Monday, 15 May 2017
He wondered if maybe everyone else in the world knew the answer to it the question, and that perhaps he had been in the restroom when they were all being told.
He couldn’t see why everyone else was able to smile, walk and talk at the same time and he found it impossible.
Life was stupid, and sad, and basically it got him down. He saw the kids in school who all seemed to be able to cope with things. Now and again, he imagined he saw a look in another person’s eyes that said – I don’t understand this either – but if he looked again, it normally had gone away and he thought that perhaps he had only imagined it.
So one Friday morning, he decided that he wasn’t going to bed that night until he found out the secret of life. Was there a book they had all read, and he hadn’t seen? Were there classes he could go to that would tell him everything he needed to know?
The first person he met in the hall was his Grandfather.
“Granddad, what is the secret of life?”
And his grandfather thought carefully, scratched his beard, and then smiled.
“The secret, my little special boy, is to tell everyone what they want to hear. I tell your Grandma she looks lovely everyday of her life. I tell you you’re good at football.”
“But I ain’t good at football, Granddad.”
“Who says? Not me.”
And his grandfather walked away whistling to himself.
The boy went down to the kitchen where his mother was making breakfast for him.
“Sit down, little one,” she says to her son.
“What is the secret of life?”
She thought for a while and then looked up at the ceiling. The boy looked at the ceiling too, to see if there was something his mother was reading – but there wasn’t anything. Just a big stain from where his grandfather had let the bath overfill, last Christmas.
She ruffled her son’s hair.
“What’s got you in this mood?”
“Just wondering, I guess.”
“Well let me see. The secret of life is to get up every morning even when you don’t want to. When you know there are folks depending on you, that’s what makes you jump right out of bed.”
“And that’s it?”
His dad walked with the boy down to the school bus.
“Dad, what is the secret of life?”
“Is this a school project you were supposed to do?” Asked his father.
“Nope, just wondering.”
“Well ain’t my boy growing up.” So his dad thought for a while and looked up at the sky. The boy looked up too, to see if there was writing in the clouds, but there wasn’t.
“Well son, the secret of life is to do what your Mom says.”
Later in the morning, his teacher, Miss Sycamore was teaching about the Arctic Circle. She asked the class if there were any questions.
The boy put his hand in the air, and when Miss Sycamore, pointed to him, he asked:
“Miss Sycamore, what is the secret of life?”
All the kids looked at the boy, who had gone a little red in the face.
“That’s a strange question for a lesson about the frozen north. Let me see.”
And like all the adults, she looked at the roof too, as if she was getting some sort of inspiration.
“The secret of life is to do your homework, wash every day and pray every night. Yep, that’s it for sure.”
The boy thought that maybe this was more to do with Miss Sycamore, than the secret of life.
That night as he lay in bed, he realized that everyone had a different secret for the way they dealt with life.
Just like Miss Sycamore, the secret seemed to be to do with what made you happy. But what, thought the boy, if what made you happy, didn’t make other people happy?
So he got down by the side of his bed and started praying.
His older brother, who he shared a room, started whispering real loud.
“What you doing?”
“At this time of night?”
“Is there a good time?”
“Yep, never. What’s got your goat?”
“I want to know the secret of life.”
“The secret, little brother, is to keep your mouth shut so you won’t get beaten up.”
And with that his brother rolled over and went back to dreaming of being a big baseball star.
The boy clasped his hands again and started praying.
“Dear God, if you could tell me the secret of life, that would be really good. Amen.”
With that the boy jumped back into bed and fell asleep.
It was in the morning, at breakfast, as he looked around the kitchen. There was his Mom cooking, as she always did, and like she always did, she looked over and blew him a kiss. There was his grandfather and brother arguing about some sport thing or other, and both of them tussled the boy’s hair as they passed.
Then it struck him; wasn’t the secret of life just to appreciate what you had? There was always something good in a life, and sure there were lots of bad things.
But one good thing, sunk a thousand bad ones, and the boy smiled all the way to the bus stop.
All the way.
bobby stevenson 2017
Saturday, 6 May 2017
I’m waiting for the winds to blow,
And someday soon, or later,
They’ll take me on a voyage,
To a land of somewhere greater.
And if we do not get the chance
To wish you ourselves goodbye,
I’ll look for you in kinder places,
As I go sailing by.
