Cabeceo

Liz, who reviews books, considers herself to be a plain woman. Not ugly, not even mousey, just not pretty, and certainly not striking. She is unremarkable in every way. Except… the books that she reviews are what, back in the day, Uncle Joe would refer to as bodice rippers, whilst winking in that oily way of his and digging her in her teenage ribs, revelling in the red heat that would rise on her cheeks like a hormone-induced tidal wave.

Strangely, once Uncle Joe discovered that racy literature was her bread and butter, he left her alone. Sometimes, she would find him in the kitchen with Mother and sense that the privacy she had unknowingly breached consisted solely of his unadulterated opinion of her eminently unsuitable job. Not a career mind, just a job, whilst she waited to settle down and produce babies for a grey accountant in the City.

Liz had taken up the Argentine Tango not long after reviewing her first book for Forbidden Fruit. She knew, self-aware that she was, that in the heady environment of swirling skirts and impossibly intimate leg flicks, she truly came into her own. She had found her métier, at last.

Little did Uncle Joe realise that she had spotted him once, not quite hidden at the back of the dimly lit audience at the Meppersley Wood Working Men’s Club. as she swirled, cavorted and leaned in to the tight body of Pablo, her dancing instructor and on-again, off-again fervent and temperamental paramour.

She had seen the sheen of sweat on Uncle Joe’s brow and temples, watched with satisfaction as his cheeks glowed with desire. He had failed to recognise her as he lusted after her full breasts and sinuous, writhing hips.

Oh yes, she is a plain woman in every respect, except that is, on the dance floor.

If you like pina coladas…

My brother did this weird thing with turtles.

I wasn’t quite sure if he was mad, or I had lost my mind, trapped in an Alice Through the Looking Glass world of drug-induced hyper-clarity.

He had been such a cute little boy, although quite ordinary, I grant you. His talent for building a super-computer from scratch (because, why not, when you are ten?) and his unnerving ability to pluck the very soul from a  guitar that could make you weep, well, that wasn’t the stuff of an ordinary child. But in a family of not-quite-fitting-in, it was ordinary enough. For us.

But this? This was… unnerving, even to me who lived most of my days in my imagination, even when filing forms, completing paperwork, catching the bus, the train, the underground to my ordinary job in an ordinary world. I retreated to my fantasies because, dark as they were, they gave me comfort. They encouraged me to believe that there really was more to life than – this.

But, I wasn’t sure if I wanted this irridescence in my world. I wasn’t sure if this level of craziness, this shifting-sands hovering above reality gave me peace or traumatised me.

I decided that the only solution was to seduce him. No, not my brother (eugh!). The turtle. Of course, the turtle. The lead turtle, the main man (if you will), the one who my brother had been working on (or maybe, with) since the beginning. Like the children that followed the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, all his turtly friends had followed him to my brother’s door to see what all the fuss was about. If I could just get under Sir Turtle’s skin, or shell, then maybe I’d find out what was really and truly going on.

You see, my brother’s neighbours had all started coming to me for The Answer to all the confusion. And when I say neighbours, that’s kind of a loose term. Bro lives in a ramshackle house in the middle of a field in the depths of nowhere. The nearest village is 10 miles away – not close, right? Plus, he’s nowhere near the coast, so nowhere near turtles. Not normally. I’m pretty sure that they don’t inhabit the sleepy River Mord, especially as ‘river’ is a grandiose term for a brook that only babbles properly in February. “What in God’s name is he doing?” demanded Joseph Wheelwright, wheezing down the crackling phone line. Old codger Wheelwright out-aethiests the most fervent aetheist I know, so his calling on God for enlightenment was a warning to me that there was severe angst in the locality. A sleepy, backward, insular locality that didn’t take well to strangers.

Or strange people, like my brother had apparently become.

When I turned up at his mouldering old clapboard monstrosity of a house, the stain on the wall outside told me something wasn’t quite right. The tide mark ran all the way around the house at about hip height, once you stepped up onto the veranda. The swing seat was no longer swinging but seemed frozen in space as if dipped in aspic. In fact everything was damp and somewhat slippery to the touch, like oily jelly.

I ventured inside. The entire ground floor smelled like the ocean. The entire ground floor was the ocean, in fact. Waves were lapping at the walls. Thousands of turtles were gliding through turquoise water and boy, it was beautifully, tropically warm. It was perfect, if unnerving. I felt like I’d stepped into a marine version of the Tardis, it was so vast in there. My brother basked on a lilo that bobbed lazily as the tide swelled, wearing cool shades, khaki shorts and flip-flops, sipping a cocktail complete with a cherry and pink umbrella (really, bro?!).

“Hey babe, come on in! Say hi to my besties, wontcha?”

(Like, really, he never, ever talks like that).

So, it was true. He had started a one-man mission to save the turtles of the world, just as my recently-seduced (and very well seduced, if I say so myself) Sir Turtle had revealed to me late one night. Pillow talk, you know. The oceans were slowly dying, and this was his salty, singular crusade.

Oh, you want to know how me and Sir Turtle hooked up, how he spilled the beans?

Like, haven’t you heard of online dating?

Everyone does that now, don’t they?

Especially turtles with a shell to die for.