Monday, 24 April 2017

Brief History Of ...

Richard Shaw

brandy Alexander  

April 1588. Maurice Kyffin paced up and down his writing study. He brushed his chin thoughtfully with the feather of his favourite quill. 
 
       'I need something,' he said out loud to himself, and then his voice trailed off. 
 
       'In my stories, I need something to denote,' but then he sighed in exasperation, and again he left the sentence unfinished.
 
       'The problem,' he said, addressing the inkwell and vellum on his desk, 'is that there are only so many ways to say ‘his voice trailed off’, or ‘he left the sentence unfinished’ without repeating myself. What I really need is something…'
 

About the author 

Richard Shaw lives in Solihull with his wife, two children, two cats and two goldfish. As a hobby he sells second hand books at www.ricksbookbasement.co.uk
 
 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Workmates

Roger Noons


a mug of builder’s tea


A pale February light crept through the window. At a table in the corner two men played cribbage. The peg board held broken match sticks, like bonsai boles after a hurricane.
    The wife of the white-haired man brought mugs of tea and a plate layered with arrowroot biscuits. Neither player acknowledged her nor uttered thanks. Concentration was paramount and although no fragment of weekly pension was being risked, pride overflowed the kitty of counters. The outcome was as important as any cup final.
    They had played two afternoons each week since they retired from working at adjacent lathes, wearing identical bib and brace overalls, though different-sized steel toe-capped boots. The venue was always Jack’s bungalow as Harry, a widower, lived with his unmarried daughter who treated their dwelling as a prestigious museum. Every surface displayed an exhibit and no speck of dust endured for longer than ten seconds. Harry was embarrassed to invite his friend and Jack was nervous to accept. Maisie, Jack’s wife, was happy. Her husband was contented and Harry, for whom she’d always had a soft spot, received a few hours peace.

That late winter afternoon Maisie took a phone call from Harry’s daughter.
    ‘Maisie, its Dawn, I’m afraid Dad won’t be coming today, he’s had a funny turn. I’m waiting for the doctor to come.’
    ‘Oh dear, sorry to hear that, please let us know what the doctor says, and of course if there’s anything we can do—’
    ‘I’ll ring you as soon as I know something.’

Jack couldn’t settle. As soon as Maisie had told him, he was like a moth with a myriad of lights. He went into his greenhouse but could find no chore that needed his attention. In the shed he picked up a saw, but his hand was shaking so couldn’t risk damaging it or the wood he was working on. Maisie made him a cup of tea, but it sat on the table adjacent to his armchair.
    ‘I wish she’d ring,’ he said to himself, but loud enough for Maisie to hear.
    ‘Sit down, Dawn will let us know as soon as there’s some news.’

The five o’ clock news bulletin had just begun when the telephone rang. Jack snatched it from its cradle. ‘Yes?’
    ‘It’s Dawn, the doctor says it was a stroke and he’s rung for an ambulance—’
    ‘Right, you go with him and I’ll bring the car and come and find you at the hospital.’
    ‘Thank you Jack.’

The reception desk at The Royal was staffed by volunteers. It was twenty minutes before a sympathetic woman was able to locate the patient. She told Jack that his friend was still undergoing assessment. He sat in the cafeteria with a mug of tea. He watched the comings and goings, feeling he was outside looking in, watching a film the title of which he didn’t know.
    Almost two hours had passed when Dawn wearily approached him. He stood up,  seeing from her expression that she was bearing sad news.
    She shook her head and looked away. He held out his arms but she didn’t step into them, so he took her elbow and guided her to a chair and watched as hands covering her face, her body shook. He drew up another chair and sat beside her. He offered a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his blazer and eventually as she noticed his action, she took it, whispering her thanks.

Drizzle dulled the scene as mourners gathered at the Crematorium. Within minutes the chapel had filled. Jack avoided using his tuneless voice during the singing of the hymns, in case it deserted him when his turn came to speak.
    On hearing his name, he stepped forward opening the pages of his prepared text. When he looked down his glistening eyes found no point of focus. He sniffed, raised his head and set his eyes on the wooden cross over the door by which they had entered.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a privilege to talk about Harry Guest, albeit one I hadn’t wished for until many years hence. We joined Jennings and Field on the same day fifty two years ago. Young, full of ourselves, eager to learn our trade and compete for places in the Works football team.  In fact for ten years we spent weekdays at adjoining benches and Saturday afternoons alongside each other in the familiar red and white strip.
He was a quiet man, but when he did speak, it was worth listening. He was generous and modest and what few people know is that he once saved my life. I failed to properly fit a steel rod in the chuck of my lathe and Harry recognising the sound as the job came free pushed me out of the way. He accepted my thanks and a handshake and we never spoke of it again.
 He was a competitor. Since we retired, we played crib twice every week and although no cash was involved, he loved to win. In fact that, as well as his grin when he pegged out, is what I shall miss most. God bless you Harry and thank you for being a good friend.

    As Jack took his seat, Maisie patted his wrist and offered a handkerchief.

