Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Miss Stevens

by Roger Noons

a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. 

Dorothy Stevens is a regular at St Luke’s; not only on Sundays, but on any weekday when brass needs polishing, crockery washing or woodwork dusting. Appreciated at the Church as she accepts all requests, doesn’t gossip and carries out her duties diligently. She speaks little but when she does, expresses considerable common sense.
    She appeared one day in Southgate Road, one of Mr Braithwaite’s new tenants, moving in without fuss. She washes her net curtains and cleans her windows on a weekly basis, has few visitors and when spoken to, has a smile and a friendly response. 
    One Thursday morning while tidying the vestry, she moved a box of hymn books and found a collection of magazines. Assuming they were comics which had been confiscated at Sunday school or Junior Church, she moved to set them aside until a slightly larger, glossy magazine slid from the middle of the pile. Picking it up she saw it was a copy of Men’s Monthly. After looking around,  listening and hearing nothing, she closed the door and sat down.
    She flipped through the early pages until she found the first feature. Introducing Helga from Germany, the caption read and over six pages there were several studies of Das Fräulein without clothes. They were black and white and the studio lighting was such that whilst her upper body was clearly portrayed, there was mystery surrounding the area where her thighs met her trunk. Two pages later, there was a similar set, this time of Monika, from Denmark. Comparing the two sets, Dorothy confirmed that it was the same model wearing different wigs.
    She spent some time studying the poses, smiling as she recognised familiar props and settings. Nodding, she recognised the well-proportioned body and facial expressions which were neither lascivious, nor as her mother might have said, smutty. She felt the images were artistic and had they been paintings, would have been lauded and hung in galleries.
    There was a third collection, covering eight pages, in which the settings were in the countryside. The lighting was soft and a grassy mound provided a base for reclined poses. Although the pictures had been taken thirty years previously and showed none of the discomfort caused by insects, tree roots and at one time a passing grass snake, they were the best of the lot. She was again excited by the results. There was no mention of the model’s name.
    Dotty sighed as she closed the magazine and slid it back between the Dandys and Beanos before she hoisted the collection on to the top of the wardrobe. Shaking her head, she wished she had kept her cameras and darkroom and not been put off by bullying from male picture editors and glamour photographers.

About the author

    Roger is a regular contributor to Café Lit.

Monday, 12 November 2018


 by  Bruce Rowe 

diet cola

I’m not sure how I ended up here, lying face up with my throbbing head in a puddle of storm water or street-dweller piss. All I know is that it’s warm. My vision is blurred and no matter how often I blink or squint my eyes they won’t focus. I do notice what appears to be a blue neon light over a red door. Looks like a single letter; a capital I or a T with the cross burned out. It flickers at times.

I try to raise my head but there’s no feeling in my neck, arms or legs. Paralyzed? I can’t even roll on my side. I do have the thick taste of iron in my mouth. Maybe blood but I’m not sure.  I can’t even spit.I feel a soft breeze brush by my cheek; it’s bitter cold. I hope I’m not lying in the street to get ran over by a car.

That’s right! I got the crap beat out of me. But why? I have to think, but even that hurts. Surely if someone saw me, they would have called 911. But I don’t hear any voices. Actually, I don’t hear anything at all.

Ok, let’s start with the basic’s; my name is Justin…Justin MacAnally, no McNally; I’m 27 years old and live in downtown Chicago, Illinois. You’re doing good, J. Now, what do I do for a living? Oh
Jesus, I’m a freaking Card-Shark, a Sharpie! Well that explains a hell-of-a-lot. Memory’s flushing back now.

Ryan and I have been fleecing these four fools for an easy two grand a week. Freaking hand-muck amateurs. Our strategy was that Ryan and I would take turns folding midway into a game. Then, out of good sportsmanship, we would serve the others drinks; keep the glasses full and the mind dull.

That was until William, Bill he like to be called ˗ the fat one whose stinking sweat always soaked  through his Charles Tyrwhitt shirt and was constantly dabbing his furrowed forehead with a matching kerchief from his jacket pocket ˗ saw Ryan giving me signals on who had what cards.

