Moby

MANY full moons ago I flew to Duluth, Minnesota, via Chicago on a business trip.

A few minutes into the return ascent out of Duluth, I looked out the window. Even in the blinding sunlight, I could make out the shape of a very large white underwater creature feeding by the side of a small lake.

At first I wondered whether it could just be a submersible but when it flicked its rudder, I was sure it was a tail. In which case it was most likely a whale. A white whale. Moby Dick to be exact.

I unfocussed my eyes, refocused, then shoved my nose back up to the glass.

Yes, no two ways about it. Until someone could prove to me otherwise, that was indeed Moby Dick.

Nine years later

IT WAS the height of summer in a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands and I was serving a visiting customer. As he happened to be the only one in the house at the time, I was not so busy that I couldn’t stop for a wee bit of banter.

He was a Canadian retired pilot and an avid storyteller. Most of his anecdotes were about flying and the kind of cultural misunderstandings that could arise between Canadians and Americans. What a hoot.

He brought up Minnesota, so I mentioned my trip to Duluth. This in turn prompted me to remember looking out of the plane window and seeing the whale.

“Nobody believed me, for some reason. Even after I found out it was probably a beluga. I guess most people, here anyway, have never heard of beluga whales. You’d have thought I was talking about a unicorn.”

The man proceeded to tell me about the mammoth water tank he had had to transport out of Chicago several years earlier. The beluga whale inside it was resident at the Zoo there. It had taken all the pilot’s flying experience just to avoid spilling the contents and afford his passenger a smooth ride.

My neurons exploded.

“Hang on a minute,” I said, “Chicago Zoo, you say?”

Wheels turned. “My God, but it was Chicago we flew out of, not Duluth. That must have been the Zoo I saw from the plane. Does it have a small natural lake in the middle of it?”

“Why, yes, I believe so.”

 “So I did see Moby Dick … I did, I did! Might even have been the same one … “Hey, what are the chances of that? Thank you so much for confirming that I am not completely insane after all.”

 “My pleasure, ma’am.”

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

The Muzzle Puzzle

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ONCE upon a time, in a sleepy little village in the north of England, there lived a feisty Red Lakeland terrier called Jack. Sometimes, for all his intelligence, he didn’t half get himself in a pickle.

One day his owner noticed him acting in a manner that was quite out of character and called him over. Jack jumped on to his master’s lap with an odd grimace across his chops. He was almost cross-eyed. The dog, that is, not the owner.

All efforts to prise Jack’s mouth open were to no avail. At first it looked like the dog was clamping it shut but it soon became apparent that both sets of teeth were fused together with a brown paste that closely resembled congealed sawdust. With each attempt to ease his jaws apart, the wee fellow winced. So the mistress of the house rummaged around for some implement that would help. She found a large nail that was about the right size and passed it to her husband. It was a long process teasing the inexplicable goo from around Jack’s canines, but eventually his jaws were free. The poor lad was overwhelmed and wagged his tail with relief.

The lady of the house spent the remainder of the day scratching her head. That is until she arrived at the house of the local postmistress to post a package. To make conversation, she recounted what had been the most noteworthy event of the day. Then, as she watched the postmistress affix the stamps, she had a flashback to the brown envelope from the taxman that had landed on the doormat that morning, the one that was half missing.

Indignant that her darling mutt had suffered at the hands of HMRC, she growled “How much gum do they need on these effing envelopes?”

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

A Matter of Convenience

kyleakin

A COUPLE rented a weekend retreat on a Scottish island of which the woman was a native. She thought it best not to tell her other half that the lower level of their holiday apartment used to be the gents’ public toilets. Upstairs was the control room of the old ferry terminal.

During their first night she awoke to find him staring at the ceiling. He informed her that there was a bunch of people standing around the bed. She went rigid.

“What do you mean? You mean standing around the bed looking at us? Or just standing?”

He was matter of fact. “Just standing. In a line.”

“What, as in ghosts? I don’t see anything.”

“Yes. I can’t exactly see them but I know they’re there.”

“So what are they doing?”

“Just standing. Like they’re in a queue or something.”

The woman shut up for a moment and closed her eyes. “I don’t feel anything. If this place was haunted, I’d sense something. Besides, the dog would be acting all weird but he isn’t.” It was true, the dog hadn’t moved from his cosy spot on the end of the bed.

Although she knew that this was most likely another one of his wind-ups, for the remainder of the night the woman was tormented by images of rough chain-smoking hairy blokes smelling of motor oil and relieving themselves against the back wall.

II

THE WOMAN was determined that she would only tell her other half where he had been sleeping on their return home. But she cracked. And he handled it much better than she had anticipated. Eager for evidence of some kind of window into the local past, she pushed for more detail about what the avenue of men was doing. More specifically, where were their hands?

In the end, she had to spit it out. “ Could they have been doing, you know, what people normally do in public conveniences?”

“Of course not. Don’t be so bloody stupid. I made the whole thing up. And at what point did I ever say they were all men?”

