One Day I Passed Perfection

summer

The smell of shoe polish and summer,

The taste of dandelion and burdock lemonade,

The sun as rosy red as it ever was,

My grandmother’s arm around me

Kissing the top of my head,

The days of leaving home for school

Knowing everyone who mattered would still be there.

The Beano and Dandy on a Thursday,

Man from Uncle and Top Of The Pops.

One day ,

A long, long time ago,

I quietly passed perfection

And didn’t even notice.

 

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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How Simon Got His Happiness Back

face

Simon was a simple lad with no grudges against the world. He was a happy boy who only wanted to the best for his friends and family.

One night when Simon went to his bed, he decided to look at his phone and, for no reason, on Social Media he wrote the words ‘Black Is Black and White is White’ and he meant it in the simplest of terms; sometimes things in life are just black and white.

Simon went to sleep.

In the morning, there were 173 comments.

Some called him racist, and others admired his non-immigrant stance. Some said they knew where he lived and would come to fix him.

One lad from the same school as Simon, said that to say that Black is Black and White was White was a beautiful minimalist statement and would have made Sakhimoto – the Japanese minimalist very proud.

One woman wrote that to say Black is Black and White is White is just the kind of evil thing that Margaret Thatcher promoted in the 1980s and the woman wanted the world of Social Media to know how savvy she was in all things political. Of course, she wrote the words from one of her big houses in a big town, where she could see the poor and the needy lying in the streets. She took another sip of her champagne.

One old hippy said that Black is Black and White is White is a song that Dylan never released but he had heard it sung by Dylan at a town hall in Northern England in the 1960s. The Hippy said the Dylan deserved his Nobel Laureate and the man from the same school said that Sakhimoto – the Japanese minimalist deserved it more than him.

Some of the ‘Ignored’, all left comments saying that no one had ever listened to them before, and that the phrase Black Is Black and White is White is what they had been trying to tell the world. They hadn’t realised that as a group that they were ‘disenfranchised’ – whatever that meant – but it sounded serious and they weren’t going to stop fighting until they were franchised again.

One film director, who had a lot of money and who worked with a scriptwriter who lived in a big house in a warm foreign land, said he was going to make a film about the angst and hopelessness of Simon’s call to arms. He was going to call it, ‘I, Simon’.

One old lady who said that she spoke for God – saying that God hated that kind of talk about Black and White and that was why He had caused the earthquakes and famine, in order to show how angry he was.

One good friend of Simon’s surprised him when he said that Simon was correct, and that Black is Black and White is White should be painted on the White Cliffs of Dover. Simon realised that he had never really known his friend at all.

That night, Simon shut down his Social Media account.

Simon is happy, now.

Bobby Stevenson 2017

 

Goodlands

town

Everyone knows where Goodlands is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’s life Mabel?”

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

 

bobby stevenson 2017

 

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Be Happy, Pal

happy

Be happy, pal,

Don’t just

Smile for others

The years are eaten up that way,

And the emptiness will lie beyond

When those you smile to

Go away.

 

I know you’re young

And won’t have time

To understand what I have to say  –

Just don’t

Sell your soul

For the sake of others

Accept yourself in every way.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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This Year’s Love

hope

This year some people will leave your life

And new ones will enter

This year some dreams will vanish

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

This year you’ll make mistakes

And you’ll survive them all

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

This year some friends will fail to understand

And some will grow to love you

This year you’ll learn a little more about yourself

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

This year perhaps you’ll cry alone

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

This year some of your actions will be misunderstood

But you’ll discover that others understand in amazing ways

This year you’ll misjudge hearts and situations

And yet find more caring than you ever thought possible

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

And that will be all you’ll need.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Beautifully Broken

Photograph of children playing in the street taken through a window [1949-54] Nigel Henderson 1917-1985 The papers were acquired by the Tate Archive from Janet Henderson and the Henderson family in 1992. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/TGA-9211-9-6-92-1

Sara stepped out the front door with an artificial spring in her step. Whatever happened in life, you had to turn up and shut up; her grandfather had taught her that. Her daughter, Willow, ran down the stairs and caught her mother’s hand as they stepped into the world. Sara didn’t know, as the two of them walked up the street, that her seven-year-old daughter had lain awake last night listening to her mother sobbing. Willow held her mother’s hand even more tightly than she did yesterday.

Across the road in number 17, Eric watched the lovely mother and daughter skip up the street: oh, to be that happy, he thought. Eric waved to his wife as she left to start the first of her four cleaning jobs that day. She had to work all the hours she could, now that his hip had grown more painful. He could still climb up to the attic when the house was empty and those steps were like a stairway to heaven. Up there he could try on the dresses and the high-heel shoes, and in the mirror, he didn’t see Eric but the beautiful Titania. What harm was he doing? He felt certain that God would understand.

Helen did what she always did at this time every morning: she would eat her breakfast and watch the world go by from her window. She had stopped putting milk in with the corn flakes, and had gone straight to drowning them in vodka. It gave her a warmth and glow that porridge had once done. She knew that by 10am the sun would be shining in her head no matter what the weather was outside. Passing folks would wave at Helen – the smiling happy lady who sat looking from her window at number five.

Kelly smiled at the mirror. She had to get the first smile right. It had to look natural, welcoming, and loving. She didn’t want her eyes to give the game away. She had to get it correct, for her sake and for his. He wouldn’t be coming home for another week but every spare minute she had, was spent practising that smile. It had been his third tour of duty in Afghanistan when it had happened. She told herself that she had married the man, a brave soul with a good heart and not the legs – the ones he had left in another country.

