Thursday, 31 March 2016

Zoot and Sandy and The Universe

Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were, without doubt, the best of pals in the whole wide world. They loved to sit by the river and watch time floating past their little seat.

“Looks like another great day,” said Zoot.

“It’s always a great day,” agreed Sandy. “Tell me something pal, what do you see when you look in the mirror?” Asked the elephant.

“Usually I notice that the paint in the wall behind me needs painting, that’s what I see. To be honest it annoys me,” said the dog.

“Anything else?” Asked Sandy in a real curious manner as elephants tended to do.

“Well I see me.”

“Aha!” Shouted Sandy.

“What? What have I said?” Questioned the dog, feeling as if he must have put his paw in it once again.

“You see what you think is yourself. What your brain tells you to see.”

“So you’re saying, that I ain’t a dog?” Asked Zoot.

“Of course you’re a dog, Zoot and if you don’t mind me saying, the best dog I’ve ever met. But you don’t see what I see.”

“Cause you see an elephant when you look in your mirror,” said Zoot smugly.

“I grant you that point, but when I look at you, I see you through an elephant’s brain and it won’t be what you see through a dog’s brain.”

“Is there a point to all of this?” Asked a perplexed Zoot.

“I’m just saying that we judge folks on what we see, and we sometimes think that they are wrong when all the time it’s just the way our brain is warping everything that makes us see them differently.”

“So we don’t really stand a chance at being fair, is that what you’re saying Sandy?”
“I’m just saying that you have to make allowances. I make allowances for you being a dog, just as you make allowances for me being perfect,” said Sandy with the biggest elephant grin.

“Oh I make allowances for you, that’s for sure,” said Zoot.

“Meaning what?” Asked a curious elephant.

“Meaning that you are much bigger than me and sometimes when you sit on the bench real hard, I shoot up several feet. Twice I’ve landed in the sea.”

“And I make allowances for you, Zoot when you get in to one of those ‘chasing your tail’ things.”

“I do it because it’s fun, Sandy.”

“Exactly Zoot. You see a wild thing that needs to be chased and I just see a dog’s tail. Beautiful as it is. No one sees the universe the same. Some people look at those birds and wonder where they’re headed. Some look at them and wonder what they’d taste like with some potatoes and some just look at them in wonder.”

“So what do we do, Sandy?”

“We make allowances for everyone and everything.”

And with that Zoot and Sandy just stared at the universe and saw different things.

bobby stevenson 2016

Me and Buzz and Thanksgivin'

It was probably a week ‘fore Thanksgivin’ that Buzz’s maw was taken from the house for her own good – leastways that’s what the Sheriff said. He never did explain properly what was goin’ on, and Buzz didn’t seemed that much concerned. 

The Sheriff then asked was it okay if Buzz came and stayed with my folks: I was about to answer when Buzz dug his elbow into my side and then winked at me.
Through a kind of searin’ pain, I managed to say that it was no problem whatsoever as Buzz was always stayin’ at our place, in fact he was really like one of the family, I added.

Now that wasn’t exactly the truth. Buzz had stayed once at our home but after that night, my maw said if he ever came within hollerin’ distance of our place, she’d shoot him in the britches.

Which was fair enough considering that he had set fire to our outside washroom or toilet (you’re welcome to call it whatever you want – it was still just a heap of mess after the burnin’). To be real honest, I think I bet my bestest pal that he couldn’t light the gases that came out of his be-hind (I apologize real hard for that kinda talk, but you needed to know what was goin’ on) – so I kinda felt guilty and all, ‘bout him get threatened with shooting in the be-hind when it was his be-hind that I had gotten into trouble.

So the result was that my maw didn’t know that Buzz’s maw was missin’ and all – leastways she wouldn’t know ‘till after Thanksgivin’ when she’d likely find out the story from the town’s one and only ‘Mary the Gossip’ (a badge she wore shamelessly proudly by the way). Buzz’s maw always gave Mary the Gossip a whole heap of goodies to work with. Unlike Mary’s other stories, she didn’t have to exaggerate when it came to Buzz’s family; those folks kept the whole town talkin’ (another reason I was proud of my bestest pal).

Anyhoo – at this point my maw thought I was stayin’ at Buzz’ maw’s place for Thanksgivin’.

