9 June, 2010
Somehow I seem to have fallen out of fictional inspiration lately, having difficulties finding the time and inspiration to focusing my mind on it.
It is still my hope and intention to some day get back to the Wordzzle game and finish off The Slumber Party Mystery story.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 65

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 65

Ten word challenge: parasite, meals on wheels, crows, it's my fault, everything but the kitchen sink, on sale, patriotism, the love of my life, library card, common sense
Mini: blackmail, California, stethoscope, postage, crank

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 12 - Diana's confession

If the butler had seemed like an impregnable castle, meeting the brigadier general's granddaughter was like running into a waterfall, Lieutentant Skittles thought.

Before he had even decided whom to call in next, Diana came rushing into the library and threw herself into one of the big leather arm chairs.

"It's my fault," she sobbed. "Arrest me if you must, I deserve it. I'm a parasite, that's what I am. Living here all these years and never really appreciating it. I can't bear it. Almost killing my own grandfather! I do love him, you know, but sometimes I couldn't stand it, all this talk about war and patriotism... And all these stupid things he kept wasting money on! Stuffed crows and whatever. There were times when I wanted to put just about everything but the kitchen sink on sale. Like all these first editions of old books" - she made a theatrical gesture around the walls of the library where they were sitting – "what do you need them for? Why not just a library card at the public library? Grandma tried to make up for it all I suppose, with her charity meals on wheels and whatever. I guess she had some common sense, but I never quite understood that until after she was gone…" She took a handkerchief out of her pocket and made a pause to blow her nose.

Skittles took advantage of the pause. "Let's back up a bit, please," he said. "What do you mean, it was your fault? Were you actually trying kill you grandfather?"

Diana stared at him. "Of course not," she said. "But I shouldn't have left him alone for that long out in the sun, on a day like this. I only did because he insisted on it. And I was sure old B would be coming out with the drinks at the usual time, to check on him. How was I to know B would be late, on this day of all days? And Adam, who is always late, for once in his life being early! It all just goes to show that you really cannot trust anybody, not even yourself." She shook her head, and added: "Adam is the love of my life, you know, although he's not aware of it. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him with his stethoscope around his neck."

"Eh," said Skittles. "I'm afraid you've lost me again."

Diana gave an impatient little sigh. "On an afternoon like this, grandpa always wants to sit in the sun for a bit. Sometimes his assistant, Miss California as I call her, keeps him company, but she's off on vacation this weekend. I offered to sit with him instead, but he said he wanted to rest his ears. Don't know what he meant by that. Anyway it seemed safe to leave him, because following his usual schedule, old B would be bringing out his afternoon drink in just a little while. He's usually on the dot. So that's why I dared my little experiment. It was for my book, you see. And old B never seemed to mind my jokes, not really. He might seem an old crank sometimes but he's always been very patient with me." Diana's eyes filled with tears again.

Skittles was beginning to feel an increasing need for that Aspirin that he had sent Bumblebee to fetch for him.

"What experiment? What book? What jokes?" he said. "Please try to keep to one thing at a time."

"Well, you see, nobody knows about this yet, but I'm trying to write a detective story. It has a very complicated plot involving blackmail and postage, but another important thing is getting the timing right, so I had to try it out for myself, to see if it was possible."

"If what was possible?"

"To get the sausages to burst at the precise moment when Bumblebee came out with the Sunburst cocktails. Without actually being there myself. But obviously, I'll have to rethink my plot now."

"Obviously," said Skittles, rubbing his temples.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 64

For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: albino, trench, marble, assistant, Indian, What's that supposed to mean?, sound first principles, the key thing, moat, curtain
Mini challenge: under the surface, doomed, grand design, temple, aspirin

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 11 - Into the Library

"The library is right through here, sir," said Bumblebee, showing Lieutenant Skittles through the glass doors leading into the house from the terrace. "Please mind the bear," he added.

"Mind the… What's that supposed to mean?" said Skittles, feeling utterly confused. After the bright sunlight outside, stepping into a room with most of the curtains drawn was like entering a dark cave; he could not see a thing at first. Then he almost tripped over something, and looking down, found it to be a huge grinning albino bear's head, attached to the rest of its skin spread out flat on the floor.

"What the… Oh," said Skittles, collecting himself. "Polar bear?" he wondered, looking closer at the grim stuffed head.

"Yes, sir," confirmed Bumblebee. "The brigadier general is a collector of various objects from around the world."