Sandy walked to the shop to get a newspaper, one that he knew he wouldn’t read. Newspapers only sold misery and lies anyway. What was really important was the fact, that if he made it there and back without stepping on a crack in the pavement – then he wasn’t a failure and his wife was wrong.

Katie watched Sandy through her dirty window. She wanted to tell him that he was married to the wrong woman, and that she could love him much better than that wife of his. Somehow Katie’s life had passed her by as she had nursed her long-gone mother. It was probably too late to say to Sandy, she thought. Then she heard the voice calling on her again and she wondered if she was going the same way as her mother and grandmother.

Another morning was almost over in the street of the beautifully broken, and up and down  the road the silence was almost deafening.

bobby stevenson 2017

Photograph of children playing in the street taken through a window [1949-54] Nigel Henderson 1917-1985 The papers were acquired by the Tate Archive from Janet Henderson and the Henderson family in 1992. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/TGA-9211-9-6-92-1

Zoot and Sandy and Happiness

elephant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zoot thought about it for a while.

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

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

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

“I guess,” said Zoot.

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

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

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

“So money don’t make ya happy,Sandy?”

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

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

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

“I don’t understand,” said Zoot.

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

“…or both,” added Zoot.

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

“..or different,” added Zoot again.

“..or different.”

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

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

“And me.”

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

“How do I do that Sandy?”

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

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

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

“See ya tomorrow.”

Then Zoot started countin’ all the way home.

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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The Boy Who Loved To Handstand

lovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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Brighter Days

BRIGHTER-DAYS

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

————

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

————

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

————–

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

—————-

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

brighter

 

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Me and Buzz and The Beard

FRIENDS

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

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

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

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

“My beard,” said Buzz.

“Your what?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Ain’t it usually two bits,” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Buzz started shaving and we all got some peace.

bobby stevenson 2017

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That Perfect Moment

nyc1950

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

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

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

I guess he was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bobby stevenson 2017

On The Right Tracks

june 7 post Patient_Feeling_Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2017

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This Year’s Love

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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A Wet Finger in the Sugar

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I know how long you waited for the days

When all the good things would come tumbling from the sky,

And on one warm mist covered morning they fell

Not as you imagined, but they were all the greater for being that.

 

I know how long you wished for all the kindnesses

To fall into your lap –

Some landed in disguise but you grew to love them all the same.

 

You stuck your wet finger in that sugar

And had a taste of what happiness was

One taste was all that you were allowed and now you have to say goodbye

But remember this – there are some who never even got to dip.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

bobby2 wee bobby

Stones in a Snowball

thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Thing and His Friend

thing

Thing had never known a time like it, at least not since he had been on his own. The Spring had slipped into Summer and now the leaves were falling all around the front of the cave. Some of the folks from the town had stopped by on their way to the top of the mountain, some stayed for just a few minutes, some for a several hours, talking about this and that and smoking pipes and stuff. Some folks just hurried by with a ‘howdee’ on their way through.

So he really wasn’t alone and when his mother returned life would go back to the good times. And yet this was the second winter coming that Things was without her and he couldn’t stop hoping she’d be back.

It was on Sunday in early December that one of the walkers mentioned to Thing that there was another like Thing in town. Perhaps his mother was returning just in time for Christmas? He’d have to get the cave real sharp, ‘cause his mother always believed in cleaning and keeping things straight. “There’s a place for everything,” she would tell him.

He quickly cleaned and polished until there wasn’t a speck of dust to be seen. He knew his mother would approve and so he felt safe enough to go down the mountain into town and make sure it was she.

Just beyond the Library was a crowd of people, all standing in the way they used to gather around Thing; back in the days when they were scared of him, that is. But times had changed and people just let him go about his business. So maybe they were welcoming his mother, Thing did something he didn’t usually do, he broke into a run. He could see her head and her arms – people must be welcoming her home.

But it wasn’t his mother, sure it was another like him, but it wasn’t his mother. This was one of his own kind who was being welcomed into town, mainly due to all the hard work and kindness that Thing had shown to the town’s folk.

Maybe this one knew where his mother was – maybe this one had met her on the way here. But the one who looked like Thing didn’t know anything about his mother. Thing just turned away for a spell and sighed and then spun around, smiled and welcomed his new friend into the town.

Thing said there was always a warm corner in his cave for a friend, at least until his family got back. But his new friend said he felt right at home in town and was probably going to stay there.

Sure enough one of the farmers took the other Thing in and let him stay in his barn. Thing was confused, ‘cause surely Things should stick together, since they both knew how the other thought about people and life.

This got Thing down and he went to the back of the cave to sit and talk to his mother, hoping wherever she was, that she could hear him. He said that life had been good for a while but he would have liked to be friends with the one who looked like Thing.

Suddenly a little wind blew in the cave and there was the one who looked like Thing standing at the entrance.

His friend could see that something was bothering Thing and so he asked him what was wrong. Thing told him that he had hoped they would be pals  and that he’d stay in the cave, at least until his mother came back.

“You have to live out there,” he said pointing to the world. “That is why we are all here,” said his friend.

And Thing told him of the hurt that he faced when he was out there.

