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Flesh and Spirit

Category: Mature
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Chapter 1. Last Chance.

“Sit down Gregory,” the editor said. When he called me “Gregory” instead of “Greg,” I knew there was trouble brewing.

He sat looking down at some papers pretending to read; definitely a sign of trouble.

After a couple of minutes of this he looked up at me, unsmiling, and came straight to the dismal point.

“We’ve all had our women troubles but we don’t let it interfere with our work performance.”

This statement didn’t seem to call for any response from me so I sat there abjectly with head bowed in what I hoped looked like humble submission.

After another pause as he bored through me with his sharp green eyes he went on, “I’ve counselled you twice already.”

“Counselled” is a management euphemism for “A bawling out.”

He picked up a piece of paper from his desk. Without being able to see it I knew my name was on it.

“Late arrival, failure to turn up at all, sloppy writing,” he intoned. “You’ve reached the end of the line. I should sack you right now my boy; can you think of any reason why I shouldn’t?”

I couldn’t think of any reason but I stammered out the same excuses I’d used before during the “counselling” sessions.

“Well, sir,” – I thought I’d better “sir” him for the occasion – “I…er…haven’t been feeling so…so…”

“That’s bloody obvious,” he growled, “but as I say, we’ve all had our women troubles but we get over them and it’s long past time you got over yours.”

“Yes sir.”

I think the “sir” must have had the desired effect because insofar as he was capable of it, he took on a benign look and said, “You started out very well, excellently in fact, and I thought you had the making of a good journalist.”

He paused as if expecting a response, but I didn’t know what to say.

“Now look here Greg,” – “Greg,” that was a good sign – “I don’t want to ruin a young man’s career but there’s no room on the City Daily for the sort of sloppy work you’ve been producing, that is, when you deign to make an appearance at all, but I’m going to give you another chance.”

“Thank you sir,” I gasped, feeling the knot in my stomach unravelling.

He raised his hand to stop my flow of gratitude. “I’ve arranged to have you transferred to The Hill Weekly.”


“No need to thank me, my boy, I just thought I’d take a risk and give you another chance.”

Thank him! “Bloody hell,” I thought, “why doesn’t he shoot me and be done with it?”

The Hill Weekly was an offshoot from The City Daily and to be sent there was like being cast into the outer darkness of weddings, funerals, church bazaars and the local flower show.

Sir returned to his former sternness. “Don’t think your going to get an easy ride, Gregory. Old Ned runs a tight ship and won’t put up with sloppy behaviour or work, so just get that into your head. You start next Monday so you’d better get ready to move. Now, I’ve got someone for you to meet. He’ll be taking over from you, his name is,” he consulted a piece of paper; “Ah yes, Ian Foster. He’s being transferred from The Hill Weekly and you’ll be replacing him there.”

My first reaction to all this humiliation was to resign on the spot, but I quickly had second thoughts. With my recent work performance and the sort of reference I was likely to get, who else would employ me? No, better to swallow my pride and await my time – see what the future would bring.

He said something into the intercom on his desk and sat back in his chair. “I suppose you’ll need time to tie things up, so today and tomorrow you can show the new boy the ropes, and then take the rest of the week off. I’ll tell my secretary to arrange some temporary accommodation for you at The Hill. You’d better start for it on Sunday, so we’ll take it from there, okay?”

“Yes,” I mumbled, omitting the “Sir.”

A young guy about my own age came in his face wreathed in a simpering smile. He was a thin seedy looking specimen, but with that eager go-getter glitter in his eyes. I hated him.

We were introduced and shook hands, his was hot and dry.

I was once more instructed to “Show him the ropes,” and I thought, “I know what sort of rope I’d like to show him.” Then we were dismissed, or partially so since as I got to the door I was called back.

The editor was benign again. “Listen Greg, get that bloody woman trouble of yours sorted out, do a good job on The Weekly, and you might end up back here again.”

I thought I’d better lay the ground for the future, so I said, “Yes sir, and thank you.”

He waved me out of the office.

That day and the next I spent showing the enthusiastic rat the ropes. I think he must have known about my situation because he was very truculent; boasting of his triumphs on The Hill Weekly and then crowing over his imagined literary conquests into the future.

In the meantime I had to try and settle things ready for my departure. The lease on my rented flat still had a couple of months to run so I had to forfeit my original deposit. There was my furniture to put in store and the rest of my things to pack. I also had to face mum and dad.

I managed to make my transfer sound like promotion; this would give my mother something to boast about with her church women’s group. My dad was a bit more cynical and muttered something about, “It’s that bloody girl.”

That “bloody girl” was Celia, my late fiancée. Two weeks before we were due to get married she had not simply called the whole thing off, but had disappeared with some guy who was going mountain climbing in Nepal or somewhere.

Imagine the chaos with most of the wedding arrangements made; and add to that my mortification, and while I’m at it I suppose I might make a further addition, my sexual deprivation. All added up to what I suppose was depression – a black despair; and now the final degradation of being transferred to The Hill Weekly.

Chapter 2. To The Hill.

I’d visited The Hill briefly once; a mining town set in the middle of an arid plain, a town populated by descendents of the Cornish miners who had come originally to work the mines for silver, lead, zinc and tin. Short, stocky and tough, and avid adherents of the trade union movement; what we call “Battlers” who had made The Hill there own.

The place looked like an older city suburb dropped down in the middle of nowhere. Dominating the city is a giant mullock heap, the waste of more than a century of mining; and would you believe, they’ve built a restaurant on top of it.

Like it or not, that was my current destiny; and like it I did not.

Sunday morning; the old Toyota heaped up with my gear, and me still seething with resentment centred on erstwhile Celia and a hardhearted editor I set off to meet my fate. Through the suburbs and the vineyards beyond, and then the wheat and canola growing country. Three hours drive and I reached the last frontier of civilisation – “Goodbye cruel world.”

Another five hours drive; sheep, a few cattle. Red earth, salt and blue bush with the odd tree struggling to survive in the infertile, dry clay, emus staring at my car insolently before springing away; the carcases of dead kangaroos and wallabies littering the road, killed by passing vehicles in the night as they stood mesmerised by the headlights.

“Just the place for a journalists’ concentration camp,” I thought.

And then a couple of hills that bore a distinct resemblance to very firm female mammary glands with erect nipples; then The Hill itself and the Hillorama Motel – who the hell thinks up these names?

The bright receptionist wearing her “Welcome” face but behind it a lack of interest. A motel room that looked like most other motel rooms, impersonally clean and tidy, its sole contribution to art being a picture entitled, “Bluebell Glade,” a scene not to be seen anywhere near The Hill, or anywhere in the entire country for that matter.

An odd choice of picture come to think of it; you see the mines were beginning to run out of things to dig up, and the city was having to consider its future. The tourism mania, that standby of many places losing their original reason for existing, had given rise to two main attractions; mining museums and a school of art known as “The Inland School.” Art galleries abound in the city, so why not a locally produced work of art instead of one from a far country on the motel wall?

I was travel weary and tired, so I took a shower and spurning the motel restaurant went in search of a pub that served meals. I didn’t have far to go because the city abounds in pubs as well as art galleries. They served a massive steak with vegetables (the pub not the art galleries), and after that I was too tired and melancholy to do anything but set my little travelling clock to wake me at seven thirty and go to bed.

Ting-a-ling-ting-a-ling. Bloody hell, surely it had to be the middle of the night, but no, it was seven thirty. I got up, showered again, shaving with great care and then putting on a suit; well, my only suit, to be honest; I had reluctantly decided I’d better make a good impression.

Breakfast in the motel restaurant and then my entry into The Hill Weekly before me.

I’d got the address of The Hill Weekly Office but you know what it’s like in a place you’re not familiar with. I found the street after wrestling with a motel provided city street map, but “Where the bloody hell are the offices?”

I was used to the concrete and glass offices of the City Daily so I suppose I was expecting to find the same; I was misleading myself. What I was looking for turned out to be a two story building that must have been built not long after the city was first established with something of that much favoured nineteenth century pseudo ancient Greek temple look about it.

I found a parking space with amazing ease, parked my car, then it occurred to me; had I known where the office was I could have driven there in two or three minutes, unlike the drive from my suburban flat to the City Daily, which involved heavy traffic and endless traffic lights. At least that was a plus for The Weekly.

