Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Word Hooker

It was the strangest of times.
The world was full, as were other worlds, of course, but the old one, the first one, our Mother Earth was drowning in people.

And that is when they brought in the death-chip. All those born after a certain date were fitted with it. Those who were born dumb had no need of it – but for the rest, it was a way to control the population.

The chip set a person’s output at 300 million words. From the very first discernible word – say, ‘mama’ to a song sung or a poem read out aloud, the words were deducted from the 300 million. The General Council had considered this value as over-generous – it could have been set much lower.

And so you’re asking what happens when the 300 million words were used up? Well the death-chip switched off the biological systems. It also did this if someone tried to have it removed – it would prematurely shut down its host.

Some of the new-born tried not to talk to make it last longer but it was impossible – the government made everyone repeat the State Prayer each morning and even if a person only said the prayer and nothing else – well, after 60 years of fitting the chip, it also shut down the user.

Many took to writing notes to each other: electronically, in chalk, in ink – any method that would get their message across. Those who constantly joked or sang died early due to using up their share. It seemed unfair that only the somber or quiet were given a longer life.

But that was the rule of the state.Each birthday a host/person/user - call them what you will - were informed of their yearly usage and how many words they had left.
One benefit, if that is what it can be called, was that people took more care in things they said to each other. A fight, an argument, could seriously shorten your life. It paid to be careful with what you said. Words became like gold.

Some people paid others to say things for them – they were called ‘Word Hookers’. Many died rich and young.

Most people, when it came to the end, kept a few words in reserve. Usually it was three to six words that they would hold back as long as possible and as you have probably guessed - normally the last three words folks said were ‘I Love You’.
Then they were terminated. 

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

Choodla: London Secrets

The Start

What can I say about Choodla, that hasn’t already been said over and over again by the newspapers, the television, the judges, the police, the weird man who lives on everyone’s street, my family, my pet dog? Nothing - that’s what, nothing except I’m Choodla and no one except me can say that.

I’ve watched those stupid movies about superheroes (okay they aren’t that stupid) and then I’ve watched those stupid movies about vigilantes (okay, those aren’t that stupid either) and that is when I decided to……no, I think I’m jumping ahead here. Let’s go back to the start. Kind of.

Once upon a time, a pre-Choodla time, I was just your usual kid with dreams and stuff. Well except I was too lazy for the dreams and didn’t have enough cash for the stuff – so basically I was just a kid.  

The trouble was that all those little traits followed me into adulthood. I mean I did my best to grow up – ended up over six feet tall – but those pesky little things like laziness kind of came with me. Boy that really pee’d me off but what’s a guy to do?

I had a job, or at least I had people who came and gave me money to sit in an office and work with dumb folks and dream of being somewhere else. Except you get to like the money and tell yourself you’re only staying until the storm passes over and then you’ll move on. Except you don’t – or at least it looked as if I was welded to that desk in my office - until the day they said they were rationalizing the structure of the office, and that meant I was on the street.

So now I don’t have a job but at least I don’t have to listen to dumb folks anymore and that to me was a big tick. Except I don’t have any stupid people to hand me money, so I have to do what I have always done and that is to play my guitar in the street and hope folks throw coins at me. I should have said ‘to me’ but it was more often than not ‘at me’. Hey, you get to find out that everyone’s a judge these days.

So I was playing ‘American Pie’ on my guitar for the good folks of this big city for the twentieth time that day and I still only had a few coins in the hat (ones I put there myself). When a little old man came crawling out of a side door – called himself McCafferty and said he was having a party and would I like to come. Okay, you’re thinking what I’m thinking that this man is a serial killer and probably got a bed, some tape, rope and a collection of knives to torture me slowly but I thought, being the victim of serial killing has got to be preferable to playing ‘American Pie’ one more time. You think I’m joking, you try it.

Anyway I collected my coins and hat and followed him down through a door which seemed to go down to an old unused Underground Station. Down in the old platform, of the old station (it was old) was a collection of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells that you would ever wish (or not) to meet.  McCafferty introduced me as ‘that geezer who won’t stop playing that song’ and everyone knew who he meant.

The leader wasn’t McCafferty but a big bloke called Andrew who shook my hand and asked if I thought that they we were just a bunch of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells. I said that nothing could be further from the truth, and that indeed they looked like an upstanding bunch of gentlemen …”and ladies” shouted a collection of overcoats in the corner.

Once you got over the smell, they did indeed seem interesting. One gentleman had been a professor of economics in a prestigious university but had fallen on hard times when they’d found the bank accounts.
“A mere oversight,” he said, and he hoped to re-join the world above any day soon.

Another had been something in Westminster until they caught him and he too was only waiting down here for things to get better.

The one they called ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and who was married to whatever existed under the collection of coats had once been a star of stage and screen until he too was found to be wanting in some area or another.

They asked me what my story was and I had to be honest and say that I had just been fired from my job. As such I had probably some way to go to be as esteemed as the collection in front of me.
“Tish and tosh,” said Jumping Jack, “You look like you have a few secrets to tell.”

