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Sticky Situations at Chez Spivey

 
Silja Henningsdottir's picture
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"Ég lítur út eins og fordæmdur strákur!" Anneka snapped out in Icelandic.

"No you don't look like a boy." Slija helpfully translated for Kirsten's sake, omitting the expletive, naturally. "Look, Momma has you in a lovely dress ! Boy's dont wear dresses now, do they?"

Anneka had a face like thunder. If such a look could kill. Silja fussed at the dress trying desperately to reaffirm Anneka's self-identity. It was not working. Kirsten sighed, she was non to pleased also.

Silja looked at the scissors and glue matted hair on the floor, then at Kirsten with a look on her face that said 'Sorry, I tried my best'. The pout on the three year old face said all. 

Kirsten eventually snapped. The fingerwagging began.

"How many times have I told you NEVER to go into Poppa's study !!"

Silja almost intervened on Anneka's behalf but thought better of it. It was out of her pay-grade. Anyway she knew once the inquisition began concurrent with Joe returning home, questions would be asked as to exactly how Anneka was not being supervised at the critical point. Try telling Joe that three year old headstrong little girls are about as easy to control as a wet block of soap and see how far that gets you.

"Anneka is very creative." Silja offered almost inaudibly to Kirsten.

And Anneka is creative! But Poppa's study, preciseley because of its off-limits status was just too much of a temptation. Insde there was paper, pens, pencils, glue. Lots of stuff to make Poppa a nice surprise for when he comes home. He would have been so pleased. IF things had not got a little, well a lot, out of hand.

Silja snipped a few more strands of hair, she had done the best salvage job she could given the circumstances. She preened Anneka up a bit then smiled at her "Now we both have new hairdo hmm?"  Anneka scowled again, Silja sat her down with some Lego and went to put the inked and glued clothes in the bin.

Silja found Kirsten along the landing shaking, bent over, holding onto a doorframe for support. It looked like she was sobbing.

'A bit of an overreaction..' Silja thought. But as she got closer it was obvious.

Kirsten was pissing herself laughing!

 

upps?

 

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Joe Spivey's picture

Omg poor Joe. He'll have to keep a lid on it, can't go getting mad at a three year old. But you can bet your life that tomorrow, someone, somewhere is not going to have a pleasant day. ((Love Annie's expression :D))

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

 

Joe struggled through the front door with arms full of untidy paperwork. He closed the heavy door with a backwards kick and dumped the usual mix of invoices, receipts and death threats onto the hall table. Then Joe called out his version of ‘Honey I’m home!’

“My belly thinks my bleedin’ throat’s bin cut!” Then he shucked out of his duster and, with a weary sigh, hung it heavily on the waiting coat stand. He turned and opened the door to his study with the casual expectation of his nightly snifter of scotch before dinner.

A burglar might ransack a room looking for hidden goodies, but they generally don’t waste time cutting up valuable books or spreading glue over every available surface.

“WHAT THE FUCKING HELL?!”

He stepped gingerly through the mess towards his desk, still not sure if he had been the victim of an attack by some vandalistic shit bent on revenge for any number of reasons that rolled past Joe’s memory like old TV credits. Then Joe saw the crudely cut out and coloured stick figures glued to his blotter. The door opened behind him and Joe spun around.

Anneka, in her pyjamas, stood in the open crack staring up at him with eyes like saucers. Two and two became four and Joe let out a long sigh. He eased himself down onto his knees and beckoned his daughter with a finger. Very slowly the little three year old crossed the floor, still looking up at her Poppa with uncertain eyes that had yet to learn fear.

Joe examined Anneka’s new hairstyle with careful deliberation, looking first left and then right and then gently turning her head to see the back.

“Nice hair.”

“I gots glued in it”

“You don’t say.”

The bottom lip started to wobble.

“I look like a boy.”

Joe lifted her chin with a finger and peered closely.

“I dunno, too clean to be any boy I know.”

The lip stopped wobbling and she held still while Joe continued the ‘inspection’.

“No boogers either.”

That brought a giggle.

Joe tilted the girl forwards and looked behind her.

“Nope. No tail either.” He stood her back up.

Anneka looked at him.

“Boy’s don’t have tails silly.”

“Oh yes they do, they just hide them. They have long tails just like rats, all scaly and yucky.”

Annie looked puzzled.

“What’s a rat?”

That threw Joe for a heartbeat but he recovered quickly.

“A rat has sharp claws and big pointy teeth, a hairy body and a long, long tail.” Joe could see her absorbing the information. “But nobody is ever going to mistake Poppa’s little princess for some smelly boy!”

Joe stood up and looked down at his now grinning daughter.

“A monkey maybe, but definitely not a boy.” Joe lifted his arms and hopped from foot to foot making monkey noises.

Squealing happily, Anneka turned and fled the study with Joe, still being a monkey, chasing her. She ran down the hall straight into Silja’s waiting arms and was scooped up.

Goodnight kisses were exchanged with everyone she could throw her little arms around and Silja took her off to bed.

Later that night, in bed, Joe turned to Kirsten.

“Annie asked me what a rat was earlier.”

Kirsten turned to him and kissed him on top of his head.

“Oh Joe. How could she ever know what a rat was?”

After the light was turned off Joe lay awake staring at the ceiling and pondering on Kirsten’s question. Something about it troubled him.


((To be continued..?))

 

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Silja Henningsdottir's picture

"Silja..? "   

Anneka was sitting at the kitchen table carefully colouring in a page in her book. Her tongue was protruding from one side of her mouth such was the concentration off keeping the crayon mark on the correct side of the line, but part of her mind had wandered off to what Joe had told her the previous night. Silja was making herself coffe.

"Why do boys have tails? Poppa told me they has tails and keeps them hidding all the time"

Silja blurted into her coffe and sent a misting cloud of brown from the mug.  "Whaat?"

Anneka looked up from her book.

"Poppa said boys have scaly tails wot are yucky and all furry. Imma please Imma girl and do not having one" The disgust showed clearly on Anni's face.

"Ermm.. " Silja tried to gather a semblance of normality in her mental processes while she wiped the spilled coffe from the chair back and table. Anni went on.

"An they has pointy teeths and are black. Eeewwww!"

"That sounds awful." Silja played for time while she mentally examined several theories as to what in fact Anneka was thinking about.

"Poppa said them are called rats and just smelly boys keep them hidding all the time to scare girls with."

Thankfully Silja's lightbulb moment arrived. "Ohh! Rats !"

Silja laughed, momentarily cursing Joe under her breath. Introducing a three year old to the concept of metaphors indeed! She spent the next half hour teaching Anni the relevant nursury rhyme. In Icelandic, naturally.

Iss eggsackertly wot I said .....    Idd-eee- oot !

Joe Spivey's picture

It takes a lot to keep Joe from his kip, not that he ever has or ever will  sleep the sleep of the innocent, but that night he found it difficult to nod off. Of course, the following morning he was not in the best of moods and breakfast conversation consisted of little more than grunts and “pass the jam please”. Eventually Kirsten gave up and Joe left the house with his mind still troubled.

