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.’



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.




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?’


‘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


Memories and a Stroke of Luck (Story Part 8)

The lights in the building below shine brightly. People walk around their flats, ushering children into bedrooms, cooking dinners, watching television. A boyfriend and girlfriend share a kiss, oblivious to the man high above watching them. He sighs deeply to himself, looking back to make sure the dog is still there. The dog is always there, he doesn’t need to check. Socrates is his girlfriend, mother, father, wife all rolled into one. When he’s sad he talks to him, when he’s lonely he sleeps next to the dog, when there’s trouble the dog is ready to defend him. He wipes a tear from his eye, angry at himself for thinking it of his loyal companion, but there should be more to it all than this.

Yesterday he explored the building, opening up the doors to the abandoned flats. Some were empty, others still held remnants of the previous occupants. In one he found a children’s magazine, he sat down and read it. He used to read the same magazine when he was a boy, about a kid who wanted to become a superstar football player. The problem was the kid wasn’t very good until one day he found a pair of magic boots which turned him into Maradona.

He remembers one day after reading the magazine asking his dad if he could have a pair of football boots. His father agreed and off they went to the sports shop. Tony choose a black pair with white stripes, he wanted plain ones because the ones the kid in the magazine had were plain. He took them home and tried them on, standing in front of the mirror admiring himself, he’d be the envy of all his friends. He ran over to the park to join his friends who were kicking a ball about and immediately fell over. He chuckles to himself, life certainly isn’t a comic.

In one of the flats below a kid is sitting on a sofa watching television, a woman appears in front of him and appears to shout at him. The kid gets up from the sofa, a light in the room next door comes on, the kid throws himself onto his bed before the mother comes in and draws the curtains. He feels as envious as he did when he saw the couple kissing. He’s still a kid. He rubs an old teapot which is on the window sill. If he could go back to a Friday night ten years ago, his mother shouting at him because he did something naughty, he’d take it. Unfortunately, there are no genies, and time only moves forward.

Tony picks up the dog’s lead, watching as he jumps up excitedly. A dog who spends most of the walking still excited to do some more walking. He puts the hood up on his jacket and covers his mouth with a scarf. They descend the stairs and escape through a hole in the wooden barriers. Out onto the streets and back into the real world, here he isn’t a kid.


Pat wakes with a dry mouth and a sore head. He picks up the bottle of vodka and holds it to his lips, a drop falls onto his tongue and he shivers. Nothing more than a drop. He closes his eyes and tries to go back to sleep, it’s a hopeful attempt, he never sleeps when he needs a drink. Behind his closed eyes, colours flash, images of Tommy and his mother appear and disappear. He rolls over and holds his head in both hands, trying to make them go away but they reappear, more vivid this time. He opens his eyes and pushes himself upright. He needs to have a drink.

Fumbling in his pocket as he walks down the road he finds enough money to get himself two cans of strong beer. Beer bought he sits down on the park bench, opens a can, savours the smell and then drinks half of it one go. The warmness washes over him instantly. He closes his eyes, he can see trees and flowers, the images of before gone to the back of his mind. He finishes the can in the next gulp and then throws the can in the dustbin, he always throws his rubbish away.

A woman approaches the bench and sits down next to him. Pat ignores her, someone sitting next to him, especially in this dishevelled state, is not normal. Finally he turns to look at her, she’s grinning at him.



‘I’m sorry to bother you but I make documentaries.’


‘I’m in search of a homeless person who I can follow around, see what life is like.’

‘Do I get money for it?’

‘Yes, you would be recompensed.’

‘So I get money?’


‘What do I have to do?’

‘Nothing, just live as you usually do. I might ask you questions and ask you to speak to the camera from time to time but that’s about it.’

‘Can I have some money now?’ She thinks about it.

‘If I give you twenty pounds now, will you definitely be here tomorrow morning?’

‘If you give me twenty pounds I’ll do anything you want.’

