Prophesy

It all started innocently enough, but by the time it was over I was very rich, lives were destroyed, and three people lay dead.

“No one should ever know their future,” she said with that lovely little smile that I remember so affectionately. By the time this all developed, my mother had been dead for more than fifteen years, but I look back now, and I remember her words. She was fearful of the future and what it may hold. Her fear was rooted in her past, and it coloured everything she saw.

I’d been attending the Meditation Circle for a couple of years. I’d ‘found my feet’ again after wandering aimlessly for many years.

“Come along one night; You’ll enjoy yourself, and you might just learn something. You’re a moody bugger, Billy. You need help. Get off your arse and get your head straight.”

He was annoying, but he was right. If I didn’t do something I was going to slip back into that black hole again. I could feel it coming on.

The lady who ran the group was friendly and warm.

“Hi, I’m Trevina, and I facilitate the group. We are all equal here. It’s a Circle and no one sits at the head of a Circle.”

‘Good luck with that,’ was what I was thinking, but I didn’t say it out loud.

“Thanks for making space for me Trevina. My mate dragged me along. There are a lot more blokes here than I expected?”

“Souls don’t know if they are male or female. We just ‘are’,” she said.

“I guess,” was all I could think of as I made a mental note of where the exit was.

Trevina glided off in the direction of a bunch of middle-aged females who were clutching coffee as though their lives depended on it. We were in the middle of spring, but the evenings were still cool. Someone had turned on the heater, and the large room had an easy, comfortable feel to it. Chairs were arranged in a circle, and each chair had a different coloured cushion on the seat.

“Those cushions could tell a story or two,” said a rather tall lady. She stood almost as tall as my six feet, and she had perfectly brushed, slightly coloured hair which could not completely disguise her seventy years of life. She had a twinkle in her eyes, and I knew I had found a friend.

“Somewhere there is an Op Shop that is completely out of cushions,” I said.

“Collected over many years, I should think. Many a bottom has compressed them, and they keep coming back for more.”

“What would you say that was a sign of?” I asked.

“Perseverance, I should think,” she said.

“So what do you do here ……..?”

“Norma. We find ourselves.”

“Sounds like something someone would have said in a 70s movie,” I said.

“If you keep coming you will find out what I mean.”

“Now you have me intrigued. I was thinking about what we were going to have for supper when we eventually get out of here and now you’ve got me thinking about hippie girls in tight jeans with free love in their hearts.”

“I used to be one of those girls. It was a lot of fun at the time.” She gave me that smile that I was to see on the face of many of the people who regularly attended this Circle. Anywhere else, and I would say that it was smug, but not here. Not in this room. Here it seemed to suggest that they knew something that the rest of us did not know. They knew that the knew. Amazingly, they were happy to share what they had discovered.

I looked to see if I could find the friend who had brought me. Ross was standing on the far side of the room talking to a skinny female. She hugged him, and he walked in my direction.

“What’s with all the hugging? Not that I want to discourage females from hugging me, but I must say that I haven’t come across so much hugging since I was in kindergarten.”

“You’ll get used to it. It comes with the philosophy.”

“You haven’t walked me into some religious cult have you, Ross?”

“No, you crazy bugger! Exactly the opposite. Everyone here takes personal responsibility for the way they live their lives. They don’t live by some old man’s dogma.”

“Okay, take it easy. I was just joking. So no religious mumbo-jumbo. So what do you do?”

“We meditate and we discuss stuff. Some of the regulars are Mediums and Psychics, and they need the mental discipline that regular meditation brings.”

“Do you have any fortune tellers?” I was winding him up, but he didn’t bite.

Someone walked past us and headed for the coffee urn, and I could have sworn that they said, “That’s why you are here.”

I turned and looked at them, but they didn’t return my gaze. The person who might have said that was a short dark haired female, probably in her late thirties. She was the only female in the room who was wearing a dress; all the others were rugged up in slacks and pants.

“She’s cute, and she’s going to find that house.”

“What house? Do you know her? What the fuck are you on about Billy? You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

“Never mind. Just find a seat and try not to annoy anyone.”

“Fuck you blondy. They love me here.”

“I’m not blond anymore dimwit; I’m old and grey.”

He was right. We were ‘getting on a bit’. Not exactly old, but not young anymore either.

So, the Circle settled down, and the meditation began.