Ryan was the smart one. He sprinted out of the back room, through the club and out the front door before I could crap my pants, which I probably have.

Marty grabbed me and threw me on the floor while Fat Bill, Brawny Stew, and Fried Freddy kicked the bejesus out of me until I went unconscious. Then tossed me in the alley like a piece of garbage.

Pain is starting to swell over my body. Not the feeling I was hoping would return. My vision’s a little better. I can see a large, brown moth lying flat against the brick wall just above the red door. I wonder if that spirit transference crap my great grandma taught me is for real. Now would be as good a time as any for it to happen.Concentrate. Blood is coming up my throat and starting to pour out of my nose. Suffocation is right around the corner. All is fading.

Ah, much better, no pain. The moth is still dominate, but that’s ok. I’ll find a more suitable body in the morning. Looking down I notice my head was lying in a pool of blood. Low-life bastards.

The moth flaps its wings rising off the brick wall and heads toward the blue neon light.

“Ah, damn!”

A loud “Pop, Crackle” then smoke.

About the author

Bruce Rowe was born in the Deep South where he gained an affinity for myths and folklore. He has been writing since 2009. He has short stories published at Spillwords.com,  Dastaanworld.com. and Cafelit. Some of those stories can be viewed here. His story, ‘The Rider, hasbeen nominated as Publication of the Month in October 2018 at Spillwords. He now resides in southern California with his wife Donna.


Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Kite

by Paula R C Readman

hot Vimto

In the clear night sky, the moon hung high above like a silent watcher. It casted long shadows over no man’s land as Harry stood, saturated by the heavy dew, peering over the trench walls, watching, knowing at last that he could do his bit for King and country.
For so long, he had hated the faceless enemies. Night after night with his rifle held high, he watched, while all around, the sounds of bombs and gunshots thundered in the darkness, only punctuated by the screams of dying men. For him there was only gloominess reflecting in the endless dips and hollows that pitted the once beautiful landscape, caused by the bombs that fell as they tried to win back the land lost to them on other such nights.
Sometimes, he was sure he could hear them laughing above the sound of carnage.
“Are they laughing at us, George?” He ground the words out through clenched teeth to his comrade-in-arms at his side, before lifting his rifle higher and steadying his aim. “Good men are dying because of the likes of them? I see no fun in that!”
Anger tore through Harry’s heart, his conscience would be clear;he would never allow another man to suffer, unlike the enemy. No, not until he saw the whites of their eyes would he fire a single shot.
“I know,” George said, stifling a yawn. “But don’t let them get to you.” He patted Harry’s shoulder as he squeezed past him, “I’m off to get some kip, if the buggers let me.”

At the first light of dawn,through the misty haze that hung over the few feet of no man’s land, Harry caught sight of their ghostly shadows moving amidst the foggy vapour.
With aching muscles in his back, the tops of his arms and legs, he tightened his grip on his gun while steadying his aim. His chest and head knotted as he felt his face grow hot as his temper inflamed by their disregard to the raging turmoil around them. He watched as they lazily drew on their cigarettes, sending up clouds of smoke while their muffled voices carried across the land to torment him.

One night, on watch, Harry became aware that the man, who stood with his gun pointing at him, was the same man who had been there on previous nights. He wasn’t sure how he knew, he just did.
  Was it the way the enemy stood, so still, unwavering in his aim? Maybe, it was the way he held his rifle, with just as much determination as he did, for that he respected him. Harry shivered suddenly aware that some sort of familiarity had passed between them. 

