Time To Go Home


I’ve been away for a long time, and now I’m going home. 

My whole life is in this bag except for the clothes I stand up in.

I couldn’t go without one last look.

I wouldn’t say that I love the sea, but I would say that it sustains me. This little coastal town took me in when I needed to be invisible.

I was expecting the usual small town attitudes, but that’s not what I found. They didn’t exactly embrace me, but they didn’t run me out-of-town on a rail either. Funny expression that; where the hell do you get a rail at short notice? And why not just chuck them in the back of a ute and dump ‘em at the city limits? Seems like a lot less trouble to me.

But what would I know?

hopper.gasI didn’t want to draw attention to myself, so I went looking for work as soon as I arrived. I packed groceries on a Friday and Saturday, worked at the service station whenever one of the boys needed a day off and did odd jobs at the distillery during the whisky season.

Getting somewhere to live was also mysteriously easy.

Ma Weston runs a boarding house. The kind of boarding house you read about in books.

Breakfast at 6:30 am dinner at 7:00 pm, and if you were late you went hungry. Ma Weston could cook — boy, could she cook — no one was late to the table in this house. Not only was the food amazing the portions were ridiculous.

Ma Weston got her start in the boarding house business when her husband was killed working on the rigs in Bass Straight. It was one of those huge storms that Bass Straight is famous for. Someone said that it’s one of the roughest stretches of water anywhere in the world and on the night Mr Wilson was washed off the rig it was close to Armageddon. The wave that took him went over the top of the rig. Think of how high those things are and then imagine a wave big enough to go over the top of it.

And I thought that I had troubles. 

3430504504_7a3545f5d2The rig workers did what they could for Ma Wilson and their most practical contribution was to make sure that her boarding house was always full of rig workers. Some even stayed a night before heading home.

Now that’s loyalty.

After six weeks on a rig with a bunch of smelly, hairy men with nothing to do but work sleep and jerk off, the last thing most blokes would do would be to prolong their absence from home, but that’s what they did, and it got her through those anxious years.

These days most of the rigs have shut down, but those that are still going continue to remember Ma Wilson. I got to know a few of the regular blokes. We would share the occasional beer on a Friday night.

Landing in an oil rig town was a wise decision.

Oil rig workers are a strange lot; a bit like the Foreign Legion. They come from all over, and most of them are running away from something, so they understand a bloke who never wants to talk about his past. They don’t speak of the past, and neither do they ask.

I enjoyed my time here, but it is time to go home.

Alister McLean is dead.

I got the word a couple of days ago.

The rest of his gang are old and behind bars.

No one is looking for me anymore.

I’ve lived this way for so long I’m not sure that I can live any other way.

Never own more than you can shove into an old suitcase and be ready to go at a moments notice.

They nearly caught up to me a couple of times, but my luck held.

I remember a particularly talkative bloke on a train from Melbourne to Bendigo. Lots of annoying questions.

I’m pretty sure that he knew who I was but he wanted to make sure before he made the call.

Ten thousand reasons to dial those numbers.

He wasn’t too bright, and I gave him the slip. The second last time I saw him, he was in a phone booth gesticulation wildly. I wonder what they did to him when they found out that he’d lost sight of me?

I could see him frantically searching the platform as my train back to Melbourne pulled out.

I felt a pang of sorrow for this poor bloke. I know what it feels like to get that close to the brass ring — except in my case, I grabbed it. 

Jack Vettriano Painting 72

I’d been giving McLean’s missus a really good time for several months.

She was discreet, I’ll give her that. She needed someone; don’t we all?

I treated her as well as I was able. She was just like the rest of us who were living this life; she was juggling a grenade with the pin pulled out. It was exciting, but if you dropped the damn thing, it was going to end very badly.

McLean was an arrogant prick, and he never thought that Agnes would be looking when he punched in the code to open the safe. She played the dumb blond to perfection; she was anything but. I liked her a lot, and I was surprised to find that she knew what I was up to.

She came right out and said it.

“Billy, I know why you’ve been so nice to me. You want to know if I know the combination to the safe?”

You could have breathed on me, and I would have fallen over.

Honesty seemed like a good idea.

I’d rarely tried it, but there had to be a first time.

“It’s not just that Agnes, we had some good times, didn’t we?”

“Yes we did, and all I ask is that you leave some of it in the summer-house, behind the books.”

“There’s a lot of books out there kid. Exactly which books do you want the money to be behind?”

I’m not sure that McLean could read, at least not complete sentences, but he had me stock the summer-house with “lot’s of books that rich people like.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.47.59 amI did exactly as he asked and paid way over the odds to an old bloke who used to be a teacher.

He was old, and his wife was off with the fairies, and he really needed the money.

He obviously didn’t want to sell, and he’d knocked back a heap of book dealers, and by the time I got to him, he was practically in tears. He’d spent a lifetime compiling the collection.

It was the ‘first editions’ that the dealers were after.

This bloke had one of the most amazing collections of children’s books I’ve ever seen.

OldDesignShop_HolidayFunCoverThe only photos of children in his house were very old, and they didn’t look like photos of grandchildren.

He looked sadly at me when I handled them.

I knew better than to ask.

I offered him five times what the dealers had bid. What did I care? McLean could afford it.

I gave the children’s books and the first editions back to the old bloke.

He didn’t say thank you, he just took the money and the books and walked back into his house.

As I loaded the boxes into the back of McLean’s Bentley, I wondered if he would notice that the books were way over-priced.

He didn’t.

They had leather bindings with gold embossed titles.

They looked like they belonged in a posh library and that was all he cared about.

Eventually, Agnes chose the complete works of Charles Dickens as her hiding place. She thought about it for quite some time, and I smiled. 

“Excellent choice.”

I don’t know what she was expecting me to leave her in that literary hideout, but I was impressed that she didn’t set a figure; she left it up to me.

The pile of money made the Dickens editions stick out a bit, but there was no way McLean was going to notice.

I knew he didn’t trust banks, but I have to say that even I was amazed by the amount of cash jammed into that safe.

Mostly large denominations and they fitted nicely into an old brown suitcase. 


Paintings by Jack Vettriano, and Edward Hopper.
Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?




 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

PASSERBY cover png

I should have stayed down; stayed where I was.

Anyone with half a brain would have stayed out of sight until it was definitely all over.

But no; I had to stick my head up to see what was going on.

I only had vision for a split second, but I could see the young policeman lying on the ground; his gun just out of reach.

I was guessing that the masked bloke standing over him was probably the one who shot him. With all the gun-fire over the past few seconds it was difficult to tell how many people had been involved.

The shooting had stopped and the other masked blokes had legged it up the street and into the car park; leaving this lone gunman standing over the fallen officer aiming his gun at the young man’s head.

I got that sick feeling that you get when you know that if you don’t do something really quickly you are going to spend the rest of your life wishing you had.

Let’s get this straight; given enough time I’m always going to fall on the side of the line that says ‘coward’.

My dad was a war hero but that’s not me.

Gold plated, self-interested coward.

So, knowing all that, I was surprised as anyone when the words, “Don’t do it mate”, came rather loudly out of my mouth.

Thinking about it later, and I do that a lot, it occurs to me that my training as a referee was what got me into this sticky situation. Sometimes during a game some bloke will ‘loose it’ and look like he is going to kill someone and if you shout at him, from a considerable distance, the shock of your words can snap him back into real-time.

It worked about half the time and the other half of the time he came after you, which was bad. But as I mentioned, you did this from a distance and if things went ‘pear-shaped’ you had a running start and hopefully his team mates would grab him before he got to you.

Only now, this bloke didn’t have team mates and no matter how fast I thought I was, I wasn’t going to be able to outrun a bullet.

The gunman did indeed stop looking at the injured policeman; and he turned his gaze toward me.

All my life I have been able to talk my way out of tight corners; they don’t come any tighter than this.

He looked at me but didn’t level his gun in my direction, which I took as a good sign.

I think I said something like, “No one has died [how the hell did I know that] and all you have to do is walk away, but if you kill a cop they will never stop looking for you.”

