Cynthia Mac Pherson

S P R I N G  on the Highveld

grasS burnt black, revealing shy green stalks
innocence Polluted, cast away without thought
past the tRain, flash pictures – fields of flowers
amongst piles of rustIng metal
I regret in autumn Now
longing for lost days of sprinG

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Cynthia Mac Pherson

Red ball on a dark night

It’s five minutes before midnight on a long dark night in the lush rolling hills of the Natal midlands. Poised on a hilltop is a big red exercise ball, casting a long dark shadow, hysterically escaping the confines of the school gym, where a midnight feast is in progress.

The ball took her opportunity to inch towards the open gym door and out into the dark night where thunder roared across the heavens. She was elated by the slap of rain  on her shiny skin, like a face toning treatment, and by the prefrontal wind that gusted her across the rugby fields and under the posts, across the try line,  and now on her way to the Redemptorist monastery. She sees it  lying in the dark hollow below her. How is Brother Albernoni she wonders. Whoops – another gust, a squall of rain and down she speeds to nestle against the stone walls of the monastery. The wind swings open the chapel doors and along the carpeted aisle she rolls, chased by windswept spray. A solitary candle flickers at the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the ball, in high excitement, zigzags from pew to empty pew to land at the heels of a dark figure, kneeling in prayer. She nudges his soles and he sits back and then with a sigh lies on the red ball, slowly deflating from her long ride over fields and brambles.

‘Come into my arms, Brother Albernoni,’ she murmurs. ‘I know you. Forget about core strength pilates exercises on my taut body. Just sink into my softening roundness and tell me your troubles. I am your mother of perpetual help.’

Cynthia Mac Pherson

winter chant

for Zelda – June 2009

a cold face cloth is the sieve of my pain
as I wipe the tears from my baby’s face
Lord bless me, give me strength. Let it not rain
nor flow through holes the rats gnawed in our place –
our shack. There Grace tends my boy; my daughter
studies and my ancient people await
disaster – winter flood, summer fire
I hand my baby to Grace and hurry
I listen and the chanting train lulls me
I leave the station and wait for the boom
gates echoing emptiness. God help me.
I unlock their door and their children come
into my hands. Each day they’re in my care
but emptiness echoes – I’ve much to fear

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Wifing for lifing?

Wifing for lifing is her choice.  But is wifing hyping her spirit ? Wifing into the kitchen and wifing up a meal of bacon and eggs. His favourite. She’s wifing bacon and eggs that make her vomit. So she’s wifing away to the bathroom to wife in the toilet. Wifing at the party. Yea Yea Yea, Yesterday my troubles seemed so far away. She’s wifing away with the Beatles on the dark blue slate floor that she wifed into existence years of (?) ago. Years of powerful wifing. She wifes away year after year. Does he know he’s being wifed? Was being wifed? Had been wifed and will be wifed?

Windowing westward, the room reaches out to the mountain. The room windows to the northwest where the winter sun windows the craggy Muizenberg rocks like slits in a fortress. The clouds window above, sliding open and closed. The trees branches move windowing, the bananas ripen and window to the winter sun. Birds’ wings window as their beaks penetrate the tough peel that softens, allowing itself to be windowed. The banana flesh windows, flashing sweet, ripe, creamy white. The room windows and the wife windows and wifes downstairs to share the windowing bananas.

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Now this is a pleasure I wasn’t expecting

clouds scudding rolling darkening, leaden on my shoulders
dark regrets – mistakes I cannot forgive myself

The fear. The worry. The horror of my husband’s death.

many faces of the mountain, many faces of me
moods filter across my face like clouds

The smell of aromatic wood crackling in this remote place. The river murmuring and hippos grunting in the reeds. This warm blanket around my shoulders in the cool evening by the fire, which reflects on round, shining, golden brown faces of the women around me. Dark eyes soft watch the flames lick golden, turning the logs to glowing embers and a bubbling black pot of spicy stew. Now I hold to my lips the communal clay pot of frothy beer, yeasty, gritty but delicious and later I sleep. This is a pleasure I wasn’t expecting.

like a queen protea, I lift my leathery arms
and join my palms to salute the mountain

In the bright morning sun, peeping over the mountain, is a verdant field of vegetables. I pluck a green leaf of morogo, tangy, refreshing, sharp as rocket. on my early morning tongue, furry from last night’s beer drink.

mist  rises in lace carpets round my feet
many faces of the mountain, many faces of me

The woman, Thea, takes my hand.  ‘You are welcome my sister,’ she says. ‘ Come with me.’
We walk to the swift flowing water of the mighty African river, dark beneath the trees, not yet lit by the rising sun. And here in a pool is a wonder of water lilies.

