Thursday, 14 December 2017

Smashing

 The bottle twisted as it flew through the air. Everything moved in slow-motion, Lacy could see the lights dance across its surface, her brain had time to register the brand and she even noticed there was still beer inside. Despite all these things, she could not make her body move to one side, put up a hand to deflect it, or anything to stop serious injury coming her way. When the bottle was only inches from her face, a hand appeared and snatched it from the air. She didn’t understand what had happened, which is why her mouth hung open like a dullard. 

His smile was magical. His eyes were crystal blue and filled with fun. He looked up at the balcony where a drunk girl stared down. He tilted the bottle in his hand slightly, asking the question, are you going to say something? The drunk girl waved and vanished. The man placed the bottle on a table as Lacy tried to make the words, Thank You, come out. He just winked and walked away.
               
  As he vanished, Lacy turned to her friend, Tracy, and said, “OMG did you see him!”
              
"He like, TOTALLY, saved your life!” she said, squealing and yelling over the music in in the club. 

“You should so go after him!”

“You think?”

“Totally!”

“I don’t even know his name. I can’t,” Lacy said, hiding her blushing face in her hands but she really wanted to rush after him. She would have if she could see him but the club was too packed. God, she had butterflies in her stomach and her heart was racing. He hadn’t even said a word and he had her melting. She’d never felt anything like it before and she was sure she never would again.

“You’re so prissy, if you don’t want him, I’ll have him,” said Tracy, pretending to go after the man. Lacy grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

“Don’t you dare,” she cried, dragging her friend away to get a drink at the bar.
***
All week, that guy was in her thoughts. The way he smiled, his eyes, the air of adventure that surrounded him, the way he saved her. Every day the feeling grew stronger. One day, she munched dreamily at her lunch and thought of him, of them. Her phone rang and she had to rummage through the junk in her bag to find the damn thing and when she did, it was only, Jason.

“Hi,” she said, not excited, not annoyed. After all, they were dating, of sorts.

"Hi baby, how is your day going?” He sounded bubbly, like a puppy ready to jump up and lick her.

“Same old same old, what about you?”

As he yammered on about some boring work stuff she let her mind wander. She rested her chin in her hand and drifted. At first, she thought she was dreaming him, but there he was, walking down far side of the road. Her savour, carrying four Starbuck’s coffees in those paper containers they give out.

"Jason, I got to run, call you later,” she said cutting cross him mid-sentence and hanging up. She quickly gathered up her belongings and dashed out into the street before she had a chance to change her mind. She had to wait for a break in the traffic to cross the road and by the time she had, she saw her dream man climb into a silver Audi and pull away.

“Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it,” she said stamping her feet and spinning on the spot. She just had to get to know him. Then it hit her. Starbucks! She turned and dashed down the street to that familiar white and green circle floating above the shop on the corner. She ran inside, and thank God, it was nearly empty.

“Hi, what can I get you?” asked the girl behind the counter.

“This is weird, but a guy just left here. A tall guy, floppy hair, blue eyes, really well dressed. Did you see him?”

“Yea, I think I know who you mean,” said the girl stroking her chin. Lacy didn’t think this chick was the sharpest tool in the box.

“Can you tell me his name?” asked Lacy, feeling she was on the verge of a life-changing event.

“Bob,” the clerk said. 

Shit. Bob! Not at all what she had in mind.

“Or it might be John, or Simon or Ethan. He always gets four coffees and those are the names. I think he works in a Law Office on the far side of town.”

“Do you know where it is?” Lacy asked.

“Look, lady, they just come and order coffee. Do you want something or not?” asked the girl, clearly losing interest in this game.

“No, thanks,” she said and left the shop. She had a lead on him, of sorts. As the door closed behind her, her phone rang, again, and it was Jason, again. God, what did he want now?

“Hello,” she said and rolled her eyes as she walked away.
***

Over the next week, Lacy spent every lunchtime sitting in Starbucks, waiting for Bob, John, Simon or Ethan to arrive. On Friday he did. Her heart jumped into her mouth as he opened the door and then looked directly at her. She smiled as he walked toward her but that smile faltered when he continued directly past her to the counter. She followed and stood behind him while he placed his order. When he was done, she tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hello?” he said, clearly with no idea who she was.

“Do you remember me?” she asked.

“You might have to give me a hint,” he said, but flashed her a dazzling smile with an accompanying wink. He was flirting with her.

“You saved me from a bottle in the club the other night,” she said, tilting her head back and giving her hair a flick. She felt herself do it but hadn’t meant to.

“That was you?”

“Yep. I wanted to say thanks,” she said holding out her hand and he took it in his. It was a big hand, but soft. He rolled her fingers in his, as if massaging her, and it was an incredibly intimate feeling.

“I’m Lacy,” she said.

“Ethan,” he said.

“I knew you would be,” she said before she could stop herself.

“Sorry?”

“Nothing. Its… Well… nothing,” she said getting tongue-tied. Behind them, the girl landed a tray-load with coffees on the counter.

“That will be twelve ninety,” she said and Ethan flipped her a credit card which she tapped against the machine. Lacy could see her chance to make an impression drawing quickly to a close so she panicked.

"Do you want to come to a party?” she asked, and was amazed to hear the words come out of her mouth because she had no party to invite him too.

"Sure, when?” he said surprising her.

“Give me your number and I'll text you the details,” she said. He called out his number and she typed it into her phone. On the way out the door, he stopped and turned.

“Can I bring some friends?”

"The more the merrier,” she said, but felt a shiver of anticipation run through her. As soon as he was out the door, she was on the phone to Tracy.

"Tracy, we have to have a party tomorrow!” she yelled. The girl behind the counter to glared across at her. The squeals of delight on the end of the line were all the encouragement she needed. This plan was going to work.

