Apologies for the lack of stories of late, I will try to improve!
The small piece of news is that for the third year in a row, I am fortunate to have been selected as a Giver for World Book Night.
This is a worthy attempt to encourage more people to read books by making free top quality books available for distribution by givers.
The book I selected is Me Before You by the prolific Jojo Moyes. I look forward to distributing it on April 23.
Long live World Book Night. Please support this!
See http://www.worldbooknight.org
Grow, live, love, read!

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The Dancing Angels

August 28, 2012

Megan gazed in wonder as the candles burned brightly, reflecting a golden light that danced upon her cheeks. An angel soared in dance on the warm currents from the candle flames, whilst a second angel was blowing a trumpet and shimmering in the candle glow.

Megan knew she was being naughty. She had pleaded with her mum, Cathy, to buy it. ‘I will be good’ she had promised.

Her mum had sighed ‘If I buy it, you can only light it when mum and dad are with you.’

‘Yes, mummy’ she replied, crossing her fingers behind her back. Her friend Alice had told her that it wasn’t really a lie if you crossed your fingers.

She waited until her mum was busy looking after her brother Ben, or Ben the Brat as Megan liked to call him. She stuck out her tongue in the direction of the nursery, where she could hear her mother soothing Ben, then carefully lifted the box with her very own angels to her bedroom. If her mother had noticed what she had done, she didn’t mention it, so Megan felt safe in her deception.

Her mother might have been more worried had she known about the matches. Megan had found them one day, whilst she was mooching round the house in a sulk. Some nights she would sit next to her window and strike a match, watching as the flame grew and the smoke flew out of her window. The flames danced on the end of the wood and ate the match as they hurried towards her waiting fingers. Megan would hold on to the match as long as she could before blowing it out. Now there were very few matches left in the box.

Her mother had put a sleeping Ben into his cot and called to Megan as she wanted to help her into her nightdress and brush her hair. ‘One hundred strokes of the brush, help me count them.’, Cathy always said as she swept the brush through Megan’s shiny hair. ‘I used to love it when my mother brushed my hair. It was the best times I had with her,Megan. I hope you love it too.’

All too soon her mother announced that she was going for a bath, with a glass of white wine.

‘I need some me time, darling. I deserve it after a hard day at work with you children. You drain mummy. Off to your room and not a peep, I don’t want you to wake up Ben. Thank god he is asleep.’

Alone in her bedroom, Megan carefully placed the candles on to her large wooden dresser. Her bedroom was large and girly with roses on her walls rather than the Disney characters preferred by her friends. The dresser was a family heirloom, heavy and brown with a shiny mirror that Megan would gaze into and wonder what she would look like when she was older. She knelt on the matching stool so that she could reach more easily.

Megan struck a match against the box and watched as the match flared, the sulphur smell catching Megan’s nose for a second. Soon the candles were aflame and the wax slowly began to melt and gutter down the candles. Megan watched, mesmerised as her angel began to dance and the second angel shone with the light gleaming on his trumpet.

At first she didn’t hear the phone begin to ring. She was so enchanted by the flames; she didn’t hear her mum call ‘Megan answer the phone and if it is daddy ask him to wait until I get out of the bath.’ Her father was in Rome for some conference or other and her mum had been unhappy that he wouldn’t take the family with him.

‘Megan!’ her mum had called again, before splashing noisily out of the bath muttering ‘Megan, do you ever listen.’

Megan heard the bathroom door flung nosily open as her mother rushed to answer the phone. Megan whirled towards the door, sure that at any second her mother would walk in to her room and see the candles aflame. Her night dress spun with her and knocked against the candles, catching one of the flames. Megan sprang at the fallen candles, blowing out the flames as the dancing angel spun wildly from the fall.

Megan didn’t feel the heat at first as her night gown began to burn, but as she felt it, she glanced down to see the flames licking their way up her night dress. She screamed ‘Mummy’ as the flames grew higher and more powerful.

Her mother rushed into the room ‘Megan what’s that smell?’ She gasped in horror as she saw the flames engulfing Megan, smoke emerging from her daughter’s hair as it began to singe. Cathy took off her damp house coat and wrapped it around Megan, patting it to smother the flames, whilst stamping out small flames that had sprung up from the carpet. ‘Megan what’ve you done?’

Carefully she carried Megan downstairs and laid her on the sofa whilst she called an ambulance. Cathy realised, she was naked, covered herself with a long coat from the hall stand. Water from her wet hair was dripping down her back as tears ran down her cheeks. Upstairs, Ben began to cry wakened by the noise and strange smells.

Sirens split the night air, as blue lights danced through the windows, whilst in Megan’s bedroom, the angels lay still and forgotten.

Image provided by Creative Writing at

Waifs and Strays

August 9, 2012

The sound of the doorbell followed by the bang of the front gate and the loud revving of a car engine brought Ellen McDonald out of her light sleep. Lately She found sleep harder to attain, a state not helped by her Husband’s snoring that seemed to echo through the house like a trumpet. Ellen glared at his sleeping form, his deep breathing showing her he was still in a deep sleep.

‘Bill, was that the door bell?’

Bill McDonald muttered an unintelligible reply and turned deeper into the dream in which he was watching Gina Lollobrigida emerging from the rolling surf and striding towards him with her arms wide to hug him tight.

Ellen sighed loudly, slipped out of bed and into her slippers, before going don to the door muttering ‘A fat lot of use you are Bill McDonald. If a burglar attacks me, then you’ll be sorry!’ The fact that burglars seldom ring doorbells, but usually prefer a quieter mode of entry and exit seemed to have escaped her.

Ellen stood at the door, her ear pressed tightly against the wood and listened intently. She thought She heard a small noise as She held her breath, her heart beating loudly in her chest ‘Who’s out there?’ She called but when She heard no reply, turned the large key and pulled the door open; hoping that if any one was standing there the sudden movement of the door would startle them

.

Her imagination had created all sorts of visions when she opened the door, A neighbour in trouble perhaps? The last thing She expected to see was the Moses basket on her step or the note that protruded from the bottom at the feet of a baby swaddled tightly in a blanket.

‘Bill! Bill! Will you get up! Someone has left a baby on our front step!’

Gina was just sliding down the straps of her bathing costume to allow him to admire her voluptuous attributes when Bill found himself being dragged away by the sound of his wife’s voice. Gine smiled sadly and began to pull the straps back up, ‘No don’t go, don’t go’.

‘I have to,’ she replied and then in Ellen’s voice ‘you better GET UP!’

Bill rolled out of bed and stumbled downstairs.

‘What is it Ellen? Has there been a fire? I have work in a couple of hours.’ He rubbed sleep from his tried eyes.

Ellen pursed her lips and thrust a note towards his hands ‘Read this!’

Bill glanced down at the note, ‘Alice you know I can’t see a thing without my glasses. What’s going on?’

Ellen took the note back ‘Listen to this “Mum, Dad no time to contact you. This is Moonchild, my son. I have a last minute chance to go to Ayia Napa with my pals so I am going. I am not dragging a baby with me, so you can look after your grandchild till I come home. Sun and Sand here I come! Jill”. That irresponsible wee bitch has dumped her son on us without a bye your leave!’

Bill glanced at the Moses basket that was still sitting in the doorway ‘Our Jill has had a baby?’ Blinking in confusion he lifted the basket and brought it into the house ‘We best get you inside wee man.’ carrying the basket into the living room where he placed it gingerly onto the floor.

‘I am a Grandpa’ he muttered as a small hand appeared from beneath the blankets and a thumb was pushed firmly into a waiting mouth. ‘I am a Grandpa’ he repeated and sat down heavily on the sofa.

‘What has that stupid, selfish girl done now. We haven’t seen or heard from her in over a year and now this. Ellen sat down next to Bill on the sofa, ‘What’ll we do now?’

Bill smiled and, looking towards the Moses basket. ‘We’ll look after the wee man as best as we can till his Mum comes back to get him.’

‘And if she doesn’t come back?’

‘She will be back. She may be wild and unpredictable, but she’ll be back in a couple of weeks and then we will get this fixed out.’

Ellen snorted ‘That daughter of yours! You always find excuses for her. In the mean time I will be left to cope whilst you swan off to work!’

‘Jill is your daughter too you know. Speaking of work I am up for an early and the wee man is asleep. Let’s try to grab a couple of hours. Somehow I think we will need it.’

‘Well lift him up and we can put the basket on to the bedroom floor. I will tell you one thing, no grandchild of mine is going to be called Moonchild. What kind of name is that! Let’s call him Robert, after my dad.’

‘Aye Bob is a good solid name. Come on then,’ he said picking up the basket ‘else the alarm will be going off before we even get back to bed.’.

————————————————————

Two weeks went past and Bill and Ellen looked after baby Bob as best as they could. Some days Ellen would mutter ‘I will have a few words to say to that madam when she gets back from swanning around on the Med.’ but Bill saw the loving glances that she would give Bob and he knew it wasn’t only the baby who was thriving.

The postcard, arrived with a soft plop on the door mat but it made a huge bang in their lives. Ellen read it in silence, then frowning handed it to Bill to Read

Dear Mum and Dad, Great news I have met someone who has helped me to get a job her for the rest of the season. Cyprus is great and I am having a great time. I will be back when the season is over so you will need to look after my boy for a while longer, Love Jill. P.S. Love to Moonchild!”

Ellen seethed ‘How are we supposed to manage. We are supposed to be finished with all of this baby stuff.’.

‘You know it keeps you young and Bob is no trouble is he?’

Bob gurgled in agreement and both Grandparents gazed at him lovingly.

————————————————————

Sixth months later a rapid knocking on the door preceded a hurried Jill.

‘Just here for Moonchild. Where is he?’

‘Fast asleep. Leave him and have let’s have a cuppa and a chat. Your Mum’s at the bingo with her sister.’

‘I know, She always goes on a Thursday at this time.’

Aye, but She’s not very well these days. It’s the boy that I sometimes think keep her going.’

‘If She isn’t well, all the more reason to take him home with me. Anyway I have a taxi outside and I can’t spend time here chatting. Where is he Dad?’

‘Look I will pay the Taxi, at least wait here and see your Mum. She worries about you.’

‘Sorry, Dad, but he is my Son and he is coming home with me.’

‘Your Mum will be heartbroken.’

Jill was losing patience ‘Dad!’

Bill felt his shoulders slump and pointed to Jill’s old bedroom ‘He’s in your room.’

With a flurry and a kiss on the cheek, Jill and Bob were gone, leaving Bill to explain to Ellen when She came home, what had happened.

————————————————————

Over the next few years a familiar pattern developed, Jill would bring Moonchild to her parents and then pretty much do what she wanted, then return and claim him. Ellen would frown and shake her head ‘Jillian you have to settle down!’ but Jill would just smile and shake her head

‘Not read for that yet, Mum. There’s a big world out there and I want my share.’

The pattern changed just before Bob’s fifth birthday. Jill had met a new man,

‘He’s the one, the real thing.’

The trouble was the new man didn’t want to raise another man’s child.

‘Schools are good here and Moonie needs to settle and get some Schooling.’

‘Only if he stays here full-time, you can come and visit, but the boy stays here.’

‘But Mum, this might give me time for Gary to change his mind.’

‘No He stays here with us and you get some papers drawn up by a lawyer to prove that or it’s no.’

And so it was agreed. The papers were issued and duly signed and Bob was moved back into Jill’s bedroom, which was now Bob’s room.

————————————————————

Bob wasn’t what you would describe as a bad boy; like all children He got into the odd bit of mischief, but nothing Ellen couldn’t deal with. His Teachers thought him as a pleasant, though rather dreamy child who often had to be reminded of the task at hand. Ellen, however, trusted him completely, so that by the age of eight he was allowed to walk to and from School alone.

Now mind you don’t go down by the Canal’ She would remind him every morning and he would agree with her wise words, though he was often tempted to take a peek and see what it was he was meant to stay away from.