I entered into a dark panelled reception area to be greeted by a singularly attractive young lady; “Another plus,” I thought, until I spotted the engagement and wedding rings.

She looked up at me and smiled. “Gregory Price to see Mr. Hargraves,” I announced.

Her smile broadened, “Oh, yes, I’m Angela, you’ll be the new staff member we’re expecting; welcome to the weekly.”

Her welcome was like a bright ray of sunshine lighting up what had been a long period of dark clouds. I stammered my thanks and was told, “Ned is expecting you, but he isn’t in yet, there are some magazines over there; go and sit down until he arrives.”

For a few minutes I pretended to read one of the magazines while surreptitiously looking around at the scenery, especially Angela. I hadn’t too long to wait. Suddenly a mountain erupted into the reception area.

The mountain failed to spot me and went to the reception desk. “Gregory Price is here, Ned,” Angela said, pointing in my direction.

The mountain turned and looked hard at me for a few moments, then approached with extended hand rumbling, “Welcome ter The Weekly.”

Crunch; I’ll remember that hand clasp for a long time. “I…er…thank you.”

“Come inter me office young fella,” the mountain rumbled.

We passed through a door that led from reception into the main office and then into a glass fronted office that I was to learn was known as, “The Sanctum.” The mountain seated itself in a massive old-fashioned swivel chair behind a paper strewn desk.

He studied me for a few seconds with shrewd looking blue eyes then asked, “What do they call yer?”


“Right, I’m called Ned.”

He took out a packet of cigarettes and extending the packet asked, “Smoke?”

“Er…no, I don’t smoke.”

“Good thing too.”

He took out a cigarette and lit it. There was something like a volcanic eruption that began somewhere deep inside him, finally emerging as a series of explosive coughs and gasps.

“First one…cough…gasp…of the…wheeze…day…cough, cough…gasp…always gets me…cough…wife won’t… gasp… pant…let me smoke at…cough…home.”

“Gawd, that feels better. Now…splutter…cough…your replacing young Foster.”


He fumbled through the pile of paper on his desk and finally selecting a piece, turned his attention to it. I knew it must be the report about me from the city editor.

“Had a bit of trouble back there, son?”

His first-cigarette-of-the-day paroxysm seemed to have subsided. “I…er…yes.”

“Yers, well, we don’t need ter go inter that, eh, old son?”

“Er…no.” That was a relief.

“Fresh start ‘ere son. Now…young Foster covered the City Council, and any city and regional stories along with Steve. Steve covers sport as well…I’ll introduce yer shortly…. Are yer up with the arts?”

“Well, at university I…”

“Good, good, yer’ll be the arts critic; local drama group, visits by the State Orchestra, art exhibitions, that sort of thing, okay?”


“Got somewhere ter stay?”

“I’m at the Hillorama Mo…”

“No good fer a young bloke. Yer need a home environment.”

He lit another cigarette and went into a modified series of coughs and splutters.

“Got a Mrs. Martha Tregilgas, a widow; we’ve used ‘er before. Young Foster stayed with ‘er and young Fletcher before ‘im. Fletcher gave ‘er a good report but Foster was always complainin’, but then, ‘e’d complain about anything. Very reasonable charges, good plain food so Fletcher said. I’ll give yer ‘er address and yer can go and see ‘er. I’ve told ‘er ter expect yer, okay?”


He scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to me asking; “Are yer religious?”

“I…er…did go to Sunday school.”

“Well just watch yer language because Martha’s tied up with the local church and she’s something of an influence in this town; got it?”


“Good, come on, I’ll introduce yer ter Steve an ‘e can introduce yer ter the others.”

He heaved his bulk out of the chair and led the way into the main office. There were several people working there and I was taken to a pleasant looking guy who proved to be Steve. We shook hands and I got another “Welcome to The Weekly.”

After making the introduction Ned asked, looking at Steve, “I suppose Foster managed ter tie things up before ‘e left?”

I saw Steve raise his eyebrows despairingly but he said, “Yes, in his own way.”

Ned humphed and said to me, “Yer’ll need time ter settle in son; take a look at Foster’s desk and then take this afternoon and termorrer off, okay?”

“Thanks, thanks very much.”

“Introduce ‘im around, Steve.” With that he lumbered off, not to his office but in the direction of reception.

Steve, seeing me watching Ned, grinned and said, “He’s off to pick up the latest gossip; its opening time.”

“Opening time?”

“The pubs; come on and meet Sylvia, she covers weddings and women’s organizations.”

I breathed a sigh of relief; no weddings or bazaars for me.

Sylvia was another decorative woman of about thirty who unfortunately also sported an engagement and wedding ring; “All things do conspire against me,” I thought. I got the “Welcome to The Weekly” again and a big pearly smile. We went on to Geoff, a man who looked as if he was in his fifties who covered the local advertising.

The other member of the staff present was a girl, Stephanie. She was seated behind a computer and proved to be Ned’s secretary. “Another possibility?” I wondered, but then saw an engagement ring. “Not a good outlook,” I thought gloomily.

“Come and see Foster’s desk,” Steve said; “have a look at what he was up to and by then it’ll be lunchtime. We usually have lunch over at the pub when a new member of staff arrives, a sort of welcome and getting-to-know-you session; our treat. You’ll meet some of the others.”

“Well thanks very much,” I said, feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I was taken to the desk that had been Foster’s and looking at the neat piles of paper I said, “I suppose I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.”

Steve looked at me for a moment, then burst out laughing; “Who told you that, not Ned I’ll bet?”

“No, but…but I met Foster before I left The Daily and he told me…”

“I’m sure he did,” laughed Steve, who was joined by Sylvia who had overheard our talk.

“There was one main problem with Foster,” Steve went on, “His mouth was bigger than his brain. We tried to cover for him for a while but Ned knew what was going on; he was glad to get rid of him.” He laughed again, “Ned’s a cunning bugger, he gave Foster a good recommendation in the hope that the Daily would take him, and they fell for it.”

“But he’s left everything well organised.”

“You can thank Sylvia and Stephanie for that,” Steve said, “They didn’t want you coming here to find chaos.”

I called out my thanks to Sylvia and Stephanie, feeling relieved that I wasn’t treading in the steps of a journalistic Messiah, then settled down for what was left of the morning to see what Foster had been working on.

Come lunch time I was escorted across the road to a nearby pub. As we went through the bar to the dining room I spotted Ned, apparently engrossed in deep conversation with an antediluvian grey beard.

“That’s Old Snoop,” Steve explained.

“Odd name,” I commented.

“Yes, we don’t know his real name, but somehow the old bugger gets hold of all the local scandal; you know, whose getting into bed with whom, whose taking bribes on the City Council or which trade union official is in cahoots with the bosses. For a couple of drinks he’ll spill the goods. Be a good idea to cultivate him.”

“I’ll remember that,” I replied.

We entered the dining room; I’d expected maybe four or five people, but there were more than a dozen seated at a long table.

“They couldn’t all come,” Steve explained, “the lunch hour is staggered, but you’ll get to meet the others in time.”

The drinks waiter came and we ordered our drinks. After him came the food waiter with menus and more orders were given. There were introductions but I couldn’t really remember all their names at the time, except for those I’d met before lunch.

Half way through the meal Ned stuck his head round the dining room door and called out, “A round on me,” and then withdrew.

“He must have got some hot gossip from Old Snoop,” Sylvia commented, “and he’s feeling pleased with himself.”

The atmosphere was very convivial and I couldn’t help contrasting it with my departure from The Daily. When a staff member was leaving The Daily it was usual for there to be a speech, a few drinks and the odd cold chicken leg. I had crept away unacknowledged. I must admit this welcome to The Weekly made me a bit tearful.

Chapter 3. Number Seven.

After lunch it was time to go and see Mrs. Tregilgas. I took out the paper Ned had given me and saw the address; 7 Trafalgar Avenue. Steve gave me incomprehensible directions on how to get there, so back in the car I studied the street map, and after getting lost a couple of times I finally got to Trafalgar Avenue.

Number seven was what must have been one of the early miners’ cottages, mostly built of corrugated galvanised iron and with odd additions tacked on over the years. There was a front veranda with a rather savage looking creeper growing over it.

I fought my way through the creeper to the front door and thumped on it with the lion headed cast iron knocker. There was a pause, then the sound of approaching footsteps.

