The Reference

prayhard

A MAN applied for a job that required three telephone references. Being self-employed, identifying suitable up-to-date referees who were available for comment was not always a straightforward matter, so he asked his live-in girlfriend and former business partner Erica if she could do the honours. To this she agreed.

Three days later, Erica’s mobile phone rang. It was a man who said he was phoning in connection with Roger Duncan.

Old habits die hard. No sooner had she uttered the words “Hang on a minute” and passed the phone to her other half, Erica’s heart smacked the floor. She ran to the nearest wall and banged her head off it, before sloping out of the room and locking herself in the bathroom with every intention of shoving it down the toilet.

By the time she regained her composure and had the courage to show her face, the call had ended. The expression on Roger’s face said it all. For shame, she could not look him in the eye. Maybe if she just burst into tears, that would break the ice.

Just at that very moment, the day’s mail was pushed through the letterbox. Glad of the distraction, Erica rushed to the door to pick it up.

“Well?” barked Roger across the hallway.

No answer.

When Roger went into the hall to investigate, he found Erica bent double, clutching her stomach like she was in agony.

“What the f***?”

Even as Erica pulled herself up to look him in the face, she flapped her hands as though she was having a hot flush. Her face was raw with tears. Each time she tried to get words out of her mouth, she bubbled some more. Roger realised that his girlfriend was having a fit of hysterics.

“What’s so funny?” he bellowed, his face still dead and straight as a steel poker.

Struggling now for breath, Erica held up the brochure she had picked off the floor. Across the front in big bold letters were the words TRY PRAYING

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2016

High Altar

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A LONG long time ago in a far off town, some friends and I were invited to a swanky party at an abandoned Victorian monastery that had been converted into a corporate events venue. Rumour had it that back in the day the monks used to run their own moonshine.

II

ON FINDING ourselves a table, we could queue up at any of the seven feeding stations, themed according to each of the Deadly Sins. The catering staff were fitted with horns and forked tails.

After the buffet and the band, the venue became an instant nightclub, the dance floor in front of the High Altar, the music leaning towards anything with a deep base and a strong beat. Lasers and soft psychedelics blended into stained glass, dry ice oozed from the seams.

Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.
Doof. Doof.  Doof. Doof.

I itched to join in the revelry but couldn’t bring myself. Haunted by an image from Sunday School of a psychotic-looking Jesus wrecking the Temple because it had been put to wordly use, I declined all attempts to drag me onto the floor.

Until I raised my eyes, I hadn’t paid much attention to the dying Christ suspended from the rafters. The thorns, the twisted expression of pain and suffering, sinews taut, a cloth barely covering his dignity, the unimaginable sorrow of a man in his final moments.

And punching the air beneath the feet of the naked guy nailed to the cross was the tall man wearing a jumper and a dog collar, his sweaty face gleaming through the fog. The vicar.

Dear God, I’ve seen it all now.

A subtle movement above his head caught my eye. The painted wooden crucifix swung back and forth like a pendulum. Hardly blinking for several minutes, I could see the movements become more pronounced. One swing now for every four doofs.

I ran my eyes up and down, looking for the weakest point. The pendant hung from two long metal chains, hooked onto rings attached to a high wooden beam. Beyond that, it was hard to tell what was what.

But one thing was certain. That crucifix weighed a tonne and it had a life of its own. I could see it all now. The plummet, the loud crash, the gasps, the cloud of dust, the horror as it smashed into the minister and his immediate entourage.

Images of screaming choir boys in St Paul’s Cathedral, a mummified Richard Burton lying in a hospital bed. The bit of paper at the end of the movie scrawled with the words ‘Windscale’ … The Medusa Touch. How little it would take to bring that lot down. I should be careful not to think on it too hard. I might cause it.

And didn’t I know just how easy it was for those screws to come loose. Oh yes, I had watched episode upon episode of CSI. I had just seen the one where the house collapsed because the sonic boom of low-flying aircraft made the screws drop out of the walls …

I could see it now, JESUS SPLATS RAVING VICAR. Great headline … very messy …

Swing. Doof, doof, doof, doof. Swing …

III

I CAN only assume that everyone survived. My friends and I left before we had a chance to find out.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

North and South

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A MAN applied for the post of geography teacher at a school in Northampton and was invited for an interview. When he didn’t show, the headmaster phoned him on his mobile half an hour later to find out what had become of him.

“Oh,” the man said, “I’m a bit lost. I can’t find you.”

“Where are you now?” asked the headmaster.

“I’m just outside the Ferry Terminal.”

“The Ferry Terminal? Northampton’s land-locked. Are you sure you got off at the right station?”

“Well, I came from London early this morning. When I got to Southampton, I thought if I just crossed the footbridge over to Northampton, I could just jump in a taxi. So I did. But he let me off here instead. I think I’ve been had. I’m so sorry about this but I’m completely lost.”

“Let me get this straight,” said the headmaster. “You got off the train at Southampton?”

“Yes, then I crossed over to the other side. Northampton.”

“I don’t understand, you’re a couple of hundred miles away. They’re different towns. They’re not even in the same county.”

Long pause … “Oh dear, how did that happen? I’m so sorry. Would you like to reschedule the interview for another day?”

“Erm. no. I’ll have a chat with my secretary. We’ll call you. You have a nice day now.”

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

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