The Garden

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Catholic_monks_in_Jerusalem_2006“Will you be comfortable there, Father? Can I bring you a blanket?”

The novitiate is over-solicitous, as those fresh to the calling tend to be, and he tests Father Ignatius’s patience at times. “A blanket, indeed? Now that would be an indulgent sin, would it not? ” The old Abbot replies.“I wonder, Brother, would you ask Brother Thomas to come and see me when he is spared from his tasks? I would like him to sit with me for a while, if he can. Oh! (As the young brother moves to depart) And you might ask him to bring a blanket, should he be able.”

The novitiate fades into the green fog of the garden, leaving not a memory behind.

With a contented sigh Father Ignatius leans back on the hard timber bench while his rheumy eyes explore the mist, wandering among those vague splashes of colored flowers which are impressions on his palette of memory, remembered rather than seen. For he sees so little now. There is campion where Brother Paul will always plant it, already in bloom, a brave red slash along the bed before the wall, and there the meadow-sweet and flowering thyme, in softer more subtle hues. From the orchard on the hill a message comes, a gentle scent of apple blossom on the breeze – a breeze now chill to these old bones, though the sun is strong. And this is his garden, sight and scent, and this the hum of bees, and this, his world.

Left alone, his mind quickly fades to sleep. His breath cracks in his chest. Wafts of grey habit drift by, hither and thither, with greetings he scarcely hears.

“Good day to you, Father!”

“God bless you, Father!”

These, his children, some who will pause to touch his hand as they pass, some who will not. On the edge of rest he sighs in sorrow for them. Brother Thomas brings news often of the new King, so discontented with his Spanish Queen, whose dialogue with the Church is tainted by violence and hatred; and Thomas fears he would burn down this sanctified place. Father Ignatius makes a silent prayer for his King who, though god himself, needs his true God’s grace.

He has dozed awhile, has he not? The sun has dropped lower over the presbytery roof, casting its long shadow like a cloak across the grass. How long has he slept? Has he missed Vespers? Why has Brother Thomas not come for him? Some more pressing business, Father Ignatius suspects, for his good friend will soon be abbot in his place, an office he already conducts in all but name. Yet the bees still hum their own plainsong, and the birds’ jealous melodies of evening are scripture to eyes which can see the written word no more. So perhaps God will forgive him his omission this once? Father Ignatius settles his conscience with a word or two of prayer, and drifts.

Again? Has he yielded to sin and slept again?

I am cold.

“I am cold.” Father Ignatius says, but no words come. From deep within something is reaching for him, and someone stands behind him, someone he cannot feel or see. There is a roaring sound in his head like the surf he played upon in his youth, pounding and pounding. He sees himself, a child again. He sees the beach, and Marian whom he loved once, smiling her welcome, her skin fresh and shining in the salt spray.

A new journey has begun – a journey for which he has been preparing all his life.

Around Father Ignatius a mist is closing, a grey cloak that curls and swirls like speech, but has no sound. Yet there is sound. Voices: strange voices that speak in words he scarcely understands.

“Through here. Try this door.” A young man.

“You first!” A girl or a young woman, fearful.

A lance of light, stabbing, flickering! Suddenly, rapidly, they materialize before him. The young man bears the light in his hand. He is short-haired and beardless. The woman is dressed shamefully in just a loose vest and a strip of cloth about her hips. There, for a moment, Father Ignatius sees as though the veils of age have been entirely lifted, and the woman sees him too. Their eyes meet. She screams in horror. The young man drops the lance of light. Both figures turn, to be lost once more in the mist.

Brother Thomas will discover Father Ignatius still seated in his customary place in the garden after Compline, as the last traces of evening fade. With the neglectfulness of youth his novitiate never gave him the ancient abbot’s message. Filled with remorse Brother Thomas will drop to his knees to give his old departed friend the Last Rites. As he does so, his knee will find something hard half-buried in the grass and he will pick up this object, a black cylinder. He will be amazed to discover that in response to his touch it will emit a piercing light.

© Frederick Anderson 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

The Rape of Innocence

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Mistakenly or not, I associate the word ‘innocence’ with childhood. The care-free faces of infancy are blank pages upon which the messages of life have yet to be written, and I cannot be happy if the first lines of care appear too soon. I believe the ten-year face should be that of a child, not a person in miniature. So when I hear that members of Ofsted, the authority responsible for educational standards in UK, are loitering in a playground with children of that age, asking them (allegedly) questions to test their knowledge of homosexuality and lesbianism, I worry.

Especially if they gauge the efficacy of a school by the answers they receive.

Now I have no quarrel with any form of sexual relationship between consenting partners, and I am not homophobic, but I do question the judgment of educators who are apparently so passionate about sex education that they feel it necessary to bombard our children with textbook John and Jane as soon as the poor little blighters get within range.

