Liar

“Why don’t you have a dad?”

“I do have a dad, he’s just busy.  He’s going to come back one day and I’ll bring him to school and then you’ll all stop laughing at me.  He’s big and tall, he has a gun too, if you laugh at me he’ll beat you all up.”

I turn and run away to the sounds of laughter and my classmates imitating my voice. It doesn’t happen all the time, only sometimes. When they are bored and want to pick on someone different they choose me. The rest of the time it’s the fat kid whose clothes don’t fit him properly. I’m thankful for the fat kid. If it wasn’t for him it would be me all the time. I hope he never goes on a diet or his mum never wins some money. I sit in the corner of the playground and watch. Watch and wait until they forget that they were picking on me.

They are right, I don’t have a dad. I have never seen him, I don’t even know what his name is. I don’t want to admit that to them though. If admitted then they would tease me more. If I lie it might make them think, maybe some of them will believe me and be scared. Mum says that I shouldn’t listen to what the other kids say. She says they are only jealous of me because I can tell such good stories. None of them want to listen to my stories though. If they only listened for ten minutes they would like them, they would stop teasing me then.

I hope mum hasn’t gone out tonight. I have a new story that I want to tell her. She hasn’t been home in the evenings for weeks, when she gets back I am already in bed asleep. I know we need the money but she spends it all anyway. If she isn’t home tonight I’ll just go and see the nice old lady that lives in the block next door. I wanted mum to be the first to hear it but I just can’t keep it in anymore, if I don’t tell anyone I’ll forget it. The other kids have started to tease the fat kid. I think it’s safe to go back out onto the playground.

As I walk towards them I kick a stone that’s lying on the floor.  Pretending to be a football player.  Pretending I am at Wembley and about to score a goal in the cup final. One of the other kids comes over and joins me. He’s not my friend but he doesn’t tease me. He talks to me about football and what he does at the weekend. If none of the other kids see him, he sometimes walks back home with me after school. He lives on the floor above me. He said his mum doesn’t want him to walk back with me but he doesn’t care. Just don’t let her see us together.

As we kick the stone back and forth he asks me what I am doing after school tonight. I tell him that I need to go home and see my mum. She’s been busy working recently. I can see a smirk on his face as I say it. One of the other kids calls out to him and he runs off, leaving me to the stone and my imagination. The teacher told the old lady, Mrs Smith, that I have a vivid imagination.  Mum was busy so she couldn’t go to the parent’s evening. Mrs Smith said she would go instead. I don’t really know what a vivid imagination is. I do like to dream though, even when I am awake I still try to dream.

Back in the classroom the teacher gives us some work. It’s boring. I wish she would give us something exciting. If she gave us something exciting she wouldn’t have to tell me off for daydreaming.  I look around the classroom at all the other children. Some of them are sleeping and some of them are doing their work. The teacher isn’t paying any attention. The fat kid is playing with his ruler. I sometimes wonder if one day he’ll go crazy and kill us all. I hope he doesn’t, maybe I should make friends with him. Then he might not kill me, just kill all the others.

The bell rings and the teacher lets us go. I run out the door as fast as I can, the quicker I get out the further away I am from the kids that walk the same way home as me. I look back and can’t see any of them. I walk slower, if I get home too quickly mum might not be there, the later I am, the more chance there is that she’ll be home. I wish she would take a holiday like some of the other kid’s mums. I don’t think she has ever taken a holiday. As I walk across the park our estate comes into view. I can see the windows to our flat. It doesn’t look like anyone is home, I don’t know why but just by looking at the windows I know if someone is inside or not.

Our estate is big. Big tall, long buildings.  We live on the bottom floor so I can play football outside the door if mum is at home and busy with work. There are ten floors above us. I always wanted to live on one of the higher floors, if I lived on one of them I could look out across the city. I can’t see anything from my window, only trees. The boy in my class who lives above me said at night you can see all the lights from the other buildings. I asked him if I could come up and see it one time but he said his mum doesn’t allow anyone inside their house.

There is a park just outside the door too. We don’t use it though. At night some of the older kids hang around there smoking and drinking. There is broken glass all over the floor. One of the little girls that lives next to Mrs Smith went in there one day and her hand got pricked by a needle. They had to take her to hospital. Mrs Smith said the needle could make her very sick. She has to wait for three months before she knows if she is okay. Now none of the other children will play with her. Even my mum said don’t play with her and my mum doesn’t care who I play with.

Next to the park there is a newspaper shop, an off license and a fish and chip shop. Sometimes when mum has come money she lets me go to the fish and chip shop to buy dinner. I buy a battered sausage and a large portion of chips. If I have enough money I buy a coke too. Mum sends me to the newspaper shop to buy her cigarettes, I am supposed to be 16 to buy them but the man doesn’t care, he knows they are for mum. When he gives me the cigarettes he winks at me. I feel bad because sometimes I steal a chocolate bar when he turns round to get the cigarettes.

I’ve only been into the off license once. They only sell beer in there and the man wouldn’t let me buy it for mum. He said if she wants it she’ll have to come and get herself. I know he sells it to the other kids though. I see them at night when I am kicking the ball against the wall. I’m not sure why he doesn’t like me. After that day I went home and wrote a story about the man and he got eaten by a lion. I told it mum and she really liked that one. I hope she likes my new one, it doesn’t have any lions but it has a dinosaur. Mrs Smith will definitely like it.

Our flat is right in the middle. There are nineteen on our floor and ours is number 9. Last year mum stopped working for a few months. She said she needed a rest. She painted the door red and put some flowers on the windowsill. When she went back to work I tried to keep the flowers alive but they died. I gave them water every day but it didn’t seem to work. The door is dirty now too, one of the windows has some cardboard in the corner, someone throw a stone at it. I don’t know why. I remember it frightened me. Mum said not to worry, it was an accident, I am not sure it was though.

I open the door and call out. There is no reply. The house is empty. I look into mum’s room to see if she has been home recently. Her clothes are all over the floor and I can smell her perfume. Her room is different from the rest of the flat. The walls are a dark pink colour. There is carpet on the floor too. It’s clean, the clothes just making it look messy. There are mirrors on the wall and she has a lamp on the table next to her bed. I’m not allowed to go in but when she is out I always open the door to have a look.

The living room doesn’t have much in it. There is one sofa, a wooden chair in the corner and a small table with the television on top. We used to have a coffee table in the middle but it disappeared one day.  Mum said she threw it out because she didn’t like it but I looked in the rubbish tip outside and couldn’t see it. Maybe someone came and took it away. The floor has no carpet, only black tiles that are freezing cold in the winter, especially if she forgets to pay the electricity bill. Last year when she forgot I could see my breath in the air. I took some sheets from my bed and pretended I was on an expedition to the Antarctic to find some penguins.

My room is the smallest. I have my bed and a small wardrobe to keep my clothes in. There is no carpet in my room either. The walls are painted white, I want to paint them blue but mum says I’ll have to wait until next year. Underneath my bed I keep some of the books that I stole from the library. I push them right into the corner so that she can’t find them. Not that she comes in here anyway. Just in case, though. If she found out I was stealing books she would never let me go to the library again.

It’s nearly summer time so the house isn’t very cold. It doesn’t get dark until very late either. When it doesn’t get dark until late I can stay outside playing football for longer. I can stay at Mrs Smith’s for longer too. She doesn’t like me to walk back home in the dark. I am not scared but she says some of the older kids might cause trouble and she is too old to walk back with me because she’d have to walk back on her own then. I think she doesn’t want to see mum, but maybe she is right, it isn’t very safe around here at night.

Looking out the window I see some of the other kids playing football. I really want to go out and play with them but they won’t let me. They call me names and say bad things about my mum. Instead I just watch them from the window, hoping that they can’t see me. Every time I watch them playing I hope that they will stop playing and call out to me to come and join them. I can show them how good I am then, I could even tell them about myself, if they knew about me they wouldn’t hate me anymore.

