Mad Wednesday … and God Gives Me Pizza

Here’s a fairly pointless anecdote I call Mad Wednesday, which started on Monday, April 3.

Woke up that Monday morning and checked my Amazon account. Two books had sold, one of them was Presumed Dead (a month before short listed for the Australian Shadows Award … advertizing pays, it seems!) and the other was the collection set in the same universe, Thirty Minutes for New Hell. Nice! It looks like the week is off to a grand start. A couple of hours later with my first jobs jangling onto the PDA I head off … and find the bike’s right hand indicators aren’t working. On top of this the oil light comes on showing I’m probably five minutes from seizing the engine. Guess that’ll teach me to have success at Amazon. Anyway, I call base and tell them I’m going to the auto electricians and will be off for an hour or so. Go home and glug some oil into the bike from two almost empty bottles. Leave the bike at the elecs and walk home. I’m expecting the job will be a fairly straightforward thing that won’t take too long and cost maybe 50 or 100. Elec rings several hours later at 3.30. Job involved major rewiring. Cost: $340. Gulp.

The one bright spot in all this is that while digging about in the wiring the elec found a pair of keys that had gone missing from a security cable two or three years before. What they were doing amid the bike’s wiring and how they got there is a mystery.

And so we advance two days to Mad Wednesday. Chris, an ex courier who used to work with me years ago at Wiz Couriers, now a reformed character and roofing contractor, knocks on the door just after 8 am. Within a few minutes he’s up on the roof looking for leaks that have been bothering me in recent months. Meanwhile I head over to the electricians to pay off the remaining bill. Come back a little after 9 to find the gardeners have arrived. The front lawn is getting very scruffy and there’s an overgrown bush and a mass of creepers that’s getting out of control. They set to, removing the bush and mowing the lawn. The creepers will have to await another day as the unexpected electrician’s bill has put a huge hole in the finances. I ask them to take a look at the backyard which is beginning to resemble a standing set on a Tarzan movie. When he sees it the gardener goes a little wobbly at the knees, either from thinking of the work involved or the money he’ll make. Nevertheless he gives a reasonable quote and I mentally pencil him in for a revisit in a fortnight or so.

Now the guy from Telsta arrives. I’ve had trouble with the landline for some days, so why not have the telephone repairman turn up on the same day as everyone else. Chris and I first notice him as he walks up and down the street, checking underground connections beneath their concrete coverings. A few days before – just a day or two before my phone troubles started – I’d spilt oil on one of these covers and I had the horrible suspicion it had seeped down and damaged the wiring. But all seems OK there so the Telstra fellow comes in and checks my phone. Definitely and decidedly dead. Will have to check the wall socket, he says.

I go white. The wall socket?!?! NO! NO! NO! The wall socket is behind a heavy sideboard, and shifting it will involve strains and multiple hernias. “Maybe it’s the phone itself,” I suggest desperately, trying to postpone the heavy lifting. Telstra fellow does a magic trick and produces a brand new handset. Plugs it in. Phone works. Strains and hernias avoided.

Meanwhile up on the roof a few cracked tiles are sealed and a few more creepy creepers removed. Now for a bit of plumbing.

The shower taps have been leaking badly for far too long, making it necessary for me to keep the water turned off at the mains, turning it on only when needed. Chris attacks the taps with a pipe wrench and spanners while I provide illumination with a torch – the lighting in the bathroom is not the best. Two worn washers are removed. New washers are fitted. I have running water again. Hazzah!

During these operations I start boiling pasta for lunch. My specialty: Spicy Spam Spaghetti.

“Sorry,” says Chris. “I’m a vegetarian.”

“You like maybe the cheese sandwich?” I ask dangerously. Chris says yes, and bloodshed is avoided.

Later, over toasted cheese sandwiches, we talk of the old days at Wiz Couriers and how they were the best.

So ended Mad Wednesday.

My fave cyber cafe has closed. Was there one Thursday night in March only to find it shut with a note on the door written in almost impenetrable legalese. Roughly translated it said, “As you’ve not paid the rent I’m locking you out. If the rent is not paid by Saturday I’m taking the contents of this shop.” Heavy!

As I was reeling away from this evil note a man at an outside table at the pizza parlour next door said …

But wait. Let’s backtrack another month. I was at Savers, a large secondhand clothes store, and bought two pairs of jeans. This, BTW, is the place that has one rack of shoes for men while the racks for shoes for women stretches back into infinity. Anyway, both pairs of jeans were marked size 36. I tried one on and it was fine. Bought both. Didn’t try the other pair on till days after and found they were a size too small. Curse. What to do? Take them back to Savers? Put them in a charity bin?