I’d wondered what Mrs. Tregilgas might look like. The mention by Ned that she was very religious and a widow gave me the general impression of a thin, wrinkled, elderly lady of stern disposition; what I saw did not comply with that image in the slightest.

The first impression, and one that was born out on closer acquaintance, was that of a woman whose age might have been anywhere between thirty five and forty five. Dark haired, dark eyed and sparing the details, voluptuous of figure and ripe of lip. She did not look like the desiccated nun I’d expected.

I was so uncertain I had to ask, “Er…Mrs. Tregilgas?”

“That’s right,” replied an alto voice. “You’ll be Gregory Price, Ned told me to expect you, come in.”

I stepped into a dim passage and was asked, “You’d like to see the room?”

“Yes please,” I replied. I could see I was right about it having been a miner’s cottage. Originally it must have been just four rooms. I could see the doors along the passage but beyond them a step down into an extension of the passage. Mrs. Tregilgas opened the first door on the left saying, “This is it.”

You might say it was a front room, but the wall between this room and the next one along had been removed to make quite spacious accommodation. There was a single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, chest of drawers and under the window a reasonable sized desk. The floor was covered with a fawn coloured carpet.

After a couple of minutes viewing the room Mrs. Tregilgas said “You’d better see the rest of the place,” and led me out into the passage again. Pointing to the door opposite the one I had entered she said, “My bedroom.” When we came to the door of the room that had been made part of the room I’d just looked at she remarked, “You can’t use that door, it’s been sealed up.” The fourth room was announced as, “The spare bedroom.”

As we passed into the part that had been added she warned, “Mind the step.” There were two doors; “Bathroom and shower and toilet,” she explained. We marched on into yet another later addition and came out into a large room that spanned the whole width of the cottage.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it as it seemed to combine features of a lounge, dining room and office.

“The living room,” Mrs. Tregilgas informed me, “and through there,” pointing to an arch, “is the kitchen.” I’m afraid the laundry is a shed in the back garden.”

I surveyed the room. At one end were a dining table, chairs and a Welsh dresser; at the other end a desk with a computer on it and some neatly arranged papers; in between these two was what I would have called “The lounge.” It had two comfortable looking armchairs, a divan of considerable dimensions and a table with a television set sitting on it.

“Sit down and let’s have a talk,” Mrs. Tregilgas suggested.

I sat in an armchair and she sat opposite me on the divan.

Mrs. Tregilgas came across to me as a bit formidable. I’m six feet three tall, and although she couldn’t have been more than five feet seven or eight, I got the feeling that she was at least as tall as I was. It was her personality that gave this impression. She was one of those people who radiate energy; I could almost feel it like a mild electric current.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Well…er…it’s hard to…”

“Look Gregory – you don’t mind if I call you Gregory?”

“Er…no…but make it Greg.”

“Good, then you can call me Martha. Now look, nothing has to be set in concrete. We can give each other a try, and if it doesn’t work out… well….” She shrugged and went on, “I provide breakfast and an evening meal; you eat in here with me. I do the cleaning and your laundry but you have to make your own bed. I’m a plain cook, so if you want any exotic stuff there’s a Chinese and an Indian restaurant in town; you pay for that yourself of course. If you’re not going to be in for a meal I like to know and I charge –”

She mentioned a figure that surprised me. It was less than the rent I’d paid on my flat. I must have registered my surprise because she went on, “I don’t let out the room to make a profit. I take boarders because I like the company…having someone round the place. So what do you think?”

The place wasn’t luxurious, but I couldn’t afford luxury anyway; it had a comfortable and homely feel about it. I might get a flat or unit of my own later, and meantime despite Martha’s formidable personality she seemed to combine with it a motherly, comfortable aspect; but the rent clinched it. My guess was that I wouldn’t get such a good deal elsewhere.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

She smiled, displaying even white teeth. “Good, shall I make a cup of tea?”

“Yes please.”

She stood and went towards the kitchen; “Come and talk to me if you like,” she said.

I rose and followed her into the kitchen and I sat on a bar stool and surveyed her more carefully as she chatted about the “Young men” who had previously stayed with her; Fletcher and Foster of course.

She was wearing a cream coloured, casual, loose fitting dress that did not allow for any clear view of her figure except it was one of those dresses that seemed to hang from the points of her breasts and fall down in lengthwise folds to about knee length.

There was no other indication of the contours of her breasts, but they were clearly large and firm and it was obvious they were not constrained with a bra. This absence of a bra was indicated by the way her breasts moved as she went about preparing the tea. There came to mind the two hills I had seen as I approached the city, and despite learning later they were known as “The Peaks,” to me they were always “Nipple Hills.”

I felt a lurch somewhere in the pit of my stomach and a tingling sensation in my groin and knew that this presaged an erection. If this needs excusing then remember I was young, potent, and had been deprived of sexual gratification for some time – since Celia…. That was odd; the thought of Celia didn’t seem to hurt quite so much.

Recalling that in Martha I was dealing with a religious lady who would probably decry “the lusts of the flesh,” I tried focusing on other aspects of her appearance. The dark hair and eyes I had already noted, and these were set in a face that tended to be round rather than long, displaying a small slightly upturned nose and a generous mouth.

She was barefoot and her dress only allowed a view of her calves that were long and firm, and ended with a neat pair of ankles.

It occurred to me that I was not only studying a religious lady somewhat salaciously, but she was almost old enough to be my mother.

“Young Fletcher was very unhappy when he had to move on,” she said.

I was jolted out of my lubricious reverie and gathering my wits I asked, “And what about Foster?”

She paused for a moment, the corners of her mouth turned down. “Yes, Foster,” she said thoughtfully, “he wasn’t really happy here. I expect you’ll hear something about him at The Weekly.”

“I already have,” I grinned.

“Yes; I felt a bit sorry for him. He lived in a world of self delusion; you know, believed he was wonderful but didn’t have what it takes to back it up. If he’d stayed with me much longer I think I might have suggested he leave. As I say, he wasn’t happy living with me and, well…”

She broke off for a moment then went on, “I wonder how he’ll get on at The City Daily, he wasn’t doing too well on The Weekly.”

We went back to the living room with our tea and sat.

“What brings you from the Daily to The Hill and The Weekly?” she asked.

So she already knew I was from The Daily and I’d hoped she wouldn’t ask me that. I prevaricated; “Oh, The Daily editor thought that the change would do me good.” Well that was partly true but it didn’t deceive Martha.

She looked at me shrewdly with a half smile on her face and asked, “Trouble?”

“Sort of,” I mumbled, not looking at her.

“Not to worry,” she said, “Old Ned can be tough, but he believes in giving people a chance, especially young people. Young Fletcher was transferred from a daily after some trouble. A newspaper up north, The Morning News I think it was called. He’s a television journalist now.”

She became dreamy eyed for a moment and a little sad; then snapping out of it she said, “You’ll want to unload your things and settle in.”

“Yes, I’ve got most of them in the car but I left a few things in the motel; I didn’t expect to find somewhere to live so quickly.”

“You’ll be in for the evening meal?”

“Yes please.”

I unloaded my gear from the car, including my precious computer, and then headed back to the motel to collect the rest of my things. After that it was, as Martha had said, settling in time. By the time I’d tucked things away and set up the computer on the desk pangs of hunger began to be evident.

It can be difficult when you first move into a place that’s not your own. You’re not sure where you are meant to be. Do you stay in your room until you’re called for the meal, or was it okay to move around other parts of the house?

I stepped out boldly and went in search of Martha. On arriving at the living room I could smell the aroma of cooking and hear sounds coming from the kitchen. I entered and saw Martha busy over the cooking stove. She glanced up, smiled and said, “Come in and talk to me.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should…” I began to say, but she seemed to understand the awkwardness of newly settling in.

“That’s all right. I told you I like the company so feel free to use the rest of the place, but don’t interrupt me when I’m working at my desk…by the way, where did you put your car?”

“I left it out the front.”

“Ah, well, we have the luxury of a double garage, so why not park it in there? By the time you’ve done that I’ll be ready to serve the meal.”

I drove the car into the garage, constructed of course with the ubiquitous corrugated iron, and then noticed it was not only a garage, but served also as a workshop. There was a bench and tool racks and an electric drill, but from the dust on them it looked as if they hadn’t been used for a long time.

Returning to the kitchen I commented about the workshop and for a moment Martha went very still, then said quietly, “Yes, Harry, my late husband, was a keen handyman.”

