Splash!

1973

AS A family, in those days we sometimes did fun stuff. Occasionally, we went on day trips to places like Dunvegan Castle or Armadale Castle. School summer holidays usually meant going further afield to Glasgow and Inverness, the former to see relatives, the latter to engage in a grand shopping spree for clothes. This Autumn, we might get to pick hazelnuts beyond the Faerie Knoll again. And if the weather was really nice, we might go swimming at Aiseag Beach.

My favorite swimming haunt, though, was the deep freshwater pool at Black Park, not an adult in sight. All the kids used to go there in the summer, armed with enormous rubber tubes procured from the guys at the local garage, who were only too willing to get rid of them. We could just as easily have swum in the sea but at least at Black Park you weren’t likely to be stung by a jellyfish.

Then, of course, there was Mrs Weir. Like a whirlwind, she blew in one day with her inflatable indoor swimming pool, to make way for which our classroom was cleared of desks and chairs. I knew I looked ridiculous in my mum’s ill-fitting blue rubber swimming cap but my self-consciousness didn’t last long. I was so at home in the pool, I felt like a mermaid. A water baby.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2020



NATIVIDAD: Chapter Six

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER SIX

MIDNIGHT came and the babe left its mother’s womb to utter its first cry and to the sound of much rejoicing.

From her belongings, Eva took a headscarf bearing the single star on red of her motherland, and in it she swaddled her newborn.

Then she laid her in a drawer filled with hay and blankets, saying “For unto us a daughter is born. And her name shall be called Emanuelle, for she entered this world on the same day as our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And Agent Young pulled a gold coin from his inside coat pocket and pressed it into the infant’s hand.

And Rodriguez drew from his pocket a cigar but pressed it instead into Percy’s hand.

Then Special Agent Armstrong took from his coat pocket a small flagon of whiskey and pressed it into Eva’s hand, saying “Verily, that is the best I can do.”

Percy and Eva thanked them for their gifts. Then Percy whispered to Eva that he would raise the babe as if she were his own.

And Agent Young said “But she is your own.”

And Rodriguez said “It is true. Behold her eyes. And behold her nose.”

Then Agent Armstrong said “While you were away, our eyes were on your house. If she had deceived you, we would have known it.”

Young and Rodriguez voiced their accord, for all he had said was true.

Knowing for certain now that he had falsely accused his beloved, Percy wept.

Then the three agents conspired amongst themselves in order that they might tell their masters the same story.

Before the three men bid Percy and Eva farewell, Armstrong said to Percy “You do know that this is not over”.

And Percy said to him “Indeed.”

And within the hour an ambulance came to take mother and child to the safety of a fine, warm hospital bed.

THE END

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Five

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER FIVE

AND it came to pass that the light did shine through the window and betray them.

A voice from beneath them cried up “I know you are there. I am come to help you.”

And when Percy asked why he should be believed, the voice said “I say unto you I am coming up now.”

And when he had ascended, Percy saw that it was the man in his dream. But before Percy could smite him, the stranger put down his weapon and held forth his badge so that Percy could see under whose authority he had come. He was a special agent of the CIA by the name of Armstrong.

And when Percy asked why he was here, Agent Armstrong said “It is classified”.

At that moment the birthing began in earnest.

Then it came to pass that the Cuban and the Federal agent were below them and gunshots could be heard.

And Percy heard the Cuban say to the American that he only wanted the child; the American to the Cuban that he wanted only the Englishman.

But when they heard Eva’s screams, they took pity on her and conspired to cease hostilities.

So the American cried up into the loft to offer their assistance. And once they were ascended into the loft, they put down their weapons and introduced themselves as Comrade Rodriguez and Federal Agent Young.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Four

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER FOUR

WHEN they arrived there, not a soul was to be found, the doors and windows were locked up and twilight was nearly upon them. So Percy, knowing the place from his boyhood, found them refuge in the mews behind his friend’s dwelling house. He looked about him but there was no sign yet of their pursuers.

And once Percy had found a lamplight, he went up into the loft with it, knowing that even though it would guide their pursuers, they had no choice.

And he made for Eva a bed of mattresses and blankets that were packed away in a chest. And once he had made her comfortable, he gathered all manner of implements so that he might defend them.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

Stranger than fiction

gears

BOXING DAY 2014. As usual the telly is crap. Flicking through the mindless list of channels, we finally stumble across Jonathan Creek and I declare “Aha!”. Since it was once rather compelling, it is logical to think that it might still be, even if we are about to watch a repeat. However, as we become drawn into the clever weave of mystery and intrigue, it seems that it has been so long since I last saw it that it feels fresh. This one is called “The Judas Tree”.

