Saturday, 22 February 2014

THING and HIS LAST DAY




Sometimes the stuff that you wish for in life, is the stuff that scares you the most. So it was with Thing. It was his last day at school, the last day of whatever this experience had been.

It had been difficult, not least for the fact that his mother and father had both left and never returned. It had been difficult because some people saw him as different and felt that Thing should suffer as a consequence. What was it that people feared over difference? Thing still couldn’t work that one out. But Thing had learned a lot, too. He had learned that no matter how bad today is, tomorrow comes with a promise. He learned that just because people looked kind, it didn’t mean that they were. Just like he learned that the meanest looking people can be the kindest. He’d realised it was the heart that mattered and not anything else.

His teacher had brought Thing to the front of the class to present Thing with a medal for standing up to bullying and standing up to bullies. Thing had found out that people weren’t born bullies – no, bullies were made out of the fear of those who looked after them. Hearts were made to bully, it wasn’t a natural state of life. As he had grown older and grown more wise, Thing had walked the corridors of school looking after those whose lives were made all the sadder by being picked upon. Thing helped them stand up for themselves – because a moment of life spent in anger or sadness, is really a moment wasted.

Thing found a couple of friends and lost a couple of friends, but that wasn’t anything to do with Thing. It was life. You met people for a time – some a long time, some short – and you might help that soul, or just walk by their side, or perhaps learn from them through their kindness or even their unkindness. Yet it seemed to Thing that those you met were not their by accident. Perhaps he was over-thinking it all, but what he believed worked for Thing and that was enough in itself. And in there was another lesson, don’t pull apart another’s beliefs no matter how different they are to you. It is what drives their soul and who was Thing to interfere with that?

So thing took his medal and his book that he had received for being the best at telling stories in class, and he walked away from school and up the hill for the last time.

He sat at the mouth of his cave, where he had sat for many summers and winters waiting on his mother and father to return. He wondered what he’d do next.

It was then he realized that in the distance there was a horizon and he had never seen over that horizon. So that is what he’d do, he’d keep walking towards the horizon and see what happened. If Thing never reached it, what would it matter? There would be adventures out there, there would be people who had been to the horizon and were on their way back. There would be other Things who had seen and done what he had. And somewhere out there Thing might meet his mother and father.

So he packed a knapsack and put in it - his medal, his book, and a cup his parents had given him. Everything he needed for a new life.

Just in case his mother and father came back while he was away, Thing left them a note:

Dear Mother and Father. Gone to see the world, I won’t be gone forever. Wait on me, I’ll be back when I get to the horizon.

And as Thing slipped down the mountainside for the last time, he whistled a little tune his parents had taught him. And although he was walking on his own, he felt that somewhere, somehow, someone was watching over him and he felt warm inside.
 
:-)
 
 


bobby stevenson 2014

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Distant Season

The Montana Express was a wind that found its temperature somewhere around the northern end of Canada and then didn’t stop until it hit the Gulf. Our home was in its path, and so every April it would bring an unseasonable coldness to our valley which affected almost everyone and everything.

It was on one of those April days that the table was finally delivered. My grandfather had chosen the wood himself and it had taken several men two months to build. My grandfather wanted a table that could seat all of our family and especially on his birthday. Something which took place towards the end of the month.

“I want to see all my loved ones in the one place, is that too much to ask?” He would say to no one in particular.

But he was right, our family was spread far and wide: all of them farmers or ranchers. All of them doing okay but too busy to ever socialize with one and other. We’d normally meet briefly at the end of someone’s life or at the start of another – but otherwise, all points in between were just plain ignored. That is, until my grandfather declared his birthday a national holiday for the family.

“I don’t care what you’re all doin’. I want you to put aside whatever the hell it is you find so goddamn important, so’s we can all finally get together. Lord knows I ain’t got long left.”

And that, as they say, was that. Every April, 23rd we would meet around the big table and celebrate being a family. My grandfather would recite some Shakespeare (the English guy who wrote plays) and we would listen and not really understand but we’d clap and holler all the same when he was done. My grandfather had a biggest painting of the Englishman on his wall just ‘cause they shared the same birthday. My grandfather said that Shakespeare was a genius and I guess he was right.

That first April there were seventeen of us around the table. I guess we’d all forgotten just how much we really needed each other.

