Tuesday, 31 July 2012

To Fill A Human Heart (2012) by Bobby Stevenson

To fill a human soul,
Takes strength and smiles,
To fill a human head,
Takes wisdom and time,
To fill a human life,
Takes courage and hope,
But to fill a human heart,
Takes love,
Takes love. 

To fill a lifetime lived,
Takes all that we have,
To fill a child with hope,
Take kindness and patience,
To fill a lover’s dreams,
Take selfless devotion,
But to fill a human heart,
Takes everything.






Sunday, 29 July 2012

Words by Bobby Stevenson




Words can misfire, be misplaced or misused
Words can slice through a heart with love
Words can shrivel a hope,
Words can laugh, words can cry,
Words can dance, words can sing,
Words can destroy everything you are or ever will be
Words can fill an empty life with visions of another
Words can build walls or break them down
Words can pin your head to the pillow
Words can lift your eyes to the heavens
Words are beautiful and words are dangerous
Words are from you and words are from me.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

We'll Meet You At The Circus





When Sebastian was seven, a traumatic thing happened to him. He had seen the monkeys in a cage from the corner of his eye and had wandered over to feed them. He remembered one of them bit his little finger.

Blood oozed from the wound causing Sebastian to turn to show his parents. They were not there as they had gone on without him.
Sebastian screamed and wept until a woman came to help.
She asked Sebastian who he had come to the Zoo with, and he replied his two brothers and his parents. She then asked what was the last thing they had said to him?

“If anyone gets lost we’ll meet up at the circus, “he told the woman.

So that is what she did, she took Sebastian to the circus and there they found a very worried looking mother and father.  

Sebastian never wandered off again.

When Sebastian was nine, a traumatic thing happened to him.

When the siren wailed, the whole family, as they had practiced, went to the fallout shelter at the end of Frankenholme Street.

Sebastian remembers the darkness, then the sudden brightness and then the oozing of blood. When the sun came up again, Sebastian was the only one left.

Only dust and shadows filled what was left of the shelter.

Then he remembered what his mother had told him that day - so long ago - and went off to find the nearest circus.

Zeppelins Over The Mississippi by bobby stevenson


Elizabeth’s Story

It had only been a day since my world had changed.

I sat by the window, opening it a little. The cold air of the lounge was refreshing after the stale air of the cabin. It had been slightly more than a day since I’d left Los Angeles.

A lot of peoples’ lives had changed - after all nineteen twenty nine was a year of changes, a year when the world turned upside down for so many. A year when broken souls jumped from city buildings, when money was lost and scattered to the four winds; I was one of the lucky ones, my family had money.

We came from a little town on the river Hudson in New York State, a place where many influential folks had put down roots. Sure, we all made money in the city but we spent it in the country. We’d been there as a family since 1777. We were the elite, the privately schooled, Harvard educated elite and didn’t we know it.
Papa had felt I was becoming bored at home and had sent me on a trip around the world, primarily, I guessed, to meet a future husband.

I had done as my father had wished and travelled the world but I had done so in a matter of days on the newest mode of transport, an airship, the Graf Zeppelin. I was in Germany by the time Papa had found out, naturally he’d sent someone from the American Embassy to intercept me but to no avail, when I didn’t want to be found I could disappear.

I had flown the Atlantic, over Europe, taken in the vastness of the Siberian wastelands, spent a wonderful time in Japan and then crossed the Pacific Ocean. I was on top of the world in every sense.

I’d first met Samuel in Berlin where he was working for an American bank and was mainly involved in investments.

“Money, my dearest, is what I am all about.”

I can’t remember when he started calling me my dearest but I do 
believe it wasn’t long after we met.

My current thoughts were interrupted by a steward bringing me a welcome cup of coffee. The service aboard the airship was done with all the usual German efficiency and style. I took a moment to look below, there lay the vast plains of America and even at this height I could smell the wheat fields. I would recommend a flight in an airship to anyone. It is both thrilling and breathtaking. If I have to grumble, and it is only a small one, it is the fact that there is a strict no smoking rule. Something to do with the explosive gas we have on board. But, as I say, it is only a tiniest of complaints.

