Beyond the Sphere

It was the final straw.
Clothes strewn across the floor.
Laundry basket upside down,
Socks writhed around the dressing gown,
Inside out tie dye shirts
And a major darks with lights alert.
Sunday bests with overalls
Deplorable… and that’s not all…
A new washing powder yet to try
Spring-fresh something with wild rye
And conditioner – that me doth smite
I ran out of it the other night –
Such challenges test us from time to time
Things to champion to clear the grime
But through hellfire or high water we must overcome
Under the guise of calmness it will be done.

The Superhero Diaries 3.3: Laundry Matters

Charles T. Hemingway and Sons (Quality Tailors; Quality Cleaners) provide an exemplary and discreet service to the modern superhero; a need – nay, a must – in this day and age.

Every month, they provide a detailed email to the Elite Force of Britain, a team of exemplary and not-so discreet superheroes who defend this great country – nay, world – of ours. With some of the members’ emails being affected by the current time-flux disturbance that has seen several members catapulted into tomorrow, the emails from Hemingway’s have been sent hither, thither and every whither, with the exception of the EFB themselves. In a hope that they visit this blog (obviously, I have no idea who these superheroes are) they may get to read this top secret email here. The email has been in  my spam folder for a while, or so it seems.

My dear EFB,

I hope all is well, and you are enjoying this fine weather we are having.

Your assistant brought the laundry in through our discreet entrance last week, and the laundry is now ready for collection. There are, as usual, a few things I need to mention to you, which you may find important.

Muriel Magnificent’s cardigan, the light-blue one, is starting to develop a hole in the left elbow. For a small, and reduced (I’m pleased to announce!) charge, we now offer an invisible darning service and would be honoured to help you with this. Please let us know if you would like to use our excellent services for this.

Lycralad’s troublesome gusset is now, unfortunately, in tatters. With it being stretched to beyond an inch of its life on many occasion, it has finally snapped. Even if we used our patented reinforced stretchable thread, it still sags like a heavy load; and a saggy gusset is no good to anyone, least of all a superhero. We have a team of excellent designers within the company now, who, for a reasonable charge, will be more than willing to design Lycralad a more fitting outfit.

We managed to remove the singe marks from The Firetop’s uniform, and have sprayed it with the new Amce Fire-Wash spray. This remarkable new spray simply puts flames out on contact. The uniform will become more soggy as it is used, but there will be no more singe marks! The Amce Fire-Wash spray has been given to us on loan, so we have cancelled the charge to you for this service.

We have also cancelled the charge for the cleaning of The Diver’s uniform. Amce’s trial Mud-Go spray actually replaced the mud on the uniform with concrete. It was only by chance that we noticed the uniform was heavier than usual as we tried to fold it, but lucky for all of us that we did. Amce are looking into the mis-fire of their latest product.

The Green Gladiator’s mask has now been restored to its vibrant green, thanks to Amce’s new Dissolve-It spray. A marvellous piece of engineering, that formula, as it dissolves threads that are sun-faded. I use it on my knees and they now look wonderful. We will charge our regular fee for this, as we had cleaned the mask prior to using the spray without any success.

As usual, we found a few items in the pockets. Chewing gum, a postcard made out to ‘Charles Seer’ and a pen lid in Invisible Charlie’s trouser pocket, and an ear-ring in Muriel Magnificent’s inside skirt pocket. There was also a rubber-band ball in there as well, but we presumed it was one of Muriel’s magnificent impressive tools she uses, so we put that back.

As usual, any questions, please contact us in the usual manner. All of your items will be available for collection on Monday, should your assistant like to call in then.

Kind regards,  

C.T.Hemingway and Sons

Obviously the contents of this email are completely confidential. We pride ourselves on discretion.

Do I know you?

Several years – perhaps decades – ago, in a job a whole universe away from what I do now, where I used to work as part of a team of eight, I experienced something strange; and also rather frightening.