The following day was a whirlwind of preparation. Lacy all but emptied her bank account buying drink, food, and decorations for the party, her first party as it happened. She called friends and extended invitations. When anyone asked the reason for the get-together, she said, for the crack. At six she was stringing fairy lights around the sitting room when someone knocked on the door. Tracy went to answer it and came back with Jason following at her heel. Tracy gave a lip-biting grimace at the awkward situation that was about to unfold.

"Hi Lace, what's are the lights for?

"Jason... I meant to give you a call. You see, there is a bit of a thing happening tonight."

"Cool, a party."

"It's not a party."

"Oh?" he said and clearly not believing her.

"Just the girls over for drinks."

"Sounds great," he said not giving up.

"Only the girls," she said feeling like a bitch.

"Oh. I see," he said, rejection written all over his face. "I better leave you at it so," he said walking toward the door. Lacy watched him go as she stood with fairy light strung over her hands. Before leving he said, "Enjoy the night. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Ok," was all she could say.

When he was gone Tracy turned to her and said, "Well, that was crushing."

"And what was I supposed to say?"

"I don't know but I don't think you should keep stringing him along."

"I'm not stringing him along. We're not exclusive or anything."

"Whatever, girl. Just saying," said Tracy tottering away with more beer to squeeze into the fridge.
***

The party had been going for two hours and the flat was full of people but no sign of Ethan. Lacy was wearing her slinkiest outfit, the one with the slit up to the hip and everyone said how hot she looked but she was miserable. Every time the doorbell rang she rushed to answer it but it was never him. When she given up hope, he arrived. She pulled the door open and those blue eyes made her knees go weak.

"Sorry we're late," he said and Lacy noticed the three others standing behind him, two were stunning girls.

"No problem, it's only starting," she said standing to one side. She watched with horror as Ethan placed a hand very low on one of the girl’s backs to guide her in. It was like being stabbed in the heart.

She watched the two couples make their way into the flat but she couldn't make herself let go of the door. Tracy appeared beside her and asked, "Are you ok?"

"No I'm not, nothing is ok," she said and slammed the door. For the rest of the night, she stayed in the kitchen and swilled wine. Ethan appeared a few times and glanced in her direction but his lady was never far away. By the time the party was winding up Lacy was plastered and in a foul mood. Ethan appeared and said, "We're heading. Thanks so much for the invite."

"No problem. I'll let you out," slurred Lacy walking to the front door and opening it. Ethan's friends left but he lingered.

"Sorry we didn't get to talk more. I really wanted to," he said.

"Yea, whatever," she said and watched him take a step out but he stopped and leaned into her ear.

"Meet me tomorrow," he said breathing huskuly as he said the words.

"What about your girlfriend?"

"Don't mind her. Come on, meet me tomorrow."

Inside, her heart lept in her chest and before she knew what she was doing she agreed. With a wink he was gone, so was her bad mood, her drunken state and every dire thought she had entertained during the night. He wanted her, he really wanted her. 

***

The morning came, but not half fast enough and eventually she did meet him. They sat and shared drink after drink while he explained how much of a cow his girlfriend was. Afternoon turned to evening and before that turned into night, they found themselves in bed. Lacy gave Ethan every inch of her body and would have done so twice if she could. It was magical. The only tiny distraction were the dozens of messages from Jason, none of which she answered. Ethan was the man for her, filling her mind and her body in all ways that counted.

The days passed and Ethan was a constant presence. He whispered everything she ever wanted to hear, he fulfilled every desire she ever held, he was the man she always wanted to have. Nothing would ever be the same for her again. A week turned into two, and lust turned into love but things don't always go to plan. 

Meetings had to be cancelled, outings abandoned, and long leisurely nights in bed cut short by work commitments. True to his word, Ethan did abandon his girlfriend but he always seemed to have so many demands placed on him by work and social commitments that Lacy was beginning to spend as much time alone as she ever did with him.

Weeks turned into months and Lacy started to realise that something was wrong. Ethan never took her to his place, he never introduced her to his friends, the only time they spent together was alone and in bed. She got used to the calls before dates, before nights out, before anything, saying he couldn’t make it. She got used to the excuses to leave early before the sweat on her body had even dried, and although she denied it to herself, she knew he was leaving her. She never saw Tracy anymore, or any of her girlfriends, Ethan didn’t like them. She was alone, she was his and she was drifting further from herself every day.

One night she was sitting in the club, in the same spot Ethan had saved her, waiting for him to arrive and she knew he wasn’t coming. The call had not come and he was not even that late but in her heart she knew he was somewhere else, with someone else, doing what she wished he was doing with her. Across the room, she saw a figure standing at the bar, stoic, distant, and aloof. It was Jason. She had never seen him so proud before, so regal. How had she never seen that side to him before? She picked up her drink and walked across to him, to spend a few minutes catching up, to share a few moments.

As she neared, he saw her, and his face morphed into a mask of dread. It was like she were a monster closing in on him. He held up his hand as if warding her off and started to put down his bottle. His eyes held a lifetime of hurt, a sea of anguish and a universe of pain: and she knew all of that was her fault. He turned from her and walked away, abandoning her as she had abandoned him. The bottle teetered on the edge of the counter before falling outward, twisting in mid-air, reflecting the light of the club off its surface before smashing on the ground, smashing like all her dreams had been smashed. Smashed at the hands of Ethan and more disastrously smashed by her own callousness. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Hillman Hunter

The back of my Granny's house looked like a breakers yard for cars, mainly thanks to Uncle Mike and PJ. You were never sure which car was running or which was being cannibalised for parts. In the end, it all added to the madness that followed the boys everywhere.
PJ was very fond of one particular car, a brown Hillman Hunter. Admittedly he spent nearly as much time under the bonnet as he did behind the wheel but he never gave up on the thing. One evening, the hunter came limping into the yard, grinding metal screaming from under the car and black oily smoke pumping from the back of it.
Mike stuck his head out the kitchen window and yelled, "What yea done to the thing now?"
PJ got out and slammed the door hard, looking furious, "Flamen clutch is gone," he yelled kicking the tyre.
"I'll make the tae and we'll have a look," said Mike, closing the window to keep the clouds of sticky smoke out of the house. 

