Monday, 26 June 2017

Crucifix



Gill James

communion wine 

 

The sky went black. The cool wind that came along at the same time felt nice. A few drops of rain began to fall. They tickled and made Tom want to giggle.
‘I told you we’d have a storm. I said we should have brought our macs,’ said Mum. She pulled him and Maisie and Daisy towards her.
‘Don’t be daft,’ said Dad. ‘We’d only have had to carry them. This’ll be over in no time. It’s just a summer storm.’
There was a flash of lightning and then almost immediately a loud bang.
‘Is that the clouds bumping into each other?’ said Tom. ‘That’s what Alfie always says.’ Alfie was his best friend at school, a bit of a clever clogs. He was usually right about most things, though.     
His mum and dad ignored him.  
Maisie and Daisy were now clinging on to Mum’s skirt. The rain was falling faster now. Their dresses were beginning to stick to their legs and were becoming see-though. Red dye was running out Maisie’s dress, making it look as if her legs were bleeding.     
‘Come on let’s get out of this,’ said Dad. ‘Look, let’s shelter in the porch of that church.’
Tom wondered what a church was. He’d seen them before, of course, but he didn’t know what they did. He knew all about shops, hospitals and schools but not about churches.                
Several other people had had the same idea. It was a bit of a squash in the small doorway. Mum accidentally leant on the big wooden door and it opened a little.
‘Oh look,’ she said. ‘It’s not locked. We could go inside. Take the weight off our feet a bit.’ 
She took the little girls by the hand and ushered them in. Dad guided him from behind.
It smelt funny, a bit like the soil after the rain has fallen on it. The cold seemed to come up through your feet. Maisie and Daisy were shivering now. It was hard to believe that last night none of them had been able to sleep in Mrs Quinn’s stuffy old boarding-house.
A few other people sat in some funny chairs that had hard-looing backs.
‘You must be really quiet and sit as still as you can,’ said Mum. ‘These people are trying to pray.’
He didn’t understand what that meant. ‘What’s praying?’ he asked.
‘Talking to God. They’re talking to God,’ said Dad.
‘What’s God?’
Dad sighed. ‘Well I don’t believe none of it myself. But some people think this very clever man – God  - made everything and it’s a good idea to talk to him now and then. That’s what churches are for.’
Tom noticed the coloured glass and the paintings on the wall. ‘Can I go and look at the pictures?’ he said.  
‘As long as you don’t touch anything,’ said Dad.
‘And don’t make a noise,’ whispered Mum.     
He walked along the narrow passage between the funny chairs and stopped from time to time to look at the pictures, the coloured glass windows or the statues. There were some interesting things here- like the man who was guiding some animals into a great big boat, the tower that was falling down and the bush that seemed to be on fire. ‘Dad,’ he called. ‘Can you tell me what these stories are about?’
‘Ssh!’ said Dad. ‘You mustn’t make a noise in Church.   
  Mum was cuddling the little girls, whispering to them and occasionally stroking their hair. Why didn’t she cuddle him like that anymore? Dad stared towards the front of the church and didn’t say a word to Mum, or to him or to Maisie and Daisy. The other people sitting in the funny chairs kept their heads bent low.
There was a big table covered with a very posh looking cloth and it had candlesticks on it. There was something near the door that looked like a big stone baby bath. He remembered helping to bath Maisie and Daisy until one day he got soap in Daisy’s eyes and she screamed the place down.
‘What have you done to her?’ Mum shouted.
After that he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near the girls at bath-time.  