After our crossing from New York to Berlin, the airship was taken into the hanger for a complete inspection and repair before we set out to take on the rest of the world. That was when I fell in love with Samuel and him with me. It was an easy place to fall in love, Berlin and Samuel was an easy person to love.

When it was time for me to leave, Samuel and I had already made plans for us to meet up in New York for the holidays. So it was a complete surprise when we landed in Los Angeles that I found there was a telegram awaiting me in my hotel along with a package. The telegram said only ‘Please marry me, love Samuel’ and the package contained a diamond engagement ring sent from a Los Angeles’ jewellers. There was a note with the ring that said ‘don’t give me an answer until we meet in December’.

I had to have another look at the ring. I had tried it on my finger in the privacy of the cabin but I would not wear it publicly until Samuel placed it on my finger, himself. And, yes, of course I was going to say ‘yes’.

There must have been a gust of wind as the steward opened the lounge door from the corridor, because, all of a sudden, the diamond ring, still in its box, blew out of the window and dropped to the earth below.

Joshua and Jennifer’s Story

They had never spent that long away from each other’s company. Josh was nineteen and so was the love of his heart, Jen. They had grown up next to each other, gone to school together and now they both worked in Mister Finnegan’s grocery store. Josh was the floor manager and this meant that he enjoyed talking to folks whereas Jen was the accountant. At least, that’s what Mister Finnegan called her. Mainly, she just counted the money and put it in jute bags. Mister Finnegan was the one to take it to the bank as he trusted no one in this life.

“Don’t take on so, it ain’t personal, it’s just I’ve been burned too many times.”

So he had - and too many times to go into any detail here - but let’s just say that he had just cause for his stubborn attitude.

One warm and balmy September afternoon, Josh’s father’s entered the store. Now Josh knew exactly what that meant, his father had just been released from jail in Montrose County and was looking for money.

“I know what you’re thinking boy and you’d be wrong, I ain’t looking for money and don’t go think I am. I’m just here to say ‘howdee’ and see how you’re doing.”

Josh knew they’d be more to his father’s visit than a ‘hello’ but he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now at the same time every day, which happened to be around noon time, 

Mister Finnegan would take the previous day’s takings to the bank - having slept with the bag under his pillow the night before. 

During these absences, Josh and Jen would take this chance to have some food together and talk about the day’s woes and anything funny that had happened to them.

It was while the two of them were talking about this and that, that Josh’s father took the opportunity to help himself to all the money in the wooden drawer.

“Where’s my Pa?” Asked Josh when him and Jen had finished talking.

Jen shrugged her shoulders, as she hadn’t seen him leave. It was just then that Mister Finnegan returned to find out he’d been robbed.

Now he wasn’t blaming Josh or Jen for the theft but they had been on watch when the crime occurred and he had no option but to let the two of them go.

No matter how much Josh pleaded or Jen wept there was no changing Mister Finnegan’s decision.

So Josh did what he always did when he tried to cheer up Jen and took her for a walk by the river, the great and beautiful Mississippi.

“I reckon we should move somewhere my father can’t find us.” Said, Josh.

Jen just smiled and kissed them.

It was then that the miracle happened, right out of the sky as if it had come from Heaven above. It almost hit Josh on the way down and when he picked up the box, he found it contained a diamond engagement ring.

He took this as a sign from the Almighty and got down on one knee and asked Jen to marry him, right there and then.

Without hesitation, she said yes.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The 'Tweens and The Stones by Bobby Stevenson

THE 'TWEENS

In all the time that planet Earth had been circling our Sun, it was a miracle that they hadn’t been seen or at least caught on camera before now. 

They had lived here far longer than us and had kept themselves apart from us. Perhaps that was the reason they survived. Homo Sapien’s impatience with those different from themselves had long been demonstrated. 

They were probably mistaken for Yeti, or Ghosts, or Monsters – Man had called many things monsters except perhaps, himself. 

The Universe was theirs – they lived amongst the dark matter, they lived in the time between seconds, they lived in the rooms that were left empty until we entered them, they lived in the spaces that we had not owned or destroyed. They lived in the inbetween.

There’s one now in the next room from you, living the life of a ‘Tween  - until you turn the door handle, that is. 




THE STONES


Willie wiped his brow and looked out at the desert. There had been stories as far back as the dawn of time about the desert, the Moonboy Hills and those stones.