He stared at me for what seemed like an eternity and it occurred to me that I had a big mouth and it was finally going to catch up with me.

Then it happened.

The gunman smiled at me and walked in the direction of his fellow armed robbers.

He walked slowly and I could hear the sound of his boots as they hit the footpath.

All other sound had ceased.

It was as quiet as you can imagine, except for the sound of his boots.

At that moment it occurred to me that this bloke was likely to come out of the spell of my brilliantly chosen words and realise that the cops were going to get him no matter what, and that he might as well make it as hard as possible for them by killing the two closest witnesses; the young policeman and myself.

I guessed that I had about four seconds before this all unfolded so I bent down and picked up the policeman’s hand gun.

I looked at him and I could see that he was in a very bad way and I think he read my mind because he started to shake his head.

I was running out of time and we both knew it so I said,” Do I have to cock this thing or do I just point and shoot?”

I could barely hear him but I’m pretty sure he said, “Point and squeeze.”

I’m now half kneeling on the footpath and when I turn and look the gunman, who had reached the corner of the building leading to the car park, was turning in our direction.

The penny had dropped in his violent mind and my words had fallen from his eyes.

He had returned to reality; his reality; kill or be killed.

I brought the weapon up and squeezed the trigger.

The gunman fell like a rag doll.

I couldn’t tell where I’d hit him but I’d aimed at his chest.

My foolish brain now worried about him getting up again and killing us both. I wasn’t sure if I could stop my hand from shaking for long enough to fire again, so I left the young policeman lying there and covered the few steps to where the gunman lay.

He wasn’t going to get up again; I kicked his gun away, like I had seen it done on TV.

At that moment I heard the V8-engined getaway car start up and I heard something whizz past my ear followed by a whole bunch of other somethings; then the noise from someone in that car shooting at me became apparent.

Like a complete idiot, I returned fire.

Who the hell did I think I was?

The car sped away closely followed by a couple of police cars that had just arrived.

I went back to the fallen policeman to see if I could help but he needed a priest and that was not in my skill set.

I kneeled next to him and tried to reassure him but both of us knew that he probably wasn’t going to be here much longer.

It was only when I tried to grasp his hand that I realised I was still holding his gun. I didn’t feel as though my hand would let it go, but a loud voice that came from behind me convinced me otherwise.

I found out much later that the voice belonged to the dying officer’s partner.

He had gone to the Fish and Chip shop to buy them both some lunch as it all kicked off.

It was his turn to buy lunch and it saved his life.

He wasn’t sure if I was one of the armed robbers or not, and holding on to a gun was not helping my cause.

I dropped the gun and this large policeman pushed me to the ground and kneeled on my back; it really hurt and I thought at the time that I was going to have a permanent dent in my back.

I politely suggest that he might want to get the fuck off me and he responded by punching me in the kidney.

I decided that further conversation was a bad idea.

They threw me in the back of a police-van and drove me, faster than I thought was humanly possible, to a cell at a police station that I didn’t recognise.

I sat in that cell for several hours; I was scared and mad as hell. I knew that I had just saved someones life and I didn’t know what was happening.

I threw-up a couple of times.

The police surgeon explained that that was probably shock and the result of too much adrenaline in my system. “Thanks a lot Doc, that makes me feel a whole lot better.”

The police surgeon wasn’t the first person I spoke to. That honour went to Chief Inspector ‘someoneorother’, who had popped along to apologise for my treatment. He was probably only trying to limit the size of the lawsuit but I appreciated someone saying ‘sorry’, so I told him ‘not to worry about it’ and he apologised again while telling me that they could not let me go just yet as there were a few things that needed to be sorted out; not the least of which was how the gunman came to be shot.

As I said, I’d been sitting in that cell for several hours, which gave me a chance to think about what was going to happen next.

From the questions I was being asked, it seemed that everyone had their head down [except me] and no one saw how the gunman got his. The assumption was that the wounded officer had fired off one last lucky shot.

If I ‘put my hand up’ and said it was me, I would be an instant celebrity and my life would change dramatically; at least until the media got bored and then I’d be left looking over my shoulder waiting for this bozo’s mates to catch up with me.

So, at least for now, I was keeping quiet; hiding behind the trauma, until I knew what the other gunmen had seen.

Within hours there was a siege and shoot out.

Two officers were injured and the three gunmen were killed.

My problem ——- how many friends did these blokes have, and which one among them would like to make a name for himself by putting my lights out?

I had a family to consider so my story, when I finally emerged from my ‘trauma filled haze’, was going to be suitably vague.

After giving a rambling statement they let me go home, but I had to come back in two days to give a ‘formal statement’.

Two days went by very quickly.

“So where were you when this all started?” The person asking the questions was Detective Senior Sergeant Collins of the Major Crimes Squad.

One of the uniformed officers had warned me that this bloke was important and he would ‘tear me a new one’ if I pissed him off.

I took the warning seriously.

I wasn’t here to piss anyone off.

I had a story to tell and my immediate future depended on me telling it well.

“I was heading for the postoffice when I heard the bangs.”

“How many bangs?”

“I didn’t count but there were several.”

“Several like three or several like ten?”

“Like ten, maybe more. The noise of the gunshots seemed to be coming from more than one direction. It was then that I dived behind a car.”

“What kind of car was it?”

“How the fuck should I know?” I instantly knew that I shouldn’t have said that. “It was dark blue, I remember that.”

Detective Senior Sergeant Collins was glaring at me but he relaxed quickly.

“Easy there sunshine; I’m just looking for all the details . It was a dark blue Mazda 6”

Holy shit.

He already knows which car.

That means someone was watching.

“Unfortunately you seem to be the only one who knows what happened next. Everyone else was behind or under something.”

I tried not to look pleased.

I told him my story and all of it was true until I got to the end.

In this version I went to see if the gunman was dead [my DNA might be on the kicked gun] and went back to the officer after the fleeing gunmen fired at me. When I got back to the wounded officer I picked up his gun; and I don’t know why I did that.

One of the few things that could trip me up would be finding the bullets that I fired at the getaway car but as it turned out the car got shot up in the siege, so chances were they would not bother identifying the bullets lodged in the car. Which was good news because my bullets would be lodged in that car; I’m a good shot, as it turns out.

If the wounded officer recovered he would, no doubt, remember what I did.

He did recover but it took several months and when he was finally interviewed he said he didn’t remember much after being shot.

I had no way of knowing if that was true or if he decided to go along with my story.

He was awarded the Medal of Valour and I slipped quietly back into obscurity.

On the anniversary of the robbery I received a package and a letter.

The letter was from Constable Stephen Walker. It was short and to the point.

“I owe you my life and I’m sorry that it took me this long to say thank you. I’m not sure what bravery means but if I did I would say that it applies to you. I get paid to risk my life; you were just passing by. I don’t know why you let them think that I made that shot and I don’t want to know; I guess you have your reasons. My rehab has been long and painful and I’ve had a lot of time to think and I want you to know that I can keep a secret. Every time I get to hug my kids I think of the bloke who took his life in his hands to save someone he didn’t even know. Please enjoy the contents of the package.”

He signed it.

The letter was written ‘long hand’ and the package contained a bottle of 28-year-old single malt, ‘Bowmore’.

It must have cost a fortune.

I’m glad he wrote to me and I’m glad I’ve never seen him face to face since that day, because I don’t think I could handle the look on his face when I told him that if it happened again, I doubt that I would come out from behind that dark blue Mazda 6. 


And In The End You’ll Hear Me Calling.


 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

PASSERBY cover png

Part One.

Explain It To Me.

Michael was doing his best to explain, but I’m a bit thick, so it took a while.

It had something to do with a comet passing very close to Earth.

The science world had been looking forward to the event for seventy-six years, which is a long time to look forward to something, but you know scientists, they like stuff to be exact and that is the amount of time this comet takes to do a big circle—— no, I shouldn’t say that, Michael wouldn’t like it; it’s not a circle it’s a whatsameacallit? An egg-shaped thing-a-me? An ellipse, that’s it, not a circle, but you knew what I meant.