Today he would be spending most of the day in the square playing the auction house. However, he still had to open up the ammunition factory. Of his two overseers, the only one he trusted to do that job was so caught up in the world of new parenthood right now that his mind just wasn’t in the right place.

So Joe trudged past the square and on towards the factory. He unlocked the doors and counted heads as the workforce filed in. As usual, he turned and peered in the direction of the orphanage for sign of any stragglers. This time he was rewarded with the sight of Finny running down the sidewalk, the mass of her untamed red hair flying behind her. In her mouth was wedged a slice of fried bread or toast while both hands were busy trying to lock down some of her hair with a strip of coloured rag that passed for a ribbon. As her mismatched shoes pounded nearer on the morning sun warmed flagstones Joe’s face became thoughtful.

Finny Late

Finny was about to slide past Joe and on into the factory when a hand in front of her face pulled her up short. Excuses and denials automatically lined up behind each other until she realised that none of them contained a subject. As far as she was aware she was actually innocent of any possible charges the boss might throw at her. The knowledge gave her a warm feeling in her stomach that had nothing to do with whatever that had been for breakfast. She took the piece of toast out of her mouth.

“What?”

Not being the best at small talk, especially with an eight year old, Joe got straight to the point.

“Last night Anneka asked me what a rat was.”

Finny’s face screwed up in disbelief.

“How could she not know what a rat was?”

And that was it. Finny’s words were the second prong of the dilemma that had sat uncomfortably wrong in Joe’s mind all the previous night.

“How could Anneka ever know what a rat was?” and “How could Anneka not know what a rat was?”

Finny was still looking up at him, while at the same time trying to lick the thin  jam which was tantalisingly just out of reach off her tongue around the corner of her mouth. With a sideways flick of his head Joe dismissed her into the factory. Out of habit Joe gave one last glance down the street to the front door of the orphanage… and had an idea.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

(( wonderful pic.  :)  waits for more story

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

For the rest of the day Joe was distracted and missed some very nice deals at auction as his attention was focused on putting flesh on the bones of his recent inspiration. Losing those deals irritated him, but this was one of those rare occasions when something more important to him than making chips got to use the dubious synaptic pathways in his brain.

That’s not to say that Joe wasn’t many chips richer by lunchtime. While his conscious thought processes worked away at creating a case that his best beloved might agree with him on, his unconscious was perfectly capable of handling the more mundane tasks involved in making sure that little Annie had butter on her bread for the foreseeable future.

After lunch Joe didn’t return to the auction house. Instead, he took a circuitous route (lest he be seen from the factory) to the orphanage and had a few words with Maisie, the idealistic young progressive who ran the place. ‘Miss’ Maisie’s promotion had been as much a surprise to her as it had been to the hardnosed harridan she had replaced. The only ones who weren’t surprised were Joe and several officials at the Union headquarters building. By the end of the meeting with Maisie Joe’s mental list of check boxes were all ticked and his mood was slowly improving.

The next thing on his ‘to do’ list involved an unscheduled return to the factory. Laughter wasn’t one of the noises Joe associated with ammunition production. Neither was the sight of an overseer standing on a box, surrounded by non-working workers, doing a passable pantomime caricature of the owner.

The mice scattered back to work while Taioko desperately fought to throw off the brown duster he had brought in specifically for this little show. Joe said nothing as he went up to his office, just glared at Taioko every step of the way. As he unlocked his office door Joe called out Finny’s name.

“My office. Now.” Then he disappeared inside.

After work, after his scotch, after dinner, after he could think of no more excuses, Joe asked Silja to join them in the sitting room. Once they were settled, Joe expressed his feelings that, even with living in a city almost overrun with vermin, their daughter didn’t know what a rat was. Joe felt that Anneka was in danger of becoming a ‘princess’, removed from the reality of the world outside the walls of the house. Then he set about explaining his idea. That it might be good for Annie to spend some time with those who didn’t have what she had, who didn’t have food or even water whenever they wanted it and, in some cases, didn’t even have parents to look after them.

Joe took a deep breath and explained that he thought it might be a good idea for Annie to spend a morning at the orphanage. Although Silja and staff would be in the vicinity at all times, Annie would actually be looked after by Finny… At this point Anneka, being a sharp eared three year old, piped up.

“I like Finny! She held my hand an’ gived me a hat.”

They all looked at her and then Kirsten and Silja turned back to Joe. Joe tried to read their expressions, failed, and so tried to pick up where he left off.

She would be looked after by Finny, get a tour of the orphanage, maybe listen to some of their stories and hopefully get a feel of their lives. Then she would have lunch with them. Joe paused. Then, erm, before coming home, Finny could maybe introduce her to rats… just so she knew.

Joe sat back in his armchair and waited.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Silja Henningsdottir's picture

Kirsten looked at Joe as if he had just suggested they teach Anneka tightrope walking.

Silja carefully read the craggy lines on Joes face with cool Nordic eyes, There was the beginnings of a smile on her lips But it was Kirsten who broke the silence over folded arms.

"And can you trust this Finny?"

Joe shifted in his seat. He expected this same question but still it made him uncomfortable. He kew Finny was by far the lesser of all the other little evils under his charge.

"Well, Finny can be...  She can..   Sometimes she... " He took a deep breath through his nose to push out the rest of his words with conviction. "Yes, I trust her, anyway, Silja will be there."

Silja's tiny smile increased 3 or 4 degrees, She knew exactly what Joe was trying to achieve, even though he was making a dog's breakfast of the delivery. But she completely understood that he and she were actually on the same wavelength. That in itself was surprising, so she interjected to help Joe who to her looked on the verge of floundering.

"Finny is a good kid. I would trust her." Silja said so firmly that the authority in her voice arrested Kisten and Joe's attention immediately. " I see a lot of myself in her,"

Silja went on because there was no reply from the two open mouths in front of her. She felt confident, she remembered being eight and surviving day to day only too well.

"Finny's circumstances dont make her a bad child, she's has a strong mind but that just needs directing. It's easy to see, in fact."

Kirsten unfolded her arms. Joe listened to his unexpected ally.

Silja turned to Kirsten.

"In actual fact I was about to discuss with you something along these lines. That it is time Anneka met other children as a way broaden her social horizons. It would be very good for her development, the timing is perfect." 

Kirsten's initial resistance was decreasing. Silja's trademark smirk appeared.

"I won't let Anni out of my sight, And anyway, the kids think I'm some sort of Ninja avenger. They won't dare try anything."

Iss eggsackertly wot I said .....    Idd-eee- oot !

Joe Spivey's picture

The great day came.

Joe sat in his office determinedly not looking at his watch every two minutes. It was hard work. He was nervous. Considering what might have happened at the birthday party… The thought always stopped there because Joe’s brain slammed down the shutters on all the things he knew that ‘might have happened’ could mean. He didn’t look at his watch again.