She takes the note from her pocket and hands it to Pat. He holds it up to the sunlight to make sure it’s real, the woman looks offended.

‘You never know. I’ll be here tomorrow. Will I be famous?’

‘I don’t think you’ll be famous but who knows what will happen. You’ll definitely be on television.’

‘I don’t have a television.’

‘Please be here tomorrow at nine.’ She leaves him, walking off to join a group of people who are standing around, she points over to him and they all nod their heads. Pat thinks to himself she’s lucky it was him she spoke to, anyone else would have taken the money and not turned up the next day. He will though, he’s got a new purpose now. He opens the second can of beer and offers up a toast of thanks to no one in particular, a passing jogger almost stumbling over as she looks at the madman on the bench saluting no one.


The pub still hasn’t opened, she thinks to herself she probably looks like an alcoholic desperate for a drink. She checks her watch again, still no sign of Frank. A mother passes by with her child in a pushchair, Jennifer smiles at her, trying to say she’s not really waiting for the pub to open. The woman gives her a funny look and crosses the road. Frank appears from around the corner, he looks happier, his step looks lighter, as though some burden has left him.

‘Sorry I’m late, I had to go and buy a few things this morning.’

‘That’s okay. So, where do we start?’ Frank puffs out his cheeks, he’s not really thought about it, the only idea he has is to ask the local homeless people if there might be a place local someone would hide. If Tony wanted to hide, he probably wouldn’t be local. The closer it got to the weekend the more Frank regretted agreeing to help, he knew their search would be futile and he didn’t want to see Jennifer’s despair when that became apparent.

‘We’ll ask about and see.’

‘I think we should try the train station, the kid who took me to that abandoned flat hung around there.’ Frank shrugs his shoulders in agreement.

A couple of men are outside the train station, one of them is trying to sell tickets he’s been handed by departing commuters. Frank doesn’t like the look of him but Jennifer wants to talk to him and he feels he should be the one to initiate the conversation given it was his suggestion, and he doesn’t want his manliness questioned either.

‘Excuse me, mate. Do you know a kid called Tommy?’

‘Yeah, I know Tommy. Quiet kid with the dog.’ Jennifer’s face lights up, it might be easier than Frank thought.

‘Do you know where he is?’

‘No idea.’

‘When did you last see him?’

‘Can’t remember.’

‘Look this lady, she’s his mother and she’s trying to find him.’ The man looks at Jennifer.

‘Yeah, I know, she was here the other day. I don’t know where he is. Sorry.’ He thrusts a ticket in front of a woman entering the train station, she ignores him, he mutters under his breath.

‘If you wanted no one to find you, where would you go?’

‘Australia.’ The man is pleased with himself for that answer, he gives Frank a toothless grin. Frank sees all the people whose doors he’s been knocking on for the last however many years. He grabs the man by his coat and throws him to the wall. Jennifer puts her hand on his back to try to stop him.

‘Listen, son! Don’t fuck me about, if there was somewhere around here you could go and hide, where would you go?’

The man’s mate is walking off towards another group of men who Frank hadn’t seen. The man gives him another grin. Frank lets go.

‘You know what? I’m a kind person. I heard a rumour that old Pat was noseying about in that tower block they’re going to knock down next to the canal. The only person Tommy spoke to was Pat and Pat was either in the park or in that other place they called home so there had to be a reason he was in the block. Have a look in there. I doubt you’ll find him but I can’t deprive a kid of his mother.’ He gives Jennifer a grin this time. She turns away from him and marches off down the road, Frank running after her.

If you’ve just started reading you can find the whole story from beginning to this part on this page



Are You Special?

Follow the Fox (Part 3)

At home, Albert is picking at his dinner, his father is watching him.

‘What’s the matter, Albert?’


