Races

The sweat stung his eyes as he cycled up and out of Glen Croe. The sun hadn’t hit the bottom of the valley, which was why he usually picked this time of day to train.

By the time he reached the top of the Rest-&-Be-Thankful, he was ready for the bread and cheese his mother had packed for him that morning.

From up here, in the sunshine, he felt alive and ready to take on the whole world. This was a new era for folks, it was 1913 and Stan felt that it was going to be the best of times. There was talk of war but then Stan had never known a year when there wasn’t, and why would the Germans want to attack Great Britain when they were getting ready for the Olympic Games in Berlin?

Those Olympics were going to be Stanley’s victory in cycling. He could feel it in his bones.

———

Lars watched as the 10,000 pigeons took to the air. What a country his homeland was, especially on this hot, humid, June afternoon. He had cycled over 300 kilometres to be here, to see the glorious Deutsches Stadion being dedicated – the glory of Germany was here today and it was where Lars would claim the ultimate prize in cycling when he stood on the winner’s podium at the summer Olympics in 1916.

There was no one to rival him, well no one close except a Britisher by the name of Stanley Hooper. He had heard many stories about Hooper but the boy had one flaw, he wasn’t German, he wasn’t from the Fatherland, and for Lars that meant everything.

Still Lars had to be sure. He’d read of the London Echo Great Britain Cycle Challenge. This was going to be a straight race between John O’Groats (what a stupid Englander name, thought Lars) and Land’s End. The winner would take home a prize of 500 guineas. Lars knew it would help him to train without a steady job – all the way to the Games.

———

By the time that Stanley got back home, the letter had already arrived: Stanley Edward Hooper was accepted as an entrant in the Cycle Challenge. He’d had to work double the hours just to earn the entrance fee of two guineas and now he had to wonder how he could train and work until the start of the race in August. Stanley’s family was poor, and he and his three brothers had made sure that the money kept coming into the house after his father had died in an accident. His eldest brother, Ian had joined up with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the other two boys worked as ship riveters.

Stanley made his money running errands on his bicycle for local trades, but it involved long, long hours, after which the training had to be fitted in. On a typical day he would start work at 6am and wouldn’t get to his bed until well after midnight. Some nights he was so blooming tired he would just fall sleep in the garage beside ‘Lucy’ (his bicycle).

His town had never really had a famous anyone. Well, apart from Edward McLeish who’d won a medal fighting the Boers in Africa.

There was talk of erecting a statue to Edward but it annoyed Stanley a little, because he wanted to be the first with a statue raised to him. Still if he didn’t train – and hard – there would be no Olympics, statues or even races won. He fell asleep that night cuddling his Lucy and dreaming of gold medals.

Lars and his team arrived at John O’Groats a day early. They had caught a train to Hamburg and then travelled on to the northern tip of mainland Scotland aboard a ship that had been laid on by the Chancellor himself. Germany saw this race as a chance to show some superiority to the little Englanders, – and as Lars was frequently being told – there was a war coming and England (and its despicable Empire) would be made to come under the control of the Fatherland. This race would be the start of great things which would end with only Germans standing on the podium at Berlin for all things gold.

Stanley’s dad was his entire support team unlike Lars’ huge machine. The Germans had brought someone to look after Lars’ food, two men to look after his bicycles, an acrobat from the Berlin Circus to keep him fit and to massage his aches and pains; plus several other followers.

Stanley’s father had brought cheese and bread that his wife had packed, although to be honest, Stanley and his dad had eaten most of it on the way north.

The race was to start at sunrise of the following morning – although this far north, and at this time of year it never really got dark.

There was 32 entrants in all. The organisers felt that this was the most manageable figure that could be dealt with, given the state of the roads in many parts of the race. There were 16 spaces allocated to the British and Irish, 2 to each of the French, German, Italian, Dutch, Belgian and Swiss. The balance was made up of Americans and a Canadian.

The pack had been pretty close in finishing within ten minutes of each other on the torturous route to Lochinver. A couple had dropped out due to mishaps, but Stanley and his dad were making great time and had finished in second place at the end of each stage.

Stage four was from Loch Ness to Fort William (stopping an hour for lunch) and then on to Inveraray for the night. For all the efficiency of Lars and his team, they somehow took a wrong turning a few miles from Rannoch and had headed towards Tyndrum as they exited Rannoch Moor – this led to them being placed at the back of the group as they finished that evening.

The town of Inveraray is a small, beautiful place on the shores of Loch Fyne and it’s hard to avoid anyone, should you wish to. Stanley and his father, instead of going straight to bed, were sitting by the edge of the water.

Stanley’s father’s pipe was keeping the midges at bay, which could only be a good thing in this part of the world. Midges were small insects that had one good bite in them, but all together they could prove a misery for the unwary.

“You’ll never win if you smoke, Hooper,” came a voice from behind.

It was Lars.

“I recognize you from the magazine,” said Lars who was standing to attention for no other reason than to impress Stan.

“Look dad, it’s that German bloke you’ve been telling me about.”

Stan’s dad didn’t even bother turning his head.

“Oh aye. He’s the one who got lost coming out of Glen Coe,” said his dad with a smile.

Lars looked at both of them, clicked his heels and left.

The race was a close run thing. When they got to the Lake District, Lars was several minutes ahead, but that changed as the race headed down towards the West Country. They alternated with the lead, sometimes it was Stan (with his dad, supporting) in the lead, sometimes Lars and the whole German army behind him.

Just as they approached the final hill going into Land’s End a strange thing happened, Lars was in the lead and as he looked around he saw Stan a few metres behind him. Lars slowed, or at least, he seemed to struggle, and as Lars crossed the Finish line, so did Stan. It was a dead heat.

The War came as it was intended. The Olympics were cancelled and other thoughts filled the head of Stan in the year of 1916.

Instead of getting ready to cycle in the Berlin Games, Stan was preparing to go over the top on the first day of The Battle of The Somme.

There had been a team of them who had all come to France together – The Cycling Buddies they were called, now only two of them were left alive. Stan didn’t know where David was: David was the captain of the team and the bravest of them all. Stan had heard a rumour that David had been killed over a month ago.

Stan had kept his training up, even when he was sure that the Olympics weren’t going ahead, he still needed to get out there and train.

As the trench Captains blew their whistles, Stan found himself up and over the ladder within minutes. He saw some of those who had been earlier standing shivering beside him, taking their last falls.

Stan heard a bullet wiz past his ear, forcing him to hit the mud.

The plan for the Somme had been a good one, undermine the German trenches and blow them up.

That is what had happened – it was just that the Germans had gone deeper than any of the old fools back at headquarters could have imagined. When the British troops went over the top, they were gunned down in their thousands. The plan had been to march all the way to Berlin and Stan had liked the irony of that idea.

Stan crawled under some barbed wire which was supporting two dead bodies and then slid into one of the craters created by the British explosions. He was alone thank God but he had no idea what to do next. All this hadn’t been in the plans.

Stan must have closed his eyes for a time because the next thing he knew there was a German pistol pointing right between his eyes.

And yes, you’re right, it was Lars – otherwise what is the point of this story? Stranger things do happen.

“Stan, you old Englander, it is so good to see you.”

“Lars? Is that you?”

Lars and Stan hugged in what was the strangest of circumstances.

“Well it’s not the podium but it is very good to see you,” said Stan.

“I save you once again, Englander,” smiled Lars as he slid down into the mud. For a while the two of them lay there with the bullets and smoke passing overhead.

“What do we do now, Stan?” Asked Lars. Just then a stray shell exploded on the rim of crater. Stan used his body to shield Lars.

The part of the shell that penetrated Stan’s back wasn’t obvious at first. At least not until Stan started coughing blood.

“I’ve been hit old friend,” said Stan not quite believing it.

As Lars held Stan, he smiled at his pal;

“I think we are even, Englander.”

When Stan closed his eyes for the last time, Lars took a gold coin he had been carrying and placed it on Stan’s chest.

“You win, Stanley Hooper.”

 

bobby stevenson 2017

A Story From A Room

room

Once upon a long ago, a man walked into a room. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the place – it was just a room. Simple as that.

The first time the man walked into the room, he had spent too long listening to those who talk about darkness. Those are the souls who live, work, breathe, and create darkness. Their glass is always half-empty and it is always someone else who drank from it. They would rather you didn’t smile, after all what have you got to smile about?

Having let all this bleed into his mind, the man walked into the room. In the corner was an old lady with a cat. It looked as if the cat was the old lady’s only friend, she was willing it not to die. If the cat went, so the old lady would probably follow. Across, in another corner was a boy looking out of the window. The boy looked lost, as if he was searching for something that lay beyond the horizon. Perhaps he was getting ready to jump, thought the man. Lying on the floor in the centre of the room was an old man staring at the ceiling. The man wondered if the older gentleman was looking at something in particular – but the man looked up and could find nothing of interest. Perhaps the older gentleman was depressed and could not find the energy to move? The man, sad and down, left the room and closed the door behind him.

Another man walked into the room. He had basked in the warm sunshine and had breathed the air full of the scent of flowers before entering. In the corner of the room he saw an old woman who was finding comfort and love in a beautiful cat. The animal was just as happy to be stroked and petted. At the window was a young boy who looked happy and excited to watch the sea and the sun create diamonds of colour. On the floor lay the boy’s father who was watching the rainbows on the ceiling created by the sun hitting a little crystal vase. The man smiled at the beauty in the room and left.

In this particular room moments before either of the men had entered, the boy’s father had tripped over his child’s cat and was lying injured on the floor. His son had called an ambulance and was watching out of the window to see when it arrived. The grandmother was trying to calm down the cat who was understandably upset after being tripped over.

And so to the point: there is no right, nor wrong in any place. There is only the truth as you see it.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

STONES IN A SNOWBALL

Thing was trying to remember when it all changed between the Creek boys at the bottom of the hill and himself. It was probably something to do with that snowball.

In the hot sultry days of summer, Thing and his gang of kids played at the Creek almost every day. In the winter they slid down the mountain snow in races of two or three. Old boxes were used for sitting in and Thing remembers it was the fastest he ever went in his life.

