Stories with a Message or even more than one …

 

Telling stories dates back to the beginning of man (and woman), providing a history of development throughout the ages, offering some form of sense or structure in what can seem like a nonsensical world. Stories can help us discover who we are, what our passion is, or passions are. They can help us to navigate the complexities of life, make sense of trauma, and ultimately define our purpose and the legacy we leave behind.

Indeed it is what clients do when they come for treatment or therapy - they share their story, and story writing is a well-documented therapeutic tool. A tool I sometime use when working with clients.

I am delighted to be involved in this new section of Heath & Happiness magazine which is devoted to fictional stories that have a psychological or spiritual perspective or meaning, whether that is overt or covert is dependent on the writer, or indeed the reader. These meanings offer a form of therapeutic guidance and perhaps insight to the reader who may be able to relate either directly or indirectly to the message at large. Indeed, the message may just be what the reader needs to acknowledge to enable them to move forward in their life.

Whilst the stories you read here are fictional, sometimes these stories may have an element of personal truth for the writer, however this is not for us to know. As the reader be aware of any message or messages that may be contained within the stories you are about to read, they may just answer that nagging question or doubt you have been experiencing ... or shed new light on a perceived darkness.




If you have a fictional story with a psychological or spiritual message, that may or may not contain an element of truth to you the writer that you are willing to share; or, if you are a budding writer and would like to try your hand at writing a short story with a poignant message, please forward it for proof reading and any editing (spelling, grammar) to info@drewryder.com in the first instance.

 

The Wish


by J.F. Dodgson

Kathleen wiped a tear from her eyes with her spare hand. The other held the hand of her dying son. He looked so helpless and so young. It was not right that a parent should have to watch their child leave this world. It was not the natural order of things.

“I’m here!” She comforted as Edward stirred taking shallow breaths that had become irregular now.

Kathleen knew the moment was soon. She felt it in her heart and ached to the core of her very soul.

Edward’s Father Bill stood behind his wife at the corner of the hospice bed and the brothers and sisters huddled up supporting each other for the coming moment they dreaded.

Edward sucked in air in short gulps. His bottom lip seemed to be getting sucked into his mouth with each breath. His teeth appeared to be crumbling leaving a jagged edge which now drew blood from the damaged lip. It was pitiful to look at this gaunt shadow that used to be a strong young lad, reduced to a corpse of failing life.

Suddenly, Edward opened his eyes and took in one sharp breath for the last time. The spent air like a bed smell exhaled the end. There was a loud bang and the hospice door to the garden flung open. His vacant stare took in for the last time the family that loved him. At least his face formed a smile of relief at the final moment of release.

Kathleen let out an involuntary scream trying to mute it for the sake of the others but she could not hide or suppress her agony. Lifting Edwards hand to her face she wept as Bill placed a hand on her shoulder.

“He’s gone!” Kathleen lamented. “My boy’s gone”

The nurse came quickly looking puzzled at the open door, instructing the family to a waiting room so they could prepare the body.

One of the children noticed the puzzled look on the face of the nurse.

“It just burst open by itself. It was like Edward left just at that moment to be in heaven”

The Nurse smiled at the young girl too young to understand what had just happened. Maybe it was better that way.


***

Pamela walked along the high street window shopping. She checked her look in the glass refection. From the other side of the street Edward Sanderson, who she went to school with stood, looking at her in the glare of the window. Startled she spun around to face him. The last time they spoke was years ago and she’d not been very complementary. To her surprise when she turned he was gone. She shook her head and wondered why she should imagine seeing a boy from school she’d argued with all those years ago. He’d be maybe twenty by now by the reflection of what she thought she saw. Perplexed Pamela began to move on when she experienced a tap on the shoulder.

“Pamela? Is that you?”

A girl called Yvette stood smiling at her as if she’d seen her just yesterday. The school playground was a lifetime ago but this girl looked almost the same.

“How are you Pamela?”

