Waving At Trains

train2

Before we drifted into the dark times, long before then; when the sun still shone on human faces and made them smile – those years were the greatest days of our lives.

In later times we feasted on those cherished memories, hungering for stories and thoughts of back when life was a joy, an ecstasy even. Visitors would come and go from our little huts but not before they told a tale or two of the way life had been. We fed them, they told us stories.

Perhaps many of them lied, perhaps in the re-telling of the stories, they lost their core and became other things, richer things, things to hold and play with – stories that had lost their truths along the way but had started out as well-meaning.
We would sit around the fires and tell of the long gone times – and when one person mentioned the old days, like some chant or prayer, folks would repeat it – ”the old days,” they would say – like saying it often enough might bring those times back.

But they never would.

We never tired of hearing the same stories, and each time a little twist or change to the end would bring an appreciation around the group in the form of a murmur or a little laugh.

“Tell us the story of your railway family,” they would ask me.
And so, for the umpteenth time that month I would sit and tell them the story.

“My family lived by a railway track in an old house that had once belonged to a signalman. In the days before the darkness my father would sit out on the old wooden seat and wave as the trains passed. Before long my parents had children – me and my brother and three sisters, and each of us would join our father waving at the trains as they travelled by our house. He called us the ‘railway children’, just like the old book that had once stood on his shelf beside his bed.

“When the darkness came and the trains no longer travelled along the tracks, my father would still get us to sit as a family and wave at non-existent trains. He would describe them in the greatest of details. ‘Look,’ he would say. ‘There are people waving back, the lady with the green hat, see how she waves at us? Look at the little boy laughing as he plays with his toys.’ And I could see them in my head, all the people he talked about who rode upon the imaginary trains that passed us by.

“When my father took his last train journey, we still kept up the joy of sitting on the wooden bench and waving at the trains. Each of us would take it in turn to describe some passenger who was waving from the window. You might think my father was a little mad in what he had us do, but I tell you this, it kept us together and it kept us sane, and it made us think of the old days.

“The old days,” repeated the others who hung on my every word.

“Those times were like having water. You always assume that it will be there until it dies off or runs out. Then you can never quench your thirst.”

And I guess there must be many folks around the lands who carry out these little games just like the ones we play.

Games to remind them of long ago, games to remind them of their humanity, and games to remind us all what we have lost and how easily we let it slip through our fingers.

The old days.

 

bobby stevenson 2015

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Can’t Stop This Gun From Crying

bridge

It had been welcomed by the scientific community as a life saver, as the next step in metal technology and a new generation of those shining babies was about to be unleashed on the world.

The team that had developed the idea at Los Alma had received the Nobel Prize that year and were ready to be courted by every large manufacturing company.

They had no need to worry where their next research dollar was coming from, indeed none of the team had any need to work for the rest of their lives. The principal was simple although the actual practical solution had taken decades of research: A material that repaired itself. You see it wasn’t so terrible when you put it down on a piece of paper like that. It seemed so innocent, beneficial almost.

The plan was that one day, aircraft while in flight could self-medicate, a nut or a bolt here would be re-grown and replaced. However that was still some way off and the actual exposure of the general public to SeRep (Self Repair), as it was christened, was minimal.

It was planned that cars too would have the ability to repair themselves – although there had been several showdowns at government level between the makers of the materials and the car manufacturers. The way things were looking, it meant that after you purchased a new car, and with a good headwind, it could last you a lifetime (and the rest).

As you can imagine, the automobile industry was readying for a fight – big time. The first public structure to be made of SeRep was a bridge in Illinois, chosen by some wise guy at Los Alma who had stuck a pin in a map of the Ohio river.

A Bridge had been selected as a structure that could suffer wear and tear, be exposed to public use and certainly be enhanced safety-wise by the use of the new material.The Tamaroa bridge was the one chosen and it crossed the Ohio at the southernmost tip of Illinois.

As with all great ideas there were teething problems. The material, for instance, had to be guarded because of theft. The ‘bridgits’ as they became known would hack off a piece of SeRep meaning the bridge would have to repair and replace and then they’d sell it (or at least try to) on the ‘Net.

Sometimes the material that had been stolen was so large that the bridge displayed a permanent scar. Just like human skin.

At night when there was less traffic going over the bridge (that’s not to say it was totally quiet as people came from all over to see the wonder – day and night), but at night when the bridge was repairing itself it sounded like a muffled cry and this caused the bridge to be nicknamed the Bridge of Sighs. It almost sounded like a child in pain.

There had been the odd accident, the biggest of which was the General Custer, a tourist boat hired by some big corporation, packed with sweaty, drunk sales persons on a free trip to see the Bridge.

At the inquiry it had been shown that the Captain had been more than a little drunk and had almost destroyed the bridge supports on the Illinois bank. The damage was so severe that the SeRep guys decided to give the bridge a helping hand and assisted in the repairs.

Yet anytime the bridge was left alone it would still continue to do the work it had been created for and it could always be heard to sigh.

Janus Jones was a mid western boy straight out of college and about to set off for the Florida panhandle in a car his Pappy had bought him. The present was not for finishing school but for staying out of jail unlike Kevin, his older brother. Janus could have flown pretty cheaply but he wanted to follow the Mississippi all the way south and then cut across to Tallahassee.

So it was a surprise when he found Kevin loading a bag into his new car on the morning of his trip.

“Coming with you Bro’. No arguments, I got nothing from Paw but aggravation and you get this brand spanking new car – so the least you can do is take me as far a New Orleans.”

Then Kevin jumped in the car. And so the two Jones brothers (you’d have sworn they’d had different fathers) set off on a trip that would shake their worlds forever. At the trial Kevin, although missing most of his left arm, was still able to act as a credible witness. The way he told things it was as if the brothers had been the innocent victims. That wasn’t totally true.

Just before the incident Kevin had driven for several hours south which had let Janus sleep, although with Kevin at the wheel Janus tended not to sleep too soundly. They’d stopped at the very last bar in Illinois going south to allow Kevin a few beers, Janus drank cola and several of the witnesses had told the court that Kevin had forced Janus to stay, and that Kevin had drank too many beers. That was just Kevin.

As they left the car lot, instead of Janus driving, Kevin jumped into the driver’s seat and was beginning to move off. Janus had no choice but to jump in over the rear of the car. Chances are Kevin would have left him for cold, just standing there and let him make his own way home – Kevin had done it before.

“Where you at?”

Kevin ignored Janus and continued down the narrow road.

“This ain’t the way.”

“Tis, if you’re going to the Tamaroa. I wanna see the magic bridge.”

The traffic started slowing about a mile from the bridge as there was a queue of cars taking their time crossing. At one point, due to the weight of cars on the bridge and regardless of its properties, the cops had stopped the cars coming north, to allow the south bound queue to clear.

As Kevin approached the bridge he swerved over to the left hand lane and drove down the wrong side. Some of the cops started giving chase on foot but Kevin put his foot on the accelerator and then started hollering and whooping.

“Yee-haa, little bro’, yee-haa. Let’s just see how good this thing is at rebuilding.”

Kevin drove the car so close to the edge that sparks flew from the girders. Janus’ new car was badly damaged down that side. Not satisfied with this, Kevin started to run the car into the supports causing them to buckle and bend.

It was just as Kevin was ready to inflict a fatal blow on the bridge that the road beneath them opened up and Janus, Kevin and the car plummeted to the river below.

The cars behind, seeing what had just happened, had managed to swerve around the hole. Kevin swam to shore leaving Janus to sink with his new car. The older boy was way too drunk to try any heroics and was probably lucky just to save himself.

Janus’ father grieved for his good son and wasn’t going to let something like the Bridge of Sighs or its owners or the Los Alma scientists get away with their responsibilities and so he took them all to court.

I guess it would be more accurate to say he put the bridge on trial. Janus’ father claimed that the bridge had opened up the road to dump the car in the river in order to protect itself.

The newspapers had a field day – ‘The Bridge that kills’ .

What the father attempted to prove in court was that the bridge, or at least the material, was self-aware and that it had made a positive decision to break a hole in the road in order to rid itself of an irritant.

Of course the court over-ruled the claim and declared the accident as death by misadventure. Whatever was fully known was never put in the public domain, the bridge manufacturers were ordered to dismantle the structure and the material SeRep was banned from use in any public construction.

It wasn’t the end of SeRep however, the armies of NATO built tanks and weapons from the material. They’re using them at this very moment in the wars out east.

I hear tell that the soldiers talk of the weapons that cry in the night.

bobby stevenson 2017

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Nelle and Tru (For Harper Lee)

kids

 

“I hate going outside, I absolutely hate it, hate it, hate it,” said Nelle to the sad-looking boy standing at the porch door.
“You’ve gotta come, ya just gotta,” said the boy.

“P…l….e…a….s…e!” He said in one of those elongated ways, that folks from town always used. This was Alabama and the way people talked could be used as a weapon, as well as a way into your heart.
“If the sun is too hot, I ain’t coming,” said Nelle.
“When is it never too hot?” Asked the boy.
“Oh you,” shouted Nelle and then stamped her feet. “If you weren’t my best friend, Tru, I would surely hit you in the face.”
“No ya wouldn’t,” said Tru, calmly.
“No I wouldn’t,” added Nelle sheepishly.
“So you coming?”
“Looks like I ain’t got no other choice.”

Tru and Nelle had been friends since they were embryos. The first one born probably waited on the other to arrive. They were close as any two souls could be. Nelle loved Tru’s bouncy hair and Tru loved the fact that Nelle didn’t realise she was a girl.

The place they were heading was over on the other side of town, a place her father, Amasa, had told her never to go near. Her mother, on the other hand didn’t care, she never cared about anything Nelle or Tru got up to. Or anything her father did, either.

“How did you know it was there?” Nelle asked her pal.
“I heard two boys talking about it as I passed the old café, said he’d been there for some days.”
“I guess he must be stinking by now,” said Nelle in a boyish way that Tru admired.

On the way there, Tru had stopped to get a big stick, not to protect himself with, but so he would be able to jab the body when they got there.
Before Tru had called on Nelle he’d already had a peek at the body. All he had seen were the feet but the smell told you that someone was lying dead.

“There he is,” said Tru, pointing at where he’d seen the feet but Tru was looking in another direction – just in case – although he wasn’t quite sure what it was he might see if he looked directly at the body.
“Well I’ll be,” shouted Nelle excitedly. “If it ain’t a dead man.”

And sure enough, that is exactly what it was. Nelle walked right over to the body just as a wave of decomposing flesh hit her nose. Undeterred, she covered her face with her bottom of her shirt and went in for a closer look.

“Can’t say if he’s a black man or whether the sun just roasted him,” she said.

Tru told her that he heard it was a black man who had been chased out of the next town over on account he’d been cheating. Nelle asked Tru what he’d been cheating at, was it playing cards or something? Tru hadn’t heard the rest of the conversation from the boys but he was sure that they had mentioned something about someone’s wife.

“He’d been cheating at cards with someone’s wife,” said Nelle, nodding her head as if she’d got to the core of the mystery. Not wanting to show any fear, Nelle crawled over and turned the body over. Half of the man’s face had been eaten or bashed in, neither of them were sure. What they were sure of was, that both were just as fascinated by the dead man as each other.

“You think it’s weird that I think dead people are worth looking at?” Asked Tru.
“Nope, ‘cause I was thinking just the same. Dead folks are worth looking at,” said Nelle.
“You kids should be at school,” said the man behind them blocking out the sun.
“It’s Saturday,” said Nelle and Tru together.
“Still, dead bodies ain’t no place for kids,” said the man who turned out to be a policeman.
“Where you from?” Asked the cop.

And Nelle and Tru told him they came from way over the other side of town.
“What’s your names, so I can inform your folks, and no lies mind, you’ll only make it worse if you do,” said the man.
“Mine’s, Nelle Harper Lee,” said the girl.
“And mine’s Truman Capote,” said the boy.
“Well skoot,” said the cop. “And don’t let me catch you round this way again, ya hear me?”