Then around about the time that Jimmy Jones got a new dad the situation began to change. Thing remembered Jimmy calling him ‘a freak’ under his breath. He was never really sure at first but Thing later heard Jimmy telling the other guys the same word and all of them stopped talking when Thing got up beside them.

Then there was a snowball fight and he was sure it wasn’t Jimmy Jones, or Robert, or Pete who threw it but whoever threw it, it hurt really bad. Thing felt a thud on the side of his head, then he saw stars and when he looked down there was red blood dripping on the snow. One of his friends had put a rock inside the snowball and it had walloped him.

Thing was wondering why someone would do that as he sadly walked back up home. Jimmy shouted to the rest of the gang that who ever did that should own up, but no one ever did.

Thing’s mother asked him what had happened and it was then he did a stupid thing. He lied. He told her that he’d slipped during one of the races and she told him he had to be more careful in future. But that lie was a biggie, because it was the first time he had ever done it to his family and he’d done it to hide the shame of what had happened – not that he fully understood it, himself.

Then life got cold between them. Not between members of the gang, you understand; just between the boys and Thing. They had spent their early years in and out of each others’ houses, having sleepovers, laughing and crying and hollering at life then all this happened.

Thing was sitting by the Creek one Saturday morning when the guys passed on the other side. Thing stood and shouted but they didn’t seem to hear him. Then he noticed that they were all off on a fishing trip with Jimmy Jones’ new dad. Jimmy saw Thing was about to wave when Jimmy’s new dad got them all in a circle and whispered something and they all laughed. Jimmy walked on without looking back at Thing.

Thing’s Grandma had told him that it was true what they said about sticks and stones breaking bones but words can never hurt. She said that when she was bullied in school she used to take the names they called her and she would turn them into something beautiful. So the next time that Thing was called a Freak – he took each letter and made it into something good: Fantastic Rock ‘n’ Roll   Exciting And Knowledgeable. Okay Thing admitted he wasn’t Shakespeare and it didn’t kill the pain but it helped a little.

He still couldn’t tell his mother about the name-calling as he knew it would hurt her. He thought about telling the teacher but she always looked so busy, so every time a note landed on his desk with the word ‘Freak’ written on it he would smile, think about what FREAK meant and feel at peace.

Sometime in the autumn the police took Jimmy Jones’ new dad away for beating up the Chinese man next door. Jimmy never mentioned him again and things kind of went back to normal. The boys started playing with Thing again and there were more races down the mountainside but something deep inside Thing had changed. He saw that it didn’t take people much to turn on one another and that stopped him smiling sometimes.

No one ever put a stone in a snowball again but somehow it was always there.

bobby stevenson 2017

My Pal

golf

This isn’t a story.

This is true and it isn’t meant to entertain anyone (perhaps none of them ever do), it’s only meant to put a few things straight in my head.

I had a pal once, a guy who would sometimes annoy and amuse in equal measure – I guess most people have friends like that. This pal had a harder start in life than some. When he was five years old his mother would appear at the school gates drunk and my mate would have to take her home.

All his life, he seemed to be running as fast as he could from that early situation in life. He worked twice as hard to be a better man and in some ways he was.

Him and his wife had a home that I would visit just to talk, or perhaps have a laugh, or maybe to sit and listen to music.

Music was a big thing in my pal’s life – although we didn’t always agree on what was good or bad. We all went to concerts together – some of those were the best ever.

My mate took me to golf days, like The Open, and although I didn’t play the sport, it was exciting to see all these talented folks up close. He did actually try to teach me golf once, but he could see I wasn’t going to be any good – mind you, that doesn’t stop people.

One night my bud was down this way in Kent – he was on a course in town, and we had a drink or two outside the George pub. One thing led to another and we argued – and when I got up in the morning to make him a coffee, he’d gone.

I went on my travels, mainly to the USA, and not only did months pass, but years got easily eaten up.

I never got in touch with him again.

From what I heard, my mate was always running from that start in life and had finally run into complicated places and complicated people.

A couple of years back, my pal walked into some woods near his home and didn’t walk back out.

I was watching The Open last week and I just wanted to say to my pal, wherever you are – I remember.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

Lassoing the Moon

moon2

(for Jim – the King of the Kings Arms)

The two of them sat at the shaky table in the Bright Water Café. They always chose this table as it gave Jake and his grandfather a chance to come up with ways to stop its unruly behaviour. Usually they would stick some folded paper under the short leg, but if they didn’t bother with that technique, then they would see how much of their breakfast they could eat before they spilt something.

It wasn’t a grown-up thing to do, but when Jake and his granddad met up, adult stuff went out of the window. Today they were being spies and Jake’s grandfather was teaching him the tricks of being James Bond.

“If you want to know if someone is watching you, maybe even following you – the trick is to yawn.”

“Yawn, Granddad? That’s it?”

“That’s it. Without looking around, Jake my boy, stretch out your arms, and then yawn.”

Jake did exactly as he was told.

“Now look around and see who yawns – that is the person who is watching you. Because yawning is contagious – if you’re watching someone yawn, then you’ll want to yawn too.

Jake looked carefully around but there was no one yawning, well no one except the man who fried the eggs, he was always yawning.

“So that means that you’re not being followed. Now that’s a good thing, right?”

And Jake had to admit that it was. Many things scared Jake, and being followed was one of them. Noises also bothered him. And busy places. It was all much as the doctors had told his mother and father – ‘your son is Autistic’.

No one knew what that meant at the time, but they did now. It was as his grandfather had said, just another colour in the human experience. Jake was sure that was a good thing.

His grandfather would try to introduce Jake to as many different and interesting things as he could. Sometimes those things worked – sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes the strangest thing entertained Jake. He loved animals, especially birds. Jake would sit and stare at their behaviour for hours. Other times he would grow bored very quickly and his grandfather had to think of something else.

Jake’s granddad did try to keep it to the same times each week, so that Jake could be ready and looking forward to whatever they decided to do; and if they stayed away from noisy, busy places things usually turned out okay.

When Jake’s grandfather started to grow older and found it more difficult to get around, he sat Jake down and told him a story.

“When I was a kid,” he said. “I had no brothers or sisters to play with, and most times, if my pals weren’t there, I got ever so lonely. So what I used to do was a little trick my grandmother had taught me. She’d say, close your eyes, and then shake your body a little to get relaxed, and I would do that. Then she’d say imagine you have the biggest rope in the world, and I would do that too. Then she’d tell me to lasso the moon. That’s it, she’d say, go on, throw that rope, and I would do as she said and I’d lasso the moon. Then when I was sure that the rope was tight enough, she’d tell me to concentrate real hard and walk towards the moon. That way, my little grandson, she’d say, you can be as free as the wind, and that Jake, is what I want you to do when I’m not with you some days. Close your eyes, lasso the moon and then walk to a quiet spot on the moon. Up there you can sit and watch all us silly people down here moving about.”

And do you know what? That is what Jake did whenever he was tired, or afraid, or scared of the noise. He’d close his eyes, lasso the moon and walk to a quiet spot.

bobby stevenson 2017

The Doll

woman

I can’t honestly remember who first called her, ‘The Doll’. If memory serves me well (and it usually doesn’t) I think it was her Aunt May

“You, young‘un, are the sweetest, kindest little doll, I ever did see,” she’d say, then kiss her on the lips.

So the name stuck, and although she had two more sisters (just as sweet), she was the one always called The Doll.

When she was a kid, she’d watch ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ on the television which stood in the corner of the lounge, and was never really looked at by anyone else in the family. This is probably where she got the taste for the thing that would drive her on in later years – fame.

It was all she could think of, to be as famous as Marilyn, or to be as well-dressed as Jackie. But her family weren’t the wealthiest in town, so she had to think of a way to get up there, to get her to the top.

In High School, she started ‘putting-out’ for the quarter-backs, who would take her to a party and have their way with her. The only time she would be mentioned again, was in the locker room, when they were having a show of hands on who had been there.

Somewhere along the way, she started dating the geeks, usually the ones who lived up in Lovell Drive (where the mansions were) and whose daddies ran the local industries. Their families were normally pleased to see that their sons could get a girl like her. But soon some of the parents realised that she was just working her way along the drive, and the invitations stopped.

She got what she was wishing for – kind of – when she was pointed at in school, but not in a good way. At home, she’d walk in the front door, smile and laugh through gritted teeth. If she made it to the end of a family meal, she’d then go upstairs and cry her heart away into the middle of the night.

She couldn’t understand where she was going wrong. All she wanted to happen was for folks to notice her.

In college, she started to grow into a real beauty and some of the best of the men would ask her out on a date. But they didn’t make her happy, because they couldn’t make her famous.

She started going to parties where she knew the better looking kids hung out. Many times she’d just sneak in and given how good she looked – she’d find that she’d quickly fit in. But she’d always leave her personality behind at home, and so she didn’t make the impression she felt she was due.

She thought she might be an actress and got herself an agent (not the best of men) who got her parts in stage plays, and ‘walk-ons’ in b-movies. Still, it got her a write-up in the local paper and that made her feel good about herself.

She dated a couple of older actors whom she’d met on set, and who were on the slide – acting wise. One treated her well, but wasn’t into a physical relationship, the other had a lot of money and took upon himself to beat her badly on several occasions.

It was the same week that she was released from hospital with another broken bone that she decided to head for Hollywood and the big time. She met him the first day she arrived.

She’d bumped into him as he was carrying a cup of steaming hot coffee. It burned and hurt, but she didn’t complain because she recognized him as a runner who had just won several gold medals in the Olympics. He looked good too, and she liked what she saw. They looked great together.

Within a month, she had moved in with him up in the Hills and she began to get photographed; some of them even made it into the magazines.

She could deal with his anger rages, as long as she kept getting her face seen about town. Sometimes she cried in the bath, sometimes she didn’t. She was where she was, because she wanted to be.

He told the police that the gun had gone off accidentally. It had been the one he had used in the movie, ‘The Silent Soldier’. He had been showing some close friends the gun at his mansion, and when they’d left he’d only pointed at her as a joke. He didn’t know (swear to God) it was loaded.