The following year two of my brothers and two of my uncles went off to Europe to fight in the war. So we set them a place at the table anyhow - just in case they turned up and were hungry and all.

One of my brothers, and one of my uncles didn’t come home in the end. They were buried in France - somewhere warm I hear where the Montana Express ain’t blowin’.

But we would still set the table for seventeen just so we could raise a glass to absent friends. When my boy was five he joined the table, and so did my sister’s kid. And we were seventeen again.

It was early in 1950 when grandfather left the table for the last time and he was shortly followed by grandmother. My eldest brother took the head seat and although we weren’t quite seventeen again we managed through.

As the years went on we tried to make April 23rd the Family Day. It didn’t matter where you were in the world, we’d always try to make it home to the big table. But my kids grew and married and didn’t really want to work on the land no more. One of my boys lived in Paris, France and another moved with his family to Nova Scotia.

Yet we always laid that table for seventeen.

When my wife’s place at the table went empty, I kind of lost the heart to keep it going. By this time I was the head of the table. Some years there were only four of us, but still we set the table for seventeen.

It was just before my 65th birthday that I took the heart attack. Man it was the worst pain I ever felt. They stuck me in the local hospital and I rested for the first time in my life. My boys came with their kids, and my nieces and nephews, and in the end when I got out of hospital there was about thirty of us all round that big table.

My eldest grandson asked why the table was only set for seventeen and I told him the story. He said that it should set for everyone in the family and I had to say I thought he was right. The table belongs to the living after all.

Now every year they meet up and it’s laid out for everyone who makes it to the table. But they always leave two empty places just in case one of us who left the table a long time ago happens to drop by.

bobby stevenson 2014

Saturday, 15 February 2014

This Year's Love


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


bobby stevenson 2014

Saturday, 8 February 2014

ME and BUZZ and THE MOON



There was a time (just the one of a few) when I thought that my bestest pal in all the world was just plum crazy- I mean crazeee (you hear what I’m sayin’ ?) I know I kid and josh and tell you that he’s one wheel short of a full set, but most of the time he makes me laugh so hard that I pee myself. I kid you not.  
But there was a time, must have been two summers ago when he just went to the edge and then tumbled off the end of that edge. Me and him were sittin’ by the Old Tawny Creek trying to smoke some dried macaroni – yeh, I know, but we didn’t have any way to get cigarettes and we thought smokin’ even macaroni would make as look like men. Anyhoo, as usual you’ve got me goin’ here and there and I’ve lost the track of this story.

Where was I? Oh yeh…so Buzz manages to get his macaroni to light and he’s coughin’ and splutterin’ when he just turns to me and says:
“I’m tellin’ you right here and now best bud, but I think I might be a vampire.”

That’s the way he said it just like that, matter of fact. As if it was the most natural thing in the world to say. So I hesitate for a minute or two and then start laughin’ until the tears run down my face and my side is hurtin’ so bad that I plead Buzz to stop talkin’.
“You ain’t takin’ me serious, are you?” He says next and by this time I’m laughin’ so hard I think I’m gonna be sick.

Then he tells me that he keeps wakin’ in the middle in the night and when he sees the moon he feels like howlin’.
“I just get overcome and feel like howlin’ at the moon.”

I go real serious for a moment and Buzz looks at me with that face of his, all screwed up and stupid. And then I scream and laugh so hard that he gets up and walks off.
“I thought you’d have flown off,” I shout after him but he wasn’t listenin’.
Buzz never stays mad at me for long, or me with him. But I didn’t hear from him the next day or the day after that, and it’s only when Buzz’ Ma comes knockin’ at the door that I find out why.

He’s been hangin’ upside down in the town’s tower and won’t come down. I mean, I thought exactly what you’d think, that Buzz had paid his Ma to tell me that story but no, it was the truth. He was hangin’ upside down and wouldn’t come down till I went to talk to him.
“We only found him this mornin’, when the pastor tried to ring the bell and all he heard was a clunk and Buzz sayin’ a real bad cussin’ word.”

Yep, you guessed it, I nearly pee’d my pants right there and then.
So I go up to the tower and sure enough there is Buzz hangin’ upside down and with a big bruise on his face where he’d been hit by the town bell.