There’s a homeless guy I pass nearly every day and I always try to give him something. So how about a pair of jeans? The Fates decreed otherwise. Earlier on that Thursday, while doing my first delivery of the day, I parked by a homeless guy who looked even more forlorn than the one I had intended to donate the jeans too, so I gave him the jeans instead. Now we fast forward to later that same day with me reeling away from the cyber cafe door with its demanding note for rent not paid. A guy at an outside table at the pizza parlour next along says, “Excuse me, would you like my pizza? I can’t finish it and it’ll only be thrown away.” “Thank you very much,” I say, and gratefully carry off his unfinished half of a large pizza. Which only goes to show that there is a god. Help a homeless guy in the morning, get free pizza in the evening. The one drawback was that it had anchovies and I hates anchovies. Far too salty.

Now this neatly segues to a story I think of as “Rick Kennett: Standover Man.” A couple of months before it closed I was at the above mentioned cyber cafe merrily downloading podcasts. A group of teenage girls came trooping out of the back of the shop and I was dimly aware they were having an in-depth discussion with the woman at the counter. Then they left. A few seconds later the counter lady came around and stood beside me as I sat at the computer. She didn’t say anything but just stood there and I had the impression she was going to tell me the shop was closing, though it was only 4.30 and they didn’t close till 7.30. I looked up but she was peering down towards the back of the shop in an uncertain sort of way. Then she said, “Those girls said there’s a man down there masturbating.” I gave her a “Do wot?” look, but she was still peering towards the back of the shop. It occurred to me then that she needed to confront this fellow but didn’t want to go down there by herself, so I said, “Do you want me to come with you?”

So off we traipse down through the shop, pass a guy working on a computer by the sliding door leading into the back premises where there are more computers as well as washing and drying machines – the cafe doubles as a laundrette. Here we find a guy at a computer huddled under an umbrella. “Aha!” thinks I. “All the better to hide your nefarious activities, eh?” So while I stand to one side looking menacing and intimidating, the woman stoops down and whispers into the fellow’s ear. I imagine she was saying, “I know what you’re doing so do your zip up or this burly gentleman here will rearrange your face.” Meanwhile I’m trying to look like I’m thinking, “And I will too … twitch twitch.” To my surprise the fellow just nods and says, “I’ll keep an eye on him.” Then the woman heads back toward the front of the shop … and it occurs to me then that he wasn’t the culprit but rather someone she knew who she was asking to keep an eye on the real guilty party … the guy at the computer by the sliding door. All the time I’d been monstering the wrong man. *Blush.* Guess I’ll never get a job with the Mafia.

So why the umbrella? The back of the shop was where its original backyard had been. It was now roofed over with plastic sheeting. It was a rainy day and the plastic was leaking. Never mind virus protection, umbrellas are what you need to keep your computers safe.

 

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book news

My Cy De Gerch novel Presumed Dead was a finalist in the 2017 Australian Shadows Award in the Best Novel catagory. A little odd as the Australian Shadows are a horror award and Presumed Dead is ostensibly science fiction. The ghosts who haunt Cy, a seventeen year old Martian naval officer, are for the most part psychological as she spends most of the story utterly whacko-jacko. On the other hand her best buddy Lazarus the spider is bound to delight all arachnophobes; and this is to say nothing of the monster wedge of hairy jelly that whistles and howls and stalks her world on hydraulic stilts.

A further nine adventures of this often mentally unbalanced Martian girl are chronicled in the collection Thirty Minutes for New Hell. Two of these stories, “Now Cydonia” and “The Road to Utopia Plain”, won Parsec Awards for best podcasts in 2013.

Ernie Pine is a ghost hunter who hates being a ghost hunter. Inexplicably, he would rather run away screaming than face up to a spectre or demon. Read about the failure of his spook-avoidance tactics in the novel The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the novella In Quinn’s Paddock and in three short stories in the collection The Dark and What It Said: “The Outsider,” “The Seas of Castle Hill Road” and “Time in a Rice Bowl.” The title story of this collection won the 2008 Ditmar.

All five books are available on Amazon in either ebook or paperback format.

 

Walking After midnight by C S Fuqua

Walking After Midnight is a new collection by Chris Fuqua.

