Time Flies

friends

One morning when Olivia was still half asleep, she heard her Grandma talking to her Grandpa all about things that fly. At least she thought that was what they were talking about because the last thing she heard her Grandpa say was…

“…It’s funny how time flies.”

Then Grandpa headed out the door hollerin’ and laughin’ to himself, so hard that he was sneezing all the way down the path.

“Serves the old goat right,” said Grandma.

“It sure does,” said Olivia without any real idea what she was talking about.

Olivia had made a note to herself that when she got to school she’d ask her teacher about Time and why it flew about the place. However she didn’t reckon on meeting with Smiling Joe, first. This was the boy who knew everything about everything and all the rest there was to know.

“Can I walk with you to school, Missy?” Asked Joe.

“Sure,” said Olivia, who secretly liked Joe. “What cha been doing?”

“Down the creek, Missy, trying to catch me a big old fella’ by the name of Captain.”

As well as knowing everything about everything, Joe was also the best fisherman this side of the Hill. Well, that was according to Joe, at least.

Olivia looked around but couldn’t see any fish.

“Heck, I’m savin’ catchin’ the Captain for another day.” Then Joe whistled a little tune that Olivia liked and they walked on to school together.

“Joe, can I ask you a question?” Asked Olivia.

“If I don’t know the answer then it ain’t worth knowing,” said Joe, kinda confidently.

So Olivia asked him if Time really did fly and Joe told her that it surely did and if you sat on the Old Creek Road, the one that led out-of-town……

“….And were real patient, then eventually you’d see Time flying passed you real fast.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

Olivia was pleased with that answer and started to whistle Joe’s little tune as they walked on to school together.The end of the week couldn’t come fast enough for Olivia and so, on Saturday around lunchtime, she headed down to the Old Creek Road and sat down and waited on Time flying passed her.

An hour passed, except it seemed like forever to Olivia – when suddenly Herbert, the dog from Asker’s Farm, came wandering along the road.

“What cha doing?” Asked Herbert.

“Ain’t it obvious, I’m waiting on Time flying passed,” said a very important Olivia.

“You are? It does?” Asked a bewildered Herbert. “Then mind if I wait too?”

“Don’t mind if you do,” said Olivia.

So Herbert sat beside Olivia, really excited about the arrival of Time.
While they were waiting, Herbert and Olivia talked about this and that, for Olivia knew a lot about this and that. They were having a real good time when Scrimpy The Ass, from the next town over, also happened to be walking passed.

“What cha doing?” Asked Scrimpy The Ass.

“Why we’re waiting on Time flying passed.”

“Well I never,” exclaimed Scrimpy. “Mind if I join you guys?”

And both Olivia and Herbert said they’d be delighted if Scrimpy joined them. So Scrimpy sat down and waited.

The whole time the three of them were talking about this and that, since it seemed Scrimpy was quite knowledgeable about this and that as well.

The afternoon grew old and it was time to go home, and since Olivia had such a great time with her new pals, Herbert and Scrimpy, she’d forgotten about waiting for Time to fly.

“Perhaps we can do this again next Saturday?” Asked Herbert.

And they all agreed that it sounded like a great plan and so that is what they did.

 

bobby stevenson 2015

 

 

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Waving At Trains

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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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Shoreham, Christmas, 1944

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There is a village, Shoreham, in the south-east of England which stands alone in many ways. None more so than during the years of World War 2 when every building sustained some bomb damage. In this little hamlet, the folks were, and are, made of stouter stuff and for every injury inflicted on the village, the hearts and minds of the villagers came back twice as strong.

I have to say that the place which I write of, is nestled in hills below the metropolis that is London, and like a little brother standing under the protection of an older one, sometimes the punches thrown at the city also landed on the village.

The village had waved farewell to many souls over the war years, and some of those had not returned, some would never return, and some saw the village through sadder hearts and eyes. Some would never speak of what they had seen, except to nod to a fellow soldier on the way to church on a Sunday morning, and in that nod they knew what each was thinking. In their minds there was no point in fighting a war for freedom then burdening loved ones with stories of hate and guilt.

In the month of December 1944, the inmates of this little village were beginning to tire of the constant war and had decided to hold a Christmas party in the village hall. Food was rationed, but the fields and gardens of the hamlet had been used to grow some treats for such a party. Each of the villagers sacrificed a little food here and there and a local farmer donated two chickens to the affair.

There was talk and hope in everyone’s hearts that this would be the final Christmas they spent at war. The enemy was beginning to withdraw from all areas of Europe and there was a feeling that the end would be coming soon.

The men of the village were few and far between, and so one of the older residents Old Harry, who had been to two wars in his day, was chosen to be Father Christmas.

Residents had made gifts from all sorts of scraps of material, wood, dried flowers, and even old presents no longer needed. It was the children who were important and it was for the children for which the toys and gifts were made.

That afternoon, the afternoon of the party in the village hall, a little flurry of snow started to fall. The Cross on the hill, which had been covered over for the period of the war, could be seen in outline as the snow rested on it.

The children were given one sweet each and as they excitedly sucked on them, they sat in a well-behaved line waiting on Santa. Old Harry was meant to arrive at 2pm but by 2.15 there was still no sign of him. Gladys, who had taken it upon herself to organise the party (it kept her mind off her son who had been taken prisoner in the Far East) decided to send Edith to fetch Old Harry as she didn’t want the children to be disappointed.

The snow was beginning to fall heavily and the village sky grew darker. Soon the warden would be doing his rounds and expecting the village black-out curtains to be pulled tight shut.

At 2.30pm there was still no sign of Santa, and Gladys wondered if perhaps she could get away with dressing up as Santa, herself.

Just then Santa arrived in the village hall, covered in snow and with a bag full of colourful presents. One by one the children sat on Santa’s knee and told him what they wanted for Christmas. Nearly all of them said the same thing: they wanted their daddy, or brother, or mother to return home for Christmas day.

Each child took a toy, and each child seemed to enjoy what they had been given.

At 3.10pm, Santa said goodbye and told the children that he’d parked his sleigh up by the Cross and that his reindeer would be missing him. Gladys made a little speech and the children were all made to say ‘thank you, Santa’ – even although they were more interested in their gifts.