His face was so red and full of blood that he looked as if he might explode. I bit my lip so hard, I thought I would draw blood too. It’s hard not to laugh when your bestest pal is hanging upside down in a tower.
I asked what he was waiting for and he said that during the next full moon he would become a vampire, good and proper. I asked, as you would, when the next full moon was and Buzz thought it might be right after the Sunday School picnic.

“You’re gonna miss the picnic cause you’re waitin’ for the full moon?”
“Yep”

“What about normal school?” I ask him.
“Vampires don’t need schoolin’”

I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not, so I did a real good hand stand and yep, he looked as if he was tellin’ the truth.

“Ain’t you hungry?”

“Nope.”
This time I knew he was lyin’. So I start describin’ the burger and fries I had eaten that mornin’ and how the cheese melted all the way down.

Well this gets Buzz riled an’ all and he starts to swing back and forward and then he shouts ‘can’t hear you’, and he swings so hard that he starts the bell swingin’ and ringin’ and I fall over and stand up. Lookin’ over the edge I see all the townsfolk comin’ out to see what the emergency is. Old Harry the baker, who must be 200 years old starts shoutin’ that the Russians are comin’ and that we should all run for cover.
How I didn’t pee my pants right there and then I can only put down to the fact that I had my legs crossed. Everyone in the town was going crazy except me, so that’s when I slipped down my pants and showed my butt to the townsfolk.

Now let’s be serious here, you would have thought that was the least of their troubles - what with Harry shoutin’ about the Ruskies and Vampire Boy bangin’ off the bell with his head but no, I was the one who got into trouble for being a bad influence. Apparently all that happened that day was the fault of my butt.
It took a few weeks for the townsfolk to forget it, well all except the Mayor’s wife who kept winking at me every time we met.

Buzz went right through his vampire phase and out the other end. However, when he had troubles and he wanted to think, you would find him up at the tower hanging upside down to clear his mind, he said.
Just plain crazy if you ask me but hey, he’s my friend.


bobby Stevenson 2014

Friday, 7 February 2014

Thing And What He Learned


 
Now as you know by now, Thing was always looking out the mouth of his cave waiting on his family to return. One day his mother went away and promised to come back but Thing hadn’t even seen her shadow or smell her warm scent on the wind.  
 
And maybe if his mother had stayed, he might have found out sooner rather than later what we all find out in the end.

It was just like any other day when Thing made his way down the mountain-side and on to school. He enjoyed school but most of the time he kept himself to himself.

That way the folks who spat on him, or threw stones at him or called him names because he wasn’t like them, would leave him alone. He breathed, he lived, he had stuff running around his body, he was born and would die someday and so Thing couldn’t see how he was any different from the rest.

Maybe if his mother returned she’d put all this right. Sometimes he thought he saw her out the corner of his eye, or maybe he’d think he’d seen her smiling in some dark place in the cave. Maybe she was watching after all, because some nights as he lay awake he was sure he could feel her looking over him.

But this day at school a new kid joined the class. He was raggedy in dress and his hair was dirty and needed a wash and as the kids in class were always ready to do, they judged the kid as not one of them. So the kid was placed next to Thing, not that the teacher meant anything bad by it but she thought it might help both of them.

Thing showed the boy, who was called Kennedy, how to get around the school without attracting much attention and basically how to survive a day in class.

The kids would see the two of them, Kennedy and Thing coming down the corridor and turn their backs. The other kids weren’t bad kids you understand, they had just been shown a different path by their elders on how to treat those who weren’t the same (and that didn’t mean different – no sir).

That afternoon Kennedy went to get a drink of water and told Thing to wait on him as he would be back soon. Yet after 20 minutes or so, Kennedy hadn’t returned and Thing went to look for him. He found the kids trying to push Kennedy’s head down the toilet – shouting words like, ‘don’t yer mama wash you? You stink boy’. Thing did something he’d never done before, he shouted, shouted loud like he’d never done before. This scared the kids who went running from the room.

Kennedy’s face showed neither sadness nor anger – he’d told Thing that he’d seen it all before. Sure, stuff like that was nothing new to him. He said his mama told him that what don’t kill you, makes you that teeny little bit stronger.

Thing smiled, and the smile caught him so much by surprise that he even scared himself.

Thing thought that probably Kennedy’s mama was right in what she said. But Thing felt that sometimes you just got plain fed up getting stronger that way.

That night Thing went over the day in his head and realised he hadn’t thought about his own problems at all and he also realised what we all learn eventually: that there are some people worse off than us and some people better off than us and that’s just the way life is.