"Hm," said Skittles, looking up and finding himself facing an Indian totem pole. "So I see…" He had never met the general, but he had heard of him. It was said that he had started out digging trenches, and ended up building himself a palace. The house was certainly of grand design, the pillars on the terrace reminding of a Greek temple. Some people wondered whether the old man still had all his marbles in the right place, while others claimed that he was and had always been a man of sound first principles, knowing exactly where his priorities lay. But right now, Skittles reminded himself, the key thing was to find out who or what had started the fire.

"Mr Bumblebee," he said to the butler, "perhaps you could enlighten me on a few points. For example, I take it you cannot be the only servant in this household?"

"No, sir. There is also the brigadier general's personal assistant, who is a trained nurse, but she has this weekend off. Then there is the cook and the gardener, but neither of them live in this house, and they leave early on Fridays."

"But you were having a party this evening?"

"One guest only, Dr Challenge."

Skittles waited for Bumblebee to continue, but the butler obviously was not going to volonteer any more information without being asked a direct question.

Skittles still had a feeling that there was something hidden under the surface, he just didn't know how to get at it. Why did the butler suddenly seem as impregnable as a castle surrounded by a moat? "I must find someone who is willing to let down the drawbridge, or I'm doomed to fail with this investigation," Skittles thought to himself.

Aloud, he said to Bumblebee: "I'm sorry, I feel a headache coming on. Do you think you could find me an aspirin and a glass of water, while I interview somebody else?"

* * *

Author's comment: For this week's challenge, Raven used words that I had sent to her. After this little experiment, I have to report that having come up with the words myself did not make the challenge easier... At least when someone else has chosen the words, you can always blame them if you find the words impossible and not really leading anywhere... ;-)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #63

For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: Green goddess, shampoo, filibuster, please and thank you, Operation Marigold, throw pillows, up the creek without a paddle, spandex, ubiquitous, wedding ring
Mini Challenge: Skittles, lamb chops, stingray, chagrin, clever devil

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 10 - Lieutenant Skittles arrives on the scene

When the fire engine, the ambulance and the police arrived on the scene, some of them felt a slight sting of chagrin to find that the fire had already been put out and the brigadier general revived, without their help. There was also no obvious evidence of any crime being committed at all. Still, Lieutenant Skittles felt suspicious.

According to Dr Adam Challenge, the brigadier general had most likely had some sort of sun stroke. But being pushed into the pool (chair and all) by his faithful butler Bumblebee had cooled him off, and as Adam arrived he was just beginning to come round. He still seemed a bit confused, though – muttering something incomprehensible about filibusters and clever devils - so the ambulance staff had taken him to the hospital for a more thorough check-up; wrapping him up in a blanket in spite of the heat, since he was still dressed only in his spandex swimming trunks.

The fire on the lawn had been quenched by the sprinklers turned on by William, the delivery boy. "I thought of it at once," he said. "I knew how to do it, because before I started working at the grocery store, I used to help the gardener here in the summers. With Operation Marigold, and whatever," he added, pointing vaguely towards the flowerbeds, where hundreds of marigolds were glowing like little suns.

Diana had also done her bit, by running back into the house for the fire extinguisher. She had sprayed a thick layer of "shampoo" (as she called it) all over the grill.

Lieutenant Skittles poked around suspiciously in the lather and wet ashes.

"What were you cooking anyway?" he asked. "Sausages?"

"When I first got here…" said Adam.
"Well," interrupted Diana, "it was more of an experiment, really…"
"We were going to have a barbeque this evening, sir," said the ubiquitous butler who had just appeared beside them. "Lamb chops and stingray were on the menu, but the groceries had not arrived yet."
"But I got here just in time, didn't I!" exclaimed William, who could not take his eyes off Diana. In her lime-coloured summer dress, she looked like a green goddess to him. He would love to be the one to put a wedding ring on her finger, he thought. She could throw pillows at him every night, as she had done sometimes when they were kids, he would not mind.

Skittles felt a bit like he was going up the creek without a paddle. It was no good having everyone talk at the same time. He would have to question each of them individually to try and grasp what had happened.

Reading his mind, Bumblebee said: "Maybe you would like to use the library as an interview room, sir? Let me show you the way."

"Please," said Skittles. "And thank you for the suggestion."