So in the end she got to be famous – especially at his court case when her face was splashed around the world. As the judge said in the summing up: “sometimes you got to be careful what you wish for”.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

Save

Save

Bird

His family loved him, of that you can be sure. He was, after all, from them and like them. Sometimes when his mother walked with her child along a street, he would look up at her and see the pride in her eyes. And sometimes when she was tired of dealing with the unkindness of others, and the way they stared at her little son, he could see tears in her face. She would secretly dry her eyes with her coat sleeve, smile the biggest of smiles, and encourage her boy to hurry along.

In his early years, no one told him that he was different in any way. It was only when he went out into the world – a world of half-formed people, with half-formed hearts and half-formed love, that he found the winds were just that little bit colder, and the shadows somewhat darker.

When his mother caught him staring into a mirror with his usual look of bewilderment – she would shout, ‘now ain’t you just the most beautiful creation ever’. And to her and her family he was the most beautiful of children.

She did her best to warn him of the apes who lived outside the walls of their home. Those apes all looked alike, and that made them feel that they were a tribe, that they all belonged together – but they also carried hate in their hearts – perhaps they were born with it, or it was legacy passed down from parent to child – but it was the hate which drove the tribe, and the hate which caused them to despise others who were not like them.

She told him that he should walk with the stars which filled the night sky and not be scared of them. That the universe was magnificent and vast, and that those who chose to look only at creatures near them and judge them, were only cave dwellers, who were blind in eye and heart.

In his first day at school, a little girl had read a story called the ‘Ugly Duckling’, and his new class mates had all looked at him. But he knew from his family that he had special gifts, and they weren’t going to go away or transform him into a beauty that the rest of the word could deal with.

He was beautiful, it was as simple as that. He had wings which none of his family had, and he could fly at any time. Something that any of his classmates would have wished that they could do.

He knew he was different, and he knew he was beautiful, and he knew he could soar above the clouds. He had no need to show others to be accepted. He might have to live a life with the half-formed hearts trying to break him or even, make him disappear. He would be called ugly, he would be spat upon, he would be beaten by stones, but in the end, he would always remember what his mother had whispered in his ear one birthday: ‘chase happiness’.

So, that is what he did. He decided that in order to be happy, he had to help happiness in others. That meant being a new super hero. Maybe not the first, but definitely a very different one. By day he was a mild-mannered kid, who did what he was told, and smiled at everyone. After school, it was a very different story, his hat and coat were thrown aside (he couldn’t change in a phone box) and he’d spread his wings and swoop down on anyone in need of help.

It probably all started with that kid who lived in the next street. He was a child with an imagination and therefore didn’t need much else in his life. He could build fantastic new worlds out of twigs, empty jars, and old boxes. What his world lacked in colour and structure was painted by the thoughts in his head. Now I’m not saying any of that is wrong, but sometimes this kind of behaviour scares folks who can’t keep a single thought between their ears.

It was the fattest kid in the area, and the tallest kid, who hung together and caused maximum mayhem where ever they went. Perhaps these were just two outsiders who thrust themselves into the centre of things by hurting others. If they were hurting folks, then those people couldn’t harm them.

The kid in the next street had built a castle made from glass jars, it looked clever and displayed a degree of talent, which was the kind of thing that really bothered bullies. So, one morning the fat boy and the tall boy looked over the hedge of a garden and saw the kid from the next street and his castle, and decided to kick it over, throwing the jars into the road. They would cheer every time one smashed and needless to say the kid from the next street started to cry.

It was this sad sound which first attracted our half-bird-half-boy (who at the time was feeling happy about his new hat, and kept tipping it to the side to see which angle looked better).

Our hero, threw off his human clothing and headed to the source of the crying where he saw immediately what had occurred. He started pecking at the fat boy and then the tall boy – and although they tried to swat him away, it didn’t work. The fat boy was sure that the bird would peck out his eyes, and so ran away leaving his friend to take the punishment. Once the tall boy had enough of the bird, he, too, ran off.

This was the way his life continued for a while. The boy-bird would swoop down on those being victimized and would then use his beak to put right the wrongs of this world. Sometimes he was hurt himself, when they fought back, and on other times he wasn’t.

Then one Saturday morning, he found himself sitting on the highest branch of the tallest tree in a local park. He tended to hide this way when he was outside and naked – meaning that he was without his human clothes. It did feel good but he also felt that as a bird-boy he had a responsibility not to run around without any clothes on, leastways, not when humans were watching.

As he was watching the park, he spied some children playing a game of football. He’d always wanted to play football but most birds weren’t that excited about the prospect, and he found it difficult to get a game. On the other hand, most humans weren’t too keen on birds playing football either. So as far as he was concerned it was basically a stand-off.

The kids were enjoying themselves until a taller and older looking child, tackled one of the smallest. The little boy let out a scream and seeing he was upset, the injured boy’s friends started to pick on the larger kid. It looked as if all-out war would ensue, until our little bird flew above the melee and started to shout and whistle:

“That’s enough,” he shouted in a high squeaky bird voice. He called out again but still there was no reaction. So, our little bird friend landed on the head of the tallest kid and started to peck at his head.

“Ow!” Yelled the boy.

“Behave yourself,” said the bird.

“Says who?”

“Says me,” said the high-pitched bird (although in bird circles he was known to have quite a butch voice).

“Want to be our ref?” Asked one of the younger kids.

“Sure,” said the bird.

And that was where it all started. That day in the park, our bird started on a journey that took him from fan, to referee and then to running the team.As he was the only bird in that job, he became famous, always in the newspapers and forever on television.

And now our little friend manages an English Premier League team – of course you don’t need me to tell you which one.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

photo: Alexei Petrenkov

 

The Inscription

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No one, and I mean no one, had ever seen the likes of the inscription before. It had lain undiscovered in a small cave on the north shore until Roman times.

There were those who thought that it was written by the ancients – whoever they were meant to be. The curious and the deluded, would beat paths to the cave to declare it a work of gods, or for some – that it was from Atlantis.

It was only in the early 21st century, that a programmer from Tennessee, created software intended to break the code. He ran the decipher for almost three years, until it had translated the first five of the six lines – it said:

“We were here, we stood here,
We lived here, and we grew here,
But we made a return to the stars,
From whence we came,
Yet we had to leave them behind…”

There were many attempts to suggest what, or who, had been left behind. Competitions were run, prizes offered. But still the cipher ran for another five years; long after the Tennessee man had gone to meet his maker.

Then one cold, grey Tuesday afternoon, as a young intern kept an eye on the software, the final line was revealed….

“..Our beloved pets: the humanoids”

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Coming Home

shoreham

When he stepped from the train, there was still a heat in the air. He could smell the fields, and the soil and as he looked across the platform he was sure he could see his father walking up to the station to meet him. But like everything else in his life, they were all gone, a long time ago.

He’d been back for his father’s death, of course, and he had thought about all the things they would say to each other in the final hours – but his father had slipped away with only a smile and quiet squeeze of his son’s hand.

He lifted his rucksack over his shoulder and headed down the stairs to Station Road. Things were still very much the same. The road was a little newer, and the hedges looked a little different from what he remembered, but it was still home. In the field he could imagine his mother waving back from all those years ago. Smiling, and alive, not touched by the bad ending.

He could see a light in the window of the Rectory. There would be a new vicar living there now – one he didn’t know. He had lived through three vicars, and all of them had helped him at difficult times in his life. Whatever was said, the village needed a church and a vicar. It was somewhere to be thought of as special.

As he turned the corner, he held his breath. There was the Old George – with maybe a little more painted makeup, a little more front but still the same old place. He and his pals had drunk there, perhaps a little earlier than the law would have allowed but that was life in a small village. There had been a family who had owned it for as long as he could remember. It was easy to forget, as a child running in and out of the place, that it was someone’s home as well as a bar.

As he passed by, there was a couple of walkers sitting enjoying an ale, and so he stopped and watched. The Old George had been inviting folks to sit and rest for a long, long time now; the farmers, the bikers, the musicians, the Morris dancers, all had sat and supped; all had talked about their lives and loves, all had discussed their troubles – all were gone now.

The church gate was still as he had remembered that day when it had been decked with flowers for his sister’s wedding. Her body lay in the church yard now – it had done for some seventeen years.

He turned past Church Cottages and into Church Street – he was sure he remembered a shop in that street, but his memory came and went these days. It was hard to be sure of what had been, and what was the tainted memories of an old man.

As he walked down the street, he could see the dying sun reflecting on the river, and it made him feel the way it always had. It made him feel warm inside, just like a good whisky.  He had sat by the river, man and boy, and it had been the one constant in his life.

There were two children trying to catch fish from the bridge, just like he had done back then, and like him, the kids were pulling up empty hooks. But it was the comradeship, the feeling of safety, the feeling of a village watching over you while you fished that had kept him happy as a child. Nowhere else in the world had he ever felt as safe and happy as he had on those days as a boy sitting on the bridge – fishing.

The sun had seemed warmer and brighter back then. Probably another trick of his old mind. He turned to look back at where the Rising Sun pub had been. Some nights he would sit by the river waiting on his father to come out of the ‘Sun and bring him a lemonade.

“Cheers, dad,” he’d say and his dad would ruffle his hair. Just to do that once again, he thought – just once.

There were folks eating outside the King’s Arms – a new generation of people from London and all the areas in between, having a day in the country. That was the village’s life blood – visitors, it kept the pubs and the world turning.

The school – ah, the school. That was where his happy, happy, childhood had been formed – where his friendships had been forged. It had been the best of days and nothing in his later life was ever as brilliant.

He turned the corner into the High Street – the Royal Oak pub, where his grandparents had met their friends on a Friday night, was a beautiful private house now. He supposed that people didn’t meet in pubs anymore, the way they once did, there were other ways to socialise now. The Oak had been the first pub he had been taken to, and it had been by his granddad who had bought him his first beer. Boy, it had tasted good, and he licked his lips like he had done all those years ago.

Up ahead, he could see the Two Brewers. It had changed, it was a sophisticated bar/restaurant now, back then it was where all the bad boys and girls had hung out. They weren’t really bad, just young people trying to get a handle on life and enjoying themselves in the process.