Everything would have been fine, if it hadn’t been for another boy in his class, Tommy. For some reason Tommy didn’t like Bob and if Tommy didn’t like him, neither did his friends Asif and Paul. Mostly this took the form, of pushes and name-calling and Bob would do his best to avoid the three boys. A challenge when they were classmates, but somehow, he managed. It all came to the boil when Asif saw Bob talking to Carol, the girl that Tommy adored and called his girlfriend. Asif rushed to tell Tommy what he had seen, Bob chatting Carol up, though what he had actually saw was Carol asking Bob for an eraser.

Right. We will get him after school. I’ll teach him to try to kop off with my girlfriend!’

The School bell rang signalling the end of the day and all the children hopped, skipped ran or walked sedately (if a Teacher was nearby) out of the School gates where someone waited to escort them home.

Bob had seen his three enemies whispering together and watching him as they went from lesson to lesson. Something felt wrong and he made up his mind to avoid meeting them when School was finished. He knew there was no point calling home as his Grandpa would be at work and Grandma Ellen would tell him to face up to the bullies and stand his ground. Fight back against Tommy and his gang, he thought, that’s never going to happen.

When the bell rang Bob hurried to the rear of the School. He had heard of a gap in the fence that the Council were supposed to have mended, but so far hadn’t. The Head Teacher had promised real trouble to any child who loitered near that gap or trying to squeeze through to leave the School grounds. Worse, behind the fence was the forbidden Canal, but though he felt guilty for breaking his promise, that seemed better than walking out to face the bullies outside the School gates.

Outside the gates the gang waited for Bob to appear, laughing and exchanging ideas on how they were going to make him pay. As the crowd thinned to the few remaining stragglers, they rushed into the playground to search for him.

Where is he?’ snarled Tommy, scanning around the playground.

Just then Mrs. Robinson, the Head Teacher appeared from the building. She had spotted the three boys from her Office window and wondered why they had re-entered the school.

What are you boys doing here? Not going home? You know the School policy is for Pupils to leave straight for home unless they are a club member.’ Mrs. Jones loved after School clubs and activities. She would have enrolled the whole School in one or another if She had the authority to do it,

The Boys grimaced and replied in unison ‘Nothing, Miss’.

Mrs. Robinson scowled ‘Then get yourselves off home and don’t dawdle on the way.’ She turned to walk away and whirled back as the boys sighed in relief ‘Get moving then.’

Tommy glanced around ‘Come on boys, we can settle this tomorrow. He won’t find getting away so easy next time.’

————————————————————

Bob hurried along the overgrown towpath that ran adjacent to the Canal. When he was out of sight of School and realised that there was no one following behind, he slowed down to catch his breathe and look around. From his history lessons he remembered that the Forth and Clyde Canal had been constructed to link the two mighty Scottish rivers and had been heavily used until the coming of the railroads. The final nail in its coffin was the decision not to build bridges over it when motorways began their relentless sprawl across the country. Much of its length lay derelict and neglected, regeneration lying far into the future. The water was stagnant, green pond wee growing in the water and trees branches overhung the water creating shaded patterns on its surface.

Bob tried to imagine the boats chugging to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh; a time when big ships could still sail up the Clyde, before silt prevented them, and the Ship Yards still produced mighty ships that sailed around the globe. History fascinated him and he would lose himself in stories of the past.

He was walking along day dreaming when he thought he heard a small noise. He stopped and listened intently and was about to move off, thinking he had imagined it, when he heard the sound again. He moved carefully to the edge of the Canal, worried he lost his footing and fell in, trying to find the source of the noise. Floating in the water was a brown sack, that had got snagged on a low hanging branch at the edge of the Canal. Bob knew he couldn’t reach it, gazing around for something to help him pull it towards him. Underneath one of the trees he found a large branch that he used the hook the branch and drag it in from the water.

The sack was heavy with water that spilled from it as he lifted it to the bank, its contents still and silent. After much effort he opened the bag and out spilled four white puppies. Bob felt tears spring to his eyes as he looked at the small, still bodies. He began to stroke them, one after another, thinking them dead, but as he touched the final puppy he felt a faint fluttering beneath his hand. He lifted the puppy and vigorously rubbed its back, the puppy gave a small gasp and water ran out of its mouth. Bob quickly opened his schoolbag and pulled out the jumper his mother insisted that he wear every day in case he felt cold. He wrapped it around the little dog and looked sadly at the other dead puppies. ‘I need to leave you just now as I can help this wee one, not you. I am sorry. I will come back.’ Covering the puppies with the sack, he lifted up his bag and, carefully carrying the puppy, he hurried home.

As he got nearer home, he found himself slowing down. What will Gran think? He wondered. He sometimes felt she would rather He wasn’t living with them and this was an extra mouth to feed and a four legged one at that. Bob decided there was only one way to handle thing, smuggle the puppy into his bedroom and hide him there. The puppy was showing small signs of recovery; his breathing was deeper and more steady, his coat nearly dry. ‘Good dog,’ he whispered ‘just stay quiet until I get you upstairs.’ He dropped his bag on the floor ‘Just going upstairs to my room, Gran.’ And ran upstairs.

Ellen heard his feet thundering as he ran upstairs ‘I hope you have taken your shoes off, young man.’

Gingerly Bob slipped his feet out of his shoes ‘Yes Gran!’

He put the puppy, which was still asleep, on to his bed. ‘Stay there, I need the toilet, I am bursting.’

Ellen stood in the kitchen mulling over Bob’s behaviour when he came home. He never ran upstairs to his room like that; instead he was always hungry, bursting to know when his dinner was or to impart some piece of arcane knowledge that he had gleaned in his school day. No, She thought, something isn’t right. Ellen walked quietly upstairs, avoiding the creaky step that Bob and Bill always stepped on. She put her ear to the door and listened.

Come on, wake up wee man.’

Ellen, nodded grimly, She knew something was going on. Without knocking She thrust open the door as Bob guiltily jumped away from the small dog curled up on his bed.’

What’s going on here?’ here eyes took in the scene ‘Where did you get that puppy?’

I found him in the canal.’

The Canal! We will talk about that later. Go and get my hot water bottle and put on the kettle, this one needs some heat.’ Bob dashed from the room, so didn’t hear Ellen whisper ‘and his mother.’ She looked at the puppy stretched out on the bed ‘Poor wee thing did someone try to drown you?’. Carefully She scooped the puppy into her arms, ‘I don’t know what we will feed you on. I’ll ask Pat next door, he keeps greyhounds.’

Downstairs She swaddled the puppy in an old towel and placed him onto the hot water bottle. ‘Go next door and ask Pat what a puppy needs for food. I am sure cows’ milk would just kill it.’ Whilst Bob was away She looked at the puppy wondering what to do with him, knowing She couldn’t, or wouldn’t keep him.

Bob hurried back with a baby bottle and a bag, ‘He said we needed Puppy Formula and that we are lucky as He has some left over from when one of his bitches couldn’t produce enough milk for her litter.’ He held everything up for Ellen to view ‘And he says He can get more from the pet shop when he goes down there later. You can pay him when he comes over with it.’

Ellen nodded, wondering how bets to break it to Bob that they couldn’t keep the puppy. She rested her hand on it’s side, a small eye fluttered open, the puppy weakly raised his head and a warm tongue briefly touched the back of her hand, before his head sank back again. Something melted inside Ellen and She resolved that the Puppy was her dog and would be staying.

By the time that Bill came home, the puppy was sitting up and taking notice of his surroundings. Bob and Ellen were already in competition for his affections.

Who is this then?’

The story tumbled out of Bob, with much shaking of adult heads and scowls when they heard the actions of the bullies. Finally Bill nodded ‘I am glad you owned up to going down to the Canal, you know you aren’t allowed there. But I can see why you did it and I am sure this youngster is glad you did. As for these Bullies, I think maybe I should go down to School and see about them.’

No’ chimed Bob and Ellen in unison.

Grandpa you will only make things worse.’

The boy is right, Bill. Besides He has to face these thugs himself. We can’t be there every day.’

Aye but the Teachers are and they should do their job.’

And what about this wee chappie? I don’t suppose we have room for another waif and stray.’ Ellen gave Bill one of her looks over the top of her glasses at which point He knew that the fight was over.

Please let me keep him.’ Pleaded Bob

Ellen?’

I suppose we could, providing a certain boy helps to look after him and still does all his Schoolwork.’

I will, Gran. What will we call him/’ asked Bob, full of excitement.

Bill looked at Ellen, his heart bursting with pride at the kindness of his wife and in unison, Bill and Ellen both said ‘Lucky.’

Aye,’ said Bill ‘It was his lucky day when you found him. Now you best show me where the rest of these puppies are before it get dark. I want to give them a decent burial. I do hate cruelty, especially to poor animals.’

————————————————————

Bob hurried to school, full of news of his puppy. Not having yet acquired the awkward gracelessness that visits and plagues so many teenagers, (that would plague him during his years in secondary school), he happily told the tale to anyone who would listen. One person who seemed to listen attentively to every retelling was Carol.

Tommy looked on, furious at the attention that Tommy was earning.

‘I am gonna have him. He is pan bread.’

‘Tommy, he isn’t worth getting expelled for. I don’t want that on my record, I need it clean to get into university when I am older.’

Tommy snorted ‘Swot! He’s with my girlfriend and rubbing my nose in it. He’s gonna get a kicking.’

Tommy watched and waited. He wanted to make sure that Tommy wouldn’t escape from him again at the end of the day, hoping to get his revenge in the crush of bodies leaving the school gates.

Bob could was aware that Tommy was watching him. Every time he turned around, he saw his frowning face. But Bob had decided he wouldn’t run away, not this time.

When the school bell rang Tommy and his friends were waiting for Bob outside the school gates. Bob pushed past the gang, aiming to ignore them.

‘Where do you think you are gaun?’

‘Home’ he answered simply.

‘No tae I have a wee word.’ replied Tommy with a smirk.

‘Make it bye, bye then.’ laughed Bob as he made to leave.

‘I will gee you bye bye ya cheeky wee arse hole.’Tommy made a grab at Bob who lashed out with his right hand connecting to Tommy’s left cheek with a satisfying smack.

‘You’ve done it now.’ gasped Asif

The boys’ fists and feet were flying as a cordon of children bunched around shouting ‘fight, fight.’ in the manner of all playground squabbles. As Carol pushed her way through she could see that Bob was getting the worst of it.

‘Leave him alone, Tommy.’ she called in to the mass.

‘He deserves a kicking.’

‘You are a bully, I hate you.’ shouted Carol as she reached in to pull Tommy away from Bob. He pushed her off and turned towards her, his fist raised.

‘Want a bit of what he got then?’ he moved menacingly towards Carol.

Suddenly Paul grasped him from behind, pinning his arms to his side. ‘We don’t hit girls.’

‘Whose side are you on.’

‘Not your if you hit girls.’ replied Paul, tightening his grip.

Tommy squirmed, ‘I will hit you in a minute.’

Something glinted in Paul’s eyes ‘Do you think you could try it. Come ahead big man, give it a go.’

He let go fo Tommy, who saw the look in his eyes ‘Another time when I am ready, you will be sorry. Come on Asif, let’s leave these losers.’

Asif shook his head ‘Naw I think I will stay here a bit longer, then I better get home.’

‘You as well! Well I don’t need neither of you.’

‘Teacher’ called someone from the crowd which suddenly began to disperse as quickly as it had formed, leaving only Bob and Carol.

As he moved away Paul called over his shoulder ‘Haw Bob, don’t worry, he will leave you alone in future, I will make sure of it.’

Mr Hargreaves stormed towards them.

‘What’s going on here?’

‘Nothing, sir, I fell.’ Bob knew better than to “grass up” a fellow pupil.

‘Fell?’ Mr Hargreaves snorted.

‘Yes, sir.’

Mr Hargreaves turned to Carol ‘Well what happened?’

‘I think he must have fallen, sir, I didn’t see.’