Pamela recalled Yvette who used to play for the Netball Team. She’d been Edward Sanderson’s girlfriend at school for a while. It seemed a little strange for her to be there now. She started to explain her apparent jump of fright.

“I’ve just had the strangest thing happen”

“Really?” Surprise was evident in Yvette’s voice. “What was that Pamela?”

Pamela explained the weird appearance of Edward Sanderson in the window of the shop and how he was not there when she turned around.

“Do you still keep in touch with Edward?” Pamela asked.

Yvette shuffled awkwardly on her feet.

“What?” Pamela quizzed her inquisitive.

“You will not have heard then?”

Pamela perked her interest, eyes widening leaning forward for the gossip.

“Edward died yesterday. His sister told me”

Pamela threw her hand to her mouth to hide her shock. Her mind drifted back to the last time she had ever seen Edward in the school playground when they were teenagers. She recalled him teasing her and what she said to him that day.

"Why can’t you just die? I hope you die of Cancer!"

Yvette told of the anguish of the family and when the funeral would be telling Pamela the location where it was to be held.

“What did he die of? Was it an accident?” Pamela probed.

Yvette looked down for a moment before answering. “No, he died of cancer. He had a brain tumour and it…”

Pamela burst into tears feeling Yvette’s stare.

For her part Yvette had forgotten the insults of childhood. She was a little taken aback by the reaction of the girl in front of her. She thought that Pamela never really liked Edward.
The two girls parted after a little hug and wished each other well. For the rest of the day though Pamela could not get Edward from her mind.

***

 As the family grieved at the grave side the Priest threw soil onto the coffin.

“Ashes to ashes…”

Friends and family consoled each other on what was a bright chilly morning. The turnout was good and in some way indicative of how much Edward in life was revered.

Kathleen Sanderson thanked the attendees when she noticed a young girl standing off to the distance. She’d obviously come to pay her respects but did not want to be part of the funeral. Maybe she was a girlfriend she had never been introduced to by Edward she wondered.

“Thank you for coming” She acknowledged the mourners one by one.

Bill and the rest of the family gathered getting ready to go to the reception arranged when Kathleen caught up with them.

“Who was that girl?”

Her youngest daughter looked over to the girl leaving from afar.

“I think Edward used to go to school with her”

“Come on, let’s go!” Bill urged as the car pulled up to take them away.

 

 

Nails

by J.F. Dodgson


“Why does she have to come with us?”
Simon complained.

“Because she’s your sister. Now stop being mean”

Simon stamped his feet and let out a scream of frustration. “But Mum, she’s stupid”
Audrey Cairns shook her head as her temper flared. “Don’t you say that about your Sister!”

Little Susan stood holding teddy by one arm sniffing and sobbing.

“See what you’ve done now!” Mrs. Cairns vented at her son. “Wait until your father is back from Iraq. I’m going to tell him how mean you are!”

Meanwhile Susan wailed in the background, her face twisted in grief. She idolized Simon and followed him like a little puppy dog. To her she could not understand why her brother wanted to play with the other boys and leave her behind.

“It’s not fair!” Simon screamed at the top of his voice slamming the door as he went outside.

Mrs. Cairns swept Susan up in her arms and consoled the little girl.

Outside Simon went to the bottom of the garden. He threw stones at next doors greenhouse until he broke one of the glass panes, hiding when it smashed.

Since Martin Cairns had been away on active service in Iraq Simon had become a handful. The boy missed his father and the things they did together. His father had a knack of knowing just how to handle a young boy and his curiosity. Now though at just nine years old he was changing. The discipline disappearing with the months gone by that his father had been away.

Mr. Robinson came to inspect the damage on his greenhouse suspecting right away that the Cairns boy was involved. He looked around but did not see the boy hiding in the undergrowth like a fully camouflaged Marine. Muttering to himself Mr. Robinson picked up the shards of glass his patience running thin.

