And the teardrop wouldn’t fall. (Fiction story)

AND THE TEARDROP WOULDN’T FALL

 

From childhood you learn to shield yourself from misfortune, cruelty and any abject encounters that will pull you from this cocoon of innocence. I learnt very early. There are no years in my young life when I can ever recall being happy, although, back in those days I knew no difference. The hellish life was all there was. From my maturity now, I have reasoned, assessed and sadly accepted that my position as a stepson to my mother’s partner was the catalyst for the beatings.

The smell of booze on his breath was the first alarm bell that would be triggered in my young head. The shouting downstairs and the smacking of my mother always preceded the oncoming violence. At that tender age, how was I to understand the frailties of relationships? I always heard my mother’s anguished whimpers, declaring her love for this man, but it did little to quell the onslaught I received. I also learnt another sad fact. The more I cried the more he hit me. It didn’t take long before I built up an immune system to lesson the attacks. No more tears, that was the answer. However severe his hands laid into me, there would be no more tears. In my head I would repeat the words ‘and the teardrop wouldn’t fall.’ over and over again. Faster and faster I would repeat the words to my inner self, until his debauchered assault had finished.

And the teardrop wouldn’t fall…thwack…and the teardrop wouldn’t fall…thwack…and the

By the time I was eight years old I was well into the routine. I had become hardened to life. His fists were tolerated, and the beatings, although painful, decreased, as he gained less and less satisfaction from striking a seemingly lifeless corpse. In fact I actually drew some pleasure from him when he only kicked out at me like a dog instead of the usual tirade of fists.

The shields I had erected for survival, unfortunately, didn’t benefit me in later years. The scars of childhood stayed with me, even when he had left my life and found pastures new.

The early death of my mother is a good example. I was seventeen when I stood over her coffin in that dreary churchyard. Handfuls of dirt fell haphazardly into the pit. Someone nudged me into joining in the ceremony. My memory gave out visions of her soft blonde hair as she nursed me as a toddler, then memories as she looked on as I was beaten like an animal, then a vision of her deep blue eyes before they had become forever cold in her later life. The emotion welled up inside but then the over-riding protection system fell into place…and the teardrop wouldn’t fall

By the age of twenty I had been advised to go for counselling from my doctor. My short temper, unsociable behaviour and overall attitude had become worrying. The therapy led to hours of reliving my past with conversations with white-coated do-gooders who thought they could unlock my past with help from a textbook. To no avail, and I wasn’t really bothered.

At twenty-four I was married to a woman who tolerated all my black moods, unruly behaviour and general apathy to life. She didn’t warrant the diagnosis two years later that would put her on life support systems. The days and nights that I sat with her were endless and the constant beeping of the machines at her side were deafening. Yet still I sat there, looking at this wonderful woman who had given her heart to me and all I could respond with would be the coldness of my dark interior and the chilling words stifling my true emotions…and the teardrop wouldn’t fall

How I deserved the following years I’ll never know. My wife, through the grace of some God, had recovered and also given me a daughter. These were treasures I truly believed shouldn’t have come my way. I watched, nervously, as my fragile child suckled and then stumbled gamely upon its first months of life. Her chubby legs faltered along the path of an unknown future, clearly dependant on me and her mother. And then, that bizarre, never to be forgotten moment when she looked towards me as she opened her arms as if seeking comfort from a strange and bewildering world, the moment that a child looks for help. She mouthed her first words into my inquisitive face.

‘Da, dah… Da,dah.

I picked her up and held her close, so close it was nearly impossible for her to breath. Our cheeks touched, our noses rubbed and two lives became one, and then my life opened up.

And the teardrop fell…’

Rossi.

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Worlds Apart (fictional story)

WORLDS  APART

It was the middle of March, nineteen fifty-four and Juan Carlos pulled the thick animal fleece tightly around his body. Above the tree line in the Peruvian Andes, this time of year presented a hostile place to live. The small tribe of people busied themselves, intent on repairing the ravages of the winter storms. The months of rain, sleet and then heavy snow had taken its toll on the wood and earth baked stone of the small dwellings. These on coming weeks usually brought along laughter and singing amongst the mountainous South American folk but this year was different.

Some of the tribesmen assisted Juan Carlos as he steadied his horse, packing a few small bags of provisions to the sides of the saddle. The thickly wrapped dead body of his two-year-old son lay strewn across the haunches of the animal. The double covering of animal hides would hopefully quell the smell of death as he journeyed down towards the civilisation and province of Los Agrimos, a full days ride.

