Twist & Mix is an eclectic cocktail of stories to tantalise every taste.
Mix the humour of village life with the fascination of the supernatural; the intrigue of crime with a smidgeon of fear; before adding a twist of emotion and romance.
Twenty two thought-provoking stories that will surprise and amuse; inspire the imagination and leave the reader wondering.
Below are extracts from 2 of the 22 stories:
Ashley Heaps strode into Little Hambling Post Office and started a ripple of speculation that was to reverberate around the village engulfing all in its intensity. The tranquil village, virtually forgotten by the outside world, was to have the very roots of its gentle life unravelled.
Little Hambling resembled photographs of ancient hamlets, its cottages huddled around the village green, in one corner of which spread the pool with its essential ducks and, occasionally, a lost swan. The Harp public house dominated the main street. Next door was the Post Office, which also provided the facilities of village store and teashop.
“Howdy, everyone,” Ashley’s voice boomed across the queue of local residents and the air shuddered. “Isn’t it a grand day?”
He laughed, a great hearty laugh, and the ladies collecting their pensions stared, hypnotised by the spectacle before them.
“Ashley, Ashley Heaps.” His smile sparkled round the gathering. “Just moved in, hoping to get to know you all; let me know when the parties take place, hey?” The postmistress, Hettie Parkes, removed her glasses and polished them stringently on her cardigan.
“Can I help you, sir?” Her voice came out as a squeak and she coughed hurriedly.
“Not today, not today,” Ashley roared again. “Haven’t got my finances in order yet, not sorted out. Will be back for groceries. Just wanted to introduce myself.”
His eyes focused on each startled face in turn, a few timid smiles responding. “See you around.” He turned and marched out as Hettie and her customers remained immobile in stunned silence.
“Hmm… next please.” The orderly queue continued its pursuit of pensions and then scuttled towards the tearoom.
The Misses Barnes squatted over a table, their heads close, eyes wide as they whispered their shock at the appearance of the incomer to the village.
“Really, Dulcie, did you see his hair?”
Her sister nodded, enthralled. “Down below his shoulders, Mildred, and grey, I mean, grey. That long, at his age!”
“And his clothes!”
“Fashions have changed,” Dulcie mused. “And, after all, it is nineteen seventy five. Colours are in.” She often glanced wistfully at the glossy magazines on the Post Office shelves, occasionally flipping through the pages, as she waited for Mildred.
“In London, maybe.” Mildred fixed her sister with a disapproving stare. “But not here!”
Dulcie sighed and then glanced round; hoping that other villagers would join them.
“I mean,” Mildred continued. “I know Mr Jones died…”
“He was ninety nine, dear.”
“Such a shame he had no family.”
“Of course, the house had to be sold.”
They shook their heads sorrowfully. What was to become of Little Hambling?
The recipient of their musings was, at that moment, striding across the green, whistling to himself in pure pleasure. A cottage in a quiet village had been his lifelong ambition. Sudden retirement from the rat-race, with a comfortable sum accumulated through his various businesses, had necessitated a move from the city.
He had driven through various villages until, by chance, he had stumbled into Little Hambling. The moment he saw Number 3, Petunia Row, he knew his search was over. Tucked into a corner on the far edge of the village, the three houses overlooked green pastures and distant woods, the red brick walls festooned with ivy; Number 3 was his destiny. This notion was enhanced by the fact that a large For Sale notice had been hammered into the middle of the lawn.
He hesitated no longer. Within record time, he became the owner of Number 3. His flat in the city was sold, along with the image-enhancing debris he had collected throughout his life.
He furnished the rooms simply, not skimping on comfort, and settled down to write his memoirs. Stacking his files neatly in the spare bedroom, the door of which had been fitted with a coded lock, he rubbed his hands in anticipation.
They thought he had been successful before – ha, he mused gleefully, now they would understand the true meaning of success.
He frowned as he pondered on his reception in the Post Office that morning. Not exactly friendly but then, he was an incomer, and it was up to him to make himself as acceptable as possible. Dear old biddies, they would come to love him, he was sure.
In the meantime, Flora Midden and Beryl Postans had joined the Barnes sisters in the teashop.
