Sunday, 26 January 2014

Expecting To Fly

You could smell the bitter sweet fumes carried on the warm winds long before you could see it. Then there was a ‘putt-putt-putt’ as his air machine descended towards the town. Everyone was excited, and I mean everyone, even Mrs Watson and she never got worked up about anything. Like she said, she was saving herself for Jesus when he returned to Earth.

I was thinking to myself that maybe Jesus wouldn’t make Culpepper City his first priority and perhaps Mrs Watson would have to wait some. But then what did I know?

Culpepper wasn’t really a city, in fact it took a huge stretch of the imagination to see it even as a town. We had one main street and nothing much else. The founding fathers had big plans for the settlement and had decided on calling it a city from the word go, as a signal of the things that would come to pass. To be honest, we’re still waiting.

The railroad had built their tracks about 100 miles to the north even though Culpepper had sent the great and good to convince them otherwise. There was talk that the city council had even tried bribery, but these rail folks were being bribed by bigger fish than us and so it made no difference. 

When Captain J. Welbeck announced in the papers that he was going to fly from Maine to San Diego in a craft that he had designed himself, well it was all we could talk about, try as hard as we might not to.

Culpepper City was in the middle of nowhere, and we only got on the map ‘cause the Pony Express had once used it as a place to change horses. Now the Mayor felt that if the Cap’n (as he called him) proved that Culpepper City was a natural stopping off point for these here flying machines, then maybe we’d grow to be a real city in two shakes of a tail.

The Captain’s people had telegrammed ahead with instructions on what the flying machine needed in the way of landing. A flat surface, not too stony, not too grassy that ‘stretched for a good distance’. No one knew how far that was, but the whole of the town got to clearing the long field behind Dee’s farm. Every stone was lifted, every bush cut and every blade of grass tamed within an inch of its life.

Some of the better off ladies in town sent for new dresses from a catalogue that Mrs Miller kept in her store. I even heard tell that some of the women of Culpepper were hoping that the Captain might be single and ask one of them to marry him. No one had seen a picture of the Captain, but the women were willing to take their chances given that the alternative was dying an old maid and being buried in the unmarried section of the cemetery. Culpepper did all it’s sorting in the graveyard to save the Lord some time on judgement day, at least that’s what the Pastor told us at Sunday School.

So the big day arrived and all of the townsfolk had been standing beside the long field since sun-up which at that time of year was about 4.30. We didn’t see the machine until late in the afternoon and yet no one had moved an inch in case they missed the most important thing to happen to Culpepper since Billy the Kid had robbed the Culpepper City Farm Friendly Bank.  

And then there it was, coming out of the sky and heading for the line of flags that the folks had put down as instructed in the telegram.

There was whooping and hollering and young Bessie asked her Mom if it was an angel. I had never been so excited in all my life and as it got closer and the noise got louder, my heart started to beat real fast. No one had ever seen a flying machine before and some folks fell to their knees and started to pray and there was a lot of ‘thank you Jesus’ as if we were witnessing a miracle – which we probably were.

It fell slowly on to the long field and as the wheels touched the ground safely, everyone started to ‘cheer’. Then the flying machine bumped back into the air and the townsfolk all went ‘ohh’ because they were thinking it was going away again. Then it landed, bumped, lifted into the air a couple of more times all followed by ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the folks until it came to a stop at the end of the field. Any further and it would have flattened Jake’s prize bull.

Captain Welbeck got out to a hero’s welcome. He was carried back to where the Mayor was standing on a box with a speech in his hand.

“Good people of Culpepper City,” he started, as the Captain remained sitting on the shoulders of the townsfolk. “It is my privilege, nay, it is my honor to welcome the brave flyer Captain J. Welbeck to our great city”, and while the Captain was sitting on the shoulders he took off his flying hat and glasses and it was then that we realized that the Captain was a woman.

“Captain Jenny Welbeck,” she told the crowd who dropped her to the ground in shock. The single ladies, tutted, shouted ‘well really’ and stormed off home.

Mrs Watson said that Jesus would get to hear about this, and if she was any judge, he wouldn’t be happy. Women weren’t meant to fly and that was an end to it.

The Mayor’s wife, who had had the bedroom repainted several times until she was happy with it and one she assumed would be fit for a flying hero suddenly changed her mind and said the Captain could stay at Culpepper City Hotel as she was expecting visitors any day now. I’m thinking that the fact that the Captain was young and pretty didn’t help her case much.