As the light begins to fade their mum’s call out to them from the windows above. None of them wanting to hurry inside. If it was my mum calling me I would come in as quick as I could. They don’t seem to care though, they see their mums all the time. I only see mine when she isn’t busy at work and that’s not often. When they’ve gone back inside I think about sneaking upstairs to one of the balconies and looking out over the city. I hear a loud bang from outside, one of the older kids is playing with a firework. I change my mind.

I think about the presentation that we have to do at school tomorrow. We have to think of a place that we’d really like to go to and describe it to the rest of the class. I still can’t think of somewhere that I’d really like to go to. The teacher says it has to be real, I can’t make it up. One of the books that I stole from the library is the Jungle Book. I’m not sure if it’s real or not. Mrs Smith said it’s in India but I don’t believe that there are animals that talk in India. I think I will choose the jungle in India, I just won’t talk about animals that talk, I can have animals though, especially tigers, I love tigers.

I don’t know what the jungle looks like, I can only think of it as how I imagine. I close my eyes and pretend I am there in India. I can see really tall trees, the top is completely green, the sky is covered with only small bits of light coming through. It’s hot, really hot. I am wearing only a t shirt and some shorts. Above me I can see monkeys swinging through the trees, screaming out loudly, telling all the other monkeys that there is a small nine year old boy walking through their jungle. They hold their babies close to their bodies as they swing through the trees.

In front of me there is a river. I can see a crocodile waiting. Patiently waiting for something to come along that it can eat. A small deer is next to the river drinking water. The top of the crocodile glides along the surface silently, the deer unable to see or hear him. As the crocodile is almost upon the deer one of the monkeys above lets out a loud screech and the deer turns and runs back into the green forest. The crocodile angry that he has to wait longer to have his dinner. The monkeys above laughing to themselves having ruined the crocodile’s plans.

Across the river I spot a tiger. She moves slowly through the forest, frightened of nothing. The monkeys stop laughing and swing back through the trees. The master of the forest has arrived and everyone is making way. From across the river she spots me, only looking briefly before carrying on her way. Not bothered about the strange, small boy walking through her home. Maybe she thinks I am not enough to eat, she wants something bigger. Even the crocodile has swam away. Away from the beautiful cat to find somewhere he can wait in peace, away from the monkeys too.

As the tiger walks off to find her dinner a large bird flies down from the trees and perches on a branch next to my head. A parrot. He looks at me with curiosity, his look asking what am I doing here. Am I lost? I shake my head in reply. He lets out a loud sqwuak and flies away again. It is so peaceful here. Only the sounds of the animals and the water flowing. I’m in a place where nobody can tease me. I wish I could wait here all the time, each evening I spend on my own waiting for mum to come home I wish it was here in this forest.

I jump to another loud bang. This time it’s not a firework but the sound of the door closing. It has gotten dark without me noticing, mum has arrived home. I haven’t turned any of the lights on so she probably thinks I am asleep. Her footsteps sound clumsy, as though she is tripping over. I know she isn’t wearing her high heels because I saw them on the floor when I looked in her room. She goes into the kitchen and I hear the sound of her lighter. The same sound for the next ten minutes. I quietly take off my clothes and slip underneath the covers of my bed. Hoping the door will open just a crack and she’ll look in.

Another twenty minutes pass and there is still no sound from the kitchen. Maybe she is tired, sometimes she falls asleep on the kitchen table. I hear the sound of the chair moving against the floor and my heart jumps. Her footsteps get closer to my door and then stop just outside. The door opens slightly and I can just see her face from the light coming from outside. She is smiling, but her hands are shaky, the door wobbling slightly back and forth. I pretend to be asleep. I’m annoyed that she didn’t come home in time for me to read my story.

Silently she closes the door. I hear her footsteps go into her own room, the sound of her falling onto her bed. Tonight she is back early, I hope she will be awake in the morning. I want to tell her to take some time off, she looks tired lately. She won’t listen to me but I can try. I drift off to sleep, flying back to the jungle that is my new safe place, where even the animals won’t tease me or eat me. Where I don’t have to wait each night for mum to come home. Where I don’t have to pretend that I have a dad.

 

Mum

I’ve let him down, I know that. When I look in at him at night I know he’s still awake, I can’t bring myself to talk to him, what am I supposed say to him? I don’t think he’s as innocent as he makes himself out to be, surely he must know what’s going on. The kids at his school, I knew all their mums when I was at school, they like to talk, but what else can I do? I can’t take him out of school, he can’t be hanging around here all day. Anyway, I want him to be at school, I want him to do well for himself, I can’t have him ending up like me.

I am getting more and more tired of all of this. Standing around on lonely street corners every night, when it’s all finished going to some manky old squat and then coming back home. What kind of life is it? There ain’t anything, if I was on my own I reckon I’d just end it all, but I couldn’t do that to him, I might not give him the best life but it would be better than the life he’d have in some home or with some family that don’t really care about him. I’ve tried to get out of this circle before but I always fail, I don’t know how to live any other way.

The road is dark, next to the old canal, the streetlights aren’t all working, I’m used to it, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be scared. Well scared like most people think, you know? Scared of being murdered or raped, I don’t ever get scared like that no more. What’s the point? If I was I might as well stay at home and then we definitely wouldn’t have nothing to eat. When I say I’m scared, I’m scared of myself, scared of what I am doing to myself, scared of what I am doing to the boy, how is this all going to affect him when he’s older?

At the end of the dark road I turn onto the high street, there ain’t anyone about at this time of the night apart from a couple of homeless old boys. I suppose it could be worse, I could be one of them. I have something I can hold on to. The walk back every night is the worst part, the shame is all over me, my body constantly feels dirty, sometimes I walk back slower, just to make sure that he’s not awake to see me come in the door. I know that’s what he wants, but I can’t face him, it’s too difficult.

If his old man had stayed around I wonder if it had all of turned out like this? I doubt it, I wouldn’t have to do what I do. It was all different when he was around. He looked after me, I’ve never been able to look after myself. He’d of looked after the boy too, the day he walked out, it was the day that led us all to this. I still don’t blame him, I can’t, he didn’t know what to do, he couldn’t handle it all, he was scared and he ran, if I had the choice at the time I think I would have ran too. I didn’t have that choice though, I had to stay.

I remember looking into his big blue eyes as he lay in my lap. I knew I couldn’t leave him, I couldn’t give him to no one else. I promised myself that day they I would do the best I could for him, try to give him the best life I possibly can, it ain’t really worked out like that, I’m still trying but I’m starting to give up hope that things will ever work out the way I wanted them to. People will probably say it’s my own fault, it’s because I am selfish, but I don’t know any other way to handle life. I was too young, they don’t think about that though do they? They just want to put you down all the time.

There’s a couple of kids in the park, not sure what they are doing but it’s probably not something good at this time of night. I know some of them going in there to do gear. When I see them in there I want to shake them, I want to ask them what the fuck do they think they are doing, why are they wasting their lives going down the same fucking road that I went down. They probably think it’s one of them roads where you can just turn around and walk back, but it ain’t, it’s nothing like that, it’s a long straight road where a brick wall follows right behind you.

The house is quiet, he must have gone to bed because none of the lights are on. I wonder what he does in the evenings? I don’t ask because it makes me feel even more guilty. It’s always so fucking cold in here, I really must buy us a heater so he can keep warmer at night, I meant to buy one last week but I forgot. I sit down at the kitchen table and smoke a cigarette, and another one. I’m starting to feel sick, the goose pimples rising on my skin. I’ll wait until I’m in my room though, it feels better when you tease yourself, it’s the one rule I have as well, only in my room.

I stand up and look at the small mirror that’s on the kitchen wall. My eyes are dark, my face skinny and pale even with make up on I look ill. How must he feel to have this come home to him every single night? I light another cigarette and sit down, I’ll take that mirror down in the morning, I don’t want to have to keep looking at myself when I get in. One last cigarette before I go and check on him, I have to smoke at least three, I’m nervous, I keep waiting for the day where he isn’t there when I get home, that he’s had enough and ran away.

