It was Valentines Day. This is probably a big day if you work in a florist's, a jewellery shop or a high-end restaurant, but for most sections of the Handy Pavilion it was just another day.
There were exceptions, of course. The garden centre was busier than it had been in months, while Nalda in arts and crafts was struggling to keep papier-mâché hearts and red paint on the shelves.
"Excuse me, miss, where's the pink glitter?"
"Ofer dere, and next year buy champagne." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 53 — A Very DIY Valentines Day"
"So," Fiona said.
"So," Norman said.
They sat at a wicker table, just by the plastic jerry cans in the Outdoor Furniture section. Not that long ago, Adam would have chased them away, but even he'd stopped caring. A grim, defensive mood had settled over the Handy Pavilion and customer numbers were at an all-time low.
"It's just that sort of a bloody morning, isn't it? Norman said.
"We have to give ourselves up," Fiona said. "We can't stay free while Sadie takes the blame for the armoured cat heist. There's not even any reason for her to go to prison any more. She was only confessing to save Axel." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 52 — Inside Your Mind"
Seamus the Gnome no longer made his life a secret. He couldn't really. When the full moon rose and brought him to life, he found that there were too many people in his garden section, and he couldn't be bothered to hide himself from them. Besides, one of the late-night gardeners already knew him. Was that his name? Wellsey? Something like that
The old feller wore a plastic safety hat which some keen artist had painted in camouflage colours. He stood in the gap between the impatiens and the camellias, right next to a huge thing of cast iron and bamboo that looked somewhere between an ugly garden ornament and a surprisingly attractive anti-aircraft gun.
Beside Wellsey was a young woman, also in a hardhat, scanning the skies with a pair of binoculars. A young man was clearly also supposed to be watching the skies, but his work here was hindered by frequent breaks to look at the young woman.
"Saints preserve us, and what's going on here?" Seamus said. "Oh, it's you, Seamus," Wellsey said. "Laura, Carlos, this is Seamus." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 51 – Incoming!"
Claudia Lebeau sat across the desk from Ms Shan. Ms Shan sat behind the MDF desk in her little office, her fingers steepled in front of her. The office was small and while it had some very pleasant associations for Mrs Lebrau, right then it seemed oppressive. It was airless and the only decoration was a small brass statute, a dying peace lily and a one of those posters that is meant to inspire but somehow only serve to bring the spirit a little closer to breaking.
"Officially, I can take no action," Claudia Lebeau said.
"I understand," Jasu Shan replied, and it was the worst thing she could possibly have said.
If Jasu had argued, Claudia had arguments. If she'd shouted, Claudia could have stalked off in a huff. If she'd threatened, well, Claudia could have reminded her that she was in no position to make more enemies.
Instead, she'd simply agreed. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 50 — Third Wheels and Fifth Columns"
Taking a week off, coming back after New Year. But I leave you with this short story. Enjoy!
Light stabs my eyes as the hood come off. My hands are bound, so I cannot shield my face. A figure is silhouetted in the bright light. No, not silhouetted. Some of the light seems to come through the figure, as if it isn't all there. I am already bound, helpless and terrified, yet the sight of this translucent form makes my guts feel like ice.
They have me. Them.
"Name?" the figure says.
"Please," I say. "What have I done?"
"The sooner you answer, the sooner you will be processed. Name?"
"I am Oswick Bozzbaddle."
It raises a clipboard, opaque against the light, and makes a tick. The sound of the pen on paper is hard; precise. "Do you like Christmas, Bozzbaddle?" ...continue reading "Yuletide 101"
It was almost a week before Christian saw Pennington again. This wasn't good news. Christian was holding onto his job by a thread, and he was terrified that he'd be fired before he could speak to the alchemist.
A whole dozen people had been fired. Low performers, chronic latecomers, suspected pilferers. To be fair to Ms Shan, she didn't play favourites – though to be unfair, that might just be because she never remembered anyone's name. Only a couple of weeks before, Christian would have thought himself invulnerable to anything less than a complete shutdown of the Handy Pavilion, but his indicators were all down since the Phantasm's disappearance. He might have escaped the last round of layoffs, but the next round would take him out.
He needed Pennington's help before that could happen. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 43 – Never Pay Retail"