He chews a piece of chicken but is finding it hard to swallow, he’s not hungry, all he can think about is whether the girl, Anna, made it home safely. He asks if he can leave the table, his father nods his head and he retreats to his room. He picks up a small ball, bouncing it against the wall, trying to take his mind elsewhere. It’s not working, he can only think of the girl and what lies on the other side of the fence. His father knocks on the door and comes into his room.

‘You want to go outside and play football? I don’t have work tomorrow so we can spend some time together.’


They stand in the park kicking the ball back forwards to each other. Albert doesn’t have his usual enthusiasm, but his father will wait, he always lets him know what’s on his mind in the end.



‘Why are the people over there poor?’ He points in the direction of the border.

‘It’s complicated, Albert. They’re no different to us, they just ended up on the wrong side of the fence. It could have been us who were poor.’

‘Why can’t we go over there?’

‘It’s dangerous. The people there don’t know as much as we do, they think we’re bad people and want to hurt them. When you go to school they teach you about all the countries in the world, they teach you history and you can write stories when you learn English. They only learn about their leader and how good he is and how bad the rest of the world is.’

‘What would happen if I went over the fence?’

‘They’d probably kill you.’ His father can think of any other way to answer, it can’t be sugar-coated.

‘Oh! I won’t go over then.’

‘There are some things we can’t do anything about, Albert. Maybe one day the fence won’t be there and you can go and have a look. Come on, we’ll go and get some ice cream.’

Albert thinks he understands but he’s not quite sure. It seems as though the people there might be a little bit stupid. If they’re so poor why don’t they change something? Anna didn’t seem stupid though, maybe she’s special. He licks the ice cream as they walk slowly home. He’ll go back to the fence tomorrow and ask her if she’s special.


Anna’s grandfather had risen early that morning and disappeared with a man she hadn’t seen before. She was frightened, when someone goes away with men who arrive at the house unexpectedly they usually don’t come back, even she knew that. Her grandmother reassured her Cyril would be back in a couple of days. Something had come up and he had to go to the city to tend to it. Strangely, there were two potatoes and a dried fish on the table. She was told she didn’t need to collect any weeds today and she could do as she pleased if she didn’t wander too far.

She is going to meet Albert on the other side of the fence later but until then she decides to walk among the small wooded area not far from her house. She skips among the trees, forgetting where she is for a blissful couple of hours. Tired she lies down against a tree, closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep.

Suddenly she is awoken by some movement close to her, she pushes herself up against the tree and stays silent, scared to breathe. A large figure comes into view and squats down between two trees only metres in front of her. It’s a soldier, she watches as he lights a cigarette and then blows out the smoke. He hasn’t seen her yet, she could just sneak away or she could just wait, she’s not doing anything wrong being in the woods. He turns his head slightly, their eyes meet, Anna’s body is frozen.

He raises his hand slightly and gives a wave, then a smile. Anna is not sure if it’s a trap. He stands up and walks over to her, he becomes bigger the closer he gets.

‘Hello, little girl. What are you doing here?’


‘It’s okay, I shouldn’t be here. I won’t hurt you.’


‘What’s your name?’ Anna hesitates, she doesn’t want to give him her name but he could easily find it out. If anyone asks she’ll say she was playing and she got lost. Then her mood changes to one of defiance, she’s not doing anything wrong!

‘My name is Anna, and I’m only playing, I haven’t done anything wrong!’

‘I know you haven’t done anything wrong, Anna. I have though, so don’t tell anyone you saw me.’

‘What did you do wrong?’

‘I should be watching some grain which was delivered today but I was bored so I came for a walk.’

‘What if they see you’re not there?’

‘They won’t be back for a few hours.’

‘Your voice is funny.’

‘Ha! I’m not from here, I came from near the sea.’

‘Really? What is the sea like?’

‘I wish I was by the sea now, I could go for a swim! I have a sister just like you, in the summer we would go to the water and swim for hours.’

‘Where is your sister?’

‘She is at home.’

‘I’m eight years old, is your sister eight too?’