Whence springs this obsession with sex? Who are these people, burrowing and scrabbling away in the soft soil of childhood as they search for some kernel of perversion which will justify imposing their formulaic style of physical relationship? What is the real agenda here? And yes, I am suspicious; because in my experience those who show such inquisitive interest in this area do have an agenda of their own.

Why are so many hands raised in such horror at the thought that our children might be ‘exposed’ to porn, as though it was some death-ray that must destroy their lives? Why isn’t the same energy expended upon violent, increasingly realistic video games which display amoral values and cheapen life; or upon those who consider it valid to allow children to handle lethal weapons, or those who argue for the legalization of drugs?

Or those who manipulate child minds by advertising?

Or those who see the overwhelming evidence that social media is being misused, and turn away?

Somebody quantify for me, please, what actual damage is done to child minds by pornography? Emotive posturing aside, show me how many children become dangerous perverts because they saw a couple of films on line that were a little more than ‘educational’?

Then balance your result against – again, show me – those whose willingness to resort to gross, hideous violence is enhanced by exposure to violence on the screen; or those who, tragically, take lives (including their own) triggered by the ostracism, bullying and humiliation that can be inflicted so easily on Twitter, or Face Book, or…..?

The undeniable fact that we teach the wrong taboos to our children seems to indicate that the wrong people are doing the teaching. I would argue strongly that issues such as homosexuality must be discussed with the young, but not at ten years old.

If we must educate children in adult matters let’s expend the time instead on teaching them the hazards of grooming, how to deal with bullying, and how to preserve their privacy and their dignity online, in the playground, or in the streets. Easy enough to show a child of ten that the person who is so anxious they should become proficient in the use of weapons, or share personal information about themselves is not necessarily a good person.  There are clear guidelines that can be drawn if this is part of curriculum, rather than something sidestepped with a cautionary word or two after the event.

We have to be honest with ourselves. Curiosity is a part of growing: without it we would never learn anything. Children will find their way to knowledge we would often prefer to keep hidden, and we have to blame progress for opening a thousand new doors every day to the inquisitive mind. But we have to show courage in seeking out and dealing with the aggressive predators who use those doors to wreak destruction, whether their tool is religion, or the bullet, or blackmail.

Otherwise, leave the innocents alone. Trust them. They will find their way.

Birdie

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accordion-217567_640Birdie?  Yes, I knew Birdie.

The third house from the end, on our side of the street; that’s where Birdie lived, and had lived ever since I could remember.  He was a part of my growing up, someone I either met, saw or heard every day from my first walk to school right up to the time when I moved to the City.   Birdie was an institution, a fixture, a feature of the street.  If you wanted to sell your house to someone, you told them about Birdie.  He added color.  When friends came to supper, they asked about him.

“How’s Birdie these days?”

“Oh, fine.  Same as usual.”

Birdie played a piano accordion:  not well, but enthusiastically.  When you walked past, you’d suddenly find your steps being matched by a loud Souza march.  Looking up, you’d see Birdie’s grinning face at his window and his fingers flying across the keys as he belted the music out of that old squeeze-box, completely unashamed of the odd missed note.

Most people who lived in our street had attitudes where kids were concerned.  I blame that on Baz.  Baz was my mate, and we still communicated, if you know what I mean, right up to five years ago, although Baz had trouble with words of more than one syllable and he couldn’t spell even those.  Text-speak came as a lifeline to Baz.

Baz’s problem was existence.  His, I mean.  If he didn’t turn up, everything went fine.  When he did, nothing went fine.  Baz could make a discussion out of ‘hello’.  Baz could make an argument out of any discussion, and Baz’s arguments always ended up with Baz hitting someone. So most people in our street had attitudes where kids were concerned; because kids meant Baz, and Baz broke windows – and legs.

Now Birdie never shared those attitudes; somehow, when us kids went visiting Birdie, Baz would become as quiet as the mice we knew lived in Birdie’s kitchen, although they never came right out and admitted it.

Birdie loved kids – no, I don’t mean in some covert, perverse way – though if he had I don’t suppose we would have realized.  He somehow knew what we were tuned into, he could read our needs and fulfill our dreams in his inimitably simple way.  He was the one who discovered Baz’s love of magic tricks, so he spent a lot of trouble making boiled eggs appear behind Baz’s ears, and setting up the card tricks that always, always mystified my poor, really very susceptible friend.  Mara, he understood her love of fairy cakes, so every time Mara and I popped in the door, there’d be a plate of cakes somewhere about the place.

Mara’s girth underwent subtle expansion with the years.  Her parents could never figure out why, but I knew.

As for me, I was an absolute junky for science fiction – anything that could fly was a spaceship, and Captain Kirk was my all-time hero.   The first time he found out, Birdie stopped playing his accordion (he was halfway through ‘Danny Boy’, just at the ‘it’s I’ll be here’ bit) and took me by the shoulder.