‘They are edible. The water is our goddess,’  Thea says.

bright morning lights sandstone, wet with night rain
mountain’s veld cover is green after winter brown and black of fire

‘Tell me your story,’ she says.

‘I left his body in the river.  Oh why did we  come on this adventure? We set off a week ago. We paddled each day and slept overnight on different islands.

‘ “Scatter my ashes here, one day,” Greg told me.

‘At the most remote part of the river, before the waterfall drops into the pools below, Greg and I sat silent our canoe drifting with the current, thorn trees on the shore moving slowly past. The heat was intense. I sat in front with him at the back, steering, and then he grunted and I turned. His face was ashen. Clutching his chest and gasping, he collapsed forward. I moved clumsily to the stern to lay him down and I saw his paddle floating away in our wake.

‘I knelt down, both hands on his heart, pumping and breathing with the kiss of life. Oh God help us! Make him breathe. I was sweating and panting, trying to keep panic from affecting my breathing. I gave up when he didn’t respond. In the bush cicadas shrilled. The hippos had disappeared under the
water and the canoe was drifting sideways to the bank.  I sat motionless with the paddle across my sunburnt knees, feeling the sun searing into my neck. On shore a lone elephant grazed. The bank was steep, where the canoe nudged, and bright crimson bee eaters were busy on the sandy cliff high above me.

‘A bird called, “Too late. Too late. Too late.”

‘In the shallow water, a carcass lay stripped clean by vultures. Small fish surfaced, open-mouthed, and flies were settling on Greg’s eyes and mouth. What do I do? I prayed.

‘I had to use all my weight and strength to lean the canoe over on its side. Finally I rolled his inert body off. I left him there in the shallows. Pushing away from the bank with my paddle, I drifted on and on.

Thea encloses me in her arms. ‘You are welcome, my sister.’

I look across the veld at the wakening village. Women in the morning mist pulling close their blankets and children, round cheeked with glowing skins and strong bodies.

Clouds scudding rolling darkening, were leaden on my shoulders
dark regrets – mistakes I could not forgive myself.

The fear. The worry. The horror  –  fall  from my body.

cool wind off the river chases hot air and
my black mood of sorrow and anger

He lies in the river that he loved.

like a queen protea, I lift my leathery arms
and join my palms to salute the mountain

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Among the shades

Cold air dank on my cheeks
the smell of fungus, of damp moss

I dare not walk through this
fearful forest of rotting holes

ghosts loom, known yet unknown
I dare not leap into the mist

where shapes appear – your face,
and my children’s, between the trees,

father who doesn’t see
or hear me. ‘Come back’ I call out

but my voice is muffled
so I enter the pale silence

of that drifting forest
without direction or compass

through trunks festooned with moss
‘I have killed you; Please forgive me’

but cloud envelops you
shrouding you – floating elusive

your eyes enter my dreams
in my paintings your white wisp glides

and you haunt my poems
so I brave the rotten places

I dare to follow you
pouring into holes between trees

with fog settling, oozing
I have joined you among the shades

you look into my eyes
and morning sun warms us golden

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Once upon a farm


evening air humid with
emerald ghost green banana trees

church-fetid leaves were lush
elongated and motionless

we slept in that strange place
and woke to midnight lambs bleating

scared beating hearts beating
on the door the wind rattled and

called to our little girls
in the twist of the wind the cold

mocking monster we feared
some evil intention some force

sucked up in that twister
emerald ghost green banana tree

breeze that enters the soul
we covered windows hearts beating

thunder and lightning thrashed
we cuddled close the six of us

in the morning the lambs
lay dead; ewes were bleating bleating

Cynthis Mac Pherson

From the edge

I search for ways
to tell the secrets I only guess
to write the pale faces that peep at me from the edge

I search the night
through the darkness of curtains drawn on my truth
like golden curls framing my bloodied eye

I fall into thin air
the ends of my hair vibrate
my toes root through earth

my tongue reaches for fresh water
my body listens for the music

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Ski Slope

My writing has sped down icy slopes never experienced before. Has felt the pain of aching muscles bending forward low so as not to fall over backward and get buried. Oh the exhilaration of the wind as words flow out and fall into balance. Bulky boots, gloves, goggles. Can I see where am  going? She gives me a push. Keep your knees bent. Don’t look back. Now go! And I go. The snow is piled white and beautiful. The air is fresh on my face. The New Zealand Southern Alps tower. Perhaps next year I’ll come back. Graduate from nursery slopes. Become a real writer. How many hours of preliminary practice? How much crouching in a scrum position? How much free writing? How much getting to my study and writing and writing? How much progression to get as far as the nursery slope of a story of the right length submitted on time?

