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A. Campbell





Complete story. A story of twilight years with a twist in the tail, in more than one sense.


Ezme wandered slowly out into the beautiful flower filled garden. The rays of  the early summer sun warmed her tired old body, as she made her way amongst the  rose bushes and petunias. Stopping here and there to gaze at the colourful  bloom, she thought as she often had, that there was nowhere quite as lovely as her garden. Busy bees hummed around her collecting pollen. Never a moment to  stop, always on the move. She'd been like that once. Long ago. The familiar sound of the skylarks, from high in the heavens, made her screw up her milky  eyes as she squinted into the sunlight. Damned cataracts, her sight weren't what  it used to be. But everything was still there, stored in her memory. The sounds of the summer were upon her once more and she was happy. Summer. Her favourite time. She'd never been one for dark and dismal winters, cooped up inside, while the rain beat on the windowpanes. It was no fun when a simple trip out doors  meant you returned soaked to the skin. No, there was nothing better than the month of May. The whole summer stretched ahead, pure bliss.

Delicious smells wafted through the air from the neighbour's barbecue, another sure sign that summer had arrived. Old as she was, Ezme was an independent soul, and rarely took up the offer of sampling their culinary  delights. She had, on the odd occasion, accepted some very tasty chicken, which  at that moment, she could hear sizzling invitingly. She'd never been keen on the  various salads that were always served with it. Ezme found them quite boring and tasteless. She liked to think of herself from the old school, being brought up on plenty of old fashioned meat had never done her any harm. They could keep  their rabbit food. But still, she secretly hoped they'd invite her to join them  for lunch today. Not that she'd push herself upon them. There was nothing worse  than nosy neighbours.

A butterfly landed on a nearby leaf and she studied it intently. Peering closely, its hazy image becoming clearer, she marvelled at its intricate markings and furry little body. It was such a shame they only lived for three or four days. Life had so much to offer, what chance did a butterfly have to see  anything. Ezme left it to enjoy what precious time it had left. You're getting  soft in your old age, she thought, as she made her way to the rickety old sun  lounger.

Easing herself onto its ancient cushions, stuffing popping out at  the corners, she settled down for her midday nap. It had become a habit, a  wonderful habit, on these perfect sunny days. And Ezme was certainly a creature  of habit. As was Jack. She knew, that at this precise moment, he would be fishing in the little stream that ran behind their cottage. And she also knew  that he'd bring back far less fish than he used to. Old age had hit Jack as hard as it had hit her. His arthritic old bones weren't what they used to be and his  eyesight probably worst than hers. She was grateful that they didn't live  alone.

Lily had been with them for what seemed like forever. Her memory failing,  she could never quite remember who had found whom first. But Lily had been a godsend. She cooked delicious meals and kept the cottage as clean as a new pin,  while Ezme and Jack continued to take the pride they always had in their own appearance. Thankfully Lily could drive so was always on hand for doctors appointments. An occurrence that had sadly become more frequent in the last few years. They spent quiet evenings in the snug, watching television or listening to music. Both Lily and Ezme enjoyed the wonderful wildlife programmes so often shown. Jack very rarely saw them; he was usually asleep in his favourite armchair, snoring quietly. Ezme had noticed how he slept far more these  days.

Lily had recently taken up painting. She said it was only a hobby but  Ezme thought her pictures were wonderful. She often set her easel up in the garden and would transform the beautiful sights around her onto paper. She had  painted a lovely picture of Jack, when he had fallen asleep under the shade of the apple tree, at the end of last summer. Or was it the summer before, Ezme wasn't sure. It didn't matter though, she had portrayed Jack perfectly. Old as he was, to Ezme, he had only become more handsome with the passing years.

He was happy, they both were. They'd grown old together and were grateful  for the peaceful life they'd found in their twilight years. Ezme's mind wandered back, over the lifetime they'd shared. The sun glistened on her golden hair, streaked now with strands of silver, another memento of the passage of time.

