Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Good to Go

 Allison Symes

    Latte


He looked at himself in the mirror.  It was no good.  He couldn’t put it off any longer.  The duty called.  Still he had the very best in transport and food and drinks supplies were generous.  The only problem with that was answering the call of nature but that was his problem and he’d deal with it.  The way he always did. He looked at the clock.  Yes, time to be off.  Rudolph and the others would be waiting.

If Santa prided himself on anything, it was his punctuality.

About the author

Allison Symes is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafelit, Bridge House and Alfie Dog Fiction.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  A round-up of what she writes where is at http://allisonsymescollectedworks.wordpress.com.  Her website is www.fairytaleswithbite.weebly.com and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today - http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/

 




Tuesday, 12 December 2017

STONE THE CROW And the unidentified flying object

Nichola Cavalier

cream soda  

Early one bright sunny summer’s morning, Stone the crow was perched at the top of the very highest tree in Willow Wood. Stone would see for miles and miles.

It was the start of the summer holidays.

Hooray, he thought, no school for weeks and weeks. No more adding up. No more algebra. No more spelling and best of all, no more Latin.

But very best of all, no more teachers telling him to sit up straight and stop pecking his desk.

What shall I do today, he said to himself as he stretched his wings and preened himself. As he looked across the tops of the trees he could see fields in the distance. They were like a patchwork quilt and right in the corner was a rather tumble down farm.

Farmer Jethro’s farm, a place Stone knew well. He’d been there many times before.

Crows weren’t welcome there as Stone was well aware. But he did have one rather unlikely friend there, Mr. Godfrey.

Mr Godfrey was a scarecrow!

On the one hand he knew Mr Godfrey would like to see Stone and have a chat. It was a lonely life being a scarecrow, standing there in the middle of a field day after day, in all weathers with nobody to talk to.



However, a scarecrow was supposed to scare the birds away not stand there chatting to them.

But unfortunately, Mr Godfrey did like to chat.

About all sorts of things, the weather, which way the wind was blowing, the colour of the sky and the shape of the clouds. Whether a storm was brewing.

Important things like that!

So off Stone flew, skimming the tops of the trees, letting the wind, which was blowing rather conveniently in the direction of Farmer Jethro’s farm, carry him along with as little effort from Stone as possible.

Crows didn’t like to use too much energy when they were flying, let the wind do the work. That’s what all young crows were taught.

As usual Mr Godfrey was standing right in the middle of the largest field. This year Farmer Jethro was growing mangel wurzles. Mr Godfrey was whistling a happy tune to himself when suddenly Stone appeared and landed all of a flutter on one of his outstretched arms.

‘Hello Mr Godfrey’, said Stone, ‘How are you today?

Being a scarecrow, Mr Godfrey didn’t have many feathered friends. He definitely wouldn’t talk to rooks, they were so noisy and badly behaved and he didn’t mind scaring them away.

And those pesky Jackdaws, well they just didn’t know how to behave at all.

But Stone, well he wasn’t such a bad fellow. And he always visited Mr Godfrey by himself. Crows tended to be solitary folk and kept themselves to themselves. A bit like Mr. Godfrey.


Still Mr Godfrey looked around rather nervously to make sure Farmer Jethro wasn’t anywhere to be seen. After all if he was caught chatting to birds instead of scaring them away, he would be sacked. And with no job what would he do. There weren’t that many openings for scarecrows these days.


‘Hello Stone,’ said Mr Godfrey, speaking very quietly. He didn’t want to take any chances. Farmer Jethro had a habit of just turning up without warning. But that’s farmers for you. They just couldn’t be trusted as far as a scarecrow was concerned.

Stone noticed that Mr Godfrey was wearing a rather fine but extremely frayed and moth eaten red waistcoat. It was decorated with fine silver braid and pearly buttons that shone in the sunshine. But it had seen better days. No doubt about that.

‘That’s a lovely waistcoat you’ve got there,’ said Stone ‘What bright and beautiful colours’


‘Yes’ said the scarecrow ‘Farmer Jethro’s granddaughter dressed me in it yesterday, she thought the bright colours might help me keep the birds away.’

