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Meet and Greet

This story is based on a true event but all names, times and locations have been changed.

 Meet and Greet

Heathrow airport was the usual frantic scramble as Sarah searched the faces around her looking for Fliss.  There she was, in her turn spinning slowly and scanning the crowd.

“Cooee – Fliss,– over here.” The two women embraced lightly.  “What a crowd, come on let’s get coffee.  You look lovely, is that a new dress?  The blue really suits you.  I had to come straight from the hospital; I hope Sammy won’t mind me meeting her still wearing my uniform.”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you turned up in a sack as long as you were here when she came through the gate.  Quick there’s a table, grab a seat and I’ll get the drinks.  Coffee Okay?”

“Yeah great, cappuccino if they have it but anything really.”

“I can’t wait to see them Fliss.  Three weeks seems such a long time.  Why do they have to go off like this?  When we were kids, a family holiday at the beach was all we expected and now all the students I know are going off to India or America or Thailand.  I really didn’t want her to go you know, then when you said that Tom was going to be there some of the time as well, it made it so much easier.”

“I know love.  Anyway from the post cards they sent it seems that they have had a great time and soon we’ll have them back here.  Back to college for both of them next week and a bit of normality for a while.”

“Lovely.  What time is it due, have you looked at the board?”

“Yep, on time, arriving eleven twenty seven. That’s only another fifteen minutes shall we have a trawl around the shops and then make our way over to the arrivals?”

“Smashing, but don’t let me spend any money, Dave’ll go mad if I buy anything at the prices they charge here.” Gathering their belongings, they threaded between the tables.

“Fliss, what do you think that means.” Sarah pointed to the information board.  “Look the arrival details have disappeared from beside the plane number.”

“Oh no, I’ll bet it’s delayed.  Typical. Lets go and ask at the information desk.”

The uniformed receptionist stared straight  ahead, she looked tense and As the two women approached, she visibly straightened and pinned a forced smile onto her lips.

“Good morning ladies, may I help you?”

Sarah took the initiative, “Yes please, we are here to meet some passengers on your flight from Mexico and the arrival time has disappeared on the board. Is it delayed?

“I’m meeting my daughter Sammy – Samantha Carlisle and my friend here is meeting her son Tom – that’s Tom Reddy.  They met up while they were there and then they are coming back together.  They’ve been there for three weeks.”

Sarah consciously stopped herself, she always gabbled in these situations, filling the spaces with totally irrelevant information.  “Giving too much away Dave called it.” As they stood a moment in silence the young girl in front of them glanced around before calling to a uniformed man standing close by.  “Mr Barr, these ladies are meeting passengers from Mexico.”

Sarah and Fliss glanced at each other.  They both had a quick thrill of disquiet.  This was odd – there was an electric charge around them, an intuition. They had unknowingly clutched each other’s hand.

“Good morning ladies, my name is Steve, Steve Barr.  I am the customer liaison officer, could you come with me for a moment.” Steve put his hand under Sarah’s elbow and gently began to shepherd her away from the desk.

“What, come with you, come where, we just want to know the arrival time.  Why do you want us to go with you?  What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry madam, if you could just bear with me for a moment; we need to go over here to the VIP lounge.”

Sarah glanced at Fliss, her brow wrinkled in puzzlement.  She spoke more firmly. “Mr Barr, all we need is the arrival time.  We have to get down to meet the kids.”  He turned and looked directly at her for the first time, “We have a little problem at the moment and it would be far better if you waited in the lounge.  There are already some other people in there and we want to speak to you all together.” Now, his eyes held the truth.

“Oh God.” Sarah’s hand flew to her mouth as tears sprung to her eyes and she gripped Fliss’s hand even tighter.  It was wrong, all wrong, this was not a delay this was so very, very wrong.

Dazed they followed Steve Barr across the terminal building, they no longer saw the hustle and bustle, all either of them could see was the smiling faces of their babies.  They sat together in the lounge clinging to each other’s hands, linked in fear.

Now, it comes: A uniformed employee appeared at the front of the room, a young woman in a nurse’s uniform stood beside him.  He tried a smile, it was forced and ghastly.  “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Peter Smart, I am a senior customer service representative.  We have asked you to come in here because I’m afraid we have some worrying news.”