Anyway, it does this big egg-shaped circle, and it comes back, and the seventy-six years is almost up.

Now, I kinda get all that; well not really, but I can see how stuff might come back, a bit like a boomerang, and I’ve seen a few of those. It’s really cool how they fly in a big circle. It drives dogs crazy, ‘cause they think that they can chase it but it keeps turning and if they had just stayed where they were it would have come straight back to them.


So, why was I telling you that?

That’s right; the comet.


Everyone’s all excited, and Michael is doing his best to explain something to me which is kinda cool ‘cause he knows how hard it is for me to understand stuff but he keeps on trying.

He never treats me like I’m dumb, even though I am.

He’s my friend.

Always has been my friend.

When his ‘smart’ friends would call me names at school he would tell them off and if that didn’t work he would punch them in the ear. He couldn’t hardly hit good but he knew that if they didn’t quit it I was gonna pound ‘em, and I could hit real good!

I didn’t like people pokin’ fun at me.

I got into a lot of fights and Michael was doing his best to stop me getting kicked out of school.

It was a posh school, and they tended to kick out anyone who did not fit in, and that pretty much described me.

My foster parents sent me to this school because they thought it might help me to not be so dumb.

You know how people are, they figure that if you throw enough money at a problem, it will go away.

Of course, it doesn’t always work.

The school Head Master told me that if I got into one more fight, I was out, even though my foster parents offered to build a new science wing.

I was tryin’ real hard, but stuff didn’t stick.

Michael called me ‘Teflon’ and I didn’t mind ‘cause I knew he was just being a mate, but it was an accurate nick name, nothin’ stuck; except when Michael showed me how.


So, this comet is on it’s way and everyone is excited but Michael is excited and worried all at the same time and it’s the worried bit that he is desperately trying to explain to me.


“If it does what I think it is going to do, it is going to pull the Earth off its axis.”


“So, what’s this ‘axis’ thing again?”


“You know how the Earth wobbles from side to side as it spins and the wobble causes the seasons?”


“Yep, you told me about that years ago.”


“Ok, so imagine if something made the Earth tip over a lot more. The Pole would be exposed to the direct rays of the sun and all the ice, not just some of it, would melt. This would make the oceans rise and many low-lying areas would go slowly under water. There’s a pretty good chance that it would all sort itself out over the course of a year but it is going to cause a lot of damage and a lot of panic as well as a lot of homeless people.”


“That doesn’t sound good. You should tell someone. Who do you tell about something like that?”


“I’ve tried telling them mate, but they don’t want to listen, and I can see their point. I’m a young science graduate with zero experience, and all the heavy-weight scientists in the world say that everything is going to be fine.”


Michael was making sense; he always did, even if it did take a while for me to understand it.

If Michael was right, the Earth was going to look very different when this was all over.

The North and South Pole would be in different places, especially if the Earth did not tilt back into its old position.

The ice would eventually reform and the oceans would eventually recede, but if the ice formed over land instead of over the water as it did now, the ocean level would drop and seaside towns would be a long way from the sea, which was the opposite of what everyone was expecting from global warming.


This sounded pretty cool to me.

I would be able to see all the exposed ship wrecks along the shore lines.

I love ship wrecks.

Michael bought me a book about ship wrecks, and it’s still my favourite book.


Michael’s got about a year to convince these half-wits that this is all gonna happen. He said that there is lots of stuff that is gonna have to be done to prepare for it.


I asked him if we were gonna need to build an Ark.

He just laughed and said that wasn’t going to be necessary, but we were going to have to feed a lot of people over many months until the Earth tilted back.


Michael was particularly worried about the children.

Kids are always the ones who cop it the worst in wars and disasters.


Part Two


Turn Left.

The small white van dropped her off with the following instructions.

“Make sure that the children turn left and head for the top of the hill.”

This was Sarah’s assignment.

The one she had been training for.

If the emergency arose, all the children were to be taken to safety.

Taken to higher ground.

Volunteers had been called for.


Sarah did, so she came forward.

When the van left, she was the only adult for miles.

Sarah had not been an adult for very long.

She felt the weight of her assignment.

The children must make it to safety.

Her corner stood at a reasonable altitude, but the children needed to be higher.

By the time the van had dropped her off, there were children all over the place.

It was a bit of a mess.

All day long she said the same words over and over. “Turn here and head to the top of the hill. Good people will be waiting for you.”

The same words, again and again.

From her elevated aspect she could see the rising water off in the distance, and every child who went past her and made the correct turn was one more saved.

This went on all day.

A continuous stream of diminutive humanity.

Many holding hands, but not a lot of singing.

Each child was carrying a small box wrapped in brown paper and tied up, rather expertly, with string. If her job had not been so important and if she had not been concentrating so hard it would have reminded Sarah of the line from that song, “and these are a few of my favourite things….’

Just as she remembered the line, ‘….when the dog bites…’, the little white van stopped and out jumped a dog.

An Australian Shepherd, if she wasn’t mistaken, and she wasn’t.

She wasn’t frightened of dogs either.

The van sped off.

No instructions this time.

Sarah thought that they had probably sent her the dog to help her with her task.

She explained to the dog what she had to do and she used the sentence, ‘herd the children up the hill’, because she deduced that the dog would know what ‘herd’ meant and probably had a good idea what a hill was as well.


Dog took to the task with gusto.

She loved herding stuff, and in the city, there were very few things that needed herding.

She had tried herding people, but mostly they didn’t like it, and there was a bit of yelling and throwing of stuff.

She tried bringing back the stuff that they threw, but that seemed to make things worse. Next, she tried cars, but they just ignored her, and it got a bit dicey a few times, so she packed that it.

But here, she was actually being asked to do the thing she was born to do.

She was gentle but firm, and on more than one occasion she had to use her nose to make some small human keep moving.

Small humans smelt good, all ‘pockets full of sweets’ and sticky hands, and they didn’t mind if you licked some of it off.

She enjoyed that part, but she tried to be professional.


It was starting to get dark, and eventually, the line of children dwindled down to nothing. Sarah was exhausted, but Dog could have gone on a bit longer.

There was a small park on the corner with running water from a rainwater tank and a toilet. Sarah didn’t fancy going behind a tree, but Dog did not mind, but even a dog wanted a bit of privacy.

They slept together on the soft grass, but not before they ate the food that the little white van had provided.

They never saw the little white van again, but next morning, at first light, the children started coming up the hill again.

Dog kept things going while Sarah washed up and used the facilities.


“Turn here and head to the top of the hill. Good people will be waiting for you.”

Days turned into a week.

Sarah and Dog survived on tank water and the contents of those little boxes wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.

Children being children, would occasionally drop a box and forget to pick it up.

The boxes contained a type of Army field ration. Not very appetising but it was food, about enough to keep a child alive, but only just.


If you have ever had a job requiring a repetitive action, you will know that after a while your body carries this out without you having to think about it and your mind can concentrate on other things.

Sarah’s mind was thinking about those little boxes tied up with string.

They didn’t look like they had been prepared by a machine so Sarah was imagining a long table with ladies loading those tasteless food bars into those little boxes, wrapping then in brown paper and then expertly tying string around them and leaving that clever little bow that acted as a carry handle.


“Who taught them how to tie that bow?” Sarah thought.

Sarah also wondered why the little white van did not have any markings on it and why she wasn’t given one of those cool orange ‘fluro’ vests.

Maybe they had run out by the time they got to her.

Maybe her task was not important enough.

They could at least have given the dog a vest.

Maybe they would give her a T-shirt when this was all over.


One week turned into two and Sarah could see that the water was still rising but not as fast. She was tired all the time, and her clothes were very dirty.

She tried to wash them, especially her ‘smalls’, as her mum used to call them, but without soap nothing really got clean.


Sarah was not at all sure that she smelt good either, but it was hard to tell with no other adults around and she didn’t want to ask one of the never-ending line of children. Children always thought adults smelt bad, it was part of their thing.


Dog didn’t care how she smelt.