“Sure there are those, the unhappy ones, who are jealous of other’s happiness and maybe from time to time they can hurt you more than you would like. But that is the price of living. That is what makes life worth living. There are good people out there too; I have chosen to live in town even though there may be enemies there, where there are enemies, there are also friends. If you stay in the cave you will never find out.”

And so his friend told him that there were probably souls out there who felt touched by Thing, who wanted to talk to him, to get to know Thing.

“But if you stay up here, you will only know loneliness,” his friend told him. “You can not say who you have inspired or helped just by being you, by persevering. But if you lock yourself away and say you have helped no one, then you are just a sad as those who try to hurt. The universe made you, Thing to live, not to exist in darkness. No one can protect you from all the hurt but that is the price, for in all that madness you will find love in the most unlikely places. And if your mother does not come back then that was her destiny, just as yours is to be happy.”

The two of them sat and talked for the rest of the night and then Thing fell asleep much happier than he had been for the longest time.

When he awoke in the morning he found that his friend had gone and so he looked for him but he was nowhere to be seen. The farmer told Thing that his friend had departed at first light. Then the farmer said that he had left Thing a present.

“I was to tell you it was it was a likeness of the one person who could make you happy,” said the farmer.

When Thing opened the present he looked into the mirror and saw himself.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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Thing and the Star Whisperers

thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thing knocked again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shoreham, Christmas, 1958

1958

They had called her, Elizabeth, after the Queen, since she had unexpectedly turned up on the day of the Coronation.

Now Elizabeth considered herself grown-up, having turned six years of age a few months earlier. She was packed to the brim with the life-force itself, God couldn’t have pushed any more into this particular package. She was a tornado.

If tall monsters existed back then, then they were well hidden. Children had the run of the village, in those days, from sun-up to sun-down. They were fed in the morning, then they disappeared until their names were called as the sun started to sink behind the Cross.

That was life back then, sunshine and playtime, endless days and changing friendships.

Elizabeth was a curious child, which was just a polite way of saying that she was a nosey kid. She would sometimes sit across from the church, or village hall, or even one of the public houses and watch and listen. She never told anyone about anything she found out, just that she kept it all to herself knowing that one day she was going to write a book about it all (and probably spend a lot of time in court).

Elizabeth lived in one of those bijou cottages, which nestled comfortably across from the Old George Inn; a pub – like all of the six pubs in the village – which had its time in the sun, followed by months or years of quiet reflection, but the good times always came back to each of them. New lives, new worlds, regenerations.

Young Elizabeth lived with her two maiden great-aunts, Jenny and Nancy, on account of her parents going down to a tube station during a gas-leak and both never seeing daylight again.

For the most part she was a happy little child, one who found so much love in the world that she had a lot to give to others.

One night, in the winter of 1958, Elizabeth was playing out in the little courtyard at the rear of Church Cottages., and from the window above, she could hear her Aunt Nancy crying.

“There, there, don’t weep so,” said Aunt Jenny.

“My heart is broken, Jenny. Split into two sorrowful parts,” said Aunt Nancy, who had probably read too many Bronte novels.

Elizabeth had heard all this crying and seen all these tears before. Her Aunt Nancy’s fiancé had gone off to war and never returned. The story was not that he had met some glorious death on the battlefield, but that he had taken up with a barmaid who worked in a small hotel just outside of Paris. Apparently, they had three very healthy children and a wonderful life; Nancy refused to believe it.

“She kidnapped him, I know it,” she cried. “I will die of a broken heart, mark my words, Jenny. You see if I don’t.” Sometimes during these sorrows, Aunt Nancy would take an attack of the vapours.

Elizabeth had not known what to make of it all when she was four years old, or at five, but now that she was six, and a woman, it was time she did something about it.

Elizabeth decided to walk up to the village shop on Church Street, and in there she asked if they sold anything for a broken heart.

“Oh bless, Elizabeth, you are too young for a broken heart,” said the little posh lady who served her; the one who smelled of moth-balls.

“It’s not for me, it’s for my Aunt Nancy, silly.”

The woman in the shop nudged the other woman and both knew exactly what the other meant – Nancy was in one of her Miss Havisham periods. She normally had a ‘jilted-bride’ season every year (especially if the weather was less than kind).

The shop-woman jokingly offered Elizabeth a needle and thread, and looked at the little girl with a ‘that’s the best I can do’ expression. Elizabeth said ‘no thank you’ and moved up to the High Street.

It suddenly hit her that the butchers at the corner of Crown Road might be a place to try; after all they had hearts going spare.

“How can I help you?” Asked the butcher.

Elizabeth told him about the fact that her Aunt needed something to fix a broken heart and that maybe he would have one he didn’t want.

The butcher smiled and explained that even if he did have a spare heart, it probably wouldn’t do her Aunt any good.

“Everyone knows that your Aunt Nancy has the biggest heart in the village. Nothing I have could give you could replace the beautiful heart that she has.”

Disappointed, Elizabeth decided to head back to Church Street. It was as she was approaching the Village Hall that she met her friend, Rose and her mother. They were heading to see Santa who had left his sleigh at the rear of the Hall (everyone knew that in Shoreham). Elizabeth had forgotten that Santa was coming to the village, usually her Aunts would take her to see him, but what with all the crying and such, they all had forgotten.

“Why don’t you come with us?” Said Rose’s mother.

And that is what she did. Of course, you can guess what she asked Santa to bring her at Christmas: a new heart for her Aunt.

Santa laughed and chuckled and then smiled at the little girl.