Ross was right, and as the next couple of years went by he continued to be right. My mind settled down; I discovered that I could do things that most people could only dream about, and I learned to love this rag-tag bunch of misfits.

I hugged a lot of people, and I listened as the Mediums among us connected with the Spirits of dead relatives and friends. I watched the tears flow, and I saw the laughter in their eyes. I learned that I could, under certain circumstances, tell what was going to happen to people in the future. I wasn’t the only one who could do this, but I was the best.

As long as these happenings stayed within the Circle, there weren’t any problems. We all understood the unwritten rules. No lottery numbers and no bad news.

For some reason, it was impossible to read your future, only someone else’s.

Mostly, the information was vague and general, but helpful. People in the Circle loved it, and I became a bit of a minor celebrity. My ego could handle it and because I was so grateful for my deliverance from the black hole of depression I was very careful not to do anything that might jinx my luck.

If I had to put my finger on it, I would say that it all started to unravel when I switched to the daytime sessions.

Trevina ran a nighttime group which I attended, and a Friday morning group. She asked me if I would like to come to the morning group. My work schedule was flexible, so I said yes.

When we took a break for a cup of tea, I liked to sit out on the footpath in front of the old shop that was our meeting place. The building had a long and colourful history, and I’m now quite sure that its energy contributed to what was about to happen.

The group would be deep in conversation fuelled by the events of the morning and copious amounts of caffeine. I’d take a chair out into the sunlight and sit quietly with my mug of terrible coffee and gather my thoughts. It wouldn’t be long before someone would wander out and join me, but for a few moments I had the sun and the solitude, and it was wonderful.

The shop had a verandah which, in the days when it was built, would have protected the shoppers from the inclement weather that is a feature of our mountain climate.

To catch the rays of the sun I moved my chair slightly out from under the metal clad verandah and as I look back I realise that this was the final piece of the puzzle.

As the pretty lady with the coloured hair joined me and broke my solitude, I noticed a delivery van pull up. The driver got out and proceeded to open the back of his van.

“He’s going to have a hell of a headache,” I heard myself say.

Dianne, the pretty lady with the colourful hair, said, “What do you mean?”

I blinked a couple of times and tried to form an answer.

The delivery driver opened the back of his van, and a large cardboard box hit him right between the eyes. He went down hard, and a bunch of us retrieved him from under the contents of his badly packed van.

The wounds on the front and the back of his head were producing a lot of blood, and some of the bystanders were expressing their alarm.

“He’ll be fine. But in a couple of days, when the police search his house he’s going to be in a heap of trouble.”

The onlookers went quiet for a moment, and many of them were looking at me.

“A garage full of stolen white goods,” I said.

A week later, at our next Circle, someone showed me the local newspaper.

The delivery driver was arrested after the police visited him to talk about a noisy dog complaint. They had the wrong house and the wrong street, and they apologised and turned to leave when the driver’s son opened the garage door to retrieve his skateboard.

Everyone thought it was funny, but I had a sinking feeling. This premonition was way wilder than anything I had come up with before.

I took my cup of piss-weak coffee out on to the footpath and soaked up the sunlight.

When I opened my eyes, there were a bunch of people standing around me silently waiting for me to say something.

“What the bloody hell do you lot want?” I said.

“Tell us what is going to happen,” said a slightly scruffy older lady.

“You knew about the truck driver,” said a tall man in workman’s clothes.

“I’ll tell you what is going to happen. You are all going to bugger off and stop annoying me. I don’t know anything you don’t know.”

This wasn’t exactly true. As I looked at each person, I could see a scene being played out in my head.

The little boy with the scab on his knee was going to get a puppy for his birthday, and they would grow up together. The scruffy old lady would be dead before Christmas, and no one would come to her funeral. The bloke in the workman’s clothes would find a wallet and return it to its owner intact. The owner of the wallet would, in turn, facilitate the entry of the workman’s son into a private school and the experience would lead the boy into a sad life of drugs and crime.

“Don’t give the wallet back. Stick it in the mail and don’t put your address on the package.” The workman looked at me like I had just stepped on his foot.

“How did you know about the wallet. I only found it this morning?” he said.

As I looked at him, I knew he would ignore my advice. I wanted to tell him what was going to happen, but I had a strong sense that what I was seeing was going to happen no matter what I said.

The worker looked shocked as he produced the wallet from his back pocket and held it in mid-air. I had the feeling that he wanted it to fly away so that he would not have to decide.