III

ON THE final day of their vacation, the woman telephoned the landlord to let him know when they would be leaving and that they would put the key through the front door. As she was about to hang up, one thing was still niggling her.

“Just as a matter of interest, this building, it used to be the ferry terminal, didn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“And the living room on the first floor, with the fantastic view overlooking the harbour, that used to be the control room?”

“Yes.”

“And the bedroom downstairs, that used to be the gents’ toilets, yes?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Yes, no. The gents was next door. The bedroom used to be the ticket office.”

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

Dear Dynamo

dynamo

THE other day I had a lunch date in Edinburgh with an old friend who I had just reconnected with after many years. The first thing I saw when I got off the bus near the top of Leith Walk was a massive German Shepherd with the shaggiest coat I had ever seen.

Wow, it’s a bear! With big hair!

I couldn’t help but gape at him, imagining what it would be like to tangle my fingers in his warm inviting fur. I barely noticed the owner, I just wanted to pat the dog. He had a shiny wet nose and soft expressive eyes. Oh, and his ears looked sooo soft …

Don’t look at the dog.

I tore myself away, all warm and fuzzy inside. Even before I sang along to the half-naked man performing White Lines a few hundred yards away, I had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

II

I LUNCHED as planned with my old friend. We caught up, shared memories and then it was time to go. She told me a story that was even more heart-warming and magical than the sight of the walking shagpile and hard to get out of my head. As I made my way to my next destination, I still had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

III

APPROACHING the Christmas Fayre in the middle of St Andrew Square, I paused to work out whether to go round it or through it and spied a gaggle of people standing by the open gate. And a dog. A huge mutt that looked like a bear. My heart skipped. The German Shepherd with the Tina Turner haircut. It wasn’t the most spectacular synchronicity I had ever experienced but it sure was cute. And, if I played my cards right, I might get my wish after all.

As I passed through the entrance and readied myself to move in on the dog, I noticed a man in a hoodie who looked like he might have been the owner. Then I glanced at the guy to his right. They were both looking at a mobile phone.

Dynamo?

I thought about the magic trick I had seen on TV the week before. The one where you were in a crowd of people in London or New York or wherever and everybody’s phones rang at the same time, all from the same number. However you did that, it was so cool.

I might have been tempted to approach you and say something like how much I enjoyed your shows, but a) you were talking to someone, and b) I’m suspicious about hidden cameras – and for all I knew I had just walked in on some grand mind trick. So I marched right past, already conjuring up the next story for my blog.

Anyway, thank you, Dynamo, for the bonus plot twist. Just one thing, though, how exactly did you materialise the dog?

P.S. Good luck with the rest of your Dynamo Live Tour 2015.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

The Magic Potion

THERE once lived a man who had a skinful of whisky and fell asleep in his armchair. His wife had long gone to bed, leaving all three bars of the electric fire on. When the man spluttered himself awake in the wee small hours, he became aware of an excruciating sensation in the inside of his left shin and found that his jeans were singed. When he removed them, he realised that although they had not been set alight, they had conducted enough heat to leave a huge burn. In one place there was a dead dark patch where he felt no pain at all, even when he poked it with his finger. Though still groggy from booze, he had enough wits to know what had transpired. He had cooked his leg.

The following morning, his wife persuaded him to get it seen to.

II

THE DOCTOR informed the man that he would require a course of antibiotics and a skin graft as soon as one could be arranged. This was unavoidable and the replacement tissue would be taken from his backside. He should come back in a week.

On leaving the surgery, the man decided no flamin’ chance. And so he paid a visit to the other place. But he was not so stupid as to reveal to the vet why he was asking for a bottle of horse liniment.

III

THE MAN took the antibiotics as directed. And every day his wife was subjected to the foul stink of horse liniment. After a few days of faithfully wrapping his leg in bandages soaked in the odious compound, it looked as though progress was being made. Within a week, well, it was nearly but a scabby indentation and some of the feeling had returned.

It was quite out of character for the man to return to the doctor’s surgery without being pushed but he was keen to gloat at the success of his own ministrations. When he pulled up his trouser leg for the doctor to examine what evidence remained, the latter was close to speechless.

It stuck in the doctor’s throat to admit that he could no longer see any reason for an operation. When the man told him how he had achieved such a miracle, the doctor just said “You cannot be serious”, before suggesting that he could perhaps continue doing whatever he was doing and come back in another week.

The man had no intention whatsoever of letting on that without the antibiotics, his leg would have become so infected from such a rapid healing that it would surely have killed him.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

 

The Visitation

sandman

Wee Willie Winkie runnin’ through the toon,
Upstairs doonstairs in his nichtie-goon,
Chapping at the windaes, peekin’ through the locks,
Are a’ the children in their beds, it’s past eight o’clock.

(slightly customised version of Scottish nursery rhyme –
Wee Willie Winkie is the Scottish equivalent of the Sandman)

I

THE NIGHT began just like any other. Mum and Dad had bundled my brother and I up the stairs and into our pyjamas in the expectation of a child-free evening in front of the telly. And, as usual, we chattered across the room for as long as it took. In those days, my little brother really was my little brother. I was seven, nearly grown up, he was still a baby at only five.

