Short Fiction - The Cayvee Sleeps


The Cayvee makes its home in the gap between the back of the fridge and the wall. The fridge has not been moved in years and there is a collection of cobwebs there that looks like a quilt or a silky sheer blanket. All of the spiders who created these webs have long since moved away.

The Cayvee dwells among these deserted cobwebs and appears to be a part of these deserted cobwebs. If someone pulled out the fridge and swept the cobwebs away, they would most likely sweep the Cayvee away too without ever noticing that it had been there.

Imagine a translucent grey bat with a single long needle tooth and you may gain some idea of what the Cayvee looks like. You could watch it and watch it, if you could find it, but you would never see it move. It maintains its position, holds its stillness, week after week, month after month, sometimes even year after year. Like the Kangaroo Rat or the Desert Turtle, who can both wait quietly for years for their next drink of water, the Cayvee can exist, dormant, behind the fridge, among the webs, waiting for that rare moment when conditions finally come right and it can at last feed once more.

It had been four years since Linda had last left the fridge door open overnight. It had happened in the dead of winter, so nothing had spoiled. The only tangible consequence was that Kendrick had got up in the morning, padded into the kitchen, and tutted loudly when he found the fridge door ajar and the inside light casting its slender glow out onto the ceramic floor. His 'tut' wasn’t loud enough for Linda to hear. She has fallen asleep again, despite the fuzzy pop song which persisted on the clock radio. The fridge door was closed up and nothing more was ever said about it.

Four years later, it was Kendrick who forgot to close the door fully. He was getting a beer from the container at the bottom, the fourth of the evening, so he never noticed that the door had not swung shut. Linda found it that way in the morning and complained loudly to Kendrick, who had forgotten about Linda’s own earlier failing in the same regard. If he had remembered, he would surely have defended himself more thoroughly. It was summer and thundery, and the milk had turned slightly. It wasn’t the end of the world though. Hardly that.

On both occasions, the Cayvee had awakened at the unceasing throb of the fridge light. It had emerged from its cobweb cocoon and squeezed through the tiny gap at the side of the fridge. It had slipped inside, blind and deaf but alive to the sustenance inside. It had climbed and clawed, pierced with its single fang. 

And then it has feasted.

By morning, it was back among the cobwebs and the milk had turned again. The Cayvee didn’t know. It cared nothing for dairy products.

That Friday evening, Kendrick returned with the food, all fresh and chip-shop-pungent, with as much speed as he could manage. Although the vinegar was already seeping through the double-bagged fare, the chips were still vibrant and ‘roof-of-the-mouth’ hot-hot.

Linda had laid two plates out on the table, but Kendrick eschewed such niceties. The bag was the thing, that intrinsic part of the affair. From hot oil to mouth with minimal interference, that was the key. Only one further intervention was required. The final touch to make everything perfect.

Kendrick cracked open the fridge and foraged in the back, behind the half jar of spaghetti sauce and the ancient bottle of apple cider vinegar. He pulled out the plastic bottle, raised it high and stared.

“Bloody hell.”

“What?” His wife paused in her chip bite.

“I swear, one minute it’s full and the next minute it’s all completely gone.”

“Ketchup isn’t everything.”

“It’s an integral part.”

“Maybe you can squeeze a bit out.”

Kendrick held the bottle up to the light.

“Not a chance. It’s drained.”

“The kids are sleeping over; the food is here. Let’s just enjoy.”

“But the ketchup…”

“Kendrick…”

“It’s like somebody actually drinks it or something. It’s like there’s a 'Ketchup Vampire' lurking around here somewhere, lapping it all up.”

“The movie’s starting.”

Deep in the tiny space behind the back of the fridge, the Cayvee stirs minutely as if something has momentarily evoked it. Perhaps a dark eye opens and peers out but, if so, it is only for the shortest moment. Its belly is full, and the world is secure for the foreseeable future. It is time to rest and rest and wait.

A time to feast will come again, some day.

The Cayvee sleeps.