All humans had their own distinctive odour, it made them easier to find in a crowd.


Dog noticed that Sarah’s odour was changing.

She was very weak and not very well. Dog worried about her as she was the leader of her pack now and she wanted her to be strong and decisive.


Sarah got weaker, and the children kept coming.

There did not seem to be as many of them, but they still kept on coming.


Sarah lay down next to Dog. She needed her warmth; she was very cold.


Sarah did not wake up the next morning.


Dog nudged her a few times, the way she always did but she knew it was no use.


Her leader was gone.


Dog got up, stretched, went behind her favourite tree and headed off to work.


That night Dog lay down next to Sarah and guarded her body.


It was the least she could do for such a brave pack leader.


Part Three


And In The End, You’ll Hear Me Calling.

The men covered her body with their coats.

Dog thought about frightening them away; it was his responsibility to guard the body of his pack leader.

It had taken several months for the water to recede enough for people to begin returning to their homes; or what was left of them. Most would have to be demolished and rebuilt, but unlike most disasters they’d had time to prepare.

Michael saw to that.

For a while, the press treated him badly.

They said he was a crank and doomsday naysayer, but eventually, a few scientists started to listen to his theory and perform a few simulations.

They worked out that it would all come down to the finest of margins. If the comet passed by and was a few kilometres closer than the scientists had predicted, then Michael’s prediction would come to pass.

We just had to wait.

Accurate measurements could not be taken until the comet was at least six months out.

Obviously, the comet had struck something during its seventy-six year round trip, and this collision has altered its course; ever so slightly.

Six months were not a lot of time, but some things could be worked out in advance. Humans were at their best when they had their backs against the wall.


When it became obvious that the young scientist was right, the call for volunteers went out. This was similar to war-time and everyone was encouraged to do their bit.


Sarah saw the posters: ‘Do You Want To Help Your Community?’

She was one of the first in her area to sign up.

She had heard stories about her great aunts becoming ambulance drivers and working for the land army during the war.

She knew that she had to do her bit, just the way that her female ancestors had done.

The training was strenuous, and she slept very well at night.

She enjoyed the company of the other young people, and a sense of adventure was thick in the air.

She was told that wherever she was sent, she would probably be working alone, so she needed to be self-reliant.

There was to be a whole network of support to help these volunteers do their appointed tasks but when it all kicked off the support network fell apart and the volunteers were very much on their own.

Dogs were to be an important part of the disaster relief effort. A call went out for people to bring in their dogs so that they could be trained for relief work.

Time was short, but dogs were quick learners.

Dog belonged to the Smith family.

They lived in the suburbs and like most humans they did not know that their cute little puppy would grow up to be a working dog who needed a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

Dog was driving the Smith family crazy.

They thought that a large back yard was enough for a big dog, but Dog needed to work. She needed to round-up stuff.

Sheep, people, cars, she didn’t care what it was she just needed to round them up and make them move in a certain direction.

She didn’t know why, she just knew that she HAD to do it, and it was making her very anxious because, apart from the times that she managed to escape from the prison that was her backyard, she couldn’t find anything to herd.

Dog loved rounding up the Smith children and the kids cried when they took Dog off for disaster training, but the adults were relieved to see her go.

Dog loved training.

All day, every day she got to learn new things.

Food and water were always provided, and there were treats for those dogs who learned the fastest.

Naturally, Dog got a lot of treats.

The day came for her to go into action.

They loaded her into a white van and drove her part way up the hill.

The van stopped, and the driver opened the door so that Dog could get out.

The van drove off, and Dog could only see one adult human and a lot of little humans.

She ran over to the young woman and waited for her instructions.


“Herd the children up the hill.” Said the young woman.


Dog didn’t like being stuck in that van but it was worth it because now she got to herd small people up a hill.

This was going to be fun.

By the time the sun went down and the small people stopped coming, Dog was getting hungry and little bit tired. She and the young woman ate some biscuits and curled up on the long grass and went to sleep.

Dog was happy to have a job, and even happier to have a pack leader.


Many, many days had gone by and Dog was hungry and tired.

She loved her job but it had been a long time since the children stopped coming up the hill and she had been working alone since her pack leader had gotten so tired that her body stopped working.

Dog had done her best to keep doing her job while keeping one eye on her dead pack leader.

Every now and then she would have to leave her job and bark a lot so as to frighten away the scavengers.

It made Dog’s job very stressful but she was loyal and true and she was not going to let anything happen to the young human’s body.


When the other humans arrived Dog was too weak to frighten them away but she relaxed when she saw that they only wanted to put their coats over the young human’s body to give it some protection.

They offered Dog food, and she was grateful.





Sarah’s parents kept her medal in a wooden box on a table in their sitting room.

A vase of flowers stood next to the small wooden box.



They gave Dog a medal too, and a new home.

She wasn’t going back to the Smith family and even though she would miss herding the Smith children she was glad that she did not have to live in that backyard.

Her new home included humans who understood her and a lot of sheep that needed constant herding.

Absolute bliss.

Even at her new happy home she never forgot the young human they called Sarah.

They pinned a medal on Michael as well, which was fair enough.

It was his insight and bravery that gave the world time to prepare.

They could not save everyone and it would take many years to repair the damage but at least they had time to make some preparations and that was all down to Michael.


Michael insisted that his friend Ian had to be with him on the dais.

He told the media that it was Ian who gave him the strength and courage to keep fighting. Without Ian the world may not have had the time to prepare.


Ian knew that his friend was just being kind, but it was a lot of fun being made a fuss of. He told everyone that Michael was the smart one, and that he was just along for the ride.


Every superhero needs a sidekick, and Ian was proud to be by Michael’s side.



Death Of A Scoundrel.


Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.24.50 pm

This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.

I always had a horror of being found dead in a bad suit.
The four stylish women who are standing over me are each a little bit happy that I am dead.
I was a bit of a scoundrel, but I loved them all.
It was just that they needed something from me that I wasn’t capable of giving.


Women are like that.
They like what they see, and then they try to make you into something else. I’ve never understood that.
I had money and didn’t play by the rules, and the ladies enjoy that, it gives them a thrill.
I never pretended to be a one girl guy.
They didn’t listen, they just heard what they wanted to hear, and I guess I just let them, it was easier, or it seemed that way at the time.