As the two boys walked around the car, mugs of steaming tea in hand, they mulled over what could be done.
"You'll be going nowhere in that," said Mike, taking a sip of his brew.
"I have to get into work tomorrow," PJ moaned.
"You'd have more luck pushing a fart back where it came from than getting that thing running by the morning," commented Mike wisely.
"What about the old Mini?" asked PJ nodding toward a carcass of a car up on four blocks.
"Nothing to lose I guess," said Mike, rolling up his sleeves. A few hours later and the Mini had been fitted with a battery that still held a bit of a charge, four scavenged wheels, one a bit smaller than the other three, new spark plugs and a general clean up.
As PJ syphoned petrol from the Hunter and poured it into the Mini he turned to Mike and said, "If this doesn't work you'll have to drop me to the job tomorrow."
"Jesus lad. I've got to be on the far side of Cashel before eight! Not a chance!" Mike would work all night on a car but there was no way he was getting out of bed a minute before he had to in the morning. With fingers crossed they turned over the engine. It whirred and whined and coughed and spluttered but failed to start. Mike shook his big bushy head at the engine as they tried one last time. Whirr whirr whirr went the engine and Mike lost the rag. 
"Start-up yea bitch," he yelled and hit the distributor cap an awful slap of the hammer he was holding. That seemed to do the trick because the little car coughed into life and idled away like an asthmatic with a sixty Rothman a day smoking habit.  

The next morning the car failed to start again, that was until PJ hit the engine a slap of the hammer and off she ran. Weeks passed and the hammer became as necessary as the key to get the little car going. Work on the Hunter was slow, as the necessity of the job dwindled while the Mini was getting PJ around. He found, wink wink, a clutch that would fit the car but never actually got round to installing it. 

One afternoon, PJ was trying to get the Mini started but no matter how many times he bate the distributor cap, the bloody thing wouldn't turn over.
Granny popped her head out the window and cried, "Hey, what's all the caterwauling?"
"Blasted car won't start and I'm taking Maggie to the pictures tonight," said PJ, throwing the hammer at the engine. With no other option, PJ set to work on the Hunter. He managed to get the car jacked up at a forty-five-degree angle with planks rammed against the wheels to keep it up. As he began undoing the bolts keeping the gearbox in place, he was hit by a quandary. He needed a second set of hands. There was nobody around but Granny, so Granny was called into service. 

As PJ loosened the last bolt, Granny was holding the end of a rope, which snaked its way over the car, in the open passenger window and was tied around the gear stick.
"Hold her, hold her now Mammy!" he yelled and Granny braced herself to take the weight of the gearbox. The last bolt dropped into his hand and PJ yelled, "Lave her down, more, more, a bit more. She's out!"
In any other house, having your fifty-year-old mother acting as a hydraulic lift might seem strange but not this one. PJ manoeuvred the replacement part into place as the car wobbled precariously over his head, granny holding a torch so he could see what he was at. Eventually the repair was made and Granny was back on the end of the rope again.
"Pull! Pull! Another bit! Hang on and I give this a slap," PJ cried from under the car and a hammer blow rang out into the evening sky. Something gave and the gearbox slid into place. 
"That's it, Mammy, now hold her there while I get a few bolts into this thing."
After a few minutes, a sweating PJ appeared with his hand still brimming with bolts and a smile on his face. As he wiped his brow with the back of a greasy mitt he asked. "What time is it there, Mammy?"
Granny looked through the kitchen window at the clock on the wall. "Ten to eight."
"Jesus, I have to pick Maggie up at nine. He gave a quick look at the nuts in his hand and tossed them into the glove box of the car and began getting the four wheels back on the ground. Half an hour later, a freshly washed PJ turned the key and prayed. The faithful old hunter started up the first time and purred away into the night.


The nuts were soon forgotten about and the Hunter became a regular sight on the roads once more. That was until a month later, the whole gearbox fell out of the thing doing sixty miles an hour on the way to a job in Dublin. Mike and PJ blocked the countries only dual carriageway for nearly an hour and had to explain to the Guards why the gearbox was only held in by two bolts.



Monday, 6 November 2017

Hi everyone. Thirty Pieces of Silver is up for an e-book contract from Kindle Scout. There is a voting aspect to this so if you are in the mood, and would like to get a free download (If the book is contracted)

Click the link  : https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3TFCGNCZ1P61R

Log in using your Amazon access.

Click the blue button on Thirty Pieces of Silver (in Crime)

That is it. If it is picked up by the press every one who nominated it gets a free download.

Thanks a million everyone.


Friday, 8 September 2017

Message in a Bottle

Today was a nice day. The hounds and I were out walking near Blenerville and I spotted something unusual bobbing in the water. After a bit of coaxing, Lofty swam out and brought it back in for me.

It was my first real message in a bottle.

I can tell you I got a little excited about it. It was sealed at the top and some cling film and rubber bands had been secured around it. THe bottle had been painted and decorated with some roses and lace. I don't imagine it had been in the water longer than a few weeks because it was fairly intact. Mind you it had been in there long enough to build up a fair bit of slime and seaweed.

I could see the paper inside but the seal had gone and there was water in there as well. I got the top off and emptied it all out. Along with the messages were some lovely rose coloured beads. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble when making this.

So, here is what I found. There were two little cards that would normally go on a wreath for a grave and two other pieces of card. You know, that really touched me. Someone was sending a message out on the ocean for a lost loved one. I don't know if they were for someone who had newly passed on or remembering them on a special day. It might even be for a few different people because I saw a couple of names. One way or the other I thought it was a wonderful way to keep someone's memory alive.  You toss a bottle into the waves and who knows where it will end up, very much like a person's soul. All we can do is hope and hold wonderful dreams close to our heart.