This particular day, there were only seven of us on duty, as the eighth person, Sharon Honeysuckle, was on holiday somewhere, doing something that she’d told a couple of the others on the team about. What, where, when and how, I now remember not, and the reason for this lapse in my memory will become very clear indeed.

Another of the team, Dawn Armatrading was explaining Sharon’s reason for having the day off, and it was there that we hit upon the snag.

“Who on Earth is Sharon Honeysuckle?” I asked.

“You know,” said Dawn, taken aback, “Short dark hair, pleasant girl, usually sits opposite you.”

I was puzzled. I knew there was another person on the team who was absent. I knew she was a she. I knew I spoke to her daily. But could I think of her? The team leader, Sharon Greentree, sat opposite me that day, which probably didn’t help, and it was this Sharon that I could only remember. “No…?” I questioned again.

“Brown eyes. Slim. Bought the sari last week.”

“I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

Dawn brought another team member into the conversation, Maxine Gavinson. “Maxine, Tom is saying he doesn’t know Sharon Honeysuckle. Describe her to him…”

Maxine laughed at first, but realised I had no clue as to who Sharon was. “She rides the motorbike,” Maxine offered. “Wears very red lipstick. It was her birthday last week.”

“No. I’m sure she’ll come back to me.”

And with that we got on with our work, although I desperately tried to think of this elusive Sharon Honeysuckle…

What I was experiencing here was a different variant of déjà vu, although kind of the opposite, if you like. Jamais vu is the experience of being unfamiliar with a person or situation that is actually very familiar. This phenomena usually occurs when the brain is tired.

I’m pleased to say that that was the only time I’d ever experienced this, and I apologised to Sharon Honeysuckle profusely the next time I saw her, as I recognised her instantly.

Still, it was quite a frightening experience, I don’t mind admitting.

Ending on a high

She leant and held on, nervously chewing her lip. She knew herself that she was gullible, but in no way would she have ever seen herself being talked into doing this. Yet here she was. Strapped in.

She could imagine the comments from her colleagues before she finally agreed to do it. “Thin’n’Timid Molly’ll do it.” She imagined one saying. “She’ll be all of a quiver. We should go and watch.” Another one said, in her mind’s eye.

The thing is though, these comments from her colleagues’ imaginary voices were right. She was doing it. She was all of a quiver. And they were all there to watch.

Molly glared at the pointing and baying crowd she could just about see without her bottle-top glasses. She saw Battleaxe Brenda from reception grinning; Curly Charlie from recycling supporting himself on Ample Andrea from marketing, as both couldn’t begin to stifle their laughter; Big-nosed Alison from accounts, not smiling, as usual; Gorgeous Graeme from publicity posing with his zoom lens; Swotty Spotty Lottie from financial analysis pointing with one hand and hiding her mouth with another; Gay Glen from goods in staring open-mouthed; Nasty Nicola from the water cooler waiting with her video camera; and Stuart the Drip from maintenance waiting with his wrench protruding from his jeans pocket. Other – less memorable – colleagues were also in the crowd, waiting for her to fail.

Molly felt sick as the engines started. She felt her breath leave her body as the biplane shot forward on the runway. She screamed as the plane took off and she imagined her harness becoming loose. She felt herself go a paler shade of pale as the plane banked sharply. She shouted expletives she’d never even heard as the plane did its first loop-the-loop. She invented expletives during the second loop-the-loop. And she leant back and laughed during the third one… more out of nerves than anything else. She couldn’t care that the others were watching now. She’d done it, and was about to be back on the ground again.

She knew she’d need help getting out of the harness (which had been specially installed just above the cockpit on the top wing of the aircraft) when she landed, but she didn’t care about that.

She wasn’t bothered that she’d lost all of the remaining perm out of her hair during the flight, and looked as though she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

She’d done it. Thin’n’Timid Molly no more… she thought.

The biplane came to a halt, and, as she predicted, she needed help getting off. Looking like a screaming banshee, she was photographed. Not by Gorgeous Graeme… or Nasty Nicola for that matter (although everyone had gathered around her, and didn’t seem to be laughing as much now)… but by a newspaper photographer.