License – Cynthia Mac Pherson

The mainland is beautiful with white washed cottages – a close community of loving people in a village that laps the beach. Here the dressmaker. There the baker. The church. The school. Fishing boats bob in the harbour, protected from the wild sea beyond, waves that crash on the dangerous rocks and rip tides that run unpredictable.

We grade 12s swim in the pool, square, clean, well-maintained, that the community has erected at the edge of the sea. The sky is clear and the warm sun beats down on my bare back. I love the cool water and I love the strength of my arms pulling against the incoming tide. I get out and wrap my towel around me and I leap onto the harbour wall and look down at the dark water, where the seals swim. I clamber up the ladder of a fishing boat and look back at the sun-baked white washed village, with the dark olive trees beyond. and I hear the distant voices of my friends in the pool.

No one has noticed me and I turn to the engine room and press the starter button. The smell of diesel engulfs me and the engine throbs. Mr Jacobs gives a loud shout, leaping onto the harbour wall and pointing at me. Mrs Smithers yells from the pool. Jacobs blows his whistle and runs along the wall back to his boat.

I’m steering through the harbour into the open sea, with Jacobs and Jansens close behind me.

‘Wat maak jy? Is jy mal? Draai om. Immediately!’

I keep my eyes straight ahead, going fast enough to cope with the swell, concentrating, my hands tight on the wheel. I hardly hear the voices of the two men.

They pull up next to me.

‘You’re too young. That’s not your boat. Turn round. A girl won’t have the strength. Where the hell are you going? You won’t manage. Your pa will be furious! There might be a storm coming.’

I shake my head, clenching the wheel. Spray washes over my face.

‘No,’ I say. ‘I’m going to the island.

‘Are you mad? This is illegal. You haven’t got a license.’

Now they are really close. The two boats scrape.

‘I’m coming aboard!’ shouts Jansens against the whine of the engines and the slap of the swells.

‘No,’ I say. ‘I’m going. Anyway look out there. There’s Gerber, the perlemoen poacher. Go after him. Do something worthwhile.

Jacobs at the helm hesitates and their boat falls back, engine spluttering. Jansens doesn’t jump but hangs onto the rope.

I pull back the throttle of this powerful boat and roar away between the bouys, leaving them behind. as I head for the open sea.

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Once in a blue moon

In a long silver-gray dress, she sat tall and unmoving in the flickering firelight. Strong featured, her mouth down-turned, pale-faced, her short hair like silver shoots. Her arthritic hands held a pen, beside her sandaled feet, lay a book and on her shoulder an owl was perched, its beak hooked. Onions hung from the rafters and, on the dying fire, a pot of curry filled the room with spice. The owl turned its head, its yellow eyes staring into the night. The woman’s eyes too were gold and unblinking.

Sparse, far out of town, on the edge of civilization, the cottage sat at the foot of the mountain. Visible through the window was the light of a blue moon – the second full moon of June. Midwinter. 30th – the date of her birth.

The owl flew through the open door and the woman followed, feet whispering across the bare floor. Outside she breathed in air fresh with the smell of buchu. The mountain loomed dark and she gazed up at the moon, its face encircled in a halo of moist air. A tree quivered in the slight breeze.

In the silence, she heard a rustling and the grass moved, flattening to reveal a path that lay between and stretched beyond. The owl hooted as it glided ahead, beckoning to her. Hitching her skirts into her girdle, she limped along the path, bright in the moonlight. Looking back at the cottage, she saw the vegetables she’d planted, gone to seed – rocket, lettuce, chillies- and she remembered her book of stories, left by the fire, for her daughters and their children. Stories of past and future, of forgetting and remembering, darkness and light, sadness and joy, of holding and releasing.