Now you might think that my maw would have been real sorry about that state of affairs and said that I was stayin’ home - but truth be told, she was entertainin’ her brother and his family at the meal (Uncle Jedidiah was preacher from the far north and his wife was an Eskimo) and me not being there was probably a godsend as far as she was concerned. I mean she loved me, let’s not get that point wrong – but sometimes my maw was pleased that I wasn’t there (if you know what I mean).

So now we’re gettin’ to the part where I was meanin’ to get to - but tellin’ you all the rest got in the way. So me and Buzz realize that we are gonna have Thanksgivin’ together – given that the rest of his family had been farmed out to other unwary relatives and folks who deserved them.

“What we gonna eat?” asked Buzz, as he tried to smoke a piece of macaroni and look all sophist-ti-macated. He’d tried to buy cigarettes at the store but Mrs Tulip had said that she wasn’t gonna sell no cigarettes to no child and any how Jesus was watchin’ her.

So that was when we made a plan to catch Big Bessie, the biggest turkey in the world. Folks had talked about a ghostly turkey that lived out in the woods and sometimes came into town to steal bad children (I ain’t too sure how truthful that story is, as it might just be grownups just being grownups – if you know what I’m sayin’.)

I mean those grownups had us kids threatened to be stolen by everythin’ from gypsies to the circus, on account of us being bad. No wonder we all growed up the way we did – kinda crazy.

Buzz’s idea was to dress up as a turkey so that Big Bessie would think she’d found a friend and then we’d grab her. Buzz had said – and rightly so – that chasin’ Big Bessie down with guns and stuff just didn’t work.

So me and Buzz built a real friendly lookin’ turkey costume and hid out in the woods waitin’ on Big Bess.

Well it got real cold out there and with the two of us sharin’ the costume, Buzz kinda made it smell bad.

“Shh, I think I hear somethin’,” shouted Buzz and sure enough, he had. It was a big deer that started takin’ offence to this big turkey lookin’ animal and it started buttin’ us and chargin’ us.

Man, we got out of that costume and those woods as quick as you liked.

On Thanksgivin’ Thursday, Buzz found an old packet of bubble gum and we ate that instead. We just sat bein’ grownups, chewin’ about this and that, and Buzz smokin’ more of his macaroni. It was the best damn Thanksgivin’ we ever did have.

I kid you not. 

bobby stevenson 2016

For Those Who Dance To Other Tunes

You can make of this story what you want. You can throw it in the fire and see if I care. All I want to do is lay down the things the way they happened, and then you can make up your own minds. I guess with stuff of this nature, maybe your mind is already made up anyway. Still I reckon you might like to read it all just the same.

Where to start?
Oh yeh - up near the old sports’ track there used to be a collection of buildings. All had about fifteen floors and all of them falling apart.

The kids who lived there were never allowed to play on the sports field, and so they would make do with a little square in the middle of the buildings.

It was here that most of the kids from the area grew up: where they made friends, where they learned the rules of all sorts of things, including life. But one aspect in particular was always a little on the strange side. If anyone was playing a team sport, say football and a disagreement arose, then the kids would say ‘ask the man on the third floor’. They said he was a lonely old guy, who had been damaged by the war, and who spent his days watching the kids from his apartment all the way up there.

“What cha say old man, was that a penalty or not?” And after a few moments someone, usually one of the kids, would shout ‘thanks’, and they would get on with the game.

I tell you this because I used to play in that square. Started around the time I was ten or so. One real hot day we were playing football and Mitch fouled young George in a real bad way.

George looked up at the third floor and asked what the old man thought. Apparently it was a foul against Mitch – I say apparently, ‘cause all the kids who I was playing with, seemed to hear him, but I got to be honest, I heard nothing.
Things like that happened all summer – the man on the third floor would make a judgement call and everyone went along with it. I just wish I could hear what he had said – just once.

The real serious thing that happened, came about in a strange way. We’d stopped for a break as we had all worked up a big thirst. That was when Mitch shouted to the man that he needed his help. I asked him what help but he told me to stay out of it. Apparently Mitch had found young George, well how can I put this? Lying down with Mitch’s sister in a sexual way and Mitch wasn’t too pleased. See, since his granddaddy had passed, Mitch was the man of the house and he wasn’t going to let something like that happen under his roof.