It was hard to make out some of the words because the water had gotten at the card but here is what I could read.

To my dear angel, Mommy loves you always - Mom XXX

Thinking of you Lilly, you can stay as long as you (Last word unclear)

Early birthday wish that your at peace and dining amongst the stars XXX

My dear Tasha, hope you're with me, I need your guidence, love and miss you always - (Signature unclear) XXX

To my guardian angel, protect me from the claws of negative people,




Friday, 18 August 2017

Paper Chain

I'm Charlie, and I am four and a half. The half is important because that's how long I've been going to school. I was scared on my first day, and told my Mom I didn't want to stay but she made me anyway. I remember standing in the hall outside the classroom, and it wasn't like my hall at home. It was big and smelled funny. There were no clocks ticking, or coats hanging on the coat tree and Snookie the cat wasn't lying in her bed. I think I might have cried, but I'm not sure about that. Anyway, like I said, that was a half ago, and a half is a long, long time.

It turned out that school was a great place to go. Teacher is really nice, like another Mom, but she dresses differently. We play games, and there are loads of other kids, not like at home where it's just me, Mom and Dad. There are rules, but not many, and they make us learn new things, but that's ok. I like learning new things, it's easy. Before school, I thought all kids were the same, but I was wrong about that. First off there are girls, now they're different. They don't like the same things boy's do at all. Some boys are different too. Some are loud, some are not, some push and shove, some play nice, and some can be mean, that I don't like.

My best friend is Simon, we do everything together. We sit at the same desk, do our lessons together, play together, and eat our lunch together. Simon is great, the greatest kid in the world, he could be even greater than me.

So today is Monday, and I'm very excited because Teacher said she'd have a big surprise for us on Monday. I'm dressed extra quick, eat all my breakfast, pack my lunch box, put on my bag and coat and Mom is still sitting at the kitchen table.

"What's the rush?" she asks, as she pulls on her coat and shoes. I do wish she'd hurry up.

"It's surprise day! Come on, Mom!" I say, taking her by the hand and pull her out the door. I try to make her run, but she's too heavy. She tries to keep up, but her legs are too old to go fast. Once I heard her say her legs were killing her, sometimes I worry about that, but not today. Today is surprise day. When I get to the classroom, I'm not even the first there. I hang my coat on my hook and go to stand beside Simon. Everyone is crowded around teachers desk where there's something square covered with a cloth.

"What is it?" I whisper.

"I don't know, Teacher won't tell until class starts," he whispered back. We spent the rest of the time before class guessing what might be under the cloth. I thought it might be a cake, I hoped it was a chocolate one with hundreds of thousands all over it. Simon thought it was a time machine because of every now and again it started to make a noise. Time machines are cool, but I still hoped it was a cake. The bell rang, and Teacher made us all sit in our chairs before she took the cloth off the secret. When she did, it wasn't a cake, and it wasn't a time machine, it was a million trillion times better. It was two white mice in a cage, one of them was running around on a yellow plastic wheel making a squeaking noise.

"WOW!" said the whole class together, even the girls. We all began rushing forward, but Teacher stopped us. She said we had to be gentle, two at a time she let us up to see them. Once we all had a look, she told us all about them, how to feed them, give them water and to change the straw in the bottom of the cage. All that week we looked after them, and by Friday things got even more exciting. Teacher said she had another surprise. She said two responsible students would get to take a mouse each home. Of course, my hand went straight up, but so did everyone else's. "Miss, miss, miss, miss," we all chanted, but she wouldn't pick. She said we were going to play a game and the winners would get the mice for the weekend.

Games are great! I'm good at games. She gave out strips of coloured paper and glue and told everyone to make a paper chain as long as their arm. This was easy, we'd done this before. When everyone had their chains made, she held up a basket and said she was going to draw out names for partners. One boy held up his hand and asked, "You mean we might have to play with the girls?"

The teacher only laughed and pulled out the first two names, who went up, and Teacher put their chains together then attached each end to a kids arm. Teacher explained that both would have to work together for the day and not break the chain. The last pair to break their chain would win. Teacher began drawing teams. At last, she pulled out a piece of paper with "Charlie" written in red marker. I jumped up and down with all my fingers crossed. "Simon, Simon, Simon," I chanted in my brain, but it didn't work. The name that came out was "Tom" written in horrible, snot-green, marker. TOM! I didn't want to play anymore, Tom never won anything.

"Come on," said Teacher, waving us up to the front. I walked up, hanging my head and dragging my feet. Tom didn't look like he was excited about this either. As we stood there being chained together, I glanced over at Tom. He was bigger than most of the kids in the class but nearly never gave Teacher the answers she was looking for, but that wasn't why I didn't want to be with him. It was playtime. When he was in the yard he was the loudest of all the boys, running around, pushing and shoving, always wanting to be first on the swings, or the climbing frame, and he even took things out of peoples lunch boxes and ate them. I told Mom once, and she said that was stealing which was a bad thing, and I should never do it. That's why I didn't want to be with Tom, he was a bad boy. When the chain was made, Tom went to go back to his chair, and I went to go back to Simon, already forgetting about the chain. We nearly broke it.

"Dumbo," he whispered when we got untangled. It was only then we realised we had to sit beside each other for the rest of the day. There was no space near Simon, so we had to sit at Tom's desk all the way in the back of the room. When we got there, he folded his arms on the desk and put his head down. I heard him say, "I really wanted to mind the mouse." He must have been talking to me, there was nobody else at the table.

"So did I," I said, and he raised his head a bit.

"We'll never win," he said, and he looked really sad.

"We can try," I said, and pointed at our chain. "Look, it's still together. We have a chance."

"You think," he asked, holding up his hand with the paper chain attached.

"I'll try if you will," I said. I really wanted to bring home a mouse too. He nodded and went to rub his nose with the back of his hand, stretching the chain tight.