As he continued along, he noticed some new houses and some revived old ones nudging the High Street. The Co-operative shop had gone – that was where his mother had worked, and his grandmother. It had been an exciting place to hang about, especially at Christmas. He could still remember the smells of that place. The wonderful, beautiful smells.

The allotments were still on the right, still bursting with colours, and plants and love. As he got to the top of Crown Road, it all came rushing back; his pals, the games, the running up and down the road – they were the best, the very best, of times.

The Crown pub hadn’t changed, either. This was where he had met the girls and his buddies in his older days. It was a beautiful pub inside and out, and as he thought back, and although his face was sporting a smile, there was still a warm tear on his cheek.

Perhaps the saddest thing is going back, going home and finding that it has changed all too much – but not this place, coming home to this place was a pleasure. It was a village that had changed little, sure the people were different, and some of the buildings were painted brighter or had been pulled down – but the village was still the village.

He thought he might head over to the school field and look at place where he had scored that goal – the one which folks had talked about for months. He remembered how everyone in the Royal Oak had bought him a beer because of it. He had played for the village football team but had dreamed of playing, one day, for a big London club. It wasn’t to be.

There is a saying that if you want to give God a laugh, tell him what your plans are. Nothing had worked out the way he’d hoped, but he had been luckier than most folks – he had known a place of love, life and safety. He had the happiest days of his existence in this village and perhaps the saddest days too – but folks had rallied around – everyone had helped, and in the end he had moved on and moved away.

As he walked towards the school field, he stopped and sat awhile on a bench outside the village hall. There were worse places to have lived, he thought. He looked over at the little village he had called home, and then he wept. Wept buckets.

For everything and everyone.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Seconds

face

It has been said that a man dies twice. Once, when his heart stops beating, and the second time, when his name is mentioned for the very last time.

It was that final point which obsessed him, especially now – when he thought of what he was going to face. The plain, raw, truth of it all.

The only anti-dote he had for his problems was sleep, and that had served him well. His father used to look life-tired and then he would mumble: ‘sleep it is a blessed thing’. He didn’t know where his father had taken the quote from, but he was right – it was the panacea for all ills.

In his sleep, he could dream and be who or whatever he chose. That was where most of his writing ideas had been born – all in the middle of his sleeping imagination.  Some days he would awake with a full story formed in his head, and it was those stories that he would live on – for in there was the real him. All those stories contained some sliver of his DNA. That is what he should be remembered for – not on what he had said.

Writing took time – spoken words were cheap.

But it had been his spoken word that had placed him in the situation he was now in. One didn’t criticize the State and hope to live to tell the tale.

Yet he would forget all of that when he was asleep. And when he would wake up, he’d hide in those precious first few seconds: ‘the perfect seconds’, he called them – when his brain was still in the half-light of sleep, and he could not remember how the world really was.

It was soon broken by that grinding thought – that one which reminded you of who had died, or who was ill, or who you owed money to – the thought that delivered all the problems in your life in one sickening blow. That was when the world would shake you awake – but for those few golden seconds when a human being first becomes conscious in the morning, those seconds were the very, very best. You remembered nothing of your existence. A little piece of paradise before being tainted by the shadows.

The man was now fully awake and those precious, perfect seconds were long gone. He could distinctly hear the crackling in the background as they powered up the electric chair.

There was a thump as they threw the switch to test the beast. It quietly hummed a little tune.

As he looked up at the damp roof, he knew that sleep would be his soon – for eternity.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Heart Academy

wealdkent

That long hot summer of 1927, which now seems lost in the past, felt as if it went on forever. Folks took cover under trees, and left feet dangling in streams, while the kids ran barefoot along the riverbanks, throwing stones at imaginary creatures.

As Jake made his way down into the valley, he noticed how the sun had bleached most of the wooden posts. This was Jake’s life now, not that it was much of a life but it kept him reasonably happy. The ironic thing was that he had survived the war, the Great one, that is, while his fiancée had not.

He had never really heard about Shoreham, not until Helen had started working in the shop on the High Street. She was fourteen when she took on the job, and Jake would walk every day after his work to meet her and walk her back to her home; fifteen miles all in all, but that didn’t bother him, he was with his favourite girl, and that’s all that mattered.

When the time came, Jake and his pals all went to war together: all feeling alive, and all believing that seeing the world would be the start of a new life for them all.

Jake and his mate, Johnny were the only two who came home. Johnny had lost his sight at the Somme and eventually moved to Birmingham to live with his aunt. His darling, and the love of Jake’s life, Helen, got caught in a Zeppelin raid in 1915.

Jake arrived in the year 1927, via three marriage proposals (all made to him), and a business of painting and repair – one which he had built up from scratch and which now employed three other men. Men who were in short supply after the war and Jake did well to hold on to his guys.

Although he was doing okay financially, he was still lonely and missing his love Helen and that is why, once a month, he would walk from his home in South London to the village of Shoreham – to relive the walks he made in the old days.

It was on one of those hot, hot days in 1927, he found himself walking past the Shoreham Village Hall when he heard a shout from inside:

“Damn and blast, blast and damn,” said the gruff voice.

The words belonged to Alex Green, a rough man in his sixties, who was trying to move a block of wood, and failing very badly.

“Damn,damn,damn,” he shouted again. This time a lady of a similar age shouted from the stage.

“Quiet, Alex, the Lord can hear you.”

“I don’t care if he can, he ain’t helping me with this scenery, now is he?”

Jake had found himself in the middle of the village hall, and this was the home to the Players – they had only been in existence for a couple of years, but already they were bringing a smile and some warmth back to the community.

When Alex spotted Jake, he felt that maybe the Lord had been listening after all.

“Here, grab this,” shouted Alex, as if he was still in the army.

Jake did as he was told and grabbed the end.

By the end of the afternoon, Jake had moved scenery, repaired some curtains and helped in painting a cloth at the rear of the stage, and do you know what he had enjoyed it.

“Might see you next week, then?” Asked Alex.

Jake nodded, and meant it. On the way home, as Jake walked past Helen’s old shop, he smiled, whispered ‘thanks’, and walked up the valley faster than usual.

All that Jake could think about that following week was his walk to Shoreham and the work that would be waiting on him there. For the first time, in a very long time, people needed him.

The next Saturday, Jake made a suggestion about a particular piece of scenery and how it could be improved. There were six in the hall that day, and they all voted on the spot to take on board Jake’s changes.

At the end of the month, the play was put on the stage and Jake came down to sit and admire his handy work. He laughed and cried at the play and enjoyed watching the folks of the village entertaining their friends. It was all this greatest stuff that built villages.

When the play was over, Jake felt lost as if something important had been taken away from him. So he filled his weekends with walks to and from Shoreham. Sometimes he sat by the Cross on the Hill and talked to his sweetheart Helen – he was sure she was always up there waiting on him.

One cold Saturday afternoon in November, Jake noticed a light on in the village hall. As he entered, he could hear Alex cursing and swearing about something or other. When Alex saw Jake, he smiled.

“I was going to send a letter to your place asking if you wanted to help on this new play, then I realised I had no idea where you lived,” said Alex.

Jake slapped Alex on the back and they chuckled.

That Christmas, Jake didn’t sit in the audience but instead he helped backstage – and as he looked out at the faces all laughing and enjoying the evening, he smiled to himself and felt that he’d finally found a home.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

painting: Samuel Palmer

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A Hollow Moon

moon2

Even although I’m writing this on my deathbed, you’re probably still not going to believe me but I have to tell someone. It’s about what we discovered back then. Long before Neil Armstrong and all the rest of those suckers stepped on the Moon.

It must have started around the time I heard my first Elvis’ record. The world was changing, what we knew was changing fast and I was doing my darndest to keep up. Not easy when you’re twenty-one years old and you already have a one-year old son.

What can I tell you about me back then? I loved my wife, my family, mathematic, and space. I hailed from Lansdale, PA and had gone to school in Boston to study Astrophysics. At college I met old Professor Tyburn. Some thought him past it, that his theories on the Moon were debunked – but I tell you what? I believed him, every last satellite busting, crazy thought that ran through that man’s head. I would have bet my life on it, and on him.

The more I worked alongside him, the more I realized that his calculations were spot on. There weren’t any errors. What he said had to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

And it all came down to this one statement: the moon wasn’t a natural satellite of Earth, the Moon had been put there by someone or something.

There were conspiracy theories, a-go-go, about our nearest heavenly body. The first and oldest was about the craters on the Moon. How they all had different widths – which you would expect from differing size objects hitting the Moon at differing speeds.

Where the problem was – was the depth of the impacts. They should have all been of various readings. But they weren’t – they were all the same depth. Let me write that again, they were all the same depth, added to which they weren’t very deep.

The Prof used to sum it up nicely: “Imagine a snowball with an iron core,” he would say.

“What you are saying, Professor Tyburn, – that the Moon is an iron ball?” I asked.

“Precisely, but what is inside that ball? Eh? Tell me that, young man.”

The one thing that is seriously wrong with the Moon, is the math (or if you’re in the UK, the maths). It doesn’t add up. See what I did there?  It shouldn’t be where it is.

It is in a perfect spot, to allow life on Earth. The way it causes the planet to tilt a little, allowing seasons, allowing weather, allowing tides.

Tyburn knew all of this, but what he couldn’t say was why. Why has a hollow satellite been placed where it has?

The most troubling point is the fact that the Moon can create a perfect eclipse of the Sun. The ratio of distance between all three bodies is perfect.

The Moon only points in one direction to the Earth, nothing else in the Solar System does this. The Moon material, ‘the snow’, is far, far older than anything on Earth.

And now the point of the letter. To warn you, to warn you all. Tyburn noticed that there were also deeper craters – he called them ‘breathing holes’ and that is probably what they are. There have been photos taken of ‘anomalies’ at the mouth of those holes. Look them up on the ‘Net. Creatures? Who knows – but the problem is this: if the Moon isn’t a natural body, and they are watching from inside, then when we step out of line will they come to Earth? Have they done it before?