I’m waiting for the winds to blow,
To take my heart away,
And ‘though, we drift apart awhile,
We’ll kiss again, someday.
bobby stevenson 2017
Thursday, 4 May 2017
If I’m being real honest, the house wasn’t as grand as you see it now. Back then it was built with love, sweat and tears and over the longest of times; if I’m guessing, I’d probably say nearer seven years than six. Christopher Lawson made his money from a store in town – one that he and his wife lived above - and one, that he had promised her, that they would escape from one day when they would move out into the countryside.
She had grand ideas about her home, and Christopher spent every spare hour in helping to build her dream. When he wasn’t at the house, he was at the store and this all eventually took its toll. At the age of thirty-seven, Mr Lawson raised a hammer for the very last time - just before his heart gave in. His wife (after a decent amount of time) moved back out East and married, a Philadelphian, by the name of Jeremiah Cruvitz.
That was when the house fell into the possession of my great, great-grandfather and I have to tell you, it has stayed in the family ever since. The house wasn’t built beside the railroad, rather the other way around. By the time the trains came our way, my grandfather had made the building fancier, with more bedrooms to accommodate his growing family. My great, great grandparents had visited New Orleans one hot summer and decided they wanted their house to reflect the same ‘tasteful elegance’.
The first big train that passed our house, and I’m reading my great, great grandfather’s diary here, was one bringing the soldiers from the war down south back to their homes in the north. Man, these guys were hollering and singing and hanging from the train. It had been a long few years and now they were all going back to their kin folks. President Lincoln had defeated the succession and slavery was gone. The sad thing is, that only a few weeks later, my family were standing by the railroad as the body of our greatest president went rolling by.
There were happy times, too. One summer, in 1893, there was a knock at the door real early in the morning. Heck, from what I hear the sun even didn’t even have time to get its pyjamas off – it was that early. One of my family answered the door,for a man with the longest and curliest moustache in the world, to say: “Could ya spare some water for my elephant?”.
Seems the train taking the animals to the Chicago World’s Fair had broken down about a quarter-mile from our house, and the animals were all getting thirsty. What a day that was for my folks. In the end, they held their own private circus in our garden, then the show folks slept in the barn and some on the kitchen floor. In the morning, their train was good to go and they were off on their way to Chicago.
Two more World Wars came and went, and guns and soldiers were shipped to the east coast (or the west, as happened in the second war).
For a long-time afterwards trains kinda fell out of fashion, although you’d still get the two-mile-long cargo caravans. It stayed very much that way until the late 1960s, when we all went down to the tracks, dipped our heads and watched as the train carrying Robert Kennedy passed by the house on the way to Washington DC.
Passenger trains came back into service again, and folks started to pass our house. Some would take the time to wave, while others were busy on their computers and all.
Late in 2018, trains started heading towards New York and Philadelphia with armaments of all shapes and sizes; tanks, rockets, landing crafts, you name it, the trains carried it.
It was only a few months after those trains passed that we saw the flash in the sky – long way off my daddy said – but we could still feel the wind all the same.
Ain’t no trains been passed the house in a mighty long time, no trains at all – speaking of which, we ain’t seen another human in all that time, either.
bobby stevenson 2017
Wednesday, 3 May 2017
When she was a child, she ran with the wind and loved the Sun on her face. Back then, the world was an exotic mixture of colours, smells and wonderment and she took every opportunity to drink them all in – every single one of them. Life was electricity when you were starting out; love, hope, fear, and happiness were all painted in huge, large letters and it was all there for the owning, but once you started to take them all for granted, these pulses of life began to erode and would eventually disappear.
So, it was for Krystal, for she was still young enough to taste a little of the electricity in her mouth, but old enough to know that it was leaving her (like it did for all of us). Yet there was still a life of adventure out there to be lived – regardless of the dying of the light, and she wanted it.
There are stories and myths that come from all parts of this glorious world, some of them are downright lies but some of them are true. To be honest, most of them come from the fevered minds of those who should know better – but in among them all was one story that her grandfather had told her, and her mother, and her brother. It was about the Sky pirates – and how they would take to the air in their big wooden ship, and land in little towns and hamlets and rob the good folks who lived there. Their real name was the Astral Vikings, at least that’s what they called themselves – but Krystal knew them as the Sky pirates and that was how they’d stay (at least in her mind).
Even though the story had been told again and again, it had faded some in her mind and so she travelled to see her brother to ask him about who and what they were.
“They ain’t for the likes of you, Sis,” said her brother.
“That ain’t your call, now is it?” She told him. “All I want to know is when they come and how I can meet them.”
Her brother blew up his cheeks to show that she was asking a whole lot in that one question.
“They might kill ya,” he said.