In case you’re not familiar with Jonathan Creek, the main character is a creative consultant to an illusionist and in his spare time he solves crimes that appear to be supernatural. The bad guys are always clever illusionists themselves and it’s Jonathan’s job to figure out how they pulled off their dastardly crimes. He has had three sidekicks – this time it’s not Caroline Quentin, it’s the blonde one.

Anyway, there we are sitting in front of the TV, Alex trying to have a conversation with me while I try to keep up with the complexity of the plot. Jonathan meantime is rooting about in a darkened room, experiencing his own “Aha” moments with increasing frequency yet, like me, still scratching his head.

Earlier that day, I took Alex to task for having resorted to clipping my thigh with the back of his hand in order to get my attention. Now he is doing it again.

But this time, before I have a chance to yelp the word “Ooowwwww!”, Jonathan’s bubbly assistant Sheridan says to him, completely out of context with the rest of the dialogue, “What’s that smacking sound?”

In true Scooby Doo fashion, my jaw drops and I turn to Alex, who is looking back at me, eyes nearly popping out of his head.

All together now “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!”

“Shaggy?”

“Okay, Alex, seriously – how did you do that?”

Once the initial shock of such a freaky coincidence is over and we are both satisfied that the other hasn’t been sneaking a shifty peek on a +1 channel, we devote both our attentions to the eventual resolution of the case, convinced that if we keep our earflaps wide open, the significance of the smacking sound will be revealed. After all, it is reasonable to assume that it is a clue. We listen … and we wait ….

But the eerie part is this … when all the pennies finally drop, the smacking sound is not one of them. Those four words served no purpose whatsoever. Now I’m going to have to replay the whole damn lot to make sure it even happened.

Can two people imagine the same thing? What if the idea to start slapping my thigh had actually been planted in Alex’s head two nights before during an earlier episode of Jonathan Creek? I’m scared to google this in case I’ve just taken part in an outdated and well documented mind control experiment by the BBC! I’d hate to ruin a good story.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Three

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER THREE

THE day before Christmas Eve, word came to the FBI of Percy and Eva’s intended departure, and this so enraged them that they ploughed every possible furrow to discover their destination. London they were told. So a Federal agent was sent to the airport to prevent their escape.

Percy and Eva arrived there only to find that they were followed by not one, not two but three men. One looked like an FBI agent, another was the man who had assailed Eva; the third man Percy recognised as the stranger in his dream. They seemed none too pleased that the others were there.

It was for this reason alone that Percy and Eva reached their flight without incident. ‘Twas the last flight before Christmas.

During their journey, Eva protested her innocence anew. But still Percy’s heart was cold.

Once in the land of Percy’s forefathers, they got through the airport as fast as they could to confound the Federal agent. Then when they hailed a taxi to take them into the city of London, where they had booked a hotel for the night, they saw the Cuban agent.

Followed by two taxis, Percy and Eva finally arrived at the Waldorf Hotel, exhausted and sore afraid. But their reservation was not to be found and there were no more rooms.

Percy flew into such a rage that he struck fear into the receptionist, so he was informed by the manager that if they did not leave, they would call the police. Meanwhile, Eva’s pains had begun and snow was nigh.

Their fear made greater by the sight of the third man lying in wait outside the door, Percy instructed the next driver to take them to the mansion house of an old friend in a place called Bethnal Green.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

As The Crow Flies

crow

MIDNIGHT had long passed and it was raining hard. Visibility was limited to that which was illuminated by the bright flecks of driving rain caught in the beam of the headlights. All else was black.

The dance was now a distant memory. Despite the conditions and a bloodstream full of whisky, the man in the brand new Hillman Imp knew this single-track road from Torrin to Broadford intimately. He had no idea he was getting sloppy but he did concede that he was feeling tired and welcomed the thought of his warm bed.

Just as his eyes were getting a little heavier, the man became aware that he was about to pass the old haunted graveyard. The realisation gave him just enough adrenalin to restore him to a state of wakefulness, for Kilchrist was a place that struck fear into the hearts of anyone that had ever been within its perimeter. The man squinted at the timepiece he pulled from his coat pocket.