When Mr. Robinson went in Simon came out of hiding. He took his fishing rod to the pond. The one his father bought him for his eighth birthday. Tying knots to fit the hooks like his dad showed him, He began to fish with a float and bread for bait.

“What are you doing here Susan?” Simon asked angry at the sudden arrival of his little sister. “You know you are not allowed by the pond. You are too young!”

Susan smiled looking up at her brother as if he were some kind of superhero. Just being near to him she craved his attention.

“I’ve told you, I don’t want you here now leave me alone!”

Susan began to cry. Here little diamond tears sparkling as they gathered into rivulets on her cheeks. Teddy dangled from her hand with his feet in the mud and one of her wellingtons had dislodged and her socks were all wet and muddy.

Simon threw the fishing rod down and grabbed a hold of her.

“I hate you! Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Susan ran off with just one Wellington boot and only teddy to keep her safe. Simon knew his fishing was over and he ran after her. When he caught her he screamed and bitched at the girl before he took her home.

Later that night his mother gave him the news.

“Your father is coming home at the weekend. I’m going to tell him just how bad you are treating your sister. She’s only five for god sake”

Simon hung his head in shame. It was not that he hated his sister it was just he wanted to do things that were just unsuitable for a little girl and he was fed up with Susan following him like some lap dog.

Simon went to bed after his dressing down. Susan was already asleep in her room as he passed and he hissed like an angry snake at her bedroom door.

When the weekend arrived Martin Cairns was early. He took his family by surprise. It was a joyous occasion and full of kisses and cuddles. Martin noticed a change in his son and the way he seemed to interact with Susan. When they put the kids to bed he asked Audrey his wife what the matter was. Audrey told him about all the fights and name calling and bullying. Martin listened intently. After Iraq it was just silly stuff but he knew it was hard for the whole family.

“I’ll have a word with him” Martin assured Audrey.

Next day Martin took Simon to the bottom of the garden to put up the new garden shed that had stood for months after it was delivered too late to erect before Martin shipped out to Iraq. They got all the tools together and started to hammer in nails. Simon was full of smiles and enjoying working with his father. It was even better that Susan was not there and it was just boys doing boys things. He looked at his father in awe as his muscled arms flexed each time his hammered nails in with precision.

“You do some there for me” Martin instructed Simon who was beaming. “Put in five here” Martin pointed.

Simon obliged banging them in one by one.

“You know your sister loves you” Martin told him.

“I guess...” Simon spoke softly as he put in the last nail.

“All those bad things you’ve been saying it’s not good”

Simon looked up upset that he had disappointed his father.

“I said sorry” Simon tried to justify.

Martin instructed Simon to take the five nails out he’d just put in as they were in the wrong place. Simon responded and prized them out with a screw driver.

“See those holes?” Martin asked him.

“Yes?”

Martin put his tools down and approached the boy placing a hand on his shoulder. “Every time you tell your sister you hate her is like putting in a nail on that bit of wood”
Simon looked at his father wide eyed.

“And every time you say sorry is like you prizing out the nails” Martin explained. “But see the holes?”

“Yes dad?” Simon answered confused.

“Well son that is your sisters feelings. Even though you said sorry you leave holes that scar her soul”

Simon looked at the bit of wood with five holes deep and gaping where the nails used to be like open wounds.

“Do you understand?” Martin asked gently.

Simon stared at the holes then looked at his father. There was something in his eyes that was not there before he’d gone to Iraq and Simon suspected that the war in Iraq had somehow left holes in his father. There was pain there even noticeable to a little boy. He began to speak but his father put his finger on his lip stopping him.

“Come on, let’s get some lunch”

They went back to the house. Audrey and Susan were waiting for them with a table set for lunch. Audrey smiled at her husband as he brought Simon back from the bottom of the garden.

Simon walked up to his sister and took her in his arms and hugged her. Tears streamed down his face.

“Don’t be sad” Susan said wiping away her brothers tears. “Daddy is here now”

Martin stood looking at his family like precious jewels before him.