“More than 30 years in the making,Walking after Midnight is a literary trove, collecting 61 stories of award winning dark fantasy, horror, southern gothic, science fiction, and mainstream fiction—tales that mine the depths of character—how we fail and triumph, accept and reject others and ourselves, and light the darkest recesses of our souls.”

Check out the title story at Dunesteef Audio Fiction:

Episode 59: Walking After Midnight by C.S. Fuqua

https://www.amazon.com.au/Walking-after-Midnight-Collected-Stories-ebook/dp/B01MEHVEHG

Eerie Coincidence in Kew Cemetery

My day job is as a courier which normally keeps me busy, picking up and delivering throughout the suburbs. But on one particular day about 20 years ago things were quiet, so being nearby I decided to go for a walk in Boroondara General Cemetery which is in the Melbourne suburb of Kew. I had a two-way radio slung over my shoulder in a leather pouch, and had one ear listening in case I was called for a job. But for the moment all I heard were conversations between base and other couriers.
 
Walking along the cemetery’s main path I spotted up ahead an ornate tomb of white marble columns surrounded by a low wall. Obviously someone had had a lot of money in life. I wandered over to see who it’d been.
 
As I leaned over the tomb wall to read the bronze plaque inside I heard a courier say over my two-way, “I’ve just picked up from Symes,” which is a big magazine publisher here in Melbourne and one of our major clients. A second later I read on the plaque, “David Symes” – the founder of the Symes magazine publishing company.
 
Feeling the hair standing up on the back of my neck I left the cemetery in a hurry.

Hunger in a suburban graveyard

One morning many years ago when I was working as a bike courier I hit the road, not a cent in either my pocket or bank account, and with about 70 K worth of fuel in the bike. But it was payday and all would be soon set right. At around 11 am I did a delivery to a north-eastern suburb. It’d been a slow day up until then, and as nothing was forthcoming on the PDA – a hand-held gizmo that gave out work as text on its screen – it looked like continuing that way. I checked my bank account on my phone: nothing yet. OK, so I wheeled off to a cemetery about a kilometre away to indulge my hobby of necrotourism – wandering graveyards – while waiting for the money to arrive, which I hoped would be soon as by then I had about 6 K of fuel left, and I couldn’t do any further work until I refuelled. In this cemetery I found the first centenarian I’d ever come across, a Chinese woman who’d lived from 1899 to 2001. Further along I found a grave with three oranges placed in a bowl, an offering for the dead. I wandered on, finding graves of young people which always upsets me. “Why are you under a stone when life has just begun?” I think. People in their twenties – a photo of a young woman on the tombstone – teenagers, children. Very upsetting.

Equally upsetting is that another check of my account shows my pay still hasn’t come in. And now the dispatcher is telling me to head back into town. As I have no fuel to do this I call in with pretended engine trouble and I’m taken off the roster. I sit by the cemetery gate and check the account and wait and check and wait …

By 1 pm the lack of lunch is starting to make itself felt. With some hesitancy born of superstitious qualms I go back into the cemetery and eventually find the grave with the bowl of oranges. With a whispered “Forgive me” I take one. (Always be polite to the dead. You don’t want them coming back in the middle of the night gibbering at the foot of your bed demanding the return of their oranges.) Back at the bike by the gates I cut the orange in half using a pair of scissors from my tool bag. It’s fresh and sweet and really hits the spot. (The orange, not the tool bag.)

As it gets toward 2pm with still no money in the bank I head off in the direction of home, knowing it’s impossible to reach with what little petrol I have left. About 5 K on I park outside a service station and continue my wait. And as I wait an unreasoning panic starts to creep up on me: What if the money doesn’t come in at all? What if there’s been a glitch with the computers at the bank? What if they’re paying me by cheque this week and haven’t told me? How will I get the bike home? There’s nothing in the cupboards, so how will I eat? (There’s only so many graveyards I can steal oranges from.)  Then at 2.30 I check the account one last time and find a whole heap of money there. Thankfully I wheel the bike up to the pumps and fill the tank to the brim. I then go into the service station and buy a steak and mushroom pie, a carton of iced coffee and a chocolate bar. Food of the Gods!

It’s so late in the afternoon by now there’s no point signing back on for work. I head off down the road and spend a blissful hour at a cybershop.

And that is how grave robbing saved me from certain starvation … or at least possible malnutrition. It was just a shame about the gibbering spectre at the foot of my bed that night demanding the return of the orange.