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 62

For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: gentle spring rain, mammoth, soap opera, worry, bubble gum, garden gate, seizure, of Biblical proportions, paralysis, wrinkles
Mini Challenge: operatic, stuffed animals, anger management, biographical, paint splatters

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 9 - A drama of Biblical proportions

Having unloaded the groceries from the van, William knocked on the kitchen door, but no one opened. Chewing his bubble gum, he hesitated for a moment, then opened the garden gate and went round the back of the house. As he turned round the corner, he felt like he had stepped into a soap opera, or even a drama of Biblical proportions. Bumblebee, the butler, was standing in the swimming pool, fully dressed, water up to his knees, talking into his cellphone. Beside him, the brigadier general, whom William knew to be suffering from paralysis after some kind of seizure, seemed to be floating on the surface of the water. In the grass beside the pool, a fire was spreading.

Just a few seconds later, Diana came out on the terrace from the library. Putting on her sunglasses to avoid getting wrinkles, her eyes fell on an issue of the Antiquity Journal that someone had dropped on the terrace floor; it had a picture of a mammoth on the front cover. (Her grandfather would have loved to have one of those in his own collection of rare stuffed animals, she thought automatically.) She also noticed some some yellow stains on the white marble floor tiles – was that paint splatters or juice? Then she suddenly smelt smoke and was immediately filled with worry. Lifting up her eyes, she, too, had the sensation of having stepped into some kind of crazy operatic scene. But before she had time to react, the sprinklers on the lawn were suddenly turned on, and water began falling like a gentle spring rain over the fire.

At the front of the house, Dr Adam Challenge was again parking his car. He had not the faintest idea how this would end, but decided he must try to practise all he knew about anger management and forget about his own biographical tragedies for now.

(Author's comment: I know, I know. The pace of this story is getting irritatingly slow. I just couldn't find a way with this week's words to speed it up...)

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 61

For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest

This week my contribution is one chapter based on the mini challenge, and one based on the ten word challenge. If you wish to read the previous chapters, you will find the links in the margin further down on the page.

Mini Challenge: pancakes and syrup, flat tire, mongoose, this place looks like a bordello, first dance
Ten Word Challenge: translation, crunchy, cat’s paw, trunk, I love raspberry tarts, global warming, star struck, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, fragile, Spring fever

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 7 - Adam's first wife

Driving back to the Brigadier General's house, doctor Adam Challenge's thoughts went back in time to the very short honeymoon he had had with his first wife, Eve. They had gone to Italy and had spent a few days at a little hotel owned by a friend of Eve's who was from Canada. When they first entered the bedroom with the dark red velvet wallpaper and the golden-framed mirrors, Eve had said: "This place looks like a bordello!" But they had had a good time. They had danced their first dance together as newly-weds in that room. In the morning, they had been able to sit outside in the sun, eating Canadian pancakes and syrup for breakfast, and Eve had thrown little pieces of pancake to a small furry animal which she claimed was a mongoose. But then, driving down those narrow mountain roads… Adam didn't really want to think about the rest: the flat tire, the accident, the fire… He himself had miraculously survived, but Eve had not.

Chapter 8 - William arrives

Diana turned off her computer. It was too hot an afternoon to concentrate on her translation job. She wondered vaguely if the heat this summer was somehow connected to global warming. Anyway, it was time for the usual afternoon drink with her grandfather. He had insisted on being left alone to sunbathe for a while, dressed in nothing but his swimming trunks, but he would need to be wheeled into the shadow now, if Bumblebee or Adam hadn't already taken care of that. She was wondering why Adam had driven off again so soon after his early arrival. But he was a doctor after all, maybe he had got an emergency call. Well, she had to go down now anyway, for her grandfather's sake, and to check on her other little experiment. It was so difficult to get the timing right… She saw through the window that the delivery van from the grocery store had just arrived outside. Making up her scheme, she had forgotten to take that into account. She wondered if old Bumblebee had brought the drinks out yet, or if he was still in the kitchen. Oh well. There would be other opportunities for jokes and pranks and cat's paw tricks. If Adam did come back, she would just apologize for the odd invitation and try to make him stay for the evening. Perhaps she could ask Bumblebee to serve that raspberry tart with the crunchy crust for dessert. She had once heard Adam say "I love raspberry tarts".

William, the delivery boy from the grocery store, got out of the van, leaving the radio on. It was playing the big hit "Spring fever". He looked up towards Diana's window. He couldn't see her, but the mere thought of her always made him feel star struck, he had had a hopeless crush on her ever since they were in school together. He sighed, and started to unload the van. While he carefully put down a big box marked "fragile", someone on the radio started talking about the midnight ride of Paul Revere.