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Pictures of a Soldier (posted on: 21-09-07)
...a head full of pictures...

Pictures of a Soldier After I had beaten my sword into a ploughshare * After I had turned my gun back into butter After I had burned my DCUs All I had left was a head full of pictures I couldn't give away.   *Opening line from 'The Lodger' by Billy Collins
Archived comments for Pictures of a Soldier
Jolen on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
Hard hitting and all too real. I am sure this is just the way it is for these soldiers who come home from the horrors of war and are expected to go back to living 'normally'.

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:

Romany on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
Very perceptive poem. What is a DCU? (Excuse my ignorance.) I like the gun/butter line.

Romany.

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
did you erase my comments on this, r?

it's disappeared - i'll repeat what I said then *slightly vexed*

I didn't understand DCU's either 🙂 G

Author's Reply:

richardh on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
Shite, sorry griff. I didn't mean to remove proper comments. my mistake. Sorry again.

Author's Reply:

blackdove on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
Hello,
I can't seem to be able to answer comments - and I've got all these phantom ratings again? - what's happening?
Anyway - DCUs is an acronym for 'desert combat uniforms' that's what soldiers call them. Combat fatigues basically.
Thanks for the great responses and sorry for for something clearer - if anybody has any suggestions?
Regardless, you all seemed to have got the point.
Jemx


Author's Reply:

richardh on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
Jem,
I've just emailed you about the problems with your account. All is explained in the email. let me know if you have problems or are confused about the username change.

sorry for the problems

Richard

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
problem seems fixed, so well done, r - no probs.

yes. bd, clear message!

Author's Reply:

Griffonner on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
This made me think about something else I came across this past week... if you will forgive me for placing it amid the comments to your observant words:

"Only when the last tree is cut; only when the last river is polluted; only when the last fish is caught; only then will they realise that you cannot eat money." (Cree Indian Proverb)

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 21-09-2007
Pictures of a Soldier
Lovely piece, Jem 🙂

Author's Reply:


Sundays (posted on: 03-09-07)
...angels they are, their rosy faces balanced on plump little hands, big blue eyes turned up to heaven, surrounded with caramel curls and fluffy white wings...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sundays John chapter six, verse forty-seven. 'Verily, verily I say unto you,' my coat is too short. It might have looked alright a couple of years ago - if my mother had got it for me a couple of years ago. Or if it was one or two sizes bigger. But then you have to take what you're given and be grateful at the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. Every few months my mother gets her line in the post. She's given a date and plans her weekly shop round it. She takes the line and the bus to Ayr then makes her way to the WRVS offices. They're in basement rooms of an old red sandstone terrace in Wellington Square, manned by some very well-spoken ladies. Here my mother can have her choice of finest wool coats, cavalry twirl trousers, viyella shirts and Harris tweed hacking jackets, all given in the name of charity and late of many of the best houses in the county. That's were I got this coat. It's made of a delicate blue cashmere, with a darker blue silk velveteen collar over which there is a fine swirl design with machine-patterned stitching. A lovely coat. But over the summer I've taken a stretch, now my skirt hangs down well below the hemline and in the morning I'm going to Sunday school. Well I'll just have to howk the skirt up for I don't possess another one. A coat that is. Neither my mother nor my father goes to church. They're beyond the pale. But as a child I'm tolerated because I can still be saved. Usually I go with Sheila who stays up round the crescent. She goes because it gets her away from her mother and father's constant squabbles and having to look after her wee brothers and sisters. Her mum and dad don't seem to like each another much. When I go to get Sheila I hear them screeching like a pair of street cats as I walk up the garden path. I imagine they must wake up in the morning spitting for it seems the only way they ever talk to each other. Still there'll be a new baby sitting out in the pram in their front garden every spring. Sheila's mum looks kind of old and worn to be having babies. Looks more like the new wee ones granny than his mother. Maybe that's the reason she screams.                                                                                                             * The reason I go to Church is - well, there's nothing else to do. If any kid dares to go out into the street on a Sunday there'll be some old biddy tutting at her window, shaking her head or worse, opening it and shouting out. She'll miscall your mother, your father and all your forbears for letting you out to cause an affront on the Sabbath. I can just hear the muttering, mouth looking like it's just eaten a sour gooseberry, saying, 'in we aw ken who she'll turn oot.' Playing on the streets never happens on Sundays. Instead the crescent lies empty, like a ghost town out of some old western off the telly. Even the dogs stay inside. To my way of thinking a kid's only means of entertainment on a Sunday has to be religion. Church Sunday school lasts an hour but feels a lot longer. At least the Sunday school teacher we have, Miss Drummond, is nice. She's not married and folks say she going to be an old maid. I don't know why that is because she's not ugly or anything. She works for a vet but still seems to like children, so maybe it's men she dislikes. The Auld Kirk sits in the middle of the village, surrounded by an ancient cemetery where there's supposed to be famous covenanters buried. My mother says all a church is good for is Hatches, Matches and Dispatches and she's no intention of ever setting foot in one of her own free will. So I've never been to a christening or a funeral. Weddings are the thing. Scrambles. Pennies scatter and there's me in amongst it. You can't be a feardie though, cause there's often a foot, an elbow or a knee coming out at an angle to land you one. All the village kids big and small vie with each other, desperate to get their hands on some money, grabbing anything that shines. It's usually the father or brother of the bride who takes charge of the scramble, with a big bag of money that's been saved up for months before the big day. Often a scramble holds the town bus till all the coins are gathered. Everybody likes farmers' weddings best. My mother says they're mean, probably because she was housekeeper to one for years. She insists they wouldn't give you a reek o' their you know what. But then it's always them that throw the silver. I wonder if it's to get a good crowd, for luck or to show they're delighted they've got a son or daughter off their hands? They seem right pleased with themselves whatever their reasons. Brides always look so happy at weddings. But then I'll see the same young woman whiles later, the smile of her wedding day a hard line across her face, with a big belly and a baby in the pram, her man in the pub, forced to stay with his or her parents for years before they'd get a decant. Then the happy couple will have a house of their own, where they can have their fights in peace. So much for fancy weddings. I never want one. All show, false faces. A performance put on for the day it looks like to me. No, soon as I'm old enough - I'm off. Out into to a world were things happen on a Sunday. The highlight of our day is going to the Gospel Hall where the Hallelujahs hold their meetings. Their Sunday school is held in the afternoons, a while after the Kirk's finished with us and time allowed for the Chapel kids to get back in the bus from Annbank. Gospelhallers would never tread on proddie or pape toes. They're happy with the leftovers - their children's time. Mothers are happy too, getting rid of the kids on a day I can't go out and play. The Hallelujah meetings are different from the Kirk, where it's always fancy hats, sour faces and a boring an old Minister who likes to rift or fart by turn, never too bothered which end the air comes out of. The Gospel Hall is a real sing-a-long affair with lots of colourful scraps given out for learning the week's tract. Then there's the songs. 'Roman's ten and nine is a favourite verse of mine.                                           Confessing Christ is Lord, I am saved by Grace Divine' 'Deep and wide, deep and wide,    there's a fountain flowing deep and wide.  Hallelujah for us…' Standing up doing all the actions of course. And then, 'There's a ladder to heaven for me, for me.' Warms you right all that waving your hands about when all there is for heating is a wee paraffin stove and the other kids' bodies pressed against you. This Sunday some of their missionaries are back from somewhere in Africa. Back from saving all those poor black folk from cannibalism and the heat of hell's fire. They tell us their stories and mesmerise us with a slide show. But don't those Africans look fierce. Those missionaries must be very brave. I decide I'd like to be one when I grow up, saving all those lost souls but then change my mind, for likely they'd send me to one of those heathen countries where I could get boiled in a pot and eaten. They teach us this Portuguese hymn. 'Jose Voi, Jose Voi, Jose Voi, todo peso damin yama Jeso Voi.' I don't know what it means. It's bound to be about Jesus like all their other songs. But I don't care for it sounds nice and foreign. I learn it parrot-fashion and can sing all the words by the end of the session and I get three of those coloured scraps for reciting my tract as well. Angels they are, their rosy faces balanced on plump little hands, big blue eyes turned up to heaven, surrounded by caramel curls and fluffy white wings. I make up my mind, if I'm taken off to heaven for some reason, like one of those wee weans in their white coffins, I want to turn into one of those beautiful angels, instead of a wee fizzy-haired, brown-eyed, skinny run-o-the-mill kid. Then there's the Wednesday night bible quiz. 'What's the shortest verse in the bible children?' 'Mrs. Hannah, Mrs. Hannah, it's 'Jesus Wept', Miss!' 'Correct. And where is that verse in the bible children?' 'Miss, Miss is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. John 11, verse 35.' 'Yes of course it is children, Hallelujah and praise the Lord!' 'Now who can finish this quote, 'It's easier for a camel…?' And it's my voice I can hear piping up. 'Miss – 'to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven!' 'Amen! ' Mrs.Hannah cries. 'Well done!' Mary Hannah smiles down from her platform at me like the biggest and plumpest of angels, tells her son-in-law to give the wee curly-headed lassie with the green jumper a bar of toffee. First prize.                                                                                                                                                  * On a rare day, Sunday means visitors. But not often, for my mother's family never comes near and my father's family are 'too up theirsels' to dain a visit. Least that's what my mother likes to say if anybody's inclined to listen. Mother's sister, Isobel, summonses me one wet Sunday. She sends one of the Rodger's clan round to fetch me. I've no time to comb my tousled hair or make myself look presentable, my cousin June arrives to march me up the crescent . I just love her name, June.  Isn't it great to be called after the month you were born in? They should have called me May in that case. That's just as nice. And then there's April too. April, May and June, could be a singing trio. I'm dropped off at Fail Avenue and ushered straight into the front 'lounge' as my auntie has taken to calling her living room.  Isobel's living room has a big mirror over a roaring fire, with a crinoline lady painted on its corner. I make the mirror and the lady's big flouncy frock hold my attention the whole time auntie Isobel shows me off, 'a poor wee soul', to another sister, my Auntie Agnes I'm told, who's visiting from Canada. Both ladies are dressed in their Sunday best and make a point of discussing what I'm wearing. That is till Uncle Sid, auntie Isobel's man, comes back from walking his greyhounds. He takes me into the kitchen, gives me a sixpence and a bourbon biscuit, ruffles my hair and tells me 'gang away hame lass, awa fae thur blethering tongues.' Back at the house those huge hours tower in front of me like Ben Nevis. All that's on offer is a walk down the woods in the rain, or reading the same old magazines. The Woman, The Woman's Own and the People's Friend. Ones I've read over and over till I can recite the stories. It was Mrs. Roxburgh gave them to me months ago for going and fetching her man from the pub the day their Mamie went into labour when she had told everybody it was swollen glands. Those long hours stretch out like pulled out chewing gum with no flavour left, making me long for the day to end. All the streets are bare, no kids, shops closed, no men at the Cross, the village quiet and strange. Everybody inside. And in front, just endless hours till half past seven and two shillings going in the telly. It's only then the place comes alive. There's a play started when we switch on.  Armchair Theatre. It's about Germans during the war finding these English pilots who are hiding in a loft, and then beating them up and torturing them. There's an awful lot of blood and the sounds of punches landing on soft flesh. It looks real to me. Too real. I run out into the lobby and throw up in the loo. My father says I'm just sensitive. 'In yur no tae mak fun o her,' and gives my mother a look. But my mother sniggers, saying, 'honestly, it's only a daft play. Wit's the matter wae you anyways, ye don't believe it, dae ye?' Can I help if I get so wrapped up in a story that I think I'm in it too? And I know, I just feel it, I'll be dreaming about Nazis coming to get me in the night now. Guaranteed. As I come back in the room, Sunday Night at the London Palladium is about to begin. There's that ugly man dancing about with his chisel chin and big ears, getting in the way of all that variety and pizazz, I've only ever seen on a TV screen. There's lots of different famous singers and funny men skidding all over the stage and after a game where folk win lots of great prizes. You know it's near the end when in come the high-kicking ladies with their long legs and sparkly costumes, big feathered plumes coming out their heads and knickers up their bums. That's my dad's favourite bit. Here in front of me is a whole shiny, noisy world in one wee box, whisking me away from a day filled with religion; from the church to the Gospel Hall and the Hallelujahs with their missionaires home from Africa, from my long dreary Sunday, to more of the same at night. Sundays just belong to religion. Even the telly gives in and finishes off with Late Call and a minister with a sing-songy voice that reminds me of a prize bingo caller. Did you ever feel pious on a Sunday? Me, I feel weighed and found wanting. That's Daniel. Chapter five, verse twenty-seven.
Archived comments for Sundays
RoyBateman on 04-09-2007
Sundays
I really enjoyed this - a lovely child's eye view of a miserable Sunday. I'm sure it was worse in Scotland, where religion was taken more seriously, and still is, but I recognise the basics from my own childhood. (Though I was sent out of Sunday school once for letting off a stink bomb. God's never forgiven me...) Great atmosphere, and completely credible. Very entertaining indeed.

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy and thanks for reading this as it is quite long I know.
Yes, Sundays used to be dreaded times and the only highlight really was the Gospel Hall.
I thank those meetings for my knowledge of the bible and interest in it more as a literary source than anything else and in spite of the religion. Any the love of God was definitively knocked out of us though, and you were braver than me, I was too greedy for prizes ever to misbehave!
Cheers,
Jemx

e-griff on 04-09-2007
Sundays
gotta come back and read later but 'plumb little hands'?

Author's Reply:
Sorry Mr. e-griff,
merely a Fruedian slip - I've been waiting for a plumber to plumb in my new washing machine for three weeks. Think it's a conspiracy, washing now smelling to high heavens, I'm afraid, thinking of making bio fuel with it.
I must write plump, plump, plump, plump, plumper, plumpest -
you see I've changed the offending word - so do you think you might read it?

dyslexic with plumbers, Edinburghx


Travelling Backwards (posted on: 06-08-07)
...maybe the woman was right after all - you could only go forwards facing in the right direction...


                                                                                                                                      Travelling Backwards


The train was already out of the station when the door slid open. Therese put her book down, expecting the ticket man. They checked every journey these days. Fumbling through the zipped compartments of her hold-all she searched for her ticket. Eventually she found it stuffed into the front part of her purse. With ticket in hand she turned.

It wasn't the guard after all. An elderly lady had entered the carriage. The coach was empty except for Therese and a business man busy with his laptop at the far end of the compartment, yet the woman stopped in front of Terese's table, put her handbag down and eye the seat opposite her.

Oh no, some old biddy anxious to talk Therese thought. The lady smiled down at her. Sweetly. She felt bad. No harm in talking was there?

'You don't mind if I sit here do you dear? Much nicer to have someone to talk to, don't you find?'

The woman looked over at Therese, waiting for her response.

'No. Of course... I mean, that's fine.'

Therese had been about to listen to the songs Danny had downloaded to her ipod. That was before he's started another pointless argument. Somehow he was always right. Or he made her feel wrong. So she'd decided to take off. Just like that. Get away from him for a few days. Let him calm down and let her breathe. But even running away seemed useless these days. Why was it she felt like some dog on a leash with her every turn making it tighten? And of course he knew she would always come running back. All he needed to do was whistle.

She turned the machine off. Yes, no harm in talking.

The woman carried a small black valise which she set down on the ailse seat while she manoeuvred herself past it into the window seat, smoothing her coat under her with two hands, straightened herself up and then looked out the window. The girl returned to her novel.

'You don't like to go backwards do you dear?'

The girl looked up. Then it clicked.

'Oh, travel backwards, no it doesn't bother me.'

Therese looked over at the woman as she took off her coat, folded it neatly then set it on top of her case. The woman, clasping her hands stretched them out in front of her and leaned her body forward over their shared table.

'Makes me feel rather queasy. Unsettling I find.'

Therese smiled. 'I never really noticed before, I mean if I was going backwards or not, it's all the same.'

'Actually it's not you know; you need to be aware of these things dear.'

It was the woman who now watched Therese, eyes sharp.

Therese smiled, a little tighter.

'Well, I suppose so.'

She raised the book she'd been reading up in front of her, hoping her companion would change the subject.

'Are you going far?' the woman asked. Therese looked up.

'Aberdeen.'

'Oh really, I used to go there years ago for holidays. When I still had friends who lived there that is.'

Therese looked at the woman. Properly this time. She seemed harmless enough but there was just something; Therese couldn't quite name the feeling. Annoying? Prying maybe? Or perhaps she reminded Therese of somebody she knew and didn't paticularly like?

In her head she told herself off. Only a lonely old woman, hungry for some company. It wouldn't hurt to talk.

'What about you, are you going on holiday too?'

At this the woman's face sagged, her features sanking inwards, making her face deflate. She looked ancient.

'A funeral, I'm going to a funeral.'

'Oh, I'm sorry.' Therese couldn't think of anything else to say.

'No, don't you be sorry about it; I've waited years for this day.'

The woman stared straight at Therese, a smile on her face. A strange dry ice smile, so cold it might burn.

Therese didn't know how to respond to the woman's answer nor her expression. She felt an awkwardness, solid as the book held in her hand. She sat behind it without words.

'I've shocked you, haven't I, dear?' The expression on the old woman's face was again benign.

'No, it's just….'

'He deserved it you see. He did suffer, but not enough, not nearly, enough.'

Therese watched the woman now, fascinated in the way you might study a reptile. The old lady's eyes seemed to travel somewhere else in time far off, find some other place. She turned away and gazed out the window.
Maybe dementia. Like her Gran. Therese remembered coming back from school once and finding her grandmother in a dry bath, blood streaming from cuts all over her legs. Her Gran had told her she was just shaving her legs. Therese had phoned her mother at work. In the end Granny Peggy went into a home.

Was this woman safe to be travelling on her own like this, she wondered? Therese chewed on her lip and felt the woman's eyes on her again. The old lady gave her a sly look and Therese shivered.

'He made me kill my babies you know.'

The woman's eyes were locked on the girl's face, waiting.

God, we've got a right Looney Tune here she thought. Therese didn't really want to listen to much more of this. She wondered how she might move her seat without causing a fuss. She only had a hold-all; she could take it and go.

'Excuse me; I'm going to the buffet car to get something.'

Hurriedly she picked up her bag, turning towards the front of the train. As she passed by the old lady she grabbed Therese's hand. Her fingers felt cold and surprisingly strong.

'You can leave your bag here dear, I'll look after it till you come back. Oh and here, I don't want anything to eat but would you mind buying me the Times? Thanks a lot.'

Smiling up she thrust a twenty pound note into Therese's hand. 

                                                                          *

When Therese returned with a snack she didn't really want and a copy of the Times the old lady's head was tilted back against the white cloth of the headrest, her eyes closed and her mouth open. Good, thought Therese, maybe she'll sleep for a while.

She slid down into her own seat quietly and slipped the paper with the change on top gently towards the woman. She didn't stir. Therese sighed. Hopefully she would have peace for the remainder of the journey.

At that moment it occurred to her they hadn't exchanged names.

She hated hers. Therese. Sounded like some pious French nun's name. Like those ones in front of a bad bottle of sweet wine. She wondered about her companion now sleeping opposite. What was her name? And just who was it she'd been talking about? Was it her husband, a lover maybe, or a brother? It might even be her father if her mind was that far gone. Some garbled story out of the woman's past, much like her Gran's ramblings. The scrambled eggs of a confused mind? Who knew?

An interesting story perhaps, if it was told second-hand, but not up close like this. And when she wasn't really feeling her best.  Therese turned her gaze out the window, thinking about the old lady's words. She watched as the miles between her and Danny speed backwards behind her and felt her eyes begin to droop. 

                                                                       *

When Therese woke her head throbbed. Her mouth felt dry and she reached for the bottled water she'd bought earlier. It took her a few moments to come too and realise the old lady was gone. So was her bag.

She hadn't said where she was travelling to, yet Therese had the impression it was further than her. She hadn't even said goodbye.

What if she's got off at the wrong stop, Therese wondered?

Well, it wasn't her problem - she'd her own worries to sort out. Therese was reminded of a saying her mother had. People like that, she would say were 'daft homewards', meaning they weren't so far gone they had lost all their homing instincts. She'd manage.

But what about her, did she know where home was?

If she did why was she running away? Backwards as the old lady pointed out.

Maybe the woman was right. You could only go forwards facing in the right direction.

The woman's newspaper lay folded on the table at the crossword page. Well, there you go, old dear couldn't have been that gaga, the grid was partially complete.

Therese turned the paper round towards her, her eyes drawing her finger along the squares, following the message across, then down.




                                                 DON 'T GO BACKWARDS            
                                                          H
                                                          E
                                                          R 
                                                        H E CAN DO IT AGAIN 
                                                           S        O                            
                                                  PLEASE         N         


                                                                       T  LET HIM TURN YOU


                                                                                    N


                                                                                    T


                                                                                    O


                                                                                    ME
                                                                                  
Therese sat motionless for a few second. Then, with trembling hands she folded the old lady's newspaper and put it into her hold-all. She stood up, walked round the other side of the table to where the old lady had so recently been. Sat herself down. And faced forwards.











Archived comments for Travelling Backwards
e-griff on 06-08-2007
Travelling Backwards
An intriguing story. Had me gripped! One general concern -
how did the old woman know her name? (in the crossword) - she just said they hadn't exchanged them. However, I'd say honestly I don't think you need the crossword gimmick - it's novel, yes, but the novelty and puzzle distract just as you are coming to the big final line which completes the earlier thought process. I also think it is spelling it out far too much for the reader (if you like - you are actually saying the same thing twice over, which takes the edge off it)

I'm in a critty mood today, so - some small typos and nitpicks:

typo: 'That was before he’s started another'
typo: 'ailse'
unclear punctuation: 'The woman, clasping her hands stretched them out ...'
you call Therese 'the girl' which is confusing - (I realise you may be contrasting with 'the woman', but).
'a little tighter' - not very clear.
'As she passed by the old lady she grabbed Therese's hand' - confusion of the two 'she's.
'dry ice smile' dry ice produces 'smoke' , perhaps dry, icy smile might be better?
'not nearly, enough' - misplaced comma

I do think you could develop this a bit more (am I turning into Claire?) - I realise you are seeking mystery, but it might be worth thinking about having no real 'mystery' just serendipity of the old woman's experience against Therese's - so we hear more of the old woman's history, more gently, which provokes Therese's dawning understanding of her own situation, and as now, resolves her to face her problems rather than run away and become embittered like the woman. This might make it a deeper and ultimately more powerful story. Just a thought.

c'est tous! Best wishes, JohnG

Author's Reply:
Noted all the suggestions. Sorry, looks like I've been a wee bit sloppy, John-G.
Typos, gammar etc apart, I do like the idea of the future coming to meet and prod you into action.
And I can see how the crossword thingy might appear gimmicky but don't think I want to go as far as taking the otherworldliness away completely though. Need to think about that.
It was just an idea I had and maybe I could work on it some more.
Thanks for your comments and ideas, it's much appreciated.
Jemx

Romany on 06-08-2007
Travelling Backwards
Interesting. You've made what's my usual mistake with over use of commas in places! And I also noticed a change of tense here and there. Noticed this typo too:

handbag down and eye the seat opposite her. - should be eyed?

It would have been nice to find out just a little bit more about the old woman's story I think, and how it relates to Therese's, but I understood clearly what you were getting at. Was Therese's partner an abuser then? I understood that only from what the old woman said. Initially, from Therese's thoughts, I took it that they had simply had 'another' blazing row and she had taken off for a bit. Anyway, like I said, interesting and I like the use of the forward/backward seating on the train as a metaphor.

Romany.



Author's Reply:
Hi Romany,
Yes, I can be word blind sometimes when I'm writing. Maybe this still has some bumps and that is my weakness - once it's written I want to start the next piece! Doubt if that's what a real writer does but that's me all the way.
Don't really know what I thought Therese's partner was, and maybe be that shows. And I did like the idea too of backwards and forwards and facing in the right direction.
Thanks for your comments and it is good to get a perspective on it.
Cheers,
Jemx

ruadh on 06-08-2007
Travelling Backwards
I enjoyed this as is Jem but I also think John has a good idea on how to expand it if you choose to do so. The old lady is intriguing but doesn't need to be a 'solid' figure, if you know what I mean, having her as a supernatural type thing works too. Saying that, I'd love to hear more of her story. Perhaps as a stand alone? Whatever, this was a good read.

love ailsa

Author's Reply:
Hi Ruadh,
Thanks for your comments. I really wanted it to be a bit 'otherworldly' really just to see if I could pull it off. Maybe it needs a bit more thought and bit more tinkering. Swithering over the crossword part - I think John as a valid point there. I just hate working on pieces after they're on-line. It's a bad trait I should try and work on I suppose.
Don't know if I can fill in the background with the old dear any more - otherwise it might take away the mystery of her, don't you think?
Plenty to think about though.
Thanks for that!
Jemx

Jolen on 14-08-2007
Travelling Backwards
I agree, it's a great concept and a very interesting read. I thought the crossword thing very clever, and sure you'll work it out to the satisfaction of all. Regardless, it is a wonderful story and you have the possibility of making it a larger project, which is always good. IMO.

I've not read your fine work in a while and I'm glad I was able to do so now. I hope this finds you well.
blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:

zenbuddhist on 16-08-2007
Travelling Backwards
I liked the crossword thingy its quirky and gives the piece an unusual edge.....best Z

Author's Reply:

zenbuddhist on 16-08-2007
Travelling Backwards
I liked the crossword thingy its quirky and gives the piece an unusual edge.....best Z

Author's Reply:
Well thank you kind sir and this just says to me you can't please everybody so you got to please yourself...
I wish I could...
Cheers,
Jemx


Bright Lights (posted on: 23-07-07)
they see a row of bright lights, like great illuminated tadpoles...

                                                                                                                                                                   Bright Lights At the Dalmahoy Country Club the wedding party had arrived from the Tao temple in various cars, coaches and limousines. The meal was booked for six but Lei Ling still wasn't sure. She wasn't sure the meal would suit all the aunties and uncles. No rice. Well that wasn't quite true. Uncle Ben's, probably. It might be a five star hotel with a fine restaurant and a named chef but the bottom line was the Scottish just couldn't cook rice. Not like Asians. Full stop. Lei Ling knew what her relatives would say. Nouvelle cuisine. Pictures on a plate. Not enough to eat. Still hungry. She watched as the aunties Chu Lei and Tang Lui antennae locked, whispered, sitting like two fat painted butterflies in the far corner of the function suite. It didn't matter; it didn't matter because this was her day. The white wedding she'd wanted, the big event. The Day of the Bride. Lei Ling glanced over at her fiancé, no, she corrected herself, her husband. The crowd-pleaser. Doing all the things he should do as a host, a groom. But as her husband, would he manage that? Now it was time for the speeches. Both Lei Ling and Jojo decided these would be in Chinese, never mind the couple of rows of workmates and friends from university. The nuance of any joke is lost in translation from Chinese. They both knew the Scottish would laugh when everyone else did. They knew how to do that, and naturally they were ahead on the drink. It was the Chinese relatives they had to placate. She glanced over to where her mother sat; small, quick with that shrewd look. Her mother who'd made the family business work, all the time pretending to her relatives it was her husband. The woman who learned to smile when customers asked for a 'chinky', covering her anger with the ring of the till receipt. And next to her mother father, still speaking bad English after thirty years, still missing the point. The same man who left Hong Kong as a boy to work in his cousin's one room restaurant up a rickety stair in Sauchiehall Street. And her, Lei Ling, educated at one of Edinburgh's most exclusive girl's school all from the proceeds of her parents carry out shop in Granton. LeiLing, ashamed to tell her posh school friends what her parents did for a living. A double life, a schizophrenic life she'd lived. She laughed at herself now when she thought of all those highland dance lesson her mother made her take. How she'd hated them. Not that she wasn't good at it for she did most things well. She just didn't feel comfortable, Chinese in tartan. And the first classmate she'd had the courage to invite home. She remembered the way the girl had stared at her Hong Kong grandparents who spoke no English but argued constantly in Cantonese. She remembered too showing the girl her pet hamsters, the ones she'd shared with her brother. The girl went back to school on Monday and told everybody Lei Ling bred hamsters and her mother cooked them in a takeaway in Granton. Special fried hamster. Strange, how she remembered that now. Lei Ling just wished she could see her now. Wherever you are Aileen Malcolm, she smiled, take a look. After school, going to Uni had come as a relief, a levelling ground. Okay she had a Chinese face with a private school accent but there were plenty of blends there, every permutation in fact, every race, nationality, colour, creed. Everybody was different. It didn't matter any more. She smiled over, catching Jojo's glance. Their eyes locked, laughing at the absurdity of the day, of what had been expected of them, as if a pressure valve had been released. Jojo excused himself and made his way towards her. 'Time for the lanterns.' He took her hand in his, leading her out into the grounds of the country club through the descending twilight. The air smelled spring sweet with a tiny hint of the summer to come. The earth crisp with a soft hoar frost punctured with a small sigh under her heels. She watched her mother's eyes narrow as her specially hand-made red satin shoes, brought back by her great aunt in Macau (on her mother's side) sank into the ground. One of the Chinese traditions she'd followed. Red for prosperity. She noted too the tightening of her mother's lips, observed them as they disappeared completely when her wedding train trailed along the grass behind her. I don't care, she sang inside her head, I don't care, this is my day, mother. British, Scottish, Chinese, I don't care. Jojo's hand was in hers, he knew who she was. They were together now, no more sneaking out early from his room before his parents were up, no lies about where she spent the night to her parents. Lei Ling felt the heat of her husband's hand encircling her waist as she leaned her body back into his. Mothers and fathers of the bride and groom, Grandma Hui Weng barely able to hobble, the eldest guest, the great aunts and uncles, venerable friends and of course the couple themselves, were each allocated a taper. Everyone was offered a brush to paint on their wish. Prosperity, happiness, a new job or a better world. Carefully the lanterns were lit then released one by one, taking their secrets up to meet the moon. She watched them rise up over the manicured golf course, still higher over the turreted roof of the country club. The lanterns floated up, bright lights rising in wonderful formation, dazzling fire soldiers moving out towards the Firth, lifted on the breeze, travelling out towards the open sea. She watched them glow, lighter than air, taking her last doubts with them into the night sky.                                                                                                               * It's already dark as the girls drive down towards Silverknowes, four miles as the crow flies from Dalmahoy and some time later. Quiet too. A few cars are parked along the sides of the road. Maybe there occupants are out jogging along the front, perhaps taking their dogs for a walk, getting over a broken heart, or maybe causing one, how knows. But all the parked cars are empty and there is a gaping space where the ice cream van usually sits during the day. Down towards the promenade the dark shadow of the sixties wedge-shaped café built by the council, lies deserted, closed until the summer season. They have the radio turned up full blast. Real Radio. Anthems of the eighties. All the old dance tunes. Mel and Rachel sing along at the top of their voices helped along by what they like to call 'a few poof juices'. Vodka alcopops. ... The only way is up is up, baby! ... The only way is up for you and me now! ....

The night sky is clear. Though damp, the air after rain is crisp the way it gets when there's a nip of frost. Now on the outskirts of the city, the orange glow of houses and street lights lie behind them. The sky is full of stars; they sparkle brightly. The way they should look. The way they were meant to be. It's Aileen who is driving. This is the first time she'd been out without a driver next to her. The first time she's driven at night since passing her test and she's hunched over the steering wheel. Holding on. Tight.

... Hold on! Hold on! Hold on, it won't be long! ... In the back the girls sing in unison, loud voiced, from soprano through contralto.

'Let's go get some chips, I'm starving.'

Aileen's voice cuts through the racket coming from the back seat. She's tired of driving, her hands sweating on the wheel. The nearest carry-out is the Chinese at Granton Cross, they do fish and chips too she remembers. Yes, that girl from her old school, didn't her parents own it? Miss Good At Everything. What was her name, something Chinese wasn't it? They could pass by there, get something and then head for home. All she'd wanted had been a quiet drive, a little practise, not to chauffeur two drunken chimps around, partying away in the back seat. 'We'll get going then'. Without waiting for the others to agree, Aileen turns the car on the wide empty road with only three manoeuvres. Her younger sister and friend can't drive. They wouldn't know a good three point turn from a hole in the head and they don't care. As she faces the car in the opposite direction, a sudden beam of light shines in through the windscreen dazzling Aileen in the driver's seat.

'What's that?'

They look up into the sky. In the distance they see a row of bright lights, like great illuminated tadpoles, floating in formation in the night sky.

'What the hell...?'

Aileen brakes hard. An emergency stop. Well actually she's stalled. Now they're going nowhwere. All three girls look up again. Above them the tadpoles are growing brighter. A row of fiery discs with brilliant tails.

'It can't be planes can it?' Aileen asks to no one in particular.

'Maybe it's terrorists,' her sister squeaks.

'Eff me, it looks more like a squad of UFOs!'

Rachel laughs with just the edge of hysteria creeping in, as she turns open-mouthed to her friend in the back seat.

The dance tune that was playing is interrupted.The girls squeal as the eerie pans pipes in the intro to the X- Files begins to play. A voice speaks over the music.

... 'We're being inundated by calls here at Real Radio; in fact the phone lines are now jammed with listeners reporting bright lights travelling in some sort of formation out towards the Firth of Forth. Derek Milligan from South Queensferry has just emailed us to say. 'I was looking out my window and just above Cramond Island I spotted ten or maybe twelve shining orbs with glowing trains. Has any other listener out there seen these things?' ...

The girls sit in stunned silence as the voice continues.

... 'And here's another phoned-in sighting from a Mr. Johnston of Ratho Station, a regular sky-gazer, he noted a small group of vivid objects travelling in a regular pattern across the sky, starting around eight forty-five this evening. He says they are definitely flying saucers. He tells us a similar sighting happened exactly six months ago to the day, in fact to the very minute. He keeps a UFO diary and can verify this he insists.' ...

The girls' eyes grow larger, staring up as the voice speaks to them again.

... 'Mr. Dodd of Turnhouse asks - could this be an attempt at alien abduction? Well, folks, is this just too far-fetched? If any of you out there have spotted anything unusual tonight, anything out of the ordinary, strange bright lights in the skies around Edinburgh, do give us a call, email, text, whatever. Report you're sightings. We want to hear from you. The station is at present trying to get a spokesperson from the Royal Observatory to let us know just what they make of this. Is it a bird, is it a plane. Or are these really UFOs, and do Lothian police have anything to say? We'll keep you posted Listeners.' ...

Outside the car nothing stirs. High above the objects grow larger, more defined. The strains of the X-Files grow as the radio voice ceases. The girls seem to come out of their trance-like state as Melanie screams.

'For Christ sake Ally just drive!'

'What if they can land?'

The girls look at each other. This is no longer a joke, all laughter is wiped from their faces. Just what the hell are those things hanging up there? Ally turns the key in the ignition; the car coughs like an asthmatic horse. 'Do you think it's them, could they stop the car? Immobilise it? Again they look at each other. 'Christ what's happening?' It's Melanie who starts to cry first. 'Ally hurry up, just hurry up!' Aileen fumbles, trying to re-start the engine, realising she's probably flooded it; she'll have to wait a few minutes before trying again. The other two girls are screaming at her go. 'Start it for Christ sakes, get this bloody thing moving!' Aileen's mind races. What if they land? Just what are they? Even the radio is saying there is something strange in the sky. Like they're in some Stephen King film set. Only this one's for real. Those things are up there hovering right over their heads. Aileen looks round; the younger girls are still crying, egging each other on in volume and tone and into hysterics. Aileen tries again. She hears the engine purr back into life. Thank goodness the car's moving again. As they speed away, back towards the lights of the town, the cluster of objects recede behind them. The car gathers speed, heading away from the sea and the strange bright lights. The panic that gripped them for those few minutes, subsides. In it's place, the stories and anecdotes begin to take shape in their minds, confecting. Bright lights. UFOs. Stories to tell. Mel begins to dial the radio station.
Archived comments for Bright Lights


expat on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
This is excellent writing - I knew from the opening paragraphs that there was going to be very little to fault. It was even better than that - no whinges at all except that the ending left me up in the air, along with the lanterns. Can't think why no one else has commented, the word-count's not that high and the story's a breeze to read anyway. I'll check out some of your other work.
Compliments.
:^-) Steve

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your lovely comment. I've been away at my sister's and she doesn't have a computer so now I'm come back on and look what I've got.
I didn't know if it was any good or not, but this has boosted my confidence.
Thank you.
Jemx

expat on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
This is excellent writing - I knew from the opening paragraphs that there was going to be very little to fault. It was even better than that - no whinges at all except that the ending left me up in the air, along with the lanterns. Can't think why no one else has commented, the word-count's not that high and the story's a breeze to read anyway. I'll check out some of your other work.
Compliments.
:^-) Steve

Author's Reply:

expat on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
This is excellent writing - I knew from the opening paragraphs that there was going to be very little to fault. It was even better than that - no whinges at all except that the ending left me up in the air, along with the lanterns. Can't think why no one else has commented, the word-count's not that high and the story's a breeze to read anyway. I'll check out some of your other work.
Compliments.
:^-) Steve

Author's Reply:

expat on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
This is excellent writing - I knew from the opening paragraphs that there was going to be very little to fault. It was even better than that - no whinges at all except that the ending left me up in the air, along with the lanterns. Can't think why no one else has commented, the word-count's not that high and the story's a breeze to read anyway. I'll check out some of your other work.
Compliments.
:^-) Steve

Author's Reply:

expat on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
This is excellent writing - I knew from the opening paragraphs that there was going to be very little to fault. It was even better than that - no whinges at all except that the ending left me up in the air, along with the lanterns. Can't think why no one else has commented, the word-count's not that high and the story's a breeze to read anyway. I'll check out some of your other work.
Compliments.
:^-) Steve

Author's Reply:

expat on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
Hmmm - seems to be an internal server problem! Sorry about the multiple posts, black-dove. I've mentioned it on the forum page.

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 29-07-2007
Bright Lights
Very nicely constructed story, excellent basic idea, the contrast/link very good indeed as expat says (so often 🙂 )

I reacted to Scottish and thought it should be Scots - but you'd know that better than me. I especially noticed all the local detail in the story which gives it reality. And how true the reactions rang!

As you have no nib for this excellent story, will you be so kind as to accept a 'Griffpick' from me?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Author's Reply:
Well, I'm ever so very chuffed with my 'Griff Pick'. I know that it has to be truly earned.
And now there's a red nib appeared too as if by magic as well!
Seriously, I am delighted with your comments about this story.
Thanks very much - it does mean a lot.
Jemx


Love Letters (posted on: 09-07-07)
Oh temptation...

                                                                                                                          Love Letters Nancy tells me to go by Wilma's on the way to school, I've to pick up her mail. Her and Wilma have an arrangement. The postie comes at seven with the first post and at twelve with the second post. That is every day except Saturday when there's just one post and Sunday when there's none. Nancy says that the busy-bodies will have to be out early to see me going into Wilma's. 'It's obvious,' she tells me, 'less folk will notice you goin in the morning, they'll aw be busy getting their men's pieces boxes and their weans ready fur the school…' Wilma stays in the old policeman's house which had laid empty for ages after the council decided to build a new modern one up the Front Street. The house sits at the top of the Sandgate at the junction with the Back Street and Smithfield where our house is. It stands there all on its own. It must have been a nice cottage once. Large, with these big dormer windows that look like two wide open eyes and with upstairs rooms that have sloping ceilings, the type of rooms I imagine children having in nice stories. It's surrounded by this huge over-grown garden and has an allotment that stretches down right to Smithfield Farm's fields at the back. The Toon Loner, Peter McNeally looks after the allotment for Wilma, planting fruit and vegetables in neat rows. He gives her a fair share of the produce every season. Some loose-tongued folks say he gives her more than a share of the fruit and veg, well that's what my sister told me. But that's not true because Wilma told our Nancy he doesn't even like woman. Well, maybe his mother. His real passion she says is wild birds. He goes down the Montgomery woods and cuts into the bark of the pine trees, catching the sap and then traps the forest birds in it. Their tiny feet stick to the syrupy stuff that weeps out from the trees. He'll go back every few days to find out what new specimens his traps have caught for him and take them back to the village dairy where he lives with his mother. He keeps the birds in cages in the dark attic rooms of the old dairy. Wima says he has all these expensive books full of pictures to identify all the different kinds. Women aren't nearly as interesting as his birds. Nancy says the social put Wilma and the kids in the old police house when her last man was banged up in Peterhead for armed robbery and she found herself homeless. The whole village talks about Wilma. Her having five kids - to four different fathers. When I visit Wilma's house it always smells of nappy and baby sick. If I go into the bathroom, guaranteed there'll be a pail standingin the bath, full of terry and muslin nappies, soaking in Napisan. I suppose that can't be helped with a pair of twins, another two under four and the eldest, Neil, is still only six. I make my way up the front path past a rusty silver cross pram with its wheels missing. Gone to make a bogey for some boys. The grass is long and wild. I imagine what it would look like, all cut and manicured like the other prize gardens on the street. I hear the wiffies in the street, wheeshy-whashying as I've go past. The other day I heard Mrs. Adair say Wilma Kilpatrick should be black-affronted for the state of her house and having all they wains without a dad. When I tell my mother this, all she says is, 'well they dae hae faithers, only no the same wan,' and then she smiles at me and says, 'in Rabbie sed, it's a wise wain that kens its ain faither.' I don't really get that. Maybe it has something to do with Robert Burn's wife Jean having twins - just like Wilma. Do you suppose that's it? I knock loudly on the front door and let myself in, catching sight of Wilma's kids as they either run or crawl around the kitchen, playing cowboys and Indians in their shirt-tails while I find Wilma in the front room studying the Littlewoods catalogue. 'Jist looking et aw the things a canny buy.' She laughs up at me and points to an old dresser covered in a mound of papers. 'There's a letter fae the bold Mr. N. over there pet.' I go over and fish among the heaped pile of threatening letters to find the blue envelope addressed to Nancy, all the time wondering how Wilma knows it's from him? Silly me, his'll be the only letter that's delivered here for my sister. The only one she needs to hide. This is how she keeps in touch with Bill Nelson. And how she keeps my mother from knowing that she does. 'Can ye go tae the Post Office fur me Bem, afore the school and collect my family allowance? I'll write ye a wee note for auld toffee-nosed Colquhoun. Case she sterts her carry on. In can ye buy me ten fags aff it tae hen? Embassy Regal. In get yursel a sweetie fur goin.' I don't mind running messages, I'm early for school anyway. But I don't like going to the Post Office. Mrs. Colquhoun will give me the third degree, asking why Wilma can't cash her book herself. The last time I went she said to me, 'If Messss Kilpatrick (and that's the way she says it - Mess with a long hiss) wants to 'LEAVE AFF' the parish, she should have the decency to come and collect the benefit herself. Next time bring a letter from Messss Kilpatrick authorising YOU to collect it on HER behalf.' And the shop was full at the time. But then again Wilma is generous when she does have any money and I can buy myself a lucky tattie for going. See what's inside. I run as fast as I can down the Sandgate and round into the Front Street. There's already a queue gathered, women waiting to get their family allowance, one thing that's theirs, just like Wilma. Only it's me instead. The Post Office isn't open yet and if I wait I'm going to be late for school. I have a choice, to get into trouble for being late or wait and get my lucky tattie. I take my place in the queue.                                                                                                                                                                              * The letter lies there, burning hot in my bag. All day. I imagine the words sealed inside. A Real Love Letter. My mother often tells me when I can't wait to find something out that my arse is making buttons. An that's exactly it, I'm absolutely bursting to know. Just as well my mother won't find out the reason for the button manufacturing. I take the letter home still in my school bag after school, knowing it's there, knowing Nancy won't be home until the evening. When I get in my father taps a stick on the floor, the signal for me to make him a cup of tea. I put the kettle on. There's nobody else in the house and that blue envelope is burning through my school bag. I remember I once watched Nancy steam open a letter addressed to my mother. Well, will I? I take the letter out of my bag and look at it. A thick blue envelope. Basildon Bond paper with tiny lined ridges telling me its quality. With no return address. I notice too the nice hand-writing. Holding the edge of the envelope over the rising steam, I watch the gum loosen on the seal and the flap edge curl. It comes away easily as I peel the lip back. My heart is pounding so hard I can hear it throb inside my ears as I take the sheet of folded paper from inside the envelope. I scan the page. Looking round me I let my eyes slide quickly over the paper till I read… ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ...darling, it's breaking my heart, but for the kids sake I'm going to give it a go. She just can't manage on her own. Nancy, believe me I still love you and always will, but it's for the best. You're only young, you'll have plenty of chances to meet somebody else. Somebody who can give you a life. She's only got me. I'm sorry … Billy ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Oh, help me Jesus! I throw the letter away from me as if it's on fire, wishing I'd never opened the thing. Then I retrieve it, putting it back inside the envelope. I try to re-seal it by putting it between two volumes of the University of Oxford Encyclopedia. My mother was flannelled into buying them from a man who still comes to collect the installments three years later. That is, if and when he can get my mother in, of course. Nobody wants to answer the door the day tick man calls. But my mother says it's hard when the only way you have to buy anything is on the never-never. Buying is easy, she says, it's the paying back that's comes hard. For the next few hours I walk about with Bill Nelson's words searing into me like the hot pokers that grow in the garden. Why, oh why, did I have to go and open it? Serves me right for being so damn nosey. Curiosity killed the cat. Nancy will kill me if she finds out. That is if the shock of what it says inside doesn't kill her first.
Archived comments for Love Letters
Kat on 09-07-2007
Love Letters
Hi Jem

I really liked the voice of Bem (lovely name) and the humour that comes through in her innocence (reminded me a bit of Neil Gunn's 'Old Art and Young Hector' in that way). I like the details eg. the 'lucky tattie' and these and the dialect help to place your story in time and place.

There are a couple of wee typos: para 7 'than weeps from the trees.' ? should be 'that'.

I like the possible intrigue set up in that paragraph.

Good detail in para 9.

? typos para 10: 'I’ve hear the wiffies in the street, wheeshy-whashying as I’ve go past.' ? the 'I've' - the rest I understand!But maybe it's dialect I'm not used to... Doric? Not sure of the spelling. :o)

Loved, '...my arse is making buttons.' Funnily enough I only heard that for the first time a couple of months ago from my Devonshire granny, but she said 'ass.' ;o)

? typo in the letter: 'you'rer only young...'

and in the last line: 'what’s it...'

Is this something you're doing for your course? How's it going or have you finished already? Would love to hear.

Kat x






Author's Reply:

blackdove on 09-07-2007
Love Letters
Hi Kate,
Good to hear from you.
Yes, I'm going into the second year in Sept and getting ready for my submissions in the next workshopping class.
My it's been a bumpy ride. And yes, I've got Michael same as you had last year. You can PM me on that!
I've learn so, so much and lost a lot of confidence on the way, but I hope I'm regaining it again.
Are you finished your MA?
Send me a message and let me know how are you doing and what you felt about your course.
Cheers,
Jemx


Author's Reply:

blackdove on 09-07-2007
Love Letters
Hi Kate,
So nice to hear from you too.
Yes, this is for my next year worshopping in Sept. I have about 20,000 words now.
So how are you and what are you doing? Is your MA finished and what did you think about it all?
PM and let me know how it went and what you feel you've gained.
Personally, I've been on a helluva learning curve, more like a rocket trajectory actually!
Let me know how you are.
Luv Jemx

Author's Reply:


Old Soldiers (posted on: 25-06-07)
...her man's been in that bed since the day they brought him back to her at the end of the war...

                                                                                                                          Old Soldiers Mrs. Nelson says her man's been in that bed since the day they brought him back to her at the end of the war. That's more than twenty years ago. I look at him. His cheeks are clapped into his jaws that are toothless and his eyes stare out from his head. The eyebrows over them are dark and bushy, they make me think of two messy bird's nests, above his little bird eyes. His hair is thick and wavy too, but that's shock white. He mouths words. No, he chews on them, chunky strings of them, oaths, curses, soldiers' swear-words all mingled together like lumpy stew. I can hear them but they make no sense. Mr. Nelson sits himself down on the end of the box bed, leaning close to hear. He puts his black head close to his father's white one listening hard to the jumbled sounds that the old man's reciting. He talks excitedly to his son but the words that come out mean nothing to me. 'Da', he says, 'I've brought somebody to see ye, look!' Mr. Nelson makes word noises in answer but I can't understand any of it. 'No, Da, it's no Carol. Me and Carol have split up, mind? No, this is Nancy.' I watch as my sister stands awkward, one hand holding on to the bed end, her other hand holding on tight to Mr. Nelson. He feeds his father the soup. I watch as the old man's hands come up, out from under the bedclothes. They're bent in, rigid and curled just like animal's claws. The remains of the nails on his fingers are a festering yellow, knotted, making me think of old tree roots. Mrs. Nelson sees me staring. 'Japs,' she says. I look at her, confused. 'Pullt aw his fingernails in taenials oot. He wis caught when Singapore fell. Faither ended up in wan o they POW camp's in Burma, wan o' yon yins thit built the Burmese Railway.' She brings some buttered bread, cut into small pieces as if for a baby and drops it into her husband's soup bowl. The fat rises in yellow swirls on the top as Mr. Nelson slowly feeds his father with the saps. I watch a trail of dribble run down the old man's chin. His son catches it, quick, scraps it back onto the spoon, back into his father's open mouth. A bird waiting to be fed. 'We're still fightin fur a pension. The Colonel o' his regiment'is been battlin his case, but we've had naething fae the war office. Aw he got is yon damn medals,' she tosses her head and looks up towards a glass case on the wall. In a hanging cabinet I see them all in a row. Medals, hanging dull from faded coloured ribbon, alongside a framed letter with some kind of red stamp on it. There's a photo of a young man in uniform with his curly black hair trying to escape from under a Glengarry. It looks like Mr. Nelson, but I realise it must be his father, the man lying in the bed. 'He's hud bugger aw aff them, forbye they bits o' tin and yon typed letter signed by Churchill.' She turns and goes back into the kitchen, returning with a checked tea-towel and, leaning over past her son, she ties the towel under her husband's chin. I gape, my eyes sliding down from the cabinet on the wall to the bed as the old man, trying to loosen the towel his wife has just tied round his neck brings up his hands again. Horrible hands. The fingers like gnarled stumps of wood. My eyes fasten on them. I try, but I can't draw them away. The old man looks over at me, then reaches out with one of his trembling hands towards me. Nancy pushes me forward. 'This is Bem, Da. Nancy's wee sister, she's ages wae oor Ian.' Mr. Nelson tells his father. Old Mr. Nelson stretches out his thin, trembling arm and I shrink back from his terrible fingers. He manages to catch a strand of my hair that's laying loose over my shoulders. I feel myself freeze as the twisted fingers clutch at me. He tries as best he can to catch the lock of hair but he finds it hard to grasp. I can't stop myself letting out a small cry. He pulls his hand away. Everybody stands, awkward. 'It's yur hair hen, he thinks yur hair's bonnie.' Mrs. Nelson pats me on the head. She doesn't seem bothered by how her husband looks. I suppose she's had to look at those hands for all those years. I want to smile for him to let him know I don't mind. Really. I try to by pulling the sides of my mouth up and fixing it like that. So he'll understand. He makes that awful face again and I know Mr. Nelson is trying to put on a smile for me too. Mrs. Nelson leads me away from the end of the bed and I retreat back. Grateful to be let go. I sit down on the faded rug in the centre of the red-cardinalled floor and go back to playing with the toy soldiers once more. This time I'm re-fighting the war with a purpose, giving the Japs what for. Behind me I can hear the old man slurp the last of his soup, spooned to him by his son with Nancy perched in silence at the end of the bed. The fire that was roaring when we came in has settled now to a soft hiss in the grate and I look into its red and orange flames. Grannie Polly told me if you look hard enough you can see folks' faces in the fire. All their stories she says are in there, their past, present and their future, waiting to be claimed. I wonder if old Mr. Nelson were to look into the fire, his face burning like it did away in that hot jungle, if he peered into its heat could he feel again the same fear, remembering? Would he be able see that Japanese soldier with eyes small and cruel, the same soldier who pulled all his nails out? If he is in there, I hope he roasts.
Archived comments for Old Soldiers
RoyBateman on 25-06-2007
Old Soldiers
A very touching piece indeed. You don't shy away from portraying the old chap as having repulsive features, as in real life, despite our sympathy for his awful plight. That only makes it all the more real, and more pathetic somehow, as we're naturally ridden with guilt for feeling that way. Excellent.

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 25-06-2007
Old Soldiers
Sorry about the above - I got an "internal error" report, so tried three times without knowing it had gone through! Anyway, the comment was heartfelt.

Author's Reply:
hello Roy,
I saw I have four comments and thought people had been busy!
But it's really good to have just one very good one, thank you.
I've written about 20,000 words of this now and don't know if it is any good or not.
Sometimes I think it's worth carry on with and at other times I thing I'm flogging a dead horse.
Nice to know you liked it, I suppose I'll keep plodding on.
Cheers,
Jemx

SugarMama34 on 25-06-2007
Old Soldiers
Hi black-dove,

An interesting story you have here. I liked the way you described the old man and how the character seemed frightened/repulsed by the way he looked. Though it also comes across that Nancy does feel sorry for him. Am I right in thinking that Nancy is a child? as that is the way it comes across to me. The only thing that got me a little bit was the accent and how you had spelt the words, but maybe that is just me, I've never too brill with that sort of stuff. I particularly liked the end statement "if he is in there I hope he roasts." to me that came across really well. It shows that Nancy did care for how the old guy looked and what he had suffered in the war. I have enjoyed the read, lovely touching story.
Sugar.xx

Author's Reply:
Hello Sugar,
Nancy is the older sister here, she has run off with the neighbours husband, the younger Mr. Nelson.
(I think you need to read the previous installments to get the gist of it!)
The child is actually called Bem in the story and she's the narrator of the tale.
Yes, the accent is a bit difficult too I can see. Maybe I'll try and simplify in further pieces.
Thanks a lot for your comments and suggestions, I'll bare them in mind for further pieces.
Jemx

Emerald on 27-06-2007
Old Soldiers
I thought this was a very sensitive and thought provoking write - You captured well the sense of distaste, then mingling with reality and sympathy. As Roy says, this has a raw and very real feel to it.

Emma x


Author's Reply:
Hi Emerald,
I haven't seen you on these pages for a while. How are you? And how is your writing going? I really enjoyed your poetry.Thanks for the nice comments and your rating. Means a lot.
Cheers Jemx

Emerald on 27-06-2007
Old Soldiers
I thought this was a very sensitive and thought provoking write - You captured well the sense of distaste, then mingling with reality and sympathy. As Roy says, this has a raw and very real feel to it.