Rick

 

Parsec Awards Update

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Posted on behalf of Rick, by Rowena:
Over the past few years I’ve been having some success with podcasts, finding them a more receptive market than traditional print or even traditional e-print. Most of my fiction submissions these days go to these audio web productions, particularly as they’re open to reprints. A good way to recycle the back catalogue. Most of them pay token amounts or are freebies, but that’s OK. I’m in this more for the fame than for the fortune. Though I’ve never really considered my work as Young Adult, Cast of Wonders, a podcast which specializes in this sub-genre, has accepted several adventures of my gay space girl Cy De Gerch. (Because they’re YA I only send them the stories where the Sapphic element is non-existent or very low key, though it’s surprising what will pass for YA these days.) A couple of the Cy stories have also been done on the more adult orientated Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine.
Round about the middle of last year I happened upon a list of podcasts nominated for the 2013 Parsec Awards, what I think of as the podcast equivalent of the Hugo. (Are there Hugos for podcasts?) There in the single reader category was my Cast of Wonders story, “Now Cydonia.” Gosh! Further down in the multiple voice-actors category was my Dunesteef story, “The Road to Utopia Plain.” Golly! But as they were listed there among more than a hundred other worthy contenders I entertained no false fancies. A couple of weeks later Cast of Wonders emailed to say “Now Cydonia” had made the finalists. Looking, I was astonished to see “The Road to Utopia Plain” had also made the finalists. Now I was doing nothing but entertaining false fancies.
Anyway … both stories won in their categories. False fancies fulfilled. A week later on YouTube I saw the awards ceremony which had been held at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia. The one for “Now Cydonia” was presented by Sylvester McCoy, the last actor to play Doctor Who in the original series. As a child of the sixties who’d watched Dr Who from the very beginning, all I could think as I watched the presentation and heard my name uttered by the man himself was, “Sylvester McCoy … he’s rather short, isn’t he.”
My novel The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is now available via Amazon in both ebook and old school dead tree versions. Ernie Pine the Reluctant Ghost Hunter gets chased by a Thing … on several occasions. Hair raising! Skin freezing! Heart stopping! Mind boggling! Foot tapping … er, yes, there’s a couple of songs in it including that well known romantic ballad “I Enjoy Being a Ghoul.”
Blurb for The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
“I hate ghosts! I’ve played follow-the-leader with a bunch of dead men, fronted up to a demon with all my runes round the wrong way, been half strangled by a book illustration, nearly killed by a bunyip in a launderette washing machine. So when Raissa invited me to a séance I was sure was a fake but turned out to be real, I knew there could only be trouble for Ernie Pine. And there was – wedging a witch, an apprentice magician, an alcoholic Vietnam veteran and me all too literally between the devil and the deep blue sea …”

Whoohoo!

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Rick’s having problems with his internet server so he asked me to post this:

Ooooooo! Hold the bus!! News just in via the email magic of the portable-type telly-o-phone. My Cast of Wonders story “Now Cydonia” is a finalist in the Parsec Awards. Crikey, Struth, and Corh Blimey! The Parsecs will be awarded at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday 31st August.

Rick, floating up to the ceiling in a rose perfumed cloud

Rick looking Happy.

Rick looking Happy.

PS  Just checked the Parsec finalists’ page. “Now Cydonia” is there under “Best Speculative Fiction: Small Cast” (one or two voice actors). But scrolling down I find under “Best Speculative Fiction: Large Cast” (more than two voice actors) “The Road to Utopia Plain” by Dunesteef. Golly gosh! I have two stories as Parsec finalists. How insufferable is this going to make me!

Carnacki Ebook

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OUT NOW…but print format sold out! Available as eBook…

472 Cheyne Walk, Carnacki: the Untold Stories

by A. F. (Chico) Kidd and Rick Kennett

Although the print version is now sold out, the book is still available in eBook format from Ash Tree Press, a collection of twelve new adventures of William Hope Hodgson’s famous “ghost finder.”  Contents:  “The Darkness,” “Matheson’s Inheritance,” “The Silent Garden”, “The Case of the Grey Dog”, “The Steeple Monster”, “The Witch’s Room”, “The Roaring Paddocks”, “The Psychic Doorway”, “The Sigsand Codex”, “The Keeper of the Minter Light”, “Arkright’s Tale” and “The Gnarly Ship.”

For further inquiries, contact Ash Tree Press at P.O. Box 1360, Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada, VOK lA0, or visit their website.