Sarah gasped, her lungs had shrunk, she couldn’t get enough oxygen into her body, her heart pounded and the world spun.  She glanced at Fliss who was motionless, her face chalk white, tears streaming unchecked across her cheeks.

“Our flight from Mexico, which you have all come today to meet, has, at the moment, vanished from the Air Traffic Control Radar.  Somewhere a woman screamed, a man sitting beside Sarah groaned “No, oh no.”   Somewhere else in the room another woman spoke out “What do you mean it’s not showing on the radar, what does that mean.  Where is it?”

“I’m sorry at the moment we have no more information, all I can say for certain at this time is that the plane is not showing where it should be.  I know that this is extremely upsetting, we are doing our very best to get as much information as we can.  Please try and keep calm and we will be back to you with more news as soon as we have it.  Miss Kershaw,” here he indicated the nurse, “is here to help if anyone needs anything.”  With this, he hurried away leaving a room suspended in disbelief, denial and despair.

The sound of Ravel’s Bolero speared the air and in her pocket Sarah’s phone vibrated.  Automatically she dragged the tiny grey handset from her jacket.  The screen was lit, with a miniature picture of her beloved daughter, – “Sammy calling”.  She had jumped from her seat and was half walking, half-staggering to a quiet corner as she jabbed at the receive button.  “Sammy, Sammy is that you – Sammy.”

The line was weak and noisy but she could hear the precious voice “Mum, hello – Mum it’s me Sammy.  Mum, I’m so sorry, can you hear me? Don’t get mad Mum please.”

“I won’t get mad, are you Okay, Sammy is everything all right.”

“No, not really, I am such a fool Mum.  I missed the plane.  I am so sorry I went to the shops in town to get some last minute bits and then the taxi got stuck in traffic and we were late and they wouldn’t let me check in.”  Sammy was crying at the other end of the feeble connection.  “I am sooo sorry Mum, I can’t get another plane now until tomorrow and you’ve come all that way.”

“Is Tom with you Sammy?”

“Tom no – we were meeting at the airport.  He went straight from the hostel, I should have done that. He’ll be nearly home by now I should think. Mum I am so stupid, will you still pick me up tomorrow.”

Sarah looked up and back into the room.  She saw her dear friend in the middle of a group of other relatives.  Anguish swirled around them, unbearable pain was etched on their tear drenched faces as they clutched each other in mutual hopelessness.  The airline reps moved amongst them with lists of passengers from the downed airliner.

“Oh Sammy, I will be here, just come home.  I will be here whenever you arrive.”

“Mum are you OK, I’m sorry about this – are you alright you sound funny.”

Now wasn’t the time to tell her, she would know soon enough.  “I’m fine my love, just come home as soon as you can. Just come home now.”

**************************************************

If you enjoy short fiction don’t forget to visit our new site Literally Stories. 

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Connection at last. On and off and on and off and on and…

Well after one week on holiday and almost one week off line with a broken modem it seems like an age since I was last here.

I will now have to spend quite a time catching up etc.

So, for now I will upload a couple of our lovely, lovely holiday piccies and a story that I have just had published on Shortbread

The Northern Lights

(Fan Fic Alert – this has a bit of a nod to George RR Martin and his White Walkers.)

I don’t know who you are but there are things I must ask of you.  First though,   thank you for discovering these papers.  I can’t know what else you have found, what is left of me up here in this lonely place.  If what you have seen will haunt your nights and torment your mind then I am deeply sorry, I would not have wished for that.

Please, if you can, take the envelopes in this box and post them for me.  They are for my family in London.  My dear family who didn’t want me to come.  They never understood my need to travel alone to this remote part of Sweden.  They had long despaired of my incessant drive to seek out and see the wonder that is the Aurora Borealis.  Please send them my letters.  They carry my love and my regret for the hole I have torn in their quiet lives because of my obsession with natural phenomena.

I have been a seeker of nature’s blessings for years and have reaped bounty upon bounty.  I have thrilled at the vision of comets fizzing through the heavens.   I have watched burning dawns flood scarlet deserts, blue moons and dark eclipses of the sun that caused the birds to roost and the world to chill in the middle of a summer day.  I swam with rainbows of fish over reefs of glowing coral and I have walked into a glacier and marvelled at its cerulean beauty.  I have seen the green flash at sunset and the flight of cranes against the autumn sky.  My heart soared as I played with dolphins in tropical waters that twinkled with the glitter of magic.  Always alone, no dilution of the experience. There has been so much more and yet for me the crowning glory was to be the Northern Lights.