The days passed into weeks and the summer became autumn. The dried soil soon became a sea of mud under foot as rain mixed with the blood of the men. Bullets and bombs rained down on them along with the last of the falling leaves from what was left of the bullet-ridden trees that edged the trenches. The stench of death mingled in the air, along with the decay of the year as the trees stood like wounded guardian angels with their limbs torn away as they tried and failed to protect the lost souls in their care.
Harry stared at them briefly and shivered, touched by their sadness. They reminded him of the large ancient oak trees that edged the fields and meadows of a long, forgotten world lost to him now. Warmed by thoughts of home washing over him, he tried to forget the damp that ate its way through the soles of his boots, and clawed up his legs. He shivered again, this time touched by the coldness of the racing wind that whistled along the trenches in its bid to escape the surrounding madness.
“Here’s something to break the monotony, Harry.”
Startled out of his thoughts, he turned to find George holding out a letter.  “Thanks, George,” he said, lowering his gun.
“God only knows what will kill us first, the boredom, stench, rats, or mud. Sometimes, I doubt the enemy will get a look in. What do you think, Harry?” George said as he squelched his way along the trench to the next man.
Harry wiped his hands on his jacket sleeve, and using a knife slit open the letter. Guiltflooded him, with every word he read.
Dearest son,
 I hope this letter finds you well.I’m sorry it’s short, but I’ve been busy helping in the fields. Dad has more than enough work to keep ten men going. It’s been a good harvest this year, with a high yield. Though Tom is getting to be a big lad, he’s not strong or tall enough to swing a scythe yet.
I’m hoping that I’ll find the time to write you a good long letter soon.
Must go now, my dearest, Harry.
Watch out for a parcel, we sent one, but maybe you have already received it. Please don’t say you don’t have time to write, if it’s only a postcard, I will be satisfied. Are you in the trenches again?
Dad & Tom send their love. Keep safe & make haste to come home.
Mother X
Harry folded the letter carefully and slipped it into a waxed paper envelope with the others.  He tucked it into his breast pocket, hoping to keep them safe and dry, before picking up his gun again, reasoning as he focused on the enemy’s line, that his father needed him far more than his King did.
Surely, the country needed him to plough the fields and harvest the crops to feed them all during this time.

That last Sunday, a lifetime ago, the family had gone to church before they waved him off to join the army along, with many other young men from their village. He still could feel the sweetness of his mother’s embrace as she kissed him goodbye. Tom just a kid,at eleven, was too young to die for King and country and of little help to his parents too. Harry had been relieved that his mother would not lose both her sons to the war as she proudly stood waving him goodbye. 

 The hardest thing Harry had found was trying to snatch sleep at anytime during the day or night. When given notice to leave his post, he’d hurried dog-tired back to his bunk.
 The shelter of the bunk carved into the trench wall,hadn’t the power to block out the noise to allow his body to slip peacefully into the arms of Morpheus as the world screamed for him to stay and fight. When his exhausted body and mind finally gave into sleep, he dreamt of home. He felt the warmth of a sweetly perfumed summer breeze across his bare back as he bent hoe in hand, helping his father.
Tom, thin arms and legs, ran like the wind he chased, across the field at the back of the house, with a homemade, paper kite in tow. In the yard, he saw their mother standing tall and slender, her black hair swept up and pinned in place. At her hip, she held a basket from which she tossed grain to hungry clucking chickens that gathered round her feet.
Catching sight of the kite riding on the warm air currents above her head, she shielded her eyes, and looked up in time to see the kite dancing on the perfect, summer breeze.
Father resting a while,straightened too, before leaning on his hoe. A deep, caring chuckle broke the silence between them as they worked.
“I see the lad has made another one. My, my, that boy has determination, I’ll give him that.” He turned, and Harry felt his father’s strength as he patted him on the back, “You, my lad, are strong both in mind and in character. I’m so proud of you both.” With that, his father carried on with his toil as though nothing had happened. As the power of his father’s love and pride flooded through him, Harry felt himself smiling, knowing his father was not one for fancy words.

A terrifying scream tore Harry from his father’s side as the dream faded. Startled awake, he almost fell from his bunk. For a moment, he lay stunned by the agonising noise, his breath catching in his throat. His heart hammered in his chest as he tried to open his eyes, but something wet and sticky covered them.
At first, he thought, he was screaming. Terrified, he wiped at his eyes, realising that the stuff covering his face was the cause of his sudden blindness. Now that he could see, he looked down at his hands, to his horror, saw the blood, and checked himself.
It wasn’t his. 
A scream rang out again,piercing, pitiful and nearby. 
Harry peered over the side of his bunk and found a boy lying in the mud.
 “Tom?” he heard himself saying.
The boy’s head turned slowly. Then with pleading baby blue eyes and a lost expression, he stared up at him.
Harry stood, trying to catch his breath. 
The round, soft-faced boy-child, looked no more than seventeen; lay where he had fallen with half his body torn away. What was left of his torso sat propped up against the wooden bargeboard of the trench wall. Between the boy’s legs, his guts spilled out snake-like in a pool of red and white matter across the duckboards mixing in with mud and dirt from where the bomb had blasted the trench wallaway.