Thing thought that he might just have to help Kennedy from now on, perhaps look after him and this made Thing smile again.
 
Someone needed him.  


bobby Stevenson 2014

Thursday, 6 February 2014

NYC, December 1963 and The Best of All Summers




New York City, December 1963


I remember fighting a rather lonely wind as I crossed Central Park on that particular Wednesday before Christmas; an old faded newspaper flapped in the breeze against a wooden seat but I could still make out the headline: ‘JFK Dead’. They would be coming soon, those wise men from the east, the Beatles with their new English beat music. Perhaps we could stop grieving and begin to move on. I clambered up the hill, crossed Central Park West sliding in to 72nd Street and as I passed the Dakota building, a cold chill made me pull my coat in tight.


The Best of All Summers
 

 

 



Some things remain with you forever.
When I was ten years old, my father took me on a trip in an old battered car and caravan, and although I didn’t know it at the time, my father was dying. He was only forty years of age and he was dying of a brain tumour. 
 
What can I tell you about me back then? That I was the only son of parents who never got around to marrying? That I lived with my two sisters and a cat and that despite not having any money, we lived in a house packed to the roof with love.
 
Maybe that’s as good as it gets in anyone’s life. 
 
My father was the gentlest of hearts and the kindest of men, and I’m not just saying that because he’s gone. I’m saying it because it was true. It was his strength and his weakness. My mother watched so many people taking advantage of his goodness, that in the end she put herself in the way of anyone trying to use him. This made her seem hard but she was willing to put up with that, because that was what our family was always about – love.
 
My parents had decided that when school was closed for the summer, Mum and the girls would go to London for a few days to see a show, while me and Dad would go north taking his old car hooked up to Granddad’s caravan. I knew Dad was probably hoping this would be a chance for us to talk, as he was always working and I was always in my bedroom being misunderstood. Even at ten years of age I had no real idea how to enjoy myself.
 
On that summer, that glorious summer, school finished and my life began. Dad drove Mum and the girls to the railway station and I sat on the front steps waiting, bag ready and caravan packed.
I’ll always remember the ‘toot-toot-toot’ of my Dad on the car horn as he returned from the station, letting everyone in the street know that the boys were off on holiday. All those unused days were spread before us, waiting.
 
If I’d thought that it was going to be a particularly difficult time sitting in the car with my Dad, I was wrong. I had imagined him and me struggling to talk to each other and stumbling over words. I guess I’ve always made assumptions about things. I’ve worried and assumed – I suppose that’s what should be written on my headstone. There I go again.
 
As we drove towards the coast, I felt ashamed of myself. Here was a man who knew all about my writings and about the books I’d read. He would steal himself into my room after he came home late from work, too late to wish me goodnight but long enough to kiss me on the forehead and absorb from the room who and what I was. There was I knowing very little about him, except he was my father and he was rarely home.
 
I don’t recall when he stopped the car but I do remember it getting dark. I had been telling him all about the characters in some Dickens novel when I must have fallen asleep in his arms. When I awoke, it was morning and the sun was fighting the condensation on the window. Dad had placed me in the back seat and covered me with his jacket. 
 
The car was freezing and as I sat up, I shivered. I wiped away mist from the side window and saw, that despite the sun, the sky and the sea were a cold blue, broken up by the foamy edges of the waves.  We had parked at the edge of a cliff and Dad was sitting, staring - that was all he was doing - just staring. When I felt brave enough, I ventured outside to join him. I’ll always remember his face that day, the wind had slapped his cheeks into a Santa Claus red and his eyes were watering, stung by the sea. You could almost imagine that he had been crying, and I wonder now, from all those years away, if he had been. 
 
He told me to sit next to him and he put his arm around me, “You, and me, son are going on an adventure”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I liked the sound of ‘adventure’ and I loved my father and felt safe with him but there was always a part of me that wanted to return to the protection of my bedroom, pull up my arms into my sleeves and wait on the next hurtful thing. Yeah, you’re right, I was one weird kid.
 
As we came over the hill I could see it: Blackpool Tower. I had never seen anything so tall in all my life and was so excited that I forgot about my misgivings. The place was alive with people who were swept up with enjoying life and buzzing with laughter. There were donkey rides by the sea, the odd uncle with a handkerchief on his head to keep the sun away and people breaking their teeth on sticks of rocks, slurping ice cream and getting pieces of candy floss stuck to their noses. 
 