Things escalated rather quickly from there.

My mate could see the profit potential, and I tried to talk him out of it. I like the quite life. I needed a bit more money, who doesn’t, but this seemed to me to be against the spirit of what we had learned.

I did my best to avoid the limelight, but I knew when I looked at Ross that he would eventually work out that his ability combined with the energy of this amazing old building would produce a similar result for him and anyone else with a modicum of ability.

It got crazy and dangerous, and I did my best to steer clear.

There were a few dead bodies, as a result, but I’ll tell you about them some other time.

I’ll bet you are wondering how I became rich, especially as I mentioned that I cannot read for myself.

Cast your mind back to me sitting outside the shop in the sun before anyone knew what I could do.

Across the road from our meeting place is a shop that sells newspapers, greeting cards and lottery tickets.

I was enjoying the sunlight when I noticed an agitated young man. He attracted my attention as he stood outside the shop obviously deciding whether to go in or not. It occurred to me that he thought that this was his last chance.

As I looked at him, I could see two possible futures for him, and each one hinged on his decision. As he stood frozen on the footpath, his future was nothing but misery and disappointment ending in his death from alcohol-related complications.

Eventually, he moved towards the shop door and the pictures I saw changed dramatically. The money he was destined to win would not solve all his problems, but his life certainly improved, at least, it did for the foreseeable future.

In my head, I watched him filling out the lottery form. I quickly wrote down the numbers and, needless to say; we shared the massive amount that the lottery had built up as it had remained unclaimed for several weeks.

I have never told anyone this story, and I’m counting on you to keep it to yourself.

People get a bit crazy where money is concerned, and I like a quite life. 

Emily.

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This story is now part of ‘Slightly Spooky Stories’.

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This story is now part of TRUST: What it Feels Like To Be a Medium.

I was lucky to get this job.

Not because these kinds of jobs are hard to get but because this is exactly the kind of job that suits my mood.

It’s not that I don’t like people, there are one or two that I wouldn’t set fire to if I had the tools.

It’s just that people get me down.

They seem to be comfortable in this world; I’m not.

They rush around and they seem to know stuff; stuff I don’t know.

I’m not dumb, on the contrary, I have a good education bought and paid for by loving parents.

Much and all as I’d like to, I can’t blame them for my predicament; not that I’m looking for anyone to blame; just saying.

I was married, and she stuck it out way past the point where any ordinary person would have thrown in the towel; she isn’t any ordinary person, she’s amazing. I love her with all my heart and I will someday win her back. I just have to get back to being the person I used to be; I vaguely remember him, and I know I will know him when I meet him again.

The interview process for this job went a bit like this.

“Can you work any night of the week, and on short notice?”

“Yes, I can but a bit of notice would be nice.”

“What size are you?”

“I’m somewhere between a large and an extra-large, heading for largish, as long as this latest diet works.”

“You’re hired. When can you start?”

“Tomorrow?”

“How about tonight?

“I guess if I move a few things around I could start tonight.”

The few things that I needed to move around were mostly stuff that was on the dashboard of my car and my underwear needed adjusting; that shouldn’t take long.

Turns out that this five-star hotel belongs to a chain of five-star hotels and they have an HR department and very strict rules for the employment of new staff. A six-month trial is absolutely adhered to as is a police check and a rigorous background check including past employers and all education qualifications; none of which seemed to apply in my case.

It turns out that the front desk uniform was quite expensive and they had to supply it. I was the right size for the uniform recently vacated by a bloke named Eric who had been caught with his arm stuck in one of the vending machines.

Apparently it took a small fortune in small change before the machine would release him.

When he was told that he was dismissed he asked if he could keep the Mars Bar; they said that considering how hard he worked to get it, they would make an exception and let him keep it; which was kind and understanding on their part.

It also explained why my uniform smelled vaguely of milk chocolate and caramel.

It’s the first job I ever got simply because I was the right size.

Not that I’ve had a lot of jobs, and certainly not recently.

Six weeks working in a lottery shop just near the Casino came to an abrupt end when the psycho owner had one too many snipes at me. I’d tell you what I said when I left, but there are ladies present.

This was followed by a stint in another lottery business in one of those interesting old suburbs just a few kilometres out of Melbourne. All, ‘hipster food’ and ‘dodgy second-hand shops’ mixed with homeless people and indigenous families, and that was just on our corner.