“I’ll take my chances,” she responded. “So where can I meet them?”
And her brother told her about a hill that was about two clicks from the town and which would probably take about a day to climb.
“When do they get there?” She asked him.
“On the 32nd of every February,” he told her.
“There ain’t no such date,” she scolded.
“Oh, but there is. You just gotta look”.
She tried to weigh up what she was leaving behind, and in the end it didn’t seem that much. Most of her family had gone, and her brother lived some ways away. So, what did she have to lose? Pretty much nothing.
There was still a bit of waiting to be done. There were twenty-nine days in February that year, so Krystal packed her bag and on the morning of the 30th of February, she started out for the hill. There was really no one to say goodbye to, except maybe the stray cat who had befriended her.
“I would take you with me, but I ain’t sure that pirates don’t eat cats,” and without looking back she put one foot in front of the other and left her home for good.
By the 31st of that month, Krystal had reached the base of the hill. Now all she had to do was climb it. It was tougher and higher than she had dreamed but just before it grew dark on the 32nd of February, she stood at the top, smiled to herself and waited. She wasn’t sure for what but she waited all the same. She wasn’t alone, no sir – not by a long way. There was a queue of folks from little creatures to real hairy things. Each of them just as enthusiastic to be a Sky pirate.
She heard it before she could see it – the ‘putt,putt,putt’ of the great engines that kept the ship in the air, then through the clouds it came. Huge and magnificent. Someone shouted to her from the sky-ship, asking if she was looking to come aboard.
“You mean all of us?” She shouted back.
“Who else is with you” And sure enough, all the others had got scared and were running as fast as they could back down the hill.
Without a second’s delay, Krystal said that she was as ready as she’d ever be and so the great ship manoeuvred close to where she was standing. A man – one of the Astral Vikings – jumped on to the nearest ledge and ran a rope gangway over to where Krystal was standing.
He quickly jogged back to the vessel and left Krystal standing at the bottom of the gangway and at the start of a new life.
Should she? Would she? Was she brave enough?
And just like leaving home she put one foot in front of the other and walked towards the sky ship.
bobby stevenson 2017
She felt that she had never set the world on fire; unlike the politicians who had managed just that. No, what she had achieved, what Sara had achieved, was to light little fires in the eyes and souls of the people she would meet.
The world had gone from blues and greens and whites and yellows, to the darkest black. Darker than the hearts of those men (and they were men) who had started the conflicts. Over what? Over what men had been fighting about for several thousand centuries; ‘what I have is greater and bigger than yours’.
After the dark, which had lasted a very long time, a sort of dawn had emerged, a beginning to the healing. One in which the world and nature were starting to soothe the planet and make it inhabitable again.
Water began to run in the streams, and rain, a blackish, sooty rain had found itself falling on
long forgotten fields.
Those who had been born in the dark times had lost the art of building so most took to shelters where they were found. There were fights and wars over the possession of such treasures. Many had taken to using old railway tunnels or under bridges. Defenses would be set at either end of the tunnels and families, perhaps several hundred, would live within that camp. In some sad ways, the Iron Age had returned.
Sara had never known her parents, she had been found crying beside an old dried up river bed which had once been known, before the dark times, as the Thames.
The man who picked her from the ground that day had a family of his own; his folks were the new troubadours – once known as circus people, they now traveled from one settlement to another, performing for food and water and anything else they could get.
Sara grew up in this environment, a gypsy life that suited her well. No one knew of the type of people she had come from, and after a while, she found it didn’t really matter to her.
She was happy – whatever happiness was in those days of rebuilding. I suppose if we were being honest, happiness is relative to what you are experiencing. Perhaps the happiest man in the world in those days, would have been called a sad man a thousand years before. But
for the times she lived in, Sara was happy enough.
She never found a partner on account of the fact that she moved around the country so much. She never had children – but this was a choice – she didn’t want to bring new life into these difficult times.
So one day – and for whatever reason only known to her – when her family were sleeping, she awoke early and left the tunnel they were living, and entertaining, in – and without looking back, she walked away.
She never saw any of them again – despite all the traveling she did. She didn’t go looking for them, but she thought it might be nice to see an old face, once in a while.
Sara found she had a gift for stories and storytelling. Although each settlement tended to have one or two of their own, the chances were that they told the same story again and again. Sara’s gift was that she could write whatever the universe threw at her.
