Stan the Taxidermist Monk

We stood in a shaft of light through which small flecks of dust and goodness-knows-what fell… probably small flakes of discarded skin. Light was further thrown off by the grubby fingerprint-smeared glass that diffused it.

“Look!” She said, holding up the shrivelled body of a fly with her tweezers. “Can’t you just tell that Stan killed it; just from the look on its face?”

“Who is Stan?” I replied, knowing very well who she was alluding to.

The monk was a well-known taxidermist, but even he would surely not stoop to the stuffing of a dried fly? And why would he leave the carcass out to dry on such an exposed windowsill. It betrayed a nonchalance that Stan definitely did not possess. It could have been blown off its rack and hoovered up without a second’s thought. Or worse perhaps, a competitor-taxidermist could have crept in and up to the windowsill late on the night of a full moon. He would have spied the prepared beast and added it to his exquisite cache of naturally occurring corpses – ones he might have gathered from the lane or even found among the weeds and long blades of dry grass in the front lawn. It just didn’t add up…

“I don’t think it was Stan.”

“I thought you didn’t know who Stan was.”

She was all over my little slip up. Now I would have to give away all the secrets. I was not a good person to have secrets. I was even worse at keeping them for more than an instant. They preyed on my mind day in and day out and they grew to such epic proportions that nobody could have been asked to harbour them. But, even the most practiced secret-keeper would have spilled their guts when faced with her Inquisitorial stare. I paled and stepped back quickly.

“Oh. Did I really say that? I meant ‘Which Stan?’ I know two Stans you see…“

We both knew that was unlikely. Who in their right mind names a child ‘Stanley’ in these times? There was a time when the name might have had some panache. But that day had gone, along with impossible crinolines, pencil-thin moustaches and the appellation ‘Mistress’. My goose was cooked!
This was a true disaster. I am a vegetarian. I shouldn’t be talking about cooked geese. And who has geese any more for that matter?

Pirate King

Pirate King

by Laurie R King

read 26 May 2012

Mary Russell, Sherlock Homes’ wife, is inveigled into joining a film company producing a film of a film of the Pirates of Penzance. She chaperones a crew and a lot of young actresses to Portugal and to Morocco, in hopes of discovering what happened to the director’s previous assistant.

I got the impression that Laurie King might have read the same historical fiction about the corsairs of Salé as I had… (The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson) Considering how much historical fiction I trawl through, it was odd that this topic has not surfaced in my reading until these last few months – and now three times if you count Clive Cussler’s Corsair.

The Postmistress

The Postmistress
By Sarah Blake
Audio finished 14 May 2012

England is at war with Germany and the US is resisting it. A Doctor from a fictional town on Cape Cod goes to London to help out in the Blitz of World War II, and also to escape the town where his first death-in-childbirth has happened.
The postmistress is a strange spinster who falls for the local town defence man. She is all about order and procedure. She has a letter from the doctor to give to his wife if he dies. She breaks the rules and reads a letter that suggests he is dead but can’t bring herself to let down the wife.
A radio correspondent meets the doctor and sees him die in an accident with a taxi after an air raid. She takes a letter from him but following the horrors of the fleeing Jews she records in Vichy France, she visits the Cape but can’t bring herself to give the letter to the doctor’s pregnant widow who doesn’t know he is dead.
The story describes the effects of recording people’s stories, and how a story keeps existence going. Other themes include how people deal with secrets, the truth and the telling of it.