Thirty Minutes

"Thirty minutes," added Luap as he continued his letter to the life-change fairy. "It mustn't be a minute more; that would be detrimental to our cause. But for thirty minutes..."

Luap closed his eyes and tried to imagine the sights, sounds and smells inside the dressing rooms. The pungent odour of ointment as the players rubbed themselves down. The banter designed to provide an outlet for the big-match tension. The back slapping as the players make their way to the tunnels. And then the deafening roar as the doors open and he jogs out onto the pitch alongside his fourteen or more colleagues and looks up at the thousands of waving dragons, voices raised in song.

Then, the deafening silence. The two teams line up. The first hymn for the visitors, a sign of respect Luap thinks only fitting. Yet he can scarcely wait for the moment which finally comes. Those introductory notes echoing around the stadium and then he opens his mouth and sings his heart out as his soul rises to the highest heights of whichever heaven habours anthem-singing rugby players.

Luap's dream is over all too quickly. The game is beginning. Good job he only asked for thirty minutes, because once the game starts...

His piece finished, Luap reflected a while before again putting pen to paper...

"Dear life-change fairy, should you by any chance be an avid Sunday Scribbling reader, please don't forget me."


For this week's Fiction Friday we have to write about a telepathic parrot.

Most people just do not realise how tough it is being a psychic parrot. To be quite honest, it was something I myself had never thought about until I met Polypus. He came to see me in answer to an ad he'd read in Parroting Away.

“So, you say, you can cure all sorts of psychic ailments, so how about curing me.”

“Well, if you told me what was wrong, that would be a start.”

He fixed me with his eyes, inviting me to share his thoughts. It was only now I realised I had to do with a telepathic parrot; a most interesting case, one I’d never come across before.

“So what is wrong with being telepathic?”

Once again his thoughts came through loud and clear. His problem was not with his capacities but with his incapacities. Or should I say with one particular incapacity. People with psychic powers usually compensate in some other area of their lives. And Polypus’ real problem was that he couldn’t talk. Of course, all parrots are somewhat limited here, but Polypus had special problems. All he could manage were a few unconnected stutters. The tension between his gift and his incapacity took a great toll on Polypus.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s best to end it all. I remember watching a little girl playing. Danger was present and I flew at once to her mother but all that came out was ‘eeehp eeehp!’ She at once sensed the danger but thought it was from me, so she took a swipe at me with her handbag. Then she got up, packed the little girl by the hand and went off. Well, at least she saved her from…”

Poor Polypus really needed help. He was on the border of a nervous breakdown. But how to help him, I’d never had a case like this before. I sent him away telling him to return three days later. In the meantime I had some research to do.

It was the next night that things came to a head. I had just finished some extremely interesting reports by a specialist who claimed to have eliminated telepathic powers in well over half of his patients when Polypus cry of anguish and help came through. I was picking up his vibes loud and clear, so set off at once. Within minutes I was winging my way through the empty streets and it wasn’t long before I could here Polypus screeching, “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH DDDDDDD NEN NEN NEN.”

I alighted on the ledge of the open window and looked in. What a sight. There was blood everywhere. Several anxious-looking policemen were standing round a body on the floor. And there was Polypus both feet planted on the dead woman’s breast, seemingly pecking away at a hole in the dead woman’s shirt, repeating the same screeching noise I had heard on my way. The moment I alighted he flew up and joined me on the ledge. One of the policemen gave a sigh of relief.

“Thank heaven, we’ve got a rid of that crazy parrot.” But there was more danger than relief in the look he gave us so I thought it best to get away from there as soon as possible. We alighted on the branch of a nearby oak tree. Trying to get some sense out of Polypus, however, proved extremely difficult. Eventually, he calmed down and after a couple of my extra special soul massages, he began to explain what was wrong.
The body on the floor was that of his owner. It seemed she had poisoned that night by her good for nothing nephew who had wanted to squeeze yet more of her savings to fund his many debaucheries. When she refused, he hit her with one of the silver candlesticks sitting on the table. Polypus saw it all. He was the only eye witness.

“But they’ll find his fingerprints on the candlestick.”

“Not a chance. He packed them both up and took them off with him. He went straight to the station and got on the train to London. I followed him and saw it all. And they’ll never find him. He’d been away for months; no had a clue where he was. His turning up was a complete surprise.”