It was six weeks later when Dawn called on Maisie and Jack.
    ‘I found these and wondered if you’d like them?’ She handed Jack a black box. When he opened it he found three medals. On the back of one was engraved John Perry. Jack frowned, shaking his head.
    ’Apparently Dad was chosen for the League team and when they presented them at the end of the season, one of them hadn’t been inscribed, so he had your name put on.’
    ’I was never good enough  ...’ Jack could say no more as sobs racked his body.  





Thursday, 6 April 2017

An Easter Story

Robin Wrigley

pink gin and tonic

The Tuesday after Easter Marjorie and Audrey passed pleasantries in the street.
    
    ‘Are your next door’s back from their holiday Audrey?’

     ‘Yes, I’m glad you asked me that.’
   
    ‘Why’s that?’
    
    ‘Well, the afternoon they left, Muffin starts barking his head off. When I went out to see what the noise was about he’s only got the Dawkins bleedin’ rabbit in his mouth!’
    
     ‘What on earth did you do?’
    
     ‘I yelled at him and managed to get the poor thing off of him. Course he was dead and covered with dirt where he’d been dragged round the garden. I cleaned it up as best I could; it was such a dear little thing. Luckily they’d given me a set of house keys so I was able to take him back through to their garden and put him back in his hutch.’
     
       ‘Did they say anything when they came back?’
      
      ‘Well that’s the strangest thing. The next morning she cooed over the back fence. I went out fearing the worst and she is standing there, white as a sheet, like she’s seen a ghost.
      
     She says to me, something really weird has happened.
     
      She says – two days before we went away, Rupert our rabbit died and we buried him in the back garden. 
    
      Oh I am so sorry I says. But then she says, it’s worse than that.
     
     What could be worse I says, trying me best not to colour up, I mean I was near to having a pink fit.
    
     'When we got home Rupert was back in his hutch.’

Derelict

Jeanne Davies

a stiff gin and tonic to cheer everyone up!

Peering through grimy fractured windows, the world outside is distorted and strange. 


Time relentlessly has taken its toll, robbing character and removing status. Nobody values this shell of what had once been; no one cares.


Remote and alone now, where once a family was raised, memories of laughter and fun are hidden deep inside somewhere; not lost … just sleeping.


Visitors are few and far between; unrecognisable strangers from another generation. They’ll go soon, and the safety of isolation returns. 


She sits the time out day by day, in a dilapidated existence until the crumbling stops and nothing remains.



About the author



Jeanne Davies has been published in Bridge House anthologies and other publishers of short stories.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Visit

Ray Bradnock

espresso


Today George decided to be a very good person and stand in for the other very good person who normally looks after his uncle. This is not the usual sort of thing that George would do, but after much thought he finally settled on trying be a good citizen and to put something back into the community, and charity starts at home.

   His uncle, Derek, is a sprightly eighty two years of age, and yet has challenges at home in particular, especially since George’s aunt died a couple of years ago. Derek always described himself a huge bore, especially as he always brought home the bacon. Domesticity was a field he had been happy to steer clear of, and left all matters to do with the household firmly in the purview of his erstwhile life partner.

   George entered the bedroom; he had learned how important it was to find where all the medications were kept in case Derek needed them suddenly. Derek was watching the racing on the telly in the lounge.
  
 'Where do you keep your heart pills?'

   'In the chest, left hand side'  

   'What about your haemorrhoid cream?'

   'Bottom drawer, along with the suppositories'
   
   George paused, wondering if the old rogue was winding him up. He could just imagine him smugly grinning in his direction, as he saw AP McKoy trot up at 4/1 in the 3.50 at Kempton.

   'Is there anything else I need to know about the medications? Where are the really important ones for your blood pressure?'
  
 'On the stand, just under the barometer'

   George looked at the rooster shaped tray next to the bed, and decided he would make no enquiry of Derek whatsoever about condoms. After all he was past eighty! Medical duty done, George headed back into the lounge to see what Derek wanted for tea.


   'What do you normally have at this time?' Derek paused.

   'Normally a small scotch to be truthful, but if you have a better idea I am open to suggestions.' After pondering a while George replied,

   'Where do you keep it......?'
   It was now pushing six o’clock, and both men were very relaxed. George had never before got drunk with an uncle, or an eighty year old, and so considered that he could strike a couple of items off his personal bucket list in one go.

   'You’re a really great bloke you know. Why haven’t we done this before? So many wasted years.' Derek took another sip from his glass and looked George in the eye.

