Shorter Stories

Story stubs, half or quarter finished pieces a patchwork quilt of my mind and it’s nether regions

tentgirl & jake

She sleeps in a tent, in the woods at the edge of town. In the day she flits into town and dances along the cobbled streets. She sings outside the Market Tavern and eats a feast from the bins of others.

One night she awoke in the middle of a storm, she danced through the trees and sang at the lightening with a thunderous applause. The rain filled her mind, heart and lungs. She cried out as deep cries out to deep.

She sleeps in a tent, in the woods at the edge of town. In the day she hobbles into town and dances along the cobbled streets. She coughs outside the Market Tavern and can only imagine eating solid food once more.

One evening when hobbling home, she met Jake McFadden, he took her home, to his warm couch by the hearth. She coughed through the night and all the way through the next day. As the sun went down Jake fed her teaspoons of chicken broth as she spluttered and coughed.

Jake cared for her tenderly, with gentleness and care. A gentleman in every way. But the town did not know this and circulated news that would be happiest left in the gutter. As she gained strength, Jake’s reputation demised. One day she was better and gathered her things to take back to her tent in the woods.

The townsfolk spat in her path and some didn’t stop at the path. She didn’t understand, she was well but they treated her like a leper. The bins, once full, were now putrid and rancid. She stopped flitting into town.

Summer came and she danced around the trees, singing with the joy only freedom can bring. The ruined Jake saw her and fell in love at the sight of the girl who sang to the wind. He fell in love and broken hearted turned away, the townsfolk would bring up the whole saga of the sick girl

Jake went to the chapel on the main street in town, after the pastor had said his last word, Jake rose.

“People of this town, you have sullied my name and I turned the other cheek. You stopped coming to my business and I turned the other cheek. I will not defend myself against your gossip. You who come into this sanctuary beware, for your minds and mouths are as foul as the trash you put in your bins. You forget that we are all sinners. You forget the one who saved us. I am leaving here, I am leaving tent girl here. I don’t know her name. She doesn’t speak. She only sings. Open your hearts to her, open your homes to her and others like her. God bless them and God bless you.”

He did not wait for rebuttals or defences. He left and gathered up his possessions, leaving on the late bus to somewhere. Jake can be found sleeping in a tent, somewhere. He walks into town and talks to the people about a city not yet seen and a kingdom that is open to all.

data protection

“Good Morning,” the clerk at the desk said and he smiled warmly.

“Hi, I mean, good morning, where am I?” She moved forward a little, feeling strange in a strange kind of way.

“This is processing,” he replied and continued, “just for the record, name?”

“Jade Willow”

“We have no one of that name for today, is that your name?” He frowned as he spoke, put down his pen and looked up burning the insides of her own eyes.

“Well it’s the name I go by, everyone knows me by that name and I guy I once met on Dursey Island he sculpted a jade willow, just for me,” smiling wistfully of times gone by.

“This is processing, it is for your own protection, we must have your baptismal names, what is your full name?”

“Where am I again? ‘Processing,’ what does that even mean? And why protection? Seriously, you seem like a really nice guy, love the glasses by the way, real funky, but, what is the bigger place, outside of processing?”

The clerk coughed, and touched his glasses. A little blush appeared on his cheeks, he coughed again. “I need a little water, could you wait in there?” He pointed to a door with the words, Waiting Room carved into the wood.

Jade put her fingers into the carving, thinking of her husband and his skilful hands. This workmanship was on par with his. Lovely she thought and opened the door. A man in a suit stood to attention, “good morning, ma’am, how may I assist you this morning? We have fruit, infusions, tea, coffee. Although the tea’s not up to much.”

“Where are you from? Is that a Cork accent?”

“Why yes, ma’am, I was born in Cork City just below the Shandon Bells.”

“Could I have a coffee, just black with three spoons of sugar please.”

She looked around the room, comfy sofa, pretty pictures, a small table with flowers. Just like any waiting room anywhere, except something was different. She sat down in the sofa, it seemed to engulf her in the most beautiful hug and she sighed, a sigh of peace. Well whatever this is, it is very nice, she thought.

She chatted to the guy, got his life story, told him where he had gone wrong and what he should have done, the way she always would with anyone. She never understood that; why people didn’t heed her wisdom.

A buzzer sounded.

“That’s for you.”

Okay, thanks and she got up out of the sofa. Well she tried but halfway through the easy movement she realised and that changed everything.

In the office, the clerk had been joined by another.

“This is the woman.”

“Please take a seat,” the second clerk said. Again there was a genuine smile.

I like this place, she thought.

“Now, full name for the records,” clerk number two asked.

“Jade Willow.”

“Is that the name you were born with?”