Emma x


Author's Reply:

Emerald on 27-06-2007
Old Soldiers
I thought this was a very sensitive and thought provoking write - You captured well the sense of distaste, then mingling with reality and sympathy. As Roy says, this has a raw and very real feel to it.

Emma x


Author's Reply:

sirat on 30-06-2007
Old Soldiers
This is a very poignant piece of writing. It's hard to judge it in isolation, and I haven't seen any other episodes. There's very little wrong with it technically. I agree the Scots accent might need a bit more thought. It's a very difficult thing to do well. I think a lot of the accent can be conveyed simply in the manner of expression and the words used. For example: "she’s ages wae oor Ian" works just as well if you write: "she’s ages with our Ian". I can still hear the dialect accent perfectly and the odd spelling doesn't intrude so much on my reading.

I don't know whether this is already complete or you're still writing it, but when all the sections are available it would be worth either posting as one or in sections joined by clickable links so that we can see it as a whole.

I hope some of this is helpful.
David.

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thanks for your helpful comments.
I take on board what you say about the dialect but something makes me not want to let it go. Maybe it would be more accessible anglicized but part of me wants to keep that words as they are.

I don't know how to connect pieces - is there something on the site that lets you do that? I would be up for trying to link the various installments up if it's poss.
And yes, your comments were and are very helpful.
Cheers,
Jemx

ruadh on 10-07-2007
Old Soldiers
Jem, I can't really add anything new to what's already been said but I wanted you to know I enjoyed it. The accent, well, I understand it perfectly but then I would :). I have to disagree with David as I think writing it in 'proper' English loses something but I can understand it putting a reader off if they find it difficult to follow. It's a hard call to make but I wouldn't lose the Scots completely.

love ailsa

Author's Reply:
Hi Ruadh,
I've decided to keep the Scots as is. I run it past one of my lecturers at Glasgow Uni and he thought the same. If that is how it is said then that is how it should be I think - I'll probably come up against this again with further installments, but I think I'll persevere with the dialect - I like it and it sounds right to me. I hear what David is saying but something is telling me to go with it for now.
Cheers,
Jemx

sirat on 11-08-2007
Old Soldiers
Thanks for getting back to me Jem, and I'm glad the comment was some use.

To link one section to another you need to type (either in your introduction or elsewhere) HERE where XXX is the URL of the other page (i.e. the coding you will find in the "address" strip at the top of that other page when you are viewing it). The word "HERE" in your introduction will then become a clickable link. To make it work you need to remove the space in front of the second letter a. If I included it I would create a link rather than explaining hoe tyo do it! So if I wanted to link this comment to something else, let's say my story "Tidying Up" I would type Tidying Up
but without the space in front of the second letter a. I'll give it a try:
Author's Reply:

sirat on 11-08-2007
Old Soldiers
No, it didn't work. The system tried to create a link despite my deliberate errors. Let me try one more time. Here is the code, but you'll need to remove all the spaces except the one between the first a and href:

< a href = > " https://ukauthors.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=19883 " >Tidying Up< / a >

Here it is without the spaces

Tidying Up

Author's Reply:
Thanks for that David - but I'm still now sure (sorry feel a bit thick!) how it's done.
I'll re-read your instructions - carefully - and see if I can work out what I'm suupposed to do.
Fingers crossed ;-)!
Jemx


Taking the Train (posted on: 04-06-07)
I watch as they all slowly draw away from me.

                                                                                                                                  Taking the Train I hear the shrill whistle. The train starts its chug-a-chug noises as we draws out of Ayr station getting faster and faster. We're the only ones in the compartment. Me, our Nancy and him. I turn my head away from them; all squeezed up together in the opposite corner when there are loads of empty seats. Staring hard out the window, I can watch the ice store at Tam's brig as it passes, then Templeton's carpet factory with its chimneys. There are the rusty old trains lying on sidings, I watch as they all slowly draw away from me. The chug-a-chugs grow, faster, louder, and I'm glad. It drowns out their voices. My face burns, and under my breath, I plead, please God, don't let them start kissing again. What if somebody sees them? I keep my eyes down most of the time and by luck, rummaging in my school bag I find a book. Hawkeye and the Last of Mohican by James Fenimore Cooper, I've been trying to read it since I got it for attainment, well that's what it says it's for on the fancy label inside the cover. I was given it at the last school prize-giving. I don't really know what attainment means. I think it must mean they think you're a bit clever and you try hard. I haven't read much of the book though. I don't really like reading thick books like that. And I was put off it when I read on the inside page that it was first published in 1826. I'm thinking it's just a fly way for the teachers to get you to read history. The fact is, I don't really read books, I just pretend to. I like having them though. Really I prefer comics. Big folk like the idea when kids read books and I like the idea they can see me with a book, I just don't like the reading of them, that's all. Lots of it I can't understand. Then when I skip those bits, the bits I don't understand, well the rest of it doesn't make sense. What I really hate is when the writer goes on and on about scenery and landscapes. Who cares? Just get on with telling me about Chingachgook chasing and tracking the English and never mind the shape of the hills or how many shades of green they are. But I always like the Indians. They get the best names and the exciting parts. But then they always get killed off in the end. Yet even that description stuff is better that watching my sister with him. They seem to have forgotten I'm here. Still, I'd rather look out the window than read. I can tell by the sound of the engine when we're approaching the next station. It's Prestwick. People are getting on. Please, please, nobody get in this compartment! I close my eyes hard, hide behind the hardback of the book, with its picture of Hawkeye creeping through the forest. I promise myself I won't open them again until we're well out of the station. 'Stop making they noises, will you?' It's Nancy and she sounds annoyed. They're both looking at me... I don't realise, I'm humming. I slide further down into the plush seat and bring the book right up to my face so the words start dancing all ways, trying to escape right off the page in front of me. The train speeds up again. We're running along beside a golf course with matchstick old men playing under umbrellas in the rain and I'm thinking, silly old fools. The sea looks grey and angry with the gulls swirling round in circles, moving inland. My father says if they do that it means there'll be a storm. I hope there is. I hope it's a huge big scary one with thunder and fork lightening. Maybe the front of the train will be hit. Then we'll have to go back. Where is it we're going anyway? Nancy told me we were going to see Ian. But then he turned up. 'Here, do you want one o' these?' He's offering his poke of Oddfellows for me to take one. I say 'no thank you' and feel pleased with myself. The telephone wires rise and fall like fast, black skipping ropes and the sea's still following us. We pass by the backs of big red sandstone houses with pretty gardens that come right down to the railway line. Now the train is slowing again, pulling into Troon station this time. More golf courses, more men with other men holding big umbrellas for them. I see two rabbits chasing each other and go to tell Nancy but remember, he's with her. The train stops. My eyes are closed and I'm chanting, 'don't come in, don't come in.' I stop my chanting after a dirty look from Nancy. I feel hot. When are we getting off? Again the train pulls away from the station. It flies past the next station without stopping. I see the letters and try to catch the name. The sign spells out the letters B--A--R--A--S--S--I--E. And more golf courses. Why don't women play golf then? More sense than to walk round getting droukit. Or, better things to do with their time. The train looks as if it's right on the beach now. The sand seems to stretch out for miles. I look over. Nancy is getting her things together. 'Oor stop's next.' We're pulling into another station. IRVINE is says on the big sign. Seems this is where we get off. I trail behind them, out onto the platform. 'Stay here I'll get the car.' Me and Nancy wait there, in silence. I won't look at her. We stand apart, in front of the station till Mr. Nelson comes back with a small black car. Morris it says on the front. Do cars have names like men? I don't know, this is only the second one I've ever been in and I've never noticed before. He tells us to get in the car, tells me to go in the back. They smile over at each other. Nancy puts her hand over his as he drives. 'Dinnae you worry darlin', it'll be fine,' he tells her. How can it be fine, now he's ruined everything?                                                                                                                        *                                                                      Tin Sodgers We draw up outside an end terraced house on the edge of the town. 'Well, this is it.' He turns to Nancy. There's a worried look on his face. But he smiles. Looking out of the car, I catch sight of a face behind the nylon curtains that covers the front window of the house. Then it's gone. We get out the car and I follow after Nancy as she follows after him, up the path. The front door opens before we reach it. A wee, slight woman stands in front of us, her watery brown eyes remind me of Mr. Nelson. 'Oh, Billy, son,'' she looks up at him and he bends over to kiss her on the cheek. 'This is Nancy, mam.' He takes a step to one side and the woman looks my sister up and down then looks back at her son. 'She's only a wean, Billy'. There's this sigh in her voice. He says nothing. All I can see is my sister's back. I watch it stiffen as she straightens up. 'Am seventeen, Mrs. Nelson.' Even in her stiletto-heeled shoes my sister barely reaches Mr. Nelson's shoulder. 'Well, whit's done's done. We'll jist hae tae make the best o' it.' With that the woman turns to go back inside. 'Yees hud better come in.' She stops and turns, 'Ian's no here, hen. ' Is she talking to me? 'His ither grannie widnae let him come'. She looks over at her son. 'Aw this carry-on… ' Her words fall away. Mrs. Nelson looks back, down at me. 'Well, maybe anither time eh?' But Nancy promised. I look at Nancy but she won't look back. Instead she takes Mr. Nelson's hand. He moves it down her back to rest where her bottom starts. I feel like crying, but stop myself. I want to go home. 'Sit down lassies, we'll hae oor tea.' Mrs. Nelson moves about quick, fussing at the table. She goes into the kitchen and fetches back two great bowls of soup. Funny how when you're hungry you forget to be upset. Maybe your brain can't do two things at the one time. I'm just thinking, I hope it's no tinned. Turns out it's tattie soup, real thick with big lumps of tattie... not out of a tin at all. Nothing like the other Mrs. Nelson's soup. I'm starting to feel better. After our tea Mr. Nelson takes out a brown paper parcel, unties it. Inside, wrapped in tissue paper are lots and lots of painted soldiers. 'These tin sodgers are fur Ian. A man et the work gave them tae me. Dae you want to play wae them?' Ian told me he wants to go in the army and be a soldier and get medals like his Grampa when he grows up. I remember Mr. Jack our headmaster saying you needed 20/20 vision to get in. I never said that to Ian though. Mr. Nelson hands them to Nancy and she hands them to me. They're two armies, both with their own tartan kilts and trews. Every face and uniform is different. Some are on horses. A Calvary Regiment. Somebody must have painted every last one. I imagine I'm their Colonel-in-Chief on my horse, fighting all the important battles. The soldiers holds me entranced till, from the darkened corner of the living room, I hear the cry. The noise gives me a fright, making me jump. Sounds like a dog does when it's suffering. Through the gloom I make out movement in the bed recess. The cries are coming from in there somewhere. The bed-covers move and a head slowly appears. 'Ur ye efter yur tea tae son? A thocht ye wur sleepin.' Mr. Nelson's mother makes towards the bed and leaning over, quickly pulls up the figure that's making the noise as if it was a pillow she was straightening. 'Luk! Yu'v got veesitors Tommy.' I see eyes, like some wee bird's, peering out from under a mop of white hair. They dart across our faces until they light on Mr. Nelson, then they come to rest. 'It's me faither.' The face of an old man, half lying, half sitting in the bed, contorts. I think he's smiling.
Archived comments for Taking the Train

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The Flittin (posted on: 14-05-07)
The next chapter in the story.

The Flittin There has been lots of looks and sighs in our house lately. My mother says this carry on has made my father take to his bed. Seems to me he's always been there, but I say nothing. I know when my mother's agitated, she's tapping at her head the way she does when things start to curdle like her custard. There's been never a word from Nancy. A van appears on Wednesday. Two men get out, one tall and one short. Seems they've come to do next doors flitting. The short one looks familiar. His eyes remind me of Mrs. Nelson. I look over to our neighbour's garden out the window and see her. She's pacing about outside in her nightdress and slippers. It's raining and she doesn't have a jacket or anything on. Just this thin cotton gownie. She makes me think of the loony wife up in the attic in Jane Eyre, that book Mrs. Laidlaw has just finished reading to us at school. Her man treated her bad as well. I go out when I see her, cutting through the privy hedge on the well-worn path from our house to hers. 'Can a dae onthing Mrs. Nelson?' She looks about her as if she can hear a voice but can't place where it's coming from, or who it belongs to. Mrs. Nelson wull a get yur coat?' I ask her a little louder. She looks down at herself then up again, as if she's surprised to be there and to see herself, then turns and goes back into the house. 'So's that's yon wee hoor's sister then,' the shorter of the two men, the driver of the van, says to the other one. 'Well lf she is, she'd better high tail oot o here, fur A've heard aw aboot her lot,' he jerks his head back in my direction as he walks on, hands full of tea chest. He stops then, turns back to me and says, 'Look, jist piss aff kid, awright?' I feel like I've been whipped. The tears springing up, making my eyes smart. 'Shut it Andra, share it's no the weans fault,' the taller one tells the driver. He turns, looks at me and says, quiet, 'luck hen, away ye go, gone hame, out the road, okay?' It's then I hear the shorter man mutter something under his breath. Words I don't want to hear. I fly off, back through the break in the hedge. Safe inside I keek out from behind the net curtain at the rest of the flitting. Ian and his wee sister Annie are nowhere to be seen. They must be at their Granny's in Kilwinning for I haven't spied either of them for days. Mrs. Nelson comes back out, dressed now, but still a sight, her hair hanging about her face. She gets in the front seat of the van alongside the two men. I watch as the van drives off down the crescent. Mrs. Nelson's eyes, with those dark circles, look out the side window of the van. Right through me.                                                          * When I ask for the umpteenth time, my mother shouts at me. 'O fur the love o Christ, wid ye stop askin, ha mony times dae a huv tae tell ye, it's been two weeks since they moved out!' To me it feels like forever. Ian's desk is empty next to mine at school. I walk home by myself. The house next door lies empty too. Ours feels colder, like somebody's left a door open and we can't shut it. There's this draught that never seems to go away. On the next Thursday after school I come home and there's Nancy's sitting on the settee, large as life. Greeting. She tries to smile up at me then her face does this funny dance and she's bubbling again and my mother is tutting, but greeting as well. 'Wheesht, or you'll hive Him up. There's nay gid greetin noo the damage's done. He's hud whit he wanted like aw men. Christ, wid ye luck et ye.' My mother takes up the corner of her peenie, spits on it and wipes the black smudges from round Nancy's eyes. My sister never sets a foot over the doorstep for another two weeks. Instead she lies about the house greeting or sighing with her transistor radio pinned to her ear tuned to Radio Luxembourg, listening to all they saft love songs about lost loves and broken hearts. If that's love you can keep it. And all over that Mr. Nelson with his thick lips and Elvis hair cut. He's twenty-six as well. How old is that? Nobody seems interested in me, Nancy's carry on has lost me Ian as well. But nobody cares. Who will I get to marry me now? On Friday after school I see Nancy standing on the steps of the old church hall next to the school gates. She signals for me to go over. My sister seems happier, in fact she looks like her old self - almost - only she tells me to hurry she doesn't want to meet anybody in the street. She's wearing dark glasses, an umbrella pulled tight against her head. It's not raining. She smells of aromatic sweeties and body mist and seeing her there, I remember how pretty she is. Folks say she looks like Jackie Kennedy but I've seen her pictures on TV and Nancy's got a nicer mouth. That woman looks as if she's got her back teeth pulled out and her lips are too thin as well. We get on the bus to the town and sit at the back downstairs. Nancy tells me I can't sit upstairs. There's too many folk there, she says. Nobody talks to us anyway. But they look plenty. She hands me a Bunty comic when I start asking her where we're going. I flick through the pages till I find the Four Mary's at that boarding school they go to. I don't utter another word until we get off at the Burn's Statue Square. 'Where's it we're goin?' I call after her as she hurries on in front towards the Station Hotel. She smiles back at me. 'We're going to see somebody.' I hurry, thinking maybe she's going to take me to visit Ian. She did promise before. We're running now onto the platform. The train's getting ready to leave as we get there with the smoke billowing out like a thick fog and the noise, huge, scary. Nancy stands there, looking frantically about her. If she doesn't hurry, I'm thinking, we'll miss the train. Out of the mist, a few yards away a figure emerges, a man in a navy duffle coat. He sees us and begins to hurry. Nancy runs. She's in his arms. Kissing. How I wish the ground would come up and swallow me.
Archived comments for The Flittin
Ginger on 23-05-2007
The Flittin
Hi,

I didn't get the ending line, but I'm assuming I'd need to read the rest to get it. I was, however, pulled right into the story, the prose is excellent.

But... I had a lot of trouble with the Scottish accent. I had to stop the wonderful flow you've got going to try and understand the conversations. I don't know if anyone else has had problem with this. I would suggest you could get the same effect, by constructing their speech the way it is up north, and add in the local words.

Please feel free to ignore me!

Lisa

Author's Reply:


Boyfriends (posted on: 07-05-07)
Man or boy -they cause us no end of bother...

Boyfriends Our teacher, Miss Laidlaw, has a wig and a large mole, both mink coloured. We all learn if things haven't gone well, or gone too well the night before, the wig will be tilted next day at school. The kids in the older classes call her The Tilted Wig. Ian sits next to me in class, looking like a scared rabbit most of the time. He doesn't like school. Everybody think he's not bright for he can't spell. But he's really good at counting, he knows all the different birds' names and can tell which egg belongs to which bird and he can tell you the names of all the plants as well as lots about the world and things. It was him that told me about that Russian, Yuri Gagarin and how he beat the Yanks into space. Ian wears blue-framed, national health specs and has a hair cut my father calls a bowl rump. Mr. Nelson, Ian's dad, is some kind of engineer at the pits. He's real handy at fixing things, too handy my mother says. He fixes the electrics in our house. And smiles. His hair is jet black and he has an Elvis haircut. He doesn't look like other dads. He makes me think of a singer in one of those groups on the telly. He sings when he's working and it sounds the same as the radio to me. He likes to sing that Seekers song, Island of Dreams. I really like that one. 'Far, far away on the mad rushing wind, please carry me with you… again I will wander where memories enfold me, there on the beautiful island of dreams...'                        Makes you imagine far away places. When I hear it I get an ache and think of all those islands I've never seen. Makes me wish I could travel to all those places with their strange names. Sometimes I go to Ian's house at the lunch break. His mum always has tinned soup. I never knew you could get soup in a tin till I saw Mrs. Nelson emptying a big tin into a pot to heat up. She puts water in it to make it go further and that's how it tastes – watery. At school Ian is always one of the last to finish his work. 'When you're finished your writing children you may go,' Miss. Laidlaw will tell us. I always try to finish first. Most times Karen Park beats me. You see, she's the class swot. But then once in a while I beat her. Today is my turn to finish first and she says, 'my mother says being right is better than being first.' I knock the pencil out of her hand and say, 'Sorry!' real loud, before she gets a chance to tell. She always does, she's a right clype. Ian's holding his pencil as if it has teeth to bite him. I look at his letters. All the y's, d's and b's on his page are back to front. I take his rubber then his pencil and change all of them to the right way round. Now we can go home. I put up my hand, 'Please Miss, me and Ian are finished our work.' Miss Laidlaw looks over the top of her horn-rimmed glasses, sniffs and says, 'that's fine, you two can leave.' Karen Park looks mad. She sticks her hand up and shouts out, 'Miss, Miss!', trying to get the teacher's attention to tell her I did Ian's work for him. But Miss Laidlaw is having none of it. Maybe she doesn't like clypes either. Instead she roars, 'Quiet!' The class falls silent and we're off, out the door. With my back to Miss Laidlaw, I turn and stick out my tongue at Nosey Parker. I hear laughter behind me as we pass the big case of scary stuffed birds with their beady eyes watching in the school corridor. Just as we make to leave a voice echoes along after us. 'Tie those shoelaces boy!' It's Mr. Jack our headmaster. He comes up level. Peers down. Ian's lip trembles. My hands are sweating. 'Please sir, Mr. Jack, he hasnae learnt yit'. I look at Ian, watch as a tear begin to thread down his cheek. The whole school's scared stiff of Mr. Jack for he gives the belt to anyone not following the rules - To-The-Tee, and gives the tawse for the least wee thing. That's what the big ones say. He wears this blue serge suit and a tie with that Masonic thingy, like two crossed triangles that mean he's in a funny club. My mother says he's quite a dandy which I think must mean the style he has his hair done in, for that looks awful dandy to me. I'm scared of him too. 'Please sir, he hasnae learnt yit.' Wiping my hands down my dress, I kneel down quick and tie Ian's neigbourless laces, one brown, one black. 'Well, it's time you learnt boy!' Mr. Jack shouts at Ian, then turns and goes into the staff room, letting the door bang shut behind him. We stand there in the corridor, look at one another, relieved. We can go. I take Ian's hand and we swing our arms in time out the big double doors then make our way down the school avenue. I inform him we'll get married when we're big. He seems sort of stunned by this news. I say if he gives me his pay packet unopened it means we'll be happy cause that's what my mother told my sister. That's what happens with happy folks, I tell him. He says can he have a comic then and I tell him men don't have comics, they read newspapers, so he can have a newspaper, instead, okay? He doesn't look very pleased with that idea. I give him one of the imperial mints I've been saving in my dress pocket and say to him, well, I suppose he can have a comic if he likes them so much. He looks a wee bit happier with that, sooking on his imperial as we pass the Tally's shop. I wish I had money to buy us cones, or just one to share. Old Elio Poli makes the best ice cream, for he's got a secret recipe that even the Germans couldn't got off him during the war. In his shop window is this enormous bar of Duncan's wholenut chocolate which I used to think was real till my mother told me it was bose. Made of cardboard. Right enough when you think about it - it would have melted by this time, with the sun shining right in the window, specially since it's been there for as long as anybody can remember. Only the brown wrapper turns a duller shade of brown as time goes on, to show how old it really is. We turn round the corner into the Tally's road, skipping, heading for home along the Back Street. We keep looking out for granny snails to poke , but it's dry so they're all hiding. I pull some sticky-willy from the hedge that runs the length of Dodd's market garden and chase after Ian, sticking it on his back. He does the same to me. We run after one another all the way along the road till we reach the crescent where we life. Our houses are joined together. We stand swithering which one we'll go into. I see my mother standing at the window looking out. Her face falls when she sees me and Ian. 'Come awa in here,' she shouts out the window. Both of us make to go in. 'Awa hame Ian son, yur mither's wantin ye,' Ian and I look at one another. I get my petted lip on, ready to ask can I go to Ian's to play, but before I get the chance, my mother shouts out, 'Mrs. Nelson's no wanting bothered wae wains comin tae the hoos jist now, you come in here, Bem.' 'Thur moving awa onyways, back tae her mither's,' my mother tells me. 'That man o her's his run aff. The sleekit bastard's run aff wae oor Nancy!'
Archived comments for Boyfriends
delph_ambi on 08-05-2007
Boyfriends
This is excellent writing. The contrast between the children's lives and the adults in the background is expertly handled. A gripping tale, full of colour and authenticity.



Author's Reply:

Gerry on 10-05-2007
Boyfriends
A tale that held this reader--very well written...

Gerry.

Author's Reply:


The Beach (posted on: 16-03-07)
*

                    The Beach On the beach at Ayr, wind biting at my face and me, whimpering. My sister's off, away with my father at the shows and I'm left with my mother. It's a day when the sun isn't quite hot enough. My mother sits in a deck chair. I watch her as she dozes and feel the wind on my face. My wet clothes cling like damp breath, chilling me. Maybe I tell her I am cold or she sees me chittering, because she takes me up on her lap. She's wearing a fur coat, orangey coloured and heavy, she says the name is musquash . Seems a strange thing to be wearing at the beach. She opens up the buttons. I see inside. Her large white bosom in a green bathing suit. I notice the buttons, they 're odd. Not really buttons but twined cord which goes through a loop to make a fastening. Frog fasteners I think they are called. And there's huge hooks and eyes under these to make sure the heavy coat stays fastened. Fiddly old- fashioned things they seem to me. Inside it's warm and soft and I'm enclosed, the fur, the smooth lining wrapping me up, like a baby creature in its mother's pouch. My mother re-buttons the hooks and there I am in the dark , with the warmth and the smells. Animal hide, soap and slight oxter sweat. If I chose, it is completely dark. Or I can open my tent, lift the sides of the animal and peek out. Catch the sea breeze as it filters in through the gap. My eyes follow the fast clouds crossing a rolling sky and I want it to be like this forever. I wish that I never have to get out again. Just stay here. Safe inside my mother's coat. My father comes back with Mary and she has a toy from the fair. A snake on a pole attached with a string. The paper snake is all kinds of colours and weaves towards me from the pole. I snatch at it but it slithers out of reach. My mother dresses me, hurrying. We pack up ready to go back home on the bus. I start crying. I can do that, have tantrums at will, throwing myself about. A favourite trick. My dad goes off, worn, polished shoes sinking into wet sand to buy me ice- cream. Mary doesn't get any. Money's short, dad's been to the bookies. Mary doesn't complain when he brings me a double cone back and somewhere inside my head I'm thinking, she's stupid. I realise if you don't complain you don't get anything. She is always like that - slow to do anything. The neighbours call her Daft Mary. I know she isn't as bright as me. I know I wil be the boss. My other sister, Nancy, says it's because when my mother was carrying Mary, she went to the toilet when her waters broke thinking she needed to go and somehow Mary slide out, down the pan, almost drowning. She was born into the pee water. That's why Mary is simple, Nancy says. I don't know if this is true but when I look at her with her empty face, she reminds me of a cow and that makes me want to torment her. Nancy says Mary was four before she could walk. But she was a very beautiful baby, everyone says she was. She has these huge blue eyes, so pale they look almost see-through and long auburn hair. I would like her blue eyes. Mine are only hazel. But not her red hair, I don't want that. Nobody wants red hair. I had two older brothers before. Archie and Jamie. Nancy told me. Archie, had red hair, she says. She tells me Jamie died just after he was born and Archie when he was three. My mother tells people James was too bonnie to live. Archie died of pneumonia. Nancy tells me about the epileptic fits too. How people would pass my mother by as she lay in the gutter. She would be there with her. No one came to help. Nancy said one day when it happened, my auntie Isobel, my mother's sister, was on the other side of the street. Nancy shouted out to her for help. Auntie Isobel heard her and she turned her head away. My mother said they stopped after I was born. My mother told Nancy it was the change of life. Whatever made them stop, I'm glad. Glad it wasn't me who had to be with her when she went into one of those fits, there on the street.
Archived comments for The Beach
Rupe on 16-03-2007
The Beach
A very distinctive voice to this piece. I found it well written, atmospheric and sharp, sad, with an edge of something like menace. I know those snake on a pole things & you've somehow made this one sound disturbing...

A number of different possibilities are indicated - you've introduced us to the family members & the salient characteristics of each quietly but effectively.

Not sure I'd want to venture any crit until I've seen more - are you going to post more?

Rupe

Author's Reply:

Rupe on 16-03-2007
The Beach
A very distinctive voice to this piece. I found it well written, atmospheric and sharp, sad, with an edge of something like menace. I know those snake on a pole things & you've somehow made this one sound disturbing...

A number of different possibilities are indicated - you've introduced us to the family members & the salient characteristics of each quietly but effectively.

Not sure I'd want to venture any crit until I've seen more - are you going to post more?

Rupe

Author's Reply:

delph_ambi on 17-03-2007
The Beach
This is good writing. Could be a group of jottings for development further, but also stands well on its own. Keen sense of atmosphere, and a child's acceptance of the way things are.

Author's Reply:

Bradene on 17-03-2007
The Beach
A compelling yet disturbing read, could be an intro for a psychological piece, well written Val x

Author's Reply:


Forbidden Island (posted on: 20-11-06)
Two stories of the same place - twenty years apart.

Forbidden Island     

They say it is one of the most remote places on earth.  And on a dried up island in the Aral Sea, lies the remains of the world's largest biological-warfare testing ground. Since Russia abandoned the island in nineteen ninety two to its new owners, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, it has remained uninhabited, deserted by all but the Kazakh scavengers who pilfer anything moveable.     

    

When Kasha had first arrived, a newly qualified biologist, it was the summer of eighty-six.

Testing was performed only in the summer months, when the hundred degree plus temperatures

made the spread of pathogens less likely. The island had been a beautiful place then she

remembered.

Untouched.

The water was clear; it came right up to the town. People would swim, sunbathe,

unwinding after work on those long summer evenings.     

They come creeping in with the early morning mists, using their two small boats, among the last to ply the waters of this shrunken sea. They carry away everything usable, saleable, from office furniture to engine parts, from floorboards to used petri dishes.    

The evenings were filled with singing and dancing at the social club close by the laboratories.

The young scientists and soldiers made their own music. In the long winter months, the island

was often frozen in. To relieve the boredom, hunting parties would trek up into the northern

region of the island, the opposite end from where the summer testing took place. They could

spend days in makeshift camps, chasing the native wild boar, the deer and shooting at the passing

flocks of ducks heading away to warmer places.

Everyone earned good money, everyone was friendly. 

The atmosphere was relaxed during these times when the real world seemed so distance.

And the party provided them with everything they needed.    

Relics of life in what was the island's only town lie in the dust. They tell parallel tales; of a a once comfortable year-round home for some fifteen hundred people and of a practice field for the most terrifying kind of warfare.   

  

'It's definite Kasha, we're leaving.    

'We're going home.' He smiled at her, eager, wanting her to be happy too. 

Kasha wondered if she should tell him.      

Rusting street signs warn the ghosts and scavengers against parking. Another sign advertises a clinic, another, a pedestrian crossing.     

She looked at Yanneck, the shape of his head, the fair hair that wouldn't lay flat try as he

might to tame it, his open, boy-face. And she knew

he wasn't as strong as she was. She couldn't tell him.     

A red fire engine stands abandoned, never again to bleat out its warning. By the park was the social club, further away the soccer field. All these things speak of an ordinary life. Only inside the buildings does the military side of the island begin to emerge.    

No-one could know, otherwise - well… she understood the rules…

She didn't want to think about that. After all, soon they were going home.     

Near the entrance to the laboratory complex, two miles from the town, stand a pair of two-story buildings where animals were kept and monitored to assure their good health before being exposed to the viruses.    

Kasha's mind, pre-occupied with thoughts of Yannick, of their future, was not on her

work that day.  She hadn't bothered to call for the special escort, required by laboratory

protocol, to take the petri dish to the first floor laboratory for tests.  The dish had slipped from

her hands. She looked about her. Professor Kolensky, head of research, came out of his office

on the same corridor to see what had happened.     

Piled up in corners are hundreds of cages designed to hold guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits. Horses and donkeys were kept in separate stables.    

Kasha stood trembling, wondering what would happen.  She'd broken the rules.

The professor looked out his door, shook his head at her and said, 'just clear it up Kasha, quick,

before anyone else comes. Bring some formaldehyde from the store and make sure your skin's

covered.'    

On the floor lies a germproof full-body suit, complete with a glass face mask with an air attachment in the back. An odd smell -- ether, chlorine and something indefinable -- lingers in the air.     

Kasha rushed off to do what she was told in relief.  When she returned, the Professor was still there.

He remained watching as she cleaned up the spillage. He bent down beside her as she

worked.  Kasha felt his breath, hot against her ear. He placed his large hand on

the small of her back and whispered, 'don't worry, Kasha, no-one need know.'    

When the scavengers arrived for the previous year's hunt in July, they discovered that an official American-Uzbek expedition had come earlier in the year and burned down a row ofwarehouses.     

She stood up quickly when she'd finished, avoiding his eyes. She suspected her only

punishment  would be a reprimand, maybe a smaller paycheck that month. And a visit. Yet

what could she do? In two more weeks she'd be free she told herself. And outside, well

things were changing…

The bones of the buildings pointed up like charred carcasses, on their backs in submission. Looking at the destruction, the scavengers wondered aloud, why did they have to burn the warehouses? Didn't they know the most dangerous pathogens were buried deep, close to the labs?  And look at them, they had never got sick from it, had they?     

The next day Kasha received the letter.  Professor Kolenksy wanted Yannek to head

a hunting trip to the North of the island for a few days and by the way would she like join him

for dinner?     

Further on up the island, four poles have been set horizontally on pickets two feet from the ground. Rusty chains hang down; there are even a few feeding troughs.    

Of all the animals, Kasha remembered the monkeys. Two to three hundred of them each year.

They were fed fresh oranges and bananas to keep them in the best of health before the

experiments, fruits considered luxuries for even the most senior of the scientists.     

This is where the horses and donkeys were tied up. You can imagine them standing patiently in a row at dusk, when the wind would ease and the deadly aerosols would be released.    

She could never look at their eyes. Somehow they knew. Smelt it. Like dogs before fireworks.

They would start to screech before the men came for them.    

The scavengers, pillaging complete for this mission, prepare to desert the island to the silence before daylight deserts them.    

After they'd been exposed, they were brought to the labs, where the biologist would test their

blood and monitor the development of disease in them. They would die slowly over the weeks

and Kasha and the other scientists would perform the autopsies.    

Left behind, among the rubble, lies a portrait of a Captain Yannek Orenkov: a worthy soldier, the Soviet equivalent of an employee of the month.     

Her baby was born on the mainland just before glasnost turned into the quiet revolution. As

Kasha's daughter grew, the child would ask her mother where had she come from?

At these times Kasha's mood would turn sad, her eyes becoming distant, as if remembering 

an old pain.     

Beneath the mildewed picture are written the words 'killed in a hunting accident, December 1st 1989.    

She would tell her daughter then that she had been very lucky, she had been concieved on the

forbidden island. One of the remotest places on earth.     

Beside the photograph lies a yellowing copy of a January issue of Pravda.  It includes the headline 'The Soviet People Remain With the Party.'     
Archived comments for Forbidden Island


SugarMama34 on 20-11-2006
Forbidden Island
Hiya black-dove,
I think you have an interesting story here. I know that you have put the italics in as to show the reader that, that part of the story is in the present, but I think you could elaborate more on it all, if you described things in more detail, it will pull the reader in more to the story, and you will have more depth to it. Also there doesn't need to be spacing between each line, only sentence breaks, as it stops the flow of the piece you have written. You also seem to "tell" in some places where really you should "show." You have a really good idea and imagination for this, let your imagination run with you, and put in small details that you see in your mind, on the paper, you will project your imagery with your words to the reader. I think after an edit this could be quite a promising read and will grip and hook the reader into reading more. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Please don't be offended by my comments, I am not here to do that, just to help. You have a good story here, I just think you could make it better.

Hugs,

Sugar.xx

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 21-11-2006
Forbidden Island
A very good idea - a dramatic, tense storyline in both eras, and also tied up neatly at the end. It certainly worked for me the way it was written: intelligent and different too.

Author's Reply:


Mary, Mary (posted on: 10-11-06)
Nice to be back!

Mary, Mary Day One After * * *    * * Mary rises. Leaves her place. Moves up through the lair. Feels the air again. Christ, she could murder a drink. Effing great rum and coke. Get some feeling back. But what the France's she thinking about? Some things might happen to her, but she can't do anything. She can see, she can smell. But she can't touch, taste, speak. She sees, but is not seen, can smell, but can't be smelt – (maybe that's just as well)… It dawns on her. All she can do really is observe. Movement comes to her, somehow. Mary doesn't question how, she just can. Move. She sees herself when no-one else does. Knowing this gives her power. Something she was short of in life. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Two Days After * * * * * * Mary doesn't return to the grave. Odd that, she can't seem to locate it. Don't the dead have a sense of direction? Seems not. Well she never did have much. Direction that is. When she needed it. She manages to find her old local though. Somehow. By chance. Or not. Maybe she's wished for it or something – God knows - but there it is. Strange (isn't everything now?) she notices so much. Things that went unnoticed before. The tick in John's eye. Like a weather vein. Life gets heavy and it twitches. Sits holding his wife's hand. Now she's gone. Holding on to the living. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Three Days After * * * * * * Were does she go? Between episodes, where does she go? She doesn't know. It's like going back into childhood. Blanks, then… only certain pictures appear to her. Selective. She's home now. Then the stairs. Rising up. The locked door. No problem. She's in her bedroom now. How easy it is she realises No large body to haul anymore. She watches. Peter's in bed. Grunting. Seems to be another body underneath him. Animal noises rise about the bed. Animal smells. Christ, no, surely not… Betsy… the Alsatian… surely not, please no… Thank the Lord, it's only Amy from the office…
Archived comments for Mary, Mary
e-griff on 10-11-2006
Mary, Mary
Very interesting idea. Not sure about the alsatian...

but one thing puzzled me

'what the France's ... ' - means nowt to me at all. 🙂

Author's Reply:

Apolloneia on 10-11-2006
Mary, Mary
Two Days After, loved it.

Author's Reply:

Kat on 11-11-2006
Mary, Mary
Hi Jem

Great to see a post from you, and this is a goodie - love the way it's written - very clever.

? wee typo and should be 'where' in line 1, stanza 3.

Hope you're enjoying your course.

Kat x

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
It's an interesating piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the "what the France’s" phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
It's an interesating piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the "what the France’s" phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
It's an interesating piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the France’s phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
It's an interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the France’s phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
It's an interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the France’s phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
It's an interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the 'France’s' phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
An interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending about it not being the Alsatian wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the 'France’s' phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
An interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the 'France’s' phrase either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
An interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the 'France’s' reference either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
An interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the France’s reference either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
An interesting piece, with lots of atmosphere, but like John I thought the jokey ending wasn't really worthy of the rest of the writing. I didn't understand the France’s reference either. Highly original though.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 07-06-2007
Mary, Mary
I case you're wondering what the multiple postings are all about I kept getting server error messages and attempting to re-post with minor alterations. Apparently all the attempts got through!

Author's Reply:

richardh on 10-09-2007
Mary, Mary
test

Author's Reply:


Secret of the Birds (posted on: 26-06-06)
We each have our fears - and our secrets.

Secret of the Birds 'Two hundred and twenty five, two hundred and twenty six, two hundreds and twenty seven.' Fergus recited the numbers to himself in a ragged, breathless voice. Words loud enough to drown out the heart beats he felt pumping in his throat; strong enough to stifle his fear. It started a lot of days ago. So many now it seemed as if he'd always gone by himself. Fergus's mum told him she felt sick. Said she wasn't well enough to take him. Instead she just called out instructions from her bed. At first he didn't understand. What was she telling him? Fergus thought she meant he would just stay home, like all the other times. He began to realise what she really meant was he was to walk to school. By himself. Fergus cried and that made his mum upset. She wailed at him from her bedroom, 'why are you crying Fergus, you're a big boy now. Big boys go to school by themselves, don't they?' Fergus learned fast. He worked out if he didn't place his school clothes in a pile beside his bed the night before, he wouldn't have enough time in the morning to get ready. So he would get up, dress himself, eat some cereal -if the milk wasn't off in the fridge - while keeping an eye on the big kitchen clock. Fergus would look up as the second hand stuttered round, as if it was jumping over stepping stones and know when it was time for him to leave. On that first day, when he went to say goodbye, Fergus's mum couldn't look at him. When he leaned over to kiss her, he smelt her sweet fruity breath, mixed with the perfumey scent that she always had. That smell made Fergus imagine the giant zombie birds from his play station game, Resident Evil. If they ever came to life like he'd often dreamt of now and pecked his eyes out, Fergus knew even then he would still recognise his mother by her smell. At first he wasn't too frightened. That is, until he began to think about the actual walk. It was then Fergus made his plan. His plan was, he'd run the whole way. And count. He'd count the time it took him to reach the school. If he sprinted as fast as he could, he reached the first crossing by a hundred and twenty. That meant he'd passed the first test. If he reached the busy corner by two hundreds and forty, he'd passed the second test. If he reached the turn in the road where he could see the school, well then he was okay and nothing bad would happen, he told himself. He figured out too if he ran all the way he wouldn't be late and Miss Anderson wouldn't be mad with him. Funny mad was okay, when she called him a sleepy head, but now she got angry mad and said she would have to speak to his mother about his time-keeping. He didn't know what she meant by Time Keeping. Did Miss Anderson mean he was stealing time? Fergus didn't understand how anybody could do that. If you couldn't see something, then how could you steal it? He did know if he didn't reach school at the right time he was in trouble. It made Miss Anderson cross. Then she would mark a cross beside his name in her book. His name had lots of crosses beside it in a long line, right across the page. Fergus wanted to be there at the right time, then his name would have lots of ticks along the page like Zoë the girl who sat next to him in class. Fergus tried to work things out. He worked out on his watch that when he was at step two hundred and twenty seven on his way to school, if he kept running, only one more minute was needed for him to reach the gates. That gave him a few seconds over to get in line before Miss Anderson came to take in the class. Sometimes when he had no breakfast and left earlier he was even first in line. Then Miss Anderson would pat his head. Zoë Barrett, his classmate stayed just around the corner from him. Mrs. Barrett always held Zoe's hand to take her to school. Fergus didn't like his mum taking his hand when they went out, but Zoë didn't seem to mind. Often the two of them would see Fergus by himself and ask if he wanted to walk with them. Fergus would say no. His mum didn't like Zoë's mum. She would say in her angry voice that came at night-times, 'that Gill Barrett, she's just an 'inner-fearing crow'. Fergus didn't quite know what this meant either; maybe, he thought Mrs. Barrett was scared of birds, like him. Maybe she dreamt about them too. But the way his mum's face went when she said it he knew it wasn't nice and he understood he couldn't go to school along with them. His mum said Zoë's mum asked too many questions. Fergus didn't think so. Mrs. Barrett had given him a lollipop when she asked him what he had for his play piece and he's said nothing. He thought that had been a good question. Now he waited until he saw Zoë come out her front door. He would wait till the fast hand on his watch went round past the twelve again before he followed. Still Fergus liked to keep the two of them just in the corner of his eye. He would lift his eyes every few seconds from the pavement to make sure they were there. Sometimes Zoë noticed him trailing behind and asked her mum to wait for him. At these times he would hang back, pretending he hadn't seen them. At first Zoë shouted on him to hurry up, but after he didn't answer her a few times, Mrs. Barrett told her to stop asking. Fergus heard the school bell ring. All the children's voices in the playground moved away from his ears towards the front of the school entrance. They sounded just like a flock of birds, he thought. Seagulls. And it was gym day. Fergus was no longer scared to cross the roads. He knew how to do that. He knew you just had to listen. He knew not to go between the cars where you couldn't see properly, that was all you needed to do. And to remember the blind corner where you needed to listen more carefully, as cars would suddenly appear. But on rubbish days, Mondays and Thursdays, gym and swimming days, crows, pigeons and the seagulls would swoop down at the black bin bags, reminding him of those fighter planes he liked to imagine himself flying. The first few times Fergus saw them, he was fascinated. He watched in admiration as they glided down, then stopped suddenly in front of the rubbish, just like clever pilots. He looked on as their ugly beaks pecked at bacon rind, banana skins, even dirty nappies. The birds would eat anything and the seagulls were the worst. Up in the sky they didn't look so big, but when they swooped down they seemed to grow huge and the noise they made frightened him. When they swooped down squaking they looked like those horrible birds from his computer game. Fergus had been eating a sandwich one Monday morning as he walked to school. He was walking, not running that morning as he was early. He'd found the sandwich in the fridge and as there was no milk that morning, he took it with him to eat on the way. He never saw the huge seagull as it flew in from behind. All he was aware of was the wing-shaped shadow that covered him. Then the sandwich was gone. His hand burned where it had been. There was blood on his fingers. All Fergus wanted to do was run home and cry. He wanted to tell his mum. But he never did. Instead, once his tears had stopped and he felt a bit calmer, Fergus made up his mind. On gym days and swimming days he would leave the house one circle of the little hand early. He'd catch up and walk to school with Zoë and her mum. And he wouldn't tell his mum. But only on those two days. On that Monday morning Fergus worked out, if he could manage to go to school by himself he could also manage to keep a secret. After all he was a big boy now.
Archived comments for Secret of the Birds
bluepootle on 26-06-2006
Secret of the Birds
I think you've mainly caught the voice very well here, and kept a simplicity with the short words and paragraphs which works for the subject matter. I do think that if he can count to two hundred plus he can probably tell the time, so I'd probably cut the 'one circle of the little hand' type stuff - it just seems a little forced. But apart from that I enjoyed the story and was glad you didn't do the obvious and have the poor child get abducted in some horrible manner. You could play up the seagull incident and make that the focus of the piece, maybe? That could be so very frightening to a child (and real! those bloody seagulls! I hate 'em!). Hope this helps.

Author's Reply:
Hi BP,
Yes, I see where you're coming from. Perhaps if they count, then they can and should also tell the time.
But having a little one, I know she learns things at different times and in different ways too...
They try and explain things to themselves in ways that make the world understandable to them I've observed with my older daughters and also now, with the youngest.
I have changed it, but there is a wee bit of me thinks that's how they do see it.
Not quite sure. Perhaps you're right - I think it's debatable.
Thanks for your helpful and thought-making comment.
Yes, those seagulls are a real pest, makes you think Alfred Hitchcock and the Birds, thought the original story by Daphne De Maurnier was much more provincial and disturbing than the Hollywoodese version.
Jem x

ruadh on 26-06-2006
Secret of the Birds
I enjoyed this Jem. It's consistent with the voice of a child. Not too sure I agree with BP on the 'circle of the little hand' though. My youngest is seven and learning to tell the time and it's the kind of thing she says. Similarly, she used to count days by 'sleeps' ie she would have three sleeps before her birthday etc. Great read.

love ailsa

Author's Reply:
Hi Ailsa,
Yes, the boy is sevenish. Some of it was based on, sadly, a little boy in my youngest daughters class, though obviously I've added much.
They find ways to explain things that match with their own logic of how the world works this I have noticed.
Girls are so much more 'with it' than boys at this age I've noticed.
Boys seem so much simpler than girls in how the see the world, and sweeter.
Thanks for you lovely comment and thoughts - much appreciated.
Jem x

RoyBateman on 27-06-2006
Secret of the Birds
It all sounded very authentic and child-like to me, and the language in which it was told suited it perfectly. I can well understand a child's fear of predatory birds, even if I have just spent ages filling up our feeders yet again - gulls especially can be very aggressive and an experience such as you so aptly describe could well give a kid nightmares. A different and fascinating read!

Author's Reply:


Magic, Madame Magda and the Sunday School Picnic (posted on: 23-06-06)
  • It was the margarine you see. I detested it. If only they had ran to butter!


  • I loathed jelly sandwiches. With a vengeance. But Mrs. Hannah our Sunday school teacher insisted I eat it. I knew it would make me spew up. I watched as she whispered loud behind a big manicured hand to Mrs. White her helper, 'ye'd think tae look at yon yin, she'd be gled o a jeely piece.' They turned in tandem like clockwork toys and stared at me with small mean mouths in a shape my father might have described as being 'pursed up like a dog's arse'. (Of course I would never say that - I wasn't allowed.) It was the margarine you see. I detested it. If only they had ran to butter! I tried eating the crusts first. Those I could eat. My mother said they made your hair curly, but as I already had curly hair, I wasn't too worried. But margarine, that was too much. I couldn't bring myself to put the offending stuff in my mouth. Instead when the coast was clear and nobody looking, I kind of stuffed the rest of the offending sandwich under me. I then sat on top of the remains, well, I sort of slide it under the tartan blanket Mrs. Hannah had brought for sitting on. I felt it squish around below my bum. At least no-one saw I hadn't finished the thing. For the time being anyway. All the while Mrs Hannah went on swissing at Mrs. White ear, giving my mother her character, miscalling my father, decrying my sisters then adding, 'however does SHE dae sae weel et school, considering…' looking straight at me, shaking her over-permed head, leaving me to imagine just what she meant by 'considering.' All the others kids on the trip and their mothers heard this conversation, for Mrs. Hannah in best preachy tones, even when she imagined she was being discreet, had the voice of a barrow boy. Once more, syncronized, the two of them looked over at me with holier-that-thou pity in their beady eyes. That was worse to endure than their scorn. I was starting to feel very uncomfortable under those two hallelujahs' scrutiny. Where was my mother anyway, when I was being subjected to such torture? I burled my head around trying to catch sight of her, but as usual, she was off. Gallivanting. My father swore that was the reason he never went on any outings with her. He was adamant my mother was sure to embarrass him if he did. For, he said, she'd pick up the first straggly, rag-tag she found and bring them back with her to whatever social event it was we were at, introducing them as her new best friend. My mother would answer back; she was just being sociable, more than could be said for him. My father stayed home. As for me, I thought her socialising was exciting as she acquired all sorts of stray dogs and odds and sods over the years. And once in a while she'd trawl in somebody exotic. That's how we came to meet Madame Magda. My mother got acquainted with the lady when they both shouted house at the prize bingo along the promenade. When the madame let her have the china tea service, the star prize, (madame informed her she had more tea sets than you could shake a stick at) my mother immediately became the lady's newest admirer. And I have to admit, she was rather glamorous in a past-her-best sort of way. It turned out she stayed in a gipsy caravan along the pier where she did tea cup readings for day-trippers. She was a Polish Countess, she told us, (in strictest confidence of course) adding that she was now living 'incognito.' I thought this meant living in a foreign country, but didn't like to ask in case I showed myself up. She'd been smuggled out of Germany after the war by a grateful American. We were too polite to ask what he was grateful for. Madame Magda had the reddest head of hair I've ever seen; all coiffured up on top of her head like some huge tilting orange meringue. She reminded me of the Dame I had seen at the Christmas panto, but I had the sense to keep that thought to myself. I think over the years Madamed Magda must have become more and more like Good Queen Bess. The older she got, the redder her locks became, the higher and more elaborate her hairdos grew and the thicker the panstick make-up went on. She used an ivory cigarette holder which if you looked real close was fashioned in rather a rude shape. In this she smoked black Russian cigarettes, ones my father said when he met her, reminded him of camel's dung being burnt in the desert. He had been a desert rat you see and knew what that smelt like. I took his word for it as they did smell a bit rank… She told some cracking stories though. She invited us back to her caravan. She proceed to show us a real Russian samovar, made of solid silver she let it be know. In this she brewed the tea for her readings. She also let us look at a holy icon, she swore and crossed herself, had belonged to Catherine the Great. She then went on to tell us that as a child in Russia she'd actually met Rasputin. According to Madame Magda the mad monk had been much taken with her pretty face for he'd given her mother an amulet for her which could be used to put the 'evil eye' on anybody that meant to harm you. Well, if she was telling the truth, which to me, even then seemed unlikely, she must have been on the north side of seventy. But it was a brilliant story, nonetheless. And on that first meeting I realised Madame Magda was the business. Instinctively I knew I could pour my heart out to her and she'd listen. After all she'd been through the mill herself and Madame Magda understood just what it meant to be the victim. At the first chance I told her how Mrs. Hannah and her sorcerer's apprentice didn't like me. I recounted everything Mrs. Hannah had whispered to Mrs. White about me and my family. Madame Magda paid close attention to everything I had to say, considered it all for a few seconds, then winked at me with a false eyelash that reminding me of the legs of a black widow spider I had seen once at Calderpark Zoo. It was an hour later folks realised Mary Hannah was missing. The Sunday school teacher was nowhere to be seen. People started wondering what could have become of her, it wasn't like her not to attend to her duties as the trip organiser. Just where had she dissppear to? We had our sports day with all the usual races: egg and spoon, sack race, three legged race, the relay and then our picnic tea. We'd eaten the contents of our papers bags filled with buns, cakes, scotch pies and fizzy juice to follow and still there was no sign of Mes. Mary Hannah. As time went on and she never appeared I began to get frightened. What had Madame Magda done with Mrs. Hannah and would I be suspected of being an accomplice in the dissappearance? It was time for the mother's race and she was nowhere to be seen. Something was definitely up for Mrs. Hannah always liked to give my mother a run for her money round the links. According to my mother the last time she'd seen Mrs. Hannah was more than a hour earlier, on her way to have her teacup read by Madame Magda before the races. An uneasy feeling settled in my stomach. It was a worried Mr. Hannah who launched a search party for his missing wife. My mother and a few of the other ladies volunteered to help. It was some time later Mr. Hannah came back and announced,' 'It's aw richt folks, Mary bin fun!' When my mother returned from the search out of breath, she whispered to me, 'Oh, Mary wis taken gie poorly. She's spent the last oor in yon makeshift cluggie alang the beach. In aw she did wis hae a wee cup o tea wae Madame Magda. She'd never eaten a hing. She never even hud time tae get her reading dun afore she hud tae go. She must hiv ate something in the morning thit didnae agree wae her. She luks gie seek tae me.' Sure enough Mrs. Hannah appeared, looking rather green about the gills when I glanced over. 'Must hae been yon jelly pieces we hud earlier on, Mammy. They tasted gie queer tae me. A think the margarine wis aff.' At that moment, Mrs. Hannah's eyes met with mine. She gave me the dirtiest look - that was just before she threw up - all over her bonnie tartan blanket. Yes and that was the day I started to believe in mystical powers, and in Madame Magda – for she, as they say, was magic!
    Archived comments for Magic, Madame Magda and the Sunday School Picnic
    Claire on 25-06-2006
    Madame Magda and the Sunday School Picnic
    Hey there, amusing piece here hun,

    I remember hiding my sarnies as a kid too... and now I tell me kids off doing it and force them to the crusts...

    ‘pursed up like a dog’s arse’. -- that is brilliant, I ain't heard that one before

    Excellent piece, thoroughly enjoyed this, it deffo brightened up my dreary day.