Never mind. So, you came here if you wanted to speak to God, the really clever man who had made everything. This was incredibly cool. Tom wondered whether he should say something but he couldn’t think what and he felt a bit shy actually. Besides, he didn’t know exactly where God was.    
At the side was a little room without a door and with proper chairs facing away from the main part of the church. Why were the chairs like that? In front of them on the wall was a huge wooden cross and on it a man with nails through his hands and his feet. There was blood coming from them and from his head on which were thorny branches, woven together to look a little like a crown. Oh, it made him feel sick. That must really hurt.   
There was a woman sitting on one of the chairs. He couldn’t help himself. He just had to know. ‘Miss, who’s that?’
‘That’s the Lord Jesus. He’s the Son of God. God sent his only son to us. Died for us, he did. So that God would forgive us for being so wicked. He did it because he loves us.’
That was terrible. What a horrible thing to do. Fancy sending your only son away.  He was Mum and Dad’s only son. Were they going to send him away? And would somebody put nails though his hands and feet and make him a crown out of brambles? 
He screamed. Then he started sobbing. Great breathless sobs.
‘There now, there now,’ the woman muttered.
Dad came running into the little space.  ‘What are you making a racket like that for? We told you you’d got to be quiet.’ He turned to the woman. ‘I’m so sorry.’ 
The woman shook her head. ‘No problem. I was just telling him about what Jesus did.’
‘He’s cruel, that God. You’re not going to send me away are you Dad?’ 
‘He’s probably never heard about that before,’ said Dad. ‘You see, we don’t go to church.’
Mum and Maisie and Daisy wandered along.
‘I think we can go now anyway,’ said Mum. ‘I think the rain’s stopped.’ She pointed to the sunlight that was now streaming through the stained glass windows and making patterns on the floors.
The other people who had been in the church were beginning to shuffle out. They looked away from Tom and his mum and dad and his two sisters. He was probably going to get a ticking off now for embarrassing them.
He took some deep breaths and tried to calm down. He began to hiccough, and each hiccough was followed by a shudder. 
It was sunny again outside. The puddles were steaming. The sun was getting warm again but it wasn’t so sticky anymore.  
‘No wonder the kid was scared,’ said Dad. ‘That figure was as large as life. It looked like something out of a horror film. That’s one of the reasons I hate the whole business. And all that stuff about the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ and eating and drinking him. Barbaric!’ He ruffled Tom’s hair.
Tom really was sure he was going to be sick now. If you went to church you had to eat God’s son? No, he must have got that wrong.
‘Come on then,’ said Dad. ‘Let’s get going.’ 
Tom wanted to tell Dad that the man on the cross hadn’t frightened him. That he knew it was only a carving and not a very good one at that. It was the idea of God having a son and that son loving everyone so much that he was prepared to let them put nails through his hands and his feet and he would die for him. Would his mum and dad do that for him? Would he do it for them and his sisters?
He couldn’t say a word, though. If he did he knew he would start crying again and he didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of his dad and his sisters. He’d done enough damage already, getting into a tizzy like that.
‘I think the best thing we can do now is go and get an ice-cream, don’t you?’ said Dad.
The little girls clapped their hands and jumped up and down on the spot. Tom tried his best to smile. 

