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HOOP Boot Camp Summer 2017

Published July 10, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

When I signed up for a weekend HOOP (helping overcome obesity problems) boot camp six months ago, I really didn’t know what I was expecting. I certainly didn’t expect that I would meet the most wonderful people who would inspire me, encourage me, and enlighten me. But I did. And more.

I was anxious about meeting new people and spending a weekend with total strangers. I didn’t need to worry at all. I was so nervous arriving at the camp, but I met my first new friend Lucy who instantly made me feel relaxed. And with each person I met after that I felt more at ease. I was worried about sharing a room but I was paired up with Emma and felt we were a perfect match, we instantly gelled and suddenly sharing a room wasn’t a big deal at all. So much so we asked Yvonne to join us as we’d clicked over dinner Friday night. Each lovely lady on the boot camp with me was so nice, I started on Friday with strangers but left on Sunday with new friends.

The food was delicious. I was again anxious about this aspect of the weekend. Was I going to have enough food? Was I going to like the food? How would I cope without sugary sweet food? Again, unnecessary worrying. I can’t praise Brian Powlett highly enough. Fresh heathy food, cooked to perfection. Packed full of flavor and incredibly filling, I didn’t feel hungry once. I’m now following his Facebook page ‘Knife of Brian’ (should have known he’d be awesome with a Monty Python reference) and will be trying his recipes myself. Who knew I’d get excited by salads? Not me.

I also needn’t have worried about the activities. Saturday morning started with a walk. It was about a mile I think, some people did a bit of running, some people walked a just little of the way, and some people didn’t take part. It was all about what you felt comfortable with, no pressure. We were then split into two groups. One group worked out with tyres, one with resistance bands. Again, if you didn’t want to take part, or if you needed a breather, that was no big deal. After breakfast then we had the option to do canoeing. I was going to do it but after seeing Barbara and Helen fall in the river (they handled it with such good humour!) I got spooked and changed my mind (flash back to falling in a boating lake aged eight). I will have another go though next time, as everyone who did it seemed to have a great time. Myself, Yvonne and Sarah opted out so we got to play boules with Mark (more about him later). I wasn’t counting but I think I won 😉, and we all beat Mark.

We then had the option of mountain biking. Sitting on a saddle the size of a paperclip was uncomfortable and, unless I have a saddle the size of an arm chair, I won’t be doing it again. I’m calling the tiny saddles ‘magic saddles’ because they managed to turn my apple-catcher knickers into a thong. If you didn’t want an intimate wedgie you could have gone for a trike, or a wider seated tandem bike, but that was tougher to pedal and steer, kudos to Yvonne for steering the trike and Liane and Sarah getting up a hill on the tandemt, I had to get off and push my bike on that bit.

After lunch, it was activity time again. You had the option of harness work (climbing wall, tree tops walk, zip wire) or archery. I chose the harness work as I wanted to challenge myself, I’ve done archery several times before. Wearing full harness gear is most unflattering, and in some circles would be classed as fetish wear, but I’d rather be safe and look like a trussed up chicken than fashionable and deadly. I wasn’t good at the climbing wall, trying to get my size nine trainers on a pokey-out-bit (not sure of the technical term) the size of a broad bean was too hard for me. Others made it look easy and shimmied up to the top quickly like Tom Cruise in the opening to Mission Impossible II (Jane, Diane, Vicky, Sue B). Sue A showed what perseverance and having another go can do, as she didn’t manage to get very high the first time but had another go after and her determination and sparkly inner magic got her to the top.

Zip wire was next and, wowsers, what a challenge. I struggle to get up on rung three of a step ladder, so just climbing to the top of the zip wire tower was an achievement. Emma was first to volunteer, what a star, and she nailed it like a carpenter. One by one everyone overcame their fears and launched themselves over the edge. Most of the time I was up there I was saying to myself in my head that I couldn’t do it and I would just go back down. But when it came to just me and Yvonne stood up there, things changed. I’m sure she won’t mind me saying she was having a wobble, and after standing on the edge changed her mind and got unhooked. I was giving her a pep talk and saying she could do this and she would feel fab if she did it, and as I was saying this I was thinking ‘well I can’t be saying this to Yvonne and not do it myself’ what a hypocrite!

So, I bit the bullet and told Alex (the activities man) I was going for it. I told him I wouldn’t be able to look down so I was going to look up into the trees and he would have to guide me to the edge like I was a blind person, which he did marvelously. He has the patience of a saint. I told him I don’t normally swear but I may do. But I didn’t swear, apart from a ‘Holy Moly’ as I jumped, and I didn’t cry which I thought I would. I bizarrely did a little high pitched nervous singing and screamed the entire way down, which resulted in a sore throat and revocation of my forty-year vegetarian status due to consuming a buffet of small insects mid-air.

I’d like to thank Sue and Jane for helping me down from the harness after I eventually come to a stop – I thought I was going up for another go at one point as the bounce back was quite far. There might have been else behind me helping me down too but I was in too much of a state to see, so if anyone helped me, then thank you so much. I was holding onto the metal rope so tightly I just couldn’t physically let go. I haven’t gripped anything that hard since someone tried to steal my Toblerone once.

I am so proud of myself that I did it but I wouldn’t do it again. I’m not destined to be an adrenalin junkie. I’ve never been so glad to touch the ground. I nearly did a Pope and kissed it. We’d run out of time to do the tree tops walk, but that was good because that’s when Sue had that second go at the wall and smashed it, meant to be.