“I love you Susan” Simon told his Sister.

Susan hugged Simon back telling him that she loved him too and that even teddy loved him.

Audrey put her arm around her husband. It was good to have him home again but even she had noticed something in Martin’s eyes she’d never seen before.




Family

by J.F. Dodgson 


Joao complained of numbness in his arm. Flavia went to get his drink for him thinking nothing of it. She was just about to hand him a beer when she noticed his face dropped to one side along with his left eye.

Joao seemed to be talking jibberish, even though he hadn't drunk anything yet. He was known by many to spout out things about the government or young people in public having opinions about everything. At least his ramblings were usually legible. Today however, it was more like sounds than words.

"Lift your arms up!" Flavia demanded. Joao tried to comply looking a little lost, worsening.
He tried to lift both arms up but was unable to do it and weakness made him drop one noticeably.

They'd only been in Portugal for one day. Joao normally was the life and soul of the party. This came unexpected.

His lop-sided wrinkled leathery face displayed a vacant look and he began to slaver from the side of his drooping mouth. He tried to say something but no words came out.
"Fatima, call a doctor right now!" Flavia demanded of Joao's cousin.
 


 

30 years passed before Joao returned to Cascais in Portugal with his new wife. Making a life for himself in South Africa and Mozambique in the supermarket business he was now retired. Interested to meet his second wife, the woman who had replaced 'Luisa', a woman they all adored all, his cousin's family invited them to stay.

The stroke Joao suffered put a strain on all that now. His daughters in Cape Town would have to be informed. They hated the wife of fifteen years their father took to replace their mother and Fatima Joao's cousin knew it, so she suggested she make the call instead of Flavia. Distracted Flavia motioned her to go ahead as the doctor arrived.

 

 

Ines and Ana never wanted their father to take Flavia to Portugal to meet the family. Even though she was Portuguese herself, they did not like her. In fact they made sure that they had control of their father's finances long before he'd ever planned to make this trip. A girl 'friend' of theirs some time ago lost their father to cancer and she ended up with nothing when he died. That was not going to happen to them. Nobody was going cheat them out of their inheritance and no woman was ever going to replace their mother. Not if they had anything to do with it.

After badgering their father for two years he eventually caved in and gave power of attorney to his daughters over his finances. He'd resisted for ten years but eventually capitulated. Since then they administered things but were never exactly cordial. Ines and Ana only ever visited their father when his new wife was out. Flavia was never invited to their homes and they spent as little time with her as they could get away with without upsetting their father.

So, when the call came from Portugal it was received with mixed emotions. Ana cried but Ines ever the business woman contemplated what this could mean.

"If he dies in Portugal there is no way that bitch is getting her hands on any of Daddy's money or things" She informed her sister coldly.

"Ines, how can you think of that now? What about Daddy?"

Ines emotionless took her sister in her arms, "Someone has to look out for this family!" She informed, "Besides, Uncle Manny will let us know how Dad is as soon as he can, but we have to accept it could be bad news"

Ana nodded reluctantly, but in her heart that Flavia woman was not going to get what she considered hers so she agreed with her sister.

Ana and Ines went to Portugal on the next available flight.

 

 

One month later Joao was out of the woods as far as the doctors were concerned. However, the loss of speech lay heavy upon him. After gaining clearance from the hospital to travel he was whisked to the airport without delay. Without adequate Insurance it was imperative to get him home swiftly. On that news Ana and Ines went back to Cape Town to make arrangements for his arrival glad to leave a frosty situation behind them.
 


 

Two tickets awaited Joao and Flavia at the TAP Counter, the Portuguese Airline assistant informed them. Flavia hid her surprise form the girl at the desk. After a month of being at the mercy of Joao's family she'd been unable to pay for the flights. Joao's daughters held his credit cards and she had no money to herself. The family in Cascais seemed to change overnight in their attitude towards her. At least they did arrange to run her back and forth to the hospital and gave food on her return. Mealtimes ceased to be a family reunion. This had coincided strangely enough with Ines and Ana's phone calls from Cape Town, that was when she became an outsider, awkward and rejected when those same daughters arrived in Portugal to take over everything. The pain for Flavia was unbearable as she recalled it all, holding back tears.

