Monday, 22 April 2013


The story below is so fresh the keyboard is still rattling and is my entry for this years Writing on the Wall contest (link over on the right). Some others up on there from friends of mine.


They walked deep into the orchard through the high grass, arms round each other. Their soft conversation accompanied by the constant buzzing of bees and the chattering of birds chasing each other through the branches laden with this years crop. They stopped under a tree and laughed as he plucked the ripest, reddest apple and offered her a bite before taking one himself. Now it lay a few feet away, browning in the late afternoon sun, discarded as they had laid down to satisfy another more urgent appetite.
He lay there sated, watching the branches waving in the warm breeze, swallows flashing across the gaps of blue sky. Breathing in the fecund smells of summer and feeling the grasses blow across his chest as her hair had done before. She slept wrapped against him her breath warm against his shoulder and his hand protectively on her head.
Sighing, he prised a grass stem from the corner of his mouth with his tongue and spat it gently away only for several more to take its place. He tried to spit them away as well, with rather more force this time but no effect. Moving slowly so as not disturb his lover he made to raise his free arm and pull the grass from his mouth but his arm had become entangled, the harder he pulled the tighter it gripped. He tried to wrench free, a warning shout to his lover at once choked off, the grass filling his mouth the instant his lips parted.
As his muscles tightened with the effort he felt her wake and start at the realisation she also could not move. Her face was clasped into his chest by the grass that was woven about his hand and tightly into her hair. The more she struggled the tighter its grip. He pulled now with all his strength aware that she was fighting for breath. Both their hearts racing as she was suffocating
against his shoulder. He couldn't help, he was restrained as tightly as if bound with rope, could not even talk for the grass filling his mouth. Now it was forcing its way into his nose. He could neither breath nor move. His senses were now just grass. The smell and taste, the rushing sound of it forcing its way into his ears, the all encompassing embrace of it pulling his body into the ground He saw only blackness as it covered his eyes. He felt as much as heard his lovers last scream die in her throat as her struggle ended. He lost his last grip on life praying she had not believed him responsible.

Days later the farmer drove his tractor into the orchard carefully mowing around his trees before this year's crop was harvested. He left the latest, slightly higher, hump near the centre for later and smiled at the thought that next year's crop would be equally as good.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Home from Home

No specific inspiration for this one though in a previous job I have been in quite a few nursing and residential homes.

“They're lovely grounds Dad, all those trees and the rhododendrons are beautiful.”

Dan was looking out of the window daring the world to smile at him.

“Probably hide the kennels behind there”


“Guard dogs.”

Jenny replied somewhat too cheerily

“Oh Dad come on now it's a lovely home, you even said so when you agreed to look at it.”

“I said it looked nice, Mata Hari looked nice.”

Jenny saw a lovely rolling lawn with a stand of trees and bushes and an idyllic Mansion style house at the end of the sweeping drive. A perfectly idyllic place to live. Dan saw Stalag Luft 17

“They put elastic bands round their bollocks and half starve them.”

“Dad please...”

“Probably do the same to all the poor old sods locked up in there.”

They were pulling up to the steps leading at the front entrance.

“Dad your being ridiculous of course they don't do that now come on, look the managers waiting to greet us by the door isn't that nice.”

As Jenny went round to open the car door for her dad he was already out and brushed her hand off his elbow as she tried to lend some form of support necessary only to her

“Probably saw us on her telly when we tripped the perimeter alarm.”

“Dad be quite.”
Jenny shushed him whilst taking the proffered handshake from the beaming manager who couldn't fail to have heard but gave no sign of having done so.

“Hello you must be Mrs Shaw I'm Ms Belden the manager welcome to The Lawns and this is I take it is Dan.”

Dan was in before Jenny could open her mouth.

“Well you can take it and put it back again it's Mr Argyle to you.”

The Beam never even wavered, Dan thought maybe a bit too much Botox and she was stuck with it.