“What should I do about young George, here?” Mitch shouted to the man in the apartment on the third floor.
“What’s that you say? Are you sure? Okay, if that’s what you say.”
And with that Mitch drew out a knife and stabbed young George right in the heart. I mean one minute young George was having his young face warmed by the sun and the next, he was a cold as an arctic summer.

Everyone seemed to think the judgement was fair since it had come from the man on the third floor and so the rest of the guys prepared to move young George’s body out of the square.
Someone shouted up about where they should move the body and apparently they received an answer, ‘cause a couple of them shouted ‘thanks’ to the man and nodded their heads.

The whole gang helped lift away George’s body and when they asked me, I said I had to get home as my Mama was waiting. My friends accepted this and they all moved off lifting the body with them.
When it got quiet, I decided that I had to do it and go and visit the man on the third floor.

The stairs up were dark, I mean real devil dark. I got to say I wasn’t looking forward to all this. Some of the guys said, no one goes near the third floor, ‘cause anyone who does never comes back. I was willing to take that risk.
When I got to the door, I knocked - but there was no answer. Then I noticed the door could open.
“Hello,” I shouted as I pushed the door. 
And do you know what I found in the apartment?
Nothing, that’s what I found. The place didn’t look as if it had been lived in for years. So who were the kids getting their instructions from?

Beats me. 

bobby stevenson 2016

The Promise

When you fall, I will catch you,
When you call, I will be there,
When you stumble, I will lift you,
When you’re drowning, give you air,
When you hurt then I will hold you,
When you break, I’ll make you whole,
When you’re down, I’ll make you smile,
When you’re lost I’ll be your goal,
When you’re weak, I’ll make the world turn,
When you lose faith, I’ll be strong,
When you doubt, I’ll be your beacon,
I will love you all life long.

bobby stevenson 2016

A Letter To You

You know.
I know you know. It’s just whether you remember the facts or not. The thing is, I must have learned to write and then I learned to live. We kind of knew it was always going to be that way – didn’t we?
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. I was always getting ahead. So I’ll just start at the beginning like most people would.

Dear Me,
I am writing you a letter from your past - from our past. I have been to the doctor and he has told me. He said it in the most matter of fact way possible. He looked out of his window, asked did I want a glass of water, then turned and said ‘you have Alzheimer’s’.  I said ‘sorry’ and he said so was he, I then asked him to repeat himself. And as you know and I now know, I’ve got Alzheimer’s.

What am I like from where you are? Are you reading this, or perhaps some help has found it and is reading it to you? Or maybe they are reading it to themselves and wondering if they should read it to you.

I just wanted to write to you – well, me, the future me, a letter to say goodbye and to say I’m sorry. Was it something I did, something in my life that led us down this road of sorrow?

I wonder what went first? Did you start to forget the lovers, you and I once knew? I always was proud of myself that I could remember all their names. It was always a little exercise I did on dark days – to remember when love and life were easy. When I had enough offers to be careless with those who had said they loved me. Forgive me.

My fear is that you – well, me in the future will be talked about by strangers. They will look at me with pity and tears and forget how young and alive I once was. Please don’t let them talk about me. Please don’t let them say I am mad. I am not mad – am I’m only dying.
Something we will all do.

I remember one of my lovers said to me, that you should never judge a life by how it ends. I was alive once, I was a child, a kid, a teenager, a lover, a partner - but all of those things are dependent on being able to remember.
And my memories are being cruelly stolen, so that in the end I am nothing. More than nothing.
I am not feeling sorry for you or me, for I had a life and that is more than some souls get.

I just wanted to write and say I love you, I didn’t always love you – learning to love yourself takes a lifetime.

I hope you are happy in your dreams.

With all the love in the world,
Yourself, from all the way back here.

bobby stevenson 2016

The Last Cowboy (the start)

His spring and summer were now only dust on the bonfires of life, and as he looked out at the horizon, he knew more and more that it would no longer stretch on forever.
He had been young and vital once, and his dreams would have powered a city, but the lamps had dulled, and the curtains were drawn and it was going to be time up, one way or another.

Age had brought with it forgetfulness, and pains, and failing sight but he still felt each morning that he had to get up and show the universe that it should continue to invest in him – at least for one more day.

