FICTION

There are short stories of many types here, probably almost as many as there are stories, I have given the number of words to indicate their length, but otherwise I would reccomend the 'suck it and see' approach; try one, if you don't get on with it move on to another, no loss. These stories do not replicate the ones available in my book 'A Read for the Train'available from Lulu.com, a devil of a good price at £6.99 (Presently on offer for £5)

 

Darith was a Brickmaker

 

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Darith was a brick maker, and lived in the city on the plain. Human ingenuity had created a marsh between the two great rivers, and an island at the point of their convergence. Here, surrounded and protected by fast flowing waters and a bottomless quagmire, stood the city. Darith’s father, Barith had been a builder, and did not understand a man who wanted to make bricks rather than construct things with them. His father’s father, Arith, had been a farmer. For him earth was something you grew things in, not a building material, but there was no conflict. His life in the city was spent talking the world to rights and moving stones through hollows gouged in wooden boards in endless games. In the city or the village old men’s lives were much the same. At night Arith retired to the roof, where he slept under the stars between piles of drying firewood, fruits and spices. If it was wet he covered the piles before retreating to a small tent in one corner, protected by the parapet from the prevailing weather. It was here, when Edrith his great grandson, was a small child, Arith died in his sleep, and was buried in his beloved earth. Even before this Edrith was fascinated by the earth and clay, just as Darith had been by bricks. Darith spent his childhood surrounded by Barith’s bricks, there was no school, and boys had to earn their keep. Fetching and carrying bricks was good employment for a builder’s son. Most people thought a brick was a brick was a brick, all pretty much of a muchness. But Darith saw bricks all day as his father put buildings up or tore buildings down, and he listened to his comments. When buildings came down his father saved the timber and the thatch, on a densely inhabited, arable plain such things are valuable, if only as fuel. The bricks, made of packed clay and mortared with a thin wipe of wet clay, fused, and then eroded as one until the building was no longer useful. When the building came down they were flattened and made the base of the next one and thus the plinth on which the city stood above the waters. Darith watched, learned, took opportunities, and cultivated those with knowledge. Within the world of clay bricks there are many divisions of opinion, if a man asked, “Do you cut or mould?” the reply would start “Well, that depends ...” and continue “... on where I dig my clay” or, “on which God’s season we are digging in” or, “how wet, hot, or dry, the weather is”, or any one of a hundred other variations. People seek opportunity for a division of opinion, and Darith listened to and assessed them all. He did not join in the arguments, he preferred the, good, solid, feel of the slabs to talking about them, but he knew more about them than most, and as a man he made them. As a boy Erith dug clay for his father. Erith carried clay, mixed clay, cut clay and moulded clay. He sat in the sun and watched the clay change colour drying. Bits he flicked in to the fire at night took on the hard spirit of the wood, released by the fire. In the morning he found them among the ash, more changed by the sun in the hearth than they ever were by the sun in the sky. Between thumb and forefinger he pinched small pieces of the clay to model the axe heads his Grandfather and the other builders used, then moved on to model the bricks, the beams, and the builders themselves, then other interesting or useful shapes. Erith became closely acquainted with clay, and understood clay as his father had understood bricks. He knew how long to dry it, which fires cracked it, how to treat delicate shapes, how to spread heat by filling large pots with twigs, and which twigs. From ovens of clay, fired with charcoal, he created kilns, and in them glazes. Frith returned to the land.

 

 

Moonlight Holder

 