Apart from stealing a coin from my Grandmother’s purse I had been pretty quiet on the dishonesty side.
“We shall prise it out of you, young musician person, prise it we shall.”
I must say he looked as if he meant it, every word and that perhaps ‘prising’ meant using some instrument or other.

An extremely smelly old man said that there was one rule down here and that was ‘share and share alike’ and suddenly a giant of a man grabbed me by the ankles and held me upside down while the little coins that I had, fell out of my pocket. All of those miscreants were on those coins like rats.

When they had taken everything and anything, they said the time had arrived for me to be named. I told them quite rightly that I had a name but they said that was a name for use above, I needed one for down here in the Underground. A few of them huddled in a corner and every so often they would stop talking, look at me in a very weird way then shake their heads and go back to talking.

After what seemed a blooming eternity (enough time to sing American Pie fifty times) they came over to me and told me to kneel.

I did so hoping that whatever happened would be quick –
“Old Creature here has come up with a name and you are to be called ‘Choodla’ from now on.”
I asked why Choodla as it sounded kind of weird.

The one they called Creature said, “It is the greatest name that anyone down here can be called. It is after the Underground station we stand in.”

I said I didn’t know any stations new or old called Choodla.
“No dear boy, it is Aldwych – that is the station in which we reside. One that was closed years and years ago. And if you spell it backwards – Chywdla (well nearly backwards) you get Choodla. That sir is your name from now on.”

So here I am stuck in an Underground station in London with a bunch of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells and you’re asking how do I become a superhero?  Well you’ll just have to wait and see.

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

From Me to You

I’m not sure if I’m going to do this story justice, I mean it’s pretty weird, but hey, I’ll try my best and let you be the judge.
The man in question, is, or was, a writer and that’s the start and finish of it. He had been something big, somewhere in the city and although it paid the bills, it never fed his soul.

One sunny Wednesday, he went into his boss’s office, tapped danced on her desk and told her that he quit. There wasn’t any significant other in his life, mainly due to the fact that he had always wanted to sort out his life before he committed. But if we all did that, there would be very few settled in a relationship.
He woke up the next morning, as if the day before had been the result of drinking and he couldn’t understand his behaviour. ‘What have I done?’ was the phrase that kept circling his brain like a vulture waiting for the fatal blow.

He spent the morning thinking of excuses he would give to his boss when he tried to get his job back. He decided that he would settle on him having a ‘sort-of-breakdown’ – she would understand that, although he wouldn’t put money on it – she was one tough cookie.

He had come to the big city a couple of years ago, and apart from the woman neighbour (he didn’t know her name but he looked after her cats, from time to time) he didn’t know anyone.

He had a family, oh yes he had a family, all right. His brother was always borrowing money off of him which he never saw returned. His father had left his mother and moved in with a twenty-year model (which should have won him cliché of the year). His mother had turned to drink, and he was always having to rescue her from troubles and tribulations. She had checked into a clinic but had escaped after three days.

And now, to top it all, he had thrown in the towel with his job. Perhaps insanity ran in the family, or at best, instability. So that was that, the decision was made  - he had to get his job back, even if it was just to be the only one in the family who could get through a day without money, sex or drink.

That afternoon, he went to one of those coffee bars where you required a science degree to understand what type of coffee to order. He noticed there were folks siting all over the place reading books, using computers, or staring out of the window.

Perhaps those coffee houses were where all the lost souls went to meet. Except that no one really talked to one another, they were all too busy with whatever it was they were doing. So he went home, collected his computer, and returned to the café.

And that was when he wrote his first story. What a rush it had been. Without thinking he had thought up a story about a family, (the one he should have had) and set them on adventures (things he should have done). He spent the rest of the day on the story and it became addictive.

He didn’t go back to ask for his job back, instead he sat in his home and wrote and wrote. The more he wrote, the more the characters (his second family) started to talk to him.

At night when he went home, he only ever thought about the family. They were his friends, they were his life. The family he wrote about were the folks he would have been happiest to live with.

His own, real brother had started to call him asking for more money, and when he said he didn’t have much - but he could have what he had - the brother became abusive and told him to get back to his job. His father would use his son’s apartment to meet other woman, but now that his son was home all day, the father got angry and asked could the son, perhaps, go for a walk for an hour or so.

Of course he refused. And the more he got caught up in the writing, the less he was able to pull his mother out of the trouble and tribulations that she found herself in. You see - what the writer had found, is in the end you can only do so much for people, but there comes a time when they use you as a crutch to get them through and enough, has to be enough. That isn’t only just true for families, it’s also true for friends.

So the writer created new friends in this new story world, ones who could exist without the need of crutches.

He stopped going out and, bit by bit, he became a dishevelled mess, but the family still obsessed him. Why couldn’t life be that way?
Then one night, about 2am, he turned to look out the window and there they were, the family sitting in his room. All those people who lived in his head were looking straight at him.

The father of the family, who was a kind, upstanding gentleman, asked if perhaps the writer wanted to join them. The father told the man, how it was much kinder and gentler on their side, all he had to do was walk through the door with them.