"Careful, you nearly broke it," I said, checking the paper for rips.

"Sorry," he said, and his face went red.


When lessons started, the first thing Teacher wanted us to do was draw a picture of any animals that lived in our houses. I got busy with the crayons and soon had a great drawing of a ginger cat with the word "Snookie" over its head. Tom had his hand covering his paper as he worked. I asked for a look, and when he showed it to me, it was just a load of blue circles going around and around.

"What's that?"

"It's a spider web," he said, shoving it closer so I could see it better.

"Wow, you have a pet spider?" I imagined a huge hairy thing like the one I had seen in the pet shop. Tom went red again.

"Not a pet but there are loads in my house," he said and tried to hide the picture again. I don't know why but I started to feel sorry for Tom. He seemed sad, having no pets was a terrible thing. I decided not to say any more about it because it was upsetting him. One by one, kids began forgetting about their paper chains. As each one ripped, they would say, "Oh no!" and hold their hands up to their heads. Every time that happened, Tom let out a little giggle and said, "Ours is still ok." By the time break arrived, half the kids were out of the game already.

"Lunch," said teacher, clapping her hands. First, Tom and I went to my bag and got out my Spiderman lunchbox, then we went to Tom's bag and got out his silver one. The kids who were knocked out of the game were running and playing like always and normally Tom would be right in the middle of it. I was about to go out with everyone else when he held me back and said, "We better let them go out first." I nodded, and we waited till the room was empty. I saw Teacher smiling at us, she knew we wanted to win. We decided to go over to the sandbox to eat our lunch. We sat on the timber which held the sand back and opened our boxes. I got an apple, a small chocolate biscuit and two banana sandwiches, my favourite.

"What did you get?" I asked.

"Ham sandwich and a chocolate bar," he said, but wouldn't let me see in the box. He just closed the lid.

"Are you not hungry?" I asked.

"I'll eat them later," he said and bent over to put the tin at his feet. That was when two boys started wrestling in the sand behind us, and one went crashing into Tom, knocking him over. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I heard the rip as he hit the ground. He jumped up, but it was too late. He held up his arm and looked at the paper loops dangling from it. I thought he was going to cry, but he didn't. His face went very red as the boy who had knocked him ran away. He stood there and looked so mad, I'd never seen a kid look mad like that before. That was when he started shouting and running after all the other kids, pulling apart their paper chains.

Before Teacher could catch him, he'd broken every paper chain. Teacher marched him inside, and everyone in the yard was shocked at what he'd done. Nobody knew who was going to take home the mice now. My toe hit against Tom's lunch box, so I picked it up. The lid was open, I wasn't snooping, but there was nothing inside the box. No ham sandwich, no chocolate bar, only some crumpled tinfoil and crumbs. Tom was telling fib's as well. Why did he do that?


After the break, Teacher looked as mad as Tom had looked earlier. He was sitting alone at his table, his head resting on his hands and his ears were very red. Everyone was asking Teacher who was going to take home the mice and pointing at Tom saying it wasn't their fault he broke their chains.

"Sush! Sush!" cried Teacher until everyone stopped talking. "After what happened I don't think its a good idea that anyone gets to take home the mice today."

"What!" everyone shouted, everyone but Tom. Then everyone was saying it was Tom's fault, Tom was naughty, Tom was bold, Tom should be punished, but they should not. Teacher soon had enough and stamped her foot, stopping all the noise. "I've decided to take the mice home myself, and that's the end of it," she said, crossing her arms. There was no changing her mind. I saw lots of kids giving Tom angry looks, and I felt sorry for him. They were all pointing at him and said it was all his fault, but I knew that someone had broken our chain first. Nobody seemed to think that mattered, but I did. I was still sad when Mom came to collect me, and I told her all about the competition and what had happened. She said that Tom shouldn't have done what he did, even if someone else broke our chain, it was naughty. I was thinking about arguing, but sometimes grown-ups just don't understand kids.


All weekend I wondered what the school mice were doing in Teachers house. I wished I'd got to bring them home and let them play with Snookie, but Mom said it might not have ended well, whatever that means. Anyway, Monday came, and I was back at school and excited to see the school mice again. As classes started, I saw Tom sitting all by himself. Everyone was still mad at him, and none of the kids would talk to him. It wasn't fair, someone had broken our chain first, that had to count for something?  Lunchtime came, and I saw Tom take his silver lunch box and go all the way to the corner of the yard and sit on the grass. I didn't think it was right he should be alone so I asked Simon if we should go over, but he was still mad at Tom and said he was a meanie. I looked from Tom to Simon and back again. Simon was my best friend in the world but what was happening to Tom wasn't right. Nobody should have to eat lunch by themselves. I stood up and walked to the far side of the yard leaving Simon behind.

"Hi Tom," I said, and sat on the grass beside him.

"Hi," he said and sounded very sad.

"You shouldn't have broken the chains," I said.

"I know, I'm sorry about that, but they won't talk to me." All I could do was nod because he was right. I opened my lunch box and saw that today I had an orange, two crackers with cheese and a jam sandwich. I looked over and saw that Tom's lunch box was still closed.

"What did you get?"

"Ham sandwich and a chocolate bar," he said, and this time I knew he was fibbing.

"I got jam, I don't like jam. Will you eat half for me?"

"Really?"

"Yea," I said, and handed him half my sandwich. His eyes grew big, and the sandwich vanished in two huge bites. His cheeks puffed out, just like the mice did when they were full of food. It was so funny I laughed out loud, and Tom grinned, his mouth still full of mashed up bread and jam. Some of the other kids in the yard looked over to see what we were laughing about but didn't come talk to us. After, I gave him one of my crackers but kept the orange for myself. We played together for the rest of the break, and when we went back to class, he gave me a huge smile and said, "Thanks for the sandwich, it was the best one ever." I went back to sit beside Simon, and he seemed to be mad at me now.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Tom's naughty, you shouldn't be friends with him."

