Thursday, 20 April 2017

Bird


His family loved him, of that you can be sure. He was, after all, from them and like them. Sometimes when his mother walked with her child along a street, he would look up at her and see the pride in her eyes. And sometimes when she was tired of dealing with the unkindness of others, and the way they stared at her little son, he could see tears in her face. She would secretly dry her eyes with her coat sleeve, smile the biggest of smiles, and encourage her boy to hurry along.

In his early years, no one told him that he was different in any way. It was only when he went out into the world – a world of half-formed people, with half-formed hearts and half-formed love, that he found the winds were just that little bit colder, and the shadows somewhat darker.

When his mother caught him staring into a mirror with his usual look of bewilderment – she would shout, ‘now ain’t you just the most beautiful creation ever’. And to her and her family he was the most beautiful of children.

She did her best to warn him of the apes who lived outside the walls of their home. Those apes all looked alike, and that made them feel that they were a tribe, that they all belonged together - but they also carried hate in their hearts – perhaps they were born with it, or it was legacy passed down from parent to child – but it was the hate which drove the tribe, and the hate which caused them to despise others who were not like them.

She told him that he should walk with the stars which filled the night sky and not be scared of them. That the universe was magnificent and vast, and that those who chose to look only at creatures near them and judge them, were only cave dwellers, who were blind in eye and heart.

In his first day at school, a little girl had read a story called the ‘Ugly Duckling’, and his new class mates had all looked at him. But he knew from his family that he had special gifts, and they weren’t going to go away or transform him into a beauty that the rest of the word could deal with.

He was beautiful, it was as simple as that. He had wings which none of his family had, and he could fly at any time. Something that any of his classmates would have wished that they could do.

He knew he was different, and he knew he was beautiful, and he knew he could soar above the clouds. He had no need to show others to be accepted. He might have to live a life with the half-formed hearts trying to break him or even, make him disappear. He would be called ugly, he would be spat upon, he would be beaten by stones, but in the end, he would always remember what his mother had whispered in his ear one birthday: ‘chase happiness’.

So, that is what he did. He decided that in order to be happy, he had to help happiness in others. That meant being a new super hero. Maybe not the first, but definitely a very different one. By day he was a mild-mannered kid, who did what he was told, and smiled at everyone. After school, it was a very different story, his hat and coat were thrown aside (he couldn’t change in a phone box) and he’d spread his wings and swoop down on anyone in need of help.

It probably all started with that kid who lived in the next street. He was a child with an imagination and therefore didn’t need much else in his life. He could build fantastic new worlds out of twigs, empty jars, and old boxes. What his world lacked in colour and structure was painted by the thoughts in his head. Now I’m not saying any of that is wrong, but sometimes this kind of behaviour scares folks who can’t keep a single thought between their ears.

It was the fattest kid in the area, and the tallest kid, who hung together and caused maximum mayhem where ever they went. Perhaps these were just two outsiders who thrust themselves into the centre of things by hurting others. If they were hurting folks, then those people couldn’t harm them.

The kid in the next street had built a castle made from glass jars, it looked clever and displayed a degree of talent, which was the kind of thing that really bothered bullies. So, one morning the fat boy and the tall boy looked over the hedge of a garden and saw the kid from the next street and his castle, and decided to kick it over, throwing the jars into the road. They would cheer every time one smashed and needless to say the kid from the next street started to cry.

It was this sad sound which first attracted our half-bird-half-boy (who at the time was feeling happy about his new hat, and kept tipping it to the side to see which angle looked better).
Our hero, threw off his human clothing and headed to the source of the crying where he saw immediately what had occurred. He started pecking at the fat boy and then the tall boy – and although they tried to swat him away, it didn’t work. The fat boy was sure that the bird would peck out his eyes, and so ran away leaving his friend to take the punishment. Once the tall boy had enough of the bird, he, too, ran off.