‘He must have fallen repeatedly to get into that state. I suppose whomever fell with you will tell the same tale. In future can you do your falling away from the school gates. Off home the pair of you.’ with a snort Mr Harbreaves was gone.

Carol helped Bob up ‘You can’t go home like that, your gran will have a canary. You’d best come back to ours and get cleaned up.’

‘Where do you stay then?’

Carol pointed to a green gate across the street ‘Just over there. Maybe I could come to yours and see the puppy late?’

Bob grinned broadly.

————————————————————

Several weeks later a letter arrived, post marked Milton Keynes.

Dear Mum,

As you can see I have moved again and am settled down south to give life down here a chance. Everything is going well. I have a nice new flat, though I do hate all of the roundabouts here

I love the shops. I was rummaging and found Moonie’s birth certificate, so thought you best have it as you might need it in future! Tell him I love him.

Love

Jill

Ellen felt her heart beat faster as she opened up the folded sheet of paper expecting to find under his name Moonchild or some other new age nonsense. Instead she read, Robert William McDonald. Ellen laughed, so Bob really was a Robert after all. She decided to show him later, when he came back from walking Lucky, along with Carol, naturally.

Aftermath

August 9, 2012

Joe tugged the ring pull on the cold can of lager he had fetched from the kitchen before taking a long draw on the cigarette that he placed carefully on to the edge of the ashtray. He glanced around the room, at the floral wallpaper, that his wife had picked with his sister at some cut-price DIY store and his brother-in-law had hung whilst he was on the late shift. He took a long pull from the can, not his first, though it was only six thirty and wondered whether he should have stayed on in the pub rather than letting Bob drop him home. Production on the night shift had stopped at four with a breakdown on the six stand that would take hours to repair. Without the six stand to roll the strip steel into thin sheets, there was no production so a quiet nod and wink and the boys went home.

Home, Joe snorted, it was always possible to get a drink if you knew where to go and when he had jumped into Bob’s car, they both knew a local that would serve a couple of thirsty workers, even at four in the morning.

The beer wasn’t great and there was no talent to ease the eye at that time, but he hadn’t found it difficult to persuade Bob to jump in for a few before heading home to bed. He supposed he could have stayed on in the pub until official opening time, it wouldn’t be the first time he had, but instead he bought a couple of dozen rolls and a newspaper from the van parked outside the pub. He had left a dozen on the passenger seat when he got out of Bob’s car and watched as Bob drove off, weaving occasionally before disappearing from view.

Joe pulled hard on his cigarette, drawing the smoke deep into his lungs and formed the smoke into smoke rings that floated up to the ceiling. The boys always loved smoke rings, but it had been a long time since he had.

The boys, he thought about Jed asleep and unaware whilst Miriam slept in the room next room. Graham, however, was asleep in the cold, dark, earth. Joe took another drink straight from the can, this time. A shapely brunette posed on it’s side, eyes twinkling and though Joe didn’t notice through his splayed fingers.

He had come home from work; no more tired than usual and perhaps he hadn’t closed the gate behind himself properly. Perhaps it was the postman who had left the gate open after himself, though he doubted that.

Miriam was busy with the new baby, Jed as he cried and needed fed so she was distracted and didn’t notice as Graham tugged down the door handle and took his walker outside.

The walker was made from lightly stained wood and red metal and contained a number of wooden blocks with numbers and pictures on them. Graham had loved it from the moment that he saw it and as soon as he was able to walk he was never without it.

If the gate hadn’t been open, things might have been fine. If the driver hadn’t taken a wrong turning and been in a rush that day, things may have turned out differently. Joe would never know, though in his sleep he would hear the screeching of brakes, and the dull thud, followed by a scream. He had jolted from sleep, the taste of stale cigarette smoke lingering in his mouth as he jumped from bed and stumbled, blindly towards the sounds.

Joe glanced from one to another, struggling to take in the scene before him. The driver, his face pale and anguished as he stared out of the window, Miriam screaming in disbelief as she clutched Jed to her chest or the twisted body that lay still on the ground, blood pooling from his nose and mouth.

Joe lurched towards the car, intent on dragging the driver out and pounding him until he woke up and realised it was a nightmare, but it wasn’t a dream. Frank, one of their neighbours had grabbed and held him by the shoulders.

‘Leave it, son. The ambulance and police are on their way. Let them deal with this.’

The day had passed in a daze, but the recriminations that followed lasted much longer. He knew he should have been thankful that he had one, living son, but the thought of Graham’s body, lying alone and broken on the ground wouldn’t leave his mind. He drank more and more, spending more time away from home, coming home only to eat and sleep.

He had found it difficult to talk about to anyone, until he met Maggie. She had smiled when he bought her a drink, even at his cheesy lines and when they drank together and ended up in her home, she listened as he blurted out the full story and held him with no questions asked. What a mess, he groaned, but there was nothing else for it. Maggie, who sat with him, drank with him, listened to him and who was pregnant, by him, needed him. He knew that he would soon need to tell Miriam and face the consequences of his actions. He emptied the last of the can and staggered to bed.

The Hare of the Dog

December 6, 2011

I mentioned before that Bunnykins would tell stories to the young rabbits in the warren. This is one of the stories he told.

Bunnykins looked around as the young rabbits jostled each other to get near to the front where they could hear and see better. “If you’re all ready, then I’ll begin.”

He looked around expectantly and the youngsters were quiet and still.

“Once there was a farmer and the farmer had an old dog. Often he would take the dog with him when he strode around the field checking fences or doing some his of his chores that couldn’t be done with the tractor or land rover.

“Come, Bob” the Farmer would say and old Bob would lift his white muzzle and stretch his grey body in his basket and follow the Farmer where he went.

“I don’t know why you keep that old thing” said the Farmer’s wife one day “He does nothing but lie in that basket, stinking out my kitchen.”

“He’s been a good dog for me over the years” replied the farmer ” it’s his time to rest.”

The Farmer’s wife smiled “You softy! Well get him out from under my feet so I can clean his smelly old blanket.”

That’s how it was with old Bob. One day when the farmer took Bob out for a walk he saw him pick something up and carry it in his mouth.

“What have you got there old boy?” asked the farmer, but old Bob wouldn’t let him see and trottted off home with his prize.

The farmer followed him home and found him in his basket with a young hare between his front paws and Bob licking it clean.

“Well really!” exclaimed the farmer’s wife “What is he doing with that little creature?”

The Farmer shrugged “I guess we better wait and see. He seems to have a liking for it.”

Weeks past and soon drew into months. The young hare grew and was soon hopping around the kitchen, doing what comes naturally to young hares. Bob would look would wash him gently and farmer’s wife would feed him carrots or watch him sleeping in the basket with old Bob.

“My kitchen isn’t my own” she would mutter when in a grump some days “smelly dog and hare.” but other days she would smile as she saw the old dog and his companion stretched out in the basket.”

All would have been well if it hadn’t been for the bedding. One day the farmer had taken Bob out for his walk. The farmer’s wife was washing the bedding her mother had given her on her wedding day. Old bedding now, but she still prized it above all the other bedding that they owned. She had just put the bedding into the laundry basket when the telephone rang in the hall. She rushed off to answer it and the hare hopped over to the basket. It smelled nice, so he hopped in for a closer look. But once inside he found it damp and cold. The bedding wrapped itself around him and he struggled to get back out. So he bit and kicked and clawed and forced his way out. farmer’s wife returned to find her prized bedding in a mess. Worse still it was ripped and the damp culprit was in old Bob’s bed. Without thinking she picked up a pot and hurled it at him, hitting him on the head. The hare fell into a heap, the farmer’s wife shook him but he was quite dead.

“What will I do?” she moaned “I know I will make you into a stew and say I left the door open and you ran away.”

The farmer came home with Bob “That smells nice, dear, what is it?”

“Just a stew dear, nothing special.”

Old Bob went straight to his basket. He looked around and began to whimper. Round the kitchen he looked, searching for the hare.

“Where is the harr?” asked the Farmer “Bob is looking for him.”

“I hung out the washing, but the basket was heavy and I must have forgotten to close the door. When I came back he was gone.” replied the farmer’s wife, “Now get cleaned up, this stew is ready to eat!”

“Maybe it will come back then, if not Bob will get over it.”

But the hare didn’t come back and Bob didn’t get over it. He lay in his basket and pined. He wouldn’t eat and when the farmer coaxed him for a walk he would rush back and search his basket, then lie down sadly when he couldn’t find his friend.

One evening the farmer looked at his Wife “I am not sure how much longer Old Bob will be with us, he is fading away every day. What could have happened to that hare?”

His Wife dropped her eyes and blushed “Why you ate him Will.” and with that She blurted out the whole story.

The farmer nodded thoughtfully. “I am off out then, don’t wait up.”

Several nights passed and every night the farmer said the same thing until one night he came home with a young hare tucked inside his coat. “Finally caught one.” he smiled.

He put the trembling hare in the basket with old Bob, who glanced at it but didn’t move. The hare lay down between his paws and soon both were fast asleep.

Bob perked up again. He looked after the young Hare and fussed over him. Soon the pair were inseparable and the familiar routine began again. But Bob was getting on and one day the Farmer couldn’t rouse him for his walk. Old Bob was buried in the garden near the Kitchen door where he always lay in the warm Summer evenings.

Farmer got a new dog and a new basket, for Bob’s basket belonged to the Hare. If the new dog, Bonnie, tried to go into the basket She was told off roundly “Bad girl, go to your own basket.” With no Bob the Hare would often follow the Farmer’s wife around and some evenings She would sit with him on her lap, brushing his hair.

The hare lived on for a few more years and in the end was buried in the same grave as old Bob. The Farmer planted a Cherry blossom tree over the two friends and in Spring when the blooms were ablaze, he would think about Bob and the Hare. ”

Bunnykins looked around at the faces of the Rabbits around him. “Most dogs aren’t like old Bob. If you see one run and hide or they will eat you for their supper. Speaking of which, off you go home now.”

“Bunnykins, why were there no rabbits in today’s story?” asked one of rabbits.

Bunnykins smiled “Remember it isn’t always about us, there are many creatures in the world, not just rabbits. Now off home Scamp.”

The young rabbits hopped off home whilst Bunnykins wandered to the Farmer’s garden and lay down in the grass in the shade of the the old Cherry tree.

VII

 

As Bunnykins hopped towards an entrance to the warren, two large fierce looking rabbits appeared as if from nowhere.

 

“Where do you think you are going?” barked one of them, his brown eyes flashing in the sunshine.

 

“Why I am here to visit an old friend.”

 

“We don’t allow visitors here.” Replied the Rabbit “Don’t you know the disease is spreading?”

 

“The Disease? What disease?”

 

“Who Myxy of course. A horrid thing. Those humans are cruel creatures.”

 

The second Rabbit was looking around Bunnykins carefully. “He doesn’t have any lumps or bumps, his eyes look clear and he has no swelling on the head. He looks clean to me, Brunswick.”

 

“We aren’t the judges of that, Stalkfinder. You know that.”

 

“Who are you looking to see?” asked Stalkfinder. “Perhaps we can send him out to you, but you can’t come in unless the elders permit it.”

 

Bunnykins nodded “that makes sense. I am looking for Startsfights he will probably expect me.”

 

Stalkfinder stared “Really? He is a bit loopy you know.”

 

“Really? Oh we will get on very well then, I am pretty much loopy myself” smiled Bunnykins.

 

Bunnykins waited and after some time Stalkfinder returned followed closely by another rabbit. The second rabbit hooped with a strangely lopsided gait. From time to time it would freeze, listening intently and the twitch its head before moving on. This is a weird looking rabbit, thought Bunnykins, but I guess that must be Startsfights. Startsfights hopped over to where Bunnykins was waiting and looked at Bunnykins quizzically. “So you are the famous Bunnykins? Not very impressive but you are who you are I guess.” Startsfights glanced back at the two Rabbits staring behind them “You needn’t worry I won’t be coming back into the burrow, we have some business to attend to.”