About the author: 

Gill James writes all sorts of fiction - novels, short fiction, flash fiction and experimental fiction. She is also a publisher and editor. Visit her blog at http://www.gilljameswriter.eu/  

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Wizzo

Roger Noons

a glass of magic potion from a secret recipe

 

‘You mustn’t laugh at me,’ I told my wife as she gazed through the bedroom window. ‘I’m Wizzo the Wizard, I’ve a pointy hat with a W on it.’
 
    ‘You can’t wear that in bed, so your spells won’t work. Besides, I’m a witch so you’ve no power over me.’
 
    ‘I have … for twenty minutes. I could turn you into a cat and send you off to catch a mouse.’
 
    She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t do that, it’s cruel.’
 
    ‘A terrier then, to yap outside. Wake up Mr Edwards.’
 
    ‘He’ll be up and about by now, it’s eight o’ clock.’
 
    ‘I don’t think I’m much good as a wizard, am I?’
 
    She leaned over and kissed me on my forehead. ‘Be a good retired wizard and I’ll go and fetch the paper and magic up a cup of tea for you.’
 
    ‘Thank you dear,’ I smiled.
 
    She said a rude word as she walked downstairs. I’d twitched my nose and heard the pearls from the string around her neck drop into the hall and bounce around on the laminate flooring.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Flight

Roger Noons

 

a strong orange squash, mixed with lemonade

 

Harriet found out her bicycle was magical when freewheeling around a bend in Orchard Lane, she approached the Council’s rubbish lorry which was blocking the road. Open-mouthed, she clung to the hand grips. Her fuchsia pink two wheeler flew  into the air. The bin men waved as she sailed over and landed safely at the junction with Parson’s Grove. She found she was outside number 42 and delved into her bag, but couldn’t remember whether the occupier took the Mirror or the Sun. Holding one paper in each hand she faced the lamp. It lit in favour of the former.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Taste of Coffee

Paul Westgate


a demitasse of Arabic coffee


I make coffee in the traditional way I learned as a child in my Mother’s kitchen. Boiling and stirring, the pot lifted from the heat each time the foam rises to the brim. The smell of coffee and cardamom takes me back to that kitchen; to her blessing and the old coffee pot she pressed into my hands before I fled the country. I serve the coffee in tiny cups with a small plate of dates. At the same time bitter and sweet, familiar and strange, exotic and ordinary, the taste of coffee is all I have left of home.



Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Weather Behaving Badly

 Dawn Knox

Prairie Fire, a spicy shot of tequila and tabasco


Bernard finished the letter of resignation with his signature and a small flourish. He didn’t, however, add his usual two kisses. They didn’t seem appropriate under the circumstances. He read the letter, checking grammar, spelling and punctuation. It was all so important. An incorrectly positioned comma, for example could result in all sorts of confusion and he couldn’t risk any misunderstandings. 
With a sweep of his arm, he moved the stuffed teddy bear, the small cactus in the Mexican hat-shaped pot, the travel set of Newton’s Balls and the fluorescent pencil case aside, to reveal the long scorch mark on the top of his desk. It ran from the front to the back, finishing just in front of where he was seated. He stood up and looked down at his chair. The greasy stain and singed line were all that remained of his predecessor although arguably, there might be a few bits of him embedded in the wall behind the desk. The crater in the plaster had been repaired although the burns in the carpet and the damage to the furniture were still evident.
Well, the budget was tight this year. 
In his less generous moments, Bernard wondered if his boss hadn’t wanted there to be reminders of his wrath – just to keep the staff in check. But with any luck, that soon wouldn’t apply to him. Not once he’d handed in his letter of resignation. He put it in an envelope and sealed it, then placed it over the scorch mark on his desk.
Now what?
He needed to deliver his letter… but to whom? Mr. Thor, Mr. Jupiter or Mr. Zeus? They were all as scary as each other. Of course, the logical choice would have been the one who was most senior but they all claimed seniority and who was Bernard to argue with any of them?
Perhaps he should just leave it on the desk of whoever wasn’t in his office at the time and then disappear before anyone came asking questions. He’d been as much as promised a job in the Sunshine Department and he couldn’t wait. There was only a certain amount of lightning and thunder one could take in a lifetime. And he’d had his fill. 
Suddenly, he realised the decision was about to be taken out of his hands. Thunderous footsteps rang out and echoed ominously along the corridor with the odd flash of lightning that Bernard could see through the crack round the door. 
He placed his hands over his ears to protect them from the booming noise and blanched as the door flew open.
“Ah! There you are, Bernard.”
“M…Mr. Thor, sir?”
“I just came to see how you’re settling in.”
“F…fine, thank you, sir.”
“Pleased to hear it. The last chap only lasted two weeks. No stamina. No drive. No tenacity. In the end…” he glanced at the blackened line in the desk, “he ended up with not much of anything… Well, what can you expect from a chap who wanted a transfer to the Sunshine Department?”
Words died in Bernard’s throat and he emitted a cross between a high-pitched squeak and the hiss of a slow leak in a tyre.
Mr. Thor aimed at the desk with his index finger and Bernard ducked as tiny sparks crackled round his hand and up his arm. 
“Is that the mail?” he asked pointing at Bernard’s letter of resignation. 
“No, sir. I was just tidying up, sir.”
Bernard slapped his hand over the letter, pulled it into his lap and tearing it into little pieces, he dropped them in the bin. 

