A Story From A Room

room

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

Goodlands

town

Everyone knows where Goodlands is.

It’s not too far from where you’ve been and not too close to where you’re going. It’s the kinda place where you find what you’re looking for, one way or another.

And so it was on that Saturday, “Jalopy Saturday” as the Sheriff called it. “Always frightening those damned horses, what with all their tooting, and smoking and noise of those infernal combustible engines.”

Saturday was one of those days when The Big Man upstairs had painted the sky an azure blue from one horizon to the other.
“Hey, it feels good to be alive,” said folks to each other. Well not in so many words but in their looks and smiles, each knew what the other meant.

As you perambulated up the boardwalk, waving to friends and neighbors, you could smell the cooking and baking coming from Mrs Lent’s open window. It sure did make the nose feel that it had a reason for living on those kind of days. That was followed by the sweet sound of musical tunes which lifted the spirit, coming from the old Bakelite radio that sat in Mrs Well’s front room. I tell you that radio always smelled as if it was just about to burst into flames. It never did, because things like that just didn’t happen in Goodlands.
Saturday was the day that the pastor made his weekly trip to the bakery on the corner of Cherry Street and Chew Avenue. I’m thinking that calling Chew an avenue, was a name too far for the founding fathers, ‘cause it barely stretched from here to there.

For some peculiar reason of which I have no understanding, everyone in Goodlands would go to their front door on a fine Saturday morning and wish the pastor all the best on his trip to Sankie’s Bakery. Then, when he’d filled his arms with enough bread to feed a biblical crowd, he’d turn around and walk back up to the church with all the folks still standing at their front doors wishing the pastor well with his meal.

If you didn’t know Goodlands, you’d probably think they’d all gone Johnny Sidebar (he was the man who really discovered electricity but fried his brains before he had a chance to tell the world and ran out of Goodlands and into the Birkmire Desert. He was never, ever seen again). Although some folks tell of lonely howling that can be heard on Moonboys road on a quiet night.
Like they good folks say, you don’t have to be crazy to live here, but it really does help.

Old Sheriff James was out on his porch, rocking and rolling on his chair, shaking his head at the way the jalopies were careering around town.
“Never had such stupidity in my day,” he’d sigh. “A man knew where he was with a horse.”

Now don’t get me wrong with the picture I’m painting here. The sheriff was a good man, sure enough. He was just coming to the end of his time on this earth and new-fangled stuff always looks out of focus to each of us who have lived high on the hog in earlier times. We all have our season, and the sheriff’s was nudging up against winter. His leaves were falling from his tree and he knew there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Sure it was sad in its way, but everyone had to make way for what was to come, and life made sure that happened by making folks uncomfortable in the newness of things.

The ‘old days’ wasn’t really a place, it was a way of thinking, of doing, a place where everyone thought that manners and morals had been better. Things weren’t really getting worse in Goodlands, just different.
No one, and I mean no one, came to this town and wished they hadn’t. It had a sap in its veins and it was a sap that oozed happiness and sunshine.

You see there are some folks who think that such places don’t really exist, but they do I tell you. Everything you see in a town has been a dream once in a head, and if you can dream nicely, then Goodlands is what occurs.
Now I don’t want you to say to me that I’ve been sitting too long out in the sun, ‘cause I ain’t. I think that if you’re passing one day, you need to come to Goodlands and have a look at the pastor or the sheriff and you’ll say, hey, kid you were right. This is the happiest town this side of the mirror.

I said that everyone gets what they need in Goodlands, but that don’t mean, it’s what they want. You can come to Goodlands and get advice that you weren’t keen on hearing. No sir, but it will be a truth that you needed to hear. Something that puts you on a straight path for the rest of your journey.
That was the funny thing about Goodlands, no one remembered just why they came to the town in the first place but they were all pleased that they had.

Now I ain’t saying the place was magical or anything, far be it from me to be the crazy one but there were little miracles that popped up here and there, enough to make you go – ‘well, I’ll be………’.

‘Cause that was the thing, no one came to a bad end in Goodlands. There was no hospital and the doctor used to spend most of his days playing cards with the sheriff. People only left Goodlands in two ways; either they had decided that they were in the right mind to move on to somewhere else, or they just got plum tired and decided it was time to close their eyes.

Seriously. Old Man Peters, last June watched the pastor and his bread for one last time, then just said, “I’m ready” and closed his eyes. The doctor, who was holding a straight flush, came over said, “yep, he’s gone,” and then went back to his cards. Now, he wasn’t being mean or anything, he just knew that Old Man Peters had chosen that time as his end time and that he was ready to leave.

Sometimes your eyes just get tired of seeing everything and everyone and when you’re tired of Goodlands, (as a wise man once said), you’re tired of living.
The big miracle on that Jalopy Saturday was when little Susie Cartwwright wandered away from her mother and walked on to Main Street. Desmond, the painter, couldn’t see her and would have probably knocked little Susie into a million pieces with his bright red jalopy – but like I say, no one dies in Goodlands, not unless they want to.

It was like this, as the pastor was wandering back up the street with his arms full of the warmest, freshest bread, he saw the danger that little Susie was in and threw a stick of that French type bread. It hit Desmond right between the eyes and stopped him in his tracks. Little Susie’s mother, grabbed that little girl by the hand and pulled her back on to the boardwalk.
Susie’s mother thanked the pastor but as he says, “It’s all part of the plan, Mam, all part of the plan.”

And you know what, he just might be right.
On those warm, endless summer evenings, just as the sun is turning blood orange and the insects are starting to sing, you can stand in the middle of the street and look up at all the open windows. Friends shouting to friends in apartments across from each other.

“How’s life Mabel?”

“Why, just deevine, thanks for asking, Melanie.”
Music and smells, and arguments, and love, all flowing out of the windows into the street and making you feel warm, somehow. But why take my word for it, why don’t you come down some night and listen?

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Maybe Next Time

The next time, I’ll say ‘hi’ when that moment first arises

The next time, I’ll cross the street before the trouble starts

The next time, I won’t put the money on that horse that lost me everything

The next time, I’ll go with whom I love rather than who you said I should

The next time, I will tell you that I’m unhappy and not just smile through gritted teeth

The next time, I’ll live the way I want to and not because I am scared

The next time, I won’t let them hit me, or call me names

The next time, I will not wait so long

The next time, I’ll take that chance

The next time, I will not throw away friends and money like that

The next time, I’ll make sure they’re properly dead

The next time, I’ll take my share as well

The next time, I will not drink as much

The next time, I will not hit you, I promise

The next time, I’ll be the one to stay on the path and make you move

The next time, I’ll spend more time talking and listening

The next time, I’ll be far gentler on myself and my life

The next time, I’ll probably do it all again, just like the last time.

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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A Simple Truth

lowereast37

“You get to everyday by winning, you know that don’t you?” Was what she used to say to us kids, when we’d taken a tumble or were feeling real low.

“So don’t you be telling me you failed, or nothing as stupid as that,” she’d say, just before she’d give you a smile that could span an ocean.

“You ain’t done wrong and you ain’t done let anyone down and don’t let me hear you saying you have – ‘cause you ain’t. To get here, to this moment where we are stood, you must have fought a million and one battles – and………AND……,” she’d say twice just so’s you’d have to listen, then she’d shake her big pointy finger straight at your face:
“AND…not only have you fought all those goddamn fights but you must have won them all, or else you wouldn’t be here standing in front of little old me. Now ain’t I right, or ain’t I right?”

Then she’d shuffle in her slippers to the little room where she kept the whiskey – and as she shuffled, she’d holler and laugh all the way there. If you were here, you were winning. Simple as that.

I can still hear her now after all these years – and you know what?  I’m still winning.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

bobby2 wee bobby

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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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Be Happy, Pal

happy

Be happy, pal,

Don’t just

Smile for others

The years are eaten up that way,

And the emptiness will lie beyond

When those you smile to

Go away.

 

I know you’re young

And won’t have time

To understand what I have to say  –

Just don’t

Sell your soul

For the sake of others

Accept yourself in every way.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2 wee bobby

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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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This Year’s Love

hope

This year some people will leave your life

And new ones will enter

This year some dreams will vanish

And others, not thought of, will come out of the sun

This year you’ll make mistakes

And you’ll survive them all

This year you’ll win some things and you’ll lose some things

This year some friends will fail to understand

And some will grow to love you

This year you’ll learn a little more about yourself

Some of it you’ll like and some of it you won’t

This year perhaps you’ll cry alone

But you’ll also laugh at things you won’t explain to  others

This year some of your actions will be misunderstood

But you’ll discover that others understand in amazing ways

This year you’ll misjudge hearts and situations

And yet find more caring than you ever thought possible

This year you’ll learn to love yourself just that little bit better

And that will be all you’ll need.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Strange Freedoms

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bowie

TOMMY

Tommy lived in a town where you had to be one thing or another. That was the way it was, that was the way it had probably always been. There was no room for neutrals, no room at all.

The folks who lived on the north side of the street gave their allegiances to the blue team and those on the south gave theirs to the green.

It was no use saying that you liked them both, or worse still, that you didn’t care about either – both of these cases got you beaten up. That was all that ever happened to Tommy, he was beaten up.

In this part of the world, for reasons that are better known to themselves, the greens went to one school and the blues went to another. Now Tommy wasn’t sure what the merits were in either system, just that he would have liked to have been friends with both, but as he already knew, that was impossible.

Both sides thought they were in the right, which meant that both sides thought that the others were wrong, and that included the folks who thought nothing about either; those folks were probably the worst according to both.

Tommy’s ma had passed away when he was barely out of nappies, and soon his father had met another woman who had caused him to move down south. Tommy stayed on in the town with his gran and granddad both of whom were neither green nor blue but just beige (if a person could be beige).

He had a lonely wee life, had Tommy, since he was a neutral and therefore was the lowest form of life, but there was one thing that made him happy and that was rock music. More importantly, David Bowie’s music.

You see, this was the year of 1973 and this was also the year of Glam Rock. Folks who weren’t trying to thump each other, were dressing up in glitter and sequins, and basically dodging folks beating them up.

When Tommy’s grandparents went to their beds, which was usually around 6pm, Tommy would put on the record, Ziggy Stardust and dress up as his hero. His hair would be red and his face was painted with his gran’s makeup – and he was the happiest boy alive.

One Saturday when the blues were marching for something and the greens were marching for something else, Tommy was left in the house because his grandparents felt that it was too dangerous for a boy to be out on the streets.

Right out in front of Tommy’s house, the blues came marching, shouting and singing from one direction, and the greens were singing, shouting and marching from the other.

Tommy hid behind the curtain to see what would occur, and that was when Tommy decided that he was fed up hiding and that he would go outside.

The blues and the greens were at what you would call, a stand-off’ snarling, and shouting abuse at each other – when suddenly they all stopped, and everything went quiet.

Tommy, all dressed up as Ziggy Stardust walked down between the two groups and started singing a song from his favourite album. In the silence some started sniggering, then there was laughter, then both sides shouted, then both applauded the wee rock star.

And for a few minutes both sides sang along with wee Tommy and forgot that they were either blue or green.  And Tommy felt it was probably the best day of his life – so far.

sisters

KATIE

Katie and her sister came as a pair. They were born almost a year apart. They ended up in the same class in school when Irene (the elder of the two) was kept back and made to repeat a year.

They left school and worked in the same shop together and both went out with boys from the same street.

But for whatever reasons, they never got married – and became ‘old maids’ as some folks would say unkindly.