His daughter, his one and only little girl and her crummy husband, had found him, Jake, standing in car park looking for his automobile. The truth was Jake had walked there, the car was still safely lying in his garage.

It was his daughter who had made him go for the appointment to the clinic. She was a lovely woman – the doctor- and perhaps in other circumstances, they could have become friends. But it had been down to the woman to tell Jake (and his daughter and her crummy husband) that he had Alzheimer’s. And that was the goddamn beginning and end to it.

For the first few days it felt like he’d been hit by one of those Ford trucks, he’d always wanted to drive. Nothing seemed to fit into his world anymore and everything seemed to hurt.

Then one night in the second week he was watching some TV show where they were talking about dreams and how to live them. A middle-aged woman from a square state in the mid-west said her plan had been to write down all the childhood wishes that she had hoped for and maybe try and find them. The doctors had told her that she had cancer with an outlook of six months.

Was that more comforting than Jake’s diagnoses of ‘maybe years, maybe not’?

So that night when there was too much going on in Jake’s head, he got up and sat looking at the dawn and wrote what he had really wanted to do with his life.

Being a coal-miner had never been a plan of his – it had been force fed to him by a family that worried about most things and had wanted to see their family settle.

Jake had settled with a wife and two kids. His son was in the army and had returned home less and less until all Jake got was a phone call at Christmas. His daughter stayed close but he wasn’t ready for a home just yet, or for losing his independence.

His wife, Betty, God rest her soul, had taken a long time to fight the cancer and, in the end, had lost. But what a trooper – she had given that cancer a run for its money and no mistake. He missed her every second, of every minute, of every day. But at least he had gotten to know her and he took that blessing to bed with him every night.

So as Jake was sitting watching the orange sun start to invade his little porch, he wrote down the dreams he had as a kid and all of them, and I mean all of them, were all related to one thing – him, Jake Sheeny being a cowboy.

And right there and then Jake made his Goddamn mind up that he was going to sell his house (or maybe rent it out, he wasn’t too sure), sell his car, which he seemed to forget all the time, and buy a big damn horse and ride the highways as a cowboy.

Leastways until the darkness eventually overcame him – but until that day, which as the doctor said could be years, he was going go on the ride of his life.

And over the next few stories, I’m going to tell you about Jake, and how he joins a circus, and how he finds laughter, and perhaps the best friends a man can ever find – and most of all he finds love again.

The Last Cowboy will be here waiting when you’re ready. 
bobby stevenson 2016

Young Jed's Story

Young Jed’s father, Old Jed, had been the best darn garage man in this part of the county. It wasn’t just him who said it, everyone did. Old Jed had dedicated his life to the good folks of Cesarwood and their little automobiles - which was a good thing, considering the horseless carriage didn’t make it into Old Jed’s life until he was in his early twenties. Yet the boy and latterly the man, had been born to fix such things. He had engine oil instead of blood running around those veins.

Everyone said so. 

And I guess Old Jed wouldn’t have been the father to young Jed, if it hadn’t been for the persistence of Myra – the local beauty who would walk past the garage at every opportunity. If she hadn’t, well young Jed wouldn’t have been born and Old Jed would have died a lonely old man, I reckon.

Jed, old Jed that is, could think of nothing more than a car engine. Even when Myra got a ring on her finger and a child in a crib, it was always the automobiles which were uppermost in his mind. When young Jed had grown some, Myra thought it best to take her son down to the garage to learn some of his pa’s wisdom, otherwise they were both likely never to see the man.

And young Jed, although not as good as his father, was certainly competent at fixing things. And that is how things kinda progressed for the next few years.

Then Old Jed went to the great garage in the sky and the business was turned over to his son. Myra went into a long decline of mourning and never really set foot in the garage again.

At first, young Jed kept the momentum of the garage going, and it didn’t seem that hard, but what he had forgotten was that folks get old and no longer drive. His father, as well as fixing the autos, was always out looking for new, young customers.

So within a relatively short time, Jed’s work began to dry up and he was struggling to keep himself in new shoes.
What happened next is probably a mystery to Jed as it is to anyone else. Young Jed saw the Judge’s car parked outside a cafĂ© on the west of town. Jed loved the big automobiles that the Judge drove and so went over to have a closer look. It was then that Jed happened to notice that a little bit of rod was coming loose. Jed looked around and so help me, he loosened the rod a little more.