“So he’ll get off scot-free?”

“Not if I can help it, he won’t. That’s what I was trying to tell those policemen, but those idiots couldn’t understand me. You see, he made a big mistake. When he tried to take her money by force, the old lady put up a real fight and he had to bite her in the shoulder to subdue her. That means we can find out who he is. I was reading all about it just a few days ago. It’s something called A D N. It leaves a trace and they can find you, even if no one ever suspected you of being within a hundred miles of the scene. That’s why I was pointing to the hole with my beak. I was trying to explain to the policemen.”

Once again I heard Polypus’ screeching when I arrived: “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH DDDDDDD NEN NEN NEN.” I stared into his eyes and he was soon calm enough to try and understand what I wanted to tell him.

“Will you really do that… for me?”

“I’ll try,” I replied blushing. Maybe, this telepathy business was going a little too deep. “After all, my old mistress took me to elocution lessons when I was small. I learnt to talk with the most Oxford of accents.”

We flew off together but I managed to persuade Polypus to keep his distance. That policeman looked like he’d lovingly throttle any parrot’s neck he could get his hands on. I flew up to the window. There were a couple of plain-clothes officers

I held my head high, took a deep breath and let out the most perfect rendering of A D N you’ve ever heard, brushing my wing lightly across the teeth marks in the blouse. The two policemen looked at each other with amazement before moving across the room and picking up the phone.

Psychic parrot peeper counfounds murderer

ran the next day’s headline. We were overjoyed and went on a celebratory flight right around the park before ending up in the fountain to cool off. That's when Polypus surprised me by lifting his wing gently over my head. And despite my misgivings over a partner that could read into the heart of one's very thoughts, I said Y E S with my very best Oxford accent.

Au Revoir J-M

Some seven years ago an impertinent Brit took it upon himself to join a writing group in the small French town he had just moved to. His hope was to get to know new people, to enjoy doing something he'd always been tempted by but never seriously put his hand to, and perhaps even improve his French a little bit.

That was my first encounter with J-M. The first evening did not begin promisingly. Every participant had to write a word on a pebble and pass it on to someone else. I can't remember what I wrote but I cannot forget the word I received. I had no idea what it meant and J-M was adamant. I was not allowed to ask. So I wrote an acrostic using the word and trying to describe my feelings.

Last night after seven years writing together, we said good-bye to J-M. He's moving on to fresher pastures, or should that read trees, after all he is a forester. So my 3WW post this week is a tribute not only to a fantastic writer but also a true friend. And because he loves haikus...

What did you imply
With that prompt, we ask, but you
Just shrug your shoulders

Up to us to tell
Your virtue, not to impose;
Leave us free to create

To find our own voice
Not feigning what we cannot
imitate or bluff

Headline Fun

No trace of erased meadow phantom

Museum officials are still trying to piece together events that lead to one of our city's greatest art treasures losing its meadow. Officials say they are studying CCTV footage of the room in question but nothing suspicious has been noted. As a result the mayor has ordered authorities to conduct a house to house search of all those known to have been in the museum during the course of the morning. Said a spokesman for the mayor:

"A meadow is hardly something you can keep hidden for a long time, so we are confident that it will soon be restored to its rightful place."

Phantom eraser traced to meadow hideout?

Police say an anonymous tip-off could be the breakthrough they are looking for in the so-called phantom meadow theft. Police raided a country shed in the early hours of the morning after a member of the public complained about 'mooing noises' coming from a man's briefcase. Police using tracker dogs followed the case's progress to the hut - a popular site for partying students and courting couples. The briefcase contained several packets of 'La Vache Qui Rit' - a popular French cheese. A police spokesman admitted that no trace of the meadow had been found in the hut but said a thorough search of the surrounding countryside was in progress and that several members of the cattle fraternity were helping the police with their inquiries.

Artist erased meadow traces with special ink

Peter Alchem, a local art student has been charged with Mr. Alchem was traced after failing to erase fingerprints from a briefcase he used in a failed bid to place suspicion onto local farmers. According to reports Mr. Alchem used a special ink developed by his girlfriend to make the meadow disappear. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Mr. Alchem has now himself disappeared following a visit by his girlfriend. While police refused to confirm these reports the Mayor of Meadowhill berated police promising a very full and public inquiry.

