Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Cashews, Chaos and an Ill Wind, a short story by Maureen Bowden

Last year, Laura next door’s mum ran off with the manager from Argos. Her dad lost the plot and it wasn’t much fun for Laura, so we invited her to our house for Christmas. It changed her life.

After dinner Nanna fell off her chair clutching her belly and howling. We called an ambulance, and Auntie Kathleen, Drunkle Sid and Drunkle Jack said they’d go with her. Drunkle Jack put his arms around Laura and me. “You wanna come, girls? It’ll be a laugh. You never know who’ll turn up in A&E on Christmas day.” So, we all piled into Auntie Kathleen’s car and followed the ambulance.

The paramedics wheeled Nanna, still howling, into a curtained cubicle. The rest of us sat on a bench in the waiting room. A small boy ran amok, yelling, “Yeeeooow,” with a vomit bowl on his head.

His mother, with a smaller girl on her knee, said, “Shut up, Kyle. People are sick in here.” She turned to Auntie Kathleen. “What’s up with the old lady?”

 “Taken poorly after dinner: too many sprouts.”

“And vodkas,” Drunkle Sid said.

Auntie Kathleen changed the subject. “What brings you here?”

“It’s Kylie. Stuck a cashew nut up her nose and we can’t get it out.” She cuddled the toddler on her lap, “Can we, Sweetie?” Kylie sucked her dummy and pulled clumps of stuffing out of a hole in the neck of a one-eyed Igglepiggle.

A draught of December air hit us as two bikers came in, dragging an unconscious third to the reception desk.

Laura gripped my arm. “Hannah, it’s ‘The Sons of Chaos.’”  One had a shaved head, forked-tongued reptile tattoo on his neck, and ‘Snake’ embroidered on the back of his jacket. “Snake’s the president,” she whispered. The other had a mass of curls and enough facial hair to stuff a cushion. His embroidery said ‘Jango’. The sleeper had a waist-length ponytail. We couldn’t see his name. He was lying on it.

The receptionist looked at the nameless one. “He’s drunk.”

“Very observant,” Snake said. “We guessed that when his legs stopped working.”

“What’s he been drinking? Spirits? Beer?”




“We reckon,” Jango said, “he took more than his body could process, and the excess settled in his legs.”

The receptionist’s expression left sarcasm a mile behind. “Undoubtedly.” She clicked her laptop. “Name?”

“Tails,” Snake said.

“Is that his first name or surname?”

“It’s just his name.”

“What’s on his passport?”

“Why don’t you ask him when he regains the power of speech?”

“Who’s his GP?”

“Don’t think he’s got one.”

“Yeah, he has,” Jango said. “The one opposite Argos stapled him up after the machete accident. Remember?”

Laura called to them. “That’s Doctor Gahooly. He gives my dad his Prozac.” Snake and Jango turned around, and Christmas started looking up.

Snake sauntered over to us. “Room for a little one?” He squeezed his six-foot frame next to me on the bench. Jango left Tails on the floor and began getting acquainted with Laura.

I heard Drunkle Jack whisper to Auntie Kathleen, “I don’t like the look of this, Kath.”

“Oh, they’re only bikers. They’re okay,” she said. “One of ‘The Hellfire Stalkers’ works in Argos.  He changes all my broken stuff, no bother.”

“Bloody ’ell, Kath,” Drunkle Sid said. He reached behind me and prodded Snake. “Hey, Worm.”

I dug him in the ribs. “It’s Snake.”

“Oh, right,” he said. “Snake, lad, is it true there’s some of your lot up country called The Sheep Shaggers?”

“Sorry,” I said. “Drunkle Sid’s always like this.”

Snake grinned. “Hey, Acid. You gotta smart mouth.”

Drunkle Sid nudged Drunkle Jack, “Hear that, Jack? I gotta biker name.” Drunkle Jack looked scared.

“You wanna prospect for us, Acid?” Snake said.

“Does that mean I can fight the rozzers?”

“No, it means you can mop up the puke.” Right on cue, Tails started to heave. A passing nurse grabbed the vomit bowl off Kyle’s head and shoved it in Tails’ face.

Kyle howled, “Mum, that man’s being sick in my hat.”

“Never mind, baby,” his mum said. “The nice nurse’ll get you another one.” The nice nurse ignored her and told Snake and Jango to haul Tails into an empty cubicle.

“Is he okay?” I asked when they emerged.

“Yeah,” Snake said. “They’ll let him out when he can walk.”

A mega-fart from Nanna’s cubicle was followed by, “Ooh that’s better.” Fumes of flatulence, with a hint of sprouts, drifted under the curtain.

The doctor popped his head out. “Trapped wind,” he said, holding a hankie over his nose.  “Out you come, Nanna. You can go now. Happy Christmas.”

Nanna toddled out and the doctor ushered in Kylie and her entourage.

“Poo, it stinks in here,” Kyle said. Nobody argued.

Nanna said. “Take me home, Kath. I could murder a voddy.”

“Hang on,” Auntie Kath said. “We can’t all fit in the car and the taxi drivers are bound to be drunk on Christmas day.”

Snake turned to Laura and me. “Why don’t you girls come back with us? We gotta party going on.”

“Can we, Auntie Kath?” I said. “It would solve the problem.”

“I suppose so. As long as you don’t end up like their friend with the excess in his legs.”

Nanna glared at Snake. “You look after them, boyo, or you’ll have me to deal with.”

“Don’t worry, Nanna. We’re not getting on the wrong side of anyone who can fart like that.”

“I’ll pick them up at midnight,” Auntie Kath said, “and they’d better be sober.”
Snake winked. “Walk right in. Our clubhouse is opposite the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”

“I know. Che Guevara poster in the window and life-size cardboard cut-out of Cher in the porch.”


It didn’t last with Snake and me. His wife found out. She put him in hospital for three weeks. I ran for cover, but Laura became a biker chick: tatts, tongue piercing, the whole kit and caboodle.  She rides on the back of Jango’s Harley but she’s saving up for her own bike, and her dad’s still taking the Prozac.

Maureen Bowden is an ex-patriate Liverpudlian living with her musician husband on the island of Anglesey, off the coast of North Wales, where they try in vain to evade the onslaught of their children and grandchildren. She writes for fun and she has had several poems and short stories published. She loves Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare and cats.

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