One Day I Passed Perfection

summer

The smell of shoe polish and summer,

The taste of dandelion and burdock lemonade,

The sun as rosy red as it ever was,

My grandmother’s arm around me

Kissing the top of my head,

The days of leaving home for school

Knowing everyone who mattered would still be there.

The Beano and Dandy on a Thursday,

Man from Uncle and Top Of The Pops.

One day ,

A long, long time ago,

I quietly passed perfection

And didn’t even notice.

 

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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A Child of a Lesser God

thing

The full moon had formed over Thing’s cave 12 times when he decided that enough was enough.

He now realised that his mother and father were not coming back home.
Where ever they were, he hoped with all his heart that they were happy. That night, Thing sat at the mouth of his cave and thought about all the stuff that concerned him.

He needed to get a job since the money and tokens his parents had left in the cave were just about to run out. Thing had done okay at school, especially with counting and numbers. Perhaps he could get a job in the town’s bank. When Thing awoke the next morning he found himself still sitting at the mouth of the cave. He got washed and made his way down the mountainside, crossing the main street and into town.
Thing was used to people staring just because he was different. People didn’t like difference, it frightened them, and frightened people didn’t always behave rationally.

He loved life, and he loved the town where he had gone to school and where he had found (and sometimes lost) friends.

He went to the employment agency to see what job were available. Thing didn’t notice as he entered the office, that everyone stopped and stared. Thing wasn’t the first of his kind who have lived in the town. There had been Thing’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and of course, his parents.

All of his family had gone to the northlands where many of the Things had formed a colony. His own parents would have gone there too, was it not for the fact that his mother had taken ill and gone to hospital. The last words his father had said to him was that he was just popping out to see his mother. Neither of them returned, although Thing had spent many sleepless nights waiting and wondering.
He had many good friends in school and some enemies but that wasn’t any different from anyone else. Children learn either love or hate very early in life and rarely do they forget.

The one brave soul in the employment agency asked Thing how he was doing.
“Fine,” said Thing. “Very fine, indeed.”
Thing told the person that he was good at numbers and counting. The agency manager went through many cards, saying ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘no’ to most of them. Then he pulled out a card and exclaimed ‘a-ha’.

The job was at a café near Thing’s old school. He’d remembered the owner being a kind elderly gentleman. As was requested on the card, Thing popped along to the café for an interview.
The old man remembered when Thing’s parents had held a birthday party for him in the café. The old man was happy to give Thing a job and he was able to start immediately.

The following morning Thing almost skipped all the way to work, given that it was such a nice morning and that he enjoyed being at the café. He had company there and people to talk to.

In the middle of the morning, a middle-aged man came in and when he saw Thing, the man said he didn’t want no dirty animal serving him and he expected a human to give him a cup of coffee.
When the old man told the customer that Thing was his new server and that was that, the man said he would be taking his business elsewhere.

The old man thought that would be the end of it but it wasn’t. By the time he was ready to shut the café, the middle-aged man was standing outside with several others of his kind and all of them had flaming torches.

“If you don’t put a human behind the counter then we are going to burn the place down.”
Thing told the old man that he was sorry, it was all his fault, and that he wouldn’t return to the café the following day – but the old man just shook his head and said ‘nonsense’.
Then the old man went outside and faced the gang of men intent on burning down his café.

“You men, think that because Thing looks different that he deserves to be treated differently. In fact to be treated as a lesser being that you. Is he a child of a lesser god? I don’t think so. How many of you created yourselves? How many of you brought yourselves to Earth? None of you? I didn’t think so. We are all in this living together and all we can do is live together. It is you with your black hearts and thoughts who are different from the rest of us. The problem is you hide your evil thoughts in a body and brain that looks like everyone else. But you are not like everyone else. You are evil and most of all, stupid. So burn my café down if you want. We will only set up in another place, and yes, Thing will be there too. You people are what is wrong with the world, not Thing, not me.”

And with that the men, one by one, threw down their torches and wandered off. The middle-aged man came forward and spat at Thing. The old man wiped the spit from Thing and apologised to him.
“I cannot make an excuse for such a person. They are what they are, and we must exist beside them. Now you go home, have a rest and I will see you tomorrow. We have living to do.”

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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THING and the BIG BLUE SEA

thing

It was inevitable that it would happen. Thing had started to grow up.

Sure he still sat at the cave mouth every night on the chance that would be the very moment his mother and father returned. Yet something deep down told him that they weren’t coming back, and that he was on his own, and he’d better do something about it.

He knew that life would have to change, that his dreams would also have to do the same. There had been that one perfect moment, probably one day when he packed his school books and got ready to walk down the hill, when his mother had kissed him goodbye and his father had patted him on the head and said ‘make me proud’. The sorrowful thing was, that there wasn’t a fanfare or a bell that tolled as you passed that perfect moment in your life.

Maybe there would be another perfect moment, perhaps if he met someone – but he wasn’t holding his breath. He knew that he had been born looking like his family but not like anyone else in the valley or at school. And he had suffered because of this, he had been called names, beaten on a couple of occasions, and most hurtful of all, was being left out of parties and celebrations. It wasn’t the kids that didn’t want Thing there, it was their parents.

Thing had been taught in school that we were on a rock which traveled around the sun every year. If this had been a ship we would have helped each other, we would have cared and nurtured each other. But this was a ship without a sea, and so folks and Things didn’t appreciate how fragile it all was. Perhaps if folks looked at the sky and treated the big blue yonder as a sort of sea, then maybe they would be kinder to one and other.

When Thing was small he had first seen his reflection in a mirror in school and it had shocked him. He knew he looked like his parents but he didn’t realize how different he looked from the other children. That night he had wondered if this distance between him and the others would last all his life.

He had made friends at school and those friends had not seen any difference but he had noticed, as he got older, that the children had started to carry prejudices and words built-to-hurt to school. They weren’t taught those words in school, so there must have been another type of schooling done at home, the school of hate.

He never really felt sorry for himself, but he did wonder what kind of God would have made him so different. Then as the years passed in school, he saw that others had their problems too; even if they all looked alike. Little Johnny had lost his brother in a war, Elsa had been made an orphan after a car crash and little Craig had gotten a disease called cancer and had never returned to school.

Everyone was tested Thing realized. Everyone. So he decided that if he had learned anything, it was to be strong when folks bullied and attacked. That everything passes, and that there is more good in the world than bad and that some kids’ parents cripple their off-spring with lies and hate and that, thought Thing, was the worst kind of injury.

So that night, as the sun was setting, Thing looked at the sky and saw it for the first time as a sea, and he saw the clouds as the waves breaking. That was when he really appreciated that we were all on a big ship going around the sun and we couldn’t afford to let anyone or anything get lost along the way.

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Secret of Life

boy

He wondered if maybe everyone else in the world knew the answer to it the question, and that perhaps he had been in the restroom when they were all being told.

He couldn’t see why everyone else was able to smile, walk and talk at the same time and he found it impossible.

Life was stupid, and sad, and basically it got him down. He saw the kids in school who all seemed to be able to cope with things. Now and again, he imagined he saw a look in another person’s eyes that said – I don’t understand this either – but if he looked again, it normally had gone away and he thought that perhaps he had only imagined it.

So one Friday morning, he decided that he wasn’t going to bed that night until he found out the secret of life. Was there a book they had all read, and he hadn’t seen? Were there classes he could go to that would tell him everything he needed to know?

The first person he met in the hall was his Grandfather.

“Granddad, what is the secret of life?”

And his grandfather thought carefully, scratched his beard, and then smiled.

“The secret, my little special boy, is to tell everyone what they want to hear. I tell your Grandma she looks lovely everyday of her life. I tell you you’re good at football.”

“But I ain’t good at football, Granddad.”

“Who says? Not me.”

And his grandfather walked away whistling to himself.

The boy went down to the kitchen where his mother was making breakfast for him.

“Sit down, little one,” she says to her son.

“Ma?”

“Yup?”

“What is the secret of life?”

She thought for a while and then looked up at the ceiling. The boy looked at the ceiling too, to see if there was something his mother was reading – but there wasn’t anything. Just a big stain from where his grandfather had let the bath overfill, last Christmas.

She ruffled her son’s hair.

“What’s got you in this mood?”

“Just wondering, I guess.”

“Well let me see. The secret of life is to get up every morning even when you don’t want to. When you know there are folks depending on you, that’s what makes you jump right out of bed.”

“And that’s it?”

“That’s it.”

His dad walked with the boy down to the school bus.

“Dad, what is the secret of life?”

“Is this a school project you were supposed to do?” Asked his father.

“Nope, just wondering.”

“Well ain’t my boy growing up.” So his dad thought for a while and looked up at the sky. The boy looked up too, to see if there was writing in the clouds, but there wasn’t.

“Well son, the secret of life is to do what your Mom says.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Later in the morning, his teacher, Miss Sycamore was teaching about the Arctic Circle. She asked the class if there were any questions.

The boy put his hand in the air, and when Miss Sycamore, pointed to him, he asked:

“Miss Sycamore, what is the secret of life?”

All the kids looked at the boy, who had gone a little red in the face.

“That’s a strange question for a lesson about the frozen north. Let me see.”

And like all the adults, she looked at the roof too, as if she was getting some sort of inspiration.

“The secret of life is to do your homework, wash every day and pray every night. Yep, that’s it for sure.”

The boy thought that maybe this was more to do with Miss Sycamore, than the secret of life.

That night as he lay in bed, he realized that everyone had a different secret for the way they dealt with life.

Just like Miss Sycamore, the secret seemed to be to do with what made you happy. But what, thought the boy, if what made you happy, didn’t make other people happy?

So he got down by the side of his bed and started praying.

His older brother, who he shared a room, started whispering real loud.

“What you doing?”

“Praying.”

“At this time of night?”

“Is there a good time?”

“Yep, never. What’s got your goat?”

“I want to know the secret of life.”

“The secret, little brother, is to keep your mouth shut so you won’t get beaten up.”

And with that his brother rolled over and went back to dreaming of being a big baseball star.

The boy clasped his hands again and started praying.

“Dear God, if you could tell me the secret of life, that would be really good. Amen.”

With that the boy jumped back into bed and fell asleep.

It was in the morning, at breakfast, as he looked around the kitchen. There was his Mom cooking, as she always did, and like she always did, she looked over and blew him a kiss. There was his grandfather and brother arguing about some sport thing or other, and both of them tussled the boy’s hair as they passed.

Then it struck him; wasn’t the secret of life just to appreciate what you had? There was always something good in a life, and sure there were lots of bad things.

But one good thing, sunk a thousand bad ones, and the boy smiled all the way to the bus stop.

All the way.

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Photograph of Me

buzz

The kid in the middle, the one hiding, was Gene, he got shot in some war, somewhere. It was the only thing he ever did that anyone was ever proud of. Gene spent most of his life hiding and blaming others.

The one on the right was Jackson. He was my best bud – I mean the kind of pal who would lay down his life for you, give you the last cent in his pocket – there ain’t too many of them who crossed my path. Jackson was the mouthy one, the one who knew what to do, the one who never stopped eating and the one who always wore his brother’s hand-me-downs.

The day this photo was taken was my fourteenth birthday – that’s me on the left – my ma had given me 50 cents to get the guys some hotdogs. I had wanted a bike but I knew, given the way things were, hotdogs were as good as it was gonna get.

My pa had gone to see a friend in a downtown store on one sunny morning and had never returned. It was like that for many of the guys on my street. I was convinced that the fathers who had disappeared all went to some town, upstate and swapped stories.

I remember being on watch at the kitchen window for months waiting on his return. Some days I would knock on doors and ask if anyone had seen my pa. Some slammed the door in my face, others kinda giggled and said that I should ask some woman or other. Seemed my pa liked to hang about with women called ‘Belle’ or ‘Busty’. Maybe if my ma had changed her name from Edith to something else, he might have stayed.

I never did see him again, although I heard once when I was down south, that a man answering his description had been involved in some robbery or other, and the guy who told me was sure that the man I was talking about had been shot cold dead. That’s the way he said it, ‘cold dead’ and a shiver ran right through me, making me think that he was probably right.

My ma had good days and bad ones. There were times when she’d take to her bed on account that the ‘darkness’ had taken her over, and when she was like that there weren’t much I could do except sit with her and hold her hand.

I meant to mention that I had a younger brother, Teddy and he was the kinda guy who was born all growed up. I mean Teddy dealt with all the money (or lack of it) and Teddy was the one who looked after me and my ma. His head was always screwed right on. When Teddy was old enough, and sure that I was gonna survive, he joined the Army and all. Last I heard from him he was a Major, married with two kids and was expecting to retire real soon.

Me and Jackson ran the streets for a few more years after the photo was taken, but then he found God in a gutter in Tallahassee, and became a preacher who toured the panhandle with an old truck and a tent. I hope he did get to Heaven, I really do, and I hope his angel wings ain’t no hand-me-downs either.

As for me, I didn’t do much that was special except look after my ma as the darkness, which didn’t just take her over but in the end, devoured her – god rest her soul – was eventually laid to rest. I guess there are a million of us out there who have done work like that and we don’t have no medals to show for it.

We are the walking wounded and we just keep putting one foot in front of the other – a kinda secret society that don’t have no special handshakes, but we can see the scars in each other’s eyes.

And the reason I show you this photo today, is for a simple reason – it was the only one that was ever took of me. I kid you not.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Krystal and The Astral Vikings

The Start

When she was a child, she ran with the wind and loved the Sun on her face. Back then, the world was an exotic mixture of colours, smells and wonderment and she took every opportunity to drink them all in – every single one of them. Life was electricity when you were starting out; love, hope, fear, and happiness were all painted in huge, large letters and it was all there for the owning, but once you started to take them all for granted, these pulses of life began to erode and would eventually disappear.

So, it was for Krystal, for she was still young enough to taste a little of the electricity in her mouth, but old enough to know that it was leaving her (like it did for all of us). Yet there was still a life of adventure out there to be lived – regardless of the dying of the light, and she wanted it.

There are stories and myths that come from all parts of this glorious world, some of them are downright lies but some of them are true.  To be honest, most of them come from the fevered minds of those who should know better – but in among them all was one story that her grandfather had told her, and her mother, and her brother. It was about the Sky pirates – and how they would take to the air in their big wooden ship, and land in little towns and hamlets and rob the good folks who lived there. Their real name was the Astral Vikings, at least that’s what they called themselves – but Krystal knew them as the Sky pirates and that was how they’d stay (at least in her mind).

Even though the story had been told again and again, it had faded some in her mind and so she travelled to see her brother to ask him about who and what they were.

“They ain’t for the likes of you, Sis,” said her brother.

“That ain’t your call, now is it?” She told him. “All I want to know is when they come and how I can meet them.”

Her brother blew up his cheeks to show that she was asking a whole lot in that one question.

“They might kill ya,” he said.

“I’ll take my chances,” she responded. “So where can I meet them?”

And her brother told her about a hill that was about two clicks from the town and which would probably take about a day to climb.

“When do they get there?” She asked him.

“On the 32nd of every February,” he told her.

“There ain’t no such date,” she scolded.

“Oh, but there is. You just gotta look”.

She tried to weigh up what she was leaving behind, and in the end it didn’t seem that much. Most of her family had gone, and her brother lived some ways away. So, what did she have to lose? Pretty much nothing.

There was still a bit of waiting to be done. There were twenty-nine days in February that year, so Krystal packed her bag and on the morning of the 30th of February, she started out for the hill. There was really no one to say goodbye to, except maybe the stray cat who had befriended her.

“I would take you with me, but I ain’t sure that pirates don’t eat cats,” and without looking back she put one foot in front of the other and left her home for good.

By the 31st of that month, Krystal had reached the base of the hill. Now all she had to do was climb it. It was tougher and higher than she had dreamed but just before it grew dark on the 32nd of February, she stood at the top, smiled to herself and waited. She wasn’t sure for what but she waited all the same. She wasn’t alone, no sir – not by a long way. There was a queue of folks from little creatures to real hairy things. Each of them just as enthusiastic to be a Sky pirate.

She heard it before she could see it – the ‘putt,putt,putt’ of the great engines that kept the ship in the air, then through the clouds it came. Huge and magnificent. Someone shouted to her from the sky-ship, asking if she was looking to come aboard.

“You mean all of us?” She shouted back.

“Who else is with you” And sure enough, all the others had got scared and were running as fast as they could back down the hill.

Without a second’s delay, Krystal said that she was as ready as she’d ever be and so the great ship manoeuvred close to where she was standing. A man – one of the Astral Vikings – jumped on to the nearest ledge and ran a rope gangway over to where Krystal was standing.

He quickly jogged back to the vessel and left Krystal standing at the bottom of the gangway and at the start of a new life.

Should she? Would she? Was she brave enough?

And just like leaving home she put one foot in front of the other and walked towards the sky ship.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Zoot and Sandy and Life

elephant

As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and, as usual, they were sitting by the river – talking about this, and talking about that.

“What do you see?” Asked Sandy.

“You always ask me that,” said Zoot, his pal.

“So, what do you see?”

“What I always see…..the birds.”

“And?”

“The sea…”

“And?”

“I don’t know. The sky.”

“That’s all you can see?” Asked the elephant.

“What else is there?” Questioned Zoot, the dog.

And then the big elephant shook his head, which made his trunk swing too.

“What? What have I said? Am I wrong?” Asked Zoot.

Sandy the elephant, gave a very important cough to clear his throat because he felt that what he was going to say was very important.

“This universe is very large,”

“Even for an elephant?” Said Zoot.

“Even for an elephant. Some say it could be as much as a billion light years across. Now that’s big. There are even wise women and men who think that there may be more than one universe and that in another one, I could be President.”

“And I could be a rock star,” interrupted Zoot.

“Exactly. Now in all those billions of light years, for me to become an elephant, and you to become a dog – well the chances must be a zillion to one. And to survive and me to meet you and you to meet me, well that must be a trillion, zillion to one. “

“What are you saying?” Asked the little dog.

“That to exist is very special and should never be taken for granted.”

“Do I do that?”

“We all do that,” said Sandy.

“You see, you and I can see how special it is to exist but there are many folks out there who are blind,” said Sandy.

“They can’t see?”

“Not so much that, but they can’t see how special their existence is. How hard the universe must have worked to bring them here.”

“But it makes them feel good about themselves…..to be blind,” said Sandy thoughtfully.

“But they drag the rest of us down. They think that living in a house, and keeping your money in the bank, and working and then retiring and then dying is all there is in life. And those who don’t see it that way are wrong.”

“Do I do that?” Asked the dog.

“Look again, what do you see? This time really look,” said the elephant.

“The sky, the sea…”

“And what is between the sky and the sea?”

“The horizon?”

“Exactly my friend. The horizon. That is what the blind can’t see. As long as there is a horizon, there is always something over the horizon.”

“And what is that?” Asked Zoot.

“Why hope,” said Sandy. “Just plain and simple, hope.”

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Me and Buzz and Skinny Dippin’

towere

What can you say about your bestest pal in this whole wide world, when he gets arrested for being nake-it in the middle of town? ‘Not much’, is what the judge said.

“You were standing there, in front of the preacher and his good wife, nake-it as the day you were born. What have you got to say for yourself?”

Buzz was thinking that because of his natural good looks and the ‘great body he’d been given by God’, that the sight of his nake-it-ness probably overwhelmed the townsfolk.

“I guess I’m just too damn pretty to be walkin’ about with no britches on.”

Well that did it, the judge said that Buzz was to knock every door in town and apologize for standin’ in front of them like the day he was born.

One or two of them said they had missed the whole darn thing and could Buzz step inside to their homes and stand nake-it for them so that they could be just as upset as the rest of the townsfolk. The stupid thing is, I think Buzz did it.

You see, the summer that Buzz wanted to start Skinny-dippin’ just happened to be the summer when all the creeks dried up. Sometimes Buzz can be a truly crazy person and maybe, just maybe, he had chosen that summer so he could complain about the bone-dry creeks. It’s what he does.

Anyhoo, there weren’t no water in the creeks to go skinny dippin’, so that was when Buzz suggested that we might use the water tower which stood next to Mrs McGonigal’s Eatin’ Room and Entertainments. I asked the grown ups what kinda ‘entertainment’ that Mrs McGonigal laid on but they always changed the subject and one time, the preacher nearly choked on his biscuits and gravy. So I stopped askin’.

The water tower was higher than the church clock – so you can see it was pretty high and you had to climb up a real shaky ladder. Buzz suggested on the mornin’ of one extra hot day that we should get up real early and climb the tower, that way no one would see us and we could stay up there all day. The Sheriff had said it was agin’ the law to go swimmin’ in the tower on account that it was the water that folks used for drinkin’ and such and also because Cross-Eyed Larry had pee’d in it one time.

So we did what Buzz said and sneaked up the ladder real early. It was real hot, so that the water didn’t cool us down that much – but boy it was fun, especially being nake-it and all.

Inside the tower there was a small ledge and if you crawled up to it, you could jump and dive and do just about everything into the water. Back flips and front flips and such.

Of course we couldn’t come down until it got dark, so I guess me and Buzz did pee in the water, now and again’. I’m just sayin’, is all.

Late in the afternoon we could hear a band coming down the street, apparently the preacher’s wife had organized a parade for her son, ‘cause he’d memorized the whole of the Good Book or somethin’. I ain’t critizing but a whole parade. I mean.

Anyway, me and Buzz decided to jump from the ledge together and somehow we hit the bottom of the water tower real hard and kinda went through the tower. And where we’d made holes, well the water kinda started leaking through, and we could hear the screams from those getting wet below us.

Then I looked at Buzz and he looked at me and that was the last thing we did before we both fell through the tower and landed nake-it right in front of the townsfolk. Buzz managed to land on top of the preacher’s boy which had the preachers wife shoutin’ and hollerin’ about how these nake-it boys had killed her beautiful son.

You’re saying, I suppose, that I forgot to mention about me being nake-it and all – and what happened to me, exactly?

Well, I told the preacher that I had been trying to baptize Buzz on account of his bad ways an’ all, and that with the creeks being dry, the water tower was the only place to do it – don’t ask me where that all came from – I ain’t got a clue. Anyhoo, for some reason they let me go and decided that Buzz was the guilty one.

Go figure.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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Me and Buzz and Runnin’ For President

FRIENDS

I guess it all seems kinda obvious now knowin’ what Buzz was gonna become – but back then, we didn’t have no idea, I kid you not.

When Buzz told me that as a good lookin’ kid it was probably beholdin’ to him to run for office. I was thinkin’ that Buzz had surely gone a bit crazy like. But then I was always thinkin’ things like that about my best pal.

“I’m considerin’ runnin’ for Class President,” he said without any warnin’ and which accounted for the fact that I dropped my cola.

“And you is gonna be my manager,” he said slappin’ me on the back as it was an honor.

Now I ain’t sure what a ‘crazy-kid-runnin’-for-president’ manager did exactly but I knew I’d probably find out real quick and it would probably mean a lot of work.

On the way back home from school, Buzz started to kiss mothers and their babies. One or two of them were takin’ by surprise but most of them tried to chase him away. One hit him with her umbrella and said she was hollerin’ for Sheriff McDonald, oh thank you Jesus. Well that’s what she said.

By the time Buzz got home, his Mom had a line of people around to complain’ that her son was a baby-kissin’ idiot. I guess that being a manager might be harder than I thought.

When we got back to school the next mornin’, I thought I was talkin’ to Buzz but I found I was talkin’ to myself and that Buzz was standin’ on an old wooden crate and was tellin’ folks to gather round as he had somethin’ important to tell them. When the folks found out that it wasn’t a party most of them just skedaddled.

“My fellow Americans,” he shouted to the three kids who were left and then he went on about when he was class president he would make sure that everyone got free soda. When Amy, who was seven years of age, asked him how. He said he’d get back to her on that point and she seemed happy enough with that answer. Maybe getting Buzz elected wasn’t gonna be that difficult after all.

Just before the bell, Buzz disappeared from class. He just got up and walked out, sayin’ to Teach that he had important work to do. When the Principal dragged him back about ten minutes later by his ear, it was because he had gone around all the classes and shook peoples’ hands even although they were in the middle of lessons. Even as the teachers were throwin’ him outta class, he still tried to make a speech.

The popular front-runner of the campaign was Jason Heart, a tall, skinny kid who was tellin’ folks that he was committed to helpin’ everyone in school and that Buzz should just be plain committed. Well that kinda talk don’t help anyone, in my book and I told Jason as much.

It was at our darkest hour that Buzz’s Maw came up with a plan. Even though she was as broke as a broke thing, she could still bake and she made cup cakes for everyone in the school (even three for Big Peggy who liked her cup cakes). Well this blew Jason Commitment outta the ball park and Buzz was elected by a land slide.

As a celebration, Buzz suggested that me and him mosey down to the ice-cream parlour and that he’d get it for free on account of him being President and all. Mister McCluskey was servin’ that day and he said, that he wasn’t one of Buzz’s ‘Fellow Americans’ thank you very much, and that we was getting’ no free ice cream either – ‘cause he’d never heard that kinda crazy talk for many a year. So we just left

Buzz only lasted as President for the rest of the week as he sold his title to Jason for a box of candy and a copy of Huckleberry Finn.

Neither of them got us any free soda. You just can’t trust politicians.

bobby stevenson 2016

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Mister Brilliant (for Lily on her birthday)

judyardeviantart

His real name was Cuthbert Dogoody but to everyone else he was simply known as Mister Brilliant.

He’d never had the easiest of lives, had Cuthbert. When he was five years of age his father ran away to sea – at least that’s what his mother had told him – the truth of the matter was that his father moved in with a young blonde lady three streets over, and the man who Cuthbert knew as the postman was actually his dad.

Cuthbert’s grandmother, Ethel (the ever ready) was a money-lender who ended up being sent to prison for her particularly difficult ways with her customers. Cuthbert’s mother told her son, that his grandmother was spending a few years trying to find the source of the River Nile. It always amazed Cuthbert, later in life, that he had believed the story and had told all the kids in his class at school about Grandma Ethel – the explorer.

His uncle, Stan the Man, who was a part-time magician and someone who Cuthbert had always looked up to (literally, he was six feet seven) died while attempting to hold his breath in a fish tank. The tank was actually in a Chinese restaurant, and Stan had attempted it as part of a bet with Shanghai Lil the owner of the establishment.

Sadie, uncle Stan’s widow, had attempted to fill Stan’s rather big shoes (he had also been a part-time clown) by looking after Cuthbert and to helping him with his life. This mostly involved Cuthbert going along on dates with Sadie and several gentlemen from the Royal Navy. Stan would sit in the corner of a bar with a cola and a packet of chips, while Sadie sat kissing some man or other.

His best friend in the whole world was Teddy who was in his class in school. Teddy was without doubt the most popular kid in the place. There wasn’t anything Teddy couldn’t do, or anyone that Teddy couldn’t charm and the one thing that Teddy always did was look after his best pal, Cuthbert. No one bullied Cuthbert, not while Teddy was about.

Teddy knew that his best bud’s father was actually the postman but it would never have crossed Teddy’s mind to ever say anything that would hurt his pal.

One afternoon on the way home from school, Teddy asked Cuthbert to be his ‘blood brother’. They cut their thumbs then mixed their blood together and that was them set for life. At least that’s what Cuthbert thought. The truth was that Teddy was taking the long way around to tell his pal, that his mother had met a man who was big in ladies’ underwear and that they were moving to somewhere called, Liverpool.

The following Monday, Teddy was gone. When Cuthbert went into school, all the folks who had been charmed by Teddy were ready to bully Cuthbert. It wasn’t pleasant, to say the least, but with a little bit of running and keeping one’s head down, Cuthbert made it to the end of his school career, relatively intact.

Cuthbert got his first job as a tea-boy in an office of an insurance firm. Cuthbert’s duties involved making the tea, coffee (for those of that persuasion), lemonade and a little whisky for Mister McCallister who was partial to that sort of thing.

Everything was going well until Seamus Hooster (of the Hooster Brothers Insurance Agency) got trampled on by a runaway giraffe one wet Tuesday in the High Street. This caused the firm to close and the folks, including Cuthbert, were all made redundant.

That was the very same day that Cuthbert came home to find that his mother had moved without leaving a forwarding address. It seemed to Cuthbert that this was the way life worked, for when a soul was down the rest of the world just jumped on top of them and kicked their heads.

Now you might think that all of these shenanigans would have meant the end of Cuthbert Dogoody – but you’d be wrong.

Cuthbert was either not like lesser men, or perhaps he was too naive to see the predicament he was in – but one day, one very early day when Cuthbert had sat up all night thinking about what to do next – he let out an exclamation of ‘A-ha!’. That was all he said: ‘A-ha’.

But it was enough, as far as Cuthbert was concerned, as it spoke a million words. At least to him.

For you see, at a very early age, Cuthbert decided that life was difficult for everyone and people didn’t need to be reminded of that. What people did need reminding of was their the possibilities. In everyone’s life (and Cuthbert was sure he meant everyone) there were bad times, good times and blooming brilliant times. At some point in the future a brilliant time would come popping up without warning.

So Cuthbert made it his life’s work to remind everyone and anyone that brilliant times were just around the corner.

If he ever met anyone down or tired he’d just talk to them about how, someday soon, brilliant times were just up ahead.

“Not long now,” he’d shout to people and they’d always call back:

“Till when, Mister Brilliant?”

“Till good things come around the corner.”

From that day onwards he was known as Mister Brilliant – because (and he was right) good times were just up the road a little, and everyone got their shot at it.

I think Mister Brilliant can see yours just coming into view, Lily.

Enjoy!

 

 

bobby stevenson 2016

photo: judyar.deviantart.com

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

Me and Buzz and the Geetars

guitarman_by-randymoberg

One night over by Cripple Creek when Buzz was working as a Bus Boy in Mama Leone’s Fish Factory, I went by to see how things were doing.

That place was dead, I mean real dead, I mean as dead as Jimmy Manson wanting to play quarterback after that photo of him dressed as Shirley Temple went around the team; that dead.

“S’up?” I said to old Buzz.

Buzz just looked real bored, he’d heard the door open thought it was a customer and then he had to find out it was only me. Okay, he was happy to see me an’ all but I sure wasn’t going to tip him, not like a real boney fidey customer would.

“I need money,” says Buzz to me as if that was news to anyone. “I mean real money, I wanna start a musical band with geetars and stuff.” Well that was the first I’d heard of Buzz and the geetar thing. Sometimes it is hard just to keep up with his ideas, he has so many, then he gets tired from having all these thoughts and he just goes to sleep. That’s the way it was back then, Buzz sleeping even in the middle of the day.

“You’ll be in the band too,” he says to me as if I could play something. But let’s just say it out here and now, Buzz didn’t know the first thing about any musical instrument – so who was going to play what in the band – was just a moot point.

“Buzz, we can’t play anything,” I says to him stating the obvious.

“Didn’t stop the big New York bands,” he says right back at me.

“I think, you’ll find it did, Buzz,” I says to him.

Just then the Mayor and his latest lil’ girlfriend sashayed  in to try some of Mama Leone’s fish and that was the end of our talk, especially since the Mayor was well-known as a BT in eating circles (a big tipper).

Buzz never mentioned nothin’ about the band again – least ways not for a while until the night we were sharing a soda at the railway tunnel and he says ‘I’ve bought a geetar.”

Well you could have run me over with the next cargo train bound for the coast, I was that shocked.

“You what?” I had to be sure I had heard what I had heard.

So he said he’d not really bought a guitar but found it in a dump truck right behind the old jazz club on Washington Avenue.

“Musta cost a pretty penny, that’s for sure, Hawkeye,” said Buzz. I asked him who Hawkeye was and he said:

“Why that’s your new name in the band,” he says to me without even a hint of joking in his voice.

“Hawkeye?”

“Yup and mine is Running Wolf,” he said with a, ‘I thought all this up myself’, smile on his face.

“You say some stooped things, Buzz but that has got to be the stoopidist in the history of stooopid things and that saying somethin’.”

Buzz told me if I didn’t like it that I could ‘skedaddle’ as there were plenty more fish in the sea (I guess he had been working at Mama Leone’s a little too long) and that I had never shown any signs of being a geetar player anyhoo.

So we parted pretty badly that night with me shouting “Run away, Running Wolf” and thinking it was clever at the time when it was just plain embarrassing.

The next time I saw Buzz was a couple of weeks later when he was playing his geetar on the corner of Vine and Stanford. There was one string on the geetar and he was pluckin’ it within an inch of its life. He was singing real loud to make up for the lack of music. When I say singing…..well I reckon you can work that out for yourselves.

I looked in the hat he’d placed on the sidewalk and it had a 5 bits already in it.

“Buzz,” I said.

“What?” he said.

“Who gave you the 5 bits?” I asked.

Then he looked real red in the face and I knew he’d put it there himself and it was most likely a tip from the Mayor or his latest lil’ girlfriend.

“How’s things?” I asked.

“Not good, not good at all,” he said with a real sad face. “People just keep walking by.”

So right there and then I decided to help my bestest pal in the whole world and did a lil’ monkey dance to accompany the song. Before you knows it, all the folks in town were throwing money in the hat and shouting ‘dance monkey boy, dance.”

By sundown we’d made nearly a dollar, a whole dollar just for dancin’ and singing.

As we walked up towards Cripple Creek I asked Buzz what we should do with the money and he said: “it’s going in my fund to help when I run for President of these, here United States.”