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks Claire,
    All my comments and my nib disappeared when the bad fairy came, so it's nice to get a comment.
    Yes, my father did have some choice sayings, having been in the army... though their wasn't a real Madame Magda, but my mother did bring back some strange fruit at times..
    Thanks for the nice comment.
    Jem x


  • To Be A Man (posted on: 05-06-06)
    *

    To Be A Man Fear has its own sweat. The boy was soaked in it. Sweat, caused by the humid heat ran down into the hollow of his back. His hands too were wet from the heavy dampness of the jungle. His heart pounded in his chest, making the boy believe it might explode. Only a primitive instinct kept him going, kept him running. When he couldn't hear the noise of the chase anymore, exhausted, the boy sank down onto his knees. He tried desperately to control the loud breaths that were coming out of him like the hiss from an engine's piston. The night sounds of insects and a chorus of nocturnal frogs cloaked the rasping noises issuing hard from his throat. It was then a different noise, new to his ears, alerted him. The sound of rustling cloth. His movements froze. The sound was Manong Jeysus the Barrio captain taking his knife – the bola – from the fabric belt wound round his protruding belly. A light filtered through the carpet of jungle vegetation and the boy caught sight of the long curve of its blade, the metal edge glinting in the moonlight. Far off the boy heard another sound, a dog whimpering in the compound. It must be the same animal he'd seen earlier. He remembered glancing at it as he made his escape, running as fast as he could for the cover of the trees. Its legs had been strung tightly together with sisal, like a chicken trussed for the spit. Perhaps it too smelt its fate rising on the hot night's sky. Tomorrow the dog would be polotan, night-fare for the barcada, the village men, who liked to spend their evenings in each others company, eating and getting drunk. The same ones the boy knew who were out hunting for him now. Earlier a smell had come to him on the night breeze, making him long for food as his nostrils caught the scents of cooking over an open fire. It filled the hot twilight air. At least the women knew if their men kept eating they wouldn't become too drunk, or they hoped, too cruel with the effects of the rice wine. The elders had been drinking basi, newly brewed after the rice harvest, outside under the bamboo awnings since the sun had gone from the sky. They were telling their tall tales by the light of a solitary kerosene lamp. Tales that grew taller and more elaborate the more they drank. Tales of the aswang. A beast that wore the face of a beautiful woman, but had the wings and body of a vampire bat. The aswang would come in dead of night to the villages, screeching for vengeance against some old or imagined wrong, thirsting for blood. In the morning some sickly child or frail villager would be gone, their soul stolen, the elders would say, by the vampira. These tales would grow with the men's drunkenness, until they began to scare even themselves. From his hiding place, the boy could make out the shape of the men's wide-spread calloused feet, turning first one way then the other, barely an arms length from where he crouched. It was at that moment he felt the hot stream soak through his shorts, running in rivulets down bare legs. He had no control over himself; he simply lay where he was, not daring to move, till he saw the same pairs of bare brown feet turn again, hesitate, then move off, away from where he lay, as if resigned to not finding their prey. Slowly he released his limbs from the petrified arrangement he'd held them in while the men had searched for him. He understood he must stay here, in the darkness, alone in the jungle with all its teeming life. This idea was only slightly less terrifying than being caught. Yet, he daren't chance going back until morning, when he might creep quietly into the village and try to find his mother. The boy lifted himself stiffly from his hiding place and prepared to climb up to the branch of a low-growing tree nearby. This might afford him some safety for a few hours until the approach of dawn's light. As he turned to climb, there in front of him stood a large misshapen beast. The barrio Captain's dog had sniffed him out. The animal growled then started barking furiously for his master, delighted to have found the quarry. The boy felt the same burning fear rush through his limbs once more. Like some wild animal cornered, he stood transfixed. A wave of panic engulfed him, his swift feet hopelessly turned to stone. The blow from the back of a man's hand, came swift, landing hard across his neck. The boy fell heavily to the ground. He heard, as if from somewhere distant and far above him, a melee of drunken voices shouting in triumph, each voice demanding the right to carry out the ritual. He rolled himself over in time to see the muscular arms of two of the men descend upon him, grab him and then drag him to a great ancient Narra tree in a small clearing. Another two sinewy arms encircled his legs. The men pinned the boy's slight body hard against the tree's wide bough. It was pointless to struggle and anyway he had no strength left in him to fight. The last thing the boy remembered before the blackness came was the image of the bound dog. He realised this must be how the animal had felt when it was about to be slaughtered.                                                                                                          * Under his eyelids, coursing through his body, down through his abdomen into his groin he felt only the colour red; poker-hot. Red pain seared through his body, making him wrench from the pit of his empty stomach. Only a watery bile came up, burning his throat and leaving its bitter taste in his mouth. Then, once again, the unbearable pain attacked him, making his body convulse. The boy opened heavy eyes and the face of his mother floated over him. She was bathing him with the herbs prepared by the village healot. Her large dark eyes bore the sadness of a lifetime as she tried to comfort her son, whispering soft in his ear, 'you're a man now Reuben'.
    Archived comments for To Be A Man
    sledge on 05-06-2006
    To Be A Man
    Terrific read, black-dove. Held me from the first word to the last. Thought the poor kid was going to end up like the dog, you sneaky writer you :). Whew, glad it ended like it did!
    Terry

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Sledge,
    Yes, I wanted to make readers believe the boy might have met a gruesome fate.
    Seems it worked. His real fate was bad enough!
    Thanks for your great comment.
    Jem x

    RoyBateman on 06-06-2006
    To Be A Man
    What a nightmare - literally. Blimey, I shall need the lights on tonight! Scary stuff, and the vast cultural gap only adds to that horror. Phew, I shall go and have a nice lie down to recover.

    Author's Reply:

    Jolen on 07-06-2006
    To Be A Man
    No kidding, well deserved nib. Gripping writing all the way through. A very well told, and emotive piece.

    blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:

    Micky on 08-06-2006
    To Be A Man
    Excellent write ,black- dove
    You had me in the jungle ,pulse racing ,brain straining to find some excape...
    Very nicely done !

    Micky :>D

    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 02-07-2006
    To Be A Man
    Cracking piece; very vivid.

    Jennifer x

    Author's Reply:


    Letters from America (posted on: 29-05-06)
    *

    Letters from America My words found their way to you through thin air weightless and winged, landing like paper planes five thousand miles away. I created them atop the Empire State, metaphored myself silly under the Golden Gate, felt inspired, barefoot in the Bahamas. It's clear now you never quite understood. Well, after all, we spoke a different language. And on my return, you did admit you'd never kept my letters. Looking back I see I should have written a book - at least I'd have a copy. Signed. In print.
    Archived comments for Letters from America
    RoyBateman on 31-05-2006
    Letters from America
    What a terribly sad little poem! That's a cardinal sin, not keeping lettere - no matter what the relationship is. It's like throwing a part of someone's life away, and in a sense it really is. All that effort and care wasted. Next time, keep a diary, eh? Than we could all share it. A touching poem, this - so why's it not more widely read? Where is everyone this week?

    Author's Reply:
    Well, being fair, I think it's a male female think.
    But a salutary lesson about saving the written work.
    Thanks for the comment Roy.
    Jem x

    Sunken on 31-05-2006
    Letters from America
    Letters from America, comment from a munky. I loved this, especially the second stanza. Well worthy of the nib. Well done.

    s
    u
    n
    k
    e
    n

    he steals glances to order

    Author's Reply:
    Well Mr.Munky,as ever your just a sweetie.
    Jem x


    Zoya on 01-06-2006
    Letters from America
    Yes, sometimes we pour our hearts out into our letters to our loved ones, so much of loving effort goes into it, so much of our precious time. Only to learn that they were not even appreciated. It can really break your heart. Verily, if the same time and energy is given, a book can be written. But, then, when does the heart listen to the voice or reason?
    **hugs for a very thought provoking poem**
    Sincerely,
    Zoya

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Zoya,
    Yes, but some people take different angles on these things. And, no my heart wasn't broken, just an ego bruised!
    Luv Jemx

    narcissa on 01-06-2006
    Letters from America
    You've only gone and made me cry a little *violently blows nose* but that's because I can relate every word to something that happened to me and was pretty heartbreaking so..... this has just touched a nerve because it's both so beautiful and so relatable for me.
    Just... wow. This is incredible stuff. A new fave for me.
    Wow wow wow. Can't get over it.
    Sorry, not a very constructive comment!
    Laura x

    Author's Reply:
    Oh Laura,
    Poor you! Yes, we often see our own situation when reading things and listening to music as if it had been written just for us. I'm over it - many years ago - I hope you're get over yours soon too!
    Luv, thoughts and hugs.
    Jem x

    littleditty on 02-06-2006
    Letters from America
    I think the second stanza is ace - is 'Barefoot in the Bahamas' already a movie? - your rhyming sounds: barefoot/ understood/book really work well to link the verses. The last stanza took a few reads to grow on me, i enjoyed coming back to this, it has stayed with me xxxlittleditty x

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Littleditty,
    Not that I know of, but I did write another poem before with that phrase in it.
    The last stanza was meant to be abrupt and a bit sarcastic as I wanted to show the writer had got over the love affair.
    Many thanks,
    Jem x

    Jolen on 03-06-2006
    Letters from America
    I can't believe that I didn't comment on this already, but wow! a great piece and the ending was perfect for me. Well deserved nib.
    blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Jolen,
    Thanks so much for such a lovely comment. I did try other endings but this seemed the most appropriate.
    Luv Jem x



    Confessions (posted on: 15-05-06)
    Confession they say is good for the soul...

    Confessions 'Happy is the bride that the sun shines on, but happier is the corpse that the rain falls on.' Toni remembered the old rhyme from somewhere, buried back in childhood memories. Funny how bits of verse managed to lodge themselves in the dark corners of one's mind, suddenly to offer themselves up years later at times like this. Well, if it were true, Peter must be happy, in whatever place he now was. Toni felt the soft fat plops land on her sleeve, watched them spread, sinking into her wool coat. She smelt the damp fleece smell that reminded her of wet dogs and childhood. Reminded her of things she'd rather forget. Looking around, she watched while mourners opened their umbrellas like so many large black tulips against the coming rain. She nodded to people, acknowledging folks she hadn't seen for years, registered how time had taken its dues, the receipts written on the faces of old friends and neighbours she'd known as a young girl. A gust of wind blew and although the sun shone through the wavering trees, Toni shivered, even in her topcoat. She'd never cared for attending burials. The spring blossom fell over the assembled gathering like a snowfall of funeral confetti as Toni lifted her eyes over the gathered heads, casting them around the crowded cemetery of St. Catherine's, the town where she'd been born. She took in the resignation imprinted on her mother's face, as she stood on the far side of the open grave. She noted the discreet hearing aid behind her mother's left ear. One of the legacies left from her first marriage. Yet Toni looked at her mother and saw a fine looking woman at fifty-five. She watched her younger sister too, standing beside her mother, supporting her. She found it hard to believe her sister was a women now, married with children of her own. Yes time has moved on for us all, she saw. She heard the new pastor's voice drone on, his monotonous voice sing-songing as they buried her mother's second husband. The man Toni had come to accept as a father. Her little sister had been six, Toni nearly fourteen when their mother had married the local headmaster. The first time their mother brought this man home to meet them, The girls had been on their guard. After all, they had been through so much together. Their dog, Lonnie, took a few weeks to sniff out Peter, get the scent of this new human, sense if he was good or if he was out to hurt them. It wasn't long before Lonnie was following Peter everywhere, happy to have him as his new master. For the first few months, Toni's sister Elly watched their mother's new husband's every move. She remained fidgety as a butterfly, ever ready for flight if his voice rose, until she too understood she could trust him. Toni took the longest, but eventually even she could see that this man wasn't like their own father. Their mother was safe with him and so were they. It was about that time Toni's recurring nightmares began to recede. Her mother smiled again. The atmosphere that had pervaded their home for so many years gradually dissolved and lifted, leaving the sunshine. Those were good years. The family moved to a larger house, their old dog died to be replaced by another. Elly stayed in St. Catherine's and married a local boy, remaining close to hermother and Peter. Only Toni went out into the world, coming back rarely. Yet they were all still bonded by the early years. Toni's thoughts were so immersed in the past, the light tap on her shoulder took her by surprise. She turned to greet a face she still recognised after more than twenty years. Even out of uniform, his thick hair now grey where once it had been black, features heavier, the waistline spread, still Toni couldn't mistake that booming voice, 'Well, Toni, your mom tells me you're a captain now. S'pose I ought to call you sir then, eh?' Sergeant Galliano. Toni hadn't seen him since she left for Toronto all those years ago. The sergeant had been the investigating officer when Toni's real father was reported missing. Toni smiled uncertainly as their eyes met. Toni had learnt over her years on the force to get the measure of a person by the look in their eyes. Johnny Galliano's held her gaze. Toni offered him her hand. 'Nice to see you here sir, It's been a long time. Thanks for coming.' They shook hands. The next mourner took his place, paying Toni his condolences. The sergeant hesitated a moment and then moved on. Soon the church yard emptied and Toni was left to her thoughts once more. It had been on a Saturday. Saturdays were always the worst. She'd been thirteen. It had taken almost six months for her to find the courage, or perhaps desperation, to do it. Each time her father came home drunk from a bar, smelling of cheap women and whiskey and looking for something to kick, a dog, a kid, a wife, Toni grew a little braver. Finally, the terror of not knowing what her father would do next, if this time he wouldn't just burst his mother's eardrum, maybe this time he would kill her or Toni, became stronger than the fear of carrying out her plan. It was the night her father turned his attention to little Elly that Toni finally made up her mind. It couldn't go on. She'd waited at the top of the back porch steps. Just like in the cowboy books she read, she'd waited to see the white of her father's eyes before dropping the chunk of concrete she held aloft with aching arms onto his head. Her father had staggered backwards with the impact, tripped, with a look of utter disbelief on his face. Toni ran down after him and before he could recover, rolled him into the drainage ditch that ran down behind the backyard of their house. It had been raining heavy that night and the ditch was full of rushing water. He was found three days later. The enquiry ruled 'death by misadventure'. Toni agreed with that. So did her mother, her sister and their dog. It is said confession is good for the soul. But although Toni still believed in God, she'd never confessed. What she did do was write into an anonymous website called Confessions and admit what she'd done. Stating only the facts. No names, date, place and making sure there was no way to trace her to the computer it was sent from. Toni was well aware the police watched these kinds of sites. That's how she'd found it. For Toni that was enough. All those years before Toni had made her choices and placed her fate and faith in human justice. Luckily, so had Johnny Galliano. `
    Archived comments for Confessions
    alcarty on 15-05-2006
    Confession
    Poor guy. Even the dog didn't miss him! I like it when a story ends the way I want it to. Kept my attention all the way through.

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Al,
    I think life should have a natural justice, especially when the odds are loaded against you. It's nice to get even, if only in a story. Thanks for reading.
    Jem x

    RoyBateman on 16-05-2006
    Confession
    Rough justice maybe, but justice nonetheless. Sometimes that's the only way it's going to happen. You caught the tone just right, painting a melancholy picture but one in which good finally triumphed. I reckon her anonymous confession was quite enough...good, gripping story and fine characterisation.

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks for commenting Roy,
    Just an exercise piece I set myself from a few words I read on a REAL confessions site.

    Jemx

    glennie on 17-05-2006
    Confessions
    Nice idea, and to think it's based on a true story. Some people deserve what they get. Live by the sword etc. The story flowed well and was written well with nice characterisation. Enjoyed it.

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks Glennie,
    I liked the idea of confessing, without revealing who you are.
    Jem x

    Bradene on 22-05-2006
    Confessions
    Good Story Jem and utterly believable I enjoyed the read. love Val x

    Author's Reply:

    calisto on 22-05-2006
    Confessions
    Right on, Toni! If only more victims turned on their tormentors.

    Author's Reply:


    The Madman of Barrio San Clemente (posted on: 01-05-06)
    *

    The Madman of Barrio San Clemente The shantytown grows a spreading virus with its soup of sickening smells makeshift shacks chicken-wired windows and centavo sari-sari stores where black eyes watch from hidden worlds. To echoes of 'Kana, Kana' I walk their other Roxas to feel the beaten earth hard and cold as charity in the baking heat. Feeling over-sized in a land of reduced people I pick a path through blind allies, snaking tracks, a bobbing head my only guide and wonder - will I be brave enough? A line of sight opens up to his moon-faced gaze. Even at this distance I register the misshapen head encrusted with the tumours barrio San Clemente's madman wears like a crown of thorns.
    Archived comments for The Madman of Barrio San Clemente
    Slovitt on 01-05-2006
    The Madman of Barrio San Clemente
    black-dove: Perhaps 'its soup of sickening smells'/. Perhaps end the second stanza with 'am I brave enough?'/ as you do open the third stanza with 'sight'. I think 'like a laurel wreath' dilutes the close of your poem and could be done without. Finally, and I do like your poem, you could pretty simply move from 'telling', to creating the scene for, to be interacted with by, the reader. Fool around with removing 'and it's here I meet' and see what might become of the final stanza. Or not. Swep

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Slovitt
    Thanks for your crit and I have edited it - and you're right - it looks and sounds better.
    I appreciate your keen eye and informed opinion.
    We do see better from a distance.
    Thank you.
    Jem

    Dargo77 on 02-05-2006
    The Madman of Barrio San Clemente
    Jem, found this a joy to read.
    Regards,
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:

    Crave on 15-05-2006
    The Madman of Barrio San Clemente
    the first stanza is excellent. really wonderful in visula terms, especially the last line.

    good. 😀

    Author's Reply:

    Lare on 28-05-2006
    The Madman of Barrio San Clemente
    Hi black dove...What a great write. I love how you have woven your imagery here...great descriptions...I can feel the temperatures and moods with great lines like

    "hard and cold as charity
    in the baking heat."

    Very well done...

    Lare

    Author's Reply:


    Too Late (posted on: 03-04-06)
    *

    Too Late Another appointment in an hour and already this one's late starting. I realise, not for the first time, I loathe this job. But if I give up what then? If I don't secure this deal what then? I see all those commitments, Prometheus's chains anchoring me to rocks as the eagles hover overhead, waiting to tear my flesh. The flat's still not sold. Damn, why did the market stall now we've decided to sell the bloody thing? We're supposed to sign the missives for the new house at the end of the month and not one survey on the flat. But thinking about it, is this really what I want anyway? I seem to be getting pulled along with a tide not of my creating and all I can feel is huge indifference, my life might be torn apart and this is all I feel. I look around the restaurant, all heather hues and thistles. Blackwatch tartan curtains flutter discreetly. The only thing missing, the piper. The clientele are mainly well-heeled business suits, doing lunch. Everyone looks at ease, chatting, nodding. Players. Just how do these people see me, I wonder? Do they know I'm not one of them, not a player? Do they see a large, slightly overweight young man, in need a bit of exercise, looking anxious. Perspiring. Just why are my hands sweating? I so need this deal, that's why. And do they smell the failure, a tumour growing inside me, swelling with every failed deal? It's at this moment I make a small epiphany. All I am capable of is failure. Failure is what I do well. Don't all these red letters keep telling me that's what I am, all the debts piling up, screaming at me to do something. I've actually got most of those final demands here with me right now in my briefcase. I carry them everywhere, promising myself I'll address them, sort out my life when the time is right. Yet, I know I won't. The time never seems to be right. And of course the real reason they come with me is - I can't bare to let Jen see them, to let her know how much of a failure I really am. All I want to do at this moment is hide, not have to face anyone. My life right now is crap and I'd rather not be in it. Or in this job. I want desperately to go back. Back to when I was me. On my bike, freewheeling down the Derry hills, laughing. In control. Looking out at the water and knowing life was all in front of me. Everything for the taking. I could achieve anything I set my mind to. No sweaty palms then. No bills. No mortgage to fret over. No woman to please. I catch sight of my next client walking through the door, taking a wary step down into the dimmed interior, scanning the crowded room. He's searching for me, an impatient expression on his face. I feel the same pain across my chest as I always do when these meetings start. My throat dries, swells, my collar tightens. The throbbing starts at my temples. Each throb beats out the word - results, results. Results I can't deliver. I squint up at the man whose eyes are still searching me out. I imagine what he might say if told him the truth, that no, I can't advise him where he should invest his dubiously aquired money, no I won't stay for lunch and yes, I would rather leave. I tell him I don't feel well. That's not a lie. I make my excuses and leave. I drive home and decide to watch daytime TV instead of work for the rest of the afternoon and be reassured other people's lives are worse than mine. Trish or Jeremy or whoever is on, will have the answers. A few trite homilies, a 'brisk but fair' telling off , then a quick psychological fix from the resident therapist and there you go, we're all sorted. All us poor losers, stupid enough to be watching, and all those sad enough to bare their souls for others so-called entertainment. I'll have that pizza in the fridge, open a bottle of wine, drink a glass or two. Close the front door on the world, draw the curtains, lie on the couch and shut out reality, no pressure till five. But at five, what then? Jen will be back, and what then? Put on my Walter Mitty act and know she won't believe me.                                                                                                                      * I was the last one out this morning, so how's that? The remains of the pizza I had earmarked are lying half-eaten on the worktop. The kettle is warm to the touch. A bottle of red wine is opened but untouched, as though it's being allowed to breathe. And there's Jen's coat hanging on the hallstand. I take it in my hands, press it to my face. It gives off the scent of her. I hold it to me. The perfume, Slow Poison, the one I told her I don't like. The one she still wears. She's home before me. Christ, now I need to think. What do I tell her? Why am I not at work? But then it occurs to me, why is she not at work? God, it will be just like the thing if she's had another doctor's appointment and I've forgotten about it. Again. She's always at the bloody doctors these days. Ever since we started this family thing. You'd think it was the doctor that could make her pregnant, not me. Can't even mention the word pregnancy or she's in hysterics. Well maybe that's just it. It is me to blame. Of course, I'm the failure. I'll take a glass of wine up to the bedroom, give her a surprise. Tell her I knew about that appointment and I re-arranged my schedule so that I could join her; tell her how glad I am we're at home together for once, in the afternoon. We can both stay in bed. Try and make that baby. Isn't that what she wants? I climb the stairs as quietly as I can, almost assuaged by my story. I even feel myself harden just at the thought of this unplanned session, un-synchronised by clocks and temperatures. This surprises me; it's been a long time since I wanted her so much. I just want us to be like we were before. Making love the way we used to, not like the bad double act we've grown into, like a pair of specimen pandas performing to order in a zoo. I realise now I don't want to tell her any more lies. I want to tell Jen the truth. Yes, I've quit, couldn't take any more. Tell her about the debts too. I feel the love I have for her rise in me again, reminding me how I used to feel. I know it's now I need her and it's now time to tell her everything. Yes, just like on the reality shows. Confess. We can sort this out together. Can't we? I stop when I hear voices. Maybe one of Jen's girlfriends from work. Well that hits my idea right on the head. I wait a minute, letting myself recover. Don't want to do or say anything to embarrass her. I turn the door handle. I open the door onto the picture of Jenny. Undressed. She's in bed and the look on her face is enough. The other person hides under the duvet. It doesn't matter, I already know who it is. The voice I heard. Fran. The supply teacher who works at Jen's school. The one we used to laugh about. My eyes record the image, imprinting it on my memory. Like a dumb animal caught in headlights, my own awful life is frozen there in front of me. I feel unable to move, unable to react. My brain switches itself on again and I understand. This is how my life really is. I close the door and walk quietly down the stairs I've just came up. Replacing the untouched glass of wine on the worktop I turn back, retracing my steps out the front door.                                                             * I know I've left the car somewhere. I just can't recall where. It doesn't really matter. I see a bicycle lying unattended and unchained, the owner nowhere to be seen. I pick it up from the ground where the cyclist has left it and get on. The path runs down to the point about a mile away. I pedal as fast as my unexercised legs can, until, gratefully, I'm no longer in control of the speed and the momentum of cycling down the gradient takes over. Time seems to have lifted from me somehow. The chains are gone. All the years of wrong turns, ill-fitting suites. All the burden of being weighed down. Of being a loser. They are shed with every revolution of the wheels. I see the shimmer of water as the point comes closer. It beckons and I pedal faster to reach it. All the while, as the wheels turn, my own words turn with them, in unending circles, faster and faster. Too late, too late.
    Archived comments for Too Late
    bluepootle on 03-04-2006
    Too Late
    This pulled me in. It's got a very personal feel and I think it's about the right length for something so bleak, so the reader doesn't get tired of the downbeat nature. I liked the middle section, with the decision to go home and have a glass of wine and a pizza mid-afternoon! Very human, and very recognisable. Good end point too.

    The beginning confused me a little - I thought the appointment must be to show people around the flat as that's what you mention next. Might be worth clearing that up in order to have a strong starting point.

    Author's Reply:

    Claire on 03-04-2006
    Too Late
    This is a great little write. Love that ending. If only we could go back to our childhood when things get tough...

    I'm just wondering if the beginning could be slightly cut, certain bits ain't that clear and the story really picked up for me when he was heading home. Either way, it's an enjoyable read.

    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 11-04-2006
    Too Late
    What a cracking read, ten from me. There is so much real feeling in this, very realistic, very well written.
    Jennifer :o)

    Author's Reply:


    Red Rubber Bands (posted on: 06-03-06)
    Well folks, I'm on the last lap. I'm due to leave the hotel in eight days, (crossing everything that crosses of course), so I haven't been writing as much as usual. Still, this is one that I managed to get out, any thoughts? Jem

    Red Rubber Bands He collects the bands each morning when the postman brings the mail. This is a wasteful country he tells me when I ask him why and all the while he's plaiting in an intricate weave I can't untangle. He hoards those bands for months till it's time to pack the boxes. Then he takes them, tucks them down into the inside corners of bulging cartons to send to the place he still calls home. Yes, his vinyl suitcase might have arrived thirty years ago, his passport with his one twenty dollar bill inside but, looking at those red rubber bands I know he's never joined them.
    Archived comments for Red Rubber Bands
    Romany on 06-03-2006
    Red Rubber Bands
    Insightful little poem. This is a wasteful country, along with so many others. When are we going to start doing something about it, I wonder?

    Romany.

    Author's Reply:

    AnthonyEvans on 06-03-2006
    Red Rubber Bands
    i enjoyed this poem black-dove. a very observant piece.

    it is something that has been on my mind much, these days, the wastefulness. today, i bought two peppers from the supermarket and didn't put them in a bag, bought them loose. a small thing but there you are.

    good luck with the move (finally!).

    best wishes, anthony.

    Author's Reply:

    red-dragon on 07-03-2006
    Red Rubber Bands
    Good luck Jem - what are you going to do next? I enjoyed your poem. Ann

    Author's Reply:

    teifii on 10-03-2006
    Red Rubber Bands
    I sympathise with the poor man. I can never find enough useful things to do with the postman's rubber bands but I still save them. The cats like playing cat's cradles with them but I'm always a bit afraid they might eat them so i confiscate them after a few minutes.
    Nice poem.
    Daff

    Author's Reply:


    Ladies Night (posted on: 23-01-06)
    This came from a writing challenge. Complete story in 150 words, with one word to base it on... can you guess the word?

    Ladies Night Are his eyes on me or the watermelons? Damn Carol and her bright ideas, why am I putting myself through this? Definitely more males here than females though. Some aren't too bad, either. Now he's obviously on the prowl. Too footballery-type for me thank you. I smell a wife and kids at home. Oops, the first one's back. A bit stalkery, if you ask me. Or maybe just shy? How are you supposed to tell? Yikes, his trolley's following mine. Trust me to get the one with the dodgy chassis. Bugger, this thing's got a mind of its own, I've turned into toiletries and now our wheels are locked. Bet he thinks I did it on purpose. Have to admit he's got a cute grin. But what if he's only food shopping? His eyes catch mine and they're asking, 'Are you…? Mine are answering, 'Well, yes, I am… We're laughing. Not so bad really, singles night at Sainsbury's…
    Archived comments for Ladies Night
    froget on 23-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    Blind date; sorry, just the first thing that came into my head.

    Singles night at Sainsbury's great idea. You never know it may catch on lol
    Thanks for the read.

    Author's Reply:

    Romany on 23-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    Never mind what he was shopping for, what was she after? Lol! Nice, witty little piece. I hope she keeps the reciept though!

    Author's Reply:

    JuanSanchez on 23-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    I'm going for the word 'desperate'! Lol. Sorry :-). 'A bit stalkery' - loved that line. Good read. Mark

    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 23-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    LOL LOL, I thoroughly enjoyed this :o)
    Jennifer x

    Author's Reply:

    red-dragon on 23-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    Sounds like Valentine's Day massacre to me!! (the subject, not your story) You've made it very personal by writing it in the first person, which I liked. You've conveyed a lot in your 150 or so words! Ann

    Author's Reply:

    RoyBateman on 24-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    Supermarket? Desperation? There are too many words out there to pick just one...sorry! Great read, though, threw me off-track for the first few lines. It'll never work, though - not until the women congregate by the booze and ready-meals, and the blokes by the slimming products and yoghurt. Complete apartheid!

    Author's Reply:
    Well Roy,
    You get the chocolate watch.
    The word was Supermarket.
    I don't know though, about never working...
    depends how desperate a man is - and how persistent the women...
    Jem x

    RDLarson on 24-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    The powerful urge strikes again. This was super. I really liked it. A topic to which every reader can relate. Snappy and tough.
    Favorite line is the first one with its double entente -- very funny and true.

    Author's Reply:

    pencilcase on 25-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    Jem - I can't help referring you to a poem of mine called 'On The Shelf'! Here's the link

    https://www.ukauthors.com/article10672.html

    I posted it for Valentine's Day last year. Just think you might enjoy it!

    I would have guessed the word as watermelons, but I see the chocolate watch has already been claimed!

    Thanks for the entertaining little read!

    You'll find me in the bargain section.

    Steve



    Author's Reply:

    HelenRussell on 28-01-2006
    Ladies Night
    Supermarket Sweep and Dale Winton came to mind- sorry!

    Seriously though, a great little read. I must challenge myself to this flash fiction, I tend to talk too much, write too much, do everything too much really..

    Great one liners. Well done.
    Sarah

    Author's Reply:


    Echolocation (posted on: 16-01-06)
    We have lost many of our natural instincts in our cosseted, soft-bellied world. Would they come back to us if we were ever again exposed to terror?

    Echolocation There is no voice only reverberations till fear offers its primal gift. Sound to describe your form impress your presence. Translate intent. Echoes wing home the conduit for images through bone to ear giving me co-ordinates to traverse a lethal mindscape and perhaps save my life.
    Archived comments for Echolocation
    littleditty on 17-01-2006
    Echolocation
    hello black-dove, i have been thinking about the idea you discuss in your introduction this last couple of days, and about sounds in poems the last weeks - so this caught my eye. I particularly thought verse 3 and 4 were very well expressed - when on 'high alert' all senses are heightened - adrenalin - what is out of usual range does seem to reverberate/come into focus - enjoyed your poem xxxlittleditty x

    Author's Reply:

    RoyBateman on 18-01-2006
    Echolocation
    This is thoughtful, many-layered stuff! Yes, I'm sure we've lost many of our basic instincts...some good but some certainly not. The price of "civilisation?" Maybe, but you at least seem to be getting in touch with your cetacean side.
    (Ps I hope cetacean means what I think it does...if not, whoops.)

    Author's Reply:

    narcissa on 19-01-2006
    Echolocation
    Wow, what a gem of a piece! This is a stunner, I've had to read it several times, and I've liked it more every time. The flow is lovely - I thought I would be uncomfortable with the lack of punctuation, but it works wonderfully.
    Very simple and powerful!
    Laura x

    Author's Reply:

    red-dragon on 19-01-2006
    Echolocation
    Hi black-dove; you have given this a wonderful title, which leads you into the sonar of the 'lethal mindscape'. I, too, wasn't sure about the lack of punctuation, but the poem suits its format well. Ann

    Author's Reply:

    teifii on 21-01-2006
    Echolocation
    I too had to read it several times and it got better and better. But as to punctuation -- it is quite readable as it is [unlike many unpunctuated poems] but I tend to the view that one should punctuate or not punctuate, not a bit of each becasue that makes one look for the commas etc that are not there. It is still a good poem so I shouldn't pick holes.
    Daff

    Author's Reply:


    Room with a View (posted on: 19-12-05)
    *

    Room with a View Deborah sat on the edge of the large bed running the small black cheroot back and forth along the smooth skin of her upper lip. Tilting the cigar close to her nostrils, she inhaled its sweet aroma. This was the kind he'd always enjoyed afterwards. The smell and the room brought all those other memories rushing back like an opened faucet. It was Don who had found this place by accident while out for lunch with colleagues, tucked away on a cobbled side street, yet barely a stone's throw from the city-centre. It was the hotel's shabby elegance that first appealed to him, later its quiet anonymity. And the view from room twenty-five was probably the best thing about it. Strange, looking back, how on their first time there, that was the thing the owner had persuaded them was worth the three-floor climb. He had chatted on, quite openly telling them what he would say to American guests to get them to make the ascent. 'You get the most marvelous view of Edinburgh's Alcatraz from this particular room', he'd tell them, just to persuade them to go up the stairs. Half joking, half-serious he'd then said to Deborah, 'you know, Yanks don't do stairs.' He'd laughed then, in the conspiratorial way he had, as if making them party to the deceit. As he checked them in, he went on to regale them with the remainder of the story, how some Americans would often query this piece of tourist information. For just why hadn't they read about this particular fact in any of the numerous guidebooks they'd devoured before making the trip? 'Americans, innocents abroad', he'd snorted. Of course they simply had to believe him when he assured them, 'Ah, well, you see, that's one of Edinburgh's best kept secrets', and winking towards Don, added, 'known to only the few'. And there it was, lying out in the Firth of Forth Estuary, Edinburgh's secret Alcatraz. Viewed from the hotel room, its dark shadowy ruins often shrouded in mist, did rather remind Deborah of the notorious island prison of San Francisco Bay. Gazing out further along the coast to the Forth Road Bridge she was often reminded of the Golden Gates as well, of course that image was often filtered through the grey East Coast tones of a dreich Wednesday afternoon. Curious about what the hotelier had said, Deborah investigated the island's history. She found, though Inchcolm had a well documented religous past with an order of monks having lived there for nearly three hundred years, to her suprise, it had for a brief time been used as a prison. It was in the reign of one of Scotland's many James'. Further research threw up a rather more sinister secret. At one time in its history, Inchcolm had been used as a Lazeretto. An island of quarantine. In those far off days of pestilence, it had been the place to which the good people of Edinburgh came to leave their plague victims, their lepers, perhaps she imagined, even faithless wives. Abandoned there to the inadequate shelter of the derelict abbey, to the fates and almost certain death. And so this was how room twenty-five, with the view, had become their room. Every Wednesday, excluding family holidays, Christmas, New Year and illnesses. Their own secret place. In those first weeks Deborah came to realise, if you choose to dig deep enough, every place, each person had their secrets, buried in the past, in the present, in quiet afternoons at nameless hotels.                                                          * She looked at her watch. Five minutes to three. The ceremony would start shortly and here she was, barely a mile from the church where it was taking place. Yet how could she attend? The only way she might claim any reason to be there was through her husband, as he was a business aquaintance of Don's. Of course he couldn't go; the pressure of work had claimed him, the usual worn excuse. There was simply no way she could turn up on her own, even with the invitation. In truth, she didn't trust herself to go. Deborah lay back on the bed among the cushions and remembered their last time together. They had lain here, Don smoking his cheroot, discussing everyday things, families, work, just like an old married couple. After five years of Wednesday afternoons she imagined they pretty well knew most things about each other. She tried, but couldn't recall a cross word, a disagreement. No need, for neither promised any commitment other than the next Wednesday. She liked to think they'd at least been truthful with each other; here, in the hotel room, they had no need to lie. That seemed rather an ironic assumption now. Her thoughts swam off by themselves; she saw all the great, the good and the lesser folks of Edinburgh society, gathered together at the service. Music playing, voices singing. Speeches. She knew she had no place there. Deborah never deluded herself into believing it would ever be more than an escape valve for both of them. A chink of light in her constricted days. And she was the one who always refused to talk of anything more permanent. They each had too much to lose, she would tell him whenever he tried to broach the subject. Yet, how treacherous is the heart. Now where did she remember that quotation from? She made herself a mental note to look it up when she got home. Yes home, still waiting for her. Her port. The children, Bobby; dull dependable Bobby, clueless about everything except the law and golfing handicaps. And Wednesdays with Don. When the sudden spasm hit, it took her by surprise, robbing her of breath. Her hands went to her throat where she could feel the hurt rising. Hot tears coursed ragged through the carefully applied make-up. The sound which emanated from her mouth was so low it was barely audible, still it tore painfully through her body trying to find an outlet. She registered the weight of it on her chest, so heavy she found it difficult to raise herself from the bed. She struggled, trying not to let the sound grow louder or someone, a member of staff, another guest, might hear. Deborah must do her screaming quietly. How, she wondered, had the truth never dawned on her before? Why had she never acknowledged this animal need she had for him that was now engulfing her, convulsing her body? And why, when she had the chance had she never told him all these things, the things she loved about him? The part of him which filled her and she now realised she was empty without? The soft lilt of his voice, she used to call 'his teuchar twang'; how he always managed to make her laugh with his gentle humour, even at her bleakest. Those silly little gifts he'd bring her, too small to cause suspicion, enough to make her smile. The smell of him, the sound of him, his taste. The window he'd managed to prise open in her life. Deborah knew now she had never told him for fear one day it might end. Today it had. She'd read the announcement in the paper. The hardest thing to bare was she'd been given no warning. Last Wednesday they were together as usual, this Wednesday everything about him belonged to someone else. She had no claim on him. She never had. Deborah slowly began to see too, she could never let anyone know her hurt. This pain so deep she felt it would tear out her insides. It could never have a voice. Deborah rose and went to the large dormer window. Holding her arms about herself for comfort, she swayed slightly, waiting for the pain in her chest to subside. Her eyes wandered down to the street below. It seemed so far away, someone else's world. Her mascara-smudged eyes followed the slow turtle crawl of black limousines as they inched their way back up the hill towards Princes Street, followed by the long procession of cars for as far as she could see. In the distance Deborah heard church bells. It was over. She lifted her head up to gaze out over the Forth to Inchcolm and wonder what she would do with the rest of her life.
    Archived comments for Room with a View
    RoyBateman on 19-12-2005
    Room with a View
    Beautifully written piece, quite teasing as we have to fill in so many details of the history of this "couple" for ourselves as we go along. Sad, moving and well worth that nib. Good to see some short fiction on the site, too!

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Roy,

    The basic story came about after an old chambermaid who worked at this hotel when I first bought it, told my about an incident which had happened before my time.

    A well known politician had a heart attack while with an unknown lady and was rushed away, with all the staff being warned not to speak to anyone about it.

    Trouble was, the chambermaid, wasn't interested in current affairs and didn't know the name of the politician.

    I have my own ideas on that.

    I forgot all about it until I read your story about a seedy hotel and then it occurred to me there are so many stories I could write about things that have happened here.

    So thanks for the catalyst, kind Sir.

    Jem

    P.S. The hotel is now fully restored to her former glory and is a lovely old place with some very fine views, currently up for sale - I've got my fingers crossed!


    Kat on 20-12-2005
    Room with a View
    Hi Jem

    I love your very atmospheric and poignant story and could 'see' it all. I'd love to know the name of your hotel...you could PM me! :o)

    'the slow turtle crawl of black limousines' is a super image.

    Inchcolm is a great place to visit - though one has to watch out for the aggressive seagulls! Yikes!

    I hope you get a buyer soon, but in the meantime (as you say) I think you can get several more wonderful stories out of your place - ? kind of like a 'Cloud Atlas' though I haven't read it.

    A great read.

    Kat x

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks for the lovely comments Kat,
    I used to like going to Inchcolme too in the summer. We used to go every year when the girls were younger and we'd take a picnic.
    I think more people should know about it, but then it would get all over-run with those nasty touristy people, we don't want them do we? Well I suppose we do want their currency though - Euro, Yen, Dollar and anything with someone's head on it...
    I just seem to have an aversion to them at present, I think I've been overdosed...
    Jem x

    Ginger on 21-12-2005
    Room with a View
    Wonderfully written with a surprise turn around at the end. You caught me out! Thank you for a very enjoyable read.
    Lisa


    Author's Reply:
    Hi Lisa,
    I just wanted to hint at the possible wedding idea and then turn it to a more melancholy tone.
    I don't know if other readers spotted than though, obviously you did.
    Thanks for your comments.
    Jem x

    Slovitt on 21-12-2005
    Room with a View
    black-dove: I've read this each of the days since its posting. It's a good piece and perhaps illustrates how randomly our lives unfold, we thinking we have a plan because we have thoughts about what is happening, and will happen, but all the while the people with whom we interact moving along on their own pathway, perhaps just co-incidentally for awhile having been parallel, or having merged with our own path.
    What she will do with the rest of her life is keep putting one foot in front of the other and see what the world brings. Swep

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Swep,
    I wanted to show how people in that position, i.e. the other woman, or the other man, have to hide their grief, for various reasons they can't show how they feel.
    Is a marriage any more meaningful or important than an affair if the connection goes deep?
    I think sometimes the mistress or the other man have often as much validity as a wife or husband who doesn't put the effort in to a relationship or is emotionally neglectful.
    I think too when you find something good, real, you should hold it with both hands.
    I am not writing from personal experience, but I have seem these situations.
    Being in this kind of work gives you glimpses of other people's lives.
    Also I believe it's rare to meat someone who fills a part of you, so when you find it hold on.
    Thanks for commenting,
    Jem x
    .

    AnthonyEvans on 22-12-2005
    Room with a View
    very interesting read, jem,

    it made me think that while we think that things will remain the same somebody else might have larger plans. he was obviously searching for more than just wednesday. and i think that is the essence of an affair, really, that it is ultimately stunted in the love stakes unless it takes wing and becomes something more.

    the only thing i didn't like so much were the lines: Her hands went to her throat where she could feel the hurt rising. Hot tears coursed ragged through the carefully applied make-up. The sound which emanated from her mouth was so low it was barely audible, still it tore painfully through her body trying to find an outlet. She registered the weight of it on her chest, so heavy she found it difficult to raise herself from the bed.

    as they seemed rather melodramatic in what was otherwise a revealing, low-key story.

    best wishes, anthony.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 22-12-2005
    Room with a View
    Hello Anthony,
    I must admit fleetingly, when I was writing that bit that it might be a tad too strong.
    But I wanted to convey the pain of loss which I've seen for myself, and that can be very dramatic and physical.
    I also wanted to contrast her usual constraint with her powerlessness to stop these surge of emotions.
    Perhaps that particular part is clumpy compared to the rest of the story, it was the only part I had doubts about too.
    So what would you suggest I do to keep the drama but lose the melodrama?
    I'd be interested in what you suggest.
    Thanks for your comments, it's good to get another perspective.
    Jen x

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Anthony,
    Sorry, I put the reply in as a new comment, silly me, so ignore the above.

    I did, I have to admit however fleetingly, consider that the part you quote could be read as rather strong perhaps.

    But I wanted to convey the depth of loss when someone dies and things are left unresolved.
    Regret, combined with grief and the inability to be allowed to express it, to show any pain, well that's powerful stuff, often dramatic and physical too.

    I also wanted to contrast her usual constraint, with her powerlessness to stop this surge of emotions.
    If this reads to you to be too melodramatic, I would be interested if you have any suggestions on how to lose the melodrama but keep the drama?
    I think it can be quite a fine line, and if you are right then I've crossed it.
    Thanks for your comments, it's good to get another writer's prospective on a piece you don't have a distance from and I would be grateful if you might let me know a way to lose any over-writing.


    All the best,


    Jem x



    Jen_Christabel on 09-01-2006
    Room with a View
    A well-deserved nibby.
    Lovely piece, which was both poignant and beautifully written with some lovely language used.
    Jen :o)

    Author's Reply:


    Writing on the Wall (posted on: 26-11-05)
    *

    Belsatzar war in selbiger Nacht Von seinen Knechten umgebracht   Writing on the Wall   In a house of special purpose as white guards fought towards the gates  red guards ushered you down through basement doors.   For by your slaves you were weighed. Found wanting. There would be no negotiation on your allotted time.   In a hail of pitiless bullets the monk's prophecies rained down on that day Mother Russia wrote the portent of her future with your blood upon a wall.
    Archived comments for Writing on the Wall
    Slovitt on 28-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    black-dove: I missed this one somehow. Your poem is a good one, and one that brought to mind for the first time in a while the libidinous monk himself, Rasputin. Swep

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Swep,
    Yes, Rasputin predicted he would be murdered.
    He said if he were killed by his own kind, i.e. the peasant class, then the Royal family would survive but if he was murdered by the aristocracy the Romanov dynasty would end swiftly, in blood.
    The whole episode was so tragic as none of the Royal families of Europe, (all of them related in some way to the Tzar and his family) lifted a finger to rescue them.
    All I can picture is those young girls, the little sick prince and his tiny dog. You can't help but feel for them in those last minutes in that awful basement.
    Jem x

    zenbuddhist on 28-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    poetry..poetry..poetry.......ah drama, no not drama, poetry, oh well, never mind...poetry..poetry

    Author's Reply:
    You are so right Zen,

    Poetry, poetry, everywhere and not enough prose to shake a stick at...

    But what to do?

    You're either on the steam roller or you're part of the road.

    ...and what was that you were saying ....

    poetry, poetry, everywhere...all in monitor-sized bites,

    instant fixes, no more than one hundred words

    stories with low word counts...

    (I'm told it's all this sitting at computers that causes it , Zen, better watch out)

    And then, I always tend to go with the flow and if that says poetry,

    well, what's a girl to do - except -

    poetry?

    Shall I write you one then? do let me know.



    Luv Jem ;D)

    zenbuddhist on 29-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    eh aye ok but remember ....I`m really a fragile guy....me an Geordie Best nah sorry he wisnie fragile.. just SHY...I`m still recovering from Roses[spacegirlie] tirade a few ages ago...so be gentle....humble zen XXX...nae F*****N swearin

    Author's Reply:
    I wouldn't know how!

    zenbuddhist on 29-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    oh its easy enough to be gentle...aw ye have tae remember is that wonderous thing...yersel

    Author's Reply:

    zenbuddhist on 29-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    This is great this sittin at a computer lark....ah feel a poem comming on!

    Author's Reply:

    pencilcase on 29-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    Jem, good poem with a most appropriate title. Succinct and effective. I was interested to read the comments/replies too.

    btw, I think the Balthazar quotation should be 'war in selbiger Nacht' rather than 'ward...'.

    Very much like the way you conclude the poem with

    on that day Mother Russia
    wrote the portent of her future
    with your blood upon a wall.


    Steve

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Steve,
    I've corrected the quotation. Thanks for pointing it out.
    It's really a fascinating part of history and they are always finding new pieces of the picture to this day.
    Jem

    barenib on 30-11-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    Jem - I enjoyed this, being very much interested in things Russian. Have you seen the film 'Rasputin' which ends with this unhappy event? John.

    Author's Reply:
    Hello John,
    Thanks for your interest.
    No I haven't seen that film, but I did see Nicholas and Alexandra when I was a child and it must have left an impression on me for I've been fascinated ever since by the Romanov dynasty.
    Jem x

    tai on 01-12-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    A good tribute poem black-dove. 10 from up the revolution Tai

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Tai,
    The perpetrators of that particular revolution would definitely disapprove of your very generous 10.
    All animals are created equal, but some etc....
    Thanks Jem x

    Jen_Christabel on 06-12-2005
    Writing on the Wall
    How did I miss this?!
    I am/was an academic in the field of revolutionary Russia, and my 'passion' is Nicholas and Alexandra!
    I thought this was a cracking read :o)
    Jen :o)

    Author's Reply:
    Thank you Jen.
    Jem x


    Of Butterflies and Daughters (posted on: 07-11-05)
    *

    Of Butterflies and Daughters You flutter inside, out of season. Not to damage fragile wings I gather you up in a dishtowel carry you to the door. Opening out my cloth I offer you to the skies. You remain, tight-winged, then open out to display a perfect span; full flying colours. You linger by the sad flower tubs without flowers. To rise, abrupt, up over the tall townhouses. My eyes tail your form in its semaphore of movement, signalling, you've found your place. You're moving on.
    Archived comments for Of Butterflies and Daughters
    Apolloneia on 07-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    A beautiful poem with a crystal clear message and the second stanza very touching. It's a poem full of pleasant and clever allegories.

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks Nicoletta,
    For your generous rating and comment.
    I saw this butterfly only last week.
    The climate seems to be all back to front
    - it should have gone long ago
    and my daughters well I'll have to let them go too.

    RoyBateman on 07-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    You hit the spot with this one...every parent should be wiping away a tear. Clever and very touching.

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Roy,
    Well some might be breathing a sigh of relief...
    Jem x

    Bradene on 07-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    Lovely poetry Jem, Know the feeling well x's 2. Love Val x

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Val,
    I have three daughters and the two older ones are just at that stage,
    but the little one is going to break my heart went she gets there I think...
    Thanks for the your kind rating and comments.
    Jem x

    Slovitt on 07-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    black-dove: A nice poem. Is there a collocational clash of 'its morse code of movement/signalling in semphore.'/? Yes, 'you're moving on.' You're pretty good, black-dove. Swep

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Swep,

    Yes, you are right, morse code and semaphore are like sending the message

    two ways - I can see that now.

    And I take the rest of your comment as a rare compliment

    which I much appreciate, especially from you.
    Jem x

    glennie on 07-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    I enjoyed your poem Jem even though I don't usually read it. I don't have kids myself but according to my parents we never really leave. Glen.

    Author's Reply:
    Oh, don't say that, the eldest is moving into a flat soon
    and I've been looking forward to not doing her washing!
    Jem x

    Kat on 07-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    Hi Jem

    A beautiful, touching and delicate poem which shows how much love you have for your daughters.

    ? a typo and that should be semaphore.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Kat :o)

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Kat,
    Yes, I look at the photos and think where did they go?
    Now my little girls are replaced with these beautiful,
    grown women.
    Scary
    Jem x

    narcissa on 08-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    I think one of the best things about this poem is that you don't directly mention your daughters directly apart from in the title - in this way you are showing the reader, not telling, and it makes the poem even more poignant.
    I loved this, it makes me glad I'm taking a gap year to stay at home and grow up a little bit more 🙂 (and do interesting and profitable things, of course!!)
    Beautiful 🙂
    Laura x

    Author's Reply:

    Hi Laura,
    As I haven't seen your name
    here before I read your poems and was amazed how assured your writing
    is and how mature and how far on you are with your writing.
    I think yours will be a name to watch.
    My eldest daughter is at the same stage as you.
    It's hard dealing with the full time boyfriend,
    watching her do things I know will hurt
    and I often think, where's my little girl gone?
    But as the saying goes -
    you have to let them go to keep them.
    Jem x

    Griffonner on 12-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    I love the allegories in this. A very nice observational and imaginative poem.

    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 13-11-2005
    Of Butterflies and Daughters
    I found this very touching and clever use of allegory.
    Jen :o)

    Author's Reply:


    Under One Sun (posted on: 24-10-05)
    Definitely experimental! Two stories, told in alternating sentences (one story in block, the other - to differentiate - in bold italics) They can either by read as two separate stories or simultaneously. I think what I can liken it most to is a piece of knitting. Two parts on separate needles, but as the piece grows towards the end, the knitting its brought back together again to make a whole garment. Finishing at the same place, using the same wools i.e. the same characters. Does this make sense? No? Well, bear with me in reading this and let me know what you think folks. Thanks, Jem x

    Under One Sun   As he approaches the traffic lights turn red. The scent of her perfume came to him, body gyrating her promise. He slows his car, halts, looking out into the middle distance. Dreams of home. His American classmates from college have taken him bar crawling. Thinking of anywhere except this foreign place. And all around is heat and desert. Just the hot sun and the endless desert. Brought him here. In the distance he sees the wavering spire of a minaret, distorted in the heat haze. They goaded him on, saying, 'she's a sure thing, Sharaf'. He thinks, I must keep moving. 'Go on, you're gonna score!' He needs to get to Sharaf's house before the next call to prayer. He walked up to the girl, whispered. She nodded. His arms folded around her svelte form. Her arms circled his neck. If he doesn't then he'll be forced to stop somewhere for God knows how long. Until it's over. She leaned into him and he felt a thrill as he caught the faint smell of alcohol on her breath. A top of the range, silver Mercedes pulls up beside Danny's car. Her tongue slid down, she licked around his ear, then pulled back, enjoying the effect she was having on him. They'd stopped at the only set of lights for miles. Her pupils enlarged, she swayed against him, skirt riding up, exposing the velvet skin of her inside thigh. Her laugh, the sound of a snake charmer's flute. He felt himself rise. Out of the corner of his eye, Danny catches a movement. The other car's trunk springs open, swings up. A hand appears from under a black tarpaulin, grasping at the air. His hand, dark against her fluorescent white micro skirt, reached down, round, grabbed a handful of tight rear. The driver of the Mercedes catches the shadow in his rear-view. Now he understood the ways alcohol could release you. Hurriedly, he gets out, goes round to the back of his car. He pulled her in hard against his groin. He grabs the small hand and pushes it back inside the trunk, slamming the lid. Conjoined they danced, in their own hypnotic rhythm. He looks around and for one fraction of a second two pair of eyes meet. He asked her name, she whispered, in a low, slurred voice, Mandy. The lights change to green. The man is gone. Blonde hair brushed against his cheek, offering him the scent of her. The Mercedes screeched off in a trail of fine dust, creating a sand screen into which it disappears. He took a strand in his mouth, tasted, wondered, if… God Almighty, what had he just seen? …it was natural? Should he report it? In his mind he'd already explored every part of her. Yet what would he say? Wondered what she'd feel like inside. Just what had he seen? The milky-white body… This is not his country. …could be his for the taking. If he's learned one thing in his time out here, it's how to keep his mouth shut. He wondered too, should he offer... Yet, that's not easy for an American, brought up on the candy floss of rights, liberties, the whole nine yards.. He heard his friends snigger behind him. God how he wishes his contract was up and he could take his money and run. Should he ask them how much… Run from this Goddamn country. He'd never had a white woman before. Danny drives on to Sharaf's house. She smiled up at him; lips parted and asked… He takes his friend aside, quietly on his own. Tells him what he's witnessed. So what's your name then? Omar? They go way back. Back to college together in the States. She giggled, eyes dancing up at him. Danny knows Sharaf is westernized, No he answered, deadpan; it's Sharaf. enough to be trusted, that is. It meant honour, he said. It was an honour killing Sharaf tells him. This seemed to have amused her, for she replied, but what about obey? Must have been a brother or an uncle driving the car. Will you obey me? Taking her to the desert. To have her, at that moment, he would have done anything. She must have dishonoured her family. To him she looked like a movie star. It was his duty. Untouchable. Family honour is everything. Yet she was in his arms. But how does Sharaf know this and how does he know it wasn't a kidnapping, Danny asks? I want to have you Mandy. He watched her, waiting for the word. Sharaf looks at his friend then. Is it in pity? 'How much will it cost?' he asked. Don't ask me how I know Danny, I just know, he'd answered. 'Just what the fuck do you take me for, some cheap whore?' she screamed Danny asked no more. 'And just who do you think you are?' Those are the last words ever spoken on this between the two friends. 'Acting like you can buy anything in this country!' Danny knows to put all thoughts of the incident away. 'Is that what you do where you come from, is it, buy your women?' Two weeks later Danny takes the call. His American buddies, already drunk, were cracking up behind him. His contract is at an end. Bent double with laughter. He packs up, relieved to be taking himself and his weary ass back to the US. Laughing at him. They never did keep in touch. 'You stoopid A-RAB!' they chanted in unison. Home. Home again to Texas. 'Don't you understand anything - that kind of tail comes for free!' And all he needs to do now is forget about his time in the Middle East. The girl slapped him, hard on the face. Yet, sometimes in sleep where he had no control over the memories, the scene comes back to him. ' 'Fuck you!' she spat at him. The same picture would appear in his dreams. In that time, before the hot Texan sun rose. Just before dawn. He called after her 'tramp!' then turned back, to laugh along with the others. He'd be out there again, in the desert, when he'd see that same small hand reaching out, trying to reach him, But inside he tasted hate. grasping for mercy.
    Archived comments for Under One Sun
    ClareHill on 26-10-2005
    Under One Sun
    Very disturbing. Gruesome, without any gore, I very much enjoyed this piece, even though it is difficult to read, the form lends it an edge.