Jed sat over by the library and watched as the Judge started up the car and got no further than a drunk man’s crawl up the street, before the automobile came to a crashing halt. There was smoke and there was a burning smell as Jed drove over to where the Judge was cussing.

“Can I be of help?” asked young Jed.
“Well, I’ll be, young Jed, just the man I need righty here, this goddamn minute,” said the Judge – cussing as he usually did.

And so Jed went around the car, taking in deep breaths and shaking his head as if it was going to cost a pretty penny to fix (which it did). But the Judge could afford the cost on account of being the richest man this side of the Mississippi.
And that was what started young Jed on a life of what some might call crime. He would go out at night and loosen a nut here or a bolt there. He’d keep records so as not to pick on any particular car too often.

“Ain’t it strange,” said Mister Holly, “that my car seems to break down every 12 weeks, without fail, if you know what I’m saying.”

And young Jed did know what he as saying – very much indeed.

I’ve got to be honest and tell you that they never caught young Jed - but Karma threw its hand into the ring. When young Jed died, the undertaker’s hearse was one that Jed had only just loosened a screw on. So instead of taking Blind Man’s corner up on the turnpike, the wheel came off the hearse making it turn over and Jed’s coffin went shooting out and off into the Mississippi.

They never did find young Jed and folks in town found that their automobiles didn’t break down so often.

Strange that. 

bobby stevenson 2016

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Sound Of Her Heart Rusting

In the black hole at the centre of a quiet, quiet night,
She stares at the ceiling,
And listens to the blood pumping through her ears,
And to the odd scrape and screech that comes from her rusting heart.
Once, it used to beat as strong as an ox,
And that was in the days when she was prepared for love and war,
But when no one came to call,
When no one brought her flowers,
Her heart began to fade and rust.
And now she finds a comfort in the sounds that her heart makes,
At least she gave it a shot with all her smiles and pretty bows,
Although there were time when she’d thought, just maybe,
That someone would have seen her soul.
But on that morning when she felt the first sharp creak,
She knew then it was all too late,
And that she would be listening to the rusting of her heart 
Until it was time to sleep.

bobby stevenson 2016

Thing and The Wise Man & The Story

 The Wise Man

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.

The Story

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 who this belongs to?” 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 2016 (and Thing)

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Me and Buzz and Skinny Dippin'

What can you say about your bestest pal in this whole wide world, when he gets arrested for being nake-it in the middle of town? ‘Not much’, is what the judge said.

“You were standing there, in front of the preacher and his good wife, nake-it as the day you were born. What have you got to say for yourself?”

Buzz was thinking that because of his natural good looks and the ‘great body he’d been given by God’, that the sight of his nake-it-ness probably overwhelmed the townsfolk.

“I guess I’m just too damn pretty to be walkin’ about with no britches on.”

Well that did it, the judge said that Buzz was to knock every door in town and apologize for standin’ in front of them like the day he was born.

One or two of them said they had missed the whole darn thing and could Buzz step inside to their homes and stand nake-it for them so that they could be just as upset as the rest of the townsfolk. The stupid thing is, I think Buzz did it.

You see, the summer that Buzz wanted to start Skinny-dippin’ just happened to be the summer when all the creeks dried up. Sometimes Buzz can be a truly crazy person and maybe, just maybe, he had chosen that summer so he could complain about the bone-dry creeks. It’s what he does.

Anyhoo, there weren’t no water in the creeks to go skinny dippin’, so that was when Buzz suggested that we might use the water tower which stood next to Mrs McGonigal’s Eatin’ Room and Entertainments. I asked the grown ups what kinda ‘entertainment’ that Mrs McGonigal laid on but they always changed the subject and one time, the preacher nearly choked on his biscuits and gravy. So I stopped askin’.

The water tower was higher than the church clock – so you can see it was pretty high and you had to climb up a real shaky ladder. Buzz suggested on the mornin’ of one extra hot day that we should get up real early and climb the tower, that way no one would see us and we could stay up there all day. The Sheriff had said it was agin’ the law to go swimmin’ in the tower on account that it was the water that folks used for drinkin’ and such and also because Cross-Eyed Larry had pee’d in it one time.