I meant no harm.  I wished to take nothing with me save my memories and photographs and, like the careful traveller I have always been I tried to tread gently on the precious earth. I don’t know what I did.  I don’t understand.

As I write this now, I can hear them.  The low, low hum of them coming and I have no more matches and the fire has died.  I have no light save that of the gibbous moon and I can hear them coming.

Last night I fended them off with burning brands.  They are afraid of flame.  I pray that whoever you are you have fire.  Guns are of no use, knives are helpless.  There was a rifle here when I arrived.  In a box and intended for protection.  It was no protection; only the blaze of living flame fought them back.

If you still have daylight, leave now.  Do not waste a second.  Do not believe that you will be safe, even if you are with a group.  Their numbers swell until the forest is obliterated by them and the air is alive with the thrum of their steps.

Oh leave, leave now and take my letters and tell them of the horror that is here and tell them that none must come.  Tell the world that these forests and these magnificent, sparkling fields are cursed and must be left to the terror that walks the snow.

May heaven help you and deliver you safely from here.  I am going to go out and face them tonight, I will not meet my fate cowering in the corner like a whipped dog but I am sore afraid.  Pray to your God for my soul.

I am going.

Holiday pics!!

sunset b

 

sunset a

 

shadow

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Lissa’s Flight

This is a sequal to a dystopian (sort of) story I wrote some time ago.  (Lissa’s Moment)

This is also available on Shortbread Stories

Lissa’s Flight 

Lissa felt old.  Her bones were tired and her soul was weary. Mama and Papa had been gone a long time now and she had spent countless years alone in the dark, cramped place where they had all existed. 

The three brief occasions when she had gone “up top” were her dearest memories.  In the deep of the night when the gangs roamed outside the draughty windows and the spotlights from the Enforcer’s wagons slid across the walls, scaring the cockroaches and scorpions she would close her lids and take her thoughts to the sun-kissed meadow and the startling blue of the sky. 

A dream, a memory and a wish. 

She fought to hold back the bitterness.  It was right that the young should go.  If there was any chance to save humankind it must be breeders who were shepherded aboard the ship that was ferrying them to the new place in the mountains. 

She had heard about it.  In quiet mutterings at the feeding halls she had heard whispers of birds and flowers.  The pilots came back with little pots holding soil and tiny struggling plant life.  She had never had the money to buy one but she had seen them and smelled the perfume and one magic moment she had stroked the delicate, pale petal of a bloom.  Soft it was like the worn fabric of Mama’s wedding dress. 

She had stroked a feather once.  The pilot had taken his payment for the tiny gift in a damp and stinking alley and she had bled and the soreness lasted for days but the memory of the slick softness under her fingers and the echo of freedom that the tiny plume held made the pain worthwhile.  After all there was no other man to take her and it didn’t matter any way. 

If there had been a man.  If she had been chosen to breed then maybe her children would go now to the place where the air was pure and the water ran gurgling and splashing through untainted meadows.  But there was only her and she was to stay and die in the dark. 

The ship left every twenty seven days.  When it was time the night was filled with the rumble of people carriers in the street.  Times she felt brave enough she pulled the blind away from the window and peered out into the darkness to watch the lights as the great dome doors opened and the ship lifted, smooth and majestic towards the heavens.  What would it be like to sit on there and to know that the daylight and the sunshine and the birdsong were to be your everyday?  How would it feel to know that the starlit cupola of night could be viewed whenever the mood was upon you? 

Tears leaked from under her wrinkled lids.  Her heart cracked just a little more as she regretted yet again the dark sheen of her hair.  Hair that Mama insisted was beautiful.  How could it be when the shadowed softness was the very reason that she had not been chosen to breed.  If her curls had been golden then she would have been allocated a mate, then she would have seen tiny babies with pale skin and blue eyes running to her in the family sector and maybe she would have been chosen to go with them as a carer. 

The gong was sounding.  The golden couples and the blessed babies would be on board and soon the sky flaps would open and the great ship would leave again.   They called it an ark from some left over story from the “Other Times” an echo of a myth about escape and salvation – it had another name. Noah. Noah’s Ark.