By then Nelle and Tru had wandered off looking for another adventure, but the picture in their heads of the dead black man stayed with them for a long time after.

bobby stevenson 2017

capoteharper

 

 

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Three Stories

 

bird

1. You’re probably asking how I first met her, and I would have to say that it was around sometime in the late 1940s; down in the boon docks.

She’d been born in Mainz, Germany on January 1st, 1900 and had seen more than her fair share of everything in this life.

She was a Jew, and a proud one and, as you can probably guess, watched most of her family disappear into concentration camps.She was feeding the birds by the docks that day. I remember it was a warm sultry afternoon in New York.

I asked if I could help and she said sure, I could. I had some coffee and we sat and shared it, sitting on an old crate. She had an almost permanent smile on her face, as if to say, I’m happy world, just get used to it.Boy did we talk. I told her about my family who lived upstate and how my great-uncle helped invent the automobile.

“You must be very proud,” she said in a thick German accent. Sure I was, I told her, sure I was. And her grin became a huge smile. I asked her about her own family, and she said that there weren’t no one left.

“All gone,” and then she nodded her head as if to say into the showers of those camps.
“All of them?” I asked.
“Yah,” and then she took another sip of her very cold coffee.
“Where were you?” I asked.

And she told me she had been there too, along with her three brothers, three sisters and her mother and father.

“At the end, there was only me,” she said sadly.

So I asked her, how or why she survived.
“Only the good Lord knows that one,” she said.

Then she told me how she got through those days of death and hatred. She said that she would close her eyes for one minute every day. One minute when things were getting really bad and she would remember who she was. It was as simple as that.

“Just close your eyes and recite your name and then remember who and what you are. Some things or someone in the universe went to a lot of trouble to get you here. Just think of that.”

It was just as the sun was on its last legs that she said she must get back home, and that it had been very nice talking to me.

Here’s the funny bit – every day after that I did the very same thing. One minute with my eyes closed just to remember who I was.

I have to tell you, it’s got me through a lot of life’s stuff.

2. The clanking of the train as it went over the gaps in the rail made him think of home. If he closed his eyes, he could still hear the horse and carts passing outside the family home in the west of town.Oh, those days of endless sunshine and hope. Everyone was friendly.

Everyone shared. Everyone was in and out of each other’s homes. My son did this, my daughter has achieved that – my, hasn’t your youngest grown. They were the best of days.

He would come home from school and there was his mother sitting at the table, smiling, as only she could. No matter how bad the day had been, that smile would melt away any pain and discomfort. Those were the best of times. No doubt about it.

His father had taught him to help those who needed it, without complaint.

“And I want you, my boy, to do a good deed each and every day without telling anyone about it. Promise?”

And he crossed his heart and hoped to die that he would do it – and he had, as best he could. There was no point in thinking of them all over again – for that would be praising himself for his good deeds.

So why was what he was about to do the most selfish thing he had ever done in his life? How had he got to this point?

Perhaps in every good deed is the seed of its own destruction.

He had seen the boy from across the street many times. Now and again he had nodded or even, on occasion, said good morning. The boy and his family had intrigued him greatly. Although they seemed to be very well off for this part of town, they never ever smiled. It had taken him a while to work out what it was that had bothered him about the boy and his people. They didn’t laugh. How strange, he thought. Perhaps, money doesn’t make you happy after all.

Then one night as he as staring through the window, he saw that the boy was being whipped by his father. It was severe, but as far as he could see, the boy did not appear to show any pain on his face. He just held the side of the kitchen table tightly and gritted his teeth.

He saw the boy the next evening, standing alone watching the carriages pass by and for the first time he spoke properly to him.

“Would you care for a chocolate?”

The boy looked at him suspiciously, then smiled and said thank you. And as quick as the smile came, it went in again and the boy’s face grew dark. It wasn’t until a week later that he saw the boy standing on the corner of the street and he was sobbing. He said good afternoon to him but the boy turned his face away. He asked the boy how he was doing and the boy grunted that he was okay but could he go away and leave him alone. However this was his good deed for the day and he wanted to help the boy. He gave him his handkerchief that his mother ironed for him every day. The boy eventually took it and wiped the blood from the mark on his face. The boy said thank you then wandered off home.

The next day the boy’s father, the one who liked to hit his son, came to his door to return the handkerchief. The man looked at the signs on the wall and said:

“You are…..?” Then the father spat on the ground and ripped the handkerchief up.

In the middle of the night they came for his mother, his father and himself. As they led them away, he could see the boy’s father looking from the window and smiling.

They had been on the train about two days when the wooden slat had opened up at the side. It was only big enough for him to get through, no matter how hard he wished it, his mother and father could never squeeze through that hole.

They told him he had to go and that he had to go as soon as the train slowed. His father pushed his son through the hole.

And that is why he jumped from the train – leaving everyone he loved aboard and on their way to Auschwitz.

3. Everyone called him Papa – that was how he was known in our part of the square. ‘Papa, the storyteller’, to give him his full, well-deserved title.

Whether the stories were as old as the hills, or maybe Papa himself, or even little ditties he made up on the spot; they were always the same thing, they were wonderful and they took us away from our own lives.

“Gather around children, gather around, push-up close to one another, I don’t want to have to shout,” he would say with the biggest grin I had ever seen.

We would all push in to the front, and in doing so, keep each other warm and for a few minutes we would forget where we were and get wrapped up in the warmth and colours of Papa’s stories.

They were as rich as cream, and as light as feathers. They made us laugh, always they made us laugh – that was the one and only rule of Papa: “these stories, my little blessed ones are to make you all happy in there,” and that is when he would point to his heart.

There are times in your life when something so terrible happens that you push it to the back of your mind. Then in the morning, when you awake, you are happy for the merest of seconds before you remember whatever it is you have experienced.

And so it was with Papa’s stories, when they were done, and only when they were done, I would suddenly remember where I was and immediately feel sad again.

It was the same for us all.
I remember Papa’s last story as if it were yesterday.

“Come close my little kinder. Closer still, we don’t want those others to hear our precious little stories,” and then we would all sit as close as our little frail bodies would allow.

“Can you all hear me?” and he’d put a hand to his ear.
“Yes!” we would all whisper.
“Then I shall begin. Once upon a long ago, there was a little child, a little strong boy by the name of Joseph.”
“That is my name,” said Joseph, who sat next to me, proudly.

“So it is, and much like you he was full of life itself. And this little strong boy decided to help the oldest woman who lived in their village. For they all lived in the highest of highest mountains and each of them had to help the other. The town was two days ride away and so everyone needed everyone else. The little boy knocked on the old lady’s door. He was nervous – for it was told that she was a witch. At first she shouted ‘go away’ because through the years, she had been tormented by some. But the little boy persisted and knocked the door again. This time the old lady, who some say was as old as the moon itself – opened the door. ‘What do you want?’ she asked and the little boy explained that he wanted to help. At first she was unsure but as she asked the boy to do more and more tasks, he seemed to enjoy all of it. ‘Why are you helping me?’ she asked. And the little boy explained that he had been taught that helping others was the only way to live. And so the boy came and helped the old lady, day after day, week after week. Then one day, the old lady said she would reward the little boy, who said it didn’t really matter as helping the lady was all that counted. But she insisted and she told him to close his eyes and in doing so, he could go anywhere he wanted. And sure enough, he closed his eyes and the next thing he knew, he was standing on top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Now children I want you to do the same,” Papa said to us all.

And sure enough we all kept her eyes tight closed and imagined the greatest of all places to be; and while we were doing this, the guards were waiting on Papa outside the hut and then they marched him to the showers.
We only found this out a little later.

Like the rest who took that walk, Papa never returned, but like the little boy, I still close my eyes and wish of somewhere else.

bobby stevenson 2017

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Skiing In Central Park

guggen

I don’t think there was a precise time when you could say that they actually met; instead it would be more accurate to say that they rubbed against each other’s lives from the moment they were born.

Kitty and Jethro were born in the same week to families who lived next door to each other. They grew up together, sat in the same school rooms, and had the same good and bad teachers.

When one of them missed school due to ill-health, the other couldn’t rest until they were back together.

It was inevitable that one day they would start to see each other in a differing light. One evening Jethro looked at Kitty and saw, not a little friend who needed to be rescued, but a beautiful young girl who needed to be held. And one summer’s day, instead of a little boy who always needed his nose wiped or his tears dried, Kitty saw a strong upstanding boy who she could think of perhaps marrying, one day.

Jethro spent a long time away in the army when the government felt that he was needed, and in those times apart (it seems strange to anyone who has not experienced it) she fell more in love with him than she could put into words.

Their wedding was in the little chapel just north of the town’s river and everyone turned up – it was said that the sheriff allowed his prisoners to also attend and even ‘though the sheriff got real drunk that night, the prisoners locked themselves up, afterwards.

The two love birds settled down to a life in the little town that was by-passed by all the main roads, and there they got on with the business of living.

When no kids turned up, Kitty went to the doctor and found that she and Jethro just weren’t compatible – had it been with someone else both might have had children, but not in this combination. Kitty knew things could have been done to help them but they both decided that if that was the way things were, then they just get on with it.

Not having younger ones to worry about, meant they got to see a lot of the country. They drove north, south, east, and west and loved every single minute of every single day in each other’s company.

There was one crazy dream that they both shared (Kitty thinks she first read about it in a book) and it was their wish to go skiing in Central Park in New York City. Neither of them had ever been in another country but this seemed the perfect reason to go. They knew there were only the smallest of hills in the park but that didn’t put either of them off – not one bit.

Every winter they would talk about going to New York, and then before they knew it, another year had passed. They were in their sixties when Jethro started to get ill, and it meant that Kitty spent more and more time looking after him. It wasn’t a chore, she just worried about her little boy who had once lived next door to her.

One winter, just before the start of December, Jethro shut his eyes for the last time. When Kitty found herself brave enough, she started to sort out Jethro’s things. In an old jacket she found details about a savings account in the little bank at the top of street.

When she went into the bank, the young man behind the counter said:

“So you’re going skiing in New York, then?”

Kitty asked him what he meant and he told her that every week, Jethro had put a little money into the skiing account and that one day, he told him, Jethro and his wife were going to go skiing in Central Park.

Kitty counted the money and there was enough to get her to fly to New York and a little over to help a young family who lived next door.

When she got to New York it was September, in fact the hottest month since records began – so skiing was out the question. That night she sat in her hotel room and talked to Jethro as she always did, and after telling him she hoped he was well where ever he was, she mentioned the lack of snow. It was just then that a TV show came on about the Guggenheim Museum in New York and it gave her an idea.

The next day she took a cab to the museum where the security man at the door looked in her bag – she told him ‘they were for her grandkids’, so he wished her a nice visit and Kitty went on her way.

When she looked up it was just as she had hoped – the inside of the Guggenheim was a path which descended from the top of the building to the bottom, in circles.

She got on an elevator to the top floor, took out her new roller-skates and before anyone could stop her, she shot down the Guggenheim path at several miles per hour.

“Can you see me, Jethro?” Kitty shouted, “can you see what I’m doing?”

And then she laughed and giggled and screamed all the way to the bottom of the path.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Man From Biloxi

trumpet2

The first time I seen him was on 8th Avenue, that must have been around early ’51. I mean he was a street man and all, so he played his music a little, he begged for a few cents, and above all, he survived.

I remember the first time I spoke to him, I bought him a steaming cup of java coffee, and he just smiled, licked his lips and played a tune to thank me. ‘Man that felt good’, he said to me – I was thinking just the same thing about his playing.

He had journeyed up from Biloxi at the end of the war and had wanted to join a jazz band up in Harlem – but when he got there, the streets were full of sharp suits and trumpets, seems everyone wanted a piece of the action. So he did what he always did, he took his chances elsewhere – and this time he put down in mid-town Manhattan.