I look through the crack in the door, he looks asleep but I’m sure he is awake. There’s a small smile on his face, he knows that I’m here. I’m feeling a bit shaky so I hold on to the door handle, I don’t want to walk away just yet. I can’t believe that such a complete waste of a fucking life like me could have created something as beautiful as him. I don’t know where he got his intelligence from either, I doubt it was from me, well it can’t of been. I kiss my finger tips and blow it towards him, smile and walk to my room, the sickness is coming fast and I need to stop it.

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Philosophical Dogs (Free eBook)

Below are the links to a free eBook written by myself. If you follow my blog regularly you’ll probably have read it but if you haven’t help yourself and download it. It’s the story of a homeless person who ran away when he was a teenager in London and his mother’s attempt to find him. It’s a short novel but worth a read. Feel free to share it with friends. Hope you enjoy!

Epub files can be viewed on most devices including phones, Apple devices, laptops etc.

Kindle is obviously for Kindle devices only.

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Goodbye (Story Final Part)

Frank is getting restless, they’ve been in the flat for an hour and no one has come. It’s dark outside, the condemned building has an air of menace. He’s worried the occupant or occupants of the first place they went into might start looking for the people who disturbed their hideaway. Jennifer is sat on the sofa, she’s flicked through the magazine several times even though she can now barely see the words in the dark. He takes one of the candles from the dining table and lights it, it gives the place even more of a threatening air. She’s not spoken a word for over an hour.

‘What if he doesn’t want to go home Jennifer?’ It’s not the most appropriate of questions but it’s one he feels needs to be asked.

‘I don’t know.’

‘You know there’s a chance he might not want to. He didn’t want us to find him.’

‘I know that, but I’m so close. If he doesn’t, then I’ll just have to try and deal with it.’

 

Pat’s pleased with himself. Today he’s only drank a small amount, he doesn’t feel great but he’s decided he’s going to knock the booze on the head. Slowly reduce his intake, become a new man. He looks at a clock inside a shop, another hour to go and he’ll allow himself another drink. The tower block is just across the road, Tommy had told him to meet him there at nine and it’s still only eight thirty. A man of the world, seen it all but he doesn’t like that building, there’s something not nice about it, he’s not going in there until he knows Tommy will be up there waiting.

His vision is slightly blurred, when he moves his head the lights trail across his vision. He sits down on a bench in the street, dizzy and disorientated. He rubs his forehead, it’s covered in sweat but he feels cold. Just a chill, he thinks to himself. He stands up again trying to compose himself but he doesn’t feel quite right. He looks in the window of the shop again, only a couple of minutes have passed. He remembers the scratch card he bought earlier, he takes it off and scratches it off furiously, trying to take his mind of not feeling well. Nothing.

He holds the card in his hand and stares at it. How many people’s hopes and dreams have died with the movement of a coin across the card? He tosses it to the ground. As he stands up he reprimands himself for being so bitter, bending down to pick up the card then walking over to the dustbin and throwing it in. We’re all fucking idiots living on a big scratch card. Some people scratch off a million the day they’re born while some come up blank and keep coming up blank for the rest of their lives. This sudden resentment towards the world takes even himself by surprise, it must be because he’s not had a drink for a while.

 

Tony sings to himself as he walks along the road, the dog keeps looking up at him, probably in wonder at what has overcome his master. They’ll soon be away from this place, a grand won’t get them far but he can get himself a tent and a nice jacket and they’ll go and live in the wild for a bit. He’s always fancied the Lake District. A few years ago he had lived in the doorway of a travel agents, none of the posters of beaches, sun and sea appealed to him. It was those green rolling hills and the lakes, it looked tranquil. Once they were done saying goodbye to Pat, they would head to the train station and wait outside for the night, getting the first train they could in the morning.

He sees Pat sitting in the small square below the flats, in his hand is a bottle of wine. He looks unusually sad, even from a distance. He’s spotted Tony but that usual warm smile hasn’t spread across his face. He was going to miss the silly old bastard. He’d always just seen him as someone who was there but he’s come to the realisation he was more than that. In his own way, Pat had been looking out for him. He didn’t have to let him stay in the old flat, the both of them pretended to be loners but they enjoyed each other’s company.

‘You look pleased with yourself, Tommy. What you been up to?’

‘Had a bit of a result.’

‘That’s good. I bought a scratch card earlier, won fuck all. Do you know what I did, Tommy?’

‘What did you do, mate?’

‘I threw it on the floor. I never do that. I think I’m getting bitter, Tommy. I don’t want to get bitter.’

‘What happened to that hope you had the other day?’

‘I’m lonely, Tommy. You know what I want more than anything in the world? Just to lie down in bed with someone and for them to hold me. It ain’t ever going to happen but that’s what I’d like.’

The dog licks Pat’s hand and sits in front of him allowing him to stroke his head.

‘I’m going Pat.’ Pat looks at him and then down to the floor. Tommy sees a tear come from his eye, Pat wipes it away and then smiles that big smile of his.

‘Where you going, son?’

‘Last time I told you where I was going you followed me.’

‘Don’t want me to go with you then?’ He’s joking, they both know Pat doesn’t want to get up and leave.

‘Pat, I’ve never said this to anyone, but thank you. You’ve been there for me when I’ve had no one.’

‘Thank you, too. You’re a good kid, Tommy. If you ever sort yourself and come into a load of money, make sure you remember me, if I’m still around.’

‘You’ll be the first person I think of.’

Pat rubs the dogs head. ‘See you, later little man.’

‘I’ve got to go and collect a couple of things from the flat. Come up if you want. You might as well stay there Pat, it’s safer than the other place.’

‘I don’t like this building, Tommy. Something not quite right about it. Don’t worry about me, son.’

As they climb the stairs, Pat feels the hope drift away. The kid is going, he’ll have no one. The way that woman treated him has made him feel worthless, he might have put up a front to her but the truth is, what does he have to live for now? This is the crash after years of eternal optimism and trying to hold out. He’ll go and buy himself a packet of pills and a bottle of vodka once Tommy is off, it’s the best way. He fumbles in his pocket, there should be enough money there.

 

The sound of footsteps startles them both. A dog runs into the room and barks at them, Jennifer holds out her hand to the dog but he growls. Frank jumps up onto the sofa. Tony runs into the room, ready to confront whoever has invaded his makeshift home. He stops still as soon as he enters the room. The candle is still burning, his mother’s face glowing in front of him. He wants to turn and run but he can’t move. She smiles weakly at him, he can’t help smiling back at her, as if he were that child again.

‘Hello, Tony.’ He backs off towards the door, opening his mouth but nothing coming out. He turns to Pat.

‘Did you know she would be here?’

‘I didn’t know, son, I promise. I don’t know how she found it.’

‘I’ve been looking for you for ten years, Tony. I never gave up, I was going to find you at some point.’

‘What do you want?’

‘I want you to come home.’

‘I don’t want to go home.’

‘Tony, I don’t know what I did wrong. I tried to do the best for you but I must have failed somehow, for that I’m sorry.’

‘Where’s dad?’

‘I don’t know where he is. He left, years ago, I’ve not seen him since.’

‘You’re on your own.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Who’s this geezer?’ Tony nods his head at Frank.

‘Frank helped me find you. Tony, come home for one night, even two, if you don’t like it you can leave again. I won’t ever rest easy without knowing I tried.’

‘Do you like dogs?’

‘I don’t mind dogs.’

Tony steps forward and puts his arms around his mother, tears flowing from them both. He squeezes her tight, now he doesn’t want to let go. Frank stands awkwardly to the side, Pat looks away, he feels envious, knowing he should be happy for the kid. They let go of each other.

‘Shall we go?’

‘Yeah, let me just say bye to Pat.’

Frank and Jennifer leave them, waiting outside the front door.

‘You sure you didn’t know about this?’