Not knowing what was going to happen when they arrived back in Cape Town, Flavia followed Airport Assistance with her husband and took her seat next to him on the flight.

"It'll be alright Joao. You'll be home soon" She informed her husband placing her soft hand on his arm.
 


 

Joao did not see the Twelve Apostles as they circled out over the sea before turning back to land at the Cape Town International Airport. Glorious sunshine greeted passengers as they alighted. Flavia and Joao waited for assistance in order to disembark. Four African men arrived with a big African woman clutching a clipboard.

"Oom, Tannie…This way please", The African woman gestured squeezing her amble behind between two seats as the men organised Joao into a chair.

It took more than half an hour to disembark and the lady followed them through to immigration, directing them to the South African Residents desk.

Once the suitcases were collected the men took Flavia and Joao through to arrivals hall along with their luggage. Sliding doors opened and Flavia saw her cousin waiting on one side and on the other, Ana and Ines. Neither party acknowledged the other so when they emerged the awkwardness of the meeting became apparent.

Ines pushed forward greeting her father. "Papa, you are home!", Ana reduced to onlooker smiled feeling the stress of the situation.

Flavia rearranged Joao's collar on his shirt but Ines brushed her hand aside speaking to her father again. "Papa, you will be coming home with us. It's all arranged".

Mouth gaping open, Flavia with disbelief absorbed it. Ana stepped forward now, hesitant, then handed her a letter.

"What's this?" she asked perplexed.

"Read It!" Ines snapped without sympathy.

Startled Flavia began to tear open the envelope. Cousin Ricardo now managed to get to her after being outflanked by the two daughters and took her arm.

"It's OK, I'm here now for you" He said with kindness.

Opening the letter she noticed right away her husband's hand writing. The letter curiously dated some fifteen years previous. Eyes wide she read the contents in total disbelief.

'Dear Ana & Ines, I was lonely when I took this woman as my wife but she can never take the place of your mother. There is no love and I will always make sure that everything I have will be yours should anything ever happen to me…'

Ricardo unaware of the letters contents monitored the strain of the tense meeting but to his surprise Flavia calmly folded and carefully placed it back into the envelope before turning towards Joao.

Bending down Flavia approached his ear close enough only for him to hear.
"All I ever wanted from you was love, nothing more!"

With that, Flavia turned back to her cousin confusing him with her smile. It was one more of determination than sadness.

"Come! We are done here!" Flavia informed him. As she began walking away, she never looked back.

Ana and Ines stared in confusion trying to understand the gurgling noises coming from their father. The fight they'd expected did not occur. Now they feared a battle ahead. 'What was that woman thinking? What did she intend to do?" Tension filled the air.

Flavia and cousin Ricardo kept walking towards the exit sign…





 

Luna's Moon Magic

By Annette Ryder


The owls called out at dusk, just as the full moon rose above the trees on the warm June evening. My pregnant mother had moved her bed to be by the open window so she could watch the sun set over the woods. Apparently my arrival was heralded by a fox barking it's strange cry in the distance. Mother named me Luna as she thought that the halo of golden hair around my head reminded her of the moon.

I was a happy baby who rarely cried and active in the extreme. She recalled wandering around the garden cradling me in her arms to lull me to sleep. Sometimes the movement helped, but on full moon nights I was wide eyed and awake. Looking back to my childhood I remember watching the moon from my bed. The curtains were never drawn when I went to sleep so that light would filter into the room and scare away the monsters. There was something magical and mysterious about it and I would gaze at it's splendour long after the time I should have been asleep.

