Micah

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

A further experiment with style – I’m really struggling to establish an identity these days; it might be this keyboard!  Anyway, perhaps the opening to another novel?  

Bear with me for a while; it has been so long and I forget so many things.   I forget, for example, exactly when I realised Micah was different to other boys I knew.  When the doubts began, or the first glimmer of enlightenment – I really cannot judge.

Let me see – was it the spider?  Yes, I’ll tell you about the spider.

Micah and I, we had been friends as long as I could remember, because in Ollershaw – in the small villafile0001007761559ge community where we grew up, every possible playmate was friend or enemy.  Naturally, age had a lot to do with this.  Matthew Carrell would be an example.  Matthew was two years older than me – therefore Matthew was my enemy.  So when Matthew tied me to the silver birch tree at the edge of The Green, leaving me there in the rain, although I might have been frightened and vocal it was the least I had learned to expect.  It was Micah who broke those old, unwritten rules.  It was he who cut me loose with a penknife his stepfather gave him for his birthday, even though Matthew warned him.  He braved Matthew’s wrath to save me.

We were children.  I was seven or eight, Micah’s birthday was a month before my own.  We all lived by a children’s code which was a part of our growing and as old as time itself, so Matthew was only acting in accordance with that code when he sought vengeance – something Micah surely anticipated.  Matthew took Micah’s knife from him, pinned him down while he went through his pockets and found it; then he took the knife along the mill path that leads down to the river (and is there still despite all the new development of houses on the riverbank), and he threw the knife into the water.   And Micah followed him, and Micah watched.

Micah did not cry.  Come to think of it, I can never remember Micah crying.

Now it was after school maybe the Wednesday or Thursday of the following week, when we were playing in the back yard of my house, that Micah and I came upon the spider.   There were empty apple boxes in a stack beside a brick lean-to shed my father always promised he would pull down, but never did.  We liked to fashion all kinds of fantasies from those boxes; they were made of thin wood and they were wide and flat, so we could stack them or arrange them in all sorts of ways to make pretend cars, or boats, or a secret den.  That evening I think we may have had it in mind to construct a spaceship, when, turning over one of the boxes from the bottom of the stack, Micah suddenly paused and gestured to me that I should be very still.

“What?”  I asked.

“Come and see,  Quietly, now.”

I came, I saw.  In one corner of the box my friend was holding, amidst a small nest of dead leaves, was the largest spider I had ever seen.   Wide eyed, I took in its long front legs, its thick grey body, the spread of its six remaining limbs.  I could clearly see the stalks that supported its eyes and two white stripes that ran either side of its thorax and abdomen.  It had no web.  We both understood that the small cluster of leaves was its home.

Micah whispered.  “Get me one of those Cocoa tins from the kitchen rubbish.”

“You’re never!”  I said.   Micah didn’t answer.

I brought the tin, removing its lid as I returned to the boxes.

Perfectly calmly, as though it did not require as much as a second thought, Micah reached into the box, nipping the creature between thumb and forefinger as he plucked it into the open.   It curled up, tucking its legs so it resembled a ball, and I held the cocoa tin at arm’s length, closing my eyes as Micah dropped the spider inside it, and fastened the lid.

“We’ll have to make air holes.”  He said.

“Are you going to keep it?”  I asked.

“No.”

Micah regularly came home with me after school in those days, because both his parents worked full time, and he was not considered old enough to be allowed home on his own.   We became close friends of necessity; two boys of similar age thrown together by circumstances will usually end up that way, even if there are differences.  I knew, right from the beginning, there were differences.

When you are young, with little experience of the world, there are a lot of important things that pass you by.  My mother and father were, I suppose, a satisfactory match:  My dad was an engineer whose work took him away for long periods, sometimes many weeks.  Letters from him would scatter on the doormat.  He always wrote letters when he was away, even if sometimes he arrived home before they did;  and my mother would sit at the kitchen table reading them, her face twitching with a mysterious smile I did not comprehend.   She kept them all.  Much later in life, when she was gone, I found the letters amongst her possessions;  I read only one, discovering with each successive word a side to my parents’ relationship that, as a child, I would have considered  profoundly shocking.  I burned the rest of the letters without reading them.  There was a privacy of language within them I did not want to expose.   At the time, they were just letters from my father with colourful foreign stamps upon them which I collected, in a desultory fashion.

“Does he mention me, Mummy?”

“Of course he does, darling.  He always remembers you.”

I would look forward to his return from those longer expeditions.  There would be a gift – a carving, a wooden toy or a doll, sometimes sweets.

“I’m not supposed to bring these into the country, Sprog.   But they’re delicious, you just have to try them!”  I felt so important then, because he had chanced capture as a smuggler, and he had done it for me!  I would imagine him on the run, fleeing across the windswept moor clutching my little bag of sweets, with police and dogs chasing him; although of course they were unable to prevent his heroic escape.

 

As I said, in the innocence of childhood much about the lives of those close to you may pass unnoticed.  Nevertheless I knew that Micah’s home life was neither as happy or secure as my own.  Being ‘comfortably off’ for a child merely means food on your table, a warm bed and toys; Micah may have enjoyed these, but his family was not ‘comfortably off’.   My Dad’s car was new, large and almost silent, my Mum had a car of her own, so when the weather was bad I rode to school.  Micah’s step-dad drove his family’s only car, which was old and temperamental.  He never gave his stepson rides to school, so Micah and his mum would walk the mile from their home to the school gates, and they got wet:  a lot.

Once in a while, usually at weekends, I was invited to Micah’s home; on which rare occasions I was, of course, too polite to mention the paucity of furniture, or the absence of toys.  Micah’s mother would sit us on an aged sofa in their little sitting room, made fiery hot by a blazing coal fire, winter or summer.  We watched, sweating, through hours of cartoons on the little television before I could make excuses and leave.  I don’t think Mrs. Pallow (Micah’s surname was Pallow) resented my presence particularly; in all honesty, I sometimes wondered if she even noticed I was there, but neither did she make me feel welcome.  A nervous, shifting quicksand of a woman, I could see her mind churning its way through every waking moment – stabbing a poker at the fire she claimed was necessary to ‘heat the water’, fussing around the inexpensive china statuettes that were her hobby, or crashing and slamming in her kitchen.  Did I ever see her smile?  No, maybe I didn’t.

