The Wind

My world is dark. Occasionally, light pierces through on one side; a rectangle shaft that just lights the walls. It is just a small space, but room enough for me and my babies, and my larder. The food is good here, with lots of fresh meat landing outside. Occasionally I will step outside and extend my home. There are lots of building possibilities, but the extensions get blown down frequently. This is the tale of one such day:

I had been sitting outside on my latest extension having recently wrapped my dinner, and the familiar rumblings and vibrations began. The Wind started so quickly I had no time to step inside. At first it was easy to hold on; I’m used The Wind moving me around a little, and I’m good at hanging on. This day was different though. The Wind was so fast my extension began to tear up around me. I needed to get inside where it was safe, inside to where my babies were, so I tried to crawl along toward the gap. Normally I can scuttle along and swing about, but I knew that one false move and I would lose my home, my larder full of fresh meat, my unborn babies in their nest and fly. The last time that happened I was lucky to survive. I landed on the roadside after narrowly missing several of these huge machines that were hurtling along. That was when I found this home; an exquisitely dark hole that seemed to be immune to The Wind. On the inside at least. I’ve lived here for many moons now.

I was cursing my own laziness as I clung on for grim life, my home disintegrating around me, being torn to shreds. Handholds were becoming scarce and I was dangling on the end of my own rope, flapping around. Twice I had been blown against the wall, a surface too smooth to grip onto. The Wind was howling around me, screaming, and my grip was weak. I was being thrown around like a kite; The Wind toying with me, like it was just waiting, choosing when to finish this dance and rip me from everything.  My only chance was to make it to the gap. Length by length I made ground, trying to tie together the strands of my home as I went; trying to strengthen my delicate hold on my world. More strands tied, another length made, and then the strands unravelled again, and I smashed once more against the shiny smooth wall. The wind was dying down a little, at last I could spin some more rope, extra sticky this time. I scuttled along back toward my door, bringing my rope behind me. Only a few lengths to go when the wind picked up again. I tucked my head down and battled. My babies would not survive if I was not there to provide nourishment for them when they were born. I only had to make a couple of lengths and I would be in lea of my house, where I knew the wind would not be so bad. Leg by leg I crawled, head bent against the wind, slowly, gradually. Throwing rope forwards and dragging myself toward safety. Finally the lea was met, but I relaxed too soon and The Wind turned, blowing me against the wall once again. Winded, I began to slide down the wall. I needed more rope and fast, if The Wind gets me now I’m done. Hastily I threw more rope at the wall, and more still. It stuck fast and I at last could grip to the wall. Throwing rope before me and with a solid surface beneath my feet I began the climb back toward the gap again. The Wind was doing all it could to tear me from the wall, blowing me this way and that way, first one leg torn away from the wall, then another. Thrice it blew my rope away and I watched it fly from me. So tired, I was beginning to lose the strength to make the rope quickly enough. One more thought about my babies, I made one super-arachnid effort and forced myself back to the lea. After scuttling inside, The Wind ceased its game with me, but I could hear it outside still shouting and shrieking, deafening. I had to rest a few moments before checking my larder, and my babies. Gladly everything was still in place. I tucked into a packaged meal to replenish my strength, and slept.

I awoke to the light shafting through the gap. The vibration had stopped, and The Wind had ceased it’s screaming. Slowly I crept back outside. The surroundings had changed completely, but the shiny wall was still there, with my rope still attached. Slowly I began to build another extension. I’ll be quicker back inside in future; as soon as the vibrations start.


It is a little known fact amongst adults that us stuffed toys have hearts and lives. The life is given to us through the love that we receive from children. The love we return is unconditional, but what happens when the child grows up?

I was one of the lucky ones; my child loved me all through his childhood and still loved me into his manhood. He never had any distractions like girls to take his attention away from me so we remained the best of friends.

‘Leo’ he would say to me ‘I love you to the moon and back’ and would squeeze me tight.