‘No, but I’m glad you’ve seen sense and decided to go home.’

‘I’m sorry, Pat. That must have made you feel a bit uncomfortable.’

‘Don’t be silly, son. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of an angel, bringing people together, even if I didn’t mean it.’ Tony laughs. He reaches into his pocket and takes out the money he stole from the drug dealer and puts it in Frank’s hand. ‘Don’t drink yourself to death. I’ll come and find you one day soon.’

‘Thanks, boy.’ It’s not enough to change his mind. Perhaps his work has been done now, it’s time to let himself rest at ease, at least with the money he can go out with a bang. The dog licks his hand again.

Tony sighs heavily, bends down and kisses the dog on his head. ‘Socrates, you’ve been my companion for the last few years, you’ve listened to me when no one else would. Thank you.’ He rests his head against the dogs and then looks up at Pat and hands him the dog’s lead. ‘It’s not a woman, but it’s the best I can do. He wouldn’t like living inside anyway.’ The dog jumps up and licks Tony’s face and then turns and sits down next to Pat. Tony rubs his head one more time and then hugs Pat. ‘Thank you, son. You’ve just saved my life.’

Thank you for reading this over the course of the last 10 days. I’ve put the whole story into Kindle format for free download. You can also use your mobile devices, laptop, iPads etc. to view it by clicking on ePub below. Please do me a favour by sharing this and helping me get it to as many people as possible. I can write but marketing isn’t my strong point so, whatever help is given is greatly appreciated! 

I’m taking a couple of days off now but I am toying with the idea of continuing this on from Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m going to throw it open to my readers as to whose story I carry on with, so let me know and I’ll start it soon. 

Thanks all, support has been awesome since I started writing regularly on here. 

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What Have I Done?

Follow the Fox Part 6

Having had her fill of potatoes and carrots, finished off with a small watermelon, Anna’s eyes are closing as she lies on her bed. She wants to sleep well, the feeling of a full stomach has left her with a warm glow. She really wants to go to the fence too, she shuts her eyes and then fights to open them again. Her grandparents are asleep, her grandfather softly snoring. As her eyelids close she can see her father, he’s standing in front of her, in his hand is a teddy bear, he has a big smile on his face. She reaches out for the bear and holds it tight, her father pulling her close. She sleeps, the fence can wait for another day.

A line in the ground, a river, sometimes just a small marker, but in this case a fence mark ground between two different worlds. Such a simple thing symbolises the enormous differences between two countries. From behind the fence he came through, Albert can see light, brightness, tall buildings in the distance. In front of him all he can see is darkness, vague outlines of trees which look sad, some with their branches growing towards the fence, reaching out, lamenting being stuck in the ground unable to move, reaching but never quite making it. Even the air is heavy, there’s a sadness unlike anything he’s felt.

The soldiers have passed several times but he is stuck, he can’t move from fear. He now regrets his decision, he thinks of his parents, unsure if he will ever see them again. Fear is amplified a million times when you’re a child, small situations become mortally dangerous, huge situations become the end of the world. The hole in the ground is but twenty metres in front of him, but to Albert it looks a mile away, a mile fraught with danger. He bangs the ground with his fist in frustration, how could he have been so stupid?

In desperate situations one looks for hope, Albert’s hope is that his friend will come along and rescue him, appearing from behind and taking him away to some safe place. He listens for the sounds of feet or crunching leaves, but there is only silence. Tonight the crickets are silent, he  shivers, the only way he can escape is to run for the hole. If they catch him maybe they’ll take mercy on him, let him go away under the fence. He’ll say he got lost, they’ll understand. Then the stories his father and teachers have told him come to the front of his mind. They’ll take him away, he once even heard they eat people.

A torch light appears, the beam shining just above his head and then sweeping off in the opposite direction, backwards and forwards, he watches and waits for the light to lower and shine on his face. The light goes out, a silhouette stops near to the hole, he hears the sound of a striking match and then sees an orange glow by the shadowy head. He can’t run now. He waits, the orange glow goes out but the shadow remains, he hears the rattle of the fence, the soldier is sitting back against it.

Two hours pass and still the soldier has not moved. Light is slowly coming into the sky, black turning to a dark blue, pink and orange in the east. Tiredness is overcoming Albert, he tries to keep his eyes open but he can’t fight it, he shifts himself underneath a bush, his face falling against the ground, he falls asleep, hoping to awake in his own bed, far away from this place.

Anna awakes, she smiles to herself. She feels refreshed and light. She springs from her bed, not realising it is still early in the morning. Her grandfather stirs, muttering something and then turning his body to face the wall. She places one foot forwards on the wooden floor, it creaks, she looks up, neither of them move. She creeps over to the table, her grandmother has left a pile of fruit out, unusually neglecting to put it away. Like Anna she too could not resist sleep the previous night, overcome with the emotion of having so much food and a full belly.

She takes a banana and stuffs it under her dress, tiptoeing out of the door. She sits down on the wooden steps and peels the banana, eating it slowly as she looks up at the morning sky. The birds are chirping, a slight breeze cooling her. Perhaps there is no need to go back to the fence, she thinks to herself. She may just bring trouble to her grandparents and now they have food, bringing trouble could take it all away. Childish curiosity is hard to overcome, especially that of a child who has seen what the forbidden fruits have to offer. She grasps the pencil which she has been keeping hidden under her dress. Just one more time.

Passing footsteps wake Albert from his sleep, he’s not in his bed, he looks around not sure where he is before it dawns on him he hadn’t been dreaming, he really is stuck on the other side of the fence. The footsteps quieten, he looks up at the fence and prepares himself to make a run for it.

‘What are you doing here?!’, Anna’s voice is both excited and surprised.

‘I found a new hole, a fox. But I have to go home, I have been here all night!’

‘Stay! Just for a little bit more, please? I want to hear a story about your home.’

‘I can’t, my mother and father will be worried! They will be angry!’ She looks upset.

The sound of laughing and shouting. They both lie down flat on the floor. A group of men, not soldiers but they are carrying shovels and pickaxes, they stop not far from where they lie and put their tools down. Their accents are thick, Albert can’t really understand them.

‘What are they saying?’

‘They want somewhere to rest. They will go later.’

‘But, I have to go home!’

‘You can’t, they will call for the soldiers.’ Albert begins to cry. Anna hugs him. He stops crying and sits down on the floor, he’s stuck and there is no way out.

‘Do you want to see my house?’

‘No! I want to go home!’

‘You can’t go home, you will be safer closer to the house. We will wait until the afternoon, they will be gone then.’

She takes him by the hand and leads him through the thick bushes and into the woods before stopping at a clearing. She looks around to make sure no one is around and still holding him by the hand runs towards a wooden house. She keeps pulling him until they are safely underneath the house. The house is held up by four wooden stilts, Anna puts her finger on her lips signalling for him to stay quiet. Above them he can hear the sound of footsteps and two people talking quietly.

‘My grandparents.’ She whispers.

‘Where are your parents?’

‘My father went to the city to work.’

‘Your mother?’ She shakes her head and doesn’t reply. Albert says nothing, not wanting to upset her more. His stomach rumbles, Anna giggles. She runs from underneath the house, leaving him there on his own. He can only see back from where they came, the front part is covered up with wooden planks. He moves himself into a corner, worried a passer by will see him. He looks through a small hole in the wood, he can see a dusty road, at the end of the road he can see the tops of another two houses. They are much the same as Anna’s, old, as if they would fall down in a strong wind.

Anna comes running back, in her hand is an apple, she hands it to him. He takes a bite, she watches him making him feel uncomfortable. She laughs again. He finishes the apple quickly.

‘What are you laughing at, Anna?’ Her grandmother, who knows she sometimes plays underneath the house.

‘Nothing, I am just playing!’ They hear a door open, footsteps moving down the steps at the front of the house and then around it. She appears in front of them, her stern looking face giving Albert little hope his situation will get better.

‘Who is this child, Anna?’ Anna says nothing, looking down at the floor.

