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How Many Yellows Are There?

‘There are seventeen,’ the salesman said. 

Cameron Beg nodded. 

‘Would you like to see the colour chart?’ continued the salesman, Simon Gillfish. 

Gillfish was a slim man with a penchant for icing sugar, and would be thirty-six in four years time. He reached onto the wall-mounted rack and pulled out the folded glossy, opening it to allow his customer to see.

Beg’s eye roved over the small coloured squares set in a single row across the middle of the pamphlet. ‘I’m looking for a yellow,’ he said, as if to clarify.

‘Well this is the right chart,’ Gillfish replied, a little bemused.

‘Hmmm.’ Beg pondered the graduated illustrations of colour. ‘Is this a fair representation of the actual colour?’ he asked finally.

‘As good as it can be made, sir.’

‘What about this one?’ Beg asked, touching his finger to the fifth square from the left.

‘Sunshine,’ Gillfish said, reading out the word under the colour. ‘A good choice.’

‘Hmmm.’ Beg gently screwed up his face. ‘Not very yellow, is it?’

The normally calm salesman, five years in the paint department, began to feel his hackles rise just a little. Got a bit of a one here, he thought. ‘What about…Golden Orb?’ he suggested.

‘I was looking for something yellower.’

‘Turmeric?’

‘Not really yellow, is it. Less yellow than Golden Orb, in fact. Do you see?’

‘Yes,’ Gillfish lied.

‘Something less yellow than this one, but more yellow than that one.’

‘That one’s too yellow?’

‘Of course, isn’t it obvious? It screams yellow. It’s so vulgar and in-your-face. It’s too overstated.’

‘Too yellow?’

‘Well perhaps not too yellow, but too obviously yellow.’

‘Ah.’ Gillfish was wishing he’d taken his lunch break a little earlier.

‘That one’s just screaming  “Look at me, I’m yellow!”.’

‘It is bold, I agree. Some people like that.’

‘Well they’re peasants. Yellow, yes, but not attention-grabbing-look-at-the-size-of-my-love-truncheon yellow. It makes me want to vomit. Copiously.’

Gillfish quickly ran his hand over the right side of the chart. ‘These are more understated. Perhaps…’

‘That one?’ Beg asked incredulously, jabbing a finger at the offending square. ‘That doesn’t deserve to be called yellow. It’s little more than a very bright cream. Pretentious colour. Yellow my arse.’

The salesman took a long breath, fighting his rising impatience, and decided to take a slightly different line. ‘Did you have a colour in mind?’

Beg stared at Gillfish like the man was insane. ‘Yes! Yellow!’

‘I see,’ Gillfish said, backtracking. ‘Like… this?’ he suggested, daring to hope, gently touching a colour in the centre of the chart.

‘Now you’re taking the piss. Not yellow like that. More…’

‘Yellow?’ Gillfish mooted.

‘Yes! Not this piece of crap. Less yellow than these two, but more yellow than, well, most of the rest. And no slutty yellows. Not the kind of yellow that pulls up outside a nightclub in a Ferrari and steps out hoping all the women are looking at it. But not some prissy yellow that spends all Saturday afternoon at home watching the golf. Just a good, honest, pint-of-beer-and-a-packet-of-crisps yellow.’

Gillfish nodded sagely, hoping with all his might that armed raiders would break into the superstore and kill him. ‘This one?’ He pointed at a shade halfway across the sheet.

Beg looked like he would explode. ‘You’re not listening, are you?’ he demanded.

‘Sir, this is the only chart of yellows we have. As you see, there are seventeen.’

‘Hopeless,’ Beg said, throwing his arms up. ‘I should sue you all under the Trades Descriptions Act. Yellow? A colour chart purporting to display shades of yellow? Horse manure. I wouldn’t let my daughter out at night with any of these so-called yellows. It’s a travesty.’

‘I’m sorry sir.’ Gillfish prayed that this meant the lunatic was going to give up and leave.

‘I mean, all I want is yellow. Is that too much to ask?’

‘As I say, sir, this is the manufacturer’s chart of yellows.’

‘Well they’re obviously colour blind. Or have no idea about what a good shade of yellow is all about. Pimpled morons, the lot of them.’

‘Who are?’ 

Gillfish looked round at the sound of this new voice. A lady was approaching. From Beg’s expression, the salesman could tell that this was his customer’s wife. Poor woman, he thought.

‘The paint company,’ Beg elucidated. ‘No idea of colours, these people.’

‘Really?’ Mrs Beg queried.

‘I mean, all we want is a nice yellow.’

‘Red, darling.’