Zumba was on offer after that but I was so wrung out from the zip wire I gave it a miss. The ladies that did take part were fabulous though. I could see Lucy outside my window dancing (as I was recovering) and she was marvelous.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t very well Sunday morning. I had a bad head and the warnings of a migraine coming on so I knew I had to head home. I missed out on boxercise and yoga, I hope yoga is on offer at the next camp as I would have loved to have tried that.

I felt very emotional travelling home on the train, I was upset I’d had to shoot off without saying proper goodbyes to everyone, but that probably would have probably set me off crying like the Niagara waterfalls, so a lucky escape for everyone else. I felt emotional because in the space of forty hours I’d met the most inspirational people and formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime.

Mark Flewitt and Heather Jayne Wynn, the coaches on the weekend, it’s difficult to put into words how much of life changers they are. You couldn’t wish to meet more supportive, empathetic, positive people. It’s like sorcery how a speech from Mark can really change how you think about yourself and make you believe in yourself. I wouldn’t call it going to boot camp, I’d call it going to reboot camp. Like a computer reboots itself to get rid of the nasties and the gremlins inside, this weekend rebooted my gremlins and nasties.

I will be eternally grateful to mark and Heather for rebooting me, grateful to Brian for making me want to embrace healthier foods, and forever grateful to have met all the lovely ladies I shared this experience with, you are all sparkly stars in a sometimes dark world, so keep sparkling.

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Anxiously Anticipating an Action Weekend

Published July 5, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

I’m travelling so far out of my comfort zone that I’ve had to renew my passport and apply for a visa. When I booked an activity boot camp weekend six months ago it seemed like an exciting thing to do. Now that it’s less than forty-eight hours away it seems far, far away from exciting. Excitement and fear has a thin line. I’ve crossed the border, and I’m entering terror town.

I did something similar when I was ten years old. There was an outward bounds school trip which involved a two-night stay, lots of walking, sharing bunks, early mornings. This equaled lots of crying, anxiety and counting down the minutes to go home. I think this emotional response might be repeated this weekend. I should have had a flashback moment to this memory before booking. My brain is an ass at times.

Anxiety number one: I’m staying in an outwards bounds center. In a forest. I normally stay in no less than four star hotels, in cities. There are going to be insects, that will try and devour me. And no room service. I haven’t even checked if there’s any Wi-Fi there, I fear not, and that will send me into palpitations and a technological detox. It will be the longest I’ve gone without watching television. I don’t know if I’ll cope with that, I may have to be air-lifted to a multiplex cinema.

Anxiety number two: I’ll be sharing a bedroom. I haven’t slept in a room with someone else for fourteen years. I’m a light sleeper and must wear earplugs to obtain sleep when I’m by myself. I’ve packed five pairs of earplugs as I might have to ram them all in if I’m sharing with someone who snores, or breathes. My ear canals will be stretched to ear lakes.

I sleep nude. And if it’s hot, I sleep on top of the sheets, nude. It’s predicted to be hot this weekend. I’m going to have to wear a nighty. This means I will have no sleep as I’m also a fidgeter in bed and will end up with my nighty strangling me at various stages of the night. Death by nighty.

Anxiety number three: We’re having our meals cooked by a professional chef. Most people would think this is a lovely treat. Not me. I’m worried I won’t like the food, as I’m a fussy vegetarian who dislikes salads, dressings, and onions. What if I get hungry and have to eat my own arm? I’ve shaved it in preparation. Do I take emergency flapjacks with me? I’m not going to be able to eat them though, I’ll be with people all the time. I don’t want to have to lock myself in a toilet cubicle to eat, my high gag reflex won’t cope with eating in these conditions. I suppose I could wait until lights out and lick it in the darkness. But how could I smuggle flapjacks in? Bags might be searched, I might have a body pat down for contraband. I could hide them under my boobs, there’s room there for a whole traybake.

Anxiety number four: Communal bathroom. Those two words send frozen darts down my spine and straight to my coccyx. I have a phobia of swimming pools and don’t go swimming because the thought of putting my bare feet where someone else’s bare feet have been makes me feel physically sick. So, the thought of sharing a shower and toilet with eleven strangers is horrendous. I will be taking wet wipes with me and wet wiping myself clean.

Anxiety number five: Outdoors. I dislike going outdoors in temperatures over 18 degrees. Our activity days are forecast to be 25 and 20. This makes me want to cry. I need an air con suit as my portable air con unit isn’t that portable and doesn’t work outdoors. I hate being sweaty and uncomfortable. This weekend will just involve me being sweaty and uncomfortable. I have purchased a sun hat and will be basting myself in factor fifty.

Anxiety number six: People. I’m going to be spending forty-six hours with people. I never spend that long in company. My maximum is a ten-hour shift in work, and then I have to spend the following day in solitary confinement recovering from IPI (intense people interaction).

Anxiety number seven: Activities. Where do I start? I have an active mind but my body is as active as neglected plasticine. I will be doing climbing – I hate heights and I have long nails which are going to make it difficult to grab onto the wall and stop myself plunging to instant death, so I’m going to have to cut them short. I will feel naked. I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull myself up the wall. It’s going to be like a game of vertical twister. And I was never any good at the horizontal version.

