Sunday, 17 July 2016
When it happened it took Thing by surprise. The fact that a thought like that could go through Thing’s mind, both scared him and got him excited.
When he was younger, when he had first started school, he would have done anything for someone to say a kind word to him. Sure his teacher was kind, but as for the rest of the kids, well they treated him as their families had taught them to behave, with cruelty; seven-year-old children are born cruel, they learn it and accept it and use it.
Even when his parents left him in the cave alone, he still would cross a street to be kind to someone, to be decent, hoping that one day they would return the favor. Hoping that one day they too would like him.
Thing sometimes blamed himself. Sometimes he was so exhausted by all the hate that he nearly believed it – nearly – that he was different, that he was ugly, that he had no right to exist. When they threw rocks at him, he sometimes (only sometimes mind you) understood why they did it.
In his lifetime, there had been those who had tried to change Thing – people who had claimed they had cures for what he had – which to Thing only seemed to be that he was different from the majority of folks in town. But being in a minority didn’t make you wrong or sick. Look at Gulliver’s travels – wasn’t he the giant in one life and a midget in another? The folks of those towns had tried to destroy Gulliver but it was their fear that was the source of it all, not the difference in Gulliver.
Thing remembered when his teacher had asked the class to put their hands in the air if they had ever been sick at some point in their lives, and all the class had raised their hands. That was when the teacher said that sometimes being in the majority wasn’t necessarily a good place to be. Thing had smiled at that and it had kept him warm for several days afterwards.
All his life, Thing had wanted someone to smile at him and mean it. It had happened once or twice in his whole life and Thing had appreciated it. The first thought in his head when he entered a café, or a store, or the school was that he hoped the folks inside would like him.
It was always that way. Always.
Then one day, one glorious day when the sun was shining across the skies and life was smiling on him, Thing walked into the main street of town and suddenly he had the weirdest thought.
The weirdest thought, ever,
Instead of looking at the folks, and searching for a kind face, and wondering if any of them liked him – he looked around at those faces – all of those strange faces – and wondered for the first time if he actually liked any of them.
And that was the day that Thing started to be free and the day that Thing first knew real happiness.
That was the day that Thing started to love himself.
bobby stevenson 2016
Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Wednesday April 17th, 1912 Pier 60. NY,NY.
That Wednesday morning, the sun shone, and a gentle breeze blew in from the sea. As far as Adel was concerned, she had everything in life she wanted. She lived in Brighton Beach at the bottom end of Brooklyn, and she had a job painting decorations on the rides at Coney Island.
She had been in New York City for almost a year. A year of struggling and making a life for herself in a new country. It had been lonely at the start, but the work had allowed her to paint and express herself. She had two friends, but as she worked most of the time, it really was difficult to meet people.
On that sunny morning, her cousin Dirk was arriving from Europe on the biggest ship in the world; the Titanic. Both their families came from Stuttgart, and as a girl Adel had been close to her older cousin. Now that she felt herself more American, she was pleased that another of her tribe would experience the exciting land that was the United States.
Dirk had qualified as a doctor, and in appreciation of this achievement, his family had saved money to send him second class on the Titanic.
She knew that the ship was due within the hour and that she could watch it pass from her little apartment on the Avenue, but instead she took an elevated transit from Coney Island into Manhattan. She had heard that there was going to be a large crowd to welcome the greatest ship to the greatest city in the world.
She took a trolley across to the west side, to Pier 60 on the Hudson. There were many people trying to get to the pier, and the crowd stretched all the way to the Battery. Adel wanted to welcome her cousin personally when he stepped from the ship.
She bought a hotdog and a lemonade as she waited, listening to the bands, some of which had come up from Coney Island. She had been granted the holiday by her boss, as long as she worked the following Saturday.
After what seemed a lifetime, she saw the funnels, and then the grandeur of what was the largest ship she had ever seen. It was beautiful, so beautiful that it took her breath away.
She wiped back the tears and waved with the rest of the New Yorkers to greet the Titanic.
It was several hours before she was able to walk up and hug her cousin. He had to be processed through Ellis Island, as she had been, before he was allowed to set foot on Manhattan.
She cried again, it was wonderful to see one of her family again and to be able to talk in her mother tongue. Dirk hadn’t brought much with him and so they decided to walk up Fifth Avenue and enjoy the sights of the city.
They got back to her apartment, in Brighton Beach in the early evening. The sun was already sinking on this happy April day and she had baked treats that she would have made back home. She wanted make Dirk feel really welcome.
He was excited by his new country and full of hope, he told Adel. Perhaps he could be a great doctor in America, or perhaps even the President himself. Adel told him that he would have to have been born in the United States but she loved his dreams.
Then he told stories of the crossing of the Atlantic on the Titanic, how they had been troubled by icebergs but the captain had slowed the ship a little and all was well.
Tomorrow she had to go back to work at Coney Island but she would introduce Dirk to her boss, who might be able to help in getting him work. Dirk thanked his cousin and took his little bag into the kitchen where she had made him up a bed. Adel wished him goodnight and hoped that God would be kind to him in the new land.