‘Who are you, child?’

‘I’m Albert.’ She looks at Anna who is still staring at the floor guiltily, Albert wants her to say something which will make it all better.

‘Where are you from Albert?’ She can see from the way he is dressed, his slightly chubby cheeks and the way he speaks where he is from, but she can’t believe it. Albert says nothing. She grabs them both by the hands, looking around as they come into the open, checking to see if anyone can see. There’s no one around, she rushes them up the stairs and into the house. Cyril stares open mouthed as he sees the boy come through the door.

‘Anna, what have you done?’

‘He climbed under the fence, I was just trying to help him!’

‘Why did you climb under the fence? Anna have you been crossing the border?’

‘No! I found him asleep this morning when I went for a walk.’

‘It’s true, I was chasing a fox and I was silly and I went under the fence. Then there were soldiers and I couldn’t get back and now there are men. I don’t know what to do, please help me get back!’

Cyril looks at his wife whose face has turned white. People are executed for things such as this. He rubs his white hair, trying to think of a solution but none are coming to him. He can’t turn the boy in, they’d keep him, he’d be a trophy to parade, they would say he came over voluntarily because he was told of the greatness of this country. He has to try and get him back. A shout goes up outside. Anna runs to the window.

‘Grandma, grandpa, it’s the cadre! They are checking the houses for bad things! He has his clipboard, there are two soldiers with him.’

Albert looks at the boy who has started to cry, he doesn’t know what is happening. He empties one of the large sacks which the fruit and vegetables came in, he directs the boy into a corner and then commands him to get in the sack, it barely covers him. Albert tries to kneel down, pushing himself into the corner. They pick up the fruit and vegetables and push it into the top of the sack so his head is covered. Cyril looks at the sack, it is impossible he won’t be found. This could be the end of them all. The cadre knocks on the door, not waiting for an answer he opens it.

‘You know why we’re here, just a routine check.’

Continued tomorrow…

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

I’ll post the last part of the other short story tonight, I’m going to convert the whole thing into a Kindle and an ePub file which can be read on most mobile devices and touch pads so feel free to share it when it goes up.

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Writers from Beautiful Countries

Growing up literature was my escape, I loved to read books which would transport me off to a different country, somewhere I was unfamiliar with. I’d have pictures in my mind of what these places were like, walking through the streets of some far away city or climbing mountains with wild animals in distant lands. I used to pretend to be sick in school so I could go to the nurses room where they would give me a jigsaw puzzle to do, the puzzle was a map of the world and as I was putting each piece in place, different countries were coming to life through my imagination, an imagination ignited by the books I had read.

One of my best friends as a teenager was from Sudan. Sudan often conjures images of famine and poverty, there is no doubt it is a country with problems. My friend would often promise to take me there. He wanted me to meet his family and he wanted show me a country he was proud of, I’d ask him questions about Sudan and his eyes would light up, for a person who said little, the topic of his home was one which could keep him talking for hours. I’d sit there and listen to him, imagining what this place was like, here was a someone who was born and lived there, not some account from someone who had seen it on the news and could only see the negative aspects.

I was lucky to grow up in one of the most multicultural cities in the world. I also had a thirst for learning about unfamiliar cultures and different ways of life. When someone told me where their parents were from, I wanted to know more about that place, more about their culture and language. I’d find out what I could be reading, slowly building a picture of a place which was previously unknown to me. Sometimes I would be surprised by how lovingly they spoke of home, because the news and things we were taught in school told me that the place they came from was one in which abject poverty was rife and people only wanted to escape.

By reading books and blogs from those who live in different countries it allows a window into worlds we don’t otherwise have access to. Social media has become ubiquitous, it has the power to decide narratives and it can form pictures and opinions which have little basis in reality. These writers have the places they write about in their hearts, they live or have lived there, they’re aware of both the good and the bad. Yet, we don’t celebrate them because often they do not confirm the bias we have, they contradict what we have been taught. We don’t like to hear what tells us we’re wrong.

Today I read about a bookstore which is using the words ‘writers from shithole countries’ above a display of books. The man who uttered those words originally deserves no attention, it is what he thrives on. For the bookstore to use the words left me feeling uncomfortable. Why do those words have to be use to display the books? The cynic in me says it’s just a marketing ploy. Perhaps it is well intentioned, but instead of using those words why not celebrate the work of the authors, celebrate where they have come from, celebrate what they bring to our own culture.

One of the more disturbing things I have found are people saying, ‘it’s not what he said, it’s the way he said it.’ Effectively, they are saying they don’t really disagree but because of who said it and how it was phrased they have a problem with it. ‘Shithole countries’ can’t be eloquently phrased and it doesn’t matter who said it, it’s derogatory and racist. Rare is it you will find a person who doesn’t long for their home at some point in their lives. Their countries hold memories or places and people who they hold dear.

The authors who wrote the books underneath that display deserve much better than to have those words above their books. Not only that, their books should be celebrated anyway. Anything which educates us about what is not known to us helps in creating a society which is more tolerant.

People We Meet: The Big Man

He was tall, stocky, looked like he’d be able knock a person out with one punch. He had knocked more than one person out with one punch, something he’d delight in telling you. He was soft as well, if he liked you he’d look after you, not wanting any harm to come to those he had time for. He’d endlessly tell stories of the mischief he’d got up to, revelling in tales of madness and often stupidity, usually ending with him in a police cell somewhere. He couldn’t let go of that, it was his downfall, he thrived on the madness and without it he didn’t know what to do with himself.

You look at people and make a judgement. Big, tall, strong, you tend to stay away unless they approach you themselves. We like to think we’re good judges of characters but often we’re wrong. You don’t know what pain lies behind those eyes. You can see the sadness but you don’t want to ask for fear of offense or even violence, the person looking like they’re ready to blow at the slightest provocation. It’s none of your business anyway or ‘he probably deserved it’. How do you know he deserved it? You don’t even know what ‘it’ is?

One evening he sits down with you to tell more tales, this time he casually drops in details you’ve not heard before. Opening up to you but not wanting to make it too obvious. Another story of foolishness, stealing from shops, running away from police, and then being tied up by a family member and left outside his house until he had withdrawn from heroin. What? Say that again? How long were you out there. ‘I can’t remember,’ he says, ‘it wasn’t the first time either, sometimes he’d kick the shit out of me too.’

That’s where the sadness comes from. His eyes have softened, you don’t just see a big angry person, you see someone who is vulnerable and scared and uses their anger to hideaway from the world, not letting anybody in. He tells you about his kids and he softens more, now you see a loving father who is lost. He doesn’t want his children to see him like this but he doesn’t know how to let go, allow people in so that he can be free. The children are always there in his mind, his guilt adding to the anger.

One day he runs away, you thought he would but you hoped he wouldn’t. You’d spend the days telling him it’s the best place for him to be, that if he goes back out there it’s just going to be the same shit all over again but this time he not make it. He shrugs his shoulders, he’s submitted to his fate, he can’t see a better world for himself. It’s all taken it’s toll, letting go of the small things isn’t enough, he has to let it all out but he can’t, it’s too much. The temptations of the outside world are a slow suicide, he knows that but, another shrug of the shoulders, it doesn’t matter.

Months later, he’s back again, back through the door looking angrier than before. He says he’s back this time to make it work but you know it’s not his choice, he’s been forced to come back. He lasts a couple of weeks and he’s gone again, this time there were no stories, just anger. Another week later and you hear the news. He’s gone, he won’t be coming back through the doors this time, maybe he’s happier. Now it’s your turn to be angry, angry he couldn’t let go of that burden, he could have been a friend for life.

 

In memory of a friend, someone who had more impact than they ever knew. 

Do You Understand?

Follow the Fox (Part 5)

Asking for a favour from a person who does not willingly give them is a difficult task. There are some who believe they are born to be leaders, solid in their belief that only respect and obedience should be shown. When they help another, it is through the goodness of their hearts, done because their judgement is unquestionable. One shouldn’t ask because they are asking for something this great person has not themselves thought of, if they haven’t thought of it, then the favour which is being asked of them is flawed. Unless of course, you have something which they do not wish others to know.