I’ll be doing abseiling – very quickly to get it over with. I’ll probably forget to bounce off the wall intermittently and hurtle straight down breaking both legs. I’ll be doing a zip wire. I’m not going to be able to jump off myself, whoever is behind me is going to have to push me. I think I might scream so much I will be heard in Denmark. If it’s a high zip wire I may catch small birds in my flight path with my open mouth.

I’ll be doing canoeing. I’m a good swimmer but petrified of going under the water and getting trapped there. I’m also frightened I might spook myself by thinking ‘shark’ and end up panic paddling off down the river and into the ocean. If spotted off the coast anywhere please do throw me a life buoy, or a flapjack. If it’s hot I may tip myself in on purpose and go for a swim, but if anything touches my leg I will add yellow dye to the river. I will also be doing mountain biking, walking, orienteering, and optional aerobics classes.

These are some of my anxieties and that’s without adding in the five-hour public transport journey to Norfolk involving three train connections, one of which National Rail ticket sales have given me seven minutes between one of the connections. So, I will have been sprinting even before the activity weekend starts.

Is it too late to book a spa weekend instead?!

Heatwave

Published June 22, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Slow flowing blood boiling just like hot jam,
My legs are swollen and smelling of ham.
Sticky sweat coating me with salty brine,
Telling myself it’s going to be fine.
Internal organs cooking up a treat
Turning to a Full English in this heat.
I have no energy to try to speak,
My limbs are heavy and feeling so weak.
My make-up’s melting all down my face,
My lungs constrict like I’ve run a tough race.
I’m tetchy, snarly and starting to growl,
Factor fifty plastered on with a trowel.
Handfuls of ice cubes go into my bra,
The sanest idea I’ve had by far.
Hating happy people loving the sun,
I want it to rain and spoil all their fun.
With my red face looking like salami
It’s not a heatwave – it’s a heat tsunami.

My Best Friend is a Unicorn, called Neville.

Published February 25, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Neville has been my best friend since as far back as I can remember, in fact I can’t remember life without him. When we were both little we would share the same bed, I’d stroke his soft purple mane as he snored blissfully next to me. Logistics got in the way as we both got bigger. A man and a fully-grown unicorn just don’t fit into a bed together. Even the king size bed that I have now. Neville has his own room, but I have the en-suite. Neville prefers the great outdoors for his ablutions. I’ve fitted a latch on the back door that Neville can unhook with his horn, so that he can venture out to the garden whenever he wants.

It’s so much easier now we live by ourselves. When we lived at Dad’s it was a nightmare having to go out to the garden every time Neville needed to do his business. Dad was always suspicious why I needed to keep going outside, I’d regularly get my pockets checked for cigarettes when returning in from Neville’s toileting. Nev would find this highly amusing, suggesting I bought a packet so my dad could ‘find’ them on me and feel vindicated for the prison search.

I wished that I could’ve told him the real reason for my garden visitations, but the word unicorn was banned in our house when I was seven. Up until then I had included Neville in our family conversations and no one had seemed to mind, then Mum and Dad got divorced, and life got complicated.

It was an upsetting time for me, not Mum and Dad splitting up, but because they both said I had to stop pretending that a unicorn lived with us. They might as well have asked me to pretend the grass isn’t green. So I had to do the opposite, from that day on I had to pretend I couldn’t see Nev. He was upset of course by this, but when I explained it was necessary for him to stay with me, he stopped crying. Which was good because unicorn tears are tricky to get out of clothes, it’s the glitter in them. If Neville has had a cry on my shoulder my shirts always need a prewash, once when I was about ten I forgot to prewash and Dad wasn’t over the moon with his glittery pants. I blamed the school’s art department for glitter sticking to my school jumper, but Dad complained about his glittery pants for months.

I should point out that I did the washing at home as it was just me, Dad and Neville living in the house. Mum had moved to a flat across town. She’d wanted me to move with her of course but it was a tiny two bedroomed flat on the fourth floor. That would have been no good for Nev so we stayed with Dad. I also didn’t like Mum’s new boyfriend Warren, he smelled of herring and smoked, and that would set off Nev’s asthma. The smoking that is, not the herring smell. Did I mention Neville has asthma? When I used to visit Mum, Nev would stay at home in the garden. A few times he came with me and waited outside but the fumes from the traffic would set the asthma off too.

Mum visits me now in my house, but not that often. I think she senses Neville here and doesn’t want to admit to herself that he’s real. He stuck his hoof out once and tripped her up when she walking to the door and telling me I should get some friends. She blamed the rug. Neville laughed externally while I laughed internally.

I’ve mastered the art of laughing internally while keeping a neutral face over the years. When I had to pretend not to see Neville because we were in others company he would always relish acting the fool to try and make me chuckle. He got me a few times, usually when he stood on his hind legs and did demented disco dancing. On those occasions I would feign a coughing fit to leave the room for a glass of water.

It got tiresome though pretending I couldn’t see Nev and whispering when I wanted to talk to him, so I moved out last year on my twenty first birthday. I’m a postman and Nev comes out on my rounds with me. We’ve learnt which gardens to avoid, there are a few dogs that go nuts when they see him. Mrs. Jones in Laburnum Terrace has a poodle called Binky that poops on her lawn when he sees Neville. Nev either waits at the end of the road or crawls commando style past Mrs. Jones’s house, it depends on his mood. He can be quite moody at times.

Except on Sundays. On a Sunday Nev is buzzing like a bee in a florist shop. We go to the park every Sunday, even in bad weather. There’s so much space for Nev to gallop about in and he loves swimming in the lake. It’s our highlight of the week, and even more so now.