Kirsten had come around to the idea, more thanks to Silja’s words of quiet confidence and reasonable sense than Joe’s own slightly whiny babbling. She had come around but, behind the smile, those pools of oriental beauty had held his own with the look that conveyed in no uncertain terms; “If one hair of her head…” Yup, Joe was nervous. Despite the two guys he had watching the front and back doors of the orphanage, which became four an hour ago because ‘just in case’. Despite making sure the worst troublemakers of the residents were out of the way for the day. Despite all the other little safeguards he had put in place, Joe was nervous.

Silja and Anneka were due at the orphanage at eleven. Joe didn’t look at his watch again. It all hung on Finny. He had called her into his office and told her what he wanted her to do and tried to explain why he wanted her to do it. Instead of listening to the ‘why’ bit Finny had just stuck out her hand and Joe had instantly been transported back a few years to the first time he had met Silja.

She had been what? Fifteen? Cocky, arrogant, cheeky, sarcastic, disrespectful, in other words a typical teenager. Silja had been all of this but with a hard edge born from a childhood that had not been kind. A hard edge that Silja had been very close to falling from and becoming just another street punk. But she hadn’t.

When push came to shove Silja had stepped back from that edge and was now one of the few people he and Kirsten trusted with their most precious possession. Of course she was still cocky, arrogant, cheeky, sarcastic, and disrespectful and often a right royal pain in the butt.

So Joe looked at Finny’s hand with a smile that didn’t show on his face. Maybe the trick can be worked again, he had thought. But now, back in his office and not looking at his watch, Joe was nervous. Finny was only eight. EIGHT! What had he been thinking? It could all so easily go wrong. Joe didn’t check his watch again, he didn’t have to. The last of a stream of factory kids he had sent out appeared and told him that Silja and Finny were now walking past the junkyard towards the orphanage’s front door.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Silja Henningsdottir's picture

Silja stood over the basin and washed her face. It was early but Joe was up. She could hear him coughing up phlegm in his study. Clearly he was enjoying enjoying the first smoke of the day. She smirked.

 

Silja paused. She thought about Finny. As she did so, the face in the mirror was of herself when she was eight. The same Nordic eyes but framed in a mass of tousled blonde curls. She thought about Engifur Johansson, the camp cook. He had been her guardian angel. Everyone needed a guardian angel, someone to guide, to protect from those who would seek to harm or exploit. To discreetly guide their charge in the right direction when life could otherwise far to easily lead them astray. Engi had been hers. Silja had not recognised that at the time but now in this life and the hindsight it brings, Engi’s words and actions were so clear to Silja.

 

Silja considered Finny for a few moments. Silja saw a lot of herself in Finny. Also eight years, also having to survive in non-to-perfect environment. A skinny girl in a place where many of the older kids could easily take away what she had scavenged for herself.

 

Silja smirked. She was still sending the occasional bag of goodies down for Finny. Silja also knew Joe had expertly camouflaged soft spot for Finny. Silja knew that despite their differences, Joe and herself were singing from the same hymn book when it came to Finny, And Anneka for that matter.

 

Silja worked on her make-up. She didn’t usually bother but today was different. Just the right amount, not too much but just the right amount of scary applied to they eyes to project fear at those among the orphanage kids who may think of taking some advantage or other when Anneka and Finny went about the orphanage. Silja made a test-glare into the mirror.

 

“Fullkominn!” Silja giggled.

 

Silja carefully selected today’s outfit. The correct combination of clothes and make-up to reinforce the image of Joe’s ‘Ninja Assassin’ that the kids seemed to have of her. The thought made Silja chuckle to herself

 

It was time, Anneka was suitably excited. Silja carefully adjusted the bib and braces of Anni’s pink shorts, then presented her to Kirsten who hugged Anni tightly. From over Anni’s shoulder, Kirsten looked at Silja, Silja clearly saw the maternal concerns Kirsten’s face conveyed. Silja smiled, winked back confidence to Kirsten. Kirsten nodded.

 

It was time, Silja closed the heavy door behind her then hoisted Anneka up onto her shoulders. Anneka chortled as Silja skipped down the street with her aboard. The sang a silly song together as they headed toward the orphanage. The song was about an elephant called Nellie. Anneka was excited about the forthcoming adventure, Silja gave no outward sign of concern. But her eyes were open, ears finely tuned. Deep in her purse was a loaded heavy pistol.

 

 

About 50 meters behind, Hanne Berg followed her step-sister discreetly. In addition, she had several union guards under her instruction, All was well.

 

Iss eggsackertly wot I said .....    Idd-eee- oot !

Joe Spivey's picture

Finny watched out the dining hall window. She was meant to be watching out for Anneka arriving so that she could run downstairs and meet them at the door. What she was actually watching right now though was a bunch of her fellow inmates playing in the junkyard across the street from the front of the orphanage.

The junkyard was the playground of the younger kids, ones whose imaginations could still turn a hastily built mish-mash of bent rebar and broken pallets into a mighty fortress to be defended against the combined assaults of monsters and mutants. Finny had helped defend the place many times and would have been doing so today if she hadn’t agreed to show Joe’s kid what the orphanage was like.

And she was getting paid for it! Enough so that she could finally get rid of the orphanage issue blue dress and into something that was actually new, rather than something that had been donated by someone whose son or daughter had grown up or been eaten by a bear or something.

Finny had never had a piece of clothing that was new. In her lockbox was a pile of drawings of what she hoped she would be able to buy with the chips Joe was going to pay her… actual real pay, not just treats, sweets and ‘extras’ that they got for working in the factory. Payment for that went to the orphanage and resulted in marginally better food and much needed repairs and stuff. A lot of the kids just did only one week at the factory, which was enough to get the much appreciated extra blanket that came as their very first ‘pay’.

As she watched, Finny kept an eye on the Union patrols that ambled up and down the streets. Most of the guards were ok with the kids playing in the junkyard. Some of them though, probably out of boredom, took it upon themselves to chase them away. Playing ‘escape the guard’ was almost as much fun as playing defend the fort, except if you were unlucky enough to actually get caught then you tended to end up with a twisted arm and a box around the ears before being sent on your way under dire threat of what would happen if they ever caught you again blah blah blah. Finny was smiling, happily remembering the many times she had taunted the Union guards from the safety of the other side of the fence having escaped through the smallest of gaps in its poorly maintained slats.

It was purest chance, then, that she happened to notice the two figures walk past the entrance to the junkyard. She had expected a car, not Silja holding Anneka’s hand, casually walking down the street. Finny leapt for the stairs, jumping the last half of each flight of steps as she raced for the front door.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

Finny reached the last flight of stairs just as Miss Maisie was opening the front door to a smiling Silja and, holding her hand, a shy three year old Anneka. Finny jumped the last six steps and landed on the tiled floor of the entrance hall with all the noise her heavy boots could create. Enough, in fact, to send Anneka scooting behind Silja’s legs. Even Maisie flinched and whipped her head around to see what part of the building had just collapsed. Silja bent sideways to squint around Maisie to see. Embarrassed under Miss Maisie’s disapproving glare, Finny stood up red faced from the gravity imposed squat and shuffled forward the few steps to stand next to Miss Maisie and stare at her feet.