There was a quiet send off as he guided his horse onto the rough hewn out track, which headed away from his people, passed the newly dug graves which entombed three other young members of his tribe. He would follow the stream eastwards and then head down towards the mosaic small farms and irrigated fields and then through the bog lands of lichens and mosses until descending into the town of El Macello.

Years ago, there would have been no sign of other inhabitants, but since the euphoric stampede of mankind’s search for gold along his plateau, things had changed. This was underlined as he surveyed the small billows of smoke and heard the occasional sound of dynamite which was taking place some six or seven miles to the side of his village. He could remember when some of the men folk travelled upstream to within walking distance of the mining area, only to be chastised and abused as they tried to understand the intrusion upon their sacred grounds. Natural surroundings that were now being eroded, all in the name of greed, took on a menacing mantle.

The horse, surefooted, meandered effortlessly amongst the boulders, some still holding onto remnants of snow. Juan could allow his mind to wander as he put his trust in the steed. Times of when he had left his village and spent four years down in the valley with the oncoming progress of civilisation, times when he had witnessed the bitterness and cajoling of these so called forward thinking people. It had taken these years to realise how he missed the village life, but since returning, things had never been quite as tranquil.

Now, with his newly acquired education, his mission was to find out the reasons for the death of his son and those of his kinfolk. Other tribe members didn’t understand his words of autopsy and remedy, but Juan knew something was seriously wrong in the camp.

*

He spent six weeks in El Macello, first talking to the only doctor there and then waiting for results from further away. Friends that he had known from the last year had moved on, the pace of life had quickened and the inroads that the automobile had made had been a little frightening. The noise and brisk way of life contrasted sharply with the upper part of the mountain.

Yesterdays meeting with the doctor, now armed with reports from higher echelons were conclusive and worrying. The burial of his son, although he would have preferred to have it done nearer his village, was done with dignity in a small plot outside the town. The child was amongst other unmarked graves.

The ride back would allow Juan to have many thoughts and reflect on life. The trail from town offered no type of condolence, only giving evidence of mans scant thought for Mother Nature as he eyed the scars made in the name of progress, but the next mile gave him hope, and once again he could feel his heart lighten as the winter season lessoned its grip upon him and the countryside.

A village elder had once told him, ‘accept life and accept death. Both are equal to each other and as such both should be worshipped’. It was hard to think like that with the burial of his son. ‘Take in the colour and beauty of the world and you will see less blackness in death.’ Wise words but difficult to appreciate at this time.

As he rode through the sodden slopes of the bog lands he noticed the eucalyptus trees ahead and a couple of Pygmy owls intent on daytime sleep. His movement alerted their slumbers causing a mild trill to be emitted. It reminded him of his childs infectious laugh.

These six weeks had changed the whole scene from his downward trek.  Now he could see the snow-white daffodils vying for room amongst the crocuses, each trying to push forward their vivid colouring that this new season had blessed them with.

He allowed the words of the elder to swim around his mind as he watched llama and alpaca herds nervously take cover into the shadows of the quehuna trees and he felt the pale sun warm the sinewy leather of his face. The climb out of the forest took him onto the sparsely vegetated meadows and then shrub land, now allowing tufts of moss to pursue life. The higher he rode the more acute were his senses. He could allow the pure air of the mountains to refill his tortured soul and taste the fragrance of the faint tinted tuberose plants as they gifted their perfume to the world.

This birth of a new season spawned its way into the troubled wanderings of Juans mind, taking away some of the darkness. The village elder had chosen his narrative well.

It was maybe half a mile from the village when he rested at the bridge that crossed the majestic chasm of swirling white water. His thoughts went back to the streams and hot thermal geysers, which ran by his home. The Andean Condors glided high above him as he took the paper from his pocket, which diagnosed his son’s death. He cursed the loud bang of an explosion from the mining camp, the one upstream that emptied its waste into the once fresh waters of the rivulets; the ones that the young folk drank from.

The purple bushy Rima Rima flowers bent slightly with the weight of two Sierrien finches as they twitched tail feathers at each other. Nearby amongst the foliage of pink and white lupins, a long tailed mocking bird warbled for a mate. The beauty and blackness entwined as he thought of the polluted water. Maybe the irony was lost on him when he saw the changing seasons; thoughts of Spring Fever meant only one thing.

Rossi. Words 1,140

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Three’s a crowd (fiction story)

THREE’S A CROWD. (Suspense story)

It took maybe a couple of minutes to regain my thoughts. The hysterics had not helped. It was now time for rational thinking. The wide adhesive tape across my mouth gives off a pungent smell, mixed with what I guess is fresh blood and mucus from my battered nose. The shock of a man hitting a woman so violently has triggered off the shakes in my body. The ripping of my blouse as he manhandled me up the stairs gave credence to the severity of the attack. I take stock of the situation, sensing that I am now alone in the bedroom. The nauseous tape is around my ankles and hands, firmly holding me in the dressing table chair. The blackness is down to the heavy binding of more tape across my eyes. It presses into my sockets causing that sensation you get when you rub your eyes firmly with a hand after waking. The translucent colours form a background against swirls that remind me of bacteria under a microscope. My senses gain a foothold as the pumping of adrenalin, which had overdosed my body, subsides. I am aware of the wetness of my underwear. The staining of the woven fabric on the Chippendale chair takes precedence for a moment, but is quickly dismissed as I curse myself for prioritising that situation. Gerald, he is my main concern now as I gather the pictures in my mind of the evening’s events. The casual talk over cheese and biscuits as we tried to thrash out our domestic problems seems light years away. Alone in our country house retreat we discussed the past year and the inevitable outcome of our twenty year old floundering marriage. Then we heard the screaming shouts, reminiscent of some wailing banshee, which shattered the calmness of our conversation. He appeared from the hallway with one of those grotesque Halloween masks across his face, but the focal point turned to the gun in his hand. All the time I watched the gun, mortified, as he mumbled through the mouthpiece of the gargoyles latex features. Gerald said something as he rose from the table. The intruder swiftly brought the firearm down across my husband’s head. Then the eyeholes, black sunken orbits intent only on destruction, fixed rigidly on mine. The fist struck forcibly against my face. I calm myself further, imprisoned on my chair, as those thoughts begin to chill me. My breathing is uneasy. I can’t take deep breaths. The passageways in my nose are becoming blocked. Un-lady like sweat forms somewhere across my brow as I wrestle with the damned tape. I force myself to try and free the globules in my nose by pressing air downwards and then flinging my head from side to side in order to free the blood and snot. There! In my mind I have called it snot, but these are no times for ladies etiquette. The breathing becomes easier as I manage to discharge the stuff and then sniff chunks of it upwards. Voices, I can now hear voices downstairs. Gerald must have recovered. My head screams out ‘give him the cash, anything he wants…please.’

Then I calm myself again. Pieces of the jigsaw come together. Gerald is a bank manager. That’s what this is all about. We’re hostages. Voices again. I can hear the words from Gerald, something about a time lock on the banks safe. God! I inwardly despair. Tell him you can override it. The voices stop or go quieter. My mind wanders and then wayward thoughts gain control of me as I think of fragmented conversations before the upheaval. Back to years ago when we had decided (amicably) that if we ever split up, I would have this house and Gerald would have our savings. Such has been this last year that Gerald’s little pile has gone down the tube with his irrational stock gambling. I come back to the real world. Go to the bank Gerald, take the intruder, do what he wants…and help yourself to a bag of the stuff. If it were possible I would laugh at my thoughts. Maybe this is shock setting in. I try and make some more sense of things, and then another thought comes up. Why didn’t our alarm system go off? How did this chap get into the house? Did I leave the door open after watering the potted plants in the vestibule? Surely not? Voices again. One raised, one calm. I can’t really make out which ones is Gerald’s. I feel dripping onto my knees. Blood, I think, from my nose. Maybe I’m loosing more than I should. This would explain the illogical thoughts I’m now having. Am I about to pass out? The faintness comes and then passes as I rock my head in a circular motion. My mouth becomes free from the tape as I do it again allowing me to gulp in precious air. Then movement and thoughts stop abruptly. A gunshot erupts and echoes ominously around the house. More questions compound my mixed up mind. Delirium makes nonsensical mischief of my plight. Is this some kind of wicked plot from a destitute husband? Does he rob the bank with an aide from the nether world, or maybe he has me killed off in a bungled house robbery, thus getting my share of the house? Or maybe…more blood splatters onto my legs. I’m fully conscious again because now I can hear movement. The footsteps tread purposely up the stairs. The door opens and I weakly implore ‘Is that you Gerald?’ My head turns so that my ears are homed into the space between us, waiting for the relief of sanctuary. The silence stays for a moment and then stays for an eternity. Salvation or murder? Relief only comes with the involuntarily soiling of the Chippendale once more. ***

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Happy families…?

HAPPY  FAMILIES.

I suppose  it  would  be  unfair  to  use  his  full  name,  although  why  he  should  be  protected  is  anybodies  guess.  Still,  we’ll  refer  to  him  as  simply  Alan.