‘She’s ten.’

‘Oh! Can she read? My grandfather is teaching me to read.’

‘Yes, she can read, better than me.’

‘Maybe you can bring her here one day and we can play together.’

The soldier smiles a sad smile.

‘Maybe one day.’ He reaches into his pocket and takes two small round objects from his pocket, both of them are a deep red colour, he puts them in Anna’s hand. ‘Eat them before you get home, and don’t tell anyone you met me.’ He throws his cigarette to the ground and disappears into the woods.

Anna puts one of the boiled sweets into her mouth, it is unlike anything she has ever tasted, she savours it for a few seconds before taking it back out of her mouth and holding it in her hand. She wants to make them last as long as possible.


Albert waits patiently in the bushes near the fence. He watches the soldiers as they pass every ten minutes or so. He wonders why they don’t cross the fence, nobody would stop them. He has brought a pencil with him, he wants to give it to Anna, he has had an idea. If he can’t see for himself what it is like, he can ask her to draw it for him. He doesn’t think she has any pencils because she’s poor so he’ll give her one.

He looks at his watch, his mother will be expecting him home for tea soon. Maybe she isn’t going to come, he’s disappointed. He stands up and brushes dust from his shorts, he hears the shaking of the fence and then sees Anna running towards the bush. She stops and lies down, exhausted. He doesn’t know what to do so he sits down again and waits until she lifts herself from the floor.

‘I’m sorry I am late.’

‘It’s okay, but I have to go soon, I have to eat my lunch.’

‘Oh! What will you have for lunch?’

‘Usually some sandwiches with chicken and if I’ve been good mum will give me an ice lolly too.’

‘What’s an ice lolly?’

‘You don’t know what an ice lolly is?’

She looks embarrassed.

‘It’s like a sweet but it’s cold.’

‘Oh, I’ve never had one of them.’

‘You don’t have ice lollies?’

‘No, but tonight we’ll eat potatoes.’

‘We always have potatoes, I wish sometimes we could have something different.’

‘I wish we could have potatoes every night.’

Albert looks at her in surprise, wondering how anyone could possibly want to eat potatoes every day. Sometimes he puts them on the floor for the dog when his parents aren’t looking.

‘I brought you something.’ He takes out the pencil and hands it to her, she holds it tightly in her hand not sure what to say. ‘I thought maybe you could draw me a picture of where you live.’ Anna nods her head, she doesn’t want to tell him she has nothing to draw on.

‘You should go, I have to go home.’

‘One day you can come back with me, just for an hour then you can go home again.’

‘No, I can’t, my dad said they will kill me.’

‘They won’t see you, I promise.’

‘I can’t.’

‘Will you come tomorrow?’

‘Yes. Anna, are you special?

Anna looks down at herself, her tattered dress and bare feet and then back at Albert, her stomach rumbles.

‘I don’t think so.’


Cyril is walking the streets of the city, accompanied by his minder to make sure he doesn’t go missing. Why they think he would go missing he doesn’t know. He’d have nowhere to go. The minder has barely said a word to him, he did buy them both some food though. They approach a building, the man ushers him inside and up some stairs into a small office where a stern faced woman is sitting surrounded by paperwork, each piece of paper has a small photograph attached to the top.

The man hands her his own piece of paperwork and she begins to search, she stops, checking the name at the top and then slams it down in front of Cyril. He looks at the man and nods his head. The woman takes the paper and writes something at the top of it and stamps it before putting it into a filing cabinet behind her. She looks up at them again, her eyes asking why they were still there, they leave.

‘The grave?’

‘There is no grave. You would have made it difficult if you knew it was just paperwork.’

‘Why bring me to see the paperwork?’

‘Questions are not yours to ask, nor are they mine. I’m told to do things and I do them.’

