– by N J Crosskey
(Originally published by The Teacup Trail)
Someone had stolen Aurora’s thunder. She had kept it in a jar under her bed precisely to prevent that sort of thing. She’d heard tell of the thunder thieves, the grown-ups talked of them sometimes when they thought she wasn’t listening. It had somehow happened to Aunt Lucy at her engagement party, perhaps she had been distracted by all the merriment and the robbers had taken advantage. Mrs Dante down the road had fallen prey to the crime whilst giving a speech at the country club, but for some reason her parents had been pleased to hear of her misfortune.
Aurora had no idea why thunder was such a valuable commodity, but she had reasoned that if it was worth stealing then it must be treasure. She had no other treasures, apart from Heidi, who she had to admit was not ageing very well. Despite seven cosmetic surgery procedures she was still greying at the edges and leaking stuffing.
So she had carefully removed an old jam jar from the kitchen bin and washed it thoroughly with detergent until it sparkled. Cloaked in bubble wrap she tucked it in her school bag and waited for her chance.
Eventually the storm clouds and skewers of lightning came. She didn’t notice the confused looks of the passers-by as she held her jar aloft, grinning in the rain, waiting for the clap. As the heavens roared she let the glorious bounty flow into her glass container before slamming on the lid and screwing it tightly. She had run home, watching over her shoulder for weather looters.
Her prize had sat safely nestled in between old teddy bears and the clothes she would grow into Someday. Each evening before sleep and every morning before rising she lifted the valance to peek at her pride and joy. There was a stark beauty in the apparent emptiness, a promise of invisible fortune. She often wondered what she would do with her riches when the day came to find a buyer. Such a perfect growl of the gods, she was certain it was the finest specimen anyone had ever captured. Perhaps she would buy a boat, sail out to sea where the storms seemed even mightier, a hundred jam jars rolling on the poop deck.
But the dream was over. Returning home from school she found nothing but neatly folded jumpers under her bed, and a chasm of carpet where once her aspirations had resided. Her mother heard her wails of despair and rushed to her room, fearing some grievous misadventure had happened, which of course it had. Aurora beseeched her to call the police, a crime had been committed!
Her mother wrapped her in soap-scented arms and caught her tears with cotton sleeves as she listened to the tale of woe. Then the confession came. There were no criminals to arrest, no robbery had occurred. She herself had given Aurora’s treasure to the dustcart, along with several bags of broken toys and torn dresses. Aurora had been so consumed with her grief that she hadn’t noticed the order that had replaced the chaos in her room. Or that Heidi sat atop her pillow grinning, new dress and neatly stitched seams.
Stroking her hair and calming her sobs Mother told her of the real thunder. You couldn’t catch it in a jar, or any other earthly vessel. It came from inside you.
Aurora hugged Heidi tightly and accepted her mother’s olive branch of cookies. She wondered how she could make the thunder grow inside herself, and how best to protect it.
No one could discern the sound of the discarded jam jar breaking amongst the constant crash and churn of the landfill. But everyone in the vicinity remarked how peculiar it was to hear a solitary clap of thunder on such a cloudless day.
Arthur And The Big Apple
– by Al Campbell
Arthur was lazing on the sofa, stargazing out of the conservatory window into the moonlit sky, when Myrtle came and whispered in his ear.
‘Hey Arth, garden, now!’
‘Really?’ grunted Arthur, his voice full of ennui. ‘I’ve just got comfortable.’
‘Seriously, you’ll love this. Come on!’
Arthur dragged himself to his feet and followed Myrtle into the dark.
‘In the corner, over there Arth, it’s a whole new world.’
Arthur knew that corner of the garden. It had ‘the apple tree’. Arthur loved the smell of apples and so wanted to taste one. But it was forbidden fruit. He had been told by the highest authority, in the strictest possible terms, he was never to try one.
Myrtle walked past the tree up to the garden hedge.
‘New gap, look’, she said, sotto voce.
The other side of the hedge was the big pond. Arthur peered across and, on the far bank, nestling under the most magnificent Malus Domestica imaginable, was the shiniest, most beautiful big apple ever seen.
Out of the darkness, with much clearing-of-throat, strode Beazle.
‘Myrtle said you’re a bit of an apple afficionado,’ he said, smiling in sinister fashion.
‘Love the smell, never tasted one, not allowed, never been an option,’ Arthur replied whimsically.
‘I asked Beazle to make this hole,’ said Myrtle. ‘Told him we couldn’t eat apples in this garden, but he says that’s a limiting hegemonistic contract within this garden’s jurisdiction only and that outside it’s a free fruit area.’
‘Don’t tell me you’ve been outside the garden and tasted an apple Myrtle. What was it like?’ Arthur’s eyes opened so wide his mustache twitched.
Myrtle put on a nonchalant ‘apples-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth’ face. ‘S’alright.’
‘Myrtle, Beazle, I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t.’
‘Who are you trying to convince,’ wheedled Beazle. ‘Just what sort of chap are you?’
Arthur bristled at the implication. Then temptation proved too much. He scrambled through, scurried round the pond and sank his teeth into the scrumptious fruit.
Suddenly clouds obscured the moon, lightning flashed and hailstones the size of crab apples lashed down. Arthur was alone. He ran back to the hedge but couldn’t find a way through. He ducked under a bush, cowering against the elements.
Time passed. Arthur shivered. The storm stopped raging as quickly as it had begun. Miraculously a bright light appeared in the sky accompanied by a strident, rather cross voice.
‘Arthur, Arrrthurrr – wherever are you?’
The light shone directly over Arthur’s head, dazzling him.
‘Whatever are you doing outside of the garden?’
A hand reached through the hedge and pulled him back through the hole.
There sat a smug Myrtle, eyes twinkling with schadenfreude.
‘Where’d you two get to?’ Arthur asked her accusingly.
Myrtle lifted her chin and looked sideways at him. ‘When the lightening started, Beazle went to ground. I took cover under the fig tree.’
‘Typical badger, even more typical cat’, thought Arthur, then coughed, throwing-up all the apple he’d eaten.
‘You silly Schnauzer puppy,’ boomed the voice from above. ‘Apples make you sick – that’s why you should never eat them. Come inside and have a charcoal biscuit to settle your tummy.’
Arthur happily trotted along after the light of the mobile phone. Perhaps the Big Apple wasn’t all it was made out to be after all.