Betwixt

bowler hats

Wiltshire 2001

YE QUAINT Olde inn was near Winchester. The first night we couldn’t sleep for the late summer heat and the back and forth blaze of sirens along the nearest stretch of road. By the time the three or four police cars had converged just below our window and the guy got slammed over the boot of his car, we were up and about, peeking from behind the bedroom curtains like naughty children who couldn’t or just wouldn’t go to sleep.

* * *

LATER, on the road out of Stonehenge, I noticed something peculiar in the rear view mirror.

“Eh … don’t want to alarm you, but why is there a black helicopter following us?”

“Well,” he replied coolly, “if you look out my rear window, there’s actually five of them.”

And true enough, there was. All unmarked and menacing, flying low in a criss-cross pattern. The farthest must have been about half a mile back. I didn’t think they looked like police or conventional military – logic dictated that they were triangulating for mapping purposes. Nonetheless they did seem to stick to our backs. And they were very very low.

“Is there a base near here or something?” I asked.

“Och,” he replied, “loads of them. The place is riddled. Could be anybody.”

Just as he finished uttering the words, two of the choppers got into line behind the vehicle. One dropped to what looked like about twenty feet off the ground. If my loved one was at all rattled, he hid it very well.

“What is this, a f***ing James Bond movie?” For the next twenty minutes or so, I would have been forgiven for thinking that it was.

After a while, it got tiresome. “This is getting stupid now. They must be bored by now.”

* * *

LATER still, we passed by Winchester Train Station. Shifty looking blokes in bowler hats tried to disguise themselves with newspapers.

“God,” I whispered, “it’s like a timewarp to the Sixties. I thought you were joking about all this New Avengers Stuff.”

“Told you,” he said. “It’s a different world down here, you know.”

Jeez, this entire trip felt as unreal as the one to Washington State two years earlier, when only hours after watching Enemy of the State inflight, my camping trip in a black pickup with a survival expert with OCD and a Ninja Rottweiler became a pastiche of practically every movie I had ever seen. Only then the police were following us, just for sticking out like a sore thumb.

Streuth, are all my holidays going to turn out like this?

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2018

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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