Professor Tyburn thought it was only a matter of time. So the next night you are under a Harvest Moon – ask yourself, is it you that will be harvested?

Keep watching, because God knows they are, and maybe Google ‘Hollow Moon’.

You must believe.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Man Who Bought Hair

bristil1866

Now I isn’t here to argue the toss about, Robert Holloway. I knows what folks says about the fellow, and I says they are all wrong. Robert is my friend – well probably my only friend in this world – but what I lacks in quality of companionship, I makes up  for in quality.

Yes he can be trouble – but then I got to ask you and Good Queen Victoria – who ain’t in these deplorable times, I mean who ain’t?. We all got to live. Can’t avoid it – ‘cause, as my dear Aunt Fanny used to say, ‘if you ain’t living, then you’re dead. Simple as that my boy’.

As with most things, my Aunt Fanny was always right (or there and thereabouts).

Now to get things in order, I have to tell you, my lovely readers, that I lives in the little place above Robert’s shop. From my window, if I dropped something heavy out of it, it could easily go right through the shop roof and hit someone (I only mention that in passing, ‘cause it actually happened).

Apart from my good self, (Zachariah), my pal Robert had two other acquaintances in his life. One was his boy, Albert, who had scarpered to the Americas on account of the Peelers looking him for some misunderstanding or another. The other was his wife of thirty years, Maisie.

It could be that Maisie was misunderstood or it could be that she was just as lazy as everyone said she was. The name the neighbours gave her up the street was the ‘Coat-tail Hanger’. On account that she was too lazy to walk up the street, and so she would grab on to a passing stranger’s coat-tail and get them to pull her up the hill. Now I know it is a steep hill, but still there are limits. When she got to the shop, she’d let go, and shout some complaint or other after the poor soul. Either that he was too slow, or too fat, or even too quick: ‘’E nearly took me breath away’ was one of her favourites. She was one of those little soul suckers who thought the world owed her a living, and that all she needed to concentrate on was breathing. We all know them. We all got them.

Locally, Robert was known as two things – 1. The man married to the coat-tail hanger, and 2. The man who bought hair.

For that is what he did – among other less lucrative things. The poor and the hungry would cut off their lovely locks and take them into my friend’s shop in exchange for a measly farthing or two. Some folks sold the hair from their recently departed (or Heaven forbids – the less than recently departed, if you gets my drift).

It was then my job, Good Zachariah of this parish, to wash the hairs, then stick them on to cloths, and shape them into wigs that could be used by gents and ladies of this fair town. Sometimes, you spent the whole day just killing the things that lived in the hair. Me and Robert would split the money 40 for me, 60 for him, on account of him acquiring the hair in the first place.

We used to keep the wigs in my house as Maisie sometimes took a fancy to one of them and would decide to place it on her riddled head and that would be that. Money lost.

The weirdest wig I made, at least so far, is one I made for a rather rich Gent who knocked on me door one Thursday evening.

“Just coming,” I shouted expecting that to hold the knocking, but instead it just kept on coming, harder and harder.

“What!”, I shouted as I opened the door, ‘cause I don’t like to be put upon, I don’t likes it at all.

“Well blow me down with a feather,” is what I says when I sees who it is at the door.

“Come in, come in,” I says to him.

Now I’m trying to act all……….well you know whats I mean. Here in my little room was Mister Charles Dickens – greatest writer alive – well that’s what me and Robert says.

And here’s the strange bit – he wanted a wig to fit him, but not a gentleman’s wig but one closer to a lady’s. Yes, you did read that right. He had a second request: if there was by any chance a lady’s dress that he might acquire, he would be ever so ‘umble. He really would.

It seems (and this is only between you, me and the Bells of St Mary’s) that he has a young lady companion who he is utmost fond of, and would like to travel in her company incognito. Can’t blame a man for that, can’t blame him at all.

So I go downstairs and ask if Maisie has any clothing that she doesn’t need. ‘All of it’ was what Robert said, but I took a little number I thought might go with the wig Charles was going to wear. Robert didn’t ask why – which in itself was a bit strange.

Anyway, within the hour Mister Dickens (or Toloola Bell as he asked me to call him) was on his way and off to meet his little concubine.

The funny thing as I was taking him down the stairs, Robert was on his way up with new hair, he said, ‘Evening Zachariah, evening Mister Dickens’. So much for the disguise I thought.

‘Does all the time,’ Robert told. Last week, Mister Dickens was a red-head called Cheeky.

bobby stevenson 2017

 

A Brilliant Life

awesome

(I am happy to inform you that your piece,
‘A Brilliant Life’, has been selected for a
community reading group project at the University of
Northampton. ‘A Brilliant Life’ will not be sold and
will be used for educational purposes only, but — as you
hold the copyright to your stories — it is up to you to
give permission for its use. If you have any issues with
your work being used by the University of Northampton)

 

Martin was a man.

That was the best and the worst of it. He lived in room that served as his bedroom and sometimes as his kitchen. He had no friends to speak of but then he had no enemies either.

His parents, Fred and Annie had high hopes for their boy. They had fought so hard to have a child that when Martin finally did arrive, he was their moon and stars and sun.

He had a good heart and some might say he had the best of hearts.

He tried to be strong for himself and his family and he made sure he smiled every day but he did find, as we all do, that there are people in this world who won’t let a soul breathe. He didn’t judge them too harshly as they had their own reasons. He would simply let the world get him down for a while, pull the covers over his head then after a sleep he’d feel better once again.

Martin had his dreams of course. He’d wanted to be a professional footballer then he’d wanted to be a famous actor and other times he’d wanted to sing in front of a million people. After his mother’s death he’d wished he’d been the person who had found the cure for cancer.

Martin never became any of those things, not because he lacked talent but because he felt there were better people than him. Those who knew how good they were, those were the ones that deserved success.

He dreamed of love and being loved but it never came to be or at least he may have had his eyes closed as it was passing. He watched his school friends grow and marry and have children and he wished them well and just sometimes as he sat in the park and saw the parents and their children play, he wished that he was them.

Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t jealous, not for a second because the world shared out its good and bad and with his parents Martin had the best of all worlds.

Sometimes he wished that he’d had a brother or sister, just someone to visit at Christmas. To have nieces or nephews that he could buy presents and birthday gifts.

Martin saw every single day as a bonus. He wasn’t lonely and he wasn’t a loner, he just felt people had better things to do with their time than talk to him.

But he watched the world and he saw the people and their troubles and without letting anyone know he would try to help.

When he had a little drop of extra coins in his life, he would put the money in an envelope and leave it on the step of some deserving door; the lady whose husband who’d left her alone, the child who needed an operation, the man who just wanted a day away from the house.

Martin wasn’t a saint, not by any stretch of the imagination. Martin had hurt people and he’d wasted opportunities and most importantly he’d wasted time.

Because we all have our own ideas of what sin is, but to Martin wasting time was up there with the big ones.

He sent Christmas and Valentine cards to the lonely souls in the street. He sent postcards to the old lady who, like him, had no family. She probably didn’t know who or where it came from but the important thing was that someone had written to her.

You see none of what he did was ever big but it mattered to the people he helped.

This world is awash with lonely souls and to someone like Martin who could appreciate that point, he felt it was his place to do something about it.

Martin’s gone now and I’m not sure if he moved or just closed his eyes for the last time.

No one really noticed that there was no longer a light on in Martin’s house but they did notice there were no longer little gifts on the door step, or that cards were no longer being sent.

Martin had accepted that what he had been given in his life, was his life and he had used it all in the best way he could.

He sometimes smiled, he sometimes cried and he nearly always laughed.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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The Man at 221A Baker Street ( 1 & 2)

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1.Introduction

I have been living beneath the strange man who lives upstairs, nigh on ten months now. There is much comings and goings at all times of the night, and although I have reported such extravagances to the authorities, I have been informed that Mister Holmes is a singular man and as such, is prone to eccentricities.

Mrs Hudson, his housekeeper (if indeed that is what she is) – is to be found, on a regular basis, lying at the bottom of the stairs with an anatomy book and a bottle of gin.

Mister Holmes has a gentleman caller by the name of Doctor Watson, who seems a smidge too normal to be an acquaintance of the mad man. Still this world welcomes many types.
The other evening, I answered the door, as Mrs Hudson was slightly inebriated and Mr Holmes was nowhere to be found.
I was a little miffed and answered the door, abruptly.

“Yes!” Said I.
At the door was a six-foot tall woman, with a great deal of facial hair for one, I would assume, so delicate. She had the most brutish shoulders, but I attempted not to stare as the poor soul, who has probably been a victim of such wickedness throughout her pitiful life.
When all of a sudden, in the deepest of deep tones, comes a voice:

“It is I,” says the woman.
“Who is I?” Asks I.
“Why, it is me, Sherlock, your neighbour and friend from the top of the stairs,” says she.

Then on closer inspection, I see that it is indeed, Mr Sherlock Holmes in what can only be described as an excellent disguise.
“Well done,” says I.
“For what?” Asks the genius, that is Holmes.
“Why, the disguise, “I add.
“What disguise? Oh this. I was out with Mister Oscar Wilde and I had nowhere to put my key,” says Sherlock, as he runs up the stairs giving one the certain impression he is being pursued.

And talking of being pursued. Last Thursday I happened to look out of the window on to a sunny Baker Street when I see Mister Holmes running as if Old Nick was chasing him to the very heart of Hell. When I see that indeed he is being chased by the biggest hound I have ever set eyes upon. Mister Holmes keeps running, back and forth, back and forth, and each time he passes, he shouts one word that I may understand.

The first time he passed, the word was ‘Throw’ and the next time, a few minutes later, ‘The’, then even later still, ‘Dog’, followed by ‘A’, then ‘Bone’.

‘Throw the dog a bone’, was his secret message. How clever. I shouted on Mrs Hudson but she was in the process of drinking herself into oblivion, so I picked up the first bone I found in Mister’s Holmes’ parlour. Later I found out that it was a treasured dinosaur bone, still it stopped the dog.

