Books by Chris Towndrow

Martian Wedding Anniversaries

The following is the official list of gifts due to Martian couples.

1st : Rock

2nd : Rock

3rd : Rock

4th : Rock

5th : Rock

6th : Rock

7th : Rock

8th : Rock

9th : Rock

10th : Rock

11th : Rock

12th : Rock

13th : Rock

14th : Rock

15th : Rock

16th : Rock

17th : Rock

18th : Rock

19th : Rock

20th : Rock

21st : Rock

22nd : Rock

23rd : Rock

24th : Rock

25th : Carbon Dioxide crystals

No Martian marriage has yet lasted past 25 years. In fact, few make it past ten. The majority of break-ups seem to be related to anniversary gifts.

Find a longer chuckle in my humour writing compendium of offbeat short stories on Kindle : The Real Jamie Oliver and other Stories

Vignette – “House Arrest”

Okay then, bye!

Humph. Bastards.

When they leave the dog behind, they say goodbye to that. But not me. Oh no.

After all, what am I to them? Only their roof, their walls, their floor. Their comfort, their security. The thing that divides them from mere animals. Except the dog.

Bloody dog.

At least they took it this time. Can’t abide it running around inside, making me rock, making all that bloody racket for no reason. Don’t hear me do that, do you?

No.

Humph.

Okay, yes, I envy it one thing, that mangy mutt. It can move. It isn’t graceful, but it is movement. They can all move.

Not sure I’d want a goodbye wave anyway. It would be a “we’re going away now, because we can, because we can move, and you can’t, so just stay there – which is all you can do – while we just go away, while we just MOVE”.

It’s not much to ask, is it? I used to be able to move. But not any more, oh no. Movement’s too good for you, they thought. Your days of movement are over. So we’ll just take your engine off, your lovely lovely engine, and you can just sit there. For eternity. Stationary.

They haven’t the slightest idea what it’s like. Here I am, all tied up, nice and secure and I have to watch. Sit here and watch. All those lucky lucky bastards just cruising past. I’m sure they do it deliberately. “Ha ha, look at him, he’s just a houseboat. We can move. Look. Look at the spray. Hear the engine. It’s a sexy engine. Modern too. Japaneeeese. It’s so good to be out on the river. Look at us. We can moooove. Wheeeeeeeeee!”

Bastards.

I could move away from the ducks too. And the swans. I like my slime. I like my barnacles. They keep me warm. Alright?!

And the kids. I swear, if I get one more gloop of vanilla ice cream on my running board…

Yes, okay, so the water laps along one sides – slaps even, when those swines go past – but it isn’t the same. Not the same as cutting through the coolness, up river, down river, kicking up a bit of a swell. Feeling that throb, that great throb. It was noisy that engine, but I liked it. Got me noticed. Not now. Just an appendage to the bank now, a curiosity.

Humph.

Got some peace and quiet too. It wasn’t all day every day. I got some nights to myself. They’re nice enough folks I suppose now, treated me better than the last lost. Can’t forgive them though, not for taking my freedom. Draws a line under your youth, it does. A thick black line.

Still life in me yet. If only they knew. How would they feel if someone cut off their legs?

It’s a crime.

Look, it isn’t much to ask. Just an engine. Even a little one. At least I could move then. Maybe once a month to start. Then once a week. Maybe we could go somewhere. Even with the dog. I always wanted to go the south of France.

I hear the girls there are great.

Yes.

Hmmm.

In that case, maybe a big engine.

Books by Chris Towndrow

Short story – “Rude Awakening”

He couldn’t understand where the noise was coming from.

The meadow was perfect Englishness – the grass almost too green, the sun high in the sky, the birds playing their tune. On the rug beside him, Kristen Scott Thomas, evidently oblivious to the cacophony that was raging, was waiting for him to kiss her again.

Something soft behind his head, yet he was sitting up. Something warm over his legs, yet he wore shorts. An unmistakeable din, yet silence.

In a half-heartbeat reality exploded in on him.

The piercing noise shook him away like a bucket of cold water, his body a step in front of his mind. Then the sound found recognition and the recognition found a word.

Alarm.

His flailing arm reached for and found the light switch, and incomprehensibly, the room’s physicality that sprang from the darkness seemed to give the blaring noise a new dimension of pervasion and urgency.

Mind still playing catch-up to his body, he hauled himself out of the bed and scanned the room for yesterday’s discarded clothes. Trousers came to hand, a sweater, then shoes.

He was halfway to the door when a tiny sense of logic beat a path to his front brain, and he turned, snatched his room key from the desk, and reached again for the doorway and safety.

His hand was on the handle when he noticed the smoke licking up from under the door.

‘Oh god,’ he heard himself say. This was no drill. Day after day on the road and finally it had happened. The Real Thing.

Go, or stay? His mind raced.

As it did, more smoke seeped in. The deadly aroma reached its invisible tendrils into his nose.

Got To Get Out fought with Smoke Kills. His body was almost swaying from side to side as he juggled the choice.

A second later and he was in the bathroom, thrusting the towel under the tap, cold water splashing all over. He doused his midriff, cursed his clumsiness, then almost laughed at it. Who was going to care? And wasn’t he better wet?

Darting back out, he jammed the towel under the door, scanning his handiwork feverishly for many seconds, praying for no leaks.

There were none.

He got back to the bed, jittery, heart still racing. His eyes darted around the room.

Phone.

He scrambled over the bed and lifted the receiver.

Nothing.

He tapped the cradle.

Nothing.

He quickly replaced the receiver.

Shit.

His mind jumped further into concern.

The window!

He bolted over and threw back the heavy curtains. Immediately he knew it was pointless. Seventh floor – no way he was going to jump.

His fists beat the air, then his hips. He looked out of the window again, into the night. He strained to see the fire engines, hear their cries.

Nothing.

Yet, he told himself, nothing yet.

Calm, calm, calm.

He looked over at the door – still no smoke.

Good, he told himself, that’s good. You have to wait. Calm.

The big black TV glared at him.

He switched it on. He didn’t know why.

Late night, no news, so many adverts, so much rubbish. He flicked through the channels.

He looked at the door. Still nothing.

Moaning came to his ears, flesh to his eyes. He skipped forwards a channel. Then back.

Why not?, he thought. If it has to be like this, who will care?

He allowed himself to get hedonistically drawn in, the habitual guilt so much a back seat.

Eyes kept flicking back to the door, to the window. Heart still pounded.

He tried to lose himself, not think about the end, the walls growing hot, the ceiling bowing and splitting, the floor tearing open like a wound and swallowing him into the orange hell below.

What a short life to end now. Here. Like this.

The crash jolted him like an explosion and as he looked over, the door spewed open. It was almost an alien that stood there, black and yellow in the rising fog.

That next morning, after the precautionary night’s stay, he sat in the hospital bed and found some kind of clarity, a message.

Statistics catch up with the road warrior, he thought. Cars and hotels is no life. This is a second chance, time to think.

This is where it begins, a story to tell. So many stories of life on the move. Can’t hurt. Has to be better than small soap and traffic jams.

He reached across the starched white sheet to the bedside table and scooped up the complimentary pen and paper.

He raised his knees up to make his desk and tested the pen’s life force on a corner of the page. Then he held the biro’s point up to the top centre and wrote,

“RUDE AWAKENING”.