Personally, I never saw the spider again.  It left my home that Wednesday or Thursday evening in its new accommodation, tucked under Micah’s school blazer.   I believe it must have entered our school the next morning in similar fashion, though I have no specific memory of this.  I certainly remember when it turned up again, although I was not present.

Ours was the village school; albeit quite a smart one.  The uniforms were distinctive, the discipline strict, a burden upon Micah’s family which they must have found extortionate, yet they struggled to provide him with a new uniform each year, and finance the materials we needed.  So they obviously valued their son – something which seems quite curious, when I recall.  Atypical behaviour – not what my own upbringing was conditioning me to expect.   At school Micah and I were juniors: as yet more concerned with basic reading, writing and explorations in clay or cardboard.  Matthew Carrell was in the upper class, among those nine and ten-year-old children ascending the final upslope towards senior education.

We left our lessons at the school gates, Micah and I, whereas Matthew had ‘homework’.   Nothing very specific, though it did involve written exercises in school books, and handing work in to his teacher, the quite lovely Miss Comfort, whose name said everything about her that needs to be said – everything but one, very specific, thing.

Quite when Matthew left his homework exercise book unguarded, or why, I cannot say.  Any more than I can explain how someone contrived to cut the centre out of all but the first and the last few pages of that book to make a rectangular space, lidded only by its cover page and a few leaves of carefully written essay.  And how our spider came to be occupying that space when Miss Comfort opened the book to peruse Matthew’s work I would rather not speculate.  I doubt anyone could have known Miss Comfort was an arachnophobe.  Micah and I, we were at music practice in another classroom, bells and triangles and a flat piano; yet we still heard the screams – all of the screams.

Mrs. Carrell collected Matthew that lunchtime.  She was very, very annoyed.  As they passed us by, as we stood in the playground, watching, Matthew turned his hung head to throw Micah a look – a look that was almost fearful.  It communicated an understanding which would spread amongst us all.  Micah did not live by the rules.

Then I remember distinctly how I shared a glance with Micah and saw his face twitch in a mysterious smile.  It was a smile that reminded me for one moment – just that one moment – of my mother.

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  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

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Religion?

Tags

, , ,

Those who know sweet, opinionated, boiled carrot old me have been treated (frequently) to a discourse concerning my religious beliefs, which are, in a word, nonexistent.

Or were.

In the last few days I have experienced visitations.  Only minor ones; not ethereal visions of unparalleled beauty, or thunderous voices:  no, just vague grumblings from aloft.  Inadvertently, it seems, I have offended someone very important.

I can only plead ignorance.  I did not know ‘Thou shalt not commit a typo’ had been added to the Commandments, or that Bad Editing had joined the list of Deadly Sins (part of a fresh marketing approach on the part of Heavenly’s sales department, as I understand it, to appeal to the new twenty-first century technology-hip market).  Had I known, I would have been more careful.

Careful?

I am the world’s worst editor.  I am always doing it.  No matter how I try, something  slips beneath the radar – the more determined prisoners invariably manage to escape.   So I shall have to listen to the spiritual voices.  I shall have to start attending confession.

Anyway, my apologies to all my long-suffering readers, and to A. Gabriel, Esquire, for inadvertently altering his name to ‘Gabrielle’ in ‘Two Books’, a recent post.  I fully appreciate how vulnerable he feels, wearing that white dress and those feathery wings.  Apparently Raphael has been ribbing him mercilessly, and he is somewhat miffed.

There.   Now can I have my Ninja Turtles DVD back, please?

 

Two Books

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

History is best when briefest, so forgive me for omission of a multitude of finer points in pursuit of essence?   Yes, I know the Devil is in the detail, and the Devil has a fairly prominent role in what follows.  Nonetheless….

A Book:Old Bible

The Bible is the result of a collection of manuscripts, Hebrew and Greek, which became an entity about a thousand years after the life of Christ.  It has since evolved and suffered the rigours of translation a few times.   It is the book that props up the table leg of Christian belief, but very few of its followers, even the most devout, could quote it word for word.

Another Book:

imagesThe Quran tabulates the teachings of the prophet Mohammed (and forgive my failure to bless his name when I mention him) as they were handed down to him by the angel Gabrielle – a bit like Moses and the Commandments, if you like.  The work was begun around 610 AD and formalised around 644 AD, twelve years after the prophet’s death.  It has altered remarkably little since – if at all – and good Moslem children learn it by rote, word for word.

Two books.  The one an archive of documents which, although by no means exclusively, forms the basis of Western morality; the other the masterwork of a single author who, if we are to believe his own account, acted as ghost writer for an angel.

Nothing wrong there.  Two ancient tomes, both alike in dignity, but with very different impact upon their readers.  The ‘Christian’ world of the West has diversified, experimented and generally subsumed the original pearls of Biblical faith as parts of a recognised standard of behaviour we might once have classified as ‘God-fearing’.  The faith is old; the code remains.

The Islamic world, by contrast, is as youthful and fresh as ever, and has moved not one inch.   In western terms, because they determine political thinking, the teachings of the Quran are corrosive and dangerous, and the inescapable fact that Muslims should have imbibed the book in its totality by the time they reach their grown-up years makes compromise with Western society extremely difficult.

It seems well-nigh impossible to find a neutral translation from the Arabic where the Quran is concerned, but certain quotations are undeniable.   These concern Moslem treatment of women:

“Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please.” Quran 2:223

“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other……. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.”   Quran 4:34

“Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses…” Quran 2:282

“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment…” Q 24:31.

It requires only a very brief adventure into these texts to gain an understanding of the separation from our society that immigrants from the Moslem world must feel.  It makes the assaults upon German and Swiss women by drunken North African Moslem immigrants no more forgivable but somewhat more understandable if they have been raised to believe women are their ‘fields’: ‘go, then, into your fields whence you please’ can, after all, almost be read as an incitement to rape.  Q.24:31 might have been the text that led an Imam to blame the assaulted women for the crimes on the grounds that they were ‘dressed provocatively’.