   'That’s the way of the world my boy. Some of the best things are seen when you’re looking back, not forward. We old ‘uns know more than we let on and other people are bothered to look for. We get up to all sorts when people aren’t watching. Do us a favour, go and look in the door of the fridge – it’s where I keep the coke…'


About the author

Ray Bradnock lives in Solihull. When he is not pretending to write poetry, short stories and novels, he tries to help people have an excellent working life by solving their problems. You can find out more at excellence-associates.com excellence-associates.com
He is currently constructing a site for his scribblings on raybradnock.com



Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Burning Tradition

Roger Noons

a cup of strong tea with just a drop of whisky

 ‘Edwin want’s to see you my Roger.’
    ‘Edwin Davies?’
    Rosie nodded and returned to weaving the rope.
    ‘Any idea what for, Rose?’
    The Warden of the Travellers Site shook her head, just once. ‘Course, old Mrs Davies has passed away.’
    ‘His mother?’
    Rosie Watton nodded again. Although she’d held her post for more than five years and I’d visited her on numerous occasions, despite the manner in which she addressed me, I was a Gorgy and hence there was a formality between us; a relationship akin to dentist and patient. 
    ‘I’ll go and see him.’
It was a fortnight later when I again drove along the lane towards the Site. I was held up following a low loader on which there was the tattiest caravan I’d ever seen. It pulled in through the gateway and passed the Warden’s Store. I parked up and went in to see Rosie.
    ‘Who’s just brought in that van?’
    Again the familiar shake of the grey-haired head as Rosie scurried away to put the kettle on the stove. ‘You‘ll have a cup of tea, my Roger?’
    ‘Thanks Rose, but only tea, thank you. I’ve to drive back to the office for a meeting.’ Rosie’s tea was often more Johnnie Walker than Tetley’s.
Having concluded my business with Rose, I walked along to where two men had just released the caravan from it’s ties and were arranging it centrally on the concrete pad which constituted Plot 12. As I watched the low loader was driven away. Edwin Davies appeared from his mobile home on Plot 10.
    ‘All right Boss?’
    ‘Not bad Edwin, yourself?’
    ‘You remember I had a word about …’
    ‘Edwin you said you wanted to carry out the old tradition of burning your mother‘s caravan following her death.’
    ‘Aye and you said okay as long as we did it after your office closed for the day.’
    ‘This is not your mother’s former home.’ His face began it’s beetroot imitation and he shrugged. ‘You told me the tradition was to set fire to the van and its contents to prevent the children falling out of who got what.’
    Hands in his pockets, Edwin concentrated on kicking loose stones, unprepared to look at me and respond.
    Where’s your mother’s van, Edwin?’ I leant towards him so that I heard a muttered ‘sold it.’
    ‘You know you have to give up the plot?’
    He nodded.
    ‘If there’s anything on this site next Monday, I’ll charge you a month’s rent.’
    ‘Don’t worry Boss, it’ll be sorted.’
    I shook my head as I walked away. So much for Romany traditions.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Forgetting

Richard Hough

a cup of strong tea  

George nudged open the lounge door with his foot and carefully entered the sun-drenched room. He crossed to where Vera was sitting and placed the two cups he was carrying onto the occasional table next to her. She smiled at him as she always did.

It was Vera’s smile that George had noticed when her slender form had entered his grocer’s shop forty years ago. Her vivid, red hair framed her beautiful face and her green eyes sparkled as she acknowledged his joke about calling the fire brigade.

Time had worked relentlessly upon her, replacing each red hair with one of grey. The sparkle had faded from her eyes and she no longer appreciated his humour although the smile remained as genuine as ever.

George reminisced about Vera as he reclined in his chair. He couldn’t quite remember when her hair had started to lose its flaming appearance. He wasn’t able to recall when she last laughed at one of his witticisms as she insisted on calling them. One thing of which he was sure was when her eyes stopped glistening. It was soon after those visits to the doctor’s.

Vera had had a couple of panic attacks six years previously because she had become confused by what she was doing or why she had entered a room. The doctor did some tests and after two or three more visits he diagnosed her illness. Vera wept as the prognosis was explained to them.

The feelings of panic had increased in frequency as Vera’s disease worsened. She became more fretful; her personality changed. She wandered the house at night unable to sleep. When Vera had been annoyed with George in the past, she sulked and stayed very quiet. It came as a nasty shock when Vera’s illness made her aggressive and violent. It was then her eyes lost their twinkle.
George couldn’t leave Vera on her own for too long as she became unsteady on her feet even falling a couple of times. On one occasion she banged her head on the side of their television. He winced slightly as he glanced at the scar on the side of her face.

Eventually George was himslef unable to go out unless a neighbour sat with Vera who had now taken to wandering into the street and forgetting where she lived. She no longer recognised danger but this problem soon went away when her legs wouldn’t support her at all. This was about the time she lost the power of speech, cutting George off from everyone except for the occasional chat to the doctor or supermarket cashier. A now placid Vera had become safe to leave for a few minutes at a time because she would only sit in the chair and stare ahead.

When Vera couldn’t use cutlery, George had to feed his beloved wife with puréed food and soup. Eventually, Vera forgot how to use the toilet and George had learned how to change nappies and he had to single-handedly undress, bathe and dress Vera whilst she slumped helplessly in his arms. She smiled at him but it wasn’t really Vera. The glorious, feisty young girl he once knew had long since died.

George recovered from his nightmares, rose from his seat and approached Vera.

‘It’s time for your pill dear!’ he said prising Vera’s smiling lips apart. Holding the cup to her mouth he made sure she swallowed before sliding back into his chair.

Watching Vera enter sleep for the last time, George whispered ‘goodbye my darling’ and sipped at his own drink, forcing himself to swallow.

FIN

A cup of strong tea