Cyril is confused, they’ve brought him all this way to confirm the death of his son. He knows of families in the village who have had relatives die far away and all they have received is a letter. The potatoes and fish too. They get onto a bus back to the train station, Cyril suspicious. Passing a small toy shop he thinks of Anna, she’d love to see a toy shop. Poor Anna, her father is dead and her grandfather hasn’t the courage to tell her.


As she slips under the fence she looks both ways, there’s nobody there. She runs as fast as she can towards the trees and bushes and throws herself to the ground. She lies there resting for a few seconds and then takes the sweet she was sucking on earlier and puts it back in her mouth. She feels her a hand on her shoulder, it grasps her tightly as she tries to get up and run. They’ve caught her.

Continued tomorrow…

Part 1

Part 2










Follow The Fox (Part 2)

Anna’s grandfather barely raises as a smile when she returns home. She places the weeds on the table and her grandmother begins to sort through them, tutting each time she finds one that has to be thrown away. The newspaper in front of her grandfather looks untouched. She sits on her bed, waiting for him to call her over but today it seems he has other things on his mind. She leans backwards slowly, trying to see if she can catch a glimpse of the ball under the bed. There’s nothing, he must have taken it away somewhere.

They sit at the table, a bowl in front of them, hot water filled with green leaves. Anna sips the tasteless liquid, watching her grandparents over the spoon, looking for a hint of what is wrong. Both of their faces are expressionless. Apart from occasionally scolding her or praising her when she reads, neither give off much emotion. Not like her father who would hug her each time he came home, or would toss her in the air outside, catching her and then swinging her around. She missed that. She knows they love her, but just a hug or a stroke of her hair would be nice.

When they have finished her grandfather motions for her grandmother to follow him outside, Anna stands up to join them but he waves her away with his hand, he gives her a weak smile in apology.

‘Read the newspaper, Anna. We will be back soon.’

She places the newspaper on the bed and tries to decipher the squiggly lines. On the front page is a man she knows well. The one who they all have to thank for their lives. She curses him in her head, looking around the room to make sure some unknown presence isn’t watching her, aware of her thoughts and ready to take her away.

‘More Food For The People!’, she says out loud. She wonders where that food is, there’s none here for her and her grandparents. She closes the newspaper and puts it back on her grandfather’s table, returning to her bed, covering herself in a light blanket and closing her eyes. She can hear them whispering outside, something must have happened, they don’t take to each other much. Finally the whispering stops and the come back inside, her grandfather opening up his newspaper, her grandmother sitting by the window and watching the road.

Cyril was a simple man, he wanted to live his last few years free from worry, but in a land where food is scarce and thoughts themselves create trouble, this was not an easy task. When his son had left him in charge of his granddaughter he vowed to make sure she at least made it to a woman. Not all of them make it to adulthood but his granddaughter would. He loved to teach her to read, he held the hope that one day this would all collapse and she wouldn’t have to read the meaningless words of the government propaganda.

He worried about her, she was going to get herself in trouble. The ball she had taken home may have been a simple thing but it had come from over the border. A soldier or an official would take great delight in accusing her of collaborating with the enemy. They have little regard for age, as soon as you are born you are their property and obedience is the only way to survive. He used a knife to burst the ball, hiding it under his coat. Far enough away from the house he buried it. He hopes it’s not found, they’ll count out the steps to the nearest house and it will be they who will take the blame. Someone always takes the blame, nothing is innocent.

Not a day goes by where he doesn’t curse them to himself. Survival has replaced all which was pure and innocent. He looks at the child lying on her bed, if she was ignorant, foolish even stupid it would be easier. She wouldn’t ask questions and he wouldn’t have to worry so much. He shakes his head, annoyed at himself for thinking such things, a nuisance she may be, but she reminds him of himself when he was a child. Tomorrow he has to go to the village, there’s a message which has been left at the house of the cadre. He is dreading going, not only is the cadre a horrible man, messages are never good. One never receives good news.