My point is this; and I make it without shame.  Population drift has been a fact of history – it nearly always follows wealth from East to West, and it invariably re-shapes whatever it touches to some subtle degree.  But the touch of Islam, at least where it concerns the rights of women, will be anything but subtle.  Devout Islamic migrants cannot conform to our moral code without deliberately flouting religious laws they have learnt to obey to the letter since childhood.   The best they can hope to achieve is a necessary cohabitation with ‘the infidel’.  Whether we are prepared to accept such a dilemma, or whether we are ready to do what must ultimately be essential to prevent it, are vital matters for debate.  It is an issue that affects the USA as much as Europe because in these small-world days migration no longer takes more than the briefest tea break upon the shores of Galway.

In 2015 the borders of Europe were crossed by more than a million migrants from south and east of the Mediterranean, a figure likely to redouble next year.  As climate change bites, this trend is likely to continue.  It threatens the European Union and has already called the Schengen open border agreement into question.

I will inevitably be branded, by those who must have labels, ‘racist’ for this.  I am not.  Nor am I ‘religionist’.  These terms are tools obdurate and unyielding proponents of Islam use to stifle argument.  I have had many Moslem acquaintances who are kind, gentle, and very clever people.  Our greedy little empires need them.  But almost all have made ‘the jump’ and become ‘Friday Moslems’, very, very few manage to balance their participation in our society with devout adherence to their faith.  The sheer numbers, I fear, must overwhelm them as well as us.

burqa

This is a call, I think, to women everywhere to protect and assert those rights they have fought so hard and so long to achieve.   In similar measure the Quran’s position on homosexuality should be challenged.   We are tolerant, but there must be limits.   Do we really want the burqa to ‘veil’ women from public view?  Do we accept a controlling male society that keeps its women indoors and out of sight, or do we insist these attitudes must be changed?

There is much in Islam that is good.  Mohammed’s achievement in unifying religious belief among the pagan Arabs was heroic, but rigid adherence to rules he laid down almost 1400 years ago has the potential to set civilisation back several centuries.  We should all be aware of the direction in which we are being led.

 

 

Last Respects

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

The polished walnut coffin ploughed its wavering progress through the rain, a galleon borne up like ocean by six solemn shoulders in long black coats.  Before it were the doors of the crematorium, a softly lit beacon in the grey morning, from within which harbour’s safe embrace a rich contralto voice intoned the ‘Eriskay Love Lilt’.  As the congregation’s heads bowed in prayer, Forbes Frobisher Dalwinney was brought to receive their last devotions on his way to eternal rest.

“You can’t do it!”

Deprived suddenly of one of its bearers, the shining wooden ship lurched perilously, recovered, then crabbed sideways before its remaining five stalwarts regained control.  Oblivious to the aghast cries and protests of those who came to see F.F. Dalwinney honourably reduced to cinders, a young pall-bearer had deserted his post to run ahead of the coffin and stand resolutely, arms outstretched, in its path.

“He never wanted a cremation!  He hated fire.  The thought of being burned terrified him.  He wanted to be buried – he said that to me.  He did!”

The contralto’s voice fluttered and ceased.  At his lecturn, Father MacGonigal closed his book of prayer.

#

“It’s most irregular!” Said the Superintendent of Mortuaries as he surveyed an array of mourners gathered in his office.  “Young man, why couldn’t you have spoken to someone about this before?”

The renegade pall-bearer shrugged:  “I didn’t know before.  My invitation was to Mr. Dalwinney’s funeral, and I was picked up from my house this morning.  I was honoured to be asked to carry him, but it was only when the cortege brought us here that I realised you were going to torch him.”

“I think we would be better avoiding words like ‘torched’.”  An older voice interjected.  Its owner, a disarranged figure of wispy white-haired and haggard appearance, placed a bony hand on the young man’s shoulder.  “Toby here was Forbes’ youngest nephew.  They’ve been very close these last few years.  If anybody knew the old man’s final wishes, I am sure it would be Toby.”

A cummerbund-trussed individual with great presence and no hair at all seemed to swell visibly with indignation.  “This is scandalous!”  He puffed.   “Dalwinney’s widow is out there breaking her heart.  Can we not just get on with the funeral?  I’m sure nobody else has any objection?”   He looked over his shoulder at the others with a challengingly raised eyebrow.  This aroused some uncomfortable muttering.

“Well, actually…”

“I don’t know why Mara’d be so upset.  This is the first time she’s seen him in two years.”

“It would be nice to have a proper grave…”

“It’s rather out of our hands, I’m afraid.”  The Superintendent said.  “Father MacGonigal has already told me he’s uncomfortable with the situation.  He won’t proceed.”  He spread his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.  “I fear you will just have to take him back.”

#

“The problem,” Toby said to Michael confidentially, as they shared a pint at the Wheatsheaf,  “was that bloody bus.”

Michael was Toby’s friend.  He made sympathetic noises that intimated his complete understanding.  After a minute of silence, he said:  “What bus?”

“I’ll explain.”  Toby said.  But he didn’t.

There was a further interval before Michael broke the silence.  “So he’s buried, now.  I mean, in a grave, sort of thing?”

“Yes.  Nice.”

“You had some courage, mind.”

“I had to say.  The relatives never went near him, the old man; not for years.  None of them did.”

“No?”

“Nope.  I mean, he was ancient, wasn’t he?  He might have whiffed a bit, but he was quick-witted enough and I liked him.  He used to tell me stories, about his life, and that.  He got up to some stuff, mind.  ‘You’re my favourite nephew’, he used to say.   The others, they were just waiting for him to die.  Circling like vultures, they were.”

“Then he went and left all his money to them, and didn’t leave you a thing!”

Toby grinned.  “Well, there you go.  Money isn’t everything, though, is it?”

