Monthly Archives: October 2015

Christmas In Belgium

Belgium aint much of a place.  ‘S no bigger’n Massachusetts; just two hours drive to get across.  Not much of a place to spend Christmas, but that’s just what I did once.

Grandpa was seventy-five back in ‘94, and getting frail even then.  Mom and Dad thought he might bite the big one soon, so we all spent Christmas together in the way he chose.

I was fourteen back then, so my reaction was typical.

“We coulda gone ta Seaworld!” I complained.  “Bobby Fitzroy says it’s like summer down there at Christmas!”

“We’ll do Florida another year, Vinnie!” yelled Mom.  “I think about you and Dana’s needs all the time, but not your Grandpa’s.”

The flight from JFK to Brussels was absolute Hell, mainly cuzza Dana, my little sis, who was six at the time and needed a volume down button.  Still, Belgium’s got great freeways, so the drive south from Brussels made up for it.

We drove to a hillside inn in the Ardennes.  I’d naïvely imagined a motel like a Comfort Inn.  I hadn’t expected an old timber-framed medieval shack.

“Le cheen tatch-et,” I read off the hanging sign as we went in.

Le Chien Tacheté,” corrected Antoine, the owner, coming out to greet us.  “The Spotted Dog, like ze Dalmatian on ze sign.  Bienvenue, tout le monde.  Do come inside.”

Le Chien Tacheté was comfy enough inside; big fire burning, nice soft beds in the rooms, great food too.  Still, it was no Key Largo.

On Christmas Day, as we were all eating our dinner, Grandpa got talking.

“Vinnie, Dana, did you know that this day fifty years ago, you might have been killed sitting where you are?”

Dana gave a frightened squeak.

“Don’t be scared, hon,” Grandpa laughed, “You’re not gonna die now.  But the Ardennes was a battle ground back then.  You know Hitler?  Well, our boys were fighting back his boys right around this spot.”

“At Christmas?” I gasped.

“It started just before,” replied Grandpa, “But yeah, we were still fighting ‘em on Christmas Day.  I got a piece of shrapnel in my calf not far from here.  My buddy Ralph Green even bled out in the snow a few feet from me.”

“You can’t complain our Christmas is as bad as that, huh Vinnie?” Dad joked.

I certainly couldn’t.  Looking out of the inn’s windows at the swaying, snow-covered forest, I couldn’t imagine Grandpa fighting a war in amongst them half a century ago.

*****

Grandpa died recently.  Ninety-five he was!  Mom and Dad were wrong; he did have some life left.  They buried him in Arlington Cemetery.  What an honour; my Grandpa buried with all those war heroes!  But let’s face it; that’s just what he was.

Cheryl, my wife, and Cody, my daughter, have been talking about Christmas recently, and what we might do.

“I’ve got a suggestion,” I smiled.

I made a quick international call.  Antoine was delighted to hear from me once again.  Le Chien Tacheté did have rooms free, so I booked three people for four nights from December 23rd.

It’ll be good to go back.

Conversation Between Two Barflies

It’s time for a new post, and this is one that just came out of my head a few years ago.  It’s definitely one for the guys.  Try finding a friend and enacting the scene.

A.  I just don’t get it, mate.  What can we show off to get girls interested?

B.  Just act confident and flirty, mate.  If you…

A.  No, no, you misunderstand me.  I mean they’ve got jugs, yeah?  They can show ’em off, stuff ’em into a crop-top or a halter, squeeze ’em together, jiggle ’em, get a guy horny.  But what have we got to flash, eh?

B.  Oh yeah, I see your point.  And what about their legs, huh?

A.  Wahey, yeah.  Shave ’em, wax ’em, flash ’em, it’s simple.  Us guys are the unlucky bums, really.  What did putting on shorts an’ showing off our legs ever do for us except get laughs?

B.  What about your smile, mate, or your eyes?

A.  No, no, that ain’t enough.  What have we got to really get ’em horny, eh?  I could flash my balls at ’em, but then I’d get nicked for indecent exposure.

B.  Hey, what about your arse, mate?

A.  Don’t be so bloody stupid!  What’s going round in a thong gonna do for my reputation?

B.  But you could pack it into tight jeans or spandex and pretend to pick up a quid, then get ’em squealing!

A.  ‘Specially if it was a good arse!

B.  Which it’s not, of course!

A.  Ha ha ha!  You’re alright mate!  Cheers!

B.  Cheers.

The Black Portfolio

Another submission for a story competition with my writing group.  It didn’t win, but it did get voted for.

Murder at Waddington Manor! Who would have thought it? The stately residence of my erstwhile mentor, Professor Wilhelm Schwartzmann, had long been host to discord, yet not even I, the infinitely perceptive Julius Fox-Glover, imagined murder might occur there.

The grisly event occurred one evening three months ago, when my fellow PhD recipient invited sundry chums to Waddington Manor to celebrate his OBE nomination for services to physics. The guests included myself, Colonel Reginald Lemmon of the Royal Fusiliers and Gilbert Grass, pastor of the local parish.