Anna is planning her little escape. She promises herself it will only be for a few minutes. When the soldier has passed she’ll run for the fence and squeeze under, stand on the other side and then she’ll come back. She doesn’t want to leave her grandparents and she could never leave without seeing her father again. Maybe the boy will be there on the other side. She fidgets in her bed, excitement too much for her to sleep.


The soldier is being lazy today, he keeps stopping and squatting down. Only twenty metres in front of her he is squatting and smoking. They give the soldiers cigarettes when they have no money to pay them. He puts the cigarette out on the ground, stands up straight, looks around and begins to move along the fence. Anna’s heart is beating fast, she’s stuck to the ground unable to move, this is her chance but she’s frightened, the enormity of what she is doing suddenly hitting her. She pushes herself up from the ground and runs to the fence, her eyes closed, waiting to hear the sound of a bang.

She opens her eyes and there in front of her is the fence. She pushes a finger through, a tiny part of her now on the other side. She looks left and right, no soldiers are there, she bends down putting her head through the hole which the fox departed from. Her head through she tries to squeeze the rest of her body but it’s stuck, her dress rips as she struggles. She reaches out to pull herself with a clump of grass but it comes away from the ground. She has failed. Energy drained her face falls into the mud. In that moment all she can see is her father, she won’t be able to see him again. Her grandparents too, her grandfather will be shamed, shunned or even worse.


Cyril stands before the cadre, he holds his cap in his hand, looking down at the floor. He hates himself for doing it, he does not want to show this man any respect. He had grown up with him, as a boy the cadre was hated, he would run and tell tales to his mother, the other boys would then receive the wooden spoon from their parents for something which they had never done. During the war he played both sides, telling tales and receiving money. Now he was the most important man in town, your life depended on him and his whims.

‘You know why you are here?’

‘You have a message for me.’

‘Yes. Yesterday we received word your son has been in accident. Unfortunately, he will not be coming home. The state, with their ever-caring hand, have paid for all costs relating to his burial. If you wish to see his grave I give you permission to go but only for two days.’

‘When did he die?’

‘Four months ago.’

‘Why am I only finding out now?’ The cadre looks up at Cyril, such insolence in asking a question. He will forgive him this once, his son has died, he wont forget though, he never forgets.

‘You may go. Tomorrow a man will arrive at eight in the morning and accompany you to the city. The man will not leave your side so please don’t try to do anything stupid. The consequences will be grave.’

‘Please pass on my thanks to the state.’ The cadre twists his lip, he knows Cyril is mocking him.

‘Before you go, Cyril, I must bring up an issue with you. Your granddaughter, she is too curious. You should take better care of her.’

Outside the grandiose concrete building which is surrounded by ramshackle houses, Cyril sits down next to a woman who is handing out newspapers. He allows a tear to escape, wipes it away, takes a newspaper and starts the walk home. Anna mustn’t know, he knows it’s wrong but the news would destroy all innocence in her. He can’t take away the hope she has.


Anna feels a hand on her head, she resigns herself to her fate. The hand taps her face, she looks up, remembering her head is on the other side. It’s the boy, he grabs her hands and pulls her, her body escapes the clutches of the fence, her dress ripped and torn. He takes her hand and pulls her towards a group of bushes, pushing her down to the ground. They wait in silence, five minutes pass before the soldier comes along. She holds her breathe as he passes the hole, in Anna’s mind it doesn’t look like a small hole anymore, it seems to be huge, a great big gaping hole shouting out for the soldier to investigate. He walks past it.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I just wanted to see what it’s like here.’

‘You shouldn’t come here, they’ll kill you. You must go back.’

‘Can I be your friend?’

The boy looks at her quizzically, the girl is skinny, skinnier than anyone he has ever seen before.

‘Yes, you can be my friend but you must go home, he will be back soon.’

‘What is your name?’

The boys eyes keep darting to the fence.

‘My name is Albert.’