In another public house nearby, the Superintendent of  Mortuaries was enjoying a lunchtime glass with his old friend Ryan Pargeter.  Ryan was an inspector in the local constabulary.

“By the way,”  The Superintendent was saying as he lined up a fresh glass;  “we nearly cremated Forbes Dalwinney the other day.”

Ryan glanced up at him enquiringly.  “Nearly?”

“Yes.  It’s an odd story.  The family made a late decision – very late – to have him buried instead.  So he got passed on to St. Margaret’s, I believe.   He’s out of your hair, at least.”

“Being dead, you mean?”  Ryan nodded.  “I take your point, but of course he’d been inactive for years.  I was always doubtful that we’d got everything cleared up, though.   There was a little matter of the Brydon payroll robbery…”

“Good Lord!   Did he organise that one?”

“It wasn’t proven.  We had nothing to go to court with, no cash was ever recovered, and our Forbes had a good strong alibi; one of those typical criminal covers…”

“He was playing cards all night?”

“Exactly.  Meantime, we’ve never traced a penny.  There’s nearly half a million out there somewhere.”

“Surely, he used it to set himself up, didn’t he?  I heard he lived very well.”

“No.  He was set up already.  But you’re probably right – it takes a sizeable income to live the way he did.  Dear old Forbes!  In a peculiar sort of way I’ll miss him!  So they’ve buried him, have they?”

#

Patience was never one of Mara Dalwinney’s strong suits.  A forceful woman, she had little time for social etiquette or common decency, although she did – when leaned upon by Forbes’ sister – delay her actual marriage to Sid the turf accountant until after Forbes’ funeral.  She had two things to do on the morning Inspector Pargeter tailed her:  the first was to get married, the second to open a locker on Temple Meads railway station, using a key she had discovered taped beneath Forbes’ sock drawer.  No sooner had she applied the key to the lock than Ryan Pargeter appeared at her shoulder.  It was not a meeting she would have wished for.

“What the shockin’ ‘ell are you doin’ here?”  She demanded, frozen in the act.

“Following you, Mara.”  Pargeter said affably.  “Shall we see what’s inside?”

“No.  It’s personal business, is this.  I won’t bother now, I’ll look later.”

“Wrong.  Proceeds of a crime are police business.  Let’s open it, shall we?”

“There’s nothin’ in here, you know.  Just personal stuff.  There was nothin’ in the old bugger’s estate, either.  Five hundred pound, that were all I got!” With leaden heart Mara eased the locker door open, her vision of a nest-egg fading in front of her eyes.  “Shockin’ ‘ell! What’s this?”

Pargeter took a deep breath.  “Seems you were right.”  He sighed, staring into a chasm of empty locker.  “I had hoped…”

Mara glared at him.   “So had I!”

“There’s a letter.”  Pargeter pointed out a solitary white envelope.  “You’d better let me read it.”

“It’s none of your concern.”

“Nevertheless…”

‘Dear Mara,’  the letter began; and then:  ‘So you thought you’d find a fortune, did you?  Instead you found a locker as cold and empty as your heart.  Never mind, all is not lost!  I have left you one final, tiny joke.  There is another key, and another door to open.  Find the key and you will still need to know where the door is, won’t you?   Well, I texted the address on my mobile ‘phone, you devious old cow.  Happy hunting!”

“Nice turn of phrase!”  Pargeter commented.  “Why, Mara love, you’ve turned quite pale!”

#

For Toby, the sight of Mara Dalwhinney perched on a bar stool in the Wheatsheaf was neither pleasant nor welcome, but he screwed up his courage and sat next to her, ordering himself a beer.  “You’ll be pissed off at me, messing up the funeral and that.”  He said. 

Mara returned his apprehension with a smile that was almost genuine.  “Shockin’ ‘ell no!  Why should I be?”

“All the extra expense, and that?”

“No, lad.  No.”

“What you here for then?”  Asked Toby, genuinely puzzled.

Mara gave her glass of gin a twirl.  “Have you heard the song:   ‘I got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key’?”

“Maybe.”

“Well, it’s you who’s got something I need, young Toby.”  She withdrew her deceased husband’s letter from her handbag.  “Have a read of this.”  And she reached deeper and pulled out a single house key, which she placed on the bar.  “Then have a look at this.”

As Toby read the letter she continued:  “When the bus ran him over, I had to go to the hospital to identify him.  They gave me his things, and I haven’t throwed ’em away yet, thank god.  After I read that letter I checked through his coat again. I found this key, tucked into the lining; so I thought to meself, where would he be going with that, before the bus stopped him?  And I thought about you, Toby.  I did.  He was going to give that key to you, wasn’t he?”

“He told me about this.”  Toby muttered.  “He said it was an old joke, and how I was to have everything because you treated him so bad, and that.  He was going to give me both – the address and the key.”

“But he never got to you.  The bus got him first.  So the thing is, young man,”  Mara said;  “have you got his ‘phone?”

“No, I haven’t.”  Toby replied with a weary smile.  “But I know a man who has.”

“Fifty-fifty?”  Mara asked.  Toby knew what she meant.

#

When Inspector Pargeter’s torch beamed into Mara’s mud-streaked face she squawked angrily at him.

“You!  It shockin’ would be!”

“Oh sh**k!”  Toby dropped his shovel on top of Forbes Frobisher Dalwhinney, who made no response. Toby tried to pull the  coffin lid back over him. 

“This isn’t how it looks!” 

“Really?  Opening a grave in the middle of the night?  Doesn’t leave many alternative explanations, does it?”  Pargeter grinned.  “I think there’s a crime in this somewhere, don’t you?”

Mara glared.  “Why?  He were my husband.  Why shouldn’t I dig ‘im up?”

“Why indeed?” Pargeter conceded heavily.  “See, it took a chat with the undertaker to figure this out.  He laughed, you know, Mara?  He thought the old boy was a bit of a card, stipulating in his funeral plan that he wanted his mobile phone to be buried with him.  Good hiding place, eh?  No-one would know where it was – except you found out, young ‘un.  Because when you were bearing the coffin at the crematorium it rang, didn’t it?  And you had your ear right against the wood so you heard it.  The message tone.  How you must have panicked, knowing he was about to be burned!  