Unfortunately, Marjorie Bluejay, Endora Snow and their husbands were also among the guests. These women were just two of many females Schwartzmann had wooed but never stood by over the years. Jealousy simmered to the surface in the dining room, so I excused myself and retreated upstairs as the sparks began flying.

As a studious academic, the library was my natural bolthole. One would not have thought the same of Miss Ruby Russett, Schwartzmann’s current belle and minor star of that facetious new mass medium, television. But that was to our mutual advantage.

That man!” she fumed, sobbing noisily as she entered. “Showing me off like that to Marjorie and Endora, just to spite them!”

Ruby, my dear,” I smiled, “Don’t distress yourself. Schwartzmann’s a fathead but he’s no brute.”

Oh Julius,” sighed Ruby, “If not for your letters I’d have gone crazy these few months. Thank goodness you’re here.”

I’d have come sooner but for my research,” I pleaded, “Don’t worry, Ruby. Wilhelm will let you down soon, then we can be together.”

A gleam entered Ruby’s lovely eyes as they locked on mine.

Why wait?” she purred.

She advanced amourously towards me, but a thrill of unease went through me and I began backing away. Unfortunately, an ornate, cherry wood desk in the middle of the room confounded my retreat.

Ruby, wait,” I stammered. “What if I get you pregnant? Wilhelm could commit you!”

Let him,” she gloated. “I’m going insane waiting for you anyway, Julius. Wilhelm’s not only a sleep-around, but a liar. He even lied about why he left Germany.”

Before I could skirt the desk, Ruby pinned me with her knees then leant forward. She leant forward and whispered right into my ear.

Julius… Wilhelm isn’t cut.”

WHAT?!?”

My shock was so violent that I seized a rounded corner of the desk to steady myself. It spun in my hand with a loud click and we both staggered. Something shot out of the desk, landing heavily on the carpet.

Oooo, my!” Ruby squealed. “A secret drawer, with something inside it. Let’s see what other juicy secrets Willie has.”

Ruby, steady on!” I protested.

But Ruby had already seized the item in the drawer; a black cardboard portfolio bound with a red ribbon, which she quickly untied. The first thing we saw within was a photograph.

That looks like a young Reverend Grass,” I said thoughtfully.

Ruby began rifling through the portfolio. There were numerous photographs of Reverend Grass, Professor Schwartzmann, or both of them, by sports fields, on boating lakes, outside nightclubs and cabaret shows all over Germany.

They must have been very close friends once,” said Ruby.

Very close,” I said, darkly echoing her words.

Oh, look at this,” Ruby grinned. “Plans of Waddington Manor.”

She was right. There was a plan of the ground floor, then diagram after diagram the hall, billiard room, conservatory, kitchen and others, most crossed out in red.

Only the drawing room is unmarked,” I mused. “Now here’s a photo of the armoury display in it. And these plans… They look like some kind of pulley system to…”

My, vat have ve here?” came a malevolent Teutonic voice from the doorway.

There stood Professor Schwartzmann, holding a cushion before him in his left hand. His right was angled in the pose of one holding a revolver.

Wilhelm, this isn’t what it looks like!” Ruby protested.

It never was, was it Schwartzmann?” I said grimly. “You fled the Nazis because you were homosexual, not Jewish. And Grass was your lover!”

No more,” hissed Schwartzmann. “Gilbert is undergoing therapy on your NHS to correct himself and protect his reputation. But I von’t let him. I vill see him die before I lose him!”

So Marjorie, Endora and all those other girls…” rasped Ruby.

Smokescreens, my dear Ruby,” sneered Schwartzmann, “I too had to protect my secret, vatever ze emotional cost.”

Those plans,” I said, “You’ve rigged the armoury display in the drawing room to collapse at the pull of a string while everyone’s having sherry and cigars. Grass will get a sword in the back and everyone will just think it’s a tragic accident!”

You alvays vere a bright lad, Fox-Glover,” chuckled Schwartzmann, “Too bad I must now kill you for it. Auf wiedersehen.”

NO, WILLIE!”

Revered Grass charged through the doorway, causing Schwartzmann to wheel round and fired his revolver in shock. The muffled shot went clean through the pillow and into Grass’s chest.

Nein! Gilbert! I didn’t mean to!”

Schwartzmann dropped the gun, babbling remorsefully, as Reverend Grass crumpled to the floor. In a surge of courage and initiative, I seized a lamp from the desk and brought the heavy base down on Schwartzmann’s head. He collapsed face forwards to lie beside Grass, who whispered his forgiveness as he squeezed Schwartzmann’s hand one last time.

What with Ruby running to summon the other guests, Marjorie Bluejay calling the police and Colonel Lemmon guarding Schwartzmann with me while they got there, it was hours before Ruby and I were alone in the library again.

Do you still love me, Ruby?” I asked.

Of course. Why wouldn’t I?” she smiled.

Aren’t you now worried that passion could deal us the same fate those poor wretches suffered one day?”

Julius, you’re the most perceptive person I know. If it starts to go wrong you’ll see the signs, I just know it. Now come here.”

Our kiss did the rest of the talking.