Back then I was afraid of the dark. But neither of my parents would have known about my recurring nightmare, the one where I had to hide because the Bogey Man had come to get me and the only place I could think of was under the hearthrug in the sitting room. Of course, he would find me and then I would wake up. Nor would they have known of the one where I would wake up and go downstairs to talk to them, only to find two hooded faceless figures sitting by the fire like Reapers. I would flee the house and keep running until they caught up with me. Then I would wake up for real.

Regardless, the hall light was always left on, the bedroom door ajar to let in just enough light to keep the ghosties at bay.

My brother and I had been chattering for some time, when we heard someone creeping about at the top of the stair. When the hideous shadow appeared on the bedroom door, we knew instantly who it was. I clutched the bedclothes and braced myself, unable to bear the thought of what might happen next.

The bulbous nose, the shape of a Rumplestiltskin hat, the jarring whiny voice … everything about this creature reminded me of the baddie in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who frightened me more than anything that Doctor Who could throw at me.

The Voice asked if we were fast asleep.

Ours trembled, as we replied “No.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes,” we whimpered.

“Who am I then?”

“Wee Willie Winkie.”

“Exactly. And you know what happens to little children who don’t go to sleep after eight o’clock, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, go to sleep. No talking.”

“Yes, Wee Willie Winkie.”

Then the Shadow was gone, the only indication of what had passed the creak of the dodgy floorboard by the landing bannister.

For an hour or so, we were too terrified to utter a sound. It was a blessing when at long last the dreams came to take us away.

II

I WAS in my late thirties when I recounted my traumatic encounter to a friend.

“… and then when I went to school next day, I told all my classmates that Wee Willie Winkie had come to my bedroom door, and they laughed at me, because I still believed he actually existed. Shit.”

“What?”

“The devious jammy …”

“Who?”

“My dad.”

“Why?”

“It was him. In all the years since that happened, it never crossed my mind that it was a setup. Duh, wot a plonker. Ah well, at least I don’t have to scratch my head now trying to figure out if it really did happen.”

III

TODAY, as I was about to pen my tale, I looked up Wee Willie Winkie on Wikipedia. Seems we were double had. The original nursery rhyme clearly states that all children should be in their beds by ten

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

The Lab

jodiedog 

DEEP in the forest lay a pharmaceutical testing facility. Its location was once a secret but it was common knowledge now that many sentient beings of the four-legged variety went in and never came out.

Leading away from the bars of the massive steel gate and between an avenue of conifers was a road that disappeared into a band of thick fog. This place would have been eerie were it not for the commotion.

A dozen or so security personnel had lined up to face the angry throng on the other side. Today the AFB was out in force, along with the usual agents provocateurs and whoever else had decided to join the party. Chants and placards punched the air. The only thing keeping the crowd clear of the entrance was the two rows of metal barriers flanking the gate. Each had its own complement of Dayglo police officers, unarmed and mostly first-timers by the looks of things. Two of the security guards exchanged nervous glances. Another rolled his eyes and let out a weary sigh.

This was going to be a long day.

II

AN UNMARKED white van emerged from the thinning fog. It was intercepted by two police officers before it could reach the gate. The driver rolled down the window.

One of the officers approached to ask the driver a question, which could only be overheard by those in close proximity. Within seconds, she and her colleagues were shoved to the side like skittles and the crowd locked in a scrum around the vehicle.

The rocking was relentless. Thinking he and his passenger might be in mortal danger and with the intention of reversing the hell out of there, the driver attempted to secure his window. But four pairs of hands got there first, pulling down on the glass. The police were nowhere to be seen.

The protester with the green Barbour coat had the driver by the neck of his tee-shirt, half pulling, half cursing him. But the driver had the advantage. He grabbed the fully fastened neck of the man’s coat into a vice-like twist that made its occupant relinquish his hold and his face turn blustering shades of pink and blue.

The driver growled “Look, pal …” followed by something that no one else could hear above the deafening racket. The result was that the front row of the angry mob stood down. Chinese whispers ensued until finally a man who looked like he might be the ringleader lifted his megaphone.

“Stand back. I’m coming through!”

The melee parted so he could make his way to the rear of the vehicle. There was a hush as he flung the doors open to inspect the payload, then a gasp when it became apparent what was in the boxes.

“Okay, folks, slight misunderstanding!” he groaned. “The man said BAGELS, not beagles!”

III

EVEN now that that the police had regained control and the mob lost its appetite for further mayhem, no way would the guards open the gate. Not that they didn’t want to, they would gladly have allowed through the consignment of sandwiches, bagels, cakes and chocolate donuts. Instead, they signed for it and insisted it be left in situ. And to demonstrate their humanity, the protesters honoured their promise not to taunt them by scoffing the lot.

Just as the driver pulled away, his passenger turned to him and said “So what the **** was all that about? You and your ****ing sense of humour.”

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015