Apparently the huge dog had been following Holmes and Watson since their little outing to the south-west of England. I helped Mister Holmes up the stairs as he was particularly flustered and looked as if he might collapse at any moment.
When we entered the parlour, once more, Dr Watson was sitting doing nothing much, other than looking at his fingers.
I helped Mr Holmes to a seat. “Why there you are Holmes,” said Watson, quite eagerly. “Have you ever noticed Holmes that each person’s finger has a different pattern – and may actually differ from all others in this world,” said Watson, smugly.

“And your point is?” Asked a rather angry Sherlock.
“Well, it could be used to solve crimes and such,” he said, even smugger.
“Watson?”
“Yes, Holmes,” said an expectant Watson.
“Do shut up,” said Holmes, obviously having had enough of the little doctor.

One night, last weekend, Holmes and Watson did invite me out (not with Mister Wilde) but to help them solve a crime.

We entered the unsavoury East End of London, upon a dark and foggy night, on the chance that we might apprehend a devious fiend. From all accounts, he was short of height but carried a step-ladder with him, in order to do dastardly deeds – one of which was to unzip ladies’ dresses. Naturally the dress would fall and everyone would give a cheer. Each time, he carried out such an outrage, he left a card with the motto:

“You have just met Jack, the Zipper.”
As Mister Holmes says, he must be caught and we are just the men to do it.

 

2.The Strange Case of Jack the Zipper as told by Doctor Watson.

Of all the cases that my friend and colleague, Sherlock and I, have attended this was possibly the strangest.

It seems that humanity can know no bottom level to the depths of its depravity. When one thinks that one has heard all about the miscreants and their dastardly deeds, along comes another horrid and dark crime more heinous than the previous.

So if you are ready to listen and your loins are girded, then I will continue.

It had been a rather quiet afternoon, except for Sherlock who was in his room playing the most hideous music on his violin. He said that he called the music ‘punk’ and that one day all polite society would come to know its charms.

I very much doubt it. I very much doubt it, indeed. The song he had been composing was a little ditty called ‘The Queen Doesn’t Wear Any Knickers’. I must say that Sherlock sometimes walks a fine line between being eccentric and a very good chance of losing his head one day.

That aside, the afternoon was interrupted by Lestrade of the Yard calling upon us. He asked us to sit down and for Holmes to stop playing that wretched music – Holmes was reluctant to stop as he was half-way through his favourite song: ‘Anarchy In The Vicar’s Drawing Room’.

But stop he did and Lestrade told us of the fiend who was running amok in the East End of this fine city.

“He may be a midget, but he carries a ladder of six-foot or more long, which assists him in climbing up behind the woman and undoing her dress,” said the policeman. “He pulls down their zip and the dress falls to the floor. Then he shouts ‘you have been done by Jack the Zipper’. You can imagine the pain and distress this causes,” added Lestrade.

“The man is a blighter, there I’ve said it,” said I.

Jack the Zipper’s techniques seemed to perplex Holmes.

“Why aren’t the women aware of him putting a ladder on their backs?” Asked my friend and a good question it was too.

“Because the man is a fiend and that is what fiends do,” said Lestrade convinced that his explanation would suffice. With that Lestrade was out the door and into a Hansom cab back to the Yard.

I had grown accustomed to that look on my friend’s face, and knew it meant that Sherlock would lock himself into his bedroom for several hours while he cogitated the facts. I heard him start the first few bars of ‘Never Mind the Futtocks’, and decided to give him some time to himself, while I went looking for Mrs Hudson.

I didn’t have far to go as Mrs Hudson was lying face down on the floor, outside the young gentleman’s apartments at 221A. I had to admit that Mrs H was particularly heavy that day (which I later found out was to do with the amount of anatomy books she had concealed about her person) and so I decided to knock the door of the good gentleman to assist in her removal.

I was not ready for the wonders that awaited me in that grotto of 221A. The boy is a genius of Sherlock proportions.

In the corner of his main room stood a large contraption which he called a ‘radio’ or some such nonsense. He instructed me that it was to communicate with person or persons out with our immediate area. I must say, I’d never heard the likes.

I was about to attend to Mrs Hudson who was moaning quite loudly in the hallway, when a voice came through the contraption.

“Allo, ma name ees, Guglielmo. I am 13 yearsa of age. I have invented this radio thing to find young ladies of 13 years of age. Any ladies out there want to meet up, you calla me. Ask for tha Marconi family and we can hava kisses all night.”

Then there was a noise and the thing started buzzing. The young man from 221A, thumped the contraption which stopped the noise but also the contraption, apparently.

As the young man from 221A told me, he liked to invent things. I wondered if perhaps he could be useful for future cases. He then took me into a back room to show me his most important invention. It is called a televisor or television (as his granny had named it). The young man asked to be excused and I couldn’t help myself but throw a switch on the box to see what happened.

Again, it was noisy and crackling then a picture – without the word of a lie – a picture of a boy’s face. It was in monotones but still discernible as a boy. Then he started to speak, in a very strong Scottish accent, I may add.

“My name is Willie Logie Baird. I’ve invented this wee machine which is a scunner to work, in order to meet lassies. I live in Helensburgh and there’s only me, my mammy, and my new wee brother John. I need to meet nice lassies – so if there are any oot there, just ask for the Bairds. We can meet up for a smootch.”

That too then crackled and afterwards the picture disappeared. I was about to tell the young man who had re-entered the room, when Mister Holmes burst into the apartments shouting the words:

“There is no time to lose, the game is afoot.”

Apparently we were to go to the East End that very evening to apprehend the rascal known as Jack. Mister Holmes’ plan was simple – he would dress as a woman (something he felt very comfortable with) and would act as the bait for the Zipper fiend.

The three of us hid outside the public house known as the ‘Cocken-knee Bar’ – where only Cocken-knees were allowed to drink. I had asked our young man from the flat 221A to build a smaller version of the radio so that we may talk to each other, even although we were not standing next to each other.  And that he did. Except he only made one of them. So really there wasn’t much point in having only one radio contraption (or walkie-talkie as his granny called it).

He apologised and said he would keep watch instead. Mister Holmes stuck the contraption under his dress for safe keeping.

Then Sherlock wandered into the Cocken-knee Bar looking like a right trollop (I think he may have done this before).

Things were going all right, Sherlock (or Eileen as he was known in the bar) was the centre of attraction of several men, when a little midget ran into the public house with a step-ladder and flung it up against Sherlock’s dress. The midget was about to undo the zipper when a voice came out from Sherlock’s undergarments.

“I woulda likea to meet young ladies. My namea is Marconi….”

The midget fell off the ladder in shock and me and the young man burst through the door and captured the fiend that is (or was) Jack the Zipper.

A job well done, even although I say so myself.

We lost Sherlock that night as he apparently ended up on a ship going to Hong Kong. He told me months later that he had been working on a case but to this day, he still receives letter from China addressed to a Miss Eileen Holmes.

bobby stevenson 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The House on Finnart Street

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photo: Greenock, west coast of Scotland.

What follows is a true tale – kind of. 

The house had belonged to a brewing family who had commissioned it to be built when Victoria was still on the throne. However, by the 1930s they had all scattered far and wide in the world and the house lay empty for several years.

It began to gain a reputation as the ‘haunted house’ and children would dare each other to look in the windows and not move for as long as they could. All it took was one of their pals to tap them on the shoulder and they would let out and almighty scream, followed by burst of laughter.

The house stood high on a hill and had a little tower which allowed a spectacular view of the river Clyde. On a good day a person could see as far as Glasgow and as far north as Loch Lomond. There was only a little garden to the rear as a cliff face limited the amount available to plant flowers.

To the front was a steep path which led down to Finnart Street and only provided enough room to allow a little lawn to be maintained.

The Thirties led into the war years and still the house had no occupants. That is, until a family from the down south moved to the area. The father’s work was to oversee shipbuilding on the Clyde as part of the war effort.

The man’s wife had one stipulation and that was that the house should have electricity. It was an amenity that the whole family had grown accustomed to in their leafy little Surrey town of Leatherhead.

The shipyard sent a couple of electricians to wire the house from top to bottom, and by the end of that week there was electric light available in the tower and an electric toaster in the kitchen – among other things, that is.

Two weeks later the family: mother, father and two sons arrived to take up residence (however temporary) in their new abode.

It was just approaching dusk when the father tried the new electrical switches and to his disappointment, they would not work. Being late in the day, they decided to retire to the Tontine Hotel and come back in the daylight.

What they found the next morning shocked them. It wasn’t so much that the electricity had failed, but that the wiring had all been ripped out. Now I know what you’re thinking (much like the family did) that this was wartime and resources were scarce. Someone or several people had broken in and stolen the precious cables and fixtures.

There was no alternative but to stay on in the Tontine until a second lot of wiring took place. This is what happened and by the following week the house was ready to be occupied.

Except – and you might see what is coming – when the family arrived, the wiring had once again been removed hurriedly from the premises.

The father’s employers, the shipyard owners’, called in the local police to ascertain what had actually occurred in the house. It was done on the proviso that no findings were ever to be made public; after all, the country was at war and story like this would do nothing for morale.

What the police observed, and I suppose it should have been obvious, was that there was no sign of a break-in. Which meant that either the thief or thieves had keys or something more peculiar had happened.

The order was given to re-wire the house a third time but on this occasion, two members of the local constabulary hid themselves in the basement.

The theory was that perhaps there wasn’t someone trying to break in, rather there was someone trying to stop the family moving in.

In the middle of that night the two men could hear activity on the floors above. Both the police had guns given the unusual circumstances and because there was a war on.

Once the noise has settled down, the policemen crawled out of their hiding area to find that the wiring had once again been ripped out.

They could hear what sounded like two men in conversation in the tower of the house and so the police quietly climbed the stairs.

What they found in the tower was totally unexpected. Two Nazi spies, with binoculars, were watching the movement of all the ships in the Clyde Basin.

Of course the men were arrested and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp but the news of their arrest was never made public.

The story was told to my father by one of the electricians.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

The Beautiful Game

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I guess there are two parts to this story. The first half, is how we met, and how we became the best of friends. The second part is where, and when, it all fell apart.

I’d like to start with the happier story first.