This was the way his life continued for a while. The boy-bird would swoop down on those being victimized and would then use his beak to put right the wrongs of this world. Sometimes he was hurt himself, when they fought back, and on other times he wasn’t.

Then one Saturday morning, he found himself sitting on the highest branch of the tallest tree in a local park. He tended to hide this way when he was outside and naked – meaning that he was without his human clothes. It did feel good but he also felt that as a bird-boy he had a responsibility not to run around without any clothes on, leastways, not when humans were watching.

As he was watching the park, he spied some children playing a game of football. He’d always wanted to play football but most birds weren’t that excited about the prospect, and he found it difficult to get a game. On the other hand, most humans weren’t too keen on birds playing football either. So as far as he was concerned it was basically a stand-off.

The kids were enjoying themselves until a taller and older looking child, tackled one of the smallest. The little boy let out a scream and seeing he was upset, the injured boy’s friends started to pick on the larger kid. It looked as if all-out war would ensue, until our little bird flew above the melee and started to shout and whistle:

“That’s enough,” he shouted in a high squeaky bird voice. He called out again but still there was no reaction. So, our little bird friend landed on the head of the tallest kid and started to peck at his head.

“Ow!” Yelled the boy.
“Behave yourself,” said the bird.
“Says who?”
“Says me,” said the high-pitched bird (although in bird circles he was known to have quite a butch voice).
“Want to be our ref?” Asked one of the younger kids.
“Sure,” said the bird.

And that was where it all started. That day in the park, our bird started on a journey that took him from fan, to referee and then to running the team.As he was the only bird in that job, he became famous, always in the newspapers and forever on television.

And now our little friend manages an English Premier League team – of course you don’t need me to tell you which one.

bobby stevenson 2017
photo: Alexei Petrenkov

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Fault Lines



It will never be perfect,
My Grandmother, said,
Not your life, not your love,
Not your heart or your head,
It will never be perfect,
And you can't make it so,
Just accept there are fault lines,
And let the rest go.

bobby stevenson 2017

Friday, 17 March 2017

If All The World






If all the world went dark today,
And the yellow sun no longer shone,
And we felt our paths from place to place,
And loved by voice and words alone,
If we no longer saw our faces,
With all the tales that eyes can tell,
Would you and I remain as lovers,
Or would our hearts grow dark as well.


bobby stevenson 2017

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Last Song



They had known about it for the longest time. Years, even. The scientists had seen it a long way out and knew it would hit. 


Because of the time available, they had shipped off many from the planet. Some to Mars but even that wasn’t safe.


Eddie and Sheena had been one of the few who had decided to stay. Not for them a place they hadn’t been born on. Where they couldn’t call home.


They had been childhood sweethearts, having first met at school, and they both knew instantly that this was each other’s soul mate.


So, when the news came that each of them would be thirty-one years old when it hit the Earth, they both knew - without talking about it - that they would never leave. They would face it together.


The part of it they hadn’t foreseen was what would be the last song on the car speakers as they drove off into the sun.


He wanted something by Springsteen and she wanted a song her mother had always sang to her. Something by Cat Stevens.


A minute or so before the end, she kissed him, smiled at him, then switched off the radio and used the final seconds to say:

‘See you on the other side’. She then grabbed his hand.

He turned to kiss her……


bobby stevenson 2017

Once Upon A Shoreham Village Fete

It happens, it happens to everyone, doesn’t it? You tell a little white lie and it blows out of all proportions, it runs away and starts a life of its own. It gains a wide circle of friends (more than you have yourself) and then the lie grows so gigantic that it sends you a postcard from somewhere. Think I’m exaggerating? Okay, maybe a little. See there I go again, lying. Perhaps in your favour you would have to say that it was done for the best of all reasons – trying to cheer people up.

If Alison hadn’t been ill that day, or at least if she hadn’t been recovering from a night out in the village, then Jane wouldn’t have had to take Alison’s place; so, if anyone was to blame it was Alison and her obvious drink problem. Okay, that’s another lie, Alison doesn’t have a drink problem. She had only been at the Mount to taste the wines, and had forgotten to stop. But the result was the same, Alison was lying in her bed promising the universe that she had drunk wine for the very, very last time in her life, and that not only was she going tee-total but she would attend church regularly and help the people of Africa – if the universe would only stop her blinking head from hurting as much as it did.

All that was beside the point, for it meant that Jane was now required to fill her best friend’s shoes. When she had agreed to help at the Fete meeting all those months ago, it hadn’t seemed like a possibility, and so Jane was happy to nod her head when they asked for a deputy for Alison. It made them sound like a couple of cowboys.

The Shoreham Village Fete was full of all the usual bits and pieces; music, vintage cars, a bar, a tea room (run by the children and their mums) and the always present ne’er-do-wells, who turned up once a year to promenade around the school ground.

To save money, in this time of austerity, the Fete committee had decided to find the big central acts for the day (those who inhabited the centre ground – literally) within the large and obvious talent of the village itself. How hard could it be to procure an act of such breath-taking ability that the village would be talking about it for weeks (or maybe just on the Monday morning)?

It was Elsa Fairweather who had opened the bid by telling the committee that she had once been a ballerina (the truth was that she’d spontaneously broken into dance during the Christmas play at school when she was acting as third shepherd – she had got fed up pointing at the Star and decided that shepherds might dance in times of boredom). She was now twenty-seven years of age and hadn’t done anything so physical for the last twenty years.

Elsa was one of those ladies who tended to get up everyone’s nose – it wasn’t what she did, or said, or in the way she acted – she just annoyed people. Every village has at least one Elsa – it is the rule. Elsa wasn’t a bad person, rather she was just someone who had got off the bus at the wrong stop.

Not to be outdone by her nemesis, Alison had said that she could tap-dance – when Elsa remarked that so could she – Alison had upped the stakes by adding that what she had meant to say, was that she could tap-dance while standing at the top of a ladder. Elsa took a little time to recoup and then opened with another bid, by saying that she could stand on her hands at the top of the ladder while singing the National Anthem.

Jane was sure she could hear Alison swearing under her breath – but there wasn’t enough time to ask her, for, by then, Jane had told the committee that she could sing all the songs from Oklahoma while tight-rope walking across the sports' field.

Alison definitely heard Elsa say an extremely rude word out loud, and one or two of the Fete committee also heard her. Mr Grove’s face went a very tomato red as he fiddled with his cardigan buttons.

Elsa’s husband gave his wife one of those ‘here we go again’ looks and nodded to her to go to the back of the hall. Elsa and her long-suffering husband huddled together in the corner and it was difficult for Alison to hear what they were saying.

That was when Alison came up with a rather neat plan – every few seconds, she coughed, and when she did that, she used the noise to cover the rocking of her chair back a little. Although Alison thought she was being subtle, she had moved her chair back several feet (after a few coughs) and was heading towards Elsa – her less-than-subtle plan being obvious to most of those in the hall.

Never-the-less, the plan worked and Alison was sure she heard, Derek (Elsa’s husband) say ‘you cannot be serious, you know you can’t sky-dive’.

After a few minutes (which just gave Alison enough time to stand up and move her seat – less subtly - back to where it had originally been) Elsa reluctantly gave up and said that Alison should sing the songs from the musical while walking a tight-rope. The head of the committee had asked if Alison had an understudy, and Alison had grabbed Jane’s arm and shoved it up in the air. Jane wondered what harm could it possibly do?

So, when Jane got the phone call on the Saturday morning of the Fete – it was Mrs Bacchus, the stern one who always smelled of mothballs – who had told Jane that Alison was incapacitated (some old illness she had caught on a gap-year in India, apparently) and that Jane (as her understudy) would have to take Alison’s place.

And that is why, on that sunny morning, Jane was dressed in her mother’s old tutu with a tartan umbrella for balance, and getting ready to walk a tight-rope (literally and metaphorically) at the Shoreham Village Fete.