The path rose and then crept between sandstone boulders, tumbled, half-human, half-animal, to an altar in the centre of an amphitheatre. Then the path disappeared and the woman could find no way to turn. A circle of rocks enclosed her, moving closer and closer until she was held in a vice grip. Captured. The owl called from a rock-imprisoned fig-tree, its yellow eyes searching the darkness for her. The woman struggled but her limbs seemed turned to stone.

Above the mountain, the moon hung, inscrutable. Then in the light of a moonbeam, she saw, in the rock face, a door carved with hieroglyphics – five signs : an owl, an eye, a book, crossroads, a tree. Symbols of what? Then the owl was at her back clawing at the stone bracelets holding her hands. The woman breathed deeply, straining to touch the hieroglyphics, and felt them hot beneath her fingertips, drawing blood into her cramped joints. She stretched the fingers of one hand onto the five signs simultaneously and the shock knocked her back, releasing her from the bonds of stone. The door opened and beyond bright light glimmered.

As she drew herself out of the rock, her tunic fell from her and she stood naked, scarred and gnarled, in the brilliant light. She held out her arms and they were branches and her hands were pale leaves, covered in silver hairs. Long body and limbs luminous against the indigo sky, she was a silver tree, standing mysterious on the slope of the mountain.

Now in the midwinter blue moon, her children and their children gather around the silver tree on the mountain slope to dance and chant an incantation to her and often they see the dark shape of an owl perched in her topmost branches, silver in the indigo sky. And sometimes a child catches sight of golden yellow eyes.

Loved and forgiven, she’s remembered in the stories she left. Stories of past and future, of forgetting. and remembering, darkness and light, sadness and joy, of holding and releasing.

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Release

Old age. Loss of youth. Loss of vitality. My clumsy thumbs can’t open a jar, carry a pot, lift a child. Sad to lose control Angry. Hurt. Fearful

Now I let go of you. Go fly! I say. Go laugh! Go speak! Go your way. I release control. The
clenched jaw. The grinding teeth. The vice grip.

I will be caressed. Float away. Way up into the blue sky. A bird winging. A fish flipping. A seal wallowing, lazy fin-lying, letting waves take me warm, lazy, trusting, loose, graceful.

I want to loosen up and dance. Let the music take me and dance. Free and floating. Moving my way in this space, where I’m as young as I’ll ever be.

Dance! Move my arms like waving water, my hands like ripples, my head loose as a flower on its stem.

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Rosamund

Rosamund sits where the afternoon sun warms her shoulders and she rolls the sharp red wine on her tongue as she writes in her diary : Better not drink too much – bad for my arthritis. I do my hip stretches, my feet and shoulders but never get to these deformed thumbs and I hate taking anti-inflammatories – not good for my bladder.

The winter sun drops behind the Muizenberg mountain and in the gloomy kitchen, Rosamund sees a little girl in a wide bonnet. (some feeling of her emerging from or being seen in shadows?)
‘It was my fairy house,’ says the child. ‘Under a big, big tree in my garden. All my fairy friends played with me.
I made tea with purple flowers. And, and the yellow berries were our cake.’

‘Why did Ma stop you?’ Rosamund asks. ‘ Was it really so serious? You were four I think – sitting, furious, on the big stump of your favourite tree. The sawed logs were piled against the back fence. ‘

‘Mommy I did nothing wrong!’
‘Nothing wrong? I told you just yesterday to go inside and use the toilet. Now you sit out here for 30 minutes and don’t let me hear a word out of you.’
‘It’s not fair. Mommy!
‘Stop that screaming! Stop that crying this minute!’
Aunty Eileen’s black cat winds itself against your leg and you stroke it.
‘Kitsie! Kitsie! Mommy calls. ‘Here’s your food.’
You speak under your breath to Rory, the spaniel, but he doesn’t hear as he lies fast asleep in the sun.

Rosamund writes : I love you so. Maybe I’d have less hip problems now if I’d squatted more. Good for the bladder too. Ma was so worried about what people thought. Would the neighbours see me and think I was a bad girl? Would the gardener ‘interfere’ with me? That’s ‘ child abuse’ nowadays. Ma was hung up on sex. Why did she silence me? Was it not ok to speak, to cry, to scream when I was hurt or angry?