It had been said that when the stones started to move the end was coming. Willie always wondered what end these folks were talking about. He had been too long in the saddle to really care about such things now. There were names and places that he had started to forget and well, his end was probably coming sooner rather than later.

Willie guessed there must be a right time for everything.

He remembered when he was a boy and that first evening he’d ridden up into the Moonboys. He’d been arguing with his paw about some nonsense or other. Taking off with his old horse General had seemed the easiest way to resolve things. The first two nights had been lonely and cold, boy could it get cold up there.
On the third night he’d taken shelter in a cave and managed to light a fire. That was when he saw them - the weird carvings on the far wall. 

When he’d asked around town about them, one of those clever college guys had talked about the pre-Clovis people being responsible but Will had no idea what he was going on about. The Professor had asked if Will could take him to the exact place where he’d seen the carvings but Will wasn’t too keen. He just said he’d forgotten. Anyhow Willie felt it went a lot deeper and darker than those Clovis folks, there was something strange about those signs and that was the truth.

Funny thing to tell, he’d never actually shown anyone other than his own family the location of the carvings. In his teenage years Willie had spent a lot of time up in the hills worrying and thinking about one thing or another.
Girls, money, work, you name it he always took his problems ‘to the cave’.

When he met Sarah he’d stopped going up there. Then, when the kids had come along, he’d take them up one by one on his horse to show them the pictures. But they had all grown up and moved away and no one apart from his youngest Brad had kept up any interest in the place.

Recently after Sarah’s death he’d found himself coming back to the place more and more, to think over his life. Things didn’t feel so lonely up there. The kids and their children very rarely came visiting anymore and he’d usually see the clan at some Christmas get-together, then nothing until the following year.

Willie didn’t mind saying it, he was as lonely as hell and wondering if it was time he should be moving on. Life was for the young and he would tell you, he hated getting old. It hurt in every sense of the word. He was tired and it was as plain and simple as that.

Then a couple of weeks ago the stories had started circulating around the place. Over at Jacob’s Rock and in Wall Fire Alley there had been folks talking about the stones, they were moving, sometimes as much as several feet in a night.

Over in Kent County a minister had called it the end of days. He’d seen the stones moving with his own eyes, may God strike him down if he was lying.

Some folks from the big city came and took photos of the stones and they were kind of thinking that the locals were up to no good, perhaps moving them in the middle of the night. But as the good folks of the Moonboys had seen, there were no footprints near the stones. No rope marks. No way, anyone or, anything could have been involved.

Sixty years before the stones started moving when Willie was still a teenager, he had taken a rubbing of the cave carvings. He was sure he still had them somewhere.

After a barrel load of searching one stormy afternoon, he’d found them in the attic, three clear images of the carvings.

The first image was of little rocks sitting on a plain. In the second, the rocks had changed position and they all seemed to have moved or been moved in the same direction. On the third there was a figure that someone in antiquity had attempted to erase from the carving by rubbing over the image with something rough.

It had never made any sense to Willie except there was something peaceful about the carvings and the cave. There was no doubt about it there was a connection between the story that these carvings were telling and the rocks moving.

Willie decided he’d go out to Lazy Boy Canyon and have a look for himself. He’d go at night when the desert was a lot cooler then he’d catch the stones as the sun came up.

He pitched his old tent by an overhang that helped him get some shelter from the frost. He tried as best he could to get some sleep but this wasn’t a night for it.

Just after two in the morning he could hear a scraping not too far from the tent, he guessed it was just another lonely animal out looking for company or food.

He rested a while but around four in the morning the sun rose over the top of the Moonboys and caused the tent to heat up real bad. Willie felt the only place to go was outside and anyway he was eager to see the stones.

Sure enough, there they were, streaks of sand behind them like they had been moving on their own.

Surely that couldn’t have been what he’d heard in the dark of night?
Willie walked over to the rock and all of a sudden he felt a peace come down on him like he’d never felt before.

He bent down and touched the rock and smiled.

A few days later they found the tent but nothing was ever found of Willie.

There was one strange thing that only the wild animals would have seen, the rock that Willie had touched had moved forwards a few feet.