‘I am Anna. Tomorrow I will come again, will you come to meet me?’

‘You mustn’t come again, it’s dangerous.’

‘I will come, at the same time.’ Before Albert can reply, Anna hugs him and runs back to the fence, this time she slips under it with ease. She doesn’t turn back, running into the cover on the other side. Albert stands there blushing, heart pounding.

Continued tomorrow…..

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The first part of this story can be read here

I’ve had to delay the release of my next book because I want to change some of it. If you follow this blog you will get the book for free whatever happens. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with work the last couple of weeks but I promise it will be out soon. If you’ve not read the first chapter you can read it here. Follow the blog or like my Facebook page and you’ll be able to download it for free for three days. 


A Fallen Angel (Story Part 7)

‘Why did you follow me Pat? I’m not anyone to you, you’ve got not horse in this race! Did she give you money to find me?’

‘NO! No one give me money.’

‘Why have you followed me then? I don’t want to be found!’

‘That woman, she was upset Tommy. I ain’t done all that much good in my life, mate. I just thought I’d make someone happy.’

Pat’s upset. Tony blows out and hands him the rest of the wine he didn’t finish.

‘Have this. I’m sorry mate, but I don’t want that woman to find. You wouldn’t understand.’

‘Who is she, Tommy?’

‘My mother.’

‘Why wouldn’t I understand?’

‘You just wouldn’t understand, Pat.’

‘Wouldn’t understand because I’ve been out here for thirty years? I used to have a home you know, I had a girlfriend, a mother and a father. I lost them all because I did stupid things. Now I have fucking nothing, don’t tell me I don’t understand.’

Tommy’s never seen him get angry before. He’s shaking, holding the bottle, the dog is on edge watching Pat. He slumps back on the sofa and takes a swig from the bottle.

‘You know what Tommy? I don’t have nothing. I’m an old man, there ain’t no hope of my mother ever coming to find me, she’ll be dead. You think you have nothing but you do, you’ve got a chance that I never had. Take it mate. Look at this place, it ain’t a home is it? When they come and throw you out you’ll have to find somewhere new, then you’ll do it all again. It ain’t no life, mate. It don’t matter what’s happened in the past, this your chance to do something with your life.’

‘Can I ask you a question Pat? It’s going to sound horrible, but I don’t mean it that way, I just want to know.’

‘Ask me anything you want, son.’

‘Why are you still out here? I mean, like I said, it sounds horrible, but why don’t you just top yourself?’

Pat is unmoved, it’s not the first time he’s considered the question.

‘I’ve thought about it. People on the streets look down on me, even you lot look down on me as well, you just see this old man whose brain is broken, drinking himself stupid every night. I get up each morning and each morning I tell myself I’m going to be lucky, something good is going to happen. I might find a lottery ticket on the floor or one of them passing people might be my girlfriend from all those years ago and she’ll take pity on me and take me in. If I topped myself I ain’t going to have those dreams am I Tommy. When I do go at least I’ll know I tried, at least I didn’t give up when things got difficult.

‘God can have the thirty years of me living out here, he can have the thirty years of eating out of dustbins and begging people for money. He can even have the time those kids beat me up just because they thought it was funny and knew I wouldn’t fight back. He can fucking have the lot if for just one more day of my life I’m able to live in comfort. He might not give it me, but if I stop fighting, it means I’ve stopped sticking my finger up at him. He’ll give at some point and give me a day, he might take pity and give me more of that.’

There’s tears coming from Pat’s eyes. You rarely see the side he’s seeing now of the people he knows, they all have stories but those stories are all locked away, the key has long been thrown in the river and emotion is just a weakness that can be preyed upon. Tommy takes Pat’s hand and holds it, Pat turns and nods his head at him, taking another mouthful of wine.

‘Any more of this?’ Emotion gone.