“Feel that?”  His hand was gripping my collar bone.

“Nah.”  I said; then:  “Feel what?”

“The tingle, lad.  The vibration.”  And do you know, I thought I could, a bit.  Birdie’d do that to you.

“Whoa!  What’s that then, Birdie?”

“It’s the residual charge at the periphery of a force-field, lad!  There’s a very powerful anti-matter disturbance.”

“Wha’ – in here?”

“Yes, son, in here.  This house was built – wait for it – on the very edge of a time-space continuum!  Aye!”  Birdie struck a dramatic cord on his bass keys.

Humor him.  “Aw!  It’s close, is it?”

“Aye, very.  In a different dimension, mind you, but close.  No more than a couple of miles below us!”

“Why can’t we see it?”

“Because I keep it contained, lad: I have to!  There’s a worm-hole leads directly from this room!”

In spite of myself, I felt I was seeing Birdie’s room for the first time.  I looked everywhere, and a little, believing part of me wanted to see that worm-hole, even though I didn’t really know what it would look like.  “What happens if you step on it?”  I asked.

“Oh, I’d never do that!  And neither must you.  One touch and you’ll drop through into another universe!  You’ll never be seen again!”

“That’s not safe!”  Mara had been silent all this time, busy demolishing one of Birdie’s cakes, but one look at her told me Birdie had got her absolutely hooked.  She was standing staring at us with her frosting-smeared mouth open, and tears were rolling down her cheeks.

“Oh, it’s all right, lass!”  Birdie soothed.  “I told ye, I’ve got it contained.   That there table is right over the top of it.”

Saucer-eyed, Mara and I gazed at Birdie’s heavy old Victorian dining table.  A massive mahogany construction of prodigious proportions, it had been in the centre of the room for as long as I could remember.  In my recollection though, I had never before shown such interest in the stacks of wooden boxes jammed beneath it.  Crawling examination of Birdie’s worm-hole was not an option.

“You’ve never moved that table?” I challenged him. “Haven’t you ever wanted to see?”

“I daren’t, lad.”

“Scared you might fall in?”

“Scared what might come through from the other side, more like!  I’ve heard noises, lad.  I’ve heard them trying!   In the night-time they come.  Its a good job that table’s heavy as it is, mind.  They’d be through!”

“What – aliens?  Like, real aliens?”

“Must be, aye.”

Just then, Baz’s football thumped against the outside wall of the house, which was Baz’s usual way of announcing himself, and the spell was broken.  By the time I came to remind myself of Birdie’s science fiction tale, it had reduced to a pleasing exercise of the imagination; no more or less than all his other tales.

I suppose our parents must have had ambivalent feelings about Birdie, even in those innocent, far-off days.  They enjoyed deriding his rough, untutored music, or making social capital out of his eccentric dress (he never wore socks, for example), or his untidy home.  When he ventured out into the street, which was rare, his loud, yellow check trousers prompted my Dad to call him Rupert, though I never found out why.  His brown cardigan had leather patches on the elbows, and holes everywhere else.

Mrs. Purberry from number 42, ‘Dunborrowin’, pronounced her usual verdict upon anyone who lived alone:  “What that man needs is a good woman.”  Others were less kind, but suffered his proclivities because his love of us kids gave us somewhere to go on wet afternoons when our Mums needed a ‘bit of peace’, so no-one would ignore him if they met him in the street, and no-one could ignore that piano-accordion when he began to play.

These are old memories.  As the years passed my friends and I grew out of that childhood wonderland at the third house from the end.  I confess, with sadness, how readily Birdie was forgotten.  Maybe others took our places to listen to Birdie’s playing, I can’t say for sure.  I went to University, Mara went to Art College and Baz went to jail.   The best part of twenty years passed before I chanced to ask my mother, on one of my occasional trips home from the City, about Birdie.

“Still wears those bloody awful trousers!”  She said cheerfully.  “And still playing that bloody awful squeeze-box of his.”  Then she added darkly:  “He’s married now, you know:  or at least, he says he is.”

“Birdie!  Married?”

“Well, let’s put it this way.  No-one in this street was invited to the wedding, if there was one.  But if you’re visiting, prepare yourself.  She’s a gorgeous girl!  Middle eastern, I think.  We all believe she’s a mail order bride.”

That was it!  I set off as soon as I decently could for the third house from the end.  The differences in the place were obvious; curtains in the windows, new paint, a gleaming blue car standing outside.

Birdie answered the door, looking a little older, maybe, but he had one of those faces that belied the years.  “Why, if it isn’t…  You took your time, lad.  I thought we’d lost you!  Come in, meet the wife!”

Admitted to that parlor where so many fantasies had been spawned, I absorbed the shock all grown-ups must accept when they return to the places they knew when they were young:  how small it was, how unlike the room I remembered.   The gargantuan table that had seemed so formidable was just a table, and it no longer dominated the centre of the room but was placed against the wall.  There was no sign of the wooden boxes.