He  was  probably  what  you  would  call  a  lovable  rogue, but  his  charm  and  usual  good  manners  had  worn  extremely  thin.  This  latest  deed  had  definitely  shown  him  in  his  true  colours.

Sometimes  I  feel  ashamed  to  let  people  know  that  he  is  actually  my  brother .  I  have  grown  tired  of  forever  making  excuses  to  other    members  of  the  family,  especially  Mum  and  Dad,  who  are  actually  quite  old  now.  He thinks he  can  wrap  them  around  his  little  manipulative  fingers,  even  though  he  has  just  done  a  spell  in  one  of  Her  Majesty’s   prisons.

This  recent  escapade  happened  as  he  once  more  decided  to  grace  us  with  his  presence  sometime  last  year.  He  had  sauntered  into  London,  letting  us  know  that  he  was  arriving  at  one  of  the  main  railway  centres.  Forever  the  individual,  he  proceeded  to  worm  himself  into  our  society.

At  first  everything  seemed  cosy.  He  had  managed  to  get  himself  a  job  in  the  bank  nearby  and  we  all  thought  that  for  once,  Alan  had  seen  the  light.  Maybe  at  last  he  would  settle  down  and  behave  with  a  bit  of  maturity.   He  smarmily manoeuvred  himself  into  a  position  of  trust  whereby  all  around  him  had  implicit  faith  in  his character  They  trusted  his  judgement  and  never  once  questioned  his  new  found  authority.  More  fool  them!  Was  there  only  me  who  could  see  what  he  was  doing?

His  head  was  probably  turned  on  that  particular  day  when  he  escorted  me  around  the  city.  He  seemed  to  be  overwhelmed  by  the  wealth  of  some  parts  of  fashionable  London.  His  head  was  forever  swayed  to  the  luxuries  of  life.

“One  day  I’ll  own  property  like  this”  he  said  as  he  gazed  at  the  high-rise  apartment  blocks.  I  remember  laughing  in  his  face.  I  also  remember  that  mean  twisted  look  that  contorted  his  narrowing  eyes.  It  was  then  that  I  knew  that  Alan  was  on  a  slippery  slope  to  nowhere.

As  time  went  by  he  began  dealing  in  property.  Nothing  big  to  start  with,  just  little  bits  of  old  derelict  slums.  He  would  brag  to  Mum  and  Dad  about  how  he  was  going  to  be  a  big  tycoon.  I  hated  the  change  in  him  and  wanted  to  tell  everybody  that  he  was  up  to  no  good.

I  couldn’t  at  first  understand  where  he  was  getting  the  money  from  to  finance  his  deals  although  he  always  had  a  ready  answer.  At  one  time  I  suspected  that  he  was  actually,  somehow,  getting  it  from  our  parents  although  this  proved  to  be  unfounded.  I  knew  Mum  and  Dad  didn’t  have  the  sort  of  money  he  was  now  trading  with.

It  was  apparent  that  the  money  was  coming  from  somewhere  else.  I  had  always  been  taught  by  my  parents  to  be  honest.  Why  could  they  not  see  that  their  younger  son  was  caught  in  the  underworld  of  crime?

There  was  only  one  thing  left  to  do.  I  resolved  to  keep  an  eye  on  all  the  activities  of  my  brother and  then  confront  him  with  my  findings.   Was  it  possible  that  I  could  get  him  back  on  the  straight  and  narrow?  I  calculated  how  much  legitimate  money  was  coming  his  way  from  the  bank.  I  then  inspected  his  portfolio  of  property  rentals  and  mortgage  payouts.

It  seemed  to  take  ages  but  I  was  determined  to  get  to  the  bottom  of  it.

I  noticed  that  he  liked  to  take  great  risks  as  though  he  wasn’t  bothered  about  loosing  his  ill-gotten  gains.  He  also  had  a  certain  amount  of  luck  that  all  would-be  criminals  have.  He  even  managed  to  be  fortunate  with  small  windfalls  from  competitions  that  he  went  in  for.

There  was  no  way  that  any  of  this  accounted  for  his  improved  wealth.

It  so  happened  that  all  my  close  scrutiny  of  him  came  to  nothing.  For  a  time  I  thought  I  might  as  well  give  up  but  it  was  then  that  Lady  Luck  decided  to  go  against  him.

His  gambling  had  reached  new  heights  and  it  was  this  that  proved  to  be  one  of  his  downfalls.  Not  that  it  curtailed  his  seedy  transactions.  But  the  cards  had  well  and  truly  turned  against  him.