The trumpet he carried was real old and had a huge dent on one side. He told me that he’d taken it with him when he went to fight old Hitler and a bullet had hit his trumpet (instead of him) and that was why he was standing in front of me today playing one of his beautiful tunes.

I just believed him – I mean what was the point of saying it wasn’t so?

I never knew where he lived or laid his head, seems that I never got around to asking. Sometimes he’d be playing and sometimes he’d be flapping his gums about some point or another with the folks who took time to talk to him.

Some days, he’d be sitting in that old coffee bar – the one that used to stand on the edge of Hell’s Kitchen. I’d nod and he’d call me over and introduce me to his latest friend. Sometimes, it was a writer called Jack Kerouac, or a strange little man out of Wyoming, name of Jackson Pollock.

One night, my friend, the man who played the trumpet on 8th Avenue, took me to a night club just north of Central Park. I can’t recall who was playing but as we sat down at a table, my bud introduced me to Miles Davis. Man I had always wanted to meet this cat, but the soul who sat in front of me was drained of life, he was solid gone. This genius was as low as anyone could be. He kept trying to find anyone in the club who could provide him with a little something to get him back on his feet. It was only later I realised that he meant drugs.

The Christmas of 1951 was a real freezer as I recall. The snow just lay on the streets and folks dealt with it best they could. My youngest, Albert, slid while trying to cross a street and a bus ran over his leg. I had only turned my back to see where my daughter was, when the accident happened.

My boy had struck his head on the way down, and things didn’t look good. Not good at all. The doctor said that we should prepare for the worst. How your life can change in an instant – I mean, you got to hold on to everything and enjoy it.

At the hospital I walked to the window to get some air, and as I opened it I could hear the sweet sound of a trumpet’s notes floating in the night. Sure enough, across the street, was my pal playing for my son and my family. His way of saying ‘I’m here for you, buddy’.

Jeez, I ain’t one for letting the tears run down my face but between the trouble with my boy and the kindness of my friend, I felt real churned up inside – all sad like.

The last time I saw my pal was in the summer of 1952. Albert had made a full recovery and we’d gone for a walk in Central Park. I remember that day so well as it was over a 100 degrees and folks were falling down all over the place.

Me and Albert had been sitting up on one of the rocks when I could just make out a tune that my bud was known to play on the avenue. I knew it had to be him and I wanted to find my friend and show him how well Albert had done in recovering.

“Albert, this is my pal who played the night you had your accident.”

The two of them shook hands, and Albert said a funny thing. He said that he had remembered the tune and that he could hear it even although he was in a coma.

“I kept reaching for the tune, guess that’s what brought me around,” and with that Albert smiled.

My pal told me he was leaving New York and was glad we had met that day. He was going back down to the City of Biloxi and see what life had to offer down there.

I hugged my pal and promised I’d look him up whenever I was down that way.

We never did meet again, but one day in the post  a package turned up addressed to Albert. It was a trumpet, left to my son in a will, from a man in Biloxi.

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

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Me and Buzz and Soccer and Filmin’

FRIENDS

1.Soccer

One of the other times that Buzz had a mid-life crisis was that summer when his first hair grew out of his chin. You would have thought that he was Fu Man Choo or somethin’.

He’s tellin’ me he ain’t decided if he’s gonna let it grow into a full beard, or trim it using his Paw’s old razor. The one his Paw left him before he ran away with the dancer.

“Now that I’m grown and a man,” that’s what he said to me, with a straight face – a face with one hair growin’ out of it.

“Now that I’m a man, I’m gonna look after my Maw. Keep her good, in her old age.”

Well you know me and peeing myself, I had to run behind a bush before I wet ma pants good.

What he was tellin’ me, was that he was ready for a career as a matinée idol – that’s his very words and I’m not sure if Buzz knew what they meant.

So the time had come that he’d have to look after his face on account it was gonna be his main source of income. He said he wasn’t sure if it was fair to let a face like that be blown up big in a movie theater ‘cause everyone would pass out.

Of course when he’s tellin’ me this I’m still behind the bush just in case I need to go again, real fast.

That was why Buzz had a mid-life crisis over the weekend and decided he was too old and too pretty to play football at school and that was when Mr Fairbanks, suggested he should join the school soccer team, instead.

“It’ll save your good-lookin’ face, Buzz,” said Mr Fairbanks, who then nudged another teacher and they both walked off as if they were gonna pee themselves too.

Of course just playin’ soccer wasn’t good enough for Buzz, he had to be a

‘strike……er’ – now, the reason I’ve said it that way is because that’s the way that Buzz said it. I thought I could hear a funny accent in there but I assumed Buzz was practisin’ for his movies.

I didn’t see Buzz until two days later and by then he was talkin’ real funny like. I’m thinkin’ to myself, I’ve heard this funny talk before and sure enough I remember – right in the middle of the night, I shout out, ‘Mary Poppins’. Buzz sounded like Dick Van Dyke in that movie.

Buzz has decided that if he’s gonna be any good at soccer he had to talk with an English accent. Since Buzz ain’t ever heard one except in movies and stuff, I’ve got to say he wasn’t that good.

When our teacher said ‘Good mornin’ class’, instead of sayin’ good morning back, Buzz said, ‘All right, guv’nor and a fine mornin’ it be’.

I didn’t know whether to just give up and pee myself there and then or run to the restroom.

“Shall I see you, little urchin at dinner time as I’m looking forward to me pie and chips, guv’nor.” That’s what he said to me with his one hair chinned face.

“I’m playin’ me soccer game this afternoon, me old mate. Will you be comin’ to see me?”

They had to take me to the nurse’s room – I kid you not – as I had gone into hysterical collapse, least ways that’s what the doctor said. Apparently I had a real bad shock.

Buzz never ever got a game of soccer, they picked Alexander as the striker and she was a girl.

“Stupid game,” said Buzz – all American, like.

 

2.Filmin’

Buzz always wanted to be a movie star and so from a real young age, he got to practising. Not with anything sensible like acting, that would have been too clever, no – he got practising with signing his autograph.

“You got to start somewhere” was what he told me.

When people on Main Street saw Buzz coming their way they used to cross over just to avoid him. Buzz put it down to folks being overwhelmed with his natural good looks.

If ya didn’t avoid him, before you knew it, Buzz would be staring into your face and asking if you wanted his autograph. Everyone and I mean everyone in town, had several copies of Buzz’s signature.

I remember seeing the minister walking to church one Sunday morning with Buzz’s writing on that white bit of the collar they wear. How Buzz got it there, God only knows (and he probably does).

“I’m a good-looking kid and if they don’t want me to act in their movies, then they don’t know what they’re missing.”

One Saturday Buzz decided he’d do just that – show them what they were missing, that is. That weekend the weather was real toasting and Buzz got me to borrow (borrow without askin’) my granddaddy’s movie camera.

“I kinda see myself as a cowboy, don’t ya think?”  I just nodded, hell it was best to just go along with anything Buzz said.

I ain’t sure where Buzz got the gun from, but I do remember a story a while back about Buzz’s uncle Joshua who was thrown in jail for holding up a burger joint. Somehow the store owner convinced his uncle Joshua to take some French fries and a soda rather than the contents of the money drawer. Still, he went to jail all the same. I don’t remember any gun being used but I guess that’s where Buzz got it.

Buzz wanted me to be the baddy and the plan was for me to walk down Main Street and pretend to call him out; cussing and saying he was a coward. Then Buzz would come out of the saloon (it was really Mrs Bat’s Craft Shop) and challenge me to a shoot out in the street.

I was the one that was to get shot; Buzz felt that a man about to make his mark in the movies shouldn’t take the bullet.

I guess you should really check if a gun is loaded or not.

I’m just saying, as it would have saved a lot of trouble. I’ve never seen a grown man being shot in the bee-hind before but Samuel Brooks hollered and screamed like the world was coming to an end. It was only a bullet in the butt, what was the big problem?

Mrs Brooks wanted to hang Buzz right there and then, the way they did with her Daddy years back. I guess two people don’t make a lynch mob, but it scared the hell out of me all the same.

Buzz was hauled in front of Judge Pickering and folks were telling me that Buzz would probably get the electric chair or something. At the time (I was young then) I thought giving someone an electric chair was a real strange thing to do. Where would ya keep it?

Anyway a lot of people were saying that Buzz came from a real bad family, didn’t he have an uncle who’d stolen diamonds?

Funny, how French fries get exaggerated like that.

Anyways, I had filmed the whole thing and we were allowed to show it in court. The judge said it was okay to show a movie. Some folks brought in popcorn. From the movie, you could see that as Buzz was pulling the trigger, he shut his eyes and didn’t really mean to hit anyone. At the end of the movie some of Buzz’s family started clapping – so Buzz got up and took  a bow. Which I have to say was pretty cool. Buzz started waving, movie star like, to the folks upstairs in the gallery.
As I left the courthouse that day, I saw Buzz up at the bench giving Judge Pickering his autograph.

bobby stevenson 2015

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The Girl Who Stole A Piece Of The Sun

 suc028_sun_jar_white_glow

I think I was eight or nine years of age when my Grandma went down the road. At least that’s what my Granddad called it.

“Your Grandma has gone down the road and I’m afraid she won’t be back,” he said with sad eyes.

“What never?”

“Listen sweet-pea, one day I’ll take that walk and later, so will you. We’ll all meet up at the little shack further 

down the road, just over the first hill. You remember that, I’ll see you there.”

My name is Sara, by the way, and I always remembered that story from my Granddad. On that day, the day that my Grandma took the walk, my Granddad took me into the city to show me how to be happy in times when the world goes a little dark.

“Anytime you want to talk to your Grandma, just say ‘hey Grandma’ and then tell her how you feel.”
“She’ll hear me?”
“Of course she will, saying ‘hey Grandma’ is like pushing buttons on your telephone,” said Granddad with a big huge grin.
“And I’ll show you another thing to show she’s listening.”

And my Granddad led me into a railway station, nearby.

“Whenever you feel lonely,” he said. “Or sad, just stand on this spot and say to your Grandma ‘please make people look at me, Grandma’”.

And do you know what? People were staring at us and I said ‘thank you, Grandma’ to myself.

It was only years later I realised we were standing in front of the railway departures board, but still it worked and I couldn’t help smiling.

Then my Granddad took me to the park, and to the little pond where they sailed model boats.

It was just then that the sun came out and from his little bag, my Granddad took out an old glass jar, one with a lid.

“Look sweet-pea,” and my Granddad pointed to the sun’s reflection in the water. “See the sun?”
“I do, Granddad, I do.”

And then he put the glass jar in the pond and filled it with water. And just then the sun disappeared and my Granddad told me he had caught a piece of the sun in a jar. Then he put the lid on it.

“I want you to put this jar under your bed, sweet-pea and when you feel dark, or you miss your Grandma, just open the jar and let some of the sun fill your room.”

My Granddad took his walk a few years ago, but you know what? I’ve still got that jar with me, the one where we captured a little piece of the sun. And on dark days, I still open the lid.

bobby stevenson 2015

photo from http://www.findmeagift.co.uk/sun-jar.html

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The Proof of God

formHe could do nothing but stare at the paper. Then he re-checked it and checked it again. He was trembling. I mean really shaking. The way you dreamed of something really good happening and then it does, and it never feels real.

He had woken with the numbers in his head – not that he remembered going to sleep with a problem that needed solving. They were just there in the morning like a mathematical hard-on.

He’d need to talk to one of the guys up at the library, they’d know if he had just dreamed up some nonsense or if these numbers – he wanted to call them the Greenock Sequence after the place he had been born – were the real thing.

Try as he might, he couldn’t find fault with any of it. But the most important thing was what the sequence meant, to him, to everyone, to the world.