Her hair had been red once. The colour of autumn leaves. Jack said it was  the first thing he'd loved about her. And she'd had a temperament to match.  Along with no shortage of admirers. She really had been quite a girl. Brought up in the city, street wise and sassy, she'd danced her way through life, leaving a  trail of broken hearts behind her. She'd never met a guy who hadn't fallen under her spell. Emerald eyes and ruby hair, quite a combination. She'd been Bruno's girl for a few months when she first met Jack. Dark, moody Bruno. Muscular and  menacing, but so good looking, she'd been the envy of all her girl friends. But  life with Bruno had had its price. His temper had been foul; she still flinched  when she thought about it. Out all night, brawling and fighting, he'd often  taken the worst out on her. Bully Boy Bruno was what they'd called him behind  his back, but never to his face. For obvious reasons. Nobody dared to talk back to Bruno. Except Jack. He appeared out of nowhere, but was such a likeable chap  everyone had taken to him. He was quite ordinary to look at, but Ezme had loved him from the moment she'd seen him. She knew she'd found her soul mate. He'd had  the kindest eyes and the perfect manners. Something Bruno specifically lacked. There were some sniggers behind his back, because of the fact that he was in pest control, but Ezme didn't care. At least he wasn't out fighting all night. He'd saved her life one evening, when he'd found Bruno attacking her in an alleyway. Jack had flown at him in a rage she didn't know he'd been capable of.  But capable he'd been, because years later, she had heard Bruno still had the  scars to prove it. She had not looked back since that day.

Jack and Ezme's life had turned into one happy adventure. It still was,  she thought to herself, although a little more sedate. They had lived for the  moment as only the young do, and she wondered where the years had gone. They'd had many homes, some more comfortable than others, but they'd always been happy  homes. Jack had been a wonderful provider and she had never gone without, be it  food, warmth or love. They had moved to the country when city life had become  too hectic. The cottage had been a perfect find. It was full of happy memories; their children had been born there. She remembered fondly, with just a hint of  embarrassment, the lazy days of love they'd shared conceiving the little ones. They had been blessed with three sons and a daughter, more than they could have  ever hoped for. Ezme would have liked more children, she came from a big family  herself, but ever since the operation there had been no more. It didn't matter  though; there were plenty of grandchildren. Their family had moved, all gone their separate ways and she rarely saw them now, but her dear faithful Jack was  never far from her.

Sleepily she opened her eyes, sensing him close by. After so long  together they shared a sixth sense, each one always knowing where the other was.  Jack limped across the garden towards her. She sat up as his hazy vision became clearer. He plopped down on the rickety old lounger beside her and planted a  warm little kiss on her cheek.

"No fish today Ez," he said, "they're getting  too damn quick for me."

"Or you're getting slower," she laughed.

And there  they sat contentedly, side by side in the sunlight, as the suns rays wrapped  themselves around their bodies.

Mrs Bakers voice broke the peaceful silence  as she appeared at the garden fence. "Ezme, Jack, how about a nice piece of barbecued chicken?"

A small ginger tabby, her fur mottled grey with time, jumped cautiously down from the sun lounger. She turned to wait patiently for an old black cat, the sheen on his once midnight coat now a burnished copper hue. He yawned deeply,  stretching his stiff old limbs, and jumped down beside her. Purring happily, whiskers twitching and tails held high, Ezme and Jack trotted towards Mrs Baker's outstretched hand.


REVIEW: Although this isn't a badly written story, it's content is dreadful. I first came across the "cats as people" shock ending when Jeffry  Archer wrote a short story about it over 10 years ago, but I'm sure he wasn't  the first. The author can obviously turn a phrase, but they shouldn't waste their time with these type of surprise-ending stories--they rely too much on tricks, and ultimately make the writer lazy. If you want to end up writing fiction for women's magazines, then don't do a thing. But if you want to get  that "deal" this site alleges is possible, then you'll have to put as much effort into your ideas as your style.

P. Auster
Abington, UK

REVIEW: Enjoyed this little story! So what if some people think it only fit for women's  magazines! It would be read, enjoyed and paid for.

Michigan, USA