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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The couple who wanted to buy the big house: FTMT short story No3

This is the third Fairytale Management Short Story in a series of twelve - so what do you think?

The couple who wanted to buy the big house

Tony played a series of 10 lottery numbers every week. Tony liked numbers, he liked maths and he like calculation. He was sure everything in the world added up to something, though that something was unfathomable. Great minds that had tried had only scratched the surface as far as Tony was concerned, because he was sure maths held the keys to all the universe’s secrets. So Tony believed he had discovered a ratio that would give him a lottery win, eventually. Much of Tony’s thinking came from TV documentaries and magazine articles and he really had no grasp of maths or figures at all. He looked on the world of exploratory maths like a C Pass art student attending a Picasso exhibition. He knew the secrets were there, he knew they had power but the way into them and to unlock them was a puzzle in a foreign language. So Tony had come to his own High School level conclusions and settled for his idea to predict winning lottery numbers.

Sophie was a good deal brighter than Tony, less pretentious and more focused. She disliked his silly attempts at lottery prediction, his arrival at the 10 number combinations had no logical basis and to her the little they had won over the years convinced her of Tony’s continuing folly. Tony’s persistence with the numbers and his overly optimistic expectations of a big win no longer impressed or even amused her. Tony, she thought, was plainly a loser. Tony would pretend the numbers and game were only semi-serious fun if she ever challenged him, but she knew that somewhere inside Tony desperately wanted his number predictions to be proven right resulting in an enormous win. When that happened Tony would be a hero and they would buy a big country house, with grounds, stables, a pool, a huge garage and outhouses, paths and patios, gardens and driveways. “This is our dream”, Tony would say frequently to anyone who would listen to his lottery theory. Sophie hated it and was embarrassed whenever he talked about it.

So though Sophie shared the dream of the big house and the millionaire lifestyle she didn’t expect the finance to come from Tony’s numbers, her idea was simple. Over the twelve years of their marriage they had become comfortable though hardly rich, and had increasingly invested in insurance for themselves. A simple calculation told Sophie that Tony’s death was the best chance she had to get close to a financial windfall. She knew it was a well-worn idea, but Tony’s accidental death and all the money that would follow formed a constant and vivid fantasy in her mind. There was also the dream of being free from Tony’s clumsy number crunching and tiresome spreadsheet fiddling that supported his lottery scheme that remained an increasing irritant to her. So Sophie struggled, she knew she didn’t have the stomach to actually do the deed but the fantasy and the plan for the aftermath was like a large warm coat she could wear and relax into escape the humdrum, so she fed on it.

“As a man thinks, so he becomes”, somebody once said, and Sophie, thinking now like a murderer was busy making mental lists and plans. Hit man, poison, household accident, suicide, firearms accident, road traffic, drowning, falling from a tall building, strangling and asphyxiation. Of course it was all down to finding a convincing method, and one that would not implicate her allowing her to play the role of the grieving and now rather well-off widow. She enjoyed these private thoughts and felt very pleased and smug when a new angle or plot occurred to her.

It was a summer night, a Monday and Sophie lay in the hot tub, sticking and unsticking her toes in the hot and cold taps alternately, wincing at the feelings, heat and cold, pain and numbness. She counted and timed keeping various toes in either tap as she sloshed and soaked. She lay back dipped her ears under the water, enjoying the fudged sounds and dumb drumming of her fingers on the bath side. She squeezed the soap between her fingers and launched it underwater like a primitive submarine. She looked at the moles and occasional blemishes on her skin while a tiny money mallet hammer gave out a dull impatient and repetitive thud in her heart.

She rose from bath, escaping the steam as the drips ran off, wrapped herself in a robe and turban towelled her hair, it was 9:30 on a Monday evening and she felt at the painfully hungry and blank end of her tether. Tony was in his den on the PC, checking lottery numbers round the world, looking for links and connections. “Stupid man!” She tightened the tie on her robe and put on her slippers and made a face into the mirror. “Thirty-five, I’m thirty-five and nowhere ” she grumbled to herself, “ I need a change so badly”. She looked intently at her face, her features and her ageing annoyed her and she broke away from the mirror’s gaze sharply. Flushed by the warm bath and the colder air on the landing she breathed in deeply and headed for the kitchen to make some coffee and crackers before bed. It had been a tough day; the job was sucking a little more than usual, her period only a week away and a slight tension was building and Tony irritated her by still looking into his numbers for the missing link. Tomorrow would be no better. She knew work was still piling up at the office and there were a few difficult people to face first thing in the morning. She loosened her robe and looked at her tummy. Not flabby but the tight tummy she once had, it needed fixed, conditioned, pampered and admired beside some sunny pool or beach bar, with no Tony in tow.