And that is what he did – why stay when your life is just a series of events propping up people?
He was never seen again.

How do I know? Because the writer is me and I’m in here with my other family. Happy.

Some night when your computer, or phone, or pod is lying on - maybe you’ll hear a tap on the glass. That’s me.

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby 

The Halloween Man

She had only stepped off the bus, when Katy sent her a text. What was she wearing to the Halloween party? Was she still going as Beyoncé? Tara had a smile to herself as she replied to her friend – she wasn’t ready to let her know that she was going as Kim Kardashian, she wanted it all to be a surprise.

Tara decided to message Dave, her buddy, and while she did that she streamed some fresh beats through her phones. She walked up Drummer’s Alley, head down, messaging. She was happy.

The cyclist who rode up Drummer’s Alley from the other direction was pleased that he had a clear run through the street that night, it didn’t often happen that way. At least, that’s what he told the police afterwards. There had been no little girl walking away from the bus stop when he went through. He was sure. I mean he would have had to have cycled around her, wouldn’t he?
Tara had simply disappeared.

About an hour later, Ed was walking through the park. He had borrowed his grandson’s old mp3 player to see if it would spur him on to running (at least a fast walk) through the park. He wasn’t good with gadgets, but this had music and he could even watch the television as he moved. It was later that evening that Ed’s wife called the police. Her husband hadn’t come home.

Albert was sitting at the traffic lights, texting his wife telling her he would home in ten, and to start running the bath. He kept texting as the lights turned to green. He stopped for a newspaper a little further down the street. That was all they found, the car, engine running, empty.

Kenny, who was ten years old, had gone out to ‘trick and treat’ on his own. His mother had dressed him up as someone called Elvis Presley. Kenny had no idea who he was, or even cared that much. He took a selfie and then sent it to his best pal, Steve, who didn’t know who Elvis was either. Kenny never got to Mrs Severn to show her the costume. They found the Elvis wig in an undergrowth – nothing else. In chalk, on the path next to the wig, was written, ‘The Halloween Man’.

There had been a legend about the Halloween Man in the area for years. Some said it had started with the old Professor who lived at the bottom of Sycamore. He was always constructing hot-air balloons and flying across town – with varying degrees of success. But back then, kids would sometimes look out their bedroom windows in the middle of the night to see the Prof floating by. Some said, he only did it to snatch kids or to look in their windows, watching them sleep.

He was long gone. Folks had their suspicions and had tried to get him thrown

out-of-town, but he died before any of that could happen.

The day after this particular Halloween, the town was buzzing with the story that the professor had come back to take revenge and snatch people from the streets, especially those who weren’t paying any attention – which, to be truthful, was most folks nowadays.

The next night, people started getting rides home, using taxis, and some even took their earphones out and looked up to see where they were going. It didn’t stop who or whatever it was, as another three disappeared. Chalked on the wall in some dead-end street was the name ‘The Halloween Man’.
Kids told kids in school that the Halloween Man just snatched you from out of the sky and took you away and ate you. If anything good came from this, was that kids looked up – always watching the skies and trying to get home before it got dark.

The police couldn’t find a trace of any of the disappeared. They had the chalk-dust tested, but it told them nothing – it could have been one of thousand batches made in the big city.

The next night and the one after that, folks didn’t go out in the dark unless they had to. Still another two disappeared into thin air. On the front of the town hall painted in putrid green were the words ‘The Halloween Man’.

Cops were brought in from all surrounding forces but nothing else happened. No disappeared the next week, or the week after that. 

Things settled down, lives kind of returned to normal, except, of course, the families who kept on looking for their loved one. No one else disappeared. But tomorrow is Halloween again, and folks aren’t going out this year, unless they have to. This is the time of the Halloween man who snatches you right out of the sky.

bobby stevenson 2016
photo: painting of a lonely man by
wee bobby

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

THING of Beauty

There was a lot of time to think, now that Thing had lived in the cave by himself for a while. A lot of time to wonder why he was the way he was. A lot of time to wonder why people made judgements on the way he looked, rather on the way his heart shined out.

Those kids, the ones in the town below, had always picked on him, thrown stones at him, shouted names – and for what? Because he looked different. Kids, well humans really, hated difference.

Yesterday morning as he was eating breakfast (yes, Things did that too), he heard someone calling at the mouth of the cave.
“Hello!” a voice, shouted.
“Anyone there?” The voice continued. Thing rarely had any visitors, expect the odd kid from town shouting some abuse into the cave.

He had the same thought that he always had in these circumstances - Thing thought it might be his mother and father returning home, like he knew they would one day.
Although it wasn’t them, it wasn’t a bad surprise either. It was a cousin of his who lived in the north-country and whom he had met only when the families had all got together.

His cousin told Thing that it was his cousin’s Big Birthday and Thing was to follow him north to take part in the celebrations. All Thing’s people had a Big Birthday, it was to mark them standing on their own feet in the world. Thing was still to have his, hoping that his parents would be back for that.

So Thing packed a few belongings and started on the journey north with his cousin. It was wonderful to be in the company of his own kind – not that he disliked the humans - just that his cousin understood how it felt to be the way he was.