 

Stalkfinder and Brunswick looked relieved as the two rabbit hopped away from the warren and were soon out of view. “I will be glad if I never see anything of either of those two again.” Stalkfinder smiled “I don’t know, they are odd for sure, but I can’t help thinking they are both good rabbits at heart.”. Brunswick snorted “I can’t abide and optimist, let’s get back on duty.”

 

VIII

 

The two rabbits hopped into the distance and after some time Bunnykins noticed Startsfights gait had changed and was more what he would have thought of as being normal. Startsfights noticed him stare. “Oh you have noticed have you. I put my little act on for those idiots back at the warren. They think little of me, so I can get away with a lot.”

 

Bunnykins laughed “So this act is just for show then?”

 

“Of course that lot are dumb enough to fall for it, so all the better for me.” Startsfights hopped along beside Bunnykins and matched his pace without any noticeable effort.

 

“Where are we going?” asked Bunnykins

 

Startsfights laughed “I wish I could tell you that, all I know is that we are to seek out the Pixie Princess.”

 

Bunnykins stopped “What? What rubbish is this? There are no such things as Pixies”

 

A voice behind them startled both of the Rabbits “You think not do you? Well I don’t believe in rabbits either.”

 

The Rabbits stared at a small figure dressed in green and brown standing on a branch of a nearby tree observing them. Her brown hair was pinned back and on top of her head nestled a small cap. On her feet she wore a pair of sturdy boots that flashed and shone as she moved. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you its rude to stare?” She smiled.” Like my boots? They are the latest thing amongst the young Pixies. The oldies still wear those silly felt things. Yuck!”

 

Bunnykins was astounded “Are you really a Pixie?”

 

The Pixie laughed, “Of course I am and you are really a Rabbit. What has taken you two so long? The Princess has sent me out to seek you, she fears you have got yourselves lost. Judging by your conversation I am not surprised. Come along, follow me.”

 

With that she began to hop from branch to branch, leading the Rabbits deeper into the woods until they came to a large clearing. In the centre stood an old tree stump. The Pixie alighted on the trunk and gave the trunk a kick with her boots. “That should do the trick.” She smiled.

 

A cross voice called from inside “I am coming, can’t you be patient.” A click was heard and the side of the trunk was opened revealing a wizened, elderly Pixie. “Heavens these newfangled boots make an awful noise. Now if you youngsters only stuck to traditional felt we would all be much happier.”

 

The Pixie put her hands on her Hips “Get with the times, Grandpa. We can’t stay in the dark ages forever you know.”

 

The elderly Pixie put his hands on his hips and glared “Why you young whipper snapper, show a bit of respect to your elders and don’t answer back. When I was young I would never.”

 

A gentle cough came from behind him “As I recall Bozman you were the worst scamp in the hive and the cheekiest around.”

 

Bozman looked ready to argue, but blushed and dropped his gaze. A Pixie stepped forth into the daylight. Her raven hair was piled on top of her head and she was clad entirely in green, Her gown sweeping to her delicate feet. “The Princess has asked me to bring the Rabbits to her. Could follow me please? Jeanne, well done in finding them so quickly, your mother asks that you come too.”.

 

She turned and started to walk down some shallow steps leading down from inside the hollow tree. After hesitating for a moment the two Rabies followed her “That is Catarina my mother’s favourite assistant.” whispered Jeanne as the Bozman closed the door behind them and the Rabbits hopped into the land of the Pixies.

 

IX

 

The tree trunk slammed shut behind them, but instead of the darkness Bunnykins was used to in the warren, small lights seemed to spring up on the walls lighting their way as they hopped or walked downstairs. Soon they were in a large underground chamber, lined by what looked like nests from which emerged the curious faces of many Pixies. In the centre of the chamber stood a simple chair on which sat the most an imposing and beautiful Pixie. Her white robe was sprinkled with what looked to Bunnykins like fallen stars that shimmered and sparkled in chamber’s lights. The Pixie stood and activity around her seemed to stop, “Welcome here Bunnykins. I have waited for your coming for a long time.” Bunnykins looked startled. The Princess smiled “Did you think this would be a surprise for me? No dear Bunny I have been told of your coming and of your quest. Come sit by me and bring your friend. He looks like he needs a nudge right now.”

 

Bunnykins turned to see Startsfights cowering and muttering “The white lady of the woods.” over and over again.

 

The Princess smiled “He is afraid as we normally discourage rabbits from this place. You can see how damaging their digging could be to our home. But, we never harm anyone, I assure you of that.”

 

The Rabbits hopped up together and lay down at the Princess’ feet. She smiled at them. “I am Princess Calandra. Welcome to our home. While you are here we will extend our hospitality to you and you will be under our protection.” on uttering these words, She gazed around the hall and stared pointedly at a tall Pixie who stood nearby “and on this point I speak for everyone.” The Pixie grimaced but bowed low to show that he understood.

 

Calandra looked back to Bunnykins “So young Bunnykins, you have had a hard time, but here you are. You both look like handsome young rabbits. Stay with us awhile then return to your homes. This quest is too much to lay on your shoulders.”

 

Bunnykins rose “No I must keep my promise. I will continue, so perhaps it is best if we leave.”

 

Calandra smiled “I knew you would say that but still I had to offer you a way out. Very well, rest tonight and tomorrow I will tell you where the Stone resides. I warn you that you will face a very dangerous foe. One who cares nothing for pain and will kill you if he can.”

 

Calandra beckoned “Jeanne show our guests to the chamber that has been prepared for them so that they may rest before they eat.”

 

Bunnykins and Startsfights followed a skipping Jeanne to a small hollow at the side of the chamber. “We tried to make it feel like a Rabbit Tunnel but I don’t know if we have managed.” The two Rabbits nodded happily, “This is fantastic” said Bunnykins and with that lay down and fell fast asleep. “Well that’s gratitude for you.” Muttered Jeanne as she walked out leaving the sleepy Rabbits to rest.

 

X

 

The noise was very soft, almost a whisper but Bunnykins heard the sound, his ears twitched and he sat upright. Next to him stood the Pixie he had noticed inside the hall. “Well, well MR Rabbit you have very keen hearing. Good I wish to speak to you.”

 

Bunnykins looked at him quizzically “Speak to me? What about?”

 

The Pixie smiled “Please don’t be coy. We both know your mission is to collect the Black stone. I don’t disagree with that, but I want the black stone brought here.”

 

Bunnykins looked surprised “But what good can it be to you? Surely it is a stone for Rabbits quite meaningless to you?”

 

The Pixie smiled “No it is a stone of great power. If we have the stone here we will have a great protection and strength. You must bring it to me, I mean us.”

 

Bunnykins shivered as he felt the power of the Pixie’s desire for the stone, a desire almost bordering on madness. “But I have promised to return the stone to my old burrow. If I don’t do that then I will have failed in my quest.”

 

The Pixie looked at him angrily “Your quest? It can fail here and now if I choose to throttle you.” Bunnykins gasped “If you bring the stone to me, I will protect you, but if you don’t I will punish every rabbit that comes my way. Do I make myself clear, you and your kin will suffer, I will make sure of it.”

 

A low growling noise came from behind him. The Pixie spun round to see Startsfights glaring at him angrily. “Get out of my way you wretch.” snarled the Pixie.

 

“Let him go Startsfights, we need to rest.”

 

The Pixie backed out of the entrance pausing to snarl “Remember what I said Rabbit, bring the stone here and all will be well. Fail and it will go badly for you and your kin.”

 

XI

 

The next morning Jeanne woke the Rabbits, as the dawn light was breaking overhead. “My mother wishes to see you. I am sorry it is so early but it seems to be very important.”

 

Jeanne ushered the two Rabbits through to hall and then across to a small recess where Calandra waited for them. “I hear you had a visitor last night.” Bunnykins nodded “I can guess what it was he was after, Brephus is ruthless in his demands. I wish I could have dealt with him a long time ago, but he has many friends and supporters. I am sure he has frightened you and your friend.” Startsfights shook his head vigorously. “Scared of him, I could bite him in two.” Calandra shook her head “Unfortunately not, brave little one. He is a powerful magician; he would use his powers long before you could bite. No we will have to deal with him our own way. In the meantime we must get you both away from here safely. Leave Brephus to us.”

 

Calandra looked worried at the Rabbits “What you seek is hidden in a warren on Horsefield Common. It is an evil place, run by a rabbit who calls himself Wroth. Beware that one; he carries a power within that is fed by evil. Jeanne, make sure our guests have something to eat and are well taken care of. When they are ready I want you to take them to the edge of the Common and return. Do not get involved, young Lady, come straight back here without delay. Do you hear?”

 

Jeanne nodded, but had Calandra looked closely she would have seen Jeanne cross her fingers behind her back as She smiled.

 

“Very well. Bunnykins there is something I will give you.” Calandra held a tiny package in her hand “this contains a substance which is very dangerous to use. Both to the person using it and to those it comes in contact with if they haven’t been placed under the counter spell.” Calandra muttered, making strange motions in the air and a light flared briefly and shone around Startsfights and Bunnykins “You are now protected my friends, but I warn you this weapon is dire and only to be used in extreme danger, when you have no other option.”

 

Calandra slipped the tiny package into Bunnykins’ right ear “It will be safe there until you need it. I pray not, but this may save your life.”

 

Bunnykins bowed hid head in thanks, wondering what the awful thing could be. “Jeanne” said Calandra “ look after our guests.”

 

Jeanne led the Rabbits in to the hall where they had food and drink and were soon ready to leave. As Jeanne led them from the Pixie camp she whispered “Horsefield Common is around one mile East of here. Follow me and let’s leave quietly so that Brephus is unaware that we have gone.”

 

As they walked into the open air the tree trunk slammed behind them with an ominous bang, leaving them wondering if any of them would ever return.

 

XII

 

The journey through the forest was uneventful and soon Jeanne led them to the edge of Horsefield Common. “This is as far as I take you.” She smiled “The Common is just ahead.” Her smile was wistful as she whispered “I do wish my mother would see I am not a child any more. I would like a little excitement in my life.” She sighed and turned to leave. “Good luck little Rabbits” she called as she walked away.

 

Bunnykins and Startsfights looked away towards the common so did not see Jeanne as she muttered a spell that shrank her to the size of a flea. Fearfully she hopped back and into Bunnykins’ hair, and climbing up, settled down on his head. Bunnykins started and scratched his back.

 

“Are you alright?” asked Startsfights.

 

“Yes”-replied Bunnykins “I thought I felt something, but it must have been my imagination. This would be a bad time to catch fleas.”

 

Startsfights nodded “Stop it you will have me scratching next.” Laughing the two friends moved towards Horsefield Common. As they walked forward they became aware of a commotion in front of them. A harsh voice sounded out “Drag that carrot you miserable worm or you will suffer.”

 

The two friends dropped low and hid behind some small bushes. Soon they saw a line of Rabbits appear. Surrounded by larger rabbits who were cajoling, kicking and biting the Rabbits were carrying, or rather dragging food. Bunnykins had never seen Rabbit carry food. Normally they just ate it. But these Rabbits were being forced to take the food somewhere. “Slaves?” muttered Bunnykins “Can this really be Rabbits using others as slaves?” He had heard of this thing amongst humans and ants, but never amongst Rabbits.

 

Bunnykins looked at Startsfights. “This is my way in.”

 

Startsfights stared in disbelief. “Your way in. Don’t you mean our way in?”

 

“No my friend your job was to help me get here and you have done this. No they may not notice one extra slave but they would notice two. You are free to go my friend.”

 

Startsfights started to protest bu Bunnykins had already started to move towards the group. He picked up a fallen vegetable and fell in line.

 

“Where were you?” cried an angry voice at his side.

 

“Sir, I just needed a call of nature and went over there” replied Bunnykins. His reply was a sharp kick. “ Don’t try to be smart.” Snarled the voice as Bunnykins trudged towards the warren with the other captive rabbits.