“Of course, Mr Argyle. Maybe you'll allow me to call you Dan when we know each other better, please come in let me give you the guided tour.”
Ms Belden turned to show the way in so she missed Dans 'never happen love' and Jenny's backhand slap to his shoulder with another hissed 'Dad'.

Just as they went through the door there was a deep throated 'woof'.
Dan turned to Jenny and smiled. Jenny pretended not to notice and said as cheerily as possible.

“Oh you have a dog.”

Ms Belden replied without breaking step on the way to the lounge.

“Oh that's just Alfie my old German Shepherd. He's just a soft old thing everyone loves Alfie round here.”

“Has he been done. Dan asked smiling at his daughter.”

“What a strange question.”
Ms Belden caught Jenny's look at her dad and realised something was going on she was not privy to.
“Yes he has though he's that old now I doubt it matters anymore.”

“Not romancing any walking sticks then?”

Ms Belden was about to reply but Jenny stopped her.

“Oh this is a lovely lounge, isn't this a lovely lounge Dad just look at the view.”

Dan looked at the view briefly and then looked around the room which depressed him even more if that where possible. An open lounge with high backed chairs around the walls most with an occupant in varying stages of senility. Just sitting there watching daytime TV with the sound down or asleep though some looked as though the sleep was more permanent.
Queue here for the undertakers he thought. Is this really it. It's like a bloody warehouse for the terminal. Come to the Lawns and die, but not until we've had all your money off you. Jenny had suggested it but it was his house and pension that would pay for it.

His protestation that he'd rather his money went to his grandson fell on deaf ears. She'd married that four eyed, suited prat with about as much personality as the bloody computer he sat at all day but he seemed to be on a good salary though for doing what Dan hadn't a clue. He wanted his grandson to do something with his life but currently he was a 13 year old clone of his dad. Glasses, school uniform, class swat. Another high salary earner in the making but no life in the kid at all.

Dad your not looking isn't the view lovely.

“Yeh you can see the sun glinting off the guard tower.”

Dan's attention had gone straight past all the greenery to the electricity pylon barely visible.

Ms Belden, full of false, professional bonhomie, looked straight past Dan and spoke to Jenny.

“Oh I can see he's got a strong personality we're going to have some wonderful times when he comes to stay.”

Dan looked at Jenny.

“Am I here, I mean did I leave and a five year old's stood in my place.”

Ms Belden obviously heard but carried straight on with the sales pitch, sounding just that bit too well rehearsed. They eventually finished the guided tour and sat in the office for an interminable length of time while Ms Belden went through all the how much, when and how often. Before Jenny managed to extricate the pair of them with sincere promises to think about it, couldn't make any decisions on the day, have to consult my husband. Ms Belden gave her one of those long embarrassing handshakes that leaves you counting your fingers while wiping the sweat off.

Dan had been watching the other hand convinced it would be reaching for Jenny's purse.
They drove away in silence for a long while before Jenny broke the stand off with a resigned
Well what did you think. Already knowing the answer.

“Posh wrapper with a load of senile old codgers inside sat round the walls hiding the damp patches.”

“Dad do you have to be so negative all the time.”

“Oh come on Jenny they were already dead from the neck up, the place stank of piss and strong disinfectant, there was practically a ground mist in the lounge, mindless crap on the tv which nobody was watching and some god awful radio station on just for the benefit of the staff.”

Silence filled the car for some time

“We could have a look at another one next week if you want.”

Jenny sat up straighter in amazement.
“Do you really mean that.”

Yeh, I suppose.”
“Oh wonderful I'll do another search on Google when I get home.”

You do that he thought. Must be a lot of homes listed on there. Nice drive out, pub lunch, should be able to keep this going for a long while yet, I wonder if I should drop a couple of hints about maybe finding one on the coast.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Nanny Cobb

A short introduction to each post seems to be needed as it feels a bit cold just throwing up another story.
Nanny Cobb was written after a 'Write a ghost story' prompt but I find taking things seriously a bit of a challenge at times so this was the result. A few people have suggested that it feels like an introduction or the beginning of a series which on re-reading it does. So maybe one day we'll find out how it develops. I did actually fulfil the brief properly and I'll find that story for a later post.