Transfixed by the fallen boy, Harry felt a sense of tranquillity even though all around the sounds of the big guns continued to rain chaos and hellfire down on them.
Harry stared fascinated at seeing no sign of pain or tears in the boy’s eyes as he held up his hand to him. Dropping to his knees beside him, he took it and leaned forward to hear him plead, “Help me,Mister. I can’t move my legs.”
“I’m sorry Lad, there’s nothing I can do, but pray to God for you.”
The boy closed his eyes. 
Relief washed over Harry, believing the boy must have slipped away to somewhere far more peaceful.
Then a low groan emanated from the boy and he opened his eyes again.
A sickening bile rose in Harry as he realised what he had to do. The boy suddenly spoke his thoughts aloud.
“Please kill me, Mister. I beg you. I can’t stand the pain or noise anymore.”  
Harry closed his eyes in a silent prayer as he heard the boy cough.
Harry opened his eyes, stared into the boy’s eyes as thick, red blood oozed from between his pale lips. Without a second thought, Harry lifted his revolver to the boy’s head.
A gentle smile flickered across the boy’s thin bloodless lips,and Harry heard him say, “Oh, thank you, Mister. I can go home now.”
The sound of Harry’s revolver echoed around the trench, and seemed to block out the roar of the big guns too. Harry lowered his gun. As a tear rolled down his cheek, he quickly wiped it.
Startled by a voice from behind him, he flopped back on his bunk, as a brother in arms pushed by him.
“Poor sod, isn’t much else we could’ve done for the little bugger. Don’t you go worrying yourself.It’s what he wanted. None of us would be that lucky. Come on,George, give us a hand. We’ll see if we can find a hole somewhere for him. You’ve done enough,Harry; you’re a braver man than I’ll ever be.”
Harry stared at the gun in his hand, and tossed it away aware that he hadn’t killed one of the faceless enemies, but a boy. Shot as though he’d been nothing more than a lame dog.

Harry pushed his revolver back in its holster, picked up his rifle, and took his place back at his post. As he looked across no man’s land, he saw his enemy at his post on the far side, his gun focused on him. No longer, did Harry watch with a keen eye, or hold his gun with a steady aim; he hadn’t the stomach for it.
Laughter echoed along the trenches. Perplexed he looked around to see where it came from, and curled his lips in disgust, when he realised it came from his own trench.
“Had everyone forgotten so quickly? Are we so numbed by death that we no longer care about one of our own?”
He lifted his gun, and stared across to no man’s land.