Dad and I went down on to the beach and ate our fish and chips from a newspaper. I think it was the best fish and chips I ever tasted.
“That’s better.” said Dad.
“What?”
“You’re smiling, you’ve got a nice smile, you know. You should use it more often.”
“Oh Dad.”
“I’m just saying.”
And do you know what? I felt that I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Just me and my Dad on the beach at Blackpool. 
 
“It’s my fault.” he said, sadly.
“What is, Dad?”
“The fact that you never smile, me and your Mum left you sitting too long in that room of yours.”
“I like my room.”
“No one likes their room.”
 
Dad parked the caravan down some quiet side street and told me to get washed and ready as he took a walk into town. When he returned, his breath smelt of beer and his clothes of cigarettes.
“You’ll never guess what I’ve got in my pocket? Two tickets to see Arthur Askey at the Grand”
What a night that was, everyone laughing and singing along with The Bee Song. I looked over at my Dad and he was laughing so hard the tears were rolling down his face. God, I miss him.
 
We had ice cream topped with raspberry sauce on the way back and I never once thought about my misgivings, not once. 
The next morning after a cup of tea and a bacon roll, we left Blackpool still singing the Bee Song, just me and my Dad. 
I can’t remember who saw the old lady first. My Dad had stopped the car because I needed to pee again and I was hiding in the bushes. The woman was sitting on a bench and at first we thought she was just sleeping, but her head had rolled forwards and she was moaning. Dad put his ear close to listen to her breathing.
“This isn’t good. We’ll need to get her to hospital.”
 
I sat with her in the back seat of the car while she rested her head on my lap. She reminded me of my Gran, I almost said “We won’t be long now Gran” when she moaned really loudly. The nurse brought Dad and me drinks as we sat in the corridor waiting on news. It almost felt like it was my Gran.
 
“Are you family?”
Dad explained to the doctor that we had found her sitting by the side of the road.
“There was nothing we could do, I’m afraid. I’m sorry your trip was in vain. She passed away five minutes ago.” 
 
Dad got a bit annoyed but he kept it to himself until we were outside the hospital. I thought maybe he was sad about the old lady dying, but really he was a bit angry.
 
“Don’t you ever believe that what we did was in vain, son. Never think that. That poor lady would have died alone on that bench if we hadn’t stopped. As it is, you kept her company and there were people with her when she went. So it wasn’t in vain. Nothing is in vain. Always, always remember that. Everything matters”
I guess that’s the kind of thing that happens to a person when they come out of their room.
 
As Dad drove south, I had the feeling that he just wanted to keep driving but as soon as it started to get dark, we stopped. Thinking back, I guess he couldn’t see too well in the dying light, something to do with his tumour.We set the caravan down in a field that overlooked Liverpool. What a city. Looking over the way the setting sun painted the building tops, a crimson yellow. We were going into town tomorrow and Dad said he had a surprise. 
 
I don’t think I have ever been to a happier city than Liverpool that day. People were going to and fro but always laughing and joking. Some were singing, others whistling. I loved every minute of it; every blooming minute of it. 
 
“I’ve got a pal and he owes me a favour”, said Dad. I felt ashamed that I hadn’t even known that my father had any friends or who they were.
“He works at a club down Matthew Street. He says if we arrive early enough, he’ll get us in and you can hide under my coat.”
I almost had misgivings again, almost wishing I was back in my safe, warm, bedroom - almost. 
 
We did what Dad said and he put me under his coat and the doorman, his pal, waved us past all the people waiting to get in.
“We’ll need to keep you under cover young ‘un” said Bert, Dad’s pal, as he led me to a small room by the stairs where he gave me lemonade.
“We’ll come and get you when the band is ready” said my Dad. “I’m going to have a talk with Bert. You’ll be okay here?”
I would be. 
 
I had just finished my drink when there was a knock at the door, followed by it opening.
“Hey Paul, look what I’ve found, the Cavern has little people living under the stairs. What are you doing here, son?”
I told him I was waiting on the band and that my Dad was coming to get me.
“And what band would that be son?”
I shrugged and the man seemed to find that funny. His pal, Paul came over to have a look at me.
“You’re right John, that is one of the little people. You’ve got to be lucky to see them” and then he rubbed my head.
John said it was his band that was playing and I said I was sorry. He said not as sorry as he was and asked did I want to come to their dressing room?  Although on second thoughts, John said, there was probably more room under the stairs. 
 