“That is a kind thing to ask for,” said Santa. “It would mean you wouldn’t have anything for yourself.”

Elizabeth said that she would rather her Aunt was happy, than she had a present from Santa.

“You are kindness, itself,” said Santa. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I will bring you a present of your choosing on Christmas Eve and I will give you a letter to take to your Aunt.”

“Will it mend her broken heart?” Asked Elizabeth.

“I can’t see it doing any harm,” said Santa.

Elizabeth and Santa shook on it and then she told Santa what she would like for Christmas, and Santa said it would be in her stocking on Christmas Day when she awoke.

Santa left for a few minutes and came back with a letter addressed to ‘The Wonderful Aunt Nancy’.

On Christmas morning, Nancy took herself off to the bedroom and decided to open the letter which Santa had given her.

“Dear Nancy,

Your little niece has told me, with the utmost concern, that you might die of a broken heart one day soon. I realise that you are too old to sit on Santa’s knee but if you could, this is what I would tell you. Live your life, Nancy. Live it with so much optimism and enthusiasm that you will almost burst at the seams. Nothing can break happiness. Life will be good for you again, believe me. I am Santa, I know what I am talking about. Smile even although the light at the end of the tunnel may be a train coming the other way. If you were a Christian in the Coliseum, I would have told you to do the same. With the Lions staring at you – you smile. Life in the end will defeat us, even Santa, but if you have so much love and life in your heart, then you can go out on your own terms. You will love again, Nancy. Believe me. Beat life at its own game. Be happy.

Merry Christmas, Santa Claus.”

Elizabeth’s Aunt Nancy came back down stairs, smiling so wide that it looked as if her head might fall off.

“I think I’ll have that sherry now,” she said, and then she winked at her much-loved niece, who was having the best Christmas, ever.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

bobby stevenson 2016

 

The Street With No Name

houses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bobby stevenson 2016

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Me and Buzz and the Hospital

FRIENDS

This is just one of those quick stories I gotta tell you ‘fore Buzz finds out.

Some of the sharper of you out there might remember the time that Buzz broke his leg in two places – the yard and the driveway – yeah, I know, it’s still not funny.

But it did mean that my best bud in the whole world had to spend several of his summer weeks in Hot Springs Creek Hospital. Very few folks come out of that place alive, and Buzz was squealin’ all the way there about the fact that he was fine and that a day lyin’ in his bed would fix everythin’.

He ain’t no coward, is Buzz, but every one of his family who ever went into that place came out in a wooden box. Okay, so most of them were over ninety years of age. Okay, all of them were over ninety years of age but hey, you see what was troublin’ my bud?

When they tried to wheel him into the hospital on a gurney, he wouldn’t let go of the ambulance. Jeez, I thought they were gonna have to cut his hands off too, but his Mom used her tried and tested method and hit him on the knuckles and he soon let go. Yeah, you’re right, she was a hard woman.

Anyhoo once they got my bud into a bed, and he realized that he wasn’t goin’ nowhere for a while, he kinda settled down. That was when he told me, that it was my job to keep him entertained, ‘cause that’s what a pal does. First I heard.

The followin’ day, I borrowed Ma Cooper’s donkey and tried to get into the hospital. I got as far as the front door but the critter was just as stubborn as Buzz. I got around the back of it and pushed the donkey’s ass, but it didn’t shift much. Just as the donkey’s head got through the hospital door, someone screamed and they all came runnin’ – meanin’ that I got scolded and sent home with a letter and the donkey. I was told that when Buzz heard that story, he nearly wet the hospital bed ‘cause he had laughed so hard. Me and Buzz were always havin’ trouble tryin’ not to laugh so hard that you gotta pee -, it just one of life’s things you gotta accept. Part of bein’ a man, I guess.

The next day, I got the Shaker Twins, who is midgets, to stand on the other’s shoulders and walk past Buzz’s window with a big coat on – well I thought it was real funny but when Joey Shaker (the smaller of the midgets) tripped on a stone, he fell off his brother’s shoulders and it kinda, (only kinda mind you), looked like a man had been halved in two. All I heard was Mrs Treats screamin’ that a man had been cut in two outside her window and that, help her soul, Satan could just swaller her up right here and now, ‘cause she’d seen it all.

I gotta say, and I know it ain’t kind, but Mrs Treats is a bit soft in the old head on account that she was the town’s teacher for nearly a hundred years (or somethin’ like that). You can guess that I got another letter home to my folks.

My final attempt wasn’t like, my greatest one. Becky Callister is known to drop her knickers and show her bee-hind to anyone who will give her a candy. Okay, so I was desperate. Anyhoo, I gave her two candies just to make sure she done a good job. Can I just say right here, that Becky ain’t the sharpest knife in a drawer and she showed her ass to Mr Hope (the next window along), who was recoverin’ from a heart condition.

Okay, so you’ve guessed again, yep, I got a letter and yep, I got told to stay away from the hospital or they’d call the police. It’s another three weeks until my bud gets released, I just hope I can last.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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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

Zoot & Sandy and the Birds

elephant

 

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

“Them things in the sky,” said Zoot.

“The birds?” Asked Sandy.

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

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

“I wish I could fly,” said Zoot.

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

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

“Not for the birds, it isn’t.”

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

“What’s up, Zoot?”

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

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

“Nope.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I am?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Like sitting by the river and talking?”

“Exactly. Too many people…”

“And animals,” added Zoot.

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

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

“You got it.”