The kettle boiled and she poured the coffee, automatically making a cup for Tony still busy calculating. She found herself staring at the cup, noticing its shape, the slight discolouring with use, the coffee granules in the bottom, some brown particles sticking to the side where the cup had been damp from the drainer. She looked at the handle shape and grasped it and picked it up and put it down between fingers as if rehearsing the drinking process. She dropped the spoon in and listened to the clink, she did it again and again. The coffee granules in the cup remained undisturbed until she added the hot water, and milk and stirred. For no reason she decided to count the stirs, thirty-two clockwise and thirty anti-clockwise, all with a further spoon clink at the end and then a practised pick up with that wonderfully designed handle. She stirred the coffee again, and again as if making a paste or mixing a colour then sipped some and stared down into the cup and then up at the kitchen clock flashing 9:55. She decide she didn’t like coffee really, it was one of those adult things that you hate as a child but you succumb to once an adult, like smoking cigarettes or drinking whisky or eating anchovies. It made no sense to her. She shivered at the thought and drank a little more. She became aware now of a bubble inside her, she could feel it now, not stomach acid or trapped air or indigestion, more like large blob of sticky saliva that was forming up inside, becoming hot and angry and volatile. “Bugger, I’m going to be sick!” but there was no sick or substance just bubble. Anger in a bubble that came from nowhere but had to go somewhere and began to as she hurled the coffee cup across the kitchen. It seemed to spread a pleasing muddy mayhem as it crashed like a Martian probe and into the sink where it smashed and spattered. A large coffee stain now decorated the wall and work top behind and dripped a brown design down tiles and formed pools on the work surface.

There was a hot silence. Sophie looked at the design and thought how nicely oriental it looked. She picked up the open milk carton and flung it into the sink accurately following the trajectory of the cup. A white explosion followed; though the carton, obviously designed for robust handling had remained intact its contents travelled everywhere and added to the coffee effect. Next the coffee jar aimed and fired at the sink, missing it but hitting the mixer taps, a very satisfying result followed however as a bomb burst of Jackson Pollock granules escaped, sticking and melting within the milk and water wreckage on the wall, the floor and work surface. Sophie was breathing hard now, her eyes were wide open and large, and her cheeks red and puffed as she began to lash out at the crockery, pans, plants and packets around her. She opened the cupboards and the fridge and emptied their contents in all directions. Of particular satisfaction was the moment the kettle, still containing hot water and escaping steam crashed out through the kitchen window surprisingly shattering the double glazing and bouncing on the path beyond. Sophie thought of some Union Pacific locomotive plunging down a ravine belching steam as its boilers burst open in an old western movie. The toaster and waffle machine followed, the blender however bounced back from hitting the other window and landed upright on the floor looking rather pleased with itself and defiant. Sophia wanted to tear it apart with her bare hands but as that was not possible she hurled it cleanly through the window with a refreshed enthusiasm. This caused it to skid and scratch across the bonnet of her car (parked outside in the drive) and then finally disappear into the darkness.

After a few minutes the kitchen was completely wrecked and Sophie stood in the middle shaking and looking ready to sob, her head lurching back and forwards, a rolling pin in one hand and a chopping knife in the other. Her towel turban had fallen from her head and her damp hair was collapsing over her features, her exertions had loosened the robe and the flesh tones of her naked body underneath flashed through. Her feet, still in their slippers crunched on the glass and cereals and broken china on the floor. A thin line of blood ran down from a cut in her left thigh from when she had first picked up the knife, carelessly nicking herself with her flailing arms. There was colour and mess everywhere, the leaking and spilling and hanging askew of everything from corner to corner and she felt satisfied that the room transformation was complete.

She decided she’d been in he kitchen long enough and it was time to move on. She dropped the knife and rolling pin, walked out the back door and sat in her unlocked car. The key was in the ignition where she had left it and she turned it without thought. The car sparked to life and she pushed the accelerator and put it in gear. It lurched forward straight into the closed garage door continuing forward into the garage pushing the bent door onto the car roof. The car then stopped abruptly as it hit the tool bench and boxes that occupied the far end of the garage. There was a lot of noise now inside the garage and she decided to switch the engine off. She opened the car door ducking under the garage door still awkwardly perched on the car roof and staggered back into the kitchen. A puzzled neighbour looked out and across having heard the noise but saw only her shape heading back through the door into the house.

In the havoc that was the kitchen she picked up the knife and headed towards the study only to encounter Tony. He’d been awoken from his slumbers or studies in front of the PC by the sudden noise from the garage. “Where is the burglar? Are you ok?” he cried. In a flash Sophie’s right arm extended to Tony’s throat and she cut cleanly across and into the top of his neck with the small knife. Both a red splatter of blood and a scream came from Tony at the same time, he fell to his knees, then onto his face, he writhed for a few seconds and then lay still on the floor amongst the other broken household debris. A large pool of blood was forming where he lay and Sophie mesmerised for a moment suddenly awoke into the situation and shimmied backwards and round his body and out into the hall. “Tony is dead, Tony is dead”, she whispered to herself, unable to make any sense of the words she was saying. She looked at the hallway phone and wondered whom she should call whilst thinking ahead onto reasons and responses. Maybe Mum, sister, police, ambulance or no one. No one won.