‘Mmmm’ said Stone admiring the fine workmanship, ‘I bet it cost a lot of money when it was new’.

The fact that the waistcoat hadn’t kept him away he kept to himself!

Mr. Godfrey puffed his chest out with pride. ‘ Do you think it suits me, I do like to look smart.’



Stone wasn’t so sure about the scarecrow looking ‘smart’. I mean scarecrows just don’t look smart in their hand me down clothes, do they.

Mr Godfrey’s hat was an old trilby, full of holes and covered in stains. His jacket and trousers were in rags and barely covered his straw-filled arms and legs. But he did have a rather trendy white and red spotted scarf around his neck. And of course that lovely ‘new’ waistcoat!

‘You always look very smart to me,’ said Stone not wishing to offend his friend. And it certainly had been an exceptionally fine waistcoat – once.

Suddenly Mr Godfrey, started whispering, loudly,’ Oh dear, oh dear, oh deary me’

‘What’s a matter Mr Godfrey, said Stone ‘ have you lost a button off your ‘new’ waistcoat??

‘Oh dear, oh goodness me,’’ said Mr Godfrey

‘Whatever is the matter, said Stone

‘It’s Farmer Jethro, he’s in the next field, he’s coming to check his mangel wurzels,’ said Mr Godfrey all of a bother.

Stone looked round. He could just make out the farmer’s hat above the hedge. Time to leave he thought.

‘You can’t fly away now,’ said the scarecrow ‘ He’ll see you and I’ll be an out-of-work scarecrow, and then what will I do, you’ll have to hide.’

Hide, thought Stone. Hide where???He was in the middle of a field of mangel wurzels and he was far too big and black to hide behind them. There was nowhere for a crow to hide. Nowhere!!

‘Don’t panic Mr Godfrey, don’t panic, said Stone in a very panicky sort of way, ‘I’ll think of something.’

By now Farmer Jethro had arrived at the gate that led into the field of mangel wurzles.

With no time to think, Stone squeezed himself behind Mr Godfrey’s threadbare waistcoat. But his beak, which was rather large, stuck out through one of the torn button holes.

Would Farmer Jethro notice??

Stone and Mr Godfrey both held their breath as the farmer approached.

‘Don’t move a feather, Mr Godfrey whispered

Farmer Jethro came up to the scarecrow. Fortunately for Mr Godfrey and Stone he was extremely short sighted and wore glasses with the thickest lens you’ve ever seen.

‘ I hope you’re keeping all those pesky crows away,’ he said to the scarecrow in his most serious, gruff, farmer’s way ‘ Don’t want them pecking away at my mangel wurzels.’

‘No cccrows here,’ stuttered an extremely nervous Mr Godfrey.

Right now Stone’s beak suddenly seemed to be the biggest beak in the whole wide world. Possibly in the whole Universe.  And beyond.

But the farmer didn’t notice and seemed satisfied that there wasn’t a bird in sight. Well a least not within his sight! Then without another word – he never had much to say, did Farmer Jethro, he was the stern and silent type – he ambled away across the field back towards the farmhouse.

‘You better go quickly now, said Mr Godfrey ‘ he might come back, we’ll have a proper chat another day.’

Stone didn’t need to be asked twice. Crows and farmers just didn’t get on.

In his hurry to get away Stone tried to flap his wings. But the more he flapped, the more he became entangled in Mr. Godfrey’s waistcoat.

Suddenly there was a terrible ripping tearing sound.

But at last Stone was free. As he soared into the sky he took most of the waistcoat with him. Mr Godfrey’s pride and joy was stuck firmly on Stone’s beak and trailed behind him like a bright red, sparkly streamer.

Mr Godfrey cried out,’ Bring my waistcoat back, bring my beautiful waistcoat back this minute.’

But Stone decided that it was best if he headed straight home as fast as possible. So he flew back towards Willow Wood with Mr Godrfrey’s ‘new’ waistcoat streaming out behind him glittering in the bright sunshine. No matter how he shook his head, he couldn’t free himself from the waistcoat.

Near Willow Wood, the Fox family was enjoying a picnic. The little Foxes were bounding about chasing each other’s tails, as very young foxes are prone to do. Mr and Mrs Fox just lay in the grass sunning themselves. It really was a beautiful day.