“No worm-hole, then, Birdie?”

Was there just a brief hesitation before he laughed at me?  “Why no, we closed that up long ago!”

“I didn’t think you could.”  I answered lamely, feeling foolish.

“Terrible things, those wormholes!”

“Yes.”  I felt awkward, beginning to wish I hadn’t come.

“Here’s the wife!  Let’s have some tea!”

As she floated in through the door from the kitchen, I could see why my mother had guessed Birdie’s wife was Eurasian, though I knew instantly she was not.  Her skin was not quite olive in color, her height exceeded her husband’s, yet she was impossibly slender and elegant in build; almost wand-like.  Her greeting was augmented by a slow smile and she extended a hand to me.

“You’re meant to place it on your cheek.”  Birdie said.  “That’s how we greet each other.”

So I took her two-fingered hand in mine and her warmth coursed through me; the same warmth, I was sure, that gave her a soft green glow in the twilight of the curtained room.  “Hello.”  I said, as soon as I trusted myself to speak.  I raised those fingers to my cheek and the tingle, the vibration Birdie taught me to feel all those years ago flooded my being once more.

“So you did let someone through.”  I said.

“You’re right.  Just one.”  Birdie said.  “We can’t close worm-holes, but Araguaar can.”

#

© Frederick Anderson 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

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A poem about pancakes by Dick Hercules

frederick anderson:

A tantalizingly brief insight into the mind of Diklitous Hercules…

Originally posted on waltbox:

dick hercules Mr. Hercules, as seen from “his good side”

Dear Readers,

Some of you may know that on occasion I do function as agent for other (ahem)…writers. At the behest of my client, Diklitous Phantasos Hercules, I somewhat reluctantly post the following. I wish it be known that it is not my choice to do so. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.

Yours,

Walt

Greetings to my legions of Lady Loves, and to my Manly Admirers! I am come to offer you a satisfying meal of words! These were etched on a hilltop in what was once Macedonia. I hope they mean as much to you as they do to me. They have been published elsewhere, so if you have read them before, I am sorry that you cannot enjoy them again like you did the first time. To those who are encountering them…

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In the Park

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I know that some of these stories are a little long and I thank you for your patience if you take the time to read them, but I am reluctant to edit too heavily because I feel I would sacrifice some of the essential pace that makes a story live. Please feel free to censure me if I am wrong… couple-294284_640 “I think you’re very beautiful.” Martin said.

Alana felt the hot scarlet of a blush as it crept up her graceful neck, the way it always did whenever she was surprised by a compliment, no matter how clumsily it was delivered or by whom. “Thank you. I wish I deserved that.” She said with a shy smile.

“I saw you and I thought…” Martin hesitated, gathering his strength; “I thought I must speak. I simply had to speak. I often walk Rufus in this park, but I don’t remember seeing you here before.”

“No. I don’t suppose you do. I’m new here, you see. We just moved in to the new apartments over there. Your dog is very clever.”

“Yes. You can pet him if you like. He’s extremely gentle.”

Alana crouched in front of the fair-haired Labrador, offering her delicate long fingers for Rufus to get her scent before she gently scratched his ear. “You’re a clever boy!” She praised him. “Without you I would have lost my diary. Thank you.” And Rufus pressed his head against her hand, wagging his tail furiously. She looked up at the young man. “I wish I had a treat for him.”

“Oh please don’t worry. He’s a natural retriever, you see. It isn’t a trick to Rufus; he just can’t help himself. He saw you’d left your book on the bench when you walked away and he went straight to it. It’s what he does.”

“Well, I’m very grateful.”

“I wonder…” the young man was tongue-tied again. “I wonder if someone as lovely as you would ever consider going out to dinner with someone like me?”

Alana smiled her demurest smile. He was very uncertain of himself, this young man, and some might have thought him a little creepy, but she recognized the loneliness in him and understood. He was good-looking, if you took away those heavy-rimmed glasses, made him trim those lank strands of black hair.

“I would love to.” She said.

They met at Sardi’s on the Quayside, where they feasted on lobster that had been landed that morning and drank white wine from Bourgogne. He learned that Alana lived with her mother and an elder brother and they had arrived in town only a week ago. She learned what she had first suspected: that Martin lived alone in a small bedsit overlooking the park.

He was lonely, she decided. “You don’t have any relatives?”

“Not here. They live up-country.”

“You don’t get to see them very often?”

“Scarcely at all. My father and I, we argue every time we meet.”

“So when did you last see him?”

“Oh – years.” Martin was a software engineer. “I’m sort of freelance. I don’t get much work these days…”

“I bet you’re very good…”

“Things move so fast – I don’t keep up so well.”

Alana smiled consolingly, placing her hand on his. “Martin, I can help you.”