Some stories she had in her head were standard, and she would change the names in the tales to several people’s names who lived in the tunnels which she was visiting. Yet most of her stories were made up on the spot and although many were lost in time, some were remembered by a tribe’s member and re-told long after Sara had left the area. They changed in the re-telling but basically they were Sara’s stories.
The folks in the railway tunnels had started to farm in its most basic sense – in the dirt on each side of their settlements, areas that had once supported the railway lines. After a few difficult months of growing and harvesting, people like Sara were a warm, welcome sight to those who lived in the tunnels.
Nothing had survived from the old days, those wondrous lost days of everlasting summers: no Shakespeare, no Einstein, no Van Gogh, no Turner, no Twain, and no Dickens. Nothing. Whatever Sara was creating in her head was based on what she had seen and heard in her short life – and whatever the universe was whispering in her ear.
But there was no one who could compete or create as much as she did. In between Sara’s visits people would be entertained by clowns, or magicians, or souls who had started to make tunes using wood and stone.
Nothing or no one ever came close to Sara – she was the Hollywood of those new days. Her stories traveled far and wide – it is said that some of her stories traveled around the world several times, changing only in details and language.
There is a statue to Sara which stands in the central square of New London – its inscription is simple:
‘The Woman Who Told Stories’.
She is still missed.
bobby stevenson 2017
The Private War of Bobby Falkirk
Which war he went to (and came back from), isn’t important here, it’s just important to know that Bobby came back in one piece – well almost. His head was intact, as was his body – but it was a plain and simple fact that his brain and heart didn’t really communicate that well with each other. Whose does?
Ever since he was old enough to climb trees, Bobby had always wanted to be a soldier. In Bobby’s world branches became rifles, and clumps of grass tied to his head made him invisible to the enemy.
He used to invade Mister Elder’s garden on a weekly basis. Mister Elder threatened to go to the police, but nothing ever came of it and Bobby kept on invading and taking Mister Elder’s flower beds prisoner.
Every morning Bobby would ask his mother if he was old enough to join the army, and every morning she would say the same things – ‘not long now’ or ‘when you’re a little taller’. Bobby even hung upside down from trees, for hours, just to make himself that little bit taller.
As he grew up and older, Bobby could see his mother looking sadder – she knew the time was fast
approaching when he son would be off to wars overseas.
Bobby had waited, as he had promised, until he was 18 years of age before he attempted to join the army. At that age he was over six-foot tall and built like a champion fighter. Bobby didn’t care if the world was ready for him, Bobby was most definitely ready to take on the world.
In all, Bobby spent ten years in the army and in that time, he saw many places, many cultures, and just as many ways to kill a man. His eyes grew tired and weary of the stench of death, and his heart grew cold and hard. By the time Bobby returned to his home, he felt like a man who belonged to no particular place. Something of himself had been destroyed and buried in those far-off lands and it made him confused, as a result.
In the ten years spent in the army his parents had died, leaving Bobby to feel that he was an orphan. He had a family while he was in the army – he had never been closer or felt more of sense of belonging than those army years, but friends had died in battle or had left.
For the first time in his life, Bobby felt totally alone. In his younger years, Bobby would sometimes travel with his uncle (really a kindly neighbour) up to St Pancras station and hotel on Euston Road. It had been falling apart for many years, but while his uncle worked on the railways, Bobby would explore the old buildings and the old hotel.
In the highest tower (and for reasons you will understand later, I am saying no more than that) Bobby found an empty room, full of cobwebs and rats. At each visit, Bobby would smuggle in little objects, pieces of wood (from which he built a seat), and some things to eat and drink. Over the next few years, it became Bobby’s home away from home. One weekend, when his uncle was taken unwell, Bobby sneaked up to the railway station and managed to get up to his den in the highest tower, unseen. He had always remembered this.
On his return from his war, Bobby had found himself with nowhere to call home, or even rest his head. It was then that he thought of his little room and wondered if it had been discovered during his absence, or if it indeed remained intact.
The station and the hotel had been transformed since last he had seen the place, and the chances didn’t look good for his den’s survival. Even the back stairs had been repainted and lit in electric light, but as he got to where the door was to his room, he found a brick wall. The entrance had been blocked.
The window to the left of the door was still in place and Bobby found he could still open it. The ledge was there and Bobby clung on to the guttering as he walked, carefully up the roof. The window to his den was still there and he managed to prise it open.
Would you believe it? Bobby’s den was still there, untouched, if a little unloved. The builders must have blocked the door and ignored the highest room in the tower. All his survival/army gear was there – even his little notebooks where he recorded all his height changes as he grew.