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There are advantages to working nights, maybe not if you are a family man or watch a lot of television, but for people like Terry and I, who live on our own, and largely make our own entertainment, there are advantages. We share a small terrace house, split into two flats. I am upstairs and he’s downstairs in the so-called garden flat. That means he has the advantage of a yard out the back with high walls all round it, and about three feet of trodden dirt between his front window and the pavement. Terry was already there when I had moved in, actually he suggested it. It stemmed from a chance encounter at a party. We found ourselves mutual wallflowers, I because I had only recently arrived in the neighbourhood and knew no-one; he from working nights and having a restricted social life. Terry also suggested the job at the rectifier factory, sharing a night shift with him. I think partly he fancied having someone over him who also worked nights. Also it soon became clear that although we were not loners, neither were we party animals, but individualists who treasured our personal time. We worked in the same place and lived in the same house, but we were not bosom buddies, living in each other’s pockets. I spent most of my indoor leisure time writing and Terry got on with whatever it was he did downstairs, we got plenty of association at work. It was a simple job, steel plates coated with selenium were turned into rectifiers by passing an electric current through them. Loading them into the cabinets where that happened and unloading them had to be done at set times, which meant there had to be a night shift. If we did do things together the motivation was usually utility rather than company. We would shop together and occasionally I would accompany him on his foraging expeditions to help recover larger items. He would go round all the local waste sites and behind billboards looking for “quality toot” as he called it. He used this to build strange contraptions with which he claimed to measure things like “moonshadow intensity”. Like I said, on the whole we lived separate lives. Even at work we would usually be opposite ends of the room working and during breaks I would read. If it was a moonlight night Terry would go out in the yard and do what he called “moonbathing”, like sun bathing but in moonlight, to bask in the moonlight, he had a fold up lounger and a pair of khaki shorts that he kept in his locker. He was an immense man, with a great russet blonde mane of hair and his entire body was covered in hair, well, I suppose we all are, but his was visible. He didn’t seem to feel the cold either, it was as thought that fur kept him warm at night. Other times he would bring a pair of binoculars in with him, mount them on a tripod, then place it so he could sit on his lounger in its chair position. There he would spend hours studying the Moon’s surface through them. He let me have a look a few times, he had the binoculars perfectly positioned, and it was spectacular on a full moon, but it was too static to hold my attention, still each to his own. One afternoon we had been to the supermarket and, after dividing up our groceries, he suggested coffee and I had my first visit to his flat. He left me in the living room while he went to make the coffee. Now, I’m a writer in my spare time, so naturally I gravitated pretty quickly toward the book case, at first it seemed a pretty eclectic mix, a book of tide tables, collected werewolf stories, a photo book of the Apollo moon shots, a lunar atlas. Wait a moment. I scanned on down two or three more shelves, everything was moon related in some way, from a short story by H.G. Wells to a nineteenth century thesis on lunacy. That was about when Terry came back in the room. “You’re kind of keen on things to do with the moon” I said, and looked round, the theme extended to the rest of the room. The picture over the mantle was that one taken from the moon of the earth rising, the ornament on the table was one of those clockwork things that demonstrates the movement of the planets, except this one was only the sun earth and moon and the navy blue curtains were decorated with silver-white moons. “I expect you think I am a weirdo” he replied. “Don’t worry” I said and told him about my writing. Only that morning someone had posted a message on my website calling me just that, “weirdo”. One thing led to another and soon he was telling me about his theories, they were based on the idea that the moon affected life on earth through moonlight as well as gravitational pull, he got out books and showed me lots of evidence that the moon affected terrestrial life, though I failed to see the reason for thinking it was the light that was responsible. We talked every so often after that but he was really only interested in one subject. Then one day, more out of politeness than interest I think, he asked about my writing. I remembered a little bit of nonsense, which illustrated a technique for generating interesting phrases. I had put it on the writers forum I visit and I soon had the computer fired up to show him.

 

Paper boy scout

Paper boy soldier

Paper tiger rider

Paper moonlight holder

Paper back up

Paper back down

Paper down town

Paper mill run round

 