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Clare,
    I'm very glad you enjoyed it.
    I thought it might be a bit ambitious and I didn't know if it would come off.
    I think I might have almost made it, but maybe it needs a little tweaking.
    Thank you for taking the time, it isn't an easy read, and on a computer screen
    it is more difficult I think.
    Thanks
    Jem

    Romany on 27-10-2005
    Under One Sun
    It's very clever. I read the two stories separately first, and enjoyed them both. Different, and yet both quite chilling, perspectives. I'm not really sure if they meld when they are put together to make one whole story, although you came pretty close, I have to say. A very unique and difficult approach, and impressive work.

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Romany,
    I have thought about this, and it does, I think just slightly miss the mark.
    But I can't pinpoint why.
    I didn't want it joining too pat, yet I didn't want it to be too divergent either.
    I think there is one more level it can go to - I just need to find it.
    But I wanted to try this sort of split screen story-telling to see if I could do it.
    I might try another story/ies using the same method.
    I realise reading this is quite hard work, thanks a lot for doing so and being so positive about it.
    Jem x

    Romany on 27-10-2005
    Under One Sun
    I thought it worked quite well:

    As he approaches the traffic lights turn red.

    The scent of her perfume came to him, body gyrating her promise.

    He slows his car, halts, looking out into the middle distance, dreaming of home.

    His American classmates from college have taken him bar crawling.

    Thinking of anywhere except this foreign place. And all around is heat and desert. Just the hot sun and endless desert.

    Brought him here.


    Up to this point.

    The problem is getting the next sentence to tie in with the preceding sentence, without giving too much away at the same time, I suppose. This is not easy!
    Perhaps you could try writing the sentences as a series of echoes/rhetorical questions/actual questions and answers? same subject, different approaches. A bit vague - sorry - but you've intrigued me, and that's got to be a good thing! Good luck with it. I would be fascinated to see your revised version of this, if you should decide to do one. Good luck.

    Author's Reply:

    RoyBateman on 29-10-2005
    Under One Sun
    Very good - original and disturbing. I thought the form worked very well, as in a reality/dream combination...and who could tell which was which, in places? Very visual, I thought - would have made a very good short film! Awfully topical, too - all round, an excellent piece.

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Roy

    Thanks for the great comment. This was a try out and perhaps it has a few bumps needing ironed out but I enjoyed writing.

    I could maybe see it as a short film too. When I try and write stories I see then in pictures.

    The story about the American seeing the car at the traffic lights - well that was told to me some years ago by a guest staying at the hotel.
    This had happened to him but he didn't have as much of a conscience as the character in the story, he just said it wasn't any of his business it was their (Saudi Arabia) country.

    Jem x


    The Betting Game (posted on: 24-10-05)
    *

    The Betting Game Mother's habit the unrelenting trip to the bookies. A strange exotic place to me for I wasn't really allowed where people disappeared into the pall of cigarette smoke. I watched them, up to their waists as they turned to headless phantoms lost in cloud layers of Mount Ladbrokes. And she knew everyone. Not really gullible, but willing to give, a tip for this one, a payback owed in grown-up talk, I tried not to understand the fast piston sounds of furtive words, meetings arranged, prices set. Frightening, yet never quite terrifying, unnoticed in an adult world, beneath the rank smell of nicotine I could see their shoes, their trousers, tell the type they were. I never grew up enough to see their faces.
    Archived comments for The Betting Game
    Hazy on 24-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Surprised nobody's commented yet.

    I really want to know the meaning of the last 2 lines. Is it a true story? Your poem really had me absorbed. I felt like I was there. Very descriptive.

    I'm not sure if you/the girl never saw their faces because she didn't want you/the girl going into the bookies so she always said 'you're too young' and you/the girl had to wait outside looking through the bottom of the top-obscured glass...

    I just want to understand exactly where the end went! I have my own versions, but I'm not sure any are actually right...

    Take care.

    Hazy x
    PS I am having a very blonde day, so it might just be me 😉

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Hazy,
    I wrote this quite a while ago now, but never posted it because it WAS/IS so personal.
    What I meant by the last two lines was - my life has never been as hard or harsh as my mother's,
    so I never needed to face up to her realities and the type of things she had to do to survive.
    But whatever she did I would never blame her. All she did was sell what she had.
    I feel embarrassed just writing that -
    even though it is the truth, I feel like I'm betraying her in some way.
    Now I'm feeling perhaps it is too personal to have put here...
    Jem

    Bradene on 24-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Great poetry this, Jem.. Is it a memory? It reminded me of my old Mother in law! She was a girl and a half.. I found the last two lines a little confusing too, like hazy I have an idea but could be way off beam. Liked it though very much. Love Val x

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks you for your comment and the generous rating.
    I think your idea might be correct Val,
    it goes a bit deeper than the surface story.
    Jem x

    tai on 24-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Hi Jem, I really enjoyed your poem of childhood haunts! I have one or two similar memories. Infact I was a gambler by the tender age of 13, by the time I was 16, most of my earnings were in gambling machines by sunday night. I had an account at the bookies by 18 and didn't break the habit until my kids came along at 30. It is a devilish addiction, almost overwhelming. It ran in the family for me, my grandmother and sisters all hit the bingo far too regularly in the 60's. I am so glad to be free of it, but I changed the habit from cash to life choices, so maybe I am still addicted.

    Glad that's out!lol

    Grinning

    Tai

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Tai,
    I'm glad you got that out!
    Gambling when it becomes an addiction is a dangerous thing.
    It can and does take over lives.
    I know of families destroyed by it.
    I think if it's in our nature to be addictive it - and it doesn't matter the addiction -
    drink, drugs, destructive relationships,
    we have to fight against them and take control. Take our lives back.
    Jem x

    karenuk on 25-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Lovely! A great kids' eye view and beautifully described.
    Karen xx

    Author's Reply:
    Thanks Karen,
    It's strange some memories from childhood stay and others just disappear from memory.
    What is it that keeps them there I wonder?
    Jem x

    Dargo77 on 25-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Jem, there is so many feeling described here. A favourite read for me.
    Best regards,
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Dargo,
    It's a while since I've heard from you.
    Thanks for the favourite read and the generous rating too.
    And yes this is a bit ambiguous but when we remember
    things it is often with very mixed feelings.
    Jem x

    Apolloneia on 26-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Amazing poem. I have never read anything as personal as this on the Internet. You have written it exceptionally well I think. Nicoletta x.

    Author's Reply:
    Thank you Nicoletta,
    It is more intimate than I intended, but once it had been written it had its own life.
    Yet I sometimes wonder if this is not feeding off oneself, a sort of self-cannibalism?
    I can't be at ease with this writing, but I still want to write it.
    Does that make sense?
    Anyway I really appreciate your support.
    Jem


    Apolloneia on 27-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Yes, I sometimes think it's a sort of self-cannibalism. I agree with you. It makes perfect sense.

    Author's Reply:

    Gee on 31-10-2005
    The Betting Game
    Definitely a favourite read for me too. I think you've skilfully captured the bewilderment of a child faced with a part of the adult world she can't understand.

    Author's Reply:


    Reading Signs (posted on: 17-10-05)
    a light went on...

    Reading Signs From years ago, I remember a painting at the old Modern Art gallery On a huge canvas - one chalk line, right to left one chalk line, left to right and the caption, vice - versa. I had believed this kind of art was twaddle till this came back to me and I knew I'd chosen versa.
    Archived comments for Reading Signs
    BlueyedSoul on 17-10-2005
    Sign Reading
    Interesting line...I'd chosen versa....leaves me thinking....did i chose vice?
    I liked this very much.
    ~Cindy

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Cindy,
    Thanks for your comments.
    The versa part - well it means to turn, or, the turn.
    I think what I'm trying to say is I turned and chose a different path than what was expected of me
    and until recently I had never realised that.
    I'm glad you liked it.
    Jem

    Bradene on 17-10-2005
    Sign Reading
    Well that's a new way of thinking, especially for me. I'm definitely one of those who have trouble equating twaddle with art! perhaps I should think again.. the older I get the more open I become to new ideas oddly ((-; I enjoyed the read Jem. Love Val x

    Author's Reply:
    Yes, I'm the same. I'm more willing now to open up to this sort of art, though still some of it makes me think on the emperor's new clothes...
    Thanks for the comments, Val
    Jem x

    Jolen on 17-10-2005
    Sign Reading
    Oh very well done, I know just what you mean and I remember that sort of feeling when I first saw 'modern art' as well..... But yes, we do sometimes choose that 'versa'... Great way of presenting this.

    blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:
    Hi Jolen,
    well, it must have had something because it stayed with me, until I got an answer.
    Luv Jem

    tai on 18-10-2005
    Sign Reading
    Hi Jem, Sorry about the name mix up yesterday. I am glad you understood the meaning of the chalk line. We all have to eventually decide which side we walk. I kind of walk on it rather than either side, but if I have to choose. I agree with your choice.

    10 from me

    A great read imo

    Tai

    Author's Reply:
    That's okay Jean, I'm easy...
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment and the rating.
    Cheers,
    Jem x

    Slovitt on 18-10-2005
    Sign Reading
    black-dove: I like your poem. Would the third line read better if you cut 'I saw', and could you cut to your benefit 'All there was' in the fourth line? Finally, does the reader need the editorial 'and I understood...', or could your next-to-last stanza end with ''til this came back to me...'/? It's a spare piece as it is, and your last line etches your point. Swep

    Author's Reply:
    Hello Slovitt,

    Yes, and yes, and I will do that. You're right.

    And the last one, I'm not quite sure, but I'll try that too.

    See what a good pair of eyes can do!

    Jem x


    There Slovitt,
    I took your advice and it's much tighter and springier now. (And I got a nib from somewhere?)
    Thanks for your considered advice, it's made a definite improvement.
    Luv Jem


    On Tenterhooks (posted on: 19-09-05)
    ten·ter·hook (tntr-hk)
    n.
    A hooked nail for securing cloth on a tenter.
    Idiom:
    on tenterhooks
    In a state of uneasiness, suspense, or anxiety.


    On Tenterhooks Dry bones of discontent lie trapped, can't swallow expectation with saliva. You choke instead. Hardwired for results, longing for an affirmative yet pavloved into negative. Desire seared, restless beyond speech with no slack to this thirst of wanting, nor due reward for waiting.     Taut, on tenterhook, sound impales tender flesh, as a voice, disembodied, speaks, 'So sorry - wrong number.' Damn, damn that phone! but please call, with one word…
    Archived comments for On Tenterhooks
    Warhorse on 2005-09-19 07:38:38
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    How this reminded me of the times i have waited, losing many hours of sleep, waiting for a person, usually a lady to ring, or waiting for that call about a job I had applied for.

    this so powerfully and somehow painfully reminded me of a dying love affair I once had.

    nevertheless, a very good and soulful write top marks.

    Regards

    Mike.



    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2005-09-19 15:09:11
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    Hi Black-dove, you captured my present emotions too perfectly. Excellent work, if I may say so?

    10 from me

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    AnthonyEvans on 2005-09-20 17:30:41
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    this is great stuff, black-dove,

    partic like those lines:

    longing for an affirmative
    yet pavloved into negative.

    best wishes, anthony.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-20 20:57:46
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    Well, thank you kind sir!
    Yes, we've all had that feeling waiting for the phone to wring - with the right voice on the other side. Its just a matter of how long we are prepared to wait...
    Many thanks for your rating and everything.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-20 20:59:57
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    You may say so, and may I say I know exactly how you feel. Thanks for your kind comment and your rating - you've be getting your fingers wrapped for that I assume.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-20 21:02:50
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    Hello Anthony,
    You can be such a moral support, dear sir.
    Yes, you do come to always expect the negative and in a strange way feel easier with that, as it is the familiar.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Jolen on 2005-09-23 14:20:34
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    I think about everyone knows this feeling from waiting for a 'lover' to call or even a doctor with test results.

    I loved the pavloved line.

    blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-26 13:38:16
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    Am I a sad person - this was about a property! How material can you get?
    Thanks Jolen, very kind as ever.
    Jem x


    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2005-09-27 12:32:04
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    Where on earth was the nib for this? it is brilliant. If someone else hadn't nominated I would have! My Goodness how many times have I been on those tenterhooks, you tell it so well. Love Val x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-10-01 12:23:40
    Re: On Tenterhooks
    Thanks Val,
    Yes, haven't we all been there!

    Author's Reply:


    As Colours Fade to Grey (posted on: 12-09-05)
    Views welcome.


    As Colours Fade to Grey Light floods over my skin, warming me. Keeping my eyes closed I feel the rays of the sun touch my lids, turning the insides a blush pink. I can smell that fresh honey smell of the changing season. The air is sweet, fresh, as if after rain. It tastes like memories. Memories of summertime and berries, ripe fruits, ready to be eaten.
    I swallow, feeling as though I haven't tasted such a breath of air for a long, long time. Opening my eyes I slowly take in the colours. They're screaming at me to look, everywhere. No more greys in sight, only raucous hues, like gaudy parrots from a tropical forest, wearing their Hawaiian shirts. And I love it.
    I look about me, drinking in the breeze, the view, watching shapes move. All curves, then straight lines, rectangles, cones, bends, flat, long, short, stumpy, wide, the ups and downs; all the mass of them, all their bulk and scale and shape. And the fact they are just there, waiting to be seen. I want to swallow up the whole scene.
    The mix of tones reminds me of some mad artist's palette, making me want to sing all those colours out loud, 'red and yellow and pink and… I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow.' Colours so glorious it makes me feel dizzy, bursting with something that the word for just isn't there.
    Life. I'm exploding with life. I've got so much; so much I want to offer my smile. My ever-ready-to-smile-smile my daddy calls it. He tells me I have a smile which takes over my whole face and other people can't help following along and doing the same. I've always had that power you see, to make people smile, and energy, so much of it I feel the need to give some away. Give it to that old man sitting over there in his wheelchair, white bird-hands, bloodless, folded across his gnarled walking stick, with his head hung down in resignation. I want to offer this transfusion, to share it with everybody. My touch would bring a corpse to life, right now; I just know it, inside. Can't people see this aura round me? Can't they see my life force spreading through the air to reach them? I must be able to pass this on. Otherwise I believe I will explode. Now I reach out to offer this current, this raw charge of elation that's in me, a gift to this man. I know I can send him my message through the space between us, to look at me. It will happen without me uttering a word. Without touch.
    Yes, there, he lifts his head, a head that looks like a blown dandelion clock, no sap left in its stalk; still he raises it, to reveal a pair of sad drooping eyes as he looks out at me standing in front of him. And I see the semblance of a grin curl round the edges of his mouth. His eyes are a faded china-blue and I've managed to make him smile. Oh, but over there, I see swings, further off in the corner by the woods. I adore swings. Running towards them, leaving the man behind I trip in my haste, but pull myself up again, up onto the seat and I'm away. Into the rhythm of movement, up into the sun. My thin print dress flies up too, lifted by the warm breeze and the sun's hot blanket covers my bare legs like a warm fleece. A gentle wind takes my hair in its fingers, the way a mother caresses her baby to sleep. Then freedom. I'm riding up towards the sky. Shutting my eyes tight, a memory flits about inside my head, a picture of me going on the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland with my father. When it took off I really thought I could fly. It went up, up into the night stars and I was Tinkerbell, travelling through the air. This feels exactly like that. With eyes closed the motion makes me believe I have wings on my ankles, making me soar. 'Daisy.'
    A heavy voice drops on me as if it were the huge demolition ball swinging from a crane, taking my breath, making me open my eyes. A voice that steals my magic. I look over and see a dark man, somehow familiar, but I really can't place him. I try, but it hurts my head. 'Daisy!' he calls out again a little more insistent, 'we've been looking all over for you, how did you get here all on your own, you naughty girl?' I watch him smile but the edge of his smile doesn't reach his dark heavy-lidded eyes. His chin is blue and rough, making me think he must be a pirate from Peter Pan. He's walking towards me. I punt my swing higher, my dress flying over my head. That's better I can't see him anymore. Yet I can hear his breathing, heavy through large nostrils, like a piston, very close to my skin. As I swing back I feel the heat of him and smell his oily musk aftershave. 'Daisy, I've got a present for you, so why don't you come off that swing till I show you, huh?' I don't want to come off and I don't want to go with him. He's spoiling everything. The return path of my swing once again takes me close to him, so that I can see his large moon face and his pretend smile. I try hard to tie the voice and the features to a place, but I can't recall were they're from. His large chubby hand reaches out and grabs the chain of my swing. I'd like to bite him, but I see lots of dark curly hair on the back of his hand. He's just like an animal; reminds me of a snorting bull. He pulls my swing to an abrupt stop, almost throwing me out of the seat onto the ground; still I manage to cling on to the chains with both hands. I'm not budging. 'You know I've got a surprise for you little lady?' He's a liar for sure, I won't trust him for his eyes can't smile; only his thick rubbery lips grin at me. 'Why don't you just come back with me and you can have your present?' A present? For me? But why? Oh yes, now I remember - it's my birthday. That's what they said. And I'm to have a party. They told me so. But I don't want to leave my swing and I don't want him to take me back there. 'Come on now, you can't be late for your own party.' What should I do? I want to have a party very much, but…. 'You know you're keeping all your guests waiting and they've come 'specially to see you.' Well, if there was a cake… with candles to blow out... and a wish to make… 'All the nurses are putting on their war paint you know, cos Jack's coming.' Jack? Yes, Jack. Of course, Jack is coming; I knew that. My Jack is coming. But… 'That grandson of yours certainly knows how to keep them ladies happy.' I look up in time to see a black thunder cloud devour the sun. The sky looks as if it wants to cry. I look around; huge clouds are casting giant shadows across the ground as colours fade to grey.

    Archived comments for As Colours Fade to Grey
    sirat on 2005-09-14 09:56:23
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    This is an excellent story. I'm very surprised that it has had no other comments. The voice of the narrator is beautifully realised, and most intriguing. All through my reading I had three possibilities in mind: a teenage child with a learning disability, an adult with the same, or an old woman regressing to a happier era of her life. The final one turned out to be correct, but that didn't matter, it wasn't really a "sting in the tail" story, just a very touching glimpse of the inner life of a happy human being. It makes a serious point too, about what we lose and what we gain in growing up and in growing old. This is one I think I will be coming back to and mulling over. A favourite for me (and I'm wondering about possible Anthology potential).

    A couple of tiny points:
    1. A typo: "He’s a lair for sure"
    2. Instance of bad grammar that I found a bit intrusive: "...to keep them ladies happy"

    Author's Reply:

    ruadh on 2005-09-14 12:04:15
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    I love this Jem. I had to wonder about Daisy. At first I though she was older, then when it came to the swings bit I thought I had it wrong. With her reluctance and attitude towards the man I began to wonder if she was a child and he was a 'wicked' stepfather or something. The ending, however, was still satisfying for me. Great stuff.

    A couple of points;

    He’s a lair for sure ... should this be liar?

    And this bit ... All curves, then straight lines, rectangles, cones, bends, flat, long, short, stumpy, wide, the ups and downs; ... goes on too long for me personally. Thought maybe four or five would do.

    love ailsa



    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-14 16:46:42
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    Hello David,
    Well thank you for this very supportive comment.
    I really thought it was to going to be completely over-looked.
    The three possibilities were just what I wanted to suggest, so I was on the right track.
    Didn't notice the typo thanks and I intentionally put 'them' ladies as I was imagining it to be somewhere in the Southern part of America.
    I worked for a time in Florida and they did say 'them' inside of 'those' but perhaps you're right -it tends to flag it up.
    Personally I thought it had something, but you don't always know about your own work.
    I've been meaning too, to put on my Scottish stories now the audio is working, I have rather a lot.
    I listened to your Lindy story and really enjoyed it. The picture it painted of innocent love at the start of all the violence in N.I. rang true, I also liked the way you contrasted these in a subtle way - it was well done.
    And may I say it was the most clearly spoken. You have a charming Northern Irish accent, your voice makes you sound young too.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-14 16:53:22
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    Hi Ailsa,
    Haven't seem your name around for a while.
    Yes, Sirat pointed out the liar typo.
    As to the bit about the shapes, yes it is a bit long, but then I thought that she might do that, normal rules wouldn't apply to someone like Daisy.
    Maybe from the reading point of view it could be cut but I'm very glad you like it.
    I was beginning to think perhaps it wasn't any good with so few reads and no comments.
    Nice to hear from you and I'll look out for your posts.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    ruadh on 2005-09-14 22:35:16
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    I've been out of the loop for a while due to family probs. Now I'm trying to get back into things. Just because no-one comments doesn't mean it's no good, just means the right person hasn't read it yet 😉 Take care.

    love ailsa

    Author's Reply:

    alcarty on 2005-09-17 04:10:58
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    Very nice intro and visual narrative colors. I wanted the piece to end with the old gentleman in the wheelchair casually rolling up at the critical moment to deliver a very definitive and crushing blow, perhaps by means of a nasty Luger concealed beneath his lap-robe. Sorry, I have to put my own twist on everything.
    Well written, and it kept me reading.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-10-02 12:19:51
    Re: As Colours Fade to Grey
    Hello Al,
    Like a geriatric Bonny and Clyde?
    Thanks for the nice comment. Yes, I think the test of a piece is if it keeps your reading.
    Good to hear from you too.
    Jem x


    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 09-01-2006
    As Colours Fade to Grey
    A cracking piece here.
    It completely wrong-fotted me and I love being caught-out; it's the sign of a great story as far as I am concerned.
    Jen :o)

    Author's Reply:


    Second Choice (posted on: 09-09-05)
    *

    Second Choice Her sister's young man didn't return from the war. She'd married his brother instead. There'd been a shortage of men, you see. She'd been bridesmaid and could remember still how they'd stood awkward together, untouching a little apart. Separated by barbed wire and a bullet.
    Archived comments for Second Choice
    karenuk on 2005-09-09 10:33:13
    Re: Second Choice
    That works well, especially the impact of the last two lines.

    Author's Reply:

    bektron on 2005-09-09 10:39:19
    Re: Second Choice
    really like this.
    bek

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2005-09-09 19:55:43
    Re: Second Choice
    Yes! wonderful piece and has echos of truth all the way through it. Love Val x

    Author's Reply:

    Apolloneia on 2005-09-10 11:33:53
    Re: Second Choice
    It is well-written, but I feel it can be rewritten, it's good as it is of course, but I think it can get better. I liked it.

    Author's Reply:

    mynci on 2005-09-10 13:47:07
    Re: Second Choice
    I can just see the wedding scenr. You conjured upa good image. i liked this a lot. Well done!

    Author's Reply:

    AnthonyEvans on 2005-09-10 21:33:18
    Re: Second Choice
    i like the idea of this poem and i think it ends well. however, i had to read it a few times to figure out who was who. it might, of course, just be me. i can see the idea of 'her sister's young man ...' because it is a nice conversational beginning.

    best wishes, anthony.

    Author's Reply:

    Jolen on 2005-09-11 03:07:49
    Re: Second Choice
    I love the idea of this whole poem, it's well done with not an over abundant amount of words and I feel that the ending was powerful.

    blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:26:16
    Re: Second Choice
    Yes, you are right in could be tightened a bit, I feel the essence is there, but maybe I could work on it a bit more, thanks Nicolletta.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:27:37
    Re: Second Choice
    Thanks for that Karenuk. I haven't seen your work before - I'll keep a lookout for it.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:28:13
    Re: Second Choice
    Thanks Beks,
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:30:53
    Re: Second Choice
    Hello Val,
    Many thanks for your lovely (as usual) comment - and how are you these days?
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:33:00
    Re: Second Choice
    Hello mynci,
    I think perhaps people were more realistic about marriage in those days. tahnsk for your comment.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:35:22
    Re: Second Choice
    Hello Anthony,
    Yes, I see now what you mean. I think it needs re-wording. The bsic idea is there but that could confuse a bit and might detract from the poem. Thanks
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-12 09:38:04
    Re: Second Choice
    Hello Jolen,
    And how are you?
    Thanks for commenting. This came from a very elderly lady who has since passed away.
    I think they had experiences that made them accept a lot more than we will nowadays.
    Nice to hear from you agan.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    ruadh on 2005-09-14 14:03:35
    Re: Second Choice
    Nice piece Jem. The harsh reality is forced home with the last two lines.

    ailsa

    Author's Reply:


    A Drunk Man (In a String Vest) Looks at the Edinburgh Festival (posted on: 05-09-05)
    Apologies to Mcdiarmid
    (I wish the audio thingy was up and running - Scottish dialect is much better read aloud, but have a go folks, why don't you.)
    No offence intended ; )

    A Drunk Man (In a String Vest) Looks at the Edinburgh Festival
    See me, a steer clear o Princes Street in August.
    Get yourself stuck behin a pair o yon fat Yanks and ye might as well gee up the ghost. Christ they can cast a shada the length o Leith Walk. Wid make you think it wis a lunar eclipse or the Second Coming or sumthin. B'Christ its lik walkin on the dark side o the moon! Am telling ye!
    In aw yon arty-farty pish - jist maks me want tae boak, in awe. Fur who pays? Anwser me that ma boy? Who pays? Aw us bloody dafties, that's who! Ave a gid mind tae write to Mr. Jack Mc-Bloody-Parliament and ask him to tell us cooncil tax payers just how fuffing much it costs each o us Edinburghers tae bank-roll this effing rigmarole every year?
    In ye ken whit?
    Nae effer will be able tae tell us.
    'Strue, as am staunin here, fur they huvnae a Scooby. Fur ye ken whit?
    Nae b-- has worked oot jist how much yon concrete slum et Holyrood, wae its bamboo slats like some Hong Kong hoorhoose, has come tae yit. So who the hell ur they gonny be able tae tell us how much their effing La-Di-Da Festival costs us?
    Lottery money ye say, fuffing Lottery money! Away and talk sense! Can ye no understaun, its ordinary punters the likes o you and me who are daft enough tae buy they bloody tickets, wae them selling us their shpeil aboot making us millionaires, and there's us swallowin that shite like effin fish. Christ, am mair likely to get a poke et Lorraine Kelly than winning the effing lottery.
    And its no the effing la-di-das that buy them oonyway, they widnae be seen deed goin intae a corner shop in purchasing A LOTTERY TICKET! Not in this lifetime, a can assure ye.
    And jist wit, a wid like to know, dae they dae wae aw yon money they rob aff the likes o us?
    Gie it tae the likes o Scottish Ballet that's whit, so a bunch o Three Pound Notes can mince about a stage like twats, whey thur tackle stickin oot lik a stair heed. Or tae Scottish Aw-Per-A, so's they can screech thur lungs oot like Banshees! Aw they want tae dae is gie it tae yon shower o poncy gits and then hing a great label aroon it, in caw it ART, then pat each ither on the back.
    They wid never hink tae gie a penny o it back tae the likes o us, wid they? My arse! They'd never gie onything tae ordinary hardworkin folks the likes o you or me.
    Nae bloody danger!
    Yit they'll gae it tae the likes o them tae squander, or else go the ither way and dole it out tae inmates frae Saughton, gie it tae aw yon jakies in druggies in shirt-lifters tae pit on plays aboot 'the shuman condeeshun' while yur ordinary man in the street is mugged fur his money.
    Dae ye iver see the likes o you or me et ony of them big dos, dressed like stuffed penguins with a mooth foo o plumes? No bloody likely! Mugs a tell ye, that's wit they take us fur, bloody mugs!
    Yes ma boy, a can tell ye, wur being margarinized, here in Edinburgh.
    I've a guid mind tae get a soap box and go up tae the corner o the Mound and tell o' they bloody foreigner wankers – in that includes yur Rolf-dingo-Harris - a thing or two aboot the their 'Darlin' Edinburgh Festival.
    Wit dae you mean they'd serve me wae an ASBO?
    Well jist let me tell you, am Edinburgh born and breed and nae Environmental Warden is gonny remove ME fur being a hazard tae the public.
    Christ – A am the bloody public!



    Archived comments for A Drunk Man (In a String Vest) Looks at the Edinburgh Festival
    blackdove on 2005-09-12 21:50:16
    Re: A Drunk Man (In a String Vest) Looks at the Edinburgh Festival
    Well Tai-Li thanks for trying... seems it wasn't to many folks liking, oh well, never mind I'll keep trying.Must put it on the audio.
    Nice to hear from you and looking out for your next piece.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 16-11-2005
    A Drunk Man (In a String Vest) Looks at the Edinburgh Festival
    Fortunately I have a (very) Scottish friend so I could understand this LOL LOL.
    Made me smile :o)
    Jen :o)

    Author's Reply:

    zenbuddhist on 19-12-2005
    A Drunk Man (In a String Vest) Looks at the Edinburgh Festival
    Ah coulda sworn this guy wis on Gary Robertson's Radio Scotland phone in this mornin....well if it wisnae him watch yersel cos there's mair than one....ah loved this...no enough Scots stories on here ... a braw rant, rave an shout `n ball ye cannae beat it...cheers z

    Author's Reply:


    Lot's Wife (posted on: 22-08-05)
    New take on an old story

    Lot's Wife Abuse would fly from his word-bruised mouth to ricochet, quick as a primed grenade in a language she'd come to understand. He'd seize her then, cursing, dragging her to the door as she pulled away, crying, 'but I promised them I'd stay.' She watched red thunder roll the too frequent electric storm as he dug sharp fingers into smooth bare flesh till she got the message etched on hungry eyes. Then the peace offerings; a hurried kiss, the fumbled embrace scented with her promise still pleading while she turned to look back with longing on a place she'd once belonged. They heard the mocking lyrics Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town escort them to the door, but the only hand he now raised was the one to wipe away the taste of her salt lips.
    Archived comments for Lot's Wife
    Warhorse on 2005-08-22 17:11:41
    Re: Lot's Wife
    A GREAT DEAL OF EMOTION IN THIS PIECE i SUSPECT. tHE WORD FLOW IS VERY CONTOLLED, AND LEADS INTO THE ENDING BRILLIANTLY.

    a HARD LOOK OR COMMENT, i FANCY ON THE SINFUL PRACTICE OF SOME MEN, TO BEAT UP ON LADIES, FOR WHATEVER REASON.

    wELL DONE FOR YOUR COURAGE IN EXPRESSING THIS.

    pLEASE, WHEN YOU HAVE TIME LOOK AT jOLENS POEM

    'RIBBON AND BOW RAPE'

    iF YOU SEND HER A PRIVATE MESSAGE, SHE WILL TELL YOU HOW TO FIND IT.

    WELL DONE

    wARHORSE.
    ,

    Author's Reply:

    bektron on 2005-08-22 19:09:01
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Hi Black Dove,
    Accomplished, well written, an interesting take. Could maybe do with a little paring down.
    I enjoyed it, great ending.
    bek:)


    Author's Reply:

    Slovitt on 2005-08-23 05:48:58
    Re: Lot's Wife
    black-dove: This is tightly written, and fast driven.
    Which is to say that the writing is very accomplished, to which I'll add that the psychology rings true, and your 'the taste of her salt lips.'/ is a clincher of a last line. Of note: 'naval' is probably just a typo but should be spelled 'navel' and 'quick as primed grenades' doesn't seem the right condition i.e. 'primed.' In any case, a good poem. Swep

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-08-30 11:53:50
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Hello Warhhorse,
    Thanks for your encouraging comment and I've been in touch with Jolen and got a copy of the poem. Actually, your right - they are really about the same thing just told in a different way.
    Cheers,
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-08-30 11:55:07
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Yes, I thought the same thing.
    I was tempted to take out the first two stanzas, but hesitated.
    Thanks for the support.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-08-30 12:03:29
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Hello Swep,
    Yes, naval should be navel. I had that before and hate spell check threw it up as wrong - I won't trust that again.
    The primed grenade, there is something wrong with it but want I wanted the reader to see was how they through this thing from one to the other as it frightened of it. Will perhaps try another tack.
    Trouble is I get bored with poems as soon as there finished and I don't want to be thorough as I should be.
    Perhaps to make a really good poet that is an essential I will need to learn.
    Thanks again for all your support. I just wish I had more time to write them.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    Jolen on 2005-09-02 23:30:11
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Dear Jem,

    What a moving poem. Yes, well executed and very true to life in the feel and reality of many women. I loved this..I know too many that lived this.

    Thank you for sharing such a strong and wonderful write.

    blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:

    Griffonner on 2005-09-04 12:56:18
    Re: Lot's Wife
    And what a 'take'!
    I loved it all, and liked especially "Abuse would fly from word-bruised mouths to ricochet, quick as primed grenades..." which was truly brilliant - as was the whole poem.
    *Admiringly*
    Griffonner

    Author's Reply:

    Apolloneia on 2005-09-10 11:38:38
    Re: Lot's Wife
    I agree with Bek.
    Yes a very interesting take.Cheers. Nic.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-10-02 12:03:53
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Many thanks for your support Griff,
    especially coming from someone's whose writing I admire.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-10-02 12:06:26
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Hello Nic,
    thanks for your support. I'm on to a new one now. It was a great idea on the poetry workshop to base a poem on a myth or legend.
    Full marks to Doggers.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-10-02 12:11:55
    Re: Lot's Wife
    Hello Jody,
    Nobody, man or woman should feel forced to do things they don't want or chose to do.
    Its all a form of bullying.
    I do know man too in this position and although they are in a very small minority, it is harder for them to tell anyone about it.
    But it is everywhere.
    It happened to two of my sisters. One was lucky and got away. The other is dead. Perhaps not directly by the hand of her partner but his behaviour was certainly a contributing factor.
    Jem


    Author's Reply:


    Testament (posted on: 19-08-05)
    There are many things we'd like to leave behind. But some people don't allow us the chance....

                                                     Testament I was left behind.      When the ship docked there was such a surge of human livestock fighting to acquire an advantageous place in the queue for de-embarkation, the young girl was badly jostled and knocked over in the melee of passengers, frantic in their hunger to be free of the sea. People were so desperate to set foot on dry land.      Unfortunately, it was I who became the causality.      You might think she would have been more careful with her possessions when they were but few. Most particularly with me, for held within this slender sheath, I embrace all the long hours of her religiously recorded thoughts and feelings. She had keep this record for each and every day of the long dreary journey just ended; had laboriously written down pages of her innermost thoughts, throughout the voyage. Even during the time when she was too green with seasickness to rise for her hard, slatted bed to eat, she had still managed to scrawl a few lines.      Yet, here I lie, a forlorn, dog-eared testament, cheap cardboard covers swollen like a blown flower with torn damp layers, pages loose, coming away at poorly sewn seams. All her secrets are held within these abandoned pages. Her yearnings, her fears, her simmering hatred for the people whom she still believed had wronged her. Her most private confessions. These had been offered to no sanctimonious priest. Had any Irish cleric ever felt such an empty belly as she, so that she believed rats were gnawing at her entrails, making her desperate, ready to sell even her soul, let alone her body, for one morsel of stale bread? Would she ever have revealed her true self to such a servant of God, who would have slavering over every detail of her fall, yet would have been empty of real compassion?      No, she had confided them solely to me.      It is true; all of these thoughts and feelings ought to have been left behind in those damp bogs of that green but unyiedling land she'd so hurriedly left. As non-paying passengers, they should never have made it from the old country to here. Yes, the facts are plain; she should have left them all behind on that crowded Galway quay and not allowed them to travel with her to this New World.      People say here you can become a new person. Who's to tell what or indeed who you were, in your previous life?     Which person is there, hereabouts, to point a finger to this girl's lack of learning? She's smart, wise from the things she's witnessed and endured, wise beyond her years. And she has gumption. No one need ever know that she was never schooled beyond her tenth year, for it was living that taught her how to survive, not books.      Then there was the poor dead mite, long buried in the cold wet sod of Sligo, outside hollowed ground, with no family name to ease its passage into the grand old cemetery of that fine Catholic city of hypocrites. Who is there, save herself and this record, to remember that short life, to bring its begetting, its birth and swift end to account, like God Himself, with His Roll Call on the Day of Judgment?      Distance, so the saying goes, lends enchantment. But does it also forgive our sins – if sins they were? May she not leave them then, with all her other wounds, her pain, inside these tattered covers? There is no doubt she is a comely lass, with an eye to her future and a chance to go far, for wasn't that the very reason she'd left her grieving mother, her brothers and sisters behind? She should do well in this country where they say anyone can aspire to anything. She does not need the burden of her deeds from that past life, where her young life was so misused by that unforgiving land and people.      Oh, I'm on her side.      Yet, 'tis such a pity.      These New World winds might blow gentler, warmer, less unkind, thousands of miles away from the place she once called home, but none the less, they have still thrown open these sad old covers. To offer, naked, her small testament, to be read by whatever stranger chances upon it. Her own words to haunt her, stored within, wrought in her own best copperplate hand... Miss Mary Devlin, aged 18 years. Born: Fifth of May, in the Year of our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Nine. Town of Birth: Sligo, County: Sligo, Country: Ireland.      I feel a large crude hand upon my spine, wrenching me from the jetsam of the deck; rough calloused palms scratch my damp covers, to turn over with brutal fingers the pages of her story. Then, mouthing the shapes of her words, he slowly begins to read…
    Archived comments for Testament
    Kazzmoss on 2005-08-19 09:24:52
    Re: Testament
    A very unusual story. Considering it didn't contain actual dialogue, the way you had split the paragraphs and sometimes sentences made it easy to read. I liked the subject, it was different and even down to the last line it didn't go where expected. A good story, well told. - Kaz

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2005-08-19 20:04:07
    Re: Testament
    I have only read through this once black-dove and I feel it deserves more time. There is much that is good about it and it speaks well of a haunting time in the histroy of these islands. There are one or two grammatical errors, so it would benefit from a little editing. I'm not really a prose person but I enjoyed this. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-08-21 14:54:29
    Re: Testament
    Thanks, Tai-Li, Kaz and Elf,
    to all of you for your kind comments.
    I've gone through it with the bone comb and can't find any more nit picks. I wonder could I write about 3,000 words for this and have a historical short story for the deadline of 31st August, as adviertised on the front page?
    Or am I being rather over-ambitious?
    Jemx

    Author's Reply:


    Foreshadowing (posted on: 08-08-05)
    *

    Foreshadowing

    A shadow leaps, ascends, fragments
    and I wonder why it's not behind me
    like images of Satan?

    Forms throw geometric patterns
    to fly ahead while I am left behind
    to speculate, shouldn't each conundrum
    have its equation?

    These thoughts shadow-cast, the sun behind,
    silhouette before and I realise
    my outline has always been there,
    waiting.

    Archived comments for Foreshadowing
    Slovitt on 2005-08-08 23:38:24
    Re: Foreshadowing
    black-dove: Waiting for you to walk into, and be whole? You write clean, and clear lines, and create here, an image that is three dimensional.
    A good poem. Swep

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-08-21 15:04:43
    Re: Foreshadowing
    Well Swep,
    You seem to have been the only one to show any interest in this.
    I had this idea that your shadow is in front rather than behind - and it has our life map all ready made up for us.
    Only thing is, we often don't want to step its shape, but the question is can we ever avoid it?
    Thanks for your support and commenting. Appreciated.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    Romany on 02-02-2006
    Foreshadowing
    I love the biblical reference to Satan 'behind me.' And I like the way the whole poem tells us that aspects of our lives are always with us; they may be unchangeable and even unfathomable, but they are there, like it or not!

    Author's Reply:


    Dinner at the Manila Plaza (posted on: 25-07-05)
    There is a bird in the Philippines called the bleeding-heart dove. It has a streak of red feathers on its chest, as if it had been wounded. As the rainforest is plundered by illegal logging (mostly Japanese) these beautiful birds have now become almost extinct.

    Dinner at the Manila Plaza Paired with tiny Filipina bleeding-heart doves, suited Japanese order cocktails at the next table. The girls perch sleek, bird-thin, held in paid embrace, concealing blood-red breasts behind the slogan, 'The Philippines - Where Asia Wears a Smile.' They coo in undertones of rustled silks, bird-eyes scoring the elegant dining room in quick darts of understanding while the pretty young waiters cough, laugh, whisper. In on the joke. I'm not so ask - what's going on? My husband shushes me, ears turning red. Pressed, he tells me; they come with the room. Intrigued I urge him to explain – yet what English words has he to translate the many ways his nation can be taken?
    Archived comments for Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    Michel on 2005-07-25 14:49:19
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    Cuttingly satirical and beautifully written. Favourite for me.

    Author's Reply:

    Slovitt on 2005-07-25 22:31:27
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    black-dove: You set this up well with the last line of your first stanza, 'The Phillipines--Where Asia Wears a Smile.'/, and then like a machete taking off a head the fatal concluding two lines

    yet what English words has he to translate
    the many ways his nation can be taken?

    Yours is a very good poem. Very good. Swep

    Author's Reply:

    AnthonyEvans on 2005-07-25 22:49:13
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    a really fine piece of work, black-dove, very precise. best wishes, anthony.

    Author's Reply:

    littleditty on 2005-07-26 21:48:17
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    Tops -this is a sharp piece of poetry -i have seen this and much worse in manila and elsewhere and this poem says it - especially the last lines - punched home - i liked very much 🙂 xlittleditty x

    Author's Reply:

    LenchenElf on 2005-07-27 20:24:02
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    Eloquent, incisive, beautifully composed. Thanks for sharing this.
    all the best
    Lena

    Author's Reply:

    Gerry on 2005-07-27 21:59:06
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    Excellent descriptive poetry--well done...

    Gerry.

    Author's Reply:

    reckless on 2005-07-28 10:56:10
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza
    Thoughtful and thought provoking, works both as a metaphor and as description. I liked the style of it, the way you have composed it, it flows well.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-08-07 15:50:05
    Re: Dinner at the Manila Plaza

    Well, all these lovely comments, a nib and a nomination for the anthology and me too stressed to appreciate them and reply to you all!
    Sod, this bloody hotel and all lawyers and low lives and let me out of here!
    My sincere thanks to everyone for being so decent - do you think I might start a virtual life at UKA among you pleasant folk and squat here and hide from all the legal tripe and relatives and to much family and building pink palaces up the jungle and fifty thousand fifth cousins removed and their begging phone calls, reverse charged from the Far East and teenage daughters with plans to make me go madder than I already am and spend every penny faster than I can earn it and then the tax men and vat men who want to take the pennies too and the fire officer and the environmental health inspector and the tourist board spy and the painter who's ripping me off and promises to turn up then doesn't and the mad Chinese women who broke the shower in room 10 and denied it and stole someone's breakfast and stuffed all the fruit from the breakfast table in her handbag and the man who phoned to book a room for one night February 6th next year and got upset because I said I didn't want to take his booking and most most most of all the PLUMBERS who have flooded me for free.
    I could escape them all and hide in here for at least a year - like a monastery or a convent (never mind Men and that other dirty word that starts with S)

    Do you all think I might be every so slightly deranged today?
    Apologies.
    Your comments are food to a famished soul.
    Jem



    Author's Reply:


    Sins of the Fathers (posted on: 18-07-05)
    E-Griff asked for more prose, well I've tried with this beginning...
    I hope of a longer story.
    I wanted to get an atmosphere going for the opening - do you think it works?

    Sins of the Fathers

    It is that strange twilight time when the light leeches from the day.
    The young girl struggles with a large suitcase along the deserted promenade. Its more of a sand-swept path, where the promenade peters out to a track, leading out of the town towards the golf course and the solitary gray granite edifice of the Marina Hotel.
    The girl's dark outline bends at a forty-five degree angle. She leans away to counter-balance the weight of the case she carries, continually swapping hands as each arm and their fingers tire and numb.
    She would prefer to travel lighter. Yet it isn't the baggage, more her thoughts that drag heaviest. Those ones she can't leave behind in the grubby bed-sit she'd just left.

    *

    She'd managed, somehow, to get off at the wrong bus stop and now needed to double back, away from town, to reach the hotel that was to be her new place of work and home.
    Along her right side, she heard the rhythmic swoosh of waves, whispering some timeless chant over the beach, their sound creeping up the dunes with the encroaching tide. Above her gulls circled, their hard sound demanding; a noisy entourage.
    She looked out to the water, watching the bright luminosity of phosphorous worn by the distant waves like an undeserved crown. The same chemical that caused a match to light now lit up the crest of the breakers, filtering greenish, through the approaching darkness.
    The street lighting had tapered off the further from the town she walked, becoming less regular. The only other source of light was the pinprick beetles shining out from the big houses along the seafront. These dotted, sparsely, along a bejeweled finger of land pointing out towards the bunkers of the links then disappearing out into the headlands and the open sea.
    The girl stopped, dropping her belongings to the ground and raised a hand to her face. Tears coursed down her cheeks. She wiped them away. Why was she crying? What caused her to weep like a small, frightened child?
    She was petrified by the thought of all the new faces she'd have to confront once again, in the new world she was about to enter. But she'd been running for too long. She needed to start rebuilding a life, or be forever a drifter. She was soul-tired of that.
    She felt like a weary sea anemone hoping for something permanent to attach on to, something or someone to hold her this time. But most of all, she wanted not to be found; to live another life, where no one could see into her deposited memories, where her guarded blue eyes could never betray her past.
    She picked up her case and walked on. The tears dried, but her mind raced on unchecked, imagining what her new life would be like and the people she was about to meet.
    Those other thoughts were hers alone, no one could get into them now without her permission or rifle through them, as her life had been.
    No, they were hers and they were secure.

    Archived comments for Sins of the Fathers
    e-griff on 2005-07-18 11:13:33
    Re: Sins of the Fathers
    Well, it's certainly an intriguing start. Girl arrives in seaside town to work at hotel, obviously troubled. Who is this girl? What is she escaping from? What has happened?

    Two small things.

    Main one being spelling of 'leaches'
    and the 'pinprick beetles' confused me

    Author's Reply:

    Kazzmoss on 2005-07-18 20:11:35
    Re: Sins of the Fathers
    Its a start that has left me wondering especially in light of the title. What has happened to her that she must start a new life. Nice start - Kaz

    Author's Reply:

    reckless on 2005-07-19 03:38:21
    Re: Sins of the Fathers
    I did find the idea intriguing, and liked the potential character of the girl, she struck me as one with whom the reader would empathise. I thought that there were places where you were in danger of overwriting, that may just be me though. A few small things, probably just personal, but "luminosity" doesn't work for me, then you've got 'dropping' and 'raised' in the same sentence which seems like a mix of tenses, and 'attach on to' doesn't work for me, I don't think you need the 'on', or maybe just 'hold on to' would work. Having said that (hope you don't mind) I do like the idea of a new start, letting go. Hope to read more soon.

    Author's Reply:

    AnthonyEvans on 2005-07-19 23:47:30
    Re: Sins of the Fathers
    yep, it's a good start. best wishes, anthony.

    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 16-11-2005
    Sins of the Fathers
    This caught my attention, and now I am waiting for the rest.....
    Jen :o)

    Author's Reply:


    Chicken Americano (posted on: 17-06-05)
    To see ourselves.

                                             Chicken Americano      Nanay says fat people are rich and if you are fat, you must be rich. I want to be rich and fat too, then everybody will know I'm rich.      It was Jojo who took the chicken though, not me.      We'd been watching the girl from the street through the big glass window of Aida's cantina. Jojo and me like to stand there and watch the rich people eat. We fill up on the smells and tell each other all the things we'd order if we had money.     They have this special that they make, called Chicken Americano. I've never had something to eat in a restaurant, but sometimes, if the old kosinaro, Tatay Ossie's fighting cock has won a match, and he's drunk on lambanog, he'll let us have the leftovers. It's the best chicken. Ever. Much better than Nanay's cooking cause her birds have to drop down of old age or can't lay no more before she will pull their necks. They're tough old birds, not like the fat young chickens they cook at the cantina.      That's what the girl was having when I heard her say, 'Mommy, I don't want this, I'm too hot to eat.' She pushed her plate away and made a big lip at the lady she called Mommy.      That was when Jojo stole the chicken off her plate.      We'd been watching her making a fuss, when Jojo ran in, quick as a gecko, took her chicken and ran out, waving the leg in the air.      The girl squealed like a stuck pig; don't know why - 'cause she didn't want it anyway. We run for our lives. Jojo shared the chicken with me; I can still taste it. Food tastes best when your stomach's empty.      That Americana had real Nike shoes on too, not copies like here. I so wanted her shoes - even more than her chicken.      I wonder why we have so little money and things here and Americanos have so much? Perhaps they are much cleverer than us, but I don't think so. They're slow and easy to take from, 'cause they can always get more. They're not hungry. I want to grow up go work in America like my Ate Luz. She sometimes sends boxes to my Nanay with corned beef and ham and lots of clothes in them. Not new clothes, but with 'Made in America' on them. Real labels, not phoney like here, you never know what you're going to get. She sends candy too, but not chocolate candy. I really want to taste American chocolate, like Hershey bars, Dime bars, M&Ms, all the ones I've seen on Jojo's cousin's TV in the sub-division.      Ate told me, last visit home, chocolate bars would melt in the heat after they took them off the boat. I would like to have them even if they were melted.     But I need to finish school; I used to go until my Nanay had no more job. Maybe Ate Luz will send money next year to pay for my school.         Now I sell cigarette sticks to the cars when they stop at the junction.      Tatay died when I was small. Ate Luz says a snake bit him when he was planting rice and he died of poisoned blood. I never saw him. I did see an old photo he was in with Nanay. They looked young and happy, smiling like they were on a TV show.             I never see my Nanay smile like that now.      Well, she seemed okay when Uncle Joe was here. Even though he drank a lot, he used to give her a few dollars sometimes and little presents. And when he was too drunk to notice I would take the money that fell from his pockets and give it to Nanay.      She'd say if he didn't notice it was gone, he didn't need it. But he went back to America when the base closed. He promised he'd send me a pair of Nike shoes, but he never did. Nanay always seems sad now, 'sept sometimes when she drinks the rice wine she makes to sell at market. Then she will play all the old cassettes Uncle Joe left, American songs, she knows all the words. She cries and sings, sings and cries, but that's okay, 'cause she sings nice and she acts nice too and dances cross the floor.      I hear Jojo calling, I got to go. Next time I told Jojo, we'd better be more careful 'case we hit on the same lady. All those Americanas look the same, all big and fat and white.      It's hard to tell one from the other.
    Archived comments for Chicken Americano
    TheGeeza on 2005-06-18 17:20:46
    Re: Chicken Americano
    I thought this was really good. It painted a very vivid picture. Liked the "He promised he’d send me a pair of Nike shoes, but he never did" bit.
    Steve.

    Author's Reply:

    mandylifeboats on 2005-06-18 22:57:08
    Re: Chicken Americano
    This is phenomenal - I want more !

    Author's Reply:

    LenchenElf on 2005-06-19 01:49:56
    Re: Chicken Americano
    The voice is so clear and believable and as mandyL says, more please 🙂
    all the best
    LE

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2005-06-20 01:50:32
    Re: Chicken Americano
    Jemima: You're good at this writing lark! I could hear the voices in my head, and your images were so effective, and of course, love the sentiment. Great work!

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-06-20 12:40:09
    Re: Chicken Americano
    Well, thanks everybody for the great comments and a big thank you to whoever nominated this for the Anthology (I haven't had a piece of prose nominated before, so I'm chuffed.)
    I've haven't posted or been on the site much in the last few months with selling the hotel.
    You know you have turns when you think - writing, what's the point?
    But I'm over that and trying to do away with trying to write like I think a writer should and just writing as clear and plain as I can,
    and I think it's starting to work.
    Luv Jemima x

    Author's Reply:

    RichardZ on 2005-06-22 13:11:36
    Re: Chicken Americano
    Nice piece!

    This is another one that slips under the radar, seeming deceptively simple.

    As others have said, very clear crisp imagery. I liked it alot.


    It also made me hungry...

    Keep at it!


    R

    Author's Reply:

    Jolen on 2005-07-24 13:49:05
    Re: Chicken Americano
    Hi,
    I enjoyed this story, it's crisp and very well thought out. Certainly deserving of the nib. Congrats for that.
    I did notice one typo though.... in this line..
    "I want to grow up and go to American" Don't you mean go to America? Other than that, I have to say you nailed the way us Americans are seen all across the globe, sadly so......

    I appreciated this piece of writing. Thank you.
    Blessings,
    Jolen

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-09-26 12:13:52
    Re: Chicken Americano
    Hi Jolen,
    Actually, this wasn't written about Americans.
    It was about me and my daughter and we are Scottish, but everyone with a white face in the Philippines is classed as an American, as this is what they have had experience of.
    But I've seen this from both sides and yes, that is what they think, sadly.
    Thanks for your lovely comment about the story.
    Much appreciated.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:


    After the Gold Rush (posted on: 17-06-05)
    my last visit home.

    After the Gold Rush From habit, miners gather at the Cross - still needing to believe they have a chance to start over again, each the poor horse of some long-fallen rider, running lost. This once rich seam of men, who toiled the mines now put out to grass. To wander like ghosts of Klondikers, long after the gold rush. Ingressed by damp, they gaze on ashen faced to ugly scars made by the open casts which took their place, keeping their wounds buried in subterranean shafts of lungs, in hearts, in minds, in throats with rattling coughs that laugh with desperate humour, a final defence, cursing Thatcher blind. Their last recompense.
    Archived comments for After the Gold Rush
    Kat on 2005-06-18 05:06:02
    Re: After the Gold Rush
    Great writing Jemima! Good to see you posting again.

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    LenchenElf on 2005-06-19 11:17:49
    Re: After the Gold Rush
    Touching portrayal of the aftermath, thanks for sharing this.
    all the best
    LE

    Author's Reply:

    chrissy on 2005-06-19 12:58:05
    Re: After the Gold Rush
    Stunning. A brilliant portrayal of what happens when industries come to full stop and no one thinks about what happens to the people.
    First class writing. Most deserving of the Great read.
    chrissy

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2005-06-19 14:59:06
    Re: After the Gold Rush
    Great piece of writing Jemima, tells it like it is. Love Val x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-06-20 12:43:27
    Re: After the Gold Rush
    Thanks everybody for the encouraging comments and its nice to be back too!
    Jemima x

    Author's Reply:


    Watching Cabbages Grow (posted on: 10-06-05)
    Parents - they eff you up...