There followed a few moments of awkward silence when Silja and Maisie glanced at each other, both wondering if this whole thing was going to work.

Finny glanced up. She too was starting to get the feeling that the chance of her earning her chips today was shrinking with every passing second. Anneka was peeping out from behind Silja’s thigh. Finny lifted a hand, waved her fingers at the little girl and held her breath. Anneka watched her with the openly appraising stare of the under-fives. Then a small hand appeared and little fingers wiggled back. Finny smiled and held out her hand.

“Wanna come see?”

Now it was the turn of the adults to hold their breath. Anneka looked up at Silja, eyes asking both for permission and approval that this was the right thing to do. Silja smiled down at her and nodded. Anneka slowly slid around Silja’s legs and stepped away from the safety they provided. She took Finny’s hand and allowed herself to be led a few steps into the cool gloom before looking back one more time.

Silja nodded confirmation and used Icelandic, her and Annie's 'secret' language to reassure her.

“I’ll come soon. Ekki hafa áhyggjur, Annie. It’s okay”

Reassured, Anneka allowed herself to be led towards the stairs. Finny held her hand and preceded the toddler, going up one step and waiting for Anneka to negotiate the step before moving up one.

Stairs

From the doorway Silja felt the first pang of concern for Annie and worry about Finny’s ability to protect her charge. When Annie wobbled Silja took a half step forward. But the little wobble had made the perceptive Finny aware of the possibility of Anneka slipping and so she changed her tactic and now stood behind Anneka and helped her climb from there. Silja relaxed. She and Maisie exchanged relieved grins. This might work after all.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

Silja and Maisie started to climb the stairs just as Finny and Anneka made it to the top. Silja saw Annie turn her head to look for her and so smiled confidently back at the anxious little face.

Reassured, Anneka let Finny lead her through set of swing doors into the girl’s dormitory.

“This is where I sleep. Well, me an’ all the other girls. The boy’s aren’t allowed in here. My bed is over there, c’mon, I’ll show you.”

Anneka followed Finny past the rows of different sized beds until she stopped at one and sat down on it. Anneka wondered how Finny knew which one was hers, there were so many beds!

Finny tapped the thin mattress with her hand and then helped Anneka climb up beside her. Maisie and Silja hung back by the door.

“See,” Finny said pointing down the long room. “All the older girls sleep down there and…” She turned and Anneka’s head followed the pointing finger. “… all the littlerer ones sleep down there. I used to sleep down there when I first got here. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle now.”

Anneka took in everything Finny was saying, comparing it and adding it to the world she knew. Questions started to form behind the brown, knowledge hungry eyes. Of course, being three years old, there was no guarantee that the questions were going to relate to whatever it was she was being told.

“Is that lady your Momma?”

Finny blinked. She glanced up to where Miss Maisie and Silja were keeping an eye on things. Thankfully there were no other kids in the dorm to hear Anneka’s question. Finny would never have lived it down. She leaned down and whispered in Anneka’s ear.

“You mean Miss Maisie?”

Anneka pointed at Maisie.

“That lady.”

Finny went red. She could see Miss Maisie out of the corner of her eye, desperately trying not to laugh.

“Erm no. That’s Miss… That’s the lady who looks after us.”

“Silja looks after me.” Then, as an afterthought, “and Momma does.” Anneka touched Finny’s chin, gaining her attention. “Can I see your toys?”

Finny was still stamping down hard on the lid of the can of worms Annie had dragged into the light. It took her a couple of seconds to respond.

“Ummmmm.” The simple question had a complicated answer.

Toys were a touchy subject in the orphanage. If you had a toy, if you came into the orphanage with one, you quickly hid it and only ever took it out when you were absolutely certain nobody else could see. The older kids religiously destroyed any toys they found. Finny wasn’t sure why, but toys made the older kids really angry. Finny didn’t have any toys, life was easier that way. Except… Before Anneka’s birthday, Finny had tried to make a doll for her as a present. She had thrown it away because she hadn’t thought it ‘good enough’ for a posh kid like Anneka. That was the end of it, until the little girl that was locked deep inside Finny remembered the button eyes and embroidered mouth and had instilled the discarded doll with a soul. Rescued from the trash, the rag doll, secretly named Polly, now lived in Finny’s lock box. It would probably never see the light of day again, but Polly was safe.

“Ummmmmm…” Finny looked all around, just to make sure, before dropping her head to whisper again. “If I show you, you must never tell anyone okay. Promise?”

Anneka solemnly nodded her head and crossed her heart with her finger as Silja had taught her.

“I promise Finny.”

Finny reached down under the bed and dragged her lock box up onto the mattress with them. Then she took of a shoe and pulled out a small key. Opening the box, she gave one of her precious sweets to Anneka and then, with yet another nervous glance, looked towards the door before lifting the doll she had made from its hiding place under a pile of drawings.

Annie snatched it immediately.

“It’s you! Finny, look, see! It’s you!” Annie immediately set about straightening the crumpled dress. Made from a no longer wearable orphanage dress it was a match for the shapeless bag Finny wore. The brown rag hair tied into bunches with some red thread completed the look-alike appearance of the doll.

Finny was more than a little puzzled at the excitement on the little girl’s face as she played with the rag doll. Compared to what Finny knew Anneka had at home… She looked at Polly, then at Anneka.

From the doorway, Silja watched with a smile. Maisie touched her arm and mimed that she had to go. Silja nodded a thank you and returned to watching the two children on the bed. Only half watching, though. The little rag doll had stirred memories.

After a while, Anneka, her nose wrinkling, looked up at Finny.

“I need a wee.”

Polly

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

That little titbit of information didn’t have any effect on Finny at first, because, well, hearing it had never involved her before. When she realised that a three year old was likely to need help she still wasn’t overly concerned, after all, Silja was here. Finny looked up to where Silja… wasn’t standing by the door.

Where Silja was, was finding somewhere to hide. Across from the girls dormitory was the boy’s dormitory, but a quick glance through the door showed her several occupants hanging around. Maybe it was more a den of puppies than of lions, but if Silja was to go in, then the reaction from the boys would kill any possibility of hiding. Silja bolted upstairs.

“FinnEEEE!” Anneka was pulling at Finny’s arm.

Colour started to drain from Finny’s face. Peeing your bed was a major no-no, staff disapproval-wise for sure. But more importantly, the social implications among the kids were too terrible to contemplate. “Finny Piss-a-Bed” was not a good nickname.

“Come on then Annie. Let’s go find a toilet eh?” Both girls trotted off in the direction of the door they had come in by. “It’s just upstairs…” It dawned on Finny that by the time Anneka had carefully negotiated the stairs the way she had before, it may well be too late.