The cadre raises his head, away from the illicit material he has on his desk. Not illicit in the sense that it’s pornographic or offensive, illicit because it is subversive. He doesn’t care though, with power comes a sense of being untouchable. Anyone foolish enough to run to the city to tell those with more power than him would soon find their own homes filled with illicit material. His report would say he was studying the illicit material found in those homes. He looks down at the newspaper in front of him and then back at Cyril, shrugging his shoulders, asking what the old man is going to do about it.

‘You found your son okay?’

‘I found the paperwork, I didn’t find my son.’

‘Unfortunately, I have no power over them there. It’s sad you didn’t see him but remember he gave his life for the struggle.’

‘A struggle it is indeed.’

‘What do you want, Cyril?’

‘The girl mustn’t know her father is dead.’

‘She won’t, only I and a few others know.’

‘We want some food.’ The cadre stares at Cyril, tapping a pen he’s holding in his hand against the desk.

‘We go back a long time Cyril. You know I’m not a man to hold grudges, and I hope you are not one either. Food can be arranged.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Remember, Cyril, I have the power over life and death here, don’t push your luck.’

‘It would do you well to remember what I know.’

‘I remember. Things can be made to be forgotten if they become too much of a problem.’

‘I’ve no doubt, but a man of such power would have already taken care of the problem if he could.’

‘They’ll bring food to you each week, starting this evening. My condolences on the loss of your son.’

His eyes divert back to the newspaper, Cyril remains standing in front of him, not moving. It is rare this man feels uncomfortable. From his pocket he takes a stone and places it in front of the cadre, the cadre’s eyes are unmoved but Cyril can feel his fear. He turns and leaves the room, when he’s gone the cadre picks up the stone and places it in his own pocket, checking to make sure no one else saw.

Their small family will be able to eat well now, he doesn’t like to use blackmail and he despises politics in a world where one political narrative controls all. Sometimes you must use what you have to better your life, even if it goes against your conscience. He smiles to himself, the first genuine smile he has had since learning of his son’s death.

 

Anna’s grandmother is keeping a close watch on her, she hasn’t been sent out to pick weeds for a couple of days and each time she leaves the house her grandmother is just behind her telling her not to go far. Instead of sitting by the window she sits outside, adjusting her position so as the child can not go out of sight. Anna worries Albert will forget her and she will have lost her friend. She has a plan to sneak out tonight, she won’t see Albert but she just wants to look over at the other side again.

A van pulls up outside the house, her grandmother anxiously gets up from her watch and approaches the soldiers. One of them waves her away and tells her to go back inside, she calls Anna. They watch from the window as the soldiers remove two large sacks from the van and throw them on the floor. They wait until the van has gone before running outside to see what is inside. They pull at the sacks but can not open them, Anna retrieves a knife from the house and hands it to her grandmother, she slices open the brown sack and vegetables pour from opening, spreading all over the floor.

They look at each other in disbelief. They slice open the other sack and the ground is covered with colourful fruits, some of which Anna has never seen before and her grandmother hasn’t seen for many years. She hugs the child, holding her tight, she looks up to the sky and offers a prayer of thanks, only a divine intervention could have brought them such luck. Perhaps it’s a trap? Suddenly she becomes suspicious and grabs a banana which Anna is unpeeling.

‘It’s okay, she can eat it.’ Cyril has arrived home, neither of them had seen him coming down the road.

‘Where has it come from?’

‘It doesn’t matter, we’ll get it once a week. Don’t be boastful, we’re lucky, others are not so lucky.’

Anna has the banana back in her hands, studying it before she eats it. The beautiful yellow colour, the smell. She takes a bite, chewing it slowly. Her grandmother laughs at her. She takes another bite and then another, finishing the banana in three bites. Cyril rubs her head and then leaves them to pick up the food.

 

The cadre is a vindictive man, he is aware of this himself. Revenge is a sign of strength and should be dished out to those who wrong you. The situation he has is a delicate one, it could lead to trouble for himself and he doesn’t want that. It will take planning or perhaps an opportunity will arise in which he can take advantage. He imagines the poor fools eating away at their food, making pigs of themselves. If they had any intelligence they would not be in such a position where they had been hungry. Cyril is crafty but not as crafty as him. It’s the girl who he can use to get at Cyril.

A soldier enters the room and stands before him, he smiles at the soldier who looks uncomfortable, fearing he has done something wrong.

‘No need to worry. You are not from here are you?’

‘No, sir.’

‘You have a sister.’

‘Yes, sir. She’s a good girl, likes…’

‘It’s been reported to me that you came across a girl in the woods while you were neglecting your duties.’ The soldier has no reply, his face has turned white. If he knows he let the girl go free after she crossed the fence too, it will be the end of him. ‘This is a serious transgression, but it can be overlooked. I need you to help me, you will be rewarded. Your sister would be pleased her brother was such a good servant of the state. If she was to find out her brother, the man she looks up to and adores was not a good servant, she may be tempted to take her own life. Do you understand?’

‘I understand.’

‘Good.’

 

Albert has spent the day watching the fence, the bored soldiers passing back and forth. Anna hasn’t appeared, he is sure she won’t come again, he’s worried his paper plane has got her in trouble. As the light fades he prepares to go home, picking up his new ball which his father bought him. It is good cover for him coming to the grassy patch of land by the fence. His mother has started to ask why he goes there so much, warning him of the dangers and evils of the soldiers who patrol the other side. He catches a glimpse of an animal, a bushy tail, a fox. The fox looks both ways and then darts to the fence, stopping in front of it and then squeezing underneath, the fox has found another hole.

He could go over, just for a little while, if she lives near the fence perhaps he could find her and make sure she’s okay, tell her there’s another hole too! The idea is a stupid one but now it is in his mind, an excitement building inside him. A tall man appears from the bushes, on his own side, and walks up to the fence. He inspects the hole and then leaves again. He has never seen anyone on this side of the border approach the fence. He waits to see if the man returns but he doesn’t.

The hole is a tight fit but he thinks he can make it through. He looks up at the sky, it’s almost black, just a slight tint of blue still shining through. It would be better to go in the dark because no one would find him. He pushes his head through and then forces his body through too. He stands up, he’s on the other side. A torch is shining not far away, he runs to some cover and lies down. Now he’s over he’s scared. What if he can’t get back?

The previous parts are here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Continued tomorrow. Follow my blog or like my Facebook page to get notifications of when there are new posts! You can check out my published books here too.

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Madmen and Morals (Story Part 9)

This woman is bossy and Pat is starting to get the hump with her. She keeps telling him to do things he doesn’t want to do. This morning she made him lie down in the grass with a sleeping bag and pretend that’s where he’d been for the night. Now she wants him to go into a shop, buy something and then tell the camera he stole he it. He’s not doing that, he never steals things, he’s a man of morals, even if it is a lie. She looks down on him too, not like yesterday when she was nice to him, she only wants to tell him what to do now.

He awoke early this morning, didn’t even have that much to drink last night, wanted to keep himself fresh and alert for his big television appearance. He thought it was his lucky break, the one he’d been talking to Tommy about. He was in the park before nine, waiting on the bench and along she came, all full of herself, ordering him about, telling him what he could and couldn’t do. He’s thinking about tell her to fuck off. The money doesn’t matter if it means you’ve got to make a fool of yourself? These people just want him to act how they think he should act, it isn’t real.

He’d bought himself a kebab last night, a nice mixed one, cost him nine quid, he can’t remember the last time he spent nine quid on food. She’s shouting at the camera man now, he looks frightened of her, which is a bit strange because he’s a big geezer and she’s only a skinny little thing.

‘You shouldn’t talk to him like that!’