Now in the kitchen shadows an older child appears, barefoot and dressed in navy shorts and white top. She’s red-faced, panting slightly. The day is hot, and there’s the smell of new-mown grass. The stands are crowded with chanting children.
‘Wat’s jou naam meisie? Jy het gewen. Wat is you naam? What’s your name?’ The official shrugs his shoulders and moves off with the number 1 board in his hand.
‘Why couldn’t you speak child?’ I ask her but she’s gone. ‘ I’ve never known what happened about the results of that under seven girls’ hundred metres race at the Pretoria Inter-School Athletics meeting.’

The big room is quite dark now, but Rosamund’s eyes widen at the stage lights as a fourteen year old, blonde, blue eyed and pink-skinned directs her own entry in the school’s variety concert:
‘Bunty,’ she commands, ‘over here please and you two, up on the boxes.’

Tall and confident, she moves front of stage. She’s Annie! The star of Annie Get Your Gun.
‘Right. Everyone ready?’ she asks.’ One! Two! Three!
The small cast, dressed in denim and cowboy hats, sings with gusto and Annie’s clear voice reaches out across the hall:
‘Folks are dumb where I come from, They ain’t had any larnin’ but still they’re happy as can be doing a what comes naturally.’

Rosamund sits alone in the dark kitchen and sees the passage of the old Pretoria house where a young woman and her father face each other outside the kitchen door. They’re surrounded by the aroma of pot-roast topside with onions, bay leaves, carrots and potatoes. The girl’s blue eyes flash into her father’s brown eyes behind his tortoiseshell spectacles.
‘You should learn how to speak from your mother! You won’t get anywhere with your aggressive talk!’ her father tells her but she shrugs her shoulders and tosses her blonde head.
‘I am me! I will speak out!’

Rosamund writes : I know you very well and I love you and fear your strength and the power of your words. You weren’t always kind. Now it’s supper time. I’ll cook a veg curry. I never cook topside.

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Shoulder stand                                                     

The traffic is noisy but beyond the heavy wooden door, the Zen garden is peaceful. A fountain trickles, lavender scents the air and Indian cloths cover the windows of the studio, tucked away in the corner.   Sue lifts the green sari over the entrance into the quiet room and joins the class of six lying on their mats on the wooden floor.  On a ledge of  a high sash window overlooking False Bay, a black cat basks in the morning sun. Sue lies with her legs vertical up the wall, as the others are doing. Her  body is stiff, with lack of practice over the months of moving into the village, carrying heavy boxes and adjusting to living alone.

 The teacher’s soothing voice leads her through the breathing routine and her strong hands lift Sue’s head slightly to re-position her cushion, increasing the stretch in the back of her neck. ‘Be still,’ murmurs the teacher, ‘I’ll move you’ and she adjusts Sue’s shoulders and arms. Her smiling hazel eyes are flecked with gold and her thick silvering dark hair is knotted at the nape of her neck. The lines on her face are peaceful.

 Then Sue recognizes her. 

It’s Samantha!  It was the year after we left school – 1967.  She was new to town and she longed to dance in our ‘Boots’ routine but we wouldn’t let her.

Wintertime. The smell of  stroganoff drifted across the dance floor, as Jean and I sauntered  into the art-deco cloakroom to puff on our cigarettes. 

‘Let’s cut now!’ said Jean. ‘ I hear the bikes.’

‘Yea! Let’s ditch our boring partners.  What drips! Rich boys can’t dance!’

‘Can I come?’ asked 16 year-old Samantha, in her matric dance dress, blue nylon, embroidered with pink flowers. At the table, I’d seen her awkward with the strain of making talk with Jimmy.

‘Can I join you?’ she asked again, pulling close her mother’s pink mohair shawl.

Jean turned on her, stubbing her cigarette on the  tiles.

‘You! You’re not one of us!’ She tossed her mane of red hair and put orange lipstick on her wide mouth.

 ‘It’s ok for you.’ I said,’ I’m sure your rich daddy would bankroll you to dance in Hollywood. Why do you want to be part of our plan?’

‘Leave us alone!’ said Jean, tall in her high white boots. ‘And don’t you split on us. You creep!’

As we sneaked across the frosty lawn, I saw Samantha by the fire in the club lounge, where a cat lay stretched out. She was hiding her tears in its sleek black fur.

Sue does the standing postures, the twists and the forward bends.

‘I see that you’ve done yoga before,’ says Samantha. ‘ So you’ll  manage a shoulder stand, using a chair?’

Sue nods.