Now she was cold, her robe was loose and wet with coffee and bloodstains, so she staggered upstairs and finally she threw it off and pulled on jeans and a sweater and began to brush her hair. The more she brushed the more she panted until the panting became worse, too much for her system and her breathing and she burst into tears and whimpers and rolled back and forth in agony across the top of the bed.

The alarm clock was buzzing fiercely and in an impolite tone to say that it was 7:30. The sun seemed to be streaming in more intensely than ever and Sophie was suddenly awake. For a few seconds her mind was truly blank, and then she wished it would remain blank as the horrors of the previous night came back. She managed a few token sobs, wiped her face and sat up on the edge of the bed. None of it was a dream, all of it had happened as the dried blood and staining on her discarded robe testified. She needed to think very quickly and she needed to visit the kitchen. Firstly though she went to the bathroom and allowed herself to be sick, an experience that seemed to help. As if expecting a burglar she quietly tiptoed downstairs and into the kitchen, she slowly looked through the doorway ready to survey the scene she had created.

It was the smell she noticed first, the clean normal kitchen smell. Shocked and surprised she looked in and past the door and saw that the kitchen was back to normal. Shelves, cups, utensils all where they should be, no broken window or stained walls and outside her car still gleamed in the drive. At the spot on the floor where Tony should have lain in a pool of his own blood there was nothing, only the usual polished floorboards. She felt weak and flushed and held onto a chair, it was all so real and now all was as it had been how could that be? Her head still swam with the images of last night as she stared at her hands and feet, then she remembered cutting her thigh. Not caring that she was in the kitchen she dropped her jeans, sure enough there was a messy looking cut that was fresh but now clotted over in the early stages of healing. She noticed the pain of it for the first time and studying it saw it was a cut from a sharp blade, about an inch long and not deep at all but still it had obviously bled significantly at the time of the injury.

Somewhere between the dream and reality there is a believable place that can fit in with both states, rules apply equally or are waived and ignored as the case may be. Sophie felt the shock wave of lost control wash over her, weaken her physically even more and urge her back upstairs to the bedroom, then to remove the jeans and sweater she’d slept in and to cocoon herself naked under the duvet, eyes tightly closed and safely curled up.

She slept a restless sleep until a noise downstairs stirred her, still mildly in shock and not sure of anything she peered out from the security of the duvet world and saw on the clock that it was 12:33. The noise was of kitchen cupboards opening and closing, a distant playing radio, and a kettle about to sing. It was still bright and sunny in the bedroom in contrast to her mood, which was swinging between panic and despair like a lead line in a Channel squall. Some brighter sense kicked in and she realised that however improbable it was, Tony was home and having lunch in the kitchen. She got up, glanced at herself in the mirror and put on the robe despite the coffee and bloodstains across its lower half. She moved downstairs like a shattered ghost emerging into Tony’s field of vision as he looked up from a salad roll. He didn’t seem surprised at her peculiar state. “Darling, another bad night with the PMS?” Tony sounded genuinely concerned as he spoke though a hint of a smirk was heading across his face from somewhere like an unpredictable weather front. ”Frank next door said he saw you out on the drive last night pacing up and down”. Sophie picked up a tomato from the basket on the work top, the handiest thing she could reach and threw it at Tony catching him square between the eyes. It was an impressive shot. “Yeouch! Bloody do what you like!” shouted Tony “ I’ll be sleeping in the spare room again tonight, whatever!” He got up, wiped the tomato from his face and headed out the door without a further word.

Sophie sat down on the warm stool where Tony had been and supped the remainder of his still warm coffee. She looked around the kitchen and thought about all the things she liked and disliked about it, colours, features, appliances, and layout. She then thought of all things she liked and looked again at the changes and touches she’d added recently. She imagined she was describing them to a television interviewer or some minor celeb who was doing a show on home improvements. She wondered what she might be wearing and how her hair would be done and then whether the camera would add or remove pounds from her. She thought about her tits and ankles and her bum. She spun around on the stool, admired her nail polish and spoke a few glib words aloud about how happy she was with her kitchen. Then she thought about Tony, his remarks and the tomato. “He really does love me” she said out loud, “ and I just think he’s such a complete prick most of the time.”

By the time Tony came home Sophie had showered, changed, made herself up and was looking good, she’d phoned her office to say she was sick and been for a walk to the Deli and back. He forgave her for the lunchtime fracas and she forgave him for the remark. They sat cosy together on the couch all evening and ate pasta made with new fresh tomatoes, ham and a creamy cheese sauce she’d concocted. Then they drank a bottle of cheapish red together and headed for bed to make up the way that most couples do.

