Another Place – Week 38 of the 52 week short story challenge

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We are the Iron Men.

Cast in the image of our creator and set in the sand to watch the sea as the tide comes in and out without fail.

My ninety-nine brothers and I see a world passing us by every day.

We do not stand in a line; we are scattered along the beach and some of us spend much of our time under the sea, others are half-buried in the drift of the sand.

Dog visit us and their walkers watch as we are sniffed and anointed; it doesn’t matter because the salt sea water washes everything away. Dogs on leads and dogs running free; large dogs that bark and gambol, small dogs that yap and chase their own tails, dogs in collars and harnesses, dogs wearing pink tutus and sparkling jackets. We do not think that they choose their own outfits.

People come and go; old people arm in arm, or holding hands and walking sticks, families building sandcastles and collecting shells, fishermen in green waterproofs, young lovers, joggers and cyclists, photographers capturing us from every conceivable angle and those who are alone and choose to immerse themselves in the spirit of this place.

We see the changes; wind farms rise out of the sea, ferries and container ships pass us by, irritated young men on jet skis learn to avoid us, the coastguard makes regular passes on a quad bike to ensure that all is well.

We weren’t supposed to stay here.

There were who people wanted us to be taken away; they said that we were a hazard to small craft and to tourists who got stuck in the soft sand at our feet. Some conservationists were concerned about the bird population being affected by our presence but other conservationists were fascinated by the barnacles and other forms of life that grew on our bodies.

They moved some of  my brothers in order to satisfy the critics; away from the bird breeding area and the small boats.

The people wanted us to stay – and the people won.

We stayed.

Because the people wanted us to become a permanent part of their landscape and their lives.

Students dressed us in outrageous garb, rescuing their adornments before the tide came in. Some of my brothers have been given sunglasses, another has had a bikini painted on him.

We stand and we watch.

The seasons pass over us and we are sentinels in the rain, the sun and as the wind whips the sand up into hillocks by our feet or causes the sea to lash against us and bury us under the waves.

This is Another Place.

We are the music-makers,

  And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world for ever, it seems.

Ode – Arthur O’Shaughnessy – 1844–1881

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Scientific Discovery – Week 37 of the 52 week short story challenge

‘Erwin! Erwin! Where are you?’

He could hear his mother stumbling up the stairs, so he pushed the box under his bed and went out to meet her.

‘What is it Mother?’

She looked at him, knowing that the innocent expression on his face was usually a sign that he had been up to something.

‘Have you been in your grandfather’s study?’

Erwin opened his eyes widely, knowing that it made him look even more innocent. He shook his head.

‘Are you sure?  He says that some of his bottles have been moved around. Have you touched them Erwin?’

‘No Mother.’ Erwin looked down at his feet, unsure if he could keep up the pretence for much longer.

‘Hmmm. I must insist that you do not go into that room. Your grandfather keeps some very dangerous chemicals in there. Promise me Erwin.’

‘I promise Mother.’

‘Get ready for church now. Don’t pull that face at me. We are going to church whether you like it or not.’

Erwin followed her sullenly down the stairs. He hated going to church; hated his mother’s devotion to her religion almost as much as his father did. His father opted to stay home on the grounds that his own religion did not agree with that of his wife’s, but Erwin was still considered a child and had to do as his mother told him.

As if having to go to church wasn’t enough, Erwin had to wear his best  – and extremely uncomfortable clothes. His collar was starched and stiff; the bow tie pulled it even closer to his neck. The suit was made of wool and it itched wherever it touched. His shoes; new and shiny black leather, were rigid on his feet and his toes felt cramped and uncomfortable. Having to sit in this discomfort was torture enough but for two and a half hours the preacher droned endlessly about original sin and retribution.

Erwin made a promise to himself that if he ever had children they would not have to go to church. He also decided that if he was going to be accused of being steeped in sin, he would do what he could to deserve it.

The moving of the bottles in his grandfather’s study had been done with a purpose. Erwin had only removed an old empty bottle but he had identified exactly what he needed.  Row on row of glass bottles contained liquids with exciting names and he had moved the bottle that he required so that it was hidden at the back where it wouldn’t be missed. He just needed an opportunity.

The opportunity came that afternoon. His mother was having a rest in her room, and his grandmother had gone to hers. His father had retreated to his workshop and Grandfather had fallen asleep in the sitting room, full of food and with the cat asleep on his lap.

The cat and Erwin hated each other. It loved his grandfather, tolerated his mother and anyone that fed it, but anyone else who approached it, or tried to move it from the furniture, would be greeted with a hiss and a slash of claws. It saved its worse savagery for Erwin however, who bore the scars of those razor sharp weapons.

It was the work of a moment when everyone was out of his sight, for Erwin to slip into the study, pour half the contents of the bottle into a spare and replace the original. He closed the door, breathed a deep sigh of relief and crept quietly upstairs to his room.

He pulled the box out from under his bed and after wrapping the bottle in an old blanket, he pushed the box back out of sight and lay on his bed with one of his many books on the chemistry and physics beside him. The first part of his experiment was complete.