She said no more and went about serving up the meal. Having taken in some of her physical attributes I now noticed how easily and gracefully she moved, almost like a dancer, and this was unexpected in one so voluptuous.

Buxom as she was she seemed to be bursting with energy and health and something more not easy to define, but perhaps a sort of animal sensuality best describes it. I was intensely aware of her femaleness.

I felt that little lurch in the pit of my stomach again and this time a definite erection. I gave myself a mental slap on the wrist and decided that the sooner I got to know some of the local girls the better.

“It’s ready.” I was yanked out of my ruminations. I realised I was staring at Martha and I think she knew it because she had a quizzical smile on her face.

“It’s ready,” she said again, offering me a plate of lamb chops and vegetables.

“Oh thanks,” I said, and followed her to the dining room.

I was about to start eating when Martha said, “I always give thanks before I eat.”

I felt my face redden. I’d been warned about her religiousness but this was the first clear sign of it. I bowed my head hastily and Martha said a brief prayer of thanksgiving.

As we ate she asked, “Do you belong to any Church?”

Why do people always ask the questions you don’t want to answer? “Ah, no, not recently, I er…sort of gave it up.”

An evangelical gleam came into her eyes. “Perhaps you could start again. A new job, new city and a new home” – she waved her fork to indicate the cottage – “meeting new people, it’s a fresh beginning for you. Why not let it be a really new beginning and return to the Lord?”

I almost made the gaff of asking her who the Lord was since I thought aristocracy was passé in our society, but just in time I remembered my Sunday School days and some of the lessons.

Having received no answer she went on, “Why not come with me to The Hill Saints on Sunday, you’ll meet lots of young people there?”

“Lots of young people,” that sounded promising. There might be some nubile girls interested in a bit of conviviality. On second thoughts, and continuing to recall Sunday School, I seemed to remember that saints foreswore the temptations of the flesh.

“Well…I’ll…” I began, but Martha interrupted:

“That’s good; we leave at half past ten Sunday morning.”

“Trapped,” I thought, and I could almost feel her missionary triumph.

Of course I could have refused or backed out at the last minute, but the low rent and the excellence of the meal persuaded me that it would be profitable to keep on the good side of Martha; at least until I was ready to move out into a place of my own.

It occurred to me that everybody was telling me what to do. I wondered if I was selling my soul for a mess of pottage (to misquote the bible), that is, if a job, low rent and Martha’s cooking can be defined as “pottage.” Perhaps it didn’t matter if they had my soul just so long as they left the rest of me alone.

Chapter 4. “Getting to Know You.”

In talking over the meals situation for the next day I pointed out that Ned had given me the day off in order to settle in.

I saw Martha’s eyes light up. “How would you like me to show you over the town and introduce you to some people you ought to know?”

Since contacts are frequently a journalist’s life blood I agreed to this.

“If we start out about nine o’clock,” Martha said, “I’ll be able to give you an overall look at the place.”

Since my one previous visit to The Hill had been a brief one I thought it would be useful to get a guided tour.

That more or less ended my talk with Martha for that day. She announced that she had work to do, but if I cared to watch television it would not disturb her. I thanked her and said I still had some tidying away to do.

What I wanted to do was see if my friend the computer had survived the journey without getting upset. When I booted it up it gave me its usual friendly welcome, and after playing with it for some time, and seeing it had come through its excursion without being disturbed, I put it to bed and did likewise for myself.

On the whole it had been a satisfactory day. The only immediate shortcoming was the absence of female comfort, but perhaps that would come to pass in the near future. It might turn out that some of The Hill Saints girls were not quite as virtuous as they were supposed to be. In the meantime I had to deal with my now pressing emotional needs myself.

As I drifted off to sleep I vaguely wondered how Martha would take my bringing a girl into my bed for the occasional night. I dreamt that night of a choir of naked girls singing religious songs.

When I woke in the morning to a strange room for a moment I didn’t know where I was. Orienting myself I thought I heard the distant hiss of the shower and then Martha moving around.

I put on my dressing gown and headed to the shower just at Martha was coming out in a state of dishabille, wearing only a night dress that was somewhat more seductive than might be expected in a lady of pious inclinations.

She smiled and said, “Good morning, did you sleep well?”

“Very well, thank you, and you?”

“Quite well thanks; breakfast as soon as you’re ready.”

With that morning interchange over she disappeared into her bedroom, leaving me with the impression – already formed but now reinforced – of a curvaceous body, and thinking it was a pity she wasn’t a few years younger, for if that had been the case my stay in number seven Trafalgar Avenue would have been very interesting.

Over breakfast Martha seemed unexpectedly excited and in a hurry to begin our tour of the city. I couldn’t imagine that touring round a city that she must have lived in most of her life could have given rise to this excitement, so I assumed that showing it to me was the cause. This seemed to be confirmed once we started the tour.

I quickly noticed that Martha seemed to extremely well known around the place and was treated with a sort of friendly deference. We looked at a few of the art galleries and museums, the unexpectedly lavish Arts Centre, the trades hall – a very Victorian building that despite recent redecoration still seemed to be impregnated with the cigarette smoke of past union gatherings – and the Town Hall, also in the nineteenth century style.

We lunched at a small café and as the afternoon started to fade towards evening, and I began to wilt, trying to keep up with the seemingly indefatigable Martha, she said, “We can take a look at one of the mines some other time, and there’s a special one some way out of town I want to show you.”

She glanced at her watch and said, “It’s getting late, suppose we eat at a restaurant?”

I readily agreed and she pulled the car up in front of the “Star of the East” Indian restaurant.

Without reading the menu properly I order a curry that turned out to be a raging, ferocious fire ball. Martha had ordered a bottle of red wine rather to my surprise since I supposed a lady of religious bent would forswear the demon drink.

As the tears streamed down my cheeks and my sinuses freed up, I tried to grapple with the demonic curry by drinking copiously of the wine, even ordering a second bottle to try and extinguish the inferno that was me. By the time we finished the meal I was still ablaze and slightly inebriated. The proprietor handed me a small certificate that announced that I had survived the curry ordeal. She went on to say that hardly anyone dared to order that particular curry.

Arriving home I flopped down into an armchair and proceeded to recover from the trial by fire.

After a while, and feeling a bit better, I found myself taking in the room in a bit more detail. When you first arrive in a place you get a general impression, it’s only later you get to the particular.

Martha was sitting in the other armchair reading what looked like some official papers. I wandered over to the desk and noticed a framed photograph of a man. It was a black and white photograph, but from what I could tell he had dark hair, dark eyes, was broad of shoulders and stocky.

Martha must have noticed me looking at the photograph and said, “My husband.”

I wanted to ask what had happened to him, but didn’t want to appear prying; Martha, however, answered my question without my asking it.

“He was a miner and he got killed.”


“They brought in a piece of machinery that got the name of being ‘The Widow Maker’ because so many men got killed using it.”

“That’s terrible.”

“Yes, they don’t use it these days.” She smiled and went on, “The old miners reckon the men who work in the mines now aren’t really miners at all, they’re mechanics and drivers. I’m glad those old days are gone. If you go up to the restaurant on the mullock heap they’ve got a memorial to all the men who died in the mines; there’s hundreds of them. Perhaps we can have a meal in the restaurant and I can show you the memorial.”

“Yes; they don’t serve curry do they?”

It struck me at that moment that Martha seemed to be anticipating that I would be staying with her for some time. My idea had been that number seven was only a staging post on the way to getting a small place of my own.

Martha interrupted my train of thought.

“We were only married for a short time before Harry got killed.”

“That’s very sad, Martha.”

“Yes; it wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d had a child; at least I would have had…”

She stopped speaking and I thought she was going to cry. I felt a bit embarrassed, especially as Martha did not seem to be the sort of woman who cried easily.

She seemed to recover and continued, “But life goes on and I’ve busied my self getting involved in local affairs.”

I took the risk of overstepping the mark and asked, “How long is it since Harry died?”

“Ten years.”

“And you’ve never thought of…”

“Remarrying? That’s what a lot of people ask me, and I ask myself, ‘Who could there be after Harry?'”

She sighed and seemed about to cry again, but didn’t. “I’m not sure that it’s true that there’s only one person for you in this life, but I have to admit that Harry was very special in my life. After he died and ever since, I haven’t had the heart to get married again.”