 

Starts fights watched as his friend disappeared in the crowd of Rabbits. “I won’t leave you.” He whispered, “I will help you somehow.”

 

XIII

 

The line of Rabbits trudged into the burrow carrying their load, which was dropped in piles from which other rabbits were moving items to storerooms and to eating areas. Bunnykins carefully placed his carrot in the proper pile when he became aware of a sensation of being watched. He glanced round and saw the largest rabbit he had ever seen watching him intently. Bunnykins quickly dropped his head and started to hop away when he heard a harsh voice order “That one. Bring it to me.” Bunnykins stopped and stayed absolutely still in the hope that the command referred to someone else, but it was him. Two burly rabbits quickly shoved him to the side and moved him into a side tunnel and from there to a large chamber.

 

The large rabbit soon entered the chamber. Bunnykins looked at the huge Rabbit in fear. The rabbit seemed a mixture of brown, balck and white but as he moved the colours seemed to melt and flow into each other so that he was all of these and none at the same time. Bunnykins knew that this was the Rabbit Calandra had called Wroth.

 

Wroth sneered at him “Did you think I would not notice a stranger in our midst? I can smell the stench of Pixie scum from you.” Wroth shook hi head “Truly you are a sad specimen. Did they really think you would get away with spying on me.”

 

Bunnykins shook his head “I am sorry I have no idea what you are talking about.” Though large Wroth moved fast and clubbed Bunnykins across the side of the head “Don’t take me for a fool. What is it they are after?” Again, Bunnykins shook his head “I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. I have been your captive for many months.” Wroth laughed harshly and struck Bunnykins again “So you could show me the work rooms, the eating rooms and your sleeping chamber, Slave.” Bunnykins did not reply. “I thought not. A poor liar indeed.” Wroth stepped towards the prone Bunnykins and kicked him. “Soften him up I want to know who he is and why he is here.”

 

Wroth left the room as the two Rabbits began to systematically beat Bunnykins around his head and back. Wroth hesitated on the threshold “Not too enthusiastic, I want him alive to get the information I need.” and with that he swept away.

 

XIV

 

Brephus fumed that the Rabbits had slipped his grasp. He had especially wanted to have a chat with Bunnykins again to make sure he understood how serious Brephus was in getting the stone. “ I should be the leader of the Pixie’s,” he muttered as he hurried along a passage to a meeting room where his supporters were waiting him. He flung open the door and strode inside. “They have gone. Did no one notice them leave?” Heads shook and eyes dropped in response “Must I do everything myself?” He strode around the room his anger growing, and then just as suddenly he cooled again. I need these fools, he thought, I can’t afford to alienate them. “Very well what is done is done. I want to send a small group of you to the Rabbit warren; perhaps you can gain entry whilst the Rabbit acts as a decoy. In the meantime I have had enough of Princess Calandra and her kind. It is time to take control of the clan from her. You” he said pointing to a nearby Pixie “take four of these and go to Horsefield Common. Attempt to enter the warren and gain the stone.” The Pixie paled “But we have failed in this task every time we have attempted it. That’s why you said the task must be achieved by a Rabbit.” Brephus marched towards the Pixie glaring “Are you defying me?” The Pixie quickly shook his head “Then go now. Pick your team and leave.”

 

When the Pixie had gone Brephus sat down and looked at the crowd inside the room. “It is time to move against her. I feel we will gain the stone this time and that will secure our power. In the meantime we must move to capture her and her entourage. When she is in our prison she will sing a different tune.” Brephus whirled as the door was suddenly thrust open and Calandra strode in followed by a large contingent of guards. She bowed to one of the Pixies “Thank you for telling me of this little plot. You may leave.” The Pixie hurriedly left the chamber. Calandra laughed, “Did you think I wouldn’t hear of your little plot?” Brephus snarled and moved towards her “I wouldn’t take me on Brephus, my power is greater than yours and I have no real wish to harm you.” Brephus stopped “You have no evidence, you can’t hold me.” Calandra smiled “Silly creature, of course I have evidence. This is just the last straw. Think yourself lucky I decided to stop your little game now to prevent bloodshed. Guards take him to the dungeons where he may ponder the error of his ways.” She glared around the room “Does any one wish to accompany him? Those who wish to may leave and plot no more.” The room quickly emptied and Brephus was led away to the cells.

 

“Your Majesty, what of the group who left, should we fetch them back?”

 

Calandra shook her head “No those ones stand no chance against Wroth and his minions, but they may provide a distraction that will aide Bunnykins in his mission. Allow them to leave, we can deal with that problem should they ever return.” With that she swept from the chamber.

 

XV

 

Wroth came back into the chamber, where Bunnykins lay groaning in pain. “I see my team have carried out a good job on you then, Mr Rabbit. Are you ready to talk now?”

 

Bunnykins groaned and tried to move away from the voice. Shoots of pain radiated through his body, where the Rabbits had pummelled, kicked and bitten him. “Why are you here then?”

 

Bunnykins shook his head “You captured me, and have kept me here against my will. It isn’t my choice.”

 

Wroth lashed out at Bunnykins in fury. “Don’t lie to me!” He produced a black back “I know you are after this aren’t you? You want my precious jewel, my black stone.” The bag opened and inside Bunnykins could see what seemed like a stone figure of a black rabbit, but as he look shots of white light ran through the stone, turning the Rabbit white. “Who sent you here? How did you know? You must tell me.” Over and over again he struck Bunnykins around the head and body. So violent was the attack that Bunnykins passed out from the pain.

 

“Wake up Rabbit” Snarled Wroth as the door was suddenly opened and a figure called, “Sir, we are under attack.” Wroth looked sharply around, “Attack? Who would dare to attack us?” The rabbit before him looked shaken and alarmed “Very well I will come and attend to this problem myself. I can’t rely on you fools for anything, can I?” As he spun to leave he Kicked Bunnykins one more time “I will be back Rabbit, have no fear this isn’t over.” And strode out leaving the Black Stone on the floor next to Bunnykins.

 

XVI

 

The Pixies approached the edge of the Common debating what to do next. “I don’t believe that we can do this. It’s a death sentence for us?” argued one. “But we have supported him and if he wins and we don’t do would he asks then it will go more the worse for us.”

 

One of the Pixie’s shook his head “I don’t like the feel of this at all, in fact I would prefer Calandra to what he is doing. The question is how do we do this and come out of it alive?”

 

As they were debating Startsfights hopped towards them. “Pixies am I glad to see you!” The Pixies stared at the Rabbit as he gave what in the Rabbit world passes for a grin. “Bunnykins has gone into the warren and I am worried he will never return. We must do something to get him out. Maybe if we make a fuss we can give him a chance to escape?”

 

The Pixies looked at each other “Can we speak alone for a minute?” Startsfights nodded. The Pixies whispered “Look here’s the thing if we do it this way, Brephus will think we did it for him if he succeeds. If not Calandra will think we did it to help that Rabbit. Either we could be alright.” One of the Pixies shook her head “We may well die doing this, we should just return and say we tried.” The first Pixie paused and looked at her, “You know that could be certain death from either of those two, let’s take our chance with the Rabbits.” All the Pixies nodded in agreement.

 

“Very well” we agree to help you. You are a Rabbit how do you suggest we help?”

 

Startsfights paused “Let’s spread out and find an entrance to the burrow and make a fuss there to make it seem that they are under attack. There may only be six of us, but we may be able to cause confusion. You have your magic and I my feet and teeth, let’s fight.”

 

Finding the entrances the Pixies and Startsfights started to make a lot of noise and soon there were rabbits rushing out to face a battle with magic and of course sharp kicks and bites for Startsfights. Word was sent to Wroth of the attack and he broke of his questioning of Bunnykins to rush to the fray.

 

Wroth burst on the field and at the sight of a Rabbit they had heard so much about the Pixie’s abandoned the field and rushed away. Wroth hopped briskly over to Startsfights. “What do we have here?” growled Wroth. A better Rabbit than you replied Startsfights and soon the two Rabbits were striking and kicking each other. Startsfights fought with speed and accuracy but Wroth with anger and deadly force. Remorselessly he pounded Startsfights until the smaller rabbit was forced to the ground> Steeping forward Wroth stood on Startsfights head and brought down his other foot on his neck, snapping it. Startsfights twitched and started, then moved no more. “Hang him over there for all my enemies to see, to remind them never to defy me. I have work to do.” With that he returned to question Bunnykins.

 

XVII

 

“Bunnykins wake up.” Whispered Frankie Wake up>“ Bunnykins woke with a start to find Jeanne shaking him “Wake up she” said.

 

Bunnykins looked around drowsily “Did I dream all of that?” Jeanne shook her head “No and we are in trouble.” Bunnykins looked around in dismay “Why are here? Your mother said you had to go straight back.”

 

Jeanne laughed, “Did you really think I would miss out on this? We don’t have much time he could be back any minute. Let me get the thing from your ear that my mother gave you.” Quickly she fetched the tiny package from his ear and hid behind against the side of the entrance wall as Wroth swept back in. “Well Bunny, your friends have failed and now I need to deal with you.” He pounced towards Bunnykins kicking and snarling when he was aware of someone else in the room.

 

He spun around just as Jeanne hurled the contents of the packet at him. The powder fell over him making him cough and wretch. “What have you done to me?” He roared. Bunnykins looked in dismay as Wroth’s head began to swell, his eyes watered and became milky and his nose began to run.” Jeanne looked on to “My mother was right it is Myxy, it is awful.” Rabbits were running toward Wroth as they heard him scream but on seeing him they backed away soon cries of “Myxy” were running through the burrow as Rabbits fled.

 

Jeanne picked up the bag and put it on Bunnykins back. “Come little Rabbit I know you are weak, but this is our chance to get out of here.”

 

Wroth made a last desperate lunge towards them, but missing he collapsed to the floor as Bunnykins hopped feebly away.

 

XVIII

 

Bunnykins looked at the body of Startsfights. Tied by his ankles he swung in the evening breeze. A shadow fell over him and Bunnykins flinched expecting the worst. He looked up to see the face of the Travelling man looking down on him. “Poor Bunny your and in an awful state. Come and I will put you in my bag.” Bunnykins hopped over to where Startsfights swung. The Travelling man looked puzzled, then his face cleared “This must be Startsfights I am guessing. Let’s take the poor fellow down and make sure he has a decent burial. It’s the least we can do.” The Travelling man cut the rope and gently took Startsfights and placed him inside a pocket inside his large coat. Bunnykins hopped slowly over to him. “Come on old boy, let me lift you in. I put your friend inside my coat; he will be warm and safe there. No point having you in with a dead rabbit is there. As for you young lady” he added looking at Jeanne “I think you have had enough excitement for one day. Get off home.”

 

Jeanne stroked Bunnykins fur and hugged him tight “Please get well my friend and come and visit us.” And with a last glance she rushed home.

 

On the ground near where Bunnykins had been he saw a black sack from which there was a dim glow. The travelling man lifted up and put it in the bag with Bunnykins. “I am guessing this what what you came to fetch little bunny. We best be on our way then.”

 

The Travelling Man’s long legs carried the Bunnies over hill and dale until they came in sight of Bunnykin’s warren. Inside the bag Bunnykins slowly felt his life force slipping away from him, but he was determined to deliver the great Stone to his burrow.

 

The Travelling man sat down and put his bag down beside him. He looked at Bunnykins sadly. “You are in a bad way old fellow, but not as bad as your friend here. This seems like a good spot to bury the poor fellow” He reached into his pocket and lifted out Startsfights. As he did so, the rabbit gave a small gasps and his body jerked. “My word,” gasped the Travelling Man “he is still alive!” Startsfights opened an eye, and then closed it just as quickly. “I hope they can look after him in your burrow old fellow for this is as far as I can go.”

 

The Travelling Man left the two rabbits near the entrance to the burrow and moved away to a safe distance. Soon some rabbits came out and looked at the two Rabbits. Carefully they nudged them and moved them down into the tunnels and they were lost from the sight of the Travelling Man.