 She dragged back the blind and pried open the creaking windows.  The shouts of the enforcers were instant but she paid them no heed.  She was old and tired and sad and she would go now when the Ark left, she would go to the mountains and the meadows and the bird song.  Her old joints complained as she clambered onto the ledge unused muscles quaking in the darkness.  Arms outstretched like the pictures of the birds Papa had shown her she waited for just the right moment.  As the engines fired and the magnificent ship lifted towards the heavens Lissa flew from the ledge into the darkness and found her sunshine. 

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Sky Clad

This silly piece is also on Shortbreadstories

Sky Clad

“Call to order – case number five hundred and thirty three.”

“Good morning, please state your name.”

“Aye lad, it’s a grand mornin’. Ernest ‘igginthorpe yur wurship.”

“I’m not a Judge Mr Higginthorpe. Please address me as sir.”

“Aye lad, right y’ are.”

“Mr Blunt, could you ask your client not to address the bench as ‘Lad.’”

“Sorry sir.”

“Now then Mr Higginthorpe do you understand the charge against you.”

“Aye lad I do.”

“Mr Higginthorpe do you think you could see your way to addressing me as sir. Could we agree on that.”

“Aye, aye lad – sir it is.”

“Your current address if you would.”

“Thirty one Church Cottages.”

“That would be the retirement community I believe?”

“Aye, them ticky tacky boxes up where Altorpe’s Mill used to stand. Barely room to swing a cat.”

“Yes, well that’s as it may be and is not the issue before us today. You are here to answer a charge of public indecency and lewd behaviour. How do you plead?”

“Well I don’t know lad, I mean really, were it really lewd. If yon lass ‘andn’t appened by in her silly little car there’d a been no ‘arm done now would there.”

“By yon lass I assume you are referring to Police Constable Braithwaite.”

“Aye, oh so’s she’s a Braithwaite is she. Reckon I knew her granny she were another as couldn’t mind ‘er own business an’ all. Pokin’ ‘er beak in where it didn’t concern ‘er. Known for it she were.”

“Mr Higginthorpe please keep your comments to yourself and simply answer the questions put to you.”

“Aye, right ho lad. As you were.”

“Now, the charge reads that you were seen by Constable Braithwaite in the High Cliff reservoir in a state of undress, cavorting with another person. It may be best if you simply tell me exactly what happened?”

““Aye lad. It were a luvly day and me and our Marian went up t’reservoir . We’ve been goin’ there nigh on fifty year now an’ it’s about t’only place as is unspoiled being as not so many folks go up there with it bein’ a bit of an ‘ike.

“Anyroad, our Marian sez to me, ‘Eh our Ernest we’ve bin cummin’ ‘ere some years now.’

“We ave I sez.”

‘Ernest sez she, ain’t it queer ‘ow you never feel any older inside. I mean ya look in t’looking glass and there’s all them wrinkles and sags and then you come somewhere like this and you could be sixteen agen.’

“Aye lass that’s true.”“

“an’ that were it lad, she starts unfastenin’ ‘er frock and grinnin’ at me and so on and I thought, well there’s a bit of a stiff breeze but why not.”“

“So, it was your wife who instigated the nakedness?”

“Well, I don’t know about no instigrat… whatever you sed but it were our Marian who took ‘er stuff off first and then I did, just to keep ‘er ‘appy as it were.”

“So, you then proceeded to swim naked in the reservoir.”

“Well, it were more splashin’ about than swimmin’ never been much of a swimmer ‘asn’t Marian but eh lad it were just a bit of fun.”

“Mr Higginthorpe it seems to me that your behaviour was indeed lewd and indecent.”

“Well, I dun’t know about that lad. When ya get to our age, knocking on an’ mindin’ trams you have little enough in life and I don’t reckon there were owt indecent – it were nobbut a bit a skinny dippin.”

“Is your wife, erm Mrs Marion Higginthorpe not in court today?”

“No lad, she’s not. She’s up in t’churchyard.”

“Oh, we were not informed. Please accept my condolences, I didn’t realize your wife had passed on.”

“Passed on? Oh I see. No, she’s not brown bread, bless yer ‘eart. No, she’s found a spot up behind that big marble mausoleum, proper little sun trap she sez and she’s up there getting her bit’s brown.”