So we did what Buzz said and sneaked up the ladder real early. It was real hot, so that the water didn’t cool us down that much - but boy it was fun, especially being nake-it and all.

Inside the tower there was a small ledge and if you crawled up to it, you could jump and dive and do just about everything into the water. Back flips and front flips and such.

Of course we couldn’t come down until it got dark, so I guess me and Buzz did pee in the water, now and again’. I’m just sayin’, is all.

Late in the afternoon we could hear a band coming down the street, apparently the preacher’s wife had organized a parade for her son, ‘cause he’d memorized the whole of the Good Book or somethin’. I ain’t critizing but a whole parade. I mean. 

Anyway, me and Buzz decided to jump from the ledge together and somehow we hit the bottom of the water tower real hard and kinda went through the tower. And where we’d made holes, well the water kinda started leaking through, and we could hear the screams from those getting wet below us.

Then I looked at Buzz and he looked at me and that was the last thing we did before we both fell through the tower and landed nake-it right in front of the townsfolk. Buzz managed to land on top of the preacher’s boy which had the preachers wife shoutin’ and hollerin’ about how these nake-it boys had killed her beautiful son.

You’re saying, I suppose, that I forgot to mention about me being nake-it and all - and what happened to me, exactly? 

Well, I told the preacher that I had been trying to baptize Buzz on account of his bad ways an’ all, and that with the creeks being dry, the water tower was the only place to do it – don’t ask me where that all came from – I ain’t got a clue. Anyhoo, for some reason they let me go and decided that Buzz was the guilty one.

Go figure.

bobby stevenson 2016

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 2016

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Last of England - the beginning

Chapter 1  The beginning - Aldeburgh Beach, April 1958.

The sky was blood-red.

Stanley had been edgy all that day. Or at least, it had seemed that way to Alice ever since she had suggested a picnic on the beach. 

Now she, Stanley and their seven-year-old daughter, Claire were sitting shivering under a sky that would have delighted any photograph.

They had wanted some privacy - at least that was the way that Stanley had put it, and so they had moved along the beach towards Thorpeness. It was all shingles and stones, but they did love this part of the country and the sea was performing for them with all its heart.

Alice had laid a tea that her mother would have approved of, while Stanley and Claire searched under rocks for crabs. She called them a few times but the wind seemed to carry her voice off somewhere out to sea. The gulls, which cried overhead, had probably heard her voice more times that day than her family.

But she was happy, or at least content in a very British way. It had been thirteen years since the war and the country was now getting back on its feet. She had a small but important job helping organise the Aldeburgh Festival and Stanley had been teaching at various colleges in Suffolk and Norfolk. Claire, after a few health scares, was now growing into a beautiful young girl.

So why did Alice feel so empty in her stomach? Her mother had always been a victim of depression but had tended to keep out the way of the family during those particularly bad episodes. To Alice’s mother, depression hadn’t been a very British thing to suffer from in public. Sometimes, when Alice pressed her ear against her mother’s bedroom door, she could hear her mother praying or at least talking to God in her own West London style. Her mother would put on a very upper class voice   when she was talking to someone she considered to be important. Alice remembered that it was something her mother had failed to do when she had first met Stanley.

Yet, despite everything that had happened, she still missed her mother. The mother she could talk to any time of the day. She missed that woman more than she could ever tell Stanley. He had woken Alice in the middle of the night, telling her that her mother had gone. He had then turned over and had gone back to sleep. Having just woken, Alice had wondered, at first, where her mother had gone to exactly. Morocco, perhaps? Istanbul? Those were some of her mother’s favourite haunts and ones, which were considered to be very daring for a widow in the 1950s. But then her mother had been all that and more; she had always been adventurous. Alice felt that her mother had been a little disappointed that Alice hadn’t been more like her.

When Alice had woken properly the night of the ‘phone call, she had realised what Stanley had meant - that her mother had gone for good. Afterwards she had heard Stanley snoring and she wasn’t going to wake him up again to talk about how she was feeling. He was down to teach a class in Ipswich later that morning and that would have meant an early start.