As Dirk settled down, he took out the code book which he had been supplied, and went over once again the instructions he had been given. Not if, but when, there was a war in Europe and the mighty armies of the Fatherland moved into France and Britain, the Kaiser wanted assurance that the US would be in no position to join the war.
Dirk had one activity and one activity only, and that was to assassinate the President of the United States when the signal came from the Fatherland.Dirk slept well that first night in his new country and dreamed of the bright new world that was to come.
bobby stevenson 2016
Monday, 11 July 2016
Marcie’s dog did nothing but bark that night.
That little mutt - which always smelt of piss - I reckoned was just showing its final ‘how-do-you-do’ before going over.
I knew something was wrong, I mean real wrong, and I could feel it in the pit of my riddled stomach. I ain’t talking about the dog,’ cause I gave up worrying about such things a long time ago. No, I meant something was wrong in here, and out there, everywhere, in fact. Leastways that’s how it seemed. It kinda felt like the world was tipping on its axis.
I know, I can hear you, you think that I’ve been at the Hooch again but I swear to you, that was how I saw it.
It just felt wrong.
Something made me think about leaving. I mean I’d been living out here in the panhandle since my ma and pa went to see Jesus. My granddaddy had won the shack in a bet and had given it to my parents as a wedding present. This little place was all I had in the world – I was supposed to pass it on to my family, but both a wife and kids never showed up – maybe I didn’t go looking hard enough.
Here I was taking about getting in my car and driving through the desert on a feeling. On a hunch. Hey, maybe I was coming down with the sickness that caught my grandma – the one which took her on a journey to the dark side in her head and never brought her back to us.
Marcie’s dog howled and hollered the next day, too. I shouted over to her, asking if everything was all right, but she just dragged the dog indoors and shut the world out. Maybe she felt it too – the weirdness, I mean.
There were only two answers to all of this – either, I was going crazy, or something bad was coming down the road and I had to get away.
If it was just craziness, I could always come back to the shack and go on as if nothing had happened – I’d just tell Marcie I had been on vacation. Not that she’d believe me – since I ain’t been on one since my daddy took me and my brother all the way to the Gulf. That was back in the days when no one could have seen a black man or a woman sitting in the White House. Elvis wasn’t even a King.
I packed a few things – to be honest, it didn’t leave much else in the shack – and I shoved them in the trunk. The wind and the sand were gathering some but I thought I’d better tell Marcie about my plans, just in case she got spooked or something.
I knocked on her door several times, and at first I thought she couldn’t hear on account of the wind, but on my fifth knock I heard her shout ‘go away’. Now that ain’t like Marcie, that ain’t like Marcie at all – something wasn’t right. Maybe her dog was finally going away and her heart was breaking.
“You okay?” I shouted.
“Just leave me,” she called back.
“Can’t I help ya?”
“No. I’m fine,” she said in a real sad voice.
I kinda reluctantly left her. Twice I turned to go back but I thought better of it. It was just that I wondered if she felt what I was feeling – that somehow the world was gonna change and nothing would ever be the same?
I guess I had always been ready for this craziness – I had never thought that the world was anything other than a plain stupid idea – badly thought out at that. So when I get overcome by the thought that it’s all coming to an end somehow, I’m thinking to myself: ‘so what?’. I mean it’s not as if anyone would miss us all when we’re gone.
I jumped in the car and headed towards the mountains – I had checked the gas and it looked as if I had enough to get to Wickamore, which lay eighty miles to the north.
After a couple of minutes, I stopped and checked in the mirror to see if there was any movement at Marcie’s, but the wind and sand were blowing up such a storm that her place and mine disappeared into a sandy haze.
I think deep in my soul, or whatever it is that I have, I knew I wasn’t going to see my old home again. It just felt like a final farewell.
I drove for an hour and never passed one single, solitary soul – I didn’t even see a wild animal, or a bird, or a snake. Nothing.
About ten miles shy of Wickamore, I see this cloud in the sky – I mean one I had never seen the likes before. It was almost Biblical – it made me shudder just looking at it, the shiver traveled all the way down my back.
I felt (don’t ask me why, ‘cause I don’t know) that it was a sign telling me (and anyone else who saw it) that a change was expected very soon.
Something big was on its way, and we would not be the same after.
It was dusk as I crept up on Wickamore - the sand and the sundowner working together to make Main Street look blood-red.
When they later asked me about that day, I had to be honest and say I didn’t remember seeing the sign at first. I was so busy looking at the dying sun, that I didn’t notice it - even although it was big, real big, and hanging from the Town Hall.
I pushed on the brakes so hard when I finally read it.
It said: ‘For God’s sake don't come here. Turn back.’
bobby stevenson 2016
Tuesday, 5 July 2016
Olivia had been playing out in the yard when she’d heard a door bang in the house. As she got nearer to the porch, she could hear her Grandpa hollerin’ about this and that but mostly about Old Chief Makkawaw who lived up on Old Creek Road. Then her Grandpa slammed the door again. This kind of thing wasn’t like her Grandpa at all, so Olivia guessed he was in a real bad mood.