I had things I wanted to do, and most of them were more fun with a woman on my arm.
I had a little money, and usually, I could turn it into a lot more, sometimes by legal means, but if necessary I could take it from those who could afford it, but only from those who could afford it. I had been known to win money playing cards and occasionally playing chess, but only occasionally. Chess was for fun and taking money from people was only fun when I didn’t like them.
I know exactly who shot me; Billy Prentice.
He’ll swing for it, but that won’t help me.
Although, being dead isn’t all bad.
It doesn’t hurt, and my clothes don’t get wrinkled, no matter what I do.
I’m pleased I was wearing this suit.
I love this suit, and it looks like I will be wearing it for a while to come.
I’ll miss them all, but I’ll miss Margo the most.
She’s the one on the right in the green dress.
She has a magnificent body; they all do, but Margo was very generous with hers. She never used sex as a weapon, and she excelled in the ability of pleasing a man.
She liked sex the way a man likes sex; often.
It wasn’t difficult to bring her to orgasm, and that made it fun. She could achieve orgasm as many times as she wanted and each one seemed more intense than the last.
This gave me great pleasure.
It’s a common misconception that guys are only in it for the personal pleasure, but that’s not true, at least it isn’t for me.
Being able to give pleasure over and over again is intense, it’s powerful, and it’s fun.
Margo had an easy-going air about her. She made me feel special. If I were ever to settle down, it would have been with her. She was genuine, at least in private. In public, she was a lot like the others, but I knew her secret, she was a friendly, loving person.
But, back to Billy Prentice.
You see that brown and yellow tie I’m wearing? It’s my school tie, St Josephs College. Billy and I were classmates.
There were two ways to get into St Josephs, you were either very bright, or your family was very rich.
Billy’s family was very rich.
I had the brains and my parents damn near bankrupted themselves for me to go there.
My degree cost a small fortune, and if my parents were alive, they’d still be paying off the debt. Thank God for debt insurance.
 Billy’s family money had made it very easy for him, but in College, he was surrounded by students with money and the college didn’t care if you were rich, they only cared if you passed your exams. If you dropped out, there was always someone who would transfer in and take your place.
 Billy had a major and a minor in ‘party’, and I have to admit that he was magnificent at it. He rarely turned up to class, and he had a string of the less well off students taking notes and writing assignments for him.
He made it through the first year by paying a lot of money for an advance copy of the final exam papers.
The second year went a lot like the first year with the single exception of him being expelled for cheating on his finals.
From what I can work out he thought I dobbed him in. I didn’t, but I was not broken up by not having to see him again.
 For a long time, I didn’t know who did drop him in it, but one of the perks of being dead is that you get the answers to all the stuff you wanted to know when you were alive.
Some guy I’d never noticed gave him up because Billy had ignored him for the better part of two years.
Hell hath no fury like a quiet guy ignored; apparently.
It was just too simple.
I was hoping for a much better story.
Like the one behind why Mary [she’s the one on the right in the red] never wore anything other than black underwear.
I asked her heaps of times, but she just kept saying, “It’s none of your business.”
Of Course, it was my business, I was the one who was looking at them, removing them, trying to find where I had thrown them, giving her money to replace the ones that went out the window on an especially passionate night.
Would you like to know why she only wore black? OK, I’ll tell you.
She was colour blind.
Can you believe it?
She didn’t want anyone to know.
She had all her dresses labelled, but she just couldn’t be bothered with her underwear, so she just bought black.
Practical, but annoyingly simple.
Can you see what I mean?
Up to this point, it isn’t worth being dead, all I’m getting are really annoying answers to old questions.
 Back to Billy again.
I guess he thought that I had been fooling around with his woman, which I had, and mix this with believing that I was responsible for getting him sent down and his tiny little mind decided to take me out.
He never was a big thinker.
 Screw Billy, I have to make the most of the situation I find myself in.
I’m wondering if I should look up all the women I know who are dead, or should I set my sights a little higher?
Quite a few women must have died since this whole thing kicked off.
I think I’m going to like this.
angel_wings_wallpaper-1024x768 (1)
So far no sign of St Peter or a judgement day, no one is sticking me with a pitchfork, and I haven’t seen a single pair of wings.
I know these four are going to miss me, but you would not know it by the look on their faces, would you?
Did I mention that I know all the answers to all the questions?
Yes, there is food and drink and dogs and sex, and yes guys, you can go all night if you want to, no matter how old you are, and yes we do have night and day, but the best part is the conversation.
Everyone has something interesting to say especially the ones who have gone around quite a few times.
I’m sure you have questions.
What would you like to know?
The scoundrel is in; ask away.  


Death of a Soundrel

Scarlett’s Scones and Sam’s Scar.


This story is now part of a Novella called THE LONG WEEKEND: A Sam and Scarlett Mystery.

You can find it here and there are links to where you can purchase the book. I need your support, so please consider passing up your next cup of coffee and buying my novella instead. Thank you.

Terry R Barca


Sam was constantly surprised by Scarlett.
Sometimes, when they were home alone she would disappear for what seemed like only a few minutes and reappear with a batch of scones.
“Where the hell did you learn to make scones?” he asked.
“At Finishing School”
“You have to be kidding.”
“The Finishing School I went to demanded that we knew how to cook as well as how to tell a drunk millionaire to fuck off without loosing our dignity.”
“Were there many occasions where a drunk millionaire needed chastising?”
“Once or twice, I was very attractive you know.”
“And very rich”. Sam could not help inserting that insight.
“Money had nothing to do with it. They lusted after my body, and rightly so.” Scarlett struck a pose to emphasise her point.
She had a point, actually she had several of them.
No longer a girl but a mature woman, she looked amazing with or without clothes. Incredibly, she didn’t have to work at it whereas Sam spent more than the occasional minute keeping his body in shape.
It was a habit he had learned from the days when a certain amount of strength and quick reflexes could mean the difference between reading the paper the next morning or being on it’s front page.
The scones were delicious, of course.
Sam was still curious.
“What else did they teach you at that Finishing School?”
“Lots of very cool stuff”. Scarlett thought about telling him some of the stories from her year in Rougemont in Switzerland but she wanted to maintain that air of mystery that young women were taught about back in those days, and besides, they had only been married for a little over a year and maintaining an air a mystery around a man who wrote about mystery for a living was difficult enough. If she had mentioned that Princess Diana had attended the same school it might have made Sam even more uncomfortable than he already was with the world she lived in.
Finally she wilted under his persistent stare. “I’ll tell you if you show me you your scars”.
“Oh, no you don’t, my mother left me those scares in her will, and she told me never to show them to anyone, especially nosey, rich women”.
“Oh, go on, just the small knife wound, and you have to tell me the story that goes with it.”
“You’ve heard that story and besides it’s nearly time for bed, you can see it then.”
“That’s all very well but you keep the lights on when I undress and you turn them off when you do.”
“Really, I’ve never noticed. Maybe it’s because I’m dazzled by your beauty.”
“Don’t come the malarky with me young man, show me that scar.”
Reluctantly he pulled his handmade shirt out of his waistband and exposed his left hip.
The scar was small but the making of it was near fatal.
He began the story in a low almost hushed tone.
“You know how in the movies William Powell gets shot but the bullet manages to miss all the major organs?”
“Yes, go on”. She was impatient and eager. She loved his stories, and she loved the way he told them.
“Well that’s not how it happens.” She didn’t interrupt this time so he continued.
“It started out as research for a book but the more I got into it, the more I didn’t like this bloke. He liked hurting people, especially women, and my mum always told me to stomp on people who hurt women.”
“What is it with you and your mum?” She interrupted him but he was used to it.
“Never you mind about my mum, she was a wise and insightful woman and she could bench press my father while singing the national anthem. She was quite annoyed when they changed the national anthem because it threw off her rhythm.”
“Enough about your mum, I want to hear about that scar.”
Scarlett’s world had not previously contained scars, and guns, and sheilas, and associated paraphernalia, until Sam had come along and she was secretly disappointed that he had given it all up to be with her. It was true that her family fortune was too much for one person to manage and she did need Sam’s help but his life before her was so exciting that at the very least she wanted to hear about it.
The only scar she could remember from before Sam was when the cook cut her finger and it took a long time to heal.
Not exactly a best seller in that story.
“So there was this bloke and your mum wanted you to stomp on him.” She was pretty wound up by now.
“Take it easy, my mum didn’t know this bloke and the whole ‘stomp on him’ was a bit of hyperbole, and why am I telling you this and why are you smiling at me. I fall for that every time don’t I?” He took a breath and dived back into the past.
He tried to leave out the boring bits [was it Hitchcock who said that drama was real life without the boring bits?]
“This bloke was no chump and he knew I had been following him so he led me down  a dark alley. Well, it wasn’t that dark but it sounds better if I tell it that way.”
“Was it a bluestone alley or concrete?”
“Bluestone I think. What difference does it make? Stop interrupting!” He wasn’t really mad, he adored her enthusiasm in the same way that he adored the rest of her.
“As I was saying, he led me down this dark, damp, dank, dangerous alley and stuck a knife in me.”
“Oh, come on there must have been more to it that that!” Now she was annoyed.
“He was wearing a hat” he said with a smile.
Sam did not want to draw Scarlett too deeply into his former world partly because the word ‘former’ was not quite accurate. Sam’s former life seemed not to want to remain former.
In the year they had been married there had been several incidents that threatened to undo his retirement. People kept dangling enticing cases in front of him and after all, he was only human.
Detective Inspector Matt Blank from the Homicide squad was the worst offender.
The Cops would like you to believe that they don’t call in outside help on difficult cases but that’s a load bollocks.
D.I. Blank had used Sam many times in the past and in return Sam got to see stuff that most writers never saw which gave his books a compelling richness that no ordinary imagination could match.
Sam had an instinct for crime and his instincts had brought him close to death on more than one occasion.
The tiny knife wound on his hip was one of those times.
Scarlett saw Sam’s ‘former’ life through the eyes of someone who had been protected from a lot of the harsh realities of life. 
She was no fool but she had never seen the life drain out of a person lying on the ground surrounded by litres of that sticky red fluid that movie makers never seem to get right.
The colour of blood is not like you see it in the movies and the amount that drains out of a person who has bled to death has to be seen to be believed.
All that is bad enough but then there’s the smell.
Copious amounts of blood gives off a sickly sweet metallic smell that is not replicated in everyday life. Paramedics, cops and nurses know that smell and Sam knew it as well.
That night in the alley he saw quite a lot of it and it all used to be inside him. Now it was trickling down between the century old bluestones and heading for an old cast iron drain.
The guy he was following simply turned around and plunged the knife into him.
Sam’s reflexes managed to move him sideways just enough so that the blade missed his large intestine but not quite enough to miss his skinny hips completely.
The blade hit the bone and that hurt but it also nicked an artery, he never did find out the name of the artery or the name of the bloke who kept pressure on the wound until the paramedics arrived.
By the time he was in the ambulance he didn’t much care what anyones name was and besides, he was lousy with names and he would probably have forgotten them anyway.
The anaesthetist told Sam his name, which was nice, it sounded like Nigel, which was nice, but it could have been Erving.
Not long after that Nigel/Erving gave him something and Sam saw a large black pool open up in front of him and he dived right in.
His dreams were confused and a little disturbing and at one stage Sam thought he saw a unicorn and he made a mental note never to mention that to anyone, he had a tough guy reputation to protect after all.