Alice’s father had died in the war.
He had been a scientist or something similar, yet he’d never really told the family what it was he had done. It was while her father was working at some camp in Berkshire that he had met Stanley and brought him home to meet the family. Alice was sure that her father had approved of Stanley and had probably intended him to ask his daughter out. This he had done, and soon they were married. If not in haste, at least in a very short space of time. Love had nothing to do with it, although she had grown accustomed to him and would always miss him when he was away. 

But this wasn’t really love, not the Wuthering Heights kind. This was a very British marriage where it was better to say nothing and suffocate than bring shame to the family. Alice had said ‘yes’ very quickly, too quickly, perhaps, in case no one else asked her. 

She had held her breath for so long now that it seemed impossible to remember what fresh air tasted like.
Alice looked up and could see Stanley and Claire heading back. She waved, and her beautiful little daughter waved back with all her might. Claire was a fighter, she had had to fight to stay in the world and nothing was going to take her. Stanley had seen Alice waving but had dropped his head, something he had been doing more frequently.

By the time her family had made it back to the picnic, the wind was whipping up the white horses and causing them to crash onto the shore. The napkins were being blown about and two of them disappeared over the sandbank at the back.

They drank their tea in silence, a behaviour that Stanley had always insisted upon, while they ate the perfectly cut sandwiches filled with cucumber from their own garden.

It was then that Stanley lifted his head and looked out to sea.

At least, that is what she remembers telling the police afterwards. There had been a large, red schooner on the horizon and it had seemed to be struggling with the strong winds.

Any normal person would have mentioned the ship’s distress but not Stanley. He had simply wiped the crumbs from his face, stood up and climbed over the sandbank for a better view or that is what Alice had assumed, and it was another thing she had told the police.

The last time she saw Stanley, he had his hands sheltering his eyes from the harsh wind - eyes, which she believed were following the schooner. Claire helped her mother pack up and it was just as Alice was about to ask Stanley to help her with the basket - one that she always found difficult to negotiate - that she noticed he had gone. So had the schooner. Alice asked Claire to run over to the sandbank and fetch her father but he wasn’t there.

From the sandbank, a person could see all the way to Thorpeness, back to Aldeburgh and even a mile or two inland but Stanley had simply vanished off the face of the Earth.

“You sure it was that sudden?” The policeman with the notebook had asked her later and she was absolutely certain that it had been.

The police had searched the beaches and land for several days, the locals had all taken their boats out to help but nothing was found of Stanley. He had simply gone.

What scared Alice was that she felt relieved, at least at first. Maybe he had wanted to disappear. The policeman, Inspector Whitstable, had asked her about their life together and by that, Alice had assumed he was meaning their love life. To her, that meant sex on a Saturday evening and sometimes during the week when they were on holiday. At first she couldn’t understand what Whitstable was getting at, but it soon became apparent. Did he have something troubling him? And by that, the policeman had meant another woman. Or man. She hadn’t even considered that possibility that Stanley was a queer.

If wasn’t sex that was troubling Stanley, then maybe there was money worries. But as she had told the police, her mother had left them comfortable for the rest of their lives. No, he wasn’t suicidal either. If anything, he disapproved of such nonsense. Stanley was conservative through and through and knew one day in his heart that he would have to account to God for his behaviour.

When the Inspector asked about Stanley’s work, Alice had to admit it was beyond her. She neither knew, nor cared what he did as long as he was a good father to Claire and a good husband to her. She didn’t tell the police that his office at the back of the house was always locked.

Alice, the devoted and loving wife, had even been a suspect in his disappearance and her fingerprints taken, but the suggestion was preposterous. She had a witness in the shape of her beautiful – their beautiful daughter. How quickly Alice seemed to want him dead and buried. He didn’t deserve those thoughts, and Alice quickly brightened up.

She would do all it took to find him. If he had run away, there must have been a reason. Perhaps she was the reason. Perhaps she hadn’t been a good enough wife. Yet hadn’t there always been a meal on the table when he had come home? Hadn’t she always listened to his problems? Hadn’t she always allowed him to lie on top of her when he wanted? What more could a wife do?

                                         Aldeburgh        photo:

Chapter 2  The newsreel -  Summer 1958.

She had surprised herself how quickly she had gotten her life back into some sort of normality. Between looking after her daughter and helping with the Aldeburgh festival, her days were always full of things to do. 

