Saturday 30 January 2021

One Piece of Flash Fiction by Roger Haydon


Not likely round here

It was in a plain buff envelope, as you would expect with that sort of thing. It had our names, Neil and Sylvia, written on it but no surname. Inside was a photocopied message made up of letters cut from a newspaper saying:

Friday evening. The Brown household. Be there. That day will be the last. Cuckoos in the nest.”

Nothing else, nothing on the back, no stamp. Pushed through our letterbox some time Monday night. There is no Brown household in the village or, indeed, any other colour (thank goodness, ha ha) so, at first, we thought it was a joke. I didn’t mind but Sylvia said it was creepy, get rid of it, so I didn’t laugh. Actually, I kept it and didn’t tell Sylvia, you know what she’s like about that sort of thing. I found out at the church coffee morning on Tuesday that Mary across the road got an identical note with “Mary” on the envelope. She burnt hers. Some people think she was a witch in another life and I have to say I do wonder about her.

The so very delightful Kevin and Angela at the top of the lane in their swanky palace with its huge conservatory and the gazebo at the end of their enormous garden, they got one too. They’ve got a swimming pool, the jammy so-and-sos, but they’ve got the space for that, what with all the land they’ve got. And the money to pay for it though the word is that the money is a bit iffy, if you know what I mean.

And Josh and Steven, the local gay couple – they’re everywhere days I believe - down near the end of the cul-de-sac overlooking the railway line, they also got one and paid it no mind at all.

They said, ‘Being what we are, we get this kind of thing all the time, other people being what they are.’

Brian, living on his own after his wife walked out because of his temper two months ago, got a copy of the note. I walked past his front gate on Wednesday morning and he said it made him really angry. His neighbours, Sarah and Nick, with their beautiful new baby, got a copy so Jen told me. Jen is Dr. Houghton’s wife and the village oracle, never cross Jen if you can help it.

It became clear that only some people in the village received it. Apparently, the Reverend Baldwin was left out, which was odd because he’s always been one of us after all. Or so we thought.

Anyway, here we are, it’s Friday evening and the usual gang has got together in Dr. Houghton’s enormous kitchen to chew the fat about the Great Mystery and other stuff. There are the many bottles of wine that people always bring to this sort of thing, and a carry out chinese to come that Jen has ordered from the Emperor’s Palace at the top of the hill, so very kind of her.

Brian says he thought he saw some people, including the Reverend Baldwin, hanging around outside as he walked up but he isn’t sure.

‘It’s because you live alone, you’re seeing things Brian.’ says Kevin followed by general laughter all round. Brian looks cross. And now the Reverend has actually arrived looking a bit flushed, carrying what looks like a heavy sports bag of all things.

‘Been to the gym. New Year resolution, don’t mock.’ he says. ‘Sorry I’m late. Didn’t get the message that you all got, you know. Very odd.’

‘We know, Reverend. White wine or red?’ says Jen.

Anyway, we’re getting through hilarious theories including a cry for help, sneaky advertising, a prank, a party political manifesto, a strange work of art (Gareth says Banksy but we all say he paints, not writes, you idiot), a death threat and a revolutionary call to arms.  The last from Seth and Jemima, the university lecturers - sociology and media studies I believe. They’re nice though their lefty political ideas don’t really fit in round here (“woke” is the term to use I’m led to understand), but it takes all sorts. Eventually silent, dapper Gordon the IT specialist, who we all suspect works for “the government”, opines it could be a coded message and says he’ll take it to work on Monday and see what he can do.

‘Great,’ we all say, ‘thank you Gordon, thank you so much, what a relief.’ Gordon guffaws loudly at this, no idea why. Gordon’s wife is foreign, from Africa I believe but she’s actually quite nice, speaks good English.

But, we’re getting a jolly party out of it so why worry? We’ve finished the wine we all brought, so we have a whip round and send Ben – Dr Houghton’s son home from university– out to the offy to get some more drinks and we tuck into the newly arrived chinese which is actually delicious, who would have thought it.

Then the Reverend says, ‘Midwich Cuckoos.’

And we all say ‘What?’

Jen says, ‘Midwich Cuckoos, a scary story from yonks ago.’

‘Oh yes,’ says Gordon, ‘something happens and everybody in some village falls asleep and when they wake up all the women of child bearing age are pregnant.’

‘Not likely round here, I’m afraid.’ I say. ‘Most of the ladies here are well past that sort of thing, ha ha.’

Gordon continues, ‘And in the end all the evil children are persuaded by the frightened villagers to gather together somewhere indoors.  Then someone they trust sets off a bomb inside, kills them all. I think it was the vicar that did it, but I can’t be sure.’

I’m looking at Reverend Baldwin who has just put his hand inside the sports bag.

Roger was born in London and has lived in the North East of England in the Tyne Valley for well over 40 years. He retired in 2012 from a working life in health care, environmental consultancy among various other odd occupations that demanded mainly dry as dust reports and proposals. Now, getting on a bit, he is finding deep pleasure in writing flash fiction, short stories and the occasional poem. He’s trying to learn what words can really do, find a consistent voice and, mainly, have fun with them. About six years ago, he acquired an allotment and wishes he had done that years ago.

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