Friday, 20 July 2012

The Child Of Atlantis (2012) by Bobby Stevenson


The house was built to be admired. It had even outshone the new hotel that stood only a few yards away on the corner of Main Street. The town of Kingston was growing up fast, sitting pretty and, above all, ready for the fast approaching twentieth century.

Andrew had been born here on the edge of the Catskills, unlike the rest of his family who had originally hailed from Lansdale, Pennsylvania.They had made their money in retail around the Market East area of Philadelphia, launching their grand store in the opening weeks of the American Civil War. Most of the brothers and sisters had built villas around the Schuylkill River but Edward, Andrew’s father, had decided to sell his share of the claustrophobic business and move to the Hudson valley in New York State. 

Edward continued to work in the trade by investing his money in, and running, The Fifth Avenue Emporium in Manhattan. Each morning, he would ride the train from Kingston into the Grand Central Depot and each evening, after making more dollars than he could ever possibly need, would return home again. If he was being honest, Edward lived for those return train journeys, smoking his cigar and reading his journal as the evening sun set on the shimmering Hudson River. 


Edward’s eldest son, Brett, was currently attending West Point Military Academy and each night, as the train passed nearby, the proud father would give a small salute. His middle son, Michael, was studying, as had all the family, at The University of Pennsylvania and it was his hope that Michael would follow in his father’s money making footsteps.  

His youngest son, Andrew, was born only a year after the family had moved north and was still to blossom into a creature that Edward could mould. As for Isabel, his devoted wife, he was pleased to report that both of them still found each other’s company attractive. 

Andrew didn’t attend any of the schools in Kingston, instead his father had engaged a tutor to ensure that all the educational needs, which Andrew required, were carried out at home. There was also a nanny on hand, in case Andrew was in need of a woman’s touch; his father thoroughly satisfied himself that he had thought of every possible need and want for his youngest son.

When the boy required some fresh air and outdoor pursuits, Edward would take his son hunting up into the hills around Woodstock where Edward would stand behind his son helping him to aim the rifle and pull the trigger. What Edward couldn’t see was that Andrew had his eyes closed almost constantly and detested the thought of killing another living creature. 

The head of one of Andrew’s ‘kills’ was stuffed and mounted and put in pride of place in the trophy room of that house which stood on the hill and was built to be admired.  

One day Edward took Andrew into the study to give him his birthday present.

“But my birthday is not for another two weeks, Papa.” 

“I know that son, but your mother and I will be travelling on that day, so we thought you should get your present sooner rather than later. You see, that is how much we love you.” 

Andrew could tell by the gun-shaped wrapping, what the present was and he wasn’t disappointed.
“You don’t look too happy son?”
“No Papa, I like it. Thank you Sir”
Edward tussled Andrew’s hair and sent him on his way, adding “We can go shooting together when I return”

Edward and Isabel were planning to attend The Chicago World’s Fair and would miss their youngest son’s birthday. Edward explained to Isabel, in terms that she would understand, that their son Andrew would have many more birthdays but the World’s Fair only came along once in a generation. Edward felt his wife understood and was happy to comply.

Andrew watched the carriage pull away from the house as his parents left for the rail road station and on to Chicago. No one had asked Andrew, but he would have loved to have gone to the World’s Fair. He was now in his tenth year and no one had ever asked Andrew what would make him happy. 

Andrew loved reading and his current passion was Woodstock by Sir Walter Scott. He had taken the book, with his father’s permission, from the family library believing it to be an adventure story about the little town that lay in the Catskills. Instead, it turned out to be an exciting story about the English Civil War and with the family away the library was all his, so he planned to read Ivanhoe, by the same author, next. 

One stormy Sunday, and co-incidentally Andrew’s birthday, the nanny was called away to Highland to attend to her mother who was dying. She had given Andrew little thought as she assumed the tutor would be on hand and anyway, she needed to travel the fifteen miles south as soon as possible. The tutor was indeed at home, but had confined himself to bed with a severe cold having been warned by Edward that should he ever be ill, he should separate himself from the family at the earliest opportunity. Not wanting to have the parents come home to find young Andrew the subject of a tutorial infection, he had remained in his top floor bedroom. 

On the wall of the family library, on the side which was forever in the shadows, there hung several photographs taken of Edward and his hunting trophies. One such photograph was of him on Slide Mountain just after he had ambushed and killed a particularly old deer. 