Umbrella Genesis

When I was thinking about what to write this week, my mind kept coming back to my umbrella. Not sure why, it just did.

Perhaps it was because it was raining, Ken? Perhaps. Your guess is as good as mine.

In case you don’t know, I carry an umbrella with me almost everywhere I go. If it’s a marvelous bright sunny day with zero chance of precipitation then, no, I won’t have it with me but we don’t get many days like that here in the Wild West of Ireland. So, generally, yes, I have my umbrella when I’m out walking.

Although it rains a lot more over here than in other places, you don’t see as many umbrellas as you might expect. It’s even less common to see a man wielding an umbrella. The guys here are too rugged for that kind of thing. So I’m a bit of a rarity. Some people I meet on the street call me ‘The Umbrella Man’ and it’s often the subject of discussion or wry comment. Sometimes they call me The Writer Man too. I'll take either. 

So, yeah, when I was thinking about what to write this week, I thought I’d better write about my umbrella. The trouble is, I’ve been writing this blog for a long time now and I tend to forget what I’ve written about before. I looked back and found I had written about my umbrella and me twice before.



Where does that leave me for a blog post this week, when I’ve already covered my brolly so thoroughly? Genesis, perhaps. Where did it all start?

Okay...

I didn’t always tote an umbrella. In fact, I wasn’t an umbrella guy at all when I lived in London. I was a hat guy. I wore a black trilby back then. I don’t think I could carry off a trilby now and, full disclosure, I don’t think I ever really carried off wearing one back then either.

If was only when I came back to Ireland in 1997 that the umbrella thing started.

In returning home, I left a practice in Upper Camden where I had worked very happily for five years. It was something of a wrench for me and, although I was going home, I was very sad to leave.

We exchanged small presents, the partners and me. I got a copy of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. It’s still there on my shelf behind me as I write this. Wait… I’ll take it down.

On page 43, there is a tiny insert, the type is the same size as all the other entries. It reads:

ERRATUM Page 42
ARMSTRONG, Kenneth (B. 4 July 1963)
Irish Writer – following world voyage wrote first radio play, one success after another following in the footsteps of M.M. while working as an architect in London. Returned to Ireland in 1997 to expand horizon, keep dogs, drink, fish, improve golf handicap. During this period his writing suffered while his family grew. Finally produced masterpiece, sold 1,000,000 copies and film rights to Hollywood.

It was a cute little gag. Although it wasn't entirely a gag. I had written several radio plays by then and I was a little fixated on M.M, who is still going strong. It didn’t all come true, of course. I don’t have dogs, I don’t fish, golf or drink hardly at all. My horizons have gone the other way, if anything.

But I’m still trying with the writing. I wouldn’t say anything suffered while the family grew. Everything was perfect.

I’ll put the book back on the shelf now. It doesn’t come down very much, to be honest, and it’s still as spruce as it was on the day that I got it, though you can tell that a book is old, can’t you?

My present to the partners was an Oxford English Dictionary. It’s funny how we both chose rather similar books for each other. Inside I wrote, “I could not find the words,” and I thought that was pretty cute.

I got another present too, along with the book. You’ve guessed it. An umbrella. A simple note attached read, “You’ll need this.” I have.

That umbrella is long gone. Left in a coffee shop or blown inside-out by a gale, I can’t recall. But the encouragement to have an umbrella and to carry it with me is something that was given to me and something I have never let go of, whatever the weather.

That other encouragement has been much the same.

Perhaps I would have been the Umbrella Man all by myself but I really don’t think so. I don’t often hold on to good ideas on my own.

I have to be encouraged a little.



(Remembering Ian and Philippa and Son Coll)

Ausdruck Der Liebe Durch Technik


It’s Grand Slam Tennis time again and, as always, it’s a bit tough. Patricia is a huge tennis fan and a pretty darned good player too and she loves to watch tennis of all shapes and sizes but, particularly the four ‘Slams’ of the year; Australian, French, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

They’re great to watch but, when you have to work all day, it’s obviously very hard to catch them live. You really need to record the matches, try to avoid the myriad of sports updates all through the day, and then settle in to enjoy in the evening. 