He read it through and looked at the comment someone had added underneath, “What the heck is a moonlight holder?” “I’ve never heard of one, but it’s quite an idea” he said. I tried to explain the process I had gone through to arrive at the phrase. “I realised there are an awful lot of words associated with paper and after listing them I looked for words that associated with them, so paper-boy, boy-scout. In the last line I have taken it one step further, so, paper-moon, moon-light, light-holder”. I was beginning to get into my flow when I realised he wasn’t really with me any longer. I abandoned Sea-snail-pace, sea-legs-eleven, mid-ocean-wave, mid-riff-playing I found out long ago, there is a difference between those interested in how you write and those interested in what you write, and I wasn’t actually sure he fitted either category, like I say, I think he was only being polite. So I changed the subject and soon after that he made his excuses and went back downstairs. Over the next couple of weeks I saw even less than normal of him outside work, other than a “toot seeking” expedition, though I heard him working downstairs every morning when we came back. Then one afternoon he came knocking at my door, which was strange, it was a Sunday, we were not due into work, the shops would be shut, and he had never come looking for me without a prior arrangement before. He was very excited and asked me to come down and see what he had been building. His front room was filled with a large, three dimensional, silver crescent attached to a similarly silvered discus and in the back room was a strangely cogged base. “It comes apart to get it through the doorway” he said “But the pieces are quite heavy because of the lining, could I have a hand getting it out in the yard? It’s an ideal night tonight, the moon is full and it rises early so we should get almost maximum moonlight” Whilst he was talking he had been undoing the clips that joined the structure and I saw that although the outside was covered in aluminium foil the inner lining was covered with the little rectifier plates I knew so well from work. He must have misinterpreted my look because he quickly explained that these were the duds that failed to rectify a current. I knew it had to be true, all the others would be accounted, not that I really cared, I felt no great loyalty to our employer, I just thought Terry had finally flipped. “What is it?” I asked, he looked at me astonished, “A moonlight holder of course, I am going to collect for the first half of the night w. Then I shall release it and give myself a really concentrated dose for the second half of the night, see if it has the sort of effect I think it will.” What could I say? I helped him carry the pieces outside and he showed me the “retaining lens” in the discus the curved mirror of the crescent reflected into and explained the significance of the selenium plates. “Coated with the metal of Selene, goddess of the moon” and of the aluminium foil outer covering “Its name means ‘that lights up’.” We erected the parts on the base and he explained that he would have to hand crank it at a given rate to keep the moon in the correct alignment as it passed over and how he would release the light slowly during the latter part of the night to reinforce the natural moonlight. It was good our little yard had high walls and no-one was going to witness this lunacy, they call me a weirdo because I write stories. I couldn’t get back to my stories and computer quickly enough. The forum was a great escape, I was getting involved with a lady who only wrote poetry, she had been through a period of using alliteration and simple rhythms, had moved on to a series of conflict poems that were far more interesting and made much better use of her undoubted talents. Now she was starting to tackle the basic issues of her personal identity. It made a pleasant change from the fantasy werewolf stories teenagers kept submitting. I was thinking that it couldn’t be long before she moved into other forms, such as the short story, when the dogs started. I might not have noticed in the old days, but Terry had pointed something out to me, dogs howl at the moon, but they only howl at some moons and then only at certain times during the moon’s transit. He collected data about things that happened during moonlight hours and was always looking for correlations. Even then I might not have noticed, except that there was a particularly close and loud dog that I had not heard before, it might almost have been with Terry in the yard. After a bit the howling stopped and there was a fair bit of crashing and banging. I assumed it was Terry trying to get his machine to let out the light he had gathered, as it stopped when the moon set. I don’t know what he did after that, but I didn’t hear the back door until dawn. That night when I knocked for him to go to work he looked rough and had one of his fingers bandaged, he muttered something about losing a nail and trouble opening the door. I gathered his equipment had not worked too well. Delicacy stopped me enquiring further but he must have had a nasty accident, there were five huge scratches down the wall when I looked out of the widow next morning, and the moonlight holder was all bashed up , a wreck in one corner as though something heavy had stood on it trying to get over the wall. Anyway, it seems to have cured him of his lunacy, says he now realises the power in moonlight is negative and goes to lengths to avoid it, only going out on dark nights. Even in daylight he doesn’t like going out if the moon is in the sky, he turns up his collar and wears his big, black fedora hat. His new obsession on those dark nights is starlight, he says it is sunlight purified by the millions of miles it travels through space. I didn’t hear that dog howling close by again either, it must have belonged to an overnight visitor.

 

Mrs W

 