About the author: 

Dawn's second book 'The Great War, 100 stories of 100 words honouring those who lived and died 100 years ago' was published in 2016. She enjoys a writing challenge and has had stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in several women's magazines. Dawn has written a script for a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in her home town in Essex, as well as in Germany and France. Married with one son, she lives in Essex.

Monday, 22 May 2017

I count

Dawn Knox

sweet, milky tea such as might have been savoured in the trenches


It is 100 days since our massive bombardment of the Germans began, and 92 days since we went over the top believing this battle on the Somme was ours. 

I count everything.

The number of rats per day I see, the number of letters from home I receive each week, the number of pals who’ve been maimed, the number of those who still lie in No Man’s Land. 

I can’t control this hell; I can only count the consequences. 

Now I count the seconds until I go over the top again. 

I count everything, yet, my life counts for nothing. 

About the author: 

Dawn's second book 'The Great War, 100 stories of 100 words honouring those who lived and died 100 years ago' was published in 2016. She enjoys a writing challenge and has had stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in several women's magazines. Dawn has written a script for a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in her home town in Essex, as well as in Germany and France. Married with one son, she lives in Essex.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Janus Stone

Paula R C Readman 

Whisky Mac on the rocks

‘It’s that age old question,’ my wife said turning an accusing eye in my direction as we stood staring at a stone circle high up on the wind swept moorlands
As far as I was concerned, it was of no importance to me to find the answer to riddle of the sentinels.
‘That’s the trouble with you, Janus you’re so blinkered, when the facts are before your very eyes.’
I cast my eyes toward the heavens and held my breath and my tongue, knowing there was no point in arguing with her. She was like a starving wolf, once she has a bone between her teeth.
‘There you go, you can’t deny it now. The truth hurts,’ she said bitterness edging her tone.
I gave her a sideways glance; suddenly realizing she wasn’t talking about the stones at all.
‘Too busy looking back, aren’t you?’ she said, with an air of smugness.
Oh yes, she was right there. I’ve been accused of being backwards looking before, but I do often look forward too. Dreams of a peaceful life seemed impossible from where I was standing.
‘Well, haven’t you got something to say for yourself?’ she snapped.
I narrowed my eyes, and wondered if it was possible.
‘Oh yes, just like your father as your mother use to say, you’ve no balls. Well, it’s about time you manned up.'
I shrugged, turned, and walked away.
‘Where the hell do you think you’re going Janus Lot?’
As I drove out of the car park, I did look back.  My wife stood rigid with anger and disbelief that I was finally leaving her. I laughed. Not quite a pillar of salt, but close enough to leave a nasty taste in her nagging mouth.   

 

About the author

Bridge House, Chapel town, English Heritage, Parthian Books have published Paula R C Readman’s short stories. She was also the overall winner in the Writing Magazine Harrogate Crime Short Story Competition 2012.
Check out her Blog: paulareadman1.wordpress.com