Two o’clock. God, was that the time?

The witching hour. His grip on the steering wheel became just that little bit tighter.

II

HAD THE man still been in a stupor, he may have had less of a fright when the creature appeared out of nowhere. What looked like a pair of shiny black wings exploded into view, piercing the driving rain and heading straight for him.

The man slammed his brakes, veering to the other side of the road to avoid lurching forward and flying through the windscreen himself. When the car finally screeched to a halt, he sat for what seemed to him an eternity, his fingers and forehead glued to the upper rim of the steering wheel. It was only when he lifted his head that he realised he had no idea which direction he was facing. Whatever that thing was, it had pulled up and over the vehicle just in time.

But even when the danger appeared to be over, the fear persisted and his darkest imaginings ran wild. He could hear the voice of his mother rambling that this was the work of the Devil and at this very moment, he wondered if she was right. He reached for the glove compartment and pulled out the leatherbound Bible that his mother had insisted he keep with him at all times. Without his spectacles, he drew his comfort just from holding it, reciting the Lord’s Prayer until his heartbeat settled into its near-normal pace and he started to feel foolish. Putting the whole episode down to having drunk too much, he returned the Holy Book to its hiding place.

With no inclination whatsoever to get out of the car to investigate, the man had to switch off the headlights to get his bearings. He reoriented himself in the direction of Broadford and went on his way. When he crept into the house, his parents were asleep and he was quiet as a mouse.

III

IT WAS breakfast and an hour past sunrise. The man’s early morning chores up on the croft had been completed and he was on his second cigarette. His mother drew a bowl of steaming porridge from the cast iron pot perched on the range and placed it in front of him. She said not a word. Her face was more drawn than usual.

His father fixing on him through rings of pipesmoke from the opposite end of the table made the ticking of the grandmother clock on the back wall seem unnaturally loud and the man nervous. His intakes became longer and deeper.

His mother muttered some inaudible excuse and headed outside with a basket of clean washing. Once certain that she was no longer in earshot, the Old Man leaned over the table.

“Iain, is there anything you would like to tell me?”

Mid-draw, Iain stopped in his tracks. He scanned his memory to figure out if he should know the answer to the question.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, how do I put it? The Old Man emitted a long puff as he tried to find the right words. “Have you done anything?”

Now Iain’s heart was beating faster. Something was clearly not right.

“Done anything? I still don’t know what you mean.”

“Did you do anything you shouldn’t have?” A shorter pause. “Last night to be exact.”

Iain’s heart stuttered. Sharp intake of breath. A cough. Murky half-faded images from the night before sought form in his head.

“You’re scaring me. If you’re talking about last night, I went to the dance. I danced, had a few drinks and came back. End of story.”

“You sure about that?”

It was hard for Iain to look his father in the eye. The only thing he could think of was that he might have taken a liberty or two with one of the wives, so the look of guilt was unmistakeable.

“Will you please tell me what you’re talking about?”

“You really don’t know ….”

“No! Now will you please tell me.” Panic was setting in. “I don’t want to be late for work.”

The Old Man drew long and hard on his pipe. He was clearly going to stretch this out.

“Well, Iain,” he said, “you must have done something. Not long after you came back to the house, there was a strange and mighty rattling sound coming from the window above your bed.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. You were fast asleep. Well, I got up to have a look and in the name of the wee man, if it wasn’t a great big black bird trying to get in. It was making one godalmighty commotion, flapping its wings and pecking at the glass with its beak.” He lowered his voice to a near whisper. “It was trying to break the window ….”

Iain’s fingers were trembling, his face ashen, when he stubbed out his last cigarette of the morning.

“Really?”

extract from Close Call: Short and Bittersweet, published April 2015

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2014

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Two

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER TWO

FIVE months passed. During this time, Percy forgot about the dream and was too preoccupied with the demands of his profession and the infidelity of his once beloved to pay much heed to the host of vehicles regularly parked outside.

When it was made known to Percy that Federal agents were about to apprehend him for being a Communist spy, he knew that he had no choice but to flee to England.

He found a listening instrument in his apartment but left it in its place.

Meanwhile, Eva’s father had bade his time before he sent an agent of his own to persuade his daughter to return to the land of Cuba and bear her child there. But she refused.

The agent said to her “Verily, if you come with me now, and bear this child in the land of your forefathers, I shall guarantee you safe return to New York.”