"He's not so naughty really, he's just hungry." I could tell by Simon's face he didn't understand, but then how could he. He never opened his lunch box to find nothing inside.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Running for Home.

“Be back before eleven!”

“Jesus, Mom, I’m not a kid.”

“Eleven.”


“Alright already,” she said, slamming the door. God, she was such a worrywart, always nagging, always wanting to know where she was going, who she was meeting, what she was doing. Would the woman not get a life for herself and stop living through her? She walked down the drive and around the corner, wondering if he was going to be there. Toby was older by two years, a senior already while she was still a freshman. When she caught sight of the ten year old dodge idling at the kerb her heart beat a little faster. She skipped along to the car and threw herself into the passenger seat.

"Any trouble getting away?" he asked, checking his mirror and pulling out. He looked good, and the car rumbled sexily. The diamond stud he wore in his ear flashed in the dwindling sunlight, and his teeth were so white they could be diamond too. She had been bowled over when he approached her in the mall and asked her to a party. She knew him from school of course, but he'd never spoken to her before. He was, like, so cool.

"OMG, she's like, unbelievable," she huffed, staring out the window in what she hoped passed for a wistful pout.

"You're here, that's all that matters. Did you tell her you were meeting me?"

"Nope said I was going to Shanna's, but they're away so if she calls, the phone will ring out. Clever huh?"

"Sure was, babe. Tonight's going to be wild!" he said, throwing his chin to the roof of the car and howling like a wolf. It was primal sound, one which plucked her animalistic strings. They drove into the evening laughing like loons.


They drove right out of Littlerock and onto the interstate. It hadn't dawned on her to ask where the party was, she just assumed it was going to be at someone’s house from school. Could he actually be taking her to a college party? Oh wow, imagine that. She smiled over at him but he kept his eyes on the road. She wondered how she never noticed him looking at her before, she sure spent enough time watching him. It was getting dark as they turned off the turnpike and started climbing up into the mountains. She didn't exactly know this area but she sure knew there were no colleges all the way out here.

"Where is this party?" she asked, looking across at Toby for reassurance. Surely he would see how unsettling this was to her? He grinned as he guided the car through the twisting bends with one hand on the wheel and one resting on the back of her seat. He began stroking her hair, and his fingers played down the back of her neck sending tiny electric shocks running down her back. "Not much further, the rest should be there already."

That was something at least. She'd heard stories about these secret gatherings, where everyone would meet at a deserted barn or something, hundreds of people with a DJ and beer and well... everything. A pop-up festival, that must be where he was taking her. He drove on, the road getting narrower and higher with every passing minuet. A thrill ran through her, this was living, exciting friends, exciting adventures, living on the edge. This was what she always knew she was destined for and this was what her mother seemed determined she wouldn't have. The road ended in a small turnaround. They parked and Toby took a tent and a rucksack from the boot. They walked into the gloom with her dancing on his arm, setting out on an adventure of a lifetime. Fallen pine needles crunched underfoot, singing softly as they welcomed her into the darkness. Deeper and deeper they ventured, leaving light and normality behind. She strained her ears for the distant sounds of music or voices but all she got was the whisper of the wind through the branches. Her mind became giddy as she toyed with the notion they were becoming extraordinary, one of the chosen few, those that lived above the world and beyond the pale. Life wasn't for living, it was for devouring, and she was starving.

A clearing appeared before them and light flickered, illuminating the lowest branches of the trees. There was no DJ with pulsing light shows, there were no throngs of joyous kids, all that lay before her were three tatty looking tents and four boys lounging on a log before a fire pit. Toby called out and they grinned when they saw him. One held out a bottle of bourbon to him and he chugged from it greedily. None of them seemed interested in talking to her, it was as if she were invisible. In that moment every exalted feeling inside of her died. A shudder ran up along her body and goose bumps sprang up on her skin.

"Where are the others?" she whispered in Toby's ear.

"What others, this is it," he said, with a dismissive smirk as he dropped his ass on the log and passed the bottle along the line of boys. After a moment he introduced her, but to her ear, it nearly sounded resentful, as if she were an uninvited guest at a gathering of friends. The others nodded and said hi, one moved over a little so she would have a spot on the log. She sat down, and he moved in against her, his jeans pressed against the bare flesh of her leg protruding under the dress she wore. She gathered the fabric in her hand and pulled it as low as it would go, which was not so low at all. They passed her the bottle, and she took a hit, the liquor burned her throat.

Night fell fully before Toby had the tent up and she couldn't help noticing he only unpacked one sleeping bag. Where was hers? Or was that meant to be theirs? She was no prude but she hardly knew the guy. Beer and whisky flowed and hours passed. The boy's voices grew harsher and louder, the jokes got filthier. She tried telling them she had enough to drink but they kept insisting she take some, to get the party started they said. She felt alone in this gathering, crushed together on a fallen tree. One of the boys kept touching her, rubbing against her, and all Toby did was grin when it happened. When Toby went for a pee she followed.

"I think we should go," she said, seriously.

"Go where?" he said lasciviously and wrapped his arms around her planting them firmly on the cheeks of her ass.

"Home," she said, pushing him off her.

"Home?" he said, his face turning ugly. "I thought you knew how to party?"

"Of course I do, but this isn't much of a party, is it?" she asked, waving back at the drunken teens spitting into the fire.

"Not yet, but things are going to get much better. You'll love it, they all do," he said, spanking her behind as he walked back to the camp. They all do? What's that meant to mean?  She followed him back to the fireside, watching him guffaw to his mates like a pack of hyenas. She had no choice but to sit back down and hope. As the level of whisky in the bottle diminished, the lust-laden looks began to multiply, and not just from Toby. When the guy beside her slipped his hand between her thighs, she knew she'd been a fool to come all the way out here with a bunch of guys she barely knew.
She jumped to her feet, slapping the hand away, and demanded, "Take me home!"

Toby just grinned.