The Instruction Manual

Greg Bresciani 

warm malted milk  

Why does everyone keep saying that children don’t come with an instruction manual? Sure they do. I use one all the time.
I can never have children of my own- my lazy sperm made sure of that. However, since becoming a foster carer, I always read the instruction manual for each foster child that is placed in my care. The instructions help me with that which I have no previous experience in.
The first section of the instruction manual covers the basics: clean your teeth, clean your room, have a bath before bedtime etc.  This is the easiest part. You can’t go wrong with it.
Much of the instruction manual’s focus is on open-mindedness. Achieving this requires plenty of field trips to festivals and cultural events. I don’t know why so much emphasis is placed on open-mindedness, but I do know that the children in my care rejoice in the weekend outings- and so do I.
The section on discipline is unusable. I am instructed to smack naughty children with a wooden spoon. I refuse to do this as it is common knowledge that most foster children are victims of abuse. The lessons taught by the sting of a wooden spoon would be lost on them.
Another concern with the instruction manual is section four: teaching children good manners. No matter how hard I try, I can never get good manners to stick. It doesn’t help either that the pages for this section are blank.
Hmm. This could be a problem. Technical Support may be the solution. I should phone them; their contact details will be somewhere inside the front cover. Yep, here it is.  Only after I’ve dialled do I realise that Technical Support has the same phone number as my mom.
“Hello?”
“Hi mom.”
“Oh, hi Glenn.”
“I, um … need some advice mom.”
“Yes?”
“I’m trying to teach my kids manners, but it’s not working mom. How did you do it? You know, with me.”
“But I raised you from a baby. Foster Care is a totally different situation. “
So, it seems the problem with the instruction manual goes far beyond the support provided by Technical Support.
Am I even using the right instruction manual? Is it an older version? Do I need to upgrade to a newer one? I should contact Head Office and ask. I’ll just find the company’s details- ah, here it is: Kiehna Incorporated. Kiehna? But … that’s my mom’s maiden name.
Shit! What was I thinking? Children don’t come with an instruction manual. They never have. That’s just silly.
When I’m raising a foster child, I’m not mentally flipping through the pages of a booklet. Oh-no. It’s much more grandiose than that. I’m accessing a file cabinet inside my head with thousands of memories filed away in each draw. Memories of a mother’s love and devotion directed at me. Memories of being reminded to clean my teeth, clean my room, have a bath before bedtime etc. All throughout my childhood, my mom asked me to do these chores more times than there are people in China.
Memories- I will cherish forever -of weekend outings with my mom. Festivals and cultural events, if it encouraged me to explore the world around me, my mom would take me there. Only as an adult, do I now understand my mom’s hidden agenda of teaching me tolerance and to value diversity.
I remember the fear of the wooden spoon more so than the smacks across my buttocks. I believe this was the whole point. The fear of being smacked forced me to stop and think of the consequences of my actions.
I have no memories of my mom nurturing my good manners. She would have taught me this valuable lesson as soon as I could walk and talk. No one has memories of their life under the age of four.
It amazes me, the more I consider it, that parenting skills don’t begin with the birth of a baby. Everyone has memories of being raised by their parents that they can use as a reference, should ever they find themselves raising a child.  Plus what’s most exciting, I can gain new parenting tricks- or undo bad parenting habits –through learning and experience.
With the foster children in my care, my success or failure as a parent depends on how these children will one day parent children of their own.   

About the author

Greg is n Australian who is a factory worker by day and a writer by night. he an his partner have been caring for foster children for seven years.  His stories on foster care have been published on the websites Parenting Express and Next Family. 
 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Rest is up to You

Paula R C Readman 

dandelion and burdock wine

'The rest is up to you', she said giving me a final shove. I hadn't really seen myself as one who could fly, but l suddenly felt l had to learn quickly as the ground was now come up to meet me. 
 
I guess that's how all baby birds feel on their first step into adulthood, but me a mere fairy and a clumsy one at that had hoped that l could forgo learning, but Mum had other ideas.
 
 Too proud of our family history to allow me to just focus on painting ground loving flowers. 
 
'No, you aren't going to let the family name down', she said, grabbing me by the collar and hauling me to the tops of the trees. 
 
I guess l better give it a try, because I'm sure I've run out of time.
 
'Woo yes!' Quite easy once you get the hang of it! 
 