That night Bobby slept well, just like did when he was a kid. Tomorrow could look after itself.
It took him a minute or two to realise where he was when he awoke, as the sun shone through the window of his little room. When Bobby was ready, he went on a little walk of discovery and found that there was three other rooms next to his which had also been bricked off from the rest of the building. That was when the thought hit him – it would be possible to live up here, as long as he could come and go unseen.
He only had a little money, enough to keep him going for two or three weeks at most, and if he left the building in the dark then he should be able to survive for a while.
That first day, he ate what was left of the sandwich he had stuffed in his pocket. From up there, the highest room on Euston Road, he could see the world go by and the office workers impatiently watching the clocks on their walls. Bobby’s medication wouldn’t last more than a month or two. The army had handed him some tablets to keep his confusion under control, but in the end the self-control was down to him.
Bobby waited until past midnight before he made the walk down the ledge. He could hear the city screaming and shouting from the streets below; people with families and lives. People without the confusion that had swamped his thoughts. Would he love to be down there and normal? The thought didn’t last long as a breeze blew up and nearly knocked him from the roof. He managed to catch on to the guttering at the last moment. In that split second, he had imagined the newspaper report – ‘soldier returns from war and jumps from roof’. Bobby didn’t want that.
Bobby made it down to Euston Road and started towards Kings Cross. He went into the station and bought some chocolate to keep him going. Bobby was walking to nowhere in particular when, from the corner of his eye and across the street, he noticed a young woman being pushed about by three men. She looked to be in trouble. Bobby sped across the road.
Bobby shouted at the men. “Leave the girl alone.”
“Says who?” Asked one of the men. The one with a scar across his nose.
“Says me,” Bobby shouted back.
“Get him lads,” shouted the fat one.
At that point the three of the men threw the girl aside, making her bump her head against the wall.
It was easy for Bobby, he was fit and ready for them. He knocked two of their heads, literally together. One sparked out and one ran away. The one with the scar stood his ground and grabbed the girl by the neck.
“One move and she gets it,” he said with the girl blocking him from Bobby’s fists. Bobby rolled into a ball then quickly knocked away the man’s legs, Bobby managing to catch the girl as she was released.
Bobby stood and dragged the man by the ankles into a small lane. Bobby picked the man up and chucked him in a dump. Then Bobby returned to make sure the girl was okay.
She seemed to be okay and he found out her name was Elizabeth. She had no money, so Bobby went back and emptied the man in the dump’s wallet. He handed the money to the girl, taking her to a place where she could catch a cab. She asked his name, he told her it wasn’t important and then put her in a taxi.
Bobby could hear the station clock strike two in the morning, as he edged his way back to his den in the sky.
As he lay trying to sleep that night, Bobby wondered if everything happened for a reason. Maybe being a soldier and fighting the bad on the streets of London was why he had been put on this Earth.
Bobby, the hero? There was still a grin on his face as he fell asleep.
What can I say about Choodla, that hasn’t already been said over and over again by the newspapers, the television, the judges, the police, the weird man who lives on everyone’s street, my family, my pet dog? Nothing - that’s what, nothing except I’m Choodla and no one except me can say that.
I’ve watched those stupid movies about superheroes (okay they aren’t that stupid) and then I’ve watched those stupid movies about vigilantes (okay, those aren’t that stupid either) and that is when I decided to……no, I think I’m jumping ahead here. Let’s go back to the start. Kind of.
Once upon a time, a pre-Choodla time, I was just your usual kid with dreams and stuff. Well except I was too lazy for the dreams and didn’t have enough cash for the stuff – so basically I was just a kid. The trouble was that all those little traits followed me into adulthood. I mean I did my best to grow up – ended up over six feet tall – but those pesky little things like laziness kind of came with me. Boy that really pee’d me off but what’s a guy to do?
I had a job, or at least I had people who came and gave me money to sit in an office and work with dumb folks and dream of being somewhere else. Except you get to like the money and tell yourself you’re only staying until the storm passes over and then you’ll move on. Except you don’t – or at least it looked as if I was welded to that desk in my office - until the day they said they were rationalizing the structure of the office, and that meant I was on the street.
So now I don’t have a job but at least I don’t have to listen to dumb folks anymore and that to me was a big tick. Except I don’t have any stupid people to hand me money, so I have to do what I have always done and that is to play my guitar in the street and hope folks throw coins at me. I should have said ‘to me’ but it was more often than not ‘at me’. Hey, you get to find out that everyone’s a judge these days.