Nanny Cobb was sitting by the kitchen range, not doing anything just sitting, in a way that people are incapable of these days. Now they would go somewhere special with lots of other people and all sit together with someone teaching them how to sit and call it meditation but Nanny Cobb knew nothing of that so she was just sitting. And for as much as she was good at it the cat, fortysomat (she'd run out of names and lost count somewhere in the thirties) was even better and was curled up on the window sill by her side.
All was right with the world until the sound of two people walking up the path was getting loud enough to drown out the sitting and Nanny Cobb realised she was going to have to repel boarders again. This really was getting too much this must be at least the fifth time this century, how many times did a body have to assert their rights to their own home.

“Yes it is in a charming location but you can see from the state of the property it’s going to need a considerable amount of work. You still haven’t explained why you bought it without even viewing the property. I mean surely you should at least have got some kind of estimate from a builder for the renovation work.”
Mr Walker was showing Maggie up the path in a crab like fashion and talking non stop obviously wishing he was somewhere else. Any sudden noise and he’d have been through the front gate before the sound of his scream. Maggie took pity on the poor man assured him she’d be fine and watched him through the broken gate at practically a run.
Nanny Cobb had reluctantly risen from her chair and stationed herself just inside the front door blocking the hall and put on her stare, the one that used to send little children running. Fortysomat’s contribution had been to open one eye and close it again. She readied herself for the inevitable scream as Maggie shouldered the door open with a large box cradled in her arms. Nanny Cobb lowered her eyebrows just that little more as Maggie turned and saw her.
“Oh hello, do excuse me” said Maggie as she walked right through Nanny and into the kitchen.
That definitely wasn't the way it was supposed to go. Usually they either turned and fled or froze and needed the extra “whoo hoo” to get them moving. Apart from that annoying woman who was determined to “help you with your unfinished business” Nanny had no unfinished business. Just a deep seated sense of belonging to her house. She'd had to set 'nearlyforty on the woman. Poor cat was never the same again and didn't last much past that.

Maggie put the box down and turned to address Nanny “I’m terribly sorry that really was rude of me but I was starting to lose my grip, your Nanny Cobb” Maggie said with no fear of being wrong” My names Maggie I'm so pleased to meet you. Can't really shake hands though can we.”

Nanny was having none of this friendly lark and was gearing herself up for some serious “Whoo hooing” when Maggie continued.
Of course you won't know me will you I keep forgetting as I know so much about you. Maggie Cobb, an awful lot of generations but we're related. I've bought the cottage and was hoping we could be friends”
Friends you chose, relatives you were saddled with and Nanny had never been saddled with anything she didn't want to be. She looked around for Fortysomat considering the cat option but the bloody little traitor was purring and rubbing itself against the intruders legs.
This one was obviously going to take a relatively long time to shift.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Apples and Autumn

