A pair of shorts

One

Pile-up on the outbound says the man on the radio traffic report. Music follows and he taps his fingers on the wheel to the samba rhythm.

She pulls down the car mirror and applies her lipstick. Around them three bands of color – the green of the embankment, the black of the tarmac, and the petrol grey of the sky – make the world appear a sorry bandana. She can relax now the beds in the hotel have been booked for the conference. Back at the the office in three days time he will get a bouquet ready for his triumphant return to his family. The two exchange glances on the three hour drive to Edinburgh. Fatigue makes him swerve and panicked he pulls up on the hard shoulder to rest. They take a risk. “Can you help me undo it?” she asks him and he obliges. Neither of them hear the policemen until he taps on the side window. The headlines were inevitable considering his position in local government, as was the messy divorce, and the subsequent sale of the family home.

Two

The soldier was the latest addition to their collection. It came in a winter camouflage suit, with a panzerfaust, and a little white beard. The gnome had been bought off Ebay. The seller had decided to get rid of it after giving up drinking and moving back in with his family as his Haitian wife refused to have it in the house. Single, drunk, and hallucinating, he used to grasp it in his hands and speak passionately to his far right friends of the ill-fated campaign on the Eastern front until one night he dreamt that storm troopers were coming to shoot him. The advert described it as used as there were cracks on it where the owner´s Doberman Pinscher had tried to bite it but the damage was minimal. The buyers, a couple from Birmigham, had built the rocket, a 2000mm projectile with a K-class motor, long before they found the plaster Panzer trooper. Pacifists brought together by their desire to explore the galaxy they were eager to launch the rocket the day after the delivery. The rocket exploded at 8,000 feet and the fragments of the rocket and its passenger spread over the surrounding houses and gardens. All present agreed the day was a success and went inside for a nice cup of tea. The nazi gnome was not mourned.

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