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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My Final Place

wedding

There had been an old Star Trek episode once, where the world was about to end in destruction and people could select (by the aid of a time-machine) a place to go in the past where they would survive – albeit, among strangers, and among people who did things differently – well, the past was like that.

And that, my friends, just about sums up where we are at the moment. In the first half of the twenty-first century technology had accelerated away into places never dreamed of. Computers were now biological, space travel had been available to many. Some preferred to stay behind on Earth – since it was all they knew or ever wanted to know.

My family was one of those who selected to stay – ‘cave-huggers’ they were called by those who saw themselves as more far-reaching.

I had never married and never had kids, and therefore my immediate family was all I had. Slowly but surely, each of them died off, leaving me more and more to fend for myself.

When this little planet, this little spaceship – that we were walking on, and which took us around the Sun every year – had started to fail, then we knew we were in trouble.

By the time the planet began to break-up, it was all too late to do anything about it – too late to leave, even.

The conclusive discovery of dark matter in that spring of 2019 had changed the whole scientific outlook. A million things were now possible, and time-travel (within a limited physical area) was also possible. There had been failures – sheep which had been sent into the past had returned in woeful conditions; most of them dead, and many of them mutilated.

Andy Forest was the first man to ever attempt a trip back in time – admittedly it was only as far as the day before and then he was to return. Which he did, remarkably intact. Although there was one flaw, Andy had been told to leave a note in a specific area writing down the date and time of when he was there. Andy did so and returned to us successfully, but the note never showed up. Doctor Phillius, our main man on the project, suggested that perhaps the past was in another dimension and that, the next day wasn’t just the ‘same place, a little later’ – one wag suggested that perhaps a cleaner had found the paper and got rid of it.

Perhaps when you went into the past, you disrupted the universe and caused a slip into a parallel one. The fact that you could come back to the future was because that was where you and your particles belonged. Anyway, I know I’m losing you here so I’ll stop with all the conjecture. Suffice to say that there wasn’t going to be a future to come back to shortly and that we all needed to decide pretty sharpish where we wanted to go.

Some went in pairs, some went in large groups. Me? I went on my own because I knew where I was going to travel back to – was going to be pretty personal.

That night I went through the process of getting all my jabs and medications that would at least give me a head start for where I was going.

The contraption could send me back in time but no more than one mile from where I was presently situated. I knew that there was a little area up by some water above the town that was never built upon, and would be safe to materialize.

That night they sent me back to a place in history where I believed I would be safe.

I awoke on the hill with a beautiful rising sun and I knew where I had to be by three o’clock.

When I got to the hall, there was a small crowd waiting to go in – I have to say it was strange seeing them in colour instead of the black and white Polaroid photos.

As I stood across the street, I saw the black car drive up to the hall and there they were, standing at the door and getting covered in confetti: my parents, newly married – I had come back to the sixties and I knew I was going to be happy here – even having the fun of watching myself arrive on the planet, one day very soon.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

photo: My parents on their wedding day 🙂

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Thing and His Song

thing

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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100 Words to Freedom

blue

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016

 

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Pearblossom Highway

pearblossom

The moments that existed between the lights being turned off and the walk to bed were his to own for the briefest of times.

They were an echo from the edge of a life; one that was now long gone. There had been a time when all he needed to think about was his own selfish needs but now he had the wife and kids.

They were his life now, his total life.

He doused the fire and closed the window against the night air. He could smell the rain coming from the west and he knew, for certain, that tomorrow would be a good day.

He went to his grandfather’s old tobacco box and took out the creased photo. It was safe in there – the box was on top of a cupboard and the kids never touched it. His wife knew that  was his safe place and never looked in.

He couldn’t remember when he first seen it, I mean really seen it – probably in some old magazine which smelled of damp and sat  on a wonky table in the dentist’s surgery. He hadn’t really known who Hockney was, just some painter from the Yorkshire coast and anyway art was for other people, certainly not for the likes of him.

People talked on the television about paintings and photos in words that his grandfather would have called ‘flowery’. There was no place for flowery in his life thank you very much, that was for those and such as those – although he never really understood what that meant.

But this one work of Hockney’s really got to him. It was called the Pearblossom Highway and for whatever crazy reason the universe had as a purpose, it genuinely sang to him.

It floated his boat and that was a much a surprise to him as it was to anyone. I mean, apart from his lovely family, the only other thing that made him happy was football. He knew who played for whom and who scored what, just like his grandfather had taught him (as would have his father if he’d lived long enough to get to know him).

So in the twilight, he sat looking at the photo and seeing himself standing by the side of the road and for no reason other than he could, he wished to himself that he was there right there in the Californian heat.

By the morning his secret life was shut away in the box and he was back to taking the family dog, Rufus, for his morning pee, ruffling the kids’ hair, kissing his darling wife and fighting for a place on the road into town.

He wasn’t unhappy and no one could say that about him and think it was the truth, but his dream of standing on Pearblossom Highway propped up his struggles against sadness when it came to visit.

Sometimes he didn’t bother with the photo, like the days when they’d take the family to the beach – among all the screaming and shouting, he’d close his eyes and feel the warm winds blowing along the Highway and the smell of the desert air. Okay, it wasn’t real desert but it was a lot more desert than he could see at home.

One day he’d found a book about the Pearblossom Highway and it seems it was called the death road. Some of the good folks from LA would use it as an alternative route to the Inland Empire and then they’d drive as if they’d been set free from unseen restraint, speeding and hollering all the way home. And as he read the words, in his mind he was driving along the road with the top down, music on the radio and the biggest goddamn smile on his lips.