When Cy first turned up, I had no idea. No idea what, or who, he was. All I’d ever wanted to do was be a footballer. Nothing and no one was ever going to stop me from getting to my dream. I was good, I mean better than good, and perhaps I hoped one day I’d be a great player.

At 16 years of age, I signed my first serious professional contract and was playing on a regular basis for a London team. Not a top notch team, but still good enough for a teenager, at least the teenage me.

The electronics being introduced into the game all started back with the line-judge, and then side-judges, and then eventually referees were electronic. The real breakthrough happened when cyborgs came on board, when robots were part electronic and part organic. That was when all the trouble started.

The first time a cyborg played football, some of the fans brought magnets. I’ve no idea what it was meant to do, but they threw them on the pitch hoping that the ‘tinman’ on the opposing team would be ruined in some way.

The problem was that it was only the seriously rich clubs who could afford a cyborg – but you had to admit that they played well, didn’t lose their temper, didn’t need a drink, or didn’t need a shower.

They broke down ‘though, and sometimes that occurred in the middle of important matches. By the time Cy joined our team, he was so advanced that I didn’t even know he was a ‘tinman’. People looked down on them, some saw them as toys, as novelties not to be taken as equals. Remember the old song, ‘I’m King of the Silents, I’m waiting ‘till the Talkies blow over’? People thought that it was just another phase in football.

There was a limit of two cyborgs per team, otherwise (as some folks said) they’d be nothing but teams of ‘tinmen’. Some of the national team had to be checked, especially those Eastern and Middle-Eastern teams who might be fielding more cyborgs than they were allowed.

In the US, one promoter fielded a team of cyborgs against a team of humans – the cyborgs won by eleven goals to two.

So you’re asking: what happened to me? Well I got to be the best mate of a tin can. Cy had good personality traits, knew lots of jokes, had a wide knowledge of movies and music – he even came to the pub with me. No one there would guess (apart from the fact he wasn’t drinking) that he was not a human. You could see the women (and men) lining up to talk to him.

The papers dubbed him the ‘Clockwork Orange football striker’.

He was probably the best bud that I ever had. We played up front together, and were even-stevens when it came to scoring goals. Of course as the two of us got better, we got more headlines in the newspapers.

Cy got a lot of attention, and not all of it good. We couldn’t go to the bars anymore, not just because we were both high-profile, but also because he was a ‘tinman’ and folks would stop by and ask me why I was drinking with the love-child of a garbage can.

I’ve no idea if it hurt Cy or not. I mean, I had no idea just what was inside a cyborg. Did he get hurt? Was he only a tin can that repeated instructions?

I noticed that he would take information I had given him and maybe a week or so later, he’d have read up on those things, and come back with a conversation that I found interesting. Maybe I was pals with a blooming computer, but he felt like the real thing.

Then I got a partner and that almost put a stop to the whole thing. My partner didn’t like the time I spent with a machine and told me to grow up. I never saw Cy as a machine. Never.

The problem came later when Cy got better and better at football and we grew further apart.

This is the second part of this story.

I became jealous, and it was a jealousy fueled by my partner – telling me that I wasn’t as good a metal man, and that I should be getting more attention from the team management.

One night, I waited for Cy to leave the ground – he drove home after matches as he was allowed a car. I admit it, I was drunk and I was jealous and that is why I ran the tinman over – all on camera.

He – it – was better than me and I didn’t like it.

And now I am being held at a police-station and here’s the stinger: the football team wants to prosecute me for destruction of their property, but a new high-flying lawyer is trying to make her name by getting me tried for murder.

Did I run over a tin-can or did I kill a mate?

bobby stevenson 2016

Santa’s Last Present

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At the end of it all, he always felt the same, he could sleep for a year (at least) except he’d be needed long before then.

Mistress Claus knew what to expect. He’d be grumpy and tired and full of stories of what went wrong here, or what went right there. He never found the reindeer any company, those kids were working flat-out and there wasn’t any time to talk.

The elves had their break. He gave them from Christmas day until the 20th of January, then they all had to report fit and strong and ready for the next year’s onslaught. It was tiring making up the lists of who should and who should, get presents. But it had to be done.

On the morning of the 26th, Mistress Claus usually gave her husband a cup of tea in bed, followed by toast and jam. He might stay in bed until 3pm, before he even thought of standing up. Let’s face it, he was tired.

By tea-time of the 26th they would be all packed and ready to go. It was always Santa’s last present – to himself and to his good wife; two weeks at their little holiday home just north of Tornio.

They’d climb up those wooden stairs, place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, and the rest of the days were theirs.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

painting: Pascal Campion

Just an Elephant

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Don’t ever let them tell you that

You’re just an elephant, or a human, or just another life.

One who is not meant to shoot for the centre of the Sun

Don’t ever let them tell you that you are not good enough

Or special enough to be that guiding light

For when they say you can’t – you say you can

And when they say you won’t – you say you will

Don’t ever let them tell you that your dreams are wrong

Or misguided, or misdirected.

Do what feels right in your heart

Be what you feel is in your heart

Be they – your lover, or partner, or parent, brother or sister or

Friend – for when it comes to the end and you leave this show

You will take a bow and leave alone

You are so much more than all that people tell you

You are here to be magnificent

Be so.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

Desert Ice

Mothership-Thunderstorm

Marcie’s dog did nothing but bark that night.

That little mutt – which always smelt of piss – I reckoned was just showing its final ‘how-do-you-do’ before going over.

I knew something was wrong, I mean real wrong, and I could feel it in the pit of my riddled stomach. I ain’t talking about the dog,’ cause I gave up worrying about such things a long time ago. No, I meant something was wrong in here, and out there, everywhere, in fact.  Leastways that’s how it seemed. It kinda felt like the world was tipping on its axis.

I know, I can hear you, you think that I’ve been at the Hooch again but I swear to you, that was how I saw it.

It just felt wrong.

Something made me think about leaving. I mean I’d been living out here in the panhandle since my ma and pa went to see Jesus. My granddaddy had won the shack in a bet and had given it to my parents as a wedding present. This little place was all I had in the world – I was supposed to pass it on to my family, but both a wife and kids never showed up – maybe I didn’t go looking hard enough.

Here I was taking about getting in my car and driving through the desert on a feeling. On a hunch. Hey, maybe I was coming down with the sickness that caught my grandma – the one which took her on a journey to the dark side in her head and never brought her back to us.

Marcie’s dog howled and hollered the next day, too. I shouted over to her, asking if everything was all right, but she just dragged the dog indoors and shut the world out. Maybe she felt it too – the weirdness, I mean.

There were only two answers to all of this – either, I was going crazy, or something bad was coming down the road and I had to get away.

If it was just craziness, I could always come back to the shack and go on as if nothing had happened – I’d just tell Marcie I had been on vacation. Not that she’d believe me – since I ain’t been on one since my daddy took me and my brother all the way to the Gulf. That was back in the days when no one could have seen a black man or a woman sitting in the White House. Elvis wasn’t even a King.

I packed a few things – to be honest, it didn’t leave much else in the shack – and I shoved them in the trunk. The wind and the sand were gathering some but I thought I’d better tell Marcie about my plans, just in case she got spooked or something.

I knocked on her door several times, and at first I thought she couldn’t hear on account of the wind, but on my fifth knock I heard her shout ‘go away’. Now that ain’t like Marcie, that ain’t like Marcie at all – something wasn’t right. Maybe her dog was finally going away and her heart was breaking.

“You okay?” I shouted.

“Just leave me,” she called back.

“Can’t I help ya?”

“No. I’m fine,” she said in a real sad voice.

I kinda reluctantly left her. Twice I turned to go back but I thought better of it. It was just that I wondered if she felt what I was feeling – that somehow the world was gonna change and nothing would ever be the same?

I guess I had always been ready for this craziness – I had never thought that the world was anything other than a plain stupid idea – badly thought out at that. So when I get overcome by the thought that it’s all coming to an end somehow, I’m thinking to myself: ‘so what?’. I mean it’s not as if anyone would miss us all when we’re gone.

I jumped in the car and headed towards the mountains – I had checked the gas and it looked as if I had enough to get to Wickamore, which lay eighty miles to the north.

After a couple of minutes, I stopped and checked in the mirror to see if there was any movement at Marcie’s, but the wind and sand were blowing up such a storm that her place and mine disappeared into a sandy haze.

I think deep in my soul, or whatever it is that I have, I knew I wasn’t going to see my old home again. It just felt like a final farewell.

I drove for an hour and never passed one single, solitary soul – I didn’t even see a wild animal, or a bird, or a snake. Nothing.

About ten miles shy of Wickamore, I see this cloud in the sky – I mean one I had never seen the likes before. It was almost Biblical – it made me shudder just looking at it, the shiver traveled all the way down my back.

I felt (don’t ask me why, ‘cause I don’t know) that it was a sign telling me (and anyone else who saw it) that a change was expected very soon.

Something big was on its way, and we would not be the same after.

It was dusk as I crept up on Wickamore – the sand and the sundowner working together to make Main Street look blood-red.

When they later asked me about that day, I had to be honest and say I didn’t remember seeing the sign at first. I was so busy looking at the dying sun, that I didn’t notice it – even although it was big, real big, and hanging from the Town Hall.

I pushed on the brakes so hard when I finally read it.

It said: ‘For God’s sake don’t come here. Turn back.’

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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2017 – Next Year’s Love

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Next year some people will leave your life
 
And new ones will enter
 
Next year some dreams will vanish
 
And others, not thought of, will come out of the sun
 
Next year you’ll make mistakes
 
And you’ll survive them all
 
Next year you’ll win some things and you’ll lose some things
 
Next year some friends will fail to understand
 
And some will grow to love you
 
Next year you’ll learn a little more about yourself
 
Some of it you’ll like and some of it you won’t
 
Next year perhaps you’ll cry alone
 
But you’ll also laugh at things you won’t explain to others
 
Next year some of your actions will be misunderstood
 
But you’ll discover that others understand in amazing ways
 
Next year you’ll misjudge hearts and situations
 
And yet find more caring than you ever thought possible
 
Next year you’ll learn to love yourself just that little bit better
 
And that will be all you’ll need.
bobby stevenson 2016/2017

The Titanic in New York City – Adel and Dirk

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Wednesday April 17th, 1912 Pier 60. NY,NY.