Reaching the stairs Finny bent down and bear hugged Anneka around the waist. She lifted the surprisingly heavy toddler (rich people eat more, was the thought that drifted through her subconscious) and clumsily carried her up the stairs.

On this floor were the ablutions which were shared, though at different times, by both boys and girls. Up here, too, was the store room with spare beds, mattresses, lock boxes and collected attic junk from years gone by. Exploring one day, Finny had found a locked chest. Thinking ‘treasure’ she had picked the lock only to find lots of old papers and files and notebooks. Now that she could read, Finny planned to come back one day and see what they were.

When Finny put Anneka down, the little girl was already in the throes of the ‘holding it in’ dance so Finny wasted no time by explaining where they were, she just dragged Anneka into the ablutions and pointed at the nearest cubicle door.

“There! Quick quick!”

Anneka scooted towards the cubicle and pushed the door open. Then she stopped dead. Instead of the familiar white porcelain bowl with her ‘My Little Blightwolf’ trainer seat ready and waiting for her Annie was rudely reminded that she wasn’t at home anymore by the sight of a stained wooden bench with a hole in it and no sign of a friendly looking blightwolf seat or any other kind of aid for a three year old. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Still hopping from foot to foot, Anneka turned to Finny.

Ablutions

“It smells bad.”

“Of course it smells, it’s a toilet. Oh! You mean that, that’s just dinner cooking.” Finny made shooing motions to encourage Annie into the cubicle. “Hurry up, before you wet yourself.”

If it had been Silja then Annie would have known just the right whine to use to get her nanny to make things better. But Finny was an unknown quantity so Annie resigned herself to having to make do. Rising to the challenge with a breathy huff she entered the unfamiliar cubicle and shut the door.

Finny allowed herself to relax. Emergency averted. Then a little voice floated under the door of the cubicle.

“Finny? I canst undo the buttons.”

Joe never said anything about this, Finny thought, pushing the door open. And where was Silja?

Silja, as it happens, was three cubicles along busy stuffing her fist into her mouth and trying not to fall of the seat from laughing.

Having persuaded Anneka that it was perfectly fine to sit on the hard wooden bench and that she wouldn’t get cooties, Finny retreated and closed the door behind her to let Anneka get on with it. Her final thought before the door closed was, please don’t fall down the hole.

Finny leaned against the wall and waited while all the normal noises signposted the current progress of the job in hand. Then there was silence. Silence when there should have been the sound of feet hitting the floor and the rustle of clothing.

“Finny? There’s no paper.” Anneka had looked all around the cubicle but there was no sign of any toilet roll.

Finny’s eyebrows met in the middle.

“Yes there is. Right next to you, hanging onna string.”

There was a long pause.

“Ohhh. Um, okay Finny.” Then the sound of tearing newsprint followed shortly after by the expected footfalls etcetera.

When summoned, Finny did her bit with the buttons and then led Anneka to the sinks to wash her hands. Finny watched Anneka determinedly manipulate the ancient plumbing. The orphanage was a scary place of bad smells, cracked and missing tiles, strange noises and even scarier older kids. That had been Finny’s first impression when she had arrived a couple of years ago. Finny had kind of expected Anneka to be repulsed by the whole place. Anneka, though, seemed to be taking it all in her stride, accepting the run down surroundings and the sparsity of comfort. Finny smirked. Even coming to terms with the concept of newspaper for toilet paper.

Just then the bell rang for dinner, making Anneka jump.

“Yay, dinner! You hungry Annie?”

Anneka nodded and accepted Finny’s help stepping down from the crate she had had to use to reach the sink. Finny took her hand.

“Come on then. Miss Maisie said we get to push in front of everyone coz you’re a vip.”

“What’s a vip?”

“Dunno. Come on, we hafta go upstairs again.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

Climbing up the stairs to the next floor really had Finny earning her chips. A nonstop reverse avalanche of kids and teenagers thundered up the stairs, threatening to trample not only Anneka but her marginally taller protector too. Anneka learned some new expletives from the experience and Finny collected squashed toes and a couple of bruises. Eventually, though, they made it into the crowded dining hall.

For the first time since leaving the safety of Silja’s legs, Anneka felt apprehensive. There were a lot of kids here, many more than had been at her birthday party. They were bigger, too. Some of them were, in Anneka’s eyes, as big as grown-ups. And they were loud, shouty loud. And pushy loud. And Anneka could see that the smaller kids were hiding the fact they were as scared as she was. Her grip on Finny’s hand tightened and she stepped back behind Finny’s legs.

Finny felt the little fingers grip increase. She understood. The oldest kids were literally twice the size of Finny. Meal times could be dangerous. It was often only the presence of the staff that stopped it being bloody. Even though she had been given permission to push to the front of the line Finny was going to be very selective about who she and Anneka pushed in front of, so she took the time deciding just when that would be to squat down and reassure the toddler.

A hunter will tell you never to turn your back on a predator. A hunter will also tell you never to make yourself look small. By squatting down and talking to Anneka, Finny was doing both… and the predators noticed.

It was Anneka’s widening eyes and upwards stare that alerted Finny to the uncomfortable fact that someone considerably taller than her own four feet and not many inches was standing behind her. She really didn’t want to stand up and find out who it was. It wasn’t Joe’s chips that made her do so. It wasn’t the kudos she would lose if she didn’t, well not entirely. It was the look in Annie’s eyes.

Ohhhhh Finny knew that look. It was the look of the kid whose toy was going to get trashed. It was the look of the kid who wasn’t going to eat today. It was the look of the kid wondering how much the next minute or so was going to hurt. So Finny stood up because she wasn’t going to let that kid be Annie.

It was Taggs. Well, Christopher Taggert if you read his file. It was a thick file, but then tags was sixteen and had been here since he was a baby.

What Finny wanted to happen now was for Anneka to run away and find Silja while she took care of Taggs. The image that formed in Finny’s mind concerning ‘taking care of Taggs’ comprised of her holding on to his legs long enough to stop him going after Anneka. But Anneka wasn’t running away, she was hugging Finny’s legs and showing no signs of letting go.

“What do ya want Taggs?”

Taggs was smiling, enjoying the crowd that was starting to gather.

“I want to meet your little friend, Finny.”

“Leave us alone. We just want to get our dinner.”

Taggs stopped smiling.

“Are you telling me what to do?”

Finny said nothing. The scenario was a familiar one. The outcome certain. Finny’s hands balled into fists by her sides.

Still smiling, Taggs slowly reached for one of Finny’s long side tails. He was going to enjoy pulling the kid’s hair until she squealed for mercy in front of Spivey’s brat.

Then two things happened almost simultaneously. First, there was a large intake of breath from the growing crowd. Second, Tagg’s world tilted and he found himself on his back, looking up at his own hand which was being held in front of his face. A strange face moved into view.

“Hey Finny. You wantings me to break both his hand bones or just these little pinkies here?”

