an idea.’ Half-turning, he said, ‘You sure you don’t know where your daughter lives?’

‘Nah. ‘fraid not,’ Letitia answered while breaking into a jog to keep up with Gunter’s accelerating pace.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Old Baggage © L.M. Kling 2021

***

Want more?

More than before?

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

Click on the link to my latest novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (10.2)

Doors of Deception

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… In this episode (10.2) Letitia discusses family matters while Gunter comes to terms with his embarrassing discovery about Jemima…]

Turkish Coffee Time

They found a café still open and churning out Turkish coffees in tiny golden cups.
The aroma lingered in the air surrounding the café, the same one in which Letitia had partaken of vanilla slice and coffee eight maybe nine hours earlier. The same dark eyed woman black hair rolled up in a bun, stared at her. The vendor kept her surveillance as Gunter organised the drinks while Letitia waited at the table that had crammed itself against the wall.

‘Trev won’t trouble us here, Lettie.’ Gunter set down the miniature cups on the laminated table that had the distinct smell of disinfectant.

‘I’m sure that he will be too busy dancing his way to fame and fortune.’

‘He’ll get sick of that.’ Gunter dismissed her suggestion with the wave of one hand. ‘Always does. Same every week. Then he comes looking for me. Every week! I cannot get rid of him.’ He leaned back on the wooden chair, crossed his lanky legs, and continued, ‘When I need a break, I come here.’ He indicated a subtle thumb towards the proprietor. ‘Trev’s afraid of her. Thinks she’s the FBI. No kidding! He’s paranoid.’ Gunter chuckled and then confided, ‘I take Jemima here.’ More sniggers. ‘It’s the only way we get privacy.’

‘Oh, I see.’ Letitia shifted uncomfortably in her seat and glanced briefly at the Greek lady busily polishing the benches. The languid staring from her was beginning to make sense. ‘She’s a bit old for you, though. I mean Jemima – why’s she interested in you, pet?’ Jemima, after all, was still her daughter and she had trouble reconciling that in another time and world, Gunter and Minna were a constant item.

Gunter locked eyes with Letitia. ‘We’re just friends. I did not know she was my niece and involved with the IGSF. She never…’

‘Is that why you reacted, like you…’

Gunter bent his head and nodded.

‘She found you, then. And you know she will go to Papa and…’

‘I must admit, I suspected, but hoped…I mean, she talked about finding her father.’ He grabbed Letitia’s arm and met her eyes. ‘Look, don’t tell them. I want to be left alone. Find my own way.’

‘But why, Gunter? We’re family.’

‘You can’t begin to understand.’ Gunter looked away and sipped some coffee. ‘I’ll always be the lesser. The black sheep. And now that Johann has…’

‘Johann? Your older brother?’

Gunter stared into his coffee cup. ‘Yes.’

‘But why? What’s so bad that…?’

‘You don’t understand. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of.’

 ‘What have you done, Gunter? Don’t you think I don’t know what Boris is like? What has he got over you? What has he asked you to do?’ Letitia searched for his evading gaze. ‘Nothing is too bad that you have to sell your soul to that creep.’

‘Just last night, I saw her. Jemima. She comes and goes a bit. I never know when I am going to see her.’ Gunter’s gaze wandered out into the street. The atmosphere was still bustling and electric as summer nights in Melbourne usually are. ‘You don’t have an address for her?’ His voice sounded concerned, with a thin reedy tenor to it.

‘No, she went away and never really gave one, I’m afraid.’ Letitia continued this line of enquiry without further mention of Boris. No need to trigger Gunter. Trigger, there’s that word again. ‘Say, does she still carry around that little black treasure box?’ The transportation device materialised in Letitia’s mind. She remembered that black box. Remembered distinctly what the box could do. Hot beads of sweat rolled slowly down from her temples and over her cheeks.

Gunter peered at her. ‘Are you alright?’

She fanned her face with a menu. ‘Yeah! Not used to the Melbourne heat. It’s getting to me.’

‘But, Sydney is hotter and more humid. Remember? We used to sleep out in the back yard on our foam mattresses. I remember Papa used to snore so loud that it would keep us awake.’

‘Yep, those were the days! Wouldn’t dream about doing that now.’ Letitia forgetting what era she was in. All time, all years were embraced by the immediacy of “now”.

 ‘Ja, must not do that these days. Not in Melbourne. There was that serial killer in Perth.’ All that remained in Gunter’s cup was a pug of silty coffee grounds. ‘The night caller. Other end of the country, but it could happen here.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature photo: Coffee anyone? Turkish or otherwise. (The tea set is St Kilda Fine China made in the 1960’s). © L.M. Kling 2021

***

Want more?

More than before?

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

Click on the link to my latest novel,

The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling