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