Finny was still recovering. Silja had appeared from nowhere and now Taggs was flat on his back grimacing in wonder at just how far Silja was able to bend his fingers back. Now heads were turning in Finny’s direction, waiting to see what she said and wondering if they were about to see Joe Spivey’s hired ninja assassin break Taggs’ fingers.

Inside Finny’s head the six, seven and even the eight year old Finnys were begging her to say yes. You have the power, do it. Do it! DO IT! The unheard thoughts of all the other ‘little uns’ joined in too and Finny almost gave in to the cacophony.

But wait. Little hands still clutched at her dress. Silja wouldn’t want Anneka to witness such a thing surely? Then Finny remembered that she was the only one in the hall who knew that Silja was not any kind of ninja, but to everyone else, Taggs included, she had a fearsome reputation. This was a bluff then and Finny realised that she had her part to play.

“Nahhhh, I’m hungry. We just want our dinner.

Silja did a very good job of looking seriously disappointed. She leaned down and whispered loudly in Taggs’ ear so that those close enough could hear.

“You are very lucky boy mister Taggy Waggy. My doctor friend ses there are two hundreds of bones in your body and iffa you is ever hurting Finny I will take great big pleasure in breaking every single one of them.” She tapped his nose “So you is making sure that Finny is not getting hurted, yes?” Silja applied a touch more pressure to the fingers she held, making Taggs nod enthusiastically. Silja tweaked the nose. “Good boy.” She let go of him and stood up, hands on hips, and addressed the expectant silence. “Now you be going away, no dinner for naughty boys today.”

Tiggs and his little crew slunk out of the dining hall to a chorus of whispers and smirks. Finny judged this to be the absolutely best time possible to walk with Annie to the front of the queue. She wasn’t wrong. Throughout dinner Finny positively bathed in the reflected glory of Silja’s dramatic put down. Being friends with a psycho killer ninja assassin meant that her place in the pecking order wasn’t quite so humble any more.

Dining

After taking one shuddering look at what was on offer at the servery, Silja joined Maisie, who was leaning on the wall by the door. Maisie gave Silja a sideways look. She leaned in.

“You do realise that because of what you’ve done… and that outfit… you’ve just become the fantasy heroine of half the boys in this room.”

Silja smirked.

“It worked didn’t it?”

Maisie pushed away from the wall.

“Oh it worked alright.” She clapped her hands for attention. Forty something heads turned to listen. “Announcement for the boys. There will be a compulsory sock change in the morning.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

While those around her tucked in ravenously, Anneka looked at what was on her plate. She turned to Finny and held up a hand to whisper.

“What is it?”

Finny swallowed several times. Gristle had a habit of getting stuck in the throat but nothing could withstand an orphan swallowing for long.

“It’s Tuesday so it’s ‘Snow an’ Sludge with Grass’.” She grinned a gravy smile at the little girl’s furrowed brow of confusion. Finny used her fork to point at Anneka’s plate. “See, Snow. That’s the mashed potato…”

Anneka looked at the translucent pile of white with the grey and black bits. It did not look like the creamy, fluffy white mashed potato she got at home. She shook her head.

“Don’t wan’ it.”

Four pairs of eyes turned to look at Anneka’s plate.

Finny’s fork hovered over the green stuff.

“That’s the grass, which is, um… probably cabbage. It’s hard to tell after they’ve finished doing stuff to it…”

Anneka looked hard at it. It didn’t look like cabbage. She sniffed it. It didn’t smell like cabbage either.

“Don’t wan’ it.”

Four pairs of eyes turned to look at Finny.

Aware of the scrutiny, Finny changed her grip on her knife into a stabbing attitude and held it poised for all the table to see. She hovered her fork over the… the… the stuff that wasn’t white or green.

“An’ the Sludge, that’s…” She remembered what the server had told her when she had once asked what it was that had just been ladled onto her plate. “… mostly horse.”

Anneka blinked. She had seen horses. Everyone watched as Anneka lifted her fork and, after a little trouble, managed to coax some of the minced up meat onto the end of her fork. Breaths were held as she then transferred the ‘mostly horse’ to her mouth and she began to chew.

“Mm, nice.”

Held breaths were released in a team sigh of disappointment… but there was still the potato and cabbage. Forks began to slowly advance on Anneka’s plate. Finny lifted the knife a fraction and the steady march of the forks stopped. She turned to Anneka.

“So, you don’t want the potato or the cabbage then?”

Anneka scrunched her nose up and shook her head. There was a blur of motion and Anneka’s plate disappeared under an octopus of arms. Mere seconds later the arms were gone… So was Annie’s potatoes, cabbage and about half of her mostly horse.

Anneka looked at her pillaged plate with wide eyes. Finny glared hard at her companions. Annie’s bottom lip started to wobble. Finny couldn’t blame her. Her bottom lip would wobble too, if most of her meal suddenly vanished. She sighed. Tears would bring Silja. Silja would tell Joe. Joe would happily dock Finny’s wages. Finny lifted her plate and transferred all of her mostly horse to Anneka’s plate. The lip stopped wobbling and was replaced by a huge grin.

“Thank you Finny.”

Finny, with a last glare around the table, hunkered down over her potato and cabbage.

“You’re welcome.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Engel's picture

((This... series is amazing. The pictures are really vivid, and add to the text. I read a few entries, and ended up reading more and more.))


- this comment was brought to you by Oilville Primo™ -

Joe Spivey's picture

((TY :) It's something Hyle and I are trying out using our various characters to bring different points of view and to expand the stories in ways we might not have thought of. The similarities between Silja's early life and Finny's being a good example and opens up the possibility of either a future storyline involving them both, should we choose to explore it, or individual stories which draw on those similarities. It's all good fun :D

Oh and the pictures are made using a free program call DAZ Studio

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

As the meal progressed, so the questions started. All but one of the kids around the table worked in Joe’s factory and they were eager for gossip. Annie didn’t disappoint and provided them with pure gold when she happily informed them about Joe pretending to be a monkey, or a horsey or a monster whenever the game he was playing with her demanded it.

In return, Anneka heard stories about adventures had, tricks played, and dangers escaped. Even though she hardly understood a lot of what they were telling her, what they were describing was a world away from her nursery games and her visits to the pond, or to go and see auntie Hyle or auntie Tuki. What seemed to be missing from their stories were the grown-ups… so Anneka asked.

The good humour around the table slowly turned into an embarrassed silence and Anneka’s new friends shared glances with each other and chewed lips or showed intense interest in what was on their plates. Anneka’s face fell. She felt like she had done something wrong and her chin hit her chest.

How they had all come to be here wasn’t something often talked about openly. Finny and her three friends knew each other’s stories, because they were friends and that’s what friends did. But Finny had no idea about how the girl on the other end of the table came to be in the orphanage, and the girl had no idea about any of them. That’s just how it was. You didn’t ask. But now Anneka had asked.

That day when Taioko had done his little show pretending to be Joe, and Joe had called her up to the office Finny had thought she was in trouble for something. It turned out that Joe wasn’t mad at her. He had sat her in the same chair where people who wanted to buy ammunition sat, which was strange in itself, and had told her the story about the glue and the paper and the scissors and everything right up to the bit about rats… and how Annie had looked at him blankly and asked what a rat was.