So I was playing ‘American Pie’ on my guitar for the good folks of this big city for the twentieth time that day and I still only had a few coins in the hat (ones I put there myself). When a little old man came crawling out of a side door – called himself McCafferty and said he was having a party and would I like to come. Okay, you’re thinking what I’m thinking that this man is a serial killer and probably got a bed, some tape, rope and a collection of knives to torture me slowly but I thought, being the victim of serial killing has got to be preferable to playing ‘American Pie’ one more time. You think I’m joking, you try it.
Anyway I collected my coins and hat and followed him down through a door which seemed to go down to an old unused Underground Station. Down in the old platform, of the old station (it was old) was a collection of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells that you would ever wish (or not) to meet. McCafferty introduced me as ‘that geezer who won’t stop playing that song’ and everyone knew who he meant.
The leader wasn’t McCafferty but a big bloke called Andrew who shook my hand and asked if I thought that they we were just a bunch of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells. I said that nothing could be further from the truth, and that indeed they looked like an upstanding bunch of gentlemen …”and ladies” shouted a collection of overcoats in the corner.
Once you got over the smell, they did indeed seem interesting. One gentleman had been a professor of economics in a prestigious university but had fallen on hard times when they’d found the bank accounts.
“A mere oversight,” he said, and he hoped to re-join the world above any day soon.
Another had been something in Westminster until they caught him and he too was only waiting down here for things to get better.
The one they called ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and who was married to whatever existed under the collection of coats had once been a star of stage and screen until he too was found to be wanting in some area or another.
They asked me what my story was and I had to be honest and say that I had just been fired from my job. As such I had probably some way to go to be as esteemed as the collection in front of me.
“Tish and tosh,” said Jumping Jack, “You look like you have a few secrets to tell.”
Apart from stealing a coin from my Grandmother’s purse I had been pretty quiet on the dishonesty side.
“We shall prise it out of you, young musician person, prise it we shall.”
I must say he looked as if he meant it, every word and that perhaps ‘prising’ meant using some instrument or other.
An extremely smelly old man said that there was one rule down here and that was ‘share and share alike’ and suddenly a giant of a man grabbed me by the ankles and held me upside down while the little coins that I had, fell out of my pocket. All of those miscreants were on those coins like rats.
When they had taken everything and anything, they said the time had arrived for me to be named. I told them quite rightly that I had a name but they said that was a name for use above, I needed one for down here in the Underground. A few of them huddled in a corner and every so often they would stop talking, look at me in a very weird way then shake their heads and go back to talking.
After what seemed a blooming eternity (enough time to sing American Pie fifty times) they came over to me and told me to kneel.
I did so hoping that whatever happened would be quick –
“Old Creature here has come up with a name and you are to be called ‘Choodla’ from now on.”
I asked why Choodla as it sounded kind of weird.
The one they called Creature said, “It is the greatest name that anyone down here can be called. It is after the Underground station we stand in.”
I said I didn’t know any stations new or old called Choodla.
“No dear boy, it is Aldwych – that is the station in which we reside. One that was closed years and years ago. And if you spell it backwards – Chywdla (well nearly backwards) you get Choodla. That sir is your name from now on.”
So here I am stuck in an Underground station in London with a bunch of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells and you’re asking how do I become a superhero? Well you’ll just have to wait and see.
If you’ve ever journeyed upon a train through the centre of London town, you’ll have perhaps looked up, and seen, a vacant office with dirty windows; one that is unloved and unlived in. Well that dirty little place, dear friends and readers, is the current whereabouts of one, Cheedel Craze. You will certainly not know his name up until now, but you may have met him in one form or another.
If Cheedel was like us mortals, his career would be noted as space cop, but believe me, he is much more than that, vastly more than that. Cheedel is the soul who keeps our universe in order – who cleans up any spillage and who attempts to put things right, the best that he can.
Each universe, (of which there are many) has guardians, and Cheedel is one of ours. He bases himself in London, since – when he started his tour of duty, this city was at the centre of a great empire and an easy place to get to anywhere else. As for choosing Earth, well this little outpost sitting on the edge of the Milky Way, was the ideal place for Cheedel to get some time to himself.
Now I’m going to try to explain multiverses (lots and lots of universes) the patronising way that Cheedel explains it to me. So nothing personal then.