Thing had never been confident in the way he looked, and this was heightened by the name calling that came from the kids. But that night, the night he arrived with his own kind, his aunts and uncles all told him how beautiful he was, how he was a great reflection on his parents, who would have been so proud to have been there had they not…….
Then the aunts and uncles stopped as if they were about to say something they would regret. Thing asked what they were going to say, but they all changed the direction of the conversation and wouldn’t look Thing in the face.

On the Friday night, the evening before the party, Thing went out with all his cousins and they marched up and down the main street. About half way along the road, a human kid was walking towards them and Thing hoped the kid would not be horrible to his family as he was having such a great time. What occurred surprised Thing, his cousins started to shout names and throw stones at the human kid - and although for one split second Thing felt that it was good to belong to a group (and good to not be the one picked on) Thing realised that this whole situation was wrong and he wasn’t going to become one of the bullies who had made his own life a misery.
Thing walked up to the kid and comforted him.

“What are you doing?” Asked his eldest cousin. “He is a human, an ugly little misfit of a human,” said another of his family.
“He is a soul, that is what he is,” said Thing. “He is just like you and me.”
“No he’s not,” shouted another and Thing’s cousins all started to throw stones at the boy.

Thing put himself between the gang and the boy and when the stones started to hit Thing instead of the human, his cousins stopped.

“So you’re an ugly little human lover,” shouted the tallest of his cousins.

And Thing guessed that he was. The cousins told him that he wasn’t needed at the party the next day and that he should go home. No one wanted the little orphan anyway. Thing wasn’t sure what an orphan was, but he was too tired to ask.
He walked the human kid to his own home, and then Thing returned and slept outside his aunt and uncle’s house. He would walk to his cave the next day.

When Thing woke the next morning, his aunt was sitting by his side. She said, she’d heard what had happened and that he was indeed most welcome at the party.

“My children are young, and my children are wrong. They are scared of the humans,” said his aunt. “I heard what you did and you really are a most beautiful being, Thing. Not only in looks, but in your heart,” then his aunt kissed him on the forehead.

He had not been kissed in many moons and it felt good. He attended the party that evening and danced and sang and had the best of times. His aunt and uncle offered him a place to stay permanently but Thing refused, and told them that he had to return to the cave to wait on his mother and father.

“They will return one day soon, I know it,” Thing said proudly.

Thing didn’t notice his family all dropping their eyes when he said that, but he wasn’t caring anyway - he had been told he was beautiful and he couldn’t wait to tell his parents.

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

Maybe Next Time

The next time, I’ll say ‘hi’ when that moment first arises
The next time, I’ll cross the street before the trouble starts
The next time, I won’t put the money on that horse that lost me everything
The next time, I’ll go with whom I love rather than who you said I should
The next time, I will tell you that I’m unhappy and not just smile through gritted teeth
The next time, I’ll live the way I want to and not because I am scared
The next time, I won’t let them hit me, or call me names
The next time, I will not wait so long
The next time, I’ll take that chance
The next time, I will not throw away friends and money like that
The next time, I’ll make sure they’re properly dead
The next time, I’ll take my share as well
The next time, I will not drink as much
The next time, I will not hit you, I promise
The next time, I’ll be the one to stay on the path and make you move
The next time, I’ll spend more time talking and listening
The next time, I’ll be far gentler on myself and my life
The next time, I’ll probably do it all again, just like the last time.

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

In A Heartbeat

In a heartbeat,
The car turned the corner too fast, and turned over,
The last thing the mother did was scold her
Son for chewing loudly
In a heartbeat
The lonely girl bumped into the guy who was leaving
For good and she wasn’t lonely any more
“It’s funny how we met,” she told her children.
In a heartbeat
He smiled at her and talked about their next trip
And then the darkness covered the side of his face
And he slipped away from her
In a heartbeat
He scratched the lotto card
One hundred thousand it said
And that was the amount of friends he gained
In a heartbeat
He screwed up the cigarette and promised himself
That was that
And it was
In a heartbeat
The sun warmed his face and he smiled
And the blackness let him be for a few kind minutes
In a heartbeat
As she sat alone at the bar, a friend joined her and another
And another and in a heartbeat, she knew she was the lucky one.

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Private War of Bobby Falkirk

Which war he went to (and came back from), isn’t important here, it’s just important to know that Bobby came back in one piece – well almost. His head was intact, as was his body – but it was a plain and simple fact that his brain and heart didn’t really communicate that well with each other. Whose does?

Ever since he was old enough to climb trees, Bobby had always wanted to be a soldier. In Bobby’s world branches became rifles, and clumps of grass tied to his head made him invisible to the enemy. He used to invade Mister Elder’s garden on a weekly basis. Mister Elder threatened to go to the police, but nothing ever came of it and Bobby kept on invading and taking Mister Elder’s flower beds prisoner.

Every morning Bobby would ask his mother if he was old enough to join the army, and every morning she would say the same things – ‘not long now’ or ‘when you’re a little taller’. Bobby even hung upside down from trees, for hours, just to make himself that little bit taller.