The next evening Tony won the midweek lottery, on a rollover. The jackpot was £7.7m. He looked at his ticket and looked at the numbers on the screen and they lined up perfectly. He had done it, he had won, the glow he felt was so strong he almost lost consciousness, but he couldn’t move from the chair or even speak. The power of the events was more than he could take, his numbers, his method and now his millions and the life he had dreamt of, all of it was opening up before him. He sat, stunned and overpowered. Sophie was upstairs and asleep unaware of the major event that had occurred below in the lounge, she hadn’t really slept very well the previous night after all. Tony remained in his seat and stared at the numbers and for a final comparison looked at a copy of his prized spreadsheet of predictions. It was then he truly realised that he had the winning ticket all right, but that the numbers he’d used were not quite the ones on the spreadsheet. Quickly it dawned on him that something unexpected and unpredictable had actually happened and that his theory remained unproved.

After the tomato incident at lunchtime the previous day and on his way back to work he’d stopped of at the local shop to purchase his tickets, something he regularly did on a Tuesday afternoon. Of course now he could see that in his upset, anger and haste he had pencilled in the wrong boxes on the slip and had not used his predicted winning sequence at all. Suddenly the thought occurred to him: “what if she hadn’t thrown the tomato?”

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The man with two girlfriends: FTMT Short Story No2

Here is the second short story illustrating some of the principles, ideas or aspects of Fairytale Management Theory. You may take whatever meaning from this what you wish.

The man with two girlfriends

Bob had never planned it this way; he only wanted a simple, single and selfish life. Few if any ties, a decent job, car, nights down the pub with his mates and a nice girlfriend. Of course holidays, the odd adventure, peace to watch sport etc. etc. all figured in his thoughts and maybe eventually, when the time came as it invariably would he’d settle down, presumably with the nice girlfriend. His present precarious position was not one he’d ever intended to occupy but now he did. Now in Bob’s life there were to quite distinct, different and individual girlfriends, neither of whom knew the other existed and who both were very much smitten by the (un) fortunate Bob.

The strange thing was he had met them both only one night apart in the same pub (but had made a point of not going back there since, despite their slight but puzzled protests). Sylvia was, as Bob would say “a mongrel blonde”, very nice to look at, about 28, working in a call centre and living in her own little flat on the south side. Donna was darker, mixed Bob thought, with brown eyes, straight chestnut hair and about 30. She was divorced, worked as a rep for feminine hygiene firm with company Toyota and lived on a housing estate on the east side.

Both girls were genuine sincere girls who in many similar ways were attracted to Bob with his wry sense of fun and humour, his quirky style and (to them) an honesty and down to earth niceness that was refreshing. Bob however sweated in the lonely weekday nights over his duplicity and sweated more over the now complex time buckets of social life he was jumping between each weekend. He was seeing Sylvia on a Friday and staying over then Donna on a Saturday and then staying over with her. Sunday was alternate partner’s day and Sunday evening sometimes involved one or two hour dates with fabricated excuses and explanations to cover. Sunday was no day of rest, and now Donna wanted to go out on Fridays and Sylvia wanted to go out on Saturdays and both wanted a long weekend and shopping/couch browsing/kitchen planning/bed testing on Saturday afternoons.

More over both had healthy appetites for what the lad’s would call “carpet pudding” and so between the driving, clubbing, shopping and storytelling, plus the regular and demanding carpet pudding, Bob was beginning to flag. He hadn’t really been able to confide with anyone about the problem, his mates if anything would have thought he was bragging or moaning needlessly about what to most of them was the ideal problem for a man to have, holding the attention of two attractive women. As it was some of his friends and drinking buddies would hardly have known what to do with one woman, so it was all too difficult and he bottled it up and the stress grew.

So today was Wednesday and another anxious weekend of juggling and avoidance was coming up. Prior to that he remained in amongst the mid week mobile chit-chat, remembering what he had told to who, where and when they were meeting, shopping lists and dates. The options were clear, ditch one, which one? Ditch both? Run away? Confide in someone? Suicide? Tough it all out and see what happens? Nothing worked.

That Wednesday evening around 11:15 after a series of unwittingly well orchestrated phone conversations to both ladies, Bob lay back on his bed tired out and exasperated with himself. He thought of further options: sell your soul to the Devil, become a monk, turn gay…”Well nothing there!” he though; and then without thought or warning he found himself praying. He hadn’t prayed since childhood, even then it had been a dutiful chore filled with confusing words and religious nonsense. This prayer was different, he sensed a cold grey light glowing deep inside himself and then words flowing easily but unexpectedly and occupying his mouth and escaping like strangers.

“God, wherever, whoever you are – because I don’t know, I’m a stupid stupid man, deceitful and lying and without a single idea how to move my life forward from this point, help me, give me the answer!” And with that he groaned and fell fast asleep.

The alarm ticked and tinged at 7AM. Bob’s eyes flickered open, he was still lying on top of his bed in yesterday’s clothes, his head hurt and he for a moment was unsure where he was. Familiarity dawned as he focused and resumed the wake up process, but as he did he was now aware of an odd pain in his groin and a discomfort between his buttocks. There was a lump there, squashy and foreign, at first he thought he’d soiled himself as he gingerly reached a hand down. He then felt an almost electric nervous sensation as he realised he was touching a penis, at the bottom of his back plumb between his buttocks. He jumped from the bed, screamed aloud and in a mixture of horror and disbelief dropped his trousers and stared at the reflection in the wardrobe mirror doors. He now had a new penis with all the accessories at his back, directly opposite the one, long time, and long-suffering member at his front. He gawked at himself unable to take in or understand this change.