Martin walked her home, and by the time they reached her door he was clinging to her hand as though his life depended upon it. He looked up to her windows to see there was a light shining there. “Your mum and your brother – I expect they’re home.” He said wistfully.

“I think they are.” She said.

“Will I see you again?”

“What about tomorrow evening, when you’re walking Rufus in the park? I’d love to join you then.”

He smiled, comforted by the knowledge she had not been bored by him, that his conversations surrounding the swift evolution of software had somehow entertained her. As if she were reading his mind, she said: “Thank you for a lovely dinner and your company Martin. It’s been fun.”

He waited, expecting her to turn, disappear through the door. She waited, filling his eyes with hers. Impulsive? No, he was never that. So she leaned towards him, and kissed him, almost chastely: almost, but not quite. He walked away before he had to admit he was crying.

The hours to the following evening passed very slowly for Martin. They were punctuated by impossible hopes and dreams which floated around the ethereal image of Alana. Alana in the blue dress she had worn last night, Alana in white wedding weeds, Alana in – he could only dare himself to peep – nothing at all. Guilt consumed him, anxiety possessed him, and fear (that she would not keep their assignation in the park) almost drove him to distraction.

He reached his habitual walk early, with Rufus in enthusiastic tow, but lingered. He positioned himself upon a bench with a view of the park gates while Rufus fidgeted at his feet, eager to be walked. From where he sat he could see Alana approach, watching her even, faun-like stride through the railings. The evening was warm enough for the short green skirt she wore and the street quiet enough for the click of her heels to be audible.

Martin spotted the man in the red bomber jacket almost before Alana did. The man was young, well built with a strong face and a bold, confident stride – everything Martin was not. He was walking towards Alana, he knew her. A thousand tiny needles of apprehension pricked at the back of Martin’s eyes as he watched them meet, as they performed a ritual of hand gestures in pursuit of their hum of conversation. HE was someone she would want to be with; the kind of man a girl like that deserved. HE would have a decent income, a regular job, property, a fast car…

Alana saw Martin as soon as she turned away from the man. She gave a quick glance over her shoulder to see if the man was watching before she waved cheerfully. “You’re early!” She said as she hurried towards him. “Come on, Martin, let’s walk!” He gave her one of his bleakest, most defeated smiles. But he did not ask her about the man. He dared not. Alana did not volunteer any information; instead she snuggled cozily into his side, her arm through his as though they were already lovers, while Rufus trotted faithfully behind.

For what seemed an hour neither would break the silence, each just happy to bathe in the other’s company as a red sun set slowly over the distant hill. At last, resting on the memorial benches by the lake, Martin summoned up all his courage. With shaking fingers he took her chin as gently as he could and turned her to him. Then, trying not to breathe, he kissed Alana on the lips.

She sighed, saying softly: “Not bad. Now let’s try that again.” And she returned his kiss. And she taught him how mouths could explore, and hands excite.

After a while, when his first lessons had been learned, Martin’s disbelief would no longer let him remain silent. He asked: “What is it?”

Alana rested her head upon his shoulder contentedly: “What is what?”

He hesitated because he knew it was a question he should not ask: “You know what I see in you. What is it – what can you possibly – see in me?

She turned her head to his, so close he could feel the warm waft of her breath on his cheek, hear the tremulous edge in her voice. “Perhaps I see much more than you do. There’s something about you – and Rufus. Don’t forget Rufus. Perhaps vulnerability turns me on.” She squeezed his hand. “Come on, my little man, I want to take you home.”

So they walked again, retracing the steps that had directed them to their tryst, consumed with laughter and promise. At the park gates, Martin found himself pausing to look up at Alana’s apartment windows. “They’re not in tonight.” She whispered. “It’s just you and me, Martin. Come on, let’s hurry!”

Rufus caught his human companions’ mood and pulled them heartily on his leash across the road and along the pavement on the further side, To his own amazement, Martin was no longer afraid of himself. He matched Alana’s pace as they hurried to her door, and almost skipped beside her on the wide stone stairs. Inside the lobby of her apartment he took her in his arms and made her laugh at his ineptitude as he rained kisses on her cheeks, her neck, her arms…

Rufus snuffled, Rufus whimpered, Rufus growled.

The room was dark inside – dark and warm. A faint, sweet scent filled the air.

“Don’t.” She whispered, very close. “Don’t turn on the lights.” It was Alana who shook now, whose hands were quaking in the grip of her desire, the certain knowledge of his need.

“You can touch me, Martin. Touch me darling – I won’t break. Come on now, don’t wait….don’t, don’t wait.”

It was surprising, in no subtle way, the lance of warmth that pierced his heart. It found its path with so little pain, so little resistance he scarcely knew it had happened. Alana was trembling in his arms and crying out her ecstasy. He was shaking in hers; but it was not joy that made him so. Making his final, desperate clutch at life his eyes took in the room, now lit; the table he was being thrust back upon, the long, thin knife in Alana’s hand. And he clattered down beside the saw, and died.