Frank is at home alone as usual. He’s looking through his paperwork and figures and targets but none of it is penetrating his brain. He throws down his pen onto the desk, swearing to himself as he goes to the fridge to see if there’s anything for him to eat. It’s empty. He was meant to go shopping after work but his encounter with Jennifer has left his mind wandering elsewhere. He’s doubting her story even though he knows he shouldn’t. Surely the kid wouldn’t have just got up and run away just because he was being bullied?

Whatever happened between them, he’s promised her he’s going to help her find him, so he can’t let her down. He shuts the fridge door, puts on his jacket and leaves the flat. Outside it’s cold, how could anyone live out here in this weather? He remembers the kid he gave the scratch card to, he had a dog. It might have been him! Unlikely. He stops at the supermarket and buys himself a pizza and something to drink.

Back at home he munches away on his pizza and sips a can of Coke. He’s not happy, not because of what has happened today with Jennifer, he’s just come to realisation that he really isn’t happy. He knew it but he ignored it. He’s spending his days fixated on a man who he knows hardly anything about, and he’s fixated on him because he’s doing better in life than Frank. What can he do though? He’s a washed up forty year old man who knocks on people’s doors to sell them insurance. Not like he can make a sudden career change.

He’s finding himself sympathising with the kid. He’s ran away because he couldn’t cope with life, running away is what Frank wants to do himself but he’d never have the balls to do it. He wouldn’t know where to start or where he could go. At least he’d have some money with him, he could go where ever he wanted to. Maybe he should buy himself a tent and some hiking boots and just take off into the wild. He hates the job, he’s finding himself hating more and more people, what’s the point in staying?

He closes his eyes and fantasises of packing his bags in the morning and just walking away from it all. He can’t do it tomorrow, he said he’d help Jennifer, he’s not going to let her down. A voice in his head tells him he’s mad for helping a woman he doesn’t know find a kid who might not even be finable. He holds his hands out in the air and shrugs to himself. A few more days and he’ll be gone, no more doors, no more Jeremey and no more hating the world.


Jennifer is back walking the streets again. She can’t sleep and sitting at home only makes her feel worse. She knows she’s walking back towards the flat she found the drunken old man in, what she hopes to find there she doesn’t know. Maybe the man went looking for Tony and found him. You cling to the most ridiculous of hopes when you don’t have much left to go on. Reaching the flat she looks down the stairwell, the door looks to be shut, she doesn’t want to go in there in the middle of the night.

A figure is approaching the gateway, she hurries to leave but sees it’s the old man. He smiles weakly at her, still embarrassed from his earlier foolishness.

‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have got angry with you.’

‘It’s okay, love. I understand.’

‘You know Tony…Tommy? He’s my son.’

‘I guessed that.’

‘I need to find him.’

Pat looks at her, her eyes are desperate.

‘I’m sorry, I tried to find him but I couldn’t.’

She puts her hand on his shoulder and then walks off into the night. He’s just broken her heart. Tommy gave him a tenner and he bought a bottle of cheap of vodka with it. The kid said he didn’t want to go home, even after all he’d said. He’d tried but he didn’t want to go. He made Pat promise not to tell the woman where he was. He’ll probably be gone now anyway. He doesn’t understand why he wants to waste a chance like that. He puts the bottle to his lips and takes a large mouthful. He opens up the door and sits down on his sheets.

He thinks of what he said to Tommy. He was happy all them years ago. Then he went and done something stupid. He can’t even bear to think about it. He won’t think about it. He takes another large mouthful of vodka, the warmth washing over him. There, it’s gone, he won’t have to think about it. He’s failed in his purpose and now he’ll have to find a new one. He laughs to himself, if he wasn’t living on the streets, some might say he was an angel.


Continued tomorrow….

Part 1 What You Saying About My Wife?

Part 2 Cliched Movies

Part 3 Socrates Listens Too

Part 4 It’s Better to Run Away

Part 5 Pat’s Purpose

Part 6 Tony and Socrates Find a New Home