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? But, actually, it’s a bit of a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for me because, being the closest thing to a tech-head in the house, I take it upon myself to record the matches that Trish most wants to see and have them available for next day viewing when she gets home from work.

The Australian Open is currently coming to the end of its first week and, frankly, it’s been exhausting.

Because of the time difference, the matches kick off around midnight, local-time, and then run up until maybe noon the next day. Nothing is seen live and everything has to be recorded. You never know exactly at what time a match will start, because it’s dependent on how soon the preceding match finishes. The only way to really cover it is to record both of the Eurosport channels all through the night and into the next morning. That’s a hella of recording, as the young folk might say.

Take last Thursday night/Friday morning, for instance. Roger was playing and, let’s be honest here, Roger is the Main Event in this house and has been for many years. To say that Patricia is a Roger Federer fan is a bit like saying I enjoy an occasional taste of chocolate. Roger is big in there here parts.

So I do my best to get the Roger matches. I work hard at it.

Thursday night before bedtime was a bit like setting a bear-trap to catch Roger. Both channels had every single programme set to record, even if one or two of them were not even tennis programmes. Matches overrun and programmes get shifted and the Sky box doesn’t always keep up. You have to give it a helping hand. So I even recorded programmes long after the match was due to end, just to be sure.

I called to the house at lunchtime, to check the recordings and make sure that all was in place for a stress-free evening viewing of the main event. There was Roger’s match starting near the end of one of the last recordings and then continuing on to the next recording, which was over four hours long. “That’ll do, Ken,” I said to myself, “that’ll do,” and made ready to return to work. But a niggling voice in my head kept pressing me. “Check it out, Ken. Best check it out.”

So I jumped the recording right to the end. Roger was still playing. It was a highly tense moment in a monster of a game. Who will win? Who will lose? Roger served…

The recording ended.

Shit, shit, shit.

The match had clearly overrun like crazy, even passing out the next programme I recorded. Thank heavens I checked it. Five hours of match-viewing ending like this would not be very nice. I checked the channel schedule for the rest day, there was no sign of the match being repeated. I tried to download the match from the online interface. Nope. I tried to subscribe to some streaming service where I might pick up that last few minutes. Nada. Finally, I saw that there was a highlights programme due to start at six o clock that evening. Roger was bound to be in that and they were bound to show the end of the match. Right?

Right?

Patricia came home at four and started watching the match. In any other sport, one would probably tell one’s spouse that the end of the recording simply wasn’t there but tennis doesn’t work like that. If I told Trish that the end wasn’t there, she would immediately know that it was a very long match and therefore a five setter. That’s a major spoiler for a tennis match. Tennis recording and watching back is full of unseen pitfalls like that. The length of the recording can tall you loads about how the match might go. Plus the coverage frequently cuts to the end of other matches to show you the last few points, which is a colossal pain in the ass.

It’s a jungle out there.

So I was at work, Patricia was watching the game, unaware of the sudden end that was coming just a few hours down the track.

I got home at six and started monitoring the highlights programme on my laptop in the other room while it was recording in the living room. Roger started playing on that programme. But would they show enough of the bit at the end and would I know before the recording currently being watched in the other room ran out? 

Tense times.

As it turned out, the highlights programme covered the shortfall pretty well. I noted the time on the programme when the final set reached 7-4 in the Championship tie break and then I went and informed Trish.

“This recording will end before the match ends but, fear not, I have it covered.”

The recording ran out, as promised. I quickly switched to the highlights recording and entered the time where I knew the score was be 7-4. The match ran on to the end without any problems. Roger won.

I won.

This is what I tend to do and I would guess I’m not alone in doing it. As a 2020 kind of a guy, I don’t tend to bring chocolates, I don’t really send flowers. I do my expressions of love for my lovely wife through matters of technology.

Roger’s playing again soon.

I’d better go and get organised.