    Watching Cabbages Grow     The tennis ball thumped off the harled wall of the house. ' Plainy, clappy, roll-io, tabacky, right hand left hand, right leg, left leg, high scotteesh, low scotteesh, kneel down, touch the ground, big burl around....      The girl sprank up, retreiving the ball with a neat, well-practiced catch and looked around.      'It's your turn noo Billy.'      She walked over to the low wall which separated the path from the overgrown vegetable patch. She took up a jam sandwich which lay there, taking a dainty bite and a sip of warm sweet tea from a red plastic beaker. She then walked around the wall and did the exact same thing with another bread sandwich, only this time she took a large hungry bite with a gulp of tea from a second plastic beaker.      'Look Billy, there's yon toy horse from the lucky bag ma Nana brought me, still planted in the garden.'      The girl smiled and looked towards the empty place beside the other beaker. 'Member us plantin it, and we telt everybody it'd grown intae a real horse? 'Bit you said, 'don't be daft, it willnae grow?' 'We knew it wis only pretend, didn't we Billy?'  She looked again at the space beside the snack. 'Still a wished real hard it could grow up and be a big black stallion, jist like Black Beauty on the telly. Yon horse minded o the day ma Da telt us to watch thone cabbages he's planted. Member that Billy? Mind him tellin us these wur special cabbages, aw the way from America and that they wur magic, fur they could grow that fast we would be able tae see them if we watched hard enough. You can scoff noo, but you believed it tae, fur we stood out there, watching, in the pouring rain, wae ma Da? Mind?'      The girl's eyes clouded, with the images she'd brought back. 'In it wis then I turned around, an saw ma mammy wae your Da! He'd cum tae fix the lectrics, again. They wur standin thegither at the windae, laughing.      I thought they wur laughin at us.'      She looked across to the garden wall. 'Then you sterted sniggering tae, as if you didn't believe it neither, in you wur on their side an hud jist been joshing me. That wisnae fair Billy!' The girl's lip fell and she sniffed, fighting back tears already there. 'In then ma Da got 'ninety days in a barrel', fur hammering your Da!'' In when a telt you it wisnae right, that the polis wis gonnae put ma Da in barrel fur aw that time, in supposin he couldn't breathe, you jist laughed et me and said, dinnae be sae stupid, it wisnae a BARREL - it wis the Bar-L and that meant that big nick in Glesga, fur that's whit your ma telt ye and ma Da wis gettin locked up cos he'd nearly kilt your Da' She shot the low wall a grieved glance. ' In then the ither night I hud tae go efter I went tae bed cause I'd eaten aw yon rhubarb oot the garden an a saw your Da goin into my Ma's room!'      She turned away and gouged her fingers into the moist soil, then withdrew them, her nails black with the wet earth. She looked at her nails and thought they looked like lots of little men, all different heights and sizes, all with black hair. One even reminded her of Mr. Nelson, Billy's father.           Realizing this, she stuck her hand into her mouth and sucked hard on the damp gritty soil to clean the picture out of her head. 'In then a telt ma Nana Grant and she got right vexed and said ma mammy should be black affronted, had she nae shame? In then ma Nana telt me off and said I should 'hud ma tongue' and no be tellin folks oor business! So noo a canny even visit ma Nana wae ma Ma on Sundays anymair, and noo you've moved away tae, a canny see you either Billy. Its jist no fair!'      She let out a sob and felt the same empty feeling in her stomach as she had when the police had taken her father away in their van.      What she really wanted to do was go back into the house and be with her mother. But her mother had warned her to stop pestering and go out and play.     She looked across to the sandwich and plastic cup lying on the wall, picked up her ball and said, 'come on Billy it's still your shot.'           Plainy, clappy… .
    Archived comments for Watching Cabbages Grow
    sirat on 2005-06-10 16:31:43
    Re: Watching the Cabbages Grow
    It's brave to write in dialect. Unless you do it really well you send your readers away: they try for a while, then the effort becomes too much. I thought you got it about right here, I could follow the story comfortably and hear the speech in my head. The childhood naïvety comes across very well, and I liked the other story, told in subtext. Most of all though, this one has great atmosphere. Reminded me of Laura Hird's work, some of which is on this site. If that Scottish Anthology that we keep talking about ever sees the light of day this should be in it.

    Author's Reply:

    Claire on 2005-06-10 22:13:23
    Re: Watching the Cabbages Grow
    Followed this with ease. It's a good little sad story.

    Author's Reply:

    LenchenElf on 2005-06-11 00:35:19
    Re: Watching the Cabbages Grow
    Tight, evocative, really enjoyed this.
    all the best
    LE

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2005-06-11 04:07:35
    Re: Watching the Cabbages Grow
    Hi Jemima

    I was just thinking that I hadn't seen anything from you for a while, and there you are!

    Really enjoyed this and go along with Sirat's comments on how well you captured the child's voice and that this should be in a/the Scottish Anthology.

    All the best.

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    Griffonner on 2005-06-13 14:43:21
    Re: Watching the Cabbages Grow
    Thank you for sharing this, Black_dove. I think it is a lovely slice of life taken and allowed to replay again and again through the skill of your pen and imagination (or was it, perhaps, based on something real, I wonder?) Anyway, it was a nice, though necessarily sad, read, and with cleverly tailored regional twang. I rate it highly.

    Respectfully, Griffonner

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-06-20 12:50:26
    Re: Watching the Cabbages Grow
    Hello to everybody and thanks for all the encouraging comments.
    This piece is a conglomeration , my version - bits of childhood I both observed, hear about, lived through and made up.
    The voice is Lallans, but toned down, as I have found, as Sirat says, too much dialect can detract from the story.
    Nice to be writing again.
    Jemima x

    Author's Reply:


    Poison Garden (posted on: 07-03-05)
    Alnwick Castle is to open a new garden displaying poisonous plants

    Poison Garden Laid out in sensuous curves shaped flickering flames that scorch to touch, forewarning fire, in burning beds we lie. Listen to the whisperers, choose flight, they say, don't stay. Those ancient executioners, nightshade and hemlock stand sentry, waiting, watching for fresh prey, while belladonna hides her guile the poppies surface, bearing their gift, deep sleep from Morpheus. Hear the murmuring voices sigh, desist, they say, don't taste. Amid oleander and peony rose, nature's valium, hemp and mandrake the unsuspecting lure, draw down to damp fairy rings of magic mushrooms, paid entrance to the underworld. Heed this last request, resist, they say, make haste. The bitter-gold laburnums' drape yellow arms, to shroud the coca leaves, down where the strychnine plant brings a rictus grin, the crooked smile warns, if you must linger, know, you will in these cold, burning beds with us, forever lie.
    Archived comments for Poison Garden
    Emerald on 2005-03-07 11:09:01
    Re: Poison Garden
    Great poem - really enjoyed reading this.

    Emma:-)

    Author's Reply:

    Zydha on 2005-03-07 11:56:26
    Re: Poison Garden
    I agree, BD, a great poem, very cleverly constructed...

    'you will in these cold,
    burning beds with us, forever lie.'

    Juxtaposed to perfection, Zydha






    Author's Reply:

    Jen_Christabel on 2005-03-07 12:04:32
    Re: Poison Garden
    Well I won't be having any of these in my garden then!
    Great poem
    JayCee

    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2005-03-07 14:03:59
    Re: Poison Garden
    Hi black-dove, I loved this right to the last two lines. Somehow I felt they did not have the impact they could have. Just a thought! A most enjoyable read, it's all there! Just depends on what we choose to do this it (natures gifts I mean)!

    All the best

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    teifii on 2005-03-08 18:08:44
    Re: Poison Garden
    A great poem, very neatly constructed. I like the varied semi repeat lines and also the ominous ending. My garden's got a few of these but I refrain and fortunately so do my ducks and even the sheep. These almost omnivorous creatures know not to eat foxgloves and daffodils.
    Daff

    Author's Reply:

    Dazza on 2005-03-12 22:43:46
    Re: Poison Garden
    I used to be a gardener and this botanic roll call is spot on! Genius and species, well done! Dazza.

    Author's Reply:


    On the Beach at Corregidor (posted on: 18-02-05)


    On the Beach at Corregidor Sun-blinded eyes look up to an unforgiving sky and sense the end stealing up with each approaching tide. The razorblade sun slicing skin, scorching lips that mouth dry prayers to a God no longer there. And dog tags engrave a tattoo on raw flesh, branding their death mark, the only thing left to tell history who you were. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hundreds of 2WW dog tags have been found over the years on a beach oat Corrigedor an island in the Philippines. The dog tags belonged to American and Filipino POWs who were held during the Japanese occupation. This is the island where General Douglas Macarthur made his last stand against the invading Japanese, before fleeing to Australia. It was also here he made his famous promise 'I shall return.' But the soldiers left behind didn't have that option. Thousands of them died from the heat and dehydration, after being kept in a makeshift prison camp on this beach, with no shelter or water. This is the same beach used by unsuspecting tourists today. Still the question remains, why did they take their dog tags off? I reached my own conclusions. Jemima
    Archived comments for On the Beach at Corregidor
    red-dragon on 2005-02-19 05:35:15
    Re: On the Beach at Corregidor
    black-dove, a most interesting poem, which captured my imagination. Who knows why, but your poem made inspiring reading. Red

    Author's Reply:

    glennie on 2005-02-19 07:33:12
    Re: On the Beach at Corregidor
    A gem Jem but I think the post script would be much better before the poem - it makes it much more effective. Glen.

    Author's Reply:

    deepoceanfish2 on 2005-02-20 07:03:19
    Re: On the Beach at Corregidor
    Jemmima,

    Absolutely brilliant...chilling, haunting and tragic. A fav for me.

    Regards,
    Adele 😉

    Author's Reply:


    Ties That Bind (posted on: 18-02-05)
    .

    Ties that Bind Dark eyes look out beyond an image to hoped for horizons of a better life. Beside you this solemn man. Start of a new life together; knot of a couple binding lives. The hand upon your shoulder speaks of possession, a future tied to tears. The ring upon your finger a chain around your heart. Duty, honour and obedience, each vice-like link to reign you in. Restricted, tight in stays that hold you breathless under a fine tulle dress, a posy of lavender lies still in restless hands, laid for an instant upon your lap, unending work unseen. But if you could choose, step unfettered from the frame into another life, would you still stay, or stride away, to take your place in a new millennium? In these children of your children who consume the freedoms of your toil, finger-printed by your life, the person whom you were might still live on in this life to lift the hand away.
    Archived comments for Ties That Bind
    Jen_Christabel on 2005-02-18 22:37:36
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Something all would-be newlyweds should read! A lovely piece.
    Thank you for the read.
    JayCee

    Author's Reply:

    Dazza on 2005-02-19 00:34:01
    Re: Ties That Bind
    I just got married! And this great poem has added new scope to a pretty awesome decision. Thanks from me to! Dazza.

    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2005-02-19 01:02:10
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Hi Black-dove, A very interesting perspective on love and marriage. I found it quite dark in sentiment. The question asked, is an even darker one. Makes you think, that is for sure. There is a typo in the last stanze, L7 'were'!

    A great read imo

    All the best

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    glennie on 2005-02-19 07:27:18
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Loved it. I thought it quite breathtaking. Glen.

    Author's Reply:

    royrodel on 2005-02-20 03:01:51
    Re: Ties That Bind
    enjoyed this, but the line 'With spirit atomized, ' IMO, or even the word 'atomized' seems out of place.

    RODEL

    Author's Reply:

    deepoceanfish2 on 2005-02-20 07:01:08
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Jemmima,

    This is stunning. I espcially loved :

    'Restricted, tight in stays
    that hold you breathless
    under a fine tulle dress,
    a posy of lavender lies still
    in restless hands,
    laid for an instant
    upon your lap,
    unending work unseen. '

    'But if you could choose,
    step unfettered
    from the frame
    into another life,
    would you still stay,
    or stride away,
    to take your place
    in a new millennium? '

    A fine, fine read!

    Regards,
    Adele 😉


    '


    Author's Reply:

    Zydha on 2005-02-20 13:24:42
    Re: Ties That Bind
    WOW! This has a strangely jaded feel in regards to the committments made in with marriage vows, BD, and as one coming up for 40 years, I can see where your words are coming from. Time passes and the world and demands change, but I have always been a firm believer in holding onto oneself.

    love the words.....

    'But if you could choose,
    step unfettered
    from the frame
    into another life,
    would you still stay,
    or stride away,
    to take your place
    in a new millennium? '

    I definately wouldn't, but I have a friend or two, I think you could have written this for, lol, but habit is 'habit' forming, a thought provoking read, Zydha

    Author's Reply:

    red-dragon on 2005-02-21 01:06:41
    Re: Ties That Bind
    I really enjoyed this fine poem, with its well written lines and rhetorical question. Very thought provoking. Red

    Author's Reply:

    Capricorn on 2005-02-22 10:24:02
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Loved this on -- very thought provoking.

    Author's Reply:

    MrO on 2005-02-23 01:02:43
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Aye, no bad.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-03-03 22:41:11
    Re: Ties That Bind
    Well I've judy come back on site...
    Thanks, a very big thanks, to all of you for your comments and ratings - I am flaggerbasted... totally!
    You are all too kind.
    Jemima x


    Author's Reply:


    Dry Land (posted on: 14-02-05)
    For Paul

    Dry Land A place I'd never heard of had to look up on a map. An exotic fruit of a tropical island, never tasted before. My bright blanket, cover against cruel winds, bitter tongues. Bringing your sun, to lighten an un-lit life, absorbing the black rains. My dry land where I may shelter, safe on your shore.
    Archived comments for Dry Land
    tai on 2005-02-14 23:29:03
    Re: Dry Land
    Now this is an Island I would love to be stranded on!

    Great Read, and it's romantic too. Well done from one who still believes in love!

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-02-15 22:15:33
    Re: Dry Land
    Thanks Tai,
    for the rating and the comment, I thought this one was going to get the duck egg!
    You're a star.
    Luv Jemx

    Author's Reply:

    Emerald on 2005-02-17 06:33:27
    Re: Dry Land
    Hi Jemima,

    I liked this a lot - gave me a comfort feel.

    Emma:-)

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-02-17 22:02:32
    Re: Dry Land
    Hello to you Emma,
    This was an exercise to write a Valentine's poem for someone who is, or was in your life.
    We were told not to make it mushy - that is way its sparse.
    It didn't get much response here - maybe it is too sparse!
    Nice to know you liked it though.
    Thanks,
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    Danse Macabre (posted on: 31-01-05)
    We each have our chains.

        
    I Never Noticed
    Strange,
    I never noticed
    the dog was staked to a pole,
    rather my eyes followed
    the wild dance of delight
    around the pretty garden,
    for it was long, the chain,
    then.
    I observed her,
    greeting passers-by,
    grateful for attention,
    eyes trusting their words of praise.
    In desperation,
    too eager to please,
    I watched the fetter
    tighten.
    In a pavane
    of decreasing circles,
    she played party to the torment,
    unaware,
    it was in her pains to pull away
    she'd caused the chain's
    constriction.
    Archived comments for Danse Macabre
    deepoceanfish2 on 2005-01-31 13:34:17
    Re: I Never Noticed
    black-dove,

    This is splendid noir piece. The second verse is most impacting and the entire poem builds in disturbing momentum. An excellent read, which deserves a Great Read Nib.

    Regards,
    Adele

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2005-01-31 20:29:34
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Lots of food for thought here black-dove.
    A good read.

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    flash on 2005-02-01 01:17:41
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Just popped into i enjoyed this and your workshop poem from last week immensely.

    Good work on both accounts.

    xxxxxxxxxx
    Flashypants

    Author's Reply:

    Zydha on 2005-02-01 11:23:14
    Re: I Never Noticed
    This is very deep, Blackdove, I particularly like the 'life's phylosophy' within the last stanza...

    With danse macabre,

    a pavane of decreasing circles,

    she played party to the torment,

    unaware,

    in her pains to pull away

    she'd caused the chain's

    constriction.

    Beautifully written, Zydha


    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-02-01 14:46:49
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Hi Flash,
    and thanks for the comment.
    I been feeling a bit fed up about writing lately - too much life had been getting in the way.
    Its nice to login and find nice words waiting...
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-02-01 14:52:31
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Hi Kat,
    thanks for that...
    I read your new workshop piece and thought the end was really strong. The whole tone of the poem caught the father's anger.
    There is always a thought in your poems that seem to catch a moment, that I can recognise
    and I think that is what poetry is for.
    Cheers Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-02-01 14:57:17
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Hi Adele,
    Your comment is food for the soul right now as, for some reason, I don't want to write at present.
    I suppose you can get times like that.
    I want to sleep instead. Maybe that is way the poem is a bit bleak too.
    Not like me to get down, but I suppose it can come around.
    Thanks for your rating, cheers me up!
    Jem x




    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2005-02-01 17:25:48
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Thanks Zydha,
    Both for the rating and you comments,
    I do sometimes feel it's when we try to escape from something, someplace, relationship, its then we feel the chains the most.
    And then again some of us make our own chains.
    Glad you enjoyed it.
    Jem x


    Author's Reply:

    Sunken on 2005-02-01 20:18:51
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Nice work Black-dove. If this is you in fed up mode, it bodes well for when you're.... what's the opposite of fed up? I should know this as I actually experienced it in the mid nineties.... no, it's gone. Anyway, you know what I mean. Ok, maybe you don't, but don't worry about that cause neither do I. Did any of this comment make sense? Oh fuck it, I'll vote instead young Black-dove person. Take care and an instruction manual.

    s
    u
    n
    k
    e
    n


    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2005-02-03 19:10:33
    Re: I Never Noticed
    Black-dove, Those chains tend to just appear! but the secret of breaking them, is to know them to be there in the first place.

    A good poem

    Tai

    Author's Reply:


    Wearing My Name (posted on: 10-01-05)
    For my sixteen year old daughter, just to let her know I've been there and haven't (quite) forgotten what it was like....

    Wearing My Name It's on the scents of a sunset in the pull of the tide, a ring round the moon, in twilight's heady promise of long, slow summer nights, it's my one last step to take. It's in the hot heavy crush of those first sweet pair of lips the power of hands touching, the hope he'll be the one, that somebody, out there just aching for me. It's in autumn bonfires, sparks of life on the wind, of the secret caresses that taste of honey and sin, it's the call of the wild, arousing the woman in me. It's a song on the radio I know, for the lyrics are mine It's this deep desire, a need I'm powerless to tame. I know it's my future for I see it out there, and it's wearing my name.
    Archived comments for Wearing My Name
    Zydha on 2005-01-10 13:58:11
    Re: Wearing My Name
    Oh, I remember it well, BlackDove, and it doesn't stop at sixteen! lol, Mine is 37 and now divorced, and so the understanding and 'being there' starts again.

    Beautifully captured, BlackDove, but, have you missed a 'to' after 'powerless'? Zydha

    Author's Reply:

    pencilcase on 2005-01-10 14:08:43
    Re: Wearing My Name
    I kinda like this one: earthy and heartfelt. Very expressive. Last stanza brings it to a nice conclusion and the "a need I'm powerless tame" line is quite a gem!

    Steve

    Author's Reply:

    Pilgermann on 2005-01-11 17:33:46
    Re: Wearing My Name
    Fab poem.

    Honey and sin - what a mixture!

    Author's Reply:


    Act of Penance (posted on: 20-12-04)
    We all have things we're sorry for.
    But often the person is no longer there to to hear our apology.

    Act of Penance I took a trinity of stones, doubt, denial, betrayal, looked into your eyes, bore witness to your pain, knowing your tongue would never give it voice. I cast each one, and watched your body absorb the wounds my words inflicted, in the certain belief you'd offer the other cheek. But if I could call back time to account for all my treachery, I would, to kneel at your feet and wish you to know, I still wear my guilt, like sackcloth.
    Archived comments for Act of Penance
    deepoceanfish2 on 2004-12-20 02:28:25
    Re: Act of Penance
    black-dove,

    Succinct and impacting; definitely a fine read and a fav for me.

    Regards,
    Adele

    Author's Reply:

    Leila on 2004-12-20 07:27:55
    Re: Act of Penance
    A very strong poem...very much like the opening two lines and your closing two are also great...you have kept this poem short and sharp and it makes an impact...L

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-20 10:06:45
    Re: Act of Penance
    Adele,
    You are always so supportive about my writing, all I can say is thank you.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-20 10:08:22
    Re: Act of Penance
    Thanks Leila,
    Yes, I think those lines are strongest. Its meant to hurt and for me it does.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Sunken on 2004-12-21 01:14:24
    Re: Act of Penance
    really like this. I'm sure it will hit home for many, especially at this god awful time of year. Very well written, full of emotion and really impacts. Top stuff.

    s
    u
    n
    k
    e
    n

    Author's Reply:

    woodbine on 2004-12-21 12:40:21
    Re: Act of Penance
    This poem is so filled with Christian imagery that I can imagine it being smuggled from sister to sister in a convent like a small piece of God's missing furniture. Not so much a prayer as a timeless lament for what has been broken and can't be replaced. Sorry if I'm wandering. It did make me think.
    All the best,
    John

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-22 06:38:15
    Re: Act of Penance
    Hello John,
    Glad to see you back.
    I have gone back to read the Bible and the lives of the saints, not from some overwhelming faith, but really as an appreciation of such a wonderful part of our literary heritage.
    It's as if we have thrown everything away over the last thirty years - the bad certainly, but also much of the good.
    It was really the life of Jesus that most of the imagery comes from in the poem.
    This was dedicated not one person, but lots of parts of people, relatives, children and even myself.
    There is indeed something to be said for the act of penance.
    All the best to you John and your family at Christmastime.
    Love Jemima x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-22 06:43:24
    Re: Act of Penance
    Thanks Sunk for your comments.
    It's not so God awful if all the commerical stuff is put aside.
    I really like Christmas but it gets a bit obscured by all the rush for things material.
    I hope you have a nice one!
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Hazy on 2004-12-23 07:47:47
    Re: Act of Penance
    There's nothing so painful as being hurt by another human being - especially if it's over another man/woman. It doesn't matter if you even had your doubts about the relationship, the act of betrayal or rejection by someone you love is pure torture.

    Anyway, I'm translating your poem to my own experience, as we tend to do with poetry!

    Words are so much worse than sticks and stones, so I dunno who came out with that!

    I think the middle stanza's my favourite, but it's a tuffy. Loved it all.

    Hazy x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-23 11:54:15
    Re: Act of Penance
    Hello Hazy,
    Thanks for your comments and rating.
    Yes, we all have our hidden guilts, and I think the feeling is universal, but often the time to say sorry is gone.
    So I suggest do it now, if you can before the opportunity is taken from you.
    Best Wishes to you from me and mine.
    Jemima X

    Author's Reply:


    Furst Fittin (posted on: 20-12-04)
    * In Scotland we have always celebrated New Year and the night before - Hogmanay - more than we do Christmas. This is a tale about the tradition of First Footing on New Year's Eve. I hope you can cope with the foreign language

                                                     Furst Fittin                                         (A New Year's Tale)      Nellie luked furitt tae Hogmanay an tae furst fittin her relations.       Even though she wis considered the black sheep o' the familie, this wis somehing she aiways did.      The purchase o a bottle fur Ne'erday wis a big event fur a familie survivin on the proceeds o Nell's 'ootbye' work on ferms. But she aiways managed tae fin the money somewho.      Houcking tatties, big mulls an thrawin turkeys necks an pluckin them in the rin up tae Christmas wis hoo she made whit money she could - on the side, no tae effect her broo money. An sometimes a bit less savoury work, foreby.     Bill, Nell's man, wasnae up tae workin ony mair, on accoont o his 'bad experiences' in the ermy thit hud afflicted him mair an mair as the years frae the war went by. In noo here he wis, wae nae war pension tae keep him or his familie, unlike some ithers, whaw hud din less durin the war, an hud gotten a helluva lot mair.      Still, Nell thocht, life hud tae be borne.      Veelige folks wid say he wis a shirker, bit Nell kent better, her whaw hud seen him hide an coory in a corner, whin'er thur wis a lood bang. Bit on this Nell hud her peace. Let them hink wit they liked, fur they'd hink it onyway, whether she defended him or no. As Nellie wid say,'wha disnae like the luk o' us, kin aye luk bye us', in that wis her motto fur aw the hings life hud tae throw in hur wae.      'An onyway', Nell wid say tae herself, 'enough o' this morosin, fur a hae the furst-fittin tae luk furrit tae.'      She couldnae dwell on unpleasant things fur lang.      An her ain familie couldnae bit mak her welcome et Hogmanay, although they wernae sae keen on her man - bit then he widnae be there. Aye, she wid save up her wages frae hur ootbye work, an pit a bit bye each week tae buy a gid bottle o whiskey, black bun, some shortbreed, in a new ootfit, (second-haun, o coorse) then she wid be set fur the furst-fittin.      Hogmanay cam an the wains wur aw excited, the big yins wantin tae gang wae thur mither. Bit Nell sed naw, that wisnae the done hing. An Bill didn't hod wae the furst-fittin in the hoos, owin tae his cundeeshun.      Nell built up the Ne'erday celebrations tae such a fever pitch in the hoose, thit it could niver leev up tae its name. The big lassies, Gracie an Nancy, wur let stey up, bit the wee yins hud tae be in thur bed, an only be alloed doon fur the bells.      O coorse the hoose hud tae be cleaned frae tap tae bottom. The dirt an stoor o the auld year couldnae be takin intae the next, itherwise thur wid be richt bad luck fur the family thit wis too lazy tae hae bothert.      A day lang Nell an the big lassies scrubbed, washt, cleant an mended. The hoose wis fair shinin.      Thur wis a muckle great Christmas tree, taken 'withoot its paper's' frae the Big Wid by Nell, ouer her shooder an up the lang mile frae the wid tae thur hoos, early in the mournin afore the fermer could stap her.      Mistletoe tae, hud been broucht up frae the wids an pit ouer the door fur the laddie, or man, daft enough tae step uner it an get caught in this hoos foo o' wemmin. Wreaths o holly wur festooned alang the brace an plenty o clugs o wid, piled up by the fire, thit wis kept roarin the hale day.      The time tae gang oot cam soon enough, an Nell made her plans fur furst-fittin, fae the tap o' the Craft, (the road oot the veellage) tae the bottom, whaur the veellage ended in the fields begun. O coorse thur wid be a veesit tae the minister, tae roond it aff wae. Bit then Nell thocht tae herself, a hud better gang there first, fur the minister wid hae a service in the mournin, Ne'erday being the Sabbath.      Aff she went, wae her string shoppin bag, in it her precious bottle, black bun an shortbreed. Dressed in an Astrakhan coat, wee pillbox hat tae match, (awe straucht frae Callan's salerooms), her high heels - on wheech she could hardly walk - her lipstick an a dab o' rouge on her cheeks.     Here Bill refrained frae his usual comment,          'Fur Christ sake wummin, wid you tak yon paint aff yer face – ye luk lik a bluidy cloown oot the circus!'      Efter aw, it wis the New Year. Sharely he could rise tae that an no be chastisin her fur weerin a wee bit o' colour on her cheeks?      Aff Nell tottered, a sicht tae see, doon the lang windin path past the graveyaird an up the road en' taewards the Manse.      This new minister, MacDunald, wisnae at aw like the last yin, him wae his English accent an stuck up string bean o' a wife. Naw, this yin could tak a joke an a dram wae the best o them an he wis weel liked fur it. And his wife tae, didnae pit on aw yon airs an graces lik the last yin hud.      An Nell, hud a couple o' sherries there.           On she went, tae Myra Hepburn's, Nell's niece wha hud a supervisor's job in the Johnny Walker factory in Kilmarnock, an a council hoos tae reflect her status, wae fitted carpets an wan o yon new-fangled washin machines an a telephone, wid you credit! An her niver hivin been marrit either! Weel it wis definitely chinged days whin a young wummin cud hae a' that an even a wee caur, intae the bargain, an nae man ahin her, payin fur it aw.      Still, Nell admired ony wummin wha could luk efter hersel' - ye never kent whin ye wid huv tae, in this life.      An Nellie hud a couple o' sherries there.      Next it wis Isobel's, Nell's ' posh' sister, her wae a man wha never hud a day aff his work in his life (in luked lik a wee whippet dug fur his troubles, feart tae say boo tae a goose in case Isobel heard aboot it an didnae approve).      Isobel was wan o' Nell's aulder sisters, an disapproved (through her thick glesses) o' the life Nell hud an hoo she hud tae scrimp jist tae survive. She tut-tutted the hale time Nell wis there aboot how pitify an thin Nell luked an the wey the wains wur aft dressed lik tinks. Then Isobel sed, jist tae rub it in,     'Wid ye no tak a luk oor Nell, hoo strappin ma twa boys ur?'     Et this Nell hud her tongue an refrained fae sayin thit she widnae hae cawed her nephews strappin - though mibe fat an creashy.      Bit then it wis Hogmanay an ye hud tae be a wee bit charitable.      An Nell hud a couple o' sherries there, wae a wee bit lemonade in it this time, jist tae lessen the alcohol, fur her heed wis sterting tae spin lik a peerie.      Et hame, hoors passed an the lassies heard the bells in wae their faither in the wains. The big lassies pit the wee yins back tae thur beds an hud thur wee glass o ginger wine, thit coated the backs o' thur throats wae a satisfyin burn tae it, thit let them ken they hud drunk somethin wae spirit in it.          Glesses in thur hunds, sippin, they leestened tae Andy Stewart in Moira Anderson, hoochin an choochin intae the smaw hours o' Ne'erday.      But there wis nae sign o' Nell.      The usual request cam.      ''You'll need tae go an fin yur mither lassies'', Bill luked et the twa o them, pleadin, fur he wouldnae, or couldnae, gang himsel. Gracie wasnae too keen on this idea - the streets wid be foo o' drunks, granted total dispensation fur the Ne'erday celebrations an God alane kent wit they wid be gettin up tae. Nancy, the younger sister et twelve an a hauf, wis rarin tae go an see aw the silly drunks an talk aboot them wanst the schule went back. ''Gang tae Isobel's furst lassies, maist o the Muller clan congregate there, yer mither's probably legless by noo, see if somebudy will no gae yees a haun hame wae her.'' Nell, wha rarely drank, an couldnae hud it, ended up lik this every year, wie her huvin tae be broucht hame bey somebody or ither.      Aff the lassies went, Gracie wae a sinkin hert, hopin hur mither didnae dae onyhing too embarrassin, an Nancy, her hert soarin, hopin she wid.                 They linked erms an walked oot intae the clear storry nicht o mid winter, the air wae a fine smell o frost, nippin et thur nostrils.      Thur wis gie scant licht, an nae moon tae see. They hud an auld torch thit the fermer hud geen Nell whin she needed tae go an roon up the kye fur him in the dork mournins. The batteries wur turnin white an acidy, bit it gied aff a wee bit licht fur whin the street lichts ended an the countryside begun.         They made thur wey, first tae thur Auntie Isobel's, expectin tae fin Nell there, fur that's usually whaur the pairtie aiways ended up - as weel as thur mither. They clung ticht tae wan anither, as they passed the Kirkyaird, passin yon auld Covenanters' tombstones, aw staunin, drunkenly array. Wae skulls an cross banes chiselled ontae them, lang neglected an over-grouwn wae mossy beards, it wis an eerie sicht tae see et ony time, niver mind in the middle o the nicht.      On passin, Nancy minded, their mither's best freend Mariah hud 'dun away wae hersel' through the drink, jist afore Christmas. It wis a sad case, too much drink hud driven her tae droon hersel in the filters an thur wis gie few tae mourn her passin.      Nancy minded Mariah, a kind soul, whae only ever hurt herself, naebudy else, bit hud helped her mither oot munys a time. She wis tae be buried on the day efter Ne'erday, as naebody wis ever buried ouer the celebrations, whin aw graves wur left dug ready fur the New Year's first burials, wae only wooden boards tae cover empty graves.      As they passed Nancy thoucht she heard a vice frae the graveyaird. 'Listen Gracie wit's yon?' Gracie quicken her step hurryin on by the cemetery. ''A niver heard onythin, oor Nancy, an wid ye stap tryin tae frichten me!'' she glowered et her younger sister. Nancy kent hoo terrified Gracie wis et the mention o' ghosts. Even Nancy wisnae keen tae tarry.      On they went, tae their Auntie Isobel's. Whin they eventually reached Isobel's door, they chapped it, worrit, fur neither wur great fans o' thur auntie. They heard music frae inside an stood, chitterin on the doorstep. Isobel hersel answered the door. She peered oot et them, silhouetted by the lichts frae the pairtie, still goin on inside.      'Och, its yous twa. Luckin fur yir mither nae doobt. Well, she's weel awa!', (this sed way a wee sleekit grin, admirin her ane wit). ''It must hae been mair thin twa hours since she went, an gie worse fur the weer she wis tae. Will oor Nell never learn tae control hersel at a' - probably lyin in sum sheugh, somewhar, a widnae be suprised.''      Nancy luked et her auntie in wundered if her mooth wis aiways yon shape - permanently turned doon - or hud years o bad-moothin folk made it droop? Isobel hud a wee mealy mooth thit lucked as if openin it wis a sair fecht, as if she micht let somehin belangin tae her escape if she did. ''Weel ye'll no dee worryin', Auntie Isobel, wull ye?'' Nancy retorted an then watched as the wee mean mooth folded up completely an disappeart ahint the front door wae a lood slam.      Obviously, they wid get nae help here.      The twa lassies turnt an made fur hame – mithereless.      Again they hud tae pass yon cauld Kirkyaird, eerie quiat in these early oors o Ne'erday mournin. Baith the lassies felt a shiver pass through them as they did. Gracie wis rabbittin on, tryin her hardest tae talk iver her ain fear, sayin, her mither wis aiways doing this et the furst-fittin an hoo she wid tell her aff wance she turnt up an did get hame.      ''Wheesht, Gracie, a heard yon noise again!'' Nancy gave a sideways glance et the graveyaird gates, thit jist et that meenit swung open wae a fearfu' creak as they wur goin by. Gracie hurried her step, bit Nancy caucht her sister's cerdigan erm an pullt it taewards her. ''Gracie, do ye no hear it?'' Nancy spat the words intae her sister's ear.     ''Somebudy's waling in the graveyaird!'' By this time Nancy wis clingin tae her sister's arm wae real force. Gracie wis ready tae mak a run fur it, bit Nancy gript her erm aw the harder...     ''Miybe somebudy's hurt Gracie, hud we no better go an see?'' Gracie luked et her wee sister as if she wur aff her heid. ''Am no goin in there, it micht be the ghost o wan o they auld Covenanter's, an they micht pit a curse on us - ye ken wit folk's say!''      Gracie wisnae quite as bricht as her sister, bit neither wis she as strang-wulled.      ''Ocht, wid ye hud yur wheesht, Gracie, fur Gidness sake, am tryin tae hear,'' Nancy moved closer tae the swingin gates o the kirkyaird, a vice-lik grip on Gracie's erm, stappin her frae boltin, as she dragged her aulder sister efter her.      ''Bull! Oh, Bull, am in here an a cannae get oot, help me!''      It wis a wummin's voice, emanatin, it seemed tae Nancy, frae uner the grun!          Feart, yit fascinated, she went through the Kirk gates, draggin her unweellin sister efter her.      ''Bull, Bull it's me, fur the luv o Gaud, wid ye come an get me!''           The vice wis gettin looder as the lassies approached the new grave, freshly dug, waitin till efter the New Year wis iver afore it received the body o thur mither's freend Mariah, tae full it.      The boards placed ouer the grave hud bin pulled aside an frae the dork space underneath, a vice cried oot, again.      ''Bull, Bull will ye no come an help me get oot o here!''      It wis Nell.      ''Mither, for the luv of Gaud, wit ur ye dayin down yonner?''     Nell, jist fouer fit ten in heicht, wis tryin tae sclimb up the shear sides o the grave an pull hersel oot, bit tae nae avail.      ''O, lassies thank gidness yu've fun me. A thocht I'd hiv tae stey here in this gloar til the Meenister came fur the mournin's service.''      The pillbox hat wis uner her chin, held on by a piece o thin elastic, her gid Astrakhan coat caked in mud, her lipstick an rouge smeared wi dirt an her high heel shin gone, intae the sheugh o muddy water thit hud gethered et the bottom o the open grave.     ''A wis only tryin tae hae a toast fur the New Year, wae pair Mariah, jist tae gie her a bit o'a send aff ouer the grave, bit some deils o' wains must hae pullt the boards aff the grave fur devilment, an a fell in.''      The lassies managed tae pull thur mither oot, atween fits o laughter et the sicht o her.      They aw walked hame thegither, Nell shinless, her stockins in tatters an gie unsteady on her feet, wae a lassie on each erm fur ballast, her heed suitably bowed in contrition wae jist the odd hiccup tae disturb the quiat o the Ne'erday dawn.      Whin they got hame, Bill wis waitin et the frint door. ''Fur gidness sake Nell, wid ye tak a luk et the state ur in, whaur hae ye been?''      Nell luked straucht intae her man's een an sed,      ''A wis furst fittin wae Mariah – et the graveyard, if ye must ken!''     As she sed this, she toppled iver an hud tae be held up by the lassies. Bill luked at his dochters, fur tae mak some sense oot o the hale affair. Bit nane wis forthcomin.     ''In whaurs yer bottle o' whiskey thit ye spent aw yon guid money on, Nell, nae doocht ye'll hae lost that, as weel as yur shin!''      ''Naw, Bill, a hivnae lost it, a left it, in yon grave, fur Mariah.      She's no hud a drink since she went et Christmas''.          Wae these words, Nell smiled, drunkenly et hur bamboozled man - thin swayed marochlous taewards the toilet, fur she wis beginnin tae feel richt queasy.                                                            *
    Archived comments for Furst Fittin
    zenbuddhist on 2004-12-20 08:51:33
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Foreign language?...nonsense! made perfect sense tae me anyways....it wis like listenin tae ane o ma grannies stories...luv it ..... Z

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-20 09:21:44
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Well its a foreign langauge to most!
    Thare are gie few ( I was going to say - and their aw deed!) actually writing and using Lallans.
    I just don't know if there is a market for stories in dialect...
    Still, thanks for the encouragement Zen.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-20 09:36:37
    Re: Furst Fittin
    I appreciate your effort, RD (especially when you are American into the bargain!)
    The problem is much like chewing gum - some of the flavour would be lost in translation.
    The best way is to hear dialect, rather than read it, but you would have to have an audio facility on line and I think poor Andrea and Richard are 'trouchled'
    enough without increasing their burden.
    But I think you may just about get the gist of it if you try again.
    By the way - don't shoot yourself, I'm waiting for you next story...
    Any words that perplex I would be happy to tell you what they mean.
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    richardwatt on 2004-12-20 10:19:48
    Re: Furst Fittin
    This morning I was in a jewellery outlet, looking at burrets(?)/earrings of some sort, for the significant other. I had to call it quits since I couldn't understand the difference between 'costume' and 'real'. Apparently the diff is to do with content and not looks, since both are virtually identical to the eye. The difference between lallans/tenement and spoken english is very much like this, yet it is hard to communicate the meanings for things on the page. The sheer number of possible meanings per context for 'aw' make dialect impractical for text (cf. Welsh), but you make a good attempt here. Reminds me of the warm feeling I'd get when unwrapping the Broons annual at Xmas time!

    rick x


    in a new ootfit, (second-haun, o coorse) - what a cracking line.

    Author's Reply:

    deepoceanfish2 on 2004-12-20 10:40:11
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Jemima,

    This was brill! I have the same issues when I write in Yorkshire dialect and have had to supply Standard English versions for those who couldn't read it, and sometimes, this simply can't convey the original feeling. This was a definitely a Great Read and deserving of it and a fav read for me.

    Regards,
    Adele 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-20 10:54:40
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Rick,
    Just to let you know I still get the Broons from my big sister every year. Oor Wullie was my hero when I was wee - he personified my favourite type of Scottish anarchy.
    Jemima x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-20 11:15:54
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Hi Adele,
    This is starting to sound like the mutual appreciation society... just joking.
    I have just read Woodbine's Mad Pencil and can't stop laughing.... do you think I could ask for one from Santa?
    Nice to see him still hit the heights.
    Best wishes - and I'm getting all Christmassy now, so to hell with shopping, I'll just sit here and cheer myself up instead.
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    Leila on 2004-12-20 13:21:41
    Re: Furst Fittin
    This is a little Christmas cracker, loved the bit about the ginger wine and also the whiskey, black bun and shortbread...Happy Hogmanay from a Broons and Oor Wullie bairn...L

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-21 08:55:21
    Re: Furst Fittin
    And a Merry Christmas to you Leila.

    Daphne Broon x


    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-21 08:55:28
    Re: Furst Fittin
    And a Merry Christmas to you Leila.

    Daphne Broon x


    Author's Reply:

    sirat on 2004-12-22 06:56:33
    Re: Furst Fittin
    I was brought up in Northern Ireland where a very similar dialect is spoken, and I have an Uncle and Aunt in Edinburgh so have visited Scotland quite a lot too, and I thought you went a bit over the top with the "foreignness" here and produced something that was uncomforable to read. I think you could produce the feel of the Scottisn accent with far fewer non-standard spellings, as Ewan McGregor, Irvine Welsh, Ed Bruce and our own Laura Hird have done in their dialect pieces. In many instances I was not convinced that you had actually "got it right" either. The word "fittin" in the title, for example, sounds more like "futtin" to my ear. My feeling was that the non-standard spelling was being introduced for the sake of it a lot of the time, and wasn't performing any useful function. It drew my attention away from what was being said, and merely became a barrier to my enjoyment. Sorry if this sounds negative but I like to tell it as I see it. The way I would love to have this story is as a voice file, narrated in the dialect, so that I could "tune in" to the dialect aspect and get past that to enjoy the story as well.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-22 07:58:36
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Hello David,
    Yes, it is hard to read it, but it is certainly not put on, the words are as they sound.
    I take expection to when you say that I haven't 'got it right'.
    I was born in Ayrshire in a small mining village four miles from where Robert Burns was born and where he wrote 'Death and Dr. Hornbrook' at Wullies Mill the farm where he lived with Jean Armour.
    I was brought up with his writing and own prizes for reciting his poems. I know this is exactly how it was and still is spoken.
    Perhaps it is thicker than most writers use as their Scottish is more the flavour, adapted for a wider audience. But in many parts of rural Scotland people do talk like this.
    I also take exception to your comment that it was added just for the sake of making it more Scottish, like wrapping it in tartan and haggis.
    I have had another one of my stories in Lallans in the Chapman magazine in Scottish dialect. It might seem heavy, but it is authentic.
    And yes, it is so much better hearing it, than reading it cold off a page, but as that facility is not on the site how about I send you a voice tape with it on if you like? Them you can tell me its not genuine.
    Let me know.
    Jemima



    Author's Reply:

    zenbuddhist on 2004-12-22 09:24:53
    Re: Furst Fittin
    oh an here wis me thinkin ye were goin tae say "our own zen" haha never mind ...in scotland there`s loads of stories written in dialect...from neil m gunn [highland] to hird [edinburgh] or jimmy kellman [weegie] thing is we dont all speak [or even sound] the same ....the venacular in this is coorse but fitting...as it should be ..Z

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-22 09:59:07
    Re: Furst Fittin
    An there speaks the voice of a true Scotsman - wae NAE knickers unner his kilt!
    Here's tae us!
    Luv Jem x



    Author's Reply:

    sirat on 2004-12-22 18:35:51
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Okay, here is a serious offer. If you can provide a cassette or CD of yourself reading it in the proper dialect I can make it available on UKAuthors by means of a clickable link. I have a number of MP3 readings on my own site and am quite familiar with the technical side. I will be happy to give you my snail mail address in a PM. I think it's a great idea and we should give it a go.


    Author's Reply:

    Zydha on 2004-12-22 22:10:36
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Thanks for a lovely indulgance in nostalgia, BD, I was born in Edinbugh, but have been gone a very long time, but you took me right back to 'mony a ne'rday wi awe yer talk' and back to reading Rabbie for English Lit! lol.

    Enjoyed this very much, best wishes for both christmas and hogmaney, Zydha

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-23 11:41:13
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Hello David,
    I am ahead of you there, I can send it by a voice attachment, but you will need the software capable of reading it.
    I intend to send one to RadioDenver too, if his computer has the software.
    My computer man is coming tonight. I can send it then by an email attachment, or if you like by tape or CD, but the attachment is quickest.
    So I accept your challenge. You're on.

    But I also think it is a good idea to have an audio facility on the site. Only I don't want to burden Andrea and Richard, when they already work so hard at providing such an excellent site.

    Have a great Christmas, my present will be on its way shortly....
    Best wishes to all your family
    from Jemima and family, up in chilly Edinburgh,
    I'm hoping for snow. xx

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-23 11:45:40
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Hello Zydha,
    I'm working at New Year but intend to go to a party afterwards.
    Still Hogmanay is not like t used to be...
    Thanks for your comments and I'm glad it brought back memories.

    Best wishes to you at Christmas and the New Year!
    Don't have too many sherries...
    Jemima X

    Author's Reply:

    sirat on 2004-12-23 12:32:18
    Re: Furst Fittin
    Great, Jemima, I'll look forward to receiving the attachment. I can read and convert almost all audio formats, I think.
    I don't mind providing sound facilities occasionally beacuse I'm only using about a tenth of my space allocation on my server, but of course if I did it a lot space would eventually run out. Maybe when we get the idea established others will offer space as well. We could have Hen and Pully singing songs and playing the guitar before we know it.
    My e-mail address is:
    Sirat


    Author's Reply:


    An Ann Summers' Virgin (posted on: 13-12-04)
    Sorry, to Tai et al, I was attending my wee-est daughter's Christmas play last night (Thursday) so couldn't take part in the on-line Ann Summers fundraiser.
    But this was inspired by a visit to one of the shop's and observing a certain gentleman who was obviously a first-timer there...

    An Ann Summers' Virgin Seductive wafts of scent target erogenous zones, arousing desire. Images of impossible stilettos conjuring visions of domination. With abundant breasts, uncontainable as ripe fruit, spilling out, full-bodied. The whipped cream of pale pink skin escaping in billows. Delicious dimples indent on the curve of supine spine, Offering a glimpse of smooth flesh hidden within that heaven of desire; between suspender and stocking top, Making him recall chocolate éclairs, such a confection of fresh fancies. Excrutiating temptation beckons, luring him behind a lush velvet curtain of the Ann Summer's back shop and further forbidden delights.
    Archived comments for An Ann Summers' Virgin
    Kat on 2004-12-16 06:50:37
    Re: An Ann Summers' Virgin
    Well done with this - a titillating piece!

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:


    Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste (posted on: 10-12-04)
    Haven't submitted anything for ages. So this was my first poem for the poetry workshop and the subject - a moment in time...

    Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste The shutters' rigid wings unfold onto the world then back upon themselves like former lives as sunlight's ushered in. Artists on Montmartre paint portraits in brush strokes, while he, from his window draws his likenesses with words in captured moments. Lovers, mirror-eyes only for each another, see no-one but themselves, feel no pull of atmosphere no gravity to draw them in; their love lives inside a snow globe. They can't hear the bells; he does and sighs regret, his drink drunk cold with ice and with jaded eyes looks on unseen. Once more the bells of Sacre Coeur strike time. He heeds their call, turns back to re-close shutters on a world of heedless lovers.
    Archived comments for Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Emerald on 2004-12-10 03:31:40
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Hi black dove, I thought this wonderful, you captured the atmosphere of the subject so well. Special favourite


    They can’t hear the bells;
    he does and sighs
    regret, a drink
    drunk cold with ice,
    his jaded eye
    looks on unseen.

    Emma:-)

    Author's Reply:

    Zydha on 2004-12-10 06:05:12
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Beautifully atmospheric, Black Dove, I know this area well and you brought it to life so well with your words.

    I like, Emma, love that stanza, but I also like how you 'closed' it. Zydha

    Author's Reply:

    dylan on 2004-12-10 17:15:43
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Hi Jemima,
    Liked lots of this.Very atmospheric.
    Perhaps tis moi, (being old(ish) and a pain in the arse) but I found it slightly wordy.
    For example,the first stanza I would change to the following-
    The shutters’ rigid wings
    unfold the world.
    Then back
    like former lives
    into sunlight .

    Next verse-
    Lovers,
    see no-one but themselves,
    no gravity draws them in.
    Their love lives
    inside a snow globe.

    Please don`t get me wrong. I liked the poem and obviously I`m suggesting a rewrite which may not be to your own taste. Only suggestions, mon petit dejuner.
    XXX
    D.






    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-11 06:28:16
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Thanks Emma,
    Thanks for your lovely comment and rating.
    I am really getting a lot out of the poetry workshops. I remembered that square in Montmartre from when I was 18 or19, its amazing how your memory can hold things so fresh for so many years.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-12-11 06:44:10
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Hi Zydha,
    Thank you so much for your generous comment and rating.
    On another topic -
    I just read your 'Just Another Saturday Night', a great read, but frightened the life out of me, as my middle daughter is just at the age where these things can happen. Her friend who is 14, only a couple of weeks ago was rushed by ambulance from an under 16 disco to hospital because she had collapsed ,drinking too much and had to get her stomach pumped.
    Its all these bloody alchopops the drinks companies are selling. Of course its aimed at under-age drinking. And their making millions from them.
    But its like putting drugs in babies milk as far as I'm concerned.
    At least when I was that age, drink tasted horrible and you had to really force yourself to drink anything, it made it lot more difficult to get drunk.
    Its social irresponsibility by these big companies and that won't be the ones to reap the consequences. And all the advertising schpeel making girls try and act like boys, in behaviour and attitudes. But you don't see young boys standing around in the streets half-naked.
    Sorry, I got side tracked there, but I really find it so cynical of these men in suits, knowing exactly what they are doing and who they are aiming for.
    Off my high horse now!
    And thanks again from your thoughts, greatly appreciated


    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2004-12-11 08:00:28
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    I remember this from the workshop black-dove, it is as beautiful now as it was then. The poet in his cold tower observing and recording the lovers. I love the imagery.

    First class, poetry workship that! not that you need it.

    All the best

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    richardwatt on 2004-12-11 18:09:16
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    As a workshop poem, this is quite well put together, and I would not suggest any changes (these things are always based on one particular impression and point in time). I enjoy poems about church-yards, bell towers and so on, so I could not let this one slide. A couple of years ago I got talking to a foundry enthusiast, as you do: he told me lots about bandings on bells in the Renaissance; how the timbre of pig-iron changed the pitch of Victorian English carol singing. As someone who collects marginal information, I get interested in those little asides to Montmarte, where St. Ignatius visited, and where the heaviest bell of the 19th century rests.

    An excellent workshop pursuit, bd
    rick x

    Author's Reply:

    appleblossom on 2004-12-14 17:50:32
    Re: Les Amours dans la Place d'Artiste
    Jemima, you've set the mood and tone for this poem exquisitely. I have hit a brick wall when it comes to writing poetry, so I'm reading everyone else's. Now I want to go to France for some inspiration!! I really enjoyed it and I look forward to reading more from you.

    Apple

    Author's Reply:


    Rosie (posted on: 08-11-04)
    Are our bottle's half empty or half full? There are relationships in life that can fill our cup (or bottle).

    Rosie The day starts the wrong shape, ragged, jarring, late. Faces annoy, expressions grate on skin, uncomfortable in a body, with a life I don't want to live in. Customers rankle, voices irritate, insects buzzing I'm tempted to swat, people on the phone babbling, trying to sell me something I don't want. While the hours scurry past, teasing, evading, forever uncaught. Impatient, ill-natured, leaving decisions unmade, I look all around, desperate for an escape, till I catch on a wall, an old rag-nailed photo wearing an unbidden grin given free, with no gain or no side. It's my youngest daughter's face that looks back at me, turning everything round, making me look at myself, to show me my bottle's not empty for Rosie fills it, with her smile.
    Archived comments for Rosie
    Emerald on 2004-11-08 06:52:59
    Re: Rosie
    Hi black-dove, lovely poem, in a world of irritations, its nice to have a childs smile.

    Emma:)

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2004-11-09 00:06:57
    Re: Rosie
    I enjoyed this!

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 09:43:48
    Re: Rosie
    She's away for three weeks in the Philippines and I miss her more than I miss her dad! I have her older sisters here but its not the same..
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 09:45:17
    Re: Rosie
    A bit soppy but she's my sweetie!
    Thanks Kat
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-11-10 14:54:39
    Re: Rosie
    A good depiction of the stresses of modern living. A nice turn around at the end. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    eddiesolo on 2004-11-14 07:12:19
    Re: Rosie
    I enjoyed this.