Confusion filled the blood-scented air as Harry became aware that his enemy no longer stared at him, but stare towards the clear blue sky, with his hand shielding his eyes from the autumn sun. Harry lowered his rifle slightly, and followed his gaze until he saw what had caught his attention.
There fluttering over no man’s land, high up in the sky, hanging on the warm current was a white kite. Its brightly coloured tails seemed to dance in numerous twists and turns as the wind dipped and flowed.
Slowly, along the trenches on both sides the men of the frontline began to shield their eyes and look skyward, before nudging their comrades to look. Harry followed the string to earth and found no one held the kite. He checked the frontline again, reasoning aloud, “Surely someone held it.” 
Glancing at his enemy, he watched him gesture with a shrug of his shoulders that he too was puzzled. Harry found himself smiling, and returned the gesture.
In that moment, he wondered what else he shared with the enemy.After all, they were both men with parents and maybe siblings too. 
Did he watch the kite in the same way as him? Had he spent time with his father, in a garden, in some distant time and place? Maybe he too had a kid brother, who played with a kite on a long hot day, when the world rested peacefully in some past life.
Harry laid his gun down, and climbed over the top of the trench. Standing with his arms outstretched, he walked towards the enemy line.
“Come back you stupid bastard! You’ll get yourself killed!”he heard his men calling with anxious voices from behind him,but he kept on walking.
He passed the fallen, broken bodies of men from both sides. They seemed to stare vacant-eyed at the hovering white kite with its crucifix-stylized cross made out of thin canes while the mud, the only decent thing on the battlefield, tried to swallow them up.
Suddenly, the guns fell silent as Harry stood in the heart of no man’s land staring up at the dancing kite. Then out of the opposing trench came the familiar stance as his faceless counterpart walked towards him with his arms outstretched. In the middle of all the madness, two men embraced like old friends.
No words spoken. There wasn’t any language left to express the sorrow, or anguish felt by them both. Harry’s adversary took his hands in his, pulling him onto his knees. Harry sensed what the Unknown Soldier wanted of him, and placed his hands together; closing his eyes, he lifted his head towards heaven, and offered up a prayer to God for all the lost souls on the battlefield. The man pulled Harry to his feet then after embracing him tightly for a few moments he held him at arm's length.
Harry found himself bathed in a golden light as he stared deep into the soldier’s sky-blue eyes. For a briefest of moments, he was sure he saw the dancing kite with its fluttering multicoloured tails reflected within them.
After another quick embrace,the man turned, and walked away, leaving Harry with a deep sense of peace washing over him.

Just as Harry returned to his trench, he glanced back over his shoulder, and noticed that both the soldier and the kite were gone. He stood stunned for a moment, wondering if it had all been a dream when he became aware that the big guns with their dragon-like mouths roared fire into the sky as the sounds of war filled the air with death once more. 

 “Wake up, Grandpa!” The excited child called, rushing into the quiet study from the garden.
“Hush, my dear child, you’ll startle Grandpa,” came the softly spoken voice of a woman.
“But, Mama, he mustn’t be late for church.”
Harry opened his eyes slowly to see his grandson watching him with bright, baby blue eyes and a soft baby-boy smile.
“Grandpa, I knew you were not asleep. You must be ready to go to work soon. 
Harry laughed and sat up in his armchair before straightening his clerical collar.
“It’s lovely to see you, Thomas, and your dear mother looking so smartly dressed and ready to come to church with me.” Harry stood and embraced his daughter, before lifting his grandson to kiss his cheek. 
The memories of the war to end all wars would never leave him. He knew it had marked him in so many ways, as it had done many others, but he’d been one of the lucky few who had survived. He looked down into the bright eyes of his grandson and hoped he would never have to take another man’s life for either the right or wrong reasons. 
“After church, grandpa can we fly my kite again?”
“Of course, we can, Thomas,” Harry said ruffling his grandson’s hair, “It looks to be the perfect day for it. Peaceful and just the right amount of summer breeze to make it dance.”   

On the Other Side of Peace

Dawn Knox

A pint of bitter

The Armistice has been signed.
The guns have fallen silent.
The men are on their way home and their women and children await them with relief and joy.
At last, after four appalling years, normal life can be resumed.
But what is ‘normal’?
There are too many men who didn’t return home.
Too many women and children in mourning, with no grave to visit.
Too many men with physical and mental wounds who will never again know peace.
There is guilt at leaving mates behind, regrets for things done and not done.
For many, life will never be normal again. 

About the author 

Author of: 
The Great War -100 Stories of 100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died 100 Years Ago"
A Touch of the Exotic WWII romance set in London and Essex coming in 2019
Extraordinary Tales to take you out of this world. 
Welcome to Plotlands 1930s romance set in Essex.
Daffodil and the Thin Place YA adventure story.
All available on Amazon.co.uk  