It was in Katie’s 70th year, and Irene’s 71st, when the younger girl noticed the changes in her sister. Irene began to forget things, (as did Katie) but it sometimes meant Irene leaving a stove or a kettle burning away. Then Irene started to imagine things and people (and they were things that Katie wasn’t able to see and share). Then Irene started to walk about at night and sometimes leave the house which meant that Katie had to go out into the dark and follow her, finally bringing her sister home.

The doctor grew concerned about Irene and told Katie that she must be prepared for Irene to go into hospital. So one night, on Irene’s final night in the house. Katie dressed up as one of Irene’s imaginary friends and she laid a pot of tea out on the table and Irene served sandwiches to everyone. Then in the dark they went for a walk, with Irene and all her friends. Irene and Katie sat at the edge of the forest watching the sun come up and Katie watched Irene have her final sleep on the outside.

space

MARCUS

Five…four…three…two…one…

Then the school bell would ring for freedom that would last the entire summer. Marcus loved all those days that lay ahead – sunshine and heat in the hills of his childhood, and on the very hot days, the trips to the seaside – ice creams and fish and chips.
He used to lie next to the little beached fishing boats on the front at Hasting and stare at the blueness of the sky and wonder what it looked like from the other side.

And now he knew.

His life had been all rocket science, finishing up with him becoming an astro-engineer; a man who would spend too long away from his family, but he had to admit he loved it up here. Out in space – on the European station – several hundred kilometres above his home.

The Project Manager had asked him and the Bulgarian – Androv to check the pipe flow – it had a habit of closing down when the pipes went into the side away from the sun. But Androv had been in sick bay and Marcus had decided to check the pipes himself.

The fail-safe attachment had severed. He had no idea why. As soon as they noticed he was gone they would sound the ‘man-overboard’ alarm.

But it would probably be too late by then, and as he drifted further into deep space, he felt a peace and freedom that he hadn’t tasted since the days of the school bell.

window

SADIE
Her friends were always there waiting on her. Sadie would stand on her bed and lean out the window, and below her window were her three best pals in the whole wide world.

Annie was the beauty – she would probably be a matinée idol and then there was Celia, who would definitely win a Gold medal at the Olympics. Sasha was the brainy one, the one who said that one day she would be a great doctor.

Sasha could whistle the loudest, so she always stuck two fingers in her mouth and alerted Sadie that the gang were ready to enjoy another day together.

Those were the best days of her life. She was sure there had been other days just as enjoyable – days when she had been a mother or even a grandmother, but she couldn’t remember those days at all.

But for the time being, Sadie waved to her pals below and shouted that she would be down in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. She always said those words, and her pals always laughed.

Just then the nurse came into Sadie’s room.

“What are you doing standing on your bed, Mrs Jenkins. How many times have I told you not to lean out the window,” said the nurse.

“But my pals, are waiting,” said Sadie.

“Well they are just going to have to wait a bit longer”.

And the nurse gave Sadie her medication which sent her to sleep, and in her sleep Sadie would leave the old folks’ home and join Sasha, Celia and Annie below for a day of fun and freedom.

robber

HENRY
His auntie used to ruffle Henry’s hair when he was about five, then put her massive hand underneath his chin and force his cheeks together to make him smile.

“Aggie, your boy, your little Henry is a worrier. He was born worrying and he’ll probably die worrying,” said an auntie who meant well.

But she had been right, Henry had never known a day when he wasn’t worried about one thing or another. He was always sure the sky was going to fall on his head.

He worried at night that his house had been built on top of a coal mine and that one dark evening he would be swallowed up.

Worrying became his friend, and it was a friend that he would be lost without.
It was on the day of his 61st birthday that he entered the bank to withdraw money to buy himself a present. He never kept money in the house just in case it was stolen.

Henry didn’t see the bank robber at the other end of the building but he did feel the bullet as it entered his chest and exited his back.

As Henry fell to the ground, he could see the blood – and felt satisfied that all his worrying hadn’t been in vain. And as the darkness came over him, he could feel a kind of warmth and freedom in his dying. He had nothing left to worry about now and that was just dandy.

bobby stevenson 2017

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Seventy Times Around The Sun

dog_full

“Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily – no hourly – and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim.”
― Thomas Mann

He always left work at exactly 5pm – no earlier and no later. He had no ambition to be promoted and yet, he had no want to work for free either.
5pm, it was and not a second more.

Each evening he would wait at the corner for the bus, which would take him within walking distance of his home. He always had the correct money and didn’t expect a ‘thank you’ for his consideration.

As he left the office there was always a little man who would sit on the sidewalk, just watching the world go by. Sometimes people would give the man an odd penny for his troubles, but he was never really sure what troubles it was that the little man had to endure. The man refused to give away hard-earned cash to a little man on the sidewalk who only watched and did nothing more. Yet this never put the little man off from wishing everyone who left the office, ‘a good evening’.

The man always sat on the same seat each morning and evening as he rode on the bus. Always the same folks would get on at the same stops each morning and get off on their return. If one hadn’t made it that morning, he would wonder where they were, ill, at a wedding, on vacation but he would never, ever think to start up a conversation with any of them.

He lived alone and although he saw his neighbors to say ‘hello’ to – that was as much contact as he courted. He had no need for anything more. At weekends he would watch the neighbours walk their dogs, or children, or partners up and down the neighbourhood.

If life had meant him to have acquaintances, it would have surely made it obvious to him which people he should engage.  At the store, when he bought his groceries, he would only make eye contact with the staff when they had totalled his purchases and wished him a good day. He would smile, say ‘thank you’ and leave. And this was the man’s life. It was neither great, nor a disappointment. It just was.

Then one day as he was leaving the office, he tripped on a shoelace that had come undone in the elevator. As he lay on the sidewalk, no one stopped to help – after all, you didn’t talk to people who lay on sidewalks.

Yet the little man who watched – came over and asked him if he could be of help. The man said that wasn’t necessary as he had only tripped and could stand, but not one to be put off, the little man helped him stand and then asked if perhaps, he was hurt in any way. The man said he was fine, but the little man used some money that he had been given – but hadn’t asked for – to buy some water for the man to drink. The man said ‘thank you’ but it hadn’t been necessary. The little man said it was necessary – unless, that is the man belonged to some other place than Earth. As the little man said, we are all on this spaceship circling the sun, some get to ride 70 times around it, some more, some less but we are all astronauts.

And the man thought of that all the way to the bus stop. As he got on the bus, the driver whom he had never spoken to, asked if he was all right as their seemed to be blood coming from his forehead. The man touched his own head and saw that the driver was right. The man must have hit his head as he landed on the sidewalk. So the driver gave him his handkerchief to stop the flow, at least until he got home.

The man then thanked the driver and sat down. He was only five minutes from his dropping off point when he felt dizzy and seemed to black out. When the man came around, he found that he was lying on the bus floor, with his tie loosened and the folks (the ones he saw on the bus but never spoke to) were kneeling over him. One was cleaning his face, another had placed a jacket under his head, and one was holding his hand. When they got to his stop, he was able to stand but one of the passengers insisted on walking him to his house.

On the way there, two of his neighbours stopped to ask if he was all right. The one from the bus who was walking him home, told them the story and the neighbours said they could take it from there, and they would see he was all right.

The neighbours made him some soup and told him he should get a good night’s rest and he would be fine in the morning but if he wasn’t, he shouldn’t hesitate to call them.

And because of that shoelace untied, the man found that all those faces in the crowd that he had never spoken to, were only friends he had yet to discover.

bobby stevenson 2017
photo: http://www.scabbage.com

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My Favourite Thought

love

You are my favourite thought, favourite smile, favourite life,

You’re my first thing in the morning and my last thing at night,

When I speak to other souls, it is you in my head,

I long for you beside me, I dream of you in bed.

 

You are my favourite thought, favourite day, favourite night,

When I stumble through darkness, you carry the light

No one can fathom this smile on my face,

It is you – it is you, who makes my heart race.

 

You are my favourite thought, favourite deed, favourite one,

You are my moon and my stars and my sun,

You are the body where my dreams have been caught,

You are my love, my favourite thought.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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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.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

bobby2wee bobby

Brighter Days

BRIGHTER-DAYS

The smell of the coffee lured her in and so she sat blowing on the steam from her cup. The war had only been over a handful of weeks but already she felt that things were better. Bravely, she took a sip and looked out over the Boardwalk knowing that what lay ahead were brighter days.

————

He was going to hitch all the way no matter what his mama said. This was the 1950s: things are a whole lot different mama, we ain’t like you. He packed a small bag, kissed her on both cheeks and headed out the door, by tomorrow he’d be in the same town as Elvis. One bus journey was all that stood between him and brighter days.

————

He hadn’t asked God for much out of life, well not since the cancer hit his younger brother – and God had been listening that day. He hadn’t really pushed God for anything in recent years, so that was why he was asking him to let England beat Germany and win the 1966 World Cup. He just knew that God had caught that one too; brighter days, indeed.

————–

She’d been walking her kids to school when the plane hit and as they crossed around into the avenue, they could see the flames shooting from the building. She was scared and she wasn’t sure what to do except hold their hands tighter. She tried to remain calm and think of brighter days, just then one of the kids asked why the bird coming from the building was on fire.

—————-

He lost everything when the bank went under, everything, the house, the car, his job and no matter how much pleading, his wife. He was working in a car wash now and the depression had disappeared down the drain with the soap suds and water. He had nothing left, let’s be honest, but he had his health and he knew that brighter days lay just up ahead.

It is all we ever need –  the smile of brighter days.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

brighter

 

bobby2 wee bobby

The Perfect Seconds

face

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

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

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

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

Writing took time – spoken words were cheap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Songbird

songbird

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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Lanterns

lanterns

Don’t think that all of this will last,

As the darkness wears your heart away,

One day,

Someday,

When you least expect it,

The lanterns,

Will bring the light to stay.

 

Don’t cry at the moon when no one sees you,

For each of us is made to pay,

One day,

Someday,

When your hope is dying,

The lanterns,

Will light another way.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

bobby2 wee bobby

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Choodla: London Secrets

choodla

The Start

What can I say about Choodla, that hasn’t already been said over and over again by the newspapers, the television, the judges, the police, the weird man who lives on everyone’s street, my family, my pet dog? Nothing – that’s what, nothing except I’m Choodla and no one except me can say that.

I’ve watched those stupid movies about superheroes (okay they aren’t that stupid) and then I’ve watched those stupid movies about vigilantes (okay, those aren’t that stupid either) and that is when I decided to……no, I think I’m jumping ahead here. Let’s go back to the start. Kind of.

Once upon a time, a pre-Choodla time, I was just your usual kid with dreams and stuff. Well except I was too lazy for the dreams and didn’t have enough cash for the stuff – so basically I was just a kid.  The trouble was that all those little traits followed me into adulthood. I mean I did my best to grow up – ended up over six feet tall – but those pesky little things like laziness kind of came with me. Boy that really pee’d me off but what’s a guy to do?

I had a job, or at least I had people who came and gave me money to sit in an office and work with dumb folks and dream of being somewhere else. Except you get to like the money and tell yourself you’re only staying until the storm passes over and then you’ll move on. Except you don’t – or at least it looked as if I was welded to that desk in my office – until the day they said they were rationalizing the structure of the office, and that meant I was on the street.