That must've been it, that's five out isn't it, yes it's wider than the others and that bloke on the telly said they were wider in good years. Unbelievable being able to tell what the weather was like years ago just from the rings on a bit of wood. Yes it was a good summer that year. God did you realise how much I planned that. I think you probably did, you always knew what I was thinking.
“Let's take our drinks outside shall we” and you then with that raised eyebrow and just about smile. “Just come over here a minute Jan”.
You watched me pick that apple off the tree, looked me straight in the eye as I gave it to you and just as I opened my mouth you said yes. All summer I'd been planning that speech and you ruined it with one word, and made me more happy than I'd ever been before.
Two further out, that must've been the year we married. One ring on the tree and one on your finger.
Look at that really narrow one. I can remember that one, winter never bloody ended, just marked time through summer and then started again.
That's when we got the dog. Well you got the dog. Turned up back from your Mums with a little whimpering bundle. I never got to open my mouth. You just stood there like Oliver with his bowl. “Please Jack, can we keep him” pouting and quivering your lip. You knew what that did to me, not that I'd have said no. I could never say no to you.
Oh god I miss you Jan.
Twelve years since you went and I'm stood here snivelling like a little girl. There's never a tissue in this house any more. You used to have a box by your chair all the time. Sobbing your heart out whenever someone else on your soap popped their clogs.
Fifteen, doesn't look any different to the others but that must be about when Billy fell out of the damn thing and broke his arm, what was he, eight, nine? You'd have known, you had a mind like a calendar for anything to do with the kids.
Oh sod, I've lost count, now. There that must be our Gill's wedding there, another wide one just like the year I proposed. We had the reception in the garden.
I stood watching the photographer posing them under the tree and you put your arms round me and steered me back into the kitchen because I was blubbering.
I can't keep track of them now, my eyes aren't what they were.
Somewhere in there you screaming at Gill's little lad when he started climbing up it and Billy laughing like a drain because he knew why. Christenings, school photo's, partys.
All under or round the apple tree and now it's gone, like you and all I have is this bit that Fred polished up for me in his workshop. I wonder what they'll do with it when I'm gone, that can't be too much longer, I don't think I'll be setting any records. I wonder if we'll see each other? If you were right and there's something after.
Oh well I'll know soon enough.

Monday, 11 March 2013

A Long Nap

She knew. Oh she hadn't said anything but the signs where there. Pulling her arm away when he tried to help her from the car at the funeral. The all to frequent glances along the row during the service. She didn't actually know and she certainly couldn't prove anything. Nobody could, he'd been to clever for that.
Jenny's death hadn't been difficult to arrange. A very sick wife using two sticks to get about. He'd done all the right things to try and get re-housed in a bungalow rather than the poky terraced house, just so unfortunate, the loose stair carpet, he must have scuffed it up by accident when he was moving her bed downstairs. Such a considerate husband they all said all except Jenny's grandmother, Lily.

So here we now where after the funeral in Lily's room at the home and it had to be today as the silly woman had let slip about the appointment on Monday with the solicitor to re-draft her will. Two hundred and fifty grand about to be taken from his grasp at the stroke of a pen. Well not now.
All he had to do was to wait for her to drink the tea and she would drink the tea. Just as the sun rose in the east and cocks crowed at it's rising Lily drank tea. He was really feeling much more relaxed about this than he expected. Sitting in her room with the large window magnifying the warmth from the summer sunshine and radio two burbling quietly along he was actually feeling quite sleepy. That may even help. Being woken up by one of the staff coming to check up and having found Lily slumped in her chair. “It must have been the shock of losing her grand daughter , you poor man two bereavements so close together” Yes he'd just close his eyes and have a nap then wake up ready to look ashen faced at the news.

On hearing the snore Lily reached for the tea sniffed it then poured it into the dry soil of the cactus on the window sill. She opened the window to let some air in the room and turned of that irritating twit Jeremy Vine who had now served his soporific purpose. She'd actually been in danger of nodding off herself.

It hadn't been difficult to slip the pills into his tea “Would you mind helping me into my chair” and him oh so eager to ingratiate himself. The extra hard grip on his arm and the loud ouch as her knee cracked to distract from the slight splash of the pills dropping in as she moved past his cup and there he was now snoring like a baby just ready to be finished off. No two hundred and fifty grand for you you murdering swine. That was going to the cats home on balance she much preferred them to people anyway.
She was actually looking forward to the arrest and trial, at 87 she wasn't going to be around much longer anyway so a year or twos excitement before she shuffled off was quite appealing. Even if they locked her up it couldn't be much different to his place and the world would know what a sod he really was.
As she reached for the dress making scissors she wondered how much blood there would actually be, rather a lot she thought.