I lost that job when I needed to be in hospital for a few days.

It was just before Christmas and my Christmas present was being told that I should not bother coming back; and could we please have our uniform back.

That job lasted nearly a year and I quite enjoyed it, even though it played on my nerves being around so many people, and all in blazing daylight as well.

The owner was a prick and I made the mistake of getting comfortable. My mistake.

Things got a wee bit worse after that even though I didn’t think that was possible at the time; isn’t it great to know that when you have gone as low as you think it is possible to go there is still another level of hell that you didn’t know about.

That bloke Dante knew a thing or two.

I’d been working here for a few weeks, just getting a handle on how things worked when I first met Joe.

His name was Mr. Hoskins, but he insisted that I call him Joe.

It was 4 o’clock in the morning and that seemed like a good time for first names.

He knew what mine was because of my name badge.

When I collected my uniform they told me they would have a name badge for me very quickly which is what happened, but for a few days I was Eric, that was the name that was pinned on the jacket when I first put it on.

I could imagine an ‘Eric’ getting his arm caught in a vending machine; possible even a Nigel or a Nick as well, but definitely an Eric.

My locker had all sorts of stuff left over from previous employees.

My favourite was a name badge with ‘Habib’ written on it.

I wondered if Habib had left to work in his uncle’s Seven Eleven store.

I seriously considered wearing that badge for a few days, but I thought that I might like this job, so better to stick with the ‘Eric’.

I love hotels, especially good hotels.

I love carpet.

I especially love carpet in good hotels; and old-time cinemas.

We didn’t have carpet when we were kids and I remember going to the cinema and sitting on the carpet and digging my fingers into the deep pile. I think that my dad thought I was a bit strange, but I could kick a football further than anyone my age so he probably preferred to dwell on that.

Joe and his young wife had checked in earlier in the day.

I didn’t know it when we first met but it was very close to an important anniversary for them and they had come into the city to spend a few days in ‘the big smoke’.

Joe was a friendly bloke and he didn’t treat me like an inferior which was likely to happen in a big hotel.

I didn’t care how people treated me; I knew then as I know now, who I am. I might be down and dusty, but I know who I am.

Joe just wanted to talk.

His young wife was asleep, which he said was unusual, so he did not want to disturb her.

“She needs her sleep. It’s been a tough year.”

A part of me wanted to ask why it had been a tough year, but a little voice told me to just listen.

“Our daughter, Emily, died almost exactly a year ago. I’ve read that losing a child often destroys a marriage. In our case it has brought us closer together.”

Joe wasn’t worried by the silence, and I certainly didn’t know how to fill it.

He just stood there, leaning on the front desk, staring into space.

He was an average looking bloke, about my height, clean-shaven, short hair and a little scar above one eye.

It was the kind of scar that probably had a good story to go with it.

I’ve got a couple of them, but you have to look hard to find them and at least one of them is in a place that only a mother or a lover is likely to notice.

Joe had good shoulders for an average sized bloke and I guessed that he had probably been a swimmer in his youth, maybe even a rower but it was hard to tell from his accent if he went to a private school and a dressing gown and slippers doesn’t tell you much about a person’s background.

After what seemed like forever Joe said, “It’s hardest on Mary. Mothers feel these things very deeply.”

Joe was putting his hurt second.

I didn’t want to even imagine what that hurt must feel like.

I’m not sure I would survive, but I guess no one knows until it’s their turn.

Another silence; and this time I felt the need to fill it.

“It must be tough Joe, I feel for you.”

It was a funny thing to say, one man to another, but I had to say something.

Joe managed a smile and said, “Yes, it’s very hard. I try to get on with things, and there is always work. Work helps, but Mary has the other kids to look after and I guess she is constantly reminded. Mothers never stop being mothers. My mum still thinks I’m twelve.”

“A couple of days away will help though, don’t you think? Who is looking after the little ones while you’re away?”

“My parents. They love having the kids come and stay. So we know they are in good hands.”

“Are you going to see the sights while you are in Melbourne?”

I was intentionally changing the subject, the way people around this bloke had done ever since his daughter had died. Modern man does not cope well with death and you can multiply that by a hundred when it comes to a dead child. It’s almost as if we feel like we might attract Death’s attention if we talk about it for too long. It gives me the shits, but I’m just as bad as the rest of them.