Imagine that you have a car, sitting outside your house at 7am on a Monday – and for whatever reason you try to cram as many people as possible into said car. Say, the total you could fit in at any one time without killing people is, eight. The next morning (Tuesday) you do the same again – another eight souls into an empty car. Each of them occupying the same physical space on a different day – but now imagine that someone from the Monday car left a paper behind, and the Tuesday crowd found it – then it would be Cheedel’s job to clean up that tracer (as he calls it) so that the Tuesday crowd know nothing of the Monday crowd. Okay, I hear you, you’re none the wiser. Anyway that is Cheedel’s job and he loves it.
On this particular morning, ironically a Monday, he hears tell of a ghostly apparition that has been causing consternation at a public house (a bar) on Fleet Street. The bar owner loved the attention at first, but now the figure of a woman is attacking his precious clients by throwing things around. This would have been called a poltergeist in the old superstitious days but Cheedel knows this not to be the case.
Sometimes universes rub up against each other and cause little ripples, or ulcers if you like, that allows energy to slip from one to the other. It’s as if someone in the Tuesday car happen to see an image of someone sitting in the car on the Monday. Once these were called ghosts – but now you know better.
By the time Cheedel arrives at the bar, there has been much destruction and not a soul left drinking in the place. Cheedel finds the owner hiding behind the bar trying to avoid plates that are being thrown at the bottles behind him. Even if he misses the plate, the bottles smash and scatter glass everywhere.
Cheedel had found out about this particular problem while sitting in the British Library – he sometimes fondly calls that building the ‘Geek Palace’ on account of the folks who sit in there and have discussions that would probably get them beaten up just a few yards outside the building.
One couple who frequented the Geek Palace, quite regularly, were talking about existentialism and ghosts. As I say, had they been having that conversation on a bus, the driver would have probably thrown them off. Anyway the taller of the two mentioned about the haunting at the bar on Fleet Street and about the ghost of Anne Boleyn, the Queen, who apparently stalked the corridors.
Cheedel chuckled to himself, because he knew that even if she was an Anne Boleyn, she would have definitely not been the Queen of England. No two people did the same thing in two universes. So even if it was her, she was probably appearing as a contestant on X-Factor in that universe (although Cheedel realised that he was being a bit facetious).
The owner asked if Cheedel was a ghost hunter or if he was just in for a pint of beer to be drunk under trying circumstances. Cheedel decided to call himself a ghost hunter as it always seemed to work with Londoners.
Cheedel strode up the bar corridor and was met with a toilet pan flying across his path. He entered the room that the toilet had come from, to find a grainy image of an old (annoyed) woman. You see, this woman would have slipped through from her universe unintentionally and was probably being treated for mental illness over at her side. What with all her talking about bars and people in funny clothes – when she might be just sitting in a room and no one else knowing what she was going on about.
The secret to a successful clean-up was for Cheedel to fix the rupture in the universe wall without leaving any of the leakage on this side. Otherwise the angry woman might be throwing furniture about for eternity.
He tried to distract the apparition by singing a Monty Python song. Cheedel had no idea why this worked but it seemed to. She stopped throwing things about long enough for Cheedel to locate the rip in the space-time continuum (it was a lot of nonsense, of course, but he loved to impress the geeks with that type of talk).
The woman slipped happily back through the hole and Cheedel manage to make a nice repair in the wall. Cheedel knew that the woman (who ever she was) would be starting to recover on her side and would no longer see strange things – she might even go on to win X-Factor in that universe. Cheedel chuckled at this and considered it another victory for the space police.
And on the way home, he thought he might just drop into the Geek Palace to see what folks were talking about at this time of day.
bobby stevenson 2017
Thursday, 20 April 2017
His family loved him, of that you can be sure. He was, after all, from them and like them. Sometimes when his mother walked with her child along a street, he would look up at her and see the pride in her eyes. And sometimes when she was tired of dealing with the unkindness of others, and the way they stared at her little son, he could see tears in her face. She would secretly dry her eyes with her coat sleeve, smile the biggest of smiles, and encourage her boy to hurry along.
In his early years, no one told him that he was different in any way. It was only when he went out into the world – a world of half-formed people, with half-formed hearts and half-formed love, that he found the winds were just that little bit colder, and the shadows somewhat darker.
When his mother caught him staring into a mirror with his usual look of bewilderment – she would shout, ‘now ain’t you just the most beautiful creation ever’. And to her and her family he was the most beautiful of children.
She did her best to warn him of the apes who lived outside the walls of their home. Those apes all looked alike, and that made them feel that they were a tribe, that they all belonged together - but they also carried hate in their hearts – perhaps they were born with it, or it was legacy passed down from parent to child – but it was the hate which drove the tribe, and the hate which caused them to despise others who were not like them.