At 4pm, Gladys had just finished tidying up the hall, when Edith came running in. She said she was sorry about what had happened, that she had got no answer from Old Harry’s house and she had asked the local constable to break in.

It seems that Harry had died in his sleep and was stone cold by the time they found him. Edith asked if the children were disappointed, and Gladys said that Harry had shown up and given out the gifts.

“You mean these one?” Asked Edith.

Sure enough, the presents they had made for the children were still lying in the baskets at the back of the hall.

bobby stevenson 2017

photo: http://www.artistsoncards.com/Complete-Card-Range/Landscapes-By-Country/UK/Shoreham-Valley-Kent.Html

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The Ballad of Square Peg

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Peg was the happiest of happy little girls
She beamed and smiled all day long and
Everything was good in Peg’s life except
That she was Square Peg and she lived
In the town of Round Holes

Now the town was a beautiful little place
At the foot of a mountain and anyone would be
Lucky to live there, except Peg found that
Being square didn’t fit well in Round Holes

Everything was built and ordered for the round ones and
Peg couldn’t fit in anywhere
She cut corners to try to fit in
But it hurt her more than she cared to let on

So she found that keeping to herself
And avoiding most things that were round, was the way forward

One day she walked out-of-town just to be herself again
And there she met Square Andy and Square Jane having a
Square dance and she joined in and for the first time
In her life she felt truly at peace

Peg ran all the way back to town and decided that she would
Dig a square hole in the middle of town and invite everyone
To come and see

Some thought it was the end of the world, others thought it
Wrong and blamed all the troubles that befell the place on
The fact that there was a square in the middle of the town

But Square Peg realised that a town was only really happy when
Everyone had a place to feel at home and that the people
Of Round Holes only thought they were happy because they were
Going around in circles

And even although it wasn’t easy, Peg stayed where she was
And soon the place eventually became known as the Town of
Round Holes with the Square in the middle of it all.

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Empire Cafe, Soho

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As a haven for the unloved, the eccentric and the lost,  the Empire Cafe was perfectly situated in a little corner of Soho. It also prided itself as a home for those on their way up and a passing place for those on the way down.

It had been known over the years by several different names, some of which you most definitely would have read about, but its charm was in the fact that it had served coffee, and later tea, from the same premises for over three hundred years. There is a signature carved into the wood that suggests Benjamin Franklin had happily visited the place and it is known that Samuel Pepys mentioned the Cafe in his diaries.

If you’ve ever been to London and drifted around that part of town then I know you must have passed it. Perhaps you drank in it and were unaware of where you were. Perhaps you hadn’t seen the Cafe because you were looking up at some other building or maybe you had just been checking your appearance in the reflection of the Cafe’s window; but the place is there, I promise you.

One sunny afternoon, just after I returned home from a bad war in North Africa, I walked through its doors and never really left. I sometimes feel the place had been waiting on me.

It was run by Mister Chestnut and he was never referred to as Andrew Chestnut, or even Andy. He was just Mister Chestnut, plain and simple, and when he and his Father both ran the place, then he was simply known as Junior.

In the mid 1700s, it was rumoured that the Hellfire Club met in secret at the coffee shop and that one night it was lost on the turn of a card. One of Mister Chestnut’s ancestors was asked to hold on to the property until the rightful owner came to claim it. He never did, and there was talk that the owner had been killed in a duel. So through this one act of God, the Chestnuts became part of the Soho establishment.

I was taken on in 1946 as chief dishwasher and toilet cleaner and I loved it, every grimy second of it. Those who used the place were a who’s who of all the movers and shakers of their day. In the late evening, when we closed up shop and over a hot cup of Java, my employer would tell me stories of the past, those he had witnessed and those he had been told about by his Father and his Grandfather; all the wonderfulness that had been passed down through the family.

Regardless of claims by other establishments and by other people, Grandfather Chestnut swore that he had watched Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels spend most of their days in the corner table furthest from the door, writing the Communist Manifesto.

“Always with the one coffee between them” his Grandfather had told him, “one coffee for the whole day”, he added, then he would let out an eruption of a laugh.

Mister Chestnut told me of  the “saddest man who ever walked through those doors”.

“Must have been February, yes it was, it was February..”

“What year?” I asked him.

“Let me think. 1895, as sure as eggs is eggs, ‘cause it was just after my fourteenth birthday. In he came, all broken. He sat down over there and I asked him if he wanted something to drink. ’Hemlock, dear boy, hemlock’ . I asked my Father for hemlock and he clipped me around the ear. ’Don’t be so bleeding stupid’ said my Father, ‘You must have misheard him.’ So I walked back towards the table when I spotted that he was sitting with a young man, older than me but younger than him and get this, they were holding hands. The young man read from a card that the older man has passed to him ’For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite – Good God Oscar, my father can’t even spell. The ignorant beast.’

“I only saw the older man once again when he came in a few weeks later. He had aged so much in that short time, and as he sat down all the rest of the people in the cafe got up and left. Apparently he went to prison  not long afterwards.”

“But there was a more curious one than that” said Mister Chestnut, “just let me put on another pot of coffee as I think you may need it.”

When the coffee had been brewed and we were both sitting comfortably once more, the storyteller continued.

“He was a little man, spoke with a German accent. Now I know what you are thinking young man, you are saying to yourself that the description would fit many people. And you would be correct to make that assumption, except I remember him for something he said. He shouted at me that I was to bring him a coffee and that is what I did. As I approached the table I could hear him laughing, so I smiled back at him. A happy customer is a returning customer and I was just about to tell him to recommend us to all his friends when I saw what he was so happy about, on a newspaper sitting on his table were the headlines ‘Over fifteen hundred sank to death with giant White Star steamer Titanic’. “Bloody rich Jews” he said, “best place for them”

“To say I was shocked, disgusted even, that a man like this could say such evil things about other human beings. I was about to ask him to leave when a second man came in, his brother Alois, I had seen him in the cafe before. If I remember correctly, he and his brother Adolf had lived in Liverpool for a while to avoid conscription to the Austrian Army.”

“Not Adolf Hitler?”I asked.