The Mayor asked if I would escort the Captain to the hotel on two accounts, I reckon. One was that the hotel belonged to my Mama and two, the Mayor’s wife had suddenly felt faint and demanded to be taken home that instant. “No ifs or buts, Jacob, take me home - now!” And that was that.

Mama gave Jenny the best room in the house, and told her that no way was she accepting any payment for the room. Jenny tried to insist but she ain’t seen my Mama when she’s in full flow. It’s her way or else.

After a good meal, Jenny said goodnight but that she might have a surprise for us in the morning. I couldn’t get to sleep that night thinking what the prize might be and then over a big plate of grits and eggs the next morning she asked if me and Mama would like to go up in the flying machine. Mama said God hadn’t given her wings. She said thank you kindly but there was no way she was getting in that contraption. I looked at Mama and she just said ‘No!’ but she knew I wouldn’t shut up until she said ‘yes’. Which is what she did, eventually.

There was an excitement in the pit of my stomach and my breathing got real hard but I was determined that I was going up. Jenny made me sit in the front seat (after she’d cleared out all her stuff) and then went to the propeller and pulled it real hard. Once it was started and whizzing around, Jenny jumped in.

She took the machine up to the end of the long field and then got out and turned the thing around then just as easily jumped in again.  

Jenny shouted “Are you ready?” I stuck my thumb in the air to tell her I was and soon we were shooting down that field, fast like. Then a weird thing happened, the ground fell away and we were flying. Man it felt good. I looked over the edge to see Mama crossing herself. She’d be asking God to take care of me. If we climbed any higher, I could probably tell him myself.

Nothing in the world can get you ready for flying, it ain’t like anything you’ve ever experienced and the first time is extra special. We flew over town and I could see that Jenkers was lying on his roof without a stitch of clothes on. I always wondered what he did up on that roof. I could see the guys rounding up the cattle over on the Four Circles ranch. The wind was blowing in my face and hair and I didn’t ever want to come down. That is until Jenny said we’d need to head back on account of the fuel getting low.

That was the best day of my life, ever.

Jenny left that afternoon and headed somewhere south and west and I wondered if they too, thought she was a man.

A few years later, Jenny flew across the Pacific alone and broke all kinds of records.

One day - a while back - out in the middle of Arizona, she disappeared. They never found her body.

bobby Stevenson 2014
thoughtcontrol ltd

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The House

I hear tell that the house is still there, still standing like. Leastways I heard that was the truth of it a few years ago from a sickly ginger-headed woman who had been passing the little cove. Said it was “the sweetest little shack she ever did see, and she didn’t mind who knew it”.

I still miss the place, the way I miss cigarettes. I forget for a time and then wish I was right back there, feeling good, feeling human again they way I used to feel.

The days when you are a teenager and the hormones are fighting and kicking their way around your body and for the first time (and perhaps the only time) you feel alive – I mean really alive. Music blows your brains out, the thought of nakedness makes your tongue run drier than a desert and you stutter and fret over the smallest of things. Then some days you feel as if you are standing taller than a mountain, I kid you not and you feel you could take on the world. Then someone sounds a whistle and your hormones go touring around your blood stream again and you are lost, good and simple. Tempers and anger and you don’t have the slightest clue why - just that it’s good to shout at someone, anyone. 

Those were the years when I knew that house. The lost years, the days of wine and roses when Ma painted flowers and Pa would go missing for weeks at a time.

Crazed Boy was one of my friends, heck who am I kidding? He was my only friend, still is – in that I carry the stone he gave me just before he went to ‘Nam and never came back. He turned me on to dirty music, black music my Gran called it, but we never listened to the elders – we just rocked and rolled until the sun came down and even then we’d light a fire on the beach and keep going sometimes until the morning.

When I think of that house, when I think of those years, I can still smell the ozone that drifted in off the sea and somehow kept me company. Everything smelled of the sea and you only really noticed that fact when you drifted into town and things started to smell of smoke.

Those were the electric years, the times when I felt that I had a million volts wired to my spine and I tell you what - I would give anything to feel that way again.

No one lived in the place for years afterwards. Some say it was haunted but I remember I drifted down that way one November, a couple of years later – it was easy to break in – and I saw that some of the Pastor’s blood sparkled on the walls. Even after all that time.

Boy who would have thought that one head full of blood would have made such a mess? He put the gun under his chin and told me and my Ma that he thought God had given up on him and then he splattered his head right across the gramophone and our only two books: one of them ironically being the Bible.

Apparently he was now in a better place, when I asked was that Detroit, my Ma slapped me so hard that my head bounced off the wall and I wasn’t sure if the blood was mine or the Pastor’s. She apologized later but said I had a way of talkin’ that got folks crazy like. I wondered if maybe I had made the Pastor shoot himself in the head.