Harley crawled out of his master's office office, tail between his legs. Some 5 minutes later Francis appeared in the doorway. It took an expert eye to distinguish between man and dog, both victim's of the director's sabre-like tongue. Harley watched Francis make his way towards the exit wondering whether it would be safe to try and reclaim his basket underneath his master's desk. One thing he had learnt from the experience. Never again would he attempt to show any sympathy for someone who was evidently not in his master's good books.

As for Francis, he hung about the front of the building unsure what to do. When he saw two of his now former colleagues coming up the street, he crossed the road and slipped into the park. The bench under the oak tree was free. Francis liked this spot. The tree's large overhanging branches always welcomed him with open arms. Today, more sinister connotations came to his mind; the branch creaking under the strain of a rope and the his body mass.

His mind went back to the request... his initial hesitation, his students' enthusiasm and that conversation with Joy.

"It's a fantastic idea. It's right up your street."

"But I don't want to visit Paris. It's just one big, sprawling metropolis. What on earth would we do there? Besides, the students all want a trip which will bring them into contact with English speakers. They don't want hotels and museums. I'd much rather take them to Gensdouce. It's got some beautiful countryside and I could arrange meetings with various groups every day. That would be ideal."

"Well, why not do that then."

"I'm not sure what Ian would say."

"Never mind Ian. It's your students that count. You're doing this for them, not for Ian."

"But he is the centre's director. I can't just go behind his back."

"And you're the best French teacher the centre's ever had. The figures speak for themselves. Just go and tell him what you intend doing and why."

And he had. Ian had not been happy. Not at first. It was all a question of prestige. Compared to Paris, Gensdouce was nothing but a backwater tucked away in the mountains. But for once, Francis stuck to his guns and Ian acquiesced.

"But I'm warning you, if anything goes wrong, I'll hold you personally responsible. French teachers are two a penny round here, you know."

But what should go wrong. Organising the journey was easy enough with Joy's expert knowledge. And she even managed to get them an extra 10% discount on top of the usual group rate. Ian had been impressed. And once the number of participants topped twenty, he had even begun telling people what a great idea he'd had: praise indeed from one of the town's most selfish bastards. And he was even there to film as the group of twenty-five people set out on the first leg of their week-long trip. Everyone was so happy, they'd paid no attention to headline that was soon to throw everything into disarray. Besides, they'd never heard of Eyjafjallajökull before. What harm could he do them.

In the end they'd waited three days at the airport before calling off their trip. And the return was far from the joyful triumph anticipated just a few days earlier. Hardly had the bus stopped, Ian made it quite clear to Francis that he would have to pick up the bill for the flop from his own salary. Francis tried to object but soon realised it was pointless. The disciplinary hearing was fixed for Thursday at 3 pm. But it never met. Realising most of its members kowtowed to Ian, Francis handed in his resignation letter to an astonished and furious Ian. Facing up to this tirade had badly shaken his confidence. But he'd pulled it off. And it had been worth it. Ian's power had been broken. And he would turn up Monday morning for his new appointment without the slightest regret.


This week's 3WW words: budge, nimble, theory

This is the worst scenario imaginable. I'm sitting here at my desk and I don't know what to write. Does that happen often? Of course not! I don't write often enough for it to be a common occurrence. Not like my brother. He's forever complaining about writer's block and such nonsense. But then, he's forever writing. Me, you can't get me to budge unless inspiration first comes flying overhead and sprinkles a few drops of her precious liquid into my inkwell. I guess you could call it the only-way-to-sure-success theory. And unti now, it has stood me in good stead. Not one of my sure-to-be-published works has come in for the slightest criticism. And I feel they never will. Now for a writer, that's success.

So what went wrong today? Why has inspiration passed by and left me with nothing. I could, I suppose, go into all the reasons for today's failure. But as I'm not any kind of soul-soother and haven't enough parchment and ink to elucidate all the different theories which passed through my head during my most recent bout of staring at the paper then I guess I'd better not. Besides, were I to do so, it would make my fingers almost as nimble as my brother's. And what would that do to my always dreaming of greatness reputation? So please excuse me and permit me to roll back into my furry, little ball for another week. Who knows, if inspiration is still out there, maybe she'll smile on me again. In which case you can read the results in next week's 3WW. But don't bank on it. And for those of you in need of a reading fix right now, you can always try reading one of brother William's plays. They're quite well known and available from all irreputable printers.

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