“We will, but mostly we are here to see Ian Holmyard.”

“Is he a friend?”

“No, he’s a Medium. A friend of ours recommended him. He’s said to be very good. Mary needs to know that Emily is okay. Neither of us have much time for all that religious mumbo jumbo but we do believe in God. Mary needs to know that Emily is safe and happy, you know, ‘over there’.”

“Do you believe in an ‘over there’?”

I bit my lip as soon as I said it.

Of course he believes in an ‘over there’, or at least his wife does. They need to believe….. you idiot…. keep your fucking mouth shut!

Joe didn’t notice my discomfort.

“I’m not sure. I guess I want to believe that Emily didn’t just disappear. I want to believe for Mary’s sake. I don’t mind if this bloke convinces me, but I’m going to need to be convinced. I’m going to need to be alert and remember what’s said because I’ve got the feeling that Mary is going to be in tears, and it’s hard to hear through tears. I know, I’ve tried.”

I’ll bet he has.

“Probably best if you record the meeting then.”

“That’s what Mr Holmyard said. Apparently you tend to forget what comes through. I don’t think I’m going to forget, but I’ll record it for Mary and if it goes well, she can play it back whenever she wants to.”

“Where do you have to go to see this Mr Holmyard?”

“He’s coming here, tomorrow night. He’s coming after he has had dinner with his family.”

“Producing a spirit is probably easier on a full stomach.”

I don’t know why I said that but Joe laughed and agreed.

It was nearly half past five and Joe decided that it was time to get a bit of sleep before Mary woke up. He thanked me for listening and all I wanted to do was burst into tears. I get like that over nothing and this certainly wasn’t nothing.

I told Joe I would keep an eye out for Mr Holmyard because I was on duty at ten, which was when he was expected.

Joe walked back toward the elevator and his gait was one of a man twice his age. I still had a couple of hours of my shift left and most of that time was taken up with hoping that Ian Holmyard was the real deal.

.

~oOo~

.

When the phone rang my wife took the call.

She likes answering phones and no matter how many times I tell her not to answer the phone around dinner time, she ignores me and ends up in endless conversations with people who have strange accents and want me to change my phone/water/electricity/gas/mobile phone/gym membership/ plan. And occasionally, like every day, donate to saving beached whales that don’t have enough warm clothes and have contracted some incurable disease; despite the fact that we have been funneling billions of dollars into research over the past forty years. Where does all that money go? Why haven’t we solved all the problems? We jumped on Aids/HIV by throwing obscene amounts of money at the problem so why am I worried about losing my memory/identity and becoming a vegetable. How about we let the whales have second-hand jumpers and do something about the distinct possibility that I may resemble a carrot in the not too distant future. And while we are at it, how about we do something about depression instead of throwing money at glitzy little ad’ agencies who spent their time make ads and brochures about how to get help. “Call this number if you feel like shit”.

I could hear the conversation and it didn’t sound like someone trying to sell us a book of ticket for restaurants that we will never eat at, it sounded like someone needed help.

“Oaky, so that’s 10 pm on Wednesday, Grand Hotel room 527. Ian will be there then.”

I will?

“Don’t look at me like that. This one is important. A young couple who lost their daughter about a year ago. She contracted a chest infection and died in hospital after having a severe Asthma attack. They did everything they could but they couldn’t bring her back.”

“I’ll be there.”

“I made the appointment later in the night so you could get a hot meal into you after work. They were okay with the time. They are in town for a couple of days.”

She looked right at me, the way that she sometimes does. “They came to town especially to see you.” I could sense the gravity in her voice, and also the pride.

She loves what I do even though she doesn’t understand how I do it.

Hell, I don’t understand how I do it.

My life was rolling along, as lives tend to do, and I knew I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be.

Nothing fancy, just happy every now and then.

Something was missing and I could not put my finger on it.

My wife Loraine is a ‘giver’, I’m not.

She thinks and worries about other people; I’ve got enough to worry about.

So, by all rights it should be her with this ability, not me.

When my unhappiness got to be a bit of a problem I tried all the usual things.

I got myself twisted into strange shapes in Yoga classes.

My male friends thought it was hilarious when they found out.

They subscribe to the Aussie theory that more beer solves everything.

I tried that too.

It didn’t work, and it was eating into our budget.

I tried ‘shrinks’ and antidepressants, and let me tell you those things are murder.