“Did you see,” Flora leaned across the table, “his trousers?”
“Pink,” muttered Beryl. “Bright pink!” Her eyes took on a glazed look as her thoughts sped back to her childhood and the psychedelic pink socks that had been so fashionable.
“But a man, in pink trousers!” Mildred breathed.
“And a yellow shirt,” Dulcie added. “Yellow!”
“And his hair,” Mildred repeated.
“Do you think…” Beryl whispered, her eyes wide. “Do you think, he might be a celebrity?”
There was a communal intake of breath at the thought.
“Well,” Flora leaned back and folded her arms, “if he is, then he must have plenty of money, and the church roof needs repair.”
“And,” Beryl breathed excitedly, “the village hall wants some renovation; I think we ought to call and make him welcome.”
“I’ll bake him a cake.” Mildred rose hurriedly. “Come, Dulcie, we must get home.” The Misses Barnes scuttled back to their cottage overlooking the duck pond and lit the oven.
“A Victoria Sandwich, I think,” mused Mildred. “Everyone likes a sponge.”
“We can take it round at teatime,” Dulcie agreed excitedly as she tied her apron.
Read on . . .
A Game of Consequences
Shambling down the street, an old satchel bouncing against her hip, she was surprised how heavy money was.
She entered the corner shop and shuffled to the counter, mumbling incoherently as she handed an envelope to the startled shopkeeper. He stared, bemused, at the old woman’s departing back and then read the inscription,
Mr Patel, your money back. Don’t ask . . .
She had left out the word protection – too controversial.
She followed the same procedure further along, her satchel lightening with each call; a mean street on the outskirts of a declining town, the poverty eased slightly by the strange visitor.
“So, Glenda, you got yourself a job?” The old man surveyed his daughter, smart in her office suit and heeled shoes.
“Pretty sure, Dad. Got an interview this morning.” She leaned towards his wheelchair, resting a hand on his thin arm.
“A good job?”
She nodded, smiling reassuringly.
He sighed and she felt her heart contract as he painfully moved his deformed legs, seeking comfort. His gnarled fingers tried to cover her own and she felt him tremble.
Tears welled as she saw him drift away, his eyes glazing over, staring into the distance. She knew where he was going – back to his shop.
She remembered her childhood, recalled the dawn chorus of crates banging, delivery vans belching smoke into yards. Back doors opening to release shafts of golden light as goods were delivered, voices shouting cheerily.
Glenda, excited by the kerfuffle, dragged clothes over her small body, scrambled into shoes and ran down the stairs where her father was already struggling through with vegetables. He was grumpy, his hair standing in crushed bunches.
“Out of my way.” His voice was raspy and he coughed, last night’s cigarettes raw in his throat.
“Let me help.”
He pushed past her, carrying the day’s fresh fruit and vegetables. Later, she would help to arrange the goods before the shop opened, stick the price labels between the apples, brush the floor with an old broom.
But, as the rush to unload heightened, she sped into the kitchen and gathered plates, mugs and spoons, spilling them onto the table. Dad would boil eggs, as he did every morning since her mother left, and they would eat together.
Then he would light a cigarette and smile and she would feel happy again. She remembered how her heart lightened when her father smiled. It meant, to her young mind, that he was happy and so he wouldn’t leave her. Her mother – her memories were vague – had always looked sad.
Shaking her head to rid her mind of the past, Glenda quietly left, smiling at the care nurses. Her father would sleep now. She returned to her flat in the town and changed her clothes.
It was a very different Glenda who entered the portals of the flash Dynamite Club. Gone was the smart office girl. In her place a stooped, dowdy woman walked slowly, an old beige cardigan drooping over ragged slacks, dirty trainers peeping beneath. Her hair was covered in a brown scarf and her face, devoid of makeup, was lowered.
She was met by a rat-faced man.
“What d’yer want?” He stared at her and she had the uncanny feeling he was reading her thoughts.
“I come for the job of cleaner. I ’eared you was needin’ one.”
His eyes narrowed as he stared at her and she shifted uncomfortably.
He disappeared and, when he returned, he took her arm and pushed her towards the office. Raoul, the boss, was waiting.
Read on . . .