‘What’s that,’ said Jemina Fox looking up at the sky ‘What’s that in the sky.’

Mr Fox looked up and saw Stone, now resembling a blazing comet in the sky, Mr Godfrey’s treasured waistcoat in tatters catching the sun’s rays and glistening brightly as it trailed behind.

‘What is it ‘ said all the foxes together.

Mr Fox who liked to think he knew everything was stuck for an answer. He didn’t know what it was.

Suddenly he had a brainwave.

‘It’s a UFO’, he said with great conviction.

‘What’s a UFO?,’ the two little foxes asked excitedly.

‘It’s an unidentified flying object,’ said Mr Fox

‘What’s an unidentified flying object?’ the two little foxes asked

‘It’s something flying around in the sky and nobody knows what it is.’ Said Mr Fox

That seemed to satisfy the little foxes, who started chasing each others’ tails again.

Next day, Mr Crow was reading the Willow News and splashed right across the front page was ‘UFO sighted over Willow Wood’

‘Well I never said,’ said Mr Crow ‘The Foxes saw a UFO over Willow Wood, you were out and about yesterday did you see it Stone??

‘No’ said Stone thinking what was he going to do about Mr Godfrey’s treasured waistcoat, now nothing more than a few brightly coloured threads dangling from various branches in Willow Wood.

 ‘What is a UFO? Stone asked

ENDS

DID YOU KNOW ?…

Bird scarers

In the olden days, young boys used to be employed to scare crows and rooks away from the fields. Bird scarers as they were called existed for nearly 2000 years until the early 20th century.



Mangelwurzels

A large white, yellow or orange-yellow vegetable grown as food for farm animals. In some parts of the country, Punkie Night is celebrated on the last Thursday of October every year, when children carry lanterns called ‘Punkies’ which are hollowed out mangelwurzels

Unidentified flying objects

Unidentified flying objects – or UFOs as they are usually known –

Unexplained aerial observations have been reported throughout history. Some were undoubtedly comets, bright meteors, one or more of the five planets that can be seen with the naked eye.
An example is Halley's Comet, which was recorded first by Chinese astronomers in 240 BC and possibly as early as 467 BC. Such sightings throughout history often were treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens.

Have you ever seen one??







Monday, 11 December 2017

Re-living the Past

Allison Symes

Breakfast Tea


I don’t know why you want me to go through it again.  I was clear enough the first time. I know what I said sounds incredible, but that is not the same as impossible. Nor would I invent such a story.  It sounds mad.  Why do you think I’ve spent so long hiding this?

You say you want to ensure you’ve got the details right.  Why?  You realise you can’t tell anyone?

You would sound mad.

I guess it’s not an easy thing to accept you have an unusual parent but, be fair, someone has to be Santa.

About the author

Allison Symes is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafelit, Bridge House and Alfie Dog Fiction.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  A round-up of what she writes where is at http://allisonsymescollectedworks.wordpress.com.  Her website is www.fairytaleswithbite.weebly.com and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today - http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/


Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Terrified Dragon

Allison Symes  

Green Tea


The dragon was terrified. Surrounded by angry humans with weapons, he realised he was supposed to blast them all away.

One gift he had been given by that wretched witch who cursed him was speech. Maybe he could make these humans understand.

‘I didn’t steal your meat,’ the dragon cried. ‘I can easily get my own.I don't like human meat. You're sinewy.’

The nearest human, a thin elderly man (who the dragon realised would taste revolting), sneered.

‘Really?

‘Yes, really, and just how many talking dragons have you met?’

The crowd fell silent. It was a relief to the dragon not to hear their curses. The language was dreadful - and that was just from the kids.

‘I haven't always been a dragon. I was cursed by a witch. I destroyed her garden. I did it for a laugh.
 And to return that laugh, she turned me into this. I have been hunted everywhere I go. I avoid you lot.  You are nothing but trouble.’

The crowd began muttering again but a middle aged man, looking thoughtful, raised his hand. Silence fell. The man wore a striped apron and the dragon didn't want to know what the red stains were (he guessed) or where they came from.

The man cleared his throat. ‘We are always having trouble with the Xibians raiding our supplies, right? We have no effective way of stopping them, right? We have one now.’ He gave the dragon a hard stare. ‘We could do a deal with this guy. He guards us. In return we share our meat with him. He barbecues it for us too. You know what trouble we have getting our barbecues to light properly. There's that problem solved too. What do you say?’


About the author

Allison Symes is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafelit, Bridge House and Alfie Dog Fiction.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  A round-up of what she writes where is at http://allisonsymescollectedworks.wordpress.com.  Her website is www.fairytaleswithbite.weebly.com and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today - http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Real Christmas Dinner


Dawn Knox

Vintage wine - only the best!


He raised his hands for silence and then welcomed the guests to his birthday meal. Ragged men and women held up crystal glasses in mittened and gloved hands, and toasted him, glancing at each other as if they couldn’t believe their luck. 
 
This was no soup kitchen. Only the finest dishes lay before them and the host invited them to help themselves. 
 
They helped themselves – tucking food away in pockets and carrier bags for later when they were back on the street. 
 
“Wish it was Christmas every day,” one man muttered. 
 
“Why? Ain’t no one cares about us at Christmas,” another added, “I got asked to leave the church earlier today once the service was over. Time to lock up, they said. And could I move along, they said. All desperate to get home to their own Christmas dinner. It was lucky I was there though, or I wouldn’t have bumped into him.” He raised his glass at the host, who returned his salute.
 
“Yeah, I got moved along last night from outside the church. I mean, it ain’t as if all those people going to midnight mass couldn’t afford a penny or two. It weren’t hurting anyone to ask, was it? Just a penny or two…” 
 
“Christmas isn’t the same as it used to be,” said another, “I remember parties that went on till past dawn.” His eyes glazed over in an alcoholic trance, “Now it’s all religion and that sort of stuff.”
 
“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s all right if you fit in.” A bobble-hatted woman looked round at the assortment seated at the table – unruly whiskers, unkempt hair, dirty, mismatched clothes. The delicious smell of the food was being overcome by the stink of unwashed humanity. “He don’t seem to mind, though.” She nodded at their host and he smiled back. 
 
“Ain’t seen anyone look at me with such respect for a long time,” she said, “if ever.” 
 
“So, why did he invite us? We’re not usually on anyone’s guest list.”
 
“He told me he’d asked everyone. But most of them said they couldn’t come. Prior engagements. That sort of thing. Too busy, I guess. Christmas is a busy time.”


About the author

Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ has just been published by Bridge House Publishing. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com
 

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Christmas Tree

Robin Wrigley 

mulled wine

The door-bell rang just as Gordon was struggling with the long, recently delivered cardboard box to put it into the loft. Cursing to himself he shoved the box into the opening and followed it with the stepladder and shut the hatch.
     ‘Can you get that Gordon?’ June called from the lounge where she was putting the finishing touches to the tree decorations. It was quite remarkable how, after all these years she managed to make an order sound like a request and worst still, asking him to do something that he was about to do of his own volition anyway.
     Smoothing his hair as he went, he approached the front door and opened it with a smile that Richard Nixon would have been proud of.
     Janet, his sister-in-law and Freddie her husband stood there, huge friendly grins creasing their faces as they both wished him ‘Merry Christmas’ but then stepped inside almost as if the door had opened automatically and Gordon wasn’t there.
     He closed the door and followed them into the lounge where June and Janet were hugging each other as though they had not seen one another for an eternity, when in fact it was less than a week ago they went shopping together.
     ‘That ain’t a real tree,’ spouted Freddie as though he had made some important discovery.
     ‘I don’t recall saying it was,’ replied Gordon more than a little indignant, as if he had been caught out on some form of cheating. ‘The real ones are too messy and we got fed up with all the needles they shed.’ He offered in his defence.
     ‘Why, have you taken over cleaning duties then Gord?’
     He looked at Freddie, who had broken out into that ridiculous laugh that always set Gordon’s teeth on edge and the two ladies joined in the chorus of laughter. The trio had the look of the front row of a Michael Macintyre matinee.
     ‘I’ll go and make some tea,’ Gordon said retreating to the kitchen where above the noise of the electric jug boiling, he could still hear their inane guffaws.

‘What’s that noise Gordon? Gordon, wake up.’ June was feeling around the other side of the bed and panic set in when she found it was empty. She leapt out of bed grabbing her dressing gown as she went and rushed into the lounge.
     All the lights were on and Gordon was sitting amongst the artificial Christmas tree that lay in pieces all around him. Baubles and decorations were strewn around the floor as though a mad bear had broken in.
     For a split second June was speechless. She thought, no hoped she was dreaming for indeed it was a nightmare scene. Then she screamed, ‘What on earth have you done Gordon? That tree took me bloody hours to decorate.’
     He just looked at her, tears streaming down his face, ‘You and your bloody family have laughed at me for the last time you miserable bitch. You know it was all your idea to buy a bloody plastic tree. It was you who complained every minute of the day about the dropping needles but you joined in and laughed at me with those stupid sods. Well, now you’ve really got something to clear up haven’t you?’

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Darkness into Light



Roger Noons



a port and lemon dear, please


The familiar butterflies arrive, a cocktail of anticipation laced with trepidation; crushed ice along my spine. The darkness calms me, but only slightly. I squeeze my eyelids together, chin up; whisper my usual prayer. Saying those first words, I rock slowly backwards and forwards on my heels. There is activity around me, but no-one speaks. I am ignored, which is my preference. I take deep breaths, shuffle my feet and following a tap on my shoulder, I tweak the waist band of my skirt and tug down my right knicker leg. As soon as I feel the smack on my bum, I march out into the light. Blinking rapidly helps me focus and when I hear the laughter and applause, the ice melts and my heart warms. I bow and wave, lap up the cheers; I am at home in the brightness; I feel the warmth. More blinking to flutter my lashes and coyly turn towards the spotlight. Full of adrenaline I scurry across the stage.
    ‘Now then Jack, when are you going to take that cow to market?’

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Nativity Play Auditions

Dawn Knox


Mulled Wine

“You got through the Nativity Play auditions again this year then, donkey?”

“Mmmm hmm. The director said I had stage presence. And nice eyes… So you’re back in the cast then, sheep?”

“Yeah, the director said I behaved really well in the stable scene last year. Unlike the cow.”

“Oh yes, I remember. What a mess she made. Such a shame she turned her back on the audience. If she’d been facing front, it wouldn’t have hit the human actors.” 

“No, it wouldn’t have dribbled off the front of the stage towards the audience either. That woman with the delicious looking flowers on her hat was quite hysterical.”

“I remember.”

“The new cow looks okay, though.”

“Mmmm hmm… Apparently they were going to introduce some different animals to the stable scene this year but one of the human actors is allergic to pork… and shellfish.”

“So, no pigs then… Or prawns.”

“No. S’pose not.”

“On my way to the auditions, one of the turkeys asked me to put in a good word for him. He told me he’d always dreamed of being on the stage. He’s a bit full of himself in my opinion. Strutting about barging the other birds out of the way.”

“Yes, I know the one you’re talking about. But there wouldn’t be any point recommending him for a part. Those turkeys are a flighty lot. No tenacity. It’s the same every Christmas… they keep swanning off. One minute they’re flapping about in their field. The next they’re gone.”

“What a shocking lack of commitment to Christmas.”

“Mmmm hmm.”

About the author 

 Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ has just been published by Bridge House Publishing. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com
 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Career Prospect

Roger Noons

a small glass of camel’s milk.

 

‘So Aaron, you will be leaving school in six weeks time and I’ve been asked to talk to you about what you will do. Have you any ideas?’
    The lad shook his head.
    ‘Well, to start with, what’s your father’s job?’
    ‘Looks after camels.’
    ‘Might you like to follow in his footsteps?’
    ‘No way. Don’t like camels, horrible smelly things. Always spitting and far … doing nasty things.’
    ‘But you like animals, don’t you? Your teacher told me you always take the class hamster home during the school holidays. ‘
    ‘I like him. He’s funny, strokes his whiskers a lot and wheels round and round.’
    ‘Would you like to work with animals?’
   The lad nodded.
    ‘What about sheep? I know a shepherd, perhaps he’d take you as an apprentice.’
    ‘Yeah, I quite like sheep.’
    ‘Shepherds have dogs to help them. Nice friendly dogs.’
    ‘That sounds good,’ Aaron beamed.
    ‘There’s no glamour mind you, it can be many hours of hard work, particularly during lambing. Although it is thrilling to watch lambs gambolling around the fields. But you’d never be rich or famous.’
    ‘That’s all right.’
   ‘After all, nothing exciting or memorable ever happens in or near Bethlehem.’

Monday, 4 December 2017

Strangers in the Seasonal Night


Alan Cadman

 

Strong Black Coffee


It only happens when it’s dark. I can sense they are out there, but never hear them. This puzzles me; we have a squeaky gate in front of our house that opens out onto a long drive laid with crunchy gravel. A friend of mine is a crime prevention expert; she thinks it’s an excellent idea. I remember her saying, 'They don’t like to make any kind of noise. In and out, as quick as they can, that’s their policy.'

            It works well when our ‘postie’ arrives. Hinges squeal then gravel crunches as intended. When the letterbox flap is raised, cards and letters bounce off the mat; this is followed by a thud that seems louder than a door banging shut.

            So how come they are so elusive? Some December nights I’ve even peered through the bedroom window, a mug of strong black coffee in hand, to see if I can spot them. I’ve seen cats jumping fences and a fox skulking round a wheelie bin, even a badger scurrying across the lawn, but never that lot. Is this the modern way that some of our neighbours post their Christmas cards?


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Bottled Christmas Spirit

Derek Corbett

single malt  

 
I remember that Christmas a couple of years ago as if it were yesterday.  The names of those involved in making the WW1 film, where at the end soldiers from both sides meet up to sing ‘Silent Night,’ was still scrolling on the screen when Amy, my son Jack’s fiancée at the time said.

‘It’s ‘Morecombe and Wise next. It’s a repeat, but still it’ll be a good laugh.’

That’s when my Mum asked where her Grandson was. I still remember the concerned look on Grandad’s face as her told her.

            ‘He left just a moment ago. Didn’t look to clever either.  I reckon it could have been the film.’
 Taking off her glasses she looked towards the lounge doorway.

‘I didn’t see him leave do you reckon he’s alright?’ 

That was enough to prompt Amy to get up and move towards the door announcing.

‘He’s ‘Post Traumatic thingy’ has been bothering him a bit today.. I’d better check.’
Even though it was twelve months since he’d had to retire from the Army, he was still trying to come to terms with his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It had us watching him like a hawk which is why his Mum followed Amy out the room. 

Reappearing a few minutes later, Amy announced. ‘We’ve checked every room in the bungalow and his coat’s gone.’ 

‘Maybe he’s popped out for a walk round the Orchards,’ suggested his Gran.  Moments later, knowing the problem he was still trying to come to terms with.  His Grandad and I, Overcoats and Hats on with orders to find him, were hurrying across the bitterly cold yard.  Half way to the gate that leads out to, Pipp’s Apple and Plum Orchards, our family business Dad said.   
  
‘We don’t really need torches.’

             I guess that like me he was worried and felt he had to say something.  Even though it was obvious our presence had triggered the automatic floodlight system, making the yard brighter than daytime.  As we reached out to open the gate that led into the first field, the system timed out, leaving us in darkness.

Dad touched me on the shoulder and pointed towards the Packing shed as I reached for the torch in my pocket.

‘There’s a light in the shed Bill.’

              We walked quickly to the door and entered.  Although there was no sign of Jack, we did see the rope complete with noose hanging from a beam.

‘Jack,’ I called out, ‘you OK son?’ 

             It was stupid question really, what with his recent behaviour.  Immediately he appeared from one of the packing bays and stood there with an expression, somewhere between sheepishness and annoyance, on his face. Without saying a word his Grandad walked up to him and flung his arms around him. Immediately the lad began to cry.  I looked over the boy's shoulder and his granddad and I saw that like me, he had tears rolling down his cheeks.

 ‘What we going to do?’  I mouthed.