Finny had sat and listened, as much in awe of the fact that Joe was talking to her like a grown up as anything else. Then he had told her about how he was scared that Annie might grow up to be one of those rich, nose in the air and fuck you people he despised. Finny was with Joe on that. Everyone she knew had had painful run-ins with ‘those kind’ of people.

So Joe had explained to her what he wanted her to do, and part of that was to tell Annie how she had ended up in the orphanage. Finny had planned to tell her when she took Annie to see some rats she and Onetooth had caught specially. But now… now that Anneka had asked, the whole thing was in danger of going wrong. Her friends were embarrassed, Anneka looked ready to cry and, over by the door, Silja was watching them and looking very serious indeed. At that moment Finny’s and Silja’s eyes met and Silja began to make her way around the dinner tables towards them. Finny turned back to where Anneka was staring at her knees and touched her on the shoulder. She swallowed and then folded her arms on the table top and quietly began.

“I was four. It was night time when they attacked our camp…”

Fin Story

Anneka lifted her head as Finny told her story. Around her, the other kids, even the girl on the end, had all leaned in to listen.

Silja hung back, but close enough so that shecould hear Finny’s story unfold.


Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

When Finny had finished Anneka’s head was full of running and night time, and bangs of guns and crying and coyotes and wasps and and and… and too much to take in. She sat staring at Finny with her mouth open.

Finny glanced nervously at the others. Had she broken her? She turned to look at Annie again.

Anneka blinked.

“I seen Wapses. An’ Cayotees. Me an Silja wave at them when we go an’ see Auntie Tuki.”

The tension was broken and everyone grinned. There was a brief pause and then Casper spoke.

“I was left at the front door…”

One by one the kids around the table told their stories. Abandoned, lost, parents killed and run away. Only the girl at the end of the table hadn’t spoken. All heads turned to her.

The girl sat back defensively, eyeing the others, close to anger. It was none of their business… but she had listened to their stories. Scowling, she looked at her plate.

“I gets a free bed when I need one.” She looked up with a challenge in her voice. “Okay?”

Everyone quickly nodded.

“Yeah.” “Sure.” “Uh-huh.” “Don’t kill me.”

Silja, ninja-like, sidled back to the doorway.

Dessert, or more accurately ‘pudding’ was, according to Finny, ‘Dead Fly Pie with Yellow Pus’, although the chalkboard menu actually described it as ‘Current Tart with Custard.’

Whatever its name, Anneka liked it and jealously guarded it with an arm around her bowl and furtive looks at her dining companions. At the doorway, Silja smiled. The kid was learning.

After the meal Anneka was coached in how to wash up her own plate, bowl and cutlery. She was slow, very slow but after Finny had turned and given them all a hard stare there wasn’t a single murmur of disgruntlement from the kids waiting in line behind her, even the teens.

Saying goodbye to Casper and Worms, who had ‘things to do’, Finny and Onetooth helped Anneka all the way down to the ground floor and then led her out to the back yard.

The orphanage didn’t have the budget to spare to be able to produce a lot of waste, but what there was sat very low on the Union refuse collection service’s list for collection. Hence the smell.

Eager to show off anything in their home that Anneka showed any interest in, Finny and Onetooth lifted Anneka so that she could see down into the large rectangular skip of kitchen waste and assorted trash. From the window above Silja crossed her fingers. Kirsten would not be best pleased if she returned Anneka wearing last week’s lunches. She needn’t have worried. These kids were well versed in helping each other over obstacles designed to keep them out of the places they wanted to be. Anneka was in safe, if not always clean, hands.

When her eyes started watering, Anneka asked to be let down. Back on the uneven, sun-baked ground (that turned into a quagmire when it rained) Anneka got the full tour.

The chicken pen was the obvious first port of call. It would be true to say that there were prisons that were less well secure than the orphanage chicken pen. But then, unsecured food didn’t last very long. Then there was ‘The Shed’. This was big kid territory and neither Finny nor Onetooth had any real idea what went on in there. After the shed, and taking up the length of the back wall was what had once been a small playground with a swing and a climbing frame but was now a vegetable garden. Strangely enough, the vegetable garden had no security whatsoever and yet the inmates never set foot in there. And that brought them full circle back to the other side of the back door where a low rectangular something was covered by a well-worn tarpaulin.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Silja Henningsdottir's picture

watching

Iss eggsackertly wot I said .....    Idd-eee- oot !

Joe Spivey's picture

Onetooth was excitedly keen to show what lay beneath. Anneka bent down to grab an end and help but Finny held her back. Onetooth whipped the tarp away.

“TaDaaa!”

The sudden removal of the tarp caused instant panic in the half dozen rats Onetooth and Finny had caught early that morning. The rats threw themselves at the chicken wire, biting the wire, the wooden frame and each other in their desperate attempts to escape.

Anneka sought safety behind Finny’s legs from where she gaped at the eruption of noise, teeth, claws and flying fur, all the while holding tightly to Finny’s dress.

Rats

Finny explained to Anneka.

“See, these are rats. There’s, like, gazillions of them all over the city.”

Anneka slowly came out from behind Finny and edge towards the caged rodents. Onetooth was poking at them with a stick, keeping them agitated.

“Onetooth, don’t. Let them be so Anneka can have a closer look.”

Reluctantly, Onetooth sat back on his haunches and let Anneka come and squat beside him. Finny glanced up to the first floor window where Silja stood quietly watching the proceedings, then Finny joined Anneka and Onetooth, standing behind Anneka ‘just in case’.

‘Just in case’ happened pretty much immediately as Anneka reached out a finger towards the chicken wire. Finny bent down so that their heads were level.

“Don’t touch, Annie. Rats bite.”

Anneka’s hand shot back to her lap.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do they bite?”

“Well, because… They just do. They’re rats.”

“I bet they wouldn’t bite if you were nice to them.”

Finny and Onetooth exchanged looks. Onetooth shrugged, so Finny fielded the implied question.

“You can’t be nice to rats, Annie. They steal food an’ bite babies an’ give you germs an’ wee on everything so that is smells bad.”

Anneka watched the rats. Now that they weren’t being poked with a stick they had settled down a bit. She noticed the ugly hairless tails and the almost human-like clawed ‘hands’. Their fur was patchy and scabby where there wasn’t any. Most of all she noticed the eyes, just little black beads which just seemed to stare at you like the eyes of her dolls. They were aggressive, too, launching into ferocious fights should one rat even brush against another.

Finny folded her dress under her and sat down next to Anneka.

“If you ever wake up with a rat in your bed don’t jump up sudden or it will bite you for sure. Best thing is just to get up slowly and try and shoo it away. If it won’t go just get your blanket and find somewhere else to sleep.”

Anneka imagined there being one of the rats in her bed with her. She didn’t think she would like that.

“How does they get in your bed?”