What Are You Lookin’ At??


I know what I like but finding out what you like has been interesting.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I’m amazed that you folks take the time to stop and read the stories, memoirs and essays that I write. I know how hard it can be to find time but a heap of you regularly do just that.
The stories etc., that I think are my best are not always the ones that attract the most interest; and that’s OK.
WP suggests that I write more of what you show interest in but you wouldn’t want me to do that, would you?
Maybe you would?


As I would expect, photos get a lot of likes [I do the same thing, it’s easy to decide if you enjoy it at a glance and you don’t feel guilty about not visiting the page if you are busy].
Stories get slightly less views than likes [some people are just being kind and that’s ok, and some people may not know that there is a story to go with that photo; no worries.]
I thought it might be fun to pick out some of my favourites from my first six months on WP and also to point out some that you read/liked more than others. Stuff that appears on both lists will be coloured green……… because I like green! [OK, so I didn’t do this but I left the sentence in anyway].



The Day I Met Chester.


I wrote this several years ago as a script for a YouTube video. It came out of nowhere and I love it. I guess it reminds me of the first feelings of being able to make something out of nothing, just the stuff floating around in my head. You liked it as well, it ranks as my 5th most viewed.
The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.


I have been telling this story, on and off, for forty years and eventually I got it down on paper [so to speak]. It got a good reaction when I first published it and it got quite a few comments. It seemed to touch people in different ways. Some people are, or were teachers and recognised some of the situations. Others have children and are seeing some of these things happening in the present day.
Then it became just another story that I had written but it stayed in my ‘Top Posts and Pages by Likes’ section on the side of my blog. Then, a few weeks ago it started to get several views each day until it has risen to be my second most read post. This might be because it is showing up when I ‘like’ other people’s stuff and they look at my avatar on their email feed and WP list my top three post.
Incidentally, this is how You Cannot Please Everyone became my most read post by a factor of 2 and half! I wrote it as one of my very early posts and it took on a life of it’s own because it would show up on my avatar when I ‘liked’ something [which I do a lot of…. there’s so much to like].
When a Seagull Needs Coffee


I like this one because I wrote it for my granddaughter and it came to life very easily [some stories do that].
You read it as well…. it comes in at number 9
And ‘liked’ it… at number 6
Out There Waiting For You


This is the story that started an interesting adventure. It was meant to stand alone but eventually became part of a trilogy [the only one I have written so far]. It’s very short and I love it [you did too and insisted on more].
You made it my 7th most read post, 6th in comments but 12th in ‘likes’
He Who Loves an Old House


Obviously, this was a very personal post. It is about my house and you reacted to it right from the start. Lot’s of lovely comments. This is the post that has the most integration of my words and my photographs and I think that is why it is one of my favourites.
You made it my 4th most read post, 3rd in comments and 4th in ‘likes’
Not Alone.


I’m very proud of this. It is the third part of a trilogy and a lot of people REALLY wanted me to write it. I put a lot of thought and effort into it. I experimented with the idea of having three points of view and I think it worked very well. I posted it and waited for a response. It got a few likes and a few reads but not the reaction I had been hoping for. This taught me a very good lesson and SIGNIFICANTLY increased my confusion!
Mostly I write stuff and post it and then move on to the next idea. I don’t generally sit around and wonder what people are going to say or if they will like/view it. But, on this occasion I did and it was not pleasant. I got a taste of what writers go through every day….. waiting to hear if that half wit publisher wants to publish their work.
It ranked in 40th in reads, 60th in comments, and probably just a low in likes!



I like To Watch


I wrote this post in response to someone else’s post about the disparity between ‘likes’ and ‘reads’.
I enjoyed writing it and even though I wrote it when I had not been here for very long, my opinions have not changed.
You love it. LOTS of likes and heaps of views. It is my 3rd most viewed post!
I guess it is topical. At some stage we all ask ourselves the question, but I must say that I’m a little surprised that it ranks so highly.
You Cannot Please Everyone


I think I understand why this post took off, but I’m still a little surprised that it got so many reads. It was early days and WP had to list something with my avatar and this was the post that got a bit of attention.
I wrote it out of frustration and disappointment. I had just gotten a piece published [which was and is still a big deal for me] and my friend gets all upset because she recognises herself in the story! Why not be happy for me? She knew that there had not been a lot of successes in my life at that time. So why not enjoy it with me? I guess my emotion comes through in the piece and I guess you guys have experienced similar disappointments.
Shagpile Carpet


Those of you who subject yourself to my stuff regularly will know that I write these types of ‘unusual’ stories from time to time.
A lot of them are inspired by a fellow WP person who likes to post macro shots and ask people to guess what they think the photo is about.
Sometimes I look at them and these crazy ideas start to form. I write them down and sometimes they come out as a bizarre story which appeals to me so I post it in her comments section. I keep a copy and when I come across it again I’ll work on it some more and post it with an appropriate photo.
You have liked and read quite a few of these but for some reason, this is the one that you have read the most.
I’m not sure if I think that it is my best but I do like it, so fair enough.
You have made it my 6th most read post! Impressive.
Not Alone.


See above.
One of my favourites and it ranks as my 45th most read post!
It ranks below several of my photos which don’t have any words and they still got more reads!!!!!!



The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.
By a long way.
You Cannot Please Everyone
He Who Loves an Old House
I like To Watch
Not a lot of surprises here I guess. If you liked to read it there was a chance you had something to add.



You Cannot Please Everyone
The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.
I like To Watch



These are stories that you might like to read when you have nothing else to do [I’m smiling at the thought that you wouldn’t have anything else to do]
The Mouse Who Liked Cheezels.


Ophelia Drinkwater Has Lots of Cool Stuff.

John William Waterhouse - Lamia

Let’s Eat Grandad



That’s it for now but I will write write a post about my more recent stuff at some later date.
If you were bored shitless then blame WP, it was one of their ideas.
I must admit that I had fun doing the research and I was surprised that your reactions to my stuff matched my own with only a few exceptions.
I was all ready to give you guys a serve and then I had to pull my head in.
Some would say that I should do this more often.

Waiting For You.

A Drama in 3 Acts:


 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

PASSERBY cover png

Out There Waiting For You.

She loved the sound of the white gravel under her feet because that sound took her closer to him.