She told him that he should walk with the stars which filled the night sky and not be scared of them. That the universe was magnificent and vast, and that those who chose to look only at creatures near them and judge them, were only cave dwellers, who were blind in eye and heart.
In his first day at school, a little girl had read a story called the ‘Ugly Duckling’, and his new class mates had all looked at him. But he knew from his family that he had special gifts, and they weren’t going to go away or transform him into a beauty that the rest of the word could deal with.
He was beautiful, it was as simple as that. He had wings which none of his family had, and he could fly at any time. Something that any of his classmates would have wished that they could do.
He knew he was different, and he knew he was beautiful, and he knew he could soar above the clouds. He had no need to show others to be accepted. He might have to live a life with the half-formed hearts trying to break him or even, make him disappear. He would be called ugly, he would be spat upon, he would be beaten by stones, but in the end, he would always remember what his mother had whispered in his ear one birthday: ‘chase happiness’.
So, that is what he did. He decided that in order to be happy, he had to help happiness in others. That meant being a new super hero. Maybe not the first, but definitely a very different one. By day he was a mild-mannered kid, who did what he was told, and smiled at everyone. After school, it was a very different story, his hat and coat were thrown aside (he couldn’t change in a phone box) and he’d spread his wings and swoop down on anyone in need of help.
It probably all started with that kid who lived in the next street. He was a child with an imagination and therefore didn’t need much else in his life. He could build fantastic new worlds out of twigs, empty jars, and old boxes. What his world lacked in colour and structure was painted by the thoughts in his head. Now I’m not saying any of that is wrong, but sometimes this kind of behaviour scares folks who can’t keep a single thought between their ears.
It was the fattest kid in the area, and the tallest kid, who hung together and caused maximum mayhem where ever they went. Perhaps these were just two outsiders who thrust themselves into the centre of things by hurting others. If they were hurting folks, then those people couldn’t harm them.
The kid in the next street had built a castle made from glass jars, it looked clever and displayed a degree of talent, which was the kind of thing that really bothered bullies. So, one morning the fat boy and the tall boy looked over the hedge of a garden and saw the kid from the next street and his castle, and decided to kick it over, throwing the jars into the road. They would cheer every time one smashed and needless to say the kid from the next street started to cry.
It was this sad sound which first attracted our half-bird-half-boy (who at the time was feeling happy about his new hat, and kept tipping it to the side to see which angle looked better).
Our hero, threw off his human clothing and headed to the source of the crying where he saw immediately what had occurred. He started pecking at the fat boy and then the tall boy – and although they tried to swat him away, it didn’t work. The fat boy was sure that the bird would peck out his eyes, and so ran away leaving his friend to take the punishment. Once the tall boy had enough of the bird, he, too, ran off.
This was the way his life continued for a while. The boy-bird would swoop down on those being victimized and would then use his beak to put right the wrongs of this world. Sometimes he was hurt himself, when they fought back, and on other times he wasn’t.
Then one Saturday morning, he found himself sitting on the highest branch of the tallest tree in a local park. He tended to hide this way when he was outside and naked – meaning that he was without his human clothes. It did feel good but he also felt that as a bird-boy he had a responsibility not to run around without any clothes on, leastways, not when humans were watching.
As he was watching the park, he spied some children playing a game of football. He’d always wanted to play football but most birds weren’t that excited about the prospect, and he found it difficult to get a game. On the other hand, most humans weren’t too keen on birds playing football either. So as far as he was concerned it was basically a stand-off.
The kids were enjoying themselves until a taller and older looking child, tackled one of the smallest. The little boy let out a scream and seeing he was upset, the injured boy’s friends started to pick on the larger kid. It looked as if all-out war would ensue, until our little bird flew above the melee and started to shout and whistle:
“That’s enough,” he shouted in a high squeaky bird voice. He called out again but still there was no reaction. So, our little bird friend landed on the head of the tallest kid and started to peck at his head.
“Ow!” Yelled the boy.
“Behave yourself,” said the bird.
“Says me,” said the high-pitched bird (although in bird circles he was known to have quite a butch voice).
“Want to be our ref?” Asked one of the younger kids.
“Sure,” said the bird.
And that was where it all started. That day in the park, our bird started on a journey that took him from fan, to referee and then to running the team.As he was the only bird in that job, he became famous, always in the newspapers and forever on television.
And now our little friend manages an English Premier League team – of course you don’t need me to tell you which one.
bobby stevenson 2017
photo: Alexei Petrenkov