His father had never taken Andrew as far as Slide Mountain, which according to the tutor, was the highest in the Catskills. It had gained its name from a landslide in the early 1800s which had left the mountain with a large wound near its summit. Andrew’s father was always referring to his own elder brother, Charles, as Slide due to the heavy head injury he had picked up at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Andrew decided that since no one was going to ask him, he’d make his own happiness on his birthday and take himself off to Slide Mountain. So on the afternoon of the stormy Sunday, Andrew took some bread and cheese and placed them in an old satchel. He considered taking his birthday present, just in case of wild animals, but decided against it and condemned the rifle to remain in the cellar. 

The gentle climb out of Kingston and up towards Hurley was easier than Andrew expected but then he didn’t have the prospect of shooting an animal to look forward to. Once at the top, Andrew could see both Overlook and Slide mountains in all their glorious splendour. 

Andrew and his father regularly climbed the trail to Overlook but it was always busy with grown-ups and even more annoying, according to Edward, were the new hotels rising up all over the mountain. So Andrew decided to walk straight on and head towards Slide. 


He might be just a kid, but he wasn’t stupid and if there was one thing his father’s hunting trips had taught him was that he had to keep a watch out for wildlife; for his sake and theirs. Copperhead snakes especially as they were mean. He had only gone a further mile or so, when Andrew heard a rustling sound out to his left, he was hoping it wasn’t hunters or Andrew would be in real trouble. He stopped and held his breath and realised that the sound was following him in parallel.

Andrew wanted to cry out but he knew that this would cause more trouble than it was worth, so he decided to be a man and head towards the noise. Whatever it was, this thing was quite large and it sounded in trouble.
Andrew squatted down and slowly pulled back the vegetation, only to see a black bear cub staring straight back at him. They were both very surprised at the sight of each other which caused Andrew to fall flat on his back and although Andrew knew little about bears, he was surprised that the bear didn’t make his attack. Andrew quickly crawled back a few yards and then stood up, it was then he noticed that the bear cub’s leg was stuck fast in a rock crevice and the poor animal couldn’t move. 

So one abandoned child decided to help another abandoned child - I mean, he just couldn’t leave the bear out there to die, now could he? His father had told him that if a bear threatened, he should not make any eye contact and to back off as quickly and as quietly as possible but, hey, this was a small bear, just like him.
Andrew found a fallen tree and used it to ease the stone which was holding the cub's leg, just enough that  it was able to free its leg and run for a few yards. It then turned and growled which Andrew had assumed was its way of saying ‘thank you’. Except it wasn’t, it was calling on its mother who was approaching. 

“Don’t run, don’t make eye contact, don’t run, don’t make eye contact” was all that Andrew kept saying over and over to himself. He backed away towards a sturdy tree which was nearby, and was just about to climb it when a soft voice spoke from behind it. 

“Don’t climb the tree” whispered the woman, “you’ll only get yourself trapped, stay perfectly still and look at the ground. Don’t even scratch your nose. If you understand me, breathe a little heavier”
Andrew took a long breath. “Good” whispered the caring voice. “Now don’t be alarmed little one but I’m going to pick you up and run some, only a short distance.”

‘Don’t run, don’t run’ was still going through Andrew’s mind, when all of a sudden two large arms came around the tree and lifted him off his feet. He could hear the bear growling and starting to move towards him. Andrew was almost hanging upside down from the gigantic woman’s arms and he could see the bear closing in when all of a sudden he was in a small room with a door and no windows. The gigantic woman threw Andrew in the corner then placed a large piece of wood across the door. The woman signalled to Andrew to be quiet, which he did to such an extent that he almost stopped breathing. 
After a few minutes of listening at the door the woman, relaxed, took a deep breath and whispered “She’s gone” then said “Hi, my name’s Mary”  

“Andrew” 

“Good to meet you Andrew, you sure did have a close one today, someone up there must be looking out for ya. When it’s clear, we can head up back to my cabin and get you cleaned up”

And that is what they did. Mary kept an ever watchful eye out for anything else, as she and Andrew walked to higher ground, arriving at the homely cabin with the smoke coming out of the chimney. In that little hour, Andrew was probably shown more care and love than he’d been shown in all his short life. 