I thought of Celia and how I’d seen her as the love of my life; a love and life that had come crashing down. I noted, not for the first time, how thinking of her didn’t give me that pain in the guts it once had. What it did do was to remind me of my sexual deprivation and how I’d need to find myself a willing partner.

That led me on to wonder about Martha. Did she have a lover or lovers? Was it true what some people said, that women have a different approach to sex than men? Were they able to more easily manage without sex? From what I’d seen of girls, especially since the advent of the pill, they got as horny as men and could be just as promiscuous.

I shrugged mentally and hoped I’d find a few promiscuous girls at The Hill.

Martha seemed to have said all she wanted to say on the subject of her marriage and widowhood. She rose and said, “How about a cup of tea before bed.”

“Fine,” I replied. I was to discover that a cup of tea played an important role in Martha’s life, and was used to meet every crisis and predicament.

Chapter 5. And so to Work.

The next day work began in earnest. Foster had left some material, supposedly ready for the next edition, but to my eyes it was poorly written, so I did some re-writes.

Ned came in and asked, “Did you move in with Martha?”


“Good…good, I suppose you’ll be going with her to the City Council meeting this evening?”

The City Council was my responsibility and I hadn’t checked when the meetings took place, but I pretended I did know, but asked, “Does Martha go to the meetings?”

“Of course she does, she’s a member of the Council, probably going to be the next mayor – or would it be mayoress – better check that, we’ve never had woman mayor before.”

He laughed and went on, “When you have a man as mayor his wife becomes the lady mayoress. As Martha’s not married you might have to fill in; wonder what we could call you.”

He guffawed loudly and started to move away, but changing his mind he came back to me and said, “Don’t forget, Martha knows about everything that moves and doesn’t move in this town. If a bee stings a dog’s backside she knows about it. She’s as a good a source of information as you’ll find, so stick to her.”

“As good as Old Snoop?” I wondered, but kept the thought to myself.

Sylvia, who had heard our conversation, came across to me. “He’s right Greg, Martha knows it if anyone does. I often tap her for information; she’s a formidable lady.

“Yes,” I thought, “she does seem to know how to take over.”

I learned more about her formidableness that evening as I sat through the City Council meeting taking notes.

Much of it was quite dreary until they came to the subject of speed humps in Florence Nightingale Avenue. Councillor X proposed that humps be placed in the avenue. Councillor Y pointed out that Councillor X lived in the avenue and that this was the upmarket part of the city and as usual the rich got what they wanted before…etc.

Councillor X pointed to the dangers to the children in the avenue and the speeding cars. Councillor Y pointed out that there were hardly any children living in the avenue and there were other streets that did have a large numbers of children, and in any case the only vehicles that went down the avenue were those of the residents.

Councillor X got angry and asked if Councillor Y was suggesting that he, Councillor X, was engaging in an exercise of self-interest and trying to use undue influence. Councillor Y said, “Yes I bloody well am,” and the chamber went into riot mode with the mayor trying to restore order.

At this point Martha rose to her feet and said, “If it is a matter of self-interest I should point out that Councillor Y managed to get the new children’s playground constructed on the vacant block on the corner of his street, and he hadn’t raised his voice when his brother-in-law got the contract to construct it.”

“Here, here,” cried Councillor X, and Martha went on the point out that, “Councillor X had remained curiously silent when his daughter, who was singularly unqualified for the job, was made assistant to the City CEO.

The chamber lapsed into silence apart from the clearing of throats, and the mayor suggested that the matter of speed humps be left over until the next meeting. “In the meantime we can ask for a report on the traffic flow through Florence Nightingale Avenue.”

There was a general cry of “Here, here,” and without any decision as to who should make the report they passed on to the next business.

During the drive home I commented on the matter of the speed humps and Martha laughed.

“It didn’t really have anything to do with speed humps; it’s just that those two hate each other.”

“Why’s that?”

“Ah well, Councillor Y found out that Councillor X was having and affair with his wife. Councillor X went off and told Councillor Y’s wife and then all hell broke loose. Now, whatever one of them proposes in Council the other one opposes. It’s a matter of principle with them. You’ll see a lot of that.”

It wasn’t exactly the flood, fire, famine, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and wars of the Daily, but I thought I did have a story.

As we drank our late night cup of tea Martha asked if I’d like to go on Saturday and see the unusual mine that she’d previously mentioned. I said “Fine,” and so to bed after the doubtful excitement of the City Council meeting.

Over the next few days I started to pick up the details of my new job. I found that it not only covered events in the city, but took in the areas beyond. This mainly amounted to news about the state of the countryside as it affected the pastoralists who ran cattle; would rain come to break the current drought? If it did come would it cause floods and would the nearly depleted city reservoirs be adequately replenished?

Friday evening Martha warned me to wear only old clothes for our visit to the mine since it would be very cramped and dirty.

Next morning I put on my oldest jeans and T-shirt and found Martha similarly clad, only her jeans and shirt seemed to mould to her buxom figure more elegantly than mine did to me.

We drove out to the mine just in time to join a party of tourists about to descend to its depths. We were equipped with hardhats that had lights attached to them, and the guy conducting the tour looked at me and grinned.

“What do you know about Cornish miners?” he asked.

“I knew what he was getting at and replied, “They were short and stocky.”

“That’s right, so what does that tell you?”

“I’m in a lot of trouble.” I’m over six feet tall.

He grinned again, and the led the way down into the mine.

The opening was little more than a hole in the ground with some steps carved into the clay. We only got in a few metres when three or four tourists fled back up to the surface.

It was narrow and with little headroom and it had no props. It was pointed out that this was a technique used by Cornish miners; the walls and roof of the mine was self-supporting. I prayed that this was true – that it was self-supporting.

We had to duck and crawl most of the time and Martha was just ahead of me. In the light of the lamp on my helmet I could see her firm buttocks, her jeans stretched tight over them as she negotiated the various obstacles. I had a vision of what lay beneath the cloth of her jeans, and thought – if you will pardon my crudity – “I’d like to have her crying on the end of my prick.”

I decided this was a vain hope, and in any case we had come to the end of the tunnel. We crouched there as the guide told us about the silver that had been extracted and how it had been the first mine in the area. Then he asked us to switch off our lamps, so as to experience total darkness.

It was the darkest dark I’d ever known and eerie. I pictured those early miners working in what was no more than a hole in the ground, their only illumination being candles. I didn’t envy them.

We turned our lamps on again and returned to the surface by a different route, and I was damned glad to see the sun again and breathe the open air.

It had been an interesting visit, made even more interesting for seeing Martha from, as it were, a new perspective.

There was a rough sort of restaurant on the site so we ate a simple lunch there, and then made our way to the remains of a small town nearby. This, like the mine, had been the first community to be established in that area, but now little remained of it. Among the places that were still in use was a pub, museum and two or three art galleries that were occupied by some solitude seeking artists.

The other significant occupants was a herd of camels that wandered about the place, the descendants of the long ago means of transport used in the region, and now left to themselves. They plodded around just as they felt like it.

“We’ll take a look at one of the big mines some other time,” Martha said.

“What about tomorrow?” I asked.

She looked at me reproachfully and said, “Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day.”

Those firm buttocks were almost erased from my memory to be replaced by the stern Sabbatarian.

We drove home and Martha set about preparing and evening meal. While she was doing this I worked on my computer, writing up some of my stories for the Weekly.

Saturday night, and if I’d been in the city I would probably have gone to one of the city night clubs and raged on until the early hours. Not that I’d done much raging since Celia’s departure from my life. I knew that The Hill abounded in clubs, but they were not the haunts of youth like the city clubs where dope, booze and loud music prevailed; they were more the gathering places of families.

I thought about this, but oddly found myself not really missing the old haunts as much as I thought I would. I was actually looking forward to a quiet evening with Martha. Was I growing up at last?

And quiet it certainly was. Martha sat at her computer apparently performing complex miracles of accounting on the Excel programme. I had been warned not to disturb her when she was working, so my first idea was to go to my room and watch television on my portable set. I changed my mind about this; I somehow felt I didn’t want to be isolated from Martha so it was agreed that I could watch television in the lounge as long as I used an earplug or headset for the sound.

I’d not been an avid television watcher ever since I’d become a teenager, and now I found the stuff on offer was stupid – inane. I switched off and another miracle took place. I selected a book from Martha’s considerable library, and started to read. I got so engrossed in the story that I was taken by surprised when Martha announced, “Tea’s ready.”