I’ve never felt that bad, and when my eyesight started to give out I threw them out and went ‘cold turkey’, which was huge mistake.

I rang the poisons hot line and said that I thought I was going to die. “You aren’t mate, but you are going to wish you were dead before this is over.”

Thanks a lot!

It took ten days to get that shit out of my system.

I didn’t die; but I definitely wished I had, and when it was all over I didn’t feel any better.

Just as a bit of fun, I had a few ‘readings’ done.

They turned out to be surprisingly accurate and no one got hurt.

One lady, who read from playing-cards, told me lots of stuff that would happen and mostly she has been spot on.

I was leaving as she threw in, “Oh, and by the way, you will become a psychic medium.”

I think I said something like, “That should be fun,” and promptly forgot all about it.

That was about ten years ago.

A friend told me about a medium who lived close by so I thought I would check out the experience.

He brought through my mum and an uncle and an old girlfriend and an old high school teacher.

By the time it was over I was dizzy.

It was an amazing experience and there was no doubt that I was in touch with my relatives.

Fast forward a few years and I see an ad for a mediumship development class.

I went along and to cut a long story short, over a period of a year I found that I could make connections between spirit and people in the ‘here and now’.

I like having this ability but I’m very careful who I read for.

Honestly, most people want to know when they are going to get a boyfriend or if their lotto numbers are going to come up.

This is different; there is a child involved.

For some reason I have developed a reputation for making connection between parents and children who have died.

It can be very stressful, and I usually need a bit of time to recover from these sessions, but it seems important, so I usually don’t say no.

My wife knows that I take these readings very seriously.

.

~oOo~

.

I saw him arrive and at that hour there was a pretty good chance that I had the right man.

He was average height, carrying a few extra pounds and had a walk that suggested a man who knew his place in the world.

He was wearing a wedding ring and a well made suit, probably off the rack but nice none-the-less.

He was also wearing an expensive watch. Not one of those huge mens watches that scream, ‘I’ve got big balls and a bank account to match’, but more of a sophisticated understatement.

I decided that I liked him but I still hoped that he was the ‘real deal’.

“Hi, Stephen. I’m here to see the Hoskins, Mary and Joe.”

I liked the way he put the wife’s name first, he knew why he was here.

“They are expecting you Mr Holmyard. Room 527. Just take that elevator and turn to your right when you get to the fifth floor.”

“Thank you Stephen. Have a good night.”

“These are good people Mr Holmyard.”

He looked at me and smiled gently. “I know they are Stephen, I’ll look out for them.”

He didn’t have long to wait for the elevator and I watched the doors slide closed and watched the numbers above the doors light up until it reached 5.

It was nearly midnight before he came back down.

He looked very tired, which I guess was fair enough. He looked across at me before he left through the front doors, and gave me a small smile.

I knew what it meant.

I wasn’t expecting to see Joe Hoskins again that night. I figured with everything they had been through that he would sleep till morning. But, at 4 o’clock on the dot, the elevator doors opened and Joe Hoskins shuffled across the thick carpet and leaned on the front desk.

“Would you like to come around here and sit down Mr Hoskins, you look like you are out on your feet?”

“It’s Joe, and as long as I wouldn’t be getting you into trouble, I would love to sit down.”

If management had seen him I would have lost my job and I was hoping that no one went though the CCTV footage for that night.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“He was amazing. He said that Emily had been following him around all day and that he usually would not allow spirits to intrude on his ordinary life but that he had made an exception for Emily. It was a bit like ‘take your daughter to work day’ and she kept herself busy and didn’t get in the way.

She said that she was looking forward to letting us know that she was okay and that she was having fun and some older relatives had been looking after her but that she was a big girl and mostly didn’t need looking after but it was fun to have people to talk to and other kids to play with.”

“How did Mary cope?”

“I don’t think I have ever seen a woman cry that much, but she was happy. Ian told us things about Emily that only we knew. It was her all right. I’m hoping that Mary can find a way to move on now. Not forget; that’s never going to happen, but move forward.”

“I’m really pleased for you Mr Hoskins. I really wanted this bloke to be the real deal.”

“He is, and it’s Joe.”

“Sorry Joe. I’m wrapped. Could not be happier.”

“Ian said that a lot of people can do what he does but they don’t know it until someone points it out; until someone shows them how.”