Cameron Beg looked taken aback for a second, then realisation dawned. ‘Oh, yes. Red.’

Gillfish felt his life force drain away.

Beg looked at him. ‘Sorry, yes, red.’

Gillfish nodded silently, straining to hear the sound of aliens arriving in the car park to abduct him and perform atrocious experiments on his genitals. But it was unhelpfully quiet.

Suddenly his torture was interrupted. Mrs Beg reached out an arm and lifted a pot of paint from the rack. ‘What about this one, darling?’ she asked, showing it to her husband.

‘Perfect.’

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

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Igbad’s Rollerblading Stunts

In 2018, Tarik Igbad of the Czech Republic was crowned World Rollerblading Champion. Little is known of this diminutive and foreign genius, but his enthusiasm and dedication to his craft are an example for rollerbladers everywhere.

In 1997 at the age of fifteen, Tarik’s father sold all the family’s worldly possessions to buy his only son the birthday gift of his dreams. Initially, Tarik’s progress was slow, and his father began to have second thoughts about the decision, but in October 1998 he was rewarded when Tarik learned to stand upright on the wheeled skates.

Tarik’s confidence began to grow, and by late 1999 he could be seen shuttling up and down the street outside their house in the suburbs of Prague. All the children in the neighbourhood would line the filthy pavements, beating sticks against the gutter and cheering as Tarik weaved along, wearing his favourite yellow bobble hat and blue skates.

Egged on by the crowd, and with an eye to impressing local teen beauty Ivana Belzak, Tarik attempted his first stunt. It wasn’t a pre-planned affair, just a daring spur-of-the-moment lunge for greatness. Cast down in the road was an empty tin of kidney beans, lying on its side. Passing by to check out the situation, Tarik ‘bladed up the road, made a full turn and began his run up. He built up a good head of speed, a Mexican wave of cheering urchins following him, and leapt ebulliently into the air.

A year later, after recovering from the broken collarbone and shattered knee, Tarik Igbad was ready to rollerblade again. Yet now the streets were empty. Even Ivana didn’t emerge from her front door to watch him. This made him all the more determined. Day after day he practised, leaping over chalk marks scribed in the road, until he was ready to try the can of beans again.

It was a bright warm day in June 2001 when Tarik began that run-up again, trying to banish the memory of failure from his mind, not daring to gaze into windows, to try and look past curtains, to wonder if anyone—especially his beloved Ivana—was watching him.

He cleared the tin by a full half-inch and punched the air in delight. Now he was ready for the big time.

Buoyed up, he coasted back to the site of his jump and cast the empty tin aside. Things were going to get serious. He went over to the pavement and fetched his second obstacle; a spaghetti tin. He laid it on its side and powered off for his first run.

Tarik has always candidly admitted that his first attempt was aborted, his mind distracted at the last minute by the colourful writing on the can’s wrapper. But he was not to be beaten, and on his second attempt he sailed majestically over with five-eighths of an inch to spare. He was ecstatic. He was also level-headed and knew not to push himself. He drew a line under that greatest of days and went to bed, almost tearful with joy.

A fortnight later, and with curtains undeniably twitching in the houses that lined what was fast becoming his arena, Igbad jumped the spaghetti tin with it standing upright. By the time evening came and his margin of clearance had bettered an inch, he was sure he saw Ivana Belzak’s face outlined behind her thin bedroom curtain.

By the following week, with an almost showy Tarik having graduated to two tins side-by-side, Ivana was out on the pavement, watching again, and the number of local children joining her grew day by day. It was late October when, after his first successful attempt to clear a hurdle two tins deep, Tarik finally got up the courage to speak to his beloved, and that night,  whilst still wearing rollerblades, the new local hero lost his virginity down by the stagnant canal backwater.

By early 2003, and with Ivana now a constant companion, Tarik Igbad progressed to yet more amazing stunts. Quickly he’d mastered jumping diverse obstacles such as four spaghetti tins in a row, two bricks arranged in an inverted V, and a miner’s helmet. Kids were coming from nearby streets to watch, and even his parents had stopped beating him. Late in the year he held a demonstration event, charging a small entrance fee, and used the proceeds to help buy a new pair of ‘blades to replace his very worn blue set.

Everything snowballed from there. There was the odd injury, notably a broken finger when attempting to jump a line of pre-cooked chickens, but he was already the talk of the city and much of the country too, signing autographs and resisting the temptation of groupies.