As he grew up and older, Bobby could see his mother looking sadder – she knew the time was fast approaching when he son would be off to wars overseas.

Bobby had waited, as he had promised, until he was 18 years of age before he attempted to join the army. At that age he was over six-foot tall and built like a champion fighter. Bobby didn’t care if the world was ready for him, Bobby was most definitely ready to take on the world.

In all, Bobby spent ten years in the army and in that time, he saw many places, many cultures, and just as many ways to kill a man. His eyes grew tired and weary of the stench of death, and his heart grew cold and hard. By the time Bobby returned to his home, he felt like a man who belonged to no particular place. Something of himself had been destroyed and buried in those far-off lands and it made him confused, as a result.

In the ten years spent in the army his parents had died, leaving Bobby to feel that he was an orphan. He had a family while he was in the army – he had never been closer or felt more of sense of belonging than those army years, but friends had died in battle or had left.

For the first time in his life, Bobby felt totally alone. In his younger years, Bobby would sometimes travel with his uncle (really a kindly neighbour) up to St Pancras station and hotel on Euston Road. It had been falling apart for many years, but while his uncle worked on the railways, Bobby would explore the old buildings and the old hotel.

In the highest tower (and for reasons you will understand later, I am saying no more than that) Bobby found an empty room, full of cobwebs and rats. At each visit, Bobby would smuggle in little objects, pieces of wood (from which he built a seat), and some things to eat and drink. Over the next few years, it became Bobby’s home away from home. One weekend, when his uncle was taken unwell, Bobby sneaked up to the railway station and managed to get up to his den in the highest tower, unseen. He had always remembered this.

On his return from his war, Bobby had found himself with nowhere to call home, or even rest his head. It was then that he thought of his little room and wondered if it had been discovered during his absence, or if it indeed remained intact.

The station and the hotel had been transformed since last he had seen the place, and the chances didn’t look good for his den’s survival. Even the back stairs had been repainted and lit in electric light, but as he got to where the door was to his room, he found a brick wall. The entrance had been blocked.

The window to the left of the door was still in place and Bobby found he could still open it. The ledge was there and Bobby clung on to the guttering as he walked, carefully up the roof. The window to his den was still there and he managed to prise it open.

Would you believe it? Bobby’s den was still there, untouched, if a little unloved. The builders must have blocked the door and ignored the highest room in the tower. All his survival/army gear was there – even his little notebooks where he recorded all his height changes as he grew.

That night Bobby slept well, just like did when he was a kid. Tomorrow could look after itself.

It took him a minute or two to realise where he was when he awoke, as the sun shone through the window of his little room. When Bobby was ready, he went on a little walk of discovery and found that there was three other rooms next to his which had also been bricked off from the rest of the building. That was when the thought hit him – it would be possible to live up here, as long as he could come and go unseen.

He only had a little money, enough to keep him going for two or three weeks at most, and if he left the building in the dark then he should be able to survive for a while.

That first day, he ate what was left of the sandwich he had stuffed in his pocket. From up there, the highest room on Euston Road, he could see the world go by and the office workers impatiently watching the clocks on their walls. Bobby’s medication wouldn’t last more than a month or two. The army had handed him some tablets to keep his confusion under control, but in the end the self-control was down to him.

Bobby waited until past midnight before he made the walk down the ledge. He could hear the city screaming and shouting from the streets below; people with families and lives. People without the confusion that had swamped his thoughts. Would he love to be down there and normal? The thought didn’t last long as a breeze blew up and nearly knocked him from the roof. He managed to catch on to the guttering at the last moment. In that split second, he had imagined the newspaper report – ‘soldier returns from war and jumps from roof’. Bobby didn’t want that.

Bobby made it down to Euston Road and started towards Kings Cross. He went into the station and bought some chocolate to keep him going. Bobby was walking to nowhere in particular when, from the corner of his eye and across the street, he noticed a young woman being pushed about by three men. She looked to be in trouble. Bobby sped across the road.

Bobby shouted at the men. “Leave the girl alone.”
“Says who?” Asked one of the men. The one with a scar across his nose.
“Says me,” Bobby shouted back.
“Get him lads,” shouted the fat one.

At that point the three of the men threw the girl aside, making her bump her head against the wall.
It was easy for Bobby, he was fit and ready for them. He knocked two of their heads, literally together. One sparked out and one ran away. The one with the scar stood his ground and grabbed the girl by the neck.

“One move and she gets it,” he said with the girl blocking him from Bobby’s fists. Bobby rolled into a ball then quickly knocked away the man’s legs, Bobby managing to catch the girl as she was released.

Bobby stood and dragged the man by the ankles into a small lane. Bobby picked the man up and chucked him in a dump. Then Bobby returned to make sure the girl was okay.

She seemed to be okay and he found out her name was Elizabeth. She had no money, so Bobby went back and emptied the man in the dump’s wallet. He handed the money to the girl, taking her to a place where she could catch a cab. She asked his name, he told her it wasn’t important and then put her in a taxi.