    Si:-)

    Author's Reply:


    Broken Mirrors (posted on: 08-11-04)
    First chapter of Broken Mirrors - a novel.
    Jemima

         The door bell rang.      Connie hurried to open it as she got her coat on, ready to go out. She gave an annoyed sigh. Probably the Jehovah's Witnesses, but then it wasn't Sunday. Well, some other time-wasters and she didn't have time to waste.      Through the frosted glass door of her sixties council flat she could make out the outline of someone; female, tall, young.      Who could it be, Connie wondered? She was long past social workers, her life had steadied now. After long years of careening out of control, she had a steady job as a home-help, as well as a couple of homers she'd picked up from her main job, shopping and cleaning for some old dears.      No, those days of fearing someone at the door had gone.      Ryan too had been out of trouble for a while now. He'd just gone a bit wild in his teens. No man there to straighten him out, that was all. Somehow, after not a few false starts, he'd managed to pull himself up, by his own effort and was now at Uni studying computers. He managed to hold down a weekend job as well and had stopped the binging every weekend with his so-called friends from the estate. He'd even bought a car.      Their lives were as normal as ever they'd been in the long years since Connie had left Ryan's father.     So who could this be? Connie opened the door a slit, holding the lock firmly between her fingers, looking out in apprehension, just in case of ....she didn't really know what, but just in case...           A very well-dressed woman in her early twenties stood in front of her.      'Yes, can I help you?'     Connie stared at a good-looking young girl. Pretty enough to be a model, or on the TV. Was she selling something, or was she one of those students doing market research? Connie hoped not, she wanted to get to the bingo by seven.      'Are you Connie Jack?'      The girl said this in a well-spoken English accent, a sort of disbelief colouring the edged of her voice and strangley, Connie noticed, while she watched her a look of almost dread on her pretty face.      Connie's heart sank, her mind was racing. What was this girl here for? Was it some debt Connie hadn't managed to pay? She couldn't remember any, but the council might still be chasing her for the poll tax from years ago, they never seemed to give up. She'd always had that dread. They'd get her for something from the time she'd been on the bottle, but that had been more than ten years ago now.      Or had Ryan gotten into trouble again? She'd thought all that was in the past. 'Yes, I am, what is it you want,' Connie gave the girl a hostile glance.     The change the words created on the girl's face made Connie panic, thinking the girl was going to collapse right there on her doorstep. All colour had drained from her, she started to sway, as if in a trance. Connie took the girl's arm and led her into her sitting room, thinking all the while, I don't want to get involved in anything. She felt trapped in a situation not of her making.      Or maybe the girl was some loony; you got them from time to time, coming to the door. Yet she seemed too well-turned out to be from one of those religious sects, and too well-fed too, Connie noticed. Perhaps this girl was pregnant and here to blame Ryan; he was a good-looking lad and had plenty girls after him.           Connie decided to play dumb until she found out what it was the girl was after. She looked around her tidy living-room, the new three piece suite she'd just managed to buy, the fresh décor, the new carpet. She didn't what this female throwing up all over that. Connie desperately wished Ryan was here now for a bit of support. She was at a loss as what to do. The whole time as Connie's mind raced, the girl had never taken her eyes of her for a second. Connie started to think she might be a crazy and was frantically trying to think of a way to get her out of her house when the young woman said,      'I'm Angela'.      The name fell like a dumb weight, to land hard on Connie's chest. She could hear her own voice, repeating the name back at her. Connie fought to breathe, the room drew in on her, she felt panic rising in her throat. She couldn't move, the girl's grey-green eyes followed her every thought, every action, pinning her.     Connie attempted to speak, but her words were caught, frozen lumps in her throat, blocking all air. She couldn't manage to make a sound.     Again, the girl repeated the name like some dreadful incantation. Connie slumped backwards, feeling for the sofa, falling heavily into the seat beside the girl.     'Connie, I'm Angela', those eyes clung to Connie's. Limpets fastening to a rock, refusing to let go. A cold sweat swept over Connie, making her nauseous. The veins in her forehead throbbed, the insides of her head feeling too large for her skull, wanting to escape its confines. Her blood pressure was up she knew, she needed to take one of her tablets.      Connie somehow managed to get herself out of the deep sofa, waving away an awkward offer of help rom the girl and make towards the wooden mantle of ht fireplace reaching, not for her pills but for a packet of cigarettes. Sonnie desperaley needed to smoke. She took one out, fumbling unsteadily, eventually managing to light it.      She took a long drag and felt the pain in her head dull, though it stayed in the background. It wasn't going away.     'How did you find me? I told the agency not to release my details',      Connie stared at the girl's face, taking in all the features, all the things she hadn't noticed before.      The expression on the girl's face wasn't pleasant to see, it was as if she had trapped a quarry and was deciding what to do with it.      These were the thoughts circling in Connie's throbbing head. She felt trapped inside this small room, imprisoned by this young woman's stare.      'Yes, I know that, but I forced my mother to tell me all she knew. I traced you from there.' Connie saw the distaste in the girl's young face.      'I made up my mind to find you without them and I did.'      Connie had quickly recovered herself.      She was on the defensive now, knowing the girl had found her. They looked at each other. Animals circling, waiting to see who would attack first. The question which was now on Connie's lips was, what did she want? br>     'I thought you might be glad to see me. Stupid thought wasn't it?' The girl almost spat the words at Connie, still fixing her with her eyes, not allowing any escape.      So Connie asked the only question for her there would ever be. 'What do you want from me?'     'For fuck's sake, you're supposed to be my mother aren't you?'     This came out in a choked scream. It sounded almost funny, escaping from those full, expensively lip-sticked, red lips, in that polite, clipped accent. Connie almost laughed with the absurdity of it all.      Instead she cried.           She cried for Angela her baby daughter, not this well-dressed stranger sitting on her sofa. She cried for herself, having to give her up. She cried for the man's life she felt she had destroyed. For her son, who never saw his father and who had had to live through her years of drunken binges and self-destructive rages.      Connie cried for all the broken lives she was responsible for.     In life they said if you break a mirror you'll have seven years bad luck. How many mirrors must she, Connie have broken in her life?      But what they didn't tell you was that all those pieces, all that shattered glass, cut other people too. No matter how well you swept it up, how carefully. Those tiny shards could hide in the dust of our daily lives, lacerating other for years.     'You don't know anything about it, do you? Do you ever think there has been one day I didn't remember I was your mother!'     Connie heard her own voice shrill, hysterical, the way she used to sound when she was on the drink.      She looked at this beautiful woman, this stranger and wanted to hold the baby she had once been. To take that baby in her arms, tell her the things this person didn't know. That she had been the best of babies, the sweetest, the prettiest, the least complaining.      And that she couldn't keep her. 'You were married, why did you have to give me up?'          Those large accusing eyes held on to Connie's like a drowning man, pulling her under. Connie felt the weariness of twenty-three years of carrying her guilt like some monstrous growth, the weight of which was finally bringing her down.           Did she really have the strength to tell the whole sordid story? After all this time? It had been so many years since she had even mentioned the whole episode and only to her younger sister Jen, the only one in her family who had stood by her. Ryan knew nothing about Angela. Why bring it up now like bile to burn with its return?      Connie looked at the girl's face. It had obviously taken a lot of guts to come here. She looked as if she'd never set foot on a council estate in her life. Yet there was also an underling defiance as if to say, 'You owe me that much.'      Yes, Connie supposed she did.      She had imagined this moment many times over the long years since she had given Angela away. But not like this, gentler, less of a shock. Less brutal.     Yet here it was.          
    Archived comments for Broken Mirrors
    zenbuddhist on 2004-11-09 08:39:23
    Re: Broken Mirrors
    Well that was a LOT of information.....no slow subtle realisation here then eh?....I was going to say it reads like an East Ender`s eposode....and it does so I will..."it reads like a......." Good start....cheersZ

    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2004-11-09 09:13:12
    Re: Broken Mirrors
    A gripping first chapter indeed. Should be a best seller, the subject matter is very close to my heart. So if you need answers in research, just ask. I have been on and seen all sides and consequences.

    Well presented.

    Best of luck.

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 05:29:33
    Re: Broken Mirrors
    Well Zen,
    Yes, it does get in there!
    I will post the 2nd Chapter next week and let me know what you think...Hope I don't lose the place the way they seem to be doing in East Enders at the minute though...
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 05:41:37
    Re: Broken Mirrors
    Hello Tai,
    They say you should write 100,000 words (or a first novel) because you should get it out your system.
    Then the next 100,000 (or your second novel) will be publishable.
    So I'll try that. I've decided just go for it, even if it is shite I'll have done it.
    And thanks for your offer for the research, I'll PM you about that actually, later today if that's okay?
    Jemima x

    Author's Reply:

    uppercase on 2004-11-11 13:50:51
    Re: Broken Mirrors
    Very nice I like this first chapter, looking forward to chapter two....Erma

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-13 08:56:31
    Re: Broken Mirrors
    Hi Erma,
    I do think you'd been very kind with your rating.
    Its not great literature, but there is a good story in there somewhere, even if I don't do it justice. Part is true, and part of it 'what if'.
    Anyway I need to write it and get it out my system whether it ever gets as far as a publisher or not well who knows, I don't know if it is good enough.
    And what about you?
    Hasn't a publisher approached you yet? Have you sent your stories to an agent? They are definitely good enough.Let me know if you are in print yet.
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    Song of the Golden Miles (posted on: 01-11-04)
    How many of us can still hear the music?

    Song of the Golden Miles Over-taking, more for sport than pace, you drive colour-blind, while the season's hues mix in a palette of speed to turn a hundred shades of burnished gold. Place names fly past with packaged-toured Americans, echoing of Babel. I watch them in panoramic blur, as we rush in fast-forward, to reach our destination. Outside, black rocks stand sentry to gentler hills of bronze. Autumn trees, dressed in finest Joseph coats for the year's last fling, put on a dumb show for the blind. You turn up the radio, loud, metallic noise, to fill the frequent empty spaces that grow between us, to replace the melody we've lost the voice to sing. Lyrics we've forgotten how to phrase, telling the glory of the moment, a soundtrack to life's passion, the knowledge we are here; but those lands around our hearing are now a silent place. Yet sometimes, in poignant whisper, I'll catch a fragment still, siren-calling, down the days; if you would only slow down, just take the time, you'd see, it's the journey that's for living, the rest's the scenery.
    Archived comments for Song of the Golden Miles
    Elfstone on 2004-11-01 14:57:45
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    I like the atmosphere in this black-dove. I sense an underlying sadness and resignation. Some nice images here. If I may offer one suggestion: have a look at the 3rd line of the second verse (and packaged-toured Americans). It is a bumpy line, difficult to read out loud. I understand what you are saying, but I think there might be a better way to say it. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-02 07:48:08
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    Hi Elfstone,
    I appreciate your comments and yes, that phrase is awkward when you read it aloud.
    Do you have any suggestions? - I have tried lots and they don't fit.
    I know what I'm trying to say, about all those relentless tour buses of Americans who only know where they are if the guide tells them what day it is on their itinerary.
    But I suppose that is why we write poetry to put these ideas into distilled drops.
    I also think the poem has two parts.
    The dry, almost sarcastic tone of the first 4 stanzas, then the wistful, last two.
    I did that to contrast between 'the now' and 'the then', but does that work?
    I need to get on to one of the forums for poetry I think, for me to go further with it. There is one on this site isn't there? Are you on it?
    Ratings and nice comments are great, but to advance we need more in-depth criticism.
    I am not sure if this one is finished or is there something not quite crystallized here?
    What do you think?
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-11-02 13:04:20
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    Jemima - just dipped in for a brief recce., so will chew over your problems and get back to you.

    Yes there is a critique section in forums - just click on forums at the top and then on UKADiscussion/critique group. Forums are well worth exploring - some interesting, informative and, at times, very funny conversations. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2004-11-02 19:23:04
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    I love this poem and I entirely agree, it is the journey that is worth taking the time to enjoy and really see.

    Great poem

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2004-11-06 09:27:15
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    Really enjoyed this poem and the wonderful sentiment. Could I suggest 'package tour whores?'

    All the best,

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-07 05:49:55
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    You made me laugh with this!
    Then I realised the context in which you meant it. I suppose they are, only aren't they paying for the privilege of being there, as well as being easy game?
    I'll try it - when I stop laughing...
    Thanks Kat ;))

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-07 06:10:58
    Re: Song of the Golden Miles
    I think I had a bad case of PMTs when I wrote this. Or perhaps its all men in general who think the whole point of going somewhere is to reach there as fast and furisously as possible and ignore all the bits in between?
    and that usually applies to everything...
    to paraphrase Kipling... Men are men and women are women ... and never the twain shall meet...
    Thanks for the rating Tai,
    Jemima 🙂

    Author's Reply:


    Girls' Big Night Out (posted on: 22-10-04)
    Hopefully, there should be room in this world for all hues of sexuality,
    for aren't we all Jock Tamson's Bairns? Just a bit of fun.

    Girls' Big Night Out     Jennifer walked into the bar.     Stopped, hesitating; Gill had said eight – hadn't she?     God all those eyes. Women's eyes. Seeing. Knowing. Judging. Weighing her up.      How had she talked herself into this?      She cast her eyes around the smoke-filled bar, taking in its assortment of humanity. Why was it so many gay women seemed to be bus drivers or traffic wardens? They obviously liked the uniforms. Of course there were a few more good looking women dotted about, already with partners, but the unattached ones looked large and frightening. Jennifer knew the hard drinking, hard-living reputation many of the women she had met through her friend Gill, had. The choice tonight seemed to be, butch, severely hair-cutted and square shaped. The few gay men who were in the bar definitely had the advantage in looks.      She wasn't even sure she was interested in a relationship with a woman. Off men these days, certainly, but then who could blame her, considering her experience with Trevor. But gay? A holiday fling, filled with sun, sangria and flamenco dancing was a long chock from walking solo into one of the best know gay bars in the city as if she were on the pull. Over-studying her watch, she fidgeted with her bag, her hair, trying to catch her erratic thoughts, contain them, stop them flying in all directions but mainly out the door she had just came in, while hoping to appear laid back at the same time. Quite a feat with her heart racing like an athlete's at altitude.     The heat from a voice being spoken at her back sent a current like a hot poker coursing up Jennifer's spine. The sensation the voice caused rose from the small of her back to her hairline, making Jennifer shudder, though she had to admit not in an unpleasant way. The voice, a low Finela Fields impersonation had been the cause of her excitement. Jennifer remembered this voice from old Carry On films watched with her mother in her childhood     The one that implied, if sex had a voice, this was it.     Jennifer turned to take in the sight before her, a Saturday night cat women on the make. Black haired, this Amazon stood well over six feet in her high heels, dressed in leather from head to toe, hair that looked too black to be true. Skin a warm colour of coffee from more than one race and large cat-like grey-green eyes, which Jennifer now found disturbingly familiar.     Had she met this woman before?     Then that voice again, 'Want a drink, sweetie?'     Taken aback, Jennifer stumbled over words like some village idiot, replying, 'I'm, I'm waiting for someone actually, but thanks anyway.'      Those sensual feline eyes narrowed as Catwoman moved her weight from one stilettoed heel to the other and Jennifer could have sworn she saw her sashay her rear, like a cat making ready to pounce. There again was that addictively honey-toned voice, the deep seductive laugh, as she said, 'Never heard of ménage a trois, darling.' while she arched a beautifully shaped eyebrow.      That said it all.      Jennifer knew she was way out of her league. Her brain raced, trying to think of a decent reply.      Instead she blurted out, 'But I'm not really gay, I mean, I've only ever had a fling, really. I've been married to a man for most of my life.'      What was she saying, God she hated herself, she was behaving like a tongue-tied twat. Finela, purred deliciously and gave Jennifer a false eye-lashed wink relying with a huge white-toothed smile, as though she might bite answering,      'Shoot, neither am I, but we shouldn't let that stop us, why don't we just have a drink and see if your date turns up and if not, well who knows? I totally believe in serendipity – don't you?'      It was now quarter past eight and still no sign of Gill. Sod it - why not go for it? Gill was making a habit of being unreliable. This wasn't the first time she'd let her Jennifer down. Perhaps a better offer had appeared.      Jennifer felt she had lived by the book for so long she could recite it: when would she ever do something on impulse in her life? She'd managed to get herself into the bar on her own, so why not take up this gorgeous woman's offer? What had she to lose?     'Yes, yes I do, absolutely, I mean, I believe in serendipity....' she heard herself answer, in a voice much lighter than usual, sounding strange, almost girlish to her own ears. 'And yes, I would love a drink, why not?' she said this, smiling directly towards her new escort.      Bugger it, Jennifer thought, she might never get such a chance again.      It was karma, that was it exactly.      Gill hadn't turned up and now she had a better offer. Perhaps it was meant. Who knew where it might lead? A door had just opened in front of her, a new avenue Jennifer never thought she'd traverse. Just step through girl, she thought to herself.     Finela, (Jennifer really needed to find out her new friend's name) strode ahead of her towards the bar. This lady had presence, knew how to get noticed. She easily caught the barman's eye, towering above the other customers. She hadn't asked Jennifer what she wanted, but ordered two cocktails with some fancy name.     A bit presumptive, but Jennifer quite liked that. No pussy-footing around for this one. It was quite erotic too, she felt quite titillated by the power of this new …. New what, conquest? Jennifer realised it was most definitely the other way round.     She was the one who had been picked up.     Still it was thrilling. And it had been a long time since she had felt this way. Jennifer looked around, there was no one in the crowded bar who could come anywhere near the looks or presence of her new lady friend. But why had she picked Jennifer? Well, she had to admit she wasn't bad for her age, managing to keep in shape, no joiner's bag of nails hanging round her belly like some. Firm arse, figure good, if a bit much of it, but at least she still had one.     She caught her own reflection in one of the huge mirrors on the nightclub's walls, not true light, but more flattering for that. Yes, not bad for pushing forty. She been feeling more confident, good about herself since her holiday with Gill, after she had finally split with Trevor.     Trevor, that sad sod of a husband she'd wasted nearly twenty years on.     When had she realised it wasn't working?      If she were being truthful, probably after the first few years, but then there had been the kids, one when she was just seventeen the other two years later.      She didn't know what else she could do but be a mother and a home-maker. What reason did she have to leave then?     Being dissatisfied alone wasn't a good enough reason to leave a marriage; otherwise the divorce rate would be spiralling even more out of control. Trevor wasn't difficult or too demanding either. So she'd stayed, brought up the kids and went through the motions of being a wife and she in the early years Jennifer really thought she loved him – only she'd grown out of the person she had been when they married, so she went back to college and threw herself into a career, trying to find some solace there.     Jennifer tried to remember the first time she had realised her husband was being unfaithful. When she became sure she felt hurt and angry, but thinking back, was it a real betrayal? Could you call it that? They had already grown apart. She couldn't really call it an emotional betrayal.      Trevor, she'd found out, was going to saunas perhaps once or twice a week. But it was more like attending the gym for a work out, that anything that could be labelled an affair. To men anyway, they simply saw it differently. It wasn't infidelity, just a physical need. Like a visit to the doctors, keeping everything in check. But Trevor poor soul, was so totally not switched on, he never realised she'd guessed anything.      Men could be so unseeing.      Well, that was until the day she parked outside the particular sauna he was in the habit of frequenting, waiting for him to come out. She watched as he came up the steps puffing a bit. Jennifer noticed he was putting on a bit of weigh, his features starting to coarsened.     His complexion was slightly flushed as well, but in a strange way Jennifer thought it suited him. She watched him labour slowly uphill towards his own parked car. She then observed him take out his mobile from his pocket and dial; she heard her own phone ring in her handbag, lying on the passenger seat beside her.      She'd took it out, answering, 'Hello Trevor, where are you?'      He told her he was on his way home from the gym.      While she supposed it was a type of exercise for him, she did ask him if he had enjoyed it. He'd answered, slightly puzzled, well it had been a bit strenuous actually and he was feeling rather tired now and where was she?     She laughed then, saying she bet it was, and she hoped he hadn't exerted himself too much, as didn't he recall it was their anniversary and he'd promised her a night to remember?      Wicked, she'd been.      She then told him to look behind him as she had a surprise for him.      The only thing she thought she'd have liked to keep from that experience was a picture of the expression on Trevor's face at the moment he realised he'd caught himself in his own flies. Still she could easily call up the memory in her minds eye when she started to feel sorry for him.     The thing that did hurt her was how he had gone for those minuscule-hipped, tight arsed, flat or plastic busted pros, when he had her to go home to.     Well she had heard the expression you can get tired of fried chicken every night, but there was nothing on these females, no womanly shape.      Not a bloody picking, while she on the other hand had fine large voluptuous breasts which he had taken to neglecting over the years.           What made it worse for Jennifer was that she felt there were just at there best as well, like fruit at their sweetest, just before they over-ripen. How much longer would they be like that, before they and she were passed their best? This she felt insulted her. It greatly annoyed her too; he had deprived her for years of the chance to offer herself to somebody else, who could have enjoyed them and her. And she, the silly cow she was, had never been unfaithful to him.     This upset her most, because all she could think of now was - what a waste.           She did wonder if Trevor might not be a latent homosexual, always going for women with such boyish hips. Who could tell the predilections of his orders to the girls in those saunas? Perhaps he couldn't quite come out and admit it, even to himself and this was as close as he felt safe to go.      She'd asked a close gay friend at the time if that might be a possibility.      He had suggested Trevor might be sexually lost.      Well eff that, she wasn't prepared to play Bo Beep.      Let him find himself.      Instead she made him pay. For his neglect, lack of appreciation and his sexual guilt, telling him he could have brought more than his monthly salary home to her from one of those places. He felt mortified at being caught; he couldn't defend himself at all.      Her son and daughter were both at university, away from home already, sorted financially. At least she could never accuse Trevor of being ungenerous with the kids.          Jennifer, herself, now had a good job in property management, so leaving wasn't so hard. She told the kids she and their father had just grown apart, which was true.     There had been no mention of infidelities.      Neither heart was badly broken, although Trevor's bank balance was somewhat lighter. He'd paid for her holiday in Spain gladly. This was supposed to be a way for her to get over the divorce. It actually turned out to have been a chance for Jennifer to rediscover herself.     And now here she was, on the brink of doing just that, with this amazing woman taking charge and guiding her through the now teeming bar.     Jennifer's arm was being taken in a proprietorial way as they made their way towards a quiet booth, in a darker part at the back of the bar.     Was this then her new life beginning?                                                          *     Jennifer awoke to a soft light flittering through closed shutters into a femininely decorated room with a gently combed ceiling. She had to think hard to remember just where she was. A delicious memory of the previous evening seeped through her body making her tingle in all the right places, as she turned to take in the incredible person beside her.      They had gone on to a night club and danced the night away, drinking far too much and talking non-stop. When Jennifer's new friend asked her to spend the night at her place, she'd jumped at the chance.     Now the straight raven black hair was gone, replaced by a short tight-curled brownish mop. Those cat-like eyes closed, the false eyelashes removed. The heady smell of perfume and desire which lingered in the room, combined to bring back images of the previous night in vivid colours.      Jennifer watched her new partner in repose, the brown skin inherited, she'd found out from a West Indian father and a Scottish mother, from the docks of Leith where she had plied her trade.      Stretching out a finger to touch the full upper lip, she saw the one visible tell-tale sign, the Adam's apple, which gave her sex away. Yes, Miss Chastity Blue (her stage name) was a trannie.     Her real name was Raymond.     The plumbing might be male but the mind was beautifully female. He had been married, but his wife couldn't get her head round how when dressed up he had a better shape than her and managed to get all the wolf whistles.           Raymond was seven years younger than Jennifer. This he insisted didn't bother him at all. He had grown up in a world of woman all ages, shapes, sizes and persuasions.      He adored everything female. Neither did her larger figure, he just raved over her full ripe breasts and amble rear, loving her for being such a real woman. .     Jennifer's serendipitous meeting had brought her the best of both worlds. She didn't give a rat's arse what anyone might think.      They ticked each others boxes.      Jennifer could just imagine what her inconstant, but strictly gay friend, Gina would make of that. Gina, Jennifer knew, with her bourgeois, middle-class ideas of sexuality would think Jennifer was slumming it.     She could look down her long snooty nose just as much as she liked, but, up hers, Jennifer said to herself. She needed to wake up. Gina could be as sniffy as she liked, but Virginia Wolfe had drowned herself a world ago. That sort of middle-class, strictly lesbian way of life was a thing of the past.     These days you learned to take love where you could.     Jennifer rolled over to curl herself into Raymond's warm frame. His grey-green eyes opened slightly, with a smile his arms encircled her breasts and she could certainly feel he was pleased to have her beside him.      She might have jumped out of her box, but she'd jumped right in to the best experience of her life.      She intended to enjoy the ride.
    Archived comments for Girls' Big Night Out
    e-griff on 2004-10-24 11:57:50
    Re: Girls' Big Night Out
    I like your poetry.

    This piece moved along interestingly, but I do think you would benefit by paying attention to a few things which would make it easier on the reader. Just for one, I picked this out:

    ' The heat from a voice being spoken at her back sent a current like a hot poker coursing up Jennifer’s spine.'

    In my view, this phrase in particular fails. we have a voice which appears to be 'hot' it then sends a 'current' (presumably electric) up her spine. The electric current is 'like a hot poker' (I mean, as it stands , literally) what follows is similarly confusing. Now it may seem pedantic to say 'stick to one metaphor and don't overegg it' - but, as in many things, subtlety succeeds far better than excess, IMO.

    coupla other things - watch out for '-ing' words - many times, in my book, they are lazy substitutes for active verbs and clear description.

    And I'm old enough to remember Fenella Fielding (who is still going but creakily)! 🙂

    Hope you don't mind this remark, it's not an overall criticism, just my own advice on that point.. G

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-25 16:06:43
    Re: Girls' Big Night Out
    Hello John,
    Damned, yet again by faint praise.
    'Ilike your poetry.'
    Then do you say more in that than what you don't say about my writing?
    Yes, I agree that metaphor was lazy.
    The Finela Fielding reference perhaps dated, but there are very few actresses left with that definitive sexual voice, I couldn't think of any and I did try - can you?
    Anyway I got the message:
    I MUST WORK HARDER, MR. B-GRUFF, SIR!
    I will look to my failings, yet again, and try to come up to your very high standards :))
    Love and kisses,
    Jemima


    Author's Reply:


    My Father's Eyes (posted on: 22-10-04)
    It's often only after someone dies we realise how much they meant to us and then it is too late to tell them...

    My Father's Eyes

    His bonnet only ever taken from his head
    flying frisbee to stop our childish noise
    reminding him of horrors we couldn't see.
    My father's eyes with final panic set,
    fretting over his funeral expense
    he told us of his sentence to be met
    knowing, with words unsaid, the end had come.
    Old soldier, with his last fight fought
    afraid, but wanting the release that day would bring
    eyes closed in desperation, he gave in.

    I remember now, amidst guilty tears
    his daughter grown, with children of her own,
    too busy in my teenage years to see
    how death might steal my father's eyes from me.



    Archived comments for My Father's Eyes
    tai on 2004-10-22 04:05:44
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    It happens to us all, at least once, the trick is not to let it happen again. Love is always beyond goodbyes.

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    Gerry on 2004-10-22 11:23:04
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    Nicely done, and very true. Many will relate.

    Gerry.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-22 13:27:46
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    Hello Tai,
    Yes it does, and with your father you know its coming It shouldn't take you by suprise, but it always gets you anyway.
    Love
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-22 13:29:34
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    HI Gerry,
    Now its such a long time ago, but everytime I see a old soldier I get weepy, isn't that soft?
    Thanks for your comments and rating.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    ritawrites on 2004-10-24 03:53:00
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    yes, it’s to be endured, and yes, we realize until it’s too late often enough – but then we are only human, not god – Great read –

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-24 08:30:56
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    Trevor,
    Once again many thanks for your comment and rating. I just wish I could let my own children see what I now see, but that must be the essence of regret, we live on the surface of life until something drags us underneath to view another level of emotion.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-24 08:41:11
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    thanks for commenting Rita.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2004-10-25 15:27:44
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    A very touching account. nicely written Love Val x

    Author's Reply:

    Abel on 2004-10-25 15:28:23
    Re: My Father's Eyes
    So heartbreaking. I'm sure now he watches you, and feels nothing but love...there is always hope. Regret only wastes precious energy. Writing this has helped you cast off that regret. Well done! Thanks for sharing these feelings.
    Ward

    Author's Reply:


    An Angler's Eye (posted on: 18-10-04)
    Three thirteen-year-old girls, a long time ago, taking a dip to try an escape the summer heat...

    An Angler's Eye Heat hung heavy like a winter coat woven out of season as we shed school uniforms like former lives and waded in, to feel the crisp fresh kiss of silk-cold water enfold white skin. Fat lazy raindrops turned to lily pods around us while thunder clapped applause and the caressing fingers of our garlanded hair wove in delight, at flesh rejoicing. When an angler's greedy eye caught on our nakedness, making us aware we wore no garment to shield us from his stare. He'd caught upon our innocence to brand us with our sex where before the spell was broken, none was there.
    Archived comments for An Angler's Eye
    Safron on 2004-10-19 20:49:20
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Black-Dove,

    It was a beautiful poem I could hear their joy of the refreshment. Liked the line of garland hair.
    the ending was perfect. First time I have read your work I liked it .

    "He’d caught upon our innocence
    to brand us with our sex
    where before the spell
    was broken,
    none was there."

    Safron

    Author's Reply:

    Skeeter on 2004-10-20 08:20:17
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Nice poem, I love the first two stanzas particularly, the slow description, the sense of heaviness that you manage to convey in the words themselves, I do like "heat hung heavy like a winter coat". I appreciate the sense of the rest, that awareness of being watched. It reminds me of "The Look", I'm sure I read some philodsopher talking about that once. Sartre or someone. Although of course it goes back to the Garden of Eden. Your poem captures some major themes; lost innocence, the nature of the perceived... like it a lot, you crafted it very well. ('a' angler??? shd. be 'an' ??? minor typo.)

    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2004-10-20 08:52:41
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    A lovely memory spoiled by the voyeur, but that is the way of life, men will be men. I would have include 'had' in the last line. I just came to me as I read. Just a thought.

    All the best.

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    Abel on 2004-10-20 13:57:31
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Very fine piece...innocence lost only because of the rigid cultural burdens placed on these children...ah, sweet innocence. Enjoyed this immensely,

    Ward

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-22 13:12:04
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Thanks Tai,
    For the rating and your comments. Only thing is the innocence lasts so little time and even less nowadays, but I suppose it is inevitable. But its good to catch a moment.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-22 13:14:33
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Thanks Safron for the comments and the rating,
    I've enjoyed your work too. I was about to post a comment on your last piece but there was already about fifteen there before me!
    I'll look out ofr your next one.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-22 13:18:53
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Hi Skeeter,
    Yes, the reference does come from eating forbidden fruit and we've all done that before.
    I will have a search for'the look' , its new to me.
    I've fixed the typing error.
    Thanks,
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-22 13:22:26
    Re: An Angler's Eye
    Thanks Abel for your lovely comment
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    Seeded in the Cracks (posted on: 11-10-04)
    For all our tending who can fortell how they, our young, will turn out.



    Seeded in the Cracks

    Tumbleweed mothers
    throw young to eastern winds.
    Seeded in the cracks,
    starflowers, buddleia, foxglove,
    vagrant offspring,
    grow wild, untended.

    While husbanded breeds
    in manicured gardens
    straight-trained on stalks
    are planned, cultivated,
    each move, inch
    a recorded devotion.

    Reckless progeny,
    without such sustenance,
    grasping, tenacious,
    survive.
    With so little care,
    how dare they show
    such blossom?

    Archived comments for Seeded in the Cracks
    tai on 2004-10-11 11:29:06
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Black-dove you are an ingenious poet. I love the metaphor in this poem. How? The universe compensates....sometimes!...but, if left to grow wild, weeds can choke the goodness! The flower although beautiful, fades to obscurity.

    Loving your offspring, is the name of natures game!

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    deepoceanfish2 on 2004-10-11 11:38:42
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    black-dove,

    Brilliant pice with fluid and beguiling metaphor. Liked:

    'While husbanded breeds
    in manicured gardens
    straight-trained on stalks
    are planned, cultivated,
    each move, inch
    a recorded devotion. '

    A fine read!

    Regards,
    Adele 🙂


    Author's Reply:

    Emerald on 2004-10-12 03:10:33
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Beautiful poem, an enjoyable read, particularly liked that last stanza

    Emma 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    bektron on 2004-10-12 08:54:06
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    This is a very interesting piece to me, because I can't quite work out where the narrators voice is coming from, the second stanza seems to imply that the rich offspring would/should naturally turn out superior to their poor/neglected counterparts and yet the very last lines seem to show some admiration for those who fight their way up and become good and sucessful people despite their poor upbringing. In short this made me think, I like that a lot, especially the last line although there is something in the tone of the second stanza that I am uneasy with.
    I enjoyed reading your poem.
    bek

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2004-10-12 12:20:55
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    This is a piece of sheer brilliance, I love the metaphors used. Excellent. Valx

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2004-10-12 18:38:48
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    A clever and original poem I thought.

    Kat 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    ritawrites on 2004-10-13 04:14:57
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Simply brilliant -- I must look at your other works --

    Author's Reply:

    royrodel on 2004-10-13 09:05:23
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Simply delightful,

    RODEL

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-18 12:42:37
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    hello bek,
    Thanks very much for your thoughts on this. I have just had the time now to answer.
    This was based on myself. This was how I grew up and I was always amazed how some people found that so hard to deal with, that someone from such a background could go on in life do well.
    But it does happen, unfortunatley not often enough and still a lot of children are permaently damaged by the neglect of their childhood.
    Jemima


    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-18 12:59:58
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Hi Adele,
    I'm working at it.
    And I hope I'm starting to improve!
    Your comments have been very encouraging.
    Thanks a lot,
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-18 13:02:02
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Tai,
    you are so generous with your comments, you make my silly old head swell.
    Yes, you're right but there are a lot of uncared flowers out there looking for that love.
    Cheers,
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-18 13:03:04
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Thanks Rita, I've enjoyed your pieces too.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-18 13:15:21
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    Hi Trevor,
    Your work is excellent and if you keep saying things like this I will get big headed and start believing it.
    Sometimes poems work, sometimes they don't, maybe this one works better than others I have written, when its your own work you're too close to know, you prabably feel the same.
    I have really enjoyed your peotry though.
    Wouldn't we all love to get published, you and me both. I'll buy yours if you buy mine!
    Luv Jem



    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-18 13:16:56
    Re: Seeded in the Cracks
    And thanks for all the ratings it really is encouraging.
    Luv Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    The Thought Terrrorists (posted on: 04-10-04)
    It is said there is a time just before dawn we are closest to death.
    Fears cast their largest shadows then.
    This is the place where these thoughts dwell.

    The Thought Terrorists They gather in that place between sleep and rousing. Night guerrillas, saboteurs of peace. Anxiety's foot soldiers, harbingers of strange unease in stealth they creep, cut faith to ribbons dispelling hopes as so many spent bullets, to hail fear night's victor. In that hour of doubt where death breathes icy closest to the living, thought terrorists lay landmines, detonating as I tread towards dawn's light. To retreat, morning camouflaged, as familiar daily thoughts.
    Archived comments for The Thought Terrrorists
    tai on 2004-10-04 04:19:19
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Another beautiful expression of thought!

    Enjoyable read.

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    shadow on 2004-10-04 10:58:12
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Yes indeed, we've all been there. I particularly liked 'thought terrorists
    lay landmines, detonating
    as I tread towards dawn’s light.'
    Beautifully put.


    Author's Reply:

    woodbine on 2004-10-04 19:44:24
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Hi Black-Dove,
    I like this and in particular, Anxiety's foot soldiers, and the conclusion,
    Then retreat,
    morning camouflaged,
    as familiar
    daily thoughts.

    I like the whole conceit or should I now say concept of the poem.

    All the best,

    John


    Author's Reply:

    royrodel on 2004-10-07 17:53:35
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Think about this,
    Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as he well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
    Who are you trying to protect?
    Tony Blairs lies?
    And don't you ever try to relate land mines with your so called terroriststs. You've no fuckin idea have you? Are you aware that 98% of the worlds land mines have been laid by the UK or US.What do you think Lady Di was all about. Sheesh, Your ignorance abhors me.

    But rememebr this.
    People who follow Islam are good people.

    You brainwashed fuck.

    Now just fuck off.

    RODEL



    Author's Reply:

    shadow on 2004-10-08 07:10:35
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Er, pardon? What was all that about? Have we been reading the same poem? Landmines, terrorists etc - surely stand for the thoughts which can assail us in the night (it's what is known as 'metaphor').
    Also, personal abuse is no substitute for coherent argument and has no place in valid criticism. Or, I hope, on this site.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-08 08:26:06
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Thanks Shadow for what you said,
    and to ROYRODEL
    I have just read the above comment and yes, Rodel, I have read 1984 though what it has to do with this poem beats me.
    As for the rest of your comment, It has me bewildered, I had no thought of blaming any particular group for terrorism.
    I did not support either the war in Iraq or Blair for supporting Bush.
    But frankly, I fail to see the connections you're making between a poem about fears in the night and the Islamic faith.
    All I can think is you must have a secret crop of magic mushrooms or some other drug to give you such hallucinations.
    If I were you I would try anger management classes for such verbal abuse is totally out of order whether you agree or disagree with the sentiments of the any piece of writing.
    Literary criticism is one thing, personal attack on someone you know nothing about is not on.
    Grow up, and take my advice give up what ever you are on. The drugs don't work.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Safron on 2004-10-08 15:37:18
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Very interesting and intriguing piece. I really liked the last stanza.

    Safron

    Author's Reply:

    royrodel on 2004-10-10 04:41:38
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Oh deary me did I disappoint you, but I can see through your disguise.So if I'm so wrong which terrorist group inspired this one, The US and UK armies?From your childish response I can see that my comments are like throwing pearl to swine,

    Keep reading the tabloids,

    RODEL

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-10 13:14:03
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    When a mind is closed it is almost impossible to re-open it.
    There is no hidden agenda in this poem.
    A childish response would be one where I used obscenities and ranted uncontrollably, with no thought to how this might affect the person who was being made the object of such spleen.
    - I think I can safely leave that to you.

    This is only a poem about fears which come to us in the night, nothing more. If you can't accept this then tough - I've tried.

    By the way your phrase 'your ignorance abhors me' is bad English. If you wish to write it correctly it should be 'I abhor your ignorance.'

    Author's Reply:

    royrodel on 2004-10-10 16:24:54
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Surely it is up to the reader to set the agenda, or maybe not in your case.Childish as in 'ignorance', now you may feel that you have some moral superiority on not being obscene,but if you go out your door and listen I think you'll find they've always been the moral stance.
    By the way my phrase 'your ignorance abhors me' is good English, As I said you need to get out more and listen to how peeps use this language.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-05 09:42:21
    Re: The Thought Terrrorists
    Okay, try this Roy
    Your a troll.
    xx

    Author's Reply:


    The Fly Trap (posted on: 01-10-04)
    Yes, I know it is rather long for a computer page word bite! But I would be much obliged if other writers would read it and let me know, honestly, just what you think.
    Thanks Jemima

    The Fly Trap      She climbed the stairs, legs weary, heart heavy, up towards their rented top floor flat. She had a pushchair – sleeping baby inside, Jamie's reluctant hand being pulled along and three bags of groceries from Tescos. The plastic bag handles cut into her fingers, making them numb, turning them blue.         Jamie was getting fractious and she could do without that, tired probably, un-used to all this walking. Well, at least there would be one benefit to this move – they would all become much fitter with their new lives.      The stairwell was dark; the lighting hadn't come on yet. She really needed to phone the council about that. Jamie stumbled on the stairs, not quite seeing where he was going. His whining now turned into a high-pitched screech.      ''Stop crying Jamie, we're almost there, please help Mummy, you take one of these bags, you're her big boy, now.''      Gina said this, hoping her asking him to do something would distract him long enough to get them into the flat.      It didn't work; he sat down on a step on the last landing before their door and screamed louder.      ''I want to go home, I don't like this place!'' He then commenced kicking the bags she held in her hand. If this went on he would wake Amy, then she'd have two squealing kids on her hands. She managed to drag him, the bags and the pushchair up the last few stairs.      It always amazed Gina just how physically strong she had become with having children, biceps like iron. Pity she wasn't as emotionally tough, or did these two things work in inverse proportion to each other? Being psychologically stronger would have helped her situation much more.      Dropping the heavy bags she let go of Jamie, braked the pushchair and took out her keys to the flat. Jamie flew passed her into the hall as she opened the door. She flicked the light switch to on.      He stopped in mid-flight. 'There's no light mummy, its dark in here,' he wailed looking at her with his father's accusing eyes that said she was to blame; the things that kept going wrong were all her fault. She felt, not for the first time that day, like smacking him.     Her patience with her son grew thinner by the day. They had been here for more than two weeks now and although she and Amy were getting into a routine, Jamie was resisting, probably in the hope they would go back. She felt guilty for being so short with him, but that didn't quell the anger inside. Flattening her irritation with some effort, she said,     ''Its all right Jamie, mummy will fix it.''     Gina thought frantically, what could it be? A power cut, had the bulb went, what? She ventured further into the darkened flat, the now familiar smell of rented property filling her nostrils, not unpleasant, just sort of synthetic.      She tried another light switch – nothing.     Oh God, the power cards.     She'd forgotten to get them, didn't have any more and the nearest place to buy them was almost a mile away. Why the hell hadn't she remembered? How could she take these two sleepy children back out at this time? But then she had no-one to watch them if she went.      Hopeless.               Yes, hopeless, that's what she was, just as Edward always implied. Clever how he never actually came out and said it, yet still managed to convey to her and everyone they knew that is what she was. Not capable of running her own life.      Such a smart bastard.      Thinking about him now gave her the resolve to go across the landing with Jamie's imprisoned hand in hers; she marched straight across to the flat opposite and knocked the door.      It was taking ages for someone to answer the door, perhaps her neighbour was out. She wondered what exactly she was going to do if no-one was in.      Gina had met the lady who lived there perhaps three times since she'd moved in. Her neighbour seemed to like children, but then you never knew. Yet her options were few. She would just have to ask.      She was finding herself having to do a great deal of things she hadn't needed to do before.                                     *           The front door of the flat was finished in old-fashioned marmalade-orange wood graining, a style which had gone out of fashion, forty, fifty years before. The brass name plate was large, with the well-polished name, 'Doig' engraved on it.      No Mr, no Mrs, just the surname.      Gina had caught glimpses inside, on the occasions she'd met the lady on the stairs. She'd smelt that well-cared for old book smell, the scent of polished wood, quality, devotion to routine. Would her neighbour want all that disturbed by Gina's two grubby children? Well, Jamie anyway, for Amy was still sleeping, with luck for the rest of the night, though Gina had stopped banking on luck.     Again she knocked the large brass handle which hung dolefully from the gaping mouth of the old lion knocker, hope seeping away like air from a burst balloon.     Gina caught the faint sound of slow, measured footsteps from within, becoming louder as they approached the door. She heard the lock being turned. The door opened on Gina's elderly silver-haired neighbour, a lady well into her seventies, Gina guessed. She recognised her. Mrs. Doig of the nameplate.      She'd never seen a Mr. Doig and hadn't liked to ask if there was one, or if there ever had been.      'Yes, Gina dear, may I help you?' Mrs. Doig spoke in a sweet, cultured voice. The whole of Mrs. Doig's appearance, her voice, manner, were strangely reassuring. How did the lady know her name she wondered, had she introduced herself?      'Hello Mrs. Doig. I'm really sorry but could you please watch the kids half an hour, its just I forgot to buy electric meter cards. I'm so silly and you see I don't want to take them out again…. the little-one's sleeping and……      'There's no need to explain dear, I do remember what it's like being on your own with young children, though I have grandchildren older than you, I'm sure. Just bring them in and we'll find Jamie something to play with.'      Jamie's ears pricked up, Gina could tell he was wondering how this strange lady knew his name. Eyes widening, he followed Mrs. Doig as Gina manoeuvred the pushchair behind them through the spacious hall, lined with bookshelves.           Huge and glassy-eyed a couple of stuffed animals heads stared down from the claret walls, their hunters long dead and forgotten but their presence of vast allure to a child. Gina noticed too the good pieces of antique furniture.      'Oh, Jamie you're looking at the heads. My late husband shot the poor beasts, many, many years ago. I couldn't bring myself to throw them away when I moved. Terrible pastime don't you think - for a grown person?'          Gina wasn't quite sure whether Mrs. Doig meant shooting them or keeping them, so she just answered, 'Yes.'     Her neighbour entered a large three windowed drawing room; unlike the flat Gina rented, this one hadn't been canabilized into smaller flats. The large Adam style fireplace was still there, cornicing, dado, shutters, intact. Even the bell pulls were not only there but working, as Jamie mischievously proved, pulling one, which they heard distantly ringing in the kitchen somewhere.          There was a grand piano by the furthest window, making Gina think of the years of lessons her parents had forked out for, hoping to make a pianist of her; well she played passably at least.      She enjoyed playing, but since leaving Edward, she hadn't played at all. Now she didn't have a piano, it had been left with the rest of her former life, in that large, detached house she'd once shared with him.      Jamie ran to the piano, and started thumping on it, manically. 'Mummy, look a piano just like yours, see I can play, can you tell the song - can you?'      He looked from Gina to Mrs. Doig. Gina gave him her 'bad boy look'. His head fell.      Jamie was unaware he had done anything wrong, but he knew his mummy's look of disapproval which seemed to be on her face most of the time since they had left their house and daddy.      Gina looked at her neighbour, expecting a look of concealed annoyance, the one her mother-in-law had the patent for.      Strangely, there was none, the old lady just beamed her sanction to play on, 'Jamie, you should learn to play, I'm sure you have an ear. I used to teach the Suzuki method. What age are you dear, can you read already?'           Emboldened by these words of encouragement, Jamie did play on, but now tried in earnest to make some semblance of a tune.      'I'm nearly seven and I can read all my school stories and I know big words too,' He looked up at the lady's face, enjoying her approval. She smiled back. Mrs. Doig looked to Gina, 'Do you play yourself Gina?'      'Well, yes, but I'm not great, I'm a bit rusty, but yes I do enjoy playing, though we don't have a piano …now.'      'Well you know its here any time you wish.'      The elderly lady smiled.      It left Gina wordless, this assault of kindness.      She hadn't experienced much of it in the last few, fraught weeks. She watched as Mrs. Doig played little pieces and Jamie frowned hard to try and copy them.      She was required now to rely on the kindness of strangers.      Gina wondered just what Mrs. Doig would think of her if she knew her situation? Or had she guessed? She was from an even older generation than her own mother and father. A generation which believed in duty – whatever the cost.      Gina felt the weight of the weeks, of being strong, enduring the distain from everyone who had been close to her. Her bewilderment in finding and sorting out a flat, the humiliation of going to Social Security offices to make a claim. These privations she had never experienced in a sheltered life. She'd gone straight from her parent's home really, to her life with Edward.     Then there had been all the petty, back–biting which riddled all her dealings with Edward since leaving. The energy she needed to fight for maintenance, drained her. She bore the on slot of his scorn at her attempts at freedom, his derision, at her bid to escape. His malice smeared everything she tried to do, like the fall ash from a volcanic eruption.      His parting words to her were, 'we'll see how long this lasts.'      All the responsibility for taking Jamie away from school, home, relatives, she felt pulling her down and that one kind, un-judgemental look from Mrs. Doig, someone she barely knew, was making her now dissolve in tears. Gina knew she was desperate for someone to tell it all to.      Could she tell her neighbour?           Mrs. Doig saw Gina struggle to hold back the tears. Jamie looked up from his piano playing, sensing the change. What was going to happen if his mummy started crying?     He shot a stare at the old lady, hoping she knew what to do to help.          Quite suddenly, Mrs. Doig left them.      Jamie looked after her in the direction she had gone, his hope fading. Wasn't she coming back?      Gina told Jamie to leave the piano - they had to go.          Just as Gina got herself and the buggy ready to leave the flat, the old lady came back, her arms full. Gina started to make her excuses, apologising for being upset, saying she had been so stupid. She now remembered there was a reset button on the electric meter which would give an emergency supply. They'd be okay – but thanks for her time.      Mrs. Doig only smiled dismissively. 'Not at all,'she said, she was making tea and did Jamie like gingerbread?      In her hands she carried a large box. She laid it on top of the grand piano, taking off the lid; she brought out some small figures wrapped in tissue paper. The wrapping gave off the smell of age, of things past.      Jamie's eyes widened, lemur-like. He took in the sight of the beautifully made lead soldiers, all painted in the different coloured uniforms of regiments from wars fought long ago.      Mrs. Doig handed the first one to Jamie saying she knew he was a very careful boy and he could look at these soldiers while she gave his mother a cup of tea.      Jamie nodded his head very quickly, smiled up at the lady and said thank you, taking the tiny figure in his hands as if it were an eggshell.     Gina just looked on, fascinated at how well this woman could handle her son, forgetting just a moment before she was about to breakdown.      Mrs. Doig brought the promised gingerbread and a glass of milk, put it beside the engrossed Jamie, looked in on the sleeping Amy then ushered Gina ahead of her along the hall to the large kitchen, sat her down, put a cup of tea in front of her and said, 'Tell me everything.'     Gina looked at this stranger and felt she wanted to tell her all the things that were locked up in her head, the things which had brought her so close to breaking down just moments before. She wanted to tell her everything.                                           *      Her own parents had been completely unsupportive when she told them she was leaving Edward. They had asked in disbelief - what reason did she have? Asked to put it into words all she could answer was a feeble, 'the person I was is disappearing'.      Her mother and father had looked at one another, speechless, swallowing their obvious annoyance at her self-indulgence. In their day you stuck it out when a relationship was loveless, penniless, even violent.      This wasn't a reason to leave a solid marriage, a beautiful home, a comfortable life - and really had she thought about the children?      She wanted to scream she didn't care. He was stamping on her, choking everything she was, or rather, had been.      Gina imagined herself shrinking, until one day there would be no Gina left, only a Stepford wife to moan in delight at how wonderful Edward was, in bed and out.          Yet, there was no-one – friends, parents, in-laws, who understood why she was doing this. Especially not Edward.         But where was his meanness? She didn't lack for anything. The shouting? They'd never heard him raise his voice. The hidden bruises, the broken bones, the hospital stays? Where were they? Edward had never laid a finger on her, physically.      But inside where their eyes couldn't see, slowly, subtly, he was battering into submission everything she once was.     And no-one wanted to listen to her.     He did suggest she needed to consult a psycho-therapist.     Yes, a head doctor, he would think that was a good idea. How easy it would be then to prize her children from her. Even Jamie showed signs of the effect Edward could exert, even in his absence.      She heard it in the way he spoke to her. She caught it in the assessing glances he would shoot her when she said something that didn't come straight from the bible according to his dad.      'That's not the way dad says it's done,' Jamie would say when Gina changed a plug, hung a picture, tried to programme the video.      Often she was short with him then, regretting it later, realising it was normal for boys to copy their fathers.      But it was all in his tone.      It was Edward's.      Edward would say, coming in from his 'exhausting day' at work, 'Gina sweetheart', as he looked around their designer kitchen, 'don't you think you could perhaps appreciate this, make more of an effort to tidy up?'      'Darling, what exactly were you doing when I was out working?'      And if she defended herself by saying she was continually tired, he would rejoin, 'but how exactly are you tired? You don't need to go out to work; I make enough to support us.'      Yes, he provided everything. He was a great provider - his money, his house, his views.      But where was she?          When she wanted to go to classes, she felt his same dismissive manner. 'Why do you need to? You have the children, the house, me.'     He would bring out his favourite well-used argument from when they decided to start a family. 'Didn't we agree that you would be with the children? Why leave them on trust, with a stranger, when we can afford to let you stay at home?'     ' Anyway, to study what exactly?' He reminded her once again she hadn't finished her first degree once she had met him.             The sarcasm dripped, like treacle varnish.             She wanted to scream. He was squeezing out all that she was. She didn't want it any more. She wanted to escape him and his opinions.     Then in their lovemaking where a couple should know and share each others wants, where every flaw should be shared intimately, there too he would diminish her.      If she accused him of never being romantic, his stock answers were, 'I buy you chocolates, I never forget to send flowers on your birthday, I even send flowers to your mother on her birthday.'      The list went on –'I take you out for meals, I comment on your figure, tell you what suits you, what's sexy.'      Still, she was positive he'd have enjoyed sex as much, if not more, in some seedy sauna, where he could pay for his just want he wanted, with no-one else to consider.      If only he had included her own fantasies she could have gone along with it, might have been aroused too. There had been a time when they were first married when she was happy to go along with anything he wanted, when his needs were hers too.      Now she believed he would have enjoyed the act just as much if she were an inflatable doll that he could attack, while watching a porn film. For her the whole thing had become sordid.     When she challenged him about this he would say, 'I don't understand why your are complaining, I don'ta keep you short of anything', then he would snort in that irritating way he had, 'and that includes sex.'      He never tired of telling her - he didn't go with anyone else, unlike some of his colleagues. To him, all he was asking her for was a little understanding, the same as any normal man.      And those parties.      They were his parties, his colleagues and their current wives, or their passing fancies – men talking shop, women talking spite.     Edward would say as he introduced her, in his now familiar patronising tone, 'this is Gina, my wife, mother of my children and a housewife,' as if this were some label sown onto her clothes she could be identified with, just in case she forgot.      She saw those women's gimble eyes travel over her; in their one swift tribal glance she was measured and found wanting, their communal hiss, 'housewife' held ransom on their viper tongues.          Then it was Edward's turn, to twist the knife, 'Gina, this is Marnie, in charge of human resources,' he'd say with a quick eye dance between him and the woman that didn't escape Gina, 'do fix her a drink, darling.'      And later, 'Gina, can't you keep the children out of the living-room when we're having guests, don't they have a set bed-time?'      As if he'd know.      In the aftermath, he would sulk, 'Gina why do you resent my friends so much? Please don't resent them honey when you know full well it's your problem, not theirs.'      Slowly and imperceptibly, her own circle of friends had begun to erode to a few busy mothers whom she met briefly in the school playground.      She felt more and more marooned.      When she started to feel all this getting to her, when she was at her lowest point, it was then Edward suggested his final insult, paying for plastic surgery.      He had a very good friend he played squash with who was an excellent plastic surgeon.      Perhaps breast implants might cheer her up? Make her feel more attractive? Not, he hastened to add, that she was unattractive, nor that her present bosom was in any way inadequate, but bigger ones would be sexier, didn't she agree? Didn't she feel it might make her feel happier with herself? Look how most of his colleagues wives' had had them done, hadn't she noticed?      Obviously, he had.      She looked at him then in revulsion. No, she bloody didn't agree. Gina found the whole idea disgusting; now he wanted her to butcher herself for his gratification? Was this the man she had given up the chance of a career for, given up her former life for?      Was this the man she had once worshipped? Cherished every hair on his stupid head, would have done anything for? Had she ever really seen him at all, or had it been an infatuation with an idea and what he was offering her?         Now looking back - how could she have ever respected this man? Well, whatever or whoever she had once cared for was gone.         Her love was gone.      She was now living with this parody of the husband she thought she once had, in this mockery of a marriage.      Yet, what was it she wanted instead?      Materially she was very comfortable – though she felt emotionally dead. But did she have the right to deprive her two young children of that security? And for what? This was something Edward seemed all too ready to point out. To live in a soulless, rented flat, having no plans, no money, no future?      Yes, children needed a father. Even a superficial one, who only wanted to appear in happy photographs was better than having none.          Being a pompous git surly wasn't a crime. She smiled wryly, if it were, surely half the male population would be inside, doing time.          Plenty of women suffered much worse than she and complained less. One phone call could bring it all to an end; they could all go back to their comfortable lives, well the children at least.      She remembered Jamie's little face, a picture of delight at the piano minutes before. Just how long had it been since she had seen that unguarded look of enjoyment on his face?      Shouldn't she forfeit her own wishes for them? Were her parents right, wasn't she being self-centred, expecting too much?      Couldn't she make this sacrifice for her kids?     She ended her confession with this question - breathless but relieved. She'd managed to tell the whole thing to someone who was willing to listen, just as she felt it, intimate in parts, embarrassing in others, even making herself blush.      She looked then at Mrs. Doig, perhaps it had embarrassed her too? Would she, too, be as critical of her as everyone else had been?     Mrs. Doig's porcelain doll's face beamed such radiance, Gina almost felt herself to be in the presence of some kind of saint. She could not imagine her harming anything, or anyone. Why no condemnation, no judging look?      'Do you think I should go back Mrs. Doig?'      Gina bit her lip. She felt with conviction, if this lady though she was wrong to have left, Gina would lift the phone in the morning, swallow her pride and ask Edward to take her back.      'My name is Eleanor, Gina and no I don't think you should go back. I think it would be a crime to go back.'      With this Eleanor, pulled back her lovely silver hair; it was dressed in a low chignon. She pulled it away from the side of her left ear. A long white scar ran from the tip of her ear to the nape of her neck. Gina stared in wonder; how did a lady like Eleanor come by such a vicious scar?      Eleanor answered the question in Gina's eyes.      'My husband did this – and many more. For almost thirty years I endured abuse, beatings even rape, though then there was no such thing as rape within a marriage.'     'I remained silent, although, once I did tell my mother. All she said was, he's your husband, you simply must try harder to please him. The only way I could have pleased him I felt, was to die. And I did try, on more than one occasion. But later I had children and what would have happened to them?      My late husband was a judge, independently wealthy. My family were enthralled by my wonderful catch. Totally taken in by him, he could be so charming. I was a naïve seventeen year old. I found out the kind of man he was on my wedding night.           My children knew, of course, what he was like, but he never touched them, only me when they weren't there, or asleep, but they knew.      Yes, I learned how to scream quietly. Like thousand of other women did and still do. When the children left home I vowed to leave, but he knew the law, he was a powerful man and determined I would get nothing. I had no-one to turn to.      My children were abroad by then, leading their own lives. They told me to run but how could I go to them, with nothing, a burden?     The only money I earned was teaching piano, which he sneered at. I could only do it when he was out; fortunately that was most of the time. He'd tell me that's all I would ever amount to, a second rate piano teacher.      I remember the day I made my decision.      I was forty-seven years old, it was my birthday. I had no money in my own right, although I had worked all my married life. I looked at myself in the mirror. The very dress I wore was his, how could I leave him? My face was bruised, I was barely able to walk from the beating he had given me the night before. I had forgotten to have his suite cleaned for a lecture he was giving that day.     His one great love was books. He collected books, first editions, I still have them all, they're probably worth a fortune now.      I decided there and then I would take down one of those books, open it at random, and whatever I read there, I would use to make up my mind what I should do. Today they would say I was traumatised with what he had done, then I believed I was looking for a sign.      The book I chose was a compilation of Katherine Mansfield's short stories. It fell open at the story 'The Fly'.      It was the tale of a man hurting from the death of his only son in the First World War. In his inner damage he wanted to hurt something else. He lighted upon a fly which had fallen into his inkwell. He watched it, fascinated as it dragged itself out and slowly and methodically cleaned itself and tried to fly away. He admired its courage, its fight, and decided to see how much it would take before it finally gave up.      He placed the fly on a sheet of blotting paper, took his pen and squirted a blot of ink onto the recovering fly. Slower this time, it cleaned itself and got back on its feet. He admired the pluck and tenacity of the creature.      He saturated the fly one last time. But now it was weak and did not have anymore strength to fight back. This weakness annoyed him. He took his pen one last time and drowned the fly in ink.      I saw it so clearly, that fly was me.      I would always come back, but eventually I would not have the strength anymore and he would kill me.      I made my plan that day.      My husband was diabetic; often it was me who had to inject him with insulin. I had known that an air bubble into a vein could cause an aneurism. I must have tried to do it a dozen times. I still don't know if I succeeded, or if he died naturally. I still don't.      But the intent was there.      One morning I went in as usual at 6.30 a.m. carrying out the daily ritual with his tea, toast and soft boiled egg.      I called him, he didn't answer. I shook him, he didn't stir. I felt his forehead, he was stone cold. I sat down on the bed beside him, drank his tea, ate his toast, cut in soldiers, dipped in the soft boiled egg. Then I called the doctor.      The doctor said he'd died of natural causes.      I agreed.      I sold the house and most of the contents then moved here. I loved the views of Fife. So peaceful. I've lived here more than thirty years now.      The books I kept and some of the furniture, the heads I brought too, for they were only other poor animals he'd hurt. They reminded me never to be naïve again.'      Mrs. Doig rose slowly from her chair and looked at Gina.      Gina struggled to imagine this elderly lady capable of carrying out any of what she had just told her.      'I have never told this story to anyone, but just keep it in mind Gina.'      Mrs. Doig took her chair.      The two women sat at peace, drinking their respective teas, each with her confession made, looking out of the large full length window towards the wonderful views of a late sunset over Fife.
    Archived comments for The Fly Trap
    e-griff on 2004-10-01 13:20:42
    Re: The Fly Trap
    OK, I read this, and appreciated what you were doing. Technically, there were small problems. In general, it was involving and kept me reading, but in retrospect, it was slightly too pat. The character of her husband too stereotypically defined, and then the old woman too was a victim! (who fought back - hooray she killed the nasty man! kill ALL nasty men!)
    Sorry, I'm not being flippant... I think the message is important , and parts of it were powerfully conveyed in your story. But with more subtlety and balance in the story, instead of being 'in your face', it would worm its way quietly into your conscience, creep up unobserved - and that would be much, much more powerful!

    oh, and on a technicality, I didn't believe the 'emergency buttton' getout, and wasn't sure in plotting if that was necessary...

    good luck! I'm genuinely more positive about this than critical.

