Bruce's bad back was starting to get to him. It didn't seem fair, somehow – being reincarnated in a giant robot body and still having a bad back. He hoped the giant lizard that he was fighting would go down soon, because he didn't know how long he could keep going anyway. Technically, he shouldn't be up at all. The sun was above the horizon, and as a ghost he wasn't active of a daytime. Somehow though, he was still fighting on, and he didn't know how.
He put the thought from his mind, just as he put from his mind the image of all the people dying in the street below. Concentrate. Concentrate on the lizard, the huge scaly lizard.
The thing was as big as him, and tough with it. Its bones seemed weirdly flexible, which was perhaps why the thing was able to absorb blows that should have crushed its skull. Bruce had been a big guy in life and he was a big guy in death, and like a lot of big guys he'd never found it necessary to learn how to fight. All he knew how to do was trade punch for punch with the lizard and hope that the creature would go down before Bruce's back went out and he had to lie down. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 70: Bruce’s Back"
The battle was swift and the battle was merciless. Norman ran directly at a silver-clad Barnling, a length of two-by-four his only weapon. The Barnling raised his gun, but Norman's stout plank cracked this opponent square in the wrist, and the weapon went skittering over the bitumen of Wellington Road, landing under a car. The Barnling turned to face Norman, but too late. Another blow of the two-bee sent him sprawling to the ground with a shattered shoulder.
Norman almost laughed out loud. After the dread of the last few weeks, the actual battle seemed almost easy. Then something hit him in the head. Hard. He never saw it coming -- never knew if it was an enemy strike or a mis-aimed blow from a friend. Either way, he fell to one knee, clutching his injury. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 64: Apotheosis Now"
Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.
His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.
Wellsey leant against one of the pillars that held up the lofty roof of the Handy Pavilion and sighed deeply. It really was just one of those days. Marlon, leaning on the other side of the pillar, sighed even more deeply. From his jeans pocket he took a hip flask, took a swallow, and handed the bottle to Wellsey. Wellsey shook his head. Marlon shrugged, and slipped the flask away.
"You and Joyce got Valentine's Day plans?" Marlon said.
Something came hurtling over the nearest shelving unit. Part of a toilet? Something porcelain anyway. Both men ducked as it hit a nearby shelf, smashing a pile of paint cans, sending blue acrylic dripping to the floor.
Sadie McGregor stood by a shower head display and watched Fiona from a distance. The young woman was talking to a customer, an elegant woman in her middle thirties who seemed confused about the differences between sink plungers. Sadie's assistant Donna had been talking to Fiona, talking to her about important things. Matters of guilt and honesty. Crime and punishment.
Light and dark.
The voice belonged to her sister, the severely misnamed Angela.
Norman was late to arrive at the party in Garden Furniture. Adam had spread drop-sheets over all of his beloved display tables and chairs and though he seemed happy, there was a sub-strata of worry every time someone put a drink down.
Only a month earlier, Norman thought, Ms Shan would have balked at the idea of using the Handy Pavilion as the base for Zorbar's buck's night. Now, she not only gave her blessing, but invited herself. Wellsey – who, like many old rebels was a traditionalist at heart – objected to a woman attending a buck's night. But Fiona and Belinda also ended up on the invitation list, and then Zorbar's fiancee Carol announced she was coming. With that, any chance that the evening would involve strippers vanished in a puff of smoke, so Wellsey had had to grin and bear it. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 44 — The Party"
"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 Norma 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."
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 him 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"
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, coming 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.
Gwen saw Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rush to pick it up. He smiled winningly as he handed it to her. She acknowledged his action with a gesture and moved on, leaving Norman staring, sighing at her back. Gwen bit her hand. What a fool. What a fool she had been!
All around her were the Handy Pavilion staff, going about their business as if it were just another day. It was a quiet day. Fiona lugged a box of taps. Adam laughed uncomfortably at one of Belinda's jokes. Axel Platzoff, rubbing his eyes, was being lectured by Sadie MacGregor. Marlon and Wellsey were deep in conversation. Customers were few, but present. An elderly man in a tweed jacket staggered under too many cans of paint. A carpenter's apprentice eyed expensive hammers with a wistful sigh. A short woman and her tall husband pushed a trolley full of plants.