"Fine, I'll make my own way," she said, storming off in the direction she thought the car lay. As she left they boys broke out laughing and cat calling after her.

"Where do you think you're going?" Toby called. She didn't answer, and fear made her lengthen her stride. She knew there was danger in those skinny boys, danger she didn't want to see before. That was when she heard them coming. Behind her, they crashed through the bushes and howled like animals. She ran for her life, but she had no idea where she was headed. Every direction looked the same. All she knew was she had to get away from them.

The path she was following soon vanished and she forced her way through the undergrowth, ignoring the sharp branches as they scraped her naked legs. No matter how hard she ran, they kept gaining ground on her. In desperation she leapt over a thicket and was shocked to find no ground on the other side. She crashed down a slope in a brain rattling roll until she was spit out onto a narrow strip of tarmac. She raised her spinning eyes and was shocked to see a huge truck barrelling toward her. Breaks screamed, smoke rose from the locked up wheels as the huge cab shimmied first left, then right but always bearing down on her. She closed her eyes and knew she would never again open them. She felt nothing crush her or rip into her flesh, or was she already dead? She opened her eyes and stared at her distorted refection on the chrome bumper of the truck. She let out a breath and the image before her fogged up. A pair of boots hit the ground and came running toward her.

"Are you ok miss?" he said, reaching down to help her up.

"Yea," she said shakily, but she wasn't one bit sure she was.

"You came out of nowhere, you could have gotten yourself killed," he said, the shock making him a bit sharp. She took a proper look at him and was surprised how young the trucker was, he was little older than Toby. He had kind eyes and she could feel his work-hardened skin as he gently held her elbow. She couldn't think, so much had happened, her mind felt drunk, as if she'd downed the whole bottle of whisky not just a few sips. High above them on the slope she heard Toby's voice call her name. It was like being slapped in the face by an invisible hand. She grabbed the trucker by the arm and pleaded. "Mister, could you give me a lift to the next town?" there was a quiver in her voice.

He looked at her and frowned, "You don't live up here?"

"No, Littlerock," she said and watched him push his baseball cap.

"You're a long way from home."

"I know," she said and felt her throat tighten up as tears threatened to come. She heard bushes rustle as the boys closed in on her. She had to get away from here, this man was her only hope.

"Gosh, I don't know," he said as if she were the dangerous one, but then something changed in his features as he came to a decision. "I guess I can't leave you out here. Hop on." As she opened the passenger door she heard the bushes up on the ridge shake, they were right on top of her. In that second, climbing into a truck with a complete stranger seemed like the safest thing in the world. Air hissed out as he engaged gears and the big rig started to move. As the wheels gathered pace the driver reached out and stroked a white rabbit’s foot which dangled from his sun-visor. Was this man saving her, or had she just made things a whole lot worse. She felt like she should say something.

"Thanks so much for this," she said, but she had one hand resting on the door handle, ready to bail out if necessary. Only a few hours ago she could see nothing but good in the world, and now she could see nothing but danger.

"It's alright. How the blazes did you end up all the way up here?"

Something about the young trucker was comforting, and for some unknown reason she spilt out every detail of the story. She told about being invited to the party and sneaking out with Toby and the things that happened. She could see the young man's jaw clenching in anger she described them chasing her through the forest.

"You should have told your Mom where you were going? Do you know how dangerous that was?"

"I guess I do now, but I knew she wouldn't have let me go. She never lets me do anything. She treats me like a kid all the time."

"I guess to her you are, and more important, you’re her kid. She only wants to keep you safe."

"I guess, but she can't keep me locked away forever."

"And what about you’re Dad?"

"Don't have one," she said, looking down at her scuffed and bloodied knees.

"Course you do, everyone has a Dad."

"Well, not me. Mom never talks about him so what kind of a Dad is that?"

"A bad one I guess," he said, and she saw the look on his face, it was filled with pain as if the words she'd used hurt him.

"Have you any kids?" she asked, trying to take the spotlight off her. The young trucker changed in a second. It was as if someone turned on a million watt bulb in his soul.

"One, kind of," he said, grinning ear to ear.

"How can you, kind of, have a kid?"

"Well, that's why I'm in such a rush. My girl has gone into labour."

"Oh my GOD! That's amazing," she squealed, and she saw him reach out and touch the rabbit’s foot again.

"It is, it sure is," he said and sounded flabbergasted by the enormity of it.

"Do you want a boy or a girl?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't care as long as they are healthy. I've never been so scared in my life. I still feel like a kid myself." he said, letting her see a little of his own insecurity.

"You're not married?"

"No, my girl's parents won't stand for it. They won't even let me see her, but I'm not missing this no matter what they say." There was determination in the guy, she could see it. He was little older than she was but this was a man, a real man.

"Your baby is lucky to have you," she said, and she meant it. The young trucker looked over at her and gave her the happiest, saddest, smile she had ever seen. In the reflected glow of the dash, she was sure she saw a tear.

They rolled further down the mountain, and she realised not one other car passed them. It dawned on her how lucky she had been to fall out on the road at the moment she did. A minute earlier, or later, and she would have been trapped with those animals. She shuddered at the thought of all the things that might have happened. She let out a shuddering sigh as if trying to get rid of the thought and as if reading her mind the young trucker reached out and stroked the rabbit’s foot one more time.

Soon the road levelled out, and the trees vanished. In the distance, a small cluster of houses appeared, and a half dozen street lights lit up the dark.

"You can leave me here," she said, sure the man would want to be rid of her.

"I'm passing Littlerock, I can drop you home," he said.

"You sure you don't mind?"

"Don't be silly," he said and drove through the sleepy cluster of buildings as they pushed north. The interstate was empty at this hour of the night and as the miles passed the trucker seemed to lapse into thought. Out of the blue he reached out and stroked his furry charm, and she asked, "Why do you do that?"

"What?" he asked, a little confused.