Olivia did what she usually did on those occasions, she crawled under the house and listened to her Grandpa and Grandma talking through the floorboards.
When her Grandparents were walking up and down she would only be able to make out some of the conversations. This time she was sure her Grandpa was upset with the Old Chief, as he was making mountains out of mole hills.
It took a lot of things to impress Olivia, who felt she was a real hard customer to fool (leastways that’s what her Daddy had told her).But she knew she couldn’t let this opportunity pass and decided that after her lunch she was going to go up to the Old Creek Road to see what the Chief was doing.
By one o’clock, Olivia was sitting real comfortable on the Old Creek Road waiting for the Chief to do his thing. It was just then that Joe, the boy from her class in school, happened to pass by.
“What cha doin’?” He asked Olivia.
“Why I’m waiting on the Old Chief, I hear he turns mole hills into mountains, and I want to see him doin’ it,” she said, excitedly.
And Joe was kinda sorry that he’d agreed to help his Pa on the farm and someone making mountains was just what a boy like him would be wanting to see. He told Olivia that she should remember everything, and that she was to tell him all about it at school the following day.
“See ya,” he shouted to Olivia.
“Not if I see you first,” replied Olivia, just like she always did.
Joe had only disappeared when Herbert, the dog from Asker’s farm turned up.
“What cha doin’?” He asked.
And Olivia told him about a man who could make mountains out of mole hills.
Herbert had to admit that this was a new one for him, but he also added that he hadn’t seen a mole in many a long day. Herbert wondered if perhaps he could make mountains out of other things too. Like when moles were real scarce.
They were just getting’ ready to eat some of the popcorn that Olivia’s Grandma had made that day when Scrimpy, the Ass from the next town over, happened to pass.
“What cha doin’?” Scrimpy asked.
And Herbert and Olivia explained all about the molehill/mountain situation.
“Mind if I sit?” Asked Scrimpy.
“Don’t mind if you do,” said Herbert and Olivia, on account of the fact that Scrimpy had always wondered how you made mountains and was real excited about finding out.
Well the three friends ate all the popcorn and then they waited, and they waited, and nothing and no one came up the Old Creek Road.
They were just about to give up when the Old Chief came staggering up towards them.
“I think he’s been at the Fire Water again,” said Olivia (something she’d heard her Grandpa say but wasn’t sure what it was).
“What you kids doin’ sitting in the middle of the road,” asked the Old Chief.
And they all told him they were waiting to see him turn a molehill into a mountain. So he asked why did they think that, and Olivia told the Old Chief that she had heard her Grandpa say it, so it must be true.
“Well it ain’t true, that old goat is always saying that about me and it ain’t true, I tells you. That Grandpappy of yours is always looking at the world through a glass that’s half empty.”
Olivia wondered if that was indeed true and that maybe she and Herbert and Scrimpy should go and investigate.
bobby stevenson 2016
Friday, 1 July 2016
As always, Sandy the elephant and Zoot the dog were the best of pals in the whole wide world and, as usual, they were sitting by the river – talking about this, and talking about that.
“What do you see?” Asked Sandy.
“You always ask me that,” said Zoot, his pal.
“So, what do you see?”
“What I always see…..the birds.”
“I don’t know. The sky.”
“That’s all you can see?” Asked the elephant.
“What else is there?” Questioned Zoot, the dog.
And then the big elephant shook his head, which made his trunk swing too.
“What? What have I said? Am I wrong?” Asked Zoot.
Sandy the elephant, gave a very important cough to clear his throat because he felt that what he was going to say was very important.
“This universe is very large,”
“Even for an elephant?” Said Zoot.
“Even for an elephant. Some say it could be as much as a billion light years across. Now that’s big. There are even wise women and men who think that there may be more than one universe and that in another one, I could be President.”
“And I could be a rock star,” interrupted Zoot.
“Exactly. Now in all those billions of light years, for me to become an elephant, and you to become a dog – well the chances must be a zillion to one. And to survive and me to meet you and you to meet me, well that must be a trillion, zillion to one. “
“What are you saying?” Asked the little dog.
“That to exist is very special and should never be taken for granted.”
“Do I do that?”
“We all do that,” said Sandy.
“You see, you and I can see how special it is to exist but there are many folks out there who are blind,” said Sandy.
“They can’t see?”
“Not so much that, but they can’t see how special their existence is. How hard the universe must have worked to bring them here.”
“But it makes them feel good about themselves…..to be blind,” said Sandy thoughtfully.
“But they drag the rest of us down. They think that living in a house, and keeping your money in the bank, and working and then retiring and then dying is all there is in life. And those who don’t see it that way are wrong.”
“Do I do that?” Asked the dog.
“Look again, what do you see? This time really look,” said the elephant.
“The sky, the sea…”
“And what is between the sky and the sea?”
“Exactly my friend. The horizon. That is what the blind can’t see. As long as there is a horizon, there is always something over the horizon.”
“And what is that?” Asked Zoot.
“Why hope,” said Sandy. “Just plain and simple, hope."
bobby stevenson 2016