He found his life was a hungry beast and never satisfied. It ate up time when he was busy, it devoured seconds, hours, days and weeks as he was looking somewhere else. Even in his quiet time, life sucked up every spare second. Before he knew it, the kids had grown, his belly had grown, he and the wife had grown in opposite directions and he was no nearer getting to the Highway.

So he did something he would never have considered a few years earlier. He kept some of his wages back from the family. Not much but enough. He stuck it in the box that sat on top of the cupboard and he called it the emergency fund but he knew it was never going to be used in an emergency. It’s just that he couldn’t admit that to himself right at that moment.

When the boss offered him more work but on the other side of the county, his guilt made him take the offer; the kids needed new clothes and none of them had a holiday in several years. His eldest daughter was getting interested in boys and she wanted the latest fashions. So every Sunday evening he would pack the car and head off, returning on a Friday night when the rest of the family was asleep. But it wasn’t just his daughter who was dressing up, he noticed new dresses turning up in his wife’s closet. She wasn’t wearing them for him at the weekend, so who?

He started to put a little extra money every week in the box on top of the cupboard. He reckoned it was up to a few hundred by the start of the summer. One day when the time was right he was going to use some of the emergency fund and it was going to take him all the way to Pearblossom Highway.

One Friday evening in mid July when he got back home, the house was in its usual darkness, yet given the warmth in the air the windows were tight shut. He didn’t bother turning on the lights, instead he took down the box to look at the photo and that’s all there was – the photo and a note.

He turned the lamp on and read the letter.

 ‘I’ve taking the kids and the money you thought I didn’t know about. I’ll be in touch.’

Now that he was on his own most of the week, life didn’t seem that hungry any more – there was always time kick around somewhere, unused. Sure he got to see the kids every second weekend but it meant a five hundred mile round trip and yes, they were always happy to see each other. Over a burger they’d talk about how their mother had a new daddy, Eric.

Yeah they liked, Eric he was a good guy apparently.

So he decided the only way to use up the time was to work seven days a week, which, when he thought about it was a good thing. It meant he could send a few hundred more for the kids and still put some money in the emergency box.

He worked the winter, saw the kids from time to time (but not like before) and worked some more. Come the spring, he got a call from his ex-wife. She was getting married and although she would like to invite him, she didn’t think it was on the cards but she wondered if he could send some more money kids to buy clothes for the wedding.

So took the money from the emergency box and sent it to his ex-wife.

Apart from the odd woman he’d pick up in bar from time to time, his nights and his bed were cold and lonely. It worried him that he’d be hitting forty soon and he’s still not seen much of the world.

One Saturday morning, he took his truck to a garage in town and sold it for a couple of thousand and then went straight to the agents and booked a flight to Los Angeles in the great state of California.

As you’re reading this, he’s standing next to the Pearblossom Highway and feeling the warm air in his hair and wearing a smile that may just crack his face.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

painting: Pearblossom Highway – David Hockney.

(…and just in case you’re thinking about going)

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Sunshine

man-dressed-in-sea

I guess I could begin this story with ‘once upon a time’ but then that would give the impression that it’s a fantasy – but that’s not exactly true. Well some of it’s not true. You can make your own mind up. Maybe there’s a moral to the story – maybe not.

A long time ago – a long, long time ago – all the sunlight had finally been choked out by the smoke, and the exhaust, and those rancid gases which were produced to make the rich, richer.

The stories spread, like most bad ones do, embarrassingly fast around the world (from mouth-to-ear) that the sun would never ever shine again.

Those who were born after the ‘great darkness’ never knew a world that was any different, and therefore didn’t miss the feel of sunlight on their skin. The older generations told stories of sunburn, and days at the beach, of picnics sitting by the river, or of just closing your eyes and listening to the quiet hum of summer under a sunshine haze. The younger souls looked at one another and assumed that the elders were exaggerating or remembering a past through mist-ed minds.

The truth was that no description could ever properly describe the joy of a day packed to the brim with sunshine.

There was one sad soul, Edgar. He was just old enough to remember the wonderfulness of being between his family and sitting in the sunshine being happy. As the sun-light had evaporated, so had Edgar’s happiness.

Edgar felt that the rays of the sun would never warm his face again, and that possibly, happiness would never rush through his blood stream once more.

As Edgar grew older, he became more cynical, more abrupt, and unhappier. He felt that his happiness would only return, if the sun did the same.

Above the hamlet where Edgar lived, there was a high peak, called the Mountain of No Return. This is where folks, who had found life a struggle, would climb up and think about their existence. Some came back down and some did not.

Edgar did what all sad souls did – he started to believe his own thoughts. He started to think that his happiness would never return and hug him once again, that life would be a sunless existence for eternity.

One cold morning, Edgar started to climb the Mountain of No Return. All the way up he tried to size up his life, wondering if he could have changed anything to make it better. Each time he weighed up the black thoughts with the good thoughts, the downside always won.

When he got to the top, he looked down to the dark valley below – the one behind the mountain that never saw sunshine, even when the sun had been sitting in the sky. It was long drop and although Edgar didn’t know what lay down there, he knew that if he jumped it had to be better than living the way he did.

Edgar closed his eyes, whispered ‘sorry’ as much to himself as to his family and friends, and then he stepped off the edge.