Saturday, 10 November 2018

A Shadowy Tale


Jo Dearden

Café Mocha

As Joe turned into the driveway, the old farm house looked welcoming with its flint stone walls glinting in the watery Autumn sunshine. But as he drew nearer, he saw him. He was standing in the porch by the front door, dressed in what looked like a dark monk-like coat with a large hood covering his head and hiding his face. As Joe approached him, he could see the coat was made of a coarse brown material. It looked scratchy and uncomfortable. A thick rope hung loosely around his waist. A large bunch of keys jangled as he stepped forward. Joe had not expected anyone to greet him and certainly not anyone who appeared so menacing and out of context with the present. The instructions from the letting agency had said the front door key would be left under a mat by the front door.
            Joe stared at the ominous looking figure approaching him. He fiddled with the bunch of keys, removed one and handed it to Joe. He then turned on his heel and quickly walked towards a high laurel hedge at the edge of the driveway.
‘Hey, wait,’ called Joe, as the man quickly disappeared. It was then that Joe noticed a wrought iron gate in the middle of the hedge. He tried to open it, but it was stiff as if it hadn’t been used for a while. He didn’t think the man had opened it.
Earlier, he had stopped at the village shop to ask for directions to the farmhouse. ‘Take the first turning on the right past the Church and follow the unmade road to the end. It’s the last house. You can’t miss it,’ the shop keeper told him. ‘The house has been empty for a while now. The owners are trying to sell it, but not having much luck. Some people say it’s haunted. Probably putting people off,’ she added.
‘Oh, I’m not sure I believe in ghosts’, Joe laughed. ‘We’re here for a week. My wife is coming tomorrow. There was a problem at her surgery. One of the nurses is ill, so she had to cover for her today.’
He and Rachel love the North Norfolk coast. So, when they saw the house advertised online with photos showing the large lawn sloping towards the sea, they had booked it for a week’s break.
Joe opened the front door and stepped into a narrow flagstone hall with a dark staircase rising above him.  A panelled door led to a large kitchen with an old cream Aga and a well-worn pine table in the centre. There were a few unwashed mugs in the sink. That’s odd, he thought. He quickly scoured the rest of the house. It all looked tidy with clean bedlinen and towels. Perhaps the cleaner forgot about the mugs.
He heard someone knocking on the front door. I hope it’s not the monk man again. He didn’t seem too friendly. He saw through a side window in the kitchen that it was a woman.
‘Sorry to disturb you,’ she said. ‘I’m Sarah from Coastal Lettings. I thought you might like another key.’
‘Oh, thanks. Who was that odd-looking man who gave me the first one?’
‘What man?’
‘You know, looked like a monk, didn’t say anything, just handed me the key from a rope hanging round his waist.’
Sarah looked incredulous. ‘Sorry, I don’t know what you mean. We always leave the key under the mat.’
Joe lifted the mat. Underneath lay the key.
‘Oh, right, ‘I’ll ask my manager. I’m afraid I have to go now. I’ve a few other houses to go to. Have a nice holiday.’ Joe watched her walk quickly to her car. He was beginning to feel uneasy.
He went outside to explore the garden. There was a paved terrace with stone steps leading to a large expanse of lawn. He looked back towards the house. He thought he could see someone looking out of one of the upstairs windows. He ran into the house, shouting ‘Hello’. He went into every room, but each one was empty. I must have imagined it he thought. He decided to make a fire in the sitting room, but it took a while to ignite the slightly damp wood that he had found in a pile by the back door. At least it made him focus on something else.
Later that evening, Joe woke with a start. He looked at his watch. It was nearly midnight. He must have dozed off. Dying embers glowed in the hearth casting ghostly shadows in the gloomy light. The TV flickered in the corner of the room. Something had happened to the sound. He couldn’t remember pressing the mute button. The lamp on the table beside him was also flickering as if the bulb was about to expire. A draught of cold air wafted around him. He glanced at the large sash window overlooking the garden. He was pretty sure he had closed it.
He picked up his phone that was lying on the small table beside the winged chair he was sitting in near the fire. There was a text from Rachel: ‘Hope house is ok? See you tomorrow. Love you. X’. Joe began to write a reply when his phone screen went black. He pressed the main button. Nothing. The phone was dead. The room was beginning to feel colder.  He looked up from his phone. He thought he could see what looked like a shadowy figure standing by the window. He rubbed his eyes. The figure had gone. Perhaps that last glass of whisky had been a bad idea. He walked over to the window. It was locked.
His phone began to ring. It was Rachel. ‘Hi darling. Did you get my message? Are you ok?’
Joe told her all about the strange events that had happened since his arrival.  ‘I’m sure there must be an explanation. I’ll be with you around lunchtime tomorrow,’ she said. Joe clicked off his phone. Rachel had sounded sceptical. She often told him he drank too much. He decided to go to bed. As he started to get undressed, he saw a pair of black men’s slip on shoes poking out from under the bed. He hadn’t noticed them earlier.  Joe felt his heart miss a beat. I can’t stay here. He grabbed his coat and stumbled down the stairs. He flung open the front door and ran to his car. The engine stuttered but wouldn’t start. Keep calm.  He tried the ignition again and this time the car roared into life. As he drove down the drive, he thought he saw a dark shape in his headlights. He didn’t stop and drove off into the pitch-black night. He had no idea where he was going. He just knew he had to get away. He felt for his phone in his pocket and realised that in his blind panic, he had left it on the chest of drawers in the bedroom. He would have to go back.
Rachel set off early. She had been looking forward to having a break with Joe. They both worked so hard, finding time together was often difficult. Joe’s job as a salesman for an IT company took him all over the country. She hoped she and Joe would rekindle their earlier passion for each other, which had slightly fallen by the wayside recently and maybe the longed-for baby might become a reality. She had tried calling Joe to let him know when to expect her, but his mobile seemed to be switched off. She had left him a message, but he hadn’t come back to her. She turned on the car radio and switched to one of the local stations. She started humming to the song being played.  As it finished, it was time for the news. She wasn’t really listening, but heard something about a man, thought to be in his late thirties found slumped over the wheel of a car near Holkham beach.
As Rachel turned into the driveway, she saw the old farmhouse with its flint stone walls glinting in the sunshine. But something wasn’t right. The front door was wide open and there was a police car parked in front of the house. 