So I went with John and Paul and met the other two, George and Pete. They were all fooling around and didn’t seem to be in anyway nervous. John asked me what I wanted to do “That is, when you stop being one of the little people.”
I told him I wanted to be a writer and he said that was probably the best job in the world next to being in a band, especially his band, and he went into his jacket and gave me his pen. 
 
“If anyone asks, tell them John Lennon gave it to you.” 
 
That night I watched John, Paul, George and Pete play the most wonderful music I had ever heard or will ever hear. I didn’t know it then, but a few weeks later Ringo replaced Pete. I never got to meet him. 
 
My Dad died, just after Christmas, that year.
 
He left me with the best present that I have ever received in my life. He took me out of my room and locked the door so I couldn’t go back in. So what if I got hurt? That was the price you paid for being out there, that was the price we all paid, and the other thing he gave me was the belief that nothing is ever in vain, nothing. 
 
On the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death, I flew to New York and walked through Central Park and climbed the hill to Strawberry Fields. There was a little boy about ten and his Dad listening to the music of Lennon and I took out the pen and I handed it to them:
 
“John Lennon gave me this.”
 
Everything matters.


bobby Stevenson 2014

 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Cold Fire


So there was this crazy dude, I mean as crazy as a sack of cats. He’s singing some song by the Beatles and dancing, but not to the tune that’s coming out his mouth – no, to something else only he can hear.
After about thirty minutes of this and he stops, takes a real deep breath, then falls over – so I go and pick him up, really without thinking. He thanks me and says he wants to tell me story as a way of paying me back. I’m thinking to myself, this guy is like, on something and I ain’t sure if I want to hear any of his stories but he holds my arm real tight and insists. So we sit and he pants some, and spits some, and wheezes some, then looks at me right in the eyes and boy has he got a stare.
I want to tell you a story boy and I want you to listen real good.

So, I’m thinking what the h, another fifteen minutes ain’t gonna kill me, now is it?
And he tells me about this land where there were people, who lived and breathed and loved and hated and all the other things we humans do. Then one day out of the sky comes this weird light and it brings to earth the machines. I ask him what machines, and he just tells me to shut up and the crazy guy just continues with his story.

These machines started to take the form of humans, he says, and soon it was impossible to tell between the real bloods and the cold fires (as they called the newcomers). Except for one thing –their metal hearts - the cold fires couldn’t breathe – they didn’t need to see? I nodded in agreement with the guy, like I say he was crazy.  And because they didn’t breathe they didn’t catch diseases or get ill, and soon the metals, the cold fires were the majority and because they were jealous of the real bloods, ‘cause they couldn’t feel and cry and laugh and mean it – they wanted to get rid of them. So began the purge of the real bloods – sometimes the real bloods would be found hanging from trees. Sometimes they took their own lives. But they didn’t wipe them all out and sometimes real bloods were born and they went to school and mixed with the cold fires – except they couldn’t breathe or that would give the game away. Sometimes the kids would bully another kid and taunt him with the name of ‘real blood’ and the kid would cry and tell them he ain’t a breather, ‘cause everyone knows that breathing is wrong.
And these kids had to hold their breath most of their lives, except when they were with their own kind, or by themselves – which was a lot of the time.

Then the day came when the cold fires let the reins loose a little and real bloods were allowed to live together – and have children – although the cold fires thought is wasn’t right and prayed for the real bloods to their cold fire god. And although they might all live near each other, everyone knew that only cold fires were going to heaven and that real bloods would go to hell.
But the real bloods just smiled and laughed and cried just like they’d always done and they knew what set them apart was their warm hearts.

And that made them happy.
And that’s when I ask the crazy guy what happens next and he just turns to me and he says:

You got a heart – use it.

 
bobby Stevenson 2014

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Blue Way River Hotel





Pitched as a concept @ BAFTA, April 2013 under the title Wonderland.