Bobby could hear the station clock strike two in the morning, as he edged his way back to his den in the sky.

As he lay trying to sleep that night, Bobby wondered if everything happened for a reason. Maybe being a soldier and fighting the bad on the streets of London was why he had been put on this Earth.

Bobby, the hero? There was still a grin on his face as he fell asleep. 

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

The Final Days

The sun was shining the day he decided to do it.

It had been a very long time coming, a very long time indeed, but he was all the better for that fact. There had been nights at school learning about the basics, about what to use, what was best, and what would work the fastest.

Even when that was complete, he still had to find the right people, still had to find the money to pay the right people. The only consistent factor in all of this - the life-force which had driven a road right through the middle of his life and his heart – was his hatred of them. Of all of them.

He had tried to fit in. He had tired of trying to fit in. At school, he was the kid who never got invited to parties. He threw his own but no one ever came.

He’d cried and fought within himself to try make sense of it all. What was wrong with him? Was he too easy to please? Probably – that was what they saw as a weakness. Them. Those who laughed at him, pushed his head down toilets and made him pull the flush himself.

Sometimes, he would catch the eye of one of the perpetrators and he could see the fear scratched across it. Rather you than me – it said. Rather you take the beating than they found out about me.
Bullying was easy. If it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be so popular. He had more scars than he could carry but still he got up each day, and still he walked the road.

Selfishness was a virus now. He saw it everywhere. Self-obsessed little creatures in the middle of the city. Talking too loud – always talking too loud on their phones. People who treated staff in cafés and restaurants as if they were dirt. Well, he was doing it for them as well.

Money was always given to the wrong people. There were more shallow people with money than without. Money disguised their shallowness, or rather it brought all the little shits together.
It wasn’t jealously on his part – he had never had any money but he knew that he would have dealt with it much better than the ones who flashed it in his face.

Most of his life he had believed in a God, it’s what had stopped him from being a serial killer, but last year – last year when his best friend had spent the night with her boyfriend at his house. Well that was the night of the great storm – the night that the chimney at her boyfriend’s house had fallen through the roof. Just as her boyfriend had gone to the bathroom and left her in bed – right in the path of the falling chimney. That’s when he had stopped believing and now he was free to do what he wanted. And he was going to. And he was doing it for his dead best friend, too.

They should have been nicer, all of them. They shouldn’t have been so greedy. Greed was what would destroy the world in the end. The apes loved the smell of money.

He had chosen the capital city because that was where there would be the most impact. He had worked and saved for five years to get the cash to buy what he needed.

Now he was ready.

He had tried the virus on little pieces of paper. It had worked on the animal that lived next door. It was dead within five minutes.  The method of transport was easy – he had collected a few hundred copies of the free evening paper and had impregnated them with the virus. He left two copies on each train, bus and underground carriage he visited. Most of them never took the paper home, they were left where they had been read. Someone else would pick up the copy and read it – each of them condemned by their action.

By morning the epidemic would have begun.
Karma was having its day. They should have been nicer.

bobby stevenson 2016 

wee bobby

Me and Buzz and the Hospital

This is just one of those quick stories I gotta tell you 'fore Buzz finds out.
Some of the sharper of you out there might remember the time that Buzz broke his leg in two places – the yard and the driveway – yeah, I know, it’s still not funny.

But it did mean that my best bud in the whole world had to spend several of his summer weeks in Hot Springs Creek Hospital. Very few folks come out of that place alive, and Buzz was squealin’ all the way there about the fact that he was fine and that a day lyin’ in his bed would fix everythin’.

He ain’t no coward, is Buzz, but every one of his family who ever went into that place came out in a wooden box. Okay, so most of them were over ninety years of age. Okay, all of them were over ninety years of age but hey, you see what was troublin’ my bud?

When they tried to wheel him into the hospital on a gurney, he wouldn’t let go of the ambulance. Jeez, I thought they were gonna have to cut his hands off too, but his Mom used her tried and tested method and hit him on the knuckles and he soon let go. Yeah, you’re right, she was a hard woman.

Anyhoo once they got my bud into a bed, and he realized that he wasn’t goin’ nowhere for a while, he kinda settled down. That was when he told me, that it was my job to keep him entertained, ‘cause that’s what a pal does. First I heard.

The followin’ day, I borrowed Ma Cooper’s donkey and tried to get into the hospital. I got as far as the front door but the critter was just as stubborn as Buzz. I got around the back of it and pushed the donkey’s ass, but it didn’t shift much. Just as the donkey’s head got through the hospital door, someone screamed and they all came runnin’ – meanin’ that I got scolded and sent home with a letter and the donkey. I was told that when Buzz heard that story, he nearly wet the hospital bed ‘cause he had laughed so hard. Me and Buzz were always havin’ trouble tryin’ not to laugh so hard that you gotta pee -, it just one of life’s things you gotta accept. Part of bein’ a man, I guess.