So now I don’t have a job but at least I don’t have to listen to dumb folks anymore and that to me was a big tick. Except I don’t have any stupid people to hand me money, so I have to do what I have always done and that is to play my guitar in the street and hope folks throw coins at me. I should have said ‘to me’ but it was more often than not ‘at me’. Hey, you get to find out that everyone’s a judge these days.

So I was playing ‘American Pie’ on my guitar for the good folks of this big city for the twentieth time that day and I still only had a few coins in the hat (ones I put there myself). When a little old man came crawling out of a side door – called himself McCafferty and said he was having a party and would I like to come. Okay, you’re thinking what I’m thinking that this man is a serial killer and probably got a bed, some tape, rope and a collection of knives to torture me slowly but I thought, being the victim of serial killing has got to be preferable to playing ‘American Pie’ one more time. You think I’m joking, you try it.

Anyway I collected my coins and hat and followed him down through a door which seemed to go down to an old unused Underground Station. Down in the old platform, of the old station (it was old) was a collection of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells that you would ever wish (or not) to meet.  McCafferty introduced me as ‘that geezer who won’t stop playing that song’ and everyone knew who he meant.

The leader wasn’t McCafferty but a big bloke called Andrew who shook my hand and asked if I thought that they we were just a bunch of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. I said that nothing could be further from the truth, and that indeed they looked like an upstanding bunch of gentlemen …”and ladies” shouted a collection of overcoats in the corner.
Once you got over the smell, they did indeed seem interesting. One gentleman had been a professor of economics in a prestigious university but had fallen on hard times when they’d found the bank accounts.

“A mere oversight,” he said, and he hoped to re-join the world above any day soon.

Another had been something in Westminster until they caught him and he too was only waiting down here for things to get better.
The one they called ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and who was married to whatever existed under the collection of coats had once been a star of stage and screen until he too was found to be wanting in some area or another.
They asked me what my story was and I had to be honest and say that I had just been fired from my job. As such I had probably some way to go to be as esteemed as the collection in front of me.

“Tish and tosh,” said Jumping Jack, “You look like you have a few secrets to tell.”
Apart from stealing a coin from my Grandmother’s purse I had been pretty quiet on the dishonesty side.

“We shall prise it out of you, young musician person, prise it we shall.”
I must say he looked as if he meant it, every word and that perhaps ‘prising’ meant using some instrument or other.
An extremely smelly old man said that there was one rule down here and that was ‘share and share alike’ and suddenly a giant of a man grabbed me by the ankles and held me upside down while the little coins that I had, fell out of my pocket. All of those miscreants were on those coins like rats.

When they had taken everything and anything, they said the time had arrived for me to be named. I told them quite rightly that I had a name but they said that was a name for use above, I needed one for down here in the Underground. A few of them huddled in a corner and every so often they would stop talking, look at me in a very weird way then shake their heads and go back to talking.

After what seemed a blooming eternity (enough time to sing American Pie fifty times) they came over to me and told me to kneel.
I did so hoping that whatever happened would be quick –

“Old Creature here has come up with a name and you are to be called ‘Choodla’ from now on.”

I asked why Choodla as it sounded kind of weird.
The one they called Creature said, “It is the greatest name that anyone down here can be called. It is after the Underground station we stand in.”
I said I didn’t know any stations new or old called Choodla.

“No dear boy, it is Aldwych – that is the station in which we reside. One that was closed years and years ago. And if you spell it backwards – Chywdla (well nearly backwards) you get Choodla. That sir is your name from now on.”

So here I am stuck in an Underground station in London with a bunch of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells and you’re asking how do I become a superhero?  Well you’ll just have to wait and see.

bobby stevenson 2017

bobby2 wee bobby

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The Private War of Bobby Falkirk

hotel

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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The Best

best-series1

Wrap up your soul from the north winds,

Turn your sweet head,

Facing the sun,

I know that those dark clouds will scare you,

But believe me,

The best is to come.

Let slip those stories they told you,

Just remember that you are the one,

Don’t let their sadness get weary,

For I tell you,

The best is to come.

Smile even ‘though it is hard work,

Cleanse weary eyes with some bright fun,

For these dark days

Will lift soon my darling

And I promise,

The best is to come.

Take strength in the ways of the old times,

When your laughter and hope can return,

Don’t stumble and fall,

Take my hand love,

For you know that the best

Is to come.

bobby stevenson 2017

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You’ll Make It,I know You Will

getbackupYou’ll make it, I know you will,

You’ve come too far and now is not the time.

If only you stopped and thought about it all

The walls you’ve climbed, all the troubles crossed

All the failures faced, all the little victories

Look into the eyes of those beside you

The woman at the table

The man in the street

It’s there, deep-set perhaps – but there all the same,

The very same terror as you

A flicker of recognition in both your eyes and then you move on

So if they can live in temporary quiet desperation

Then so can you

And one day soon you’ll make it across

To where you can start again

I know you will

You’ve come too far, to stop.

 

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A Letter To Me

head

You know.

I know you know. It’s just whether you remember the facts or not. The thing is, I must have learned to write and then I learned to live. We kind of knew it was always going to be that way – didn’t we?

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. I was always getting ahead. So I’ll just start at the beginning like most people would.

Dear Me,

I am writing you a letter from your past – from our past. I have been to the doctor and he has told me. He said it in the most matter of fact way possible. He looked out of his window, asked did I want a glass of water, then turned and said ‘you have Alzheimer’s’.  I said ‘sorry’ and he said so was he, I then asked him to repeat himself. And as you know and I now know, I’ve got Alzheimer’s.

What am I like from where you are? Are you reading this, or perhaps some help has found it and is reading it to you? Or maybe they are reading it to themselves and wondering if they should read it to you.

I just wanted to write to you – well, me, the future me, a letter to say goodbye and to say I’m sorry. Was it something I did, something in my life that led us down this road of sorrow?

I wonder what went first? Did you start to forget the lovers, you and I once knew? I always was proud of myself that I could remember all their names. It was always a little exercise I did on dark days – to remember when love and life were easy. When I had enough offers to be careless with those who had said they loved me. Forgive me.

My fear is that you – well, me in the future will be talked about by strangers. They will look at me with pity and tears and forget how young and alive I once was. Please don’t let them talk about me. Please don’t let them say I am mad. I am not mad – am I’m only dying.

Something we will all do.

I remember one of my lovers said to me, that you should never judge a life by how it ends. I was alive once, I was a child, a kid, a teenager, a lover, a partner – but all of those things are dependent on being able to remember.

And my memories are being cruelly stolen, so that in the end I am nothing. More than nothing.

I am not feeling sorry for you or me, for I had a life and that is more than some souls get.

I just wanted to write and say I love you, I didn’t always love you – learning to love yourself takes a lifetime.

I hope you are happy in your dreams.

With all the love in the world,

Yourself, from all the way back here.

X

(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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Frankie, Shoebuckle, Sunlight and Clutterbuck

womanFRANKIE

Frankie never got to make a movie as a star
She had to settle for standing at the back
And waving to the troops,
Or sometimes – smiling at the
Romantic lead as he bought bananas from her.
Frankie never got to make the movie of her life
She just settled for standing back and being an
Extra in everyone else’s.

 

 

 

man
Mr Clutterbuck

SHOEBUCKLE, SUNLIGHT AND CLUTTERBUCK

Mr Shoebuckle lived in a house filled to the roof with flaws.
They were in his attic, his cellar, every drawer and cupboard, and he did this as a way to avoid seeing them. He spent his life sweeping them under the carpet.

Mr Shoebuckle lived next door to Mrs Sunlight who didn’t want to see her flaws either, so she threw them out the house at every opportunity. The house was flawless and clean.
Mrs Sunlight would sigh sometimes because she knew that something was missing.

Mr Clutterbuck lived in the far house and he didn’t care where his flaws were – on his sofa, on his carpet or on his roof. Mr Clutterbuck liked his flaws , they kept him company and he knew that if he was going to have a long life then his flaws were going to be with him every step of the way.

 

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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

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The Bar at the End of Sugarhouse Lane

bar

Alex’s Story

If you’ve ever sauntered up Charles Street, you’ll know what I mean. Some days you see everything, the people, the windows, the traffic and on other days – like when it rains, or there’s fog, or you’re simply in a hurry – the whole street can pass you by in one big blur.

Then there are the odd days when a person will notice the narrow entrance into Sugarhouse Lane. There are those who would say that the Lane only appears when it’s needed, others that it’s just a dead-end in all senses of the word.

It was on one such day, that Alex decided turn the corner into Sugarhouse Lane; maybe he thought it was a shortcut through to Blond Street, or maybe his curiosity just got the better of him. Whatever it was, he found the dead-end and then he found the Bar At The End.

The front of the bar had already suggested to Alex the atmosphere and the smells to be found inside. As he opened the door, a smell of stale hops hit his nose and at the far end, a blazing log fire lit up an old man’s very red face; the fire seemed to have given the old man lines across his cheeks and forehead.

The low winter sun shone through a thick pane of glass, which scattered the light and caused little rainbows to settle on far-flung corners.

The carpets were a rich red colour that went with the deep brown oak which formed the bar, table and chairs.

Alex stood and absorbed the whole, beautiful, glorious place. It felt right, everything felt right. It was as if he had come home at last.

At the bar stood a man whose face invited you in to his world. When Alex had left the bar, he remembered the happiness that seeped from the man, but for the life of Alex, he could never have described the barman’s features, even if his life had depended on it.

“Drink, sir?” asked the barman. “My name is whatever you want it to be.”

Alex narrowed his eyes at what the barman had just said.

“Is it me, or is that a strange thing to say?”

“All part of the service, sir,” said the barman.

“Okay, I’ll call you Sandy, that was my dad’s name,” said Alex.

“Is there any name you would like me to call you,” asked Sandy, the barman.

“Alex is good, that’s my name.”

“I don’t care if it is, I don’t care if it isn’t Alex. Now what will be your pleasure?”

Alex looked around the bar, it seemed to be stocked with drinks from all over the world.

“Anything?” asked Alex.

“Anything,” said Sandy.

“What about strawberry flavoured milk?”

“Coming right up,” said the barman.

And it was sitting in front of Alex in a split second.

“This isn’t your normal type of bar,” said Alex.

“Indeed it isn’t,” said the barman. “And it doesn’t have your normal type of customer, either”.

Alex looked around to see who the barman was referring to, but there was no one except the old man by the fire. He shrugged his shoulders and drank his milk.

Alex felt better already. He’d walked up Charles street in a daze, thinking about his mother having the cancer check up, and then he’d taken that turn down a street he’d never actually seen before. Yet, he felt the better for it.

Alex had a strawberry moustache at the end of the drink, and Sandy the barman gave Alex a paper napkin to wipe it off.

“How much?” asked Alex.

“No charge,” said Sandy.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously, and mind you come back here, any time you’re passing,” said Sandy.

As Alex got off the stool to leave, the barman put his hand on Alex’s hand and said a curious thing. “She’ll be alright, you know.”

As Alex left the bar, the low winter sun blasted him right between the eyes and by the time he could see properly again, he was walking up the rest of Charles Street. Just as he reached the corner with Nebula Road, his brother called him on his ‘phone to tell him that his mother had been given the all clear.

 

 

Jinky’s Story

Jinky James nearly got hit by a car and it wasn’t even lunchtime. He’d been thinking about what he was always thinking about – making money, and how he could make some more. There probably wasn’t enough money in the world for Jinky to be truly happy but he just had to have it.