    JohnG

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-02 08:21:09
    Re: The Fly Trap
    Well John,
    Be careful what you ask for!
    At first, reading your comments I was slightly miffed, but then I went back and read them again and realised that you had done just exactly what I asked for. Yes, you did comment.
    This is a long piece and the fact that you took the time and effort to read it through and make these comments is something I am grateful for.
    If I, or anyone else who wishes to write for anything else other than personal pleasure, wants to improve then we should be capable of taking criticism - and I have.
    On re-reading it I can appreciate your points, parts are over-egged. Also the men in the story are caricatures, not brought to life properly.
    It now looks to me like a cake: all the ingredients are there, but it falls rather flat where it should have peaked, perhaps I was not thorough enough in putting it together. With extra effort I could have got a better result.
    But I'm in for the long haul John, so I will post another story now and ask you, if you would again have a read and tell me your opinion, (that is if you have the time and inclination).
    I seem to have these masochistic tendencies...
    and if I eventually do get the right mix I will be every so pleased to have you give me a verbal pat on the head.
    Love Jemima



    Author's Reply:

    thehaven on 2004-10-03 19:08:50
    Re: The Fly Trap
    Two women from different generations telling the same story of abuse one physical the other mental and imo it works.The characters could do with "fleshing "out though and I felt conversation between the two was a little stilted at times.

    One minor typo."prized" should be prised.

    But this definitly works.

    Mike

    Author's Reply:


    Postcard from Nassau (posted on: 01-10-04)
    ***

    Postcard from Nassau                                                                                                                                                                      Driftwood gnarled to twisted beauty lay among conch shells, heedless holding the sounds of captured tides. A sign – watch out for falling coconuts - called out to a silent morning. Large, ripe, engorged with milk, not the dried relics, seen in our cold, sunless land, a world away from paradise, enclosed in memory's portrait. I walked white beaches barefoot, sinking into warm wet sand left by a retreating tide, framed within a postcard. Lasting no longer than it took the postcard to fall on a mildewed mat, in a draughty Edinburgh flat, robbed early of its day in the unrelenting darkness of our northern winter. Here, where my other life was led, circumscribed by the hour, the light, the customs of a dour land, refusing escape from ties, guilts, stern God. Did Calvin ever see a sun like this, feel its heat, its healing warmth? I think not ever - for here I am, his child, root-bound. Without courage to cut the cord to live the life within that postcard which was mine.
    Archived comments for Postcard from Nassau
    zzt on 2004-10-03 05:13:13
    Re: Postcard from Nassau
    Your poem brings back memory of those gray days and long dark nights. Funny thing is after you have live in a hot sunny island for decades those winter days don't feel so cold anymore. In fact they look like a refreshing frosty lady who tempts with a trove of snowflake-gems.

    Author's Reply:

    tai on 2004-10-03 11:20:11
    Re: Postcard from Nassau
    What a beautiful poem this is and the sentiment within brought a tight knot to my stummack. I think the bravery speaks volumes!

    Tai

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 11:26:51
    Re: Postcard from Nassau
    Ah yes, but the memory is always better looking back, don't you agree...
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 11:28:03
    Re: Postcard from Nassau
    Perhaps it wouldn't have been so wonderful if I had stayed but then everything takes on a different light looking back..
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    I RememberThat For You (posted on: 06-09-04)
    *

    I Remember that for You

    Large misshapen, work-worn hands
    capable of tenderness,
    lie quiet at your side.
    Grey hairs grow faster than the black,
    same sad spaniel eyes
    from thirty years before,
    your lips still full and soft
    time hasn't drawn them mean.

    Lines, written kinder upon
    your face than some
    your shape a little heavier
    muscles less defined,
    Yet the burden of the years
    lies light, covering soft
    like first snow.

    And as I watch you in repose
    I catch a fleeting glimpse
    of the dark prince
    whom I first met
    who stole my girlish fancy,
    held it tight.

    Perhaps the grip's less strong
    but something pulls me still,
    asking me to recall
    long ago you used to be
    that young man
    and part of me remembers
    that for you.



    Archived comments for I RememberThat For You
    niki on 2004-09-06 05:48:06
    Re: I RememberThat For You
    i love the idea that some beautiful souls can remain essentially unchanged by the world, and i think it says as much about the writer that they have the ability to recognize this in others through "the burden of the years" that seemingly "lies light, covering soft like first snow". lovely poem, black-dove. i shall feel optimistic for the rest of the day.

    - niki x



    Author's Reply:

    Penprince on 2004-09-06 07:41:29
    Re: I RememberThat For You
    Very poignant read!

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-06 10:04:02
    Re: I RememberThat For You
    I'm glad I cheered you up. Did you need cheering up?
    There are parts of everyone we should hold on to and not let them be obscured by time. Keep your chin up.
    Jemx

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-06 10:06:59
    Re: I RememberThat For You
    Thanks as ever for your thoughtful comments Debarish.
    Jemx

    Author's Reply:


    Spent Love (posted on: 06-09-04)
    I posted this with three other sonnets. I changed this one to the first person. I think it works better.

    Spent Love



    The time's gone, when your love meant more than life.

    Covering all edges of a fragile heart

    with tender words and unfamiliar care

    I climbed the ladder hoping to be caught

    by you, my safety net against all grief.

    But when I fell I found no-one was there.



    While children came, inside I hid the hurt

    at your indifference - the perfect wife.

    And so you left me, spent of tears to mourn

    for my phantom love, for a thing stillborn.



    Long years in time, too short in memory

    have lapsed and laid the sap of love to dry,

    and now, for you, my only thoughts are scorn,

    who kept the chaff but threw away the corn.





    Archived comments for Spent Love
    Dazza on 2004-09-06 18:07:52
    Re: Spent Love
    Now you see this is something I can't do...write really good poems! Thank you for your comments on my piece (Hoki Moko). You are real talent, get stuck in! Dazza.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-08 13:51:52
    Re: Spent Love
    Dazza,
    You are very sweet and encouraging, I write stories too but I like your style and off the wall approach, this I can emulate but not surpass.
    Your James Dean story was excellent, one of my favourites.
    Thanks for you comments.
    Jemx

    Author's Reply:

    Kat on 2004-09-08 20:26:09
    Re: Spent Love
    I really enjoyed reading this - very skilful and beautiful.

    Regards

    Kat

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-11 05:48:40
    Re: Spent Love
    Kat,
    your comments are appreciated. This was one of the first sonnets I wrote and I like the way it constrains you so you have to be concise.
    Thanks
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    deepoceanfish2 on 2004-09-27 11:54:12
    Re: Spent Love
    black-dove,

    All I can say is...Why hasn't this piece been rated before this? You have some splendid images here. I especially liked:

    'Long years in time, too short in memory

    have lapsed and laid the sap of love to dry,

    and now, for you, my only thoughts are scorn,

    who kept the chaff but threw away the corn. '

    Well done...post more!

    Cheers,
    Adele 🙂



    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-10-01 15:31:07
    Re: Spent Love
    Adele,
    thanks a lot for your encouraging words and your generous rating - I thought it was going to remain with a duck egg..
    I'll just keep on posting and hope the poems and stories improve - as well as the ratings!
    jemima


    Author's Reply:


    Fluttering Wings (posted on: 02-09-04)
    As a child I could never understand why my father, a large man was frightened of tiny moths.

    Fluttering Wings

    The moth flutters up towards the light,
    jigsawing a frenetic dance,
    bare bulb floodlights its residual trail.
    Panicked, he backs away.

    Where within memory's labyrinth
    did this small fear evolve?
    In open fields of youth?
    Serving on some forgotten battlefield?
    Or within jungles of the long night
    where hunted, he once crept?

    And when did this dread mingle,
    become fused, in the body
    of that fluttering insect,
    to crystallize his terror
    in its wings?




    Archived comments for Fluttering Wings
    Dargo77 on 2004-09-02 09:50:44
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    I really enjoyed this poem. Very well written.
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2004-09-02 10:08:13
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    I like this poem I can well imagine his fear of moths I hate them too, yet butterflies don't bother me, perhaps it has something to do with them being creatures of the night.. Well written. Val x

    Author's Reply:

    Penprince on 2004-09-02 10:33:41
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    WONDERFUL poem...

    Author's Reply:

    Claire on 2004-09-03 13:30:11
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    When I read your description I had to read this. My father is terrified of moths too. When I was a little girl and if I didn't get my own way I would put moths on his pillow, but I was that horrid of a girl, to make sure the stayed put I would pin them to the pillow.

    Enjoyed your poem.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-03 13:34:52
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    Many thanks Trevor for your rating and your comment.
    Its strange how fears can be focused on such small things.
    Jem









    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-03 13:37:08
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    Penprince,
    Many thanks you are always so generous with your comments.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-03 13:40:07
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    Dargo,
    Where have all your poems gone on your page? I looked for them and they weren't there, have you taken them off and why?
    Sorry, thanks for your comment too, I've such bad manners..
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-03 13:41:35
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    Hi Bradene,
    Once again many thanks for your kind comments.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-03 13:44:55
    Re: Fluttering Wings
    What a wicked little girl! Shame on you.
    But I'm glad you liked it. I am surprised how many adults are scared of moths.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    Box of Shagreen (posted on: 27-08-04)
    .

    Box of Shagreen His smell lingers, like the consolation prize from some cheap raffle; small tokens left to pierce, hurts to twist in empty places, where she holds bitterness tight, Cleopatra clutching her asp. Drawing knuckles across the rough green skin she sucks red blood tears she's caused to flow, pain keeping her cuts fresh, savouring salt wounds she can't allow to heal.
    Archived comments for Box of Shagreen
    thehaven on 2004-08-27 17:03:23
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    Excellent poem .I enjoyed this I can feel the subjects hurt and pain.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-08-29 07:02:38
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    Thanks for your comment haven.
    This came from a writing exercise and the suggested word was 'green'.
    Sometimes we hurt ourselves more than we do the person we want to inflict hurt on. Jealousy and bitterness are corrosive in any relationship, they go inward, don't you think?
    jem

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2004-08-29 08:05:11
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    Such a sad little poem, but beautifully crafted and thought out A gem Love Val x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-08-29 08:08:38
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    Hello Val,
    And aren't you a nice person for rating it!
    Personally, I've now found men aren't worth crying over - I'd rather have a fish supper, it only repeats on you once.
    Cheers,
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Penprince on 2004-08-29 12:42:20
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    Beautiful and bittersweet sentimental poem...EXCELLENT work with emotions and expressions...

    Debashish

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-04 07:00:04
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    I appreciate all of the comments you have made about my work, its very encouraging, Debashish, thanks.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-04 07:00:32
    Re: Box of Shagreen
    I appreciate all of the comments you have made about my work, its very encouraging, Debashish, thanks.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition) (posted on: 27-08-04)
    The arrogance of the West?

    Foreign Coin

         I came across these foreign coins while clearing out recently. They reminded me of my very first visit to the Philippines.
         I went with my husband and our eldest daughter, then only two and a half years old. We had sold a shop which had a small flat above and had made a clear profit of fifteen thousand pounds. We weren't buying anything else, so it was ours to do with as we pleased.
         It seemed a lot of money at that time –perhaps not so much now with property prices, but it felt like a windfall. We decided to spend it all - on going round the world. Our reasoning was we would probably never have this chance again, once our second child was born which would be in another six months. We would then have two small children to look after and provide for.
         I can't recall how the idea of going round the world (when I was already pregnant) came about. Or at whose suggestion. In hindsight it doesn't seem a very sensible idea, but I remember my husband desperately wanting to go home.
         I was intrigued to see the country where he had come from. I was even more curious to meet his family.
         We went round the world in ninety days instead of eighty, but the thing I remembered most was being totally exhausted when we eventually came back home. The whole experience was unsettling for me – perhaps because I was pregnant, or then again it could have been because it was all so strange for someone from Britain, someone who had never been to the Far East.
         All I remember now is being so relieved to be back in familiar ways and places, returning to somewhere I knew how things worked.
         Not to be a foreigner any more.
                                                
                                                         *
         We had been in the Philippines for almost two weeks when my husband decided we should go to visit his relatives in Bagiuo, the mountain province in the North of the country. We had been living with his family in the barrio, in a small village where he had grown up. The province was called Pangasinan and lay right in the centre of the mainland island of Luzon.
         When we first arrived in the province, I tried to enjoy the newness of things, the tropical surroundings, the differences in our cultures, but the heat surrounded me like an indefatigable enemy, giving no respite. Everything I experienced was filtered through this constant fight with the humidity.
         The city of Baguio was near the famous Rice Terraces which had been constructed hundreds of years before, hewn out of the side of steep mountains to provide rice fields for the aboriginal peoples who lived high in the northern territories.
        These terraces were known as 'the Philippines wonder of the world'.
    They were quite amazing; considering all those early people had to build them with was their own psychical strength and what hand-made tools they could make themselves.
         My husband decided we should travel there as it was cooler – the summer retreat of the colonials. While staying in the lowlands I suffered so badly from the relentless heat, I was more than relieved to be going anywhere cooler.
         I became less uncomfortable as we travelled higher and higher away from the oppressive heat. We left behind the pollution and relentless dust of the plains, traveling up towards the mountains. Away from the feeling I had of being in a permanent Turkish bath – without the option of being allowed to get out.
        

         The air as we climbed upwards into the mountains became more breathable, the dry red dust receded and inhaling didn't burn my nostrils.
         I began to feel less of a burden to my husband, more normal as the journey through the hills to Bagiuo took us away from those humid valleys.     Things for me began to take on a less foreign aspect – there were pine trees and an American Base with real milk and people who looked like me. I felt a slight breeze in the air for which I was thankful.
         I began to relax.
         After arriving I showered and went straight to sleep, the first night since I arrived I hadn't needed an electric fan whirring continually throughout the night.
        On our first full day there, we went with my husband's relatives to the Mines View Park, a must-see for tourists, with its high vantage point. This was ideal for travellers wanting to take pictures and enjoy the spectacular views over the valleys. These valleys had been created by the mine-workings of the old silver mines now abandoned, another of things Bagiuo is famous for.
         As we snailed up the hillside, I noticed a commotion taking place at one of the tourist spots near the summit of the mountain. Here a shanty town had sprung up, geared to providing souvenirs for the more intrepid tourist, brave enough to venture that far up.
        The noise I could hear was coming from a group of Japanese tourists. They were very animated, arguing and shouting among themselves about something that was happening in front of them.
         As our group approached theirs, I noticed something peculiar. The members of this group of Japanese were all men, dressed in formal business suits, wearing collar and ties even in the heat of the midday sun.
        
         Were they members of some sort of trade delegation to the Philippines I wondered? I thought it strange they would go sightseeing dressed like that.
         Then again, not so strange, I had come to realize, if you have ever observed Japanese people in groups as we had done in Hawaii. I had found, in large numbers, they all seemed to dress and act the same, oddly aggressive when altogether; unlike the individual Japanese tourist I had met in Britain whom I had found unfailingly polite.
         We came up level with them. By this time they had become very excited indeed, as if in the midst of a vital bet., a game of chance about to reach its climax.
         Intrigued, I drew closer. As I approached, I became aware that each of the men had a handful of the local coins. They were throwing them over the edge of the cliff face which dropped away dramatically from the side of the mountain.
         The group was pressed hard up against a wooden barrier, presumably erected to stop people going too close to the edge, or losing their footing and falling.
    Just why were they throwing the coins? Was it some type of wishing game - throw a coin, make a wish? Or were they seeing who could throw the coins out the furthest? The whole thing seemed rather strange, foreign.
         I made my way over, taking care not to go too near – heights like this really petrified me. Still, regardless of my fear I felt drawn towards the edge – riveted by the behavior of these men.
         The jumble of emotions women experience in pregnancy only seemed to heighten my fear. I swayed slightly looking over, yet I needed to see where the coins were going, wanting to see for myself.
         Below on an almost vertical cliff face, with feet at an acute angle to the rock face, was a young Filipino boy of perhaps nine or ten – it was so hard to tell, to me they all seemed so small for their age.
         In his outstretched hand he held a bamboo pole. Attached to the end of it was a thing which reminded me of what they used to call a 'pokey hat' - paper rolled into a cone-like shape.
         This young boy was trying to catch the coins the Japanese were throwing over the edge. This seemed to be some kind of sport for the foreign tourists – the only tourists taking part that I could see, was this group.
         As I looked below, the boy reached out with his thin nut-brown arm, straining as much as he dared without losing balance, trying to catch the rain of coins which fell from the sky above him.
         I looked about me to see the reaction of the other people in the group I was with. I looked at my husband's relatives, but most particularly I looked at the face of my husband. None of his relatives seemed too concerned.
        My husband just looked away.
        One of his nephews began talking to the others in his own dialect, pointing over the edge of the cliff to the open plains beneath. I followed the line of his hand with my eyes and saw four tiny, white wooden crosses – just specks below at the base of the cliff.
         These I was informed were crosses erected for the children that had reached too far. The ones who had fallen from their perches on the mountain side to their deaths.
         I looked again at the Japanese tourists who were still throwing their coins, further and further out as the child strained his slight body with such agility to catch them.
         I let out a scream.
            The noise stopped. Both groups looked directly at me. My husband and his relatives then looked away, embarrassed.
         I believed I screamed 'murderers' at them all.
        
         I demanded the members of my husband's family bring the boy off the cliff- face. This they did, without speaking or questioning me. I suppose they thought I had gone quite mad. Yes I was a mad, pregnant white woman. They did it to stop me screaming any more.
         I told my husband to give the boy money. He gave him a few hundred pesos, probably equivalent of a man's wage there.
         The Japanese looked at me but never said a word.
         I couldn't read their faces or manage to gauge just what they thought. Had I spoiled their fun, or were they ashamed? I had no way of knowing. I didn't care what they thought. They left the vantage point then and went away, no word spoken among any of them.
                                                         *
         Our group turned silently away. We would go to eat, my husband informed me. To one of the little cantinas that littered the path up the mountain, among the souvenir cabins selling their native crafts.
         No-one referred to what had just happened. Was I the only person who felt like this? To my husband and his family I probably appeared as a rude British tourist who didn't understand anything about their way of life or culture.
         I read it in their eyes - a silly foreign woman, different, pregnant, someone to be humoured because she was married to their uncle. At that moment I wished myself away from that outlandish place.
         After we had eaten an awkward lunch, we made their way laboriously back down the mountain path, passing the cliff where the boy had been. There were no more Japanese tourists to be seen. Again I went over and looked down, expecting to see no-one, only those small forlorn crosses pointing up their accusing fingers to the cliff top and the people looking down.
        
        There to my disbelief I saw the same small boy – ten meters down the rock face, perched once more in that same precarious position, waiting for the next consignment of tourists to look over the edge and see him waiting for their coins.
         I turned and asked my husband's nephew, yet again, to speak to the boy. I saw the exasperation on all their faces, but I was beyond worrying about what they thought of me or the impression I was making on my husband's family. To them I must have appeared presumptive, interfering – it was too late to change these opinions now and something inside made me not even want to.
        But, why, I asked myself, was he back down the cliff? Hadn't we given him enough money to stop him, at least for that day?
         The boy looked at up, directly at me, as he answered my un-spoken question.
         In English, he said, 'my mother sent me, mam.'




    Archived comments for Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    Hazy on 2004-08-27 11:51:59
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    Oh, this is pretty special. I really liked it. Not sure if it's fiction or not? Def a 'great read' for me!

    Nearly didn't bother with it, I have to say. Something about the title and the description nearly put me off - can't put my finger on what exactly, but it just never leapt out at me.

    I'll let you know the lines I wasn't sure about...

    "It seemed a lot of money at that time –perhaps not so much now with property prices, but it felt like a windfall. We decided to spend it all - on going round the world."

    I'm not sure about the hyphens and I don't think you need the bit on the end of the first line about the windfall. Think a semi-colon could sub the first hyphen and the 2nd one could come out completely.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I really enjoyed this one. Loved the ending.

    Hazy x

    Author's Reply:

    Gerry on 2004-08-27 15:46:30
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    Enjoyed this very much, nicely told story.

    Gerry.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-08-29 07:12:20
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    Many thanks Hazy for your rating and you comments. Its good to see a story read through someone else's eyes.
    The title Foreign Coin came from me feeling just like that a foreign coin in the mist of another world. It is part fiction and part fact.
    Looking back now I see how presumptive we can be about other people's lives and me offering money was more to salve my self-righteous conscience than to help the boy.
    I'll try and tighten it up though and thanks again.
    jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-08-29 07:17:11
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    Thanks Gerry for your comment and rating.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Harry on 2004-09-11 08:06:15
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    I found this story very effective, blackdove. A wonderfully frank look into the values of different people. It would make a marvelous screen play.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-09-18 15:00:40
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    if only... thanks for reading it Harry.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Skeeter on 2004-10-13 08:41:00
    Re: Foreign Coin (My entry for UKA short story competition)
    poor kid, they don't get much choice, do they? and sometimes so few chances. This is a very revealing piece of writing in many ways, travelogue, commentary, outrage, and I liked it a lot. The ending is just right, I feel, doesn't resolve or dictate, leaves the reader to fill in for themselves all the implications.

    Author's Reply:


    Epiphany (posted on: 13-08-04)
    This was written after I watched Farhenheit 9/11. I was trying to make the analogy between the way the character in Planet of the Apes realised he was on earth and man had destroyed it and the realisation by soldiers in Iraq they had been deceived and the only WMD were themselves. Does it work? Any comments would be welcome. Jemima

    Epiphany Liberty lies broken in the sand. Her dying beacon lighting one moment of revelation; mankind has destroyed itself. Protecting manmade altars to the power of black gold, to lies soldiers now falter in her beam, to find themselves; the weapons of mass destruction.
    Archived comments for Epiphany
    Bradene on 2004-08-29 08:07:38
    Re: Epiphany
    Oh yes this works for me.. I cannot think why it has been ignored. Great insight I thought. Val x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-08-29 08:24:24
    Re: Epiphany
    Thanks once again Val,
    I thought people were just fed up hearing about Iraq and WMD and that's why it wasn't commented on. I'm very glad it works for you.
    When I watched that film it struck me like a bolt of lightening, those two images and I tried to juxtaposition the ideas in two stanzas to show the parallel.
    Its good when someone else can see what you see.
    Many thanks,
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    Fault Line (posted on: 02-08-04)


    Fault Line I broke it in an argument about what - I can't remember, still I tried to glue it together. Twisted the pieces, turning, feeling blind for the precise groove of the break. I thought I'd found it, managed to put it back in its seam, almost perfect. Till you identified the natural fault line which had always been there.
    Archived comments for Fault Line
    silentmemories on 2004-08-02 03:31:00
    Re: Fault Line
    Very nice!

    Author's Reply:

    dylan on 2004-08-04 03:56:54
    Re: Fault Line
    Very consise piece with emotional depth.
    Only tiny crit is with the opening lines -
    "about what I can’t remember,
    still I tried to glue it back."
    seems to jar slightly with the rest .
    Perhaps
    "It was broken
    in an argument,
    but was worth saving"
    would be smoother?
    Just a thought-nice poem overall.



    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 11:46:01
    Re: Fault Line
    hello Shywolf,
    Leonard Cohen, my favourite poet of all time.
    Jemima x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 11:46:27
    Re: Fault Line
    Thank you!


    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-11-10 11:47:04
    Re: Fault Line
    That's how it came to me...
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    Blind Spot (posted on: 12-07-04)
    Often children see where adults are blind...

                                                             Blind Spot      Hannah sat on the bench, legs swinging, watching the huge clock suspended high over platform ten at Waverley station. Waiting for the noon train from London. Looking up at the over-blown face, she watched as the huge metal hand moved, minute by minute.     Hannah realized you could see time.     She wanted to tell this to someone. Hannah looked up hoping to catch her mother's gaze. She watched her mother as she stared sown the approach to platform ten, peering short-sightedly at the small screen display which told them how long it would be before the next train arrived.      Hannah decided she would have to save it for another time and returned to watching the minutes jerk round the full-moon face of the clock with a long, black finger.       The finger making him a liar.      Again Hannah's eyes turned to her mother, pacing up and down in her dainty new shoes, one size too small. Every few minutes she would turn briefly to flash her painted red smile at Hannah, mouthing the words, 'he'll be here soon.' Yes, twelve o'clock he'd said the last time they had seem him. Twelve o'clock he's said again on the telephone.          Twelve o'clock.     Hannah promised herself she would only look up again after counting up to sixty. She wouldn't allowing herself to look at the clock until she'd finished this ritual. The giant clock hung directly over her head, swaying a little with each warm breeze given off by an arriving train. She had to lean backwards on the bench to see the face. It stated it was just after 11.57 a.m. all the while time moved, never stopping. Although she hadn't seen the stumpy fat finger ever move, the long spidery black one continued to jerk, jumping the minutes, like someone having an electric shock, trying to join the shorter fat finger at the twelve. Hannah's could remember her Granny had telling her, 'time and tide for no man bide'.      Not even for her father.      When Hannah's father had asked her what she wanted as a present from him when they spoke on the phone she had been reluctant to say she wanted anything. She didn't know why, but to ask for a present was like a betrayal. But then who was she betraying?      Perhaps herself.      Hannah felt if she refused to ask for anything then when it didn't appear, she hadn't been tricked. He hadn't managed to take her in. She remembered all the other presents, the appearances that never materialized. When granny heard what Hannah's father had said, she tutted, saying he was as reliable as the weather. But not mother, she never seemed deterred by the disappointments. She kept her hope.      But how was it she, Hannah, knew he wasn't going to come? Deep inside, knew he wouldn't turn up? And why did her mother, a grown up, not know?      Hannah puzzled hard over this.      She wanted to find the right answer to this. Hannah hated not being able to work out why things came about and what caused them. When this happened Hannah would draw her brows together, determined to fathom a particular conundrum which lay beyond her grasp. This one was about not seeing things others could see. She had to think hard.      Then she had it.      Mothers and Fathers had blind spots. Hannah had read about them in science class with Miss Marshall. Like those blinds spots you could get while driving, where just for a moment the driver couldn't see the car behind, when it disappeared from one mirror to reappear in another in the space of a second. These were called blind spots her teacher had said. Grown-ups must have them when they lived together. Or apart even, it seemed.      Yes, now she had it. And perhaps children didn't develop their blind spots until they became adult too. Of course, they didn't need to really - they didn't drive.      Good, now she knew.      Hannah signed then, wondering to herself how much longer they would have to wait until her mother could see clearly again?
    Archived comments for Blind Spot
    bluepootle on 2004-07-12 03:32:25
    Re: Blind Spot
    I like the image of the spidery fingers of the clock but felt that maybe you repeated it a little too often, so it started to lose its impact. It's difficult to make interesting prose out of waiting - I think you did the right thing to keep it short and not get drawn into a boring conversation between the mother/daughter.

    Author's Reply:


    Old Photographs (posted on: 12-07-04)
    Do they steal your soul?

    Old Photographs Old photographs removed from graying walls bright flowers left beside the faded blooms where we all wore smiles and silly shoes, young faces stories still unwritten, age just a number on another form. The camera caught unguarded eyes, the hint of malice in its betrayer's kiss to hold our essence within a flash, in chemicals, the setting picture. Now colours are faded, the furies still and our lives reduce, as time lessens us with a touch of our own mortality.
    Archived comments for Old Photographs
    Bradene on 2004-07-13 07:01:46
    Re: Old Photographs
    Your words are a bit like the photographs you speak of they have captured, for me at least, that feeling you get when looking through old photographs, the eyes always pull me, to wonder about thoughs long forgotten,feelings long dead. A lovely atmospheric piece. Love Val xx

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-07-13 14:30:53
    Re: Old Photographs
    Lovely nostalgic poem black-dove. I had difficulty with the second line of your last stanza " and l our lives reduce" - it reads akwardly, which is a shame in such a good piece of work. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-13 16:57:52
    Re: Old Photographs
    Hello Elfstone,
    I have rectified the typing error It was supposed to read 'and our lives reduce' - does that make better sense?
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-13 17:01:12
    Re: Old Photographs
    Hi Bradene,
    I apprecitate your comments and I sometimes think we are lessened by our image being captured - it does take something away like the Islamic faith says, it steals our soul - or is that just fanciful? I know something is reduced. I am glad you liked this poem.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Skeeter on 2004-07-14 17:51:38
    Re: Old Photographs
    A nice, thoughtful poem, about a timeless subject (no irony intended!). Reminds me a bit of that poem by Thomas Hardy, how does it go now?... 'ah no the years oh, how the thick leaves swirl down in throngs' or something like that. I liked this.

    Author's Reply:

    dargo77 on 2004-07-15 05:21:27
    Re: Old Photographs
    Black-dove, very enjoyable read.
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-15 13:04:28
    Re: Old Photographs
    Hello Dargo,
    And how are you? I am a wee bit peed as I have been out with friends - so I better not write too much, but I am listening to Jackson Brown's 'Late for the Sky' and Ihaven't heard it for years and its just like lloking at old photgraphs, only better.
    Luv JemX


    Author's Reply:

    Leila on 2004-07-15 13:36:55
    Re: Old Photographs
    So glad I came back to read this as I liked it so much early in the week but stumbled terribly over what has now been revealed as a typing error. So just wanted to say good poem...L

    Author's Reply:


    The Walk (posted on: 09-07-04)
    Where are you safe?

    The Walk

    Strains of a familiar soap tune played as she came into the flat.
    Her flat.
    Long hard months of saving, working three jobs had finally given her enough money for the deposit to buy that flat. At last, she and David had managed to secure the mortgage, something they had been trying to do for ages.
    It was a basement flat, the details had called it a garden flat – yet it wasn't dark like others, it had plenty of light and space, but more especially there was a garden, though over-grown.
    She'd really worked hard on that little patch of land, now green and cared for, with planters and a rockery. The weeds had been almost up to her shoulders when they first started to clear it. She remembered the blisters she'd had on her hands from digging and the fights about what to plant. She rubbed her hands together now thinking of it.
    She'd done up the flat so nicely too, definitely had a flair, friends said,all from local salerooms and jumbles – yes, she had plenty to be pleased about.
    Why then this feeling of disquiet when she heard the music from the TV making her realise David was in?
    The washing machine.
    Or rather the lack of a washing machine.


    Every few days she had to cycle (the car had went towards paying the deposit on the flat) with their clothes to the laundrette. David wore chef's whites and needed clean uniforms each day – he was so particular, and she needed her uniforms washed too.
    When they'd managed to get the mortgage it was in joint names, totally down the middle, fifty, fifty. Yet tax relief, when it came by way of a cheque, had arrived addressed and made payable to David - the man.
    She desperately wanted that money which it turned out was more than three hundred pounds, to buy a washing machine. It would have meant she could stop rushing to the laundrette after work.
    There were deeper reasons too.
    It hurt when he refused to give the cheque to her. If he really cared about her, why wouldn't he just give her the bloody money to buy the machine? Didn't he want to save her from having to go out at night after a long tiring day at the nursing home to sit in damned laundrette then go back home in the dark?
    Why was the cheque made out to him anyway? Didn't she pay exactly half of everything and in truth, didn't she really contribute more than him, for she used the money from her part-time job to buy those little extras that had made the flat so comfortable for both of them?
    Every since buying the flat she had worked in a bar three nights a week to help with the mortgage.
    And she hated it.
    Some of the regulars used to try it on, talking suggestively to her about what they would like to do to her. She would laugh it off, make a joke of it. But really, those men (most of them old enough to be her father), saying that type of thing, repulsed her.
    This is what she'd been willing to put up with; just to be able to buy those extras David would call 'luxuries'. That's exactly what he had shouted at her the last time they had a fight about that stupid, washing machine.
    She just felt it was so unfair.
    No. Unequal, that's what it was.
    She felt the reason for this was she was female, that's why the building society had sent the cheque to him and not to both of them.
    This was the reason for her mood. She realised it now and these thoughts went with her as she walked into the living room. She set her face as she entered, purposely deciding to bring the subject up – again.
    David was sitting, as usual, in his chair watching the early evening news which had just come on.
    ''Hi, honey, was there any mail?'' She said this, watching his face the whole time to see if the subject she had at the forefront of her mind was worth approaching.
    ''Just bills'' he said, not even looking away from the TV set.
    Annoyed by this, she decieded, to say it anyway.
    ''About that cheque, David…'' she left it open. Waiting, hoping to goad him into a response.
    ''Surely, you're not still on about THAT are you!'' he snapped at her.''
    Yes, I am!'' she came right back.
    She knew this wasn't going to go the way she had hoped, but she couldn't control the anger she felt, it spilled out her mouth, unbidden.
    ''Half of that cheque belongs to me. I need that washing machine. I'm fed up trekking back and forwards to that bloody laundrette after I've worked all day with your washing!''
    She heard her voice become shriller as she barked the words, but her anger just rose. She couldn't hold it in.
    David, on the other hand, never raised his voice as he said, ''I need that money to send to my family – you know that as well as I do. They need it more than us.''
    And here was the deepest reason of all for her anger.
    David had been married before and was still supporting his first family. Would they be with them always? Of course, they wouldn't drop off the end of the planet or go away - and as he kept reminding her, she had known that before they started living together.
    But she just wanted to explain how she felt. That she was coming second, that his ex-wife had a washing machine and didn't have to go cycling to a laundrette.
    What she really wanted to say was she felt as if she came second. All the time. She felt she always would and somehow that just showed she didn't matter as much to him as they did.
    What if she wanted children too? What then? All these thoughts raced around her head, but somehow she just couldn't seem to articulate them – only her rage seemed to find words.
    ''Is this how we're going to live – always putting them first - it's my fucking money too. I work damn hard for it and I don't need to support your grasping ex-wife and her fucking greedy kids!''
    She screamed this at him, then stepped back, shocked with the things she'd said. Too late, she couldn't take back the vitriol in her words.
    David stood up.
    The expression on his face was one she'd never seen before.
    It frightened her.
    He moved towards her, took his hand, drew it back and smacked her hard across the face. They stood, silent. She felt shocked, bewildered by this act of violence.
    Her own anger rose once more. She went to pick up a vase to throw at him – a pretty old blue and white one she had recently bought – stopped in mid-action.
    Damn him, these are my things she thought, my possessions. This is my home. The first real home, she realised now, that she had probably ever had.
    She put back the vase, deliberately, in its place. Turning, she went back into the hall and picked up the jacket she had just taken off and ran out of the flat, slamming the door as hard as she could after her.

    *
    The night air was cold, biting. She looked up at the stars, clearly visible in the night air. The quick breaths she took caught her throat as she sobbed, hot tears pouring down her face. She wiped them away with the back of her hand, angry with herself for crying, but more with David.
    That bastard, he is so, so wrong!'' she cursed, strangling the scream which rose in her throat. People in the street were beginning to notice her tear-stained face, her barely suppressed sobs. She tried to regain control, forcing herself to calm down. She walked away from the flat into the darkness.
    *
    She'd always liked walking in Edinburgh at night. Looking into the lighted windows of some of these large New Town houses she could imagine the lives the inhabitants might have – they, surely, weren't squabbling over a measly cheque to buy a stupid washing machine!
    She smiled ruefully to herself, gazing, now a voyeur, into the grand living rooms of these homes, trying hard to take her mind of what had just happened.
    Some of them were really lovely – just like a spread out of a 'Homes and Gardens' magazine, one of the ones she liked to buy, a habit David had make fun of, teasing her about having 'big ideas'.
    Even the people in the houses looked as if they belonged in the magazine too. She sighed; doubting if she'd ever be likely to own a house like any of these.
    Still, she could dream.
    She realised she was actually beginning to enjoy her unplanned walk. So engrossed was she in watching other people's lives at first she didn't really notice the sound of footsteps behind her.
    Gradually she became more aware of a certain sound, a sound seemingly echoing her own on the cobbled streets. She looked around.
    About thirty yards behind her she saw the outline of a figure, a man dressed in dark clothes with something swinging in his hand – possibly a dog's leash, she thought?
    Perhaps a local resident taking his dog for a walk?
    She kept on walking, enjoying the elegant crescents. They had a rather dark, empty feel about them at this time in the evening. Made her think of those ghost towns in old western movies, tumbleweed blowing down them - but no people.
    Many of these large terraces were offices by day, but completely vacant by night.
    The streets of Burke and Hare.
    She laughed nervously at herself - just what was she trying to do? 'Silly girl,' she thought, 'you're only scaring yourself.'
    Stop being stupid, she told herself, it's just someone like you – out for a walk. Still, she quickened her pace, turning and started to make for home.
    Home.
    She would go back and David would be sorry for what he had done. She would forgive him and they would make up and probably, somehow, they'd afford that washing machine. If need be on credit – though David didn't really approve of that - but he'd find if difficult to disagree now.
    She was beginning to feel better.
    As her steps quickened (or was she merely imagining it?) so had the man's behind her. Maybe his dog had run off and he was trying to get it back.
    Strange he never called out a name.
    Again, she walked a little faster; realising she hadn't had any supper after having worked all day. There was a nice bottle of wine in the fridge and she had smelt a lovely supper cooking when she had gone home – the first time – before that stupid argument.
    David always cooked supper for her as he was first in. He wasn't so bad, she told herself. The slap had come as complete shock though. But he had never done anything like that before, so why should it ever happen again, she reasoned? And really if she were truthful with herself, she did provoke him with the terrible things she had said.
    They would make up. If she were being honest with herself this was always the best part of their arguments.
    She wanted desperately to hurry home to him now – just another couple of streets to go. Thankfully she was back into the lights of the main street – across the road and home, home.
    As she hurried she could heard the steps behind her keep pace with hers, apparently going in the same direction. She could feel the hairs rise on the back of her neck now, as fear caught her.
    This man following her.
    Otherwise, why was he going so fast?
    She began to run, crossing the main road, heedless of traffic, not hearing the horn of the irate driver who had to brake to avoid her.
    Thank goodness, there were other people walking about now she was on a busier street. Breathing hard she ran the last few yards to the steps down to her flat. She opened the heavy wrought iron gate, letting it fly behind her and fleeing down the steps, two at a time.
    She held her house keys in the palm of her hand. They felt wet and clammy with the sweat of her fear; she had been grasping them so hard they had cut into her hand.
    She fumbled now with the door key, managing to unlock the door and open it.
    The warmth and brightness of her flat and her life enveloped her. Safely inside, she leaned against the back of the door to regain her breath. And her composure.
    She heard David call from the living room ''Are you back?''
    She could hear the strains of some other vapid tune from one of those soaps he liked to watch, but even that was reassuring. It was good to have a home to run back to; to have man; a life.
    She felt grateful for it all.
    David looked up from his chair and said ''Would you like your supper now?''
    She supposed that was as near as he would ever get to a spoken apology. He was not a man of words, he found it difficult to say things. But she could tell from this gesture he was in his own way trying to say sorry.
    The table was set and the wine from the fridge was open on the table. She smiled, a warm feeling of safety making her sigh.
    Everything would be fine now.
    Then she remembered, ''I'll just go and close that top gate – I forgot,'' thinking now she'd probably been panicking for nothing.
    Had she imagined the man was following her? For all she knew he was just trying to get his dog back. Anyway, she knew David wouldn't want some stray dog coming down the steps and relieving itself on his well-kept patio.
    Looking at him now she thought she saw, for a fraction of a second, a shadow of the look that she had seen in his eyes just before he had hit her.
    The expression passed from his face as quickly as it had come. Had she actually seen it at all she asked herself, or was she just being silly? That episode on the walk must have rattled her more than she liked to admit.
    Throwing a quick smile back towards David, she ran out into the courtyard at the front of the flat to close the gate. Crossing the area she noticed how much colder it had become. She went up the stairs to shut the gate which was creaking as it swung in the east wind.
    She felt safe and secure once more back in her own house, a warm feeling inside, the man in black forgotten.
    A clinking noise caught her attention, pulling her up. A clashing of metal on metal as the wind blew was making the noise.
    Hanging from the iron railings, which ran along the front of the stair was a cheese-cutter – the kind used in delicatessens to cut portions off the huge cheeses they often displayed in their windows. The two ends of steel, tightly wrapped round one of the iron spearheads of the railings were swinging, hitting off each other, blown by the wind.

    Archived comments for The Walk
    bluepootle on 2004-07-09 03:16:26
    Re: The Walk
    I enjoyed this, but it did feel like two halves of two different stories pasted together - I didn't feel that either side, the following of the woman or the argument between the couple, were resolved to my satisfaction. I think there needs to be more ties between the two events to make it work. Hope that helps.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-10 04:32:01
    Re: The Walk
    I meant the story to come together with the look on the boyfriend's face - showing just where was she safe? - not out on a night walk, or at home. Perhaps I need to weave the two halves a bit more and don't show the seams. I thought I had, but maybe a new pair of eyes sees things that can stare you in the face.
    Thanks bluepootle.

    Author's Reply:

    thehaven on 2004-07-10 09:48:35
    Re: The Walk
    This was,as BP say a story of 2 halves.Both gripping inthere intensity of feling .One of a trivial argument exploding into anger .The other a terrifing walk.Both without conclusion.

    But a superb story imo.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-10 14:33:01
    Re: The Walk
    Haven, thanks for voting on the story but I think then I didn't get the point across which was that both the events went towards the one end, that she couldn't really feel safe where she was supposed to be safe - in her own home.
    The fear from outside was great because it was an unknown but our worst fears are of things which have already happened to us.
    Maybe I need to look at it again.
    luv Jem

    Author's Reply:

    jay12 on 2004-07-11 19:57:02
    Re: The Walk
    Nice story. I agree with the other comments that the 2 parts of the story need to be knitted together slightly better but that is not a criticism at all.

    It reads very well and kept my attention from start to finish.


    James.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-12 09:45:57
    Re: The Walk
    Thanks James,
    Sometimes with short stories the effort is more than the reward and I think that is the case with this one. Thank you for voting for it though.
    Maybe I will work on it some more, but as usual I'm on to the next one already and don't want to revise, a lazy writer I think.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    The Poppy Thread (posted on: 09-07-04)
    About Afganistan's heroin trade.

    Poppy Thread Grown wanton from this earth's loom once wars' great symbol of redemption The weft vermilion vein the poppy's new domain the warp entwined through twisted threads of dying. As ghost soldiers wander still through distant lands the seeds of war march on in greatcoats woven red to grow once more in Afghan's blood-soaked fields dark harvest of this torn country's bounty. Transmuted, the emblem of addiction, clothed purple-black, blood-crimson, death-white, journeying on through the seams of Europe this lethal flower still vents its silent rage weaving new coats shades of poppy red to wrap cold comfort round our sleeping and their dead.
    Archived comments for The Poppy Thread
    dargo77 on 2004-07-10 05:06:43
    Re: The Poppy Thread
    Black-dove, really enjoyed this. A Hot Story for me.
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-10 06:28:08
    Re: The Poppy Thread
    Dargo,
    Thanks for your comments.
    They are very much appreciated coming from from such a good poet.
    I really thought this was a bit obscure - not really the way I usually write - but I'm encouraged that you thought it was good enough to get your vote.
    Luv Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    jay12 on 2004-07-11 19:41:07
    Re: The Poppy Thread
    This is a superb poem,

    James.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-12 07:51:55
    Re: The Poppy Thread
    James,
    I am very happy that you found something in this poem. I wasn't too sure if it was clear enough or not, but you obviously didn't think it was and I'm glad for that. Many thanks for your posting and your vote.
    Jemx

    Author's Reply:

    Bradene on 2004-07-13 07:09:09
    Re: The Poppy Thread
    Don't know how I managed to miss this last week. A piece of brillience on a very emotive subject. Love Val xx

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-14 05:39:04
    Re: The Poppy Thread
    hello Val,
    Many thanks for you comment and your vote.
    Jemx

    Author's Reply:


    On Passion Spent (posted on: 02-07-04)
    A Frivolous thought for a Friday...

    On Passion Spent

    The height of ardour is usually brief,
    unless your partner's like Sting
    and into Tantra.

    I sometimes wonder – why the fuss?
    Making passion into something grand
    or a crime to spill blood for.

    I prefer chocolate myself -
    The flavour lasts longer
    and the guilt's my own.

    Archived comments for On Passion Spent
    dargo77 on 2004-07-04 12:05:40
    Re: On Passion Spent
    Enjoyed your thoughts. I agree with you about the chocolate.
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-10 04:35:00
    Re: On Passion Spent
    Just a light thought to get away from all the heavy stuff. Dargo, I thought it was only women who used chocolate as a substitute for passion?

    Author's Reply:

    jay12 on 2004-07-11 19:59:45
    Re: On Passion Spent
    Nice poem. Made me smile. 🙂

    Chocolate better than sex though, I have to disagree.


    James.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-12 09:47:25
    Re: On Passion Spent
    Only for women I think, never for men.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    Another Funeral Tea (posted on: 28-06-04)
    You don't notice the years passing until you go back...

    Another Funeral Tea Back home once more arriving late, we trail the cortege in our bleak duty, less fraught than weddings, to his release.
    Archived comments for Another Funeral Tea
    bluepootle on 2004-06-28 04:34:29
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    I like the last two verses of this in particular. Some very strong images.

    Author's Reply:

    alcarty on 2004-06-28 11:46:29
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Wonderful imagery, good observation and description; every stanza holds some basic truth. I enjoy and appreciate reality. You present it well, and you don't hide behind the esoteric.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-28 13:05:39
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Well Al, I'm well chuffed with the nomination, as I haven't been writing for very long (about a year really) I thought this particular poem might be considered a bit old-fashioned. Seems a lot of poets now frown on this kind of pathetic fallacy and big metaphors.
    Much of the poetry I've read recently is fashionably minimalist - for me I find some of it rather bare and if I'm being truthful, hard to fathom (but I thought it was me not being able to see the deeper meaning).
    Anyhow, many thanks for your vote and the encouragement to keep writing and not to worry over much about having what I thought was perhaps a dated style.
    Cheers,
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-28 13:20:23
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Many thanks,once again for your generous comments, bluepootle.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-06-28 13:54:35
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    This is an honest poem, dealing with a situation that many older members of this site will recognise. One comes to an age when funerals are more prevalent than weddings and family get-togethers become sad occasions rather than happy. You have captured that well. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    ruby on 2004-06-29 04:14:47
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    I thought this was excellent - the form lends itself particularly well to the subject matter - I like stanza 2 best. This sort of well-crafted observational writing will always be fashionable for me.

    ruby

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-29 04:31:06
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Thanks for your comments Elfstone. The other thing I was trying to capture, as well as how time steals things from us, was that in villages where the land is a part your life, your are more aware of the cycle of life and death.
    I have never been to a funeral in the city, probably the people I know here are of my own generation rather than older relatives and acquaintances. But I think we do lose touch with the realities of dying more than in a country communities, where I came from.
    Going back makes you stop and think.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-29 04:35:28
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Thanks for you posting ruby and your comments on the second stanza. I was trying to say that we are out of touch with the land and the cycle of life, we want to forget it, so when death comes its more of a shock than when you life with the land and the natural rhythms of it. Anyway that was the idea.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-29 04:37:06
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Thanks for you posting ruby and your comments on the second stanza. I was trying to say that we are out of touch with the land and the cycle of life, we want to forget it, so when death comes its more of a shock than when you live with the land and the natural rhythms of it. Anyway that was the idea.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Leila on 2004-06-29 05:02:08
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Now and again in this poem I got the feel of Larkin and I liked it. I think verses 2,3, 5 and six work best. Like what you've done...L

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-29 12:28:55
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Your comments are much appreciated, Leila, its very encouraging to get so much feedback - thanks.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Sunken on 2004-06-30 01:20:07
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Chocked with great lines and images. Especially like -

    lands held ransom,
    entombed in concrete slab
    where ground no longer breathes.

    Really strong write and worthy of the nomination.

    s
    u
    n
    k
    e
    n

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-30 04:49:05
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Morning Sunk,
    I have served breakfasts, re-set the dining room, answered the emails and inquiries, confirmed the bookings, sent the invoices, checked guests out (and in), phoned the taxis, given directions, argued with the plumber,(should have heard his spurs coming up the road!) walked on my hands with my toes strumming a banjo, a feather duster stuck up my arse, dusting while I go -and all the while I hear the Sirens of the UKA calling and what I really want to do is read your comment.
    Praise can become addictive!
    thanks Sunk, luv Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    Emerald on 2004-06-30 08:32:05
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Hi - I liked this poem - loved the imagery you used.

    Well done

    Emma:)

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-30 11:42:29
    Re: Another Funeral Tea

    Hi Emma,
    You are always very suportive in your comments, I like your peotry very much too. I haven't been on the site that long either, so its nice to keep such posibitve feed back.
    thanks,
    Jem


    Author's Reply:

    thehaven on 2004-06-30 11:52:38
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Even to a non poet like myself this comes accros as powerful imagery and a must for the anthology .