‘I love you too’ I would say to him, and snuggle into his neck. He would tell me everything. I soaked up his tears when he failed his eleven plus, and when he was bullied at school. We celebrated together when he passed his exams, and we drank together when he turned eighteen, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was, still loved and alive after so long, when many would have been left to go bald in a wardrobe.

He loved me well into his working life. We were partners, I’d guard the house for him while he was away, and he would brush me when he returned. When my sides split he replaced my stuffing and sewed me up. We agreed that we would never ever part.

‘Leo and Lionel. Inseparable. That’s us!’ He still gleefully exclaimed as he retired from his work. Every night we shared the same bed, tucked up warm under the blankets.

Then one night, just after Christmas I felt things change. Suddenly my heart grew colder, and Lionel didn’t wake up the next morning as he always did. He didn’t squeeze me tight with his “Good Morning Leo! How did you sleep?”. He just lay there in bed, his arm around me as always. We laid there together for many moons; full moon followed full moon and nothing changed. Spring followed Winter, and Summer. The decorations still downstairs, when normally we would have put them away together like we had done for over eighty years.

Then one day in Autumn some people came and took Lionel away from me. I was crudely ripped from his arms as they scoffed about his teddy.

‘I’m no BEAR!’ I roared, ‘I’m a LION! And I love Lionel! Don’t take him away, Leave him here with me, he’ll be safe!’ But of course they were grownups. They couldn’t hear me, so they took my Lionel away, leaving me here on the bed, guarding the house until he returns. Some people come to the house every now and then, they take my picture, and I don’t mind, as they leave me here to guard the house for Lionel. I wonder when he’s coming back? He’s been gone for many years now. twenty Winters since that awful night. My heart grows colder the longer he stays away, and I grow tired. It won’t be long before I stop living.P1130358

The Retirement Fund

I was challenged to write a piece based around this painting by Jack Vettriano. I think I’m going through a dark phase at the moment….

Brett shoved his hand deep into his pocket as the wind blew open his coat to reveal the sharp brown suit he wore beneath; he didn’t want to reveal the pistol he wore at the waist. Bianca, arm entwined with Brett’s, hurried barefoot alongside him her red skirt riding up her legs as they went. They had been caught by the incoming tide and were hurrying to get off the beach before they got cut off. Brett’s feet were soaked already, but he didn’t have the option of kicking his shoes off like Bianca had. His boots hid several throwing knives he would need later.
Unaware of the approach couple, Mike and Mary busied themselves about their small café. The breakfast rush was over, and there was a bare twenty minutes to get cleared up and ready for the morning coffee coach parties from the States. Mary secretly hated them, but, as Mike correctly pointed out, there wouldn’t be any “clients” without them.
The Clients he referred to were of course were the older couples who got left behind as the coaches went on their way. With their cash filled purses and wallets they were setting Mike and Mary up nicely for retirement.
That was retirement they would never get, Mike realised as one of Brett’s knives embedded itself into his back. He just had time to look at Mary one last time, and see another knife bury itself into her heart, before the lights went out. Brett and Bianca worked fast as they searched the place; Brett found the cell below that housed several bodies and one poor unfortunate couple from yesterday. Two trigger squeezes dispatched them too, wallets and purses gathered. Bianca went upstairs, turned the bedroom over until she had found the nest egg, and several keys. They should be easy to easy to connect with addresses in wallets.
The two met at the junction of the stairs, stepped over Mike and Mary, and left the café. Jack Vettriano

The River

Another challenge, this time to start a story, describing an area I know well and using a fictional character: This is what I conjured up:

The water tumbled over the weir under my feet. The rains had swelled the river upstream, and there was a chance the banks would blow here. Downstream was the playground; slides and climbing frames, roundabouts, and those funny spring loaded animals. There was one of those old horses too, that sat six and rocked back and forth, always making one poor kid throw up. The water was close there, and would soon be lapping at the fences. I was watching a mum helping her child on the slide; he wasn’t keen on going fast so he kept digging his feet down. He had already somersaulted off the thing twice, landing on the weird soft tarmac stuff they put down these days.
A scream pulled my attention back to the river. Looking in that direction, I could see someone in the water, and a woman yelling. The figure in the water was being washed quickly downstream, and no one was about. I grabbed the nearest lifebelt and ran down as fast as I could, and dived into the water. I could see it was a young child, and there wasn’t long left. Using the current to speed me up I caught the child just as he was going down. I threw him over the lifebelt and dragged him to safety up the bank. Mum was going frantic. Her blond hair had fallen out of her pony tail, and was over her face, I hadn’t paid her any attention until now; she looked to be around thirty, the child was around four, and light as a feather as I lifted him out of the water, and lay him on the ground. I made a quick check that he was still breathing and I rolled him onto his side. Mum was crying, I gestured to her I needed her coat. I was beginning to shiver but laid the coat over the kid to keep him warm. A crowd was beginning to form, so I asked a bloke to call for a paramedic, and another guy had thrown me a coat to keep me warm. I beckoned to mum to come and comfort the kid, and in turn I comforted her to help her stay calm. Paramedics arrived, I handed over to them and melted into the crowd, and went home, job done.
I hadn’t bargained for the social media storm that was to follow…

“And so we begin…”

I was challenged to come up with a short piece using this title. I also hadt to include the words ‘notebook’ ‘cow’ and ‘banana’.

And so we begin…
The words had been sitting there in his notebook for hours now, and his pen was still dancing above the paper as if it were a ballerina on speed. But no more words were coming. He put the pen down and went to the kitchen and took a banana from the bunch. He studied it for a while, maybe looking for inspiration within the black markings of the turning fruit. Nothing. He peeled the fruit, laughing to himself as he remembered the old childhood joke; “One skin, Two skin, three skin…” It was a bitter laugh. If only he hadn’t made that joke aloud at work he wouldn’t be in this mess. Such a harmless joke, but that silly cow had reported him for it and he had been suspended, pending an investigation. He knew how these things went: He would be forced to silence, sent to Coventry with no contact while slowly they built their case against him. Bastards. He had thought to write to fill his time but no inspiration was coming.
He wouldn’t have minded but he was the best of them there, all the others were complete numpties, lazy gits in for an easy wage. Maybe this should be the out he had been looking for? “Years I’ve been doing the job, but it’s not the same any more. I’m a dinosaur, washed up, the new rules are political bullshit, I’d be better off out of it”
He jumped, dragged from his ruminations by the sound of the phone. “I got to change that ring tone” he thought to himself as Father Jack shouted “Shut The Feck Up!” over and over again until he silenced him.
‘Hello James, we have a date for your interview toward the investigation’
“And so we begin…”

Chelsea Boots

I was watching from my window, light off so that I wouldn’t be seen. He nonchalantly took out a packet of cigarettes, tore away the top and lifted one white tube with a single flick at the bottom of the packet. He lifted the packet to his mouth and pulled the one cigarette from the pack between yellowing teeth. As he leaned against the wall, he pulled out his Zippo and lit up with one smooth motion. I watched intently as the lighter briefly illuminated a vertical scar that ran down from his forehead, across one eye, ending at his cheek. In spite of his coolness, I could see that there was furtiveness in that face, and a sharp glance in my direction had me ducking from view. He took a deep draw on his cigarette and blew four smoke rings, each one larger than the last. Then one arrow of smoke pierced them all and they dispersed into the damp air.
He took another pull, his stubble scratching at the white tube. He pulled down his wide brimmed hat tight over his scarred eye, pushed away from the wall and stalked off into the night. The red glow of another drag cast his silhouette against the mist, and then he disappeared from view.