Two Sunday’s ago, we did our usual routine. I sat on the bench eating a strawberry ice-cream watching Nev frolic around the green. He was taking a longer and slower route than normal so I observed the rest of the park goers. There weren’t that many, a family feeding the ducks on the other side of the lake, a couple out for a romantic stroll who were holding hands and giggling as they ambled along. There’s another bench further along from the one I was sitting on, a young woman in a blue cardigan and jeans was sat alone, the sun highlighting her red hair. She was looking across the green, intensely watching something. I followed her line of vision, there was Neville, prancing about like a parade horse.

I looked back to her and then back to Neville. She was still staring at him. My heart started galloping alongside Nev as I tried to think what to do. I wondered if suddenly everyone could see him now or just this mysterious woman. The romantic couple and family didn’t stare though, which I’m sure they would have if they could see a purple unicorn. My ice-cream drew my attention back to myself as the coldness of it dribbled down my fingers. I dropped it into the bin next to me, having lost my appetite with nerves, and licked off the sticky strawberry from my knuckles.

Before my brain could work out what to do next my legs were walking towards the other bench.

‘Hello,’ I said, as I sat down next to the blue cardiganed woman.

She glanced at me quickly. ‘Hello,’ she said, before looking back across to where Neville was still showboating.

I watched Neville and from the corner of my eye could see the woman looking back and forth between me and Neville. I turned my head towards her and caught her in full stare. ‘I’m John.’

She held my stare gently, her green eyes sparkled. ‘Emma.’ She smiled a smile that would have morphed my ice-cream to a milkshake.

I felt myself blush so turned away, Neville was trotting back towards us. Emma was watching him. This was just too weird. Neville stopped trotting when he reached the bench and shook his head, fluffing up his mane.

I took a deep breath. ‘You look like you’re having fun,’ I said, raising my eyebrows to Nev for some help.

‘You can see her?!’ Emma’s eyes widened and she moved forward on the bench.

My heart bumped repeatedly against my ribs. ‘Him. He’s a he.’

Emma frowned. ‘She’s a she.’

‘Neville is definitely a he.’

Neville was looking back and forth between us and was unusually quiet. I thought he was upset being mistaken for a female so I stood up and started to pat him for reassurance.

Emma squinted. ‘What are you doing?’

My stomach knotted. ‘Stroking my unicorn.’

She laughed. The knotting tightened.

‘You have a unicorn with you?’ Her smile radiated through every pore in her face and her shoulders relaxed as she leaned back into the bench.

The knot in my stomach started to unravel. ‘Yes.’

She nodded. I was confused. I thought she could see Nev, but then it was obvious she couldn’t, yet she didn’t run for the hills. And there was no pity in her eyes, still just the vibrant twinkle.

She stood up and started to stroke the air next to Neville. I thought she was humouring me by pretending to stroke him.

I rested my hand on Neville’s back. ‘He’s here.’

She nodded, still stroking the air. ‘This is Moira.’

My eyes tried to analyze hers. I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know what to say, so I just stared at her like an idiot.

‘Moira is a unibob,’ said Emma.

I looked at Nev and he nodded. I swallowed to moisten my throat enough to speak. ‘What’s a unibob?’

Emma glanced at the air she was stroking. ‘A unibob is a magical llama with a horn, but it has a little bobble on the end of the horn, unlike a unicorn’s pointy horn.’

I nodded.

‘She’s pink, what colour is your unicorn?’

‘Purple, he’s purple.’ I smiled at Neville, he just looked embarrassed by me.

‘They match well then.’ Emma stopped petting the air and relaxed her arms down.

‘Yes.’ I nodded again, like a goofball. ‘We come here every Sunday, I’ve not seen you here before.’

‘We’ve just moved to the area, I inherited my grandfather’s farm, up by The Grange.’

I nodded again. ‘Will you be here again next week? I’d like to see you again.’

‘I can be, I’d like to see you again too. And judging from how much Moira was leaping about on the green I think she’d like to see Neville again too.’

He did, and we did. The Sunday after was just the best. I’d never felt so relaxed in my life, and for the first time I felt I belonged in the world. That sounds corny but it’s true. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because someone can’t see your unicorn, they know that you can, and someone accepting you for you is the best feeling in the world. No pretending.

Nev wants to move to the farm today, but I’ve told him it’s too soon. We’ll go next week, that’ll give me time to pack. Neville is a useless packer as he just packs snacks.

Marzipan Cat Zombies

Published February 1, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Phil pushed the bookcase against the door then wiped the sweat from his forehead with the bottom of his Captain America t-shirt.

‘That’s pointless, cats can’t open doors,’ said Joe, slumping onto the bed next to Rohan.

Phil looked across at his two friends. ‘Just in case. Cats don’t normally turn into marzipan and eat people either, we don’t know what they can do now.’

‘I don’t think they’ll be able to open doors.’ Joe raised his eyebrows.

‘Well, just in case. Humor me.’ Phil paced across to the bed and kicked Joe’s foot.

‘Hey, guys, c’mon,’ said Rohan.

‘Sorry Ro, you ok?’ Joe asked.

‘Of course he’s not ok numbnuts, he just watched his sister being bitten by a marzipan cat, and then turning into marzipan herself!’ Phil pulled up his desk chair and sat down opposite Joe and Rohan.