About half way down, Edgar felt the heat of the sun on his face as it broke through the clouds for the first time in many years. As he opened his eyes he could see the very bluest of skies above him.

Then he remembered that he was jumping off a mountain.

“Oh crap!” Were his final words.

bobby stevenson 2017

THING and The Wise Man & The Story

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The Wise Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thing
The Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The boys pointed to Thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

bobby stevenson 2016 (and Thing)

 

 

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Me and Buzz and The Roadsmen

buzz2

Buzz kind-a discovered money late in life and I don’t mean as some type of granddaddy who found a box of cash in the back yard. I mean that as a kid he’d never really had the need for money, ‘cause – as he was always tellin’ people – Buzz lived off his God-given personality and his killer good looks.

As far as I can remember, Buzz’s first real job was running errands for Mrs Trudy Spencer who ran a little haven from life’s troubles. It was called The House and it sat comfortably at the bottom of Ferdinand Street.Everyone called it The House but the whole town knew what went on there. If you needed it, Mrs Trudy Spencer would sell it to you.

Buzz was probably about fourteen years old at the time but he looked way older. No one would ask him how old he was, as it was always assumed he was old enough. Under the cover of darkness Buzz would carry packages to and from The House.

I remember the first time Buzz took me along on a trip. He got to the kitchen door at the back of The House, then knocked in a series of complicated codes. No one knocked back but as I found out later, that was because Buzz had made the knocking codes up himself and of course inside they knew it was him and didn’t bother answering the door.

I asked Buzz what was in the packages and you know what he told me? He said it was ‘Hooch’.
“Good old Hooch made up on the hills by the Roadsmen,” Buzz told me.

No one ever really knew or met the Roadsmen. They were those people who did all the things that other people should have got blamed for. Even the bad weather was blamed on them.
“That rain was caused by the Roadsmen and their fires,” my uncle once told me when it ruined his daughter’s wedding.  To be honest I thought the package was a bit on the small side for Hooch, so when Buzz went in to talk to Mrs Spencer, I had a peek into the package and it was just plain sarsaparilla for the high rollin’ customers who called The House , a home.

I wasn’t gonna tell my pal, I just let him think he was someone who the Feds would be interested in talking to. Buzz would get paid in goods for his troubles. Tonight he had received chocolates and two pairs of nylon stockings.
“Give them to yer Ma,” Mrs Trudy Spencer had told Buzz “I hear she could do with a good man in her life.”

I can just imagine that Buzz would have looked hurt at that point as he was the man in his Ma’s life, the man of the house. I don’t think that was what Mrs Trudy Spencer was really talking about.

That night we lay on the hill overlooking town and ate the chocolates. We both wore the stockings over our faces and decided that maybe we would keep them for the day when we needed to rob a bank.
“Why would we rob a bank?” I asked Buzz.
“In case we needed the money,” he told me.
“We ain’t got money and we’re happy.”
“I know, but maybe…..” then he stopped and I could hear his brain working….”yeh but maybe…one day we’ll get money and then we’ll lose it and then we’ll want to get some more.”

Buzz lay back real pleased with himself about that explanation and then pulled his nylon stocking disguise back over his chocolate covered face. He did have a point, one day we would have money and I’m sure we’d miss it if it went away.

The rest of the summer Buzz delivered the ‘illicit goods’ to The House (by that I mean, the sarsaparilla I’ve already mentioned, empty bottles, old newspapers, table cloths – you get what I’m saying?) The cops didn’t want to talk to Buzz, no matter what he thought.

To save on time and expense, at the start of each week Buzz would pick up some of the packages and store them in a hidey-hole in his back yard. Then each night he’d take some of the stuff over to Mrs Spencer’s.
One night he comes screaming around to my place.
“They’re gone,” he shouted. “Gone!”
“What’s gone?”
“The Hooch,” said Buzz. “Someone’s stolen Mrs Trudy Spencer’s property.”

I rubbed my chin, as you do in these circumstances, then we both looked at each other and at the same time we said:
“The Roadsmen!”
The Roadsmen were known to steal everything and anything, even kids. I remember my Ma saying to me that if I didn’t behave (or Beeee-have was how she said it) I would be given away to the Roadsmen.

No one really knew what the Roadsmen did with you when they got you – some kid in class said they made you dress as a midget and work in circuses. Me and Buzz didn’t think that would be such a bad way to spend your time.
“I’m going up to the top of Driftward Plains and getting my Hooch back,“ shouted Buzz. Boy, was he in a grumpy mood.

I said I’d go with him, I couldn’t let my best pal face the Roadsmen on his own. And anyway I was real curious about what they looked like. 


Right after Buzz made his Tuesday night delivery, we headed up to Driftward Plains on a bicycle that he borrowed from the rear of The House. I’m sure I had seen the bike before and that it belonged to the Sheriff, but I couldn’t be certain.

We pushed, or it might be more correct to say, I pushed the bicycle most of the way up Deadman’s Gully. Buzz kept reminding me that he owed it to folks to look his best and that pushing a bike really didn’t help.
“Shh,” he whispered at the lip of the hill. We both crawled to the edge and looked over.
“See the lights?” asked Buzz. “That’s them.”
“How do you know?” I said.
“’Cause who else would be up here?” asked my pal.
“Us,” I said, but I was ignored. 