It wasn’t long after that things started to go wrong with the family. Like we had been cursed by the shooting. My Ma died of a weak heart – so the Doctor said. My father was jailed for robbing a drug store in Woko County. My brother and I were taken into care and then we were split up. I never did see my brother again. I have been told that he made it good in the oil down in Texas. I hope that’s true, I really do. So if you happen to walk down by the cove some empty sunny day, and you see the house, just keeping on walking. It ain’t healthy to stick around.

bobby stevenson 2014

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


That day Thing wasn’t sure how he felt and if he had had someone to talk to, he might have asked them if they had days like that too. 

Before his mother had gone off to the hospital and never returned (although he still hoped that she would), she had told him to be happy, regardless of what people said to him. As long as you are happy they can’t destroy you.

Thing had never done anything wrong to anyone that he could think of, but that hadn’t stopped the kids in school throwing things at him and calling him names.

It had taken him a time before he’d told his mother what had been happening in school.

“Is it because I don’t look like them?” He asked her.

She told Thing to sit beside her and she gave him a hug.

She told him that the universe was truly a beautiful place and all hearts were born unblemished. But for whatever reason, hearts got tainted by thoughts, or deeds, or painted strange colours by those who should know better. She told Thing that his heart was truly untainted and therefore, the others would pick on him because he showed them what they had been once – kind.

After that, Thing would always remember his heart was unblemished. It wasn’t the other kids faults that some of their hearts had been painted black.

One day at the end of all this when his time in this great universe was over, he would realise that everyone that he had met - no matter how good or bad they were - had been put in his path for a reason.
Thing realised that he was actually happy today and that that was the kind of day he was going to have. 
It didn’t matter that his mother hadn’t returned from the hospital yet because she lived on in his heart and that was good enough for him. 


The only time that Thing would ever make it down to the town was on the day of his birthday. His mother had marked this special day on the calendar and so every year he would tick the days off until his birthday came around again. 
However, if truth was told, it was the same old calendar he used year in, year out and so what day his real birthday was on had disappeared into the mists of time.

When he was younger, his youthful energy and bravery had made him walk up to the others and invite them to his birthday party. Some said no, some said yes, and some just ran away.

Thing didn’t take this as being offensive as he understood that people didn’t know what to say to him and so they just ran off. What did disappoint him was the fact that very few actually showed up for the party ; after he had told his parents that there were many who had said yes, so they would buy in all the food and lay the table for a score of people.

But when only one or two showed their faces, his parents would be silent for a while, wipe away a tear then slap a big smile on their faces.

“Oh well, we can just have a treat for a few more days,” was what his father said.

“That’s exactly right, husband,” said his mother.

And that’s just what they did - they would spend the next few days eating the cakes and chocolate. The ones who had bothered to turn up thought that it was one of the best parties they had ever attended.

Now that Thing was on his own, at least for the time being, he thought it only right and proper that on his birthday he should head down the mountain side, cross the creek and hitch to town.

He knew he was near town when he would hear doors being slammed shut, but he guessed that it was such a cold night that folks wouldn’t want the heat getting out of their house.

At the far end of Dewson Street stood a small sad café that was very rarely used by the good and the great of the town. So on his birthday, Thing always made it his business to celebrate his party in that small and sad café.

Frederick, the café owner, looked forward to Thing and his party as once a year the café would have a smile on its face again and the room would be alive with laughter and music.

Now that Thing was older, he was not so brave and youthful, so he didn’t bother to ask people to his party. Instead he would set up a table in the café with all the sweetest things in the world and hope that people would come to him.

Some times there was only Thing and Fredrick sitting at the table while a thousand noses were pressed against the outside window looking in. When Thing went to the door to invite them in, they would all scream and run away.

This year Thing decided on a different tactic and wrote invitations, by name, to everyone in town inviting them to the café at 6pm for cake and chocolate.

Some ripped their invites up there and then, and told everyone who would listen that they weren’t going to mix with a freak like that Thing.  Some said politely that they couldn’t make it, but emphasised how sorry they were.

And some just walked right through the door and sat down and got stuck into the cakes.

And it was because of those people that Thing sat with the biggest smile on his face the whole night.

Sometimes Thing grew suspicious of situations. Not often, but enough to get him worried. Take snow for instance - to him it seemed as if the Great Thing in the sky was trying to cover up its 
mistakes. Snow made everything look neat and tidy.