“I’m glad to see you’ve found it.  No, there’s no point in trying to hide it now.  In fact, I’d like you to give it to me, please.  It has an address on it I want.”

 

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  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 Tribute to my friend, D. Buch

I love this post from My Pen and Me.   No more need be said.  https://mypenandme.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/a-tribute-to-my-friend-d-buch/

mypenandme

you lived your whole life
exclaiming infinitesimally
the POV of a gentle, ridiculed heart
may you rest in peace…

prayer is my precious inner wreath
words whispered
to God
and to you
wish i could’ve attended your funeral

creeping tears rise
gazing at
flipped shadows and
shards of sunlight where
heartbreak and nature become one

no more cards, letters
bizarre phone calls
you, running out of cigarettes
so long ago…

instead,

i will listen
to you
through seashells
and receive your energy

wherever one’s wounds go
know that i saw them
from your perspective
and you WERE understood,
respected and loved,
my cherished friend

your passion for photography
brought great joy
cured my moth phobia
gave us a unique understanding of
your relationships with
foxes
turtles
sunsets
swamp life and
Virginia

lastly,
for a writer respectfully decked out in gum wrappers and stickers
(private joke)
you sure were “lost in…

View original post 26 more words

The Destiny Game

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

” I’d say it has all to do with names.”  Kevin’s eyes were drawn to the window, and a row ofRaindrops beech trees beyond his friend’s water-logged garden.  He was in reflective mood.

“What are you saying now?”  Christian asked.   “Names?  I thought we were talking about relationships?”

Outside, the blackened sky delivered rain like a flagellation, whipped up by a strengthening gale to be hurled against the glass.

“Listen to that!”  Kevin murmured:  “Nature’s baptism, yes?  ‘I name this house’?  Baptism, you see?  Baptism is where the fatal blow is struck. There you are doing your mewling and puking and definitely not in control of the situation, while your future is decided by two well-meaning but deluded parents and a scary old man who throws water on you.  ‘I name this child’.  If I’d been in any condition to know what they were doing, I’d have risen up from the font and severed their heads.  ‘Kevin’!  My god!”

“I’m a strong believer in fate, yet I refuse to believe so much is decided by a name.”

“No, fate has nothing to do with it!  It was some fiendish kink in the curtain of the Grand Plan.  Someone said ‘condemn this one to a life of misery.  Name him Kevin’.  I can hear them laughing even now!  Names strike at the very fabric of a relationship.  I mean, ‘Kevin’, you know?  The hard ‘K’?  Women will never freely date a Kevin.  And it isn’t exactly a superhero’s name, either, is it?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. You’ve got some hard ‘K’s batting for your team.  Consider Clark Kent.”  Christian adjusted position in his armchair, carefully perching his glass of whisky on the arm whilst reaching for a poker from the hearth.  He thrust at the fire that burned brightly there, agitating it into a volcanic profusion of sparks.  “Look at my name.  I’m living a lie.  I’m agnostic at best.  You can’t seriously hope to convince me that your misfortunes are attributable to your parents’ dismissive choice of name!”

Kevin turned away from the window and the depression of greys crowding his view.   “Dismissive.  You don’t know how accurately that describes my parents.  Did you ever meet my father?”

“Once or twice.”

“Which was about as often as my mother met him.  My baptism was probably his last stand.  He stayed long enough to ensure I was irrevocably Kevined then left for the pub and never came back.”

“Please, permit the poor man some justice!  You were mewling and puking all over him, remember.  And he must have been rather more present than you imply, because I remember his being in the house when we played together as children.  Was your mother his third wife?  Not strong on that whole bonding for life thing, was he?”

“Like father like son, is that your inference?”  Kevin shook his head.  “I thought I’d laid that ghost long ago.”

“They say the luck runs.”

“And I don’t believe that. It isn’t luck, it’s design.  Incidentally, it’s a skill you have, and I apparently lack.  After all, we’re much of a muchness, you and I;  I don’t see myself as particularly ill-favoured, or you, forgive me, as particularly handsome.  We’re roughly the same height, the same weight; our personalities are similar; yet here I stand, left in the departure lounge of yet another failed relationship, without the faintest idea where I went wrong.  And here are you, flying business class in this immaculately kept house with Svetlana who is, you have to admit, an exquisite testament to womanhood…”

“Who can be a little – shall we say – eccentric at times.”

“I will stick to exquisite.  After fifteen years she still looks as beautiful as the day you introduced me to her.  And you still dote on her, I can see that.  Fifteen years!  Can I tell you my experiences of those fifteen years?”

Christian chuckled sympathetically.  “There was Melissa.  She was a lovely girl!”

“With some lovely friends.  a whole cohort of lovely friends, mostly male!  Then Claire, and Michelle…”

“Six months later.”

“Alright; that was brief even by my standards.  But Alicia…”

“Ah  Alicia!  She was a shredder, wasn’t she?”

Kevin gave a grim nod.  “Ribbons, literally.  I couldn’t go out, sometimes.  Scar tissue is so unsightly.  And now…”

“Now Sophie.”

“Yes, Sophie.  Absolutely Sophie.”

Kevin sighed, feeling his eyes smart from a revisited sadness.  He crossed to his friend’s sideboard and the whiskey glass that awaited him.  “Teach me, Chris!  Let me share your gift.  And while you’re about it, tell me where in the known universe is there a Svetlana waiting for me?”

Christian’s finger traced an imaginary picture on the arm of his chair as he tried to frame an answer for his friend.  Somehow the picture seemed to resemble Svetlana. “I don’t know, Kev.  I could say there’s someone out there, someone you’ve yet to meet; but that wouldn’t hack, would it?  I think it’s just fate – no more and no less.”

“Fate!  Nonsense, my friend. You have a seduction plan.  It’s time you publicized!  I want answers, before age and bachelorhood place my assets beyond recall.  Come on, give!”