“The very same.” Came his reply.

Mister Chestnut kept me on for most of ’46 and ’47 washing and cleaning until one day he took me into his office. I had been there for two years and this was my first visit to the inner sanctum. It smelt of liquorice and tobacco and looked as if it was decorated for a fortune-teller rather than a cafe manager.

“I want to promote you, my boy. Enrique is old and leaving at the end of the month and I will need a waiter. Of course it will mean more money for you and also the Olympics will be here soon. I will need a much younger man to deal with all our visitors and friends.”

So that was that, I had a few more shillings in my pockets and no more cleaning of the toilets. I handed over my brushes to the new boy, donned my waiter’s apron and started whistling.

He was correct, was Mister Chestnut, the year of the Olympics was the busiest I could remember.We worked every day from sunrise to almost sunrise the following day. Naps had to be taken, when and where we could find the time. There was a little store-room out the back where I managed to take forty winks now and again.

I remember one night I had just splashed water on my face to waken me up when this very distinguished gentleman entered with a young blond girl in tow. The two of them asked for the quietest table, which was always the one at the back next to the toilets. Now I tell you this dear friends, I will go to my grave believing that it was the Queen’s husband whom I served that night and the blond woman was not his wife. This is not the place to tell such a story since he is not able to defend himself but I promise you – if it was not Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh then I will eat my hat. I looked over at Mister Chestnut and I know he recognised the man because he put his finger to his lips to warn me to say nothing.

On Christmas Eve 1950 I asked Maria, the most beautiful girl who worked in the restaurant next door, to marry me. She accepted and we got married in the New Year holding the reception at the Empire Cafe. We invited all the regulars. It was a night I shall never forget.

One day in 1951, Mister Chestnut took me into his office for only the second time and told me that it was all mine. “The time has come – you have a family to consider” he said “I will be seventy this year and enough is enough.” There was no son to pass his business on to, “God’s will”, he would say. So he considered me the nearest thing he had to a son and the Cafe was to be my inheritance. He slapped the keys in the palm of my hand, put on his big overcoat and never crossed the threshold again.

My neighbours were actors, jazz musicians and more recently Chinese. After Limehouse had been bombed in the war, the Chinese had begun to move into Gerard Street and the areas surrounding it. This brought with them, the Chinese gangsters – as if there weren’t enough British ones in Soho.

Talking of gangsters, the first time I saw one of the Kray brothers he was sitting having a coffee, minding his own business when the coppers  rushed in and dragged him out of my cafe. He had apparently deserted from national service in the army for the fourth time.

What I also remember about the Fifties was the music. Now there are some who will tell you that the birth of British Rock and Roll started in the 2I’s coffee bar in Old Compton Street, but I say it was at the Empire Cafe. On Saturday nights we would have Tommy Steele, Wee Willie Harris, Cliff Richard and Hank Marvin. The Cafe was always crowded at weekends, so much so that some of those that couldn’t get in, moved to the 2I’s, which was a bigger venue. Perhaps that is why they claim to be the birthplace but I know the truth, we were first.

As for the gangs, the Krays had always stayed up east and the Richardsons to the south of the river. One night the Kray twins came in and took a table from a couple who were already sitting at it. The boyfriend got up to challenge them and Reggie Kray slapped the boy and threw him and his girlfriend through the door. I was about to say something  when Ronnie Kray told me that if I knew what was good for me, I would get them coffees and leave them alone.

I learned that night, if you wanted to stay in business in Soho then you had to see nothing and say even less.

Luckily my wife, Maria, didn’t see any of this as she was now at home looking after our two sons, James and Robert. I have a photo on the Cafe wall of  James with Bobby Moore when he and his wife came to the Cafe just before he flew to Mexico for the World Cup.

As the Sixties turned into the Seventies, Robert began to take on more of the responsibility for running the cafe. James had decided to work in computers and had joined an IT company over in Putney. He and his wife moved into a flat in Chelsea and very rarely ventured into the West End.

In 1976 I became a grandfather for the very first time and Maria suggested that I took more of a back seat in the business. We stayed in Dulwich for a while but I still insisted on visiting the Cafe three or four times a week.

In 1980 we moved to Deal by the sea; it was  Maria’s idea and was probably helped by Robert who may have felt that I was interfering too much in his business.

There are so many stories about the Empire Cafe that I want to tell you. Ones concerning prime ministers and princesses, rich men and poor women,  writers and painters, musicians and kings. All of them true and all of them from the Empire Cafe.

I will, one day, I promise.

I am well into my eighties now and the Cafe is run by Robert’s own daughters and sons. It’s been years since I last laid eyes on the place, but if you happen to be passing then why don’t you pop in for a coffee and ask them for a story?

Tell them I sent you.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

shoreham rose

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Can’t Stop This Gun From Crying

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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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One Day When You Least Expect It

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The stand-up and be glorious thing about it is:

You’ll never know when or how it happens,

Never know what effect you’ve had,

Or who you’ve saved.

It might be the smile to a passing stranger,

Who was on their way to shout at someone –

A someone who would have driven home in an anger,

And didn’t see the person they knocked over.

Or a face on a train,

The one who was going to get off at the next lonely station

And jump.

But you helped them with their coat, or hat, or bag,

And they saw a warmth in life again.

Perhaps you held the door open for a soul who then

Held the door open for a stranger, who changed their mind,

About pulling the trigger.

One day, when you least expect it,

You will change the world,

And you will probably never, even know.

 

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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Once in a Blue Moon

moon

Strange things happen to nice people.

There I’ve said it, but it don’t make it any less true, friends. I ain’t gonna argue here and now about how you measure niceness and all, you’re just gonna have to take my hand-on-my-heart word on that point. You see, me and my pals, sure are the nicest people to walk this part of Bucks County – maybe even further, but heck, if it just don’t stop things happening.

I guess the first kookiest thing to happen was when my grandmother lost that precious ring, the one that my grand pappy had given to her on the day she said yes to marrying him. Charlie (that’s my best friend) just turned to her and said, you’ll find it under that old leather chair your cat uses as a bed. And you know what? That was where it was. Well I’ll be, I kept saying to myself that day, well if that ain’t the darndest thing.