The aerodrome manager approached her, grabbed her, and made her pose for another photograph.

“Molly,” the manager announced loudly, “Congratulations! You’re our thousandth customer, and therefore the winner of this luxury two-week holiday to an exotic destination of your choice, plus twenty-thousand pounds spending money. I bet you’re glad that you did it now, aren’t you?”

Molly couldn’t speak. She could, however, laugh at the stony-faced expressions on all of the colleagues who’d put her up to the challenge. 

“Talk about ending on a high…” she thought. She was too timid to say anything aloud, unfortunately…

Muriel wasn’t very good with names.

She knew names. Just not where they should be.

Words she loved. Words. And books.

She worked the late shift at the library. In the archives, with all the ancient tomes. Ancient words. Ancient smells.

She didn’t like the work, but she liked the words. And the sneaky opportunities she got to play her favourite music on her discreet earphones when she was alone, with the words around her.

She loved ‘The Road To Hell’, by Chris de Burgh. She’d play it over and over again, humming gently to herself.

Many a time she hadn’t heard the late manager, Mr Grange, coughing loudly behind her, as she was being transported through her evening by her Chris.

Last night was no exception.

“Miss Munro!” Spluttered the unhappy manager. “You are in a library!”

Muriel heard him this time, and clicked the music off. Mr Grange ignored what she’d done, instead pointing over to three people who were in one of the aisles. Muriel hadn’t noticed them enter the archives.

“How long have they been here, Miss Munro?” Mr Grange was more stern than usual.

“Erm…” it was Muriel’s turn to splutter. She blushed and felt her eyes fill with tears. She didn’t like confrontation. She liked to be hidden away. She always tried her best to be invisible. She managed it, most of the time.

Mr Grange shook his head as he walked toward the three rowdy lads who were shoving and pushing each other in the aisle.

“This is a library!” Muriel heard him say, but she couldn’t quite make out what the lads said in return. She watched Mr Grange splutter passed her desk as he sped out of the archives.

Muriel pulled her mousy brown hair back behind her ear, removed her earphones, straightened her glasses and stood up. She walked over to the three lads, who had now started throwing some of the older books between them.

She noticed how pale the three were. How fair haired, and young, yet their eyes seemed years older. They stared at her as she approached.

Strangely, as she approached the three, some of the lyrics to The Road To Hell came clearly to her in her mind, in particular ‘It’s all just bits of paper, flying away from you’, and ‘This is the road to hell’. Over and over.

The lads seemed to be throwing the books around her, almost rhythmically, hypnotically. Muriel felt as though she was floating with the pages of the ancient books as they slowly swirled around her.

Muriel blinked and looked up from her desk. She looked to the aisle, which was now deserted. All books neatly on the shelves.

She felt a tender itch on her neck, and rubbed the area with her index finger. It was sore, a small cut. She had a tiny droplet of blood on her finger. She reached into the drawer of her desk and took out a mirror. She was about to look into it, but as it was now the end of her shift, she decided to leave it for later.

She locked the door to the archives, and walked passed Mr Grange on her way out.

He spluttered.

“Miss Munro… your hair… your skin…” Muriel glanced at him, said good night and left the library.

That was last night.

Tonight, Muriel arrived to work early. She wore her new blonde hair very loose, and had chosen to go to work in a figure-hugging red velvet, low cut dress, and matching red heels.

Mr Grange spluttered ferociously as she entered the library.

“Miss Munro! This -“ Muriel held up her right index finger and interrupted Mr Grange.

“Mrs” She corrected. “I’ve changed.” She said nothing else, and simply stared as she made her way, gracefully, up to the archives.

She put in her earphones as she reached her desk, and pressed play on her new favourite tune. Chris Rea’s ‘The Lady In Red’.


Some changes take a little longer than others, I suppose. Did you guess that last night’s portrait of Mrs Munro was actually of this librarian? Me neither.