The next day, I got the Shaker Twins, who is midgets, to stand on the other’s shoulders and walk past Buzz’s window with a big coat on – well I thought it was real funny but when Joey Shaker (the smaller of the midgets) tripped on a stone, he fell off his brother’s shoulders and it kinda, (only kinda mind you), looked like a man had been halved in two. All I heard was Mrs Treats screamin’ that a man had been cut in two outside her window and that, help her soul, Satan could just swaller her up right here and now, ‘cause she’d seen it all.

I gotta say, and I know it ain’t kind, but Mrs Treats is a bit soft in the old head on account that she was the town’s teacher for nearly a hundred years (or somethin’ like that). You can guess that I got another letter home to my folks.

My final attempt wasn’t like, my greatest one. Becky Callister is known to drop her knickers and show her bee-hind to anyone who will give her a candy. Okay, so I was desperate. Anyhoo, I gave her two candies just to make sure she done a good job. Can I just say right here, that Becky ain’t the sharpest knife in a drawer and she showed her ass to Mr Hope (the next window along), who was recoverin’ from a heart condition.

Okay, so you’ve guessed again, yep, I got a letter and yep, I got told to stay away from the hospital or they’d call the police. It’s another three weeks until my bud gets released, I just hope I can last.

bobby stevenson 2016

wee bobby

A Kind Of Love

Every year it was the same thing; was it going to be a big Valentine’s card (looks too needy)? A small Valentine’s card (looks too cheap) or a bunch of flowers?
She picked a large card and the most expensive flowers – if you wanted to make an impact you had to spend large. It would impress everyone and keep her Mum off her back.

“Who are these to go to, madam?”
She felt embarrassed saying it, so she’d written it down and then quickly slid the card across the counter.
The flower woman picked it up and read it aloud.
“Miss Sophie Breckstaw, 19, the Gardens. Any message?” The woman asked and Sophie wondered if perhaps, the woman knew.

So what if she did, there were bigger crimes in this world than sending yourself a Valentine. Okay it was sad but hey, if it kept her mother thinking there was someone waiting in the wings to taker her daughter away, it was money well spent.

She laughed as she stepped on to the street. Another year, another stupid lonely year. Nothing changes.
The following morning she opened her eyes to February the 14th. It was a blue sunny sky that had a hint of winter laced through it. She loved those kind of days. Where you came home from a walk and felt that you had experienced something.
She planned to be out when the flowers and card arrived so they would be left at her door. That way, the neighbours wouldn’t think that she was just an old maid waiting on an obsession with cats to kick-in.

Sophie was only 32, for goodness sake, but thinking back on it – several hundred years ago - that was probably a lifetime of living. There was possibly a time when 32 was the mark of an elderly woman. God, she felt depressed.
She decided she’d go to the library (where else?) – She’d hidden in there as an obese teenager (the bullies never went to the library) and she still found the place comforting. It was her church, her sanctuary.

She caught her reflection in a window and liked what she saw (well, kind of) – she was now the proud owner of a very svelte body and (almost) thought her face looked presentable. Sophie never usually saw the admiring glances she got from men and some woman. In her head she was still that ugly child, still fat and still unworthy. The trauma that school kids inflict on other school kids takes some people a lifetime to get over (if ever). Bullies may never achieve anything great in their lives, except for the fact that they live on in nightmares.

The library was full of old men, old women, the unemployed and Sophie – the........well, she wasn’t quite sure where she fitted in. She was between jobs at the moment and had applied for a job in a bookshop just around the corner from the library.
“Miss Breckstaw,” whispered the librarian (the one with the wonky eye) to Sophie as she came through the door.
“That book you ordered, has arrived.”
“Which one?” Asked Sophie.
“Let me see, ‘Cosmic Ordering for Beginners’”.
“Oh that one, if I’d been any good I suppose I should have ordered it from the Universe, myself.”
Judging by the expression on the Librarian-with-the-wonky eye’s face, this was truly an irony-free zone.

So she was desperate enough to ask the universe for a job and why not, eh? Life was nuts, life was really nuts. It was only the stupid, social climbers who thought that life began and ended with the right schools, right jobs, and in saying the right things.

Just wait until the aliens landed, that would put a fly in the ointment. Still, the stupid middle-class folks that Sophie knew would probably try to social climb with little green men. It wasn’t enough for those folks to live a life, they had to go whizzing to their grave with fashionable clothes on.

Sophie thought that maybe she might (just might) be jealous of the people she despised. Okay not despised, but generally they got on her nerves.  If Sophie had been offered a pill which took away all her doubts, made her shallow and superficial, and therefore only unhappy, when her furniture got out of date – would she take it?
Probably, yes, she thought while sitting in the public library making a good job of impersonating the saddest human being alive. Maybe she wasn’t impersonating, maybe, in fact, she was the saddest person.

Still, here she was – she’d made her bed (through inaction and inactivity) and she would have to like it.
She decided that as she was too lazy to read a proper book, that she’d read a Dan Brown instead. She perambulated (today’s big word from her ‘one word a day makes your brain bigger’ book) over to the popular section. Usually the homeless, the drunks and the mentally challenged sat over there but she was willing to risk it to get a nice book, one that would drown her problems for the afternoon.