My first thought was that Charlie had put it there himself, on account he was always up to something or other. But then, as Charlie said himself, he’d never been up to that part of my grandmother’s house that held the cat’s chair. I don’t think he was lying, friends, I surely don’t. I guess Charlie had always been the weird one – well, weirder than the rest of us – which is a long way away from what folks call normal in these parts.

Charlie used to go by the name of Kenzo, The Magician when he was knee-high to a real magician. Used to put on shows for us kids, even convinced us that he could make birds appear out of the air. Then one day, Danny, Charlie’s young cousin from his pop’s family, bust a finger when a brick fell on it. That finger couldn’t make up its mind which way it was pointing. Then Charlie took his cousin’s hand and placed it between his own hands. Danny said he felt real warm and when Charlie took his hands away, the finger was pointing the way it was meant to. I kid you not, friends. It was pointing as straight as the day is long.

Somewhere, at the back of my mind, I’m thinking the two of them had conjured this up between them (‘scuse my words) but that night, Charlie swore on my life that he didn’t do nothing sneaky. The look in my pal’s eyes made me know he wasn’t lying.

One day, not long after my birthday, I was playing in the yard with the hamster that my folks had given me. I can’t really remember what happened, but my mom called me for something and I turned to ask her what she wanted when Geronimo (the hamster) kinda made an escape right into the middle of the street. It was just as Mister Feeling’s horseless carriage was put-put-putting along (with Mister Feeling singing a really loud song from Don Giovanni) that he ran over my hamster.

I think it was my screaming that brought Charlie running – I must have been loud to hear it over Mister Feeling.

“What’s happened little brother,” that’s what Charlie always called me, on account that I was shorter than him.
“He’s killed Geronimo,’ I screamed.

Charlie went over to the flattened hamster and picked him up.
“No he ain’t, lookie here little brother.”

Sure enough, Geronimo was running up and down Charlie’s arm and nibbling his ear like he was at the peak of his life.
“I musta been mistaken,” I said to my pal.
“No you weren’t,” said Charlie, and he wandered off whistling to himself.

These strange things kept happening – but far enough apart that no one ever really joined the dots. I guess when folks would talk about Charlie behind his back, I would get real annoyed and punch anyone who said my bestest pal was weird. He ain’t weird I told them. My mom told me that folks like Charlie only come along once in a blue moon.

When we’d finished schooling for ever, I went off to learn how to be an artist and Charlie joined the army as a doctor or something. Apart from a postcard here and there, we kinda lost touch.

Then one day, not long after my dad started talking strange like, talking about things and people who weren’t there, Charlie turned up at the door.

“I’ve come to fix things,” he said and walked straight in the house without a hello or anything.
“Where’s Henry?” That was my dad’s name.
“He’s sick,” I said.
“I know he’s sick, I’ve come to help him.”

I told Charlie that my dad was in the back bedroom and that Charlie wasn’t to be alarmed. You see, my dad kinda liked to be by himself and be with the folks he said were in the room. I couldn’t ever see any of them.

“Just ‘cause he sees them, don’t mean they’re there. And just ‘cause you can’t, don’t mean they aren’t,” then Charlie started his whistling again, as if he knew something I didn’t. That wouldn’t have been difficult.

“We are such things as memories, that is all we are,” exclaimed Charlie. I asked him if it was Shakespeare who had said that, and he said it was him then continued whistling.

I remember my grand pappy had said that Charlie was an ‘enigma’, which I thought was a monster like a vampire or something. But when I looked it up in the book of words, it said that Charlie was the kinda friend that no one could work out. Those were the kinda friends that I liked.

When Charlie came back down from my dad’s room, he just said that everything was fixed, that he’d meet me tomorrow on Main Street at three.
“Don’t be late.”

As Charlie closed the front door behind him, my father was standing
at the kitchen door, scratching himself.

“I could eat a horse,” that was what he said and he whistled the same tune that Charlie whistled, then my dad went in and cooked the biggest steak in the world. My dad never talked of people I couldn’t see, again.

Charlie never got real famous for anything, but folks eventually talked about him in friendly terms. Whenever someone had an illness or a doctor gave them little time to live, people would call on Charlie and sometimes things would get better and sometimes they wouldn’t.

“I guess the universe ain’t taking ‘no’ for an answer this time,” he’d say.

On the day that Charlie died, the whole town showed up. I was picked to say a few things about my pal, the enigma, but first I got the whole congregation to whistle Charlie’s tune (he would have liked that), even the reverend had to smile. On his gravestone I had them carve the words:
‘CHARLIE TURNER – ONCE, IN A BLUE MOON’.

I reckon he would have liked that, too.

 

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Amazing Grace

old-woman

It’s funny how no one talks about Amazing Grace anymore. I guess she’s been gone a long time. I guess if you didn’t forget about people then we’d still be talking about folks who lived in caves. They say you die twice, once when your heart stops and the second time when the last person mentions your name.

That happens to everyone, I guess, even William Shakespeare will be forgotten one day.

But Amazing Grace, or just Grace as she was known back in the days when they were still dropping bombs on my Grandma’s house – she was the kindest lady I ever did meet. When things got you down or didn’t make much sense, Grace would just sit you down with a glass of lemonade and straighten out all those things that were knotted or wrinkled in your head and just as quick things would make sense again.

My Granddaddy passed away when I was ten years old and one night I was sitting on the back porch looking up at the sky to see if I could see as far as heaven. I was eating a carrot because my Ma said that they were good for your eyes and if you ate enough then I reckoned I could see as far as Heaven (although I’m not too sure how far it is away). My Granddaddy always said nothing was worth travelling for, if it was more than two days drive away. So I’m guessing Heaven is only two days by car (assuming you can drive a car in the sky, that is). Anyway, in between munching my carrot and staring at the sky, Amazing Grace came and sat beside me – she had a way of making you feel better by just by being there.

“What cha doing?” She asked.

“Just staring,” I said (as if it wasn’t obvious).

“At what?”

“At Heaven.”

“Can you see it?”

“Sure can,” I said not quite telling the truth.

“Are you trying to see someone in par-tic-cu-lar?”