He pulled at it and studied it gazing down and backwards into the mirror, first of all it seemed permanently attached, formed from real flesh, full of sensations and almost exactly the same in size and design as his original. No, it was not stuck on with super glue having been bought from a joke shop or sex shop, it was really real. A real (working?) second penis. He then realised that; as per usual first thing in the morning he needed to pee. Wearing his shirt and socks only he stumbled away from the mirror and headed for the bathroom, a hand holding and rolling each penis back and front. Almost without thinking and not automatically but instinctively he sat on the pan, both members pointing south and through both relieved himself. “Wow!” he finally allowed himself to exclaim as the two streams frothed the water in the toilet pan.

He flushed, washed his hands and returned to the bedroom mirror to look again. For an hour he stared at and examined himself, one degree from complete shock and a heart attack. He sat down, but sitting was odd unless he tucked it in and under and of course he felt strangely vulnerable on both sides. What if he slipped and fell and landed on it, there was no natural protection like the automatic cupped hands defensive move designed for the front. “Surgery” he thought; ”the doctor will know what to do, maybe this is a freak condition men of my age experience, one of those one in ten million things that usually happens to a Chinese man somewhere!”

He bundled his thoughts and decided to shower. The effect of the shower proved something else. The penis was in full working order. Now that the initial shock and panic was subsiding, and now that the shower experience had revealed some other aspects of life with two penises, Bob began to think more positively about this new addition to his body. He pulled on a pair of pants and a clean pair of jeans and tucked himself in as best he could. Then in the way that a woman would he studied his bum in the mirror. The jeans were a little baggy in the rear so the bulge of his new penis was only slight, “the problem would be”, mused Bob “what to do if at some point in the day it became a little excited and developed a mind of it’s own, as often happens”. At that it did and Bob reacted quickly by straightening it and settling it into his upper bum crack and the small of his back. “Baggy jumper” he thought, “and I’m not going into work today!”

In the kitchen he sat uncomfortably sipping coffee and thinking what to do next. He had already phoned the doctor, but could hardly tell the receptionist the type of problem he had, so he’d reluctantly settled for a routine appointment next day (Friday) later in the day prior to a date with one or other of the girls. It was about then that he remembered the prayer he’d blurted out the previous night. The words “help me, give me the answer!” came back to him and inside he suddenly felt queasy and strange. “The answer? What kind of bloody answer is this? The man with two cocks?” He thought for a moment..”The man with two cocks, the man with two girl friends?.. Help me, give me the answer!”
He was stunned. What kind of God was God? What madness, what kind of solution? He thought a little more and a slow wide smile appeared on his face, he supped more coffee and noticed that both penises were stirring in harmony with his thoughts as he reached for the phone. It was Sylvia he phoned first, then Donna but the message was the same with minimal extra chat or explanation. ‘Tonight, my place 7:30”. Both were free and agreed to come. Bob busied himself, tidied the flat, did some hoovering and ran out and bought a couple of bottles of champagne, which he placed in the fridge.

At exactly 7:30 the doorbell rang, the girls stood together at the door, puzzlement, confusion and the early stages of a possible anger attack running across both of their faces. Donna was in red, Sylvia in black. Bob knew now was the time to choose his words very carefully. “Ladies!” he began, “a pleasure to see you both!” He opened the champagne, filled the three glasses on the silver tray on the lounge coffee table and began his explanation. What followed was an evening and night none of the three would ever forget as Bob, flushed with a new honesty and appendage, held his small audience spellbound by firstly giving a brief and candid summary of his life over the past months. Next came a description of the previous night’s and morning’s events and finally and most shockingly for Donna and Sylvia, as they followed him into the bedroom a physical demonstration of (as Bob said) “the outworking of the power of prayer on the life of a desperate man”.

With eyes wide as saucers the ladies studied Bob’s anatomy and then as if hypnotised by a combination of Bob’s physique and rhetoric now joined him on the bed on which he was reclining. The bizarre, spontaneous and strenuous sexual coupling that then took place with Bob simultaneously satisfying both partners was to cement three life long relationships. Within weeks Donna and Sylvia and Bob had set up home together in a large house on the edge of town, quickly disposing of their previous properties and the formula lifestyles they had lived. Bob never looked back, firmly fixed in his belief that God it seems knows best and that it should always be possible to live and love happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Throwback: FTMT Short Story No1

This was written early last year and is the first of a series of twelve short stories that illustrate different aspects of Fairytale Management. These stories will be published here on a regular basis.

Suggested soundtrack is of course available from www.impossiblesongs.com (the FTMT blog is large - please browse previous months and archives).

The Throwback.