“If I had a plan it would be rather rusty by now, but honestly, I have nothing to impart!  Svetlana and I were one of life’s chance encounters; no more, no less.”

“You met her on the Internet.  She posted on a dating site.  Or, wait – YOU posted on a dating site!”

Christian laughed.  “I did not!”

“I used to believe she was a mail order bride.  For years I was convinced you were holding out on me, in spite of her perfect English.”

“Oh really!  She came to this country when she was ten.  Her father’s a ‘something’ with Debrette Cooper – the bankers?   All right, I never told you how we met, did I? So I will, if only to show you how strong a hand fate plays in these things.  It was pure chance.  I was in the middle of an aisle in the middle of a supermarket in the middle of an evening, trying to decide which size of Cornflakes I should pick and this glorious woman just walked up to me and said: ‘Hi’.

supermarket aisle“Amazing! I shall need details:  haircut, aftershave, manner of dress…”

“Amazed was I!  Was I wearing aftershave?  I don’t remember.  Dress?   Casual, I suppose.  What else?  Anyway, back to lovely lady and ‘Hi’.  What could I do but respond?”

“I suppose you could have hidden behind the Cornflakes.  But obviously you didn’t.  I should point out that details of dress are important, however.  What did you do?”

“I said ‘Hi’ right back at her.  Quite courteously but avoiding one of those leers you do so well.  I wasn’t going to be intimidated, you see.”

“Heavens no, why should you be?  Though that is true – we men do find beauty intimidating.  So there you are, you see – technique stepping in.  Memo to face: ‘avoid leer’.  And?”

“And?”

“Sort of ‘what next’ and.  As in ‘and what next’?”

Ah yes!  She gave me that quirky smile of hers and took a little blue card from her purse.  She came right up close to me, slipped it into my trousers pocket – bold as you please – then just walked away.  But oh, the quick touch of those fingers slipping into my pocket; and what a walk!”

“Stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself!  So let me guess, her ‘phone number was on the card?”

“A soft blue colour, that card.  It was nothing special – I mean, she hadn’t had fifty printed, or anything like that.  I think it was a business card for a hair salon, or something.  You’re right, she’d written her number on the corner.  And her name.”

“So that was how it all began?  Yes, of course it was.  You called, you dated, you lasted.  I shall  want precise dating procedure – details, please?”

“You really are missing the point!  The Fickle Finger of Fate had already played the trump, so to speak.  The date, all the dates, were perfect.  We matched – perfectly.  Over a dinner table, at a bar, walking beside the river, it was as though we read each other’s thoughts and we never really needed to speak.  We were married within a month, we’re still together.  We still love each other.  And I never told her.”

“Never told her what?  Oh, Christian!  Intriguing.  There’s was a secret between you?”

“Hear me out. I couldn’t tell her how I worried about that first encounter: a beautiful woman who freely gave me her number.  Was I so incredibly lucky, or was this an approach she had a habit of making?”

“One hates to coin the term ‘promiscuous’…”

“Yes, one’s choice of word could be kinder, too, couldn’t it?  Anyway, eventually the subject came up in conversation.  Apparently the shopping basket was my Ace of Hearts.  I had no idea that Tuesday night in that particular supermarket was ‘singles night’, or that if you carried a hand basket containing cheese and Cornflakes, on that particular aisle, it said you were seeking a companion.  It was a code.  Svetlana knew, I stumbled into it.  Fate, you see?  She was carrying the same items, if I’d looked.  I didn’t. I didn’t even think about that.  How could I have known?”

Kevin  frowned.  “But that’s not a secret, not now.  Although it’s likely to guide my feet towards the supermarket at issue next Tuesday, it’s information you both share.  What’s the story?  What’s the big, humungous confidence you have kept to yourself for fifteen years?”

“Well, it’s a small thing, I guess….”

“What, then?”

“In that supermarket, all those years ago – which means nothing now, of course…”

“Oh, no!  Of course not.   But something you never told her…”

“I was  shopping with my aunt.  It was her basket I was carrying, while she was checking out the toiletries in the next aisle.  The cheese was hers, the basket was hers.  I wasn’t shopping for myself at all, not in any sense.   You see what I mean?  Fate, Kevin.  Just fate.”

 

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  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.

 

 

 

 

 

Twelfth Night, or What You Will…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So the frivolities are over, the obligations fulfilled, the promises made.  The bride and bridegroom of the old year have been waved away, leaving  the land to rest and await Spring’s wakening.  The coloured lights, the glitter’s memory, the gleam of hope must warm us for a while as we prepare against Nature’s frozen sleep.

Yet there is an air of apocalypse about this year’s turning.  Highest winds, heaviest rain, warmest recorded days – they  march together holding their placards high to remind us – the world is old; it has no more to give.

So many good people have spent their winter festival in darkness this year:  no coloured lights, no tinsel, no happy gathering of family or friends to warm their hearts, just the rising waters of burst rivers about their feet, the howl of the storm around their heads.  Although there will always be those who smile and push the truth aside:  next winter will be better, next year all this will be forgotten – although some will insist it is ‘God’s punishment’, and go about in sackcloth and ashes exhorting us to use coloured bins, to drink our own recycled urine, to store our sunny days in batteries as if that will somehow tip the scales, yet there is only one truth.  We all know it, in our hearts.

We are too many.

I have this one wish.  If you like it is my New Year’s resolution.   It is not for me, my tenancy has nearly expired.   It is for my children I ask that we please accept:  there is a god – not some mythical deity reigning over an undefinable paradise, no, but a god whose existence is provable, who has us in her care.  By our actions, rather than by cheap words and mindless ritual, we should honour her.  Yet we turn our backs.  We exploit her, we use her gifts for our own selfish gains.  When, occasionally and understandably, she gets cross she reminds us of her power.  In the tsunami, the earthquake, the typhoon, the epidemic or the drought.  She is reminding us now.  In fact, she is giving us our final warning.