 

XIX

 

The two rabbits were taken down the tunnels to a chamber where sick rabbits were taken to recover or die. A rather sever rabbit hopped over. He looked at Startsfights. “This one is in a bad way but I think we might be able to do something for him. Go and fetch the herbs for me and we can start treatment.” A young Rabbit bounded off at his command.

 

He looked at Bunnykins and shook his head sadly. “I can’t do anything for this one. He is beyond help. We can make him comfortable and that is all. Fetch some Monkshood we will help him from his pain.”

 

Bunnykins opened an eye; weakly he groaned “Fetch the council I have some important news for them.” The Rabbit looked blankly at Bunnykins. Bunnykins coughed “Please I ask you send them here I have news for them.”

 

“Well this is all very unusual but, very well.” The Rabbit glared at an assistant, “You heard him go and respectfully ask the Council to come here”

 

Soon the Council members entered the chamber, news of the Rabbits having arrived to them they were curious to see them.

 

Bunnykins rolled over gently and looked at them “I am sorry to call you here like this but I have brought you a great gift.” He nuzzled the bag towards them “Inside is the Great Stone, the black Stone. You must keep it safe here for all of the Rabbits.”

 

The Council members stared in disbelief, while Bunnykins shook the bag and the Stone rolled into view. “You must keep it safe for there are those who will seek to steal it.”

 

An astonished murmur arose as the Black Stone rolled into view, it’s surface flickering with a dull light. Soon the Council were marvelling at the Stone and ordering it to be moved to the centre of the warren where all could see it and it could be best protected.

 

Cries of “It’s not a myth, it’s real” and “Its wonderful may we see it?” resounded through the warren.

 

Bunnykins slumped back “May I see Frankie?” Frankie came towards him She recognised the strange Bunny whom she had met before.

 

“You are very ill.” She whispered.

 

“I am indeed Frankie. You know who I am don’t you?” Frankie shook her head but as She looked she saw Bunnykins slowly change from brown to white in front of her eyes. “Bunnykins? Is it really you?”

 

Bunnykins smiled weakly “Yes it is. I have come back if only for a short while.”

 

Frankie gasped” You are back, get well.” turning to the other Rabbits she whispered “Please make him well.”

 

Bunnykins coughed weakly “No one can make me well now. I need to rest.” He closed his eyes and smiled, gave a small gasp and was gone.

 

The Council looked on in astonishment as Frankie was led from the chamber. “This one must have a special burial. News of this must be spread far and wide. Bunnykins came back and has returned to death. We have seen a wonderful thing.”

 

XXI

 

Bunnykins carefully opened his eyes. Shots of pain exploded in his body. Semesgren sat nearby. She hopped over to him and gently stroked his head.

 

“Well young Rabbit, I had my doubts, but you have achieved what you were sent to do. It’s time for you to rest. Let me take you there so that you may seek peace and love.”

 

Bunnykins shook his head “You must send me back you promised.”

 

Semesgren shook her head “Don’t persist in this, it is folly.”

 

“I must go back.” insisted Bunnykins.

 

Semesgren laughed, “You have spirit I will give you that. Very well, but I did warn you that your return would not be what you expect. In any case the world always needs a white rabbit.”

 

Bunnykins closed his eyes. He felt a strange floating motion and then stirring, a pulsing, flashing light. He smelled something warm, comfortable and inviting. Crawling forward he latched on to his other’s teat and was content.

 

In a nearby field, the Travelling man was preparing some supper. He paused from stirring his beans, sniffed the air and smiled. “Welcome back Bunnykins.” Nodding he served his well-deserved meal.

 

The End

 

 

 

Horses, big, powerful, fast, beautiful, scary creatures with a mind of their own. Some people reading this will agree with all of this description, whilst others will scratch their heads and mumble, “Scary? What does this guy know about horses?” Truthfully not that much but I do have a history and history is where knowledge and experience develop.

Like many Scottish working class children in the the 60s and 70s my sole experience of horses was of a pony variety. Seeing them on the beach at Ayr or at a School fayre (not my own school I have to add) and horses on the TV. Horse racing, Folly foot farm, the Lone Ranger, the High Chapperal and Black Beauty. These four legged creatures were exotic and exciting and beyond my reach. I was a young reader and began to devour the westerns of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour where the villians were obvious and heroes, brave, handsome and would leap aboard a horse with scarcely a thought. Who wouldn’t want as a child to be a cowboy or an indian brave on his trusted steed? The horse rider inside of me ached to leap aboard and gallop into the sunset like my heroes.

The opportunity, when it arose, came as a surprise. I lived in a post war prefabicated house, a prefab as it was always called. Living on a short road where there were only two cars. At the end of the road was a field and beyond this a coal bing and a brick work. I remember the field especially as I would often play there. I remember walking there with a puppy who liked to find old broken bricks from the brick work and carry them around in his mouth. He was unpredictable and prone to violence, I vaguely recall but my dad gave him away in the end as a guard dog to a man who owned a scrap yard. So I wandered the fields without him again.

One day I went to the field to cross over to the brick works. I liked to sneak into the cooling areas where the bricks had been fired and the air was hot and shimmered with the disappating heat. In these days of health and safety and security I am sure these things are unheard of, but then I seemed to wander at will. As long as I was home for meals, and bed noone seemed to mind much. That day when I climbed the fence I saw the horses grazing in the middle of the field. I walked towards them, wondering where they had appeared from, sure that they hadnt been there the previous day. A plan began to emerge in my mind about riding around in the field on the back of one of the horses but the lure of the hot bricks was too strong and a good plan takes time, right?

Days passed and I asked around about the horses. A boy I knew told me that someone had told his dad that the horses belonged to some gypsies who were keeping them there for a while. How long I asked, but no one seemed to know. So I would walk in the field handing the horses grass, which they cautiosly took from my hand, ready at any moment to bolt. A good plan takes time but how long did I have?

The day arrived quite by chance. I’m not sure what made that day any different but the plan was to feed a horse some grass, walk around to it’s side, put two hands on and somehow leap astride. I mean that’s how it’s done in the movies, right? As a plan it might have been flawed from the outset by a few things. At age 7 or 8 I wasn’t the same height as my film heroes, oh and the horse had no idea that the plan included him standing quite still whilst this little upstart tried to leap higher than his own height on to his back. Flawed from the outset! However, the plan swung into action quite smoothly, some grass was accepted with nose and neck pats, then round to the side, two hands stretched up and a few big hops. Failing that let’s grab some mane. Of course I had chosen the leader of the herd, who reacted by stepping aside and back a little to show he didn’t want to be jumped on.

Now any good plan should include a fall back position, what do you do if things go wrong? The fallback plan of try again wasn’t really a plan at all. But once made I followed the plan. Of course the horse had given me fair warning that he didn’t want to play at all so a renewed effort lead to a headbutt and a floored, would be rider. Perhaps that should have been the end of the lesson, but my teacher wanted it to be clear with no misundestanding. He reared majestically over me, perhaps his nostril flairing and eyes wide, or maybe this was an addition that I imagined later. He seemed huge to me as his hooves thundered towards my head. I could only close my eyes and wonder if the explosion I seemed to hear was my head being crushed by those hooves.

I heard shouts, screams, (from me I think) and a neighbour chased the horse away. He had reared again (another warning perhaps?) but the man had been watching events unfold from his window and tried to stop it. “Quick before he comes back”, he shouted in my ear and half lifting, half dragging took me from the field. The man was shaking, I was crying, it was awful.

It took me a long time to understand that the horse himself had been afraid. Afraid and perhaps angry with this creature who tried to dominate him. His reaction might seem excessive but I have no way of knowing what had happened to that horse before and whether my actions triggered a memory. I do know that had he wanted to his hooves would have damaged my skull beyond repair, so his intention was to frighten not to kill. Of course I didn’t know that at the time, I only knew fear. Shortly after the horses were gone from the field, to where I don’t know, but his actions changed me a lot. It was a strange Summer, my friend broke his collar bone when we were playing batman or superman games. The brickworks were declared out of bounds when an elderly man was found dead among the bricks. I remember talking to him and sometimes bringing him sandwiches or fruit. He told me that it was dangerous among the bricks but I thought I knew better. Soon after my grandfather died and we moved to the other end of the village. Houses were built on the field and my life changed in lots of ways.

Horses, big, scary horses. My dreams of riding one seemed to die that day in the field. I could still look at them, feed them from my hand as long as they were firmly on the other side of a high fence. I still thought, they were amazing, beautiful animals, but though I was through with horses, were they through with me?

of their own. Some people reading this will agree with all of this description, whilst others will scratch their heads and mumble, “Scary? What does this guy know about horses?” Truthfully not that much but I do have a history and history is where knowledge and experience develop.

Like many Scottish working class children in the the 60s and 70s my sole experience of horses was of a pony variety. Seeing them on the beach at Ayr or at a School fayre (not my own school I have to add) and horses on the TV. Horse racing, Folly foot farm, the Lone Ranger, the High Chapperal and Black Beauty. These four legged creatures were exotic and exciting and beyond my reach. I was a young reader and began to devour the westerns of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour where the villians were obvious and heroes, brave, handsome and would leap aboard a horse with scarcely a thought. Who wouldn’t want as a child to be a cowboy or an indian brave on his trusted steed? The horse rider inside of me ached to leap aboard and gallop into the sunset like my heroes.

The opportunity, when it arose, came as a surprise. I lived in a post war prefabicated house, a prefab as it was always called. Living on a short road where there were only two cars. At the end of the road was a field and beyond this a coal bing and a brick work. I remember the field especially as I would often play there. I remember walking there with a puppy who liked to find old broken bricks from the brick work and carry them around in his mouth. He was unpredictable and prone to violence, I vaguely recall but my dad gave him away in the end as a guard dog to a man who owned a scrap yard. So I wandered the fields without him again.

One day I went to the field to cross over to the brick works. I liked to sneak into the cooling areas where the bricks had been fired and the air was hot and shimmered with the disappating heat. In these days of health and safety and security I am sure these things are unheard of, but then I seemed to wander at will. As long as I was home for meals, and bed noone seemed to mind much. That day when I climbed the fence I saw the horses grazing in the middle of the field. I walked towards them, wondering where they had appeared from, sure that they hadnt been there the previous day. A plan began to emerge in my mind about riding around in the field on the back of one of the horses but the lure of the hot bricks was too strong and a good plan takes time, right?

Days passed and I asked around about the horses. A boy I knew told me that someone had told his dad that the horses belonged to some gypsies who were keeping them there for a while. How long I asked, but no one seemed to know. So I would walk in the field handing the horses grass, which they cautiosly took from my hand, ready at any moment to bolt. A good plan takes time but how long did I have?

The day arrived quite by chance. I’m not sure what made that day any different but the plan was to feed a horse some grass, walk around to it’s side, put two hands on and somehow leap astride. I mean that’s how it’s done in the movies, right? As a plan it might have been flawed from the outset by a few things. At age 7 or 8 I wasn’t the same height as my film heroes, oh and the horse had no idea that the plan included him standing quite still whilst this little upstart tried to leap higher than his own height on to his back. Flawed from the outset! However, the plan swung into action quite smoothly, some grass was accepted with nose and neck pats, then round to the side, two hands stretched up and a few big hops. Failing that let’s grab some mane. Of course I had chosen the leader of the herd, who reacted by stepping aside and back a little to show he didn’t want to be jumped on.

Now any good plan should include a fall back position, what do you do if things go wrong? The fallback plan of try again wasn’t really a plan at all. But once made I followed the plan. Of course the horse had given me fair warning that he didn’t want to play at all so a renewed effort lead to a headbutt and a floored, would be rider. Perhaps that should have been the end of the lesson, but my teacher wanted it to be clear with no misundestanding. He reared majestically over me, perhaps his nostril flairing and eyes wide, or maybe this was an addition that I imagined later. He seemed huge to me as his hooves thundered towards my head. I could only close my eyes and wonder if the explosion I seemed to hear was my head being crushed by those hooves.