Sometimes, only sometimes mind you, she would fall asleep at the table and wake to find that the homeless, drunks, and mentally challenged were all looking at her in a disapproving manner. Some even ‘tutted’ and that didn’t help the way she felt about herself and so on those days she would go home and drink a bottle of wine, then cry at all the television adverts. She’d normally waken at 3am on the same seat and with her eyes glued together – it had passed through her mind more than once that maybe little people glued her eyes shut when Sophie was sleeping and drooling after a few glasses of wine.

It was as she was walking towards the popular book section, that Sophie was sure a man, who looked in his thirties (but was probably more thirty plus twenty - knowing her luck) had looked at her. It was one of those looks, where you know that there was a connection but you don’t know why you know that.

She didn’t look around, but she could feel him staring at her. Then again, Sophie sometimes went on these little fantastical trips where she was sure a stranger was having an affair with her, in their head. Problem was, it always turned out to be only in her head and not the stranger’s - so she now tended to take these so-called ‘connections’ with a pinch of salt.
She skipped the Dan Brown section and went straight for the weightier writers. Sophie thought that if he was watching, then this would look more impressive – still she’d normally got that wrong too. She’d found that when you tried to make an impression – no one was really noticing, and yet there could be someone she wasn’t aware of, drinking in her every movement. Life was very strange.

On the way back to her table, carrying ‘1001 Questions about Carpets’ (to be honest it had looked more intellectual but she hadn’t bothered to read the title) that she felt his eyes were staring into to her again. Did we all have a sixth-sense? Probably not, but still he did seem interested.

She lifted her books to move a little closer to him but when she got there, he was gone. Wrong again, she thought. She knew where this would lead, just like time in the Dragoon Arms Pub, where she’d go night after night hoping to run into a man she’d caught looking at her, and each night she would ignore him, and laugh loudly at nothing in particular. This did look super creepy as she wasn’t actually drinking with anyone. Anyway there were weeks sometimes that went by and he wasn’t in the pub, and then one night the guy would turn up and Sophie wanted to say, ‘how dare you leave me sitting here night after night, don’t you know that we have an imaginary relationship?’  - Still, saying that would have made her even creepier.

So back at the library, she decided to call it a day. She put on her old woollen hat and walked out into the rain. She decide that she would take the bus home, rather than walking, after all it was St Valentine’s day.
There he was, standing at the bus stop – did he know she sometimes she took this bus, or was it all in her head? She stood next to him and was sure she could feel him staring at her. ‘Maybe I am completely insane’, thought Sophie just as he turned and said something about the weather to her.

Instead of saying something back to him, Sophie grinned like a serial killer – she couldn’t help it, he’d caught her off guard.
When the bus arrived, he waved her on first (he’s a gentleman), then she sat on a seat which could take two, but he sat in the seat in front.

As Sophie’s stop came up, she stood very slowly, hoping he would stand too – but he didn’t. She could see, as she stepped off the bus that the flowers and card were sitting at her front door.
Sophie walked away from the bus stop in the opposite direction from her house, hoping that the bus would take her latest fantasy man away and he wouldn’t see the flowers.
Just then Mister Secombe, her next door neighbour, shouted on her:
“Where are you off to?” He called.

Sophie had to turn, make some stupid excuse and then walk up to her door.
“I wasn’t sure to whether to take in the flowers and card, or not. You’ve got an admirer,” said, Mister Secombe.
Sophie gave another stupid grin and then turned to see the bus hadn’t moved off and HE was watching her and the flowers.
So she did what she always did in these circumstances – panic. She picked up the card and flowers and threw them into Mister Secombe’s arms, shouting:
“Stop sending me these things, you know that you and I aren’t having a relationship.”

Then she looked to see if HE was watching but to her disappointment, the bus had gone.
Mister Secombe was completely bemused and wondered if maybe his neighbour was a bit touched in the head. 

He was just about to tell her that the flowers and card weren’t from him, but Sophie had already slammed the door shut.

Still waste not, want not, thought Mister Secombe and he took the flowers inside as he had a very good idea of what he could do with them. It was one of his better thoughts, and because of that, he whistled all the way to the cellar.
But that, dear readers, is a story for next time. 

bobby stevenson 2016
Top photo:

wee bobby

Monday, 25 April 2016


The last time I was home I gave my mother a kiss,
And somewhere, sometime long ago, she kissed my great grandmother,
Who kissed her brother just before he set off to fight in World War one,
And although he died a few days before the end of the war,
He had kissed a young French girl in a bar and they said that they would meet someday after the troubles,
And the French girl kissed her father and told him of the Scotsman whom she liked,
And years before her father had kissed the girl’s mother in a little hotel in London,
And that night they had gone to see Charles Dickens as he read from Great Expectations,
And the girl’s mother kissed Dickens and said thank you for the story,
And told him that her boyfriend had just asked her to be his wife,
And after that night's reading Dickens gave his daughter a goodnight kiss,
And his daughter kissed her pillow and dreamed of her one true love.

bobby stevenson 2016

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 telegraphed 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 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 2016