‘You can shut up, I’m paying you money and you’re not doing as I ask. Look at you! You’re not a proper tramp! You need to do something crazy and stupid so the viewers think you’re mad.’

‘I’m not mad though.’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake! We’ve wasted half a day so you’ll have to do for the rest of it but I don’t think we’ll be putting you on T.V.’

‘I couldn’t give a fuck love. I’m going now, hope you have a good day.’ With that Pat walks off down the high street and back to his safe haven. She gave him a tenner to go and buy something in the shop when he was supposed to say he nicked it so at least he’s got something. The woman stands there astonished, unable to believe that such a man could treat her with such insolence. She turns to the camera man to launch a tirade at him but he too has slipped off. She throws a tantrum in the middle of the busy street, at least she’s given them someone mad to look at.

Ten pound note in hand, Pat orders himself some fish and chips, grinning at the man behind the counter.

‘Had a good day my friend? Not seen you for a long time.’

‘I was asked to be a madman by a madwoman. I’ve been busy, you know how it is George.’

‘You taking care of yourself, Pat?’

Pat shrugs his shoulders. ‘Doing the best I can.’

George finishes wrapping up the fish and chips but waves Pat away when he attempts to hand over the money. ‘Get yourself something nice.’ George had always been good to him, he didn’t abuse it, only turning up for something to eat when he really needed it.

Passing a newsagents Pat stops and buys himself a scratch card, puts it in his pocket, saving it for later when he’s finished his dinner.

 

 

Jennifer springs herself over the wooden boards, Frank looks on in amazement as she disappears over to the other side. He jumps up himself catches the top of the board and then fails to pull himself up and over. He tries again, for the first time he hears laughter from Jennifer.

‘I can see a gap further down, go in there.’

‘I’ll have one more try.’

‘Just use the gap you idiot.’

Pride hurt, Frank enters through the small gap. Jennifer is already making her way to the entrance of the tower block, she pushes the door open and disappears inside, Frank runs after her, almost out of breath and not to keen on entering a condemned building.

‘How many floors are there?’

‘Eighteen. We’ll have to check each one.’

They climb the stairs, checking each door to see if the wood covering them has been disturbed. On the third floor, one of the doors is missing the wood. Jennifer pushes in the door, Frank forces his way in front of her in a show of his masculinity, it already having been hurt today he’s not going to let her go in first. The first room to his right was a kitchen but all the fittings have been ripped out, a sink is lying on the floor, an empty and rusting fridge is open. Jennifer passes him and opens a door directly in front of them revealing what would have been a living room at one time.

‘Jesus Christ!’ Frank hesitates before entering the room. On the floor are scattered bottles and a few needles. There’s a mattress propped against the wall, the smell is horrendous. He covers his nose and mouth with the top of his shirt. Jennifer treads carefully over the detritus on the floor and pushes open a window, allowing some air to flow into the room. There is a newspaper on the floor, she bends down to look at it, it’s dated yesterday, someone is living here.

‘You think Tony would be living here?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know anything about him Frank.’

Frank wipes his face, stepping towards the window so he can take in some air. The propped up mattress is directly to his left and where the smell appears to be coming from. He can see something on the floor behind the mattress, he approaches it slowly before turning and running out of the room to throw up. Jennifer walks over to the mattress, she kneels down, there’s a dead dog behind it, the source of the smell. She can’t see it’s colour, she reaches out her hand and knocks the mattress so it falls to the floor with a crash. The dog is brown, Tony’s was black and white. She stands up and leaves the room and then the flat, stopping in the landing to try and compose herself.

‘I’m not sure I can look in anymore of these flats Jennifer, that was awful. Someone is living in there too.’

‘The dog wasn’t Tony’s.’

‘How can people live like that?’ She looks at him with glaring eyes and he realises his mistake, that might not be where her son is living but he could be living somewhere similar. ‘Sorry.’

‘If you don’t want to come with me, it’s fine. I’ll look myself, I shouldn’t have asked you to come anyway.’

Frank weighs his options. He would rather not keeping looking through the building but he can’t leave Jennifer on her own, she’s not going to be persuaded to leave either.

‘Why don’t you think Tony lives there, Jennifer?’

‘Because he’s my son and I don’t want to believe he lives there.’

‘He’s lived rough for a long time, we could just wait and see.’

‘No! He doesn’t live there!’ Frank walks after her as she starts to descend the flight of stairs.

 

Tony puts the food down in front of Socrates, the dog eating it quickly. He hasn’t eaten himself today and he’s hungry but he’s come up with a plan. He can’t stay here, if he wants to forget his past he needs to go. He’s been watching the man all day, the man taking no notice of him, he’s just a tramp living on the streets. Another person walks up to the man and with what they think is discreteness make a transaction, money is passed one way and a small piece of cling film the other. The person walks off. The man looks at the money and puts it in his pocket.

Tony’s already lost count of how many people have approached the man, he’ll be holding a large amount of cash. He doesn’t feel any guilt for what he’s about to do. The man will get into trouble himself but that’s his problem. There’s no morality in it for Tony, the man would happily kick the shit out of someone if they didn’t give him money they owed, he preys on the vulnerable. The man enters a gate leading to a path on the canal. Tony grabs the bottle by his side and Socrates already tied to a pole. He looks confused as Tony leaves him, letting out a soft bark.

‘I’ll be back in a minute son, then we’ll be free to go! I’ll get you a nice big bone.’

Tony walks through the gate quickly, he looks both ways as he steps onto the path, only him and the drug dealer. The man looks back at him and sneers with a confidence only someone who thinks they’re untouchable can have.

‘Excuse me mate, you got any gear?’

‘What?’

‘I need some gear. You got any?

‘Are you fucking stupid?’ The man has turned around and is heading towards Tony.

‘Sorry, mate. I’m clucking bad, I need some gear.’ The man starts to raise his hand but he’s too slow, Tony brings the bottle crashing down on his head and he falls to the floor. He kicks him twice on the floor.

‘Just take what you want! Please! Don’t kill me, bruv!’ He could quite easily take out all his anger on this man. Hurt him really bad, there’s nobody around, no one would much care that a drug dealer has been badly hurt. He looks at the broken bottle in his hand, the sharp edges would do some damage. He kicks the man again and throws the bottle into the canal. He puts his hands in the man’s pocket and pulls out a wad of note, he checks the other pockets and only finds wraps of white rocks. He throws them in the canal too. He gives him one last kick to make sure he doesn’t follow him. He’s crying, not the hard man he thought he was.

Tony unties Socrates, jogging along the road until he’s well away from the canal. He stops in a small park and starts to count the money.

‘There’s over a grand here, son! Where do you want to go?’

The dog jumps up and licks his hand, Tony ruffles his head.

‘Come on, let’s go and say goodbye to Pat.’ Pat had said he’d come to the flat in the tower block that evening. He didn’t know it was going to be goodbye.

 

Near the top of the building Jennifer and Frank open one of the doors. They both walk into the living room area. There’s a dining room table which has a plastic knife and fork on the table, on the floor is a tin of empty dog food. Lying on the sofa is a magazine, she picks it up, it’s like one of the ones Tony read as a kid.

‘This is his. He lives here.’

‘Let’s hope he’s not already gone.’

Final part tomorrow! You can read all of it one page here if you’ve missed any of it.

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People We Meet: Snowy Mountains

People We Meet: Snowy Mountains

High up in the Himalayan mountains, in the north of India there is a village which will forever stay with me. It’s a small village, one amongst a series dotted along a winding road which reaches up to just below the peaks of snow-capped mountains. Each village has a school, usually a room in which one teacher attempts to teach all of the children together. The playgrounds are rocky pieces of land, precarious falls at the edge of them where one slip would mean an unintended trip hundred metres down the side of the mountain. Cows often wander through the playground, walking in front of makeshift cricket stumps made from pieces of rock.