#

“Hi!” Alana said, pleased despite herself. “Isn’t it a little early to come calling?”

“You settling in OK?” Asked the young man in the red bomber jacket. “I’m kind of interested, being your upstairs neighbor and all.”

“Yes.” Alana leant against her doorpost. “I’m fine.”

“Got yourself a dog.” Rufus, a little scared of the young man, was hiding behind Alana’s legs. She felt, rather than saw or heard, his presence.

“Yes, got him yesterday. Nice dog. Listen, I don’t mean to be rude, but…”

“I’m from Glasgow.” Said the young man. “You can probably tell from my accent. Forgive me stopping you in the street like last night, but I couldn’t help thinking I knew you from somewhere. Then I remembered: you used to have red hair, right?”

“No, I think you have me mixed up with….”

“No, I don’t. I worked in Glasgow CID, you see, before I transferred down here, and we had a lot of photographs of you. Never did find your mother or your brother, never could hang anything on you. Always squeaky clean, always tidy. There was a lot of washing and tidying going on down here last night, wasn’t there?”

Alana was becoming annoyed: “Look, I don’t know who you have got me mixed up with, but you’re wrong. Now will you go away – please?”

“Fine dog, isn’t he? Good retriever.”

“They always are, this breed.” Rufus had come to sit at her heel. She reached down to pet his shoulder. “So what?”

“So he’s brought you a shoe.”

“Oh Rufus!” Alana scolded. “Whatever am I going to do with you?” She looked down. And she added in quite a different voice: “Put it back, Rufus.”

But Rufus trusted the young man and he wanted to give him the shoe as a gift. First, though, he had to adjust his grip, so he put the shoe down and, to achieve better balance, he picked it up again, holding it by the leg that was still wearing it…

© Frederick Anderson 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

Four cute puppies from Cyprus need new homes

frederick anderson:

Space, anyone? Honey would never forgive us if we brought a usurper onto her territory after so long, but surely there is someone out there – maybe you have to speak Greek?

Originally posted on on the road with Animalcouriers:

Amanda recently contacted us for help in finding forever homes for four abandoned puppies she rescued last year in Cyprus and has been looking after ever since. It’s estimated that these lovely ‘Heinz 57′ youngsters were born in early August, so they’re now about five months old. Help with the cost of transporting them to new homes is available.

Amanda tells us:

“On a hot Cyprus September afternoon, six hungry and thirsty puppies were found abandoned in a cardboard box by the side of a dusty track. Two puppies found happy new homes here in Cyprus to start their second-chance lives, but four are still looking for their forever families.

These two boys and two girls are completely unspoiled, enjoy meeting new people and dogs, are used to being tormented by our many household cats, and are happy to be alive! They are up to date on vaccinations, are microchipped…

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Flotsam

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Voyager Beach

“If it’s not a mine…”  Laura says;  “what is it?”

Toby shakes his head.   “Dunno.  It sort of looks like a mine, though.  Dad was saying about the war and that.  Maybe we should report it, or something?”

“Oh, yes, it looks like a mine!”  Laura mocks.  “Like you’d know what a mine looks like!  I think it’s just a box.”

“Yes I do so know what a mine looks like!  I’ve got pictures!

“Where?”

“At home.”

The ‘mine’ sits before them in the sand, deposited by the high tide the night before.  Whatever it is, its dull metal body will not tell.   The children have been watching it for a half hour, waiting for someone else to walk along the beach, but so early on this cold winter morning no-one comes.

“I’m going to find out!”  Toby decides.

Laura protests.  “Noooo!  Toby, DON’T!”   All the same, she follows her brother as he approaches the object.   “What if it goes off?”

“Then we’ll be blown to bits!”  At nine years old Toby has little comprehension of all that implies.  He stoops over the object.  “It’s got spikes like a mine, but there’s only four.”

Laura casts frightened eyes about her, wishing someone, anyone would appear.  She doesn’t want to be blown to bits – she needs help.  “Let’s report it, Toby!  I’ll run back and tell Dad!”

“He won’t be up yet, and he’ll get mad at us.   See this…”  Her brother reaches for a prominence on the object at the root of one of the spikes.  “It turns, I think.”

“Oh no!”

“Yeah!   See?”

Making the prominence turn requires effort because it is rusted or seized by some other means.  Toby has to sit down on the wet sand and place his foot against the object to gain leverage.   Laura punctuates these moves with further groans of foreboding.

At last a determined wrench plucks the thing from its sandy bed.   Toby falls backward.  Laura screams.  The prominence frees itself suddenly and turns, splitting the object wide open with an angry hiss.  Both children are petrified, struck dumb in their horror, waiting for the big explosion.

Nothing happens.

For several seconds neither child can move:  they sit where they fell, staring at the object, which now lies open like a book.