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The youngsters who got on were unaware of the bus’ route, down the East hill and along The Front rather than straight down through the town. They had anxiously asked Mrs. Wiltsire about it when it diverted from the norm. and Mrs. Wiltsire had enjoyed reassuring them they would arrive at the station, that the route was more scenic and enjoyable, and that what with road-works, traffic-lights, and such, it was probably just as quick. Her detailed knowledge established her authority, for a moment she was back with the glory days, the tyranny of Mother knows best. The ‘hippie woman’, was always on the bus, they had never spoken, but that was how Mrs W. thought of her; she wore cotton skirts with Indian prints on them in the summer, and sandals like a tourist, a sure signs as far as Mrs. W. was concerned. Now she chipped in, “I am not all together sure that that is true about it being as quick, there are hazards along this route too. I sometimes think it is little more than miraculous the way they get round the parked vehicles on that sharp, downhill bend.” “Carter Road” Mrs. W came back. Such turns of phrase as ‘hazards along the route’ and ‘little more than miraculous’ defied the hippie image and required a re-establishing of her authority. “Possibly,” said the hippie woman, and turned to the youngsters, “What time’s your train? This reaches the station at ten to, and the London train is on the hour.” There was mutual re-assurance they would make their connection. “I’m not altogether sure ...” had been a contradiction, even if it was diplomatically phrased as opinion. “Possibly,” implied doubt where there was none, “And the dismissive way she turned her back and spoke to the children …”. Besides, knowing the time of the London train was subject changing, the sort of knowledge a ‘foreigner’ rather than a town’s person would have, and despicable one-upmanship. Mrs. W. took up the challenge, with a return to the respectable agenda of buses. “This is the 468, the out of town buses have three figure numbers and the town ones have two. If you are coming back the route is easy to remember, even numbers, 4-6-8. The out of town ones nearly all come in along the front, it’s the town ones that go straight down, through the town.” “Nothing the ‘hippie bitch’ can contradict in that,” she thought, and “‘the town ones go through the town’ rubbed her nose in it beautifully.” But did it stop her? “Did it heck!” Mrs.W. did not say the other H word, even in her head. Typical hippie, crafty, she came in obliquely, sounding as though she was agreeing at first, “I remember the 345 like that, a straight run, like in rummy. I always think of it as being in hearts because it goes out past Sacred Heart School and the Hospital. That’s the exception that tries your rule mind, it goes straight up through the town.” Then getting the sentimental in, sacred, heart, school and hospital all in one sentence, before blam! Another contradiction, “Tries my rule indeed” she thought and for a moment it threw Mrs.W. she nearly came back with the old chestnut about what ‘tries’ meant in that context, a sure looser, flustered she stalled for time, “345, I don’t know that one” she said, with doubt in her voice. Then, gathering herself, “No I don’t know that.” She had recovered, the doubt had gone along with the numbers, its previous presence only served to emphasise the certainty of the second statement. The ‘I’ was emphasised in a way that showed if Mrs W. didn’t know it, it wouldn’t be worth knowing, the second emphasis on ‘that’, and the loss of ‘one’ after it and 345 before stripped it of identity and reduced it to a negligible quality, possibly not even a bus. Mrs W’s use of words, tone, emphasis, accent, in short of every aspect of the spoken word, could be devastating in casual conversation. When she applied her mind to it there was no standing against it. Satisfied she decided to offer a truce, turning back to the almost forgotten youngsters she said, “Anyway, I only look at the time I get on, but if this lady says you will make the connection I am sure she is right, she uses the bus regularly.” “Oh quite sure” said the hippie woman to the youngsters, then turning to Mrs W. “I am Jane, I see you regularly as well.” Olive branch accepted and returned with acknowledgement, and so she should; ‘anyway’ was a ‘French lady’s’ height politer than ‘possibly’. There might be a truce, that didn’t mean one forgot the fallen, or the battles. “Evelyn,” said Mrs. W., “I am on my way in to Debranhams to look at pillows.” “Dependable quality,” said the hippie woman, That sort of consumer knowledge deserved some recognition, “I must remember ‘Jane’ and stop thinking of her as ‘that hippie woman’,” thought Mrs. W., and aloud, “And it is good way to start the day with a coffee in the restaurant, lovely sea views.” “The coffee is good, I am not sure how much I would trust them with anything else,” said Jane. It was not exactly a breach of the truce, and there was an element of truth to it, they kept the fish warm too long and she had found a dirty knife twice, it also contradicted the ‘hippie’ image yet again. Mrs W. decided to go with the flow, “Oh no, only for my little caffeine kick before I head into the shops, M&F is preferable for food quality. Would you care to join me for a coffee?” It was daring, an opening gambit, a head on approach. Mrs W. felt the situation deserved it. “That would be a nice way to start the day, thank you” said the hippie wo-, no, Jane. A civilised new acquaintance, who fully understood the rules of duelling and appeared to be accomplished in the art, it was turning into quite a day, and they hadn’t even got off the bus yet.

 

The Lion

 

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The Lion was a student pub, not to say that other people didn’t go there, of course they did or it would have gone bust years ago, students don’t have money; but a large proportion of those who packed the bar each night, even if not of those that bought the drinks, were students. They appreciated the bare decor, the loud acoustics, the densely packed bar, the rowdy company, and, when they did have some money, the reasonable prices. But mostly they appreciated the two barmaids Rosie and Nan. Den, the licensee, was an insignificant man. Locally he was not known as Mr. Den, or The Guvnor, or even The Landlord. He was rarely referred to at all and if he was merely as Den, the person the licence had been issued to. Left to his own devices he would quickly have reduced the clientel to the old man in the corner, and his dog. Den spent most of his time in the corner, with the old man, and his dog. The old man and Den communicated non-verbally and called the dog ‘Oi!’. It responded to both Den and the old man, and was walked and fed by both; it was uncertain which he belonged to. Den plays even less part in this story than he did in the running of the pub. The two barmaids, Nan and Rosie, were the driving force behind the pub, and behind this story. Alike in that they both took charge when it was their shift, and that they both had reasons for enjoying a pub full of students, otherwise they differed. Rosie was large, blonde, and expansive. She had fond memories of her student days and loved seeing others experiencing the freedom of being adult for the first time, heady on the intoxicating brew of ideas and culture suddenly available. Without imposing herself she joined in, revelling in the company, it was like a drug to her. Chatting, suggesting, and breathing life back at the students, she found fulfilment. Rosie had no wish to be a student again, too much angst and poverty for a start, but she loved having them round her. There were those who said of her “It’s about time she settled down” or, “... started acting her age” or, “... got a steady job with some prospects”. But Rosie took no notice of that sort of nonsense, ‘You only get one life’ she said, and indulged herself. There was no harm done, and the place ran smoothly. She had the presence and influence that could almost always remind a rowdy boy how to behave, and if he didn’t want to listen his mates would back her up. Nan was small and dark and fierce. When she was behind the bar she controlled the place, no one disputed it, or was needed to back her up. Not that Rosie needed the backing if push came to shove, but where she accepted it gratefully Nan resented it. She resented everything, including time, the time things took, the time she found herself living in, the time spent on shopping trips and coffee cups, the time that had taken her youth, where she had wanted to live eternally. She knew she couldn’t relive it, she was too intelligent to fool herself like that, but she could not reconcile herself to its loss. Instead she ruled the youth of others, and ordered it while it was in her pub. She was obsessed with the illusion of exercising control. Knowledge is power, Nan knew the ins and outs of every brief relationship, unsuitable one night stand, indiscretion, and over indulgence. She encouraged them, preaching the doctrine of ‘freedom’ and ‘Not being tied down’. Such ideas were non-specific enough to be popular with most of a clientele, who lacked experience of the genuine evils of a world outside screens. Those who recognised her for what she was were very wary of her, and very few. Formless resentment ate at her. Nan would have liked to have given it form, wreaked destruction, ruined relationships, destroyed lives, as she felt hers had been destroyed and lost, but having power was more important than losing it. She did not lash out, she quietly watched, and waited, and hated, and sometimes, just sometimes, there fell in her lap the chance of what she saw as ‘a delicious little piece’ of pure evil that she thought she could get away with, she was cautious enough that she usually did. Rosie and Nan are two of the main characters in this little tale, and as you may imagine there was very little love lost between them. It is amazing that established society could view two such different persons as similarly slightly amoral and outrageous, when they were so wildly different. The third character was different again. The Boy had been ‘educated otherwise’; which in his case meant that in some things he had not been educated at all. This had come about through the intervention of his mother, who, like the law which demands an education ‘In school or otherwise’, was a well intentioned ass. Her own education, had taken place at a minor girl’s public school which had somehow managed to survive the first half of the twentieth century. There young ladies were taught the necessary rules of deportment and conduct required to trap an appropriate member of the male sex into matrimony. She was practiced in walking across a room carrying several books on her head, or getting in and out of a sports car modestly in a short skirt; accomplishments she had not had cause to use in the eighteen plus years since falling pregnant with The Boy. ‘Apart from that’, as Mr. Noel Coward once put it, ‘Her education, lacked co-ordination’. Within its limited aims it had worked, she had taken possession of an indulgent husband, and had not been required to engage her brain since. ‘Ordinary life’ was completely alien to her and she did not understand the advantages, or even the nature, of a normal education. Then, at a dinner party, sandwiched between two gentlemen who were keen on rugby, she liad been subjected to an enthusiastic conversation concerning the coming grand final, conducted through her mouse like presence for the duration of the meal. Since losing her figure to The Boy she had become used to being ignored, but they made it sound so thrilling she sat down the following afternoon to watch the game on a large screen television. Horrified, she did not see handsome young heroes battling it out in a grand sporting event, but a wild bunch of untamed hooligans, covered in mud and blood, assaulting each other in an unrestrained manner. There was no way her Boy was going to have to endure that. Consequently The Boy had been educated by private tutors, not the sort who are resident in great houses, they no longer exist, but the sort who advertise in the local paper. The appropriate subjects had been covered adequately enough for the law as it is applied to the well spoken middle classes, but by those whose profession was cramming for exams, rather than providing an all round education. As he was an intelligent lad this had been sufficient for him to acquire all the academic qualifications needed to progress to higher education, but he was severely lacking in social qualifications. A bright boy he spent much of his time reading, which had given him some clues, but the fantasies of writers are not always convergent with reality, and he held some strange beliefs regarding the nature of his fellow humans, untempered by experience except of those who cared for him. He had barely dropped his suitcase at his digs or met his tutors before popping in to The Lion for a swift half with his new fellows, and coming under the influence of Nan. He was just what she was looking for, his mother had taught him obedience, and within the week he was her devoted slave. Nan and Rosie avoided each other. Each recognised the other, neither approved of the other, equally both recognised the futility of conflict, and neither needed the aggravation. It was not difficult, they worked opposite shifts, and when they did meet they were brief and business like by common consent. Because of this it was some time before Rosie heard about the Boy’s obsession, by then Nan’s treatment of him was nearing abusive. She no longer came out from behind the bar, he collected glasses, wiped tables and did all the other little chores that needed doing customer side, his greatest reward was to accompany Nan on her weekly Saturday shopping expedition and carry her bags, he was expected at opening time and dismissed at closing time. Between times he fetched and carried and she fussed; she dominated almost all his waking hours. Rosie was livid, a bright boy who had been held back by the ignorance and stupidity of his mother was now being exploited for the vicious amusement of her antithetical opposite number. Far from having the chance to make up lost ground and find himself he was likely to flunk his end of term exams and lose his place. She steeled herself for warfare, and devised a plan. First she had to detach him from the clutches of the witch, only free of her influence could other influences be brought to bear. The poor lad did not stand a chance, eager for company Rosie’s young friends easily persuaded him to visit The Lion during her shift, and then she went about taking possession for herself. Actually ‘poor’ Nan didn’t stand much chance either; she had been too demanding, and totally un-giving. Moreover, Rosie had a cleavage fit for a barmaid, and a décolletage, where Nan wore polo necks, and didn’t really need a bra. Between tantalising glimpses, and being treated like a decent human being instead of being scorned and put down, Rosie had him captured within the week. It took about another week for him to feel relaxed enough that he made the suggestion that he would never have dared to make to Nan; not that she would have given him the opportunity Rosie did. She had taken him shopping on a Saturday afternoon, partly, it must be admitted, because she was sure that Nan would see them. A victory is only complete when the opponent knows the extent of their defeat, on the other hand she spared him, and avoided a meeting. It was not hard, Nan preferred to avoid the humiliation of a confrontation than enjoy his discomfort. After they had completed the shop and returned to Rosie’s flat instead of simply relieving him of the shopping and disappearing behind the closed door as Nan would have she brought him in and sat him down in the kitchen with a cup of tea and a cake. Although he remained unaware of it the shopping and seating had been carefully planned, most did not require putting away until later, it could stay in the bags. Rosie took off her coat and hung it on the door in the way that only a sensuous and deliberate woman can, every movement suggesting further disrobement, yet totally respectable. Those things that did go away went in the bottom of the fridge and the freeze opposite his chair, she bent to place them in the emptied bottom drawers before turning and seating herself opposite across the very small kitchen table and folding her arms beneath her ample bosom. He was almost prepared, the finishing touch was the swoop forward, the kiss on the forehead, and the thanks for his assistance, then he made the suggestion, half serious, half unsurely joking. He was put out when she asked if he had not made promises when he left home. Indeed he had, they had been extracted from him as promises are extracted from children by adults, but that was when he was a boy, now he was a man. Such childish things must be put behind him, a man could not remain beholden to his mother all his life. Rosie made it clear that the main difference between man and boy was that the former kept his promises, and the fact of giving birth to someone and nurturing them for almost two decades to the best of their ability was deserving of respect, rather than scorn. She did not state this in the bald terms that I have given, but rather elaborated and illustrated her points in a vigorous and detailed way. Then came the coup de gras, what made him think a liaison across the years could possibly be suitable, how old did he consider her to be? She laughed mockingly at his cautious estimate and, spoke bald truth where so many lie, then continued, “I am the second eldest in the pub, Den, the license holder, is the youngest, only Nan is older than me” she said, “Enjoy what you are, being young, and others will enjoy you. Join in, live a little, learn a lot, behave decently and have some fun, these things are not mutually exclusive; and you are a long time dead. One day you will find a girl who is not a barmaid, as good as you, who you can take home to meet your family.” It was a shock for the boy, though he had the presence and decency to assert her goodness and equality with vigorous honesty, that same honesty could see his family might not feel the same about a barmaid of his mother’s generation. Mixing with his peers was not easy at first, but he now understood some things where previously he had merely blundered through life. He lost some awkwardness, and applied himself to understanding more, both socially and academically. Within a year he met the girl he would later marry, though that was some time later. She made a decent man of him, as I said he was intelligent and took his lessons well, and most decent men are made by women. Rosie no doubt will continue to shock, be judged by those with little qualification, and make little effort to be acceptable to ‘society’, but, excellent woman that she is, she saved The Boy.

 

 

The Old Man Part One

 

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The old man sat by the road on the hillside, his robes wrapped around him against the chill morning air and his hat protecting his eyes from the sun which had risen across the valley. He was arranged, balanced, and deliberate, looking down at a small bowl of polished shell. Nothing man inspired moved for several hours. In his peripheral vision he saw such things as the sun rise, passing clouds, and the flights of birds. Filling his ears, the sounds of snow melt descending the hill surrounded him, seeping through crevices, then gathering to splash in larger masses. The scents of trees. and other living things, filled the air where he sat. He did not move, to abstain from action was better than to indulge in pointless action, and he could think more clearly that way, for that was his practice. The old lady steadily mounted the path to the road on the hillside. She was warming in the sun, which had been up as long as she had and was growing strong, and around her the hillside also warmed. He was aware of her, the air moved, lifted; and carried her scent upwards to announce her coming. In her hand she carried the Tiffin box her man had carried in the teeming city for forty years. Where even the pavements are inhabited he had carried it past strangers every day, Where most hillsides, and some valleys, held a habitation of some sort, she knew of the stranger; and his business had been discussed. She toiled up-hill to feed him, feeding the worthy brings merit. They both would benefit, beyond the physical pleasure of a climb on a fresh morning, and satisfaction of hunger fed. He ate and talked, together they devoured the brief crystallising of ideas. “Consider the nature of instruction. The purpose is implicit in the name. If the purpose is not achieved, by definition, it is not instruction. There must be something, for which I do not know the name. I know its nature, a failed attempt at instruction. If it was by its nature it was prevented from fulfilling its purpose all is not lost. Ideas are mutable, adaptable, failure attends success”. “Look what they did with wheels.” She replied, gesturing towards the road He wondered if she had caught the point? “Yes, the idea is simple. A woman wielding a rolling pin does not hold a pin for rolling, she holds a weapon. The function is in the name, however, men always go to far and its flimsy nature prevents her fulfilling her purpose of instruction.” She related ideas to the everyday material world around her, it aided her understanding, for that was her practice. “And when I hold a scroll of words,” said the old man, “It may be instruction, or any one of a hundred things, until I open it. The speaker sees the listener and knows if there is understanding, but what can the writer tell of the reader?” “That he is literate?” “That is something.” When the food was eaten the old woman left and the old man sat and thought.

 

The Old Man Part Two

 

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In the afternoon he drew a box from under his robe, took out the means to create a scroll, and, in the full light of day, wrote. The moment of inscription was an act in a series of events, all were essential, most were transient. The writing would remain longer, it might be read, he could not tell by whom, or their interpretation. Sun and food induced a flexible warmth in him as he sat in the shade beside the road. His mind was relaxed and un-hurried, considering his readers and his message. The reader must gain from the script, but is not an empty vessel to be filled. The message must convey meaning, yet leave room for speculation and personal introspection. Unconsciously his body assumed a formal position, reflecting his mind. Monks work at trestles, under instruction. Twists, kinks and obstructions to body and mind are negated by the tutor, not to be reflected in the work. When the habit is established in the mind it invades the consciousness with order. The luxury of carpentered wood becomes of the illusion, the attitude that is held is in harmony with the mind. The natural, balanced form was his normal one, mentally and physically. He adopted it in observation and consideration as well as inscription. In the evening, by firelight, he indulged himself in the beauty of the three ornate words on the scroll “Less is more”. Then his eyes became tired and he fell to thinking once again. There was much to consider. The relationship between reader and the writer, the relation between content and purpose and between the intent that preceded all, the message as it was given form in transmission, and the received message. There are many relationships to consider. Sometimes more can overwhelm, become far less as surplus information overwhelms and systems shut down. The essential concealed under a mound of trivia. Sometimes less is more to the enquiring mind. That which is not explicit may still be implied, and implication does not set limits. Exposition and elaboration are not de-barred, they can follow, tautology and repetition, anaphora and anadiplosis, aid memory and assist with emphasis. But that is not for the beginning; “less is more” begins well. Comparison, seeing parallels in the chain of unique events, is the human trick since man first threw stone. Comparing the post- to the pre- inscription reality he remembered the morning. Crystals do not achieve the clarity of mountain air, to compare them is deceptive. To appreciate the blinding nature of unmodified sunlight requires no illumination. The type of shell was immaterial to the use of the bowl, precluding other shells a limitation on imagination. Objects are observed to disassociate themselves from the zeitgeist and cross the vision at varied velocities. Perception shows everything moves, always, in all directions and at all speeds, for that is it’s practice. There was continuous sound, an audible Mandlebrot of air and water rhythms played to the background of the base rock. The scents of animals and trees were single things; but the scent of the woman who carried rice told she also kept goats, chopped fresh, green, onions and sometimes washed, which obscured the many layers of house and grandchild, incense and steel, wood-smoke, vegetables, cloth; and other things that permeated her past. The visible, the audible and the tangible had all entered on his consciousness. The moment of writing had significance, he expected it to carry his intent beyond his presence, a matter for consideration. The sun and food had combined with the experience to produce a particular consciousness, he was relaxed and ready to make decisions. There was much to say, tomorrow he might think of ways to phrase it, for now he considered the content. Intellect can recognise relevance, cogitation can achieve understanding. Knowledge and experience cross boundaries, writing was new to him, but language was embedded. Sometimes ignorance cannot recognise itself. When the tools needed to make good judgements are the same as those required to recognise good judgement the knowledge may not transfer from other disciplines. He was ready to travel far but recognised he may face difficulties and limitations. The old man sat by the road on the hillside, his robes wrapped around him against the chill morning air and his hat protecting his eyes from the sun which had risen across the valley. The world warmed, winds wound round rocks, liquids found their level, living things sought comfort and sustenance. SSDD. A herb, crushed by his sandal, gave a scent. Scents are ephemeral, yet stick in the memory. The old man could remember from childhood the smell of the monk’s house. Later it became normal, difficult to distinguish. Conversely, his childhood home now overwhelmed. He had observed this clouding and clearing of his senses, and learned to perceive the hidden as well as the obvious. The observation had come more easily than the perception. He had learned to focus on the detail as well as the overall, and treat each separately, or adjust the vision to maximise the range and compare. That which is afar, in distance or in kind, can be observed closely, that which is close may be viewed as a strange and distant object, observing various dimensions increases perspective, there is also the matter of the the peripheral and the directly focussed. The old man practised such techniques at leisure, that he might command them in necessity. Attention may reveal, the unfamiliar may reveal more. The foliage was yellowish, not dark like many mountain plants, yet lush, not sickly yellow, the scent was clean and fresh, but with a background of danger, not a gastronomic seasoning.

 

 

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