Suffice  to  say  that  he  found  himself  in  jail  for  some  trivial  going-ons.

We  all  visited  him  and  Mum  and  Dad  even  proposed  buying  his  town  house  off  him.  He  just  smiled  and  resigned  himself  to  his  fate.

“I’ll   not  be  in  here  long”  he  sneered  as  if  he  knew  something  we  didn’t.

True  to  his  word  he  was  out  in  no  time.  The  only  difference  now  was  that  I  had  managed  to  find  out  where  the  money  was  coming  from.

I  decided  to  keep  quiet  until  the  appropriate  time,  the  time  when  I  could  show  the  world  what  a  mean  and  corrupt  person  he  really  was.  The  only  problem  was  that  I  was  going  to  shop my  own  brother .  Mind  you,  I  wouldn’t  say  we  were  very  close,  even  if  there  was  only  a  few  years  between  us.  I  knew  he’d  do  the  same  to  me.

In  no  time  at  all  the  opportunity  arose.  I  stood  up  in  front  of  Mum,  Dad  and  Alan  and  blurted  out  the  words.

“He’s  been  stealing  from  the  bank  for  ages!”

Mum  and  Dad  stared  at  me  in  disbelief.  It  was  so  out  of  character  but  the  truth  had  to  come  out.

Alan  dropped  the  two  five  hundred  red  notes  to  the  floor.

“That’s  the  last  time  I’m  being  Banker”  said    six  year  old  Alan  as  he  pushed  over  the  Monopoly  board  and  stormed  out  of  the  living  room!

****END****

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The girl who talked to cats. (Fiction for 5 to 10 years old)

First two chapters of a book for the young and young at heart. Set near the end of the Second World War.

THE GIRL WHO TALKED TO CATS

CHAPTER ONE.

He strutted down the country lane with no care in the world. The midday sun made his fur coat glisten. Every now and then he’d stop and roll over amongst some freshly growing flowers, or even weeds. It didn’t make a lot of difference to this cat. He just loved the smell of the countryside.

A passing butterfly would fly tantalisingly close encouraging the cat to make darting strikes with his paws. If he really tried he may have been able to catch it. But not today. Today was a resting, leisurely day. Another quick roll in some buttercups allowed his white underneath to feel the warmth of the summer sun, a colour much in contrast to his top of dark chocolate. Apart from his neck, that too had a base of white as well as the very tip of his tale.

A flock of sparrows chattered merrily and then went quiet as the cat regained his upright position. He gave them a casual glance as they nervously sat in the hedgerows. Another day, maybe tomorrow, he’d give chase and send them scattering into the sky. Today however was a resting, leisurely, strolling and rolling day.

Crossing the meadow gave him a sort of treat. He would walk in a zigzag fashion, (because cats never ever choose to move in straight lines) allowing the tall grass to swish past his body. He could eat one or two bits or allow clumps of it to caress his fur. The feeling always felt good. Every now and then he’d sit, hidden from view of prying eyes, and scratch away the disturbed pollen seeds that had become attached to his back. Oh, the gentle rub of countryside followed by the satisfying scratch of his own claws against his skin. Today was a resting, leisurely, strolling, rolling and scratching day.

Crossing Farmer Gregg’s meadow, in his own good time of course, would once again take him to the ten or so cottages that he’d wandered across last week.

*

The tiny village of Calder consisted of a handful of cottages, two small shops, a disused barn and Mrs Herbert’s Tea Emporium. Nobody really knew what an emporium exactly was but it sounded quite elegant. The quaint meandering river at the side of her shop was crossed by a wooden bridge which took you into the next hamlet of Tewksly, maybe a mile or so away, (or four if you walk like a cat.)

This day in the end cottage, found seven years old Bridget in the back garden watering some plastic flowers with her own plastic watering can. Her nine years old brother Jacob mocked her.

“They’ll never grow, you need to have them in proper soil.”

She ignored the intrusion, and stayed squatting on the ground, pulling absent-mindedly on her blond tangled hair. Her dolls house lay to one side; minute tables and chairs perched on the lawn.

“That one needs cleaning,” said Jacob, eyeing the rather dilapidated orange table, the one with the scratched top. Bridget ignored him, thinking only of last week, when a gust of wind had unceremoniously lifted the doll’s table in the air and whisked it over the garden gate into the nearby stream. She remembered running to the fence and watched helplessly as the water threatened to carry her favourite table down stream. Then of course came the Knight in shining armour. Well, cat really. She had watched the big tubby cat bound after the table and jump into the cold waters. He scooped it out with his paws and then swished his body triumphantly side to side tossing a flurry of spray into the air.

