Three Shorts


by Matt Ward

Short, Ginger, Eager

Tom the cat's owners went on holiday.

After 2 days Tom was starving.

Then a ladybug crawled up into Tom's ear and suggested very loudly that he should get a job.

And do what? Tom was good at sleeping and chasing other cats from his yard. The answer was obvious: security guard.

The ladybug hitched a ride on top of Tom's head and off they went to the unemployment office.

A lovely lady called Emily took down Tom's details—short, ginger, eager—and he was asked to wait.

An hour passed by (that's 5 hours in cat time).

Extend Your Life

Did you know there's a part of The Bible where you can check a box and magically extend your life by 50 years? You just take a pen and presto chango you've got another half a century!

Apparently this is well known among those who make it into their 90s in certain parts of the Christian world but the rest of us have no idea as we of course have never read The Bible apart from 'In the Beginning, God created... ZZZzzzzz...'.

The Life Extension Checkbox is just one of the bonuses the Bible has, and if you are up on your technology you'll know on DVDs these are called 'Easter Eggs'. The 'Easter Egg' is the term for little bonus bits on the DVD where the ardent viewer gets hidden extras the rest of us plebs just pass on by because we don't know they're there. It might be an interview with the individual who invented the show, or pics of the writers, or bloopers, or an impromptu song by the Dali Llama when he had a cameo part in an episode in 2004.

In fact they were called Easter Eggs in The Bible long before DVDs had them—way back in the 15th century in fact. A monk scribe was told to create one by a bishop, who was told to do so by the Pope, and the first 'Easter Egg'—the aforementioned Life Extension Checkbox—was created and with the invention of the printing press millions of Christians could now read the Bible, and a select group lengthened their lifespan by 50 years. The average life back then was only 30 years, but some people lived into their 80s. How did they do it? That's right: the Checkbox. Leonardo Da Vinci knew about it. Centuries later Wordsworth did, too.

Anyway, the Life Extension Checkbox allows anyone to add 50 years onto their life. That's one Easter Egg you've really got to have. You know those centenarians - usually French women who knew Van Gogh or Renoir—who are interviewed and asked about the secret of their long lives, and they say No Drinking, No Smoking, even No Sex! Well, they leave out the Life Extension Checkbox for a good reason: they want to break the record for the oldest person in the world and they don't want their rivals knowing about it. I forgot to mention that apparently you can only check the box once, so holding out until you're 104 can really be worth the risk.

Decide?

The disheveled man approaches you from behind. You turn to look at him with a quiet curiosity, then look away, and continue eating.

He presumptuously runs a grimy, calloused hand along your side while puffing on a greasy cigarette.

"You're a beautiful girl. My name is Carlos, what's yours?"

You shiver, but say nothing. Others look over at you and you hope they will do something, but to your frustration they just go back to their meals.

"Come on... don't be shy," he says.

You continue eating and hope he'll go away.

"Hi want to ride you," he whispers into your ear. "Is that a bold thing to say to a lady?"

You stop eating and instinctively hold your breath for a few seconds.

"Hi want to use you, pretty girl," he says.

You exhale and blink rapidly.

"We could be a great team, you and I," he says. "So how about you finish what you are eating, and let us become one, hokay?"

With that, Carlos hurriedly leaps on your back, and just as quickly you throw him to the ground, winding him. You show your teeth and it looks like you're smiling, but of course horses don't really smile, do they?

Carlos grimaces, dusts himself down, laughs and tries again, and this time he succeeds.

"Easy, girl! Don't you worry, I used to ride beauties like you in Spain when I was a boy, and back then bareback was the only way to ride!"

You try and buck a bit, but soon give up as you've already spent the afternoon charging at the sun until you were all tuckered out and hungry, and you still feel weary and so you let Carlos win.

"Let's go," he says.

* * *

You slow down just outside a property. Carlos speaks into a mobile phone: "Hello, I want to talk to you houtside..."

You watch as a man opens a door. He squints to try and see if he can recognize the man on your back.

Another man comes from around the side of the building. You can see he is carrying a rifle at his side.

"Tell your buddy to stop where he is and not come any closer," Carlos yells out.

The first man gestures for the second man to stop where he is.

A woman walks briskly from the building and with the first man starts to approach you.

"Stop where you are!" Carlos yells out.

"What do you want?" the woman asks.

"I want your money," Carlos says.

"We don't have any money, the second man says."We're a charity, buddy, we protect animals. We ain't got no money."

"Well I say you are a stinking liar, buddy, cos I know for a fact you got a donation yesterday of 5 gran' from an old lady. Eet was in the paper."

The first man talks with the woman and she talks back to him.

"Get the money from your safe, hokay? Or wherever you keep it," says Carlos.

The first man yells something to the second man who raises his rifle and points it at Carlos.

With that Carlos pulls a silver revolver from his jacket pocket and points it at the man.

"Hi wheel shoot you, asshole!" Carlos yells out. "Hi'll do it."

"I don't care," the second man says, "I'll kill you, too."

"Really?" says Carlos, cackling. "What hif I don shoot you, Mister smart guy, what eef I shoot the horse instead?"

The first man and the woman yell out for Carlos to be calm and for the second man to drop his weapon. It's only money after all, the woman says. But it's money that would help the animals, the second man says.

Just as Carlos seems about to lose his temper and shoot you, you hear the crack of a gun from behind, and terrified you fall on your side, spilling Carlos onto the gravel.

Carlos manages to roll over to see your man, the farmer, holding court with a very old but effective rifle of his own.

Carlos holds his bloody arm. He points and gets off one shot that just misses the farmer's head.

The farmer is unperturbed, but just before he can manage to get off a kill shot, the first man yells out for him to stop.

The first and second men, together with the woman and the farmer have a quick chat and then walk back toward you. You have stood up but are unsteady on your feet. The three strangers and the farmer gently stroke your head.

"Easy girl," they say.

Carlos looks up. "Hi haven't done nothing," he says.

"You tried to rob from us," the woman says.

"That is true," says Carlos, smiling defiantly.

"You stole and threatened to kill this poor animal," says the first man.

"Also true," Carlos says. "So, I guess you call the cops, yes?"

"No," says the farmer.

"No?" Carlos says.

* * *

It's ten minutes later. You have a saddle and bridle on. The second man's rifle is strapped to your side and a piece of twine is tied to the trigger, around the bridle post and also your rear right leg.

Carlos is tied to the fence and he laughs. "What is this?" he says.

The woman says: "For the crime of threatening to shoot a horse, we will let the horse decide whether you live or die."

"Decide?" says Carlos. "You make me laugh you stupid woman!"

You stand there, your glassy eyes reflecting the indifferent smile of Carlos.

"See," says Carlos, "the horse she is saying 'Hi no want to shoot Carlos, he ees my friend'."

"A friend who shot at her owner, hey Carlos, remember that...?" says the first man.

"She don' remember," says Carlos, she ees only an animal, she is stupid."

You snap your leg quickly back, and a shell explodes through Carlos's chest.

"That's right, Mister Carlos, horses ees stupid," says the farmer, smiling.


BIO: Matthew Ward lives and writes in Newcastle, Australia. He has had 3 books published: Jake (novella, Australia, 2004), Cat’s Bum (short stories, USA, 2006), & Cats Creep (poetry, USA, 2008). His short stories and articles have appeared in several magazines, printed as well as online. He also runs Skive Magazine.