He’d only been trying to solve one of the oldest mathematical quandaries when he’d tripped over this sequence. Perhaps it was meant, the next stage in evolution, the next stage in man’s development. Hey, he was getting a bit ahead of himself. Time to stop shaking, calm down and take stock of what he thought he had on this piece of paper.

If he was correct (and he was starting to think that he was), then the Greenock Sequence proved without a shadow of doubt that God had to exist to make the universe work. It explained much about dark energy and dark matter, it explained the whole show. It explained this thing called life and he’d accidentally found it while looking for something else.

What do you do with something as explosive as these numbers? God existed, there was no doubt about that, so what next?

Had he been chosen? What if he was wrong and he was so desperate to be known for something that he was getting it all wrong? He re-wrote the numbers and the sequence. There wasn’t a doubt, the sequence was correct – God Existed.

Perhaps it would stop wars, stop people doubting. He scored through the word ‘Greenock’ and put in the word ‘God’ – seemed fitting somehow. I mean it was his/her numbers after all. ‘The God Sequence’.

He decided to sleep on it one more night and then he’d take the numbers to someone. The funny thing was, he prayed that night. Since there wasn’t any doubt about the existence, why not have a chat with the deity? For the first time in years he got down on his knees.

“I just wanted to say thanks for this. I mean, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I just wanted to know what I should do next. Amen.”

He felt that had said it all and went to sleep with a lighter heart.

In the morning, which was a glorious one, he had breakfast, got dressed in his best suit and headed off to the local church. He smiled and thought, God knows how to put on a morning. He whistled all the way to the car.

He stopped the car outside the nearest church, got out and knocked the door. A foreign looking woman told him that the Holy Father was out back.The priest was out in his garden tending to his roses and as he stood there watching the man of God, he didn’t know whether to shout, hug the man or just cough to let the priest know he was there. He chose the latter.

“Oh there you are, would you like a cup of tea?” Said the elderly priest, who then handed some of his cuttings to him.

“Throw them on the fire, there’s a good man. Now is it a death or a birth? Lovely day for either,” laughed the old man.

He cleared his throat then said. “It’s about God. I can prove he exists.”

“Well would you credit that now,” said the priest, and he thought the priest was referring to his revelation, but the old man was looking at the roots of his roses and noticing he had a rot problem.

“Sorry what did you say?”

“I said, I can prove that God exists.”

“Of course He exists, so why would you want to prove something that’s staring you right in the face. Never heard such daft talk.”

“You don’t understand, I can actually prove with a sequence of numbers that God needs to exist to make the universe work.”

The priest was getting a little red in the face. “I don’t mean to be unkind, but aren’t you just stating the bleeding obvious?”

“No, I’m proving to you that God exists.”

“Why would I need proof?” Asked the old man. “After all, I talk to the Big Man, every day. Are you saying, I’m some sort of eejit?

Because if you are, you can leave my garden right this minute and good day to you young man.”

“What I’m saying is that I can help the non-believers, the atheists, the agnostics to see that there is a deity.”

The old man just smiled. “Don’t you see? If we could prove that God exists there would be no need for faith, and if there was no need for faith, there would be no need for the Church. And if there was no need for the Church, I would be out of a job. So be very careful with what you’ve got there. It could harm a lot of people.”

The old man looked at him and said: “Have you got the proof with you?”

He nodded and took the paper from his pocket.

“Am I the only one you’ve shown it to?”

Again, he nodded.

“Let me see it, this blasted thing.”

He handed the paper to the priest who tut-ted and said things like ‘would you look at that now’.

The old priest lifted his eyes, looked at him, and then the priest smiled, throwing the paper on to the garden fire.

“Trust me, you’d better off forgetting all about this nonsense. The world will be a better place with doubt as its driving force.”

He knew he could re-create the numbers again, that wasn’t a problem. He just hadn’t been ready for the way the priest had re-acted. Surely he wasn’t typical of the church?

He said a subdued goodbye and as he walked out of the garden, he decided he’d contact the national newspapers and see what they would do with the information. I mean, what trouble could it cause?

bobby stevenson 2017

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The House by the Sea

house

There was love above and below me in that house that stood beside the sea.
On clear days I could spot the horizon and that meant everything to me. It was the tallest of houses and the happiest of homes. It was stuffed full to the rafters with sisters and brothers and my mother and father.

We helped each other and we supported each other. We made each other smile and sometimes we made each other cry. These were the days which were warmed by the sun and seemed to last forever.

In the winter we drank broth and ate stews and hunkered down in the heat of each other’s company, comfortable that the others were there. There were card games, singing, communal cooking and laughter, oh yes, the laughter. There was always someone laughing in that house.When the storms hit the house, it rocked and swayed and the more it rocked and swayed, the more we felt safe. Don’t ask me what I mean by that, just that you had to be there to understand.

My Grandpa had built it for the simple reason that he wanted to prove you could build a house on the sand by the sea. There were those in town who said he was a brick short of a chimney but my Grandpa had always believed in himself and so it had happened. And having been built by such a kind soul and even kinder heart meant that the very building seemed to bleed understanding and tolerance.

When it swayed in the wind it sang to us, the building actually felt as if it was telling you that nothing was going to harm you. We were just to relax and bend with the wind.There was a writing room or rather I used it to write in it, but my brothers and sisters would read, paint, listen to the radio, have heartfelt discussions about the world and all the stars, in it. I learned a lot of things about life in that room and some things I probably shouldn’t have.

I realise now how lucky I was back then, what with all that softness, that gentleness, that amount of caring from my family; all of it given to me by some higher force. Boy was I the lucky one. My father and mother taught us to never ever to take anything for granted. To smell the rain, to feel the flowers, to stand on the roof of the house some days and just scream, scream for your very existence. Sometimes I’d scream for the overwhelming energy that was the world and some times I would scream for all the injustices that we heap on each other (even on ourselves) for there is no crueller person in the world than those things we do to our own minds and hearts. It’s like the man said, if we treated other people the way we treated ourselves, we wouldn’t last long.

So I wrote and wrote about the way things changed and the way that things stayed the same. I wrote about love and hate and war and peace. Those days were the most perfect of my life. But as I’ve written in these pages before, no one ever tells you that you are passing perfection – you only ever see it in the rear view mirror and that’s when you realise that there’s no reverse.

Each morning I could smell the cinnamon wafting its way up the stairs to my room and a few seconds later it was helped along by the smell of the coffee. My mother would be standing at the back porch with the wind coming in off the sea, both hands around her cup of hot brew and deeply breathing in the air.

“Good morning my much-loved and cherished son,” she’d say.
I forgot to mention that my mother came with a warning: she was a crazy as a box of frogs.
“And how has the universe treated you this fine morning?” she’d ask.
“Fine.” I’d say – I was trying real hard to cultivate a mysterious air about me at the time given the fact that I intended to be a writer.

“You don’t say,” then she’d smile, pull her house coat in tight and head back to making the biscuits for breakfast.
Sometimes I would sit with a hand under my chin waiting on the rest of the family to come down, trying to look European (although I wasn’t real sure what that meant). Other times I would sit with Grandpa’s old pipe and stare out to sea as if the meaning of life was somewhere out there to be found. Man, that pipe tasted real bad.

I went through a spell of chewing tobacco but it was short-lived due to the vomiting that accompanied it. Then I got a big hat and I decided that was the look for me.

There was a real hot summer when I would wear the hat from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. I even slept with the hat on, but I guess someone would take it off my head when I was fast asleep – while I was dreaming of the future life that I was going to live in that hat.

To be a writer in the last house on the beach was truly the best thing ever, in the whole world.
Then one morning my father came into breakfast and told everyone to remain calm and not to worry but Grandma had been taken to hospital. She had been my moon and my stars when I was growing up. She was the one who encouraged me to write, who had read Dickens to me and who now would listen to my own stories.

She’d never say if a story was good or bad, but when she said “My ain’t that interesting” I knew it wasn’t one of her favourites.
Her and my Grandpa lived in the best room at the top of the house, the one with the views and the sunshine, although when my Grandma was there, it always seemed to be full of sunshine.

In the evening when I was writing I could hear the dance music coming from their gramophone. Boy they loved to dance. When they were younger they would travel the county taking part in competitions. Their room was full to the roof with trophies.

When my Grandpa started to get sick neither of them talked about the illness, until the day my Grandpa said that perhaps they shouldn’t dance any more.That day my Grandma got sick, I went to the hospital in the afternoon and she was sitting up in bed and smiling. Boy that made me feel a whole lot better.

Everyday after school I went straight to the hospital and read her my latest story. At the weekends, if she felt okay, she would read me some of David Copperfield.

In her final week she asked to be allowed home, I didn’t know that she was finished, I honestly thought she was getting better. About two days before she left us for good and while the nurse was downstairs getting a coffee, she asked me to take her to the roof and bring the wind-up gramophone.

When we got up there, boy it was warm and you could see for miles. I turned the handle on the gramophone and put on her favourite tune and then she asked me to dance. I took her hand and I bowed and then we danced as if she was seventeen again.

bobby stevenson 2015

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A Million Other Things

stars

He sat at the bar cradling his beer and wondering why the jukebox had more friends than he did.

If he was really being honest with himself, he was never, what you’d call, a popular guy; an acquaintance here or a guy you nodded to there, was probably the best way to describe his socialising strengths.

People respected him, he didn’t doubt that fact, but he couldn’t see respect bringing that many to his funeral, not that he planned on dying, no sir, not for a very long time, but still the hurt did go deep.

When did all this other craziness start?

He had been going over that thought again and again until he was beginning to drive himself crazy. Had there been signs sitting right out there in plain sight with no one even seeing them?

He could feel through the beer glass it all starting again, the vibrations; small waves on top of the beer causing it to foam up, as if a half mile long train full of cargo was passing just outside the bar. But there wasn’t a rail track for miles and the road only saw one or two cars an hour, if that.

So he held the glass tight.

“Jeez, Jethro are you okay? You’re gripping that beer like your life depended on it.”

Jethro loosened his grip and smiled back at the barman.

“Guess you’re right Dan. Just thinking, that’s all.”

He left a tip on the counter, threw his jacket over his shoulder and walked out into the evening heat. It was growing dark as he drove onto his driveway where he failed to notice the flickering street light swinging above him. When Jethro entered the house, all the commotion stopped.

He walked down the hallway just as the telephone started ringing but something told him it was a cold call from an east coast building company, so he just plain ignored it. The little thoughts helped him at times. Like last Easter when he was driving through that blind junction on Madison Street and something told him to press the brake. He had no idea why he stopped but just then some old Chevy came blasting out of Jefferson Lane and it would have split Jethro’s car in two if had he driven straight on.

Now Jethro was never a religious creature you understand, but he always had a hankering that there was something else out there, some truth to the whole universe that kept folks in check.But all these things that were happening to him were unsettling, especially since he didn’t  go out looking for them. “Just getting by” was his way in life and had anyone bothered to be his friend, well they would have known that too.

These days he had trouble sleeping and not just with the usual bad thoughts that crawled around in most men’s minds. Things happened to him in the night, strange things, like at 1am every morning the telephone would ring and when he answered it, no one would be there. Right after he put the ‘phone down , the smoke detector, that lay on the floor, would start beeping until he picked it up. The thing didn’t have any power for crying out loud.

Now don’t get him wrong, these weren’t ghosts or any kind of haunting. Jethro didn’t believe in such things. No, if someone worked that hard at life ( and Jethro felt everyone should  get an award for just getting through a single day) then they weren’t going to hang around afterwards, not when they’d just been promoted – so ghosts were definitely out of the question.

One night he had this thought about an airport and so he switched on his computer. He looked at the flight arrivals and noticed that one of them from South America was delayed and he knew right there and then that the flight was never going to land. Not ever. Some technical fault over Brazil had been the reason for the crash.