In the evenings when school is over they run off up slopes like mountain goats as you watch, wanting to cover your eyes waiting for their inevitable slip. None of them slip, at the top of the slope they turn and wave back, aware you watching, delighted in proving you wrong. Home they go to do their homework or help with the cow which is tied up in a small courtyard, emerging in the evenings covered in shawls to keep the cold away. In the summer it is a beautiful place but in the winter it is cold and unforgiving, the clouds full of snow slowly making their way down the mountainside before coating the villages.

In the mornings they are back again, walking down the slopes in groups of twos and threes, their mauve jumpers and grey skirts or trousers. Happy to be in school, or just happy to be with friends. To be with friends is the most likely answer. Before the teacher comes out with his hand bell they throw balls to each other, the girls draw squares on the floor and dance around them while holding hands. A stray ball coming into their arena the girls throw it away, scolding the boys for interrupting them.

Their teacher is a harassed looking man, he teaches them everything from maths to History. His English is broken but still he tries his best to use the tattered textbooks to give the students some basic grounding in the language. Over and over they recite a paragraph about their cow, the cow is always black and always fat. Colourful posters with the letters of the alphabet adorn the shabby walls, all of the children are able to recite, except for one, but the other children whisper the answers in his ear as he slowly makes it from A-Z.

One child stands out. His English conversational, having the ability to form sentences beyond his cow being fat and black. He had aspirations too, he wants to be a pilot, he wants to make his family proud. Talking to him you have no doubt he will some day achieve his goal. There’s a desire in his tone of voice, his eyes light up as he talks about his future dreams. It’d be easy to dismiss him, his school is a ramshackle building, his home not much better. He believes in himself though, and you can’t doubt that he will try to achieve his dreams.

When it’s time to go, back to your own country, far away from these mountains, the boy refuses to talk to you. He doesn’t want you to go. For three months the place has been home, in a few days it will just be a place consigned to memory. The boy will be consigned to memory too, but surely he’s much more than that? He’s shown you that without desire and belief, even the smallest of dreams will remain out of reach, never able to be grasped because you never really wanted it.

 

Will I See Her Again?

Follow the Fox (Part 4)

She’s frozen stiff, the hand on her shoulder too strong. Even if she runs they know it’s her, they’ll just come to the house and then they might hurt her grandparents too. A sudden realisation she’ll never see her father again, they’ll take her away. Her body goes limp, fear quickly taken over by resignation. The hand pushes her around, her eyes are on the floor, all she can see are boots, she dare not look at the man. Anna kicks the shins of the man in front of her, he lets out a yelp and then grabs her arms and pushes her to the ground.

‘Don’t kick me! I’m not going to do anything to you! I’ll let you go but don’t make any noise.’ The soldier lets go of her, she looks up, it’s the same one who gave her the sweets earlier in the woods.

‘You won’t take me away?’

‘No, I won’t take you away. You mustn’t be here, if they see you they’ll kill you. Why are you going over there?’

‘I just wanted to see.’

‘Now you have seen, do not go again. Promise me?’

‘I won’t go again.’

‘Go home, they will be along in a minute and I can’t be seen with you or they will be suspicious.’

The soldier watches to make sure she heads towards the village. When she is out of sight he turns and walks to the fence, he looks down at the hole and shakes his head. He returns to the barracks to find a shovel, she can’t go under if the hole is not there. He has no loyalty to the people who command him, he does a job so he can eat and so his family can eat. He won’t let the girl be harmed, she’s just an innocent child whose life is dictated by the fate of where she was born.

The hole filled in, he places some rocks on the spot too, she would be too weak to pick them up. Out of the corner of his eye he sees someone moving through the fence. It’s a little boy, he’s been watching him fill the hole. The soldier turns away and leaves the hole, satisfied she won’t be able to get through again. Albert approaches the fence when he has gone, seeing the hole filled and the rocks on top he knows he may never see his new friend again.

 

The innocence of youth means danger is lived in the moment, when it has passed it is to be forgotten. The life-threatening danger she was in not a couple of hours ago has been surpassed by the gift she was given by Albert. She holds the pencil in her hand and studies it, she’s had a pencil before but this one is different, it’s colourful, not brown and dull like the ones they gave her when she went to school.

Anna holds the pencil between her fingers and traces a house into the dust. Next to the house she draws a tree and then a little girl, then a path and at the bottom of the path a man. She instinctively looks up from her drawing, looking down the dusty road. Nobody, she turns her head back to her drawing. She draws a small ball next to the girl. She stands up to admire her work, pleased with herself, she can’t take it to show Albert though, maybe when she’s over there she can draw a picture in the mud or even better, ask him to bring some paper!

The sun begins to set, she rubs her foot into the drawing, spoiling the picture. Frustration has come over her. For the first time she feels anger towards her father. How could he leave her here? How could he not come home just once? She rubs her foot in the dirt harder, completely erasing the picture. Her grandmother watches through the window, helpless, the girl has to take her frustration out on something.

Cyril can see Anna, he knows she is unhappy. He hopes she has not found out her father is dead. He has resolved not to tell her, when she is old enough he will let her know. He will go to the cadre tomorrow and come to an arrangement, the man has influence and can stop rumours and whispers. He hopes there is some compassion in the man. He thinks he has some leverage, there is more to his son’s death than he is being told, they don’t like questions and in return for not asking questions perhaps they will allow the girl to live in hope of her father’s return.

He quickens his pace, forcing a smile onto his face. Anna sees him approaching and runs to meet him, there is some surprise in her eyes, perhaps she didn’t think he would come back. He lifts her up into the air and spins her around. A rare moment of visible love shared between them. He puts her back down on the floor and holds her hand as they walk into the house. His wife is cooking what is left of the potatoes. She places it into his bowl, he breaks it up into three small portions and puts some in their bowls too. There is not much he can do to make their lives better but it is a small gesture.

The soldier sits outside in the still night. Fireflies light up the sky, he remembers sitting outside with his sister on evenings such as this. For hours they would sit together as she asked him questions he did not know the answers to. He knew she didn’t always believe his answers but she never questioned. He longs for home but knows it’s only a dream, this is his new home and fantasies of being allowed back are just that, fantasies.

 

Albert waits until the lights in the house are off, his mother and father in bed. He steps down from his bed, every movement he makes amplified by the calm night. He pulls the lever on the window and hold his breath, closing his eyes, waiting to hear a sound from his parents bedroom. Nothing. He opens the window and climbs out, pulling the window as far shut as he can. From the floor he picks up a small trowel his mother uses to tend to her plants, he pushes it in to his trousers and makes his way to the fence.

Torchlight passes by, moving backwards and forwards from one side of the fence to the other. It moves off into the distance, Albert sees his chance. He removes his shoes and runs softly to the place where the hole was, sticking the trowel into the mud, pushing down as hard as he can but only bringing up a handful of mud. He tries again but it’s even harder underneath, the trowel barely breaking through the black dirt. He spots the torch light again, turning and running back to his hiding place.

He lies in wait for the torch to pass but this time it stops. Another twenty minutes pass and still the soldier has not moved. Albert curses him for being lazy. Finally he moves off and Albert makes another run for the fence. He digs furiously but each time he breaks the ground he brings up less and less dirt. He had thought it would be easy, he’d imagined being here for a few minutes, a new hole dug and then tomorrow he could return and wait for Anna. He tries one more time, the metal snaps from it’s wooden handle. He leaves it there, stuck in the ground, defeated.

He climbs back in the window and lies on his bed, thinking of ways to solve his problem. There are none. He takes a pencil and paper from his desk and begins to write. ‘I am sorry, I can’t dig a new hole, I tried.’ He folds the paper up and climbs back out of the window, reaching the fence he realises the stupidity of his plan to leave a note. She’ll never find it, a soldier will take it or it will be blown away by the wind. He might even cause her danger. He takes the paper from his pocket and makes a small paper plane, between a gap in the soldier’s patrol he runs to the fence and throws the paper plane, a sudden gust of wind picks up the plane and carries it far over to the other side. He hopes his friend will find it.

Part 1

Part  2

Part 3

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