Joe stretched out and kicked Phil’s leg. ‘I’m aware of that numbernuts, I saw it too. And old Mrs.Terry on the corner, all her five cats had marzipaned, she had no chance.’

‘What’s happening guys? What we gonna do?’ Rohan’s eyes flicked back and forth between Joe and Phil.

Phil sighed. ‘I don’t know.’

‘When will your mom and dad be back?’ Rohan threw his question in Phil’s direction.

Phil rubbed his eyes, his hands slightly trembling. ‘They won’t be coming back. It was on the TV before you both got here, it’s all over the place, the cats, they’re everywhere.’

Joe pulled his legs up onto the bed. ‘They can’t be everywhere.’

‘They’re everywhere,’ said Phil, through gritted teeth.

Rohan knelt up on the bed, surveying out of the window. He could see yellow cats, lots of yellow plastic looking cats, prowling and pacing along the hydrangea lined neighborhood. ‘What we gonna do?’

‘We can stay here? Wait for help.’ Joe nodded at his own suggestion.

‘Help won’t be coming.’ Phil swiveled left and right on his chair. ‘Everybody bitten or scratched turns to marzipan and dies.’

Joe joined Rohan looking out of the window. ‘Why aren’t the cats dying? When they turn to marzipan, why aren’t they dying, like the people?’

‘I don’t know, I didn’t create the mutant marzipan moggies did I?’ Phil rubbed sweat off his forehead again. ‘And the people, after they’ve turned and are dead, they come back to life.’

Joe spun away from the window and looked back at Phil. ‘Shit.’

‘So they are ok then?’ Rohan turned to join the other boys’ stares.

‘Yeah they’re fine.’ Phil’s fake smile turned into a glare. ‘Of course they’re not ok, they’re made of solid marzipan, doofus.’

The three boys sat silently. Joe bit at his nails, Phil rocked on the chair, and Rohan stared at his red socks. A clock in the shape of a rocket ticked behind Phil on his desk. Loud meowing and human screams fought for airspace outside.

Rohan looked up from his socks. ‘If no help is coming, we’re going to have to kill the cats ourselves.’

‘And just how do you kill them?’ Joe got up and started to pace the small room. ‘I mean, I know how you’d kill a normal cat, but one that’s made of fucking marzipan?’

‘Your mum would freak at your language,’ said Rohan.

Joe stopped his pacing. ‘My mum is probably almond paste right now, I don’t think she’d fucking care.’

‘You’re such a grown up.’ Rohan pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.

‘Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.’ Joe continued his pacing.

Phil stopped moving on the chair. ‘We have to eat them.’

‘What?’ Joe stopped in his tracks.

‘The cats,’ said Phil. ‘It said on the news, the only way they can be stopped is by eating them.’

‘Eating them?’ Rohan grimaced.

Joe swung his arms animatedly. ‘Can’t we just chop their heads off?’

‘If their heads are chopped off they just morph back together, same if you squash them,’ Phil mimed squishing and growing with his hands, ‘they just go back into their cat shapes. Guessing it’s the same for the people too.’

‘I can’t eat people,’ said Joe.

Rohan wiped his hands down his thighs. ‘I can’t eat cats. I’m a vegetarian.’

‘It’s bloody marzipan. Without the blood.’ Phil twirled around in the chair to face Joe. ‘Just like eating the marzipan fruits your Auntie Gayle gives you at Christmas.’

‘Eating a non-moving marzipan apple the size of my thumb is a bit different to eating a full sized marzipan cat in attack mode, or a relative,’ said Joe.

Phil stood up and walked across to Joe. ‘We can stun the cat, or person, first, by whacking them with something, then eat them quickly.’

Joe shrugged and fiddled with his belt. ‘At least we won’t have to worry about finding food.’ He attempted to laugh but just made a snorting noise and twitched his lips.

‘Maybe we can make a pact though.’ Phil patted Joe’s shoulder.  ‘I don’t think any of us want to eat our own family.’

‘No!’ gasped Rohan.

‘Gross,’ said Joe.

Phil looked across at Rohan, then back to Joe. ‘So why don’t we agree, that if we get in a ‘situation’ with family, one of us others will deal with it.’

Rohan started to cry. ‘I can’t.’

Joe slunk over to the bed and sat next to Rohan. ‘Look Ro, I know it’s hard but we gotta pull together here.’

‘No, I mean I can’t. I can’t eat marzipan.’ Rohan stifled his sobs. ‘I’m diabetic.’

‘Shit.’ Phil kicked the bookcase.

From the other side of the door there was a hiss of a cat. Phil leapt away from the bookcase and door and almost landed on Joe’s lap as he launched himself onto the bed. The cat started scratching at the door.

Joe gripped Rohan’s knee. ‘Christ, maybe it’ll go away?’ The scratching at the door continued.

Rohan swallowed hard. ‘How can marzipan make a scratching noise like that?’

Joe realized he was holding Rohan’s knee and let go. He frowned at Rohan. ‘I don’t know, shall we open up the door and find out?’

Rohan hugged his legs again and lowered his head.

‘Sorry Ro,’ said Joe. ‘I’m not feeling myself.’

Phil shuffled across the bed a little. ‘You’re looking a little yellow Joe, you feel sick?’

Joe shook his head. ‘No, just a bit spaced, like you? Don’t you feel spaced?’

‘Wired, I’m feeling wired, not spaced.’ Phil turned his head to Rohan. ‘Ro?’