The food that Mary served up was easily the tastiest that he had ever put in his mouth, and he loved the way she whistled while she was cooking and serving the meal. 

“When we’re done, we can talk about what you were doing up in these woods alone. Ain’t you got a ma and pa?”Andrew nodded that he had and then continued eating.
When he’d finished, Andrew told Mary about his mother and father and their trip to Chicago.

“...And this being your birthday and all? If you was mine, I wouldn’t leave you”

Suddenly Andrew wished Mary was his mother. So he told her about his brothers, the ones who were always away from home, the nanny and her dying mother and the tutor in his room.
“You poor little orphan, you sure is a sad one. Come over here and let Mary hug the life out of you. Come on now.”
So the biggest woman in Andrew’s short life did indeed hug the life out of him, then she set him down by her side, always keeping one arm safely around him, and she told him a story. 

“You see Andrew...can I call you Andy?” and the boy nodded “Well Andy, you’re a lot like me, you're one of the others. My mother was one of the others and so was her father”

And she went on to tell Andrew about the others, how a very long time ago there was a land call Atlantis, and in that land lived the good people. These were the ones who created music, poetry, painting, dancing and would express love in so many kind and decent ways.

Because they had not mixed with any other beings, they believed that this was how life was meant to be lived, that each of us should always love and care for one another. But then, and remember this was still a very long time ago, the land of Atlantis arose in steam and fire and the ground below their feet began to break apart. Some swam, others took to the hills while some built small rafts and put to sea. As they looked back from their little boats they could see the land of their home disappear below the waves. 



Some of the good and brave survived and reached the lands we know of today but because they did not want to frighten those they had come to know, they dressed and lived as the strangers did. They married and had children - they fell in love with those they lived amongst and through the families they passed on the life force of the Atlantis people.

Not everyone was lucky enough to claim such heritage, but once in a generation a child would appear who had all the properties of Atlantis. They would be kind and loving, although they would be rarely understood. They would go out into the world and although they would be alone, they would do great things because they knew that they were children of Atlantis and they would never forget. 

“When I saw you, Andy, I knew straight away you were one of those children”
“For sure?”
“For sure, little one” 

So Mary took Andrew’s hand and led him back across the valley, up over the ridge and down to the house that was built to be admired. 

As for Andrew, he displayed all the goodness that Mary had told him about. When he had finished college as a doctor, he travelled to Africa and looked after the sick and the poor. 

And never, for one second, did he ever feel alone again because he knew he was a child of Atlantis and that was a good thing.



Broken (2012) by Bobby Stevenson




Every morning Andy would count to ten before he got out of his warm forgiving bed and while he was waiting, he’d usually count his luck as well.

He’d always been the type of soul who walked the line on the lucky side but he had to accept that things happened to you when you were forty seven years old. The way the radio sounded quieter in one ear than it did in the other, so he was going deaf as well as losing his ability to see words clearly.

The news programme annoyed him to the same degree as it ever did. Why he listened to it was anyone’s guess. All they did was try their best to wipe the smile from his face: sick economy, rising unemployment, new terrorism – why did they never try looking at the positive for a change? Tell a good story about families who were working hard to save their kids. He knew why - because it didn’t make news. 

He was becoming sick of it all- fighting every day for each and every step. Yet like millions of others across the land, he would get up and start his day with the best will in the world that he could muster. He’d grit his teeth like all the other dads and just get on with it. 

Most of his life was a habit but it was a habit that he wrapped around himself like a warm blanket. God help him if it ever disappeared, his wife Sara and the kids were the only reason he’d got up.

He loved his wife the way that you do after twenty five years of marriage, more than ever and less than before. She was his sun, his moon, his stars and his major pain in the butt from time to time. And the kids? Well the kids were part of him, sure they had their moments but jeez they had made this world bearable and they were his breath.

So he got out of bed on the count of ten like he did every day and he slid his feet across the floor like he did every day, and he shaved and showered like he did every day. He had a cup of coffee like he did every day – except for one thing, this wasn’t every day.
                             ______
Sara very rarely stirred from her bed until he had got up. Every day it was the same, she could almost hear his brain counting to ten. But up he’d get without fail. He’d never had a day’s illness except maybe that time when they had just moved to this house, to this area and that must have been nearly twenty years or so.