All Diane and Jack wanted now was a baby of their own. Their life together would be complete if they only had a baby. They were comfortable in their lifestyles and careers, settled in a nice home in a good neighbourhood, a cosy circle of family and reliable friends surrounded them and Jack was angling for that next promotion that would lead to a partnership. Diane ached for that baby however. She was 36, still pretty and slim and in good health and had begun to collect baby clothes and items secretly during after work shopping trips. Sometimes they were bought but occasionally and now increasingly she would shoplift a bottle of baby oil or baby bottle teats, hiding them under her coat. Sometimes she’d be slipping a bib or a pair of baby socks up her jacket sleeve. She would then nonchalantly pay for her shopping and retrieve the stolen items once in the security of her car. She would then touch them gently and hold then to her lips and nose and breathe them in slowly enjoying the moment of personal secrecy and illicit pleasure.

Of course Jack knew she was broody but pretended not to, that was until the anniversary dinner. It was during the starter they looked deep into one another eyes and agreed that now was the time to try for a family. All through the meal Diane felt herself tense and strangely on edge, she sat at the table and slowly pushed her thighs together and apart feeling a warmth and excitement deep inside. She felt light-headed, more aware of her nipples and breasts, more feminine and alluring. She applied extra perfume in the ladies, tweaked her hair and rubbed her hands across her tummy as she walked back to the table. Jack felt happy and smug at the decision and agreement, he was happy that Diane had heard what she wanted to hear and he felt a little more virile at the thought of fathering his own child.

Of course they had a normal (whatever in the complex and false perceptions of life today that may mean) if unspectacular sex life, they’d been together now for 10 years tonight and saw there love making as being mature and civilised, on a plateau and now that the contraception was to stop, ultimately fruitful. As they held hands across the table and the dinner candle burned low they both anticipated a juicy and satisfying evening in bed. Of course some couples would by this point be running to the restaurant toilet or the back seat of the car and getting on with it but Diane and Jack were content to savour the moment, enjoying the foreplay implicit in their decision and the anticipation of what would eventually follow. The bill came and they headed home, Jack driving slightly more carefully than usual imagining an occupied baby seat in the back whilst Diane fantasised about a quick and effective sexual coupling and then in the later months how she would be holding her baby swollen tummy under the grip of the seatbelt.

Of course they had chatted many times about starting a family, when would the time be right, favourite names and numbers, what friends would say, but now it was for real and they would do it for real and a baby person would exist because of them. They got home after a quicker than usual bedtime routine with no pills or condoms enthusiastically started the process of multiplication. Jack wasn’t at all religious but for some reason, even as they made love together he thought he could hear a voice far away in some space in his head saying, “be fruitful and multiply”.

That night they both slept well in a deep dreaming sleep, satisfied by the decision, tired by the lovemaking and warmed by the prospect of what may happen. Diane’s dreams were a colourful mixture of a surreal shopping trip for baby clothes and then buying exotic pets and bringing them home to a surprised Jack in baskets and hampers accompanied and assisted by Zulu Warriors and African native bearers. Jack dreamt of playing fantasy golf where he drove and putted balls into the opening and closing legs of recumbent beauty queens and glamour models. The golf was going well until the rain shower began and the models put on Mackintoshes, turned into kangaroos and hopped away leaving him alone.

Some time in the early hours of what was now Saturday morning Diane awoke slowly and warmly, snuggling and stretching only slightly, blinking in the grey light and then for no reason she could fathom found herself mouthing the words “I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly”. She repeated words again deadpan and then again in a singsong whisper that was muffled by her upper arm against her mouth. She continued to repeat them quietly, borne and expressed on a childish melody until she drifted back behind the pillows of sleep until full morning broke.

Over the weekend the usual chores, visits, car washes, golf matches and lunches and suppers took place and between the sheets they enjoyed themselves in their newly enthusiastic love making sessions. Weeks passed and passions ebbed and flowed but their ultimate purpose remained in focus and Diane continued buying the baby lotions and socks and the like, still gazing across the check out lines at new mums and toddlers and new-borns on seats in shopping trolleys and in buggies as they did their shopping. Occasionally the little rythme would come back into her head “I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly”. She wondered quite what it might mean, how it had planted itself, or was it just silly and part of her baby wishes? She didn’t really like the name Julie; it wasn’t on their lists, though she had looked it up in her “baby names” book. It always reminded her of Romeo and Juliet or Mary Poppins/Julie Andrews and it wasn’t what she wanted. No, she liked Rachel or Megan. “If it’s a girl it’ll be Rachel or Megan” she told Jack. Jack agreed, mainly because he had no strong feelings on names and trusted Diane for other things like Christmas card lists, colour schemes for the house, bedding plants, recipes and curtain materials. “She is very good at that sort of thing”; he would tell his colleagues at work. They knew the feeling.