It was the way that Thing used to clean up his part of the cave when his parents got fed up with the mess. Thing would just gather up all the stuff that was lying around and throw it to the back of the cave.

Everything looked so much better after that. Except his family knew Thing too well, and they would gather his stuff, throw it out of the cave and tell him to put it all back in a proper order.

And it was the snow that gave Thing the strangest idea he had had in a long time. Sometimes he grew tired of people moving away from him or crossing the street as he approached to say hello. 

Why did people have to behave that way? Why did people think that different looking meant an ugly heart? Why did people think that beauty meant a good heart?

So Thing went into his parent’s room and found his mother’s makeup and just like the snow, Thing thought that perhaps covering up his face with makeup would make the people stop crossing over and perhaps believe that he really did have a good heart.

Thing put on white creams, and red lines, and black dust and then he looked in the mirror. He was more like People now, than before the onslaught of his face. Satisfied, Thing decided to take a trip down the mountainside, across the Creek and walk into town.

Two drunken guys waved over to him, “Hey, ain’t that Bert?” One of them shouted.

“Hi, Bert.”

So Thing waved back. That was the first time that someone had waved to him in the longest of times.

If someone had been standing close to Thing, they would have seen through all the cream and the red and the black, a smile that also included a twinkle in his eyes.

Thing then walked through a little market in the middle of town and folks either smiled or ignored him, but what they didn’t do was run or pull their children to their sides then hurry off.

Just as thing crossed the Town Square, he saw a little creature, not a Thing, or a People but something else; folks grabbed their children and crossed the road to avoid the poor little creature.

Thing walked over to say ‘Hi’ but the creature looked at Thing and saw a People rather than a Thing and ran into the shadows. The little creature had been attacked by that kind in the past and didn’t like to hang around and be hurt.

Thing couldn’t understand why he was accepted by People now but shunned by another shadow dweller.

Then Thing caught his own reflection in the window and realised that he had lost an opportunity to have a friend because he had tried to be something he wasn’t.

The makeup was only skin deep and People had been too ready to accept it, but he’d lost a pal in the process.

Thing washed the ‘snow’ from his face and wandered back home.


Thing was trying to remember when it all changed between the Creek boys at the bottom of the hill and himself. It was probably something to do with that snowball.In the hot sultry days of summer, Thing and his gang of kids played at the Creek almost every day. In the winter they slid down the mountain snow in races of two or three. Old boxes where used for sitting in and Thing remembers it was the fastest he ever went in his life.Then around about the time that Jimmy Jones got a new dad the situation began to change. Thing remembered Jimmy calling him ‘a freak’ under his breath. He was never really sure at first but Thing later heard Jimmy telling the other guys the same word and all of them stopped talking when Thing got up beside them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s that tune?” Thing would ask.
“Heck, if I know,” said his dad.

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

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

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

Sometimes in town he would sing the song real quite like so the he didn’t feel so alone.
Some sunny days in spring, folks would bring their geetars down to the town square and they’d sing about this and that and the other. Big one and small ones would stand and listen and join in -, if the feeling took them. It left everyone humming tunes as they walked home.

Thing wished he could sing just one song that would make folks happy and have them all whistling tunes and perhaps they would stand around and join in.
One day at school his teacher asked each person in the class to stand and do something special, tell a joke, perform a card trick, tell about their grandma – anything that was a little unique to them.

Thing listened in awe at the folks in his class, he laughed, he cried, he applauded and he hollered when the person deserved it -  although as Mrs Hills said, ‘hollering was for outside’.
Then it was Thing’s turn and he stood and he sang his jumping song. I think it was Casey Briggs who shouted ‘What cha call that? A thong? He ain’t singing he’s thinging’ and most of the folks in the class began to laugh. Mrs Hills clapped her hands, thanked Thing and asked him to sit again.

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

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

“Heck, you just might be right there, little ‘un’,” said his dad.
His mother gave out another ‘tut’ because of that word being used again.

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

So you’re already packing up this story and thinking we’ve arrived at the end of it - but you’d be wrong.
One day when Thing was sitting at the door of his cave, some horses were grazing nearby and just at that point Thing felt the need to sing the tune he’d been given.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sometimes Thing had so much fun on his own that he forgot that he was alone. He’d race the spiders to the front of the cave or he’d dance around the fire just because he wanted to. Some days while dancing he would shout out, ‘what do you think of this?’ to his family and then he’d remember they were gone.

One day a new kid came to school, a kid by the name of Billy McGuire and he was everything that a popular kid should be. He was good at everything, and the girls swarmed around him and the boys all wanted to be his friend. You see Billy was a good-looking kid and at school that meant everything.