They met every Thursday at the same bench in the park.
With it’s stone walls, pathways and greenery, the park was a beautiful place to be.
The Art Nouveaux benches were very old and had been well looked after.
Someone, a long time ago had a vision of a park where lovers, children and old folks could come and feel the sunlight and the rain. That vision had been realised in a time when land speculators ruled the world, so how did this park come into being with all that pressure to subdivide?
Someone with an iron will and a regard for the future, not to mention political clout, had made this park happen.
These thoughts ran through her head as she waited for HIM.
He was late, which was unusual.
He was always on time and if she didn’t love him as much as she did this trait would probably annoy her.
Paradoxically, she was always late; but not today.
She had something to tell him and she didn’t want to be babbling out excuses about her lateness, yet again.
Her constant tardiness didn’t bother him a bit.
He loved that she was not like him.
He needed a difference in his life and she certainly was different.
She waited for more than an hour.
He didn’t come.
She didn’t ring him, she was frightened of what he might say, or worse still, if he didn’t answer at all.
She quietly stood up and walked away; the sound of the gravel under her feet was no longer a comfort.
“Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.”
Jules Renard.
Lena Ravencraft’s day started early.
As the years had rolled by she needed less and less sleep.
There are those who would stay awake all day and all night if they could but Lena was not one of those people. Sleep had always been a release for her, and now more than ever she needed that release.
She and Michael had been together all their adult lives and when he slipped away quietly one night she was alone for the first time.
Alone is good when you know it will end when that amazing person steps through the door, but alone without that person is a certain kind of hell.
The best part of Lena’s day was walking to the park and spending as much time as her ancient body would allow.
With only one person in the house it took about half an hour to tidy up.
A cup of coffee followed by a read of the paper and it was time to head to the park.
It was only a short walk, but it was part of the experience and she looked forward to it almost as much as the park itself.
House number- 18
If she timed it just right she would pass by number eighteen as the young man was leaving for work. He always looked ‘nicely scrubbed’ and it reminded her of seeing Michael off every morning for all those years.
He always turned and kissed his wife before finally walking down the steps and along the road towards the train station. Lena loved to see the young wife watch her man until he was out of sight.
Every time,
until he was out of sight.
They had it all to come and Lena wondered what was in store for them; she hoped there would be more delight than sorrow.
She had to turn right into Erin Street to reach the park and this was her favourite way to go because it took her past two houses with dogs in their front yards.
The dogs seemed to know she was coming a long time before she got to them. Tails wagging and little yelps of delight, they competed for her affection. She didn’t play favourites, she took it in turns to visit with them each day and she always had something special in her pocket just for them. It wasn’t just the treats, they loved her. Dogs know good people when they see them.
Ears were scratched, hands were licked and time went by.
It was hard to leave but the park beckoned.
A little dog saliva never killed anyone but she wiped it off anyway as she walked towards her objective. A little further and she could see leafy green mixed with white gravel paths and beautiful stone walls. Little red flowers dotted the garden beds. Lena didn’t know what they were called but a name would not have made them more beautiful.
Her favourite bench was about a third of the way across the park.
It was a big old park with huge ancient trees and it had probably been there since the city was founded. She always said a silent thank you to the person who put this land aside so that multiple generations could enjoy it the way she was enjoying it.
Today was sunny but the weather did not deter Lena, she loved this place in all weathers. Actually she preferred it in winter as she often had the park to herself.
The sun was warm but not overbearing. She unpacked her bag: a sandwich, a flask of coffee, a small cake and a napkin hand embroidered. No paper napkins for her. She loved the feeling of cotton, and besides, it was a bit of elegance, even if she was the only one who noticed.
Today was Thursday and she was hoping that her young couple would show up. They usually did on a Thursday. The bench she liked to sit on was just a little way along from their favourite bench but she thought that it would not matter how close she was to this young couple. They didn’t seem to be aware of anyone else.
She watched as the young woman arrived. She seemed a little earlier than usual.
Time passed but the young man did not appear.
At first Lena did not think that anything was wrong, she was caught up in her own thoughts.
She was remembering the first time she saw Michael. They were both in this park and he was larking about with his school mates. The boys were aware that the girls were watching them so they did what all young blokes do under such circumstances, they were showing off.
Michael was climbing a large oak tree and hanging by one arm to show the girls how strong he was.
He fell and hit the ground awkwardly.
His mates laughed but Lena held her breath and waited to see if he got up unharmed.
He did, he was fine. He limped a bit but tried not to show it.
He was some distance away but Lena thought she saw his cheeks turn red.
The memory drifted away and Lena looked and saw the young woman still sitting there alone. She had been there a long time and was looking anxious.
After what seemed like a very long time the young woman stood up, paused for a moment, looked in Lena’s direction, and slowly walked away towards the main entrance.
Lena thought she looked sad. But maybe that was just because of the mood Lena was in. In any case, she hoped that the young man was alright.
Why hadn’t he come?
Lena could not remember a time when she hadn’t seen them together on a Thursday.
Lloyd, Harold (Safety Last)_01
A feeling came over Lena; she had lived a long time and she knew how tenuous life could be. It was silly but she wanted this anonymous couple to be happy, it was important to her; they were a part of her life.
In a little while she would have to pack up her stuff and head for home. Her bones were stiff from sitting for so long but she knew that she could sit in front of the fire when she got home.
It was a long time ‘til next Thursday.
She hoped that her imaginings were all wrong and she would turn up next week and see her second favourite young couple deep in conversation on their favourite bench, but she also knew that it was all in the lap of the gods.
Which particular gods, she wondered, look after young people on park benches?
Photo Credit:
“It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You’re not alone.”
Marilyn Monroe
He had tried to get there but things just didn’t work out.
He had never been late, let alone not turn up.
Would she understand?
Would she be upset?
Of course she would.
He was starting to panic, just a bit.
She hadn’t rung him. She never rang him even though she had his number. It was part of the way she was, and he loved her for it.
She was determined to give him space and did not want to be seen as ‘chasing him’. If he wanted her, he wanted her, and she was not going to resort to ‘feminine wiles’ to reel him in.
She wanted him to come to her, because he wanted to, not because he was tricked into it.
She had something to tell him: would he think that was a trick? Would he believe her? Would he be happy, or would her news drive him away?
He looked up and it was 4 o’clock; probably in the afternoon.
But 4 o’clock, in the afternoon on which day?
He had no idea how long he had been lying there.
He thought about getting up when he remembered being a kid running out the front door on a rainy day. He slipped on the top step and flew through the air and landed on the concrete driveway, flat on his back. He knew he should be in pain and he waited for it to arrive.
He lay there but nothing happened.
The pain never came.
Maybe he was paralyzed and that was why the pain was absent? Wiggling toes seemed like a good idea.
They wiggled; that was a good sign.
He wiggled his fingers.
They wiggled; that was a good sign.
He sat up, then stood up and amazingly nothing hurt.
How was that possible? He had fallen at least a metre, and at full speed, he should have broken something at the very least.
Maybe this was like that.
Could he be that lucky twice in one lifetime?
He noticed that his back hurt and as he tried to move it hurt a LOT more, and so did his right arm and his right leg, and three fingers on his right hand but that was nothing compared to the galactic sized headache that seemed to be coming from somewhere inside a fog.
The fog cleared a bit and it now became clear that he was in a lot of pain and in some sort of hospital. It was probably the sort of hospital that they take people to when they come in violent contact with something large.
The galactic sized headache expanded by the second.
Thinking hurt; more so than usual.
His throbbing brain returned to the problem at hand.
How was she going to react to him not showing up?
It was Thursday again and she could not remember a week that had taken so long.
It had been difficult not to ring him and almost impossible not to think about why he had not turned up last Thursday.
All of that did not matter any more as her goal now was to be in that park and see him waiting for her.
It was hard to prepare herself as her fingers seemed incapable of dealing with buttons and she had to redo her lipstick because drawing anything approaching a straight line seemed impossible.
She approached the park and tried to look calm but she didn’t feel like she was doing a very good job of it. 
She walked up the white stone gravel path and past the stone wall to their usual bench.
He wasn’t there.
It was not yet time to panic. There could be a hundred reasons why he was late.
She held on tightly to the small photograph that she had in her pocket.
It was part of what she had to tell him.
It was part of the surprise.
Talking to people and getting them to do something and think that it was their idea was part of his job, and he was very good at it. But his skills were useless in the face of how bad he looked.
He pleaded with the nurse to let him out.
She was sympathetic, especially after he told her why he needed to leave. It was up to the doctor to sign him out and the doctor was having none of it.
Maybe the doctor was having a bad day, maybe he was worried about the consequences  of releasing this obviously injured man. Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter because he was not going to budge.
By this time the young man had worked out that it was Thursday, and not the one he was trying to remember, but the next Thursday.
He had been out of it for a long time.
He had two hours to work out how to get out of the hospital and make it to the park.
Where was the park from here?
Where was here?
Even if he did get out he didn’t have any clothes; his were in shreds.
After the doctor had left the ward his nurse came back with a mysterious bundle.
She placed the bundle on the end of the bed and drew the curtains.
The nurse whispered to him that if he was going to make it in time he needed to dress quickly. She gave him her phone which had directions on how to get to the park and a twenty-dollar bill to pay for the taxi that was waiting at the rear entrance.
He kissed her and his face hurt.
He thought about asking her where she had gotten the clothes, but he thought better of it; he really didn’t want to know.
The taxi pulled up at the main entrance to the park.
The young man gave the cabbie the twenty and told him to keep the change. The cabby refused. “You look like you need it more than I do, mate. Good luck.”
To say that he walked up the path would be an exaggeration. What he was doing was something like walking but probably looked more like Boris Karloff rehearsing for a role in a Frankenstein movie.
He could see her sitting on the bench.
She hadn’t noticed him yet and he hoped that his mangled appearance would not frighten her.
He would have a hell of a story to tell her if only he could remember what had happened.
The young woman had only been there a little while but long enough for her nerves to settle down, just a bit.
She smiled at the old lady on the bench down the path and turned to look once more at the main gate.
Someone, who looked a bit like her young man was painfully making his way down the path.
She didn’t recognise his clothes and he was kind of hunched over. 
As he got a little closer she knew it was him.
She wanted to be calm but she just could not help herself.
She rushed to him and threw her arms around him.
He gave out a small cry of pain. muted by the joy of seeing her again.
They didn’t speak, words would come later, for now they just held each other.
Lena couldn’t help smiling.
She wondered what Michael would have said.
The young couple was back together.
Whatever had happened last week didn’t seem to matter.
She had her happy ending, at least for now. The future would look after itself as it always did.
Tonight she did not mind returning to her home alone because the warmth of what she had just seen would last her the whole night through.