I heard shouts, screams, (from me I think) and a neighbour chased the horse away. He had reared again (another warning perhaps?) but the man had been watching events unfold from his window and tried to stop it. “Quick before he comes back”, he shouted in my ear and half lifting, half dragging took me from the field. The man was shaking, I was crying, it was awful.

It took me a long time to understand that the horse himself had been afraid. Afraid and perhaps angry with this creature who tried to dominate him. His reaction might seem excessive but I have no way of knowing what had happened to that horse before and whether my actions triggered a memory. I do know that had he wanted to his hooves would have damaged my skull beyond repair, so his intention was to frighten not to kill. Of course I didn’t know that at the time, I only knew fear. Shortly after the horses were gone from the field, to where I don’t know, but his actions changed me a lot. It was a strange Summer, my friend broke his collar bone when we were playing batman or superman games. The brickworks were declared out of bounds when an elderly man was found dead among the bricks. I remember talking to him and sometimes bringing him sandwiches or fruit. He told me that it was dangerous among the bricks but I thought I knew better. Soon after my grandfather died and we moved to the other end of the village. Houses were built on the field and my life changed in lots of ways.

Horses, big, scary horses. My dreams of riding one seemed to die that day in the field. I could still look at them, feed them from my hand as long as they were firmly on the other side of a high fence. I still thought, they were amazing, beautiful animals, but though I was through with horses, were they through with me?

A warm welcome to a new follower and fellow blogger Miss Moneypenny. I hope that she will encourage me to be less lazy and not to be such a disappointment to her alter ego as another James could be!
I have a license to blog! 😉

Occupation Press Release

November 20, 2012

Occupation Press Release. Good luck to the Student occupiers at SOAS. The bombardment of Gaza must stop and any talk of Israeli invasion removed. The Israeli response is totally disproportionate.

The Bench

August 31, 2012

Phil Green strode purposely along the coastal path that lead eventually to Teighnmouth, where he was meeting his friend, Peter, for a drink. The path consisted of sturdy stone paving, making walking easy, especially in his sturdy walking boots. He loved this stretch of the Devon coast, the views were spectacular. He saw the bench in the distance and, as he got closer noticed a neatly piled set of clothes on top of which sat a note, held in place by a small rock. He scanned the sea for a swimmer, but saw only a small object bobbing in the waves.

He lifted the note and began to read ‘I walked to the bench to write this, dad’s bench. Well that should actually be mum’s bench, but it’s hard to think of it as hers.’, He turned to the final page ‘I have a swimsuit on under my dress so that I can wade out as far as I can in the sea and scatter my father’s ashes. I want to spend my last time with him. I don’t feel guilty that I have released him, but I don’t think I can live with the guilt. Please tell my sisters that I am sorry for everything.‘ Phil looked out at the sea, but still couldn’t see a swimmer, or any sign of someone on the beach. He scrambled down the rocks and scanned the area. The lid of an urn was lying on the shore and the urn was on it’s side filling with water, but Linda was nowhere to be seen. With a sense of foreboding he dialled nine nine nine and asked for the coast guard.

He climbed back up the rocks, sitting down on the bench to wait for the authorities to appear. Phil picked up the letter and began to read.

————————————————————————–

I walked to the bench to write this, dad’s bench. Well that should actually be mum’s bench, but it’s hard to think of it as hers. It’s mum’s name that is carved in the back of the bench, Miriam Mountjoy 14 July 1954 – 15th March 1986, beloved wife and mother. I never actually met my mother though I have seen the photos and films made before I was born, she smiles out at them her mane of blonde hair tied back in a simple pony tail.

I am the younger of four sisters, Isobel, Miriam, Frances and me, Linda. There was a reason that I have never met my mother. On the day I was born, she suffered from a catastrophic bleed, a postpartum hemorrhage. The midwives rushed around fighting to save her life, pushing in blood that rushed out as fast as it went in, until the decision was made to call it a day. The fifteenth of March 1986, the day I was born.

I have my mother’s hair, long, blond and thick. I have tried lot’s of ways to arrange it, but it is simplest to put it into a ponytail, the way she did. I have my father’s blue eyes and easy smile. My best features, I think, and the ones that people seem to comment on most often. I am the tallest of the sisters at five foot ten. As I was stretching my father would call me shrimp, while my sisters would would laugh at my gangly legs.

It feels odd, sitting here on a bench carved with my date of birth as well as my mother’s date of death. I look out at the ocean and the blue sky that arches above the sea. My father told me that when they were courting, they come to this stretch of the coast listen to the sound of the waves lapping on the beach and day dreaming about their future. That was why he chose this spot for her bench, so that he could site here and feel close to her. I can never made that connection with her. I have come here to feel close to my father.

When I was small, he would bring all of us here to the bench and sit there and watch while we scrambled down over the rocks, looking for shells and star fish in the small pools that gathered on the surface of the rocks. He told me that sitting on the bench was the closest he came to happiness as he watched his girls growing into young women. Often I would climb back up the rocks and sit at his feet as he gazed out at the sea.

‘Off you go and play with your sisters.’ , he would say, noticing I was sitting at his feet.

‘I want to stay with you, dad.’

But he would shoo me away, before drifting back to his own thoughts. Sometimes, the look he gave me as I turned to go back to my sisters was full of such pain that I wanted to hug it away, but within the pain I could see a feint tinge of accusation. It seemed to say, It was you that took her away from me and I would bolt away from him, scrambling down the rocks to the beach below.

The sea frightened me; wild and untamed, full of such raw power. My sisters would splash in the water and soon learned to swim, whilst I stayed firmly on the shore, watching as they splashed each other or tried to encourage me to join them.

Perhaps that’s why my father bought me my first camera, a Canon S-II. I would take photos of the girls splashing in the surf or rolling on the beach, or ones of my father, sitting erect in his gray suit, his face thin and stretched as he gazed into the distance and dreamed. I began taking photos wherever I went. People in the street, landscapes, buildings at sunset. First I was asked and then paid to take photos of christenings, weddings, bar mitzvahs. Once, even a funeral as one after another the guests posed next to the open coffin, holding the hand or gazing sadly at the face of the dead man within. The local newspaper contacted me and I became their freelance photographer. I bought new, more expensive cameras as my work became more challenging and varied, but the S-II with the words “Made in occupied Japan” etched on it’s base was still my favourite.

My sisters left one after another. Miriam to University in London to study music. Wherever she went, there was always a song on her lips or music from a radio. She would come back in the holidays at first, but slowly she peeled herself away.

Frances was next. She married the son of a local hotelier who had big ideas of his own, working his way into management with one of the big chain hotels. He was offered a lucrative job in Dubai, with a house and perks. Frances went with him.

Isobel was the last of my sisters to leave, moving to Leeds. She worked as a secretary for a local solicitor, her job keeping her late into the night and sometimes demanding she stayed away over night. When his wife found out about the overnight stays, however she kicked up such a stink that Isobel and the solicitor decamped to Leeds to start a new life together.

I stayed with dad and built up my business and reputation. With the sisters gone, I could set up a small dark room in our house and develop my photos there when I wanted, though I often used the one at the rear of my shop, while my friend Christine would look after the desk and take phone calls. There is something satisfying about watching the image emerge from the white of the paper, before plunging it into the stop bath and then the fixer. Digital film has changed the process, but I like to use old fashioned methods and materials when I can.

I was working on a batch of photos, when Christine banged on the door and opened it without waiting for a reply.

‘Christine,’ I hissed ‘you know better than that.’

‘It’s your dad. He’s been rushed to hospital, Linda. It sounds bad.’

I dropped everything and drove faster than I should have to the local hospital. They showed me through to a young doctor, who smiled in sympathy. ‘Early indications seem to point to some kind of stroke,’ he said, working hard at his bedside manner ‘we won’t know the extent of lasting damage yet, but it’s early days.’

When father came home, the damage was to the left side of his face, that drooped slightly and his left arm and leg that seemed weaker than they had before. He underwent the physio sessions and took the medication on time, but he became angry that the walk to the bench had become so tiring. Still he would make the effort to get there and sit, brooding out at the open sea.

It was six months later as he sat there that the big stroke happened. A walker, striding along the path that ran behind the bench had saw the figure slumped on the bench. A drunk he had thought and was tempted to walk on, when something made him turn to the bench and check. Not smelling any alcohol or seeing any empty bottles nearby, he had tried to rouse my father. Failing, he used his mobile phone to call an ambulance, saving my father’s life.

I was in Winchester filming a wedding, when the call came through. I stayed on and completed the filming, knowing that I would get some splendid stills from them for their album. There didn’t seem much point in spoiling the memories of their big day.

The damage soon became apparent. He was totally paralysed, only his eyes able to move. I had him brought home, bringing in another photographer to the business so I could become his carer. The house became full of all the contraptions needed to care for him.

His eyes would follow me around the room, pleading as I moved him in bed or used his lift to get him into a specially adapted chair. I could tell he wanted to join mother. The strain on both of us was beginning to tell.

I spoke to my doctor, who gave me some sedatives. ‘You can’t do it all on your own,’ she said, giving me a leaflet about support for carers ‘you need to continue with your own life. Think of your health and your business.’

I would put my father in a wheelchair and take him down to the bench, parking him next to it. We would sit side by side, gazing out at the sea. His eyes would swivel to me part in accusation, part in a plea to help him. I knew what he wanted, but felt I couldn’t do it.

The rasping breaths from my father’s room woke me up. I struggled awake and went into his room, rolling him over to clear the saliva that was building up in his throat and causing him to gasp. His eyes were pleading, pleading and accusing. I decided to act. I dissolved to of my sedatives in water and slowly gave it to him. When he relaxed, I placed a pillow on his face and put a small pressure in it. I almost let go, before it was over, but the thought of the pleading in those eyes kept my hands in place. His chest rose and fell, the breathing becoming more frenzied until with a shuddering sigh they stopped. I placed the pillow back under his head, making sure there were no feathers on his face and went back to bed.

I slept late and next morning was woken by the sound of the doorbell. The nurse had come to visit my father. ‘You must have had a quiet night. It’s not like you to be still in bed at this time,’ she said as she hustled in the door ‘let’s see this patient. A cup of tea wouldn’t go amiss.’ She hurried off upstairs as I went to the kitchen to put on the kettle.

‘Miss Mountjoy,’ called the nurse from upstairs ‘could you come here a minute?’

I went upstairs with mounting dread. She took hold of my hands ‘I am sorry to tell you that your father has passed away in the night.’

I sobbed aloud and tried to move passed her into the room, ‘No dear, it’s best you don’t’.

The undertakers came and took away his body. I was asked some questions ‘I took my sedatives with a small whisky, I know I shouldn’t have, and went to bed.’

When they asked I replied ‘No I didn’t hear a thing until the doorbell rang this morning.’

The conclusion was swift, death as a result of complications caused by the stroke. I contacted the sisters and arranged for him to be cremated at the local crematorium.

He is with me now, in the urn at my feet, waiting to be scattered. Some of his ashes will go around the base of the bench and some in the sea. My sisters wanted him buried with my mother but it was here he spent so much time with her memory. I am sure I am breaking some bye-law or other, but after what I’ve done that seems trivial.

I have a swimsuit on under my dress so that I can wade out as far as I can in the sea and scatter my father’s ashes. I want to spend my last time with him. I don’t feel guilty that I have released him, but I don’t think I can live with the guilt. Please tell my sisters I am sorry for everything.

————————————————————————–

Phil carefully folded the letter and put it back on top of the clothes. He scanned the water, looking for any sign of a body, but there was nothing in sight.