Jacob had never believed her story, telling his sister that cats hate water. But she had seen it, seen it with her own eyes. And there was another thing. She’d thanked the cat as he wandered away and he’d said,  “your welcome.” As sure as eggs are eggs and Mrs Herbert’s Emporium sells tea, the cat had actually spoken to her. Again, Jacob dismissed this whimsical story. Those extra years of his seemed to bow to superior knowledge.

Bridget continued her chores on the dolls house, preferring to rearrange the tiny furniture than listen to the callings from her brother who was now leaning over the garden fence. His faint shouts brought her out of her daydreams as she turned to see what all the fuss was about.

“Is that him?”

“Who?”

“That cat that you’ve been on about. Come down here.”

Bridget carefully placed the miniature radio in the corner room and strolled to the garden fence.

“Look, over there at the end of the field.”

She couldn’t see anything. Today’s midday sun shone too sharply across her face.

“Looks like the one you described.”

She shielded her eyes with her hand and peered to the wooden poles that stood along the edge of Farmer Gregg’s meadow.

“It might be,” she said, he certainly looks big enough.”

“Hey, Tubby, come over here.”

“That’s not nice Jacob, don’t call him that, he’s probably got a proper name like…well, I don’t know.”

“Hey, Fat cat, Fat cat, come here.”

“Jacob.”

The cat plodded onwards, not really looking towards the garden.

“Maybe he’s deaf,” said Jacob.

“I don’t think so, he heard me say thanks to him last week when he jumped in the stream.”

Jacob scoffed slightly, then got bored and turned and walked back up the garden to the house.

“Anyway, I’m off to make a diary, do something useful whilst we’re stranded over here at Aunt Jenny’s.”

Bridget positioned herself on the gate; both legs straddled lazily either side. She fondled the small cloth badge that had been hastily sewn onto her cardigan. Her fingers traced over the letters. E.V.A.C.U.E.E. Mother had told her it was necessary for all children to have this kind of identification away from home. This war that the grownups talked about in hushed tones didn’t really mean much to her, only that her father was away fighting the enemy. She couldn’t really imagine him fighting. Not at all. Didn’t father always hug and kiss her and swirl her around in his thickset arms?

Maybe Jacob could explain more. He had told her that he had waved goodbye to father two months ago at the station. He’d told her the moist eyes were from the wind whipping across his face.

The summer breeze gently blew away her thoughts as her eyes focussed back on Fat cat. Oh dear, now that name had stuck in her head. Still, he was kind of fat, although tubby sounded a lot better if she ever had to address him. Some white clouds lessoned the glare of the sun and she stayed watching as he rested for a while, rolling slowly onto his back on the dusty track that led a few yards from the gate. The dust made him sneeze slightly. He enjoyed the occasional sneeze, the scent spewing across his nostrils. Today was indeed a good day he thought. A resting, leisurely, strolling, rolling, scratching and sneezing day.

Bridget gazed at his antics and then waved slowly towards him. Then to her amazement he sat on his backside in an upright position and waved a paw back at her. She nearly fell off the gate. She jumped off and ran to find Jacob.

“Jacob, Jacob, he’s just waved at me,” she shouted excitedly.

“Who?”

“Fat Cat, Fat Cat,” she squealed with delight, also cursing herself for calling him that. She dragged him down to the bottom of the garden again.

“He’s probably just pawing flies in the air,” said Jacob, not being too happy with his sister pulling at his shirt.

“There he is, look.”

The command lost a little of its authority as they both watched the cat try and catch some flies that were irritating his peaceful day.

“Told you, catching flies. That’s what cats do,” said Jacob, again underlining his extra years.

Bridget watched, and then decided to leave the cat to his own world and catch up with her brother who was duly fed up of everything. Then as she turned to go, Fat Cat looked her way and winked. She could honestly see the wink. Then he waved.

“Jacob,” she shouted. But it was too late; he was back up at the house. She shrugged her shoulders, turned and gave a halfhearted wave to the cat. As she started to walk away she could hear the faint voice of “Bye.” She turned back to look at Farmer Gregg’s meadow. Fat Cat had gone.

*

CHAPTER TWO

Bridget sighed heavily as she watched the faint raindrops start to trickle down the back window. Her dolls house had been left out over night and she knew Aunt Jenny would shout at her. Jacob watched, happy that his red and grey soldiers were safe and sound in the small roofed area at the bottom of the garden. Soldiers need a fort, but they also needed to look after themselves in emergencies. That’s why they were down guarding the gate entrance. Who knows what mischief lies in farmer Gregg’s meadow after sunset?