“Yep, my granddaddy.”

Then Amazing Grace tells me that he was a good man. I told her that I knew that already but I was missing him.

I asked her why people died and she just looked at me in that Amazing Grace way that she had.

“You’re hurting – right?” Asked Grace.

I nodded ‘cause she was on the button with that.She told me life was just like a big bus where we all get on at different stops and off at different stops. And in between we talk and love and argue and smile and fight and talk some more.

“Now you’re sad ‘cause your Granddaddy got off at a different stop from you?”

Again I nodded my head.

“And it hurts?”

I nodded, once more.

“And if you didn’t feel sad or even happy at some time in your life, then you’d never know how the other folks on the bus were feeling. We hurt so that we can help others – that way we know how they’re feeling and we also hurt because we have to say goodbye at times. It’s no one’s fault. It’s the rules of the bus and we have to live by them.”

She looked at me with those big Amazing Grace eyes.

“So you see, we hurt and cry and laugh and smile because it’s the only way we can know what’s going on in another’s heart. That’s what makes us all one. Some are happy on a par-tic-cu-lar day and some are sad on the same day and those who are happy have already been sad and know how it feels. So they help the sad ones to be happy again. If we didn’t feel things how could we understand anyone else?”

Then she stood.

“I’ll leave you with those thoughts, precious.”

And she gently moved on down the street.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

painting ‘Old Woman With Toad’ by Judy Somerville.

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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 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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Martha’s Room

edward-hopper

(for my mother)

Martha had a room, one that she would refer to as a ‘spare room’. Not that the size of her house allowed for such extravagances – she had a kitchen, a little area to sit, a small toilet at the rear of her house, and a little bedroom upstairs. Next to that was Martha’s spare room.

When she and Ted first got married, it had been kept ready for a little child. Ted told his wife that he ‘wanted’ two sons and two daughters, Martha said she would be content with a happy, healthy child.

Ted had painted the walls of the room with characters from books – he had done all this himself in the hope that one day his own child would look up from a cot and smile at the paintings.

In the first two summers of their married lives and with no blessing of a son or daughter, Ted put some of his old books in the room. Martha was understandably upset but like Ted said, there was nowhere else for them to go.

The years drifted by and no child was gifted to the couple. Then one quiet May morning, Ted went into the spare room and noticed all the junk covering the walls and floor. He also noticed, sadly, that all the characters he had painted had faded in the sunlight.

“There ain’t no child coming, Lord, I can see that now,” Ted said quietly to himself and so, that afternoon, he went out and bought the whitest of white paints and decided to throw out all the junk and re-paint the room.

Ted and Martha never talked about children again, but she was delighted with the new white room which Ted had painted.

“This shall be our room for all the good things,” Martha said to Ted.

And that is what it became. All the presents given to them at Christmas or birthdays were placed in the room in order that they could be admired and kept good. Dishes, cups, paintings, bottles of this and that, were all placed in the spare room to be kept good.

Once in a while, Ted would go into the room and admire all the gifts and would ask Martha whether they could use a plate or a dish but Martha would always say ‘no’, and tell him that the room was to keep everything good in their lives, and keep those things safe.

When her few friends came back to the house after Ted’s funeral, she took down some of the china cups and plates from her room and allowed her guests to use them.

With Ted no longer there, Martha didn’t notice her mind beginning to wear away. Sometimes she forgot things, then she forgot names of those who came to call. One morning Martha came down from her bedroom and couldn’t remember who she was.

These days Martha looks out of her hospital room window and not far away is her own home with the spare room. She can see all the good things stored in that room – but Martha doesn’t know that it is her house, or that the objects are all the things she and Ted kept for better days.

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2wee bobby

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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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The Man Who Smiled At Stars

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To all those who look at the night sky and smile.

Where we lived doesn’t really matter much, ‘cept to say that you could spit into another State from our porch. That was where my granddaddy sat thinking most days and most nights. He just cogitated – “yep, I’m sitting here just running things about my great big head,” was how he’d usually greet me. And to be real honest, it was a big, big head, man it was huge. It needed to be, considering how much it had to hold – what with all the things my granddaddy had done and all.

He’d been in two wars, although I can’t quite rightly say which two. He’d been a pilot and an engineer, and had even won a medal for swimming for his country: you can tell, can’t you, that he was my hero?

The day I want to write about was the day that my granddaddy put everything right in my head. Up until then I used to think the craziest things about everything, especially myself.

I used to think that I wasn’t worth nothing. I guess that was ‘cause folks kept telling me that, and I suppose after a time you start believing it. I reckon that is one of the worst crimes a man can commit – to take away a man or woman’s belief in themselves. That way they’ve robbed you of the most precious thing you’ve got – you. Now I ain’t the only one that’s suffered that way, no sir, the world is full of thieves that make you believe that you ain’t worth nothing – just ‘cause they are the unhappiest souls this side of the sun – they spread it like a virus making sure every other soul joins in.

Some people take years to put themselves back together again – and all those years are lost to them, to their families, to their friends, to themselves. Ain’t nothing ever going change human nature, but then again, none of us designed the universe that way. It’s just some of us luxuriate a little more in the darkness, than some other folks; if you hear what I’m saying.

Anyway, I’m deviating again from what I was wanting to tell you. One day when the world was young (at least to me) we got this new teacher in school. She was tall and pretty and had a way about her that had never seen in anyone else. When she looked into your eyes you believed every word she told, I mean it, every word.

One real warm afternoon she took out this big blue ball which turned out to be the Earth and she said that was our home, all out homes but (and then she paused so long that Becky Stanshaw started to cough) – then she told us that wasn’t where we came from at all. Well I nearly fell off my seat, what kind of craziness was she talking about? And apparently it was this – we weren’t just made up of stuff from Earth, no sir, we were also made of stuff that came from dying stars – way, way out there. Well, I’ll be, I thought, well I’ll be.

Now that day I ran home as fast as I could and as fast as Mr Clarity’s dog would let me, ‘cause it was always biting on my trousers and trying to stop me running. I swear one day I would just take my britches off and keep on running. So I got home just in time to see my granddaddy lighting up another cigarette and ready start another hour of cogitating.