"Rub that?" she said, pointing at the talisman swinging from sun-visor.

"Oh, it's my luck. I rub it for luck or sometimes to remind myself how lucky I already am."

"So why did you touch it that time?"

"I was thinking of my baby, and I got scared."

"Oh!"

"Yea, and my girl. It’s a big thing, and I'm not there to help. Even if I was, what could I do?"

"Just be there, I guess. Do you best," she said and wondered where those words came from.

"Ha! That's true. You're a bit of a genius," he said, teasing her.

"A genius who nearly got herself raped or killed by being stupid."

"Well there is that," he said, trying to be funny to take the sting out of the truth.

She could see in this man, what she saw every day in her mother, but wouldn't acknowledge. Like him, her Mom was just doing her best, trying to make sure her baby was safe. She looked back on the way she acted, how spiteful she was, and all the harsh words that she threw. She felt more stupid than ever for making an already difficult job impossible. When she got home, she was going to make all that right, she promised it to herself. She looked over at the young trucker and for some reason she felt safe, safer than she had felt in a long time. It might have been the rocking of the cab, or the shock, or the warm air coming from the vents but she couldn't stop herself drifting into sleep. A second passed or possibly two before she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"You're home," he said, smiling at her. Through her sleepy eyes, she thought he looked like a young Johnny Cash. Outside the window was her house with all its lights burning. It was late, must be at least four in the morning.

"How did you know where I live?" she asked and yawned.

"You told me, then went back to sleep, don't you remember," he said with a grin. She didn't, but she must have done it.

"Thanks so much for everything," she said and pulled back on the handle. Before she got out, he leaned over and handed her the little rabbit’s foot.

"What's that for?" she asked.

"Luck, and to remind you of me," he said, as she climbed down from the truck.

As she looked up at him, she knew he was someone she'd carry in her heart for the rest of her life. "I'll always remember what you did for me," she said and closed the door. Air whooshed from the breaks, and the tuck glided away from the pavement. She watched it go and felt terribly sad, it was like losing a friend she'd known her whole life even though she had only known the trucker a couple of hours.

She began walking up the path when the front door leapt open, and her mother came rushing toward her. She braced herself for a telling off, but her mother grabbed her in a huge bear hug. She kept saying, "I was so worried," and crying.

"I'm sorry Mom," she said and hugged her back. She hadn't felt this close to her mother in years.

"Where have you been? What happened?" she asked looking down at her grazed knees and scraped skin.

"It's a long story, I'll tell you inside, but I'm ok. Nothing happened, well nothing too bad." Her mother raised a hand to her mouth and all the colour drained from her skin. Together they went inside and closed the door on a dangerous and spiteful world.

She sat on the couch and started to tell her mother about Toby and how he asked her to the party. Her Mom looked so frightened she reached out and took her hand, forgetting she still held the truckers lucky charm. Her Mom looked down at the little white piece of fluff and seemed shocked.

"Where did you get that?" she asked, taking the key ring and examining it very closely, her eyes growing wide. 

"I was going to tell you, this young trucker came along and kind of rescued me. He dropped me home and gave me..."

"His luck," said her mother, finishing the sentence for her.

"Yes, how did you know that was what he said?" Her mother didn't answer but instead asked, "What did he look like?" and her words trembled.

"Nice, good looking really. He was young only twenty, tall, skinny, jet black hair and a nice smile. I thought he looked like Johnny Cash."

The words were no sooner out than her mother began to sob and rushed off toward her bedroom. She was shocked and chased after her trying to explain that the trucker had been the one to save her, it was Toby and his mates that tried to hurt her. She arrived in the bedroom to find her mother scattering old photos on the bed and searching through them frantically.

"What is it Mom?" she asked, but her mother wouldn't, or couldn't, get an explanation out. Then she found what she was looking for and handed over a black and white photo with trembling fingers. It was the trucker.

"I don't understand," she said. What was her mother doing with this?

"I should have told you, I should have told you years ago," she sobbed.

"Told me what?"

"I was so young, so very young," she cried. "I loved him so much, he was good, a real good boy. Then I found out I was pregnant and my family went crazy. I needed him so much, and he just vanished. It was the hardest time in my life."

"You're saying this guy I met was my Dad, that's impossible. He's only a few years older than me," she said, thinking the shock of everything had knocked her mother off-kilter, making her see things that weren't there at all.

"No there's more. You see the night I went into labour I was terrified, and even though he had abandoned me, I needed him to be with me. I got a nurse to get a message to his family but he still never showed up. He broke my heart. That day, when you were only minutes old, I held you in my arms and vowed you'd never need anyone but me. I was going to be mother and father to you, seeing as your real father didn't want to be there."

"And you were, you are, I'm sorry I made things so hard for you, I really am," she said, seeing how much her mother had sacrificed for her, but the story wasn't finished yet.

"It was all a lie," said her mother.

"What was?"

"He never left me, he was driven away, by your grandfather. I only found out years later. My father threatened him, told him he'd move me away to a place he'd never find me, unless he left me alone. I don't know why he did it, but he did. That night, the night you were born, my message got through and he was coming, threats or no threat. He drove across two states like a maniac trying to make it on time but he never made it at all. He wrecked on the interstate, died instantly. I should have told you but you were already six and I had told so many lies I didn't know how to tell the truth. I'm sorry, I should have told you about your Dad, he was a good man, and he always reminded me of Johnny Cash too."

"It couldn't have been him, he's dead," she said, struggling with all she had learned.

Her mom held up the rabbit foot, "This was his, I knew it the moment I saw it. He called it his luck."

"That means..."


"It took him fifteen years, but he made it." her Mom said and wrapped her arms around her. As they hugged, she reached out and lifted the rabbit’s foot from the bed and stroked it. Deep in her soul she always had a feeling, it was like she was never really alone and now she knew why. He'd been there, he'd always been there, watching over her and when she needed him most, he appeared, her hero, her Dad.