Erwin decided it would be better to wait for another couple of days, although he moved the box into his wardrobe in case one of the maids was feeling particularly house proud and chose to sweep under his bed.

His grandmother spent the morning teaching him English; Father was at work, Grandfather was at the university and his mother was out visiting one of the ladies from the church. Erwin waited until his grandmother had gone for another lie down, before grabbing the box from his wardrobe and putting it into the middle of the room with the lid open and the bottle uncorked. He used the blanket to wrap round his hands before going in search of the cat.

It was fast asleep in a pool of sunshine on the sitting room carpet. Erwin threw the blanket over it and gathered it up before it had realised what was happening.

He ran upstairs, put the wriggling, spitting cat into the box and shut the lid quickly putting his heaviest atlas on the top to keep it shut.

Erwin knew what would happen. Putting a cat in a box with an open bottle of poison could only have one outcome. If only he could think of a way of using a separate force to shatter the bottle – a separate force that could detect life – or death.

The box stopped shaking and Erwin felt sure that he knew exactly what the cat’s status was.

He still had time to smuggle the box downstairs and out into the woods at the end of the garden.

He opened the box and took out the bottle, thrusting it deep into the pile of rubbish that the gardener had amassed for a bonfire.

The cat’s motionless body was thrust deep under the rhododendron bushes, and Erwin finished his tasks by breaking the box up and putting it amongst the other pieces of wood on the bonfire.

When his mother returned, she found an innocent Erwin studying the books his grandmother had given him to read.

She looked around the house suspiciously but nothing seemed out of place, so she took off her hat and coat. It was later in the day after she had wandered round the garden that she realised that something was missing.

‘Erwin Schrodinger! What have you done with your grandfather’s cat?’

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Animal Perspective – Week 36 of the 52 week short story challenge

 

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Hola!

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Scooby, I am eight years old and I was born in Valencia, Spain.  I am what is called a ‘random’ dog; you can also use the phrases ‘crossbreed’ or ‘mongrel’ but I prefer random because it suits my personality.  With regard to my parentage, rumour has it that a flat-coated retriever and a German shepherd dog may have been involved but hey – who really knows? Let’s face it – I am one handsome dog.

For the first three years of my life I was a Spanish dog; I poohed over low white walls, had no need of stairs and chased feral cats to my heart’s content.  That’s how we did things over there. My Spanish Mum taught me how to sit, stay, fetch, lie down and use my paw to make requests.  She also made sure that I had a pet passport and all my jabs were up to date.  I believe that she loved me very much.

In 2011 I came to England.  I don’t remember why.  It was cold though and I got into trouble over a neighbour’s cat.  You have to bear in mind that I was used to cats being vermin – like rats and pigeons and squirrels – there are kind people in Spain who try to look after the feral cats but there are so many that most people see them as a nuisance and don’t make a fuss if you remove one or two.

There was most certainly a fuss once I got to England.  I was no longer a bueno perro for doing what came naturally to me. I was the terminator dog. I was in deep trouble. Then I got out again.  Another cat bit the dust. My Spanish Mum could no longer cope with my Spanish ways and she signed me over to the RSPCA.

I was locked up for eighteen months.

My picture was on the website; a nice man did a video of me running around and playing with a ball, and I became very popular with the RSPCA staff and volunteers.  People came to see me and said how handsome I was – especially when I grinned or cocked my head to one side.  But other dogs came and other dogs went; as soon as people knew about my little problem with cats they turned away.  Many of them had cats of their own, or other pets that they thought I might take a fancy to.  I was an unknown quantity and people – quite understandably – were not prepared to take the risk.

There was a boy – well almost a man – who wanted a dog.  He loved animals and grew up in a house full of cats. His Mum promised him that when all the cats had finally made their way to moggy heaven, they would look into having a dog.  She told him to check the RSPCA web pages but not to fall in love too soon because they had to go on holiday first.  She also told him to put his laptop to some good use and do some research on what it meant to be a responsible dog owner instead of playing games where humans killed other humans.

His Mum spotted me on the web pages and pointed me out to the Boy and to his Dad.  His Mum liked my big brown eyes and the way my ears flopped over.  She could see that I had been at the kennels a long time and that I desperately needed a home of my own.  She told the Boy that if I was still there when they came back from holiday, they would come and visit me.

Right from the start the staff were very honest about my cat issues; from the very first phone call the Mum made, she knew what they were taking on but she and the Boy had fallen for my charms already (they had to work on the Dad a bit because he had never owned a dog before).

They came to visit me on the Mum’s birthday and took me for a walk in the wood outside the kennels.  I pulled a bit.  Well quite a lot actually but they persevered and by the time they brought me back to the kennels it was a done deal.  A deposit was paid and before they had even left a yellow sign with ‘Home check’ was put up outside my kennel. Somebody wanted me at last.

They came again the next day; the Boy was in charge because he was to be my new master – aided and abetted by his Mum and Dad.  I recognised them, and as a consequence began to show off my talents a little. I still pulled but they were impressed by the way I responded to basic commands (and the dog treats they bought me).