On Saturday nights if he didn’t go down to the bar, he’d sit and watch the lottery show on the television. Without thinking he’d say a number out loud  and what do you know? That number would be chosen. If he tried to concentrate on it, it never happened.

So one Saturday towards the end of the month, when his funds were getting real low, he put on a lottery ticket – he chose only four of the numbers he could hear in his head – well he didn’t want to peak too early, you know how it is?

He won a couple of hundred, just enough to pay one or two bills and get by until his next pay-day. At least that was the plan, but by Wednesday he was already thinking about the next lottery draw. So even although he still had money in the house, he put on five winning numbers and this time it was several hundred thousand he won. He called the lottery people direct so that no one local would find out.

He drove into the big city to pick up the money but somewhere at the back of his mind he was wishing that he had got the numbers wrong. Jethro decided that the money wasn’t his to keep, it had only been an experiment after all, a successful one nonetheless, but he’d proved a point.

He got the bank clerk to put the cash into two bags – half the amount in each – and decided the first place to start was the Church half way along Main Street.

A pleasant middle-aged woman let him in.

“I’ll just tell the Reverend you’re here. Have a seat please. Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Tea?”

“Coffee is good.” Jethro was slightly nervous.

The woman smiled and left Jethro with the thought that this was probably the Reverend’s wife. The room was in the process of being dragged from one century to another. There was garish pink flock wallpaper in a room of furniture that spoke of a more modern taste.

So two things startled Jethro that afternoon, the woman brought a large pot of coffee, two cups and a plate of cakes. She placed them on the table and sat beside him.

“So how can I help you?”

“I’d rather wait for the Reverend, if it’s all the same.”

“I’m she, the Reverend.”

“But you said….”

“That I’d tell the Reverend you were here? I was just trying to stop you running.”

“A lot do that?” asked Jethro.

“Enough.”

So they talked, in fact they talked for a good two hours and Jethro told Maureen, the Reverend’s name, all about the strange things that were happening to him.

“You’re not stressed in any way?” she asked.

He wasn’t and the question annoyed him. How could she dismiss his strangeness, yet spend her life promoting a strangeness of her own. He was sure his experiences were nearer to religion than she was willing to accept.

He left her the money but she needed convincing that he wasn’t a dealer, or a robber or insane. This he did.

“It could be lots of things causing this” said Maureen. “It could be weather conditions or it could be something electrical in you. It might even be God working in a mysterious way as he’s want to do. It could be a million other things as well.”

And  that was really all she had to say on the subject. Except when Jethro mentioned that she might use some of the money to fix the room up. She said the money would be put to good use as the flock wallpaper was expensive and so she was decorating real slowly. She couldn’t wait to get rid of all that modern furniture. That was the second thing that surprised him that day, she was transforming the room back the way. His power, whatever it was, wasn’t infallible.

He walked along University Street with the second bag of cash but was hesitant about who he should talk to. He read off the different faculties, some he dismissed immediately, some he played with in his head for a while. In the end it came down to Philosophy, Physics or Mathematics and as the first department that he approached was Mathematics, he settled on them.

He told the receptionist that he wanted to make a donation and within five minutes he had been whisked into the Dean’s office and another cup of coffee pushed in front of his face. He explained that although he was happy to donate to the faculty, he wanted to talk to someone about a problem he had.

As the Dean removed the bag and the cash and placed it in a safe, he called in his secretary to contact whomever Jethro wanted to talk to. It made Jethro smile that in the university no one was bothered if he was a robber or a dealer.

In the end he was given time with a Nobel Prize winning professor who seemed a kindly man and who asked Jethro straight away how he could help him.

When Jethro had told him of the flickering and the vibrations and the lottery numbers, he seemed bemused.

“So you think that you have some extraordinary powers, am I correct?”

And Jethro had to agree that he’d got the problem down in one. The kindly man suggested that Jethro take some notes as the professor tended to ramble on and it might be a bit difficult for him to follow. So Jethro took a pad from the professor’s desk and started writing. Words like ‘Chaos Theory’ kept coming up again and again.

“So if I get this” said Jethro “and I’m still not sure that I have, you are saying Prof, that in the universe, no matter how sure that something is meant to happen or is due to happen, it might not happen because of Chaos Theory? And that means that anything could happen?”

“Exactly my boy, wonderfully put.”

“So I’m a chaotic interruption in an otherwise ordered universe?”

“Just so”

“Doesn’t that make me a freak?”

“Never young man. Now, I really must dash.”

Jethro drove home after spending a large amount of money on advice that he could have got off of a television talk show, but he felt that they had both meant well.

As he approached his house, several of the street lights began to flicker and swing and as he said out loud “this problem isn’t getting any better”.

He stayed in all weekend and drank a few beers and this seemed to keep the thoughts at bay for a while – it even managed to stop the lights flickering in the house.

By the Tuesday he took a walk into town and as he rounded the corner he literally bumped into a neighbour, Tomas Saltz.

“I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s passing” he said sympathetically to Tomas.

“How did you know? I have only come from the hospital, she died this afternoon. Who told you?”

Jethro left the poor man crying in the street as he ran off into Center City. The rules had changed again, this chaos, whatever it was, had surprised him once again.

So Jethro sat in the bar with his hands clasped around a glass of beer and purposely ignoring the vibrations on top of his drink. Danny the barman gave him his usual look.

“You alright, Jethro?”

“Sure Danny.”

Danny went back to cleaning the glasses.

“Danny?”

“Yup?”

“Can I tell you something?”

“Shoot.”

And Jethro told Danny about all the strange things that had been happening to him and how it might be one of a million other things, but then again he might just be a freak.

Danny assured Jethro that there was no such thing as a freak and that we all fitted into the universe in our own way. He also hoped that Jethro didn’t think Danny was a hippy or anything, but  if Jethro was made the way the universe wanted him to be, then that was all there was to it.

Jethro said he was sorry that he didn’t have any money to give him right there and then, but come Saturday he could give Danny as much as he wanted.

Danny said he wasn’t interested in Jethro’s money. Wasn’t he a friend and wasn’t that what friends did for one another? Friends listened and they helped each other, they cared.

Danny handed Jethro a fresh beer. “On the house pal”

And then they shook hands and that was when Jethro knew everything was going to be alright. In an instance, he saw Danny in the years ahead with a wife, kids and in a poor but happy life. He also saw a photo with Jethro as a godparent holding one of Danny’s children.

And he knew things were going to be alright for him too. So what if he was the exception, so what if he didn’t have too many friends? He had one and that was enough for him, and he had a gift that not too many people had, and he knew that he had to use it for better things than lottery wins.

After all, this was a big, big universe and everything, and anything, was possible.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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The Decision at the Bottom of the Stairs

GlagowThe only thing that had surprised him was that the snow had fallen so early that year, and as he walked up Hope Street, he decided to take a tram as far as Charing Cross.

Glasgow was bitterly cold and even although he had on his brother’s best coat, it didn’t seem to keep out the freezing air.

He had intended to take the tram all the way to the Kelvin Hall, but he really needed time to think. He couldn’t get any of that at home, not with the way his mother and father were behaving.

As his mother helped tie his scarf, she kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear, that she knew he’d make the right decision. His father, on the other hand, had shown him a picture of his own father and said how proud he was of his son.

He had worked hard to get this opportunity, but what good would it do him if the world came crashing down around him?

He lit a Capstan cigarette as he entered Kelvingrove Park, and decided that by the time he had arrived at the bottom of the stairs, he would make his mind up, one way or another.

His younger brother was only 14 but he was now looking up to his big brother to do the right thing.

As the park rose up towards the Park Circus, it gave the walker a beautiful view of the west of Glasgow and most importantly, the university.

It was all he had ever wanted to do – to be a writer, and now he was walking towards Glasgow University in order to register for a BA in English. Or to be more accurate, they called it ‘matriculation’ up there, after all it was the fourth oldest English-speaking University in the world. It had been founded in 1451 and he was the first of his family to ever get so far.

As he walked down the snowy path, he lit another cigarette and stood looking over the city that he loved so much.

What was the point of learning, if you couldn’t defend yourself? He almost thought about tossing a coin, heads he went right to the university, or tails he went left and, well you know.

Of all the times he had picked to go to university, he had to pick this particular moment to do it. It was autumn 1939 and the world was turning on its head.

Did he go to university or would he sign up for the army?

He threw the smoke away and he almost slid as he hurried down the path. He had finally made his mind up as to what he was going to do – and he gently smiled as he walked towards the stairs.

 

bobby stevenson 2015

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Two Fingers in the Salt,One in the Sugar (3 screenplay intros)

tony

1.CLOSING DOORS – THE LAST DAYS OF TONY HANCOCK  

(Warning – Strong Language and Adult Situations)

“ONE BY ONE HE SHUT THE DOOR ON ALL THE PEOPLE HE KNEW, THEN
HE SHUT THE DOOR ON HIMSELF.”

SPIKE MILLIGAN ON TONY HANCOCK

This is just the first few pages of an early script about the last days of Tony Hancock  (British Comedian)

Tony went to Australia to attempt to revive his Television career but without the support of his writers and pals (all of whom he dumped), the revival failed and he took his own life at the age of 44 in the basement of his producer’s house.

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Hancock died by suicide, by overdose, in Sydney, on 24 June 1968. He was found dead in his Bellevue Hill apartment with an empty vodka bottle by his right hand and amphetamines by his left.

In one of his suicide notes he wrote: “Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times”.

BLACK SCREEN

TITLES:

“ONE BY ONE HE SHUT THE DOOR ON ALL THE PEOPLE HE KNEW, THEN

HE SHUT THE DOOR ON HIMSELF.”

SPIKE MILLIGAN ON TONY HANCOCK

 

DIRECTOR (V.O.)

Okay Tony, can we take that line

again?

HANCOCK (V.O.)

“Oh no, I’ve got the giraffe again, I’ve got three of these, why can’t I get the packet with the hippopotamus?”

Silence.

HANCOCK (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Does that sound funny to you? It doesn’t sound funny to me.

BELL RINGS.

DIRECTOR (V.O.)

Take twenty everyone, there is some noise on the tape.

TITLES: “June 1968, ATN-7 Studios, Sydney, Australia.”

FADE IN:

INT. TV STUDIO – DAY

TONY HANCOCK, forty-four going on sixty. Tony is walking towards his trailer. His PA hands him a cup as his PRODUCER walks beside him.

HANCOCK

Well?

PRODUCER

What Tony?

HANCOCK

Does it sound funny? These are no Galton and Simpson.

PRODUCER

Give them a chance.

HANCOCK

Give them a chance?  Listen matey, I’m all out of chances. Me.

The producer places his hand on Hancock’s shoulder. Hancock stops and kills the moment with a look.

The producer’s hand retreats. Hancock continues walking but the producer stays where he is; he knows better.

Hancock enters his trailer.

SLAM….a closing door.

INT. TRAILER – DAY

Hancock, life-tired, sits staring into an unforgiving mirror.

He opens a Qantas Airline Bag or should that be pharmaceutical central?

Some tablets are placed on the table, a bottle of vodka is retrieved from under the table – it’s been taped there – and is poured into Hancock’s cup.

He swallows the lot.

KNOCK.

HANCOCK

What?

PA (O.S.)

It’s me.

HANCOCK

Wait.

The airline bag is closed and the bottle taped back under the table.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Enter!

PA

It’s the sound men; it was a bird they picked up on the tape.

HANCOCK

So?

PA

Well they’re trying to shoot it out of its hiding place using a catapult and some moth balls.

HANCOCK

You couldn’t make this stuff up and unfortunately neither can my writers.

PA

It’s just….

HANCOCK

…it’s just what?

The PA turns towards the door and there are some fans waiting to talk to Hancock.
Hancock gets up and goes over to the door.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Fuck off.

He slams the door shut and then approaches the PA. Their faces are an inch apart.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

What do you think I am? A monkey in a zoo?