My heart was pumping as I quickly grabbed my own coat and hat and left in the same direction. My pipe helped to steady my nerves, but the mix of my fresh tobacco and his stale cigarette smoke hanging in the misty air was a pungent one, like an old smokers house closed up for years. I pressed my tobacco hard into its bowl and plunged the pipe into my pocket; I needed to concentrate on his smell if I were to follow him. It was like standing behind a heavy smoker at the queue, I followed it down the road, and around the corner. The road headed up hill from here, away from the river, and the air was clearer. Just up there, I saw him, bathed in the orange glow of a street light. Clouds of smoke hung around him. I kept walking, heading towards him. I couldn’t stop and give myself away. I watched as he dropped the end of his cigarette on the floor and crushed it out under his foot. Those shoes didn’t match the rest. Black Chelsea boots with the brown hat and long brown coat. It’s funny, I was expecting Cowboy boots.
He set off again. I was much closer to him now and I could see his gait: His right leg swung out with each step, foot turned right out, to swing back in as he put his foot back down. He was glancing around himself all the time. I had to hope he didn’t look behind. A little rain started to fall and I watched as he turned up the collar of his long coat – I could see now that it was a waxed riding coat, an imitation Drizabone or Barbour – hunched down and quickened his pace. I ducked into a doorway before he turned at the top of the road, then resumed trailing him. He’d been watching my place for days, my mind drifted as I thought about who he might be. I turned the corner at the top of the road and walked straight into a long waxed coat. The smell of stale cigarettes filled my nose before the hood came over my head and all went black.

The Rose Bush

Once long slender fingers worked the secateurs with an expert flourish; only these hands now more resembled a wind-blown tree on a desolate hill, twisted and gnarled through years of use and arthritis.
“My Grandmother taught me how to care for these roses when I was about your age” Her mouth, as always surrounded by a pastel pink lipstick, belied her ancient years. Once a beautiful woman as her great granddaughter now is, her face looked more like a bag of marbles in an old burst balloon. The years had not been kind to her, but then she was one hundred and ten years old.

“Your grandmother died during the wars, and your mother was not green fingered, so these secateurs will soon be yours, and this rose will be in your care. Be sure to listen well, this rose is over two hundred years old.” The wall of roses was immense; it was twenty feet down the garden of the house, and a tidy five feet in height. The wall of tangled branches below two feet was bare of green, solid wood with branches so wide she, in her now shrunken aged body, couldn’t hope to manage. Above the two foot line was a mass of beautiful white roses.

“My grandmother planted a cutting of the mother rose every year until the wall was this big. Long windy fingers took the hand of her twenty year old great grand-daughter and together they walked along the rose bank. “My time is running short now my girl, and I have cared for it as long as I can” They stopped at the ‘mother plant’ as she called it, the trunk a monstrous great thing, and as gnarly as the old lady’s hands. “It has been my life’s work to keep this alive, at some point the mother plant will stop, and when I am gone you must take a last cutting from this trunk, remove the old plant and plant the new cutting in its place. That is my final wish.”
They walked a short while to a rich wooden bench, the seats separated by a small raised table. Smithers had placed a large jug of cold lemonade and two glasses upon the table. The Great Granddaughter poured a glass each;

“Great Grandmother, I have inherited your talent for the Cello, as these old fingers of yours once danced along the fingerboard, so do mine now. I shall care for this wall, and from this plant I shall have made a beautiful cello that shall be played around the world.” The old lady drank her lemonade. “Thank you my child, my life is now complete. I have seen the World with my music, as you will one day” Pressing the secateurs into the young hands, she held them, and gazing into her granddaughters beautiful young eyes, a small tear ran down an ancient cheek as the face at last relaxed, and the worry lines of a century disappeared, as she breathed her final breath.P1120219