              Dad blinked and shook his head.

I knew I couldn’t take him back to his Mum in that state, so I suggested that we go and sit in the office for a bit. I switched on the electric fire and took out my almost full bottle of whisky from the filing cabinet. I whipped out three used mugs, and poured a generous helping into each.    

‘Now this is what I call Christmas spirit,’ joked Dad a little later as we sat around the desk sipping our Whiskey.  ‘Single Malt, your taste must have improved Bill, after the stuff you used to drink.’

Once again Dad was talking just for something to say, for when he ran the business up to a year ago; it had been his Whiskey we drank.  Then Dad suddenly looks at his Grandson and say’s.  

‘Do we have a serious problem Jack?’ 

             I thought it was being a bit blunt, but then Dad always was a bit of a straight talker. ‘Haven’t the people at the MOD place been able to help you?’ 

              Jack nodded without looking up.

‘A bit but I still get really bad days.'

‘And you reckon what you have out there, will answer your problem?’

‘I guess so,’ he mumbled.

‘OK, well I can see why it would be a solution, but before you go any further I’d like to tell you something about your family history, if you will listen.  Will you listen? I mean really listen?’
Jack nodded and looked up.  

‘Yes,’ 

‘Good.  Bill a touch more of that whisky, if you please.’

             Having no idea what he was about to say, I just added to the three mugs.

‘Nearly 100 years ago after the 14-18 punch up, your Great, Great, Grandad, came back from three years in the trenches.  Like you, he too had memories, as well as having lost some toes from foot rot.  When he got home he met and married your Great, Great Grandmother.  I remember her she was one strong minded woman. She talked him into renting and then buying a few fields, with some run down Apple and Plum trees in them. Time went by they had three sons and those fields became the start of the Orchards we work today.  Then World War II started and my Dad and his two Brothers were called up, my Dad was the only one to survive. Like you he came home trying to forget.  It was you’re Great, Great Gran and Grandad got him through it. He married your Great Gran and they had me. Against their advice, I too joined the army.  In fact I enjoy it so much I finished up with some special outfit helping the Yanks in Vietnam. Your Gran will tell you, how many times my nightmares have woken her.’

            ‘Then it was your Dads turn, unfortunately he came home from the Falklands not only with bad memories but also with half a leg missing.  You don’t need me to tell you how well he has come to terms with that.’  

‘I suppose what I’m trying to say is that some things take a while to come to terms with.  But the choices we make to cope with them do not have to be made on our own. That’s what families are for, to help you make a choice or even to give us a shoulder to cry on.

Jacks Grandad, pointed towards the packing bays.

 ‘Out there, is one solution to your problem, unfortunately it doesn’t solve the problems of those that love you and are left behind.  Do you see where I’m coming from son?’ 

            Jack remained looking into his mug a moment before answering.

“I see what you mean.”

“You give your young Amy a chance, along with the rest of us.  After a while, God willing, you’ll wonder what it was all about, especially when the kid’s come along.” 

After that we sat for some time in silence finishing off the bottle.  Then Jack gets up and walks out to the packing bay.  Taking down the rope he undoes the noose, coils the rope, and hangs it on the usual hook as if he were tidying up after a day’s packing.

I’m not saying that the Christmas spirit and Dad’s blunt talking solved his problem, but it was enough to make him consider the options.  Later, we left the empty whisky bottle and three mugs on the desk and  returned to the bungalow. We went back into the house singing our own rendition of ‘Silent night’ we made the excuse we had been talking family business. 
I knew that I'd have to tell  Jack's Mum the truth; she was looking at me suspiciously.

            ‘Well you missed a bloody good laugh on TV.’ 

This year the family, now including Jack and Amy’s noisy three year old twins, will again be staying with us.  So I expect it will be another traditional visit to the packing shed for some single malt Christmas spirit, followed by carols.

 

About the author  

Derek Corbett retired from the Petrochemical Industry as an Engineer in 2004.  Having had a story (Natural Recycle) included in an anthology published by Bridge House Publishing in 2015 and some success at Writing club level.  He decided to see how his writing, that started as a hobby in 1984, would be received when attempting to get it published.