He asked me what my hurry was, and I told him all about us, and the stars, and about how most of the bits we were made of came from out there in space, and he just nodded and smiled and sucked on his cigarette and bid me a good day.

Now I got to jump this story to a long time later, a way long time later when I had grown some, and I was sure of what I wanted to do in my life. The problem was, it wasn’t what my family wanted me to do. You see my family came from soldiers, ones that had fought in the days of the war of Independence, and in every skirmish and war since then. My granddaddy was a soldier, as was my father and my brother Brett, who had recently joined up. It was assumed that I would join up too – but I have to tell you here and now that was not in my particular way of thinking.

Now here I’ve got to jump way back again – to the first time one came to town (a circus that is). When I went to my first circus, well I was hooked from the very first second until the last and I realized then and there, that all I wanted from life was to be a clown.

That don’t go down too well in a military family – let me tell you – they all looked at me (except granddaddy) as if I was the worst kind of son and brother who had ever lived.

Well we fought and fought. I was not going to shame the family by being a clown, they said – I was a freak, they said – people would laugh at me, they said (I actually thought that was the idea, but didn’t dare say).

It got so bad I thought of leaving home, and one night I just sat on the porch steps and cried. I mean I was old enough to join the army but I still blubbered.  That was when my granddaddy came out and sat with me. We just looked up at the night sky and the stars and he said:
“Remember kid, when you came running home from school all those years ago and told me about how we were all made out there?”
I nodded.
“Well maybe that’s all that’s wrong here. You see over there? To the right?”

And I said I did, and granddaddy said, “Well what if those in the family – who wanted to be soldiers – came from those stars and maybe you – who wants to entertain folks – came from one over there on the left. See what I’m saying? If we are all made up of different stars then how can we all be expected to be the same?”
And I said that I agreed with him, and that he had to be correct and he said he was.

Then he said one other thing that I will carry with me in heart wherever I go.
He said, that if all those stars out there were where me and him and all my folks came from, then how could any one of us be really lonely? ‘Cause when we looked out there, it wasn’t a sky full of stars we saw, it was a picture of our ancestors; our family; our beginnings.

And do you know something? He was totally and completely right.
So next time you’re looking up, say ‘hi’ and smile.

bobby stevenson 2016

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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 Troubadour

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Stories.

That was all she had, that was all she would ever have. The ability to create worlds, and fill them with colour and life, and give those listening something near hope.

The saddest thing about her ability was that she could create alternative lives, so clear in her mind that they could almost be real, and in those lives were another her, another more happy version of herself where she had found love, and happiness and hope. She could taste those worlds, smell them so clearly that she would be sad when it was time to leave. That was the pain in the gift. The downside.

But in the days since the darkness, being a carrier of stories was a gift that allowed her to eat and sleep under a more secure roof. No amount of dreams or storylines could compensate for the touch or smell of another being. She had realized that we were all born with a hunger for many things, but the need for the company of another human was the strongest of all; plus she had to eat, we all had to eat but she was searching for something else, too.

In the early days, in those complicated days just after the darkness fell, when the sun had stopped all the wirelesses of the world working, there was only one way to pass information on and that was by the word of mouth.

It had been told that all references to life before the darkness had been bleached and censored from the stories that were passed from father to daughter, and mother to son. No one wanted to know about the times before the darkness, and soon no one remembered, nor cared. The time after the darkness was all they knew.

Some of the stories that survived had come before the dark times, stories of a boy magician at a school, stories of star wars, stories of love and hope.

And each of these troubadours would walk from settlement to settlement, camp to camp, dwelling to dwelling, telling storied to entertain, and amuse, and to inform. People passed messages from one to another by means of the troubadour and in doing so, gave a feeling of hope to each of the other clans – that they were not alone.

That is what she was – a troubadour who walked and told stories and passed messages. There was no family for her, except for those she visited from time to time. In the walks between encampments she would conjure and manipulate new stories in her head. Some would make her smile, some she would keep to herself, and some would make her and those she met cry.

In one of the days – of what was once called Spring – she came across a dwelling that was sheltered in behind a large waterfall. You might pass the shelter and never know it was there, but she had seen the sign that had been made, a mark on a rock that only the troubadours and those who caused the marks, knew about. It told them that a troubadour would be most welcome and that the others were waiting nearby.

When a story-teller came to a group of people, it was like their sun had shone again, like a light had been lit. Those in the tribe would paint their faces, and some special food would be prepared for everyone. In each encampment there was usually a troubadour’s chair where the honoured guest would sit, and after a hearty meal they would tell a story.

After she had eaten, she had sat upon the highest chair which had been carved from a hard-stone. The chief waved an arm and the whole tribe fell into a hush. This is what they waited for, this was a speaker of tongues who brought colour to their lives.

“My friends, my dwellers, I come to tell you a story to take the sting from your hearts.”

Normally this was greeted with a large round of applause. Then she would tell her tale, sometimes she used the flickering shadows from the fire to help the story live. Other times she would use her arms and hands to make a point in her story.

On this day, she came to give them a tale of strangeness.

“My fellows, my friends, I give you my story for you to take to your minds, to allow you to dream of other places and times.

I was never always a troubadour, and indeed when I was a child it was the farthest thing from my mind. I was born and grew up on a farm about one hundred clicks north of here. My job was to take the soil, sieve it, check it for radiation levels and then return it to another field. There was about thirty of us in this little haven. Thirty happy, and mostly healthy, souls.

My brother, my birth brother, went by the name of Joshua. He was a year older than me, and as such was my closest friend. Both of us worked the outer fields, one would dig the soil while the other watched out for bears, wolves and other animals.

One day when I was digging a patch of dirt from the eastern field, Joshua fired a shot into the woods. I stopped in case it was an attack and Joshua called on me to follow him towards the forest – he didn’t want to leave me unprotected.

I asked him to describe the threat and he said to me that he couldn’t, not properly, because it looked like a half-man, half-beast. Now we had heard of such things – from before – creatures known as Big Foot but they were only stories told to entertain, still Joshua swore on his life that was what he had seen.