Jane saw two things as she started the death-defying feat – when I say death-defying, Alison had originally said she would walk the rope at 20 feet above the ground (she had actually said five feet but after much tutting from Elsa, Alison had ended up agreeing to that neck breaking height). When Jane (in her tutu) started crying, the committee kept lowering the rope until it was just two feet high. Still high enough to twist an ankle, was how Jane had sold it to them.

So, with all the great and good, and ne’er-do-wells from Shoreham Village watching, Jane managed to move several feet along the rope while singing a Bay City Rollers' song (she didn’t actually know too many proper songs - she had thought of singing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ – until the nerves she was suffering from had actually given her that very problem).

The other thing she saw, whilst standing aloft, was Alison at the back of the crowd, (in her sunglasses) smiling. She even had the cheek to wave and stick her thumbs up. To add insult to injury, Alison mouthed the words ‘good luck’. 

Jane was just about to mouth a very rude word back to her when little Barry Smith twanged the rope she was standing on – causing her to suddenly fly across the bales of hay and straight into the bar, ending up with half a packet of Chorizo flavoured crisps up her nose.

There was spontaneous applause from the whole field.
The committee have asked Jane if she can repeat her act next year. Elsa is learning to sky-dive.

(The real Village Fete is on Sunday June 11th, 2017)
bobby stevenson 2017



Wednesday, 8 March 2017

THE FIRST THING



Later in life, Thing would look back on those early years and wonder.
Wonder if the perfect moment of his life was back then, and if that was true – was the perfect moment the happiest?

That isn’t to say, there aren’t perfect times later in life and in some cases, it may be that a person is older when that perfect moment arises. But there are other pivotal points: your first real kiss, holding your child, going on honeymoon with your love, or being told that the x-ray was clear – but that isn’t the perfection I am referring to, I am talking about those few seconds, or minutes, or hours when all the stars are aligning at the same time and all of them are shinning directly at you.

To be honest, Thing’s perfect moment did happen back then. It came when he had circled the Sun six times, and with a few weeks left over. Thing’s mother and father had decided to take their son to see the school that Thing would be attending when the new semester began. He was the first of his kind at the school, and it was complicated by the fact that Thing hadn’t spent much time in human company. To say, as parents, that they were nervous about their child’s future was probably an understatement.

The plan was to introduce Thing to the Principal of the school and for that person, man or woman – but most definitely human – to show little Thing around the building. This exercise allowed the kids to be that little bit less stressed on their first day.

Normally several children were taken on the grand tour at a time, but because Thing was a Thing and not a person (their words, not mine) he was to be interviewed and given the tour on his own.

It turned out that the Principal was a woman, a rather large woman, by the name of Mrs Schwartz. She had a pleasant way about her, and a very deep and loud laugh. Any kind of laugh is a good noise, and so it was with the lady – she was the very essence of kindness itself.

She explained that Thing was to be their first Thing in the school, but that other schools in the county had their share of Things, and that the William Penn Elementary school was very excited at the prospect of their first Thing. Indeed, Thing was to be welcomed with open arms.

His teacher would be a young woman by the name of Edith Fallen and that she was the best of the best. Both Thing’s parents seemed to relax a little at this news.

Thing and his family were taken on a tour of the school, and at every turn there seemed to be a very great possibility of exciting work to do in the school. Thing’s cave was safe and warm but this building was full of every wonderful idea under the sun.

It was that day, that hour, that minute as Thing left to walk down the mountain-side to go to school for the very first time, that his life solidified.  Thing insisted on walking to school himself - although, his father walked a little way behind him to keep an eye on him.

Before that, however, his father and mother stood at the door of the cave and waved off their little treasure. As Thing looked back at the warmth and safety of those standing at the cave, and his own excitement at a new world just beginning – it was then, right at that split second, that Thing passed his life’s perfect moment. He wouldn’t know it at the time – but later, much later, he would come to realize that life would never ever be so perfect again.


bobby stevenson 2017