‘Not spaced, hyper ventilating.’ Rohan edged away a few inches from Joe.

Phil stood up slowly. ‘You haven’t been bitten have you?’

‘No,’ said Joe.

‘Or scratched, you might not have felt a scratch while we were running over here.’ Rohan slid off the bed and stood next to Phil.

‘No, I’m fine.’ Joe clenched his hands.

‘You’re definitely more yellow now. Look.’ Phil pointed to Joe’s bare legs, not covered by his shorts.

‘It’s the light in here.’ Joe grabbed the pillow from the bed and tried to cover his legs.

‘Shit Joe, you’re turning, look at the scratch on your arm!’ Phil took a step back, bumping into the chair.

All three boys looked at Joe’s arm. His skin was buttery yellow. There was a gaping gash, about an inch long, and thick yellow pus paste oozed out from it.

‘No! Oh God no. Guys you have to help me!’ Joe cried as he stared at his changing body.

‘We can’t do anything,’ said Phil, gripping onto the back of the chair. ‘There’s no cure, we can’t save you.’

‘Then you have to kill me.’ Joe stopped crying and sniffed. He held his arms out. ‘Eat me.’

‘You’re not fully turned! I can’t eat you yet.’ Phil grimaced.

Joe lowered his arms. ‘Ok, well, get ready.’

‘I don’t think I can do this,’ said Phil, sitting in the chair.

‘You have to,’ Joe pleaded. ‘Rohan can’t or he’ll go into a diabetic coma.’

Rohan shifted slightly from side to side, sniffing.

‘There are bits of you that I really don’t think I can eat.’ Phil nodded towards Joe’s crotch.

‘Christ Phil, you can’t leave just my wiener running around after people.’ Joe rubbed the pus paste into his arm as a bit more oozed out. ‘What kind of sicko does that.’

‘What kind of sicko eats your wiener!’ Phil made a snorting noise as he laughed and stifled a cry at the same time.

Joe laughed and wiped yellow tears away with his sticky fingers.

‘Can’t you just leave?’ Rohan mumbled. ‘You could eat that cat on your way out.’

‘Wow, really finding out about my friends now.’ Joe smiled at Rohan.

Rohan limply smiled back. ‘It’s because we’re your friends we don’t want to eat you.’

‘C’mon Joe.’ Phil stood up. ‘We need to throw you under the bus.’

Joe looked to Rohan then Phil. ‘What bus?’

‘It’s a metaphysical bus.’ Phil took a step closer to Joe and hovered his hand over Joe’s shoulder, gently tapping with his fingers. ‘C’mon Joe, take one for the team, I’d leave if it was me infected. I’d push you out the door but I don’t want my fingers sinking into your fat marzipan middle there.’

‘I’d eat you if we were switched numbernut.’ Joe stood up and stepped towards the door. ‘I’ll eat the cat, then I’ll run away from the house, draw any others away.’

Rohan moved closer. ‘Thanks Joe.’

‘Sorry bud.’ Phil’s voice started to crack.

Joe nodded. ‘Get ready to slam the door shut.’ He started to shove the bookcase out of the way but his thumb mushed into the wood. Sighing, he scraped it off, remolded it, and stuck it on his head.

Phil laughed. ‘Numbnut.’ He dragged the bookcase away from the door and held the door handle. He locked eyes with Joe. ‘Ready?’

Joe nodded, and smiled at Phil and Rohan. Phil yanked the door open and Joe shot out, Phil slamming the door behind him. Phil leant against the door and closed his eyes. Rohan sat on the bed, leant forward, and held his head in his hands. The boys were silent as the wailing of a cat and scuffling outside the door took place. There was a final high pitched cat screech then the landing fell silent too.

After five minutes of stillness, Phil stopped leaning against the door and turned, pressing his ear up against it. ‘Joe? You still there?’

‘Yes,’ said Joe from behind the door.

Rohan lifted his head from his hands. ‘I thought you were going to run away?’

‘I was.’ Joe’s voice sounded muffled. ‘I don’t want to die out there on my own. I’m scared.’

‘He’s going to fully turn any minute.’ Rohan whispered to Phil.

Phil nodded, then talked to the door again. ‘Did you eat the cat?’

‘No. Well, I tried to eat it, but it’s very struggly. I ate its leg. It’s not happy with me. It’s just staring at me now. I’m sorry’

Phil placed his hand flat against the door. ‘I’m sorry too Joe’. He turned and looked at Rohan, and raised his eyebrows.

Rohan nodded and stood up from the bed. Phil slowly twisted the door handle and opened it. Joe was sat on the floor, not only was his skin bright yellow but his hair had turned from dark brown to yellow chunky strands. His thumb was still on his forehead.

Phil opened the door wider. He could see an angry looking marzipan cat in a crouching attack position further along the landing. ‘Let the cat come in. And put your thumb back where it should be.’

‘If you’re going to be marzipan, we will too,’ said Rohan.

‘No, you can stay safe.’ Joe shuffled to his feet, removing his thumb from his head and molding it back on his hand.

‘No one is safe. If we don’t have our families we only have each other, but if we don’t have each other, what’s the point in hiding out.’ Phil shrugged.

The cat suddenly rocketed itself into the room, hissing and lashing out in a frenzied Catherine Wheel of almond rage.

‘It got me!’ Rohan rubbed his leg.

‘Me too,’ said Phil.