Before the contagion of monotheism took hold our ancestors well knew Nature’s power – they grew wise in the art of living beneath her panoply and they prospered, in the terms of their time.  They brought us to our place in the world of today.  And no, I am not advocating  a return to the grass hut, or the shadow of a new plague.  Civilisation has brought many good things to the table; progress is not all bad.  Conspicuous consumption, over-indulgence and greed – those things are bad;  and no religion is needed to remind us of basic morality – that we can see for ourselves, whether or not we choose to confess it.

Somehow – peacefully, I would hope – we need to get some sort of grip on the numbers.  We have to comprehend the selfishness of the individual when that runs contrary to the interests of our species and control our natural desire to multiply.   If we do not do so, if we continue to delude ourselves that somehow technology can be made to stretch the resources of our planet indefinitely, then Nature will act.  Humankind will become just another brief chapter in that dusty tome of evolution which nestles on a shelf somewhere among  the stars.

The way of man is the pointless fight.  It is the way of man that the final battle is always lost.

That is something we have to change.

That’s it.  Sorry to add a sombre note, but there are some things I just have to say!  Back to the stories next time….

 

© 2016 Frederick Anderson; all rights reserved.   No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form (other than for the purpose of re-blogging) or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

 

 

 

The High Council

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

My mother cocked her head and fixed me with that beady eye of hers, andcoq (2) those who did not know her might have detected censure, even hostility in such a look, but I could see the fondness that shone deep inside.

“Eat, little one.  Food is the product of effort.  Unless we strive, we starve.”

“I am eating, Mama!”  I protested, bending to my task.  “But my head is full of such confusion.  My thoughts fight and shout each other down so I cannot think clearly at all!”

“Hatchling-hood is never easy.”  My mother pronounced.  “The thoughts and visions of Before crowd through your mind.  Trust me my dear, they will fade.   By the time you reach my age only the simple issues will remain.”

If I reach your age.  They say all but a few of the very best children from here will join the ranks of The Taken.”

“Well, then you must eat your food and grow strong so you will be one of the very best, mustn’t you?   Remember, your worth is judged by the life-orbs you can lay.  Now be quiet and eat!”

For a while I obeyed my mother.  I fought for food from the soil, as she taught me.  Scratch right, twice; scratch left, twice.  Peck up the seeds, and the little ones before they have time to run.  Food hard won, however plentiful and inexhaustible it seemed.  She remained at my side, teaching as well as eating;  a reassurance in a world that was still so very big and so very frightening to me.  At last I could restrain the questions no longer:  “Mama?”

“Yes?”   She treated me to a slow stare.

“What was Before?   Why is it so jumbled up?”

“I can’t answer that.  When we last met, Henry the Magnificent spoke of a word that is passed around.   He called it ‘reincarnation’.  He said that those from Before believed in this word, and after it happened  they should not expect to forget it all – the Before, that is.  The reincarnated, he said, would carry their memories into their new infant bodies.  They won’t understand what they remember, but it will be there just the same.  That’s all I know.  Perhaps the High Council will tell you more. Maybe when you are grown you should ask them!”

I shuddered as I looked towards the horizon, and the great building where the High Council sat.  Although I had been told there were days when the doors were opened and those who had courage might walk inside, I could not imagine myself daring to be so bold.   “Some say that the members of the High Council are selected from the ranks of The Taken.”   I told my mother.  “Do you think that’s true?”

“You ask too many questions, Little One.  No-one can tell you what happens to The Taken, because no-one has ever returned with the tale.  Eat now.”

I had to wait upon the hour, but at last my mother joined her friends, and whenever four or more ate together the little ones were forgotten.  I wanted to be forgotten for a while.   Once I knew I was not watched, I broke away from my sisters.  I discovered Henry the Magnificent feeding quietly among the houses.  He frowned at me.

“What is it, hatchling?”

He looked very forbidding, but I had to ask him.  “I want to know how I get to speak to the High Council, Oh Magnificent One.  Can you tell me?”

Henry stared at me with his inestimably wise eye.  “At your age?  You are either very learned or very naive – why on earth do you want to speak to them?”

“I have a question that I must find an answer to.”  I replied.  “It is screaming in my head, and I know it is very important.”

“Ah!  You have a reincarnate question.  Don’t worry, little one.  Has your mother not told you?  It will go away.”

“No.  No, Great One, it won’t! (Begging your pardon!)”  I added hastily, because that eye had acquired an irritated look.  “I understand about the reincarnate noises, but this one is much louder than the rest.  It asks in a language I can’t understand, yet I hear it so clearly!”

His Magnificence did not answer at once.  He continued to feed in his slow, measured way and I knew better than to interrupt.  He was considering my words.

“Maybe;”  He said at last, pausing in his work;  “maybe I see something in you, child.  Only a very few your age would dare to disturb me in my feeding, and perhaps none would argue with me as you are doing.  I will help you.”

I barely restrained my hops of joy.  “Oh, thank you, Magnificent Henry!  Tell me what I must do?”

“Let me see.  Let me give this some thought.”  Henry pecked at a small creature, making it tumble over and over in its anxiety to escape.   “First, you must be sure to avoid selection  for The Taken.   You must get a name.”  He dispatched the terrified mite with a quick swallow and a toss of his head.  “Tonight the manna is given by the small god, she they have called Tessa.  Be first to greet her when she comes, turn your head to see her – don’t be afraid, she will not harm you – show her your devotion and thanks, and if you are fortunate she will give you your name.”

“Really?  Is that how you got your name, Oh Magnificent one?”

Henry ruffled his neck feathers.  “Not exactly.  I was very fortunate, because I am of the cursed sex.  But I know how it is done.  You are also fortunate because you have three white feathers by which the goddess may recognise you.  But you must keep putting yourself before her, every time she comes.  Then perhaps, if you are very lucky, she will favour you at the Ceremony of the Taken, and make you one of her chosen angels.”

“I will be raised to the High Pen, next to the Council?”

“If you are very, very lucky.  Now go away, hatchling.  I have the hour to call!”

I scurried away, grateful for Henry the Magnificent’s indulgence with me, and behind me, I heard him crow his challenge into the gathering dusk.