“Mr Higginthorpe am I to understand that your wife is presently sunbathing naked in the churchyard rather than attending her summons in court. Is she not aware of the difficulties she is calling down upon herself?”

“Oh, don’t be upset lad. She’s not daft our Marian. No, she’ll be fine. She’s wearing factor fifteen and nipple cream, if you’ll excuse me your worship sir. No, she’ll be fine.”

Read more: Short Story: Sky Clad | Shortbread

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James McEwan – Shortbread Stories

A quick plug for this new anthology published by Shortbread Stories writer James Mc Ewan.

If you like shorts why not have a look and James has pledged a donation to Shortbread if his books sells well.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Listener-Anthology-Short-Stories-ebook/dp/B00LEEHIGU/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404290991&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=the+listener+by+james+mc+ewan

 

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Aftermath

She is gone and the rooms have grown into great void caverns.  The silence resounds and I feel that I will be lost in the empty spaces.  Leaving, on the drive she paused and turned and blew a kiss, an old-fashioned and charming gesture that took my breath leaving me gasping from emptied lungs.  The great car, a leviathan in black with glittering chrome and dusky windows, a monster of a thing made wonderful by her hands at the wheel and her slender feet against the pedals drew away from the curb and I watched until it turned at the corner and became a memory.

The door slammed into the silence and I leaned my back to the wood and slid, slowly and ungraciously to the floor.  Hugging myself in delight and disbelief I re-lived every moment of this chaotic, desperate, storm laden day.  From the moment we met in the coffee bar, the invitation to share a table for a lunch.  There followed the devastation at the discovery of a husband and the subsequently dreadful meal.  Her mistaken assumption that my distress was due to illness whereas in truth it was the shattering of my heart.  The revelation of marital discord, the whole parade of events that brought her here to my home, my kitchen, sitting at my table.

As I loll against the wood, surrounded by the ticking of my great clock and the creaking of central heating the day gives way to evening.  The shadows grow and the familiar noises of returning commuters drag me back to reality and to the need to move lest the numbness in my legs  render me lame and limping.  I don’t want to limp, I don’t want to feel my age.  She is young, so very much younger than I am with a lithe and supple body and shining hair.  Passing the hall stand I avert my eyes from the mirror.  Wrinkles, sagging muscles and dulled eyes have never bothered me until I start to imagine how she sees me.  As her mother, her grandmother surely not, but then again just what is the age difference.  Turning back I approach the glass that gleams in the fading daylight.  There it is, my old face, the creases and wrinkles undeniable.  My hair styled for practicality rather than glamour and my eyes, are they rheumy behind my sensible spectacles.

The sobbing starts before I even acknowledge the sadness and in moments my eyes stream tears that run and cascade across my flabby cheeks.  I rub at the moisture and try to control the outburst.  Where has this come from, could I really be ill.  No of course not.  I am overwrought by the events of the last few hours and more, so much more than that I am reduced by the knowledge that this wonderful stranger is most probably beyond my grasp.  Cruel, cruel that I should find her now in the gloaming of my days and have to acknowledge that she is for me, so very, very far out of reach.

I banister drag myself up the stairs and throw myself across the duvet and so give way to a torrent of self-pity and hopelessness.  For the first time in my life I feel the years crushing me and I wail for the past and for the loss and for the pain of it all.

 

This is a stand alone piece taken from one of the chapters of my novel Who Follows.  It is again one of my shorts on Shortbreadstories

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Just one of my Shortbreadstories

Through My Eyes I See It. 

The trees in the park are glorious. Like a magnificent pavan they unroll as far as these old eyes can see; their ball gown finery, gold and russet and crimson billowing and tumbling in the breeze. The pain is good this morning. It is there prowling like a great bear around the battlements but for now at least the drugs repel it. Soon though the other assaults will begin, first on my physical self, and then on my poor addled brain.

Here she comes now the “care assistant” who in truth needs some assistance to care. Bright and brittle in lavender and body odour. Brace for the first wave of attack.

“Oh Amy, what are you doing sitting here all on your own? Let’s pop you with the others so that you can watch something more interesting. It’s no good you just staring out of the window at nothing all day.”