I reluctantly put the book down. We talked over the day and I assured Martha that I’d enjoyed it, and boldly added that I’d enjoyed her company. The Sabbatarian image had faded again and the firm buttocks had been restored.

This change reversed itself again when Martha said, “The Lord’s Day tomorrow and church; good night.”

All very confusing.

She went off to bed and I followed her example, taking the book with me. I must have gone to sleep still reading it because when I woke next morning it was lying beside the pillow.

Chapter 6. A Wet Sunday Afternoon.

I got out of bed. A shower and then I had to make a decision about what to wear for the occasion. Remembering the adults attending church in my childhood I decided that my suit with collar and tie were appropriate, but when I saw Martha I wondered if I had miscalculated.

She seemed to favour the sort of garment I had first seen her in; loose fitting. I don’t know if she was self-conscious about her buxom figure and was trying to conceal it, but if that was her intention, she failed, and a damned good job too.

The knee length white dress she was wearing, like the first one I had seen her in, had that tantalising tendency to hang from the points of her breasts. Added to this was the fact that when wearing this sort of garment she never wore bras. If anything is calculated to stir a guy up, it is the sight of firm female mammary glands moving tauntingly beneath thin cloth as if mocking him and daring him to touch them.

I did my best to put on a going-to-church face and hide the erection Martha had inspired; with what success I’m not sure because Martha kept looking at me as if she knew what she doing to me and was enjoying it.

“It’s going to be a scorching day,” she commented, “don’t you think you’re a bit overdressed for it? We’re not very formal at church, you know.”

I took that to be a signal that I could wear something less strangulating, so I went back to my room and changed into a pair of grey slacks and a white open necked shirt.

The time came, and sighing inwardly as I anticipated an hour of boredom, I drove with Martha to the church.

I was somewhat taken aback when we entered the church. As Martha had said, their dress was not very formal; in fact nearly everybody seemed to be casually dressed. The people were not sitting in straight neat rows, as I remembered them from childhood. They sat in a semi-circle and out the front a group of white clad young people were gyrating and singing, accompanied by a pianist and a small band. The music seemed to a sort of soft rock.

“Hill Saints Youth Choir and band,” Martha informed me.

Soon the congregation were singing along, clapping and stamping their feet in time to the music.

When the gathering seemed to have reached fever pitch a man and a woman made an appearance. I had no idea how they arrived, they just appeared, rather like the demon king through a trapdoor on a stage.

“Our Pastor and his wife,” Martha said.

They wore no ecclesiastical robes, both being clad in jeans and T-shirts. Having arrived they began to regale us with all that “The Lord has done for us.”

After a while people in the congregation began to cry out in a way unintelligible to me, but the Pastor’s wife seemed to know what they meant.

“Our bother has just told us that the Lord is great.”

There were cries of “Alleluia” and “Praise the Lord,” from the congregation.

“Our sister has told us that Jesus saves.”

The cries were repeated, and so it went on until the choir sang again. After that, and to my amazement, Martha got up and went to the front. There she sang in a beautiful contralto voice, “Nobody Know the Trouble I’ve Seen.” When she finished there was more stamping and clapping.

She came back to her seat beside me, her face flushed and eyes glittering. Interspersed with all this were brief prayers that seemed to consist of thanks for this and that addressed to “Father.”

Things seemed to rise to a crescendo, and then the pastor addressed the gathering.

“I’m going to say a few things about the Holy Spirit this morning.” The “few things” seemed to spin out into many things, and with each of his declarations the cries of “Alleluia” and “Thank you Jesus,” burst forth.

To a boy brought up with a traditional religious background it was both bewildering and entertaining, and when I felt that about half an hour had passed I glanced at my watch and discovered it had been and hour and a half.

The speaker ended and there were more choruses. The emotions of the congregation seemed to rise to fever pitch. Beside me I could feel Martha trembling with what I supposed was religious fervour. There was another climax, a blessing was said, and gradually, with hugs and kisses all round, the congregation began to disperse.

It had almost been like an orgasmic experience. First the love play and the working up to full arousal, then the moment of climax followed by the descent from the height of excitation down to relative peace and tranquillity.

I say “relative peace and tranquillity,” because that was the state most of the congregation seemed to be in as they chatted and dispersed, but not Martha. She seemed to be agitated – charged up.

As we emerged from the building the day, as Martha had predicted, had grown hot, but it had become clammy as well. Looking at the horizon I could see dark clouds gathering and heard the distant rumble of thunder.

“Let’s get home before the storm breaks,” Martha said, so we made our way to the car, Martha clinging to my arm. She was still trembling and her face was glowing. She seemed to be little like the Martha I had come to know over the past few days.

When we arrived back at the house Martha had still not simmered down. Once inside she seemed unable to keep still and as she busied herself making tea I could see her hands shaking. In the meantime the humidity in the atmosphere had risen still further and it was a bit like being in a Turkish bath.

I was sweating and could see the beads of perspiration on Martha’s brow. With such weather conditions you might suppose that lethargy rather than activity would be in order, but not so with Martha; she continued with her almost frenetic activity, moving about doing seemingly pointless jobs.

She turned on a rather antediluvian air conditioner, but it was of such a type that although it might have brought the temperature down, it only added to the already nigh on insufferable humidity.

Concerned for Martha I asked, “Are you all right?”

She looked at me, her eyes bright, their pupils dilated.

“Yes, I feel wonderful, alive, energised. That’s the effect the church service often has on me, it seems to stir up a wonderful vitality; I feel full of love and …and…I want to give.”

It had begun to grow darker, and glancing through the window I saw that the storm clouds were almost overhead, covering the sun. There were vivid flashes of lightening, and the thunder that had been a distant rumble when we came out of church, was now crashing around the house.

“Didn’t you feel it,” Martha asked, “the…the spiritual awakening.”

“Well, it was certainly very lively and entertaining.”

“Lively and entertaining.” she protested, “didn’t you feel the power of the spirit?”

“I…I…well I felt something.”

“It says in the Bible that God “Will pour out” his “spirit on all flesh,” Martha murmured.

“Does it…er…yes of course it does.”

“Spirit and flesh,” Martha went on in a slightly dreamy tone of voice. “Men and women are supposed to become one spirit and one flesh, do you believe that?”

I had seated myself in one of the armchairs, Martha sitting on the divan opposite me. She had hitched up her dress so that I could see her thighs and that, together with her talk about “flesh,” seemed to make the situation very seductive.

Despite the debilitating humidity I had a very definite longing for some female flesh; specifically at that moment, Martha’s flesh. To be even more specific, that delectable flesh that resided at the top of her thighs just beyond my vision.

In answer to her question about men and women becoming one spirit and flesh, and mentally setting aside the spirit aspect, I replied, “Yes…yes…I’m sure that’s right.”

No doubt hypocritically I said a silent prayer, “God, let me become one flesh with Martha this afternoon.”

I’m not convinced that God answers prayers, especially prayers of the sort I’d just prayed, but as if in response to my silent supplication Martha patted the divan and said, “Why are you sitting over there? Come and sit beside me, I won’t eat you.”

I got up and on legs that felt as if they could hardly support me I crossed to her and sat. I drank some of my tea, trying to dislodge what felt like a lump in my throat, as Martha continued.

“You know, Greg, I think we sometimes deny the flesh too much, don’t you?”

I don’t think I had denied my flesh; it had been a case of my being denied female flesh by no choice of my own, but deciding it might be profitable to go along with Martha I said, “Yes…yes…I suppose we do.”

“I think that denying the flesh is an affront to God.”

I wasn’t at all sure about her theology and biblical interpretation, but I was sure I was trembling with overstretched emotions and croaked, “Yes, I suppose it is.” I failed to point out that priests, monks and nuns were supposed to deny certain aspects of the flesh.

Martha seemed to pick up on my train of thought saying, “There are some people who are destined to deny the flesh, to be celibate, but not me; how about you?”

“No…no…I’m sure I’m not destined to be celibate M-M-Martha.”

I could feel her, like me, trembling, and I was not blind to what was going on inside her. The dilated pupils of her eyes, and now the obviously hardened nipples that pressed against the cloth of her dress, and that indefinable but almost physically tangible female sensuality she exuded were sending out clear signals.