I reckon he probably will and all.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2wee bobby

painting: guitarman_by-randymoberg

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ME and BUZZ and THE ALIEN ABDUCTION

buzz2

He got the cops to call me instead of his Ma. She had said if he was arrested one more time that he would have to sleep in the town dump ‘cause she was washing her hands of him. Buzz knew she’d never do that but still – he didn’t want to take the chance, so I get woken by a call a 3.22 in the morning. I kid you not.

The cop at the desk looks at me as if I’m just as stupid as Buzz.

“He’s in the back and I think you know where to go.”

The truth is, I did know where to go – over the years, me and Buzz both had cooling off time in the room at the back. It was never for anything serious but then that’s what happens in small towns, the cops throw you in the back room to keep you out of the road of your Ma and Pa.

Buzz’s face was deep purple, I mean deep grape purple by the time I got to the room and there was some cowboy counting: ‘1001..‘1002’…’1003’…. I need to tell you at this point that Buzz was hand-standing against the wall and he was betting with the other kids in the jail that he could stay up the longest.

“Another ten seconds and you’re the champion of Duchess County jail,” shouted the cowboy. Who would have thought then – that would be the exact second when Buzz passed out? I mean he just lay there all dead to the world. I looked at the cowboy who looked at the other kids in the cell he’d been betting with.

“Act of God,” called the cowboy.

“What cha sayin’?” said the skinny little kid with bad skin.

“I’m sayin’, it’s an act of God.”

“And?” asked the mean kid with the tattoos. “And I want you to think real careful before you answer.”

Then the mean kid punched his palm with his fist followed by a real evil smile. I always wondered were these kids born with evil mean smiles or did they practice hard at it?

Buzz was coming around to opening his eyes as the cowboy was handing back the green stuff to the other kids.

By the time Buzz could stand, the rest of the kids had been released. He stuck his arm around my neck and I carried him out of the cop store.

Buzz didn’t want to go home, not yet, leastways not until he got a story together that his Ma would believe. She was like the secret police or somethin’, I mean that woman could smell a lie at spittin’ distance with her eyes closed – and boy did Buzz’s Ma know how to spit. When she was younger, she’d been the Tri-county spittin’ Champion. There were cups on her smoking table and she was real proud of them.

Every birthday party whether she was asked or not, she would chew some baccy then spit the whole caboodle across the room into a vase which was always sat next to her Grandma’s urn.

The back wall had brown stains where she’d been practisin’. When she got the baccy in the vase she’d give a chuckle then spit the rest of her goo into the fire, and after it sizzled she’d declare it the best birthday party ever.

You can kinda see where Buzz got his craziness from.

But I’m floatin’ away from the story here – so where were we? Oh, yeh, so Buzz comes back to my place and I asks him:

“What was you in for this time?”

“It’s a long story,” he says to me. It always is.

So I sit down knowin’ I’m gonna regret askin’ but I can’t help myself but before I can ask him for more, he’s already started the story…

“You remember, Becky Weiss?” asks Buzz.

I think I do but I ain’t sure, so I just kinda shrug my shoulder.

“Yeh, you do. She was the red-headed kid who claimed she’d been abducted by aliens.”

Then I remembered that Becky Weiss. She got pregnant at 15 and told everyone the father was a creature from Saturn who took her against her will in the middle of the night. When the kid was born it was the spittin’ image of Frank Dunbar from the farm down by the lake, I think her story kinda fell apart at that point.

“She’s got 5 kids now, claims the man from Saturn visits her every full moon and every year she gets pregnant. Well I met her tonight and guess what, she was askin’ ‘bout you.”

“Me?” Jeez until five minutes ago I could even remember who Becky Weiss was.

“Yeh, she asked what had happened to my cute bud.”

The blood-shot straight through the top of my head.

“She didn’t?”

“Did too. Anyhoo, that ain’t the story. When I first see her, she’s carrying some groceries and they spill over onto the sidewalk. So I stop and I help a lady in distress. Then I sees who it is, well I saw that tattoo of Jimmy Carter on the back of her neck first and I knew it was her.”

“Becky?” I said.

“Buzz? Is that really you?”

So Buzz tells me that he and Becky got quickly to talking ‘bout things and what had happened to her since her first alien abduction; nothing much, apparently, ‘cept for the other alien abductions. You gotta wonder if Becky was a prize in some lottery for aliens? I mean, these space creatures travel way across the Milky Way just to meet Becky Weiss?

Yep, it’s got me puzzlin’ as well, bro’. I ain’t questionin’ anythin’, just wonderin’ that’s all.

“So we’re talking and there’s nothin’ else you understand, just talking,” says Buzz.

“I hear ya,” I say.

“Then there’s a knocking on the window of Becky’s place.”

“So what?” I ask.

“She says that it might be the alien comin’ a callin’. Now I don’t know about you but I ain’t one to be abducted by no alien.”

“So what did you do?”

Jeez this story was starting to get excitin’, ‘though I’d never tell Buzz that.

“Well I just punched the alien straight in the face, no whys or wherefores, you understand don’t cha?”

I nodded my head that I did but I don’t think I really did.

“So….,” and I knew I was gonna regret asking, “what happened next?”

Then Buzz got real upset and said that the alien had called the cops because of the fact that the spaceman had been hit straight in his antenna.

“I didn’t know aliens could call the cops,” I said, genuinely.

And apparently neither did Buzz.

Now here’s the thing, it was only years later when I was attending the funeral of Becky Andrews (once known as Becky Weiss) that I found out that some of the boys of the town used to dress up as aliens to have their own sweet way with Becky. You hear what I’m sayin’, don’t cha?

Just so’s you know, Buzz told his Ma he’d fallen asleep at my place and she seemed happy with that.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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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

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We Need Your Heart To Sing Its Song

Hope2

 

Don’t cry too long

My little one

The world is waiting on your smile

Don’t listen to the midnight whispers

It is their way

To make things dark

Don’t feel

That other hearts are hardened

Sometimes they need

To take a rest

Don’t wish that you were someone

Other

This life is only meant to test.

Don’t think

That you are somehow chosen

For all the trials in the world

Don’t cry too long

My little urchin

We need your heart to sing

Its song.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Zoot and Sandy and Happiness

elephant

As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and were sitting by the river.

“You think them birds are going somewhere?” Asked Zoot to his pal.

“Why do you ask, young Zoot?” Replied Sandy in a fatherly kinda way.

“Oh, just wonderin’. Can’t help but wonder about life sometimes, that’s all.”

“You sickenin’ for somethin’?” Asked a concerned Sandy.

“Not that I know, I just wondered if those birds were lookin’ for happiness. You know they ain’t happy where they are, so maybe they fly on to somewhere else. Maybe happiness is a place.”

“Hold on one minute there, Buddy. What makes the birds happy might not make you happy. I mean, you’re a dog. Would eating seeds and berries and sitting on tree branches mean happiness to you?”

Zoot thought about it for a while.

“Why, I guess you’re right Sandy, ain’t nothin’ there that would make me happy. But maybe where there are trees and berries they’d be things to make a dog happy,too?”

“I ain’t sayin’ you’re right and I ain’t sayin’ you’re wrong. I’m just sayin’ to think about it different. Now we’re happy here sittin’ by the river and talkin’

about this and that and everythin’ else. Well ain’t we?”

“I guess,” said Zoot.

“All we got, is ourselves and the sea, and they ain’t chargin’ for that yet.”

“What about money ‘though, Sandy. Don’t that make folks happy?”

“Might do, for a short time,” said Sandy. “But then, if you’re only happy when you got money, you’re gonna have to keep getting’ money, to make you feel you’re happy. Kinda like a drug or smokin’ or stuff.”

“So money don’t make ya happy,Sandy?”

“That ain’t what I’m sayin’, bud. I’m sayin’ if you need it to make you happy then you’re never going to be truly happy.”

Zoot thought about all this for a time, then said: “What about the birds. Don’t they travel somewhere else to be happy.”

“I can’t really talk for the birds, Zoot, but if goin’ somewhere else is gonna make you happy, you really need to have been happy before you started out.”

“I don’t understand,” said Zoot.

“You might travel to another place, and ‘cause it’s new or different…”

“…or both,” added Zoot.

“Or both, you might be convinced that you’re happy ‘cause it’s not where you came from. But give it long enough and the way you’re feelin’ will sink back into your thoughts, ‘cause the new place it ain’t so new anymore…”

“..or different,” added Zoot again.

“..or different.”

“So what you’re sayin’ is, if I ain’t happy here, I ain’t gonna be happy anywhere.”

“That’s about it. ‘Cause I got you and you got me and we both got the sea, and all that makes me happy.”

“And me.”

“And you, Zoot. So be happy here and now and you’ll always be happy.”

“How do I do that Sandy?”

“Just count your blessings, Zoot. Some folks would give everythin’ just to have what you have, but when you have it every day, you sometimes take things for granted. You forget how lucky you really are.”

“Tell you what, Sandy, I’m gonna walk home and count up my blessings all the way.”

“You do that, Zoot and I’ll see ya tomorrow, same place.”

“See ya tomorrow.”

Then Zoot started countin’ all the way home.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Dog Who Loved To Drive

dog

It was New Year’s Day, 1913 and Andrew was bored. Everyone in the house was sleeping off the after-effects of the Ball which his parents insisted on holding every stupid year. This meant that no one would be driving the motor car that day and this made Andrew smile. All he needed was to rev the old beast up, find Buster and then the two of them could be off to the seaside.

Buster wasn’t just Andrew’s dog, he was his best pal and was probably much cleverer than the boy  – but then again, Buster wasn’t one to brag.

Andrew sat Buster in the driving seat as he pushed the car silently out of the stables and under the nose of Reynolds – the little man who looked after everything mechanical for the big house.

Andrew’s father promised his son his own motor car when it came to the time that he would go up to Oxford – until then he had to take every opportunity to teach himself the rudiments of driving. How hard could it be? I mean, Buster was steering the car along the drive and he was a dog.

Before they got to the big gates Andrew checked there was enough fuel to get them to the coast and back.

“Good man, Reynolds,” thought Andrew – Reynolds always kept the motor car in ship-shape and ready for the off. All Andrew had to do was turn the crank and that would be that. The motor car spluttered into life, shaking and banging before it settled down and began purr like a big cat.

Andrew hopped in and made Buster sit in the passenger seat (much to the dog’s annoyance). It was several minutes before the dog looked in Andrew’s direction again. Okay, so the dog was very clever and very friendly but it could get annoyed if it didn’t get its own way. Andrew knew how to bring Buster around by giving him a saucer of champagne – and not just any kind of champagne it had to be the 1893 and it had to be served at room temperature. Buster was a snob, as if I need to tell you.

It wasn’t long before they were on the road to the coast. Naturally being New Year’s Day, the road was empty of traffic without even a horse to be seen. The road was straight enough that Andrew felt confident to let Buster steer the car, Andrew worked all the other buttons and pedals.

Whether it was the effects of a  late night or all the dancing at the Ball, sleep crept up on Andrew and he fell into a deep dream. Buster hadn’t noticed and wasn’t caring since he was driving a human car and it felt great.  As they drove through the next town, a Mrs Styler of Heyham High Street looked out her window to see one of those new motor cars being driven by a dog and a man (who looked unconscious) in the other seat. She was going to mention it to her husband when she decided that he was already looking for an excuse to get her locked up and this would be the perfect gift for him, so she went back to bed and lay down in the darkened room.

Somewhere just outside of town the car ran out of fuel and Buster guided it to the side of the road. He then started to bark at Andrew.  Okay Andrew would have heard it as just barking but to Buster it sounded as if he was telling his lazy friend to fill up the car with more fuel. After what seemed a very long time (which in dog’s years was probably true) Buster decided to fill up the car with fuel himself; a farmer who was in field nearby saw this and decided that he had been working too hard and for the first time in his life went home early.

Once again Buster barked and barked but he couldn’t get Andrew to waken so being a very self-reliant dog, it decided to turn the crank handle itself. With Andrew’s hands and feet still on the buttons and such like, the motor car suddenly moved off on its own. It shot down the coast road with Buster running behind barking that someone should try to stop the human motor car.

The Reverend Dunlop was opening his church doors when he saw a motor car driving down the road with the driver asleep and a dog running behind barking. He smiled to himself and continued with his work.  Just as the motor car entered town, Buster managed to jump back on board and turn the car along the coast road. Buster knew he couldn’t stop the car – so his only options were to drive it into the sea, or let it run out of fuel, or try to turn the motor car around and head for home.

It was then that Buster noticed a large house with many dogs and bitches running around the garden. He turned the motor car into the drive and as the car laboured up the hill, he invited the other animals to jump aboard. As he drove the car out of the grounds there must have been nearly twenty dogs and bitches sitting in the motor car. Two of them were on top of the sleeping Andrew.

Buster continued driving along the coast and at the big pier, the car once again ran out of fuel. So leaving the sleeping Andrew in the car, Buster and his pals spent several hours running along the beach and stealing food when the humans weren’t looking. All too quickly the sun started to go down and so Buster filled the car with the last of the fuel, and got several of his pals to turn the crank.

After a very satisfying day, Buster drove back through the dogs’ home, dropping off his friends. It was dark when the car reached home and as Buster had no way of stopping it, he drove the car into the garage hoping the something would bring it to a halt. Actually the car burst through the back wall and continued across the lawn but by this time Buster had already jumped off.

Reynolds found a very confused Andrew several miles away in the forest where the motor car had eventually run out of fuel. Buster on the other hand was safely tucked up in his warm bed and dreaming of more adventures.

 

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Zoot and Sandy

elephant

Dream Thieves

Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were, without doubt, the best of pals in the whole wide world. They loved to sit by the river and watch time floating past their little seat.

They were always comfortable in each other’s company, so much so that most times they never felt the need to talk – sometimes this lasted for hours. Just the one being at their side was enough for the other.

“How come we never talk?” asked Sandy to his pal one day.

“Well, perhaps we hear too much talking in our lives away from the beach,” said a very thoughtful Zoot.

“You know,” said Sandy. “I don’t know too much about your life and you don’t know much about mine but it doesn’t seem to matter.”

“No, it doesn’t,” said Zoot but there was a feeling that he would like to have known more. “Did you never want to do something with your life?” asked the dog.

“I did, I still do,” said the elephant. “I want to be an opera singer.”

“That’s cool, I never knew that about you,” said Zoot the dog.

“What about you?” asked Sandy.

“Well, I’ve always wanted to be a footballer,” said a very proud Zoot.

“So why haven’t you?” asked a curious elephant.

“Because dogs don’t play football and if I might bring it up, elephants don’t sing in operas,” said Zoot, sadly.

And even ‘though they discussed it for the rest of the day neither of them could remember where they’d read that dogs didn’t play football and elephants didn’t sing in operas.

The following day was very like the previous one with the friends sitting by the river watching life fly by them.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Sandy. “I have been thinking about the opera and my singing. What would my family say?” he asked to no one in particular. “And what about my friends?”

Zoot thought for a moment then said, “I am your friend and I would be proud if you sang and if the singing made you happy.”

Sandy asked Zoot if he wanted anything. Zoot told him that he wanted to be a footballer. Apparently dogs were very good at playing football except people never gave dogs a chance.

Then Sandy told Zoot a story about the most dangerous people in the whole wide world. Some of these people weren’t born dangerous, some couldn’t be anything other than dangerous and some didn’t mean to be dangerous.

Zoot wanted to know who these people were and where they lived.

“They live everywhere,” said Sandy.

“Everywhere?” asked Zoot.

“There have a name, one they don’t mention but they know each other by sight. They are called the Dream Thieves.”

Zoot looked confused. “So that is why you are not an opera singer and I am not a footballer?”

Sandy told Zoot that the Dream Thieves didn’t have any power of their own; after all they would prefer that everyone lived in caves – that we were all constantly in the dark.

“They live off your fear. By thinking you are not good enough feeds them with power.”

“How do we beat the Dream Thieves?” asked Zoot.

“By only trusting yourself,” said Sandy proudly.”The Dream Thieves are really the scared ones. They don’t want you to do something they are afraid to do themselves.”

Zoot thought for a few moments and then stood.

“I am off to play football, I’ll see you tomorrow,” said Zoot and whistled all the way home.

 

The Birds

As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and were sitting by the river.

“Them things in the sky,” said Zoot.

“The birds?” Asked Sandy.

“Yup, the birds, do you think they are happy?”

“I guess so,” said Sandy. “Why wouldn’t they be?”

“I wish I could fly,” said Zoot.

Sandy smiled to himself about flying dogs and then remembered that story about flying elephants.

“Why would you want to do a thing like that – flying , it’s dangerous,” said Sandy.

“Not for the birds, it isn’t.”

“Yeh, but they don’t know any better. Flying is all they know.” Sandy was getting worried about Zoot.

“What’s up, Zoot?”

“I’m fed up being a dog, I want to be able to fly.”

“Don’t you think, that one of those birds is looking down at us and saying, I wish I was an elephant or a dog, so that I can stay on the ground – I’m tired of always flying?”

“Nope.”

“I can bet you they do. It’s they way we are all made. Wishing to be something or someone else.”

“I do it all the time,” said Zoot. “I’m always wishing I wasn’t a dog.”

“That’s because being a dog is easy for you, you were born a dog, and despite what you wish for, you’ll probably die a dog. Unless you’ve got a hankering to tie a pair of wings on your back; it’s because you’re a dog, you don’t see how special that is.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said a confused Zoot.

“We’re all made to be something that’s different from everything else. No matter what you say, Zoot, you’re unique.”

“I am?”

“Of course you are, and more importantly you’re my pal. Do you think I would be friends with just anyone?”

“I guess not,” said Zoot, who was a little more pleased.

“Some are made to fly, some are born to dance, some to sing, some to stand and see the stars. All of us, and I mean all of us, are different from the next thing. Even the leaves on the trees are all different.”

“So what are you saying, Sandy?” Asked Zoot.

“That you were born to be a dog, Zoot, my friend. And even if there is a dog kinda like you in the future, he won’t have been born in this time, knowing me, doing the things we do.”

“Like sitting by the river and talking?”

“Exactly. Too many people…”

“And animals,” added Zoot.

“And animals are unhappy with what they’ve got. But if they could only see that what they’ve got is a miracle then they’d stop wishing to be something else. You are what the universe made you. If you spend your days wishing it away, then you’ve turned your back on the universe. Why would anything want to do that?”

“So I should stop wishing I wasn’t a dog and just be happy.”

“You got it.”

“What about being a rich dog then?” Asked Zoot.

Sandy just looked at his buddy and smiled. That’s why he loved Zoot so much.

 

The Universe

Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were, without doubt, the best of pals in the whole wide world. They loved to sit by the river and watch time floating past their little seat.

“Looks like another great day,” said Zoot.

“It’s always a great day,” agreed Sandy. “Tell me something pal, what do you see when you look in the mirror?” Asked the elephant.

“Usually I notice that the paint in the wall behind me needs painting, that’s what I see. To be honest it annoys me,” said the dog.

“Anything else?” Asked Sandy in a real curious manner as elephants tended to do.

“Well I see me.”

“Aha!” Shouted Sandy.

“What? What have I said?” Questioned the dog, feeling as if he must have put his paw in it once again.

“You see what you think is yourself. What your brain tells you to see.”

“So you’re saying, that I ain’t a dog?” Asked Zoot.

“Of course you’re a dog, Zoot and if you don’t mind me saying, the best dog I’ve ever met. But you don’t see what I see.”

“Cause you see an elephant when you look in your mirror,” said Zoot smugly.

“I grant you that point, but when I look at you, I see you through an elephant’s brain and it won’t be what you see through a dog’s brain.”

“Is there a point to all of this?” Asked a perplexed Zoot.

“I’m just saying that we judge folks on what we see, and we sometimes think that they are wrong when all the time it’s just the way our brain is warping everything that makes us see them differently.”

“So we don’t really stand a chance at being fair, is that what you’re saying Sandy?”

“I’m just saying that you have to make allowances. I make allowances for you being a dog, just as you make allowances for me being perfect,” said Sandy with the biggest elephant grin.

“Oh I make allowances for you, that’s for sure,” said Zoot.

“Meaning what?” Asked a curious elephant.

“Meaning that you are much bigger than me and sometimes when you sit on the bench real hard, I shoot up several feet. Twice I’ve landed in the sea.”

“And I make allowances for you, Zoot when you get in to one of those ‘chasing your tail’ things.”

“I do it because it’s fun, Sandy.”

“Exactly Zoot. You see a wild thing that needs to be chased and I just see a dog’s tail. Beautiful as it is. No one sees the universe the same. Some people look at those birds and wonder where they’re headed. Some look at them and wonder what they’d taste like with some potatoes and some just look at them in wonder.”

“So what do we do, Sandy?”

“We make allowances for everyone and everything.”

And with that Zoot and Sandy just stared at the universe and saw different things.

 

Happiness

As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and were sitting by the river.

“You think them birds are going somewhere?” Asked Zoot to his pal.

“Why do you ask, young Zoot?” Replied Sandy in a fatherly kinda way.

“Oh, just wonderin’. Can’t help but wonder about life sometimes, that’s all.”

“You sickenin’ for somethin’?” Asked a concerned Sandy.

“Not that I know, I just wondered if those birds were lookin’ for happiness. You know they ain’t happy where they are, so maybe they fly on to somewhere else. Maybe happiness is a place.”

“Hold on one minute there, Buddy. What makes the birds happy might not make you happy. I mean, you’re a dog. Would eating seeds and berries and sitting on tree branches mean happiness to you?”

Zoot thought about it for a while.

“Why, I guess you’re right Sandy, ain’t nothin’ there that would make me happy. But maybe where there are trees and berries they’d be things to make a dog happy,too?”

“I ain’t sayin’ you’re right and I ain’t sayin’ you’re wrong. I’m just sayin’ to think about it different. Now we’re happy here sittin’ by the river and talkin’

about this and that and everythin’ else. Well ain’t we?”

“I guess,” said Zoot.

“All we got, is ourselves and the sea, and they ain’t chargin’ for that yet.”

“What about money ‘though, Sandy. Don’t that make folks happy?”

“Might do, for a short time,” said Sandy. “But then, if you’re only happy when you got money, you’re gonna have to keep getting’ money, to make you feel

you’re happy. Kinda like a drug or smokin’ or stuff.”

“So money don’t make ya happy,Sandy?”

“That ain’t what I’m sayin’, bud. I’m sayin’ if you need it to make you happy then you’re never going to be truly happy.”

Zoot thought about all this for a time, then said: “What about the birds. Don’t they travel somewhere else to be happy.”

“I can’t really talk for the birds, Zoot, but if goin’ somewhere else is gonna make you happy, you really need to have been happy before you started out.”

“I don’t understand,” said Zoot.

“You might travel to another place, and ‘cause it’s new or different…”

“…or both,” added Zoot.

“Or both, you might be convinced that you’re happy ‘cause it’s not where you came from. But give it long enough and the way you’re feelin’ will sink back into your thoughts, ‘cause the new place it ain’t so new anymore…”

“..or different,” added Zoot again.

“..or different.”

“So what you’re sayin’ is, if I ain’t happy here, I ain’t gonna be happy anywhere.”

“That’s about it. ‘Cause I got you and you got me and we both got the sea, and all that makes me happy.”

“And me.”

“And you, Zoot. So be happy here and now and you’ll always be happy.”

“How do I do that Sandy?”

“Just count your blessings, Zoot. Some folks would give everythin’ just to have what you have, but when you have it every day, you sometimes take things for granted. You forget how lucky you really are.”

“Tell you what, Sandy, I’m gonna walk home and count up my blessings all the way.”

“You do that, Zoot and I’ll see ya tomorrow, same place.”

“See ya tomorrow.”

Then Zoot started countin’ all the way home.
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The Boy Who Loved To Handstand

lovers

Charlie lived in grey house which stood in a grey street which weaved its way through a grey town. He wasn’t an unhappy kid – on the contrary, Charlie saw the world both as beautiful and crazy all at the same time.

But where Charlie was alone was in the way he looked at the world. He knew that there was more to life than all this greyness, the question was where to find it.

His grey school room was taught over by a grey teacher who had once shown something other than grey from her eyes but as Charlie didn’t have a word for it, he decided he must have imagined it.
One day Charlie was busy drawing an elephant, (on a piece of paper, not actually drawing on an elephant as that would have been stupid) with his tongue hanging out of his mouth and as he scribbled hard, his pencil shot out of his hand and under his desk.

When Charlie leaned down to get his pencil, two strange things happened. One – all the blood rushed to his head and made him feel really dizzy. Two – the world seemed to take on something other than  grey, he still had no idea what it was but for the first time Charlie could see the world in colours.

He sat upright just a bit too quickly and nearly made himself sick – but there it was, the world was back to being grey.
Charlie decided to keep this secret to himself and run all the way home. When he got to his bedroom, he had one last look out in the hall, in case the family were nearby then he went into his room and did a handstand against the wall. Sure enough the world became colourful again, so much nicer than the grey one.

So every chance he could get, Charlie would stand on his hands and enjoy the way he looked at the world. Okay, so no one else looked at the world the way Charlie did, but he didn’t care, in fact he loved being the only one who knew the secret.

One day, when he felt like a walk, Charlie went down to the river and when no one was looking, he stood on his hands and the world seemed right again. That was until a large shadow was cast across his face – he hoped it wasn’t the kids from the other street, he knew they’d never understand but it wasn’t them. Instead, it was a young girl and what was more surprising was the fact that her face was the right way up.

Charlie was used to seeing a beautiful world but with people the wrong way round.

You see, the pretty young girl loved to see the world the same way as Charlie did, she loved to stand on her hands too and that made Charlie happy.

The two of them could share the beautiful world now. He wasn’t alone.

 

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THING and His Teacher

thing

Her name was Elizabeth Browning, yep, just like the poet lady and to everyone at Thing’s school, she had been known as Mrs Honey. Where that name came from no one was sure, but she did make everyone feel good and warm (just like honey). There is probably a teacher like that in most peoples’ lives; someone who comes along once in the whole schooling process and manages to get the best out of everyone.

Thing remembered his first day at school and how he’d seen Mrs Honey skim the room with those deep blue eyes which came to rest on Thing’s gaze.

“And who might you be, little one?” She asked.

“They call me Thing,” he’d answered.

“Who do?”

“Everyone,” he’d replied.

“Then if it’s good enough for everyone then it’s good enough for me.”

And with that Mrs Honey had started to get to know all the new kids. For she knew that a classroom is just a small slice of the world, and some folks were going to have to be helped to swim through it all and some others would only need the lightest of shoves.

The most important point that Mrs Honey had noticed about Thing was, that he might look different from some of the other folks in the class but, basically he was just a kid like everyone else. It was the ones who didn’t look different on the outside that some folks could overlook and not realise that they were drowning inside.

One warm, scarlet red, evening Thing was sitting at the mouth of his cave and wasn’t really thinking about much – maybe a bit of this or that sometimes, but nothing that could trouble a mind. It had been a while since Thing had left school for the final time and Mrs Honey had long since retired, so he was surprised, as probably you and I would be, to see her walking her way up to the cave.

“Well I do declare,” she shouted as she got nearer. “How’s my little precious Thing doing these days?”

So Mrs Honey sat because, as she said, she wasn’t as young as she once had been, and she and Thing talked over lots and lots of different stuff. He told her that he was waiting on his parents to come home someday and she told him about how much she missed teaching and all the children that had passed through her class.

Then she asked what Thing had been doing since he’d left school.

“Some of this and some of that,” he told her. “I went looking for the horizon but I never got to find it,” he said sadly.

And Mrs Honey told Thing that everyone was looking for some kind of horizon, because everyone thought that happiness probably lay just over the horizon.

“So how come the horizon is so hard to find?” Thing asked his old teacher.

“ ’Cause the horizon don’t really exist. It’s just somethin’ out there. Happiness is in here and here,” and with that she touched her heart and her head.

Then she asked Thing if he’d ever thought of teaching and he had to say that he hadn’t.

“Other folks wouldn’t let me teach. I mean, when I walk through the town people sometimes throw rocks at me,” he said sadly.

“And these are the folks that need the teachin’.”

“About what?”

“About what? About tolerance. About understanding. About how folks are all different in their own ways. About love.”

“I could teach all that?” Asked Thing.

“Hey child, you wrote the book on that stuff.”

And Thing said he didn’t remember writing any book and Mrs Honey said it was only a term of speech.

“You could be special in so many folks’ lives, if you’d only give it a try,” said Mrs Honey.

“Where would I start?” Asked an excited Thing.

“You come and see me tomorrow and I’ll give you pointers. Goodness, as if the world don’t need someone like you. You have a heart and a mind and you can’t let that go to waste. Believe me.”

And funnily enough he did believe her. And it felt warm, like honey.

 

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Me and Buzz and The Beard

FRIENDS

I kinda wish someone had warned me about the day that Buzz decided to grow a beard. I met him on the way to school and he kept pointing to his face and sayin’ ‘huh’, ‘yeh’ and then nodding, real stupid like, then he would finish off with a ‘wow’ and click his fingers. He asked me what I thought and I just said, ‘yeh’ back to him but I had no idea what my pal was talkin’ about – not that there was anythin’ strange about that.

When we entered Titanic’s class, Buzz just winked at her, and pointed to his face (just in case you don’t know, we called her Titanic ‘cause we reckoned she was the iceberg that sunk that ship).

You should have seen the look on Titanic’s face, I mean you would have thought Buzz had just hit her. No one and I mean no one, winked at that teacher. Still, the newly bearded Buzz probably thought that he was a gift to the ladies.

I tried to get a real close look at Buzz’s face when we were supposed to be writing something about what we’d done at the weekend. But I couldn’t understand what particular growth he was talkin’ about.

“My beard,” said Buzz.

“Your what?”

“Looky here,” and Buzz pointed to a small hair under his nose (it may have even been growing out of his nose) and another single lonely hair under his lip. I have to tell you here and now (although I’d never tell Buzz) that my Grandma had more hair on her face than he did.

After school, we wandered down to the ice cream parlour and everyone we passed would get a ‘howdee’ from Buzz in a real low manly voice, and then he’d kinda point at his face. Most folks in town already thought Buzz was nuttier than a squirrel’s you know what.

At the parlour, Buzz pushed the door open the way his daddy would have done (that is if his daddy hadn’t disappeared all those years ago).

“Well, whatcha know? Buzz has got a beard.” I ain’t sure how Mister Trueman knew an’ all, but he seemed mighty impressed with Buzz’s facial stuff.

Buzz musta floated 10 feet up in the air when Mister Trueman said that and when he placed the ice cream in front of us, he said, “That’ll be three bits.”

“Ain’t it usually two bits,” I asked.

“Sure,” said Mister Trueman , “usually that’s the price – but now that Buzz is a man, that’s double for him.” Then he winked at me and I could see he thought the same about Buzz’s beard as I did. Buzz just said “Pay the man,” in a real deep voice like it was natural to be charged as an adult. I just gave Mister T, two bits like I usually did and he didn’t say nuthin’.

On the way home, Buzz stuck his chin in the Pastor’s face, and the Sherriff’s, and the Shelley Twins’ (who just ran off screamin’). Buzz looked at me as if to say, if you got it, you don’t ever lose it.

At school the next day, Titanic made announcement in class that none of her pupils were to go stickin’ their faces in any of the important folks’ faces around town. Everyone in the class looked at Buzz but he didn’t seem to know what the teacher meant.

After a weekend of Buzz lookin’ in every window in town and checkin’ himself out, Buzz turned up at school with a real dark growth under his nose. He looked like one of those bad guys in the movie who tie ladies to the rail tracks. When I got up close I could see he’d just painted it on his face and I had to laugh so hard, that I couldn’t stop. The tears were runnin’ down my face and as usual I thought I might wet my pants.

Buzz just winked at me, as ‘though nuthin’ was wrong. Titanic looked at Buzz and shook her head, I guess she had more important problems to deal with. I gotta say ‘though, it was a real hot that day and it weren’t long before Buzz beard started headin’ south. The next time I looked at him, I’m sure I did pee myself that time. His beard was kinda escapin’ from his face.

That night I took one of my paw’s old shavin’ razors and wrapped it up like it was new. The next day, I told Buzz that my paw had wanted him to have it, on account of him being a man and all.

So Buzz started shaving and we all got some peace.

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Me and Buzz and Girls

love

I remember the first time that Buzz fell in love. It was with a pretty girl called Sally Watson. Buzz had just hit thirteen years of age and his hormones were fit to be tied. I mean those things were running around his body and making him feel all sorts of things – good and bad.

Sally Watson and her family had blown in from Minnesota the previous month and had caused  ructions all along Main Street, one way and another.

Her father had come to our little part of the world to ‘help his career’ – apparently he was a banker or something. Sally’s mother was the kind of woman who’d step on you to get somewhere else – I don’t mean to talk unkindly of the woman but she was real mean and ambitious. So Buzz hanging about their door wasn’t the kind of thing they were looking for. I reckon if Mister Watson had got it into his head to buy a gun then Buzz would be picking the pellets out of his bee-hind. I kid you not.

“I have just seen the most beautiful girl in the world,” was what he said that Wednesday.

“Who?”

“She’s a vision,” said Buzz. Let me tell you with a hand on my heart that Buzz never, ever said things like that before the hormones went crazy like.

“Who?”

Buzz shrugged his shoulders, ate a couple of my mom’s cookies and then remembered he was in love and a gave out a huge sigh.

“I am in love,” he said after lying down on my sofa.

“I hope it ain’t catchin’,” I said, not wanting to have to lie on people’s sofas or anythin’.

“She’s an angel.”

“Who?” I said again, remembering that he hadn’t told me nothin’.