Each time they visited we got to know each other better and I began to love the Boy.  He hugged me and praised me – well all three of them did – but his actions were the most important.  I stopped barking when I saw them enter the car park and wagged my tail in ecstasy instead. Kind people cared for me and hoped that one day I would find the right family, and they had their fingers crossed.

One of the visits included a walk to a car; the Mum was worried about whether I would be nervous about cars as I’d been in kennels for so long.  Ha!  I jumped up onto the tailgate, sat down on the blanket and gave my famous grin.

‘Take me home now please?’

Unknown to me, the Mum and the Dad were doing things to make their house a safe haven where I couldn’t get out and chase the local cats.  They put trellis on top of the fence panels so I wouldn’t be able to climb over.  They found a dog-owning fence and gate maker who mended their old gate and made a special new one so that I wouldn’t get out of the back garden. They had loved their own cats and didn’t want to put temptation in my way.

They passed the home check and once the gates and trellis had been put up it was agreed that I could come home.

By this time I had my own lead, half-check collar and a harness which the Boy bought with him whenever they came to take me out.  He always had his Mum or his Dad with him when we walked but on this day he took me out alone.

When we got back to the kennels he didn’t hand me back the way he used to.  His Mum and Dad appeared from the office and they were both smiling.  The Boy was smiling.  They lifted up the tailgate and as the Boy strapped my harness to the safety belt, I smiled too.

We went home.  Mi casa.

Adios.

 

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Recent News – Purged – Week 35 of the 52 week short story challenge.

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‘So what are you going to wear?’

‘When?’

‘To go to your party?’

‘What party?’

‘Doh! You’ve been going on about this party for aaaages! You don’t seem to be looking forward to it much?’

‘Party? Oh. That party.’

‘YES!!! What are you wearing? Have you bought anything new?’

‘Should be red really but at the rate things are going it might be black.’

‘Boring. What kind of food will there be at this party?’

‘Hmmm. Plenty of sour grapes. Maybe a bit of humble pie. No jelly and ice cream I’m afraid’

‘Yuk. Will there be drink?’

‘Well, the main person in the party doesn’t drink – and he’s a vegetarian too.’

‘Fruit juice and dips then?’

‘Probably.’

‘You don’t sound very excited about going any more. Will there be lots of people going that you know?’

‘Yes, but not necessarily people that I want to spend time with.’

‘Why are you going then?’

‘I suppose you were going to find out eventually anyway. I’m not allowed to go to the party now.’

‘What!’

‘Not just me. Lots of people have been told that they can’t go.’

‘But you told me that you paid money to be in this party. Are they going to give you your money back?’

‘Doesn’t look like it. They’ve made a lot of money out of people like me and none of us can get our money back.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because the people in charge of the party have decided that we aren’t welcome, and that we’ve done something wrong.’

‘What did you do? Was it really bad?’

‘Not really. I shared someone else’s ideas on Twitter and unfortunately there were some words in the ideas that the people didn’t like.’

‘You shouldn’t have shared them then – not if they were bad words.’

‘Ah, but they only became bad words a couple of weeks after I had shared them. I’m not psychic – as you know. Some of the other people in the party have used much worse words than me and they are still allowed to go.’

‘That’s SO unfair!’

‘I know. At least I know why I’m not allowed to go. There are many who haven’t been given a reason.’

‘That’s even more unfair. I bet they are upset.’

‘Some of them are angry, but some, especially the older people; they are very upset, especially as they have been told that they won’t be informed of the reasons why they can’t go until the party is over.’

‘Can’t you stop them?’

‘Oh, we are trying but every time we try they make up a new rule to stop us.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Ermmm. I know. You know in football – you have to score goals to win.’

‘Everyone knows that. What’s it got to do with your boring old party?’

‘Suppose every time you went to score a goal you found that someone had moved the goal posts closer together so that it was harder to get the ball between the posts?’

‘That’s cheating!’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re always telling me that cheating is wrong.’

‘Yes.’

‘What about the man? You know, the vegetarian man who doesn’t drink booze?’

‘Oh, he hates cheating too. He really wants us to be there. He’s very cross that we are being stopped from being a part of it all.’

‘Why doesn’t he tell the nasty people off then?’

‘He doesn’t like being nasty to others. He is a very kind and honourable man.’

‘I don’t like the sound of the other people though. They are bullies. You always told me to stand up to bullies.’

‘Yes, and I have been standing up to them. There are more of us standing up to them than they realise.’

‘I don’t think I would want to go to a party with them. Can’t you start up a new party and not invite them?’

‘We could  – but the party belongs to the party members – not to the bullies who keep changing the rules to keep us out.’

‘What happens next?’

‘I’m not really sure – none of us are that sure. We have to keep trusting that good will win over evil.’

‘Like in fairy stories?’

‘Yes – but this is real.’

‘Does that mean you can’t have a happy ending?’

‘Not necessarily. We can’t give up though.’

‘I’ve got an idea.’

‘I love your ideas.’

‘Let’s have our own party. With jelly and ice cream. To cheer you up.’

‘Okay. What shall we call our party?’

‘You choose.’

‘I name this party – the Purged Party.’

‘That isn’t a very nice name.’

‘It isn’t very nice being purged.’

 

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