About three months after the anniversary meal and the big decision being taken Diane still not pregnant but eager was shopping in the local supermarket. She had a list on a post-it stuck to the little board on the trolley. Milk, eggs, conditioner, shampoo, kitchen roll, apples, kiwis, pizza, 60w bulbs and a squiggle. “What was the squiggle?” she thought. She had written the list at her desk at work during her coffee break and couldn’t even remember writing the scribble. Beer? Bread? Bisto? It was a “b” something she decided and as she was by the fruit counter bananas seemed as likely as anything. She was about to rummage through the bunches for a good bunch when she saw a huge banana attached to a clump of smaller ones. It was green and unripe, hard and only slightly curved, the smaller ones were normal, a nice shade of yellow and ready to eat. Normally she would have rejected so oddly balanced a bunch but she didn’t. She bagged them and popped them in her cart. The big green banana was so big (at least a foot long) that it stuck out of the end of the bag. “A real misfit in the banana family” thought Diane “the sorting process (where ever it’s done) must have failed some where to allow so large a banana into the normally uniform stock”. “It’s almost like a throwback, some giant piece of prehistoric fruit”, she thought to herself. At the checkout, the girl blipped through all Diane’s purchases, weighing the bananas and allowing herself a wry smile at the shape and size of the monster fruit accompanying the others in the bag. Diane hardly noticed as she was concentrating on an obviously teething baby boy being carried by his father queuing at the next checkout. The boy was dribbling onto his father’s shoulder, sucking and lunging at the fabric of dad’s anorak and mesmerising the broody Diane in the process. “ Thirteen Pounds sixty two “ said the checkout girl, “got a loyalty card?”

At home in the fruit bowl the giant green banana looked like the Queen Mary 2 at Southampton surrounded by dinghies. It’s great green bulk peering out from behind the apples and other bananas on the breakfast bar dominating the kitchen landscape. Diane was touching the banana with the tip of her index finger, running a long bright red nail along its full length as it lay in the bowl. She ran her finger along the fruit for four or five times, hardly conscious of what she was doing, she began to salivate and roll her tongue around inside her mouth and then as if waking quickly from an unplanned nap caught herself singing quietly in a half whisper.

“I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly” she whispered. “What did you say? Said Jack, who was blissfully unaware of the banana caress. “Oh nothing” she said, slightly startled and feeling guilty “ Silly song I must have heard on TV, I don’t know”. Jack made the coffee and stared out into the garden and imagined a sandpit and a swing and odd toys scattered across the lawn discarded at the end of the day.

That night they made love with a vivid new urgency. There was sweat and a deeper grinding and mechanical motion than usual and the sleep that followed was misty black and tropically warm for both of them. “I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly”. The song came again to Diane, somehow sung by a child’s voice, not her own (or was it her own as a child?), or was it like a choir of African children, so sweet and almost spiritual and so far away?

The next morning Diane got up early and for a time paced around the lounge and dining room alone, then urged by some abstract trigger-pull quickly made herself tea and with no hesitation sat down on the couch and ate the great green banana. It was thick and moist inside, not at all ripe and with a cold and fibrous heart but she hardly noticed. Her mind was a blank as she ate and drank automatically, a bite of banana, a mouthful of tea. She remained on the couch for what seemed a long time slowly becoming aware of the heavy weight in her stomach that was the undigested banana. At first she felt slightly sick, then gassy and bloated, then as the feeling began to dull down, curiously warm inside. She got up, made another cup of tea, drank it and fell asleep once more comfy on the couch, touched by an unfamiliar and enjoyable glow of well being and self-satisfaction.

Weeks passed, the memory of the banana was short lived, there were no more huge bananas in any of the supermarket bunches and the silly song never returned to Diane’s dreams or waking hours. She did however have quite a notion (and appetite) for fresh fruit. The desire had slowly crept up on her bit by bit, apple by orange by banana by melon until she was easily consuming five or six pieces a day and she no longer craved chocolate or sipped endless cups of whatever coffee or tea was on offer. The new fruit regime certainly made her feel better than she had for years, vigorous, bright and happy. So it was not a shock but a huge and pleasant surprise when joy of joys she found that her period was late. Always a regular girl this was what she’d hoped for, but to be safe she waited a few days till Friday evening before confiding in Jack (who could never remember these dates himself).

“Guess what!” she beamed. Jack felt a desire to play the fool and wind her up but thought better of it. “You’re not? He bumbled. “Hmmmm!” Her whole face, mouth and eyes were beaming even wider now as she screamed, “My period’s late!” They hugged spontaneously both thinking how quickly could they get down to the pharmacy and purchase a test kit. The kit was duly purchased, removed from the pack and put to good use. After a ten minute wait that seemed to take forever a blue hue appeared in the phial window and Jack and Diane's celebration began. Parents and friends were phoned, a message requesting an appointment left on the surgery voice mail and some cheap champagne was slugged as a delivered pizza was consumed. Diane had of course requested extra pineapple and banana toppings to accompany the tuna, mushrooms and black olives. The celebration ended (in a way) as it had all begun with a gentle but purposeful lovemaking session in bed.