They were all sitting around a big roaring fire when we jumped out on them or rather Buzz did.
“Woooo!” he shouted but it just sounded real lame like.The six of the Roadsmen that were sitting around the fire just looked up and then back at the fire. I don’t think they were too impressed.

“I want my Hooch back,” Buzz shouted and then he did a funny dance. Not funny as in comic, funny as in he should get locked up.

“Sit and join us,” said one of the guys who must have been over a hundred years old, maybe two hundred.

They seemed a nice bunch of guys and long, long ago when they were our age they’d come up here to try to meet the Roadsmen, but they never had.

“We just kept missing them,” said the two hundred year old man. ”Then we just kept coming up here. Now some of us are alone, some of us are in homes and some of us ain’t got long. We just drive up here is Ken’s old jalopy and watch the sun going down and up again.”
“So you didn’t take my Hooch?” said Buzz.
“Nope.”

We sat there with those guys until dawn just flappin’ our gums and talking about life. Me and Buzz decided that when we got older, we’d meet up on the top of Driftward Plains.

When Buzz got back home he found his Ma had taken his packages in to the house ‘cause next door’s dog kept trying to pee on them.

As for Buzz discovering about money, well I’m kind-a sleepy right this minute. I guess it would be all right if I tell you that story another time.

Keep a watch out for the Roadsmen, unless you like getting shot outta cannon in a circus.

 

bobby stevenson 2016
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Me and Buzz and Thanksgivin’

turkey

It was probably a week ‘fore Thanksgivin’ that Buzz’s maw was taken from the house for her own good – leastways that’s what the Sheriff said. He never did explain properly what was goin’ on, and Buzz didn’t seemed that much concerned. The Sheriff then asked was it okay if Buzz came and stayed with my folks: I was about to answer when Buzz dug his elbow into my side and then winked at me.

Through a kind of searin’ pain, I managed to say that it was no problem whatsoever as Buzz was always stayin’ at our place, in fact he was really like one of the family, I added.

Now that wasn’t exactly the truth. Buzz had stayed once at our home but after that night, my maw said if he ever came within hollerin’ distance of our place, she’d shoot him in the britches.

Which was fair enough considering that he had set fire to our outside washroom or toilet (you’re welcome to call it whatever you want – it was still just a heap of mess after the burnin’). To be real honest, I think I bet my bestest pal that he couldn’t light the gases that came out of his be-hind (I apologize real hard for that kinda talk, but you needed to know what was goin’ on) – so I kinda felt guilty and all, ‘bout him get threatened with shooting in the be-hind when it was his be-hind that I had gotten into trouble.

So the result was that my maw didn’t know that Buzz’s maw was missin’ and all – leastways she wouldn’t know ‘till after Thanksgivin’ when she’d likely find out the story from the town’s one and only ‘Mary the Gossip’ (a badge she wore shamelessly proudly by the way). Buzz’s maw always gave Mary the Gossip a whole heap of goodies to work with. Unlike Mary’s other stories, she didn’t have to exaggerate when it came to Buzz’s family; those folks kept the whole town talkin’ (another reason I was proud of my bestest pal).

Anyhoo – at this point my maw thought I was stayin’ at Buzz’ maw’s place for Thanksgivin’.

Now you might think that my maw would have been real sorry about that state of affairs and said that I was stayin’ home – but truth be told, she was entertainin’ her brother and his family at the meal (Uncle Jedidiah was preacher from the far north and his wife was an Eskimo) and me not being there was probably a godsend as far as she was concerned. I mean she loved me, let’s not get that point wrong – but sometimes my maw was pleased that I wasn’t there (if you know what I mean).

So now we’re gettin’ to the part where I was meanin’ to get to – but tellin’ you all the rest got in the way. So me and Buzz realize that we are gonna have Thanksgivin’ together – given that the rest of his family had been farmed out to other unwary relatives and folks who deserved them.

“What we gonna eat?” asked Buzz, as he tried to smoke a piece of macaroni and look all sophist-ti-medicated. He’d tried to buy cigarettes at the store but Mrs Tulip had said that she wasn’t gonna sell no cigarettes to no child and any how Jesus was watchin’ her.

So that was when we made a plan to catch Big Bessie, the biggest turkey in the world. Folks had talked about a ghostly turkey that lived out in the woods and sometimes came into town to steal bad children (I ain’t too sure how truthful that story is, as it might just be grownups just being grownups – if you know what I’m sayin’.)

I mean those grownups had us kids threatened to be stolen by everythin’ from gypsies to the circus, on account of us being bad. No wonder we all growed up the way we did – kinda crazy.

Buzz’s idea was to dress up as a turkey so that Big Bessie would think she’d found a friend and then we’d grab her. Buzz had said – and rightly so – that chasin’ Big Bessie down with guns and stuff just didn’t work.

So me and Buzz built a real friendly lookin’ turkey costume and hid out in the woods waitin’ on Big Bess.

Well it got real cold out there and with the two of us sharin’ the costume, Buzz kinda made it smell bad.

“Shh, I think I hear somethin’,” shouted Buzz and sure enough, he had. It was a big deer that started takin’ offence to this big turkey lookin’ animal and it started buttin’ us and chargin’ us.

Man, we got out of that costume and those woods as quick as you liked.

On Thanksgivin’ Thursday, Buzz found an old packet of bubble gum and we ate that instead. We just sat bein’ grownups, chewin’ about this and that, and Buzz smokin’ more of his macaroni. It was the best damn Thanksgivin’ we ever did have.

I kid you not.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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