A search was initiated as the coast guard searched the nearby water, but as the light began to dim, the radios of the watchers on the nearby cliffs crackled to life. ‘ The light is going now, let’s call it a day. We can resume the search in the morning, but with some of the undertows round here, the body could be further out at sea. Our best hope is that she is picked up during the night by a trawler. ‘

————————————————————————–

Jill Stewart sat comfortably in her first class seat travelling to Euston station. Only a very close inspection would have revealed her stylish bobbed hair to be a wig. Shining in the light that streamed through the train windows, the wig gleamed like a magpie’s wing at rest. One for sorrow, she thought sadly. Her clothing was black too from her black leather jacket, blouse, skin tight trousers and flat pumps. Her make up was pale, her eye shadow and lipstick dark giving her a Goth appearance. A modern style of mourning, she thought, as the houses and trains flashed past. Mourning for Linda Mountjoy perhaps? An almost perfect disguise too, she chuckled.

Linda’s final note had been slightly untrue in a couple of ways. She had written the letter before she had gone to the beach that morning, preparing the plan carefully. She lied about her inability to swim too. Her fear of the water was real, and her sisters would remember this, but during a photo holiday in Cyprus she had learned how to swim. It had been hard work to overcome her fears, but the gentle Cypriot shores and a patient instructor had succeeded.

She had swam to a nearby cove where earlier that morning she had hidden a bag of clothes, a wig, make up and train tickets. Jill was born there, climbing to freedom and the open road.

Once in London she would find a cheap hotel and start looking for a new passport that would help her start her new life. Not all of Linda’s past photo jobs had been strictly legitimate; she taken some passport photos as favours. It was time to call those favours in. Paris to begin with? She wondered. She pulled her trusty Canon S-II towards her and watched as the English countryside rolled by.

Olympic Ring Ting

August 27, 2012

Posing at Dorney lakes.

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Origin of the new Tales

August 27, 2012

I have published some new stories as I hope some of you will have noticed. These were produced as part of my beginners writing course which was ran by Olive O’Brien. This is a lovely course and, I hope, I have learned a lot from it. For those interested in the courses please see http://creativewritingink.co.uk/ or http://creativewriting.ie/ for readers outside of the UK.

Suspicions

August 25, 2012

‘Wake up, you bitch’

Kate sat bolt upright in her bed as her bedroom door was thrust open and her flatmate Liz strode into her room. She rubbed her eyes sleepily.

‘What’s going on Liz? I was on a late last night and I’m tired. You know how busy that club gets.’

‘Don’t play the innocent with me. What’s been going on?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about? Seriously, have you been drinking?’

‘Drinking? Don’t treat me like an idiot. I know you two are up to something, so don’t bother denying it. Here’s your phone back.’ Liz tossed a mobile phone on to the bed.

‘Have you been looking at my phone? Christ that’s low. Seriously? I don’t believe you!’

‘You don’t believe me? Did you think I wouldn’t see you two sneaking off into corners whispering to each other, plotting and when I came into the room; the guilt on your faces. Honest, you must think I was born yesterday not to notice.’

‘Wait a minute.’

‘Don’t you wait a minute me. I saw the texts.’ Liz mimicked sarcastically ‘Do you think she suspects? Let’s get together later to discuss things. You make me sick. I thought I could trust you and all the time you are carrying on with my boyfriend. Slag.’

‘Finished yet? Can you get out of my room, I want to get up and get dressed before I say something we both regret?’

‘You’re shagging him aren’t you? I know you are so don’t bother denying it.’

‘Get out now, just get out, get out, get out!’ Kate launched herself across the room as Liz retreated and slammed the door behind her.

‘This isn’t finished you know. You better tell me the truth.’ Liz shouted through the closed door.

Kate slid down on to the floor, her back to the door and cradled her head in her hands, tears running down her cheeks. ‘How can she think that of me? How can she? I don’t believe this.’

She stumbled to her feet and retrieved her mobile phone from the bed. She typed Paul, Liz knows something is going on. She has lost it. You better get this sorted.

She dropped the phone and began to look for clothes and to pack a bag. Her phone chirped to show a text had arrived What do you mean? What’s happened?

She cupped the phone in her hand, hoping that Liz hadn’t heard the sound and set her phone to silent; she has read my phone and got the wrong end of the stick. I can’t handle this. Gonna go to mum’s for a few days till things calm down, but you better come and set her straight.

Kate looked around the room, wondering when she would see her room again. She took her bag and opened the door ‘Where are you going, Kate? We need to talk.’

‘Nope I need some space away from you and your suspicions. I need time to decide what I’m going to do next.’

‘Where are you going?’

‘My mum’s place. That’ll give us both time to get our heads sorted.’

‘Tell me the truth, Kate. What is going on?’

‘It’s not up to me to tell you. You better talk to Paul.’

‘Get lost then.’

‘I can’t talk to you when you’re like this, Liz. It’s better I go.’

Liz heard Kate’s car start, then reverse from the driveway. She stumbled into the living room and switched on the television to drown out the sudden silence that filled the house. Jeremy Kyle grinned at her ‘Do you suspect your partner has been cheating and want to appear on a future episode?’, she quickly switched the set back off and slumped on to the sofa.

A car drove into the driveway. ‘Kate?’ she glanced out of the window and saw Paul’s blue sports car. He strode up the path and rang the doorbell.

‘Liz. Liz answer the door.’ he paused, ‘Liz I know you can hear me, answer this door.’

‘Get lost creep.’

‘I need to explain things.’

‘Explain? I can work it out for myself.’

‘Open the door I need to show you something.’

‘No chance.’

He opened the letter box, ‘Look I don’t want a scene in the street at least open the door.’

He watched as the door swung open and Liz blocked the way in ‘Say what you have to say then go.’

‘I can’t believe you’re being like this.’

‘Like what? Angry cos my boyfriend has been shagging my best friend. You’ve got a nerve.’

‘Here, I was going to give you this tomorrow.’ he handed her a thick envelope. I don’t suppose I’ll need it now.’

‘What is it?’ Liz opened the envelope and found tickets, money and a hotel brochure. ‘What is this?’

‘We are supposed to be flying to Barbados on Monday. Kate has helped me arrange your surprise. She got your passport, arranged time off with your boss and helped me to get it all booked. She even got me one of your rings.’

‘One of my rings?’

‘Yeah I wanted the size to be right for you. I wanted everything to be right.’

‘A ring? Stop, don’t say anymore. Kate did this for me?’

‘She is your oldest friend. Christ you’ve been flatmates since college. Of course she did.’

‘So you aren’t’

‘No, we aren’t.’

‘Shit I have been a idiot. So all the whispering and plotting has been about this? I have to phone her.’

‘You do, but not right now. She’ll be upset, best give her some time.’

‘I’m sorry, I really thought that you and Kate were at it behind my back.’

‘Kate? You don’t know her very well do you? She loves you Liz.’

‘Can we still go on Monday?’

‘Of course we can.’

‘And bring Kate back special present.’

‘I think you better, you have some serious grovelling to do.’

Next morning Paul sent a text to Kate I have explained everything. Can Liz call you? When Kate replied yes, Liz called her.

‘Kate Paul has explained it all, I am so sorry.’

‘You were so quick to believe the worst of me. After all these years, you still don’t know me at all.’

‘I was wrong. I made a mistake.’

‘I understand that, but I think it’s better if we have some time apart. I have decided I am moving back home. I will give you next month’s rent, but it’s for the best if I move out.’

‘I don’t want you to.’

‘It’s for the best. You need to spend time with Paul, doing the thing couples do.’

‘I don’t want to lose you.’

‘You won’t. Go to Barbados and we can talk when you come home.’

‘I’ll miss you.’

‘No you won’t, you will be scuba diving and drinking margaritas. Go and enjoy yourself.’

‘I love you.’

‘I know. Bugger off now, before I start to cry.’

Liz disconnected the call and slid her phone in to her bag. ‘Will we do some holiday shopping then?’

‘That would be nice, Paul.’

‘I think a sexy bikini is in order; you need to make this up to me.’

‘I thought I did last night!’

‘It was a good start, but’

‘Paul!’ giggled Liz.

‘Come on then, last one to the car is buying coffee.’

The time of his life

August 14, 2012

Geoff Smith was a sprightly sixty five year old. Tall and slim, he still wore a shirt and tie for day wear, long after these had been abandoned for the ubiquitous tee shirts and jeans he saw around him on the high street. His shoes were always impeccably shiny, a source of pride for him as he strode to reach his destination. A place for everything and everything in its place was his motto, so he was perturbed that his watch was not where he expected it to be. He glanced around his bedroom looking for it. His wrist felt naked and his hand light without it. Geoff knew he could always check the time on his mobile phone, but somehow that didn’t seem to do the job for him.

Finally, he saw it slipped between a bottle of aftershave and a box of handkerchiefs. He slipped the watch on and pulled the strap tight, but as he did the strap gave a loud noise and snapped, the watch flapping uselessly from the broken strap.

Damn, he thought, I better go to a jewellers to get a new strap.

The jewellers was just a few streets away and though expensive, the watch had belonged to his father and held lots of memories for him. It deserved a decent strap.

He entered the store, glancing at the trays of Rolexes and Breitlings gleaming brightly in the store’s lighting.

The assistant seemed to glide towards him, her hair pulled back from her face and makeup delicately applied.

‘May I help you sir?’

‘Yes I need a new strap for my watch.’ she glanced at the watch and seemed unimpressed. He felt he needed to explain ‘It was my father’s watch you see. He wore it every day during the war whilst flying in Lancaster raids over Germany. He was a rear gunner and damned lucky to survive the war. Rear gunner was a very risky occupation.’

‘I see. Shall we look at some suitable straps then?’

Soon he selected a plain, black leather strap that he felt would suit the watch. The girl seemed unaware that the omega watch she was holding was very rare, and eagerly sought after by collectors. While a part of him felt he shouldn’t wear the watch for daily wear, he felt comfort in having it with him.

‘May I have the broken strap back when the new one is fitted please?’

The girl shrugged indifferently, then nodded in assent. ‘It will be around fifteen minutes if you would like to wait.’

He sat down in one of the hard backed chairs that faced towards the counter. The girl grimaced and took the watch through to the repair area.

He tented his fingers and waited. After thirty five years in the civil service, he was used to waiting and watching.

The door was suddenly thrust open and two figures wearing stocking masks and brandishing shotguns. The door was closed firmly behind them.

‘Stay where you are grandpa, if you know what’s good for you.’

The assistant rushed into the shop, then stopped staring at the barrels of the gun, pointed at her chest. A bag was rudely thrust towards her.

‘Empty those trays into the bag and be quick about it. Hurry.’

Displays were opened and watches and rings poured into the bag.

‘Empty any notes from the till in there whilst you are at it.’

A man came rushing from the back room. He stopped, then seeing what was happening turned to run away, but the loud report of a shotgun froze him in his tracks. ‘Get back here. Are you the only one through there?’ The man nodded.

‘Kneel here and don’t move a muscle or I will use this.’

Geoff felt he should do something, but as he made to rise one of the figures pushed him roughly into the chair ‘I told you not to move gramps. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will.’

The second figure glanced out of the door ‘That’s enough, we better get out of here.’

As quickly as they came, the two men rushed out of the door, carrying the bag of jewelery with them. Sirens could be heard approaching and he knew the police were on their way.

The girl walked around the counter and sat down on the seat next to him. Her make up was streaked as tears ran down her cheeks. Shaking she put her hands to her face.

‘Are you alright?’ asked Geoff.

She nodded , then just as quickly shook her head ‘I will be fine though. I never expected this when I left home this morning.’

Geoff gently squeezed her hand, ‘No I don’t expect either of us did. At least no one was hurt.’ The girl nodded as armed police swarmed into the shop.

‘They are gone I am afraid. I thought I heard an engine roaring away, probably a motorcycle.’ explained Geoff.

The officer nodded, ‘Radio that out will you. Yes we saw them on CCTV, I doubt if they will get very far. Let’s get you checked out and then we can get some statements, OK?’

Geoff sat back and waited, knowing that the process would take some time, but safe in the knowledge that his father’s watch was safe, in the rear of the shop. Soon he would have it back, with it’s brand new strap.