Eventually Laura says.  “It was just air escaping. It’s all silvery inside!  Look:  it’s all silvery!”

“What’s all that stuff?” Toby says.  “It’s got stuff in it.”

Some of the ‘stuff’ has spilled out and lies scattered on the sand.

Emboldened by the box’s apparent incapacity to harm, the children recover themselves and edge up to it once more.  Together they begin picking over the detritus that has spewed from its interior.

“Its all, like, electrical bits.  Do you think it’s an old radio, or something?”  Laura says.  “Oh, and look, there’s a little packet here with something inside.”

Toby stands over the box, staring down at it, a frown of concentration on his wind-tanned face.  “I tell you what it is!”  He cries, inspired.  “It’s an old navigation buoy!   You know, like the one at the headland Dad uses to guide his boat back in the fog?  This…”  He pulls a large, gold-colored disc from a slot in the top;  “this is the thing that makes the bell sound – see?”   He flicks a finger at the disc, which responds with a dull metal ring.

Laura has torn the little packet with her teeth and is examining the little piece of metal inside.  “Ouch!  That’s sharp!”  She sucks a drop of blood from her finger and throws the offending object back into the interior of the opened box.  “We’ll get into trouble, won’t we?  We shouldn’t have touched it!”

Toby’s frown deepens.  His sister is invariably right in matters of parental censure.  Dad will be annoyed.  “I tell you what, we’ll bury it.”

“Where?  In the sand?  The sea’ll just wash it up again.”

“Not if we bury it in the North Dunes.  They’ve been getting bigger every year since Dad can remember.  No-one will ever find it there.  It’ll be entombed forever.”  Toby breathes the word proudly, making a dramatic arch shape with his hands.

“Alright.  Let’s do it quickly, before someone comes.”

With some effort the two children drag the object from its sandy bed and away along the beach, and the tide rolls in behind them, washing over their tracks.  It will be an hour or more before they have completed the object’s interment among the grasses of the North Dunes, and scuffed and smoothed the sand back into place.

“Time for breakfast.”  Toby says.  Then he spots the gold-colored disc in his sister’s hand.  “Oh, Laura!”

“I couldn’t help it!  I don’t want to bury it!  It’s so nice!”

“Give it to me!”

“No!  I want it!”

“You can’t keep it!  You’ll give everything away!”

“I can hide it!”

“Give it to me!”  Angry, Toby wrestles his sister to the ground and snatches the disc from her hand; then he strides away towards the rocky shore where the waves break, at the foot of the North Headland.  Realizing his intention, Laura runs after him in a tragedy of tears.

“Toby, no, don’t break it!   Don’t, please!”

But Toby is determined.  He smashes the disc against the sharp rock where the limpets cling, making an edge.   Nevertheless the disc resists him, and it requires several blows, with Laura weeping at his arm, before it suddenly splits into five pieces.   He hurls each piece, one by one, into the rising tide.

“Now!  We’re going back for breakfast!”

Still crying, Laura manages to intercept the final sliver of disc, though her dream of possessing it is shattered.  As she turns it over in her hands she makes a discovery.  “Toby – what’s this?”

Toby glances disparagingly at the black marks his sister had found.  “Nothing.”  He says.

“No?  I think it’s a speak-mark.”

“Don’t be stupid.  You’re just stupid!  You can’t speak a mark like that!”

“Just ‘cos you can’t!”

“And you can’t, neither.  Come on!”

But his sister lingers.  She tries to copy the symbols she has found, scratching them in sand that is still wet between the tides.   In the end she has to admit defeat.  They mean nothing.  Reluctantly she follows her brother back towards their beach-side home, throwing the last shard of disc into the sea and leaving her sand writing to be obliterated by the waves.  The ripples are gaining fast.  For a while though, for a few precious minutes, the symbols she has inscribed remain, staring up at the waking of the twin suns.

Their message is imparted so the sky alone may read – one word:

VOYAGER


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Image credit  nasa. 

© Frederick Anderson 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

A Sonnet for the Solstice Child

frederick anderson:

From ZoralinQ’s blog, and very much my kind of poetry -

Originally posted on ZoralinQ:

Oh shadow upon me, as a steel gate

Keeps a fountain frozen longing for spring; 

In darkness, with the light’s promise, I wait

for the rising sun on new mornings’ wings.

 

Seeds, beneath ice, reject deaths history

In a mind’s aging place of well tilled soil;

Hands, cold and crossed, holding joy’s poverty

In prayer, for passing summer’s last spoils.

 

Each day in lengthy dour to silver night, 

A child, my youth, an ember in my heart;

Awakens in warmth beyond blackened light,

To await creation’s surprising spark;

 

Welcoming the ‘morrow’s  guest to arrive,

With gate left unlocked, for the solstice child.

View original

I am Charlie

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Black Cross

Allah is your God, my friends.  We all have our God, if we believe we need one, and He is, if He is, probably one and the same:  only the name is changed, only the way we express our devotion is different.