About the author

Jo Dearden trained as a journalist with the Oxford Mail and Times.  She did a degree in English Literature with creative writing as a mature student. She co-edited her local village newsletter for about ten years. She also worked for a number of years for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. She is currently attending a creative writing class, which is stimulating her writing again. Jo lives in Suffolk.

Friday, 9 November 2018

She Says We’ll Get There Soon She Says

by  Hannah Retallick

hot chocolate

Mummy says we are pilgrims. Pilgrims are people who go off on an adventure to some place special and they hardly ever cry because they are brave. Brave people are sad too, I say, aren’t they? They are, she says, but sometimes it’s better not to show it.
            It isn’t a nice time for pilgriming.  It’s dark – she’s whizzing around my room, picking up my things, throwing them into her red spotted backpack with the breaking straps, which makes me worry about Bob. Bob has been squished in and might get bruised like Mummy. Mummy fell down the stairs yesterday and it made a lumpy sound, but she didn’t scream or anything and she smiled at me after, so I know she was okay. Okay enough for Daddy not to come down.
            Down the stairs now, carefully, quietly, she says. Says Grandma will have Maltesers. Maltesers are what we’re going for and we’re going in the night so that when we get back we can surprise Daddy. Daddy isn’t one of the pilgrims. Pilgrims need to be girls or teddy bears, says Mummy.
            Mummy strangles my hand, pulls me out onto the dark street with scary shadows – now, walk quickly Jenny, I can’t carry you. You will get more sweeties at Grandma’s if you are quick. Quick is hard when you’re sleepy, everything is hard when you’re sleepy – that’s why I cried before.
            Before we had got to the end of the street, I told Mummy she was hurting, stop please. Please keep moving, don’t drag your feet, she says, we’ll get there soon, she says. Says when the pilgrims get scared they-
Daddy’s coming. Coming faster than we’re going – he’s cross, like when I was bad and left Bob in his doorway and he’s using the same words. Words he hit me with.
            With one arm, Mummy pushes me behind, turns, raising the other arm in front of her. Her grip stops my fingers feeling – I press my head onto her long red coat, push my nose right into it. It smells of good.

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