The Butterfly House by Lara Nickles

Here’s the thing. The mosques’ calls to prayer never all start at exactly the same time. And I get it. What time is “just before dawn” anyhow? It’s subjective and I respect and accept that. Except, and as romantic as some may find it, the gently raucous call coming across a purple-veiled dawn, and over the clatter of ancient air conditioners, can I say, when your hotel is within a stone’s throw of six local mosques, it would be really, really nice if they could arrange to start all at the same time, get it over with, and let me, an unworthy infidel, roll over and get back to sleep.

If I sound cranky, it’s because on one particular Saturday morning when this occurred to me, I was. And very cranky because I had the worst hangover since Creation, since when Eve woke up naked on a balmy twenty-two degree Saturday morning in the Garden of Eden and found “Adam” tattooed on her butt.

I got up, went over to the sliding balcony door and slid it open just a few inches to let in some humid warmth – hotels in equatorial Asia are like freezer boxes. It was then I noticed in the dim room mirror my nighty was on inside out, and back to front. I threw it off. It was then I realised I remembered not a single thing about getting home to my hotel room last night – or was it this morning? Most likely morning. It was then – so it felt – that I had just been smacked straight in the middle of the forehead by something heavy and blunt, such was my headache. I took some pills and drank a bottle of water and staggered around in the dawn gloom like a marionette zombie until the pills kicked in. I went back to bed.

Somewhere around nine I was woken by my buzzing phone. While summonsing the will to lift my head, I lay on my back listening to the usual hotel morning bustle outside my room in the corridor – the rattle of trolleys, tap, tap, tap on doors, the polite but insistent singsong cries, ‘Housekeeping… Housekeeping…’ which tacitly admonish, ‘Hey! It’s late now. Get up lazy bones!’

No tapping at my room though. Even when senseless drunk I can still remember to put out the DND sign. I checked my phone. No drunken texts to ex-lovers. No drunken emails telling a sister, whom I love dearly, that I still think she’s a cow for stealing my boyfriend back in ‘93, then marrying him, then having his gorgeous babies. No wee-hours calls to my husband, ‘Hey. Kids asleep? Ask me what I’m wearing.’

The text from Caroline that buzzed my phone said, ‘pu 1pm get urslf some lunch first pack lite ill show you krakatoa’

Caroline never uses punctuation. Life’s too short apparently. Despite everything, I do remember last night agreeing to a little weekend road trip with Caro. Something about Krakatoa.

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Back To Normal by Ian D Smith

Tom’s phone woke him, but the call ended before he answered it. They’ll call back if it’s important. He rolled over. Brilliant night out, but I’ve got a fucking shitty hangover.

A few minutes later, he swung his legs out of bed and sat up cautiously. Looking around, he saw screwed-up clothes and empty beer cans scattered across the floor. “Good job I didn’t bring her back,” he muttered. “Working from home’s really done my head in.”

Snatches of the night before ran through his mind – drinking, dancing and chatting with Debbie. A cute blonde in a short, tight dress, she’d pressed herself against his hard-on as he groped her backside. They’d found a dark corner and she’d happily let his hands explore inside her panties. He was pretty sure she’d come, as she’d agreed to a date and they’d exchanged phone numbers. He felt confident they’d end up in bed together soon.

Call her later, he told himself. Life’s getting back to normal at last. Get my first jab, keep the boss happy.

His phone rang again. Maybe it’s Debbie. He answered it.

“NHS Track and Trace here,” a woman said. “You must self-isolate for ten days.”

Copyright 2021 Ian D Smith (ians2005@gmail.com). All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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