“That new girl, the one whose family have moved into number seventeen, the house at the top of the hill, the one nearest Heaven,” he said. I kid you not, that’s what he said. Buzz, newly turned thirteen and he’s talking like….well a crazy kid.

I asked him if he had swallowed somethin’ real bad and Buzz said that it was just the breath of love. My stomach nearly dumped my breakfast on the sofa beside Buzz ‘cause that kind of talk makes a man feel kinda sick. I kid you not.

I left Buzz on the sofa to get better and went and played Cowboys and Injuns with the Hardy Twins who were only twelve and immune from love.

The next day I was walking to the Harper’s place, up on Indian Ridge and I spots Buzz sitting outside the Watson’s house, doing nothing else but looking at their windows with his hands under his chin and sighing. No idea why he kept sighing but he seemed to like it.

“You okay?” I asked.

He just nodded his head and wouldn’t turn to look at me, he just kept on looking at the house.

“She’s in there. My angel,” said Buzz.

It was then that Mister Watson stormed out the house and came up to me, real angry like.

“Are you related to this lunatic?” Mister Watson screamed, putting his face so close to mine that I could see the hairs up his nose.

“No sir, he’s my best friend in the whole world.”

“Do you know that friend of yours has been sitting outside our house all night,” said Mister Watson.

“I did not sir, but surely he ain’t causing trouble?” I said.

“You’d think? At least not until your lunatic friend started singing at 3 in the morning, at the top of his voice. What have you got to say to that?” Man was he angry.

I said that I didn’t know that Buzz could sing and that was when Mister Watson started chasin’ me down the hill. That man could run fast when he was angry.

The following morning I just happen to be looking out of my bedroom window getting ready for church when I saw Buzz getting chased up Main Street by Mister Watson in his Sunday best. Mister Watson that is, Buzz didn’t have a Sunday best.

I reckon the path of true love ain’t that easy as that English guy said, or maybe it was the Bible, I ain’t too sure.

I didn’t really see Buzz over the next two weeks, except when he was being chased by Mister Watson. I hung out with the rest of the town’s kids who were all safe from this love thing.

I remember that warm Saturday evening down by the stream, I saw Buzz sitting under the large Southern Magnolia. I thought he was laughin’ but he wasn’t, as I got closer I sees that he was cryin’ real hard.

“What’s up?”

“She loves another.”

“Who?”

“Sally Watson. She says she loves Jesus and she ain’t got time for me,” said Buzz, who was real heartbroken.

“What you gonna do?” I asked.

And he told me that he hadn’t a darned clue what he was going to do as there was no way he could compete with Jesus.

I guess he got that one right. The next day he came around to my place to eat all our food, like he usually did, but he looked a darned sight happier.

I asked him if he had decided what to do about Sally Watson and he said:

“Who?”

 

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My Photo of a Dinosaur

dino

Now let me just say here and now that I ain’t lying. No sir.

You’re going to tell me it must have been the heat, what with all that wavy-air and all – that I must have been making it up. Photos don’t lie, okay they lie sometimes, like when Aunt Zelda got all her spots and lines removed from her face but most times photos tell it just the way it is.

I swear to you, on a whole stack of bibles and pancakes (anyone who knows me, knows I don’t lie when I swear on pancakes) that the photo I’m showing you here , is THE genuine photo that I took all by myself. And before you all ask, no I wasn’t drunk, I don’t drink nuthin’ alcoholic on the account that I’m fourteen years of age.

I, Samuel T. Walters, do solemnly swear on a stack of pancakes with Canadian syrup on top – that the photo here is the truth, the whole truth and nuthin’ but the truth…so help me….and all the rest.

I tell you one thing for nuthin’, it ain’t a cat or a dog (that was Mrs Sulliven’s suggestion when I showed her the photo) but she can’t see too good, as some days she thinks I’m Molly Schwartz from across the street: which doesn’t say too much about either Molly or me.

So what do you want me to say? That I made it all up? That’s it’s a fake? Well I ain’t, ‘cause I know it’s the truth. Buster pinned me to the sidewalk and tried to twist my ear until I admitted it was all made up. I didn’t even when my ear started making funny ringing noises. I think Buster is just scared of things he don’t understand. ‘Cause everthin’ he don’t understand he beats up or twists their ears. I think he don’t understand lots of things.

So you look at the photo and tell me you know what it is, and if I see ya in the House of Pancakes we can talk some more…don’t forget the syrup.

bobby stevenson 2017

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The First Thing

Later in life, Thing would look back on those early years and wonder.

Wonder if the perfect moment of his life was back then, and if that was true – was the perfect moment the happiest?

That isn’t to say, there aren’t perfect times later in life and in some cases, it may be that a person is older when that perfect moment arises. But there are other pivotal points: your first real kiss, holding your child, going on honeymoon with your love, or being told that the x-ray was clear – but that isn’t the perfection I am referring to, I am talking about those few seconds, or minutes, or hours when all the stars are aligning at the same time and all of them are shinning directly at you.

To be honest, Thing’s perfect moment did happen back then. It came when he had circled the Sun six times, and with a few weeks left over. Thing’s mother and father had decided to take their son to see the school that Thing would be attending when the new semester began. He was the first of his kind at the school, and it was complicated by the fact that Thing hadn’t spent much time in human company. To say, as parents, that they were nervous about their child’s future was probably an understatement.

The plan was to introduce Thing to the Principal of the school and for that person, man or woman – but most definitely human – to show little Thing around the building. This exercise allowed the kids to be that little bit less stressed on their first day.

Normally several children were taken on the grand tour at a time, but because Thing was a Thing and not a person (their words, not mine) he was to be interviewed and given the tour on his own.

It turned out that the Principal was a woman, a rather large woman, by the name of Mrs Schwartz. She had a pleasant way about her, and a very deep and loud laugh. Any kind of laugh is a good noise, and so it was with the lady – she was the very essence of kindness itself.

She explained that Thing was to be their first Thing in the school, but that other schools in the county had their share of Things, and that the William Penn Elementary school was very excited at the prospect of their first Thing. Indeed, Thing was to be welcomed with open arms.

His teacher would be a young woman by the name of Edith Fallen and that she was the best of the best. Both Thing’s parents seemed to relax a little at this news.

Thing and his family were taken on a tour of the school, and at every turn there seemed to be a very great possibility of exciting work to do in the school. Thing’s cave was safe and warm but this building was full of every wonderful idea under the sun.

It was that day, that hour, that minute as Thing left to walk down the mountain-side to go to school for the very first time, that his life solidified.  Thing insisted on walking to school himself – although, his father walked a little way behind him to keep an eye on him.

Before that, however, his father and mother stood at the door of the cave and waved off their little treasure. As Thing looked back at the warmth and safety of those standing at the cave, and his own excitement at a new world just beginning – it was then, right at that split second, that Thing passed his life’s perfect moment. He wouldn’t know it at the time – but later, much later, he would come to realize that life would never ever be so perfect again.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

The Songbird

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Some hearts are born to do certain tasks, and so it was with the songbird. She had been brought into the universe to sing her song so that others could hear and benefit.

Not that the songbird ever noticed, for each morning she would fly to the top of the highest tree and sing her heart out – that was the way she had been made and so it was the most natural thing for her to do.

One cold winter’s day an old woman happened to pass the tree, when she was on her way back from the cemetery where she had placed flowers on her husband’s grave. She was tired, as we all get tired and so she sat below the highest tree for a rest. She closed her eyes and wished that they would stay closed for ever so that she could meet again with her love, but then it happened – she heard the songbird and the sweet music warmed her heart to the world once more. The old woman raised herself from her rest and decided she would try another day, for one never knew what was around the next corner.

The snows soon melted and the winter became the spring and still the songbird sang her tunes. One afternoon as the flowers were coming to life, a fearful lad from the next village was on his way to meet his love. He stopped below the tree to think about the love of his life and of all the things he wanted to say but was afraid. Then the songbird sang her song and the lad realized that the world was a world of once chances and that if he didn’t tell his love now, he may never get another. He skipped to his love’s house whistling the tune of the songbird and spilled his heart out.

A child from several mountains over was struck with an illness and the only doctor who could help the poor child lived over the tops of several mountains the other way.  So her father carried the child over mountain, down valley and over the next mountain until he was so crippled in pain he could not go on. By chance he happened to sit beneath the highest tree just as the songbird started to sing and as he rested, he realized if there was that much beauty in the world then he could carry his sick child the rest of the way to the doctor.

And so the songbird sang and sang and helped each and every one who passed the tree.

The next year when the warm winds came to the hills, the songbird gave birth to her own little songbird. She had waited all her life for such an event. She would fly into the forest and bring back food, singing her tunes and she knew that one day, her own little songbird would sing a tune of their own.

One day when the songbird was out looking for food, a wind came and blew so hard that the little nest and her baby were blown down from the highest tree.

When the songbird returned to her tree, she saw her little one lying on the forest floor, eyes closed and no longer breathing.

That was when it happened, the songbird lost her song. She could no longer sing, there was nothing wrong with her just that her heart no longer wanted to – and so the forest became quiet.

When the old woman heard of the troubles of the songbird and how she had lost her song, she decided to visit the little bird. She sat with the songbird and caressed her and thanked her for all her songs.

Then a strange thing happened, the songbird let out one note – one pure and beautiful note. The old woman told the lad who was once fearful and he too visited the songbird, and thanked her for her tunes and suddenly the songbird sang another, different beautiful note.

And so it was that all the people who the songbird had helped came to visit, and each brought a musical note back to the songbird.

And although it took some time and perhaps the tunes were not as heartfelt as they once were, the songbird was able to sing again and the universe smiled.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Rockets

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My name is Annie and when I was nine I didn’t have too many friends except my Grandmother who always wanted to be an astronaut.

She said that my Mother had come along and put an end to that dream, thank you very much for asking – but I hadn’t asked.

I didn’t quite understand how or why my Mother had stopped her being an astronaut but my Grandmother was not one to talk crazy like, so I went along with her story. It had something to do with my Granddad turning my Grandmother’s head with all that kissing nonsense and such like and her being in the family way, thank you very much.

It didn’t stop me and her always talking about being astronauts and we would look at the maps of the sky and choose which of the planets we would visit first. My Grandmother was going to Jupiter and I was very definitely a Saturn girl.

When I was nine I used to think that my Grandmother smelt a bit funny which I thought was because she was in training and eating special astronaut food.

One evening, when I was safely sitting on her knee and after she had put a large log on the fire, she told me how she had always dreamed of going to the stars.

“One November afternoon my parents, your great Grandparents Annie, took my brother and me to see a film at a little tea room down Duchess Street, mind you that street’s all gone now, got bombed in the war and they had to pull the whole lot down.

“By day it sold the most wonderful cakes in the world but in the evening, well then it became a wonderland. Mister Guitolli would hang a white sheet on the wall and then show films from a projector which he turned by hand. He never charged anyone a farthing but at the interval Mrs Guitolli would sell some of that day’s stale cakes for a half penny each.

“Sometimes, if he had a hard day, he would turn the projector very slowly and every one would stamp their feet to get him to speed up. Sometimes he would just fall asleep and the film would stop, then smoke would start rising from the projector and people would run out of the cake shop, screaming. They knew it wasn’t a real fire but to us it was the only chance we ever got to scream in front of grown-ups.

“On the days that Mrs Guitolli was in a good mood and kissed Mister Guitolli on the cheek in front of everyone, well those were the days that the people in the films would move very fast as Mister Guitolli wanted to finish early. My Mother never did tell me why he was in so much of a hurry.” Then my Grandmother coughed, cleared her throat and continued.

“One day Annie I saw the most marvellous film, The Journey to The Moon, the one where the rocket lands right in the eye of the Moon’s face. Everyone was laughing but I felt sorry for the Moon and made up my mind that I would go there and apologise for what had happened to his eye.”

Sadly nothing much happened to my Grandmother and her dream for many, many years, not until the very day of her fiftieth birthday on April the 12th, 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.

My Grandmother decided two things that day: 1 – fifty was no age, no age at all, and fifty year old people could still go to the Moon and 2 – if anything happened to Granddad, God forbid, she would marry Yuri. There was a time when she more inclined to John Glenn, the first American in space than Yuri, but in the end the Russian won her heart. He was her first Cosmonaut and that was that.

My Grandmother said that every day she would check the newspapers looking for an advert that would state ‘Have you ever considered being an Astronaut or Cosmonaut? Then telephone the following number …..” but she never did find it, “Must have been on one of the days I didn’t buy a newspaper.”  she said.

She always wondered, considering the amount of people she had told about her dream, why the rocket folks hadn’t actually contacted her. “I mean”, she said “wouldn’t it be better having a really enthusiastic astronaut than a reluctant one?”

She even wrote to the Russian Embassy who invited her to tea one afternoon and told her that the waiting list to be a cosmonaut was so long that she would be a hundred and twenty years old by the time they got to her. She had to agree that one hundred and twenty was a good age but mentioned that if her name did come up, then could they contact her anyway? The man said he’d put her name down on the list straight away and sent her home with a signed photo of Yuri that said ‘To my comrade’.

Apollo Eight was the next big milestone in my Grandmother’s life and that was the one that got me interested.

In March of ’68 Yuri died in a tragic accident and my Grandmother went into a mild sort of mourning. Other people were twisting to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but my Grandmother had all the heroes she needed in one man and now he was gone. My Grandfather used to be jealous of a person he had never met and would refer to him as ‘that bloody communist’ but after Yuri Gagarin’s death, and I’m ashamed to say it, my Grandfather started to whistle. It led me to wonder if he hadn’t had Yuri bumped off.

My Grandmother gave me a poster of the crew of Apollo Eight to hang on my wall, I still remember their names: the commander was Frank F Borman the 2nd, James A Lovell Junior was the Command Module Pilot and William A Anders, the Lunar Module Pilot.

I always wondered what happened to Frank Borman, the 1st and James Lovell Senior, were they lost in space somewhere?

In those days, the launching of a rocket was the most important thing in the world – at least to me. Every television channel would cover it and very clever people with extremely large foreheads would discuss it for hours on end. We would sit with bowls of popcorn and devour every delicious second of the programmes and when the talking got boring, Grandmother would test me on all the people who had ever been in space.

We had a happy Christmas and we made it extra so, because my Father was off to Singapore in the New Year to work for several months. My Mother and I moved in with Grandmother in order to provide company for us all and I was more than delighted.

Apollo 9 was a bit of a strange one and never really went anywhere, there was lots of talk of trying out modules but to be really cross-my-heart-honest, I found it boring.

The next trip was really exciting, the guys were going to go to the Moon and try everything except land. I thought it was a shame and so did my Grandmother “Why couldn’t they just let them land on the Moon for five minutes?” she said, but it wasn’t to be and they all had to come home again.

In July 1969, me, my Mother and my Grandmother all went out to Singapore to see my Father and we had the best time ever. It was a truly amazing place and it was there we got to see Neil Armstrong on television, not just land on the Moon but actually walk on it. It was brilliant.

My Grandmother and I sat there holding our breaths as Commander Neil put his foot on the Moon’s surface. My Father said he thought that his foot would go right through and he’d get stuck but then I caught him winking at my Mother – my Father, not Neil Armstrong.

I remember the day I asked my Grandmother who the first man to walk on the Moon was and she said “where dear?” and I have to tell you, I thought that was a funny thing to say. “Too late” I said, “It was Neil Armstrong”.

“Who dear?”

Then I heard she’d fallen down the stairs which I was sure was due to her Astronaut training. She was very hard on herself.

She never did tell me she was going to Astronaut Training Camp, my Father did. I asked him whether my Grandmother had found the advert in the paper and he said that she had and that they had accepted her. So I was pleased but I really wished she had told me herself.

Then one day my Father looked really sad and told me that I had to be brave and I said I was. He said that his Mother, my Grandmother, had gone to live on the Moon and I said stop talking crazy like as Apollo Twelve wasn’t due to take off for some months. He told me that she had been sent on a secret mission and that I was to tell no one. I never did.

When I was nine years of age my Grandmother went to the Moon and didn’t come back.

She will soon and I bet she’s building a rocket even now.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Me and Buzz and Flyin’

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The first time that me and Buzz attempted to fly, Buzz broke his arm in two places: in the yard and on the driveway. Yeh, Buzz didn’t think that joke was funny either. Now you’re going back to read it again in case you missed something ‘cause you didn’t think it was so funny.

The truth of the matter is that Buzz’s arm was good and busted all because he tried to fly from the roof of my house to the roof of Mister Huckerby’s.

Mister H was the man who ate children or so the story went. We’d tried to have a look in his windows but he always kept all his curtains closed except for the attic windows and they were too high to get at, unless you got on to his roof.

“I know what I’ll do, I’ll fly” was Buzz’s suggestion, with a real proud look on his face. He had thought of it all by himself.

“You’ll fly to the top of Mister H’s house?”

“Yep!”

“What you gonna use, a jet pack?”

“Nope, I’ve already thought of this. I’ll find a place that’s higher than the Child-eater’s and I glide over and land on his roof.”

If Buzz really thought about this all by himself then I’m sure the world is coming to an end or he ain’t tellin’ the whole truth. He’s probably seen the whole thing on Scooby Doo or something.

There never was any proof that Mister H was actually eating any kids on account that no one had disappeared or anything but that didn’t stop the stories. You know how it is? You get the rep for eating kids and it just doesn’t go away. I mean Buzz has got a rep for being really stupid but I have to tell you, he worked really hard at that rep and deserves it.

I’m making this all sound as if Buzz had come up with an idea that was as reliable as the day is long. To be honest he had several other really bad ideas. Last Easter, he tried to climb up the pipes to Mister H’s roof but there was a bird’s nest about three-quarter ways up and those little kiddy birds started peckin’ at Buzz’s face. You know Buzz hates anyone touchin’ his face so he tried to shoo them away and that’s when he let go. Luckily he fell into a bush and didn’t do any real damage although the pipe was hanging at a weird angle.

Around June time, Buzz tried to lasso a rope around one of Mister H’s chimneys. He got the rope on to one of the corner ones – the kind that crash to the ground real hard when you pull on them, especially with a boy and a rope hanging off them.

You could say Buzz escaped with his life, which is more than can be said for Mister Huckerby’s pride and joy, his car. It was all smashed up. I think he thinks that the street was hit with a tornado that day.

I guess I never really asked Buzz until just now what he was going to do when he landed on the roof. Was he gonna rescue the kids? Or what?

“I’m gonna look in that attic window.”

“Then what?”

“Not sure.”

Buzz strapped a kite to each arm and he reckoned this was gonna let him glide from our roof and across the street.

“Even if you do make his roof Buzz, how are you gonna get down?”

“Fly.”

Ain’t it just dandy how the world and even the laws of physics belong to the really stupid?

“Fine” I said, but by which I meant so many other things.

Buzz wanted me to stand at the front of my house when he did eventually jump. I’ve no idea what he expected me to do – catch him?

“You can help me…” he shouted.

“Navigate?” I shouted back.

“Give me directions” he shouted.

Then Buzz stood at the edge of the roof and started flappin’ his arms and I tell you, I nearly let some pee out, I laughed so hard. He just looked completely stupid. Like a bird that had its behind set alight.

He counted down and shouted that I should count with him.

“10,9,8….” He was still flappin’ and I was still keeping my legs crossed in case I pee’d again.

Then we got to zero and he jumped and what do ya know? He kinda glided, not as far as Mister H’s roof but to the tree in front of his house. That was where Buzz got stuck until we called the fire engine folks over at Toolaville. I think some of them tried to stop from laughing as well. I could see tears running down the Chief’s face.

It took us about 3 hours to free him and his wings and he was fine – surprisingly.

As for the broken arm, it was as he crossed the street and into my driveway that he stood on the skateboard and that’s when it happened. He broke his arm on the drive way, got up and then stood on the skateboard again and broke his arm again in my yard.

I swear to the almighty I had to run all the way to the toilet as I nearly pee’d myself again, what with all that laughin’.

bobby stevenson 2016

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The Polka Dot Comet Kid

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The night that Sally was born, the comet, Hale-Bopp lit the skies above the hospital as she lay, crying. She was the most beautiful of children and her parents called her Halley after the light in the heavens.

She had a wonderful early life and then one day she cut her finger which started to bleed. That wasn’t unusual for a child or for any human, except that the blood wasn’t red. She bled a polka-dot liquid. 

Her mother, worried, rushed her to the hospital and the doctors there all hummed and hawed, and then decided that the only answer was to wash Halley’s blood.

After the blood was washed, the polka-dots disappeared and the blood was red, once again. Halley was checked every few weeks to make sure that the polka dots didn’t returned. Then one day as she left the big school for the last time, she bent over in pain as if she had been hit in the stomach.

When they x-rayed the beautiful woman they found that her insides had all changed to polka-dots. 

The polka-dots had spread while no one was looking. The doctor told Halley and her mother that it wasn’t too late, that if they removed some of the polka-dots then they shouldn’t travel any further around her body – and that is what they did.

Life went on and Halley studied at college, fell in love and decided she would be happy for ever. Then one afternoon when she was out buying food, the check-out girl stared at her.

“Sorry, is there something wrong?” Halley asked the girl.

“It’s your face, it’s covered in polka-dots,” said the girl.

Halley ran to the nearest mirror and was shocked at the state of her face.

The doctor said that he’d try to paint her face back to its original colour by using chemicals, and that is what happened. It’s just that the chemicals made her feel ill but it made the polka-dots disappear.

When she walked down the street, some people who didn’t understand why people got polka-dots would just cross the road away from her. Sometimes she could hear folks whispering – ‘she’s got polka-dots’ – and then shake their heads.

After several weeks of painting Halley’s face to make the polka-dots disappear, the doctor told her that he didn’t expect them to come back – at least not anytime soon.

That night Halley went home and decided that she wouldn’t wait any longer on things that she wanted to do – she would just do them. It was that simple. She still checked herself for polka-dots and so far, they haven’t returned.

Halley realised that polka-dots left scars and she could live with that. What she couldn’t do, was sit down and wait on the polka-dots coming back.

If you ever see Halley on the street, just say hi to the polka-dot comet kid, she likes that. 

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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The Private War of Bobby Falkirk

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Which war he went to (and came back from), isn’t important here, it’s just important to know that Bobby came back in one piece – well almost. His head was intact, as was his body – but it was a plain and simple fact that his brain and heart didn’t really communicate that well with each other. Whose does?

Ever since he was old enough to climb trees, Bobby had always wanted to be a soldier. In Bobby’s world branches became rifles, and clumps of grass tied to his head made him invisible to the enemy. He used to invade Mister Elder’s garden on a weekly basis. Mister Elder threatened to go to the police, but nothing ever came of it and Bobby kept on invading and taking Mister Elder’s flower beds prisoner.

Every morning Bobby would ask his mother if he was old enough to join the army, and every morning she would say the same things – ‘not long now’ or ‘when you’re a little taller’. Bobby even hung upside down from trees, for hours, just to make himself that little bit taller.

As he grew up and older, Bobby could see his mother looking sadder – she knew the time was fast approaching when he son would be off to wars overseas.

Bobby had waited, as he had promised, until he was 18 years of age before he attempted to join the army. At that age he was over six-foot tall and built like a champion fighter. Bobby didn’t care if the world was ready for him, Bobby was most definitely ready to take on the world.

In all, Bobby spent ten years in the army and in that time, he saw many places, many cultures, and just as many ways to kill a man. His eyes grew tired and weary of the stench of death, and his heart grew cold and hard. By the time Bobby returned to his home, he felt like a man who belonged to no particular place. Something of himself had been destroyed and buried in those far-off lands and it made him confused, as a result.

In the ten years spent in the army his parents had died, leaving Bobby to feel that he was an orphan. He had a family while he was in the army – he had never been closer or felt more of sense of belonging than those army years, but friends had died in battle or had left.

For the first time in his life, Bobby felt totally alone. In his younger years, Bobby would sometimes travel with his uncle (really a kindly neighbour) up to St Pancras station and hotel on Euston Road. It had been falling apart for many years, but while his uncle worked on the railways, Bobby would explore the old buildings and the old hotel.

In the highest tower (and for reasons you will understand later, I am saying no more than that) Bobby found an empty room, full of cobwebs and rats. At each visit, Bobby would smuggle in little objects, pieces of wood (from which he built a seat), and some things to eat and drink. Over the next few years, it became Bobby’s home away from home. One weekend, when his uncle was taken unwell, Bobby sneaked up to the railway station and managed to get up to his den in the highest tower, unseen. He had always remembered this.

On his return from his war, Bobby had found himself with nowhere to call home, or even rest his head. It was then that he thought of his little room and wondered if it had been discovered during his absence, or if it indeed remained intact.

The station and the hotel had been transformed since last he had seen the place, and the chances didn’t look good for his den’s survival. Even the back stairs had been repainted and lit in electric light, but as he got to where the door was to his room, he found a brick wall. The entrance had been blocked.

The window to the left of the door was still in place and Bobby found he could still open it. The ledge was there and Bobby clung on to the guttering as he walked, carefully up the roof. The window to his den was still there and he managed to prise it open.

Would you believe it? Bobby’s den was still there, untouched, if a little unloved. The builders must have blocked the door and ignored the highest room in the tower. All his survival/army gear was there – even his little notebooks where he recorded all his height changes as he grew.

That night Bobby slept well, just like did when he was a kid. Tomorrow could look after itself.

It took him a minute or two to realise where he was when he awoke, as the sun shone through the window of his little room. When Bobby was ready, he went on a little walk of discovery and found that there was three other rooms next to his which had also been bricked off from the rest of the building. That was when the thought hit him – it would be possible to live up here, as long as he could come and go unseen.

He only had a little money, enough to keep him going for two or three weeks at most, and if he left the building in the dark then he should be able to survive for a while.

That first day, he ate what was left of the sandwich he had stuffed in his pocket. From up there, the highest room on Euston Road, he could see the world go by and the office workers impatiently watching the clocks on their walls. Bobby’s medication wouldn’t last more than a month or two. The army had handed him some tablets to keep his confusion under control, but in the end the self-control was down to him.

Bobby waited until past midnight before he made the walk down the ledge. He could hear the city screaming and shouting from the streets below; people with families and lives. People without the confusion that had swamped his thoughts. Would he love to be down there and normal? The thought didn’t last long as a breeze blew up and nearly knocked him from the roof. He managed to catch on to the guttering at the last moment. In that split second, he had imagined the newspaper report – ‘soldier returns from war and jumps from roof’. Bobby didn’t want that.

Bobby made it down to Euston Road and started towards Kings Cross. He went into the station and bought some chocolate to keep him going. Bobby was walking to nowhere in particular when, from the corner of his eye and across the street, he noticed a young woman being pushed about by three men. She looked to be in trouble. Bobby sped across the road.

Bobby shouted at the men. “Leave the girl alone.”
“Says who?” Asked one of the men. The one with a scar across his nose.
“Says me,” Bobby shouted back.
“Get him lads,” shouted the fat one.

At that point the three of the men threw the girl aside, making her bump her head against the wall.
It was easy for Bobby, he was fit and ready for them. He knocked two of their heads, literally together. One sparked out and one ran away. The one with the scar stood his ground and grabbed the girl by the neck.

“One move and she gets it,” he said with the girl blocking him from Bobby’s fists. Bobby rolled into a ball then quickly knocked away the man’s legs, Bobby managing to catch the girl as she was released.

Bobby stood and dragged the man by the ankles into a small lane. Bobby picked the man up and chucked him in a dump. Then Bobby returned to make sure the girl was okay.

She seemed to be okay and he found out her name was Elizabeth. She had no money, so Bobby went back and emptied the man in the dump’s wallet. He handed the money to the girl, taking her to a place where she could catch a cab. She asked his name, he told her it wasn’t important and then put her in a taxi.

Bobby could hear the station clock strike two in the morning, as he edged his way back to his den in the sky.

As he lay trying to sleep that night, Bobby wondered if everything happened for a reason. Maybe being a soldier and fighting the bad on the streets of London was why he had been put on this Earth.

Bobby, the hero? There was still a grin on his face as he fell asleep.

bobby stevenson 2016

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That Perfect Moment

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When I was a kid, my whole world was Hell’s Kitchen. Heck, it was my whole universe too – because that part of New York City was all I needed, and to be honest it was all I ever wanted.

I was about ten years old when my brother, Archie took the photo. He had swapped one of his medal from the war for a color camera. He said it was worth it but my daddy thought he was a fool.

“You can’t eat the medal, Pa. So, what am I supposed to do with it?” Archie would say when my father tutted or cussed every time he saw the camera.

I guess he was right.

Jeez, in just writing this down I’ve just had a sad wave come over me – I’m realizing how much I miss my brother. Wishing he could come back from that place he went to, but it’s a one way ticket. That’s the bad part.

Anyways, the three girls at the back of the photo are my sisters, then there’s my cousin Irene, who you can’t see and standing next to her is Mary-Lou her best friend.

That photo was taken in that real hot summer of 1950, and everyone on our street tried their best to keep cool. I did it the only way I knew how, using the hydrant like my brother and my pa, had done before me.

Usually my eldest sister, Becky, would give me a dime for keeping them watered down, but since she found me smoking one of my brother’s cigarettes in the back yard, she was blackmailing me into doing everything.

“See if I don’t tell Pa about your smoking and all, see if I don’t”.

I couldn’t take the chance, so I had to believe her, which meant a Saturday watering was theirs for free.1950 was a lifetime ago, and I can still smell those summer days in the best city in the world.

A couple of years after the photo was taken, Mary-Lou and Irene moved into a cold-water apartment down near Washington Square. My Ma said she thought it strange that they never had any gentlemen callers around their place – but me, I like to think that the two of them were happy in their own company. Weren’t no one’s business, anyhow.

Becky went off and married a guy from the navy and they ended up living in Alaska. She keeps saying she’ll make it down one day, but I haven’t laid eyes on her in over fifty years.

My other two sisters followed my brother to that undiscovered country, and I guess I miss them all just as much.

I hung around the city doing all kinds of work, until one night I walked into a bar and heard a kid singing and then my life changed. The boy was Robert Zimmerman, and he could speak for a thousand angels. The way he used words ain’t worth thinking about. He changed his name to Dylan – after the poet – and I held on to his coat tails and followed him to the Catskills, where I still live today.

If you’ve read my writing, then you know that I’m always harping on about the perfect moments in your life. The real problem is you never get to realize what they are, until they are gone. Now ain’t that the kicker?

But that photo, that color photo taken on a camera worth a man’s medal, was probably the most perfect moment of my life – everyone I knew was laughing and healthy and as for me – well I was going to live forever.

bobby stevenson 2017

The Boy Who Was Grounded Forever

ufo

Nobody believed him.

Not then, not now, not ever, it seemed. He knew he wasn’t lying but then maybe it was all in his head. Maybe he was going the same way his grandmother had gone. She had started talking with people that Jimmy couldn’t see. People who wore dark things and sat in dark corners of his grandmother’s room.

Maybe they were there as well. I mean if his story was true, then why couldn’t his grandmother be telling the truth?

All he had been doing was taking, Harry, his dog, for a walk. They had been up at Creekmore Ridge, Harry had done what he needed to do, and then him and Jimmy ran back down the hill as fast as the two of them possibly could. Harry barked – it was his way of saying that he was with his best pal and the world was good.

They had just come around the back of the old miner’s shack when, Jimmy – and he swears on the Bible that the next bit is true – when Jimmy feels all weird and dizzy. Like he’s going to be sick, and then fall over – the way he felt when his uncle had given him that glass of hooch to drink. Jimmy had crashed out back then, and all his uncle had done was laugh. He’d said that if Jimmy told anyone, no one would believe him, as he was a kid, and uncles are uncles (as if that explained everything).

Jimmy should have known something was wrong ‘cause Harry had started barking the minute they came close to the hut. Jimmy thought it was just probably an old tramp – ‘cause sometimes they slept in the shack between rain storms. But when Jimmy looked through the wooden panels – he saw nothing.

“Be quiet there, Harry,” whispered Jimmy.

But Harry just kept on barking and barking. Then Harry ran away and he had never done anything like that before.

Suddenly Jimmy was floating – floating higher and higher and all the time he was feeling mighty dizzy. Mighty dizzy, indeed.

Then he passed out. The funny thing was, when he came to, he could hear folks talking in English. The crazy dude, with the eyes on either side of his head, told Jimmy that he would hear them speak in his own language.

Jimmy thought that maybe he’d tripped and bumped his head and that all of this was just a stupid dream. When the other dude with the eyes on the side of his head too, leaned over Jimmy and squeezed his nose real hard, Jimmy let out a scream. This told him all he wanted to know that he wasn’t in a dream. Dreams didn’t usually hurt that bad.

The strange folks asked Jimmy to sing a song and all he could think of was Happy Birthday, as he’d sang it to his little brother only last week.

The dudes smiled at him and then turned their heads to the side. Jimmy wanted to know if Harry was here, too, but the weird guys just ignored his question.

Another one of them came over with a tube of some sort and pressed it against Jimmy’s arm. That was when he passed out. The next thing he knows, it’s morning and he’s been sleeping up at the miner’s hut.

When he opens his eyes, standing over him is none other than his pa, who’s real mad. His pa grabs Jimmy by the collar and hauls him up.

He’s shouting about this and that, how his mother has been up all night believing the worst has happened to her boy. Jimmy thinks to himself that being abducted by aliens probably isn’t one of the things, his ma thought about.

It’s when his father says that Jimmy is grounded for the rest of his life, that he feels he has to tell him what really happened.

And that is why Jimmy has been grounded for two lifetimes.

Apparently that story was a bunch of old crock and if that was the best he could come up with, then he wasn’t any son of his pa’s.

So Jimmy’s thinking maybe his uncle did slip some hooch into Jimmy’s glass of milk – the drink he always had before taking Harry for a walk.

He guessed that since he was to be grounded in his room for two lifetimes, then he’d have a lot of time to think.

It was then that Jimmy’s life changed. He had decided he better check his half-drunk glass of milk beside his bed for hooch when a weird thing happened – the glass of milk appeared next to him on the table. Like it had been transported or something on Star Trek or whatever.

Jimmy sniffed the milk and it was okay – or maybe his uncle had been making hooch that don’t smell of nothing. He took a sip and nothing much happened – just good plain milk.

Jimmy looked around his room to see if there was something else he wanted – sure enough, he saw his comic book, and wished he could read it. It happened again, this time it was the book which appeared in front of Jimmy.

“Well, if that ain’t the weirdest,” said Jimmy.

His pa must have heard him, ‘cause he knocked on the door and shouted something about, Jimmy better not be enjoying himself, on account of him thinking hard about lying and stuff to his pa.

Jimmy wished his pa could just be quiet and perhaps be outside in the rain.

When Jimmy looked out the window, there was his pa standing in his pyjamas getting soaking wet in the rain.

Jimmy couldn’t help but laugh. Then it struck him that Jimmy hadn’t seen Harry since the previous night. So Jimmy thought about Harry being in his bedroom and sure enough Harry appeared sitting next to the boy.

Harry barked and Jimmy was sure that Harry was smiling, cause the next thing Jimmy knows, is that Harry and him are outside, going for a walk.

“Did you just do that? ‘Cause I don’t remember thinking that we should go for a walk.”

Jimmy looks at Harry and realizes the Harry can do the things that he can do. Every time Jimmy wishes himself back in his room, Harry wishes Jimmy out for a walk.

“Well, I’ll be,” thought Jimmy. This is going to be trouble.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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On The Right Tracks

june 7 post Patient_Feeling_Better

There is a little railway station just north of somewhere and to the east of that other place. And one time in your life, you’ll either have stood waiting on a train there or will have passed through it, I promise you.

The station wasn’t anything special, it just helped people get into the city and received their tired bodies at the end of the day. It had been built in the 1850’s and judging by the architecture, it was a statement to a country with an empire. But things change, and empires fall, and now the station just had a ticket office and a toilet.

It wasn’t small enough that people talked to each other, nor was it big enough to get lost in – it was a station of an awkward size, where people saw the same folks everyday but were standing too far away to communicate. And  so life went on as it always does.

Then one cold November, just after that thing that happened, but just before that other thing was about to occur, Jonathon Nasby came to the station as the Station Manager. Okay, all he did was sell tickets and clean the toilet but that wasn’t going to stop Jonathon – who had once dreamt he was going to be an astronaut or failing that, regenerate into Doctor Who.

At first, Jonathon (who had never been actually told to his face, that life was hard) started singing as he sold the tickets. There were those (as there are always ‘those’) who found the humming and singing a distraction, but for most, it was a little break from the hum-drum of travelling to work.

Then Jonathon started to sing as he announced what trains were going where and the ones which weren’t coming. A few faces would crack a smile while standing on the platform and possibly, one or two would forget about their troubles for a few minutes.

It wasn’t long before Jonathon was telling little stories for the folks who stood, waiting:   about how he had got the job, how he had never been picked for sports’ teams at school and how, despite everything, he felt that a Station Manager was a brilliant job and he wanted to thank everyone who had helped him.

One or two of those waiting broke into applause, and like an Oscar speech, Jonathon decided to thank everyone in his life. One morning, a note was left at the ticket office which just said ‘thank you’ and Jonathon felt that was the best note he had ever been given in his life.

In between the songs, the selling of the tickets, the cleaning of the toilet, and the little speeches, Jonathon started to write his own little stories.

One snowy day when everyone was generally feeling miserable he made this announcement:

“Good day my fellow travellers, I want you to think about your problems. I guess most of you are standing there thinking of them anyway. Now, in your head, give your problems away to someone in the station and you take their problems. Swap yours for theirs. And I know you’ve probably heard it before but I, reckon that if you could really see all their problems, you’d be screaming for your own back.”

Then Jonathon broke into his version of Bohemian Rhapsody (doing all the voices). The station became so popular that people started to change stations and leave from Jonathon’s because it made their day. It got so crowded that sometimes there wasn’t room to move.

The big chiefs on the Railway Board decided to investigate and discovered that Jonathon’s spirit and outlook was just what they needed at one of the big city stations. Soon he started to run the Jonathon Nasby School for Railway Enhancement and Entertainment.Jonathon realised that all people really wanted was someone to tell them that they were okay.

Jonathon is the Prime Minister now and of course broadcasts a song to the entire country every morning. Today the song was the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and folks in every city, town and hamlet were heard to sing along with him.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Me and Buzz and the Candy Thief

FRIENDS

I’m sittin’ here writin’ and thinkin’ ‘bout all of the stupid, stupidest things that Buzz has ever done in his life and I gotta tell you folks, I’m kinda spoiled for choice. There weren’t a day that went by, that Buzz didn’t show us all how far you could go in the stupid stakes. The great thing about him was that he never, ever cared nor worried what folks thought of him, and why should he? Everyone, and I mean everyone, has got too much to hide when it comes to being stupid.

This particular story started way back in the spring of Buzz’ fourteenth year on this planet. There was the usual troubles with the Halfpenny Gang who lived on the other side of the tracks – those kids were real mean and it took someone like me and Buzz to kinda put things right and show those guys the error of their ways.

But one Saturday morning Beccy Foreplane had just walked out of Crazy Joe’s Candy Store with a sack full of the sweetest candy you ever did taste (gotta say, Crazy Joe made the bestest candy in the world) when all of a sudden some masked kid runs up to her and snatches the candy from right under her nose (and I mean literally – Beccy had a habit of tryin’ to shove candy up her nose – but I’ll leave that particular story for another day).

Well, I kid you not, I could hear Beccy’s squealin’ from the other side of town – she was that loud. When Beccy’s Pa heard the story, he put up a reward of a ride on his horse and a shot from his pistol. I know, it’s kinda crazy like, but they were different times back then, and I gotta say a ride on a horse and a shot at an old tin can were pretty fancy stuff to us kids.

No one found the culprit. Some said he was six feet tall and some said he was three feet tall. No one was real sure if it was a boy or a girl on account that the culprit was wearin’ a Charlie Chaplin mask.

Nothin’ much happened until the following week, when Chastity Tompkins got her chocolate candy bar stole from right out her pocket. Same description – he was either real tall or real small and he looked like Charlie Chaplin. This time Crazy Joe put up a reward of all the candy you could eat for a week (except for the chocolate covered ones – he drew a line at that). Things were getting’ real messy down at this store and he wanted to do somethin’ about it.

That was when Buzz had this real stupid idea. He was excited about the rewards being offered – the free candy, the horse and the shot and stuff and decided he’d catch the candy thief.I knew it was real stupid to ask him how he was gonna do it, but I did and sure enough he told me. So I’m tellin’ you now.

Buzz decided that the crook only stole candy from girls – so they weren’t no use us buying candy and leaving Crazy Joe’s. So Buzz decided that one of us (that being me) would dress up as a girl and leave the store with a sack full of the stuff.

When I went into the store, Buzz said I was to talk in a real high voice. I thought I was doin’ okay until Crazy Joe said, ‘Mornin’ boy – what can I get you?’

He didn’t even ask why I was dressed as a girl, and I ain’t sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Anyhoo, I stood outside the store talkin’ in a real high way, sayin’ things like, ‘Mmm, this is sure some real tasty candy’, and all I could hear was Buzz (who was hiding behind a bush) shoutin’ ‘make it louder’.

“Well I do declare, little ol’ me is sure gonna enjoy this candy.”
Nothin’ happened, except my Ma walked passed me and wish me a good mornin’. Now was she talkin’ to me? You know I worried about that for a long time.

After about an hour or so, and folks comin’ and goin’ and wishin’ me well and even sayin’ my name, I kinda thought that enough was enough.

Buzz said that I was too ugly to be a girl and that him, with his good looks, would probably pass better as a girl. So we swapped the dress and Buzz (who did look a bit like Beccy) walked out of Crazy Joe’s sayin’ that he was all alone and carryin’ a bag of candy.

Nothin’ happened again. Well when I say nothin’, somethin’ did happen. Buzz’s Ma was walking on the other side of Main Street and Buzz just shot his hand up and shouted ‘Hi Ma’.

That was when Buzz’s Ma kinda went crazy and walked into the middle of the street and got hit by a horse. Turns out she wasn’t that badly hurt, but there she was lying in the middle of the street and her eldest, bestest son was tryin’ to bring her around, dressed as a girl.

I remember I saw Mrs Sloan walking passed and sayin’ somethin’ about how that family had real problems since their daddy left.

We never caught the culprit and we never got no reward and Buzz had to do a lot of explaining to his Ma.
I still wonder, to this day, if my Ma knew it was me.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Me and Buzz and the Madman

FRIENDS

That day started like any other Saturday.

My Grandma was washin’ the back of my neck with all my family lookin’ on. When she got into rubbin’ real hard I would turn my neck a little so that I could see out the window. That morning was just like any other, Jake Van De Bergh was getting chased up Main Street by another angry husband. You’d have thought he’d have run out of married ladies by now. When my Grandma let my ears go, I met Buzz down at the corner of Lincoln Street.

Buzz was holdin’ something, which turned out to be his Maw’s curtains from her best room – it was called the ‘best room’ ‘cause Buzz wasn’t allowed anywhere near it. No sir-ee.

Apparently Buzz had to get the curtains back home before his Maw returned from Johnstown at sundown, or Buzz’s Maw would skin him like a desert rat. Now I know he ain’t tellin’ the whole truth ‘cause he’s used them curtains before and his Maw didn’t even see they were missin’.

Apparently Buzz had found a book with superheroes in it and that was what we were gonna be, this here Saturday.

I gotta say, at first, I kinda felt stupid with the cape around my neck but it started to feel good and I could see what Buzz was up talkin’ about.

We were just about to begin fightin’ crime when all of a sudden Jake Van De Bergh comes rushin’ around the corner and shoved me and Buzz into the Ice Cream & Sarsaparilla Café.

The minute we were through the doors, Jake shouts,
“Help me boys, keep this mad man out.” And by madman he means a mad husband – but like I say, it was just another Saturday in town. I hear tell that Jake has a wife of his own but that she don’t mind if he runs after other women on account that he really annoys her and has bad breath. Least ways that’s what Becky told me in school.

So there’s me, Buzz and Jake trying to hold the madman from breaking down the door. Every time he charges at the door, we move forward some and then we’d push back and then it starts all over again.

Crazy Eddie, who ran the café, was getting real worried about a madman getting’ loose in a Sarsaparilla store, and so he helped hold the door, too.

For a moment it all went real quiet and Jake was about to say that the madman had probably given up, when I turn my neck the way I do and look out of the window to see that the madman has gone all the way across the street to the Chip and Shoulder hardware store.

I was just about to tell them that the madman was gonna take the longest run ever in the whole world when the he burst through the door throwing me, Jake, Crazy Eddie and Buzz out-of-the-way and got his head well and truly stuck in the Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream machine.

“I’m tuck,” was all the madman could holler.“I’m really, really, really tuck.”
“I think he means he’s stuck,” said Crazy Eddie.
“Tat’s what I said,” hollered the Raspberry Ripple madman.

Buzz threw his cape around his back and decided it was the right time that me and him were superheroes.I pulled the man’s left leg and Buzz pulled the man’s right one.

“Tat hurts.”
“Sorry,” I shouted.
“Wot?” The madman hollered back.

It was no use, the man’s head wasn’t going anywhere and he was complainin’ that he was getting brain freeze. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

“There’s nothing for it, I’ll need to call Stupid Larry,” Crazy Eddie said sadly, ‘cause apparently Stupid Larry wasn’t the cheapest in town, but he was sure good at getting’ people out of holes. When Buzz’s Maw fell down that Main Street drain and got stuck good, Stupid Larry got her out of there in two shakes of a lambs tail, although he did charge her fifty bucks.

When Stupid Larry saw the madman’s predicament, he looked at it one way, “Mmmm,” he said. Then he looked at it another way “Ohhh,” he said, shakin’ his head. Then he kinda crawled around in on all fours, “tut,tut,” he said. Now some of the less kind folks in town used to say that all this walking around the problem wasn’t exactly necessary and it was only to make you think that Stupid Larry was givin’ you your money’s worth.

“Nope, we’re going to have to get him back to my workshop and cut him out.”

So Stupid Larry unhooked and unscrewed the ice cream machine with more show than a magician, I kid you not. Once we’d bumped it down the stairs, Jake and Crazy Eddie pushed it up the street, with me holding one leg and Buzz the other. Stupid Larry ran ahead to get his workshop all fired up.

When we were just passing the courthouse, the wife of the madman came over to Jake and asked him how he was doing and had he seen her husband. She didn’t think to ask about the pair of legs that were sticking out of the ice cream machine. Jake said, he couldn’t help her and he was sorry but he was real busy and if she didn’t mind they’d like to be off real quick. Kinda trying to pretend that he didn’t really know her and all.

When Stupid Larry started using the torch to cut open the machine, Crazy Eddie kept saying “This is gonna cost you, mark my words, cost ya good,” to Jake. To be honest I don’t think that kinda talk helps much.

Anyways, when Stupid Larry got the bottom off the machine, the madman’s face was frozen stiff, I kid you not.

Buzz was sure that the madman was dead, but Crazy Eddie gave the madman the kiss of life by blowing into his mouth. He said it wasn’t the first time that someone had got stuck in his machines, last time it was the pineapple caramel. Crazy Eddie also said that the Raspberry Ripple did taste real good even if it was on another man’s lips.

The next time I saw the madman he was sitting in church with his wife and his face was Raspberry Ripple Red. The curtains were a real mess, so Buzz told his Maw that someone must have broken into the house and stolen them.

She believed him.
bobby stevenson 2017

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Thing and Changed Days

thing

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 2016

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Me and Buzz and Grooviness

beret

When me and Buzz were about 15 years old, Buzz turned to me one day and told me, straight in the eye like, that he had ‘an itchen’ for a hitchen’.

“Let’s hitch right across the country to… well, the end,” said Buzz not sure where the end of the country was.

“Then what?” I asked just to see what he’d say. “Why then we’ll come back again, groovy boy.”

The problem was that Buzz had started reading books, comics mostly, but there was one book in particular that he’d taken to – a book about being out on the road and discovering the real old tracks of this great country and it kind-a hit a nerve with old Buzz.

He started wearing a beret and calling everything and everyone ‘groovy’, something Mrs Mitchell, our teacher, didn’t take too kindly.

“Shakespeare isn’t groovy, Buzz. Now sit down and take that stupid hat off.”

No one could tell Buzz that Shakespeare wasn’t one of the grooviest beat-nicks to come out of England.

Buzz reckoned if we got to hitchhike at least 20 miles a day, then by the end of the year we’d be…….well, pretty far away from town. He got that right.

Buzz started to grow his hair real long and Pastor Simmons used to mention in his Sunday sermon about boys who looked like girls ‘cause of their hair and everyone in the congregation turned and looked at Buzz, who was sleeping with his beret over his eyes.

One morning at Sunday school, the teacher asked what word could describe Jesus and Buzz stuck his hand up right away. I was wishing that he wouldn’t say what he was going to say but he did.

He had to stand in front of the whole congregation the following Sunday and apologise to God for calling his son, groovy.

By the time the summer came, Me and Buzz were ready for the hitchen. Buzz couldn’t make up his mind which direction we should start to hitch. So one Thursday, he said we could decide by following the way the wind blew; however that day would have meant us hitchen right through Tasker’s slaughterhouse, into the Hotel La Boomba and finishing up at the school hall before we even got outta town.

Each day would come and each day Buzz couldn’t or wouldn’t decide which was the best direction outta town. It got so bad that it made me say somethin’ I didn’t wanna, but it had to be said.

“Are you sure you wanna go hitchen, Buzz?” There I said it right in his face.

“Are you crazeee?” He hollered but I knew Buzz and he said ‘crazeee’ a little too crazy like – which made me think he was hiding something.

“I ain’t crazy, Buzz, I don’t think you want to go a-hitchen.”

Then he came out with the truth – right there and then – and said he’d read a book called War of The Worlds and that he was thinking that maybe we could go to Mars instead.

I slapped my old pal on the back and said that sounded like a real good plan and as I looked back at his house I saw his maw in the back yard wearing Buzz’s old beret.

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Me and Buzz and Smilin’ and Girls

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1.Smilin’

Like I’m always tellin’ you, Buzz thought he was born with a tongue that had been stolen straight from the mouth of an angel and that nothin’ and no one could resist the stuff that floated out of that great big pie hole.

Except for Beccy Swizzle that is. Buzz could be havin’ one of those days when he could make a blind man smile and then he’d get to Beccy Swizzle and she was like a cold day in Minnesota.

“She ain’t got a heart, that one” said Buzz after his twentieth attempt to get Beccy smilin’.

“Maybe she ain’t got a brain, too,” he said, a little unkindly.

I’m thinkin’ that if she didn’t have a brain she’d be doin’ nothin’ but smilin’, the way Farmer George’s boy does ever since he was kicked in the head from Daisy the bull. Yeh, you heard right, a bull named Daisy. No wonder he kicked people in the head. Anyhoo I’m getting’ all confused now, what was it we were talkin’ about? Oh, yeh, Buzz and Beccy and the smilin’.

I heard from Tommy Kinder, who’d heard it from Beccy’s Maw’s best friend, that Beccy came from a family of folks who were missin’ muscles in their faces.  You could tell them the saddest story that a man (or woman) could ever tell and that family would just look at you mean, like.

So if this was true, then Buzz didn’t have a snowball’s chance of making Beccy or anyone with that blood, smile. And yeh, you can guess I never told Buzz that little bit of the story. I just bet him 5 bits that he couldn’t do it.

“You see if I don’t make her smile,” he said, real honest and mad, straight to my face.

I hate to take a man’s five bits but a bet’s a bet. Except I knew Buzz would never have the five bits to give me. Even if he did, his Maw would steal it out of his britches before he was awake.

That was the kinda Maw that she was.

Buzz felt that he needed to warm up to compete with Beccy and her sour face; the way one of those runners does in competitions. So Buzz would start the day smiling, and that included at school when he got into trouble from Miss Hoster for smilin’ when she was tellin’ the class all about her cat and how it had been hit by Old Creeky McGuire’s tractor.

He smiled even when he was eatin’ and I reckons, you should get some sort of medal to be able to do that stuff. Buzz is real talented in ways I ain’t sure if God meant him to be.

Anyhoo, Saturday morning and the dead faced Swizzle family are out and about goin’ here and there but you’d bet that they’d just come from a funeral or were goin’ to one.

Buzz stands right in the middle of the sidewalk and grins the biggest grin he’s ever grinned at the Swizzles. Boy, I didn’t know anyone’s mouth could go that wide (apart from the wide-mouthed-frog we got in our back yard).

You can see from the look on Beccy’s paw’s face that he ain’t too happy with Buzz threatin’ his kinsfolk with a stupid grin, and so Beccy’s paw steps forward to ask Buzz to move. But Buzz thinks that the paw is goin’ to hit him and steps back off the sidewalk, and tumbles face down into some horse manure.

Well, I ain’t so sure that the Swizzles do have a muscle problem in their faces,‘cause the way they laughed, you would have thought they were gonna burst.

And Buzz, well he wasn’t smilin’ anymore but I did give him his five bits, ‘cause he sure earned it.

love

2. Girls

I remember the first time that Buzz fell in love. It was with a pretty girl called Sally Watson. Buzz had just hit thirteen years of age and his hormones were fit to be tied. I mean those things were running around his body and making him feel all sorts of things – good and bad.

Sally Watson and her family had blown in from Minnesota the previous month and had caused  ructions all along Main Street, one way and another.

Her father had come to our little part of the world to ‘help his career’ – apparently he was a banker or something. Sally’s mother was the kind of woman who’d step on you to get somewhere else – I don’t mean to talk unkindly of the woman but she was real mean and ambitious. So Buzz hanging about their door wasn’t the kind of thing they were looking for. I reckon if Mister Watson had got it into his head to buy a gun then Buzz would be picking the pellets out of his bee-hind. I kid you not.

“I have just seen the most beautiful girl in the world,” was what he said that Wednesday.

“Who?”

“She’s a vision,” said Buzz. Let me tell you with a hand on my heart that Buzz never, ever said things like that before the hormones went crazy like.

“Who?”

Buzz shrugged his shoulders, ate a couple of my mom’s cookies and then remembered he was in love and a gave out a huge sigh.

“I am in love,” he said after lying down on my sofa.

“I hope it ain’t catchin’,” I said, not wanting to have to lie on people’s sofas or anythin’.

“She’s an angel.”

“Who?” I said again, remembering that he hadn’t told me nothin’.

“That new girl, the one whose family have moved into number seventeen, the house at the top of the hill, the one nearest Heaven,” he said. I kid you not, that’s what he said. Buzz, newly turned thirteen and he’s talking like….well a crazy kid.

I asked him if he had swallowed somethin’ real bad and Buzz said that it was just the breath of love. My stomach nearly dumped my breakfast on the sofa beside Buzz ‘cause that kind of talk makes a man feel kinda sick. I kid you not.

I left Buzz on the sofa to get better and went and played Cowboys and Injuns with the Hardy Twins who were only twelve and immune from love.

The next day I was walking to the Harper’s place, up on Indian Ridge and I spots Buzz sitting outside the Watson’s house, doing nothing else but looking at their windows with his hands under his chin and sighing. No idea why he kept sighing but he seemed to like it.

“You okay?” I asked.

He just nodded his head and wouldn’t turn to look at me, he just kept on looking at the house.

“She’s in there. My angel,” said Buzz.

It was then that Mister Watson stormed out the house and came up to me, real angry like.

“Are you related to this lunatic?” Mister Watson screamed, putting his face so close to mine that I could see the hairs up his nose.

“No sir, he’s my best friend in the whole world.”

“Do you know that friend of yours has been sitting outside our house all night,” said Mister Watson.

“I did not sir, but surely he ain’t causing trouble?” I said.

“You’d think? At least not until your lunatic friend started singing at 3 in the morning, at the top of his voice. What have you got to say to that?” Man was he angry.

I said that I didn’t know that Buzz could sing and that was when Mister Watson started chasin’ me down the hill. That man could run fast when he was angry.

The following morning I just happen to be looking out of my bedroom window getting ready for church when I saw Buzz getting chased up Main Street by Mister Watson in his Sunday best. Mister Watson that is, Buzz didn’t have a Sunday best.

I reckon the path of true love ain’t that easy as that English guy said, or maybe it was the Bible, I ain’t too sure.

I didn’t really see Buzz over the next two weeks, except when he was being chased by Mister Watson. I hung out with the rest of the town’s kids who were all safe from this love thing.

I remember that warm Saturday evening down by the stream, I saw Buzz sitting under the large Southern Magnolia. I thought he was laughin’ but he wasn’t, as I got closer I sees that he was cryin’ real hard.

“What’s up?”

“She loves another.”

“Who?”

“Sally Watson. She says she loves Jesus and she ain’t got time for me,” said Buzz, who was real heartbroken.

“What you gonna do?” I asked.

And he told me that he hadn’t a darned clue what he was going to do as there was no way he could compete with Jesus.

I guess he got that one right. The next day he came around to my place to eat all our food, like he usually did, but he looked a darned sight happier.

I asked him if he had decided what to do about Sally Watson and he said:

“Who?”

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Thing and The Night

thing

Thing missed being back at the cave. It was the one place that he knew his Mother and Father would eventually return. He had given up waiting on them and had struck out to see what was at the end of the world.

Thing wouldn’t be gone forever, all he had to do was reach the horizon and then come home. That was his plan and it was simple.

As he left town, he walked passed his school where he had some good days and more bad days. He turned the corner and watched as the cafe where he would hide on the bad days disappeared into the distance.

There had been friends and enemies, and like his school days there had been more bad than good ones. But don’t think that all of this had got Thing down. He believed and continued to believe that he was on the Earth for a purpose and who was he to disagree?

Quicker than he had expected, the town faded into the background and the dirt country road opened up ahead of him. Thing had thought he might meet folks along the way but he had met no one. If the truth be told, dear readers, the ones who had seen him had taken other roads, not wanting to meet this freak on their own. Not that Thing noticed any of this because a heart that believes they have a purpose in existing never see anything but goodness in others.

After several long hours on the road, it was getting dark. Thing had never been out this late, as he’d always stuck to his Mother’s instructions of being in his bed before sundown. On the longs days he had waited for his Mother to return, he was always settled in his bed by disk, just in case she came home and found him going against her rules.

There had been a slight hope in his heart that he would meet his Mother on her way back to the cave to once again, take care of her son. But the road was as empty as ever.

Day became dusk, and dusk became the darkness. Thing had found out too late that he was not able to see well in the dark of the open road, even although he could navigate his way around the cave.

When he could no longer see where he was walking, Thing chose a small area of grass underneath a tree. He was tired and ready to close his eyes to the night.

Thing hadn’t been sleeping long when woken by the sound of someone or something snoring.

“Hello?” He shouted out into the night. “Anyone there?”

And that was when the snoring stopped and a voice called back.

“Over here,” said the voice.

“Where?”

“I’ll sing a song and you follow my voice,” said someone or something in the distance.

Thing followed the really bad singing and nearly tripped over the source of the song.

“Careful,” said the singer. “Sit down here beside me, the others will be along soon.”

In the darkness the two of them talked about why they were in the forest and where they were heading. Thing told the voice that he was walking to the horizon and then coming home again. That since his Mother and Father had gone, he had stood every night at the cave entrance watching for them to come home.

The voice was in the forest, along with his friends because they too, had been left orphaned.

“No, I’m not an orphan,” said Thing. “They will return one day.”

“Sure they will,” said his friend but not very convincingly.

It was just then that the rest of the gang returned. They had been out hunting for food. They worked in the pitch black so as not to attract attention from those who would stop them getting food.

They gang had stolen meat from a farm a short distance from the river and had collected berries and fruits that they found.

They told Thing that he was welcome to share their wares on one condition, and that was that he told them a story to make them laugh or cry.

After their meal and in the pitch darkness, Thing thanked them for the food and then told them of his life. The way the friends at school had hurt and bullied him because they felt that he was different.

“You’re just like us,” said another voice. “We are all outsiders, and we are all a family. You should join us.”

Thing felt that perhaps he just might, then decided that he wanted to see the horizon before he settled down, and that if they weren’t going that way, then he’d continue on alone.

One of the voices said he was cold with the night dew and Thing said that if they all bunched up beside Thing, they could all keep warm.

And it worked and for the first night in many, Thing wasn’t alone and for the first time in his life he had a gang of friends.

Thing slept well that night, and dreamed that he was in his Mother’s arms.

When the sun came up the gang of orphans were standing over him, pointing their wooden spears at him.

“What have you done with our friend?” Shouted one at the back.

“He must have eaten him, the monster has eaten him,” said another.

Thing wasn’t sure what had happened. In front of him were a group of kids, the same type that had gone to his school.

“Let’s take him prisoner and sell him,” said another. Thing found an energy that he’d never known before and was suddenly running through the forest: no looking back.

The orphans chased him for a mile or two, but Thing just kept on running – running towards the horizon and away from a group of people who had only liked him when they knew him in the pitch black.

And Thing couldn’t understand why that made a difference.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2 wee bobby

 

 

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

friends

Olivia was woken by what she thought were people arguing in the kitchen, below. She quickly dressed and ran down the wooden stairs to see if she could help.

To be honest, Olivia was a curious little girl, some might say ‘nosey’ even, but this isn’t the time or place to air those thoughts. As she got to the bottom of the stairs, she could hear clearly that it was her Grandpa and Grandma laughing so hard that Olivia thought that both their heads might just fall off, there and then.
Her Grandma saw little Olivia standing at the door, looking worried.

“What’s wrong, Sweet-pea?” Asked her Grandma.
“I thought I heard folks fighting,” said Olivia.
“No, no, little one, it’s that buddy of your Grandpa’s we were discussin’. Old Edward, you know the one who lives over in Star County. Anyway, seems Old Edward is up on the high road and he wants Grandpa to join him,” said Olivia’s Grandma.
“To do what?” Asked Olivia.
“’To do what’, you hear your granddaughter, Grandpa? She’s askin’ what Old Edward wants with you,” said her Grandma before breaking out into laughter again.

Olivia felt she’d better just leave them to it, as she wasn’t getting any sense from her grandparents. So Olivia got dressed and then went to sit outside in the farmyard and enjoy the sunshine.

It was just a little after one o’clock when she heard her Grandma tell the mailman about Old Edward and how he was looking for gold up on the High Road but everyone knew he was barking up the wrong tree.

That was enough for Olivia to take a walk up to the High Road and see what was happening. She had only got as far as Asker’s Farm when her pal, Herbert, the dog, stuck his head over the fence.

“What cha doing?” He asked.
“Going up to the High Road, that’s all,” said Olivia.
“To do what?”
“Why, to see Old Edward looking for gold,” added Olivia.
“Mind if I join you? Asked Herbert.
“Don’t mind if you do,” said Olivia to her pal.

So the two of them talked and talked until they got to the old town well where they saw their pal, Scrimpy, the Ass, taking a well-deserved drink.
“Where are you guys going?” Asked Scrimpy.
“Why, we’re going to the High Road to see Old Edward discover gold,” said Herbert.
“Mind if I come too?” Asked Scrimpy the Ass.
“Don’t mind if you do,” said his two friends.

All three, Scrimpy, Herbert and Olivia went to their usual spot on the road and they sat down.
“So what are we looking for?” Asked Herbert.
“Should be easy,” said Olivia. “Apparently, Old Edward is barking up the wrong tree,” she added, making it sound as if she knew what she was talking about.
“Which tree?” Asked Scrimpy.
“Whatever one he chooses will probably be the wrong tree,” added Herbert.
“So he’ll pick the wrong tree, on purpose?” Asked Scrimpy.”Then what?”
“Then he barks at it,” added Olivia.
“And that’s how you find gold?” Asked Scrimpy – and both Olivia and Herbert nodded their heads.
“I believe so,” said Olivia quite confidently.

The three of them sat for an hour and didn’t see anything of Old Edward or him barking up any tree, never mind the wrong one.

“What cha say if we meet here next week, and I can bark up the wrong tree on account of being a dog, maybe we’ll find gold,” said Herbert. And they all thought that was a great idea and said they’d look forward to it.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Great Tiny Escape

plane

Hansa had felt for a long, long time that he was alone; that he was the only one who had felt the way he did. He knew he was smaller than the family who had taken him in, but they lived so far above his own head that he really had no one to with whom he could speak.

Most of the biggies had been kind enough, but there had been the odd one who had come to the house. He’d heard them talk about how Hansa was surely a freak, too small to live, against God’s nature – surely?

But the family had heard it all before and just smiled. Yet all of this perplexed, Hansa. Surely those folks who thought him a freak had enough of their own problems to be bothered with a little old man who mostly sat in the corner and dreamed of freedom?

But it seemed that there were unhappy souls in the world who loved to spread their own unhappiness to all. And Hansa noticed that they felt obliged to quote some god or other as their reason to be unkind.

Hansa heard them say that if you lived by this rule or that rule and beat people over the head with the rules, then you would live in eternity with all the other rule followers.

Hansa realised that living with all the rule followers would not have made him happy in the least and decided that he’d ignore them all in future. He felt that if a heart was good then that was enough for any lifetime.

One morning when he was helping to drag some old newspapers out to the rear of the house, he thought he saw another one of his own size waving.

“Up here,” shouted the girl. ”I say, can you see me?”

“You’re the same as me,” Hansa said, surprised and who nearly fell backwards.

“Of course, I am,” and she hopped down off the wall.

“You’re the same size as me,” said Hansa, still very much surprised.

There are thousands of us, it’s just that the biggies keep us separate – that way they can control us.

Hansa didn’t think that his family could be like that, after all they were kind and let him sleep in their house.

“But they’ve never told you about the rest of us?”

And Hansa thought, and no, they had never mentioned any other little folks.

“They’re all the same, no matter how kind they seem,” said the girl.

And then she dragged Hansa behind a tree and made him swear that on his tiny life, that he had to not tell another soul or else.

Then after he had spit on his hand and spit on her hand and they both had shook hands, she felt free to tell them of the great escape.

“What great escape?”

So she came in close and whispered, “The great Tiny escape. The next full moon we are heading off to the Far Country.”

“Where?”

“I’m not too sure, but it’s far…”

“and it’s a country,” said Hansa, who was still trying to get over the shock and newness of all of this.

“Exactly,” said the girl, followed by, “My name is Creato.”

So they shook hands again and for the first time in his tiny life, Hansa felt he was at home.

Creato told him that the Great Provost would be the one who was organising the Tiny escape. That for too long the little folks had been at the beck and call of the biggies and that enough was enough.

“How are we going to get to the Far Country,” asked Hansa.

On a flying machine built by Provost and his friends.

And that was how Hansa found himself bound for the Far Country on an aeroplane built by a group of tiny people.

Each of them had a story to tell and each of those stories was recorded by Hansa.

And I will tell you some of those stories and the Far Country, sometime soon.

But let me just say that the escape was not as straight forward as they had hoped.

Take care.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

Captain Oates’ Last Walk

polar

There wasn’t much he could see ahead of himself. It was cold and it was unclear and that was his future; he had never been more certain of anything in his life.

Before he’d set off, things had been good, probably better than good. They’d spent time, all of them, together on the west coast. A small Scottish town called Greenock, the birthplace of Birdie Bowers.

They’d got drunk, had punch ups with the locals, but most of all they had bonded. Perhaps that was why he was doing what he was doing, perhaps only God knew the answer to that question.

The beautiful River Clyde, had been spectacular on that last day. The sun had been setting behind Helensburgh and he could see the Arrochar Alps as the ship turned to head towards the Irish Sea.

What a life it had been; a life of laughter and a few tears but always full of adventure. Always on the edge, always completely alive. He felt the toes on his left leg grow cold.

It was hard to breathe but then nothing that was worthwhile was ever won easy. Life was hard but friends, companionship, and family took that particular sting away. That made it all worthwhile; love and adventure was everything.

I suppose, he thought, that he could have done things differently and not ended up here, not ended up in this predicament – but then, the ending should never over shadow the living of a life.

He’d never settled for what had been given to him. He could have lived comfortably and gone to his grave, relatively unmarked and unremarkable.

Yet, that was not what his heart was satisfied with. He’d had to climb the highest, run the fastest, jump the longest. That was the way he had been set to live in this universe and there had been no going back.

There was a price for everything – if his life had taught him anything, it had taught him that. He’d paid for his life of movement and achievement by never finding a place to belong. It did bother him, everyone should belong somewhere. He looked up at the little number of the stars he could see and wondered if one day a man would stand on the moon and look back at Earth and feel homesick. That was the best he could do – say that this planet was his home.

He was dying from the inside out and yet he felt more peaceful than he had ever done before. There would be something, he was sure of it, on the other side.

He started to smile, he had no idea why, but suddenly his life seemed simpler than it had ever been. What he was doing seemed natural, the right thing, perhaps it had all been leading up to this point.

He thought of the lies he had told all of them as he left. He hadn’t believed it and neither should they. But there were things that were better left unsaid, unspoken. Those things were shouting the loudest in the silence. He loved them all, that was the only reason he was walking in this direction.

He had written letters to those who mattered and one day they would find them. He wondered if he’d ever be found, ever be seen again, ever be held by a warm hand.

The coughing made him lose his breath and he bent down. Soon the pain would all go. Soon it would only be sleep. Soon it would all be over.

The wind was picking up and he pulled the woolen hat down over his ears. There was a whistling in the wind and he was sure he could hear choirs. Maybe there were angels after all, or maybe it was the cold and hunger.

Not long now, he could feel his time coming. He had to do this. There was no room in the tent for all of them to survive. So he’d crawled out, turned to the rest and said:

“I’m going outside and I may be some time.”

And this is where he was going to rest, and at least he’d got to stand on the South Pole.

He thought of his sister and he whispered, ‘goodbye’ and of his time in Putney.

He said ‘thank you’ on his frost-bitten lips and then his heart stopped.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

“Captain Lawrence Edward Grace “Titus” Oates was an English cavalry officer with the 6th Dragoons, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition/ Lieutenant Henry Robertson “Birdie” Bowers  was one of the polar party on the ill-fated expedition. Bowers was born 29 July, 1883 in Greenock, Scotland.”

“On 16 January 1912, as Scott’s party neared the Pole, it was Bowers who first spotted a black flag left at a camp made by Roald Amundsen‘s polar party over a month previously. They knew then that they had been beaten in the race to be first to the South Pole. On 18 January, they arrived at the South Pole to find a tent left behind by Amundsen’s party at their Polheim camp; inside, a dated note informed them that Amundsen had reached the Pole on 14 December 1911, beating Scott’s party by 35 days.”

 

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Zoot and Sandy and Thinking

elephant

Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were, without doubt, the best of pals in the whole wide world. They loved to sit by the river and watch time floating past their little seat.

Sandy was being particularly thoughtful that morning.

“What’s bothering you, buddy?” Asked Zoot the dog.

“Nothing much pal, nothing much. Just sitting here wondering, that’s all. It ain’t a crime, now is it?” Answered Sandy. “I was just considering if I could choose anything to be in the world, what it would be,” said the elephant.

“And what would you want to be?” Asked Zoot.

“I reckon I would like to have been the elephant in the room. Everyone would know you were there but no one would talk to you or about you. Seems a nice way to live.”

“I reckon, you’re right,” said the dog.

“Anything you thought about?” Asked Sandy.

Zoot considered this for a moment then said, “I would like to have been the dog with a bone that everyone seems to get excited about. You know when they say things like, ‘oh yes, Edward is like a dog with a bone’. Well, I should like to have been that dog.”

And for a few moments the two of them contemplated what their alternative lives could be like.

“I guess we’re just being plain stupid,” said Sandy.

“I guess we are,” agreed Zoot “But that’s the great thing about thinking, you can be or do anything you want. Dogs can be elephants, and elephants can be dogs and that’s pretty cool.”

“I think that is one of the greatest things about being an elephant – is the great many things I can think about,” said Sandy.

“And your great memory as well,” added Zoot and both chuckled at the irony of Sandy forgetting about his great memory.

“I guess when you’re made like an elephant and think like an elephant and are happy to be an elephant, then there ain’t anything greater in the world,” said Sandy proudly.

“Unless you weren’t an elephant but you wanted to be one,” added Zoot. “I still want to fly.”

“Dogs and elephants don’t fly,” said Sandy.

“Well not unless they stick them in an aeroplane,” said Zoot smugly.

“No, I mean I would really like to fly along with those birds out there,” said Sandy.

“Why?”

“To see what an elephant looks like from all that way up there,” he said smiling.

“Dogs ain’t meant to fly just like elephants ain’t meant to bark,” said Sandy.

“Unless the elephant has got a cold, and then they can really make a barking noise,” said Zoot.

“What if tied you to a kite and flew you up there?” Asked Sandy.

“And don’t let go?”

“And I promise not to let go,” replied Sandy.

“Then I think that might work,” said Zoot.

And so the pals promised that on the next windy day, Sandy would tie Zoot to the biggest kite he could find, and fly him around the beach.

And that is what they did – Zoot flew high above Sandy while attached to the kite, and said that an elephant just looked like an elephant even from up there. All the folks who watched said that Zoot had taken to flying like a dog with a bone. That made him happy.

No one mentioned the elephant on the beach who was holding the rope and refusing to let go, and that made Sandy happy too. He guessed that an elephant on the beach was probably just as good as an elephant in a room.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Me and Buzz and The End Of His Nose

bag

I don’t know when Buzz noticed the thing on the end of his nose. I had seen it that morning but didn’t want to tell my pal on account that he thought he was the best lookin’ guy walkin’ on the face of this, here, Earth. I kid you not. So when Becky Walters said in her usual way:

“You got a big red spot on the end of your nose, Buzz,” he kinda took it real bad, which makes me think he didn’t know it was there. I’m thinking how could he have missed it, I mean that thing was so big, it had it’s own gravitational system.

Buzz said nuthin’ and walked off home. Becky Walters looked real pleased with herself and said, “Did I say somethin’ wrong?”. Becky knew she’d said somethin’ wrong, I mean that’s all she is good at, on account of her Mom tellin’ everyone in town that her Becky was a Princess and all.

The next morning, I see Buzz – well I didn’t actually see him, but I knew it was Buzz ‘cause he was wearin’ the same jeans and shoes as yesterday. He had a big brown paper bag over his head and two holes cut out for eyes so he didn’t get hit by cars.

I kinda thought the brown paper bag might look even weirder than a big thing on the end of your nose, but I wasn’t so sure of that fact that I could tell Buzz to go naked in the head department. Apparently Buzz’s Ma had tried to fix the spot by stickin’ a needle in it and it had made it worse. Buzz’s Ma wasn’t real good at doctor stuff but it didn’t stop her makin’ up her own cures for everythin’.

When Buzz had a fever, she had made him lie down in a darkroom with a brick on his head. Apparently it was a cure that had been passed down thru the family. I’m thinkin’ craziness was the only thing that was passed down in that family.

Buzz told me to go round the corner where there weren’t no people to see his nose and he lifted the bag to show me what was happenin’ under there.

“Wow!” Was all I said.

Buzz wanted to know if that was a good ‘wow’ and I told him it was but I had to cross my legs on account that I thought I’d pee myself, ‘cause I wanted to laugh so bad. Buzz had a tomato on the end of his nose – I mean, a big red bright tomato. No kiddin’.

We kinda tried to pretend everythin’ was all right and neither Buzz nor me mentioned the paper bag. Some folks would shout at Buzz callin’ him names and stuff, but the bag was so thick that Buzz couldn’t hear nuthin’.

I decided since Buzz was my bested friend in the whole wide world I would wear a bag on my head as well. It was kinda cool.

Buzz’ Ma kept trying her medicine on his nose and every day he’d show me it and it wasn’t getting’ any better. I wondered if his nose might not eventually fall off, but I didn’t want to tell my pal on account that it ain’t somethin’ you want to tell a buddy.

One mornin’ Becky Walters was standin’ on the corner being a princess when she spotted Buzz  and me and our paper bags and I’m thinkin’ she’s gonna pee herself – but she didn’t.

“Why don’t ya paint a face on your bags,” she said and know what? I thought that was a great idea, too.

So Buzz and me went off to paint our bag faces but like everythin’ with Buzz it wasn’t straightforward. Next time I see him he’s dressed as a clown. Yep a big clown with big shoes and a white face and a big nose; I mean it was his own nose but it suited the clown face, I kid you not.

I thought the bag had been all right but I wasn’t following my pal down the clown face road.

It had been his Ma’s idea – she had thought why not just paint a face on her boy and be done with it, and maybe she had a point. At school I could see the teacher kinda lookin’ at him and shakin’ her head but she didn’t say nuthin’. She just went off and got all the other teachers in school to come to our class. And they all left, crossin’ their legs like they were gonna pee themselves, too.

Buzz’s Ma got arrested on the Friday for trying to cure the Sheriff’s daughter of her hiccups by making her stand on top of an auto-mobile. The Sheriff said she was just plain crazy and slung her in jail until the following Monday. The good thing about this was it let Buzz’s nose get a rest from his Ma and so it started to get better. By Monday, Buzz was ready to face the rest of town – just the way God had made him – and he went up to Becky Walters and gave her a big kiss, right there, on her lips.

She kinda giggled and swooned and I knew my Buzz was gonna be all right.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

“You’re Not From Around Here,Then?”

alien

Now I ain’t one to lie or even kid (if it comes to that), but sometimes a thing happens to you that’s so far out there that even your closest kin would swear you were talking with a crazy tongue in your head. But you all know me and you know I ain’t the lying sort, so you’re gonna have to come with me on this trip and take it for what it is – all true.

One night I was looking through my ol’ telescope at something or other – don’t you go believin’ Kathy Blue mind when she says I was tryin’ to see in her boudoir (that’s what she calls that dump of a room she stays in) – I wasn’t tryin’ to see in no boudoir, no sir I was looking at Venus and Mars as any curious scientist would be doing at that time of night with a telescope stuck to his eye. Now if you don’t believe me on that point then I do see much point on the two of us goin’ on – so if you’re of the sceptical disposition then I’ll say ‘howdee doo dee’ to you and bid you a good day.

Okay, so I’m guessing that if you’re still with me then you’re believin’ me and I thank you kindly, I truly do. The strange thing happened just after I located Mars (not a great feat I grant ya) when all of a sudden this light goes shooting across the sky and it was so bright that my telescope eye went kinda white for a long time. I thought I was havin’ a stroke, I kid you not. Then it all went black as black could be. I’m thinking to myself that this is probably a comet or somethin’ and once my eyes kinda returned to normal, I thought no more about it.

One night, it must have been about a week or so later, I’m out on the hills above town – and don’t go believin’ Kathy Blue if she tells you I was followin’ her or somethin’ ‘cause that’s just plain lyin’, that girl could win a medal in lyin’. It’s just that I like to go walkin’ in the hills and if she happens to be there too, then that’s just tough. At the time, I was tryin’ to walk in the opposite direction from Kathy Blue as she was shoutin’ at me, I mean, as if it was my fault we were both on the same hill. That was when I spotted the hut. When I say hut, it was more like a metal box, but hut will give you a good idea of its shape. It started to rain real hard and I ran to the box to get my head undercover. I was thinkin’ that it would just be me and a few wild beasts for company. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Inside the hut was a little boy or man or thing sitting in the corner. Now don’t go thinkin’ that it was like one of those sci-fi things where it’s bigger on the inside than it was outside – ‘cause it wasn’t – it was just the same size, inside and out. Now I’ve got that out the way, I’ll go on.

The man/boy/thing looked kinda startled and disappeared, then reappeared in another corner of the hut. I had to rub my eyes, I kid you not. I know what you’re thinkin’, don’t think I don’t, ‘cause I do. You’re thinkin’ that I’ve been sippin’ Aunt Fannie’s hooch again – well I ain’t and that’s a fact.

The man/boy/thing disappeared again and reappeared in another corner. By this time, I have to tell you friends, I was as crazy as a hornet in a jar. So I shouted to the thing to stay still or else (to be honest, I wasn’t sure what the else was).

Then it stopped, looked at me and I could see it was a small man who looked as scared as someone who had been caught in Kathy Blue’s front yard at midnight.

Now this is where you’re gonna have to trust me – I mean, really trust me – the little man said that he had crash landed on Earth and was trying to fix his ship so he could go home. To another planet. Or star. Or somewhere up there where Kathy Blue don’t go walking. So I asked him how he was doing and he said that the Hypo-diagonal drive unit was kaput and that he’d need to replace it. I asked could you get that local and he just smiled. He said he’d need to make it, but that the parts would be expensive and he didn’t have any Earth money.

You’re thinkin’ that he’s just a crazy man lookin’ for money but I ain’t never seen a crazy man disappear and reappear the way he did. I said I’d run home and see how much I could raise – ‘cause I don’t like the thought of a space man being lost so far from home, and he might just let me go with him and I’d get away from Kathy Blue once and for all.

I returned the next morning with all the money I had under the mattress and it weren’t much, I can tell you. Plus a couple of eggs and some bread. You know what he did? He ate the eggs – raw, I kid you not and the bread with the paper still around it. He told me that the money weren’t enough, it might get him past the moon but that would be it. He needed a lot more.

I told him I would go home and think about it and that night, when I was watching television with my granddaddy, it came to me.

If the spaceman could do that disappearing/appearing act on television then maybe he could make some real money. The television station we were watching had ‘So You Think You’ve Got Talent?’ on it and that was when it came to me. He could enter that stupid television show where stupid, stupid judges tell terrible lies about people who should be in hospital (least ways that’s what my grandaddy says) instead of which, they go on this show and try to play a ukulele while standing on their head. I kid you not.

So that is the plan and this is what we are gonna do. Me and the alien man are going to get him an audition on ‘So You Think You’ve Got Talent’.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

bobby stevenson 2017

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Captain Kidd and The Greenock Road

ship

He never slept.

Or at least that was the impression he gave and it had served him well throughout his life. He might only have been on this earth seventeen summers but he was brave, respected by his men and ready to face any foe. Everything he did was in the pursuit of treasure and in the search for those great adventures.

He was Billy to his friends, at least the small number whom he trusted, but to his enemies and his crew he was Captain William Kidd; sea dog, pirate, thief and killer.

Now he was resting with his eyes closed and his legs raised on the deck of the Greenock Road. This was his vessel and it carried the name of the town that was etched on his heart – and soon the ship would have a new worthy cargo, a passenger, a man by the name of Archibald Campbell known to world as the Earl of Argyll. The Earl’s family would pay very handsomely, very handsomely indeed to have their own rascal returned in one piece.

BOOM!

There was a shot across the bow of the Greenock Road and then another which hit the stern, knocking Kidd flying back and sending wood splinters into the eyes of those close. He crawled to the edge and tried to look through his eye-piece but there was too much smoke. His first thoughts were of the excise men but then he saw the flag, it was the dogs who normally lay off of Tobermory and their ship, the Black Death.

“We’re trapped Cap’n, there’s them at our stern and that monster over there.” One-eyed Harry always saw the worst of things.

One-eyed was right ‘though, there were only two ways out of this. He couldn’t outrun the larger vessel but maybe, with the luck of the devil, he could find a passage through the monster called Corryvreckan. That would allow them to take shelter in a small cove at the back of the isle of Scarba and let their troubles pass.

Corryvreckan was said to be the largest whirlpool in the known world and everyone could tell you bad stories about the place. With the seas being at a flood tide, he could hear the roar even now and they were at least a half hour’s sail from the eye. The waves spread out like a web and could easily reach up to thirty feet or more. This was going to be a ride that would see them safely home or take every last one of them to hell.

When times were hard, which they always seemed to be these days, Kidd had raided the Black Death on more than one occasion. He’d wait until many of its crew were ashore and then his gang would steal whatever they could. He’d thought about taking the Black Death itself but he didn’t have the men to get it safely away.

It meant that if they caught him it wouldn’t just be death, it would be a long slow agonising one for him and his crew – this made the dangerous transit through Corryvreckan the more attractive option.

Kidd lived by one philosophy and that was, he knew he had the ability to do anything. He did it and he succeeded. If you thought of failure you were half way there as his father, the old minister, used to tell him every day of his early life. So he was going to take his ship through the Corryvreckan at flood tide and he was going to survive.

Those on the Black Death knew these waters just as well as Kidd and perhaps even better, but Kidd was certain that they had not sailed the Corry’ at flood otherwise he would have heard of it – and what would be the point? All you had to do was wait for slack water and pass safely through but there was not enough time for that, so he had to gamble on the fact they wouldn’t follow him.

He sailed the Greenock Road around to the east towards the isle of Jura as this avoided the Pinnacle, a rock-stack that lay just below the surface and one of the reasons for the Corry’s existence.

Looking over the stern, Kidd could see that the Black Death was gaining on him and despite the turbulence in the water the larger ship fired another cannonball which luckily only hit a corner. There wasn’t much damage but old Master Curry, the lookout, was now heading for the bottom of the sea.

“They can’t follow us through here. They will not follow us.” Kidd shouted to the men.

Tweeky Adams shouted back “I don’t think they can hear you Cap’n. Look”

Sure enough they were coming up fast and the waves were growing in size, it looked like neither ship was going to make it. Then one of the sea gods whispered in Kidd’s ear and a smile lit up his face.

“About. Hard about”

“But we might go turtle, Cap’n” cried One-eyed Harry.

“If we go through the Corry’ on this heading we’ll capsize anyway” cried Kidd through the increasing maelstrom and yet he was still smiling – he was loving this. So about turn they did, causing the Greenock Road to sweep out towards Jura. The Black Death however, being a large vessel, shot past with a very surprised crew all staring at that last manoeuvre of Kidd’s.

“How, in all that’s God-given, did he do that?” shouted Hair-lip Hansa who was hanging upside down from the poop deck of the Death. 

That was the final sighting of the Black Death as it disappeared into the whirlpool and into folklore. Songs would be sung and stories would be told of the ghostly figures who haunted the Corryvreckan.

Kidd was just happy but not surprised to have escaped once again.

They waited until slack water to see if there were any survivors but not even a stick of wood  floated to the top, the vessel must have sunk without trace and in doing so taking all hands.

Kidd had a smile to himself then ordered the men to set sail for Saint Agnes’ Bay, a small inlet to the south of Inveraray on Loch Fyne.

They could wait there for the Earl’s ship, the one taking him to Edinburgh by a route around the top of Scotland. This sea trip was safer for the Earl than taking the coach and horses through Glen Douglas and down the Rest-and-be-thankful where bandits lay in wait for any, and all, well-healed traveller. Very few ever made it to Arrochar alive.

Both Kidd and Samson, the blackest of the dogs and the Cap’n and leader of the Tobermory gang had played a waiting game with the Earl. They had both steered well clear of attacking the ship, as each time they did so the military on board would have doubled. So to let the Earl think that he had safe passage was to have the opposite effect. The Earl had fewer men on board each trip, leaving him wide open for that one attack, the one that Kidd planned to carry out today.

Kidd had another Greenock lad working in the kitchens of Inveraray castle who knew by the food he was being asked to prepare, that a voyage by the Earl was imminent. The Greenock Road had to be moving at speed to attack the Earl’s ship so it needed advance warning of the movements.

Kidd and the kitchen boy had rehearsed their moves several times, each time Kidd would let the Earl’s ship pass safely. Kidd has several pigeons on board, some for eating and some had been trained to fly to the castle by the Earl’s staff. They were used to send messages back to Inveraray as the ship sailed around the coast. The kitchen boy had stolen some of them and they had been passed on to Kidd.

When Kidd was sitting in St. Agnes’ Bay he would place a small blue ring around one of the pigeon’s leg then release it. The boy would always watch for pigeons returning, if one had a blue ring, he knew that Kidd was waiting.

When the Earl’s ship, the Queen Margaret, was ready to set sail, the boy would get his father to fire a shot high above the woods of Loch Fyne. It could be heard way over towards St Agnes’ Bay. No one had ever put the shot and the ship’s departure together as nothing ever happened.

This time they were ready, the Greenock Road had a full set of sails and was heading off down Loch Fyne, all the time gathering useful knots. The Queen Margaret rounded the rocky head just as Greenock Road’s one cannon fired on her, then came along side.

It was a quick and clever manoeuvre from Kidd that found the crew of the Margaret completely overwhelmed. The pirates boarded the ship and the Earl was tied and stowed within thirty minutes. The few military men who were on the vessel were either put to the sword or thrown overboard. Normally Kidd did this on the high seas when there was nowhere for them to swim to but the speed and success of this kidnap had pleased him, he was willing to let some of them go.

The plan was to take the Earl to a small island near Rum and hold up there a few days, word would be sent back to the mainland regarding the ransom.

When the crew had taken what they needed from the Queen Margaret it was set ablaze, mainly to let the good folks of Argyll know what had just taken place.

The Earl and Kidd dined together that evening and found each other’s company agreeable. Kidd even mentioned that in another life the two of them might have become friends. They drank to that point several times and to a few more besides.

When the Earl, who insisted that Kidd call him Archibald, finally collapsed at the table, the Captain went above to take in some sea air and think about things.For instance, he knew that someday soon he would spread his young wings and head for a far-flung place like New York City – stolen from the Dutch by the English and most definitely a place he could own, but until then the waters of the West were his hunting ground.

Was that a flicker of light he could see on the Port side? It looked almost like a ship. The sky went dark once more and although he was usually sharp-eyed he felt the brandy had perhaps taken its toll.

But there it was again but this time he could see it wasn’t a ship, it was where they were headed in fact. It was the little village of Cancarn a pirate haven especially as far Captain William Kidd was concerned, they loved him there but now the place was ablaze.

The Captain called for all hands on deck, the sooner they made Cancarn, the sooner they could save what was left of it, that included his woman, Isabel, a bonnie lass of sixteen.

By the time they berthed and headed for shore the sun was already up and they could see that the town was now only a shell, there was smoke rising everywhere.

Cancarn was a ruin.

When they landed One-eyed Harry ran ahead for he too had a woman in port, Rose. She was the sister of Isabel and both sisters lived at the village pub.

There wasn’t much left of the place and in what was once the corner of the bar was Old Jake, now a shrivelled frightened old man.

Kidd had left the Earl back on the ship with most of his crew on the slim chance that this was a trap. Although he was sure that the King’s men could not have heard the news about what had happened at Inveraray and then crossed here so fast. No, this was the work of someone else.

And his question was answered when One-eyed Harry carried Old Jake back.

“He says this were all Samson’s doing with the help of those on the Black Death.

“He’s sure it was the Black Death?”

“Swears his life on it, and they’ve taken the women – all of them – you’ll get them back when he gets the Earl.”

Kidd wasn’t smiling.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Thing of Beauty

thing

There was a lot of time to think, now that Thing had lived in the cave by himself for a while. A lot of time to wonder why he was the way he was. A lot of time to wonder why people made judgements on the way he looked, rather on the way his heart shined out.

Those kids, the ones in the town below, had always picked on him, thrown stones at him, shouted names – and for what? Because he looked different. Kids, well humans really, hated difference.

Yesterday morning as he was eating breakfast (yes, Things did that too), he heard someone calling at the mouth of the cave.
“Hello!” a voice, shouted.
“Anyone there?” The voice continued. Thing rarely had any visitors, expect the odd kid from town shouting some abuse into the cave.

He had the same thought that he always had in these circumstances – Thing thought it might be his mother and father returning home, like he knew they would one day.
Although it wasn’t them, it wasn’t a bad surprise either. It was a cousin of his who lived in the north-country and whom he had met only when the families had all got together.

His cousin told Thing that it was his cousin’s Big Birthday and Thing was to follow him north to take part in the celebrations. All Thing’s people had a Big Birthday, it was to mark them standing on their own feet in the world. Thing was still to have his, hoping that his parents would be back for that.

So Thing packed a few belongings and started on the journey north with his cousin. It was wonderful to be in the company of his own kind – not that he disliked the humans – just that his cousin understood how it felt to be the way he was.

Thing had never been confident in the way he looked, and this was heightened by the name calling that came from the kids. But that night, the night he arrived with his own kind, his aunts and uncles all told him how beautiful he was, how he was a great reflection on his parents, who would have been so proud to have been there had they not…….
Then the aunts and uncles stopped as if they were about to say something they would regret. Thing asked what they were going to say, but they all changed the direction of the conversation and wouldn’t look Thing in the face.

On the Friday night, the evening before the party, Thing went out with all his cousins and they marched up and down the main street. About half way along the road, a human kid was walking towards them and Thing hoped the kid would not be horrible to his family as he was having such a great time. What occurred surprised Thing, his cousins started to shout names and throw stones at the human kid – and although for one split second Thing felt that it was good to belong to a group (and good to not be the one picked on) Thing realised that this whole situation was wrong and he wasn’t going to become one of the bullies who had made his own life a misery.
Thing walked up to the kid and comforted him.

“What are you doing?” Asked his eldest cousin. “He is a human, an ugly little misfit of a human,” said another of his family.
“He is a soul, that is what he is,” said Thing. “He is just like you and me.”
“No he’s not,” shouted another and Thing’s cousins all started to throw stones at the boy.

Thing put himself between the gang and the boy and when the stones started to hit Thing instead of the human, his cousins stopped.

“So you’re an ugly little human lover,” shouted the tallest of his cousins.

And Thing guessed that he was. The cousins told him that he wasn’t needed at the party the next day and that he should go home. No one wanted the little orphan anyway. Thing wasn’t sure what an orphan was, but he was too tired to ask.
He walked the human kid to his own home, and then Thing returned and slept outside his aunt and uncle’s house. He would walk to his cave the next day.

When Thing woke the next morning, his aunt was sitting by his side. She said, she’d heard what had happened and that he was indeed most welcome at the party.

“My children are young, and my children are wrong. They are scared of the humans,” said his aunt. “I heard what you did and you really are a most beautiful being, Thing. Not only in looks, but in your heart,” then his aunt kissed him on the forehead.

He had not been kissed in many moons and it felt good. He attended the party that evening and danced and sang and had the best of times. His aunt and uncle offered him a place to stay permanently but Thing refused, and told them that he had to return to the cave to wait on his mother and father.

“They will return one day soon, I know it,” Thing said proudly.

Thing didn’t notice his family all dropping their eyes when he said that, but he wasn’t caring anyway – he had been told he was beautiful and he couldn’t wait to tell his parents.

bobby stevenson 2016

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Sleep Well My Little One

reality

There was a time, perhaps it would be more correct to say once upon a time, back in your day, when science was only starting out – when life hadn’t even begun to be understood. That was in the days when the human race thought that sleep was to nurture, and to cleanse the human mind. We knew little then of what the universe was – even calling it a universe showed how little we knew – but like all things, truth and clarity took their time (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Back then folks thought that when you fell asleep, your brain went into a temporary hibernation, when dreams and fears were polished and shined in readiness for the morning.

Now we know the truth.

When we sleep we leave this ‘universe’ and head to one of the many others where we have different lives, other truths, other loves. Some of those destinations are foreign to what we know, just as some are only minutely different. Still, in your dreams, you notice the difference, notice what is not quite right.

When you fall asleep at night – as you must – there is no one to help you, no one can follow you, you are alone. We are all alone. There is no one to pull you from that hole which will take you into another reality. When you go there – you must survive as best you can.

It was Doctor Edith Stewart, who was the first ‘sleep astronaut’ – it was she who found a method to catapult herself outside of dreaming into these other layers of reality, and to return. It was Dr Stewart who found that when we die (as it was once known) it was only the door closing on this reality and in turn, we were forbidden to travel back. That is why many people ‘died’ in their sleep – the door was closed to them while they were elsewhere.

But there are more than just benign creatures out there, more than just friendly ghosts inhabiting the other worlds. The nightmares that we have as children, are truly there. Waiting. Hoping we will return. And still we fight and claw our way back to this reality for a few more hours.

In the old days, in your time, folks would wish one another a ‘good night’ – how little they knew. It is much wiser to wish your loved one ‘all the very best of luck’, for as soon as they are asleep, they will be on their own in worlds where nothing is real and on journeys from which they may never return.Sleep well, travel well. Come home.

There is no one to call on for help, out there – remember that.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Bullying

choking_on_words_by_srcpcsoha-d4y45f0

Bruises

You knew all this,

You even let it become a part of you,

“Who me? A bully? I don’t think so, friend. Not I.”

But yet, you knew it all the same,

That words don’t ever leave bruises,

And that is what you’ve counted on,

All your life. 
 

Choking On Your Word

When they found him,

His face, it wore a perfect smile,
No troubles etched upon his brow.
The cause of death,
Was hard to say,
He’d smiled just once,
Just once he’d smiled
And then his eye-shine and soul
Went on their way.

They cut him up to find the cause,
And there they were,
In stomach, blood,
And in his brain,
He’d choked on all the words inside
All the words he’d tried to hide.
He kept each one –
Instead of spitting all them out,
They killed him in the end.

bobby stevenson 2016
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnj3cR-AOeI&feature=youtu.be

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Time Flies and Hope Floats

friends

Time Flies

One morning when Olivia was still half asleep, she heard her Grandma talking to her Grandpa all about things that fly. At least she thought that was what they were talking about because the last thing she heard her Grandpa say was…

“…It’s funny how time flies.”

Then Grandpa headed out the door hollerin’ and laughin’ to himself, so hard that he was sneezing all the way down the path.

“Serves the old goat right,” said Grandma.

“It sure does,” said Olivia without any real idea what she was talking about.

Olivia had made a note to herself that when she got to school she’d ask her teacher about Time and why it flew about the place. However she didn’t reckon on meeting with Smiling Joe, first. This was the boy who knew everything about everything and all the rest there was to know.

“Can I walk with you to school, Missy?” Asked Joe.

“Sure,” said Olivia, who secretly liked Joe. “What cha been doing?”

“Down the creek, Missy, trying to catch me a big old fella’ by the name of Captain.”

As well as knowing everything about everything, Joe was also the best fisherman this side of the Hill. Well, that was according to Joe, at least.

Olivia looked around but couldn’t see any fish.

“Heck, I’m savin’ catchin’ the Captain for another day.” Then Joe whistled a little tune that Olivia liked and they walked on to school together.

“Joe, can I ask you a question?” Asked Olivia.

“If I don’t know the answer then it ain’t worth knowing,” said Joe, kinda confidently.

So Olivia asked him if Time really did fly and Joe told her that it surely did and if you sat on the Old Creek Road, the one that led out-of-town……

“….And were real patient, then eventually you’d see Time flying passed you real fast.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

Olivia was pleased with that answer and started to whistle Joe’s little tune as they walked on to school together.The end of the week couldn’t come fast enough for Olivia and so, on Saturday around lunchtime, she headed down to the Old Creek Road and sat down and waited on Time flying passed her.

An hour passed, except it seemed like forever to Olivia – when suddenly Herbert, the dog from Asker’s Farm, came wandering along the road.

“What cha doing?” Asked Herbert.

“Ain’t it obvious, I’m waiting on Time flying passed,” said a very important Olivia.

“You are? It does?” Asked a bewildered Herbert. “Then mind if I wait too?”

“Don’t mind if you do,” said Olivia.

So Herbert sat beside Olivia, really excited about the arrival of Time.

While they were waiting, Herbert and Olivia talked about this and that, for Olivia knew a lot about this and that. They were having a real good time when Scrimpy The Ass, from the next town over, also happened to be walking passed.

“What cha doing?” Asked Scrimpy The Ass.

“Why we’re waiting on Time flying passed.”

“Well I never,” exclaimed Scrimpy. “Mind if I join you guys?”

And both Olivia and Herbert said they’d be delighted if Scrimpy joined them. So Scrimpy sat down and waited.

The whole time the three of them were talking about this and that, since it seemed Scrimpy was quite knowledgeable about this and that as well.

The afternoon grew old and it was time to go home, and since Olivia had such a great time with her new pals, Herbert and Scrimpy, she’d forgotten about waiting for Time to fly.

“Perhaps we can do this again next Saturday?” Asked Herbert.

And they all agreed that it sounded like a great plan and so that is what they did.

Hope Floats

The moment she opened her eyes, she knew it was a Saturday. This was Olivia’s very best day of the week since folks were always asking her to do things on Sundays; but not on Saturdays. Olivia couldn’t stop smiling.

“Mornin’ Grandma,” said Olivia as she skipped into the room.

“Why sweetpea, you is sure bouncing today,” said Grandma. “Now you are going to have to eat your breakfast before you do anymore skippin’. You hear me?”

Olivia just nodded, it was easier just to agree with her grandma when she was talking like that.

“Where’s Grandpa?” Asked Olivia.

“Why sweetpea, he’s out in the yard feeling sorry for himself. Real sorry. A few hours in the fresh country air and he’ll be right as rain again.”

When Olivia finished her breakfast and had helped her grandma with the washing, she ran out into the yard to see what was wrong with her best pal.

“What’s up, Grandpa?”

The old man turned and smiled, “Mornin’ best friend, you is looking ready for living,” he said. “Ready for livin’,” and then he chuckled so hard that he nearly fell off his stool.

“Grandma says you’re feeling sorry for something,” said Olivia, helping her grandpa back on the stool.

“It is something and nothin’, sweetpea, something and nothin’,” said Grandpa.

And then Grandpa explained that he had lost some work when the Shanter family, in the next valley, had decided to move on to somewhere nearer the coast.

“Just means we’ll be little poorer for a while, but I tell you sweetpea, something always comes down that road, just when you least expect it.It might not be what you are looking for but it sure will be what you are needing right there and then.”

So Olivia asked her grandpa what it was he was expecting to come down the road, and he just turned to her and said with a smile, “why hope, little one, hope.”

And with that Olivia walked off to where she knew she would find the things she was looking for. The road was just outside of town and was called Old Creek. It had been a turnpike once upon a time, but no one really used it to get anywhere, anymore.

Yet Olivia knew that if anything was going to come past it would be on the Old Creek, so she sat down and made herself real comfortable. Olivia just sat there waiting, and waiting and waiting.

“These thing sure take a long time,” she said to no one in particular. Just then Herbert turned up.

“Thought I’d find you here, Olly,” said Herbert. He was the dog from Asker’s Farm and tended to go walkabout on a Saturday. The Askers used to try to tie him up but he’d just chew through the rope and go walking. So they eventually gave up and let Herbert do his own thing.

“What cha doing?” Asked Herbert.

“Why you always ask me that, Herbert. Ain’t it obvious?” Asked Olivia.

“Not really,” said Herbert.

“I’m waiting on Hope coming down the road. My Grandpa says he needs some and I thought if I wait here, I could get him some,” she said.

“Mind if I wait with you?” Asked Herbert.

“Don’t mind if you do,” said Olivia.

So they waited and talked, then talked and waited, but Hope seemed to be taking its time.

They were having a real interesting time when Scrimpy the Ass, from the next town over, also happened to be walking past.

“What cha doing?” Asked Scrimpy The Ass.

“Why we’re waiting on Hope coming down the road,” said Herbert.

“Why so?” Asked Scrimpy in his funny way of talking.

“’Cause Olivia’s grandpa needs some real quick,” Herbert replied.

“Mind if I wait with you?” Asked Scrimpy.

“Don’t mind if you do,” said Olivia. “Make yourself comfortable.”

So they sat and talked about this, and that, and everything in between.

Then Herbert looked at Olivia and said,”D’you mind if I ask a question?”

“Sure,” said Olivia and Scrimpy.

“Well, I know this sounds strange but I just wondered what Hope looked like, in case I don’t recognize it.”

“Well, according to my Grandpa, it won’t be what you’re expecting but it’ll be what you need,” said Olivia, wisely.

So Olivia, Herbert and Scrimpy all looked down the road looking for one thing and expecting another. And what they didn’t know, was that each of them was looking for a different type of hope.

By the time it came to sundown, they had wondered if maybe Hope had passed them by while they were talking.

Then Scrimpy said something that had them all thinking:

“Maybe your grandpa, has to sit on the road himself to get his own Hope. Maybe you only find your own. And maybe us talking and being friends was the Hope we needed for today and that is what we got.”

And they all agreed that perhaps you can only look for your own Hope and that it doesn’t ever look like what you were searching for.

“Next Saturday?” Asked Olivia.

“Sure,” said Herbert.

“Wouldn’t miss it,” said Scrimpy.

And each of them headed off in different directions, and each of them with a little Hope inside.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Mole Hills and Mountains

friends

Olivia had been playing out in the yard when she’d heard a door bang in the house. As she got nearer to the porch, she could hear her Grandpa hollerin’ about this and that but mostly about Old Chief Makkawaw who lived up on Old Creek Road. Then her Grandpa slammed the door again. This kind of thing wasn’t like her Grandpa at all, so Olivia guessed he was in a real bad mood.

Olivia did what she usually did on those occasions, she crawled under the house and listened to her Grandpa and Grandma talking through the floorboards.

When her Grandparents were walking up and down she would only be able to make out some of the conversations. This time she was sure her Grandpa was upset with the Old Chief, as he was making mountains out of mole hills.

It took a lot of things to impress Olivia, who felt she was a real hard customer to fool (leastways that’s what her Daddy had told her).But she knew she couldn’t let this opportunity pass and decided that after her lunch she was going to go up to the Old Creek Road to see what the Chief was doing.

By one o’clock, Olivia was sitting real comfortable on the Old Creek Road waiting for the Chief to do his thing. It was just then that Joe, the boy from her class in school, happened to pass by.

“What cha doin’?” He asked Olivia.

“Why I’m waiting on the Old Chief, I hear he turns mole hills into mountains, and I want to see him doin’ it,” she said, excitedly.

And Joe was kinda sorry that he’d agreed to help his Pa on the farm and someone making mountains was just what a boy like him would be wanting to see. He told Olivia that she should remember everything, and that she was to tell him all about it at school the following day.

“See ya,” he shouted to Olivia.

“Not if I see you first,” replied Olivia, just like she always did.

Joe had only disappeared when Herbert, the dog from Asker’s farm turned up.

“What cha doin’?” He asked.

And Olivia told him about a man who could make mountains out of mole hills.

Herbert had to admit that this was a new one for him, but he also added that he hadn’t seen a mole in many a long day. Herbert wondered if perhaps he could make mountains out of other things too. Like when moles were real scarce.

They were just getting’ ready to eat some of the popcorn that Olivia’s Grandma had made that day when Scrimpy, the Ass from the next town over, happened to pass.

“What cha doin’?” Scrimpy asked.

And Herbert and Olivia explained all about the molehill/mountain situation.

“Mind if I sit?” Asked Scrimpy.

“Don’t mind if you do,” said Herbert and Olivia, on account of the fact that Scrimpy had always wondered how you made mountains and was real excited about finding out.

Well the three friends ate all the popcorn and then they waited, and they waited, and nothing and no one came up the Old Creek Road.

They were just about to give up when the Old Chief came staggering up towards them.

“I think he’s been at the Fire Water again,” said Olivia (something she’d heard her Grandpa say but wasn’t sure what it was).

“What you kids doin’ sitting in the middle of the road,” asked the Old Chief.

And they all told him they were waiting to see him turn a molehill into a mountain. So he asked why did they think that, and Olivia told the Old Chief that she had heard her Grandpa say it, so it must be true.

“Well it ain’t true, that old goat is always saying that about me and it ain’t true, I tells you. That Grandpappy of yours is always looking at the world through a glass that’s half empty.”

Olivia wondered if that was indeed true and that maybe she and Herbert and Scrimpy should go and investigate.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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My Granddaddy and the Starman

alien

I remember it was a cold day, is all.  My teacher came to take me from the class, said I had to go and see my granddaddy on account that he was leaving real soon.

To be honest, he hadn’t said nothing to me, and I was his best pal. He said that I had a head on my shoulders that was ninety years beyond my age – which makes me a hundred in anyone’s money.

Anyways – as I’m reaching my granddaddy’s house, I can see my aunts and uncle looking real, real sad on the steps.

Maybe it’s on account of his going – but if I’m being honest, he usually don’t go fishing until around September.

“He wants to see you. You’d better be quick. There ain’t much time.” Is what my aunt Mamie said to me, before licking her handkerchief and wiping my face. I gotta tell you, I ain’t a fan of aunts licking their handkerchiefs.

So I get to the bedroom door and my ma is coming out. Her eyes look real dark, and there’s black stuff running from her face. She wipes the tears away hoping I won’t notice – but I do – then she puts on that smile, that I know is fake.  She gives me the biggest of hugs – bigger than when my little brother didn’t ever come home again, and then she pushes me through the door.

My granddaddy ain’t getting ready for his vacation. No sir, he’s just lying in bed like a no good critter (that’s what he usual calls me).

He tells me to come over close and sit beside him on the bed. I gotta tell you that he don’t look well, but sometimes that happens to folks.

Then he tells me this little story. I’m telling you it exactly as he told me.

“Here boy, look at that photo. Know what it is?” I shake my head, ‘cause I really don’t know what it is.

“Well that is one of those space aliens from outer space. I took his photo with my Kodak Brownie. The little creature didn’t seem to mind. Told me he had broken down in the next valley and was waiting on some of his own kind to get him back to the stars.”

Well I tell you, I had never heard my granddaddy talk like that before.

“So this little critter got to talking to me in real good English and we was talking about this and that, and how the New York Mets hadn’t been doing so well. Then I told him about your grandma and how her passing had been the most painful thing in the whole of my days. And do you know what the little critter said to me?”

I shook my little spellbound head.

“He said, not to mind about her going, that we had all been here and would always be here. I had to tell you I wasn’t sure what he meant. So he explained further. He said that all the atoms and stuff that made us up, were all from the beginning of the universe. Over the billions of years they would change into stars and planets, and animals and space dust, and then disintegrate and become other things. And just the once they all came together and made you.”

I said, “me granddaddy?” and he nodded his head.

“So when your grandma went away – and when I go too, all that will happen is, I’ll turn to dust and go back to the universe and float about for the rest of time. Once in a while, a bit of me might come together in another human being and when you look at a new-born baby, there could be a bit of your old granddaddy there.”

Then granddaddy said he was real tired and could I go and get my ma again. He said he’d tell me about what happened to the starman another time.

He never got the chance. By the time my ma got back he was gone – and not fishing.

I gotta tell you, I still look at new-born babies and wonder.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Thing and His Friend

thing

Thing had never known a time like it, at least not since he had been on his own. The Spring had slipped into Summer and now the leaves were falling all around the front of the cave. Some of the folks from the town had stopped by on their way to the top of the mountain, some stayed for just a few minutes, some for a several hours, talking about this and that and smoking pipes and stuff. Some folks just hurried by with a ‘howdee’ on their way through.

So he really wasn’t alone and when his mother returned life would go back to the good times. And yet this was the second winter coming that Things was without her and he couldn’t stop hoping she’d be back.

It was on Sunday in early December that one of the walkers mentioned to Thing that there was another like Thing in town. Perhaps his mother was returning just in time for Christmas? He’d have to get the cave real sharp, ‘cause his mother always believed in cleaning and keeping things straight. “There’s a place for everything,” she would tell him.

He quickly cleaned and polished until there wasn’t a speck of dust to be seen. He knew his mother would approve and so he felt safe enough to go down the mountain into town and make sure it was she.

Just beyond the Library was a crowd of people, all standing in the way they used to gather around Thing; back in the days when they were scared of him, that is. But times had changed and people just let him go about his business. So maybe they were welcoming his mother, Thing did something he didn’t usually do, he broke into a run. He could see her head and her arms – people must be welcoming her home.

But it wasn’t his mother, sure it was another like him, but it wasn’t his mother. This was one of his own kind who was being welcomed into town, mainly due to all the hard work and kindness that Thing had shown to the town’s folk.

Maybe this one knew where his mother was – maybe this one had met her on the way here. But the one who looked like Thing didn’t know anything about his mother. Thing just turned away for a spell and sighed and then spun around, smiled and welcomed his new friend into the town.

Thing said there was always a warm corner in his cave for a friend, at least until his family got back. But his new friend said he felt right at home in town and was probably going to stay there.

Sure enough one of the farmers took the other Thing in and let him stay in his barn. Thing was confused, ‘cause surely Things should stick together, since they both knew how the other thought about people and life.

This got Thing down and he went to the back of the cave to sit and talk to his mother, hoping wherever she was, that she could hear him. He said that life had been good for a while but he would have liked to be friends with the one who looked like Thing.

Suddenly a little wind blew in the cave and there was the one who looked like Thing standing at the entrance.

His friend could see that something was bothering Thing and so he asked him what was wrong. Thing told him that he had hoped they would be pals  and that he’d stay in the cave, at least until his mother came back.

“You have to live out there,” he said pointing to the world. “That is why we are all here,” said his friend.

And Thing told him of the hurt that he faced when he was out there.

“Sure there are those, the unhappy ones, who are jealous of other’s happiness and maybe from time to time they can hurt you more than you would like. But that is the price of living. That is what makes life worth living. There are good people out there too; I have chosen to live in town even though there may be enemies there, where there are enemies, there are also friends. If you stay in the cave you will never find out.”

And so his friend told him that there were probably souls out there who felt touched by Thing, who wanted to talk to him, to get to know Thing.

“But if you stay up here, you will only know loneliness,” his friend told him. “You can not say who you have inspired or helped just by being you, by persevering. But if you lock yourself away and say you have helped no one, then you are just a sad as those who try to hurt. The universe made you, Thing to live, not to exist in darkness. No one can protect you from all the hurt but that is the price, for in all that madness you will find love in the most unlikely places. And if your mother does not come back then that was her destiny, just as yours is to be happy.”

The two of them sat and talked for the rest of the night and then Thing fell asleep much happier than he had been for the longest time.

When he awoke in the morning he found that his friend had gone and so he looked for him but he was nowhere to be seen. The farmer told Thing that his friend had departed at first light. Then the farmer said that he had left Thing a present.

“I was to tell you it was it was a likeness of the one person who could make you happy,” said the farmer.

When Thing opened the present he looked into the mirror and saw himself.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Me and Buzz and Fishin’

Buzz2

Buzz’s pappy left home only a day or two before Buzz’s fifth birthday and if I can re-call all that way back, his pappy told folks he was real ashamed that he couldn’t support his family and then disappeared to Tijuana with a flamenco dancer.

Somehow I don’t think it was his family he wanted to give his support to.

The day he left, me and Buzz were fishin’ down by Pastor’s Creek which sits next to the Big River which flows all the way to the coast. We always talked of taking a raft to the sea but like most things we talk about, it never did happen; least ways not yet.

Anyhoo I’m shootin’ off here – so on the day that his pappy left, Buzz asked me where the tide went, as it was way out on this side of the Big River.

Me being me, told Buzz that it went to the other side.

I explained to Buzz that when it was low tide on this side it was high tide on the other. He took my word without question. He just gave one of those – that seems right to me – nods and went on with his fishin’; not another care or another word –  that’s why I love Buzz like a brother.

Now I ain’t stupid, not like Buzz and I knows the real god’s honest may I spit on your hand and hope to die truth – just like my grandmamma told me. She said there’s a big hole under the river where the water runs through to the other side of the world – kind-a like that sand in an egg-timer – like the one our teacher with the bad teeth from England showed us once.

When all the river water goes through their holes, the world turns upside down and it becomes night for some and day for others. Then the water comes back down the holes and we turn over again. If that ain’t the simplest explanation, then I don’t know what is.

My grandmamma always had a big smile on her face when she told me that one. I guess I’ll tell Buzz the truth one of these days.

Buzz’s pappy never did head back up this way, but I did hear that the flamenco dancer once drove through town in a big red Cadillac – although this town is always full of stories like that.

You just ain’t sure what to believe.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Murder at the Mermaid Inn

 

merm2

He had just bent down to tie his shoes laces and this is what probably caused him to disappear behind the large box. It wasn’t that he was being nosey, it was the act of him bending down which had caused him to accidentally overhear the conversation.

“Who is going do it?” asked one of the men.

“Looks like it will be me,” said a younger voice.”He’ll be at the Mermaid Inn in Rye, tomorrow. We kill him there.”

“What about the body?” the older man asked.

“The Colonel said he’ll deal with all the rest.”

Arthur never thought that the summer was going to be as exciting as this. He’d been prepared for it all to be a complete bore. His family was still in India and they weren’t due home for another two weeks. Since school had finished for the summer, he had been watched over by the staff. He found it easy to fool them. He would tell them he had a doctor’s appointment, the third one in the last two weeks, if they had bothered to count.

He just told them his aunt was the only one to take him as it was ‘boy’s stuff’. This allowed him to wander the streets of London, unmolested.

Arthur’s natural curiosity got him into all sorts of predicaments. One day he sat in St. James’ park watching two gentlemen in hats, talking very quietly to each other which convinced Arthur that they were spies. He had been sitting there so long that someone had reported Arthur to a police constable. One who insisted in taking the boy home to talk to his parents, Arthur knew that if this was to happen the game was up. So he told the constable that he lived on Piccadilly, it was the first place he could think of. As they crossed Pall Mall a horsed reared up, allowing Arthur to pull away from the constable and escape towards Trafalgar Square.

The reason Arthur had been watching the gentlemen so carefully was that if the men were spies then Arthur wanted to ask if he could join their group, or whatever it was that spies belonged to.

But this was the first time he had heard people talking aloud about killing someone in Rye or anywhere to be honest. He’d been to Rye every summer with his grandparents since 1902. His mother and father always chose the summer to travel, leaving Arthur with whomever was the nearest. He never believed he was abandoned; he just felt that he had all the freedom that a boy needed.

Arthur peered over the end of the box to see what the bad guys looked like. Actually they looked very ordinary, Arthur had always imagined baddies having moustaches and smoking cigars. The older baddy looked like his dad, and the younger companion well, looked like Arthur.

One of the two turned to where Arthur was hiding causing Arthur to throw himself as low as possible.

“What?” asked the younger baddy.

“Thought I heard something, that’s all. We’ll take the 7.18 tomorrow morning,” said the older one.

And with that they disappeared into the throng of the station.

Arthur would be back tomorrow to take the 7.18 train to Rye. No need to tell the staff, they usually let him sleep on in the morning anyway, so he could slip out unnoticed.

The next morning was a glorious one. The sun was shining and as Arthur got nearer the station he got more and more excited. Suddenly the summer looked a real treat, what with spies and killing and such, it was going to be a great one.

He had considered wearing a false beard but soon realised that he would be charged as an adult on the train, so he brought one of his father’s old hats; one that he could pull down over his face, if the need arose.

He got to the station very early – one reason for this was to avoid Cuthbert questioning ‘where the young master would be bound on such a lovely morning?’

Arthur chose the end carriage where he could keep an eye on everyone who was boarding the train. This was simple enough at first but as the train got more crowded there were just far too many people for him to observe satisfactorily. He thought he saw the baddies but he couldn’t swear to it.

Then a thought entered his head, what would he do if they had pistols? I mean an adventure is an adventure but being shot at was a tad too dangerous. Still, if Arthur did take a bullet Cuthbert would get the blame not taking care of the boy in the first place. A bullet wound would be a jolly good thing to take back to school, why they might even make him head of the house.

On second thoughts, Arthur liked to do his own thing and being considered for the head of house would curtail his freedom. If he got shot and killed, well the chaps might raise a statue to the bravest boy who had ever attend Claiborne. He wondered if all his pals would weep at his sacrifice and maybe his mother would throw herself on the ground and wish that she had been so much kinder to her brave son.

The train gave a jolt as it pulled out of the station bringing Arthur back to the here and now. He decided that sitting looking out the window was not the stuff of spies, so he pulled the hat down over his face in case he was spotted.

It took a long time to get to Rye, in fact Arthur had eaten everything he’d taken with him – even the emergency caramel bars. There were a few passengers who alighted at Rye, including the baddies which was a relief to Arthur who kept several steps behind them as they climbed up into the town.

At the High Street, the baddies took a turn up Lion Street towards St Mary’s church. His grandma’s house was on Church Square on the other side and hopefully the house was closed for the winter. Hopefully there would be no embarrassing meetings with one of his own family.

The baddies cut around at the top of Lion Street and were certainly headed for Mermaid Street – ‘the prettiest little street in all Christendom’; as his grandma was want to describe it.

Arthur was considering what to do next. The police constable was a good friend of his grandfather’s and perhaps he should contact him to let him know that two scoundrels were on the loose ready to assassinate a very important person, perhaps the King himself. Arthur wasn’t sure if the King ever stayed at the Mermaid Inn but he could be just passing.

Arthur pulled his hat down so far that he had difficulty seeing where he was walking, and as for the disguise – he had just walked into Mermaid Street when a woman’s voice said:

“Arthur? Young Arthur Rawlings, is that you?”

“Never heard of him,” said Arthur in his deepest, manly voice.

“It is you,” said the lady as she lifted his hat.”Wait until I tell my Sammy, I didn’t know your grandparents were back in town.”

“They’re not Mrs Andrews, I’m on a mission.”

“On a mission, you say. I’ve never heard the likes.” And with that she trotted off laughing to herself.

“Women!” said Arthur. Soon he was back on the trail but the baddies had disappeared, probably with guns blazing into the Mermaid Inn.

What should he do, call for help? Or deal with these scoundrels on his own?

Arthur decided that the worst that could happen is he gets shot dead and a statue erected, so he counted to three, and then counted to three again, and then three again for luck. Then he ran through the door of the Mermaid Inn shouting that someone was going to get killed very soon and that they should all take cover.

The police constable made Arthur a cup of tea while they waited on Cuthbert coming down from London to take him back home.

Arthur said he was sorry that he hadn’t realised that the baddies were in fact butchers who had come to the Mermaid Inn to kill a pig for the wedding that Saturday.

He was sorry and he wouldn’t do it again.
The truth was, he wasn’t sorry and he did do it again.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Santa’s Last Present

pascalcampion

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

Me and Buzz and the President

FRIENDS

Okay, so you may (or may not) know what happened to Buzz and how he turned out – and so you may (or may not) want to know when all this stuff kinda started.

I’ve been thinkin’ about it and I got to say it was probably that day – the day when the President came to town. The Chief of Staff was kinda passin’ through town on the way to seein’ some of his kin who lived up the valley. There was an election comin’ up and they wanted to show the President as a man of the people (well that’s what my granddaddy says, and he usually knows ‘bout these things).

So Buzz says to me that he’s never seen a President before, leastways, not in the flesh and I say why don’t we sneak off and watch the whole show going through town.
Me and Buzz sit in the big tree that hangs over Main Street and wait. Nothin’ happened for a long, long time. Well not except for Maisie Blue who was walking up and down, like she always does, searchin’ for a boyfriend. She’s always lookin’ for a boyfriend. Everybody in town knows that.

Then this kinda scary guy shouts up and asks what me and Buzz are doin’ up the tree. I shout and tells him that we are waitin’ for the president. He says, have we got a gun. Before I know it, Buzz says he has, but he means the one his maw keeps in the attic and that was when all these guys surrounded the tree and told us to get down.
When I explained that Buzz was a bit stooped sometimes, the guys agreed and said they were sorry for the trouble and did we want a soda.

It was while we were drinkin’ our sodas, that everyone started to get excited and some guy in a dark suit shouts that Eagle has landed or somethin’ and everyone starts runnin’ around.

The cops are standin’ all the way down Main Street keepin’ the good folks of town back on the sidewalk.
One big tall guy who kept talkin’ to no one that I could see, said that it was too late for us to go back into the crowd and that we should just keep followin’ them down the street.
Well there’s me and Buzz followin’ the President and his security men and folks are cheerin’ and shoutin’. So Buzz starts to wave back and folks wave to him. So I’m thinkin’ this ain’t a bad idea and then I start waving.

Then it hits me, what if there’s a real madman with a gun in the crowd, and what if he’s cross-eyed (like Luke McAllister) and shoots one of us. While I’m wavin’, I tell Buzz this and he says that if we kinda danced it would be harder for the cross-eyed gunman to hit us.

So me and Buzz start kinda dancin’ and the crowd cheers even louder. When I say dancin’ I mean we were jiggin’ as if we had ants in our pants but it went down well with the folks.
Then Buzz got carried away and he started all that barn dancin’ stuff and started linkin’ arms with me. It was only when he tried the same with the security man that it all went wrong.

Anyhoo, the security men had me and Buzz in a real tight hold when the President’s window went down and he kinda said somethin’ to one of the guys in black.
Next thing we know, me and Buzz are sittin’ in the car with the President and talkin’ to him. I kid you not, may I pee ma pants for ever if I’m lyin’.

The President asks me what I want to be when I grows and I says a writer and he says that’s a good thing to be. Then he asks Buzz what he wants to be and Buzz says ‘president, just like you’.

Well that was the first a heard of that one but Buzz crossed his heart and hoped to die if he was lyin’.
And some of you out there know what happened to Buzz and ain’t probably surprised at this story.

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2 wee bobby

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Greenock Story: The Ice Ghosts

ship

based on a true story 

She could taste the sea on her lips as she drove her Hudson Super Six towards Summertown, Nova Scotia on a day that only God could have made. Amy and Ben, her grandchildren, whooped and hollered as they stood on the automobile’s back seat, arms flapping wildly in the wind. “We’re eagles, Grandma, look we’re flying”

“No, we ain’t” claimed Ben “We’re areo-ma-planes”.

“You children can be whatever or whoever you damn well want to be, always remember that” said Sadie talking out one side of her mouth, the other side being the occupied territory of a Turkish cigarette; Murad being her current favourite.

“Don’t say ‘damn’ Grandma, it ain’t right”.

“She can if she’s a wanting”, gasped Ben through the rushing air, “I can too, Amy, you see if I can’t – Damn! Damn! Damn!”

“You’ll go to hell Ben, I swear you will” Amy worried far too much about other people going to hell.

The large red automobile whisked through the outskirts of town throwing up large masses of dust. White laundry didn’t remain clean as Sadie’s machine did its worst along the potted roads but there was no one to object – the streets were deserted.

She moved the cigarette to the other side of her mouth just as her big automobile screeched around the corner into Main Street.

“Shit”, the word escaped from Sadie’s mouth.

“Shit” repeated Ben.

“Ben” said Amy, worrying about his soul again.

In front of them stood a wall of people, all facing the other way and the big red Hudson was just about to mow them down.

Sadie braked just as hard as she had been cussing, throwing Amy on to the floor and Ben straight over the seat with the boy laughing all the way. Now with a little luck and providence those at the back of the crowd stepped aside, letting the automobile slide through to the front. It came to rest in the middle of Lincoln Street just as the soldier boys were marching past. They had to work their way around the car and pass Ben who was standing on the hood saluting, one or two of them returned the salute; this was Summertown, 1918 and the men had finally come home from overseas.

“In no time at all your father will be home too, he can’t stay in Paree forever, although lord knows he’s tried” added Sadie quietly. One of the older soldiers at the back of the parade waved her through the crowd and on a whim she leaned out of the car and kissed him; if she couldn’t kiss her son John then this boy would have to do.

It must have been all of fifty years since Sadie first came here and today was to be the final trip to this peculiar little town at the edge of the world; this time she had brought John’s kids. In the old days she would bring her husband but now he was way too sick to travel and so she normally came up this way alone.

Sadie had promised herself that this was to be her last time and that she would say farewell to The Ice Ghosts forever, someone else would have to remember.

It was a long hot drive from New York City to the little town that clung on to a continent. Summertown’s one hotel, The Prince of Wales, looked proudly over the bay and surprisingly little had changed in it over the years. The hotel had opened its doors in 1860 to celebrate His Royal Highnesses’ visit to Nova Scotia but the external wood was now in need of a fresh lick of paint but just like an old friend, it always wore a warm smile on its face.

As the Hudson parked up alongside several other automobiles there was a noticeable swell blowing in from the Banks; a big storm was coming and forcing Sadie to consider waiting until the following morning to visit the stones.

Like all the other fixtures and fittings in the hotel, Umbrosia was still here, still laughing, and still known as Old Umbrosia even although she was younger than Sadie.

“Well I declare it warms my heart to see you missus and you’ve brought the little chill’ins this time. They sure look like ya, they surely do missus” then she laughed all the way up the stairs like an angel had whispered the funniest joke in the world into her ear.

“Here we are missus, your usual room nice and clean as always” Umbrosia managed to hold the luggage, retrieve the keys from her pocket and open the door all at the same time. She needed to give the door a slight nudge with her shoulder which had her laughing wildly all over again.

“Just been newly painted, we couldn’t get the paint during the war but the boss lady insisted it be ready for missus Sadie and here we are”

Umbrosia dumped the bags on the floor and sat on the edge of the bed. “Just needs to catch my breath missus ‘cause Old Umbrosia just keeps getting older. Now what’s your name young un’?”

“Amy”

“Well Amy, you sure is unusually pretty, you sure is, and is this your brother? What you called boy?”

“Ben….Mam”

“That little urchin called Old Umbrosia ‘Mam’, did you hear him missus? I do declare” And with that Old Umbrosia laughed her way out the door and slammed it behind her.

The bedroom was just as Sadie remembered it, the one room that never changed and the thought of it always kept her warm. Each night as she nursed her husband Alex through the bad times, she closed her eyes and dreamt of this room.

“It’s getting dark, Grandma”

Amy watched from the window as the frothy sea horses were being chased on to the shore by the gathering storm.

Crack!

The first lightning bolt startled the little girl who began to let tears flow down her cheeks.

“Come away from the window Darling, come to Grandma”

Her granddaughter rushed to the safety of her Grandma’s arms.

“How ‘bout you Ben, you want a hug?”

“I ain’t scared Grandma”

“You ain’t scared, huh? Then maybe you can fetch Old Umbrosia and tell her to bring up some lamps”

Ben, like the man his father would expect him to be, walked along the corridor slowly until the next crash drowned the hallway in white light and as no one was watching, Ben found a place to hide.

By supper time the storm had continued to grow in strength and ferocity so Umbrosia had delivered cheese, milk and wine to tide them over. Sadie and Amy were sitting together on the big bed eating the last of the Monterey Jack while Ben sat grownup like, by the door.

“Don’t you want to join us Ben? I think we’ll be safe, I honestly do”

“No thank you kindly, Grandma”

But just as she finished talking, the biggest flash and crash in the history of storms found Ben sitting next to Amy and Grandma.

“Well then, ain’t this cosy, ain’t this real cosy? What shall we do then children? Amy?”

“A story Grandma, please”

“What about you Ben, do you want a story?”

“A boy’s one, not a girl’s one”.

“Well let me see, I could tell you how I came to this country and why I come to Summertown every year”.

“You came from far, far, away didn’t you Grandma?” Amy was proud that she knew this fact.

“I did indeed” said Sadie, kissing her beautiful little granddaughter on the forehead.”Tell you what, let’s close the curtains and hunker down”.

When they’d made themselves comfortable and Sadie had built up the roaring log fire, they all sat close on the bed and readied themselves for their Grandmother’s story.

“Truly, it was all so, so long ago but I always try my best to remember everything and everyone, just as it should be.

“The year we are talking about, 1868 was so long ago that your Mom and Dad weren’t even born. I had just turned fourteen years of age and I lived in the town of my birth, Greenock on the west coast of Scotland. I was without any word of a lie a wild child but I had a bunch of friends, The Nelson Street Gang as we called ourselves. Apart from me, there was Will, he was sixteen and the leader, there was Alex and Rory, the twins, they were thirteen years old and although they lived in Glasgow they would travel the twenty miles to come to the town for the day. James was much older, I think he said he was about twenty years old and it was he who came up with the idea that changed our lives. James had a pal John Paul or Pauley, as we called him, who would also have been about sixteen and it was he who gave us the name of a ship.

“It was a game that many of us were involved in, a game of stowing away aboard a ship and then revealing ourselves at the last-minute as the vessel was about to leave the Firth of Clyde; that, my darling children, was the river I grew up beside.

“My mother, Isabel, was not an unkind woman but she did have to love and care for seven other children, so each of us was overlooked from time to time and if I disappeared for a few days it would not cause her a great upset. Will’s idea was to see how far we could travel without being discovered but it was the older boy, James, that sealed our fate, he wanted to work on the railroads of North America and knew of a ship that would get him there. The vessel was known as the Arran and its first mate was a friend of Pauley’s father, so even if we were found quickly Pauley felt we’d be well looked after.

“We made our move when old Dreamer, the harbour master, had fallen asleep from his daily rum potion and the crew were out in the streets of the old town. We weren’t the only ones that night looking for a ship to board. I reckon this happened most evenings at the harbour. The crews weren’t too concerned as they knew they would catch most of the stowaways in time and those they didn’t, well they would be set to work.

“Our ship was headed for Quebec, although we were unsure where that was, it sounded far away and that was good enough for us.

“I, James, Pauley, Alex and the twins managed to find our way into a cargo hold and lower ourselves behind the rope store. We’d bumped into five others, three boys and two girls also boarding the Arran that night but they had made their way to the stern of the ship. Little did we realise at the time that they would be the lucky ones.

“Between the movements of the vessel and the rancid smell of the ropes I felt I was going to be sick and found sleep hard to come by. I heard the crew return just before dawn and the Arran set sail soon afterwards. The sun was shining through the spaces in the deck and so the hold warmed up fast. Within an hour they were calling for the hatches to be battened down, this is when the crew do their final search before heading out to the high seas. I could see the boys holding their breaths as our area was searched but no one thought to look behind the ropes. ‘I’ve found some’ I heard one of the crew call out but it turned out it was the five from the stern. They were transferred on to the pilot cutter and that was that, we, on the other hand, were bound for some foreign land called Quebec.

“I heard someone call that we had passed ‘Paddy’s milestone’ and that we were heading out into the Irish Sea. Will felt it was time to make a move and since the first mate knew Pauley, Will suggested he should go up with him. What was the worst that could happen to us? We would be made to work to the next port, a life on the open seas then a trip home.

“Things,however, didn’t work out like that, the boys had been gone only a few minutes when we were all being hauled up to the deck. I knew almost immediately that something was very wrong. Standing next to Pauley was a man I will remember for the rest of my life, his name was James Kerr and he was the first mate of the Arran and probably a drinking pal of Beelzebub himself. He came from Lochranza and was thirty-one years of age at the time. The skipper was Andrew Watt, twenty-eight and married to Kerr’s sister. By all accounts, Andrew Watt was known as a kind and fair man but whatever hold Kerr had over him had poisoned his good nature.

“I don’t want to scare you kids, suffice to say that life aboard the Arran was far from heaven. We were beaten regularly and given only water for days. When the ship’s cook threw the potato peelings over the side, James and Will jumped over to catch those pieces that were stuck on the side of the ship. Some days we had one piece of peeling each. As the eldest those two were whipped ever day, only Pauley escaped the cruelty. Some of the crew tried to smuggle dried meats to us but paid for it by being whipped in front of us. On other days Captain Watt tried to dampen Kerr’s anger but one look from the first mate and Watt would fold. I will always wonder what he had over him.

“Days passed and the air grew colder, much colder. Sometimes Will was tied to the mainsail without a shirt and left there for hours as ice formed on the sails. Then that day came – the ship stopped. All around the Arran was an ice pack which had stuck the vessel solidly. On that day Kerr ordered Will, James, Alex, Rory and I off the ship on to the ice flow but Watt countered this decision and told us to return to the Arran; perhaps his conscience or God made him reconsider but the next day he was back on the devil’s side.

“Pauley watched as we were marched back down the gangplank on to the ice flow again. Watt told us that the provisions on the Arran would not support all six of us as well as the crew. He went on to say that another ship, The Dark Shadow, was stuck about a mile to the north of the Arran and would accept us with all haste. How or why he knew this did not strike me at the time. Pauley had tears on his face and the smirking Kerr had his arm around the boy as we stood on the ice. ’God bless’ was Watt’s final words. I will always remember those words.

“To add to the pain both the twins had travelled in their bare feet and that was all they had to stand on in the ice. Will had been given a knife from one of the kinder crew members and had succeeded in hiding it in his turned-up trouser bottoms. As you may have guessed no such ship as The Dark Shadow existed or at least we never saw it. By the time we realised this fact we had lost sight of the Arran and had no idea if we were five, fifty or five hundred miles from landfall and perhaps Kerr had expected us all to expire.

“As darkness fell James made each of us tie a piece of clothing to one another, so that if the ice broke in the night we could at least keep together. We huddled closely and with God’s grace made it through to the morning.

“Of the twins, Rory was not faring well and the frost bite was starting to blacken his toes. As we continued to walk into the white wilderness, the ice began to break up. Sometimes there were small gaps filled with water that had to be jumped. All of us made the other side except for Rory who fell in and it took all our energy to pull him out again. Alex tried to carry him but it was almost impossible and Rory began to fall behind. When Rory fell in once more we pulled him out but we all felt we had no energy reserves left. He asked to remain to catch his breath and we moved silently on, even Alex didn’t look back but I heard ,as I’m sure we all did, Rory slip back off the ice and into the water for the last time; a small part of me died that day.

“As it grew dark towards the end of the second day we saw a bonfire neither from a ship nor a lighthouse but from a building on a distant shore, the problem was that the ice stopped about a mile from the safety of a landfall. We called, shouted and screamed but no one called back so Will decided we needed to make our own way across the water, it was now almost dark and if the ice broke we would not survive. Will used his knife to cut blocks of ice for each of us, we could sit astride them and paddle our way across. Being the heaviest, Alex and James tried first and it worked, the blocks floated and supported their weight. After another two blocks had been cut Alex and I took to the open seas. Will felt the three of us should start out and send for help when we got to safety, he would cut one final block of ice and follow us over.

“James drifted off to the left and I could only hear his voice grow fainter. Three times I fell off the ice and it was only with Alex’s strength and help that I survived. Somehow James made landfall first and attracted the attention of the farmer who was tending the bonfire. He and his sons cast a rowing boat out  to sea and collected me and Alex but no matter how hard they looked, and believe me they did, all through the night and the next day and the following night, no trace of Will was ever found.

“When the farmer’s wife found out about Rory and Will she told us not to worry, she said the Ice Ghosts would take care of them, they take care of everyone lost out there and in turn our lost boys would look after the others. I didn’t  know what others she meant.

“A couple of days later James announced he was moving on and would head to the nearest town for a train. That turned out to be Summertown; we had been washed ashore at Nova Scotia. He was going on to Philadelphia to meet with an uncle who worked on the Pennsylvania railroad, we never heard from James again.

“When the farmer told the locals about the Arran, the council contacted Quebec and the good folks of Greenock. When we recovered most of our health Alex and I returned home to Scotland by means of a schooner skippered by one of Summertown’s great and good, he had heard of our plight and wanted to help.

“News had already hit my hometown before we arrived and there were many at the quayside to welcome us, including the mother of Alex and Rory who was unaware of her son’s demise.

“When the Arran finally returned to Greenock both Kerr and Watt were arrested, initially for their own safety as the crowd were ready to lynch them. They both stood trial at Glasgow High Court and were sentenced to eighteen months in prison. On their release, Kerr went back to sea but I hear tell that Captain Watt died soon after in Pensacola, Florida.

“I married Alex, your Granddad, and we moved to New York City in the summer of 1873.The following year I promised I would return to Summertown to remember absent friends and to thank the farmer and his family. I collected two stones on the beach, one for Rory and one for Will, and I laid them on a rock. Each year, your Granddad and I would return and lay more stones in remembrance and so my lovely grandchildren that is what I hope you shall help me do tomorrow”.

By now Ben and Amy were fast asleep and Sadie wasn’t sure how much of the story they’d heard but it didn’t matter, it felt right telling it even if it was only to the lamps. Sadie put the kids to bed and took a look out of the window. The storm had passed and all was right with the world again.

In the morning Sadie, Amy and Ben went to the beach early. The sun was shining and the shore was chock full of souvenirs from the storm. Sadie went to pick a stone from the beach when she suddenly changed her mind.

“Ben, Amy why don’t you kids bring me a stone each”. The children loved the game and Amy returned with what she thought was the most beautiful and Ben with the biggest stone.

“Now come with me” as Sadie guided them to a pile of stones on the ridge.

“What are these?” asked Amy.

“These are for the Ice Ghosts, ain’t they Grandma?” smiled Ben.

“You heard?”

“I heard Grandma, I’ll tell you about it later Amy” said her brother then both of them ran off.

Sadie laid the two stones on top of the others and was about to say a short prayer when she was interrupted by a scream.

“Grandma, come quickly, Amy’s stepped on a jellyfish”, Sadie, whispered ‘goodbye’ to the stones and knew her life now rested with her family and the future and that the past was the past.

The Nova Scotia summers came and went and the stones lay undisturbed for many years, then one sunny morning a man and his son walked towards the pile of stones and each placed a rock upon it.

The man smiled at his son, “That’s it, Rory my boy, that’s it” then Ben took his son’s hand and led him back to the car.

POSTSCRIPT:
A few weeks after I put the story on the blog – I got this response:

This is the story of my Great Great Grandfather. The true story was originally written by John Donald. Though you changed the name of some of the stowaways, most part, it’s the same story as his. The Greenock stowaways were seven boys, interesting concept having one be a female. I have researched this story for several years and just came across your version of it today

bobby stevenson 2016

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Me and Buzz and the Hospital

FRIENDS

This is just one of those quick stories I gotta tell you ‘fore Buzz finds out.

Some of the sharper of you out there might remember the time that Buzz broke his leg in two places – the yard and the driveway – yeah, I know, it’s still not funny.

But it did mean that my best bud in the whole world had to spend several of his summer weeks in Hot Springs Creek Hospital. Very few folks come out of that place alive, and Buzz was squealin’ all the way there about the fact that he was fine and that a day lyin’ in his bed would fix everythin’.

He ain’t no coward, is Buzz, but every one of his family who ever went into that place came out in a wooden box. Okay, so most of them were over ninety years of age. Okay, all of them were over ninety years of age but hey, you see what was troublin’ my bud?

When they tried to wheel him into the hospital on a gurney, he wouldn’t let go of the ambulance. Jeez, I thought they were gonna have to cut his hands off too, but his Mom used her tried and tested method and hit him on the knuckles and he soon let go. Yeah, you’re right, she was a hard woman.

Anyhoo once they got my bud into a bed, and he realized that he wasn’t goin’ nowhere for a while, he kinda settled down. That was when he told me, that it was my job to keep him entertained, ‘cause that’s what a pal does. First I heard.

The followin’ day, I borrowed Ma Cooper’s donkey and tried to get into the hospital. I got as far as the front door but the critter was just as stubborn as Buzz. I got around the back of it and pushed the donkey’s ass, but it didn’t shift much. Just as the donkey’s head got through the hospital door, someone screamed and they all came runnin’ – meanin’ that I got scolded and sent home with a letter and the donkey. I was told that when Buzz heard that story, he nearly wet the hospital bed ‘cause he had laughed so hard. Me and Buzz were always havin’ trouble tryin’ not to laugh so hard that you gotta pee -, it just one of life’s things you gotta accept. Part of bein’ a man, I guess.

The next day, I got the Shaker Twins, who is midgets, to stand on the other’s shoulders and walk past Buzz’s window with a big coat on – well I thought it was real funny but when Joey Shaker (the smaller of the midgets) tripped on a stone, he fell off his brother’s shoulders and it kinda, (only kinda mind you), looked like a man had been halved in two. All I heard was Mrs Treats screamin’ that a man had been cut in two outside her window and that, help her soul, Satan could just swaller her up right here and now, ‘cause she’d seen it all.

I gotta say, and I know it ain’t kind, but Mrs Treats is a bit soft in the old head on account that she was the town’s teacher for nearly a hundred years (or somethin’ like that). You can guess that I got another letter home to my folks.

My final attempt wasn’t like, my greatest one. Becky Callister is known to drop her knickers and show her bee-hind to anyone who will give her a candy. Okay, so I was desperate. Anyhoo, I gave her two candies just to make sure she done a good job. Can I just say right here, that Becky ain’t the sharpest knife in a drawer and she showed her ass to Mr Hope (the next window along), who was recoverin’ from a heart condition.

Okay, so you’ve guessed again, yep, I got a letter and yep, I got told to stay away from the hospital or they’d call the police. It’s another three weeks until my bud gets released, I just hope I can last.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Secret Things, Sweet Things

angel

Secret Things

She awoke, as she did every morning to the sound of the muffled, shouting voice and the door being unlocked before repeatedly kicked. Slivers of sunlight were all that her young eyes could understand until she reached for the old spectacles that were her only possession.

She was in the garden shed as this was where she lived.

There was another kick, usually when her father had just finished his roll-up cigarette.

She reached up to remove the old stinking blanket that covered the window. The morning light did what it usually did – the shock of it always burned her eyes at first. Sometimes the blanket was just her window curtain, but on frosty, snowy night it was a life saver. It just meant that she would awaken with her father’s face looking through the window – her privacy gone.

In the kitchen, her father and grandmother danced around each other; the dance of the bully and the gentle old lady. When the old woman’s daughter had disappeared, she had decided to wait on her return. As the months became years, she still had hope burning in her heart. The bully knew better, he didn’t expect his wife to come back.

The grandmother was limited in what she could do to keep her granddaughter safe and leaving was not an option. They had tried that and he had tracked both of them down, and both had been badly beaten.

He took them to the hospital afterwards and told the doctor that they had been attacked by a burglar. The doctor knew from the bully’s eyes what the truth was.

If it was a particularly cold night, the grandmother would take the young girl into her room for a few warm hours. By the morning, she had to be returned to the shed; the young girl’s sin was reminding the bully of her mother.

Each morning the little lost girl in her dishevelled clothes would leave her shed and look through the kitchen window. When her father was reading the newspaper, her grandmother would signal that she could enter and come to the table.

The young girl would sit very still with her arms by her side and wait to be told when to move.

Her grandmother would place toast beside the girl and then ruffle her hair. The little lost girl would eat the dry toast washed down with a glass of milk, but on this morning as the little girl reached for the milk, she knocked it over.

The quiet old lady and the little lost girl watched as the milk ran towards, then under, her father’s newspaper. The bully jumped, screwed up the wet newspaper, threw it at the little girl, knocking her off her stool. Before she left for school, her grandmother stuck a plaster on the cut on her forehead. The bully was long gone and so she kissed her granddaughter and ruffled her hair then gave her a few coins to spend.

On the bus she sat alone drawing pictures in the window condensation.

As three older girls passed her, they laughed, held their noses and then spat on the little girl. A kindly woman took out a paper handkerchief and handed it to the little lost one. The little girl wiped the spit away, then put the paper hanky in her pocket. In the class, she sat as she did at the breakfast table with her arms by her side. She sat alone.

The teacher handed out exam results to each pupil and behind the little girl, a classmate held her nose letting everyone know of the smell. The class laughed until the teacher told them to be quiet.

The teacher placed the young girl’s result on her desk: 10 out of 10 – ‘excellent’. The girl behind her stole the paper and threw it around the class. One boy ripped the paper into pieces. When the class emptied, the little girl put the pieces of her exam result in her pocket.

At lunchtime, the young girl walked to the cafe and bought chips with the money her grandmother had given her. The woman in the cafe smiled as the little girl smiled back.

Hungrily the girl walked and ate her chips before bumping into someone. It was one of the older girls who stole the little girl’s food and threw it to her friends. One tipped the chips on to the street then they all walked away laughing. The little girl picked up her chip paper and put it in her pocket.

Later that day, the little girl sat in the kitchen at the table with her grandmother. She drew a beautiful picture with her crayons. Then a door slammed and the grandmother motioned her granddaughter to go out the kitchen door – quickly.

In the shed the young girl hung the blanket over her window once more, just as her father put a lock on the shed door. He made sure it was locked solid. Under her bedding was a torch which the young girl switched on. She then took out the all the papers and hankies from her pocket and the plaster from her forehead. With a little pot of glue, all these things were stuck to a larger object.

The object was made up of bits of this and that. The little lost girl had built something out of all the badness that had come her way. As she shone the torch up towards the object, she smiled at what she has made.

She had built an angel which reached to the roof and watched over her.

 

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Sweet Things

She eventually found her mother.

Perhaps it was more correct to say that her mother had found her, having traced her daughter through a friend. The mother had been in contact just before the girl’s 21st birthday.

It had been a dark time when the girl had returned for her grandmother’s funeral. Her father had spoken to her that day, perhaps for the first time in years. He had screamed at her from time to time but on this sad day, as her grandmother’s coffin was placed in the ground, he whispered “She’s joined your mother”. She was seventeen by then and she didn’t want to believe him. She didn’t believe him.

Her father had shrunk since last she’d seen him and the drinking had taken its toll; he was barely forty and comfortably wore the body of an older man.

It had only been three years since the girl had gone to school and simply never returned home. She had taken the first bus that was leaving town and had paid for it with her grandmother’s lunch money. She’d been skipping meals to save up – what was the point anyway? There was always going to be someone to take the food away from her. Only when the bus was on the road and the town was just a distant church spire – did she begin to relax. She dumped her school clothes in a bin at the first comfort stop then dressed into a sweater and jeans.

Her grandmother had given her an address in the city, “just in case” she said. “In case I go, sooner rather than later.”  The address was meant for an emergency and this is exactly what this was. She felt sorry that she had abandoned her grandmother to that madman but she could take it no longer. She had given them all a thousand chances: the school, the teachers, her classmates, even her grandmother, to change things and no one had.

Then one morning when she awoke in the shed for the hundredth time, the angel gave her a look as if to say, ‘it’s up to you, no one else is coming to help’.

The address had taken her to a Mrs Beverly Smith of Harrow, London – a kindly woman who had once been a beauty and had once been her grandmother’s bridesmaid.

“Just call me Bev, love, everyone does.”

She lived on her own with a cat called Lennon. Her husband, Stanley, had ‘been taken’ five years before.

“I’ve got me son, ‘Arry, he’s a doctor in Aberdeen. Works for one of them oil companies. I’ve got two grandchildren, Sarah and Stanley. That’s enough for me, thank you for asking.”

Bev let the girl stay in Harry’s room, “Don’t suppose he’ll be wanting it anytime soon.”

Bev knew a woman who knew the manager of the local supermarket and got the girl a job on a Saturday. She proved such a dependable hard worker that after a month, she was taken on full-time.

“If you don’t mind me saying. I’ve seen them drawings you do, love. You’re too good just to doodle. I reckon you could be an artist.” Bev also knew a woman who knew a man that ran an art course at the local college in the evenings. Bev managed to get the girl on a course that ran over the winter.

By December, the girl’s art teacher was recommending that the girl go to Art School – “You are that good.” At weekends when she wasn’t working at the store, she was working on her portfolio. She painted Lennon as a thank you for Bev and it hung on the wall next to a photo of Stanley, her husband.

The following September, the girl was accepted into Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design. This wasn’t just any art school, this was the best. When the girl had worked in the supermarket she had kept her own company, always expecting someone to take everything away from her.

At college she was spotted by a young girl called Leonetta, who befriended her.

“Just call me Leon.”

Leon was studying fashion and was in her second year. Her boyfriend was a footballer and insisted that Leon watch him every Saturday – so she took the girl along as company. One Saturday evening after football, Leon and her boyfriend came to Bev’s for something to eat. The girl had never had friends home before for something as glamorous as a meal.

The girl met a boy at one of the football matches. Eddie was his name, he was an electrician.

“You hold on to that one” said Bev, “Electricians are never out of work.”

And she did hold on to that one. She didn’t tell him of her past life, something like that would keep for another day. But one day when they were walking along the High Street, she laughed out loud and then she realised that she was laughing for the very first time in her short life.

Eddy made her eyes smile.In her final year at art school, Eddie asked her to marry him and she accepted.

A week before the art show, she went back to Bev’s for a change of clothes as all the students had been working day and night and basically sleeping at the college. When she walked into the front room, Bev was sitting with a woman.

“She’s your Mum.”

Bev left the two of them to talk.

“I was younger than you when I left.  I couldn’t cope. He wasn’t a bad man, not at first. He just used to come home drunk and lock me in the shed out back. You know the one?”

The girl nodded that she did.

There were several roads that the girl could have taken that day but the one she took was to place her arms around her mother and they both wept.

She invited her Mum, along with Leon and her boyfriend,Eddie to the graduation show but pride of place was kept for Bev, her other mum.

Along with the girl’s drawings of Bev, Lennon and Bev’s family was a statue she had made from glued paper.

It was a tall smiling angel and underneath it were the words:

“Everything is going to be alright.”

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Yellow Balloon

yellow

His name was Charlie and he was a kid. Charlie was lucky enough to be living through his best years. His mother, father, brother and sisters were all well, all happy, and all in that little perfect bubble that happens from time to time in life.

When Charlie was eight, he had his first birthday party which involved all his friends coming to his house. This was Charlie’s first proper party.

Charlie’s parents were like ducks on water, everything seemed calm on top, but both of them had to paddle extremely hard to keep themselves and the family from sinking. Not that Charlie knew any of this, or of the double shifts that his father had worked that previous week to afford Charlie’s first grown-up party.

Charlie, his brother and his dad all blew up the balloons. Charlie inflated the red ones, his brother the green balloons and his dad the yellow ones. Both Charlie and his brother used little air pumps to inflate them all, but Charlie’s dad just blew them up with his own breath. This was his youngest son’s first real party and he wanted to give it everything he had.

That night, after the party, Charlie’s dad felt a pain in his left arm, then his chest, and with only time to quietly say ‘goodbye’ he closed his eyes for good.

The next morning, Charlie’s grandfather took down all the decorations – anything that reminded the family of happier times – and burst all the balloons. Or so he thought.

Charlie sat in his bedroom, scared to cry for his dad, since he felt that if he started again, he would never stop. That was when he noticed the yellow balloon in the corner of the room, with a little note attached ‘Happy Birthday, my boy, I am so proud of you, love dad’.

Suddenly it struck Charlie that there was still a part of his dad alive. In the balloon was his dad’s breath – a little piece of him – something that he had made while he was happy.

So Charlie, very, very carefully drew a little face on the yellow balloon and talked to it, as if it was his dad. In the corner of his room was a little bit of his father and he was still with him. When Charlie woke in the morning the balloon was still watching over him.

The next night he could hear his mother crying in her room, and so Charlie took the balloon into her room and told her the story. That night the two of them slept in her bed watched over by the balloon filled with his dad’s breath.

Charlie tried everything he could to stop the balloon getting smaller and smaller – his dad was disappearing and leaving Charlie for good. Charlie’s grandfather heard his grandson crying and came into to the room to help. Charlie told his grandfather about the balloon and how it was losing his dad’s air.

His grandfather held Charlie and told him that it was only his dad returning home. His grandfather, and Charlie, and Charlie’s dad didn’t come from here, they came from out there – far away in space. He told him that Charlie’s dad would need his breath out in the stars and that it had to return to him. Charlie’s grandfather said that Charlie could keep the balloon with him to remember his dad, but in the end it was what a person left in your heart that counted – nothing else.

 

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Zoot & Sandy and the Birds

elephant

 

As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and were sitting by the river.

“Them things in the sky,” said Zoot.

“The birds?” Asked Sandy.

“Yup, the birds, do you think they are happy?”

“I guess so,” said Sandy. “Why wouldn’t they be?”

“I wish I could fly,” said Zoot.

Sandy smiled to himself about flying dogs and then remembered that story about flying elephants.

“Why would you want to do a thing like that – flying , it’s dangerous,” said Sandy.

“Not for the birds, it isn’t.”

“Yeh, but they don’t know any better. Flying is all they know.” Sandy was getting worried about Zoot.

“What’s up, Zoot?”

“I’m fed up being a dog, I want to be able to fly.”

“Don’t you think, that one of those birds is looking down at us and saying, I wish I was an elephant or a dog, so that I can stay on the ground – I’m tired of always flying?”

“Nope.”

“I can bet you they do. It’s they way we are all made. Wishing to be something or someone else.”

“I do it all the time,” said Zoot. “I’m always wishing I wasn’t a dog.”

“That’s because being a dog is easy for you, you were born a dog, and despite what you wish for, you’ll probably die a dog. Unless you’ve got a hankering to tie a pair of wings on your back; it’s because you’re a dog, you don’t see how special that is.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said a confused Zoot.

“We’re all made to be something that’s different from everything else. No matter what you say, Zoot, you’re unique.”

“I am?”

“Of course you are, and more importantly you’re my pal. Do you think I would be friends with just anyone?”

“I guess not,” said Zoot, who was a little more pleased.

“Some are made to fly, some are born to dance, some to sing, some to stand and see the stars. All of us, and I mean all of us, are different from the next thing. Even the leaves on the trees are all different.”

“So what are you saying, Sandy?” Asked Zoot.

“That you were born to be a dog, Zoot, my friend. And even if there is a dog kinda like you in the future, he won’t have been born in this time, knowing me, doing the things we do.”

“Like sitting by the river and talking?”

“Exactly. Too many people…”

“And animals,” added Zoot.

“And animals are unhappy with what they’ve got. But if they could only see that what they’ve got is a miracle then they’d stop wishing to be something else. You are what the universe made you. If you spend your days wishing it away, then you’ve turned your back on the universe. Why would anything want to do that?”

“So I should stop wishing I wasn’t a dog and just be happy.”

“You got it.”

“What about being a rich dog then?” Asked Zoot.

Sandy just looked at his buddy and smiled. That’s why he loved Zoot so much.

 

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Me and Buzz and Growin’ & The Grand Canyon

FRIENDS

Me and Buzz and Growin’

One night, me and Buzz were lying out back in his mama’s yard just hanging. We wanted to go hiking across the top of Yellow Ridge but his mama was having none of it. Since Buzz’s pappy had gone, she was feared people coming to her house and stealing things; to be honest with you, his mama had nothing worth stealing.

So there we were looking at the stars, we must have been about five years old and right there and then I convinced my friend that the fireflies were little people and the lights were their little city. I kind-a guessed back then that Buzz wasn’t gonna be no Einstein.

Now Buzz would tell you that he’s a gnat’s wing taller than me but he ain’t telling the truth. All thru’ schooling he was always the small one – I guess he thought back to the fireflies and was hoping that he wasn’t the smallest thing on this here planet.

Nope, between you and me and the kitchen stove, I was always the first between me and Buzz to feel the rain, I swear on a stack of bibles that’s true.

Then one day he grew more than me and I was kind-a suspicious until I check and see he’s been messin’ with his boots, stuffin’ them with old socks so he looks taller.

In his naked feet he still ain’t bigger than a grasshopper – I tell ya he could look one right in the eye.

I swear that boy has an inferiority complex, at least ways that’s what Stevie (the cleverest kid in school) told me. Not too sure what it means.

One day Buzz says to me ‘Jay, ain’t it time we headed over to Duchess County a spell’ and of course I asked him if that was where all the short kids went these days.

He said nothing until his fist hit my face. He was that quick that I didn’t see nothin’ till it was right there on the end of my nose – which was now as flat as Corry Mitchin’s chest.

Of course I ain’t for hittin’ my best friend, on account that he’s so stupid – no sir, so I did what anyone would do, I threw his boots into the river. Even the Sunday preacher would have said I had a right.

No man should put a fist to his best friend’s nose.

Buzz keeps saying that on account of his good looks – only his mama told him that – that maybe we should think of headin’ out west to California.

I drag him to the old barber shop to show him on the Civil War map that hangs on the wall there, how far it is.

Buzz says, ‘it can’t be more than 11 or 12 inches at most’ and that wasn’t too far – from where he was standing. Can you believe my best friend, just how stupid he is?

So the upshot is, me and Buzz are heading out west just as soon as he finds another pair of boots.

Guess he’s scared he might get beaten up by the grasshoppers on the way there.

 

Me and Buzz and The Grand Canyon

One summer, not long after Buzz’s Pa disappeared over the border with that dancer, me and Buzz counted what we had in our vacation money jar and it came to a grand total of seventeen cents. I kid you not.

The truth was that we never really went anywhere other than town. It was just nice to think that, if we had wanted to, we could go to the North Pole (Buzz’s idea).

I told Buzz that before I went to the big roundup in the sky (I heard the pastor say that once and I’m not real sure what it means) that I wanted to see the Grand Canyon.

Buzz thought it stupid that I wanted to go and see a ‘hole-in-the-ground’ as he put it, when we could be standin’ on top of the world. Whatever we decided – seventeen cents wasn’t gonna get us anywhere real fast.

Then Buzz looked at me in one of those cockamamie ways that he does when he’s got an idea so good that he thinks his head might just blow up there and then – (that’s the way Buzz talks and even Doc Smith, the best doctor in town, said there ain’t nothin’ they can do for Buzz, talkin’ the way he does).

So Buzz looks at me with those crazy eyes and says that if I wanna see the Grand Canyon then all I need to do is just follow him.

Okay, I’m thinkin’ that Buzz is goin’ a bit stupid ‘cause of his pa and all, disappearin’ the way he did. But what the heck, I said I’d follow him anyhoo (truth is, I’d probably follow Buzz over the edge of a cliff, if the circumstances were right – I kid you not). Probably will give that a try one day just to see what happens.

Buzz borrows his lil’ sister’s bicycle and the two of us sit real uncomfortable on the thing. I’m hopin’ that the Grand Canyon ain’t as far as people say, on account that my bee-hind is startin’ to go real numb.

And before we know it, we’ve stopped at Cooper’s Valley and Buzz looks at me as if to say, ‘behold one of the wonders of the world’ – actually that is what he did say – but I didn’t want to tell you that, in case you thought Buzz had gone moon-crazy.

So I look at him real strange ‘cause I ain’t sure what’s goin’ on with my bestest pal, but I think he knows what he’s doin’. I tell him that Cooper’s Valley ain’t the Grand Canyon and Buzz just spits on the ground and gives me a huge grin. He says that I know that, and he says that he knows that, but there are some folks who don’t know that and that they’re the kinda folks we’re lookin’ for.

And I say ‘How so Buzz?’ (Mainly ‘cause I like sayin’ ‘how so’) and he tells me that we charge the good folks of town (and by folks he means the kids) a nickel to see the Grand Canyon and then we take them out to Cooper’s and there you have it – they’ll never know the difference.

And after Buzz gave that lil’ speech, he kinda rubbed his hands as if he’d found the secret to makin’ money. Maybe he had, who’s to say?

Anyhoo, the followin’ Saturday, Buzz rounds up several kids who are doin’ their usual game of kickin’ rocks about Main Street. Now the catch in all this is, that the kids didn’t have no nickels, or any money. As one of them said, “d’you think if I had a nickel, I’d be kickin’ a rock around town?” And you gotta admit the kid had a point.

So instead of the money, Buzz accepted an old painted stick, a rock that they had been well and truly kicked, and a stick of chewin’ gum. All to take the kids out and show them the Grand Canyon.

The kids all sat on the back of Buzz’s lil’ sister’s wooden trailer which he’d tied to the back of the bicycle. It took the two of us, what seemed like hours, to pull them kids on that trailer.

When we got to Cooper’s Valley, the kids were all excited and some were shoutin’ about how big the Grand Canyon was and Buzz just looked at me, as if to say ‘I told you so’.

What we didn’t know was the kids knew what we were up to (as usual, we didn’t know that they knew) until they told us to go into the Grand Canyon first and then they’d follow us – ‘cross their hearts and hope to die’.

We had only just got to the bottom of Cooper’s, when the town kids waved down, shouted what sounded like ‘suckers’ and then jumped on Buzz’s lil’ sister’s bicycle and trailer and headed back to town.

I tell you, it was one long walk home and at the end of it, Buzz’s Ma made us give the seventeen cents to his lil’ sister.

Last I saw Buzz, he was standin’ outside his own home with a big sign hangin’ around his neck which said in bright red paint:

“I ain’t never seen the Grand Canyon”.

I think his Ma made him do it.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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Zoot and Sandy and the Birds

elephant

As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and were sitting by the river.

“Them things in the sky,” said Zoot.

“The birds?” Asked Sandy.

“Yup, the birds, do you think they are happy?”

“I guess so,” said Sandy. “Why wouldn’t they be?”

“I wish I could fly,” said Zoot.

Sandy smiled to himself about flying dogs and then remembered that story about flying elephants.

“Why would you want to do a thing like that – flying , it’s dangerous,” said Sandy.

“Not for the birds, it isn’t.”

“Yeh, but they don’t know any better. Flying is all they know.” Sandy was getting worried about Zoot.

“What’s up, Zoot?”

“I’m fed up being a dog, I want to be able to fly.”

“Don’t you think, that one of those birds is looking down at us and saying, I wish I was an elephant or a dog, so that I can stay on the ground – I’m tired of always flying?”

“Nope.”

“I can bet you they do. It’s they way we are all made. Wishing to be something or someone else.”

“I do it all the time,” said Zoot. “I’m always wishing I wasn’t a dog.”

“That’s because being a dog is easy for you, you were born a dog, and despite what you wish for, you’ll probably die a dog. Unless you’ve got a hankering to tie a pair of wings on your back; it’s because you’re a dog, you don’t see how special that is.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said a confused Zoot.

“We’re all made to be something that’s different from everything else. No matter what you say, Zoot, you’re unique.”

“I am?”

“Of course you are, and more importantly you’re my pal. Do you think I would be friends with just anyone?”

“I guess not,” said Zoot, who was a little more pleased.

“Some are made to fly, some are born to dance, some to sing, some to stand and see the stars. All of us, and I mean all of us, are different from the next thing. Even the leaves on the trees are all different.”

“So what are you saying, Sandy?” Asked Zoot.

“That you were born to be a dog, Zoot, my friend. And even if there is a dog kinda like you in the future, he won’t have been born in this time, knowing me, doing the things we do.”

“Like sitting by the river and talking?”

“Exactly. Too many people…”

“And animals,” added Zoot.

“And animals are unhappy with what they’ve got. But if they could only see that what they’ve got is a miracle then they’d stop wishing to be something else. You are what the universe made you. If you spend your days wishing it away, then you’ve turned your back on the universe. Why would anything want to do that?”

“So I should stop wishing I wasn’t a dog and just be happy.”

“You got it.”

“What about being a rich dog then?” Asked Zoot.

Sandy just looked at his buddy and smiled. That’s why he loved Zoot so much.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Zoot and Sandy and Worrying about Things

elephant

Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were, without doubt, the best of pals in the whole wide world. They loved to sit by the river and watch time floating past their little seat.

“You’re quieter than usual, young Zoot,” said the elephant.

“Just thinking,” Sandy replied. “Just thinking.”

“Thinking about what?”

“Well, Sandy my oldest friend, I was wondering if those birds ever worried about things,” said Zoot.

“Like what?”
“Well…that they might fall out the sky, one day,” said Zoot, worried.

“You think it might happen, young fella?” Asked Sandy.

“Don’t see why not, everything is possible in this life. Everything. I mean I had an aunt who worried all the time about her tail falling off.”

“And did it?” Sandy asked.

“Well no, but she did get electrocuted when she was peeing up against a lamppost.”

“But that’s nothing to do with her tail falling off,” said Sandy.

“But she did worry that something terrible was going to happen and it did,” said Zoot, a little concerned.

Sandy took a deep breath through his trunk.

“My little Zoot, what if we all had a terrible end. Imagine it was the only way out of this life.”

“Okay,” said Zoot.

“What would be the point of when and where it was going to happen? Since it was going to happen, then making the most of the time you had would be the only way forwards. If you worried about your terrible end all your life, then your life would already be finished the moment you started worrying.”

“So you’re saying, don’t worry?” Asked Zoot.

“No, I ain’t saying that at all. Worrying serves a purposes sometimes. Like when you are lost in a wood, it makes you more on edge – ready to run should anything take place.”
“’Take place’?” Asked Zoot.

“Just forget about that. Why, oh why, should the birds worry about falling out of the sky? If it happens to them, then it happens – but they don’t let it bother the life they’re living. Otherwise….”

“They are already dead,” said a proud Zoot.

“Exactly. Now try this,” added Sandy.

“Try what?” Asked Zoot.

“Imagine you only have five more minutes to exist on Earth.”

“Okay,” said Zoot.

“So what are you thinking?” Asked Sandy.

“What I should do for the last five minutes of my life.”

“Aha,” shouted Sandy. “You see you are wasting five minutes worrying about nothing. Instead look at the sea and watch how beautiful it is, look at the birds and think how magnificent they are. That way when the five minutes are up you will go with a smile on your face.”

“Is having a smile important?” Asked Zoot.

“Of course it is,” replied Sandy. “Now sit here with me, your closest friend, and don’t worry about anything for the next five minutes.” So that is what they did, although, initially, Zoot worried about not doing it properly. Then Zoot got the hang of it and was surprised when Sandy said that the five minutes were up.

“Now,” said Sandy. “Try that for another five minutes and then another five and soon you’ll get there. And you’ll notice nothing bad has happened. You didn’t float up into space or have your tail fall off.”

And Zoot did see what Sandy was getting at. There was too much wonder in the world to let it be contaminated by needless worrying. Bad things would happen, they did to everyone, but no amount of worrying could or would change things.

And as Zoot said goodbye to his friend, he made up his mind not to worry for five minutes on the way home, and after that maybe he’d try another five minutes.

“See ya, tomorrow,” said Zoot.

“See ya, buddy,” replied Sandy.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

THING and His Best Ever Thought

thing

When it happened it took Thing by surprise. The fact that a thought like that could go through Thing’s mind, both scared him and got him excited.

When he was younger, when he had first started school, he would have done anything for someone to say a kind word to him. Sure his teacher was kind, but as for the rest of the kids, well they treated him as their families had taught them to behave, with cruelty; seven-year-old children are born cruel, they learn it and accept it and use it.

Even when his parents left him in the cave alone, he still would cross a street to be kind to someone, to be decent, hoping that one day they would return the favor. Hoping that one day they too would like him.

Thing sometimes blamed himself. Sometimes he was so exhausted by all the hate that he nearly believed it – nearly – that he was different, that he was ugly, that he had no right to exist. When they threw rocks at him, he sometimes (only sometimes mind you) understood why they did it.

In his lifetime, there had been those who had tried to change Thing – people who had claimed they had cures for what he had – which to Thing only seemed to be that he was different from the majority of folks in town. But being in a minority didn’t make you wrong or sick. Look at Gulliver’s travels – wasn’t he the giant in one life and a midget in another? The folks of those towns had tried to destroy Gulliver but it was their fear that was the source of it all, not the difference in Gulliver.

Thing remembered when his teacher had asked the class to put their hands in the air if they had ever been sick at some point in their lives, and all the class had raised their hands. That was when the teacher said that sometimes being in the majority wasn’t necessarily a good place to be. Thing had smiled at that and it had kept him warm for several days afterwards.

All his life, Thing had wanted someone to smile at him and mean it. It had happened once or twice in his whole life and Thing had appreciated it. The first thought in his head when he entered a café, or a store, or the school was that he hoped the folks inside would like him.

It was always that way. Always.

Then one day, one glorious day when the sun was shining across the skies and life was smiling on him, Thing walked into the main street of town and suddenly he had the weirdest thought.

The weirdest thought, ever,

Instead of looking at the folks, and searching for a kind face, and wondering if any of them liked him – he looked around at those faces – all of those strange faces – and wondered for the first time if he actually liked any of them.

And that was the day that Thing started to be free and the day that Thing first knew real happiness.

That was the day that Thing started to love himself.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Me and Buzz and Soccer

Dick-Van-Dyke-Mary-Poppins

One of the other times that Buzz had a mid-life crisis was that summer when his first hair grew out of his chin. You would have thought that he was Fu Man Choo or somethin’. He’s tellin’ me he ain’t decided if he’s gonna let it grow into a full beard, or trim it using his Paw’s old razor. The one his Paw left him before he ran away with the dancer.

“Now that I’m grown and a man,” that’s what he said to me, with a straight face – a face with one hair growin’ out of it.

“Now that I’m a man, I’m gonna look after my Maw. Keep her good, in her old age.”

Well you know me and peeing myself, I had to run behind a bush before I wet ma pants good. What he was tellin’ me, was that he was ready for a career as a matinée idol – that’s his very words and I’m not sure if Buzz knew what they meant.

So the time had come that he’d have to look after his face on account it was gonna be his main source of income. He said he wasn’t sure if it was fair to let a face like that be blown up big in a movie theater ‘cause everyone would pass out.

Of course when he’s tellin’ me this I’m still behind the bush just in case I need to go again, real fast.

That was why Buzz had a mid-life crisis over the weekend and decided he was too old and too pretty to play football at school and that was when Mr Fairbanks suggested he should join the school soccer team, instead.

“It’ll save your good-lookin’ face, Buzz,” said Mr Fairbanks, who then nudged another teacher and they both walked off as if they were gonna pee themselves too.

Of course just playin’ soccer wasn’t good enough for Buzz, he had to be a ‘strike……er’ – now, the reason I’ve said it that way is because that’s the way that Buzz said it. I thought I could hear a funny accent in there but I assumed Buzz was practisin’ for his movies.

I didn’t see Buzz until two days later and by then he was talkin’ real funny like. I’m thinkin’ to myself, I’ve heard this funny talk before and sure enough I remember – right in the middle of the night, I shout out, ‘Mary Poppins’. Buzz sounded like Dick Van Dyke in that movie.

Buzz has decided that if he’s gonna be any good at soccer he had to talk with an English accent. Since Buzz ain’t ever heard one except in movies and stuff, I’ve got to say he wasn’t that good. When our teacher said ‘Good mornin’ class’, instead of sayin’ good morning back, Buzz said, ‘All right, Guv’nor and a fine mornin’ it be’.

I didn’t know whether to just give up and pee myself there and then or run to the restroom.

“Shall I see you, little urchin at dinner time as I’m looking forward to me pie and chips, guv’nor.” That’s what he said to me with his one hair chinned face.

“I’m playin’ me soccer game this afternoon, me old mate. Will you be comin’ to see me?”

They had to take me to the nurse’s room – I kid you not – as I had gone into hysterical collapse, least ways that’s what the doctor said. Apparently I had a real bad shock.Buzz never ever got a game of soccer, they picked Alexander as the striker and she was a girl.

“Stupid game,” said Buzz – all American, like.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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The Montana Express

season

The Montana Express was a wind that found its temperature somewhere around the northern end of Canada and then didn’t stop until it hit the Gulf. Our home was in its path, and so every April it would bring an unseasonable coldness to our valley which affected almost everyone and everything.

It was on one of those April days that the table was finally delivered. My grandfather had chosen the wood himself and it had taken several men two months to build. My grandfather wanted a table that could seat all of our family and especially on his birthday. Something which took place towards the end of the month.

“I want to see all my loved ones in the one place, is that too much to ask?” He would say to no one in particular.

But he was right, our family was spread far and wide: all of them farmers or ranchers. All of them doing okay but too busy to ever socialize with one and other. We’d normally meet briefly at the end of someone’s life or at the start of another – but otherwise, all points in between were just plain ignored. That is, until my grandfather declared his birthday a national holiday for the family.

“I don’t care what you’re all doin’. I want you to put aside whatever the hell it is you find so goddamn important, so’s we can all finally get together. Lord knows I ain’t got long left.”

And that, as they say, was that. Every April, 27th we would meet around the big table and celebrate being a family. My grandfather would recite some Shakespeare (the English guy who wrote plays) and we would listen and not really understand but we’d clap and holler all the same when he was done. My grandfather had a biggest painting of the Englishman on his wall just ‘cause they shared the same birthday. My grandfather said that Shakespeare was a genius and I guess he was right.

That first April there were seventeen of us around the table. I guess we’d all forgotten just how much we really needed each other.

The following year two of my brothers and two of my uncles went off to Europe to fight in the war. So we set them a place at the table anyhow – just in case they turned up and were hungry and all.

One of my brothers, and one of my uncles didn’t come home in the end. They were buried in France – somewhere warm I hear where the Montana Express ain’t blowin’.

But we would still set the table for seventeen just so we could raise a glass to absent friends. When my boy was five he joined the table, and so did my sister’s kid. And we were seventeen again.

It was early in 1950 when grandfather left the table for the last time and he was shortly followed by grandmother. My eldest brother took the head seat and although we weren’t quite seventeen again we managed through.

As the years went on we tried to make April 27th the Family Day. It didn’t matter where you were in the world, we’d always try to make it home to the big table. But my kids grew and married and didn’t really want to work on the land no more. One of my boys lived in Paris, France and another moved with his family to Nova Scotia.

Yet we always laid that table for seventeen.

When my wife’s place at the table went empty, I kind of lost the heart to keep it going. By this time I was the head of the table. Some years there were only four of us, but still we set the table for seventeen.

It was just before my 65th birthday that I took the heart attack. Man it was the worst pain I ever felt. They stuck me in the local hospital and I rested for the first time in my life. My boys came with their kids, and my nieces and nephews, and in the end when I got out of hospital there was about thirty of us all round that big table.

My eldest grandson asked why the table was only set for seventeen and I told him the story. He said that it should set for everyone in the family and I had to say I thought he was right. The table belongs to the living after all.

Now every year they meet up and it’s laid out for everyone who makes it to the table. But they always leave two empty places just in case one of us who left the table a long time ago happens to drop by.


bobby stevenson 2016

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The Sky Watcher

fire-rainbow

He knew what it meant.

His grandfather had mentioned it to him during their walks. His grandfather had squeezed his hand tightly one night as they were looking at the moon and said, ‘keep watching the skies’.
And he had.

“Promise me.” And he had kept his promise.
Ever since he could remember, ever since his grandfather had told him the story, he had done nothing but watch the skies.
“When the sign comes, get ready.”
“For what, grandpa, for what?”

But he never ever told him. His grandfather said he’d need to learn for himself what it meant. That way he could be sure of understanding.
“But what am I looking for grandpa?”
“Fire, boy. Fire in the sky.”

The boy had never understood exactly what kind of fire you could see in the sky.
“You’ll know it when you see it. I won’t be here, mind. It ain’t gonna be in my time, but you, you’ll see and you’ll know. You’ll say, ‘well gone darn it, my granddaddy was right. You see things will need to get bad, much worse than they are now before you see the fire.”

He didn’t know how much worse his grandfather meant, but it didn’t sound that great.
He thought that you never realise how much worse things are getting until you look back and see what they were once like. Sure enough the boy’s grandpa was right, he had seen it coming – the wars, the financial crashes and the people caring more about money than each other. The people were too busy looking down at their computers and their I-this and their I-that to look at the skies. The strange thing is, they would sometimes look at the skies on their computers. Yeah, go figure.

The last thing his grandpa said to him was ‘look at the old books’. The boy wasn’t really sure how old he meant. Two hundred? Two thousand? So he looked at them all and sure enough there was a similar story through them all – when the sky lit up, it was time for a change, for something to come, something better, and something kinder.

His grandpa wasn’t a believer in things churchy, you could say, but he believed in goodness and he believed in the universe and that got him through the night.

“The universe brought you here from stars and stuff and the universe is there when you look up.”
That kind of thinking helped him sleep at night and that was alright by the boy.

He was right ‘though.
Things did get worse. Folks forgot about kindness and helping one another. Things were put on streets to stop the homeless folks getting a dry night’s sleep. Churches hoarded millions of dollars. Governments helping the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.

A rich man still dies.
And the boy guessed that was what his grandpa was really talking about – that when the well of kindness runs dry, the universe will be there to make a re-adjustment and get us all back on track.

So when the boy read in the newspapers of the fire-rainbow which was seen over South Carolina a few days ago, he knew the re-adjustment was coming and caring and love would be back on the agenda.

You see if it doesn’t.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

(excerpt from USA Today, August 19th 2015 –

A rare “fire rainbow” appeared in the sky over South Carolina on Sunday evening.
Folks on social media eagerly shared images of the fire rainbow, which appeared in wispy clouds over Isle of Palms, S.C. Some people on Twitter said the rainbow looked like angel’s wings, while others likened it to a whale tail.)

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Me and Buzz and the Moonlight

FRIENDS

There was a time (just the one of many, you understand) when I thought that my bestest pal in all the world was just plum crazy – I mean crazeee (you hear what I’m sayin’ ?) I know I kid and josh and tell you that he’s one wheel short of a full set, but most of the time he makes me laugh so hard that I pee myself. I kid you not.

But there was a time, must have been two summers ago when he just went to the edge and then tumbled off the end of that edge. Me and him were sittin’ by the Old Tawny Creek trying to smoke some dried macaroni – yeh, I know, but we didn’t have any way to get cigarettes and we thought smokin’ even macaroni would make as look like men. Anyhoo, as usual you’ve got me goin’ here and there and I’ve lost the track of this story.

Where was I? Oh yeh…so Buzz manages to get his macaroni to light and he’s coughin’ and splutterin’ when he just turns to me and says:

“I’m tellin’ you right here and now best bud, but I think I might be a vampire.”

That’s the way he said it just like that, matter of fact. As if it was the most natural thing in the world to say. So I hesitate for a minute or two and then start laughin’ until the tears run down my face and my side is hurtin’ so bad that I plead Buzz to stop talkin’.

“You ain’t takin’ me serious, are you?” He says next and by this time I’m laughin’ so hard I think I’m gonna be sick.

Then he tells me that he keeps wakin’ in the middle in the night and when he sees the moon he feels like howlin’.

“I just get overcome and feel like howlin’ at the moon.”

I go real serious for a moment and Buzz looks at me with that face of his, all screwed up and stupid. And then I scream and laugh so hard that he gets up and walks off.

“I thought you’d have flown off,” I shout after him but he wasn’t listenin’.
Buzz never stays mad at me for long, or me with him. But I didn’t hear from him the next day or the day after that, and it’s only when Buzz’ Ma comes knockin’ at the door that I find out why.

He’s been hangin’ upside down in the town’s tower and won’t come down. I mean, I thought exactly what you’d think, that Buzz had paid his Ma to tell me that story but no, it was the truth. He was hangin’ upside down and wouldn’t come down till I went to talk to him.

“We only found him this mornin’, when the pastor tried to ring the bell and all he heard was a clunk and Buzz sayin’ a real bad cussin’ word.”

Yep, you guessed it, I nearly pee’d my pants right there and then.

So I go up to the tower and sure enough there is Buzz hangin’ upside down and with a big bruise on his face where he’d been hit by the town bell.

His face was so red and full of blood that he looked as if he might explode. I bit my lip so hard, I thought I would draw blood too. It’s hard not to laugh when your bestest pal is hanging upside down in a tower.

I asked what he was waiting for and he said that during the next full moon he would become a vampire, good and proper. I asked, as you would, when the next full moon was and Buzz thought it might be right after the Sunday School picnic.

“You’re gonna miss the picnic cause you’re waitin’ for the full moon?”

“Yep”

“What about normal school?” I ask him.

“Vampires don’t need schoolin’”

I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not, so I did a real good hand stand and yep, he looked as if he was tellin’ the truth.

“Ain’t you hungry?”
“Nope.”

This time I knew he was lyin’. So I start describin’ the burger and fries I had eaten that mornin’ and how the cheese melted all the way down.

Well this gets Buzz riled an’ all and he starts to swing back and forward and then he shouts ‘can’t hear you’, and he swings so hard that he starts the bell swingin’ and ringin’ and I fall over and stand up. Lookin’ over the edge I see all the townsfolk comin’ out to see what the emergency is. Old Harry the baker, who must be 200 years old starts shoutin’ that the Russians are comin’ and that we should all run for cover.

How I didn’t pee my pants right there and then I can only put down to the fact that I had my legs crossed. Everyone in the town was going crazy except me, so that’s when I slipped down my pants and showed my butt to the townsfolk.

Now let’s be serious here, you would have thought that was the least of their troubles – what with Harry shoutin’ about the Ruskies and Vampire Boy bangin’ off the bell with his head but no, I was the one who got into trouble for being a bad influence. Apparently all that happened that day was the fault of my butt.

It took a few weeks for the townsfolk to forget it, well all except the Mayor’s wife who kept winking at me every time we met.

Buzz went right through his vampire phase and out the other end. However, when he had troubles and he wanted to think, you would find him up at the tower hanging upside down to clear his mind, he said.

Just plain crazy if you ask me but hey, he’s my friend.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Thing and His Birthday

thing

The only time that Thing would ever make it down to the town was on the day of his birthday. His mother had marked this special day on the calendar and so every year he would tick the days off until his birthday came around again.

However, if truth was told, it was the same old calendar he used year in, year out and so what day his real birthday was on had disappeared into the mists of time.

When he was younger, his youthful energy and bravery had made him walk up to the others and invite them to his birthday party. Some said no, some said yes, and some just ran away.

Thing didn’t take this as being offensive as he understood that people didn’t know what to say to him and so they just ran off. What did disappoint him was the fact that very few actually showed up for the party ; after he had told his parents that there were many who had said yes, so they would buy in all the food and lay the table for a score of people.

But when only one or two showed their faces, his parents would be silent for a while, wipe away a tear then slap a big smile on their faces.

“Oh well, we can just have a treat for a few more days,” was what his father said.

“That’s exactly right, husband,” said his mother.

And that’s just what they did – they would spend the next few days eating the cakes and chocolate. The ones who had bothered to turn up thought that it was one of the best parties they had ever attended.

Now that Thing was on his own, at least for the time being, he thought it only right and proper that on his birthday he should head down the mountain side, cross the creek and hitch to town.

He knew he was near town when he would hear doors being slammed shut, but he guessed that it was such a cold night that folks wouldn’t want the heat getting out of their house.

At the far end of Dawson Street stood a small sad café that was very rarely used by the good and the great of the town. So on his birthday, Thing always made it his business to celebrate his party in that small and sad café.

Frederick, the café owner, looked forward to Thing and his party as once a year the café would have a smile on its face again and the room would be alive with laughter and music.

Now that Thing was older, he was not so brave and youthful, so he didn’t bother to ask people to his party. Instead he would set up a table in the café with all the sweetest things in the world and hope that people would come to him.

Some times there was only Thing and Frederick sitting at the table while a thousand noses were pressed against the outside window looking in. When Thing went to the door to invite them in, they would all scream and run away.

This year Thing decided on a different tactic and wrote invitations, by name, to everyone in town inviting them to the café at 6pm for cake and chocolate.

Some ripped their invites up there and then, and told everyone who would listen that they weren’t going to mix with a freak like that Thing. Some said politely that they couldn’t make it, but emphasised how sorry they were.

And some just walked right through the door and sat down and got stuck into the cakes.

And it was because of those people who Thing sat with the biggest smile on his face the whole night.

There was a strange thing that happened that night and people still talk about it. A Twister came out of the night sky and blew away all the buildings in town, carried them (and the folks inside the houses) miles away, into another county in fact. Only the folks that had attended the party had been kept safe and this is the strange bit…the Twister hadn’t touched their houses. Not one bit.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Me and Buzz and Lyin’

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There was a time back then, a long time after Buzz’s pappy had left for somewhere down south, that Buzz took to lyin’ to make himself feel better. Well maybe not lyin’ exactly, more exaggeratin’ usin’ stories that weren’t the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth.

I mean I knew his pappy was long gone but I heard Buzz tellin’ the new teacher – the one with the crooked eye – that Buzz’s pappy was away being King of England. It was a story that probably made my buddy feel a little better and that’s all that mattered.

The teacher kinda smiled at him, as if Buzz was the class idiot (which sometimes he was), and then told him she’d hear all about it later and that perhaps Buzz could take his seat, ‘If his majesty feels like it, that is’. You see Buzz had forgotten that if his pappy was the King then that made him the Prince.

“It does?” he said in a real high voice. “It does,” he said again in a real butch low voice.

It sure did and he spent that summer askin’ folks to call him the Prince. Not everyone took kindly to that – one day when I was in Marty’s Barbers, I heard one of the new guys sayin’ ‘There goes the Prince of Fools’ and when I look out the window to see what he’s talkin’ about, all I could see was Buzz crossin’ the street.

Sometimes Buzz and his exaggeratin’ could get a little out of control. Like the time, one July, a man from the Centerville Times came over to our town to look for ukulele players for some competition in the newspaper. Buzz wasn’t interested until he heard that the prize was fifty bucks. I think Buzz thought the money would get him to find his paw and bring him home, on account that his maw spent most nights crying through the wall of their home.

“Step right up here, ladies and gents and sign up for the most prestigious prize this side of Two Forks River. Step right up. Here’s a fine gentleman ready to put his John Hancock on the paper.”

When I look up I’m already too late ‘cause Buzz has put his signature on the competition entry. I tried to grab the pen off of him but he just looked at me and said that I owed the man one buck entry fee on account that his pockets were empty. Apparently royal people, like princes, don’t carry money. Now, I did not know that.

“You can’t play the ukulele, “ I reminded Buzz, later.

“It’s two weeks to the competition. I can learn it, in that time.

Anyway, what’s got into your breeches?”

Maybe I was being a bit stupid and perhaps Buzz actually could learn to play the ukulele in fourteen days. There was probably a book somewhere called ‘Play The Ukulele in Two Weeks’. A buck fifty for the book and a big load of money in return.

Except there weren’t no book, Buzz had no intention of learnin’.

“Why would I want to learn the banjo?” Asked Buzz

I reminded him it wasn’t a banjo but the ukulele.

“What’s that?” He asked me, and right then was the point that I gave up on my friend. I ain’t proud of it, but I thought there goes my buck down the river. I ain’t goin’ to see that again.

“What’s grittin’ your panties?” Asked Buzz who could see I was a bit disconcerted.

“You ain’t gonna win the money Buzz on account that you don’t know what a ukulele is.”

“Is it a quiz? I don’t think so. I ain’t goin’ to play the thing.”

“You ain’t?” I said wonderin’ what was comin’ next.

“No, I ain’t. Becky Smallhousen is going to play the thing.”

So I can hear you thinkin’, just like I’m thinkin’ at this point, just exactly who is Becky Smallhousen and how is she gonna play the ukulele and make folks think it’s Buzz?

When Buzz told me the plan, I actually thought that it might work. What he hadn’t bargained on was Becky Smallhousen hittin’ a load of poison Ivy on the mornin’ of the competition and her head blowin’ up to three times its normal size. At least that’s what Buzz said.

Becky was meant to hide in a bush behind Buzz and when he stamped his foot three times she would start playin’ the ukulele while Buzz pretended to strum her old one. So they got to practisin’ and Becky happened to hide in the only bush that contained poison Ivy for miles around.

“I ain’t doing it,” I said to Buzz when he said he’d share the prize money with me.

“All you need to do is hide in the bush and play the thing, just like Becky.”

“I can’t play the ukulele,” I told Buzz.

“I’m not askin’ you to, I’m askin’ you to play the banjo,” said Buzz still confused as to what stringed instrument he was meant to be playin’.

So that was the plan, I would hide in the bush and attempt to play the ukulele while Buzz stood out front. I say it was a plan – ‘cause that was what is was, until Buzz bumped into the Smith Twins who could play any kinda instrument. There was a story that they could blow air up any animals’ be-hind and get a tune from it.

There was also the fact that the Smith Twins would accept only five bucks from the prize money – they undercut me.

It started real good, The man from the Centerville Times introduced Prince Buzz, son of the King of England. Buzz stamped his feet and a beautiful ukulele tune came from what seemed like Buzz. The trouble was that as one twin played the ukulele the other twin couldn’t resist joinin’ in on the spoons and it kinda gave the game away.

I mean you can say what you like about Prince Buzz – but playin’ a ukulele and the spoons at the same time ain’t one of them.

The Centerville Times ran a big story on the competition.

Royal man caught cheating it read.

Buzz was famous in three counties for a few days. And me? Well I never did get my buck back.
bobby stevenson 2016

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Coldharbour: The Big Gallhoolie

lochinver

It was an ancient village that was for sure, and on some days Jake found it to be the middle of his universe and on others – well, he could take or leave it. He wasn’t that bothered.

His family had all been born, lived and died in Coldharbour, as far back as anyone could remember. His father had been the black sheep of the family, as had his father before him, so there wasn’t much hope given for Jake’s success in life either. Jake found this fact unfair – after all he wasn’t his father, now was he?

His father had been taken away by the local police when Jake was a boy. To be really truthful, his father was always being taken away by the police. The first time Jake remembered that kind of thing happening was the night his father painted a slogan across the walls of the village hall. It had said:

“Capitalism needs people, people don’t need Capitalism.”

The church minister on the following Sunday, had told the congregation that Jake’s father had meant well, but that using day-glow pink had been a mistake of taste. Something, he said, that we all succumbed to from time to time, and then the minister went on to give a sermon on taste – moral or otherwise, for the next forty-five minutes. This was always the time that Jake would look out of the church window and dream of other things.

On one particular month in the summer, Jake had been sent to his grandmother’s home in Glasgow. This was for two reasons (as his mother had told him) – one reason was his father and the other reason was Jake. As his mother had said, she could only deal with one idiot at a time – so Jake was sent packing to the big city.

He never behaved at all bad when he was with his grandmother. There was always so much to do in Glasgow and his grandmother was always ready and willing to show him new places. One of the best had been was the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. Jake had never seen so many brilliant and amazing things in the one place.

That summer there was a special exhibition on at the Kelvingrove called ‘Mystery Beasts of the World’. It covered everything from the Loch Ness Monster (which, by the way, Jake knew existed as his Dad had told him that he’d seen it), then there was the Yeti, and the one which really caught Jake’s imagination was Big Foot. A stupendously big hairy thing that seemed to roam about the United States but which no one could catch. Apart from in real shaky photographs.

This gave Jake an idea.

When he got back to Coldharbour, Jake thought that spreading a story by word of mouth might be enough. He’d thought up the whole crazy idea in his head on the bus journey back to the West Highlands. When he got home, he said ‘hello’ to his Mum, kissed her on the cheek and then ran upstairs to write it all down in his extremely secret book which he kept under his bed. The monster needed to have a name, and he remembered his grandfather telling him about a creature he’d met on the way home from the pub – he’d said it was called the Big Gallhoolie – and it was a friendly enough monster, if a bit shy. It usually only talked to folks in the hours of darkness and usually only when they had been drinking at the time. When Jake had asked his grandfather to describe it, he’d basically just described ‘Big Foot’. Jake wondered if maybe they were related. His grandfather told Jake that the Big Gallhoolie had grabbed his wallet and run off with his wages for the week. Well his wages minus the money he had spent in the pub. When his grandfather had told his grandmother that a monster had stolen his wallet on the way home from the pub she hadn’t spoken to him for two whole months.

So the following Sunday after Jake came up with the crazy idea – and after all the kids had been sent to the Sunday School room while the adults remained where they were and talked about grown-up things – Jake took this as a chance to tell the other kids about what he’d seen. Angela Mclarey – the school teacher who also taught in Sunday School had asked if anyone had ever seen an angel. Several had put their hands in the air and against her better judgement, she had asked Jake to tell his story.

Of course, he completely ignored the topic and went straight into the mystery of the Big Gallhoolie. He began to elaborate on the story so much that when he got to the bit about the Gallhoolie eating children and biting off their heads, both Sarah McTollin and her brother wet themselves and had to be taken crying from the room. Mrs McLarey made Jake sit in a corner facing the wall until he accepted that he had been a naughty boy and had told lies to the Sunday school. As he was facing the wall, Jake could be heard to mumble that it wasn’t a lie – his granddad had seen one, and anyway his Dad had seen the Loch Ness Monster.

By this time, no one was paying him any attention as they were too busy listening to Nancy Smith’s story about the angel she had seen in her garden. Jake snorted in disbelief – and wondered why Mrs Mclarey didn’t make Nancy face the wall, too.

When he was released from church, Jake decided there was only one thing to do and that was to show the world that the Big Gallhoolie did really exist.

Every night after his mother had gone to bed and his father had been arrested by the police, he would sneak out of the house with an old camera that he had found in a drawer. Then he would sit waiting and listening for the Big Gallhoolie. And night after night as he sat there staring into the dark, he saw exactly that – nothing. Added to this was the fact that he kept falling asleep every day at school. Yet Mrs Mclarey felt it was better not to waken Jake as having him asleep usually served the class better.

Not one to be defeated by facts, Jake decided to speed things along. At the village dump on the edge of town, he’d found an old moth-eaten fur coat. It smelled of terrible things but Jake was willing to put up with it, if it meant his story would be believed.

He stitched the old coat and a Halloween mask together and made a suit which he could fit in; quite comfortably as it happens.

The following night he took a photo of himself in the suit and not one to boast, he felt that it was a brilliant picture. He sent it to the Coldharbour Gazette anonymously and put a note in with it, indicating that it was from a tourist in the area who had caught a strange creature on film.

Much to Jake’s surprise they published it and even started a competition – five pounds to anyone from the village who could take a photo of the Big Gallhoolie.

Jake thought that he could really do with the money and wondered that if he submitted another photo he could claim the five pounds – but if Jake claimed it, everyone would probably think that it was all just one of his jokes.

The only way to proceed, Jake decided, was to dress up as the Gallhoolie and run around the woods during the day. That plan worked a little too well since there were at least twenty photos submitted to the paper. Three of those printed weren’t even of Jake – some other rascals had been up to the same thing and had created their own monsters just for the money. Some people are disgusting thought Jake (still too young to see the irony in that statement).

The following week a television news crew turned up in the area looking for the monster. The Provost of Coldharbour was very happy because the story had brought in a lot of visitors and much-needed tourists. With travel being so much cheaper these days, people tended to go to the sun drenched beaches and miss out places like Coldharbour.

Jake knew the woods and forests the way he knew the back of his hand, and could hide when he needed to – and show himself as the monster when he wanted to.

What a summer it was. Everyone in Coldharbour was talking about the Big Gallhoolie. All the hotels, and bed and breakfast establishments were full (and then some). Anyone with a spare room, or spare floor was ‘accommodating the strangers’ at a not so accommodating price. This was the summer of the Big Gallhoolie when everyone made money.

Jake had even been interviewed on television to tell his story about his grandfather’s encounter with the monster.

Then one evening a strange thing happened. The daylight was just beginning to turn to dusk and Jake was ready to stop his monstering in order to go home, when he looked up and there was a beast – right in front of him. It wasn’t a beast like he’d pretended to be, or a beast that some of the other folks in the village had dressed up as, looking for the money. No, this was a real breathing, living hairy monster just like his grandfather had described.

This was the real Big Gallhoolie. Yep, it existed all right. The beastie turned its head to the side, as if to wonder (just like Jake) what this weird thing was standing in front of it.

It sniffed the air a few times, probably realised that this wasn’t one of its own, and growled so loud that Jake almost wet himself as he ran off down the path, throwing away his fur coat as he went.

Jake was sure the beastie was chasing him, just like he was also sure that he could feel his heart bumping against the wall of his chest.  He wondered for a second if maybe this beastie was going to eat him – at that point Jake tripped over a tree root and went flying.

As Jake’s face lay pressed into the mud, he could see a shadow cast over him and he knew that it could only mean one thing – the beastie was going to have him for dinner.

But all that actually happened was that Jake felt something bouncing off the back of his head and then the shadow disappeared. After what Jake thought was a safe amount of time – he turned his head around to see that the coast was clear.

And do you know what was lying next to his head? Why if it wasn’t his grandfather’s wallet – okay, it was a bit chewed and wet with saliva but it had his grandfather’s name on it and there was some money inside.

A week or so later, as Jake sat on the bus to Glasgow, he wondered what his grandmother would say about it all.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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The Cloud Climber

clouds

Stan had a brilliant job, one that many people would have given their back teeth to have. People were always telling him – “that’s the kind of job I’d like to have Stan.” Stan would just smile and move on.

Ever since he was a kid, Stan had always wanted to be a cloud-climber. “That’s pie in the sky,” folks would say. “Your head’s in the clouds,” and Stan would just keep quiet and move on.

Stan would get up at 2am every night, when the house was sleeping and by candlelight he would take out his books on cloud-climbing and study until the morning light broke through the window.

Then the day came when Stan told his family and friends that he was leaving his job to become a cloud-climber. His family thought he must be ill because no one in the family had ever been a cloud climber. “I’m sorry,“ he said “that you feel that way but it is what I was born to do.”

“Nonsense,” said his friends. “How stupid,” said his aunts and uncles. “The boy must be mad,” said his old teacher.

Then came the day when Stan got to climb his first cloud.

After a hard day’s work he arrived at the top of the cloud where he breathed in the sweetest of all the airs, and where the sun warmed his contented face.

Up here he knew he was at home and that no one could tell him that he wasn’t born to climb clouds.

Stan, the cloud climber, just smiled because right there and then he knew he was special.

He finally understood what it felt like to do what you had been born to do – and not everyone knew how that felt.

bobby stevenson 2017

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