I wanted to kiss her, to reach out and touch her breasts, but we were at that pivotal point where only the boldest dare to risk rejection and make the move that might or might not lead to bliss.

My penis was erect, my body at screaming point in its need to find release from what Martha would no doubt call, “The demands of the flesh.” Everything about both of us was clearly in readiness for the great act of physical union between man and woman, and there we were, hanging between heaven and hell. One of us had to make a move, and I frankly admit I hadn’t the courage.

It was Martha who said and did what was needed. She was looking at me intently; her tongue flickered across her lips and she laid her hand on my thigh.

“I don’t think we should deny the flesh, do you,” she asked in a hoarse voice.


She waited no longer. She kissed me, and such a kiss; hungrily, her lips warm, soft and moist, tongue probing, thrusting and exploring. Then in a voice husky with emotion she said, “For God’s sake make love with me, Greg.”

There was no foreplay apart from the kiss, no waiting. She lay back pulling up her dress and spread her legs wide to expose her gateway to heaven. I saw that she was not only braless, but was wearing no panties. It only occurred to me later that Martha must have planned this moment even before we had gone to church.

I pulled down the zip of my slacks and without waiting to remove them I lay over her and guided by her hand entered that place of sweet joy.

At the first touch of her warm moistness I groaned with ecstasy. Martha whimpered, “Oh Greg…Greg.”

She was very soft and wet as I thrust down into her and when my full length was in her she flexed her vaginal muscle, wrenching another groan from me.

“Do it to me hard, Greg, hard…”

Even before I entered her I had been on the verge of ejaculating, and once in her I hadn’t the strength to hold back. Within seconds of entering that warm, sucking paradise, I ejaculated.

The storm that still raged outside the house was lost to my consciousness as the storm of my outpouring took command. I pumped weeks of frustration into Martha along with my seed, and as I was nearing completion Martha gave a sudden convulsive heave, cried out, “Oh my God…Greg…oh darling…no…no…oh no…aaah…yes…yes…oh God…yeooh…”

She pulsated under me, her legs wound round me, her fingers digging into my back as she gave way to an outburst of weeping. I had got my wish to have her “Crying on the end of my prick.”

The tension was flowing out of my limbs as I felt Martha relax under me. I became conscious of the world around me again. The lightening and thunder seemed to have passed into the distance, but the rain still drummed down on the roof.

Martha looked up at me and whispered, “The drought is over my love.”

Whether she was referring to the drought that had gripped the countryside for some time, or the drought that had been my sex life, and hers too apparently, I didn’t know, and at that moment didn’t care.

She went on talking dreamily; “I usually feel like this after attending the service in the church, it gets me so worked up and excited.”

I didn’t know what to respond to that so I said nothing as she went on, “It’s the way I like to spend Sunday afternoons.”

I found my voice and asked, “Do you mean you often do this on Sunday afternoons?”

“I used to when young Fletcher was here.”

“Oh, really,” then deciding to push a bit further I asked, “What about Foster?”

She laughed, causing my penis to jerk her vagina; “Him? God no, that was the trouble you see, he’s gay. That’s one of the reasons why we never really got on well.”

“Is…is that why you take in lodgers?” I asked.

“It wasn’t at first. What I wanted was someone around the place for a bit of company, but when I saw young Fletcher was interested…well, ‘Why not?’ I thought. ‘There’s no harm in it.’ Yes, Foster was a great disappointment, but when you came along and I could see you wanted me, well…now suppose we stop talking for a while and go and shower and then we might be more comfortable in bed.”

I thought she had a good idea since we were both drenched in sweat, and our groins were displaying all the results of our exchanged bodily fluids.

I rolled off her and she got up, and on slightly unsteady legs made her way to the shower. I heard the hiss of the shower and lay back on the divan contemplating the situation.

“Greg, my boy,” I told myself, “I think you’ve struck gold here – or more in keeping with the local scene, silver. She’s quite a bit older than you, but she’s got all the necessary qualities and equipment, plus I get a bit of motherly care and some useful information for the newspaper. This, I told myself, is about as ideal as it gets.”

I felt a sense of gratitude to Fletcher for having broken the ground for me in advance, and in some ways even felt grateful to Foster since I suspected that he had raised Martha’s frustration level to the point where it had been easy for me.

Another thought occurred to me; “I didn’t realise that religion could have this effect, I’ll have to take it more seriously in future.”

Martha came back into the room stark naked and looking absolutely delectable.

“I could eat you,” I said.

“Don’t worry, you will,” she replied. “Now go and have a shower and we can spend the rest of the afternoon in bed. I can’t think of a better place to spend a wet Sunday afternoon.”

We spent not only a wet Sunday afternoon in bed, but Sunday evening and night. By the early hours of Monday morning exhaustion had set in and we slept.

The afternoon began as Martha had promised, with me eating her – or at least part of her. Once in bed and with me lying luxuriously on my back, Martha opened the game by saying, “We’d better get to know each other properly.”

She began by sitting astride me, my length wedged between the lips of her vulva. I could feel the wetness as she rubbed herself against me. The she proceeded to work her way along my body, wriggling her sex organ over me leaving a trail of lubricant. Then she was lowering her vagina to my mouth murmuring, “You’d better get used to the taste because you’ll be getting a lot of it.”

I’d experienced giving oral sex to women before – in fact most of them insist on it – but had never really enjoyed the taste and smell. With Martha it was different. She smelt of roses and tasted like a mixture of vinegar and honey, a mixture my mother used to give me because she said, “It’s good for you.”

Martha’s mixture did me a lot of good since despite my already horny condition she aroused me to fever pitch. For a while she went wild, clutching my head to her and screaming and weeping, and then, almost before I knew it, she had my penis in her mouth, sucking hard.

She didn’t really need to suck because I was at explosion point, and let go a flood of sperm into her mouth. After that there was kissing, and yet another way of exchanging bodily fluids, but in reverse order since I tasted myself and she tasted her self.

Once that was over I contended myself with sucking on her ripe nipples until I got horny again. They tasted good too.

Now apart from mythological sexual athletes it must be generally conceded that the male has a limited range, whereas many females seem to be able to go on interminably. Martha was one of those types, but she did have some degree of compassion. When my supply of semen seemed to dry up she was content if I fondled her breasts, sucked her nipples and/or played with her clitoris.

By these means she seemed capable of having endless orgasms whereas over the ten hours of our actual contact I was only able to ejaculate into her four times. She literally set up a mental scoreboard and announced around midnight, “Greg four, Fletcher three and Foster nil.”

I don’t often win at games, but I seem to have won that game.

Chapter 7. Spanner in the Works.

I had the further satisfaction that on waking up I managed to give her another dose of semen. She said she liked to start the day properly, but Fletcher had not been a morning type, so I was yet another one up on him.

Yes, I had struck it lucky. All the home comforts at very little cost and I hardly ever had to make my bed since I spent my nights in Martha’s comfortable bed and her equally comfortable embraces.

The weeks and months passed and Sundays at church in the morning and in bed with Martha in the afternoons became a never wearisome ritual. I even began to find that the Sunday morning services had a very positive effect on my sexual appetite, effectively enabling me to keep up with Martha’s seemingly limitless desire for gratification.

I read a book recently in which the writer claimed there is a strong link between religious fervour and sexual drive. Strange that, because I’d always thought the opposite was the case, but now practical experience had demonstrated the truth of the writer’s claims.

Despite my initial negative feelings about The Hill and the Weekly I now felt as if I had arrived in a comfortable harbour.

As far as the Weekly was concerned my access to information via Martha gave me a constant stream of material. I also established a good relationship with Old Snoop; this was done by the purchase of beer for him. He had a fund of the more sleazy rumours that went around – always grist to a journalist’s mill – and acted as a supplement to Martha’s more polite information.

Martha added yet another dimension to my work at the Weekly in that she knew far more about art, music and drama than I did, and most of the reviews on these matters really came from Martha.

Ned, who rarely gave praise, declared himself on a number of occasions as satisfied with my work, so I seemed to be sailing along very nicely.

Perhaps you have noticed that God, gods, nature or whatever it is seems to have built something into the human situation. What I mean is that just when everything is going along nicely, someone of something drops a spanner into the works.

One such spanner had been Celia, but of course, I had long overcome that disruption. Now, just at the moment when I thought all was well, the unknown force, power or whatever it is decided to drop not one, but two spanners into my works.