Diane was enjoying the whole pregnancy experience. She was spoiling herself and so were others too. The neurotic shoplifting had ceased, shopping was for real now and a steady stream of gifts and treats came her way from friends and family and all conversations centred around the forthcoming event. She enjoyed the feeling of her body changing shape and focus and her nest building instincts were sharper and more acute than ever. Meanwhile Jack planned nursery shelves, garden layouts, looked at people carriers instead of coupes and read parenting books and magazine articles earnestly, now deeply intent of being the model parent. Diane also ate more, more and more, mostly fresh fruit. She thought it must be an intense pregnancy craving because it never really abated and her desire for fruit never diminished even after she had just enjoyed a piece. Jack worried about this, but he was worried anyway and decided that surely it would all balance out over time as the pregnancy ran it’s course.

Diane’s doctor listened with half an ear as she told him about the fruit fad, “so long as your diet is balanced, fish, oils, fruit, cereals and milk”, he parroted. Her ultrasound scan at twelve weeks showed a very healthy and well developed baby figure, though the murky image was slightly hard to make out and Jack considered it more of a join the dots picture than anything else. However it proved somebody was in there and the fuzzy image was treasured by Diane and planted in the front page of the new “New Baby” scrap book she was putting together.

The next few months alternately crawled and raced by, Diane bloomed and expanded until by the eighth month she seemed so enormous she could only be described as pregnant fit to burst. Excitement in the house was of course at fever pitch and Jack could not imagine how she would ever go full term, in fact he was convinced either she or the doctor had go the dates wrong. If the bump was all baby then it was at least 12 Pounds and as big babies were in neither side of the family it was puzzling and for Jack all a bit disconcerting. Diane was keeping very well despite her bulk and still was ravenous as every for all shapes, sizes and kinds of fruit. The early days of the healthy five pieces a day had now long gone and now she would easily consume 6 banana, 6 apples, bunches of grapes and a couple of melons every day. She was still picking at her normal meals and snacking on more fruit in between but her actual weight was a secret. She had decided to keep the details to herself some time ago. Jack was happy and worried in equal measure but ready with all his love and resources to welcome this unexpectedly large offspring as soon as it arrived and arrive it duly did.

It was a wet and miserable day when Jack got the call he had been waiting on, her waters had broken as she stood doing breathing exercises on the patio after a rain shower and rapid contractions followed, Diane was calm but only wanted to get herself to hospital and delivered into the hands of the experts. Jack’s job was to deliver her and not the baby (thank God!). He sped home from work, opened the door, asked a few irrelevant questions and in series of pre planned and part instinctive manoeuvres had her at the hospital door with all the right baggage and accessories twenty-five minutes later. On they way to the hospital Diane had eaten another two bananas despite Jack’s protests, throwing the skins carelessly at a waste bin as she passed through the hospital doors seated in a wheelchair Jack had grabbed from under the A&E entrance canopy.

Diane was whisked through the administration process and in a very few minutes Jack found himself sitting alone staring at health and welfare information posters in the maternity ward’s corridor. He wished that he smoked, or that he was happily drunk or that some one else was there with him. He felt small, helpless and more and more like a character in a bad sit-com or the bumbling father in a pre-natal class video.

Nothing in any Sci-Fi movie script, video diary or classroom training session could have prepared him for what was about to happen next. First of all the nurse summoned him into the delivery room where he saw Diane on the delivery bed writhing, sweating, shouting his name and in obvious distress. “It’s a big baby sir, hold her hand, mop her brow and hold the gas and air mask for her!” said a different nurse. A young woman doctor stood at the foot of the bed holding a stethoscope and looking concerned. Diane meanwhile was thrashing and moaning on the bed. Jack stood at her left-hand side and did his best to comfort her and whispered the few words he could find into her ear. Her eyes were closed tight with the pain she was feeling but she squeezed his hand as he spoke.

A few minutes passed in this stage of the delivery and then things really started to happen. The delivery table seemed too weak to cope with Diane’s writhing and now what seemed like kicking, it moved and rocked and the increasing violence of the whole thing was sending Jack quickly into a state of shock. The hospital staff remained calm however and kept control of the situation, one of a kind they had dealt with many times previously. And so after another fifteen minutes of struggle and very real and obvious pain for Diane the baby was born. The baby emerged dark and wet from it’s warm home of nine months as Diane gave a final push and Jack held her firmly looking down between her legs in anticipation. From the doctor and the nursing staff there were a series of gasps and exclamations as the baby was revealed, sticky, brown and wet and very hairy in the most inhuman way.

The midwife and nurses looked at the baby now wrapped in a green hospital cloth cradled in the doctor’s arms, breathing it’s first few breaths it’s bright eyes struggling to adjust to even the dim lighting in the delivery room. The doctor looked at the baby and then over to Diane and Jack, now both stunned, frozen and gaping in the electricity of the moment. She hesitated, wrestling with a package of thoughts and impressions and then quickly handed the baby gorilla to Diane without a word. Diane looked at her little girl, cradled her, smiled and gazed into her dark eyes saying, “Julie, I love you!”