skeleton story

Sally watched Billy as he ate his lunch. Huge bites of sandwich, snip, snap, snout, sandwich finished. Billy looked up, his brooding eyes catching hers and she smiled.

The smile crossed the borders of their relationship, it jumped over the hurdles, one, two, three and landed into the pools of moody eyes.

The chasm created by too many arguments, too many battles, too many long nights in separate beds, was dispelled in a simple gesture of goodwill.

He reached across the table and she, still smiling held his hand.

girl meets boy

Once upon a time there was a young girl.
Every day, she would avoid contact with all humans.
One day a boy followed her and wouldn’t stop.
Because of that, she ended up talking to him.
Because of that, some other boys got jealous.
Until finally only her and the boy were left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hilary lived in a strange little room, in a strange little house with strange people. She wasn’t allowed to talk to people, not even them. Every day she was sent out to collect wood for the fire, bottles for one of the people who filled it with liquid and sold it, old newspapers for another who created bowls and vases from them after mushing them up. She avoided people so she couldn’t be talked to. Sometimes not talking to people was worse to the people than talking. She didn’t really know so she just kept to herself. A lot of her day was spent in the wood on the edge of the town collecting twigs and cutting branches into smaller pieces. Little forays into the town for the bottles and newspapers and then back to the more comfortable woods.

Billy watched Hilary for a week before he followed her. He was a curious chap, new to town and already ostracised by the cool kids. He was geeky enough to put kids off from being friends but not geeky enough to not care, he was in his own world at the same time as being part of the bigger one. He followed her from town to the woods, on her second trip that day, at first he treated it like a spy story being thirteen he wasn’t quite old enough to find playing uncool but was just on the cusp of it all.

“Why you followin’ me boy?” Hillary sprung from behind a tree.

“Oh, hello, my name is Billy, I am new, I want to be friends. I have no friends. Will you be friends?

“I ain’t allowed. Go away!”

“No seriously, the kids in town, they don’t want to know me and there is no one else. Please!” Billy countered, not willing to give up after spending all week watching.

“Okay, kinda, only in here, only in the woods, and not all the time. I have work to do. I don’t have friends either. It might be nice. There isn’t much that’s nice, here,” Hilary was softening.

Over the summer they got to know each other, odd they may have been but fun they had. Halfway between childhood and adulthood, not quite one or the other, there was fleeting hugs, fleeting kisses, all chaste, not quite ready for anything else, not quite ready to even know.

One September evening they were just saying goodbye when Jeremy Spencer and Rob Dickinson were running through the woods away from some mischief at a nearby farm. All tallness, angles and the beginnings of muscles they circled the two youngsters.

“What do we have here Mr Spencer?” Rob began.

Later, much later, Hilary half limped, half crawled to her strange little house. She knew what had happened, so did Billy, being forced to watch. Hilary didn’t go to the wood for three days. The people did not like this, they needed the wood, the bottle and the newspapers. On the fourth day Hilary went. Billy went too. They found they couldn’t look each other in the eye. They wanted to talk but found they couldn’t. They wanted to cry, to comfort, to love but found they couldn’t.

Billy killed Jeremy and Rob, everyone thought it was an accident because the rest of the world didn’t know. There was a fire in the shed of the strange little house, everyone thought the still had blown up because the rest of the world didn’t know.

Billy’s parents, pastors at the new church, brought Hilary to live with them. She didn’t need to be told to not talk anymore. She no longer tried. Billy looked at her but couldn’t see her eyes anymore. They lived in the same house but might as well be on different continents. As they grew up Billy continued killing and Hilary continued being mute. Both traumatised by an event in the wood, that no one was left to talk about and the ones who should talk about it, unable.

skeleton story

Stella and her belly were doing flip flops, as in she was practicing that shoe shuffle dance so popular at bluegrass festivals in her flip-flops and failing miserably and her stomach, God bless it, was a tightly wound as a Jack-in-a-box.

Daniel was filling the saddle-bags in an intricate pattern, weaving each item so everything needed for the road trip was accounted for. He looked up at the sky, the beautiful blue sky and brilliant sunshine polar opposites to how he was feeling. A damp, grey day in England was how he felt. An uneasiness was eating into his core.

Brian picked up Star and they rode over to Stella’s. The radio mic was on but neither spoke. The chasm between them could not be seen, as Star clung to Brian’s back, but it was palpable to them both.

The four friends rode all day on their way to Telluride, stopping off at Grand Junction for the night. Most of it spent in silence as they slept in sleeping bags like sardines in the tiny motel room. Daniel only spoke to say not a bad time from Fort Morgan.

Brian said he was sorry when he tripped over Stella. Star did not speak at all but was sick twice. Stella kept going into the bathroom to practice the dance, she wished she had her fiddle but they had decided not to unpack the instruments.

By this time tomorrow with Daniel on mandolin, Stella on fiddle, Star on banjo and Brian on bass, their four voices, (high lead, tenor, baritone and Star’s beautiful dissonant soprano) harmonising their own material on the Elks Park Stage, they would know if “Blow the Vault” could become the next big thing.

Just like they dreamed of last year when they lost Virginia and Virgil on the journey over from Fort Morgan, they hadn’t performed and spent the next twelve months rejigging the set without two guitars and without their best friends.

skeleton story

The two handbags sat between them. The mother and the daughter. Abby looked across at Cheryl-Ann, so much to be said but silence was the only conversation. Cher was nervous, she hadn’t meant to put her bad down next to her mom, she wanted to pick it back up and move it to her left side. She picked at balls of fluff on the underside of her cardigan whilst twisting the end with her thumb, she wished herself away to another place, another time, another seating arrangement. She wished she could talk, really talk to her mom.

The stilted conversation began, “so, how’s college, Cheryl-Ann?”

“Umm, okay, I guess,” Cher gave up fluff catching and launched into full defence stance, the arms of the cardigan over both hands tightly wound around her tiny middle.

“Did you have luncheon yet? Sylvie made pie, I’m sure there is some left,” Abby asked politely, as politely as if the pastor was round for tea.

“Oh I stopped on the way, got lunch at a diner on the road some place. Is dad home?” Cher was becoming more nervous as the seconds ticked slowly by, stealing glances at her handbag, daring it to get off it’s lazy behind and walk.

“No. Father is in the city today. A big presentation at the office, I think he said,” Abby girded her loins or whatever is girded on the formidable female frame that was Abigail Pearce  Clinton-Johnson though feels as fragile as a fly in a web, “Cheryl-Ann, I know you have your own life now. You are at college and you’ll probably be bringing a young man home at some point. It’s just that. It’s just that father, my husband, Jack, your father. Well he has decided not to be married any more. I have the papers here, they came yesterday. He didn’t say a word. It is terribly civilised, don’t you know?”

Abby fumbled for her handbag, knocking Cher’s to the ground, spilling open, with all the information she had brought home to show her mother. Or leave it in the letter tray as she left on Sunday evening.

“Oh!” They both said together. Then it was Cher’s turn to rush and gush out the verbal diarrhoea she had been practising all the way home. “Mom, there are places you can go. You don’t have to live like this. Just because you and daddy are practically royalty round here, it doesn’t mean you have to live here. You can leave. I can help you. I have friends who work with women like you, victims of domestic abuse. Mom, it happens to loads of women, but some of them get out. Get out now before daddy thinks of a better settlement than divorce. Love you mom.”

The two women, brought up so politely and civily jumped up, bawling their eyes out, hugging like there was no tomorrow. How many familial cycles were broken that day? Abby and Cher became good and real friends as a result of handbags being inappropriately placed.

skeleton story

Living vicariously through her characters, she was content. The outside world was too painful to be in, so she sat in semi-darkness with the blinds almost closed, laptop on knee playing the same role playing game she had been playing for over a year.
She met people on line from all over the world and chatted to them in real-time whilst their characters either fought or quested together. She was dying but she didn’t want to focus on that. Of course if she got up and went out into the pinpricking world she wouldn’t be dying as much and could reverse the process. She couldn’t do that, all she could do was breathe in and breathe out, any movement more than that was too much. She had a catheter and a colostomy bag so she had no need to move. Once a day a carer came in and removed rubbish, replenished supplies, dusted around her, and changed the bags. Once a week a cleaner came in and vacuumed around her, opened the windows, lifted the blinds and cooked her a meal. Her body violently reacted to “real” food but she still ate it. The rest of the time her food was made up of aerosol cheese, corn chips, tortillas and dips, biscuits, crackers, gallons and gallons of soda. Cigarettes and wine finished each meal, each meal finished the previous meal, a vicious circle of eating, drinking, smoking, chatting and playing, it had no end.
Her heart did it’s best to keep a steady rhythm, her lungs did their best to inflate and deflate regularly. Her kidneys did their best to flush the bad bits out, her liver sat like a beached whale getting flabbier and less able to do it’s job. Each part of her intricately designed body craved oxygen, exercise, vitamins, minerals and everything needed to live. She lived vicariously through her characters as she bounded toward death.