The Blue Way River Hotel

You know it ain’t a hotel, right? I mean let’s get that out of the way from the start. Some punk years ago called it the Blue Way River Hotel as a joke and the name kinda stuck. It was a place that people stayed – some for longer than they maybe wanted to. Now, I guess you’re thinking it’s a prison or something like that. Well it ain’t and to be real truthful, it was simply the local nuthouse. Even that’s too simple an explanation for it – it was a lot of things over the hundred years that it stood in its own ugly way at the corner of Rose and Juniper.
At the start of the last century it had been used to hide people away, those who’d transgressed against the good book, if you get my drift. Then when the boys came back from fighting in Europe it had been where the ‘weak-minded’ were locked up (their words, not mine).

When a man got to looking at another man in a special way, he was taken into the Blue Way River Hotel and his brains were fried, or drugged within an inch of his life. Never changed anyone, well except that the light would be on in their heads but no one would be home.

It became a strip joint a few years ago, not that there weren’t any more people in need of a stay at the Blue Way River Hotel, just that those who run this goddamn country felt it would be better (and cheaper) if the folks could find their healing among their own (and we all know how that ended up).
But the time I want to tell you about is way long ago when people had gramophones, the good old days when it rained in winter and the sun shone in the summer. And folks respected teachers and doctors and cops. That time.

In those days, my granddaddy was a cab driver in the town – the only cab driver in town.
Let me stop you there and explain a little. The town had been going through hard times, real hard times. The Wilson’s Woodwork store had long since gone and the small factory that built ‘superior autos for superior gents’ had moved somewhere back West. People were just flat broke, although everyone tried to help everyone else, there was less and less of things to go around.

My granddaddy main work was to drive the town council to meetings in places far away, so that the good old boys could have a drink. Then granddaddy would drive them all home again. Sometimes he’d take the odd person to the airfield a few miles to the North. You couldn’t go anywhere real exciting from that place but it had a twice-weekly flight to the State capital and from there you could catch a seat to the big world. When my grandma was a young woman she had worked at the airfield canteen and that was where she met my granddaddy. She called him ‘Earl’ on account that he drank only Earl Grey tea and over time her name for him name stuck. His real name was Albert but somehow that sank under the weight of Earl.

They dated and fell in love and it was as quick and as simple as that. Until the day my grandma died, they were never more than a few miles or a day apart.
Now things started to get difficult for everyone in town – well every honest soul in town, that is – there were some who profited out of other’s misery but I’ll let the good Lord take care of them. Anyhoo, my granddaddy is starting to get less and less work and has to make ends meet by working shifts at Carter’s Emporium over on 5th.

Then my grandma took sick and it cost him everything and in the end the sickness took her away. It broke him, broke him right down the middle. He tried everything to keep going but everywhere he turned life would trip him up just because it could, I guess. His debts were growing and he had less and less to eat. So he came up with a plan. One sunny day in June he drove his taxi to the door of the Blue Way River Hotel and with the engine still running, he just got up and checked himself into that little sanctuary for the crazies (his words, not mine). Now let me tell you good and proper, he wasn’t crazy, leastways not in the way that folks are these days. He was just tired, good and simple and decided that he could hide out in the Blue Way until better days came along. He wondered why it hadn’t occurred to him before, and as he was walking up to the door, he just kept chuckling to himself.

Now how do you go to the local nuthouse and convince them that you’re in need of help?

So as he walked into the place, he shouted ‘Honey, I’m home’. I kid you not. Seems that was enough. There was whispers from the nurses about his wife passing away and his company in trouble – it’s a wonder, said one, that he wasn’t in earlier. And as my granddaddy was taking his obligatory shower, he was wondering the same. 

Now I’m going to tell you exactly as it was told to me. When my granddaddy got in there, there weren’t more than two poor souls who really needed the place. The rest, about twelve people, were in their hiding for the same reasons as my granddaddy. The nuthouse really was a hotel. Now don’t look all disgusted. People need to eat and keep warm and that seemed like the only place in town to do it. However there was a little matter which my granddaddy found out early on – how do you convince the folks that you are in need of shelter ‘cause your mind is drifting, yet hold on to your sanity?
Some suckers got found out and were thrown out and told not to come back until they were really in need. Others walked a real fine line between this world and the crazy one – and one or two of them tipped into permanent madness. But my granddaddy hung on to his wits and survived in that place.

He told me a whole load of stories and I’m going to share them with you if you’ll let me. And don’t think they’re all depressing and stuff. Those folks in there lived and I mean lived every day.



bobby Stevenson 2014