Staring at nothing, the billow and wisp of cloud, the glorious, glorious trees and the oceanic swells of winter wheat rushing before the wind. “Staring at nothing.” And she will take me and “pop” me before that abomination; the television. She will line me up with the others ogling in aquatic dumbness at the flashing colours. How I hate it, the joyless laughter, the high priestesses with their pregnant pauses and their pregnant bellies and the ignoramus hoi polloi giggling and flirting, leaping into mutual degradation all for their fifteen minutes and a free holiday.

Don’t “pop” me anywhere you lavender suited storm trooper. Leave me in peace with the song of the birds and the glitter of the frost where it lays encrusting spider webs beneath the hedge. Treacherous vocal chords gurgle and splutter. Outraged obscenities transmute into meaningless drivel and so I am duly “popped”. The second invasion approaches, there is nothing in my arsenal with which to repel.

“Hello Amy, it’s Thursday.”

Good God Mrs Wilkins you don’t say, a revelation beyond all expectations.

“My Gerry comes today. He comes every Thursday without fail. He’s such a good boy.”

First of all you overblown dollop he is not your Gerry. He is Gerry who belongs to the world, he has a wife, a life and a reason to be. He can wash himself, shave his flabby fat chops and presumably grope ineffectively at his wife in the dark to produce his disgusting progeny. He is not a good boy, he is an avaricious little man who comes every Thursday in the hope that you will have expired on Wednesday night and the home haven’t had a chance to tell him. He comes so that he can pack up your feeble belongings and once and for all put this whole miserable responsibility behind him.

“It is a shame that you never had any children Amy, they are such a comfort.”

Comfort my arse you silly old fool. A cushion is a comfort. Hemorrhoid cream is a comfort, Gerry is a cretin.

Now, it comes, the deepest torture. Another careless carer, her mind on bus stop gropes with spotty youths and illicit fags in darkened corners, will spoon pap into my gullet. Bang the spoon on my teeth again you moron and I swear I’ll somehow find the wherewithal to bite your hand. Oysters fresh from the sea in the South of France. Tender pasta robed in piquant sauce bejewelled with fiery peppers and bread still warm from the boulangerie. Drooling peaches and sun-filled melon with a Bacchanalian of sparkling white Bourgogne sipped from crystal goblets as the heat of the day bleaches the hills and diamonds sparkle in the bay. I can’t bear it, not another minute, not another mouthful, jelly and juice and plastic, oh god.

The outsiders approach. The floral tributes, chocolates, pictures of grandchildren. The hugs and kisses, grinning rictus and off set embraces. No don’t come over here, please don’t.

“Hello Amy, how are you today? You’re in the best place there’s a nasty wind out there and you’re lovely and snug.”

A force seven gale off the ocean, lifting my hair, gluing the clothes to my legs and startling tears from my eyes. His hair lifting and flicking as he smiles down at me, the two of us thrown together by the force of nature; external and internal. His arms a harbour, his broad chest my haven, and the warmth of his body welding us together in the blasted sunshine. The sudden silence behind a hedge, and the glory of daytime lovemaking. His tears, my tears, the ghastly separation as he leaves for the airbase, and the violence of waiting for his return. The devastation, the emptiness, and the total loss of reason when he is gone, and then the wretched years of decline becoming this traitorous slug of a body slumped in a dung heap home waiting for release.

He is here, he has come, it is time, thank God it is time.

“Nurse, excuse me nurse, can you come quickly and look at Amy I think there’s something wrong.”

Ah no for the first time in decades something is wonderfully right.

Read more: Short Story: Through My Eyes I See It | Shortbread

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The River

I know I have posted this before but it is now out of the exclusivity period on Shortbread so I thought I’d give it a another airing.  Don’t forget it you want to help to support this super short story site all the royalties from my humour novel Rags’ Riches are going to the site until the end of the year.

The River 

The clamour of the hand bell echoed through corridors and hallways, it was followed in an instant by the scrape and thud of thirty pairs of assorted boots and shoes on the bare floorboards of the Classroom. 

 Miss Robinson stood from her chair and removed her specs.  They fell to the end of their chain and swung gently over her ample bust.  “Thank you Class Four collect your things.  For homework today I want you to write an essay.”  None of the children actually groaned but Jed noticed one or two pairs of eyes rolling heavenwards.  For him there was a flutter of excitement deep in his stomach, he loved essays.