He was a good man and she loved him, truly loved him – she’d never looked at another in all that time. She knew how he was feeling and what he was thinking even if he was clear over the other side of the county. It was that close, it was that much love.  

He was a decent father to their kids, never a harsh word to say to any of them and yet they kept in check. They were good kids and they would make good parents themselves, everyone said so.
So why did she feel so lost? Like she was drowning, when all this was everything she dreamed of. It wasn’t the menopause, that had been and gone and she’d coped with it all. There was an empty ache at the core and it wouldn’t go away – no matter how hard she tried.  
                             _______
What can you say about a child who’s been murdered? The year it happened was the year that Tommy joined the Police force, it would be more correct to say because it happened is why he joined. Twenty years later and no one had been caught not even a hint. Sure there had been talk and names mentioned, some having to leave to avoid the whispers, but there had never been good solid evidence to point the finger at anyone.

The police had interviewed almost every male in the town at the time but either the Police were incompetent or the killer was very clever.

Tommy had watched the victim’s family disintegrate, that was the only word to describe it: disintegration.
The girl’s mother and father no longer lived together and even the same town wasn’t big enough, perhaps seeing each other brought back the horror of that night.

The night she went missing, the night that the girl’s mother knew she was dead. Before the Police had informed the family, before the body was found, before even her husband had grown worried about Tracey being late. A mother knows and she felt her daughter saying goodbye inside. That was what she told the Police the next day. The mother had even been a suspect at one point but like all other leads she had been not considered a serious contender.
Back then Tommy was just a guy, plain and simple, and the night that Tracey went missing he helped along with all the others. He searched the undergrowth, the garages, down by the old canal and at the side of the once used rail track.

Poor Tracey’s little battered body had been found a couple of miles from where Tommy had been looking. He wasn’t sure if he’d wanted to be the one to find her or not.
                             ______
We separated about two years after the death. For better or worse we’d promised each other at the Church but they hadn’t mentioned anything about your own beautiful little girl being taken. That was the worst of the worst no one could get you through that.
My darling daughter, my little one who I had read to, cried with, laughed with, run with, wiped her nose and her bum had gone.
I and her mother supported each other for as long as anyone humanly could - but the heart scars don’t show up, not at first anyway. They seep through the skin and poison everything around them, they seep into laughter and birthdays. They taint the very kindness of people. Until you grudge everyone their happiness. The fact that the world continues to turn makes your head literally spin.

I think the hatred started with the people on TV. They still made jokes, they still acted in plays, still read the news, still sung their songs. All I wanted was one of them to stop and speak through the screen:

“I am so sorry Mister and Mrs Andrews, on your loss”

But they didn’t they just kept on singing.
Then one night I looked over at my wife and thought - why didn’t they take you and leave her and I knew I was finished.
                             ______
Tracey was my friend and now I don’t sleep so good. My mother says not to worry as it’s only bed sheets. You can always wash bed sheets she says, but I feel embarrassed.
Tracey was my pal and now I don’t go out. Not because I’m scared, just because I don’t want to.
Tracey was my best buddy and I cry most nights.
                             ______
My name is Andy and every morning I count to ten before I get up and then I count my luck.

They haven’t caught me yet.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Careless Shadow by Bobby Stevenson



Don’t ever cast a careless shadow
Nor creak the polished wooden floor
Or breathe too deep although you’re dying
Nor look too wise or walk too slow.

Don’t ever let them see the falling
Of tears upon a window pane
Keep down and low and quietly trying -
You'll get to where you want to go.

The Look of Strangers (2012) by Bobby Stevenson



There are those amongst us who slip into to this life like a well worn glove, who very rarely question its strangeness and in most circumstances prefer to take everything that it offers.

Then there are people like me, Michael Andrews, sometime author, sometimes happy but mostly otherwise confused. There are days when I intentionally tell myself I’m stupid so as not to think too much, so as not to over analyse too much. But on other days...well on those other days I look around and scare myself with what I see. All of us sharing a little rock in space without rhyme nor reason, perhaps that is part of what makes me an author or maybe I’m just going plain mad.