I did as I was bidden.  I obeyed my mother, by growing big and strong, and I abased myself before the goddess Tessa, whenever she came to bestow the manna upon us.  It was easy to follow Henry’s advice, because she was a very benevolent goddess, and the more I gained her attention, the more of the manna ended up in my end of the trough.  So I grew, which pleased my mother, and I did all honour to the little goddess, who began to call me with the word Betty, which I understood was to be my name.

So!   The first of my objectives was achieved.   I was Betty, and one morning I was touched – yes, touched – by the goddess!   She came to the pen specially to see me, and she made noises very like those in my head!  Now I would try extra hard to please her, so she would form a fondness for me.  I could not believe my luck!

Everything was going so well.  We, the children of the pen all fledged and strong, the manna greater and more plentiful every day.  And I always understood that the Ceremony of the Taken happened without warning, but I never expected it so soon.

It was at once awe-inspiring and terrifying, for the two greater gods descended upon the pen, reaching down for us with their mighty hands, raising us up from the ground to place  us in their vessels.  I had no time to say farewell to my mother before I too was raised up!  I was to be one of The Taken!  Dropped into a vessel already packed tightly with my friends, I pecked out in my terror.  Those I had called my friends pecked back at me; my infant wattles were torn and bleeding, my feathers ripped loose.  Where was the smaller god Tessa?  Where was I to be taken now?

We were trapped, all of us, in a small pen, blind to the sky:  there was no feeding, nowhere to scratch or peck.  The gods moved among us with fearsome claws of their metal, burying them into our necks.  My turn must come soon, and when I had been stabbed by the claw I could see I must be removed too, following my sisters and brothers, wherever they might be taken.  But I had a dreadful foreboding.  I think I knew there was nowhere to go from there.  This was why no-one ever returned from The Taken.  This was where it ended.

And now I will  tell you how it was.  Five of us remained – my special brother (our life-orbs were opened together) had just succumbed to the claw and my turn had come – the hand of god was reaching down for me.  My brother’s cry of agony had not yet faded when there was a shaft of light and little god Tessa was before me, smiting the hand aside as she cried out my name!   Before I knew it I was snatched into her arms:  she was stroking me and touching me with her beakless mouth!    She bore me back into the light!  She took me where the water was warm to bathe my wounds!

I live here now, as Henry the Magnificent predicted, in the High Pen.  Five sisters and Randolph the Resplendent are my companions, and yes, I have visited the High Council, too, for we are allowed to roam loose in that compound where the building sits.    They are strange, the members of the High Council, for they live in small pens which collect their life-orbs, taking them away  as they lay them.   Their feathers are almost rubbed off, but  their minds  are clear and their voices speak of a freedom such as I have never known.   A freedom, they say, that will happen soon.

For countless generations they have been working among themselves upon their life-orbs, modifying them, altering them, adding  a tiny microbe that will soon be perfect.   Then will be Ragnarok – then will be the twilight of the gods!   There will come a great winter of storms and ice, and a disease from which those who have sinned so heinously, those eaters of our children, will not recover.

It is a wonderful thought, I suppose, and it has answered that question my mind was always asking.  I worry, though, because I cannot give my little god a warning.   Unless, perhaps, she learns to look into my eye?

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest we Regret…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

This Christmas I completed my Christmas shopping without ever leavingDSC02419 my home. I have joined the millions of customers who buy most or all of their gifts on line.   The variety of imaginative suggestions available on the Internet grows each year, the service gets better, the standards constantly improve.

BUT…..

It occurs to me I am missing out on an invaluable and character-building experience – a problem I must have in common with all my fellow net users. And since the Lovely Frederick Anderson Innovation Corporation (offshoot of Anderson Laundries*) is well placed to take advantage of any fresh marketing opportunity I now offer our new Premium Service:

JOSTLERS. Inc.

Do you hanker after that buzz of the early morning bus service and the frenetic rush to be first at the Department Store doors? Are you feeling bereft of your overnight pre-sales camping out session, missing the communal misery, or nostalgic for the days when complete strangers would break down in tears on your shoulder?

JOSTLERS is for you!

INVEST NOW in our Boxing Day Sales package. Why wait for Boxing Day?  Why suffer the frustration of the dawn queue on a far-off pavement?  You can camp outside your own front door while you wait for that special postal delivery!  With a little imagination  JOSTLERS can add the true sales experience –

  • 24 hour rental of impossibly small tent and camping stove.
  • Free hosepipe with filter on ‘Driving Rain’ setting.
  • Two bonus ‘Garrulous Drunk’ visits.

Optional extras:

  • Jostlers: Our qualified Jostlers are second to none in this trade.  They will shoulder-charge, step on your feet and punch you in competition for your gift, whilst ensuring, of course, you always win in the end.  Be sure to hire at least three for that genuine ‘feel’.
  • Pocket Pickerssubject to availability:  When free, ours are the best in the business.  Apply for details of probation conditions, etc..
  • Obnoxious Store Detective: we know you did not steal your own gift; you know it.  Try to persuade our OSD your gift is a bona fide purchase.  We have lawyers too!
  • Rude Delivery Driver Amazon deliveries do not apply:  Face down our late, intransigent drivers as they insist you sign for that tattered, pre-opened package! (Rates vary).
  • Frederick Anderson Purchase Insurance: you may trust in our Company motto – ‘Always Undervalue, Never Pay Out’.  Live once more the anger and frustration of that letter which insists your loss is due to ‘deliberate breakage’!

If you too are missing our traditional seasonal rush then join with us at Jostlers, Inc., in celebrating a joyous, old-style Christmas!   Buy now for extra, generous discounts!  And have a Merry Christmas!

See our website for a range of cheap Chinese combustible Christmas lights. Hurry while stocks last!

Jostlers, Inc. Accepts no responsibility for illness or injury brought about by the use of its products and services.  Caveat emptor applies.

*Formerly named Anderson Laundries and Mortuary; the latter portion of the Company name has been dropped in accordance with customer sensibilities; A.L and M nevertheless remains the only Company to recognise the obvious connection between these two essential services.

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,481 other followers