He soon became the Captain of just about every sport except the girls’ netball. People came to him for advice, even the teachers would let him off with work, usually with the cry:

“Sure Billy, you take as much time as you want.”

Thing, on the other hand was considered the complete opposite of Billy. It was assumed that he was no good at sports, but then again no one would let him try.

“I ain’t showering with that freak,” they would say.

But Thing knew that he could throw things farther and that he could jump higher than anyone else in his school. Yet because of the way he looked, folks tended to think that he was simple, and stupid, and lame. 
One day Billy McGuire passed Thing and said 'hello' and everyone thought that Billy was a great guy for spending some of his day saying 'hello' to a thing like Thing. 

But Thing read and he read real good. Billy McGuire didn’t have to try too hard so reading wasn’t a requirement in his life. Now I’m not saying that Billy was wrong, if life comes at you on a plate, well you just got to eat it.

But Thing watched people and Thing could see that some folks were good and some folks were bad and most folks were always going between one or the other.

Thing always made it a plan, that no matter how bad he felt on any day, he would do something good for someone and never let any one know about it.

Then one afternoon while Thing was walking down by the stream that led back home, he saw Billy McGuire put a little animal in a bag and throw it into the stream. Billy walked off whistling to himself and as soon as he had disappeared, Thing rescued the little critter and after making sure it was all right, he set it free.

And right there and then, Thing realised that sometimes good looking people are considered to be something they’re not, just because of their looks and that people who look different are considered bad at doing stuff just because folks don’t like the way they are.

Thing knew that even though he looked different that he was kind and would always help people without telling anyone. 


Ever since Thing had been left to fend for himself, he had grown a little harder to life. I suppose that life is a matter of holding on to your innocence until gravity eventually catches up with you and then, it’s all a matter of how you deal with that.

From the outside, Thing was still the same beautiful soul that he had always been. The change was in the little things - like in his singing. Once, he would burst forth with a song to make himself happy and without him realising it, he also made those within earshot smile, too. But there had been too many times when there was laughter and sniggering at this signing by those at school, and so he became a little more self-conscious about his tunefulness.

Gravity hits us all in the end and hopefully most of us have someone there to help us through it all. The problem with Thing was that since his mother had gone off to a place that Thing was sure she would return from, he had to deal with all the harder problems of life himself.  And that can be a dangerous way to live.

Rules that are made to keep you safe, can inevitably keep people out.
He remembered what Grandfather Thing had told him “A heart builds walls to protect a heart, but in the end you build a jail for yourself, and in building that jail all the bad stuff is trapped inside with you”.

One day Thing went to school, as he always did, but lately he had started to stop singing when he got to the bottom of the mountain, so as not to attract attention. He would walk very quietly to the school doors and sit at the side of the classroom – in order that he would neither upset nor disturb anyone.

But there are two things wrong with that thinking (as his mother would have told him had she been there). The first is that there are some people in this world who are so unhappy within themselves, that they hurt people who are making a noise, just as easily as they hurt those who are quiet.

It is as if they were saying: ‘I am unhappy then I want you to be unhappy too’. The other point was that if Thing had bothered to talk to the children in the classroom, he would have found that there were people who wanted to talk to him too. One girl thought Thing was the coolest kid in class but as he’d never got around to speaking to her, he hadn’t found that out. Another kid at the front of the class wanted to know what kind of stuff he did for hobbies but was too shy to talk to Thing.

You see Thing keeping quiet - (and instead of him thinking that it meant 'I don’t want to upset any of you')  - ended up being seen as ‘Thing didn’t want to mix with any of us because he thinks he’s too good for us’.

In this life, you can’t second-guess anyone’s thoughts, and you can’t walk about protecting yourself from Gravity – because as sure as there is a sun in the sky, one day Gravity is gonna hunt you down and get you. And that’s when you want as many hearts on your side as possible. So Thing was making his life a little harder than it needed to be, by keeping himself to himself.

Yet sooner rather than later, Thing would find out that by breaking down the walls and being yourself would upset some people (because some people are walking different paths, that’s all) but the rest, the ones who saw the beauty in who you were, well, these were the ones worth holding on to.

And on that sunny day when Thing worked all this out in his heart and his head, was the day he started to sing again and not worry who could hear: because being yourself catches the hearts that matter. 

He knew that when his mother returned, she would be proud of all these thoughts and the lessons he had learned. 

Thing was growing up and he liked the feeling. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Does anyone know whose this is?” Holding the paper up.

The boys pointed to Thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

bobby stevenson 2014

thoughtcontrol ltd