Now Sue’s upside down, her hands clutching the metal chair-legs, her knuckles white.  Her face is strained, her eyes bulging and anxious. ‘I need to come down,’ she whispers, her voice strangled.

The teacher moves around the class, adjusting and guiding.  Finally, she stands above Sue, ”Remember me?’ she asks. ‘ I’m Samantha? We danced together long ago’

‘Please get me out,’ gasps Sue.

‘You were the one who made Hollywood,’ Samantha says. ‘ I once saw you dance in a Sinatra movie. You were good – the snake in the garden.’

Sue’s face is scarlet, her toes and fingers bloodless.

‘Are you ok Sue? ‘

‘Samantha! Please, help me!’

Samantha releases Sue’s belt and leads her out of the posture. She lies panting on her mat. Samantha covers her with a rug and puts little bean-bags on her closed eyes. 

‘Time for relaxation,’ she tells the class.

Cynthia MacPherson

Her baby

Her baby was wrapped tight in a white blanket. Its tiny pink nose peeped out and its open mouth rooted sideways toward the blanket edge. She sat waiting, her nightdress warm around her shoulders, her breasts bare in the cool air, the nipples upright, oozing milk. She held out her arms for the squirming bundle, opened the blanket and smelled her baby. The face was red, the chin round, eyes dark. She lay on her side with her baby on the bed and it sucked her nipple with strong hard gums. Her breasts tingled. She sighed and relaxed, her head on her bent arm on the pillow and the two bodies were one, pale and pink and quiet.

Cynthia Mac Pherson

Into the cave                      

The skulls of seekers line the cave,
concealed, submerged beneath the night.
So who will help her to be brave –

to find the secrets that she craves –
the diamonds lying out of sight?
The skulls of seekers line the cave.

They worship in the darkened nave
and prostrate lie before the altar bright.
So who will help her to be brave

to face her demons, abject and depraved,
that passing time will bleach to white?
The skulls of seekers line the cave.

In sombre filigree, the bats may save
her from the fiery dragon’s blazing bite.
So who will help her to be brave

to recognize the crystal rave
of stalagmites in sil’vry light?
The skulls of seekers line the cave.
So who will help her to be brave?

Cynthia MacPherson

Bill at the Aeroclub

 

‘I couldn’t believe Winifred.  I could not believe it.  You’ve heard her complain whenever I brag and say “That’s the time I get out my gun and shoot the bastard!” or  “I’d kick him where it hurts!” Well, when burglars did come to our house last week, we were asleep and I woke to see Winnie disappearing out of the bedroom door.  She turned and put her finger to her lips and motioned me not to switch on the light.

 ‘She’s got a stiff hip, as you know, old chap, but light as a feather she was going down the stairs with not a sound and into the kitchen and me shuffling behind.  Straight to the drying rack she went and grabbed our huge carving knife – the one I keep so sharp.  The family had been over for supper.  I’m a good carver.  No electric carving knife for me.  My niece gave me one once and I returned it after Christmas.  Quite insulted I was.  You know our kitchen, with the sink overlooking the neighbour’s place?  A thickset man was in the far corner checking out the dresser drawers – don’t know what he expected to find in there except table mats and playing cards. Must have got in through the kitchen window. I noticed that it wasn’t properly closed.  Quite a turn it gave me to see a stranger in our house. Winifred slipped past like a shadow and, with the carving knife in her hand, she stood behind this big bloke.  I was dumbstruck!  Next thing she prodded him in the ribs with the point and he spun round, with a knife in his hand.

‘ “You call that a knife!  Ha!” she scoffed.  “This is a knife my man!” He looked flabbergasted and sank back against the dresser.  She was menacing!   I saw a movement and there was another man, an accomplice, but he didn’t see me behind the door.  There is an advantage to being small.    I hit  him hard with my left hand on the back of his neck.  I took him by surprise but next thing he knocked me flying.

‘Then Winifred pressed the panic button and the place was flooded in light.  The bastards panicked when the siren went off and, quick as a flash, they were out of the window and the neighbours lights were on and their dogs were out barking.  The two swines were over the wall and gone.  Pluto Alarms phoned almost immediately.  They did a good job, I must say.’

‘ “Tell them to look in Wherry Road and in the wetland behind,” said Winifred.

‘Isn’t she quite a woman?  I mustn’t complain when she watches afternoon movies.  There she was –
bloody Crocodile Winifred Dundee Whelan.’