The PA slides away and out the door.

INT. HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT

A TELEVISION is on.

The room is empty and someone is showering in the bathroom.

We will find out that this is Hancock. On the television is an interview with Hancock and John Freeman.

TELEVISION HANCOCK

“It’s partly true that I’m a lonely person. There are times when you’re desperately lonely, standing in the wings, at say, the Palladium….”

Moving around the room we see the items that reflect his life at the moment.

TELEVISION HANCOCK (CONT’D)

“….You’re out there alone. To be shot at, shouted at, booed, have rivets thrown at you (which I’ve had) and seven pence ha’penny thrown at me at Bristol – which I picked up carefully off the stage and bought myself a half of bitter…”

A script lying open on the bed.

TELEVISION HANCOCK (CONT’D)

“How do you make comedy? You don’t make it with measured ingredients – it’s not cake. You make comedy with feeling…..”

The Qantas bag on the bedside table.

TELEVISION HANCOCK (CONT’D)

“What I play on television is an extension of myself and the idiosyncrasies of other people combined…”

Two bottles of brandy and a bottle of vodka.

TELEVISION HANCOCK

“You are, after all involved in life, and you do certain stupid things yourself. So if you are going to stand there and throw stones, at what point of perfection do you stand? If one is going to be critical without any chance of comeback, it’s like hitting a child”.

A HAND turns off the television. It’s Hancock’s. He slumps on the bed in a towel , pours a vodka into a glass and smiles to himself. He picks up the ‘phone.

HANCOCK

Get me Mrs Sennett in Bournemouth, England. (Pause) That’s right, my Mum.

While he waits, he picks up a couple of tablets from the bedside table. He washes them down with vodka.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Mum. Guess who?

INT. TV STUDIO – DAY

PEOPLE doing things. Carrying cables, scenery. People painting. The PA exits from Hancock’s trailer.

PRODUCER

How is he?

The PA crosses her fingers and moves on.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)

Come on now people. We have a show to put on.

The producer spots some of the team, watching.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)

I thought it was your day off?

STAGE HAND

Tony Hancock is in town.

PRODUCER

Hope he’s worth it.

The producer claps his hands.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)

Move. Someone get Tony. You.

A YOUNG GIRL is selected. She nervously goes over to the trailer and knocks the door. There is no response. She knocks again.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)

Just leave it. I’ll get him.

The girl runs off. The producer loudly knocks the trailer door.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)

(shouting)

Coming in.

INT. TRAILER – DAY

The producer enters. Tony is somewhere between Sydney and the moon.

PRODUCER

For fuck sake, what did you take?

HANCOCK

(slurred)

You know….what Sid said about me? He said….what was I talking about? Oh yes, Sid. He said….that I have the best timing in the business. The very best.

Hancock is not in charge of moving his head; it has its own life.

INT. TV STUDIO – DAY

There are many EXPECTANT FACES as Hancock and the producer emerge. However this turns to disappointment as the producer supports Hancock from the trailer. He carries him to the set.

PRODUCER

Come on people. We have episode six to put in the can.

The enthusiasm has eroded in the studio, everyone is going through the motions.

STUDIO LATER

Hancock stands ready, however his face shows that although the light may be on, nobody is home.

DIRECTOR

All you have to do is pick up the ‘phone.

Hancock nods like a drunk.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)

And action.

Hancock lifts the receiver, dials very badly then ‘speaks in tongues’ into the phone.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)

Cut. That’s the sixteenth take and that bastard is incapable of saying a complete line.

Hancock stands lost and sweating from head to foot.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)

Hancock, you c*nt. Get out there and act.

Hancock is in turmoil. He is practising ‘Chinese burns’ on his wrists.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)

(to producer)

Are you going to fucking call someone?

The producer nods. A PA hands him a phone.

PRODUCER

(into phone)

Get me the Managing Director.

INT. HOTEL ROOM – DAY

This is another time and another place. Hancock is shaved, dressed and sober. He sits reading the paper and drinking coffee.

A KNOCK at the door.

HANCOCK

(with gusto)

Enter.

The producer enters.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Coffee?

PRODUCER

Please.

The producer sits as he pours him a cup.

HANCOCK

So, did you see yesterday’s rushes?

PRODUCER

Ehm…no, not yet.

HANCOCK

Well, we can look at them today. I thought yesterday went exceedingly well.

These two guys are remembering different days.

PRODUCER

If you say so.

HANCOCK

Of course, I say so.

Hancock gets up.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Well, come on. Let’s get a move on.

Hancock is already out the door.

HANCOCK (O.S.) (CONT’D)

Come on.

INT. CAR – DAY

The producer looks at Hancock, not sure who is riding in his

car. Hancock is happy and smoking.

HANCOCK

I’ve got to get me Mum something.

Silence.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

I hear the contract is for 26 shows. I was thinking I might do it in three batches and head home. See Mum and Joan. What do you think?

Silence.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Have I upset you?

PRODUCER

No. The Managing Director wants to  speak to you when we get in.

HANCOCK

Any idea, about what?

The producer looks at Hancock. Then shakes his head.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

Can’t be too serious then.

There is a look on Hancock’s face as if he may know what the talk is about.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)

We could always take the whole thing back to England.

PRODUCER

If you don’t do it here, it’s all over. If you fuck up in Australia, there’s no where else to go.

The car pulls into the studio gate.

INT. PRODUCER’S HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT

The producer sits going through some paper work.
The phone RINGS.

PRODUCER

Hello.

HANCOCK (V.O.)

Evening.

PRODUCER

Tony.

HANCOCK (V.O.)

I’ve decided. I’m going to take the cure.

PRODUCER

Where are you?

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM – NIGHT

Hancock sits in a hospital gown.

HANCOCK

Cavell House Private Hospital at Rose Bay. That bastard said it was this or the first bloody ‘plane back to Blighty

………..to be continued

boy

2.BURIED  

(Warning – Strong Language and Adult Situations)

First Ten Pages of a Script

Episode One –  “The House of Tricks”.

BLACK SCREEN

FRAN (Voice over)
It’s sad when you get hurt so much that you can finally say,
‘I’m used to it’.

CAR ENGINE.

FADE IN:
EXT. STREET. 1966 – NIGHT
A DARK CAR cuts through the night like a shark.

INT. CAR. 1966 – NIGHT
Ribbed leather rear seat of an expensive car, probably a 1960s Rover.
Light from the occasional street lamp sweeps across the seat.
The car slows then stops, and a back-door opens.
The driver CLICKS the dial of the car radio, it sweeps through radio stations. It settles on something SOULFUL.
A CHILD, FRANKIE, his face is 14 years old, his eyes are ancient, slides onto the seat.
FRANKIE smiles over to someone, probably the driver. Then the usual terror makes his face adopt a grimace.
This kid has done all this, too many times, before.
Frankie closes the door.
The car drives off.
The street lights illuminate a thoughtful boy with a million things on his mind.

LATER
The car slows once more, and stops.
This time, DAN, 10 years of age and terrified, slips onto the seat next to Frankie.
Frankie doesn’t look at the kid, he just slides over.
Tears are forming on DAN’S FACE.
With both boys staring straight ahead, Frankie places his hand on top of Dan’s, then puts his fingers between Dan’s (as if to say, I’m here too).
SOMEONE outside the car, straightens Dan’s clothes, pats down Dan’s hair, and then closes the car door.
The CAR SPEEDS away.

INT. WESTMINSTER SQUARE. 1966 – NIGHT
Dan looking haunted out of the window of the car.
CAPTION: “LONDON – 1966”
The CAR drives around WESTMINSTER SQUARE.

EXT. GARAGE. 1966 – NIGHT
The CAR drives through the entrance of an UNDERGROUND PARKING AREA.

INT. GARAGE. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
The car stops beside several Bentleys, Rollers and Jaguars.
A LARGE BOUNCER TYPE – (we take it he’s the driver) – gets out and opens the door for the kids.
Frankie has done this all before, he knows the routine and where his place is in things.
The Bouncer waves to the boys to get out. Frankie stands beside the door – he looks back and sees Dan is sitting, petrified.

FRANKIE
Come on.

Dan still doesn’t want to leave the car.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)
I said, come on.

Frankie takes Dan’s hand and leads him out.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)
I’ll look after you.

Frankie means it.

DAN
I’m called D….

Frankie puts his hand over Dan’s mouth.

FRANKIE
Don’t tell me your name.

The two boys and the Bouncer walk across the garage to a private elevator.

INT. ELEVATOR. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
The lift doors open onto a sumptuous apartment.
This is a room full of MONEY and very little else. LUST has chased COMPASSION out of the door.
It is populated with the British establishment doing what they do best.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. LOUNGE. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
Cravings being satisfied in every corner.
Frankie and Dan are standing in the middle of the room as OLD MEN eye them up.
As Dan becomes more anxious, Frankie squeezes Dan’s hand tighter.
SOMEONE grabs Frankie by his neck and drags him off to a room.
Frankie struggles to look back at Dan. Frankie smiles at him.
Dan is upset after being separated from his protector. Dan is standing isolated in a room of predators.

DAN
Don’t let them take me. Please, someone help me. Please. My name is Dan! Help me!
SOME OF THE ROOM turn for a second, smile at the boy, then turn away.

DAN (CONT’D)
Dan! Da….

Dan starts to cry. AN ARM picks up Dan and lifts him off to a waiting room.
Dan tries to hold on to the door frame, but his little fingers just scrape the paint and he’s pulled into the bedroom.
JIMMY (25) is the man who is keeping an eye on the room. He is watching and you can tell his mind is never on deep conversations; he is superficial.
Jimmy is conversing with several men. The ‘MINISTER’ is in his forties and overweight.

JIMMY
As you can see, new talent comes in all the time.

MINISTER
Fresh, delectable meat.

The Minister licks his lips and the OTHER MEN, laugh.

JIMMY
I prefer to say ‘fresh talent’.

MINISTER
Whatever you say James. Your parties are always a triumph.

JIMMY
You flatter me.

The Minister stuffs extra money in Jimmy’s jacket pocket.

MINISTER
I’ve had one helluva day in the House, so let me see the bait.

JIMMY
If you gentlemen will follow me. (To a TOPLESS MUSCULAR MAN)
My friends’ glasses are empty.

Jimmy snaps his fingers. The muscular man fills glasses.
The Minister rubs his hands, then grabs the bottle from the muscular man.
The Minister pushes himself to the front of the men and enters the room where Dan has been taken.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. DAN’S BEDROOM. 1966 – NIGHT
A terrified Dan is tied to a bed and a LARGE MAN stands next to him. Dan’s mouth is silenced by tape.

MINISTER
Wonderful. Simply magnificent.

The Minister turns to the men.

MINISTER (CONT’D)
Gentlemen, behold the delicious quarry.

The Minister bends down beside Dan. He runs his finger over the scared boy’s hair, then lets his hand caress the boy’s face.

MINISTER (CONT’D)
Beautiful and fresh and ripe.

The Minister rips the tape from Dan’s mouth.

MINISTER (CONT’D)
I like to hear the whimpers – it makes me feel all warm inside.

The Minister looks at the men with him, and they all LAUGH.

The Minister puts his two fingers over the little boy’s mouth, who is about to say his name.

MINISTER
Shh, little one!

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. FRANKIE’S BEDROOM. 1966 – NIGHT
Frankie keeps looking back at the door, even although he is lying almost naked, face down on a bed.
The YOUNG MAN, who is surprisingly young (mid twenties), FORCES Frankie’s head to face forwards.
Frankie is ‘matter-of-fact’ about the process.
The Young Man is stripping off in the background.
The Young Man’s view of the naked Frankie lying face down on the bed.
The Young Man bends over and inspects a birth mark on Frankie’s lower back. From his accent and manner, this guy has been jettisoned out from a fifties’ public school.

YOUNG MAN
Interesting.