When she passed folks in the street, or in the grocers, they would either drop their eyes or pat her arm at her bravery in the face of her phantom widowhood.

Stanley was neither dead nor alive, but Alice was growing more and more accustomed to this state of affairs and a little part of her hoped he wouldn’t return.

One beautiful and warm summer’s day, she drove her and Claire to Felixstowe to look in the big-shops (as Claire liked to call them), followed by a fish tea, and then the cinema. Alice was hoping there was a Disney on which usually satisfied the both of them.

Claire was almost sleeping by the time they entered the Regal, and as an extra treat, Alice had bought them both a box of chocolates and paid for the more expensive seats in the Circle. Alice looked around, and pleased that there was no one close by, slipped off her shoes and wiggled her toes. Stanley would have disapproved of such behaviour but then Stanley wasn’t here.

Claire was sleeping on Alice’s shoulder when the adverts came on, then she stretched her toes and laid against her daughter as the newsreel started. She smiled to herself as wonder how long it had been since she’d never felt so happy. Perhaps Stanley had disappeared through wishful thinking. She had another chocolate and smiled again.

The newsreel was discussing the latest fashions, what the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were up to, and then it happened. It was only a fleeting glance but she was one hundred percent sure of what she had seen.

It had been a story on the changing face of the English seaside and the trouble that was being caused by riots on the beach at Brighton. It all worried Alice - because England, Britain even, was changing and not necessarily for the better. 

Then she saw him, he was standing at the back of the crowd on Brighton beach, he looked straight at the newsreel camera and then turned away. She would swear on her daughter’s life it was him. 

She didn’t wait for the Disney, instead she helped put her fast asleep daughter in the back of the car and drove back to Aldeburgh.

What should she do? The police would think she was one of those potty women one reads about in the Sunday newspapers. She would have to check her facts and that would mean going back to Felixstowe.

Between the festival and looking after her daughter, she didn’t manage to get to the cinema until three days later and as luck would have it, the newsreel had changed. She had concocted some story about a long lost relative when she approached the cinema manager. A nice man, by the name of Eric, had told her that the films had been sent back on the Monday to an address in London.

Perhaps she had just imagined it. Perhaps she was conjuring him up through the guilt of her caring little if he was ever found again. But what if it was him? How could she go on with her life wondering if any minute he could be standing at her door? She noticed that she’d thought of it as ‘her door’ and not ‘theirs’, and wondered if she was possibly the worst wife in the country.

The manager, Eric had scrawled the address in London for the newsreel and one Friday when Alice had a little time off she had taken the train to London. The film company receptionist, Irene from Upminster, had been as nice as nine-pence and had told Alice, that although they usually charged for a private viewing, seeing as it was her long lost brother, and the fact that all the big guns were out at a meeting, Alice could view the film for nothing. 

A bored projectionist smoked about three cigarettes at the back of the room, and Alice had to shake him to waken him up when she got to the bit she wanted to see.

He played it over several times and when she asked the bored man to freeze the picture, he managed to do it but it vibrated a little. So she had to narrow her eyes to be sure of what she was seeing.

“Is that him?” Asked the projectionist.
Alice nearly jumped out of her skin, wondering if the man knew what was going through her head.
“Your brother, is that him?”
“I think so,” she said, but not in the way that finding a long lost brother would make someone react. Puzzled, the projectionist just lit another cigarette and thought about the girl he was meeting that night.

By the time she got back to Aldeburgh, Alice was sure it was him and wondered what she should do next.

Stanley was alive and well and standing on a beach in Brighton. Or at least he had been when they made the film  
There was something else at the back of her mind about the day of Stanley’s disappearance and that thought had been refreshed by seeing the sea at Brighton in the newsreel.

Stanley had received a postcard on the day he had vanished and she was sure he’d stuffed it in a book.

Alice went into Stanley’s office, using the door that had been broken open by the police. ‘They had found nothing of any significance’ but she was sure a clue was in the room.
She opened all of his favourite books and then out of one fell the postcard. It was addressed to Stanley and the message said ‘Time’. On the other side was a painting, one they both knew and loved - it was of a couple and child leaving on a ship to start a life in a new land. The painting was by Ford Maddox Brown and was called ‘The Last of England’.

bobby stevenson 2016