The cat limped out on its three legs, tail twitching like a caffeinated cobra. Joe shuffled into the room and slumped onto the bed. His eyelashes had turned to marzipan strands.

‘Do you think we’ll know each other when we turn?’ asked Rohan. ‘You know, when our brains are marzipaned?’

‘Yeah, sure we will.’ Phil patted Rohan on the shoulder. ‘Friends and numbnuts forever.’

A Conversation With Myself When a Wasp Tangoed on my Face.

Published November 6, 2016 by Naomi Rettig

(Scene: sat on a bus, near the back, approximately 10 other passengers on board. Couple move from seat on my right to seats in front of me.)

Why have they moved?

I don’t know, maybe the sun was in their faces on that side.

Oh, yes, probably.

Oh no, there’s a wasp, they’ve moved from the wasp. It’s followed them though. They’ve brought the wasp over to our side!

Well if she stops waving her hands about it will go away.

They’re moving back now.

Good, the wasp is moving too.

Yay, it’s going down the front of the bus.

Can everyone stop waving their arms around, they’re making the wasp angry.

If it stings you, I bet you go into anaphylactic shock.

Don’t be a drama queen.

You’re allergic to penicillin, pet saliva and fur, feathers, and broad beans. And you have a swollen throat already because you’re ill. A sting from that wasp could make your throat swell, even a little more, and you could die.

You’re such an idiot.

It’s coming back up the bus!

Don’t panic. If I just keep still it won’t bother us. I’ll make myself invisible to the wasp.

You’re wearing the most floral blouse you have, and you’re wearing fleur de fig perfume, you couldn’t make yourself more attractive to the wasp unless you dressed as a female wasp.

Just keep still.

Christ it’s on the windowsill in front now. If it comes near us, you’ll have to kill it. No one else on the bus is going to. It’s the wasp or you. You decide.

What can I kill it with?

Your kindle is in your bag.

Don’t be stupid, there’s a note book in there too I can use.

Well slide your hand in and get it out ready. The wasp is getting closer. That’s it, nice and slowly.

I’m ready for it now. Where did it go?

I don’t know, we share the same eyes, I was looking in the bag with you. Everyone else is looking around for it too.

Maybe it went out the wind-ohhhh…IT’S ON MY FUCKING FACE!

Don’t swear!

It’s on my fucking face!

Follow your own advice, keep perfectly still, don’t make any sudden movements to scare it.

I’m not even breathing. It’s on my face. It’s doing a fudging tango on my cheek. I can feel its tippy-tappy feet. Bastard.

Keep calm. Don’t cry, your salty tears will only aggravate it.

I don’t think I can keep my silent screaming silent for much longer.

I can’t believe the man over there just told you to keep still because it’s on your face.

I know! Does he think I don’t know this! Fudge Womble!

Ooh.

Hallelujah!

You’ve got quicker reflexes than I thought.

That didn’t seem quick, that seemed to take forever to buzz from my cheek to the headrest in front.

Are you sure he’s dead?

When I whacked him, his head propelled two seats forward, I’m pretty sure he’s dead. Even if he was a zombie wasp, he’d be dead.

Did that lady really tut at you because you killed the wasp?

I think so yes.  Numpty nugget.

 

 

 

 

 

Breakdown

Published August 14, 2016 by Naomi Rettig

I’m aware of someone looming over me. I feel the weight of their shadow hover across my chest. I hear the someone swallow, a natural reflex, but alarmingly sinister as I hide behind the dark of my eyelids. I try to steady my breathing. Whoever, whatever, lurks, seems to be in no hurry to attack. The presence sits on the end of my bed. I don’t know what is going to surrender first, my heart or my bladder.

I launch open my eyes. Judd Nelson is perched on the bed by my feet. In navy blue pajamas. Sexy navy blue pajamas. He smiles. I don’t smile back, this is a dream, there is no other logical explanation. I study his face closely, I’ve never had such a high definition dream before, every wrinkle, every handsome, gorgeous wrinkle…

‘Hello.’ He smiles again.

I am mesmerized by his eyes, his deep dark brown eyes like pools of delicious chocolate…

‘Oh, this isn’t a dream.’ Judd interrupts my thoughts again.

I play along with my dream. ‘I’m struggling with this being reality.’

‘It isn’t reality.’

I sit more upright in my bed. ‘Hallucination?’

‘Nope.’ He shakes his head. ‘Nervous breakdown.’

‘I’m having a nervous breakdown?’

‘Yes.’

I smooth down the duvet covering my lap. ‘I feel quite calm for someone having a nervous breakdown.’

‘That’s because you’re in your breakdown assessment zone. Or BAZ.’

‘Are you sure this isn’t a dream?’

‘You’re definitely having a breakdown.’ He smiles again. ‘Your physical body has gone into a coma, only your mind is functioning.’

I survey my body and my surroundings. Everything is clearer and in more detail than a dream, but I can’t feel the duvet as I’m touching it.

‘You can’t feel anything physically,’ says Judd, ‘but you can feel emotions.’

‘So what happens now? We stay here in my bedroom until my body repairs itself? You are staying with me aren’t you?’

‘I’m staying for as long as you want, you created me here. And it’s not your body that needs repairing it’s your mind.’

‘How do I do that?’

‘You just need some time out, to refocus your mind, it’s a very powerful tool and can correct itself. If you want it to.’ He stares intently at me.