There was a paved path that wound to the bottom of the garden. It glistened with the quick pitter-patter of rain. Bridget pulled her cardigan across her head and ventured out into the garden, her mission to pull the dolls house from the grass and into the safety of the soldier’s retreat. Jacob watched again, probably thinking that at least he wouldn’t get a telling off from Auntie. Wet cardigans, dolls house in the rain; it all added up to an early bed for Bridget. He’d been down that road himself…or path, he thought, as he saw the rain begin to get heavier.

She slid, as one of her sandals became loose. Jacob smiled to himself at the problems like only an older brother would. He moved from the window and went to find his train set in the upstairs of the house.

Bridget pulled her footwear back on and then tugged at the dolls house, trying quickly to find the dryness of the soldier’s camp. Aunt Jenny must have built the little roof ages ago to try and shield some of the potted plants from the wind and rain of winter. The last few weeks they had made it their den, adding bracken and twigs to the side. It had worked well. So well, in fact, that both Bridget and Jacob used it as a retreat for their pastimes. In here, you could actually snuggle up against the sometimes-harsh wind that blew from Farmer Gregg’s field, or even find shade from the summer sun. Today it would offer protection from the rain.

She puffed and panted, but eventually made it to the dry floor, pushing some of Jacob’s soldiers to one side. The space wasn’t very big, maybe big enough to hold three dolls houses. But right now it was just right. She positioned her house to one side, allowing the soldiers to remain on sentry duty at the far end. The rain got heavier. A trickle of water ran outside, following the path to the gate at the bottom of the garden. She could imagine it flowing down the gentle slope outside the fencing and into the tiny stream below.

She stared as the rain became heavier, turning her mind to other places. That’s what rain does if you look long enough into it; it carries your mind away. This time it took her thoughts back to her house in the middle of London. The place didn’t really have good thoughts. Those awful sirens in the middle of the night; then the terrifying crashing of bombs somewhere in the distance. And after that, the smell of burning and fire engines going at full speed through the streets. Whatever Jacob said, this war was not a good thing. He could march up and down the house, shout orders at invisible people, fire his toy wooden gun at her or even play dead but her real memories made her shudder.

“You’ll both be safer with Aunt Jenny in the country side,” had said mother. Her words echoed inside the tiny shelter as the rain pounded downwards. She remembered the hissing of the steam engine and slamming of carriage doors at the station as mother tearfully said goodbye. An old tablecloth wrapped around her dolls house and Jacobs train set were all the thing that was needed. So said mother.

This didn’t mean that she was totally unhappy with Aunt Jenny’s. Far from it. You couldn’t wish for a nicer house or place to live. In London the air was always thick with smoke from all the chimneys and in winter the fogs filled the air with an awful fowl smell. At Aunt Jenny’s even the rain had a smell of freshness, but it was no compensation for being without mother and father. Why didn’t Jacob feel like this?

She recited her name and address to herself. Information that had been told over and over again by mother. Her date of birth. “Twenty first of July nineteen hundred and thirty seven,” she said out loud proudly. “Twenty first of July nineteen hundred and thirty…”

“Seven” came the lone voice.

Bridget swirled round just in time to see Fat cat pounce swiftly into the refuge of the den. He shook his coat, depositing rainwater here and there. “Oops sorry, manners.”

“Fat cat…” she stopped herself instantly, “I mean…” She made room, pushing her dolls house to the side where the bracken was thickest.

“Where have you been?”

“Certainly not anywhere dry that’s for sure.”  He carried on licking his fur and awkwardly placing one of his back legs into a position where he could pull at the wettest of his fur. “Can’t believe I didn’t see this rain storm coming. There I was chasing the odd field mouse about and I completely forgot about those damn clouds.”

Bridget wasn’t sure whether or not the word damn was a swear word or not. She was pretty certain it wouldn’t have been allowed in her London house. Maybe it was a country word that was used out here she thought. She watched intently as he recovered his posture.

“Would you like me to brush you with my dolls hand brush?” she said somewhat hesitantly, not knowing if this was an intrusion on his privacy. Fat cat eyed the ivory handled brush and nodded. Bridget gently pulled the small teeth of the brush backwards and forwards. Fat cat arched his back as the tingling sensation delighted him, reminding him of crawling under Farmer Gregg’s low wire fence. The purring sound grew louder, signifying his obvious satisfaction.

“I think that’s you done Fat cat…” Again she stopped herself.

He nuzzled up to her as an appreciation of thanks.

“Is that what you call me…Fat cat?”