To celebrate his engagement to Ivana in October 2005, Tarik held a charity event, jumping, amongst other things, a Yamaha motorbike (upright), a disused lawnmower, a bus queue, a bus queue where the participants hadn’t been pre-warned, and the Minister Of Finance in a leotard. For the grand finale he whipped the crowd into a frenzy before jumping over three women dressed as John Dory blanched in milk with a herb sauce and steamed asparagus.

Now famous across Europe, Tarik undertook a world tour to thousands of screaming fans. It was not without incident though, nor controversy. In Milan he grazed both palms after landing awkwardly following his signature jump over six men with red hair holding jars of honey. Far more notable was the now infamous “Thames incident” which occurred during his spell in England.

Grandstanding, Tarik claimed on 17th June 2008 that the following day he would jump the river Thames. Crowds lined the London Embankments, their mood anxious but excited, waiting for the incredible stunt to play out before them. Tarik, however, occasionally prone to the odd practical joke, was talented but not insane. At 2pm he proudly jumped the river a few miles from its source in England’s heartland, clearing the fifteen inch stream with ease. The protestations of fair play were as loud as the cries of ‘foul’, but Tarik, although he left England knowing he could never play there again, retained his mantle.

From stunt jumping, he eased smoothly into competition and his prize money rocketed. Ivana his wife was always by his side and in late 2010 he bought her a square mile of the Pacific Ocean just two hours flying time from the Galapagos Islands and had it marked out with buoys in vermilion and chestnut, her two favourite colours. She knows she can go there whenever she wishes.

As new World Rollerblading Champion, Tarik hasn’t changed much. He’s still blonde and blue eyed, loves his fans, wishes his parents would accept him, and is always looking for a new challenge. 

And he still carries that empty tin of beans wherever he goes.

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

advanced sexual positions

Advanced Sexual Positions

“The Illuminator”

Good for  :  Reducing the “To Do” list

Not recommended for  :  Use outdoors, overweight couples

The man stands on the chair (recommend a sturdy kitchen-type chair, no wheels or cushions) with his buttocks against the chair back. The woman gets onto the chair and stands facing away from the man. The woman bends over until her back is at a 45 degree angle. When the man has attained a comfortable position, he changes the light bulb.

“The Surf N Turf”

Good for  :  Women called Stacey

Not recommended for  :  Vegetarians

The woman assumes the Crab position. The man assumes the Llama position.

“Just Coming, Love”

Good for  :  Safe sex

Not recommended for  : Energetic types

The man lays on the bed and achieves a state of preparedness while the woman removes her nail polish in the bathroom. The man falls asleep.

“Giving The Bird”

Good for   :  Wierdos

Not recommended for   :   Men with a fear of common fowl

The man lays on the bed. The woman straddles him and flaps her arms, clucking like a chicken.

“The Long Shot”

Good for   :  Energetic types

Not recommended for   :  Those with sensitive eardrums, impatient couples

The man and woman both engage in a rigorous 9-month course to train as Human Cannonballs. Having graduated, and when the mood is right, the couple enlist the help of professionals to set up two cannon in close proximity. Consulting appropriate experts, the couple ensure that the cannon are arranged such that the two flight paths intersect about 2 seconds after the cannonballs leave the barrel.

Both cannon are fired simultaneously. The man and woman – wearing the appropriate safety headgear – meet in mid-air, copulate, and fall to earth (a safety net).

It is recommended that both parties attain a significant state of arousal before being fired. Intercourse lasts less than 4 seconds. This position requires tremendous practice and is notoriously difficult to get right. Female orgasm has been recorded only once.

“The Obvious Deception”

Good for   :  Future divorcees

Not recommended for   :   Those who buy their milk at the supermarket 

The man goes to an important conference in Hastings. The woman shags the milkman.

“The Un-Obvious Deception”

Good for   :  Confused husbands

Not recommended for  :  Those who buy their milk at the supermarket 

The woman goes to an important conference in Hastings. The man shags the milkman.

“The Good Neighbour”

Good for   :  Suburbanites

Not recommended for  :  High rise apartment block dwellers, left-handed people

Best on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The woman pours herself a Pimms and lays out in the garden on the recliner, and soon falls asleep. The neighbour looks over his fence, sees this, dons his gardening gloves and takes the opportunity to trim the woman’s bush. When he is finished, he wakes the woman. She tells him it looks nice, but that he should clean up the leaves. He does this and then they make love.

Mowing the lawn is an acceptable substitute.

“The Yee-Hah”

Good for  :   Practising your balance

Not recommended for   : Hemharroid sufferers

The woman mounts the horse. The man mounts the woman.

“The Politician And The Mistress”

Good for   :   Role-players

Not recommended for   :  Honest people

The woman lies down on the bed. The man lies.

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”.