    Author's Reply:

    uppercase on 2004-06-30 12:03:39
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Reality You put the truth on paper and painted a picture of life and death.....Erma.. Well done I like it

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-30 12:15:02
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Haven, you are very kind sir.
    I'm getting a wee bit carried away with such nice comments. Pity I have to go back to the reality of serving at the bar...answering the phone, smiling at Americans, while pulling this ball and chain after me. I think I'm going stir crazy.
    luv Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-30 12:20:40
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Erma,
    Many thanks for that.
    I love some of your stories. I used to work in America - a long time ago. But your stories remind me of that film, 'Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe', of an America I never saw. They're like catching nostalgia and wrapping it up in words and pictures, then its holding the essence. I can imagine them as short films on TV.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Skeeter on 2004-06-30 18:55:51
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    This is really good. I'm sorry, I've not read your work before, but I will definitely read more. (so many writers, so little time!!!). To me it has a touch of Edward Thomas about it, and I like it for that. But it's also very original, has some wonderful passages in it (I love 'clutching at small dignities') Personally I like the lat 3 stanzas best, I think they are superb. I hope you keep on writing like this,a nd don't try to change according to fashion. 'To thine own self be true' as the bloke said.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-02 06:32:41
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Which bloke was that?
    Many thanks Skeeter and I'll keep posting.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Skeeter on 2004-07-02 14:59:41
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    That Shakespeare bloke. i think it was in Hamlet, Polonius giving advice to some one or other. Don't quote em though, but it seems sensible to me!

    Author's Reply:

    teifii on 2004-07-04 10:29:17
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    A lovely poem. I especially liked verses 2 and 3 and the contrast between them. Actually felt it could have started with verse 2.
    Also liked
    And we, silent, guilty, reconciled,
    give him up to them.
    and the idea of bullying tears

    Daf

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-07-10 04:48:06
    Re: Another Funeral Tea
    Hello teifii,
    Thanks for the posting and on reading this again I think I could leave out the first stanza without detracting from the rest of the poem.
    Cheers,
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning (posted on: 25-06-04)
    Zero Tolerance ran a campaign some time ago and their slogan was:-

    Blame it on the drink
    Blame it on the woman
    Blame it on the weather

    This event happened a week past Saturday -
    obviously there are still a certain type of man out there looking for just such excuses.
    Comments welcome

    Tales of Blood on a Saturday Morning


    I cleaned the toilet,
    I cleaned the stair carpet
    with Vanish -
    but the stains didn't -
    only retreated,
    to chameleon brown.

    I cleaned blood smears
    from the phone she'd used
    caked like dark make-up
    from a wicked night
    then thick, black, congealed
    as from an animal slaughtered.

    I followed the path
    reading its tale,
    on a handrail, skirting,
    blood fingers lettering her pain
    on a door,
    wiping away the story
    her bleeding told.

    How he must have fed his anger,
    lay with it heavy, keeping it warm
    violence waiting, ever-primed
    for the excuse.

    To blame it on the drink
    To blame it on the woman
    To blame it on the weather.
    Her fear dangling
    like a loose tooth,
    enough to provoke him.

    Two teeth must have flown
    I found them too,
    lying in the aftermath
    and felt unexpectedly guilty
    for feeling glad
    they weren't my own.


    Archived comments for Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    dancing-queen on 2004-06-25 05:26:04
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Scary stuff, B-D. Well-written piece, I thought, leaving me with vivid descriptions in my mind. Gripping read. DQ

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-25 11:54:34
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Seems like I've got a bee in my bonnet about men, but its just worked out the last few pieces of writing have been along this vein. There are some nasty females out there too!
    But, unfortunately this poem was about a real incident. And its very true, you are glad when it isn't you on the receiving end. Thanks DQ for your comments - it was meant to be scary! if you felt that - it hit the mark.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Gerry on 2004-06-25 13:44:16
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    I have seen this so many times when I was with the police---very sad.
    Mostly it was drink.....

    Gerry.

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-06-25 16:21:35
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Powerful stuff Black Dove. Not comfortable reading but thought provoking and necessary perhaps? Fortunately this is well outside my experience. Well written. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    discopants on 2004-06-26 02:21:39
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Powerfully written with strong images. Unfortunately, there'll always be those who will fall back on these excuses.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-26 08:21:36
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    The saddest thing was the girl told the night porter who had phoned the police that she had just had a baby to the guy five weeks before. Just how bad does it have to get before they leave?
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-26 08:26:49
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Thanks for your comments, Elfstone,
    We should be very glad its outside of the world we're used to, but its reality for a lot of women.
    I don't know if its right to use something like this to write poetry about. Is it like stealing someone's story and using it? Or is it right to tell it, I can't make up my mind on that. Anyway its written now although it can't help the victim.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-26 08:33:05
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Thanks for your comments about this poem.
    The fear of this kind of violence must be the ugliest thing I could imagine to have to live with. I hope the girl gets out, but she refused to press charges against the man, so what can you do if you are a by-stander?
    A horrible thing to see, but how much worse to live with?
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-06-26 10:19:19
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    I understand your scruples, but you don't identify the individual in any way, so I think it is an acceptable thing to do; perhaps even a necessary one. As for "not helping the victim" - is acknowledging her suffering in a sympathetic way not psychologically helpful? Only she can answer that, but I would think having her situation ignored would make it much worse.

    Poetry like this is difficult to read because it holds a clear mirror up to society and says "Look!" and that is never comfortable. It is a vital role that poetry (and prose) can fulfill though and so it is important that this kind of poem is written and read. Poetry should not all be about nice places and love and pretty things (although those also matter). I admire you for writing and posting this. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-26 12:23:14
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Yes, I think you are right, poetry doesn't have to be pretty to get a message across. And writing about these things - even just for an observer can be cathartic.
    I have to admit seeing the blood shook me and writing this poem was a way of dealing with that. But its also like looking behind or under something you don't wish to see. But even if you don't chose to look at such things, they still exist and are present, taking place usually behind closed door. Your comments have made me think, Elfstone, thanks.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    Emerald on 2004-06-27 02:54:35
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    A frightening and hard hitting poem - you get the pathos of the situation well.

    A good poem

    Emma:)

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-27 07:46:54
    Re: Tales of Blood on A Saturday Morning
    Hello Emerald,
    Thank you for your encouraging comments. I haven't commented on anyone else's work so far and I feel its all taking and no giving.
    I feel rather uncomfortable about passing comments on others work. I have read your poems and enjoyed them and I'll look out for your next one, maybe I'll find the courage to Post a comment too!
    Jem x

    Author's Reply:


    Northern Light (posted on: 25-06-04)
    Beware who you take a lift from.

    Northern Light

    Rain lashed across the windscreen, giving only camera-flashes of visibility. The wipers swept each torrent away for mere seconds, leaving the headlights to blaze momentarily on a sodden cardboard sign, held up by two small hands, raised in evaporating hope.
    Above the card, a young face floated in and out with the rain-waves across the glass, continually chased by the wipers, a look of sheer hopelessness painted on it by the deluge.
    What the weather had left of the sign was just about decipherable.
    He made out the one word on it, 'NORTH'.
    He'd already noticed the hiker, standing in the muddied grass verge when he had pulled in for diesel a few minutes before.
    Would he give the hitcher a lift? Well, why not?
    Dangerous? Hardly.

    Even if it was a male, by the looks of him he wouldn't have the strength to eat a sandwich, let alone try and attack a man of his size.
    Company would certainly relieve the boredom of an eight hour journey.
    He was driving north-wards out of one of those motorway services stations which could have been anywhere. There they were, from Land's End to Inverness, all so homogeneous, soulless. Necessary.
    'Well, why not?' he said to himself, he needed the distraction.
    He angled himself over to the cab-side, opened the door, leaned out horizontally and shouted through the rain.
    'Get in!'
    The figure holding the cardboard placard didn't response.
    'Do you want a lift – or not? Get in!' His words went unheard, taken away by the force of the wind.
    Maybe he should just forget it.
    Already there were a couple of vehicles behind him, turning impatient with the hold-up.
    At last the figure seemed to understand that this man in the van was trying to get their attention.
    The hiker approached the van, 'Sorry, I didn't realize you were speaking to me, anyway… thanks. Thanks a lot.'
    It was a girl's voice.
    She was struggling with a huge rucksack, must have had all her worldly possessions in it. He jumped out, agile for a large man. He ran round to where she stood. Taking the rucksack from the girl, he threw it effortlessly into a space beside the camera equipment, neatly arranged on the floor of the rear of his van. He caught the relieved look on the girl's face as he got back in. The cars behind were backing up, one driver peeped his horn, annoyed at the delay.
    'Keep your hair on,' he shouted over his shoulder, and smiled over at the hitch-hiker. They had something to share.
    The driver in the car directly behind him had just sounded his horn again. This time in temper. On a night like this all people really wanted was to get moving, get home to heat, food, the TV and a partner of any shape, size or persuasion.
    But some people had no tolerance at all he thought, especially on motorways; road etiquette, decency, left at the junctions where they joined. Patience disappeared in direct proportion to speed it seemed.
    Strange how he never got annoyed while driving. Found it soothing, easy. Unlike in his relationships with people, here, in the driver's seat, he was in control. In his own mind words and images were allowed to run free, but given to people they became twisted, maimed. That's what he found difficult.
    Not driving.
    He got back into the driver's side quickly and moved off, watching the cars behind, waiting his chance to find a space in the swift motorway traffic.

    Once he had joined the lane he wanted and the van was flowing along with in rest of the traffic's forward dance, he took his eyes off the road momentarily to look across at his young hitch-hiker.
    She had taken down the hood of her parker, the cloth turned dark with the rain, to reveal a head of spiked blondish hair. Below the hair was an elfin face, if he hadn't heard her speak, he'd have had difficulty telling if it belonged to a girl or a boy. She took off her wet coat, keeping her face turned forward.
    Quite a pretty thing. But what age? She looked very young. Too young to be out on a motorway at this time of night alone, hitch-hiking.
    'How far do you want to go?' he asked without looking directly at her, having quickly returned his eyes to the road ahead. Perhaps he should've worded that differently, it sounded awkward as he said it. He didn't want her to get the wrong idea, get frightened off.

    But she took the question at face value and answered, 'as far north as you're going, I mean - if that's okay?' She looked straight at him, this time. He realized then she was probably older than her features suggested, maybe seventeen, eighteen.
    'Sure, I'm going all the way to Peterhead. Have you heard of it?'
    'Yes,' was all she answered.
    Difficult, making conversation with a stranger, especially if they answered only in yes or nos.
    'Why you hitch-hiking then?'
    This came out without much thought or consideration. Couldn't he have worded it better? Never mind, as he glanced towards her again, she didn't seem too bothered by being asked.
    'No money, basically, that's why.' She looked over to him, eyes large, waiting for his judgment.
    It didn't come.


    He remember being there too well. A student, unemployed, skating from one loan to the next, waiting on the miserly giro cheque during the long holidays. Most people at some point in their lives had been there.
    'I know the feeling,' he threw a quick look of commiseration in her general direction.
    'So where exactly are you going?' he asked, trying not to intrude too far with his questioning. Not yet.
    She seemed okay.
    'I'm going to Aberdeen - taking environmental studies, almost apologetically she added, 'that's what I'm interested in.' She looked at him – for approval?
    He gave her a nod in response.
    'What, global warming, the Tokyo summit, all that sort of thing?'
    He fumbled clumsily around with the words, trying to tune in to what she was about, in an effort, however awkardly, to ease his way in.
    'Yeah, something like that,' she answered dismissively.
    Instantly his anger rose.
    Was this young girl patronizing him?
    There it was. The rage. It had sprung up once again, too easily. He needed to watch that, didn't want scare her. He made a conscious effort to cap it.
    Yet, as a cut in response, he said, 'so how come there's no-one to take you there then? Who let a nice looking young girl like you go hitch-hiking on the night like this, by yourself? No boyfriend looking after you?'
    He looked across taking his eyes away from the downpour, hoping he'd upset her.
    Target. He caught the confusion, the slight waiver in her voice before she answered, 'No, no boyfriend …now.' Her voice dropped off with the now, reminding him of the ending to some over-sentimental tune. Females, when would they learn life wasn't a bloody pop song?
    Fuck all their bleeding hearts.
    Still, he should cool it; keep a lid on his feelings, for now.

    'What about your dad then?' He shot this at her thinking he might as well test the ground before he started trying to make inroads, hoping to walk into the places already cleared.
    The empty places these other men had left in her life.
    He waited.
    She answered, flatly, 'Gone.'
    Just one word, no how or why.
    'And your mother?' he felt now as if he was interrogating her.
    Feeling this power made him harden.
    It had been a long time. Too long.
    That last time he remembered very clearly. His wife's eyes wide open, no scorn in them, lips wide, accommodating. Her viper tongue silent.
    He shot the girl a look, knowing her lip was trembling, as she said, 'She's got a new man. I was just in their way….he didn't want me around. So I decided to go and study - as far away as possible. I won't be in their way now.'
    He could almost see her lip turn under, on the verge of tears. He sensed it, even without looking towards her.
    These young girls were all the same, heads filled with romantic shit. Men were knights in shining armour and when they turned out to be just ordinary men, their jaws dropped and their legs closed. No access.
    Just like the other one.
    Just like Mandy.
    *
    The orange lights of the motorway gave way to darkness and the countryside, where he could retreat into that private film set of his mind, re-visiting those scenes where no-one else had access.
    It had been on a Wednesday night she'd told him.
    She didn't love him anymore. Told him they wouldn't be going with him, north, with his job, back to where he came from. A place she'd never liked. No way was she going to live near his relatives, people she'd never gotten on with. That was a joke. He was a joke. She just wouldn't go and she'd be keeping Jack.
    She despised him, she'd said, didn't want him touching her. He made her feel sick. Anyway, she'd found someone else.
    Normal. Not a control freak like him, but a man who wanted a real woman, a partner, not a slave.
    She said she'd taken enough; his anger, his demands, living in fear, she just went on and on until his head was exploding. He couldn't bare the sound of her voice anymore.
    She told him one thing too many.
    Rewinding on that scene he saw it all again. Everything shattered in little irritating pieces, impossible to repair.
    He knew if she had still been alive he would have made her tidy it all up, clean the mess, make everything neat, orderly. He had always liked an organized life.
    Yet, strangely, now his inner peace came from this new anarchy that final night had created.
    He saw his young son lying on the sofa, looking to all the world as if he were asleep. At least he was safe now. Safe from her, from her lies. She couldn't poison his mind anymore, twist everything, deceiving, turning the boy against him.
    He had begun to feel at ease then, everything removed that had been out with his power. Everything that had caused the anguish to boil in his head, fizzing out of control all the time, making him strike out, making him seem some kind of monster to his son, to other people. All that had ceased.
    No-one was there anymore to contradict him, to say what should have been, twist his words, disagree. There was total silence.
    The silence, he had earned himself.
    Yes, north was where he was heading and home. Home to where he knew how things worked, where he wasn't always the big Jock, the outsider. And the picture of Mandy and Jack would travel with him and that would never change, not now.
    Mandy he would remember as he had first seen her, long blond hair swinging out behind, the smile on her face just for him. That image would be his.
    She would be his, completely. No other eyes would ever see that love-look that had been just for him when they first met.
    Mandy, with so much to say, would be wordless. A silent picture in his memory, edited by him. She would go with him now. No questions asked.
    He closed his pictures away, once more, safe inside his head.
    *
    He looked over to the young hiker who was about to fall asleep. Women could be so stupid, assuming things; did she have any idea of the power he had, lying there on the passenger seat, oblivious?
    The orange beam of the motorway lights cast an unnatural glow on the form of the girl. She was deep into her sleep now, lulled with the warmth of the van's heaters.
    The buttons had pulled apart on her flimsy blouse. The way she lay made it gape open.
    Falling across her bra-less figure, the light picked up the small rise of her translucent white skin as she breathed. Up and down, up and down. The movement held him enthralled as the purple-pink aurora of her young breast escaped from under her blouse.
    Aurora, that's what he'd call her, his northern light.
    He glanced at the baby-pink tip of her small unturned nipple, like some erotic finger, beckoning him.
    It made him ache. She didn't look like a boy now.
    Silent, unguarded on the van seat, she looked sweet, vulnerable. He longed to touch her. He stretched out his hand towards her, so close he could fell her breath.
    The girl was coming to, out of her sleep. Quickly he pulled his hand way. She looked across at him, panic in her eyes. Having lost her bearings, with the look of a startled animal, she stared at him trying to comprehend. She quickly pulled her blouse together, fumbling to close the buttons. She blushed at first, but then he watched her visibly relax, ovbiously not afraid of being there.
    With him.
    He gave her a glance, noticing for the first time her eyes. They sparkled, even straight from sleep.
    Champagne eyes.
    Now who was the one caught up with silly song lyrics? This thought made him smile, it had been a very long time since he'd felt like this. Not since those first months with Mandy.
    Her voice sounded husky, straight from sleep, as she now ventured a question, her first, 'Why are you going north?'
    He looked over at her.
    Would he tell her now?
    'I lost my family recently; a terrible accident, it was an awful time. I'm going back home to get away from all the reminders, try and start a new life, like you.'
    'Still I've got my memories. Sorry, it's hard to talk about it.'
    He looked over to see her reaction.
    All that he could see in those wonderful eyes was concern.
    'I'm so sorry …..I shouldn't have asked, please – you don't need to say any more.'
    She stared straight towards him, no feigning, no coyness, just compassion left.
    'Let's not talk about it.'
    He turned his own eyes back to the road ahead. Deliberately changing the subject he said, 'Aren't you hungry? I am. It's a long way. I know a decent hotel up the road a few miles, just off the motorway. We could stop there and have something to eat, if you like. It's still a fair bit to go and it's getting late, I don't think I can drive much more tonight…
    He slowed, neatly entering the inside lane, getting ready for the next turn off, glancing sideways to see how she was responding to his suggestion.
    'I didn't mean anything by that, we can get separate rooms, it won't cost that much, don't worry about paying or anything, I can put it on the company card. That's if you don't mind? I mean you don't have to do anything…it's just….. don't think, you know…'
    She laughed then, a real deep heartfelt laugh, lips parting to reveal a small stud in her tongue.
    He'd read how girls could use them. Well, he would find out.
    'Don't worry', she laughed again, at her ease with him now. She reached over and took his large hand in hers, bringing it down onto her lap, holding it firmly, strengthening the bond.
    Two lost souls.
    She turned round fully then to face him, slowly uncrossing her legs she leaned forward, still firmly holding his hand. She pressed it to her, close to her chest, then stretched over to plant a soft fleeting kiss on his cheek.
    She smelt fresh, unsullied.
    She sat back again in the passenger seat, smiling, lacing her small fingers through his.
    He watched her, while she reeled herself in.








    Archived comments for Northern Light
    bluepootle on 2004-06-25 03:55:09
    Re: Northern Light
    this does a good job of playing with the expectation of the reader, and I'm glad you stopped before anything really happened so that we're left wondering...much more powerful. One thing - I'm not sure you need for her nipple to actually escape her clothes whilst she's asleep - it seems like overkill. Something like just a small expanse of skin on show should be enough, handled well, to work, maybe?

    Author's Reply:

    sirat on 2004-06-25 04:52:08
    Re: Northern Light
    I think this one is skilfully written and works well. I agree with Aliya that you stopped at the right point, and that you managed to wrong-foot reader expectations. I also agree that the exposed nipple is not convincing, I don't think a young girl would be quite that careless.
    A clever and memorable dip into a damaged and dangerous mind. Much more horrifying than a scene with a knife or any kind of graphic violence.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-25 11:19:52
    Re: Northern Light
    I read it again and perhaps your right about the nipple. But the idea was Aurora being the northern light of the title and of course also the name for that part of the body. Unless I changed the title. I wrote it for a competition which was to have a 'Northern' theme and that was why I included the reference in. Thanks for your comments, its great to get feedback.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-25 11:31:25
    Re: Northern Light
    Great to have your comments and suggestions. I like the idea of things going on in people's minds being dark, while outwardly they look perfectly ordinary. Just as well we can't see into people's heads.
    It is more frightened not to describe everything and let our imagination do the work, its probably what we don't see that makes us most afraid.
    Thanks, I might have a look at it again now...
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    thehaven on 2004-06-29 13:39:09
    Re: Northern Light
    couldnt stop reading this ...atmospheric and terryfing both at the same time.

    great read

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-30 05:44:51
    Re: Northern Light

    Cheers haven,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the story, could I ask - did the part about the girl's breast seem over-egged to you? I don't whether to take it out or not.
    Thanks,
    Jem

    Author's Reply:

    thehaven on 2004-06-30 11:49:01
    Re: Northern Light
    Imo this piece is relevant because it seeems part of her covert plan to seduce him.She backs off initially becuase she wants to be in control whereas if she had let him touch her nipple she would be reluinquishing control.

    Tjhats how I saw it anyway.

    Mike

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-30 11:59:36
    Re: Northern Light
    The workings of a man's mind - fascinating!
    Thanks for that.
    Jem

    Author's Reply:


    On Blythswood Square (posted on: 21-06-04)
    I once attended a demonstration in Blythswood Square, Glasgow.
    I was told not to stay there after dark. I stayed.
    This poem was the result.

    On Blythswood Square

    Night brittle, hardened
    like her nails, her heart
    another punter, another john
    turning another trick
    to feed blood-sucking veins
    demanding blood, her blood.

    Car crawls, engine running,
    the slow, sinking sound
    the window makes as it unfurls
    to suck her in,
    the door swings open,
    deal done, crunches shut
    and she's inside
    staring, through the rear view
    of broken promises
    no money back
    no guaranteed return.



    Archived comments for On Blythswood Square
    Faerie on 2004-06-22 03:14:08
    Re: On Blythswood Square
    why am i the first one to comment on this??

    such powerful images here:

    "the slow, sinking sound
    the window makes as it unfurls
    to suck her in"

    and

    "staring, through the rear view
    of broken promises"

    this is harsh.. dark.. intense.. really well written. not a topic that is easy to write about without sounding cliched and you've really achieved something here.

    this poem has not been given the attention it deserves.

    nancy

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-22 04:09:56
    Re: On Blythswood Square
    Cheers Faerie,
    Your comments are much appreciated.
    I haven't been able to send much in lately mainly because of work (too much of it!).
    I have been writing all the time though and I will post more - but perhaps that's why this poem hasn't got much attention.
    Also there is so much good writing and so many new members - some pieces might be overlooked...
    Anyway its nice to be noticed, thanks.

    Author's Reply:

    Sunken on 2004-06-22 12:54:57
    Re: On Blythswood Square
    Very atmospheric piece. One of the few pieces I've read recently that left me wanting more (my attention span is crap, so thats saying something). The ending, by the way, is killer. Don't lose heart on the low hit count. These are weird times. Everyones hits seem low. Blame the footie. Excellent write. Look forward to more.

    s
    u
    n
    k
    e
    n

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-22 13:24:49
    Re: On Blythswood Square
    I just caught your comment before going home from work, cheered me up after a long, lousy day, many thanks Sunk for the moral support and for your vote. I'll keep posting,
    luv Jem x

    Author's Reply:

    dancing-queen on 2004-06-24 11:27:17
    Re: On Blythswood Square
    I think this is a brilliant little poem, B-D, very atmospheric and I love the last lines, which are sadly very true. DQ 🙂

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-06-25 11:11:23
    Re: On Blythswood Square
    Thanks for your comments, DQ. I remembered going to the demonstration years ago, but within the last couple of years quite a few Glasgow prostitutes have been murdered and it made me think each time they get in a car the thought must go through their mind - will they come back?
    Jem


    Author's Reply:


    Armchair War (posted on: 16-02-04)
    I wrote this after a group of young men had just finished their breakfast in the hotel on a Saturday morning during the Iraqi war.

    I overheard one ask the others in the group what should they do now? Another answered – 'let’s watch the war.

    Armchair War



    What shall we watch? There is no match till half past four

    There's nothing else on – let's watch the war.



    On channel one not much is happening.

    Cluster bombs explode to the accompaniment of gassy beer

    as people's lives are torn apart, limbs asunder.



    A voice –'saw this last time, there's nothing new yet,'

    he casually lights the match for his next cigarette

    while children burn, screeching their fear

    he watches, bored with the reporter's repetitive tale,

    a living-room parade of dying gone stale.

    Archived comments for Armchair War
    ruadh on 2004-02-16 03:52:03
    Re: Armchair War
    Sad when we become so immune to the death and terror others go through. Well done

    ailsa

    Author's Reply:

    dargo77 on 2004-02-16 06:00:06
    Re: Armchair War
    Very moving. Well written.
    Dargo

    Author's Reply:

    RobertChiswick on 2004-02-16 15:11:12
    Re: Armchair War
    Very well done. I remember the start of the Gulf War - the first time you could ever tune in to war 'live' and be horrified. Now the reporters have to find the 'horrifying'angle before viewers select another channel to have their 'desire' satisfied.

    Author's Reply:

    islathorne on 2004-02-17 03:18:26
    Re: Armchair War
    Very sad but true, a good poem. isla.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-17 04:55:44
    Re: Armchair War
    Thanks for your comments ruadh,
    the horror is they saw it as entertainment.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-17 04:57:36
    Re: Armchair War
    Thanks for that Dargo


    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-17 05:00:26
    Re: Armchair War
    I think some people have become so voyueristic the line between real life and fiction has become smudged.
    Thanks for your comments Robert

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-17 05:07:13
    Re: Armchair War
    Thanks Isla for voting for the poem.
    The saddest thing is that people can become so de-sensitised to other peolpes' pain and suffering, that even though they aren't carrying out the violence, that attitude contributes towards the acceptance of it.

    Author's Reply:

    Sunken on 2004-02-17 09:40:26
    Re: Armchair War
    I can only echo the above. Great write.

    s
    u
    n
    k

    Author's Reply:

    Penprince on 2004-02-17 16:06:25
    Re: Armchair War
    This is so sad and so well written!

    Author's Reply:

    Gee on 2004-02-18 01:47:31
    Re: Armchair War
    I've heard it said that people become desensitised to such images. I hope I never do.
    A very powerful poem. I particularly liked the last sentence.

    Author's Reply:

    richa on 2004-02-18 05:25:23
    Re: Armchair War
    This is extremely well written and it captures the attitude of so many of us. When the first Gulf war happened I didn't remember much of it. But this time I was shocked to see the media completely ruling the scene.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-18 05:37:29
    Re: Armchair War
    Thanks!

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-18 05:49:44
    Re: Armchair War
    To watch war and suffering as if it were entertainement and then not to find it exciting enough is obscene.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-18 05:52:43
    Re: Armchair War
    It was the continual bambardment of the same images over and over, it totally diluted the reality of what was happening to actual living, breathing people.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-18 05:53:22
    Re: Armchair War
    thank you.

    Author's Reply:

    spacegirl on 2004-02-18 06:32:31
    Re: Armchair War
    Great write. You captured the sadness and the indifference at the same time

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-18 06:44:30
    Re: Armchair War
    Thanks spacegirl, I just wonder, where and when will be the next war they will turn into a media circus?
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    Kazzmoss on 2004-02-18 07:13:44
    Re: Armchair War
    When it first started I remember watching I remember how I felt really unconfortable. Whenever the news came on it fell odd almost like glorifying it. Your poem captured my thoughts exactly. Well done, an excellent bit of writing!

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-18 08:29:38
    Re: Armchair War
    Many thanks for yur comments and I felt exactly the same way.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    shackleton on 2004-02-18 15:31:11
    Re: Armchair War
    Very powerful, black-dove. Good poem - needed writing and you've done it proud.

    Author's Reply:

    Spud on 2004-02-19 22:09:22
    Re: Armchair War
    That's very touching. I never thought of it that way.

    Author's Reply:

    zenbuddhist on 2004-02-20 05:39:46
    Re: Armchair War
    I remember reading Michael Herrs brilliant depiction of the vietnam war..'Despatches' yrs ago....and he said that war exists because men love it.....whether you can relate this statement ...[which I think has a strong element of truth to it...] to observing it through a t.v. screen rather than actually being involved in combat I dont know....but it seems to me that it could be a strong possibility...or maybe its too safe...just a thought...Z

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-21 12:36:37
    Re: Armchair War
    I think it was that fact that those watching the war were safe.
    It is more honest to love war as a soldier, where your laying yourself on the line, then you have a right to have that emotion about it. But vicarious war-watching like this reminds me of 'Oh, what a Lovely War', where all the politicans and old generals made decisions and held opinions which sent young boys to the front do the dying for them.
    Its the dishonesty, that is the obscenity.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-21 12:37:44
    Re: Armchair War
    Many thanks for your comments shackleton.
    black-dove

    Author's Reply:

    zenbuddhist on 2004-02-24 06:32:32
    Re: Armchair War
    yep I think you`ve got it in one combat soldiers earn the right to fall in love with war....cheers Z

    Author's Reply:

    KevTheRev on 2005-02-23 20:23:24
    Re: Armchair War
    Gripping coldness, wonderfully yet woefully put!

    I read a few of your poems, and this one in particular grabbed my attention. Shows our shallowness, shows our acceptance levels stripped, shows how reality of TV really can penetrate!

    Salute

    Kevin


    Author's Reply:


    Plea for the lost sock (posted on: 13-02-04)
    No description

    Plea for the Lost Sock





    I steal some time to read, to write

    between the washing cycles.

    Reflecting on a life of which I glimpse

    that harassed face, vaguely familiar,

    sock in hand, the person that was me?



    Lost among childish demands

    was my time, given away

    free, with a box of soap powder.

    My past thrown out with the babygros,

    sticky finger marks wiped clean.



    While under yesterday's pile of fashion

    'must haves' now abandoned to the floor,

    among used-up lipsticks, scratched cds

    crumpled scribbles, crying teenage angst

    lies trapped, that lost sock, trying to run free.



    I think of all the lost socks

    So carelessly detached, incarcerated now,

    without their match.

    Why leave them, sad prisoners in a bag?

    Let's release them all - to be happy singletons

    Hoping someone, out there, might do the same for me.

    Archived comments for Plea for the lost sock
    Keithster on 2004-02-13 18:21:43
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    If you see mine tell it I'm sorry. Tell it to come home. We all miss it. I'll wash my feet.

    Excellent poem. That's what poetry is all about asking the questions of life that no-one can answer.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-14 08:07:08
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    Hello to you Keithster and many thanks for your comments and voting for my sock poem... glad you liked it so much.
    By the way, I can send you some of my odd ones if you like
    - see if they match your odd ones.
    You know I'm such a sad ***** I have two bags of them, all neighbourless which have moved house with me five times, and I even paid for their storage with my furniture for a year..
    I think I need that life doctor...

    Author's Reply:

    shadow on 2004-02-14 11:31:30
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    Good to see someone tackling one of the great unanswered questions on our time. To think, at the bottom of every wardrobe in the world, there is a bag of single socks ... I suspect cannabalism.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-14 12:00:16
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    it wasn't me!

    Author's Reply:

    Sunken on 2004-02-14 14:04:08
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    Do people really do that? Save their odd socks! I have a sock underneath my mattress, I use it for... er, anyway - Quirky read, I enjoyed it. Well done.

    s
    u
    n
    k

    Author's Reply:

    shadow on 2004-02-14 17:52:51
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    The idea is that if you keep them long enough their other halves will eventually find their way home - but they never do.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-15 05:31:21
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    Ah ha, I think you've let out the secret - it's you dirty men that are responsible and now we know where you keep them!
    The sock police will be calling.
    black-dove

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-15 05:33:56
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    I think I've solved the mystery - thanks to Sunken, the dirty beast!

    Author's Reply:

    Sabrina on 2004-02-16 23:08:18
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    I have two bags of them myselves, I mean myself, I'm leaving my other self out of this, that one is always trying to throw the socks away, but I have found good uses...under the door draft stoppers (when stuffed with other socks) line an empty coffee tin...its a home for a wee bunny, knot them together and they make a warm scarf. Keep knotting them and make a fire escape rope...
    Where do the missing partners go? I've heard they reach a certain frequency in the drier, they leave this world and go to a different dimension. Good poem, I cannot part with a nice looking sock with no holes in 'em!

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-17 05:13:19
    Re: Plea for the lost sock
    Hello Sabrina,
    Aren't women awful about parting with things? My daughter tried to throw my bag(s) of odd socks out and I wouldn't let her. Sad woman.
    Thanks.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    Sonnets (posted on: 09-02-04)
    I know traditional sonnets are considered old-fashioned, but they are a good way of distilling your thoughts on a particular subject.


    I Remember His bonnet only ever taken from his head flying frisbee to stop our childish noise reminding him of horrors we couldn't see. My father's eyes with final panic set while fretting on his funeral expense He told us of his sentence to be met knowing, with words unsaid, the end had come. Old soldier, with his last fight fought afraid, but wanting the release that day would bring eyes closed in desperation, he gave in. I remember now, amidst guilty tears his daughter grown, with children of her own, too busy in those teenage years to see how death might steal my father's eyes from me. Spent Love The time's gone, when your love meant more than life. Covering all edges of a fragile heart with tender words and unfamiliar care I climbed the ladder hoping to be caught by you, my safety net against all grief. But when I fell I found no-one was there. While children came, inside I hid her hurt at your indifference - the perfect wife. And so you left me, spent of tears to mourn for my phantom love, for a thing stillborn. Long years in time, too short in memory have lapsed and laid the sap of love to dry. And now, for you, my only thoughts are scorn, who kept the chaff but threw away the corn. Sonnet for my Teenage Daughter No man, no woman can floor me as you can with acid words, derision paints your face to fell me now in your sweet poison glance that makes me want to choke your life away. But how could I ever think to do you harm, while proud-making, yet self-doubting you stay uneasy in your new-found female charm? As I watch, admirers fall like tenpins impacting from your awkward teenage grace which wraps you in its dubious embrace. How can someone, knowing so little about life its hurts, its wounds, its random cruelty so dextrously have turned that filial knife to tip with blood, the balance against me? The Price of Friendship You tell me you're a 'paper millionaire' It makes me sad you can't appreciate no pound sign can equate a person's worth. Sad too, our paths, once close, must now divide. But please remember my pennies of advice to you, in whose world money reigns supreme, that friendship freely given can have no price when each greasy rung you have gladly climbed came at the cost of friendship sacrificed. To buy, to rent, to lease, to own, to sell, Just empty words, holding little power while property fever eats at your soul and ambition robs you of eyes to see the one true friend, you used to have in me.
    Archived comments for Sonnets
    Penprince on 2004-02-09 12:14:58
    Re: Sonnets
    I liked the first one..though none of them can stand as a standard sonnet..But as poems they are well written..You can increase the effects with little bit of tweak here and there!!

    Author's Reply:

    Elfstone on 2004-02-10 14:06:53
    Re: Sonnets
    Hello black dove. I agree with penprince that these are not sonnets, as I understand the term, but I don't think that matters! You have four very fine poems here showing great insight into feelings and relationships. I enjoyed these very much. Elfstone.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-11 05:06:39
    Re: Sonnets
    hello to you Elfsone
    and many thanks for your comments, I'm glad you enjoyed the poems. To me they are sonnets - perhaps not in their strictest sense, but I enjoy writing them to the baisc rules of a sonnet.
    Its heartening when someone likes your work and comments like yours are definatley a boost when you are new to the game.
    Thanks, Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-11 05:09:58
    Re: Sonnets
    Thank you penprince, I'm glad you thought them well written, hopefully they will get better, the more I write.
    Your suggestions are much appreciated.
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:

    richa on 2004-02-12 15:04:33
    Re: Sonnets
    I like the first one the best. I think it is very sensitively written.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-14 10:00:54
    Re: Sonnets
    Thanks richa,
    Its sad we don't aprreciate people when we have them here with us and its only when there gone we realise what they meant to us.
    black-dove

    Author's Reply:

    shadow on 2004-02-15 17:10:40
    Re: Sonnets
    I liked all these - especially number 2. (Btw - typo in no. 3 -l.5 'thing/think?)

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-17 05:11:22
    Re: Sonnets
    Thanks shadow, I have corrected the error.
    I'm glad you like the second poem, but the one about the teenage daughter was my first attempt at the sonnet style so that's my favourite, because I actually managed to write it!
    Jemima

    Author's Reply:


    Past Imperfect (posted on: 02-02-04)
    Click to see more top choices

    No description

    Some things are best forgotten.
    But how do you forget? A mind really did have a will, a plan of its own. Why should she recall this, so much ugliness, so much pain, at the christening of her first grandchild?
    Perhaps it was the sound of the small noises her baby granddaughter was making, while blowing frothy bubbles at everyone around. Perhaps it was that frightening translucence small babies have, that makes them look so fragile, so breakable, which had triggered those locked up memories of Dorry's beautiful elder sister.
    Beautiful, but flawed.
    Once, when Dorry had been in one of the Spanish islands, years before, she couldn't remember which, year or island, there had been so many of both, her memory held still the image of a wonderful Spanish shawl. Dorry had so coveted that wonderfully hand-worked antique shawl that she decided she must have it regardless of the cost.
    Yet, when she looked closer she had noticed a slight flaw and she didn't want it anymore, for all it's beauty. It was in her, ingrained in her nature to reject anything flawed. Wasn't this just what she'd done, over the years to her very own sister?
    Dorry had moved away from Alice's imperfection, in distance and in thought. Removing herself from any taint. It was a betrayal, she could now dress it up in fine reasons and excuses, but inside, deep within, where no light shone, she had abandoned Alice, her wonderful, her wanton sister, just as she had abandoned that shawl, and for same reason - Alice was blemished.


    Dorry's memory turned back page upon page with such ease it was like yesterday. She remembered Alice when she was first pregnant. Dorry couldn't understand in her child's mind why Alice was happy about it.
    It had been a huge secret - just between Dorry and Alice, their parents didn't know, the other members of the household didn't know.
    Alice had told only Dorry, her little pet sister, who was confidante to everything, knew all about Alice and her wild escapades, her ill-advised infatuations with the 'wrong sort', Now Alice had taken Dorry into her confidence again, with their biggest secret of all.
    Perhaps, thinking back, their mother did know, or maybe suspected. Mother had always been suspicious of Alice's 'shenanigans', - but she chose not to countenance them. For as long as she could, she simply didn't acknowledge what was happening to her eldest daughter.
    While she was pregnant, Alice would crave porridge oats and it was Dorry, who would be sent, clandestinely, to buy them from the local grocery shop, warned by Alice not to put it on their mother's account.
    Now, Dorry realised, looking back, probably the whole village knew and had been whispering about it. Yet at the time they, Dorry and Alice imagined they were being very cunning and no-one knew a thing.
    Really, now thinking about it, how did Alice ever think she could hide such a thing?
    Dorry knew Alice was frightened their mother might try to do something, to hide the shame of it all. Alice had wanted that baby for herself without thought of the consequences, but then that had been typical Alice.



    In the early stages, Mother had to be deceived, in case she found out about Dorry running errands for the porridge, otherwise she would certainly have guessed their secret. Their mother had such yearnings herself, during her own pregnancies and for the same thing, so she would certainly have known what was wrong with Alice.
    But then, as Dorry remembered, when Alice was about seven or eight months pregnant - and miraculously still now showing enough to be noticed, (though she told Dorry she wore a corset to hide the bump), something went seriously wrong.
    Of course, by this time their mother knew something was untoward and even she couldn't ignore it.
    Father wasn't told.
    Up until that point Dorry had been the only one Alice had talked to or confided in. Now, suddenly, when things started to happen – to go wrong, Alice excluded Dorry and needed their mother instead.
    The pains got so bad the district nurse had to be sent for. The doctor would never be called to a mere birth.
    Nurse Gunn, the district nurse, arrived. Dorry could still remember being rather scared of her, ever since the previous year in primary seven, when she had looked down Dorry's navy knickers at the school medical examination. Just what had she been looking for, Dorry wondered?
    Nurse Gunn was short, bustling and accepted no nonsense from anyone. Dorry didn't like to look at her, but then the nurse seemed particularly uninterested in Dorry on this meeting.
    The living room door was shut firmly against Dorry with their mother and the nurse locked in the front room with Alice. When Dorry last saw Alice she had been lying, face ashen, on the big battered chesterfield settee, covered in a blanket, looking terrified.
    The noise when it started came as low moans, growing louder and louder, reaching into a total screech, making Dorry think of those stories of Irish banshees, who came howling before a death.
    Dorry remembered feverently praying to herself, please God don't let my lovely sister die! Please, oh please, I don't want to be beautiful any more, I don't care what I said, just don't let her die. Her lovely sister, always so full of life, was dying behind that door she, Dorry was shut out.
    She remembered the noise her sister had made in the agony of childbirth. The force of that memory made Dorry jump, bringing her mind back into the present, to hastily cast her eyes around the church, looking to see if anyone had noticed her, but all the assembled relatives were too engrossed in the priest's preamble to the actual christening to have noticed.
    Dorry retreated back once more, reliving those memories now etched in her thoughts in acid line. That one almighty shriek had come out in one long animal groan that seemed to go on and on - then silence.
    Dorry had stood outside the living room door, desperate to go inside. She remembered even frantically turning the handle of the living room door. It had been locked. Probably they wouldn't even have noticed someone was turning it. Suddenly, the door opened, making Dorry bolt, then some seconds later, cautiously return.
    Their mother came out, her face draped in silence. Dorry remembered trying to talk to her, but her mother shook her head. The warning in her eyes made Dorry hold her tongue. What had happened, where was the baby? All these thoughts were raging, fireworks in her head.
    The district nurse came out with a small bundle, wrapped in a white sheet. Her mother motioned to Dorry to go upstairs. She wanted to stay, she wanted to see Alice, she wanted to see the baby, but the expression on her mother's face told her she should go.
    Reluctantly, she made her way slowly up the stairs, looking back just in time to see the nurse and her mother take the little bundle into the hall cupboard together. Why they were doing that, Dorry wondered? Where were they taking that baby? Was it a baby? Dorry hadn't heard it cry at all like normal babies did. Had something happened to it?
    She wanted to run back downstairs to see and listen, to watch what the adults were doing. Instead she peered over the banister where she couldn't be seen and listened.
    They spoke in low voices. Dorry couldn't hear everything, only occasional words caught her ear, 'must keep this within the family,' she heard her mother's sharp whispers. She then heard the words, 'give a sedative' in the nurse's unusually quiet tone.
    Nurse Gunn returned to the living room and Dorry's mother's stayed in the cupboard for a while by herself. In a few minutes the nurse came out and spoke again to her mother, this time in a normal tone.
    'She's sleeping now, so let her be until she wakes. You'll have to get her upstairs to bed afterwards – can anyone give you a hand? I can come back this evening on my rounds if you give me a phone, Esther.'
    Dorry could see herself, sitting on the cold stairs, with her bottom freezing to the stone. She sat silent, trying to breathe without a sound. It was strange to hear her mother being called by her first name, even Dorry's father would call her 'Mother'.
    'No, thank you anyway, Joyce, but Dorry will help me, we'll manage.' Nurse Gunn's quick steps echoed over the highly polished red cardinal floor, 'but what about William….' Her voice trailed off in this half-open question to Dorry's mother.
    'No, no, I won't bother him at work'.
    The quick steps halted abruptly. Nurse Gunn made an about turn.
    'What about the death certificate …..?'
    Dorry clearly heard once again, the icy tone in her mother's voice,
    'It was a miscarriage, Joyce.'
    Dorry saw the mind picture. The look on her mother's face, watching her from above was totally cold – and final. For a moment Dorry had thought the nurse was going to say it had been a proper birth, that the little bundle in the hall cupboard was really a poor dead baby, her mother's grandchild, but even she backed down under her mother's powerful will, that would allow no dissent.
    'Yes, of course, your right Esther, no need for a death certificate, we needn't bother the doctor, he has work enough. But what about the arrangements?'
    Between them they were, Dorry could tell, even although she couldn't have put it into words then, agreeing to be complicit in covering up the birth of Alice's baby. 'I can see to them, Joyce, I'm sure you've got enough on your plate already. I'll make sure everything is taken care of.'
    Dorry looked from one face to the other, reading the tacit agreement
    Made, but unspoken - the birth would be kept quite.
    She watched her mother follow the nurse to the door, ushering her out. The nurse's final words were, 'I hope Alice will be alright, she's had a rough time of it. What a terrible experience for such a young girl. So sad. I will pop in again tomorrow and have a look at her, give her these if she wakes up, Esther, goodnight'. The nurse handed her mother a small bottle of pills.
    Dorry at the time hadn't realised how many hours had passed while all this had taken place. It would soon be time for her father to return. How, Dorry wondered, would her mother manage to keep this from him?
    She saw her mother stride towards the kitchen, it was the housekeeper's weekend off, so she would be rushing now to prepare the family supper.
    Father was a punctual man.
    Dorry had known this was now her chance to go downstairs and try to see Alice. She felt that wave of fear sweep over her all these years later, as she saw herself tip-toeing down the old patinated wood stair, avoiding the well remembered creaks.
    She picked up the key for the living room door where she had watched her mother place it, on a shelf in the front lobby. Taking the key, she watched again her child-self, as she seemed to glide up to the locked door, turn the key in the lock soundlessly and go in.
    Even now she could smell the air in that room. It felt heavy and used from all the pain and screaming. The very silence of the room itself was laden.
    Alice lay in her drugged sleep, her glorious dark hair about her, framed against such deathly white skin; it lay damp, plastered onto her forehead. Her dark lashes were closed over those wonderful laughing blue eyes which, Dorry as a adult now knew, had shown so little wisdom, those eyes that had brought her all this trouble. Dory bent down to kiss her big sister, so foolish and giving with herself to end up like this.
    Dorry touched her own lips now, feeling the moistness of that kiss from so long ago. She felt too such deep regret. She had carried this with her through all those years until this moment.
    She had left Alice then and went back out of the room re-locking the door. Was it then she had abandoned her sister, in that moment, with a kiss, by the locking of a door?
    She saw herself passing the hall cupboard where her mother and the nurse had taken the baby. The strong sense of dread which she had felt re-surfaced as she saw herself take the other key from the shelf, the one which opened that cupboard door.

    Why had she done it? Why did children do things they knew implicitly would create trouble for them sooner or later? Something that day had driven her to turn the key in the lock and go inside, knowing her mother was by then busy in the kitchen preparing dinner.
    That bundle, wrapped in its white shroud was lying on the top shelf of the darkened cupboard. Dorry could see herself, reaching up in her memory's eye, touching once again the bundle, stretching up, reaching higher, on tiptoe. She held the sheet in her hands and then it was falling and rolling, unravelling on to her head.
    She'd had so many awful dreams since that day about what had happened, but none of them was quite as awful as the reality.
    The whole thing unravelled and that tiny, waxen doll-like creature lay at her feet. The dead eyes of the baby were wide open and they were Alice's eyes, but there was no laughter in them.
    Dorry had seen then something was seriously wrong with that baby. The head was swollen grotesquely, out of all proportion to it body. To her child's vision, it was some kind of monster, not a human baby at all.
    It was then she had screamed, screamed in convulsions of fear, at the horror of what she saw.
    Dorry realised now she had been so consumed with the terror of this monstrous thing she'd been totally unaware of her mother's presence behind her. The screams must have reached her mother's hearing in the kitchen.
    Dorry felt again the sharp nails of her mother's manicured fingers, digging into her arm as she swung Dorry round to face her. The next thing she remembered was the hard smack across her face.
    It had stopped her hysterics instantly. She had then faced her mother; she could still see that expression - beyond rage, the face of cold fury.

    'This never happened!' Those words had stayed through all the years, long after her mother had grown old, lost the memory of them, and died.
    Those were the only words Dorry ever heard her mother say directly to her about the birth. Dorry herself had never mentioned it since. Alice had needed hospital treatment. The very next day an ambulance arrived to take her away; a breakdown was what her mother told everyone. Dorry remained silent.
    Alice never came back home. After the hospital she had been transferred to a mental asylum. Dorry found it hard to believe now, but in those times girls could be committed for having an illegitimate child.
    Dorry's parents had told the doctors about Alice's history. They had called it 'her promiscuity'. The same thing might well happen again, they said. Alice was out of control, her mother had added.
    Dorry had listened to the whole conversation. It had taken place in her mother's own front room. The same room where Alice had given birth.
    She had sat and listened and said nothing. Not one word in defence of her sister.
    Of course they wouldn't have listened to her; she had been a child then. Perhaps her parents were right; perhaps that was why the baby had been deformed, Dorry had heard people say such things. She felt ashamed of her sister then.
    Dorry had been teased relentlessly at school. Everyone somehow knew about Alice and the baby with the abnormal head. All her mother said, by way of comfort, was 'that's what happens when you employ servants'.
    They said Alice was unstable, at risk, not responsible. Her parents had signed the papers.
    Over the years Dorry often had these unbidden thoughts - had Alice really gone mad or had that place driven her into her madness? Couldn't some of it have been depression after that terrible birth? Wouldn't she maybe have recovered if they had taken her away from that place?
    Now, if she were to be brutally honest, hadn't she, Dorry, put those thoughts to a siding in her head? All those lies her parents clung to, her own self-deceits, hadn't they become her truths with time, with no-one left to dispute them?
    For many years she had avoided going to see her sister, always finding valid reasons not to. Her mother went religiously ever week, proving she hadn't abandoned her wayward daughter. She, at least recognised her duty.
    For Dorry the first visit would have for been quite enough, if she had had a any choice in the matter.
    She'd barely recognised Alice. Her beautiful blue eyes were completely vacant - as if nothing was happening behind them. The laughter in them, it seemed, had died with the baby.
    Over the years so long in time, so short in memory, it had surprised Dorry how quickly Alice had aged in that place. After the first few years her lustrous dark hair had shown streaks of grey and when she spoke her voice was strange and distant. Alice's one lucid topic seemed to be her baby and how her mother had stolen her baby daughter from her. Of course when their mother died the responsibility for Alice fell to Dorry. At least her mother had the courage of her betrayal, she faced it every week. Dorry, more cowardly she knew, had avoided visiting as much as possible, using every excuse she could.


    Eventually, the authorities had been asked if Dorry might not like to take her sister to live with her? Sign the release papers. Alice wasn't a threat to anyone, not really insane at all, only institutionalised, the doctors said. There was no real reason for her to by there. Times had moved on.
    She saw again her sister's pale face on one of her infrequent visits to the mental hospital. Alice had all her things, such as they were, ready in a plastic bag, waiting to be taken home by her younger sister. The nurses said she did this each day.
    Dorry had declined.
    She had her own life, her own family, duties, how could she look after a deranged woman? She didn't want that responsibility and neither did her husband.
    Still, inside her head she heard the sound of the cock crowing.


    *
    'Mother! Mother for goodness sake, aren't you interested in seeing you first grandchild christened?'
    She heard her son's voice, half teasing, half petulant. His voice managed to reach down into the depths where she had been immersed.
    Dorry rose then, pulling herself back with some effort into the present, leaving all those painful memories, to grow cold behind her on the pew where she had sat, having heard almost nothing of the ceremony. The young eager-faced priest was finishing of his christening sermon,
    'A child therefore should never be looked upon as a burden, but as gift we are given by God, to look after and treasure.'
    With this he looked around the family gathering. 'Who will give us a baptismal name for this child?'
    The first name had been chosen, it was to be Julia, after Dorry's daughter-in-law's mother. Much deliberation had gone into that.
    Dorry herself had specifically asked them not to use her name, Doreen which had been chosen for her by her own mother. She had always disliked it. Again the priest asked for a baptismal name. With all the furore about the Christian name, none of the family seemed to have thought of that.
    'Alice.'
    It had been Dorry's voice. She had surprised herself, not even fully aware she had spoken. Everyone looked to her.'I once had a sister called Alice.'

    Archived comments for Past Imperfect


    Romany on 2004-02-04 13:54:47
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Nice touch at the end, and a nice story. There seems to be some confusion over your tenses though, and some sentence structure is a little clumsy, for example:

    'Between them they were, Dorry could tell, even although she couldn’t have put it into words then, agreeing to be complicit' (could perhaps be simpler and therefore clearer?)

    and

    'Some things were best forgotten.' (Some things are best forgotten?)

    Don't mean to be overly critical. I'm sure if this was edited and made more concise without losing the feel of the story, it would benefit greatly.
    I like this black_dove. Well done.



    Author's Reply:

    fecky on 2004-02-05 12:47:43
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    I’m confused: The title of this piece is ‘Past Imperfect ...by black_dove’. Now am I missing something? There is a Black Dove in the member’s listing but (s)he hasn’t submitted anything. I see the author is Anon but how can you submit without a name?

    Anyway, Anon, whoever you are, I’m surprised that you wouldn’t be proud to put your name to this. I thoroughly enjoyed a good story, very well written, besides what Romany has highlighted, I also noted just a couple of typos.

    Of course, I would’ve liked to know something about the child’s father but keeping the reader guessing, I suppose, adds to the impact of the piece.

    Paul


    Author's Reply:

    Andrea on 2004-02-05 15:13:25
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Oh, sorry, that's my fault (as usual) 🙂

    It IS written by black_dove (hence the 'written by...), but she had some probs submitting, so I did it for her. Unfortunately, I can't change the 'author', so it was either me (Andrea) or anon.

    Author's Reply:

    Andrea on 2004-02-05 15:16:20
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Will get R to fix through database asap...sorry, Black...

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-06 04:45:46
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Andrea,
    Sorry, but I am having the same problem again, I submitted 'Sonnets' on Monday but there is nothing under my name. When I logged on before I had to type a hypen and not an underscore. Perhaps the name is registered with a hypen, rather than an underscore. (Is that understandable?)
    I apologise for using up your time with this, but I just don't understand why the pieces won't submit.
    Black-dove

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-06 04:55:20
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Thanks, Paul for your comments. Its great getting feed back and also a bit scary - you don't know what people will think of your efforts.
    I think the identity of the father might not be known even to the girl, so I left it like that. It probably needs more editing, I agree.

    Author's Reply:

    blackdove on 2004-02-06 05:00:12
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Thanks Romany,
    I agree that sentence is rather clumsy on re-reading it. The opening one -some things are best forgotten - I think is right, as it is in the present when she says this. But it is hard when you go back and forward in a story to keep the thread of what tense it should be in, I totally agree and I intent to revise this one.
    Black-dove

    Author's Reply:

    Andrea on 2004-02-06 10:12:51
    Re: Past Imperfect...by black_dove
    Yes, indeed, it seems you're hyphenated, have just checked. Nothing in submissions - try submitting again using hyphen and let me know when you've done it, so that I can check to see whether it's there. If not, we'll have to think again, you might need to register again. Most odd.

    Author's Reply:

    CleanMan on 10-10-2005
    Past Imperfect
    This was great. I enjoyed it a lot. So many people used to be locked away simply because of things like this. The story flows very well, and the characters are well drawn, within the limits of the story's length. I too noticed the typos, like "your right Esther" instead of "you're", but I'm sure you can fix them. (Remember, don't use the spellcheck; that only spots a misspelled word, not a wrong one like the example I gave). I liked the ending - unexpected, and very fitting, somehow. Well done.

    Author's Reply: