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"Hi, what can I get you?" Norman said. He was under the counter, taking stock when the customer came in. Why did the Handy Pavilion coffee shop have three times as many small cup lids as it had small cups? It just didn't make any sense.

"Can you do me a Greek coffee?"

"Don’t have the settup for Turkish coffee."

"I didn't ask for a Turkish coffee, I asked for a Greek coffee."

"It's all the same sh… Oh, it's you, Dad." Norman rose, dusting his hands with a paper towel. "Basically we're just set up for espresso. I can get you a short black, if you like."

Norman's father was a handsome, broad faced man with thick salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly trimmed grey beard. He was a couple of inches taller than Norman and looked like he worked out. The sleeves of his fawn windcheater bulged with muscle.

"Just a cup of tea will be fine," he said, "if I can't get a proper coffee."

...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 33: Family Business"

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It wasn't about the newsletter. Not anymore, not since the forces of censorship had made sure that nothing important or true could be found there any longer. No, as Karl Wintergreen sat in his old Citroen in the car park seeking the truth, he knew he'd never be able to tell anyone what he'd learned. Oh, he could put it on the Internet, probably. One more conspiracy theory amongst thousands, for all the good it would do.

No, Karl Wintergreen was not there as a reporter. He was there as a witness. Because someone needed to be.

The clues had been scattered, but he'd taken them all in. Not long ago, Carol from the coffee shop had arrived at work with a bruise on her face, which she'd ineptly attempted to cover up with makeup. Karl might have suspected her lunkhead boyfriend, Zorbar Ofthechimps, but he'd turned up for work at the Place O' Pets with his eyebrows singed off, suggesting that something had happened to both of them.

The same day was the first day he saw the concrete truck parked in front of the Handy Pavilion. There was no concreting work going on nearby, but tradies often went to the Pavilion for tools, so there was no reason a concrete truck shouldn't have been there. But it was there the next day and the next day after that--always in a slightly different parking spot, but always a good spot. Too good a spot for the Pavilion management to let some random vehicle park there indefinitely. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 32: Transformations"

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Fiona sat in the Handy Pavilion break room, using her powers to make whirlpools in her orange juice. Whirlpools were easy and she soon tired of them. Water spouts were a little more fun, but only a little. She sighed deeply let the juice fall back into the cup. She concentrated for a minute, and then the tiny figure of a man rose out of the cup, a sculpture in orange.

She concentrated a little longer, and the details of the figure became more focused, more precise. From a rough outline of a human form it transformed into the figure of a man. Wellsey, with his bald head and apron. Fiona made the figure as perfect as she could, willing the molecules of water into polymer chains, willing the chains into solid forms. The shape of Wellsey gave way to a figure of Norman. Then Ms Shan, Norman, Zorbar, Nalda, Donna, dear old Adam, Sadie and Angela.

The last one broke her concentration. She hadn't meant her figure to be either of the MacGregor twins specifically, but somehow she found her little water sculpture breaking into two. Annoyed, she stopped and let the juice resume to the shape of the cup.

She needed more sleep. That much was certain. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 31: Crossed Words"

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Buck Dusty was ringing up a sale in the power tool section when his trigger finger started to itch. He looked up at the time. The hour hand on the clock behind the key cutting counter pointed straight up. The minute hand was off by maybe twenty degrees. Three minutes to High Noon. He knew what was coming.

He wanted to hitch up his belt, spit on the floor and moseyed out to the stand in front of Mailboxes and Doormats, but the last time he'd done that he'd been given an official warning. Instead, he fought down the squirming in his gut and finished the transaction he was processing.

"Afraid we don't take AmEx, suh," he said to the man in the expensive shirt who was buying an overpriced biscuit joiner.

"No one takes AmEx!" the customer whinged, and produced another credit card.

His duty done, Buck gestured to Christian to take the counter. Then he hitched up his belt, but refrained from spitting at the floor. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 30: Showdown at Loading Bay Gulch"

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Ms Shan looked at the letter and found that it had stubbornly refused to change its meaning while she'd been looking away.

"Can we appeal it?" Marlon said

"Yes, easily," Ms Shan said. "I tried to raise the issue with the Minister already, but he didn't seem very willing to chat."

The plan had been simple. The Super Centre had a carpark slightly smaller than that of the neighbouring Mega Centre. This meant that when the Super Centre carpark was full, the Mega Centre got the overflow. By increasing the size of the Super Centre carpark, the situation would have reversed. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 29: Escalation"

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Axel looked down at the pile of glass terrarium bottles he'd just unpacked, and realised that he'd put them all on the wrong shelf. In his frustration, he kicked the base of the shelving unit, which hurt his toe far more than it did the massive steel form of the unit.

Why didn't Captain Stellar just fight him?

That was the thing. A week before, Stellar had confronted him about the incident with the death ray. He'd guessed everything. Everything!

Axel ought to have known that Stellar would figure it out eventually, once he'd sobered up and pulled himself together. But no, Axel had been caught flatfooted. His mind had raced, searching for some strategy for fighting Stellar without causing any damage to the Handy Pavilion. But before he'd even finished ironing out the issues with his third contingency plan, Stellar had waved goodbye and walked away.

Ever since then, Axel had been off his game. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 28: Axel’s Enemy"

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Fridays were the worst days, Laura decided. No, wait. Saturdays were the worst. Not counting Thursdays, obviously. She sighed, and looked at her watch. Only three hours to go. Then she could take off, change into her Voyager costume and go fight some crime.

She grimaced at the thought. She had never really wanted to be a superhero, but the job had grown on her. Yeah, a lot of it was kind of stupid. That whole alien gorilla thing she'd dealt with the week before… seriously, what had that been about? But sometimes--not always, but sometimes--the people she had to put in prison were very bad people indeed. It made the whole thing seem a little less pointless. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 27: Terror from Tomorrow"

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The trouble with being dead, Bruce thought, was that is was really bloody boring.

Boredom didn't seem to bother the other ghosts. Not that there were many ghosts around. He was the only one in the Handy Pavilion, and there were just a few others in the Super Centre. Yet these others all seemed to have a purpose.

Take young Vinnie. Sixteen year old petrol-head. Died after a tire blew out while he was doing burnouts in the carpark late one night, sending his stolen Mazda crashing into an open stormwater drain. His spectral vehicle could still be seen from time to time, doing doughnuts in the moonlight. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 26: Ghost in the Machine"

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Christian looked across garden furniture towards Norman in his little café apron and smirked. So less manly than his own hardware apron! All was going well. Norman was out and he, Christian, was the rising star of the Handy Pavillion!

Just look at Norman there, making coffee for Sadie and that guy with the glasses and big chin! Where would he be in five years time? Still making coffee! Where would Christian be? 2IC of the power tools section! Or even… dare he even dream it? Manager of power tools!

Of course, his success was not all down to him. He had his mentor to thank…

His shift had ended, so he made his way to the men's toilet and moved the hidden panel in the floor. Beneath was a narrow tunnel, which he descended by means of a ladder of huge cast iron staples. Hanging on one staple was an old electric lamp. He turned it on, clipped it to his belt, and continued his descent. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself, Chapter 25: Underground"

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Captain Stellar had been sober for fifty days. No. Captain Stellar wasn't around any more. It was Vincent who had been sober for fifty days. Only Vincent.

Vincent, off the bottle and here to make amends to the people he'd wronged. He'd written an anonymous cheque for the damage he'd done to the DIY Barn and the Place O'Pets, but that was just impersonal property damage. Now he had to make amends to the real people he'd hurt: Popplewell. Harper. Cho.

Platzoff. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself Chapter – 24: One Day at a Time"

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