I had been with the Weekly for about fourteen months when these spanners – one non-adjustable the other adjustable, fell from on high.

The non-adjustable one came via Martha. It was during one of our times of Sunday afternoon conviviality.

Martha, in a state of apparent euphoria said, “Well you’ve done it, Greg.”


“You’ve done what Harry and Fletcher couldn’t do.”

“Ah.” I thought she was referring to some superlative act of sexual acrobatics I had unknowingly performed. I was quite pleased with myself at being not only ahead of Fletcher on points, but even the beloved Harry.

Not sure exactly what this feat of sexual gymnastics had been I asked, “What is it that you liked?”

“You’ve made me pregnant.”

I thought at first she was joking, so I said in jocular fashion, “Well I’ve tried hard enough.”

Martha did not seem to pick up my jocose tone and went on, “Yes, I’d hoped but didn’t really expect it to happen.”

It was then I realised she was being serious.

“You mean you really are pregnant…that you’re going to have a baby?”


My world seemed to go into a spin for a couple of minutes. This was a spanner alright, and a non-adjustable one.

When I started to come out of the gyrations Martha was talking.

“What’s the matter, Greg, you’ve gone quite pale, aren’t you feeling well?”

“Martha…baby…pregnant…bit of shock.”

“Ah, so that’s it, you didn’t expect to be a daddy.” She laughed and went on, “Silly boy, I’m not asking you to take any responsibility. I know that you won’t be here for ever and having the baby is what I want. I’m just grateful it’s happened.”

“You are? But you can’t…I mean…not on your own…”

“Don’t be so stupid, Greg, I managed before you came on the scene and I’ll manage after you’ve gone, so cheer up and let’s get on and enjoy ourselves.”

I wasn’t in the mood to “enjoy” myself in the way Martha meant. I was bewildered, never thinking that Martha could get pregnant. My sole consolation was that Martha seemed to be happy about it, but it wasn’t consolation enough. Our Sunday high jinks were over for the day because despite Martha’s best efforts I couldn’t get another erection.

Over the next few days I continued in a state of temporary impotence as I tried to come to terms with the situation. I’m not trying to present myself as a virtuous male, but I had the feeling I couldn’t just walk away from Martha and what was on the way.

It was just over a week when the next spanner dropped. On the Tuesday morning Ned called me into the office.

“I’ve ‘ad enquiry from the Daily about you,” he said.


“Yes; they’ve just sacked young Foster.”


“Mmm; they want ter know how you’ve been gettin’ along ‘ere.”

“I see.”

“Do yer? Point is, young Greg, if I tell ’em you’re doin’ okay yer know what they’ll want.”

“No, what?”

“They’ll want yer back at the Daily.”

“Will they?”

“Yers, so what der you want son?”

This was the adjustable spanner. “Er…what do you want, Ned?”

“Don’t piss me about, Greg. If I tell ’em yer doin’ fine they’ll have yer back in the city. Is that what yer want?”

“I don’t know, Ned.”

He raised his eyes heavenwards; “Gawd, young blokes never know what they do want. I can put off tellin’ ’em fer a couple of days, so for Gawd’s sake make up yer mind. Now clear off and do some work.”

Martha pregnant, and now this; I didn’t know what to do. I used the only recourse that seemed to be open to me and that evening talked to Martha about it. She was about as helpful as Ned.

I opened up the subject saying, “Martha, they might be wanting me back in the city, on the Weekly.”

“Well that’s wonderful for you Greg.”

“What about you, Martha?”

“Me…what about me.”

“Well…you’re pregnant and I’m…”

“I told you Greg, it’s got nothing to do with you; it was me who wanted the baby. Anyway, by the sound of it you might be gone soon.”

“Martha, it has got something to do with me, I put it…I mean it was me who…anyway, do you want me to go?”

“It’s not up to me, Greg; it has to be your choice.”

“But Martha, if I decided to stay would we…”

“No Greg, it’s your choice so don’t ask me to decide for you.”

“Martha I…”

“No, you’re not a kid Greg, so be man enough to make your own decisions just as I made mine regarding the baby. I’m grateful to you for giving it to me, but I’m not your keeper or your mother to make decisions for you.”

Blocked off by both Ned and Martha I felt angry and frustrated. In a pique I didn’t join Martha in bed that night, but slept in my own room. When I say “sleep,” I mean I lay there trying to work out what I was going to do.

The nub of the matter was not the Weekly or the Daily, but Martha, and by extension the baby.

It came down to two possibilities:

If I decided to go back to the Daily, and given what Martha had said, I would probably never see her again, and never see the baby at all.

If I decided to stay with the Weekly, there were still not guarantee that my relationship with Martha would continue indefinitely, or that she would acknowledge me as the father of her child.

There appeared to be all sorts of other questions and is seemed neither Ned nor Martha were going to help me decide.

There was of course the question of how I felt about Martha, quite apart from her pregnancy. What did I want with and from her? Life had been good with her; that mixture of her being my lover and informant with a dash of the maternal thrown in had suited me. Was there any more to it than that?

Chapter 8. Decision Time.

When at breakfast I met up with Martha I might have wanted to rethink the maternal aspect. She was remote, and I suspected that she was angry because I had absented my self from her bed.

The day had not started well, and it didn’t get any better when I went into see Ned. Like Martha he seemed bent on not giving me any help in deciding on what after all was my future.

His face gave nothing away as he asked, “Well young Greg have yer made up yer mind?”

I’m not as convinced as Martha about divine inspiration, but in that moment something seemed to take hold of me. Very slowly and deliberately I said, “I want you to give them a negative report about me.”

Ned’s face broke into a grin. “Want to stay with the Weekly do you?”

“Yes, and The Hill.”

He eyed me shrewdly for a few moments then said, “It wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain city councillor as well, would it?”

I felt my face flush, and Ned, seeing this said, “You don’t need to answer that, son. I’m glad you’ve decided to stay, and…and I hope it works out well for you.”

He gave me a wicked looking wink, and said, “Go on, clear out and do something for the paper.”

I left his office feeling that I’d come out of some dark cavern into the light. I knew what I wanted.

When I got home that evening I was in a forceful mood. Martha had just started to prepare the evening meal, but I said, “Martha, I’ve got something important to say to you, will you come and sit down?”

She left the preparations and sat in an armchair; I sat opposite her.

Like Ned in the morning her face gave nothing away about what she was thinking and feeling. There was no point in prevaricating so I came straight to the point.

“I’m staying with the Weekly, Martha.”

“I see.”

“I want to stay with you.”


“Because I want to…and because I love you.”

“You’re sure of what you’re saying?”

“I’ve never been surer of anything in my life. Do you want me to stay?”


“Then why the hell didn’t you say so last night. You could have…”

“No I couldn’t. It had to be your decision, Greg. I wasn’t going to blackmail you over the baby or…or with sex, or anything else. I knew that what you had to decide was not only between the Weekly and the Daily; I knew it was also a decision about staying with me or leaving.”

“So, I’ve decided to stay. Can we extend that to our getting married?”

“I’m a lot older than you.”

“I didn’t ask about your age, I asked if you’ll marry me.”

“Being very male and masterful, aren’t you.”

Taking a leaf out of Ned’s book I said, “Don’t piss me around, Martha, yes or no?”

“If you’re going to use that sort of language then I’ve a good mind to say no.”

“I’ll reform.”

“Then yes. Kiss me.”

I kissed her and suggested that she didn’t bother with any more preparation for a meal and that we went to a restaurant. “I’ll choose the curry carefully,” I promised.

Chapter 9. The Last Word.

It was about three months later and I was bribing Old Snoop in the pub with a beer when he asked, “Words out Martha Tregilgas has got a bun in the oven, you live with ‘er; any idea who put it in ‘er?”

I grinned at him and said, “You’re supposed to give me the gossip, not the other way around. It’ll cost you a beer.

Reluctantly he paid for a round, no doubt anticipating he would be able to draw interest on what I told him.

“Now then Snoop,” I said, getting confidential with him, “I won’t tell you who, but I’ll give you a strong hint.”

“I didn’t buy yer a beer just to get an ‘int.”

“Well it’s all you are going to get.”

He sighed, exhaling beery breath. “What then?”

“There’s a wedding at The Hill Saints Church on Saturday afternoon.”

“So what?”

“Be there and you’ll find out.”

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