Oh, at least Mum looking pleased for once. Though it's going to be sometime before l master the art of landing elegantly on flowers.



The Rest is up to You Dandelion and Burdock Wine

'The rest is up to you', she said giving me a final shove. I hadn't really seen myself as one who could fly, but l suddenly felt l had to learn quickly as the ground was now come up to meet me. 
I guess that's how all baby birds feel on their first step into adulthood, but me a mere fairy and a clumsy one at that had hoped that l could forgo learning, but Mum had other ideas.
 Too proud of our family history to allow me to just focus on painting ground loving flowers. 
'No, you aren't going to let the family name down', she said, grabbing me by the collar and hauling me to the tops of the trees. 
I guess l better give it a try, because l'm sure I've run out of time.
'Woo yes!' Quite easy once you get the hang of it! 
Oh, at least Mum looking pleased for once. Though it's going to be sometime before l master the art of landing elegantly on flowers.



Friday, 28 April 2017

Toast Three Ways

Robin Wrigley

 

Scotch on the Rocks 


Just after Nancy left for work I noticed the smell. She’s done it again. To the kitchen, shut off the grill and remove the two pieces of bread that have gone through several physical changes and are now smouldering tablets of charcoal. 

     Nancy and I have been together for nearly two years. She works. I keep house. My thoughts are interrupted at hearing the front doorbell, ah that will be her running back to tell me she’s remembered the toast.

     
 ‘It’s alright I’ve dealt with your bloody toast. Why can’t you use your own keys to open the door instead of having me run through the house?’ I yell as I’m opening the door.

     A somewhat bemused postman offers me a delivery of mail. ‘Sorry mate but this package wouldn’t fit through the letter-box. It was a package for me from Amazon.

     ‘I’m awfully sorry, ‘thought you were my partner,’ I say shame-facedly at his retreating back.    
      
Along with my package are several fliers, a couple of fashion catalogues for Nancy and an expensive embossed-velum letter for me, addressed in the unmistakable style of familiar hand-writing.
      
Instinctively I know what it is before I open it. What twisted mind would do this? It must be a wedding invitation? Sorting the mail, I put my package and the catalogues on the hall table, toss the junk next to the kitchen recycling bin and carry my letter through to the lounge, sit down and turn it over thinking, Jane, oh Jane how could you be so cruel? 
   
     She and I had been at university together. We were the complete item. Everyone commented how we were made for each other. Then one day three years ago she up and left. Said she needed time away to think. Think of what for heaven’s sake? She didn’t know, couldn’t say? I never saw her again. She left her job in the company, a good position, better than mine.    
      
With the smell of Nancy’s burnt toast still in the air my mind went back to our time at university. Hungry and short of money Jane and I often toasted crumpets on a fork on the gas fire in our student digs; bliss.
      
Now I was going to have to raise a glass of champagne. To toast her happiness – in marriage, how cruel.

     I won’t go.  How would I tell Nancy? I’ve always refused to talk about her, never uttered her name. I left the company. Created a new life as well as I could and then met Nancy.
   
 Now this, I opened the envelope. The moment I saw the black edge on the card my hands began to tremble. Resentment was replaced with remorse. Just how wrong could I be? Jane was dead and I was invited to her funeral.
      
On the back of the card in handwriting remarkably similar to Jane’s was a note from her younger sister saying, ‘Please do and try and come, David. She never forgot you.’



Thursday, 27 April 2017

Who is it?

Roger Noons

a small... is tot of single malt

 
 
I demand to know how he got in. I’d not left any doors open, all windows were locked and barred and his appearance belies an ability to climb up onto the roof and slither down the chimney, or burrow into the cellar.
 
    I’ve called the police, but they say I’m low priority and it could be some time before an officer calls. Private Investigators quoted high rates plus generous expenses. But I must find out the identity of the old man who, every time I look in the mirror comes and stands in front of me, blocking out my reflection.

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.