“Er, no, or rather yes. It’s just a name that came up, I’m ever so sorry.”

“Sorry?” He said. “Why ever should you be sorry? I’ve never actually had a name before and I suppose I am on the rather biggish side aren’t I?” Bridget thought it best to say nothing. “Fat cat…Fat cat,” he said to himself, “yes, I think it is quite a grand name, and Fat cat I will be. Thank you. And what can I call you?” He looked at her badge. “Evacueeeee?” That’s rather strange isn’t it?” Bridget laughed, more at the long sounding eeee bit at the end. “No, that just means people will know I’m away from home, you know, because of the war thing.”

“Oh, that load of nonsense.”

“I’m actually Bridget, named after my grandmother.”

“That sounds like a posh name as well. I wish us cats had got the idea of naming ourselves.”

“Didn’t your mum and dad give you a name when you were young?”

“Me?” Fat cat tweaked his whiskers slightly in a kind of smile. “Goodness me no. We just go about our business as cats. No need for names. It’s only the house cats that get anything like that, the ones that actually get food from people on a daily basis.”

“You mean the cats that people have as pets?”

“Pets, pets?!” Fat cat nearly jumped up to the roof of the den. “Pets indeed. It’s us cats that adopt the humans. We’re a very proud race I’ll have you know. Pets indeed. Always independent, that’s us. I think you’ll find it’s only the lazy ones that stay at home and accept the soft life. Not for me.” He caught sight of his wagging tail and tried to stamp on it with his paw.

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” said Bridget feeling a little uncomfortable. The tail wagging stopped. He slowly blinked his eyes, then twitched his nose from side to side and wiped a paw across his face. He moved round in a circle then slowly nestled himself into the lap of his new friend. Being independent is okay some of the time, but every now and then it’s nice to be spoilt, especially when someone tickles you under the chin like Bridget was doing now.

*

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The wind cries Mary (fiction story)

THE WIND CRIES MARY

 

Last week my wife died.

I can’t honestly say how many years we’d been together. Does that sound bad? It was over forty, I know that. This autumn evening is the first time I have returned to our home. The moonlight dodges in and out of the clouds, reflecting haphazardly onto the first glistening appearances of Jack Frost. The front gate creaks eerily, whilst the rustling leaves of the sycamores hang tenuously to their last remnants of life. In the fading light I twist the key into the lock and push the front door ajar. It resists vainly for a moment, as my weight forces the mound of mail on the floor to one side. A flick of the light switch reveals little of change. Everything is the same as it was. Except of course for one thing. I stifle the words of ‘I’m home,’ and retrieve the mail. The smell is the same as though we had just returned from holiday, although this time I’ll be the one to search out the air freshener. Or maybe I wont. The smell doesn’t really bother me. It did her.

The front room is tidy except for a few of last week’s newspapers on the coffee table. They can stay there, dating the scene in their own little way. The telephone has the intermittent red light flashing. Looks like a multitude of messages. I pass by and go to the kitchen. She would have sorted the messages.

The patio windows are allowing a low whistling to reach a crescendo as the winds roll menacingly from the moors beyond the back garden. I remember her asking me to fix the errant locking system, that’s where the noise is coming from. Maybe next week. Didn’t I say that to her a month ago? I wish I could now.

Next doors cat is visible outside through the dusk, scurrying to find shelter. She would have let it in for an hour or so. It glances at me and decides on searching out some other refuge. My unfriendly voice never offered encouragement.

The wind begins to drum out a tattoo of fearful melancholy, intent on welcoming me home to this cold retreat. The flowers in the hanging basket outside rock to and fro. I can’t recall when I last bought her flowers. Except of course at the funeral. That doesn’t count. I sit at the small pine table, gaze through the window and wish I could walk in from the back garden and give her a handful of roses. I should have done that so many times, but you don’t do you?

I walk upstairs, feeling the banister rail, subconsciously trying to entice some kind of warmth out of it. I turn on the bedroom light, it misses a beat. The wind laughs outrageously across the eaves. The bed is huge as I lay down fully clothed, arms outstretched feeling for succour. I restlessly rise and go and open her wardrobe door. The sensation is overwhelming and compels me to sit inside, slowly caressing her clothes. My senses peak in expectation of a last solitary smell of her body. ‘I love you Mary,’ I murmur to myself.  I can’t remember the last time I told her that, apart from in the hospital when she was in a coma. Again, that doesn’t count. The noise of the mocking wind subsides and I move into the foetus position. Tears take precedence in this now silent world. Why do we take things for granted?

Last week my life died.

Rossi (600 words)

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