‘Well of course I want it to,’ his gaze is melting my internal organs, I can’t feel this physically but I know it’s happening, ‘although being trapped in my bedroom forever with you is quite tempting.’

He laughs. Loudly.

‘Oh, obviously not for you then.’ I know I’m blushing. ‘Are you even allowed your own opinion? I mean if I’ve created you shouldn’t you agree with me?’

‘I’m here as your voice of reason, subconsciously you’ve created me that way. And I didn’t laugh at the thought of being with you for eternity, that would give me the greatest pleasure.’

I don’t even care if he’s saying that because I’m making him say it. My internal organs are continuing to melt. I think I just lost a kidney.

‘I laughed because we’re not trapped in your bedroom.’ He stands and pushes his arm through the wall. It just glides through and back, like a plane through a cloud. ‘We can be anywhere you imagine. Just concentrate and focus.’

‘Concentrate and focus?’

He stands by the side of my bed. ‘Yep. Try it. Where do you want us to be?’

‘A beach.’

‘Great. Now think about the beach you want us to be at. Is it deserted or are there other people there? What season is it, hot or cold? You won’t be able to feel the temperature but it will affect the look.’

I start to imagine. My pink carpet subtly undulates. The carpet fibers change into sand, the palest beige sand, almost white. ‘Oh wow.’ The walls of my bedroom slowly dissolve revealing a beautiful blue skyline meeting an equally majestic turquoise sea that I can hear gently lapping close by. My bed morphs beneath me and I’m reclining on a padded wooden sun lounger with an identical one next to me. ‘This is amazing.’ I see a figure in the sea. ‘Is that Jenson Ackles waving at me?’

‘It is if you want it to be.’ Judd is still stood next to me. ‘Can I suggest you imagine me into beach wear, these pajamas are a bit warm.’ He winks at me.

I concentrate and imagine him to be wearing a pair of shorts and a kitsch Hawaiian shirt, bright pink and yellow. He is instantly transformed. I will save the speedo look for later.

He looks down at himself. ‘That’s better.’ He gestures to me.

I glance at my Minion pajamas, hardly suitable for this beach. I imagine a black swimming costume with a pretty floral sarong wrapped around me. I am instantly wearing this. I rearrange to sarong over my legs.

‘You look a bit self-conscious.’ Judd sits on the spare lounger. ‘I should point out that you can imagine yourself to be any shape that you want, and alter yourself in any way if it makes you feel better.’

‘Really?’

‘Yep.’ He shrugs.

I imagine myself thinner. I watch as my body neatly deflates to a smaller size, but stays taut and reveals nicely defined muscles. ‘Oh wow!’ I convert my black swimsuit into a gold bikini. I inflate my breasts a little. And a little more. ‘Is this what heaven feels like?’

‘Yes,’ Judd stops looking at my chest and makes eye contact with me, ‘I mean I don’t know, I’ve not been there.’

‘It must be. I am in heaven right now.’ I lie back on the lounger.

‘You are feeling happy? Content? Relaxed?’

‘Yes, yes, and yes. And we can stay here for as long as I want?’

‘Yes. Well…’

I sit back up. ‘What’s the well for?’

‘Well the longer you are not mentally connected with your physical body, I’m not sure how easy it will be to go back.’

‘I’m on a beach with you, Judd Nelson, why would I want to go back?’

‘For all that you have in your real life.’

‘Let me think about that. I’m a waitress in a dingy bar surviving day to day on tips, I’ve been single forever as I don’t trust anyone, I have no family that I speak to, and my social life consists of playing online scrabble with strangers and posting photos of food on Instagram. It kind of seems like a no brainer. What am I going to miss out on if I stay here?’

‘Food. You can create whatever food you want here but you can’t taste it. You can give us cocktails here but you can’t drink them.’

‘I can live without that.’

‘Ok, Smells. You can’t smell flowers, coffee, the sea.’

‘So, I also can’t smell nasty smells. Not a problem.’

‘Touch. You can’t feel physical touch here.’ He touches my arm, his fingers caressing my skin. ‘See.’

‘Yes, exactly, I can see you touching my arm, that makes me feel emotions, and that’s enough for me.’

‘For the rest of your life? No touching, tasting or smelling?’

‘I can see and I can hear and I can go anywhere I want and imagine anything I want. That is enough for me. This is the reality I want now.’

‘Shall I flick the switch then?’

‘What switch?’

‘There’s a switch that will cut off your mind from your body permanently, you will remain physically catatonic in hospital but exist permanently here.’

‘But won’t the hospital switch life support off?’

‘No, they will still detect brain activity so keep your body plugged in.’

‘Ok then, let’s do it.’

‘You sure?’

‘Never been surer.’ I settle back down on the lounger. ‘Flick that switch, let’s get this adventure started with a bang!’

Judd clicks his fingers. ‘Done.’

A cascade of pretty firework explosions fills the sky, but silently as I don’t like the loud noises that accompany them. A Caribbean steel band plays in the distance. I jump up to dance. My toes fall off.

‘What the…?’

Judd looks at my feet casually. ‘Ah, you’d forgotten your imagination can be a bit of a prat sometimes.’ He smiles. ‘Put them back on then.’

I look down at my feet stumps and scattered toes. I imagine them back on. My toes wriggle through the sand and back into place.

Judd stands up and moves in close to me. He wraps his arms around me, I can’t feel them but it feels good. ‘Can I kiss you?’

‘Of course.’

Melt. There goes my spleen.