Joe asked if I would meet them for coffee when they checked out in the morning. It was a bit of a wait after my shift ended but there was only an empty apartment waiting for me, so I said I would.

I waited in the hotel coffee shop and I could see the young couple at the main desk, checking out. They gathered up their bags and came in my direction.

A young girl was trailing along behind them, the way that young ones do when they are bored with grown up complications. She kept herself busy playing with the hotel cat. The cat was usually a bit stand-offish, but on this occasion the two of them seemed to hit it off.

Joe and Mary were looking forward to getting back home to the comfort of an ordinary life.

I was sure that Joe had said that all his kids were with their grandparents, but I miss stuff these days so I didn’t say anything.

The doorman came in and told Joe that his car had been brought around, and Joe offered to pay for the coffee.

I wasn’t having any of that and he smiled and said thank you.

As the group moved away the little girl stopped and ran back to where I was sitting.

“Thanks for looking after my dad,” she said. “He worries a lot. You made him feel better.”

“My pleasure little one. Which one of the Hoskins tribe are you?”

“I’m Emily, and I’m very pleased to have met you Stephen.”

Without thinking I called out as she ran back towards her fast disappearing parents, “Have a safe trip Emily, it was good to meet you.”

For a moment Joe Hoskins stopped walking, even though he was across the room and right at the front doors he looked like he had heard what I said.

He looked at me but turned to walk away.

Emily waved at me, and the penny dropped.

I’m not that quick these days and it had been a long shift.

As tired as I was, I was now wide awake, and the hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight up.

And In The End You’ll Hear Me Calling.

Comet_P1_McNaught02_-_23-01-07

 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

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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.

“DO YOU WANT TO HELP YOUR COMMUNITY?”

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

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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.

 

~oOo~

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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.

medal-and-ribbon

 

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.

 

 

What Are You Lookin’ At??

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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?

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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].

~oOo~

STUFF THAT I LIKED…….

The Day I Met Chester.

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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.

dunce

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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!

~oOo~

SURPRISES.

I like To Watch

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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

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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

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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.

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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!!!!!!

~oOo~

THE MOST NUMBER OF COMMENTS:

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.

~oOo~

MOST NUMBER OF LIKES:

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

~oOo~

STUFF I THINK YOU MIGHT LIKE AND I MIGHT REBLOG SOMEDAY:

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.

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Ophelia Drinkwater Has Lots of Cool Stuff.

John William Waterhouse - Lamia

Let’s Eat Grandad

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~oOo~

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.
Terry.

Waiting For You.

A Drama in 3 Acts:

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 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.
*
PHOTO CREDIT:
“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.
PART TWO:
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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.
goodmorning
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
thursday
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.
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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?
*
*
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Photo Credit:
*
PART THREE:
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*
“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.
BrisbaneHospitalStaffDID2879
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?
thursday
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.
nurse-with-ambulance-_sfw_fhp_5-july-11
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.
070209-24
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.
ngm.nationalgeographic
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.
.
.

Not Alone.

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 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: Part 3; Not Alone.

*

“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 deception? 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 paralysed, 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.
BrisbaneHospitalStaffDID2879
The fog cleared a bit, and it now became evident that he was in a lot of pain and some sort of hospital. It was probably the kind 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?
thursday
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 anymore 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 an excellent 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 superb 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, and 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.
nurse-with-ambulance-_sfw_fhp_5-july-11
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.
070209-24
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.
ngm.nationalgeographic
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 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 were 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.
not-alone
In case you are wondering how we got here………..

Part One: Out There Waiting For You.

Part Two: Waiting.

The Spotted Librarian: Somethings 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.
Mowing_Of_Acre_Lawn
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.
NO STUDENT LOANS FOR US.
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.
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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.
complaining-about-the-weather
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.
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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.
henisey1
It was possibly the LONGEST year of my life.*
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MY WIFE STOPPED BELIEVING ME.
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.
library-card-catalogs
THE SPOTTY LIBRARIAN.
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!
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One white dot for each kid.
I thought it was a joke, but no, she was serious, and everyone in the meeting agreed!
Everyone!
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!
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THE GREAT SWAP CARD RAID OF 1976
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.
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 THE TIP-OFF.
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.
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HIDING IN THE BUSHES.
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!
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The newspaper article that prompted this post.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/primary-school-bans-footy-cards-20130605-2npxk.html

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* 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!