That Wednesday morning, the sun shone, and a gentle breeze blew in from the sea. As far as Adel was concerned, she had everything in life she wanted. She lived in Brighton Beach at the bottom end of Brooklyn, and she had a job painting decorations on the rides at Coney Island.

She had been in New York City for almost a year. A year of struggling and making a life for herself in a new country. It had been lonely at the start, but the work had allowed her to paint and express herself. She had two friends, but as she worked most of the time, it really was difficult to meet people.

On that sunny morning, her cousin Dirk was arriving from Europe on the biggest ship in the world; the Titanic. Both their families came from Stuttgart, and as a girl Adel had been close to her older cousin. Now that she felt herself more American, she was pleased that another of her tribe would experience the exciting land that was the United States.

Dirk had qualified as a doctor, and in appreciation of this achievement, his family had saved money to send him second class on the Titanic.

She knew that the ship was due within the hour and that she could watch it pass from her little apartment on the Avenue, but instead she took an elevated transit from Coney Island into Manhattan. She had heard that there was going to be a large crowd to welcome the greatest ship to the greatest city in the world.

She took a trolley across to the west side, to Pier 60 on the Hudson. There were many people trying to get to the pier, and the crowd stretched all the way to the Battery. Adel wanted to welcome her cousin personally when he stepped from the ship.

She bought a hotdog and a lemonade as she waited, listening to the bands, some of which had come up from Coney Island. She had been granted the holiday by her boss, as long as she worked the following Saturday.

After what seemed a lifetime, she saw the funnels, and then the grandeur of what was the largest ship she had ever seen. It was beautiful, so beautiful that it took her breath away. She wiped back the tears and waved with the rest of the New Yorkers to greet the Titanic.

It was several hours before she was able to walk up and hug her cousin. He had to be processed through Ellis Island, as she had been, before he was allowed to set foot on Manhattan.

She cried again, it was wonderful to see one of her family again and to be able to talk in her mother tongue. Dirk hadn’t brought much with him and so they decided to walk up Fifth Avenue and enjoy the sights of the city.

They got back to her apartment, in Brighton Beach in the early evening. The sun was already sinking on this happy April day and she had baked treats that she would have made back home. She wanted make Dirk feel really welcome.

He was excited by his new country and full of hope, he told Adel. Perhaps he could be a great doctor in America, or perhaps even the President himself. Adel told him that he would have to have been born in the United States but she loved his dreams.

Then he told stories of the crossing of the Atlantic on the Titanic, how they had been troubled by icebergs but the captain had slowed the ship a little and all was well.

Tomorrow she had to go back to work at Coney Island but she would introduce Dirk to her boss, who might be able to help in getting him work. Dirk thanked his cousin and took his little bag into the kitchen where she had made him up a bed. Adel wished him goodnight and hoped that God would be kind to him in the new land.

As Dirk settled down, he took out the code book which he had been supplied, and went over once again the instructions he had been given. Not if, but when, there was a war in Europe and the mighty armies of the Fatherland moved into France and Britain, the Kaiser wanted assurance that the US would be in no position to join the war.

Dirk had one activity and one activity only, and that was to assassinate the President of the United States when the signal came from the Fatherland.Dirk slept well that first night in his new country and dreamed of the bright new world that was to come.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Hallowe’en.

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The name of the first one was Sadie.

That would have been sometime during the Civil War, probably around 1863. There was a story that some Confederate troops on their way back from Vicksburg had taken the family hostage. When Sadie’s parents heard the news of some stragglers heading towards their home, her father had made them all take shelter in the cellar. It was said that the ‘Feds took the family hostage to ensure their own safe passage back to the South. Now here’s where it gets kind of weird. When they caught the runaways, they had the mother, father and son James in their custody. The troops swore that there was no one else down there in the cellar. Maybe Sadie escaped, maybe she was killed, maybe she’s still down there.

The second one was known as Robert.

Just before the USA joined the Great War in Europe, there was a family called Collins who had lived in the house since the 1880s. The son – called Robert – when he was about 6 or 7 first went down to the cellar to play. When his mother asked him one day who he was talking to, he gave the reply: ‘why, I’m talking to my friend, Sadie.’ His mother put it down to his imaginary pal. Robert’s father joined up with the American army and headed to France to help on the war front. Robert was so upset that he sat at nights looking from his bedroom window, and waiting on his father to return. One cold winter’s evening Robert went down to the cellar to talk to Sadie and was never seen again. The story in the town was that, Robert, being heart-broken, had runaway to see his father.

In the late 1950’s, a father and his twin boys had rented the house for several months. The place had gained a name locally as being spooky and no one had lived in it since the thirties.

The twin boys, Gregor and Eugene, had taken to playing English soccer in the basement. They had painted goals at either end and would spend hours down there. One night when their father went down to tell them it was time for bed, all he found was a ball, and an empty room. Someone had scrawled on the wall in red – ‘Sadie loves Gregor’.

The father was blamed for their disappearance. It was known that he liked to drink and sometimes had a temper on him. The local folks said it was possible that the father had killed his boys. He was executed, February 1st, 1959 still claiming his innocence.

In 1977, a homeless man by the name of Seth, took shelter in the house. It had been derelict for several years by that time. Seth happened to pass another night at Seymour’s Farm, some ways down the track and mentioned to the farmer about the night he spent up at the house on the hill.

“Couldn’t get to sleep,“ he said. “’cause of them pesky kids.”

When the farmer said that no one local went there anymore, Seth was having none of it, and assured the man that local children were using the house to play in.

Around the new millennium, the house was bought by a family that had come from out West. The mother and father both worked for a big new pharmaceutical plant that had come to town. They had seen nothing that they liked in town and decided to buy the old shack on the hill and turn it into a family home. It took them all of 8 months to get the place the way they liked. In that time, they lived in a mobile home on-site.

Sometimes at night, and while the house was still being rebuilt, their middle daughter, Angel, who still pined for her home back West, would take a walk around the new home. The night before she disappeared she told her elder sister that she was 100% sure she had heard a racoon or something in the basement of the new house. When she went down, there was nothing much to show except for a few scratches on the wall. The following evening, Angel went for her usual evening walk and never returned.

Given the fact that they were sitting pretty comfortable money-wise, the family expected a ransom note or something similar to materialise – it never did. Heartbroken, and without their Angel, they moved back West for good.

So this Hallowe’en, me and some of the kids from town have decided to throw a party up at the house. We’re all going as folks from the past. One girl is going as Sadie, me and my brother are going as Eugene and Gregor. One or two of the girls are going as Angel.

I just thought I’d let you know.

I’ll also let you know how we get on.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

A Conversation On The Stairs

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I think I knew it was him, just from the way he stood
The sun was at his back as he quietly walked down the stairs
The toes slightly facing in and his gait shifted forwards.
The sun caught the dust dancing in eddies and whirlpools of light but I could see that the head was up and looking straight forward.
That’s what confused me at first.
As I got nearer I could see him grinning – then I was certain.
Perhaps he didn’t recognise me but surely he must have known.
I said “Hello” and he stopped and talked – not long, but long enough.
He told me that he’d started to live and I could see there was hope hanging in his eyes.
I told him he looked happy and he said he was.
He leaned forward and whispered in my ear. He said that these tough times had a reason; it meant the stories and ideas would be forged from a harder steel – my writing would electrify the heavens, one day, you’ll see.
I shook his hand and wished him well then waved goodbye but by then he had already turned a corner, as I must.
Conversations on a stair with my future self –
I smiled at what was to come.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

 

The Minute Man

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It had been a rough week, and for the first time in a long time, he closed his eyes and just drifted away.
“Do you want the usual?” Came a call from another room. “I said, do you want a black coffee?” Called the same voice.
It took everything for him to reply. “Just black, please.”

He closed his eyes once more, the relaxation was drawing him in like a drug. She banged the door forcing him to open his eyes again.

“Do you want the usual?” Came a call from another room.
“I said, I wanted black.”
“No you didn’t, besides I’ve only asked you.”

He was too tired to argue. “Sorry, my mistake.”
The rest of the afternoon, he wasted more time, something that he was good at nowadays when she wasn’t there.  He got up and looked out the window to see if she was coming home. He leaned his head against the glass window and closed his eyes. That was when he heard the screech, he opened his eyes and there was the old woman from the second floor lying in the street. She had just been hit by a car.

He ran down the stairs, even although the doctor advised against it, and out on to the street. But there she was, the old woman, standing alive and well. Just then she stepped on to the road, and that was when the car hit her.
Had he just imagined all that, upstairs?

His life had been really weird since that evening after the party. He had drunk too much and had gone to bed, fully clothed. Sometime in the middle of the night, he had got up to get a drink of water from the kitchen. He had stood at the top the stairs in his socks and as he started to walk, he’d slipped all the way down. Carpets and socks weren’t a good combination. He thought his leg or arm would be broken but, in the end, he hit his head on the door, on the floor below. He was unconscious for several minutes, enough to get his wife (who had been sleeping in another room due to his drunk snoring) very concerned and she phoned an ambulance.

They had discharged him from the hospital in the morning but he’d still had dizzy spells.
The old woman from floor two had also been taken away in an ambulance. When his wife came home, he almost told her about the incident but decided against it. She was a very practical woman and wasn’t one for any kind of theories.

That evening, the two of them were watching the television – something he enjoyed but she would usually ‘tut’ all the way through the shows.
Just before the woman singer, who had been famous once, picked the lotto numbers, he closed his eyes.
He saw the numbers: 12, 39, 5, 17, 18 and 3.

He opened his eyes again, just as the balls were being selected.
’12,39,5……………’

That night, on several occasions, he would close his eyes and see some event on television. He would then open his eyes, and count the time until the actual event occurred – it was sixty seconds.
He decided he would tell his wife, he had to. So he closed his eyes and heard what her reply would be. Her condescending response made him think again about actually telling her.

He therefore decided to change his mind and so change the future – and that scared him.

bobby stevenson 2017

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