FRANKIE
What?

YOUNG MAN
That thing on your back.

The Young Man traces the mark with his fingers.

FRANKIE
The woman who delivered me was drunk.

YOUNG MAN
It rather looks like a strawberry. It’s…..pretty. Just like you.

The Young Man smiles to himself, then leans forward and kisses the birthmark.
The Young Man stands up.
The back view of the Young Man, naked. He has ROPES in his hand.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. LOUNGE. 1966 – MORNING
THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE. The sun is shining in the windows and bleaching away the debauchery of the previous evening.
The Rich and Famous have long since departed. They never spend the night in this type of place.
A TEENAGE BOY lies sleeping, half-naked on a sofa.
The CLEANER shakes the boy awake, who then starts to dress himself.
This is a business and everyone does their bit.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. FRANKIE’S BEDROOM. 1966- CONTINUOUS
Frankie is sitting on the edge of the bed. He looks terrible but then again, he’s survived another night.
Bed sheets are strewn around the room, whatever went on in this place was wild.
The Cleaner enters and tries to ignore the boy. The Cleaner knows better than to say anything, but he can’t help himself and hands the boy his sweater.

FRANKIE
Thanks.

CLEANER
That’s all right.

The Cleaner smiles and continues cleaning up.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. LOUNGE. 1966 – LATER
Frankie walks through the lounge and takes in the aftermath.
He heads for Dan’s Bedroom – he wants to make sure Dan is all right.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. DAN’S BEDROOM. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
The room is empty except for the stench of depravity. There is blood on the sheets. Dan didn’t give up easily.
Frankie RUNS from the room.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. BATHROOM. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
Frankie THROWS UP in the toilet. He probably does this every time.
Frankie has a gulp out of the water tap and then splashes his face.
Outside the bathroom, and reflected in the bathroom mirror, are TWO MEN (BIG MAN and FAT MAN) carrying a BODY wrapped in bed-clothes.
They continue into the lift.
The lift doors close.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. LOUNGE. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
Frankie sneaks out of the bathroom and decides not to follow them by using the lift.
Instead, he uses a STAIRWELL that he has obviously used before.

INT. THE HOUSE OF TRICKS. STAIRWELL. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
Frankie looks carefully over the edge of the bannister.
NOISES from the guys in the garage, below.
Frankie creeps down.

INT. GARAGE. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
BIG MAN and FAT MAN dump the body on the ground, like a piece of meat.
Big Man opens the boot of the car and both men throw the body in the boot.
The door is SLAMMED shut.

BIG MAN
I’m going for a piss. Make sure he don’t run.

Big Man exits smiling at his own joke.
Fat Man smirks. He goes around the vehicle and lights a cigarette.
Seeing that the coast is clear, Frankie crawls over to the back of the car.
Frankie carefully opens the car boot, a little.
Fat Man, smoking, thinks he hears something, but sees a RAT moving across the floor and pretends to shoot it with his fingers.
Frankie holds the boot while pulling the cover off of the body.
Frankie jumps back.
There is Dan’s battered little face staring back at him. COLD and DEAD. His mouth is taped up.
Frankie has let the car boot swing up. This spooks Fat Man.

Big Man takes a gun from his jacket. Frankie scuttles behind the other cars. Both men search under the them.

Frankie crawls under from one car to another, as one of the men tries to grab Frankie.

BIG MAN
Come out you little shit.

Fat Man’s arm is attempting to grab under the car at Frankie.
Frankie scuttles quickly from underneath one car to another.
Frankie’s POV of the men’s legs walking around the other direction.
Frankie pushes himself out and runs for a door. It opens. He stumbles as he’s running so fast, but he scrambles up.

INT/EXT. TUNNEL. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
Frankie runs along a tunnel. In the background, Big Man and Fat Man are entering.
The door at the other end of the tunnel is BLOCKED by a PILE OF RUBBISH on the outside.
Frankie keeps kicking at the door. The rubbish slides and the door opens – enough to let someone the size of Frankie squeeze through.

EXT. LANE. 1966 – CONTINUOUS
Frankie runs down a lane behind the buildings.
At the end of the lane is a HIGH STREET, full of PEOPLE. Frankie disappears into the crowd as Big Man and Fat Man reach the end of the lane.
Big Man and Fat Man split up to search. Inside the crowd is Frankie getting lost and running.
MUSIC  plays and continues over the start of the next scene.
Camera lifts up over London and into the big blue yonder. We travel over distance and time, landing in…

EXT. RUGBY PARK. FIELD. PRESENT – DAY
MEN GRUNTING.
CAPTION: “PRESENT DAY”
THE CRUNCH of a RUGBY SCRUM. We are in the middle of it all, the grunts and the sweat.
A REFEREE looks into the scrum, then blows his whistle.
The MATCH is OVER.
The BULKY MEN head to the clubhouse.
We are interested in FRANCIS (60s). This is an old man’s league and these are old men.
CHARLIE (60s) one of the players from the opposing team slaps Francis on the back.

CHARLIE
Played well, Fran…..considering.

INT. RUGBY PARK. SHOWERS. PRESENT – DAY
Francis is showering in among the usual banter. These are all MAN BEASTS who have played this sport to a good level, once upon a time.
Francis turns his back to us in order to wash. On Fran’s back is the strawberry birthmark we saw earlier. It might be older, and more tired, more wrinkled even , but it’s still the same one.

INT. RUGBY PARK. BAR. PRESENT – DAY
Charlie, from earlier, is at the bar, he brings over the TWO BEERS to the table, where Francis is sitting.

CHARLIE
Fran.

FRANCIS
God bless, Chaz. God bless you my friend.

Charlie sits down.

CHARLIE
Not enough to let us win, apparently.

FRANCIS
What can I say, the man upstairs supports Heaverbrook Over 60s. Always has.

CHARLIE
How’s life, anyway, you old scoundrel? How’s the family?

……..to be continued.

Dinosaurs-Cartoon-Style-Vector

3. FRANKIE & DINO

A couple of pages out of a script written for a US kids’ animation

EXT.DINOCAVE. DAY

DINO (pronounced Deeno) the young dinosaur is watching his

father (his hero), FRANKIE brushing his hair in the mirror.

Dad likes what he sees.

Next to the mirror is a photo of a dinosaur who resembles

Dean Martin.

FRANKIE

Did I ever tell you how your mom and I came to name you, Dino?

DINO

(to himself) Yes, dad it …

FRANKIE

It was after that great dinosaur

singer, Dean Martinsaurus.

FRANKIE gives the photo a polish while he starts to SING.

DINO covers his ears.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)

“When the moon hits your eye like

a Jurassic sky, that’s

Dinosauria”

With the singing over, DINO takes his paws away from his

ears.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)

Ain’t you excited? Heck! I know I am.Me and my son in our first

trek into…

(Frankie sings this bit)

“ta..ta. ta.ta..the Unknown

Forest”

FRANKIE looks at DINO.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)

Ain’t you even the slightest bit

excited?

DINO

Sure, dad but why do they call it

the Unknown Forest?

FRANKIE

It’s not the (Frankie uses rabbit

ears quotation marks with his

fingers) “Unknown Forest”. It’s

the

(Frankie starts to sing

this bit again)

“ta..ta. ta.ta..the Unknown

Forest”

DINO

But why, dad?

FRANKIE

Because, it’s unknown and it’s a

forest.

DINO

But fathers and sons go there

every year. Don’t they know it

even a little bit by now?

FRANKIE

Dino, it’s not good to ask too

many questions.

DINO

That’s not what my teacher says.

FRANKIE

She’s doesn’t know what she’s

talking about, she’s just a

Microraptor.

DINO

She’s smart.

FRANKIE

She’s small. Small raptor, small

brain.

DINO

She says you’re the smartest man

in Dinosauria.

FRANKIE

She said that?

DINO

Sure did, dad.

FRANKIE

You must introduce me next time.

FRANKIE looks back at the mirror and GROWLS at what he

sees.

FRANKIE (CONT’D)

You monster!

FRANKIE winks at his reflection.

INT.PATH ON THE WAY TO THE UNKNOWN FOREST

FRANKIE and DINO trudge on. 

 

DINO

Are we there yet?

FRANKIE

We’ve only just left.

DINO

So we’re not there yet?

FRANKIE

No. Patience, my son.

DINO

Are we there yet?

FRANKIE

Can’t you do something? What about Eye-Spy?

DINO

Dad, that is so last ice age.

FRANKIE

Well what about that thing you’re carrying?

DINO

Oh, okay dad.

DINO takes a large shell he’s been carrying and puts it to his ear. DINO seems pleased.

FRANKIE

So what is that thing?

DINO

It’s a SyPod, dad. You can hear the sea. All the kids have got one.

FRANKIE walks on totally amazed.

FRANKIE

What will they think of next? Jeez…
FRANKIE and DINO reach the edge of the Unknown Forest. 

There is a long QUEUE of DADS and KIDS.
As FRANKIE and DINO arrive at the back of the queue, the rest turn.

ALL

HI!  

DINO/FRANKIE 

Hi. 
HERBIE, the Unknown Forest guide, is walking down the queue selling stuff from a basket. 

HERBIE 

(to FRANKIE)

Map of the Unknown Forest?
FRANKIE looks at DINO who is looking back at his hero. 

FRANKIE

No thank you sir, we don’t need a map of the

(Frankie starts to sing

this bit again)

“ta..ta. ta.ta..the Unknown

Forest”

HERBIE

Whatever.

HERBIE starts to walk on, when DINO’s back is turned. 

FRANKIE whispers.

FRANKIE 

(whispering)

Can I have a map, just in case?

HERBIE

Hey I ain’t got all day, bud.

FRANKIE hands over the money and HERBIE hands him the map. 

DINO turns around. 

DINO

What’s that you got there, Dad?

FRANKIE hides the map behind his back.

FRANKIE

It’s a surprise.  

The Queue moves 

DINO

Is it a free pass to all the rides in Dinosauria?

FRANKIE

Nope. Now looky here, the queue’s moving. Let’s walk.

DINO

Is it a lifetime supply of DinoCola?

FRANKIE

Nope. Where do you get this stuff?

DINO sees it’s just a map. 

DINO

It’s just a map, Dad.

FRANKIE

It’s not just a map. There’s where you’re wrong.It’s a map

to (Frankie starts to sing

this bit again)

“ta..ta. ta.ta..the Unknown

Forest”

DINO

If you say so. (to himself) It’s not that unknown, then.
FRANKIE and DINO are now at the entrance to the Unknown Forest. AVOLONIA is there to greet and meet. 

AVOLONIA

Hi boys! Aren’t you two cuties.

FRANKIE

I like to think so.

AVOLONIA

So welcome to the  

(She sings

this bit)

“ta..ta. ta.ta..the Unknown

Forest”
FRANKIE looks at DINO with ‘I told you so’ expression.  

AVOLONIA

If you two boys could just shuffle over to the Father/Son Welcome Area,

little old me would be real grateful.

FRANKIE

Let’s go son into the….

DINO

I know, Dad. ‘Ta…ta…the unknown..’

 Excited FRANKIE is already way ahead.

bobby stevenson 2016

……..to be continued

bobby stevenson 2016

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If All Of This Were Up To Me

bobby

If all of this were up to me,

My gifts would be of other things,

The son to spend an afternoon

With a father long since gone,

The granddad seeing his offspring grow,

As his life goes on and on,

The children gone before their time,

Would come back home and ring the chime,

And chances lost would be our choice,

To try just one more time,

The girl whose births would fill a home,

A brother not a day alone,

The friend who’d never know the pain,

Of all that cancer brings,

If all of this were up to me,

Then these would be my things.

bobby stevenson 2015  photo: Me collecting tadpoles

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The Morning of the Day…..

morning-sunlight

She could feel the sun on her heart, as its rays broke through the window. There was a bird, a blackbird, singing in the old twisted trees. She heard the cyclists from the city, shouting to one another as their bikes sailed past her front door. The aroma of the freshly made coffee had skipped the stairs and had, instead, entered her room through a little opened window. There was a quiet tap as a Bee kept hitting on her glass pane, looking for somewhere new to live.