The fire crackled and popped loudly sending orange sparks high into the night sky. It was a clear moonless night, and I could see the Milky Way quite clearly. The temperature was dropping fast; I pulled my overcoat up over my neck and shoved my hands closer to the fire. Lou lay still in his bedroll, the whistling snore the only sign of life. He had pulled up close to the fire, my job was to keep the fire burning and watch. Out there beyond my warm circle of light I knew they were there. A sound over to the left had my hand reach for the gun. Position shifted to face the new danger; I fingered the trigger nervously. Images of the fire danced in my eyes as I strained to see into the darkness. It had been like this for a week, travelling by day, taking watch at night. I knew we were being tracked, but I had this horrible feeling that we were being herded. Every move was reactive; we hadn’t made our own decision in days. Another crack pierced the silence I swung round further to the left to meet the sound. The fire now at my back I could strain into the darkness better. I reached carefully across with my foot and kicked Lou awake. He was upright and ready, gun in hand within seconds. Another sound, now behind me; was that the crackle of the fire? My heart was pounding almost out of my chest as I turned, “slowly does it, no sudden moves” I breathed to myself… A deep guttural growl rumbled into our world, and a huge hulking silhouette appeared from out of the darkness. Firelight reflected in red saucer eyes and off of dripping moon white teeth. It had to be twice my size. “You got to be kidding me” I heard from next to me as Lou cocked his rifle. I held my breath, closed my eyes, and squeezed the trigger.

“The Song of the May Queen” A short Story Part One

She sat; her colourful leggings tightly framed long legs, comfortably crossed in front of her as a schoolchild in assembly. On her ankles rested her book, the covers sitting on the insides of her calves. Her feet were adorned only by stringed together jewels, looped over the big toe, a line of brightly coloured gems of red, blue, green and clear diamond running up her foot, and then around below the ankle bone. Her head bowed, her long brown hair cascading over her shoulders. Her hair was tucked behind one ear, revealing small, dainty lobes adorned with rings all the way to the top. A garland of daisies lay around her head. In the grass upon which she sat flowers poked their heads up above blades long enough to wave lightly in the warm breeze that floated around the gardens. The sun seemed to shine directly upon her, making her almost glow in some kind of ethereal radiance.
I had sat watching her for hours, mesmerised. She only moved one hand every so often to turn the page of her book; the only clue that she wasn’t dead. We were the only two people not moving: She filled my world yet she appeared completely unaware of my existence. We both remained undisturbed by the movement all around us. I lifted my coffee to my lips and took a sip. It was stone cold. I fed the plants next to me with it and got up to get me a fresh cup. Thankfully the outdoor café was offering free top-ups. So many questions ran round in my head about this enigmatic girl, least of all what was she reading. Should I get a coffee and take it over? The book would be a good opener. Ah! But no! I’ve never possessed the courage to speak to people like that. Instead I returned to my bench and resumed my vigil.

I was roused when an old lady came and joined me on my bench. “Do you mind if I sit awhile?” I looked up at my intruder: Fairly average looking slight woman, probably in her seventies. Her hair was long and grey. No, not grey, silver, or platinum maybe, for it seemed to glow in the sunlight. Ribbons of red and blue, green and diamond white were tied within that shimmering hair, which tumbled around her long, all covering purple and black cloak. “Sure” I said as I noticed the lost greys stuck into the velvet of her cloak. It was held together in front of her by an ornate golden clasp, depicting a garland of Spring flowers: red Tulips, Forget-me-nots, Daisies, and Bluebells tied at the base with blades of grass.

I returned to my vigil of the girl. “I used to sit there for hours reading” said my new companion, pointing to the spot where the girl sat. “All sorts of books, but at Beltane I always read ‘The Song of the May Queen’, have you read it?” My reply was almost absent minded, so lost was I with the girl. “Only once” closing my eyes as if to create a barrier between me and her questions: “I found it hard going.” I drank deep of my coffee: I didn’t want another to go cold. My mind drifted awhile, thinking of the book the old woman had spoken of. I remember it had a message within the book. It was a story of new life and new beginnings, Robin Hood sprang to mind. It was really more about the life cycle of the year, of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. I shook myself from my ruminations, to find I was alone. The girl had gone, not even was there flattened grass where she sat, but flowers of red, blue and white grew among the fresh green grass. The woman had gone also, but on the bench next to me was the book ‘The Song of the May Queen’, a garland of daisies, and ribbons of red, blue, green, and diamond white. A shiver ran down my spine as I picked up the book, strangely warm. A prickling on the nape of my neck as the few hairs stood on end. A lock of grey hair marked a page at the cover. Scribed on the blank page were the words “With love from the May Queen”.