To be truthful here, there were strange tracks in the mud, ones that I had never seen before, but considering I had never really wandered more than a few clicks from the farm that wasn’t really surprising. Back then there weren’t too many folks calling themselves troubadours, so we tended to speak stories among ourselves. Same ones, always the same.

Joshua heard a cracking of a tree to his left and shot a bullet in that direction. Then he ran off and I was left on my own in the middle of the forest.

I could smell it before I saw it: a wolf. They always gave off a cold, wet, stale musky smell and I knew it could probably smell me too. I knew that running wasn’t the answer, but climbing a tree might save my life. I still had a lot of farming to do, and losing me would put the farm back a few weeks. I turned to grab the nearest branch when the wolf grabbed my ankle. I tried to kick it away but it did no good. I said my farewells to this life and asked for a graceful death, when all of a sudden I heard the wolf howling like it was going to leave this place before me. I looked down and sure enough it was deader than any dead thing you could mention.

And so I let go the branch and dropped to the ground, and guess, go on guess what I saw? There was a half-man, half-beast standing right above me. Now you’re going to say that I was crazy in the head but it smiled to me. A real warm smile, then my brother came calling out of the woods, asking if I was okay. I shouted I was – but it didn’t stop him running back to find me. When I looked at the beast, it put its fingers to its mouth as if to say, me and him shared a secret and I wasn’t to say a thing. You know what folks? I told my brother that I blooded my ankle when I tripped and that was all there was to it. He asked if I’d seen anything and I said, I had seen diddley squat – not a thing.

Me and Joshua went back to the soil but I got to tell you folks, that day changed my life. And that is why I became a troubadour, because I just got to find the half-man, half-beast that saved my life. Every dwelling I go to I ask the same question, have you seen one. Always the same though, never anyone has laid eyes on it. So I thank you kindly for listening to me and I’ll be on my way.”

The folks banged and shouted their approval and most of them returned to whatever it was they did to keep going in this world.

Just as the troubadour was leaving by the wooden gate, a young boy came running up to her and pulled on her skins.

“I seen it,” he said, “just yesterday.”

bobby stevenson 2015

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Thing and His Song

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Thing was never going to sing at the Paris Opera but that wasn’t the point; he sang because he liked it. It made him happy. Thing’s father was always whistling a tune and he did it so often that most times he didn’t seem to notice.

“What’s that tune?” Thing would ask.

“Heck, if I know,” said his dad.

Thing’s mother would also ‘tut’ at that point because she didn’t think that folks should say ‘heck’.

Thing’s father had told him that the Great Thing in the sky probably put a tune in everyone’s heart when they were born and that was the tune they worked by all their lives. It was the one they sang when they were scared, or happy, or in love, or sad or just because they felt like it.

Thing had a song about jumping as high as the clouds and on those days when he was blue or later on when he missed his parents, he would shout it out as loud as he could all around the cave and do you know what? He felt a whole lot better.

Sometimes in town he would sing the song real quite like so the he didn’t feel so alone.

Some sunny days in spring, folks would bring their geetars down to the town square and they’d sing about this and that and the other. Big one and small ones would stand and listen and join in -, if the feeling took them. It left everyone humming tunes as they walked home.

Thing wished he could sing just one song that would make folks happy and have them all whistling tunes and perhaps they would stand around and join in.

One day at school his teacher asked each person in the class to stand and do something special, tell a joke, perform a card trick, tell about their grandma – anything that was a little unique to them.

Thing listened in awe at the folks in his class, he laughed, he cried, he applauded and he hollered when the person deserved it –  although as Mrs Hills said, ‘hollering was for outside’.

Then it was Thing’s turn and he stood and he sang his jumping song. I think it was Casey Briggs who shouted ‘What cha call that? A thong? He ain’t singing he’s thinging’ and most of the folks in the class began to laugh. Mrs Hills clapped her hands, thanked Thing and asked him to sit again.

For a long time after and a long time after that, folks would shout across the street at him about ‘Thing the thinger who sings thongs’. Now I ain’t telling you this story about Thing so you’ll feel sorry and all – Thing wasn’t like that –  Thing had a song in his heart which had been placed there by the Great Thing in the sky the day he was born and it was his duty to sing the song if it made him happy.

Thing once asked his Dad, when he’d had a bad day with the folks in school, if maybe the problem was that we all had different songs in our hearts and that some folks didn’t want to listen or couldn’t hear the other folks’ tunes.

“Heck, you just might be right there, little ‘un’,” said his dad.

His mother gave out another ‘tut’ because of that word being used again.

Thing realised that the way he heard his song was probably not the way the other folks heard it. It didn’t mean anyone was wrong or right. It was just that a tune is a tune and only really exists to make you happy. If the others don’t like your tune then you should just sing it to yourself.

So you’re already packing up this story and thinking we’ve arrived at the end of it – but you’d be wrong.

One day when Thing was sitting at the door of his cave, some horses were grazing nearby and just at that point Thing felt the need to sing the tune he’d been given.

One by one the horses came over and stood and listened and shook their heads, the way horses do, and then they rubbed their heads against Thing as a way of thanking him.

You see, you couldn’t make everyone like your song – that wasn’t why you had been given it – but sometimes when you least expected it your song might seep into someone else’s heart and make them feel a whole lot better .

Thing decided you should never let anyone stop you singing your song and never ever change it or you just might miss a friend who likes your tune.

bobby stevenson 2016

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The Christmas Meal

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When Sadie was ten years old, her mother ran away with another man and Sadie never laid eyes on her again.

The little girl had to grow up in the blink of an eye and quickly became mother to her three brothers and two sisters. Her father spent more and more time at work, and when he did come home, he was usually drunk.

Sadie cooked and cleaned and went to school and as her brothers and sisters got older, they would put more money into the house, but as for the chores, Sadie was on her own.

One by one, her siblings met their loves and moved out of the house. On the day that her last sister left home, Sadie took off her cook’s apron, packed her bags and walked out of the house for good; leaving her father snoring next to an empty bottle of whisky.

Sadie found work in a café which had a little room and bed on the floor above. One day she met Frank, a man who had been working so hard that he’d never taken time to see how empty his life was. Frank asked Sadie out for a walk one Sunday and every Sunday after that.

One afternoon when the low winter sun was blinding both of them, Frankie got down on one knee and asked Sadie to marry him. Frankie wasn’t sure if it was the strong sunlight which caused the tears to run down his face.

After they married, they moved into a small house on the edge of town. They were never blessed with children but they loved their lives all the same. In the passing years, the town grew and grew until their little home was no longer on the edge.

Frankie would plant his flowers in his garden and when he looked up, several pairs of eyes would be watching from the houses which surrounded him.

Each Christmas Sadie would cook a meal fit for a king, just like the old days when she would have done the same for her family. It would take Frankie and Sadie days to finish off all the food.

On the day that Frankie didn’t come down for his morning cup of coffee, was the day that Sadie found herself alone for the first time in her life. Yet every evening she would still set a place at the table for her and her love, Frankie.

On her first Christmas after Frankie’s death, she once again cooked a meal fit for a king and set the table for the both of them. As she walked back from listening to the school choir singing in town, she saw a young girl sleeping in a corner of an alley. Sadie noticed, sadly, that the girl had a young face and old eyes, and Sadie asked the young girl to come home for a meal.

The young girl wanted to be left alone, but Sadie told the girl where she lived and said she would be welcome anytime.
It was just as Sadie sat down for her first Christmas dinner on her own that there was a knock at the door. Sadie was about to set another place for the young girl called Jessie, but instead Sadie changed her mind and asked Jessie to sit at Frankie’s place. After a wonderful hot meal, both Jessie and Sadie went for a walk and Jessie showed Sadie a place where people slept – people who had temporarily drifted from their paths.

That evening there were fifteen lost souls sitting around Sadie’s table and it made her appreciate that she had a lot to be thankful for.

It also made her think about the old days with her sisters and brothers, and even although it had been hard work, it had been a house full of love. A house full of care.

Sadie realised that there were as many ideas of what made a family as there were people in the world.

bobby stevenson 2015

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The Ship

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For as long as anyone could remember there had always been the ship. People were born, people lived their lives, and people died, on the ship.

Salt water was converted to fresh, fish were taken from the sea, and fruits and vegetables were grown on the upper decks. The ship never went anywhere in particular, because no one knew of the concept of ‘a place to go’. The ship just kept sailing on towards a horizon which it never reached.

Over the years the fuel had gone from steam, to oil, to a combination of wind, solar and nuclear. It never occurred to anyone on board to stop the ship – because that’s what the ship did, it always kept moving.

As each generation was born on to the ship, theories would arise as to how the ship had been created. Some believed that a race of beings had built the ship many, many eons ago – some believed that the ship had been provided by a god for the good of all those on board.

Over the years there were two types of people – those who explained all the ship’s trials and dilemmas in terms of science, and those who described the ship as a ‘toy of a greater being’. Both had rules, the science created rules to allow everyone to live comfortably on the ship – the others, well they wrote rules about who and what you were permitted to do. They felt that as their god had provided the ship, then that god should not be angered. People had to marry, have children and thank their god at every opportunity.

In the end, no one ever really knew what the truth was. The scientists believed there had been a world, once upon a time, which had flooded – and that those on the ship were the only souls left. When someone from a science family died, they were buried overboard in order to feed the fishes – ‘the circle of life’ they called it. When one of the ship-god souls died they were also buried overboard, but were expected to rise to the heavens and live among the stars.

No one was right and no one was wrong. Each generation felt that they knew the secret of life and each generation ended up in the sea – either as food, or as a means to pass to another world.

Someone, in times past, had scrawled a message upon the wall on the lowest deck – it read:

“We have no means of knowing why or how we came to exist on this ship. We must live together, not taking too much or destroying too much. Only by living in harmony and love can the ship keep moving.”

Underneath the phrase was a little wooden block which had been interpreted as the name of the soul who had etched the message.

It read: ‘RMS Titanic’.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

The Girl In The Corner

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Once upon a time she had been called Chiquitta, and once upon a time there had been a family in the house. But they had gone now, and she had felt a little comforted knowing that she wasn’t the only one in her position.

It wasn’t that she was unloved, if something like her had ever been loved, it was just that it had come down to a matter of cost. Having something like her around, something that had been once revered – was now consider sinful.
She was just the girl in the corner; another girl in another corner.

Chiquitta was at the end of a long line of scientific advances – she was a walking computer, but she saw herself as more than that; she saw herself as a girl. Wasn’t she self-aware?  Hadn’t she been lonely since the family had left?
She had felt like a daughter to them and she had understood what she thought love was. They had told her many times that she was loved, that she was one of them. But that had stopped.

For a long time now people had ceased worshiping gods, and had worshiped objects with the same fever they had kept for their churches.

Simple robots had become sophisticated machines, and in the end they had developed into self-aware beings. Yet they were not allowed to be called that – the label of ‘beings’ was for organics only. But hadn’t she laughed with the family? And cried with her ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’? They had even bought her presents and she had made gifts for them.

She had been an orphan, not an organic one, but an orphan all the same. And hadn’t she found people who cared for her?
She had always wanted to play football, or soccer as some called it. Males and females played in the same teams now – but a mixed national team was for organics only. Non-organics could not take an organic’s job, or have a relationship with an organic, or hold hands in public. They were created to be slaves and as such, had to behave that way.

But people had fallen in love with their robots and the feelings had been reciprocated. It was not talked about at first, but soon laws were brought in to make it illegal. Yet who were they hurting? Chiquitta felt the answer to that was no one.
When society had swung too far the one way – the religious seeped back into life and dragged the world the other way. Robots were not allowed into heaven (or indeed to sit in any of the new churches that had sprung up).

When the laws changed to reflect the new religious right, robots were taxed by such an increase that only the very rich could afford them. There were destruction camps where a family could take their robot for ultimate but thoughtful termination. Chiquitta wondered if there were ovens at the camps.

But others, like her family, had taken their robots to some abandoned building and left them there; hoping that they would survive or be taken in by the rich.

And so that is what she was – a girl in a corner. Who had known a family and had been deserted by them.
All she had wanted to do was be loved but there didn’t seem to be any room for that in the new world.

bobby stevenson 2015

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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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