The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.

In another life (the 1970s) I was a primary school teacher.
When my wife sent me this headline, I just had to tell you this story.
Teaching was all I ever wanted to do.
‘Ever’, being after I gave up on being a train driver, cowboy, spaceman, truck driver or the bloke who cuts the grass in the park.
I had to decide at the end of year 10 what academic stream I would take, Humanities or Science. I was pretty good at Science but Humanities was the course to take to deliver me into a primary school classroom. I never considered a secondary school career, I only ever wanted to work with little kids. It seemed to me that that was where the ‘teaching’ was.
It also seemed to me that that was where the learning began and I wanted to be in on the ground floor.
Teacher’s College was fun but getting out into the world was what I was yearning for.
In those days there was a shortage of teachers, so the government paid us (a very small amount) to complete our diploma, and in return, we promised to work for them for three years. We had to teach wherever they sent us, and for males that usually meant a one-teacher country school.
In my case, it meant a school in St Albans which, at the time, was on the extreme northern edge of Melbourne and was full of non-English speaking migrants.
I was just happy that it was not in the country. 
I really hated the idea of being stuck in some backwater and having to play cricket and football for the local team.
I’m a city boy and grew up in a tough suburb, and the city way of life suited me just fine.
Sitting around listening to farmers complaining about the weather seemed like hell to me.
Naturally, I have learned that country life is excellent, but you have to remember that I was young and I had a lot to learn.
I had four wonderful years at St Albans East primary school but moving to Belgrave after we bought our first house meant a two-hour journey to St Albans every day. I left in the dark and came home in the dark, slept through Saturday and got up late on a Sunday and it all started over again on Monday!
For six months I wasn’t sure what colour our house was because I never saw it in daylight!
Something had to be done, so I organised a transfer to a school on our side of town.
The school, which no longer exists (Jeff Kennett had it demolished, and it is now townhouses) was called Warrawong and was the alternate Blackburn South primary school.
Talk about a culture shock!
St Albans East was full of migrants, and the kids were great. The parents were extremely grateful for anything that we did for their children. They valued education above almost everything else, and the parents worked themselves into the ground to make sure that their children had an education.
On the other hand, Blackburn South was full of struggling middle-class families who thought the world owed them a living.
The staff were one click this side of brain dead, and my school principal was a back stabbing idiot.
My ego was such that I didn’t see any of it coming. I thought that everyone would come to understand how wonderful I was and all would be right with the world.
It didn’t work out quite that way.
It was possibly the LONGEST year of my life.*
This school was so insane that my wife stopped believing me as each night I would come home with an even more amazing story.
I will not bore you with all the stories here as I plan to write a short book about my experiences, but I will tell you two stories.
Firstly, just to get you started, here is the story about the school librarian.
I really should have worked out what I was up against right at this point, but I didn’t, I was too full of myself and my grand plans.
So, at our very first assembly the Librarian notices that the children are not lining up in straight lines, so she proposes that she be allowed to paint a white dot on the playground assembly area; ONE FOR EACH CHILD!
One white dot for each kid.
I thought it was a joke, but no, she was serious, and everyone in the meeting agreed!
I was the only person who did not raise their hand, I was too stunned to speak.
It gets better!
The school principal gave her permission to paint the dots, and the Library stayed closed for two weeks while she completed the task!
No one was outraged; they all thought it was a good idea!
Now comes the story that I wanted to tell you that was suggested to me by reading the newspaper article quoted at the end of this story.
It’s forty something years later, and nothing has changed!
By the time this story took place I was fairly shell-shocked by everything that had gone on.
Eventually I stopped going to staff meetings as I just couldn’t take it any more. I remember working out different ways to get out of the place on a Monday night (staff meeting night). I needed to be creative as the Principal saw my absences as a form of rebellion (which it was) and she did everything in her power to stop me from getting away.
Anyway, there I was, pre-rebellion at a staff meeting with drool coming from the corner of my mouth when I hear a motion put forward to ban swap cards.
Say what?
The kids at this school were really good kids, but the staff were afraid of them. Possibly they believed that the kids would work out that they were incompetent.
The kids didn’t care that the teachers were hopeless, they had never known anything else. They just wanted to get on with their lives and maybe have a bit of fun along the way.
So, the motion passed (big surprise) I spoke against it, but by now no one was taking any notice of me or anything I had to say.
A couple of weeks later there was another motion.
This time some bright spark wants to organise a lunch time raid in the playground to catch any kid with swap cards.
Naturally, the children had ignored the ban.
The dingus who put forward the plan wanted to have teachers at every door leading out onto the playground (there were a lot of doors) and at a precise time (yes we actually synchronised our watches) we were to burst through the doors (his words) and round up any errant card swappers. These children would then be sent to the assembly area (where all the white dots were) and would be made an example of in front of the whole school.
I was friends with a lot of the children in classrooms other than mine, so I spread the word about the raid but even, so there were about forty odd kids who got caught.
The teachers were very disappointed that the ‘haul’ was so light.
I was amazed that anyone got caught.
How dumb do you have to be to get caught after the word has gone out?
This happened in the middle of the year, and by now my good wife had started to think that I was making up some of these stories. She wondered how these crazy things could keep happening.
As I mentioned, it was not long after this that I stopped going to staff meetings and I can still see the principal staking out the car park waiting for me to attempt my getaway!

The newspaper article that prompted this post.



* The stress of teaching at this school caused a rash to break out on the side of my face which progressed to the point that it closed one of my eyes!