He knew it was a kind of illness but he could only ever feel better with an increase in his bank balance – big or small, he didn’t care as long as it went upwards. Jinky did some of this and a lot of that to make money. Perhaps not all of it was legal but you had to take a chance now and then.

He cheated some people, friends if he was being honest, out of their hard-earned bucks, just to make a profit.

He tended to find new friends as easily as opening his wallet. He didn’t mean to be selfish but he found himself walking passed those who begged for money in the street. Jinky thought that they must be lazy or stupid, to be in that type of condition.

So when he jumped out the way of the Bentley, the one that almost hit him as he strolled up Charles Street, he found himself in Sugarhouse Lane.

“Well, I’ll be, I don’t remember this little pokey street,” but his curiosity got the better of him and Jinky thought there might be an opportunity to make money at the end of it.

And there was an end – Jinky couldn’t go any further.

Jinky, looked the Bar At The End up and down.

“Oh, I say,” said Jinky as he wandered inside to get a drink and make himself more money.

On the bar stood a cold glass of champagne.

“My favourite,” said Jinky.

“Help yourself, sir,” said the unnamed barman.

“You know what, I’ve never been in this bar before,” said Jinky.

“Are you sure, sir?” Asked the barman. “Because I seem to recognise your face.”

“Well, I’ll be,” said Jinky.

Jinky sipped the champers back in a hurry. “Another one,” demanded Jinky.

“We’ve run out”.

“Run out? Run out! What kind of bar runs out of champagne?”

“This one,” said the barman.

“Then I shall take my custom elsewhere,” said Jinky, forgetting he had gone in the bar to make some money.

Just as he was leaving, the barman leaned over and put his hand on Jinky’s hand.

“Check your ‘phone, sir.”

“What?”

“I think you’ll find that money is not what you need right now,” said the barman.

Sure enough as Jinky turned the corner into Charles Street, a text arrived on his phone. Could he call Doctor Stewart immediately as the doctor was concerned about a dark patch on Jinky’s X-ray.

 

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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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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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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The Last of England…..the beginning

beach3

Chapter 1  The beginning – Aldeburgh Beach, April 1958.

The sky was blood-red.

Stanley had been edgy all that day. Or at least, it had seemed that way to Alice ever since she had suggested a picnic on the beach. 

Now she, Stanley and their seven-year-old daughter, Claire were sitting shivering under a sky that would have delighted any photograph.  They had wanted some privacy – at least that was the way that Stanley had put it, and so they had moved along the beach towards Thorpeness. It was all shingles and stones, but they did love this part of the country and the sea was performing for them with all its heart.

Alice had laid a tea that her mother would have approved of, while Stanley and Claire searched under rocks for crabs. She called them a few times but the wind seemed to carry her voice off somewhere out to sea. The gulls, which cried overhead, had probably heard her voice more times that day than her family.

But she was happy, or at least content in a very British way. It had been thirteen years since the war and the country was now getting back on its feet. She had a small but important job helping organise the Aldeburgh Festival and Stanley had been teaching at various colleges in Suffolk and Norfolk. Claire, after a few health scares, was now growing into a beautiful young girl.

So why did Alice feel so empty in her stomach? Her mother had always been a victim of depression but had tended to keep out the way of the family during those particularly bad episodes. To Alice’s mother, depression hadn’t been a very British thing to suffer from in public. Sometimes, when Alice pressed her ear against her mother’s bedroom door, she could hear her mother praying or at least talking to God in her own West London style. Her mother would put on a very upper class voice   when she was talking to someone she considered to be important. Alice remembered that it was something her mother had failed to do when she had first met Stanley.

Yet, despite everything that had happened, she still missed her mother. The mother she could talk to any time of the day. She missed that woman more than she could ever tell Stanley. He had woken Alice in the middle of the night, telling her that her mother had gone. He had then turned over and had gone back to sleep. Having just woken, Alice had wondered, at first, where her mother had gone to exactly. Morocco, perhaps? Istanbul? Those were some of her mother’s favourite haunts and ones, which were considered to be very daring for a widow in the 1950s. But then her mother had been all that and more; she had always been adventurous. Alice felt that her mother had been a little disappointed that Alice hadn’t been more like her.

When Alice had woken properly the night of the ‘phone call, she had realised what Stanley had meant – that her mother had gone for good. Afterwards she had heard Stanley snoring and she wasn’t going to wake him up again to talk about how she was feeling. He was down to teach a class in Ipswich later that morning and that would have meant an early start.

Alice’s father had died in the war.
He had been a scientist or something similar, yet he’d never really told the family what it was he had done. It was while her father was working at some camp in Berkshire that he had met Stanley and brought him home to meet the family. Alice was sure that her father had approved of Stanley and had probably intended him to ask his daughter out. This he had done, and soon they were married. If not in haste, at least in a very short space of time. Love had nothing to do with it, although she had grown accustomed to him and would always miss him when he was away. 

But this wasn’t really love, not the Wuthering Heights kind. This was a very British marriage where it was better to say nothing and suffocate than bring shame to the family. Alice had said ‘yes’ very quickly, too quickly, perhaps, in case no one else asked her. 

She had held her breath for so long now that it seemed impossible to remember what fresh air tasted like.
Alice looked up and could see Stanley and Claire heading back. She waved, and her beautiful little daughter waved back with all her might. Claire was a fighter, she had to fight to stay in the world and nothing was going to take her. Stanley had seen Alice waving but had dropped his head, something he had been doing more frequently.

By the time her family had made it back to the picnic, the wind was whipping up the white horses and causing them to crash onto the shore. The napkins were being blown about and two of them disappeared over the sandbank at the back.
They drank their tea in silence, a behaviour that Stanley had always insisted upon, while they ate the perfectly cut sandwiches filled with cucumber from their own garden.

It was then that Stanley lifted his head and looked out to sea.

At least, that is what she remembers telling the police afterwards. There had been a large, red schooner on the horizon and it had seemed to be struggling with the strong winds.

Any normal person would have mentioned the ship’s distress but not Stanley. He had simply wiped the crumbs from his face, stood up and climbed over the sandbank for a better view or that is what Alice had assumed, and it was another thing she had told the police.
The last time she saw Stanley, he had his hands sheltering his eyes from the harsh wind – eyes, which she believed were following the schooner. Claire helped her mother pack up and it was just as Alice was about to ask Stanley to help her with the basket – one that she always found difficult to negotiate – that she noticed he had gone. So had the schooner. Alice asked Claire to run over to the sandbank and fetch her father but he wasn’t there.

From the sandbank, a person could see all the way to Thorpeness, back to Aldeburgh and even a mile or two inland but Stanley had simply vanished off the face of the Earth.

“You sure it was that sudden?” The policeman with the notebook had asked her later and she was absolutely certain that it had been.

The police had searched the beaches and land for several days, the locals had all taken their boats out to help but nothing was found of Stanley. He had simply gone.

What scared Alice was that she felt relieved, at least at first. Maybe he had wanted to disappear. The policeman, Inspector Whitstable, had asked her about their life together and by that, Alice had assumed he was meaning their love life. To her, that meant sex on a Saturday evening and sometimes during the week when they were on holiday. At first she couldn’t understand what Whitstable was getting at, but it soon became apparent. Did he have something troubling him? And by that, the policeman had meant another woman. Or man. She hadn’t even considered that possibility that Stanley was a queer.

If wasn’t sex that was troubling Stanley, then maybe there was money worries. But as she had told the police, her mother had left them comfortable for the rest of their lives. No, he wasn’t suicidal either. If anything, he disapproved of such nonsense. Stanley was conservative through and through and knew one day in his heart that he would have to account to God for his behaviour.

When the Inspector asked about Stanley’s work, Alice had to admit it was beyond her. She neither knew, nor cared what he did as long as he was a good father to Claire and a good husband to her. She didn’t tell the police that his office at the back of the house was always locked.

Alice, the devoted and loving wife, had even been a suspect in his disappearance and her fingerprints taken, but the suggestion was preposterous. She had a witness in the shape of her beautiful – their beautiful daughter. How quickly Alice seemed to want him dead and buried. He didn’t deserve those thoughts, and Alice quickly brightened up.

She would do all it took to find him. If he had run away, there must have been a reason. Perhaps she was the reason. Perhaps she hadn’t been a good enough wife. Yet hadn’t there always been a meal on the table when he had come home? Hadn’t she always listened to his problems? Hadn’t she always allowed him to lie on top of her when he wanted? What more could a wife do?

Aldeburgh  photo: http://www.telegraph.co.uk


Chapter 2  The newsreel –  Summer 1958.

She had surprised herself how quickly she had gotten her life back into some sort of normality. Between looking after her daughter and helping with the Aldeburgh festival, her days were always full of things to do. 

When she passed folks in the street, or in the grocers, they would either drop their eyes or pat her arm at her bravery in the face of her phantom widowhood.

Stanley was neither dead nor alive, but Alice was growing more and more accustomed to this state of affairs and a little part of her hoped he wouldn’t return.

One beautiful and warm summer’s day, she drove her and Claire to Felixstowe to look in the big-shops (as Claire liked to call them), followed by a fish tea, and then the cinema. Alice was hoping there was a Disney  on which usually satisfied the both of them.

Claire was almost sleeping by the time they entered the Regal, and as an extra treat, Alice had bought them both a box of chocolates and paid for the more expensive seats in the Circle. Alice looked around, and pleased that there was no one close by, slipped off her shoes and wiggled her toes. Stanley would have disapproved of such behaviour but then Stanley wasn’t here.

Claire was sleeping on Alice’s shoulder when the adverts came on, then she stretched her toes and laid against her daughter as the newsreel started. She smiled to herself as wonder how long it had been since she’d never felt so happy. Perhaps Stanley had disappeared through wishful thinking. She had another chocolate and smiled again.

The newsreel was discussing the latest fashions, what the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were up to, and then it happened. It was only a fleeting glance but she was one hundred percent sure of what she had seen. It had been a story on the changing face of the English seaside and the trouble that was being caused by riots on the beach at Brighton. It all worried Alice – because England, Britain even, was changing and not necessarily for the better. 

Then she saw him, he was standing at the back of the crowd on Brighton beach, he looked straight at the newsreel camera and then turned away. She would swear on her daughter’s life it was him.

She didn’t wait for the Disney, instead she helped put her fast asleep daughter in the back of the car and drove back to Aldeburgh.

What should she do? The police would think she was one of those potty women one reads about in the Sunday newspapers. She would have to check her facts and that would mean going back to Felixstowe.

Between the festival and looking after her daughter, she didn’t manage to get to the cinema until three days later and as luck would have it, the newsreel had changed. She had concocted some story about a long-lost relative when she approached the cinema manager. A nice man, by the name of Eric, had told her that the films had been sent back on the Monday to an address in London.

Perhaps she had just imagined it. Perhaps she was conjuring him up through the guilt of her caring little if he was ever found again. But what if it was him? How could she go on with her life wondering if any minute he could be standing at her door? She noticed that she’d thought of it as ‘her door’ and not ‘theirs’, and wondered if she was possibly the worst wife in the country.

The manager, Eric had scrawled the address in London for the newsreel and one Friday when Alice had a little time off she had taken the train to London. The film company receptionist, Irene from Upminster, had been as nice as nine-pence and had told Alice, that although they usually charged for a private viewing, seeing as it was her long-lost brother, and the fact that all the big guns were out at a meeting, Alice could view the film for nothing.  

A bored projectionist smoked about three cigarettes at the back of the room, and Alice had to shake him to waken him up when she got to the bit she wanted to see.

He played it over several times and when she asked the bored man to freeze the picture, he managed to do it but it vibrated a little. So she had to narrow her eyes to be sure of what she was seeing.

“Is that him?” Asked the projectionist.

Alice nearly jumped out of her skin, wondering if the man knew what was going through her head.

“Your brother, is that him?”

“I think so,” she said, but not in the way that finding a long-lost brother would make someone react. Puzzled, the projectionist just lit another cigarette and thought about the girl he was meeting that night.

By the time she got back to Aldeburgh, Alice was sure it was him and wondered what she should do next.

Stanley was alive and well and standing on a beach in Brighton. Or at least he had been when they made the film  There was something else at the back of her mind about the day of Stanley’s disappearance and that thought had been refreshed by seeing the sea at Brighton in the newsreel.

Stanley had received a postcard on the day he had vanished and she was sure he’d stuffed it in a book.

Alice went into Stanley’s office, using the door that had been broken open by the police. ‘They had found nothing of any significance’ but she was sure a clue was in the room.

She opened all of his favourite books and then out of one fell the postcard. It was addressed to Stanley and the message said ‘Time’. On the other side was a painting, one they both knew and loved – it was of a couple and child leaving on a ship to start a life in a new land. The painting was by Ford Maddox Brown and was called ‘The Last of England’.


bobby stevenson 2017

 

england

the last of England

 

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The Wee Happy Man

lochetive

photo: loch Etive

In that hot summer of 1921, we returned to Glencoe in Scotland; this time we were missing a brother but he would always be with us.

In the glorious years before the Great War, I and my brothers, Grahame and Jack would spend long summers climbing the mountains around Rannoch and the Black Mount. Each year our grandfather would take us boys to stay at the King’s House hotel, and each year he would take us climbing on a new mountain.

Grahame’s favourite climb had always been the Great Shepherd of Etive (Buachaille Etive Mor) and since he was lost to us forever in some field of France, and in the same year he would have been twenty-one years old, Jack felt that it was right he should climb the Buachaille with Grahame’s medal pinned to his chest.

I had only lost my leg at Ypres (I was one of the lucky ones), so although I wanted to support Jack, I felt I would spend the time by Loch Etive and think about the great days and years we had all spent together.

Jack wanted an early start and so I drove him in the horse and trap as far as the Devil’s Staircase. This was a road built by the Englishman General Wade to avoid the trouble he might find in deepest Glencoe. It went straight over the top and into Kinlochleven.

The Buchaille was on the opposite side to this, and here I left Jack – watching as he made his way up the valley, he turned and waved and then disappeared into a crevice.

I turned the horse and made my way around to the back of the Buchaille  and into Glen Etive.

lochetive2

photo: loch Etive

The Glen has always been the quietest of places with no real road through it. It was a spot where our grandfather would set out a pick-nick after we returned from our latest climb. I can say with my hand on my heart, those were the happiest of days with all three of us having our lives waiting on us.

And so, as Jack climbed to remember Grahame, I felt that a little time spent by the loch would help me pay remembrance to my middle brother. I will always miss him, as will Jack, but with me being the youngest it was Grahame that I always felt closest to. I will carry my brother with me everywhere I go.

I had brought a hamper of my own and quietly settled down by the loch-side when the heat of the day overtook me and I quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Judging by the position of the sun, it must have been sometime later when I was wakened by a figure casting a shadow over me.

“Hello there,” said the voice.

I put my hand above my eyes and could make the outline of a little man.

“Do you mind if I sit a minute, I’ve come a long way and it’s nice to have a bit of company, to take away the sharpness of the day.”

I told the little man I was be pleased to have him join me and asked if he wanted to share a drink, and perhaps something to eat.

He had come from the south, and given the lack of roads must have walked the loch shore or over the hills; not an easy task.

He told me that, once a month, he walked from his home in Oban to his sister’s house in Kinlochleven. It took him two days, walking up the side of Loch Etive, through Glencoe and over the Devil’s Staircase. That last part was a climb over a thousand feet up and then down again. General Wade’s soldiers had named it because of the pain it caused them to march over the top.

The wee man’s sister and her husband had moved to Kinlochleven in 1905 to work on a dam to support the planned aluminium factory. The workmen couldn’t find a bar in the area and would take to walking over the mountain to the King’s House. His sister’s husband had disappeared one winter and never returned. There was talk of him running away with a young girl of the parish but his sister refused to believe it. It was only in the spring, when the snows had melted, that the authorities found her husband’s body at the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

“So once a month I walk the miles to make sure she is in fine fettle.”

I told him my story about Grahame and why Jack was climbing the Buachaille.

“My own boy never came back from the Somme. We all live with sadness,” said the man.

And yet there wasn’t a look of defeat in his eyes. He had the demeanour of a happy man, a wee happy man.

“Since you’ve shared your food with me, I’ll share what my grand-daddy told me when I was a young one,” he told me. Then the wee man looked straight into my eyes as if he was going to dispense a family secret. He put a hand on my shoulder.

“If you remember one thing, laddie, remember this. Expect everything from yourself and very little from others. That way you’ll never be disappointed, and if it’s yourself who is letting you down, well then, you are in a position to do something about it. Never put your happiness in the hands of others.”

And with that he winked at me, got up and whistled his way up the loch. The last I heard from him was a shout of “Cheerio, now – and remember what I said.”

I looked up at an eagle as it flew over my head and somehow I knew why I had met the wee man.

“Thank you, Grahame,” I said, as a tear ran down my cheek.

 

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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The Promise

promise

When you fall, I will catch you,
When you call, I will be there,
When you stumble, I will lift you,
When you’re drowning, give you air,
When you hurt then I will hold you,
When you break, I’ll make you whole,
When you’re down, I’ll make you smile,
When you’re lost I’ll be your goal,
When you’re weak, I’ll make the world turn,
When you lose faith, I’ll be strong,
When you doubt, I’ll be your beacon,
I will love you all life long.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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A Brilliant Life

awesome

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

 

Martin was a man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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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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The House on Finnart Street

westend

photo: Greenock, west coast of Scotland.

What follows is a true tale – kind of. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

Learn To Climb Trees

tree

Learn to climb trees,
And live with skinned knees,
Learn to jump gaps and laugh,
Learn to handstand,
Play a tune, join a band,
Learn to tap dance in the bath.
Learn to be foolish,
And live without care,
Learn to sing songs and cry,
Learn your name in Swahili,
And learn to climb trees,
And never stop asking ‘why?’.

bobby stevenson 2016
(Jina langu ni Bobby)  (Swahili)



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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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The Last Human

tears

We are only memories.

I have memories as a kid, at least I think I do. About being with my mother when I was about four or five years of age, and we were crossing a bridge over a rail track. It was a winter sun and the air was as fresh as daisies. I could hear the ‘fut-fut-fut’ of the approaching steam train, whistling as it came around the corner up by Jason’s Creek.

I would stand on the bridge motionless, close my eyes and hold my breath. All of a sudden, the train would pass under the bridge and I would be enveloped by the smoke and smell of the steam. It was an addiction which I loved.

I have other memories, which I think are mine, about later years when the steam trains had long since gone. Some of us would relive the old days, when we heard that an old steam engine had been brought out for the day. Standing on the bridge would be those with recording cameras, waiting for a chance to capture a piece of the past. I wouldn’t take photos – I would just close my eyes, smell the smoke and be four years of age again.

But the truth is, I’m not so sure which of those memories are mine and which belong to the warmbloods. That’s what they did, back then, when they knew their time was limited. When they’d realized they’d screwed up the world with their global warming, with their floods, with their rains. They started transferring their memories into us, the coldbloods – the robots. That way their thoughts and memories would last as long as we did. I can never be sure which memories are mine and which are theirs. Did I really stand as a kid and smell the train smoke?

And now the last of the warmbloods, the last of the humans has died and we, the robots, the coldbloods are standing on bridges waiting on a train as it pulls the last human through the country for us all to pay homage to. To see where we came from.

We, the coldbloods, stand here not sure if we have tears, or if it’s the rain.

All we can do is remember.

It is all that we have.

 

 

bobby stevenson 2016 (warmblood?)

bobby2wee bobby

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Thing and the Star Whisperers

thing

Thing sat watching, just like he always had, just like he always would, waiting on his mother and father to return, and for them all to be a family once again.

Sometimes Thing got so caught up in his own loneliness that he forgot all about the good stuff in his life; that, happened to everyone, he guessed.

One night, just as the sky was cooling down from a scorching red, Thing noticed a small hut over to the left of his cave, a building that he had never noticed before. Perhaps the trees had hidden the wooden shack, or perhaps Thing hadn’t looked hard enough.

So after he had a nice meal and had left a note at the cave door – ‘Dear Mother and Father, I am down at a hut below the cave, please wait on me’ – he set off.

Leaving a note was something Thing always did, just in case his parents returned while Thing was away from the cave. His mother and father had been gone for such a long time, but Thing had never given up hope of seeing them again – not once.

The hut at the bottom of the hill had seen better days, thought Thing, and there were gaps between the wooden walls. Through these gaps Thing could see the crackling light of a fire: someone was inside.

Thing attempted to look through the cracks but it was too dark and so decided to knock on the door. What was the worst that could happen? (Although there were times when Thing thought that and the worse did actually happen). Thing knocked again.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” said a gruff old voice from within.

Thing knocked again.

“Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire?” shouted the voice and Thing felt like telling the person that the fire was in his hut, but that probably wasn’t what the gruff voice meant.

When the door opened, it seemed that neither of them had expected what they found. The gruff voice was actually a pleasant old man, and the pleasant old man had expected a kid from the town.
“Hello,” said the old man. “Please do come in.”

Thing found the inside of the hut much nicer than the outside and told the man this.

“Many folks have said this. I must say I decorated it to my taste but it seems to please most who come visiting.”

Thing and the man, whose name was Ralph, sat down to a long and friendly conversation. Thing told him that he hadn’t noticed the hut before and was surprised as he had been living in the cave above for a very long time. Ralph said that he wasn’t surprised, for most people only saw things when they wanted to. Sometimes you only see things when you go looking for them.

Thing told Ralph that to be truthful he hadn’t been all that interested in seeing a hut and that maybe Ralph’s theory was wrong. Ralph chuckled because, as he told Thing, he was never wrong.

Then Thing told Ralph that he sometimes felt lonely and Ralph wondered what Thing meant.

“I keep waiting on my mother and father to return, that makes me lonely,” he told Ralph.

Then Ralph mentioned that he had a story to tell and that Thing should listen to it.

Ralph told Thing that many, many years before Thing was born, probably a million years before, some stars exploded and the core of those stars were scattered across the universe. Some of those particles were, in fact, what made up Thing and Ralph – even although they looked different, they were basically the same inside.

“Now,” said Ralph, “if you are made up of parts of the distant universe then when the universe shakes, a part of you must shake too. You see, we are all one and a whole. You, me and the universe.”

Thing nodded, although he was struggling a bit to understand it all, he felt that given time he would.

Ralph continued: “The universe vibrates and so whispers into our ears and souls. Some hear it, and other don’t. Some hear much of it, and some hear a little. Those who can hear the stars whispering loudly are the writers, or composers, or painters. Some hear plainly what the universe is saying and these are known as great women and men.

“We are all star whisperers,” said Ralph. “All you have to do is listen.”

And with that Thing bid Ralph a good night and said he would listen to the universe on the way home.

As he sat at his cave waiting on his family, Thing began to understand what Ralph meant. Thing was sure he could hear the stars whispering – and for the first time, in a long time, Thing didn’t feel so alone.
bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2wee bobby

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The Street With No Name

houses

She lived on a street with no name; the street that is, not her. She was called Conchita and she had spent all her life on the no-name street.

When she was young, her mother took her to a fair and there they met a fortune-teller who said that Conchita would never know real happiness. Her mother crossed the woman’s palm with a silver coin and thanked her. So even at that tender age, Conchita never really held out any hope of finding a happy reason to exist.

But she did exist. She lived and breathed and hoped that it would be over one way or another, without too much pain.

Then one morning, when the sun was shining down carelessly on the street with no name, Conchita found herself smiling at nothing in particular.

This worried Conchita, this happiness certainly wasn’t for her – perhaps it was delivered to the wrong address, she thought. Mind you, in a street with no name it was an easy mistake to make.

So what Conchita did, was take her little bit of happiness that she had felt and cut it up into seven pieces – as there were that number of other houses in the same street.

The following morning, very early, she left a piece of happiness at each door and moved on. Each of the neighbors were surprised at the gift lying at their door and were curious as to who had left it.

In one house, the woman picked up the piece of happiness and showed it to her husband. He just grunted and she said that he wouldn’t know happiness if hit him in the face.

And that is what she did, she threw the happiness at him which bounced off his head, out of the window and was never seen again. Five of the other houses did much the same, they either swept the happiness under the carpet or used it as a doormat until it was no more.

Only one, a little old woman by the name of Estelle, took the piece of happiness in and fed it and nurtured it. She never took it for granted and bit by bit it grew. When it had grown to a large size, she wrapped it up and took it along the street to Conchita’s house.

Outside Estelle left the happiness and a note – ‘Dear Conchita, I knew it was you who gave away your happiness, but we can’t use other people’s happiness for ourselves, we have to take care of our own. It made me happy to look after a little bit of your happiness and watch it grow. I now return it for you to enjoy.’

Conchita took the package in and realized that there were kind people in the world who wouldn’t take your happiness for granted.

And that was when Conchita realized also, that only you can make your happiness grow and that it isn’t the responsibility of others.

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2 wee bobby

 

 

 

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The Storm

thestorm

Every morning the same thing happened, her mother would burst into her room, shout ‘rise and shine’ and then open the window to let the world in. Most of the time it was only the train smoke from the station next door.

They had lived in a little house on Albion Square since her great-grandmother’s time and the family had seen no reason to change things, even when the family grew to be nine souls.

There’s no need to tell you exactly where all this occurred, just in case you go looking. I wouldn’t blame you, but to be truthful the family have seen enough hard times of late.

The year I am writing about is just a couple of months into 1920. The girl in the bedroom, Eloise, always finds a strange comfort in the daily smell of the steam trains passing her window.

Had the war not intervened, she would have now been living in Dover as the wife of Doctor Smithton. Expect life never ever played that fair and Eric, her intended, was lost somewhere in France.

So she had resigned herself to remaining unmarried for the rest of her life, and destined to share the little bedroom with her other three sisters. Her siblings had long since gone to work and Eloise loved the thirty extra minutes she had in bed with the room to herself. She revelled in her isolation, with no noise and no girls, she would lie and dream of what her life could have been. She dreamed of going downstairs and making Eric his breakfast before he headed off to the surgery.

As it was, in reality, she would trot along to the little café on Middle Street, where she would spend ten hours a day making tea and serving scones to the great and the good of the town.

Except this day was unlike any others. For a start, she couldn’t smell the steam trains;

“There’s a storm coming, see if I’m wrong,” said her mother as she opened the bedroom window. Eloise reckoned her mother was probably right, the sky – at least what she could see from her bed – looked dark and foreboding.

By the time Eloise was walking down the lanes to Middle Street, she had to pull her coat in tight against the wind – a warm one that was blowing strongly in from the sea. She struggled to open the café door and judging by the lack of people in the place, so had the customers.

By five o’clock, Mrs Teacher, the owner of the café, sent everyone home.

“Don’t look like they’ll be any more today not with that sky, so be off with you and get yourselves to the comfort of your home.”

Eloise didn’t want to go home so soon, knowing full well, that her sisters would be sitting in the bedroom, her bedroom, discussing their latest boyfriends. She thought it a bit tasteless that they had to talk about such things in front of her – considering what had happened to Eric. Eloise would cough now and again when things were particularly hurtful, but that only served to make her sisters talk in hushed tones – something which annoyed her more.

So that night, after the café was closed, instead of going home, she headed down to the beach. It was here she always felt free and content. What amazed her was the fact that the water in front of her was a path to anywhere in the world. All one had to do was jump in and swim.

But that night the storm was growing into a hurricane and it was difficult to stand upright on the beach. Instead she chose to walk down the pier and not surprisingly she was the only one there. Even the little man who sat in by a fire, in the hut at the gate, had given up the ghost and gone home.

There was a chalked black board on which the little man had written the word ‘danger’ on it – a warning which was gradually being washed off by the rain. Eloise chose to ignore it and walked to the end of the pier, anyway.

The last thing she remembers is hearing Eric, she was almost sure it was him, calling her name.

For several days the locals walked the beaches and cliffs of the area looking for Eloise’s body, but nothing turned up. After two weeks, everyone had given up any hope of her returning (all except her mother that is). No one could work out why she had gone walking on her own – and on the pier – and on a night such as that.

Mrs Teacher replaced Eloise with a girl who was straight from school and willing to take half her wages.

The weeks passed, as did the months and then the years, and by then all her sisters had moved out of the bedroom and made something of themselves. All were married, all to good husbands from good families. ‘Wonderful prospects’, as their mother was always telling the neighbours.

Eloise’s mother continued to walk the pier several times a week, wondering when her daughter would return – for she was sure, in her heart that she would.

In November, 1963 – the same month that President Kennedy was assassinated, Eloise’s mother had got her first television. Something she would have to pay off weekly for the next several years. By that month she found that she only went to the pier once a week, as her arthritis was getting worse and anyway she could spend the cold nights watching some soap or other on her television. It was almost like an old friend.

When there was a knock at the door, she initially thought of ignoring it, but it seemed persistent and reluctantly she rose to answer it.

“Who are you,” shouted Eloise’s mother which was answered by an even louder knock.

When she opened the door a young policeman was standing in front of her.

“Mrs Greata?” Asked the young man.

And right there and then, Mrs Greata (Eloise’s mother) sank to her arthritic knees.

“Please God, not one of my children, please tell me it isn’t so,” she pleaded.

“It isn’t what you think,” said the policeman. “We found this woman walking by the pier, all she could say was she wanted to be taken to Albion square.  So I did. No one has recognised her so far. You’re my last hope. Do you know this woman?”

The policeman pulled a bedraggled young woman into the light of the hall.

It was her, and she hadn’t aged a day.

It was Eloise.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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Stones Under The Snow

stone

She used to sit on her Grandpa’s knee and he’d hold her so tight like she was the only person in the world that ever mattered.

Whatever the payment was to get on his knee, tears or frowns, when she was up there she felt safe.

Nothing could ever hurt her there.

She would run her hand through his thick white hair and giggle at the little bumps on his head.

“Old age,” he’d say.
“They’re stones under the snow. Grandpa,” then she’d laugh ‘till it hurt.

Although she grew and married and had children, whenever anything was bothering her, she’d go to where her Grandpa rested and talk awhile and she’d feel things were good again.

One Christmas, as she knelt on the ground, the snow came down and covered her Grandpa’s grave.

Her Grandson, who had been waiting, came to see what was wrong, she said “Why nothing’s wrong, honey, I’m just looking at the stones under the snow.”

And as the Grandson walked back down the hill, he could hear his Grandma laughing out loud as if she was hurting.


bobby stevenson 2016

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Zoot and Sandy and The Universe

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.

“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.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Americana (100 word stories) (1880 – 2017)

americana-end

18801880 I found the name on a map when I was a child in Scotland and it came to my mind that was where I was going to someday; Wabash, Indiana. I was 17 when I got there and I found work on the new Presbyterian Church after I told them about my religious folks back home. One evening, Mr Charles Brush asked that we all meet him at the Courthouse. That was the night that sunshine came to the city. When he switched on his electrical lights, the darkness  turned to daylight; we were the first city, anywhere.

19691969 It was early evening in Strasburg and the July heat was still causing him suffocation. It took all of the energy he had just to lay still. He counted to ten and then he stood, somehow lifting the window that opened on to South Decatur Street. After hearing someone on the sidewalk shout that Neil Armstrong was just about to step on the Moon, he switched on the hotel TV. He noticed at the window was the face of a little Amish kid smiling in wonder at his television and at a world one-quarter of a million miles away.

19761976 Everything was red, white and blue except perhaps for the little crazy man who was singing a Beatles’ song: Eight Days a Week. Suzie lay in the warm air listening to the excitement carried in the voices of others and waiting for the fireworks to explode over her city. There was something small and comforting about DC, yet it represented everything that was big in the world. The rockets rose with all the colors and splendors of the universe and were reflected in the mirror of the Potomac. Her country was 200 years old and she couldn’t stop the tears.

19631963 I remember fighting a rather lonely wind as I crossed Central Park on that particular Wednesday before Christmas; an old faded newspaper flapped in the breeze against a wooden seat but I could still make out the headline: ‘JFK Dead’. They would be coming soon, those wise men from the east, the Beatles with their new English beat music. Perhaps we could stop grieving and begin to move on. I clambered up the hill, crossed Central Park West sliding in to 72nd Street and as I passed the Dakota building, a cold chill made me pull my coat in tight.

19301930   Hotel Nevada stood at the corner of Fremont Street; he’d driven out west in ’29 when things got real tough back home. His plan was to head for California where they were  making Talking movies. The problem was that he’d stopped off in this one horse town, run up a liquor bill and was working fourteen hours a day to pay off the debt. Jake, who worked in the Hotel Apache, had asked to pull their greenbacks and invest in a small casino but he had to say ‘no’. Who was going to come to a place like Las Vegas?

19481948 From that little room in the cold-water apartment you could smell Harlem. The top window being stuck open with the paint that was probably put on around the time of Pearl Harbor. Cooking smells danced in along with thumps and arguments from far off places.I decided that I needed fresh air and I headed down to 8Th avenue where the folks were drinking canned-heat and digging the sex and the sax. In the dark corner of one coffee shop was Ginsberg and Kerouac talking ‘bout this and that and  not seeing anything of the outside world; God bless 1948.

19501950 The day after he buried his mother, he sat suppin’ on a scalding mug of Java and listening to the World Series on the radio. He didn’t have a plan yet, ‘cept that he’d packed a small bag the night before just in case they chased him from the house. When he’d finished, he picked up the keys to Bill’s old Plymouth then threw his stuff in the rear seat and set off along route 30.He had one final stare from up on the ridge. Tomorrow he’d be in Ohio and everything was gonna change.

1940
1940 The air tasted different; fresher even – perhaps sweeter. Stan was about to drive himself and his dad to Princeton where he was eager to study aeroplanes. He drove passed his old high school and the Baptist church, passed Mary Sweeney’s home and passed the cemetery where Steve lay (although he would always carry him inside). The sun shone all the way to New Jersey and both of them wished his mom had been here to see her boy. If the war in Europe didn’t spread to the US then a brave new world would lie ahead for him.

 

1966

1966  Somewhere between Woodstock and Bearsville there had been an accident, he was sure of that fact. He was sitting on the wooden steps in Tinker Street waiting on the New York City bus. He liked to watch who got on and who got off. Someone said that it might have been a motorcycle crash and that you-know-who had been involved. What kinda played with his head is that he was almost sure he had seen you-know-who driving past in a VW about fifteen minutes earlier going in the opposite direction. But this was Woodstock and to hell with the truth.

19541954 Her Daddy says she ain’t to come back into the house until she asks the Lord for forgiveness and that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon given that she ain’t done nothing wrong. The runt, he called, and that hurt real bad. She can see her Mom praying at the window and wishing her youngest would just say the things her husband wants to hear and then they could all get on with their lives. One day she is gonna keep on walking but until then she ain’t gonna listen to no old man tell her she can’t dance to Elvis.
1943

1943 She remembers the days of them walking passed each other and the excitement of being in the same room. The nerves when standing next to him in the canteen and the things she meant to say but never did; cursing herself that she never took the opportunity to start a conversation. Then she got moved and only saw him across the courtyard from time to time, finally one day he just disappeared. Even although his work meant he didn’t have to go overseas, she’d heard he’d signed up and was somewhere in the Pacific. She could only wait on him.

 

 

20162016 If you close your eyes real tight and then do nothin’ but listen you can hear them. I swear to you, cross my heart and may Jesus never talk to me again. Go on, do it, real tight now and no peekin’. Listen.  You can hear Annie squealing as she plays on the sidewalk; she used to live in that soup store across the street with her grandpa. She ran away the day he got took to hospital and then there’s Eddie chasin’ after his dog he called ‘Spots’ even ‘though it ain’t got any. They’re all gone now. Shame.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Just an Elephant

ele

Don’t ever let them tell you that

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

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

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

Or special enough to be that guiding light

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

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

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

Or misguided, or misdirected.

Do what feels right in your heart

Be what you feel is in your heart

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

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

You will take a bow and leave alone

You are so much more than all that people tell you

You are here to be magnificent

Be so.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

Desert Ice

Mothership-Thunderstorm

Marcie’s dog did nothing but bark that night.

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

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

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

It just felt wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You okay?” I shouted.

“Just leave me,” she called back.

“Can’t I help ya?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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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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The Circus of The Stars

circusThey had been circus owners for several generations by the time he had taken over. For the last 32 years they had been ‘Replanters’: these were folks who had taken the money to settle on the Moon.

They travelled from town to town entertaining the other Replanters, the soldiers, the government officials and their families.

He personally hated going to the Blacklands or, as it used to be called, the dark side of the Moon. Permanent night-time didn’t help with his sanity issues – no, he preferred over this side where he could see the Earth – he called that planet home, or rather his family did, but the truth was he’d never actually lived there.

With all the wars that had erupted on Earth, his grandfather had taken the money to move to the Moon – ‘cause up here, there was no religion. It was outlawed. Some folks tried to build churches or meet in secret, but normally the buildings were destroyed and the folks were sent back ‘Blue-wards’ (that’s what they called it when you were exiled to Earth). And for most of the time, he was happy.

Well to be honest, he didn’t know any better, yet sometimes he’d sit and stare at the Earth and wonder what it would feel like to go there.

He’d heard stories about the pollution, and the mess, and the heavy gravity – but he’d also heard folks talk of smelling fresh air and he wondered if he’d ever get the chance. His father had got to go when he was in the army, and although he said it seemed like a nice place, he never really talked about it again.

‘There was too much killing on Earth’, was all his granddaddy would say. On the Moon, there had only been one serious crime when a Sergeant over on the Blacklands had gone stir crazy and killed his wife and kids. That had caused folks, who lived on that particular patch, to get more vacation than the brightsiders, which, to him, seemed fair enough.

When he’d been at school, some kids from the Blacklands had been temporarily placed in his class and to be truthful it hadn’t worked – not at all. They were called all sorts of names, some that he hadn’t heard before nor understood but it didn’t stop him joining in. It got so bad that the kids were educated in a little classroom by themselves and he felt that maybe he’d missed out on an opportunity in getting to know them.

But there was something else bothering him, something he just couldn’t put his finger on exactly.

Here he was sitting out in space, on a little satellite of Earth – with no reason for any of it. Maybe if you were sitting back on that planet and your daylight was covered by blue skies, then it was easy to forget where it was you were. But not up here, no sir. From up here you could see the comets, and exploding stars, the whole of the Milky Way and it made you stop and take note. It sure, did. Well it did for him.

Due to these very views, the show was called, ‘The Circus of The Stars’. There were no animals used, not like the old practice on Earth. Up here, pets weren’t allowed on account of the fact that they brought diseases, something that they could ill afford on the Moon.

So the show travelled from camp to camp, entertaining the younger members of the group and some of the more easily pleased elements of the adults.

He was proud of what he did, it just didn’t satisfy him anymore. Each time he looked out at a naked sky (the ones you got outside the encampments), he just felt there had to be more to life than just existing.

In his moon-trailer he had a painting of Joseph Grimaldi, the man who, in the late 1700’s, had turned playing the Clown into an art-form.

Religion had gone up here; no churches; no bibles; no hymns – yet he noticed the tendency for humans to create gods where there were none. We needed gods more than they needed us, it seemed. His was his hero Grimaldi, and all the words in his room spoke of the great man.

He needed something to look up to – other than the sky. In a little leather diary, the Clown had written down rules that he had made for himself, for living a better life:

He would not steal.

He would not kill.

He would not lie…..

And as he read them over again, he realised he’d read something similar in a holy book, his grandfather had once shown him.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Dirty River Mansions: Jeremiah’s Story

dickens

His house was the furthest from the river and it did Jeremiah good to know it was so.

“I hate the water, hate the water, hate, hate, hate, the water,” was his little song that no one ever paid any attention to.

It was also obvious was that when you brushed close to Jeremiah that he also did not like soap. But he had the biggest of hearts and all of those who lived in Dirty River Mansions would not have a word said against the gent. Not a single utterance.

The house that was furthest from the river had three floors.

Jeremiah had started as a child with his family on the bottom floor, a place given to them on the death of Jeremiah’s grandmother. The process was to wait until the occupant above you died and then you would move into that property. The only way you could jump straight to the top floor (the best of them the rooms with a spectacular view over old London town) was if the occupants of floors two and three perished at the same time. That was very rare, very rare indeed. So rare that the last time it happened Queen Victoria had been smiling on that day. Not due to the occupants of Dirty River Mansions quietly dying, but rather because Prince Albert had told her a particularly amusing story.

Jeremiah was now on the top floor with all the respect that a position like that deserved. However in the years that it had taken him to be raised to such a lofty height, it had also seen an increase in his overall size. It was an irony to those like Jeremiah, that when one was on the ground floor, one tended to be young and skinny. The opposite being true for the top floor in the building; it was a struggle to get up and down the creaky wooden stairs and Jeremiah found it all so much easier to stay where he was.

This meant that when any one wanted to see the ‘great man’, then they had to go to him. It gave Jeremiah the impression of being an oracle for the great and good of Dirty River Mansions and its surrounding areas.

“Go and see the Great Jeremiah,” would be the advice on market day if someone uttered a worry or a complaint.

“My feet are hurting,” Oh go and visit Jeremiah, he has so many potions, he will help you.

Of course none of it was in any way true. When people came to see Jeremiah they tended to be carrying the answers deep inside themselves. ‘If only they trusted their hearts and minds’ thought Jeremiah, ‘they wouldn’t be in such a hurry to come and see me’.

Although Jeremiah loved the company, he just felt that a lot of people’s time would be better spent doing other things than visiting Dirty River Mansions.

So one lovely warm day, he walked all the way to the door at the bottom of his house and put up a piece of paper in his very own handwriting.

If you have problem – do you have an idea in your head or your heart on how to solve it or make it better?

If ‘YES’, then go and try it. If it fails, then come and see me.

Jeremiah was half disappointed and yet a little pleased with himself when no one turned up to see him the following week.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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100 Words to Freedom

blue

I think I walked the length of the street with a great huge grin on my face. I wasn’t sure if I looked like a ‘shoot-the-president’ type of crazy, but then again I wasn’t caring and I mean that, I really wasn’t caring. When you realise that you don’t have to waste time with people who don’t matter in your life, then you live. All you need to do is sort each of them out once and for all into who matters and who doesn’t. Then for the first time you’ll feel totally liberated – so free that you’ll become dizzy.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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Until It Was Time To Sleep

Rusty heart

In the black hole at the centre of a quiet, quiet night,

She stares at the ceiling,

And listens to the blood pumping through her ears,

And to the odd scrape and screech that comes from her rusting heart.

Once, it used to beat as strong as an ox,

And that was in the days when she was prepared for love and war,

But when no one came to call,

When no one brought her flowers,

Her heart began to fade and rust.

And now she finds a comfort in the sounds that her heart makes,

At least she gave it a shot with all her smiles and pretty bows,

Although there were time when she’d thought, just maybe,

That someone would have seen her soul.

But on that morning when she felt the first sharp creak,

She knew then it was all too late,

And that she would be listening to the rusting of her heart

Until it was time to sleep.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

image http://upstategirl-laurajwryan.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/rusty-heart.html

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Me and Buzz and Lyin’

photo-3

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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To Catch A Warm Wind

dc

So you’re asking me what’s the story of this photograph, and I’m saying to you, just rest your bones a while and I’ll tell you.
______________________________

In the old days, and by that she meant the old Savannah days, her Grandma would sit Alice on her knee and sing her a song that came from long, long before her Grandma Catherine was born. The family couldn’t remember from where it came, just that it was their song and it had been passed down through the generations.

On quiet nights, Alice could still hear her Grandma sing:
“Nothing will make you smile my love, or make your heart shine happy, until you ship is headed home, until your sail has caught a warm wind”

If Alice was being truthful, she’d have to say that she only married him because she’d thought she’d run out of options. After all, it was getting to the end of the War and she hadn’t heard from Harry in many months. It was the same story all over Washington, folks had promised each other that they’d stay faithful until the war was over, then the boy would go and get himself killed in a foreign town with a name that no one could pronounce. Putting all your eggs (or love) in one basket wasn’t the way to live in these cold days.

She’d also seen some of her neighbors settling for second, or even third best, just so as not to be left like an old maid.

Alice had moved to DC in the first days that Woodrow Wilson had become President. Now she had seen him leave and a new man, President Harding had just taken the seat in the Oval Office. It was Washington, D.C. in the year of 1921 and the world was about to change, at least for Alice.

His name was Spike, at least that’s what he told folks. Yet when they got married, Alice found out it that his real name was Cuthbert and she felt that she would probably be happier married to a Spike than to a Cuthbert; no offense to any Cuthberts out there. Spike always seemed to have money, and plenty of it to spend on his friends. One moment she had been thinking about Harry and the next, Spike was in her life without any warning.

He was the kind of person that people were attracted to, a kind of magnet. Some folks are born with magnetism and some just have to work at it. Spike didn’t have to work at anything social. People loved to see Spike come their way, with his ‘How ya doing, Fred’ or ‘Looking well, Annie’. That’s what got Alice interested, he was just plain nice. Harry was still her first love, but if she was being honest he could be hard work at times. Harry had his moods which always seemed to be at odds with hers. Whereas Spike was always in a good way and if Alice was feeling low, for any reason, he’d make sure she’d snap out of it.

Some nights they do real daring things like head to a club somewhere sassy. It was on one of those nights when they drove in an automobile, which Spike had seemed to have acquired , to a joint near the shore in Virginia.  She could hear the music with its trumpets and drums long before she saw the club, and there was the smell of a sweet tobacco in the air. The people inside were partying like it was the end of the world. At least that’s the way Alice felt.

Prohibition had been going for over a year by then and Alice wondered if maybe things just took their time to get going away from the big cities. Folks were drinking like it was going away for good (maybe it was) and the music was way, way louder than she had ever hear before.

Everyone seemed to know Spike in the club, but then didn’t they know him everywhere? They sat at the best table and were served what looked to Alice like champagne. She’d never drunk it before and given the way things worked these days she didn’t expect to at all.One glass became two and soon she started to feel mellow and the music kind of bubbled through her body like moonshine warmth – that was the way her Grandma talked.

It must have been around two in the morning when she realized she’d fallen asleep. When she awoke Spike was nowhere to be seen yet the club was still really busy.
Alice staggered to a little room at the back of the club that was used by men and women. She’d never seen the like before. When she came out of the cubicle, a man was waiting to use the same place. She kind of nodded to the guy, smiled to herself and walked back into the club. It was then that she spotted Spike, talking to a little fat guy in the corner.

“Honey..,” Spike shouted over to her. “Come and meet, Mr Capone.”

Spike never called anyone ‘mister’, so either he was trying to impress the guy or he was scared of him.

“So this is your gal, Spike? He never stops talking about you…”

He rolled his hand as if he was asking a question and she was to answer him.

“Alice.”

“Nice name, nice legs,Alice. I can see what you see in this gal, Spike.”

And with a slap on Spike’s back, he was gone – but not out of their lives.

Alice found out that Mr Al Capone was the man who was going to supply the booze down the East Coast and Spike was going to be his runner, whatever that meant.

“Things are kind of difficult these days, you know how it is? A man needs a drink, Mr Capone supplies a need. It’s a simple as that.”

Alice wondered how Spike was going to be of use to the little fat man.

“How are WE going to be of use, Alice my love, my treasure.”

And with that, a cold chill ran down Alice’s neck.
Love, or at least what Alice thought was love, does stupid things to your head. It laces the blood with a drug so you don’t see what you’re looking at too closely.

Spike’s plan was simple, all Alice had to do was drive to some point, pick up the boxes (they’d be someone there to help her) and then drive her little automobile back to the club.

“It ain’t gonna cost you anything, gorgeous.” Was Spike’s final word on the subject.

But what if she got caught?

“What? What’s to worry. We’ve got every cop between here and DC in our payroll.”

So why was she needed? She wanted to say to Spike but she decided against it.

So she drove the car because that’s what people in love do. They take actions that only later seem like a form of madness. She was stopped one night by the cops but she noticed the taller one, the one with the dark hair, recognize the car and the two of them backed off. If it was this easy why didn’t Spike drive?

So she asked him that question and do you know what he did? Do you know what that dirty stinking no good rat did? He slapped her across the face so hard that her head hit off a wall.

“Now you understand, honey? You do as I say or there will be worse, much worse. Mister Capone wouldn’t like it and Mister Capone is the boss.” So all the time he’d only wanted her as a patsy.

It was then that a funny thing happened. Her mother got in touch. She’d managed to trace Alice all the way from Savannah. It was a just a note which said:

‘Harry’s back’.

And she decided there and then that she’d had enough of Spike and his life and Alice decided  she’d try and catch a warm wind. She couldn’t take the car, ‘cause they’d trace where she was and she guessed that she knew too much. So  Alice did one last run for Spike but instead of heading for the club, she drove into the center of DC and ran the car into a railing.

Then she walked away and headed home to Savannah, where the warm winds blow.

___________________________

And that’s the story  – honest.

 

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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The Minute Man

man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bobby stevenson 2017

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Be Kind

kindness

The night of him looking at the stars was the night that everything changed.

That night as the planets danced overhead, a thought grabbed him and then shot right up his nose and into his brain, almost taking his breath away.

Here he was abandoned in Space, a traveller – and whatever the dimensions of this universe there could only be so many travellers.

He had no idea what brought him or sent him to this place , but whatever he was going through was unique – perhaps what he was experiencing really meant something.

There was a reason for his existing.

If that was true, then everyone else he knew or met or saw was travelling too – all of them wound up by the same key and sent on a path with little decision on their part as to the path they should take.

If they had all been moulded by a god – that woman in the bakery, or the postman, or the kid who always cried, then there would have been  angels at their births – but even if their heart,or their existence or their imagination was just an accident of the universe – they were still unique, still special, still a traveller.

So whether he jumped to conclusions or jumped to attention or jumped out-of-the-way, he told himself to remember – no one, that he could see, had asked to be a traveller.

Be kind.

bobby stevenson 2017

we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars…”

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Dancing…….

snoopy

I never picked a proper tune to dance to

And I never got in step with any goal

And in all those dancing years

I spent wishing I could hear

The melody which drove another’s soul.

 

I guess it’s too late now to ever try to change things

As I’m nearing my own moment to depart

So I’ll quietly spend the time

That’s been allocated mine

Dancing to the music of my heart.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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THING and The Wise Man & The Story

thing

The Wise Man

There were two occasions when Thing could recall being really unhappy. The first time was when his mother left to go to hospital and didn’t return (although he still knew she would one day) and the second was when the Wise Man came to town.

Thing still spent most of his days standing on the ledge above his cave and watching the Horizon for his mother. Some days he thought he could see her but it would only be a shadow caused by the sun.

Sometimes he would treat these shadows as being just part of life but on other days, and he wasn’t sure why, he would take himself to the back of the cave and cry his heart away. None of it ever made any sense to him.  She had gone to hospital and had promised to return.

On the days when Thing went to school, he would slide down the mountain side, cross the road and walk as silently as possible. Keeping to the sides so as not to attract too much attention to himself. And for most parts the plan worked. If he was unlucky enough to attract the attention of a larger boy, he would keep his head down and walk fast. Sometimes they caught up with him and called him names. He was called names that came – not from the children’s lips  – but from the parents who had taught their children well in the art of intolerance. Thing had realised that people weren’t born bullies, they were made in homes.

But Thing still had inner strength, all he had to do was remember that he was loved by his mother and he found something deep inside which gave him courage.

Then one bright Friday, a man who walked from town to town and told stories, came to where Thing called home. He was staying at the house of one of the teachers and, as such, had been invited to talk to the whole school, the parents and Thing (who was still waiting on his mother).

The Wise Man talked of love and of tolerance and of consideration and everyone smiled and nodded their heads. But then he said that he had bad news and that it came from the Book Of Records. You didn’t need to take his word for it, for it was written by the Wise Ones before time and therefore it was the solid truth.

“Those who do not look like us are an abomination. For this is an outward sign that they do not think like us,” said the Wise Man while holding both his arms aloft. “And if they do not think like us then they are an evil, and if they are evil then they must be destroyed.”

Thing wasn’t sure what the Wise Man meant but as he looked around he saw some of the bullies looking in his direction. Thing wondered why anyone would write such things, or more importantly repeat them.

The first rock hit Thing’s head as he was crossing the road to go back up the mountain. It caused a little bleeding but he knew if got home quickly he could wash it off. How he wished his mother was here. The second rock hit him on the back of the head. He was about to turn and see where it came from when he heard chanting of ‘evil…evil…evil..’ and somehow he knew they were talking about him.

He didn’t go to school after the weekend instead he decided it was safer to stay in his cave. Except that the Wise Man came up the mountainside on the Wednesday evening followed by a crowd of people, adults as well as children. They had torches and signs that said ‘Destroy those who do not look like us for they are evil’.

“We must rid the town of this pestilence,’ said the Wise Man and everyone agreed. Thing moved to the back of the cave and waited on the rocks.

“Help me, mother,” he whispered under his breath.

Maybe she heard from where ever she was or maybe she didn’t, but a group of people from the town, who Thing had never seen before, came up and blocked the mouth of the cave telling the Wise Man to go home as they were not leaving.

The Wise Man said they would burn as well – it was then that one of the those guarding the cave mentioned that Wise Man was wanted in the next State for causing destruction and that he had deserted his own family.

People looked at the Wise Man in a new light and wondered if they had been wrong about him.

“What about the Book Of Records?” Shouted the Wise Man.

But by the then the townsfolk had started to walk down the hill and go home.

Thing learned two things that night. Unhappy people spread unhappiness and there are still good people in the world.

thing
The Story

When Thing and his parents lived in the cave, it was their custom to paint pictures on the walls about what they had done that day. The cave was covered with stories; some new, some from many years before, and Thing would spend hours looking at them.

When Thing’s father left and then his mother, Thing continued to paint the pictures on the wall, knowing that someday they would return and see how he had spent his time.

Then one day – and Thing was sure if it was because of the sadness that came to visit him from time to time – he didn’t feel like painting on the wall anymore and so put away the brushes for good.

Instead he found a little animal that lived at the back of the cave and he told it all the stories of the day he had just spent.

“And the teacher said that I was the best in the class for listening,” and if the little animal was interested or if it wasn’t, it was hard to tell as it scurried about the dark parts of the cave looking for food.

Then one night, when the sun was setting, and the little animal was nowhere to be found, Thing found a pen and paper and started to write his stories down. Because he knew that when his family returned he would be able to read those stories to them.

One day when Thing got home he realised that nothing much had happened to him that particular day and he wondered what he could write about. That was when thing decided to make a story up in his head about a pretend day.

The story started ‘One day…’, because Thing felt that was how all stories should start. It told of the day that Thing came home from school and he found that his mother and father were waiting on him. They hugged and held him and promised him that they would never leave. Thing loved that story and decided to take it to school with him so that he could read it when he was feeling sad.

At break, he sat in a quiet corner where he would disturb no one and he took out his story that started ‘One day….’ and he read it all the way through. It was just as he was putting the story away that it was snatched from his hands.

“Lookie here what weird kid has written. Aw, he misses him Mom and Dad. Well ain’t that a shame,” and the kid ran off with the story, laughing and joking.

Thing went to class and said nothing. At the back of the room, two kids who had now got hold of Thing’s story, were laughing and repeating some of the words that Thing had written.

The teacher went to find out what was the source of all the noise and took the story from them. She returned to her desk and read it.

“Does anyone know who this belongs to?” Holding the paper up.

The boys pointed to Thing.

“This is really very good, Thing, very good indeed. Come and see me at the end of the class. “

At the end of the lesson the kids all left except for Thing, who assumed that he was to be punished for writing a story.

“I think this is brilliant, “ said the teacher. “And in future I should like to read any stories that you have.”

Thing thanked the teacher. She asked if she could take it home to read again and then she held his hand and said:

“I know those boys were laughing at your story but it is only fear. They are scared of activities that they can’t do themselves. There is bound to be some stuff that they can do, that you can’t. That is life. However, just because people laugh or criticise what you do, doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong; if everyone did the same things, thought the same way – what a boring world it would be. As long as there is one person who attempts or believes something different, then that immediately means that there are at least two truths – they are not right and you are not wrong. “

And with that, Thing walked away happy and was already thinking of another story he would write that evening.

 

bobby stevenson 2016 (and Thing)

 

 

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