Here be Dragons

It wasn't really Derek's fault. Well it was, he'd done it but it wasn't his fault he was the person he was. Not really up to full 'Bull in a China shop' standard but certainly if the proprietor of any such establishment saw him coming he would have at least tensed up and held his breath. Imagine an enthusiastic Great Dane pup and you'd be close. All arms and legs with not quite full control over any of them. His Uncle really should have known better than to leave him in the room with something he valued so much but he tended to think the best of his relatives and it had been that many years he assumed Derek would have grown out of it. Derek had really done no more than nudge it but as he stood there open mouthed and heard his uncle's hand turn the door knob he knew he'd be getting the blame but somehow it seemed unimportant.

Jesus Christ what have you done” was all his uncle managed as his jaw dropped to match Derek's.

The old globe had been in the family so long nobody could remember where it had come from. It stood (had stood) in the corner of his uncles study about waist high and had acquired a patina of age rendering it nearly the same colour as the Mahogany frame that had contained it. It blended in perfectly with the study which was lined with old books and smelt of pipe tobacco and library quiet, a study which even the great Holmes himself would have approved of. The edges of the continents, such as they were thought to be all those years ago, had still been visible on the globe and some of the words. Most noticeably and to the delight of children in the family down through the generations the disclaimer, common in those days for unexplored areas, “Here be Dragons”. This had been the starting point for many childhood fantasies which involved plenty of plank walking, pieces of eight and as much “Arr Jim lad” as young throats could stand. Derek couldn't ever remember being able to turn it in it's cradle though as it had always been somewhat misshapen which he had assumed was due to age, though had he asked his Uncle he had never seen it move either.

Well it had moved now, tragically, the frame lying on it's side and the globe itself smashed all over the floor. The pair of them stood, open mouthed staring at the remnants whilst a small dragon of some two feet long stood amongst the shards, hiccuped, belched an apologetically small jet of flame and stared back at them.

Ken and the Start of Motorcycle Maintenance


Calm down love, she needs new rings it won't take long.” Ken laid a gentle hand on the Triumph's tank and didn't realise that although talking to Sheila he was actually stroking the bike.

Why don't you take it to bed as well, you've not shown me any affection like that for months.”

Oh come on love we always....”

No you always... you pitch in here drunk when the pub shuts, bang away for a couple of minutes and you're snoring before you've even rolled off. That's not affection Ken. You've got more love for that damned machine than you ever had for me, now get it out. Look at the state of the place.”

You used to love it on the back, hanging on to me, belting up the A1.”

Maybe but that doesn't mean I want it sitting in the middle of my kitchen leaking oil everywhere. Look at it, you can't even move with that thing in here.”

It did pretty much dominate the small prefab kitchen, Ken's attempt to put an old sheet down was a bit of an after thought anyway but it was scuffed up under the bike now and even where it had caught the oil it had soaked through to the lino.

It's only a spot or two, go on I'll put the kettle on you'll feel different after a cuppa.”

Ken moved the cylinder head along the draining board and mopped the trail of oil with his sleeve as he reached for the kettle

DON'T TOUCH IT! Don't touch anything. Don't even move, look at the state of the place. There's not one thing you haven't got oil on For gods sake it's a kitchen not a garage just get it out of the house, now.”

Well where am I supposed to do it woman?

I don't know, in the shed, round at Charlies, anywhere but in my kitchen.

There's no room in the shed, Charlies away at the TTs and she's already stripped down, anyway it'll only take a week.”

A WEEK! I'm not living here with that thing in the middle of my house for even an hour I'm going to me mums and don't even think of calling round until that things gone and this place is spotless, the whole place stinks of oil.”

Which was true but it depended on the wind direction whether it was engine or chip. Sheila grabbed coat and bag with one hand and slammed the door behind her hard enough that the whole wall shook. Ken raised a hand but quickly left two finger marks on his forehead scratching a non existent itch as the door flew open again. She wailed and looked around for something to wipe off the oil she'd collected from the door handle, eventually settling for the tea towel Ken had already ruined. She threw it at him and pointed a loaded finger screaming.
...and don't you dare think that about me.”

The door slammed again leaving that moment or two that was more silent than silence. Ken looked at the bike then back at the door and thought if he tried he might be able to make it stretch to two weeks. Bloody women why were they always so unreasonable.