“Um, well, they come up the drains an’ they dig holes in the floor or in the wall an’ they come in looking for food.”

Anneka looked up anxiously.

“Do they live in your house?”

Finny didn’t want to scare the little girl by telling her that rats lived absolutely everywhere.

“Probably not in your house. Cos Joe pays to have poison an’ traps an’ stuff, an’ to fill in all the holes so they don’t get in.”

Anneka looked suitably relieved. Bored by the lack of fun being had, Onetooth climbed to his feet.

“Can we kill ‘em now Finn?” He was already reaching for the cage door.

Finny doubted it would be a good idea for Anneka to see even rats having their necks wrung. A brief glance up at the window where Silja was emphatically shaking her head confirmed it. She stood up, taking Anneka’s hand as she did so.

“Come on Annie. Let’s go an’ see if we can get some juice or something.”

Finny shepherded Anneka through the door back into the building. By the time the door swung shut behind them, Onetooth had happily broken the neck of the first rat, tossed its corpse into the trash and was reaching for the next.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

A lot of people would have been suspicious of a short, balding, middle aged man, wearing a dirty coat, watching an orphanage through binoculars. Not many of them, however, would have said so to Joe’s face, at least not unless they wanted a new line in Zeiss dental wear.

Joe was like a puppy at last seeing its master turn the corner onto its street. When he finally saw Silja and Anneka emerge from the front door he zoomed in on his daughter, looking for bruises, Band-Aids, tears or even missing body parts as the pair walked back down the street heading for home. Instead, Anneka was happily skipping along, hand in hand with her nanny and engaged in excited, animated conversation.

Ten minutes later, a bewildered Taioko suddenly found himself left in charge of the factory, and Joe arrived home just as Anneka was sitting on Kirsten’s lap with milk and cookies and telling tales of secret dollies and scratchy toilet paper. Of ‘Mostly Horse’ and ‘Dead Fly Pie’. Of huge scary rats with hands, that live under the floor and sneak into your bed at night…

On hearing this one, Joe got ‘The Look’. This time the look meant ‘if she has nightmares about rats, you will be the one getting up to deal with it.’ Joe accepted the look and the implication with a smile and a nod.

Across the room Silja hid her own relieved smile at escaping that fairly regular duty, by turning her head to scratch behind her ear.

Meanwhile, Anneka was still mixing words with her milk and cookies, having to halt her story every few moments while Kirsten wiped away each new milk moustache. Now she was telling about how Silja had beat up a big boy for being mean to Finny. As the details unfolded both Joe and Kirsten looked slightly alarmed, until Silja filled them in on the details and corrected Anneka’s exaggeration of the incident.

Anneka waited with the annoyed frustration of an interrupted child, taking the opportunity both to hide a biscuit in the bib pocket of her dungarees and do something about the annoying itch in her armpit.

Kirsten was distracted from Silja’s explanation by Anneka’s fidgeting.

“Annie? Sit still. What’s the matter…?”

The question went unfinished as Kirsten’s sharp eyesight caught the slight movement on Anneka’s bare leg. A little black dot that moved and then disappeared only to reappear a moment later on her own forearm.

“Oh WHAT?!”

She stood up abruptly, knocking the plate with its remaining cookies off Annie’s lap and onto the floor. Silja immediately leapt for the fallen plate, while at the same time scratching under the white cotton wrap that, barely, covered her breasts. Kirsten noticed immediately and at the same time felt an itchy crawling sensation at the base of her own neck.

“Oh no! Joe, for…”

With Anneka now being held at arm’s length and with a look of surprise on the little girl’s face at her mother’s sudden strange actions, Kirsten headed for the living room door.

Joe stared.

“What? What’s the matter?”

“Fleas Joe! Thanks to your bright idea Anneka has come home with fleas!” She glared at Silja. “And it looks like she isn’t the only one.”

All three of the women in Joe’s house headed noisily for the bathroom. Silja was catching it now for her part in persuading Kirsten to let Anneka get near enough to ‘godamn rats’ to catch their fleas.

Joe listened until the bathroom door closed behind them, then he sank back into his chair. Fleas, the great social leveller.  A slow smile spread across his face. Bleedin’ perfect, he thought.

Fleas

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

 

 

“Örlítið fætur á höfði.” Silja said slowly and let Anneka repeat back.

 

Silja had Anni sitting on the small chair and was making a game of tracking down the last of the fleas on the little one’s body in much the same way has her mother had done with her decades ago in that ‘other’ world.

 

Silja listened. Kirsten had finished her shower and, satisfied she was clear of any infestation had dressed and gone back downstairs and now was berating Joe about his stupid idea. Silja smiled to herself, Kirsten was doing most of the berating, from what Silja could hear Joe was mostly soaking up the flak only occasionally putting up his defences.

 

Kirsten was house proud to the last degree, naturally she only wanted the best for Anneka, what mother would not. Kirsten was also in a position to make sure Anneka got all she would ever need. Kirsten was queen of her her castle, it was her household, everything was to the best available standard and had to be ‘just so’.

 

In moments when Anneka was napping and there was time for coffee in the kitchen with Kirsten, Silja had learned that, unlike herself, Kirsten had absolutely no recollection of life before cloning. Kirsten had freely admitted that up until the day she met Joe she was a committed ‘gold digger’ and Joe was supposed to be just another ‘sugar daddy’. But that was before Cupid pulled off some minor miracle and the unlikely couple became forged together with the strongest bonds of love which were padlocked by the arrival of baby Anneka.

 

Silja smiled as she picked off the last creepy crawly. She understood Kirsten, ‘La Grand Matriarch’. But she understood Joe more, and where Anneka was concerned they were both singing from the same hymn book. Life could be tough, life could be seedy, life had nasty surprises awaiting the unwary. One had to be prepared for life outside in all it’s cruel and beautiful manifestations.

 

Whatever life had formed Joe, Silja had no idea and she would never ask him, and Joe would never tell, for that matter. But she recognised the similarities. Silja had lived with lice, filth, hunger. Shouting guards and their batons. The camp and all it’s degradations. Unlike Kirsten, Silja remembered everything of ‘the life before’.

 

“Bedtime !” Silja playfully ruffled Anneka’s hair. Despite the unceremonious de-lousing, Anneka had had a wonderful day, made many new friends and now was completely worn out. Silja put Anneka into pyjama’s and into her soft warm bed. Silja kissed her brow.

 

“Góða nótt.”

  

Silja dispensed with her usual coffee and sandwich before bed. Downstairs, Joe was still enduring the tail end of ‘Hurricane Kirsten’. Silja closed her bedroom door behind her and leaned on it, smiling. It had been a good day.

 

sil

 

 

 

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

Not Happy

New Hair

Finny bought a new top, new shoes and a new jacket with her earnings. She also got her hair done. She had wanted something like Silja's had but

was less than happy with what she ended up with for a whole blue chip.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

Dawwwww ....  Yes it is the end of the world when the new 'do' does no work like intended

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers



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