Realising that her father had interest only in the child, she kicked her abductor in such a manner and with such force that he might beget no offspring of his own and ran for her life.

Then she pleaded with Percy to take her out of the country. He agreed to this but only on condition that she spoke quietly so that no-one might hear them and promised to have the child given away.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

NATIVIDAD: Chapter One

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-one in the year of our Lord. In those days the leaders of America were most incensed that Communism had taken the land of Cuba. So too the new government of Cuba was greatly displeased that America had secretly taken its children on the pretext that they were saving them.

And living in the city of New York was an actress exiled from the land of Cuba called Eva. Her betrothed was an English advertising consultant by the name of Percy.

And it came to pass that two months before the day of their legal union, Eva declared that she was three months with child. By the time she realised that her physician must have made a mistake, it was too late. Percy did not believe that the child could be his, for he was on business far away at the time of its conception. Eva was aggrieved that she could do nothing to persuade him otherwise.

And so Percy made it known to Eva’s father, who happened to be a high-ranking official in the court of Fidel Castro, the King of Cuba, his displeasure, in the hope that he would come and take her away. Until then, he would renounce their betrothal but not put her to shame, instead continuing to keep her, but in a separate dwelling.

One night Percy became so intoxicated that he fell into a deep but fitful sleep on a park bench.

A well-spoken man wearing a fedora and a belted overcoat appeared to him, saying “Behold. Marry your beloved and go to England. She speaks the truth. Verily I say until you, the child is of your seed and you are all in grave danger.”

When he awoke, his head was as if cloven in two.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

The Visitation

visitation

Wee Willie Winkie runnin’ through the toon,
Upstairs doonstairs in his nichtie-goon,
Chapping at the windaes, peekin’ through the locks,
Are a’ the children in their beds, it’s past eight o’clock.

(slightly customised version of Scottish nursery rhyme –
Wee Willie Winkie is the Scottish equivalent of the Sandman)

I

THE NIGHT began just like any other. Mum and Dad had bundled my brother and I up the stairs and into our pyjamas in the expectation of a child-free evening in front of the telly. And, as usual, we chattered across the room for as long as it took. In those days, my little brother really was my little brother. I was seven, nearly grown up, he was still a baby at only five.

Back then I was afraid of the dark. But neither of my parents would have known about my recurring nightmare, the one where I had to hide because the Bogey Man had come to get me and the only place I could think of was under the hearthrug in the sitting room. Of course, he would find me and then I would wake up. Nor would they have known of the one where I would wake up and go downstairs to talk to them, only to find two hooded faceless figures sitting by the fire like Reapers. I would flee the house and keep running until they caught up with me. Then I would wake up for real.

Regardless, the hall light was always left on, the bedroom door ajar to let in just enough light to keep the ghosties at bay.

My brother and I had been chattering for some time, when we heard someone creeping about at the top of the stair. When the hideous shadow appeared on the bedroom door, we knew instantly who it was. I clutched the bedclothes and braced myself, unable to bear the thought of what might happen next.

The bulbous nose, the shape of a Rumplestiltskin hat, the jarring whiny voice … everything about this creature reminded me of the baddie in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who frightened me more than anything that Doctor Who could throw at me.

The Voice asked if we were fast asleep.

Ours trembled, as we replied “No.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes,” we whimpered.

“Who am I then?”

“Wee Willie Winkie.”

“Exactly. And you know what happens to little children who don’t go to sleep after eight o’clock, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, go to sleep. No talking.”

“Yes, Wee Willie Winkie.”

Then the Shadow was gone, the only indication of what had passed the creak of the dodgy floorboard by the landing bannister.

For an hour or so, we were too terrified to utter a sound. It was a blessing when at long last the dreams came to take us away.

II

I WAS in my late thirties when I recounted my traumatic encounter to a friend.

“… and then when I went to school next day, I told all my classmates that Wee Willie Winkie had come to my bedroom door, and they laughed at me, because I still believed he actually existed. Shit.”

“What?”

“The devious jammy …”

“Who?”

“My dad.”

“Why?”

“It was him. In all the years since that happened, it never crossed my mind that it was a setup. Duh, wot a plonker. Ah well, at least I don’t have to scratch my head now trying to figure out if it really did happen.”

III

TODAY, as I was about to pen my tale, I looked up Wee Willie Winkie on Wikipedia. Seems we were double had. The original nursery rhyme clearly states that all children should be in their beds by ten

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015