There can only be two answers to this universe; either there is a God in control of everything or there is no one in control and now that I’ve had that thought I don’t want to get out of bed - ever.

Perhaps I’ll just hang on to my mattress and hope that Gravity does its job and keeps me in place.

So on the days I have to go into the city to see some colleague or other, I look at the faces on the subway or on the buses or on the trains or in all those faces of people walking. I look for some recognition that I am not alone in this belief, the belief that this existence really is only for the stupid and that the rest of us are terrified out of our minds the whole time.

And then there is always that nagging feeling which has been around since I was a kid – a feeling that I might have forgotten something important, something that when I remember it will make sense of all of this.

Then I see those faces in the city, those faces looking back at me and I rub my own face looking for marks, or bleeding from my nose or words written on my forehead that say ‘stare at this man’ – but there’s nothing on my face, it’s just the look of strangers.

Maybe they are also looking at me for some recognition that I am going through the same hell as them, but I have that well disguised expression of the stupid and they find no comfort in my face.

But I now know what it is and the truth is even more terrifying than my fevered imagination could have ever created.

I am going to tell you all this as a warning, to tell you to take care. I will tell you what I know and then let you decide.

Last Saturday morning the sun was bleaching the streets of the city and so I decided to take a walk from the central station up to the bohemian part of town.

I passed by the government buildings, the Royal palaces, the squares and avenues that were full of tourists. I walked under trees and arches and I walked around bistros, street cafes, theatres, cinemas and all of them full of strangers, some of whom caught my eye and other who walked on.

Then as I passed a glass shelter at a bus terminal a strange thing happened, I could see in the reflection that many of those who were behind me or had walked passed me were now looking in my direction.   
But when I turned around no one was looking. No one was staring and everyone was going about their business. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying it’s the start of the decline, the start of the long journey into the dark. Soon names will be a thing of the past and I will be left in a corner with vacant eyes. 

Perhaps I was thinking something similar myself until it happened again.

I had a pair of sunglass, the type that allows you to see behind oneself, maybe made for this very exercise and there they were again, people looking at me behind my back and when I turned once again - nothing.

Paranoid? - Perhaps.

I took my phone, the one with the video recorder, and began to keep it in the palm of my hand, always filming behind me. At the Gin Joint Cafe I had a coffee and excitedly started to watch the film.

There they were - people who showed no interest in me apart from a look while passing – who, when they were behind me, would stop, look at me and apparently discuss amongst themselves some detail or another. People who were apparently strangers were talking about me.

Insane? - You would think.

I did what any insane person would do, I turned quickly and started to follow them through the streets and the arches and the squares until several of them disappeared into a doorway, one that slammed shut in my face. I waited on them but no one came out.

I waited and waited and still nothing.  

I walked with my head down back to the railway station until in a shop window I saw more of them, a new crowd watching me.

I am ill, I must be.

I let it be. I went about my life ignoring the look of strangers. Some still walked by me and watched my face as if they were drinking in every last detail.

I just assumed I was wrong.
Then one night in the Gin Joint Cafe I drank more than I should have. I sat at the bar like the old soak of a writer I was. It had just gone eleven o’clock when the girl sat next to me.

“You’re Michael Andrews, the writer?”

“What do you want? An autograph or maybe you want to buy me a drink?”

“I just wanted to shake your hand” she said “we are not supposed to do this. It’s against everything.”

“What is?” I asked, slipping back another short.

“Well talking to you, the greatest writer since Shakespeare.”

“I think you’ve got me mixed up with someone else.”

“No I haven’t, Michael Steven Andrews, born 1963, died 20... wait I’m not supposed to let you know that.”

“You know when I am going to die?” I asked.

“You died years before I was born” she said.

“We come back to visit all the great ones, you and Shakespeare are the most popular.”

“Come back from where?”

“The future, your future, I mean you have already found out that Einstein was wrong and things can travel faster than light. It won’t be long until you start sending objects back in time.”

I was about to ask what asylum she had escaped from when she disappeared.

So now you know what I know. When you get that look from a stranger then perhaps they are more than just inquisitive. Perhaps they are one of your own descendants or a student or a time tourist.

Who or whatever they are, just do what I do and keep on walking.  

 It's safer that way.