Then without warning, the heat started to bubble though her veins, and pumped her lips and brightened her eyes. No longer did her heart skip a beat, it was like an engine, blasting a way forward.

She had done with the dull days, and the rain, and the mist that had arrived with the darkness. She had done with avoiding mirrors and reflections. She was finished with treating herself as the enemy, and listening to the sourness of others: their paths were their problems, their responsibilities.

She sat up in bed, smiled for the first time in a long time, and decided it was the day to be happy again.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

The Disappearance of Esther

us1

The wind couldn’t decide which way it was going that day, neither could she. Esther had only just got herself the way she liked (the way the boys liked) when she stepped out through the door, and a gust of Sheeba desert sand blew in her eyes.

“Ma eyes, Mama, they’re stinging. They’re hurtin’ so bad.”
And then she flapped her hands like she was taking off. She felt it made her look lady-like.

But Mama wasn’t listening, her ears were tuned into some preacher telling the good folks of Wyoming County that they were all going to Hell, one way or another. And every time the preacher stopped to inhale, Esther’s Mama would let out a little ‘Praise Be’ – then she’d get on with making her nails look real pretty (the way the men folks liked).

It was one of those days in town when the wind finally settled on blowing from the East, sending the sand right into folks, doors, porches and lives. When that wind blew it only meant one thing, trouble was brewing for someone, somewhere in town.

I know what you’re thinking, this writer is a bit short on common sense, but I tell you from the bottom of my heart – when that wind blows, strange things happen to the good folks of Fort Brighton.

One autumn, back in those days when you could count on another person keeping to his word, the wind blew for three days without stopping. It tore at the woodwork, scraped the windows, and kept everyone inside. Wasn’t that the week that Esther’s uncle decided to shoot himself right in the head. Except that the sand jammed his pistol and he got so mad, that when the storm had died down, they had to take him off to a secure place just outside Richmond.

Esther was disappointed about the wind, since today was the day she had decided to strut up and down the sidewalk in order to attract a husband. It was her way of getting out from under her Mama’s roof. Her Mama had more time for Jesus, than she had for Esther (at least that’s what she told anyone who’d listen).

Esther pressed her nose to the window asking the wind god to tone it down a little, so that she could go outside and start her new life – but the wind god wasn’t listening. Still, it didn’t stop her looking and wishing (something all the kids did in town).

It was just after Esther’s Mama had said that she was going to lay a while in her room and could Esther listen to the words of the pastor – praise be – and tell her on her awakening about any important points he had made.

Esther was used to all this and making up terrible lies. She’d tell her Mama that the pastor had told folks to give their children a dime to keep them on the Lord’s road. So Esther’s Mama would give her a dime, just as the pastor had apparently said.

When the wind had died a little it was possible for Esther to see up the street as far as the livery building. That was when she saw the big, big car. Man, it was pretty and white. Wind or no wind, Esther decided that the car looked like money and with money came a possible husband. The radio pastor was telling the good folks that God was an angry God, but Esther couldn’t care less as she slammed the door behind her. Hard enough, so that it would waken her Mama.

Her eyes were streaming with tears by the time she got to the car but she still strutted and preened her way all the way up the sidewalk.

“Whatcha doing?” She asked the man (in a way that she knew men liked).
“Well howdee little lady,” he said, as he took his hat off. “I’m getting this good man here to fix my tire. It got hit by a rock out there in that unkindly desert of yours.”

Esther bent over the car hood pulling up her dress (the way she knew men liked).

“Well ain’t you the pretty one,” said the man.

When her eyes stopped hurting, she saw that he was probably old (over twenty-five, for sure) but still, he was well dressed and definitely had money (praise be).

Yeah, he would take her to as far as the next town if that was what she was looking for. She giggled (just like her Mama did to the man who came for the rent when she had no money). She flapped her sand-stinging eyes at him and she was sure he was taking it all in. No wedding ring (could have taken it off – a lot of these travel business folks did) – so what if he was, she’d get what she could out of him and then move on.

As they headed out-of-town, the sand and wind just seemed to keep on blowing but Esther didn’t care, she was free from Mama. The man’s automobile had a big Bakelite radio, ‘well, I do declare’ – she had uttered on seeing it, because she’d heard it in a movie once.

The only station he could get on the radio was the one with the pastor, who was telling folks that Hell was a lot closer than you might think.

Esther didn’t notice the man smile to himself in the mirror when he thought of what he was going to do that night, and where he was going to hide the body.

bobby stevenson 2015

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A Christmas Walk

andrewroland

He had always lived in the city. His parents had met there, and his brothers and sisters had been born there.

Sometimes they’d visit the countryside, but it would always be on a blue-sky day. This led Andy to believe that the city was mostly a dark and wet place and it was the land beyond where the sun always warmed the land.

He’d dreamt of his father again, meaning the he had woken at 3.20am in a pool of sweat. Each time that he saw his father, he would bend down to tell his son that everything was all right and that he was good and not to worry.  The first few times it had happened he’d mentioned it to his mother, but it caused her so much pain that he stopped talking about his dreams.

His father had worked in the city. Every morning he would cycle to the railway station, take the express into the centre, and then cycle to his office. Then on the dark unforgiving Wednesday a large truck had cut across his path. The driver hadn’t seen him, in fact he couldn’t see him, and the truck hit Andy’s father.

Andy remembers his teacher standing at the classroom door, she had just been talking with the school secretary. She turned and looked straight at Andy. Straight into his eyes – straight into his soul. One human being locking hearts with another.

There was a sharp pain in his heart which told him it wasn’t good news.

At the funeral, several of his uncles and family friends slapped him on the back and told him that at thirteen years of age, he was the man of the house now. Andy had no idea what they meant.

His dad’s sister, aunt Alice, had rented a house for Christmas. It was up in the hills to the west of London, and everyone was going to be there; his grandparents, his own family and most of his uncles and aunts.

“It’s what the family needs at a time like this,” his grandmother had said. “The first Christmas without my boy”.

It had started snowing on the evening of the Wednesday before. They left very early on the Thursday morning, to ensure they all made it to the house before the snow got heavy. Christmas was not until the Saturday but everyone wanted to get snuggled into the house before the big day.

The place was perfect and aunt Alice had chosen well. Andy had to share a bedroom with one of his brothers and one of his cousins, but if he was being honest it felt comfortable. Andy felt a warmth in his heart that he hadn’t felt for a very long time.

Everyone mucked in with the Christmas dinner. The family had decided to hand out the presents after they had eaten and after they could then all sit down in front of the big log fire.

Andy had saved his money and given his mother a small picture frame in which he had placed a photo of his father. She had beamed the biggest smile towards him when she’d opened his present.

Andy got books and games, and a welcomed new phone. He knew he was lucky – luckier than most people. But still.

After the Christmas lunch, he decided to go for a walk along the trail that led out of the village. It was a beautiful day and the blue sky and fresh air seemed to cut into his lungs.

Since he was going outdoors, he had been given the task of taking the three family dogs for a spot of walking. They all needed it, given what they had just eaten.

Andy wasn’t alone on the path and decided to keep the dogs on their leads in case they chased the man in front.

For the first time in a long time, Andy felt a little contentment, inside. The pain had gone for a few hours and he felt like his old self.

Sherlock, the oldest of the dogs, gave a bark which brought Andy back to the here and now. The man up ahead had dropped a small dark object and the dogs thought it was something to chase.

Andy ran ahead and picked it up. It was a small box, and inside was a little medal. There was an engraving on the back which read ‘To the greatest. Saint Andrew’s University – 1998’.

Andy felt that the man would not want to lose this and as he shouted on him, the man turned a corner behind a bush. Andy set the dogs free to see if they might catch up with the stranger but when they all got to the corner, the man was gone.

Andy slipped the medal back in the box and put it in his trousers.

It was the following day that it happened. His mother was washing some of their holiday clothes and, as usual, had to empty Andy’s trouser pockets. She had found the little box.

“Andy! Andy!”

Andy ran to the utility room.

“Where did you get this?” She asked her son. Andy told her the story and that was when she almost fainted. Andy had to get her a chair to sit on.

“Every year just before the Christmas break, me, your father and the rest of the students would have a cycle race from our rooms to a pub in the centre of Saint Andrew’s. Whoever got there first was given a medal and whoever was last – bought a round of drinks. Your father, with me on the cross-bars, won that race in 1998. He had it with him the day of his accident and although I searched through his clothes I couldn’t find it. What did the man look like?” Asked his mother.

“Just a man,” said Andy. “Just a man”.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

photo:  Christmas in the Cotswolds – Andrew Roland

 

Santa is a Weirdo

Funky-SantaSometimes you just do and sometimes it ain’t happening; and that pretty much explains my life and everyone I know. I honest to goodness don’t remember what started it all off – I honestly don’t, I swear on the biggest stack of comics – I just remember my ma telling me I wasn’t getting a bicycle for Christmas, ‘cause Santa couldn’t get it down the chimney. I remember saying couldn’t he just bring it in the front door and she told me to go to my room. I mean what kind of weirdo only wants to go down peoples’ chimneys. I shouted kinda crazy like through the bedroom door about what happens when a kid ain’t got a chimney but my ma just turned the radio up in the kitchen and didn’t say nothing.

Not I ain’t a moody kid but sometimes life gets me down, or maybe it’s just that there’s one good man in the world, Santa and even he’s not quite right in the head. I’m just sayin’.

So that was when I made a plan to go and see Santa and tell him to stop going up and down peoples’ chimneys like it was the most normal thing in the world – ‘cause it ain’t and I was gonna tell him plainly. I mean if I went up and down like that – folks would call the cops but ‘cause he wears a big red suit folks think it’s cute.

I got my bestest bag from the closet and packed a pair of socks ( I might be away for a long time and I might need to change them), my toothbrush and my comics. I think that kinda stuff would get anyone through a long time away from home. I stuck some candy bars in too, just in case I got hungry.

When I asked the man at the bus station for a ticket to the North Pole, he just told me to step aside and he served the next person. What kinda person does that to a kid? I ask you.

Anyway (and I ain’t proud of what I did next) I sneaked on the bus that was going to the big city – it was kinda easy ‘cause I just hid behind the biggest, fattest man I ever did see and the driver never noticed me – he musta thought I was just another bit of the fat man.

Man it took a long time to get to the big city. I ain’t lyin’ when I tell you that. It was so long that I had eaten all my candy bars by the time we arrived. I looked and looked around the bus station for one goin’ to the North Pole but I couldn’t see nothin’. I wasn’t gonna go through that ‘stand aside and let the next customer come forward’ stuff again, so I decided to go for a walk and think about things. I tell you, it helps real good to take a walk now and again when you’re tryin’ to fix things in your head. More kids should do it and school would be a better place – I kid you not.

Then it happened, Santa wasn’t in the North Pole, he was actually standing on the corner of Hoover street and Lansdale Avenue. Now I ain’t gonna kid you. He was just standin’ there lookin’ real shifty and (get this) smokin’ a pipe. When I went up to him and said I wanted to complain about somethin’ – he just said out of the side of his mouth ‘beat it kid’ – I’m tellin’ you that’s what he said, ‘beat it kid’. Just then the cops tried to arrest him and Santa and his table with playin’ cards on top – all folded up real quick and he ran away.

So you see I am right – Santa is a weirdo. Anyhoo, the cops asked where I was going and I said it didn’t matter anymore ‘cause I had told Santa what I wanted to tell him. And the cops? Well they gave me a ride back home in the cop car. Guess that’s what I’m gonna be when I grows up. Or maybe a pirate – ain’t sure yet.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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