 “Your work is to be entitled “The River” and is to be at least five hundred words. Hand it in tomorrow.  Now bow your heads for the prayer.”  Thirty heads bowed in unison and the mutter of childish voices tried to find a way to whatever God looked down on this benighted part of Yorkshire.

As they filed out, each of the children took a sheet of cheap paper from the corner of the teacher’s desk “Cn I tek a spare bit Miss.” 

“Yes Jed of course you may.” The language correction was kind and subtle, these children had more to think about than that.  Many of them had hard lives and this one harder than most.  His mother dying in childbirth left him to live with a vicious tempered step-father, who, if his teacher were right, caused many of the bruises on that young skin each day.  Surely, she told herself yet again, he was better off in his own little terraced house, squalid and difficult as that might be than up in “The Home” with the other orphans.  She closed her eyes briefly, and prayed anew that her reluctance to interfere was the result of kindness and not, as she often suspected cowardice. 

Jed ran down the cobbles.  The story was already forming in his mind. If only Barry dun’t belt us agen tonight it’ll be lovely, grand.   He could loose himself in the magic of words.  Ah shud be awright, Ah sided up in t’scullery afore school and cleaned up after t’pigeons.  Ah peeled t’spuds and med beds.  I did it all din’t ah.

 He ran round the corner, down the passage and lifting the flagstone, he grabbed the big old back door key.  Smash, like a jug of iced water the shock hit him as he stepped into the grimy room.  There on the table lay Barry’s good shirt.  “Ya lazy little tyke, wash this afore ya go gadding of ta bloody school or I’ll know the reason why.” The words echoed in his head rebounding from the greasy damp walls and hovering like a crowd of violence above the pile of grimy cotton cloth on the table.  He glanced at the clock, ten past four, it was warm and sunny and Barry wasn’t due home until about six.  He muttered to himself.  “If ah wash it quick now and hang it in t’yard it’ll appen dry afore e comes in.”

Lighting a fire Jed boiled water in the big old kettle.  Then he scrubbed at the stained collar as hard as he could with the heavy piece of green soap and finally hung the shirt on the piece of rope strung across the yard.  On his way back into the house he opened the pigeon loft to let the birds out for their evening flight. 

 The clock ticked ponderously, the only other noise in the dim room was the gentle shush of pencil lead as it laid down its magic on the grey paper.  Tic tic tic.

 With a resounding crash, the world exploded, “Ya little shit, ya lazy good for nothing toe rag” the words brought with them the thud of a fist against a childish skull and the clatter of a chair as the young body shuddered onto the lino.

 “Barry, yur early, wot’s up?”  Jed tried his best not to sob as he wiped at the little trickle of blood sliding down the side of his head.

 “Wot’s up? wot’s up?  I’ll tell ya wot’s up ya useless piece of lard.  Look at this.  Me good shirt covered in pigeon muck.  I told ya, I told ya this morning tek it in afore ya lets birds out.  Did ya listen? did ya buggery.  Too busy wi yur namby pamby writin aren’t ya?”  With this the great hand reached out to snatch up the piece of paper on the table.  He threw it into the grate and the remains of the fire lighted earlier.

 Jed leaped forward but it was hopeless.  As he watched, tears half blinding him, the reeds and the riverbank, the dragonflies and water voles, all the wonders in the little world of his creation were gobbled up by the greedy flames.

 The thin childish hand reached out and the bony fingers wrapped around the handle of the poker.  With a scream half child, half animal, he turned and whacked as hard as he could at his step father.  Again and again his arms flashed back and forth and as Barry fell to the floor he bent and kept on bashing and belting until again all that could be heard was the old clock.  Tic tic tic.

 Now there was just the sound of the pencil lead as it laid down its magic on the piece of paper.

 The River

 I can see the river before me, it is red, if flows in tiny rivulets along the cracks in the lino.  The source is beyond my vision but it creeps ever nearer to the door where it will form a crimson waterfall over the steps.

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Shortbreadstories

http://www.shortbreadstories.co.uk/competitions/view/the_good_bad_and_ugly_of_valentines/#axzz2taAGaxyC

 

and don’t forget any royalties from Rags’ Riches until the end of the year will be donated to the site.  So buy Rags and BOGOF with a freebie of Home Sweet Home for the next two days.

 

 

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Rags’ Riches and Shortbread

From today any royalties I make on the ebook Rags Riches will be donated to Shortbreadstories.

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