Are there some things on which we can all agree?  Is our God a God of all creatures, did He make our world, is He a God of Mercy?

Or is He a fierce, unrelenting deity who may strike our sinners down?

Allah is your God, my friends, and He may, in your eyes, be a vengeful God, but justice is His to dispense, not yours.  You should know this, because one day you will have to meet Him and explain how you were so arrogant as to believe yourselves His instruments.  Your reward will not be paradise, it will be judgment.

Whatever our religion, we serve with humility.  We bow to humor as a just criticism of ourselves, because even if we find it unpleasant at times, we learn from it.  You alone consider yourselves above learning.  You alone consider your earthly prophet, human as he was, above reproach.

I do not speak to all Muslims, because you are not Muslims.  Muslims are gentle, charitable and kind, you are not.  Muslims do not treat their women like cattle.  You do.  You are monsters, aberrations:  you murder the vulnerable and the weak.  You have no place in civilization.

Charlie Hebdo Magazine, Paris, January 7th 2015.  Rest in Peace.

I AM CHARLIE

Resolutions

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“Time tae greet the New Year, Freddy!”  My friend raised a glass.  “What’re ye havin’?”4565034003_d465a7a7c8

Now Scotsmen have a reputation for meanness.  As generalizations go it is not without some substance, but a curious contrariety tends to occur around about the sixth whisky.  Thereafter, from whiskies seven to fourteen the generosity curve steepens logarithmically.  After fourteen it is hampered by incoherence.  I judged my friend to be at around nine – just entering the spontaneous hugging stage.

“No thank you.  I’ve given up.”   I cannot doubt the pall my words cast upon the assembled party-goers.  Silence fell.  Someone turned off the music.

“Given up the drink? Ye’ll nivver do it, Hin. Ye must be mad!”

He was right, of course.  He is right.  Ninety percent of New Year’s resolutions barely survive to twelfth night, although abstinence from alcohol has a better chance perhaps than stopping smoking, travelling more, losing weight, ceasing to swear, or watching less television.  Why?  Because as a dutiful Scot (well, I do have some ancestry in that direction) I am honor-bound to forgo sobriety entirely between Christmas and Hogmanay.  I therefore float into the latter in a sufficiently inebriated state to survive a Haggis, if someone deems it necessary to feed me one, or even to fully misunderstand why they’re hitting that damn great bell twelve bloody times.  So I can hit the ground running.  I am able to draw upon my reserve tanks until the 3rd January at least without another drop passing my lips.   Thereafter it gets harder.

I discussed the problem with my Scots friend over a Coca-Cola:  not a subject that seemed to interest him unduly but it helped me to take my mind off the fumes from the room, his glass, and him. It also distracted me from ‘Dead March in Saul’ which some wag had unearthed and put on the sound system.

“Can ye no see this is the time o’ year for drinkin’?”

“Is there a time of year for not drinking?”  But he had a point.   We are delving into deep midwinter, when a sallow sun can scarcely raise strength to crank itself over the horizon for seven hours, and the rain only ceases when the snow begins.  The wind is a wild rider, Odin’s cart is heard to creak between the gallows trees and Thor’s hammer cleaves the sky.

All right, I’m getting a little carried away.  We don’t have gallows anymore and those clashing sounds have nothing to do with battle at Valhalla:  Ragnarok is more likely to occur at a football match these days, isn’t it?  But you get the idea.

We are embarking upon three months of dark boredom interspersed with moments of terror.  The ship of night has to carry us all the way through to March with absolutely no motivation for a stroll on deck and with sporadic cringing fear as we listen to the wind deconstructing our roof or watch the river come through the back door.  Can there be a worse time to stop smoking?  Is there any other season which competes with television for our attention less successfully?  Is travel a temptation, given snowdrifts, high wind at the airport, or the discovery that the rain in Spain falls mainly on you?  And yes, even the Riviera can be cold.

Do we wonder then, why abstinence in such conditions proves so hard to maintain?  Party music is playing, glasses are rattling, food – wondrous, odorous food – is nature’s way of fighting the cold, and it looks so good; it tastes so sweet, it tempts, it flirts outrageously, it beckons…taken early, your resolution might survive the Week of the Leftover Turkey, but thereafter?

Twelfth night, then:  outside, the wind is blowing, the window panes are laced with snow.   Inside, there is laughter:  harsh and defensive maybe, a little fearful possibly, but laughter nonetheless.  Inside there is music to drown out the night.   The smiling golden liquid glistens in the bottle, waiting to pour free.

“Will ye no just have a dram o’ this single malt, Freddy?  It must’ae been a fine year, this!”

“No.   Well, I shouldn’t.  I promised not to, you know.   I said, didn’t I?  But then, I suppose just the one wouldn’t hurt.”

“Would it?”

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