“No, my married name.”

“Is that the name you were baptised?”

“No but I don’t go by that name anymore”

“I’m sorry, miss, I mean ma’am, we cannot allow you past processing without your baptismal name and birth surname. It isn’t allowed. We have rules, data protection laws. We must follow protocol, it is for your own protection.”

Jade sat up straight, breathed in deeply and spoke, “Listen mateys, my body got up out of a sofa, it walked in here, I have two feet, two legs. I know where I lost them. There was a car accident three years ago and I have been using a wheelchair ever since. But I walked in here. I know where I am. You can call it processing if you want. But I know your boss and he knows me. He knows me as Jade Willow, he knows my name because he whispered it to me when I asked him to be my boss. When he held me as I rested in his arms, he knew who he was holding. So take your data and stuff it. Is that the door I go through? Right!”

“Yes,” clerk number one answered.

Jade Willow opened the door and entered into the arms of her Lord.

Streams of Sanctuary

The man screamed with all that was within, “sanctuary,” but it came out as a barely audible whisper. He was spent.

Minutes earlier he had hauled his broken frame on to the rocks.

Hours earlier he, alongside his fellow passengers had jumped into the sea as the boat capsized; deliberately scuttled with eight hundred people on board.

Days earlier he was running; running to freedom, running from persecution.

Weeks earlier he had opened the door of his busy surgery, just one more day of treating the usual ailments in the middle-class suburb of Aleppo.

The rocks were like the most comfortable mattress he had ever slept on, better than the Sheraton in Dubai at the last conference he attended. He lay, fighting sleep; a losing battle.

Later, awakening with a little strength restored, he tried to stand but the twisted, knarled left leg refused. He had walked with it, ran with it and swam with it but it had needed treatment days ago. It was broken in at least three places where boots of the terrorists had hit. He was only trying to help, to be a good neighbour, he didn’t ask the religion of his patients and they sat together in the waiting room. But gossip spreads and one person let out they had seen a bible in the surgery and the men came.

Khalid shuffled his body along the rocks aiming for the tufts of dune he thought he could see. His eyes were still slits from days of intense heat, from the beating he was concerned something was detached. He tried to think of them as ‘the terrorists’ because to bring their names into his mind caused bile to rise in his stomach. But he knew them, he knew their fathers well, he played chess with them in the cool evenings whilst sipping mint tea; he knew them well.

Slowly, the determination that had brought him this far brought him to the edge of the reeds and grass, a small stream gushed its way to the sea and he laughed: Streams of Sanctuary.

He drank water from the stream steadily until he was sure his kidneys were working and worked with the reeds and grasses to construct makeshift splints for his leg. He knew if he got as far as trees in the distance he could make a stick that would enable him to walk to the nearest village or town. As he drank from the stream he thought of the living water, how a girl had rushed into his surgery one morning to explain to him  about living water.

Ten years ago he had read of a man in Haiti who had travelled for three weeks with a broken hip, shuffling most of the way. Khalid remembered how in awe he was of this man’s courage. He now understood, it wasn’t courage, it was being more scared of the alternative, it was not choosing heroism; it was choosing life.

B’nyaroi, the girl with the bible, she had died along with her whole family. The men had barricaded their home and set it ablaze. The crowd cheered as the screams stopped. Horrific, Khalid thought. She had been teaching him about Jesus, she had such joy in her eyes and her face shone in a way he had never seen. He listened to her as she excitedly told him about life with this Saviour who was God and man. He said little but the leaflet with ‘the prayer’ had been read and spoken out loud. When he thought of B’nyaroi he thought of peace, love and acceptance.

Minutes later he was moving, a little faster now he hopped some and crawled some.

Hours later he arrived into the village of Velanidia and knocked at the first door.

Days later he was walking on crutches in the gardens of Molaoi Lakonia General Hospital. He had lost half his left leg, but his eyes were much improved. He would never have full sight again but he had enough to see the beautiful anemones and orchids. He was walking in God’s garden.

Weeks later still nursing wounds both physical and emotional he stood on a stage in Athens. He spoke the fluent English, his father had insisted he learn, he told of terror and redemption, he told of hospitality and he wept as he told B’nyaroi’s story.

Months later he enrolled in a theological college somewhere in the world. He know called himself Khalid the Living, he wanted to reach out to his nation, to his former community, he wanted to spread the gospel message of love into the hearts of Bassel and Yaman and all the other young people caught up in the blood battle. His eyes, precious to him now, watered freely when he thought of how much love he had for those young boys, for the men who torched B’nyaroi and her family. How much love the Father has for him and everyone else. He was living, Khalid the Living.

Years later Khalid … (yet to happen)

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.

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.