As I got older my love affair with the moon was replaced by other things. It was suddenly the enemy on nights when I wanted to sneak out of the house to go to a party, or meet a boy under cover of darkness. By the time I was 15 I was very adept at escaping, and I'm sorry to say that I went off the rails with my wild and extravagant behaviour, often fuelled by alcohol.

I struggled with the usual teenage problems such as acne, being offhand and rude to my mother, being less pretty than my friends and much more. The situation became worse when I turned 16. Sometimes I felt off balance and un co-ordinated. I tripped over the steps up to the house on several occasions and mother called me clumsy and told me to look where I was going. I became disinterested in school and my work began to suffer. My teacher was so concerned that she asked my mother to meet with her to discuss her concerns. I just couldn't concentrate and everything that was being taught seemed so irrelevant and pointless. Things were not looking good and I was no longer the girl with the sunny disposition and a smile for everyone.

I remember one night standing at my window looking at the moon, trying to recapture that sense of joy and wonder I had felt as a child, but it just wasn't there. Tears sprang to my eyes and suddenly I was alone and lost.

I know now that although mother was concerned, she thought that I was just being a typical teenager like so many others, and that things would come good eventually. I made no move to confide in her either or explain how I was feeling, and she was not one to make a fuss. When I started suffering with persistent headaches I knew that something was really wrong. I swallowed far too many pills to try and combat the pain but nothing seemed to work. I decided to go and visit our family doctor in secret to get some help. One morning I skipped school and headed to the surgery. Dr. Reed was a very caring man and listened to all I said without making comment. I found myself telling him everything ... the clumsiness, the balance issues, the headaches, not having any focus and being lost and upset all the time. In return he asked me lots of questions. Eventually he suggested that perhaps I needed to have some tests at the hospital to clear things up. Relieved and not at all fearful I waited for the day of the appointment, just pleased that something was going to be done to help me. In a better frame of mind I came clean with my mother who was very upset that I had not shared my worries with her before.

We went to the hospital together and initially there were some simple neurological tests but when the consultant suggested a CT scan to take a closer look at my brain I started to really worry. Mother kept up a barrage of questions but he was very reticent and said that we would have to see what the results showed. Waiting was agony and time dragged. I thought about my grandmother and her migraines and convinced myself that this was an inherited problem that could easily be sorted.

The morning of the appointment started badly. The alarm didn't go off or I didn't hear it. I threw on some clothes whilst mother made coffee and hastily dragged a brush through my wild hair. The traffic was crazy and we made it to the hospital by the skin of our teeth. I remember walking into the consulting room, sitting down and waiting. The moment is so vivid. I can see the turquoise T shirt with the cartoon bird on the front, my partly tamed hair and my old Adidas trainers with the scuffed leather toes.

"Luna the tests show that there is a lot of swelling around part of your brain. We will need to do an MRI scan to be sure, but I'm afraid that I'm 90% certain that you have a tumour."

I have no idea what he said after that. I could only hear his last word ... TUMOUR. I was 16 and I had cancer. It turned out that the tumour was the cause of all my symptoms. The MRI scan was a formality and it confirmed the diagnosis and the tumour was malignant. At that moment I had no idea what a rollercoaster my life was about to become.

To be honest I was on a downward spiral. Firstly the prescribed steroids the hospital gave me resulted in a swollen face and blurred vision. I felt like a freak and didn't want to set foot outside the house and let my friends see me. Radiotherapy was the next treat in store! These sessions left me feeling depleted and weak as a kitten with no interest in anything. My mother tried hard to jolly me along but I'd lost my sense of humour and was full of self pity. Then I met Roma!

We got into conversation at a place called the Soul Café that had sprung up in the backstreets of our little town. It was a welcoming place where people met to discuss, share, inspire and feed both their minds and bodies. Roma was a wise woman, full of energy and light and seemed to know all the customers who came in.

"Wellbeing is the basis of All-that-is Luna. It flows to you and through you. You just have to let it," she said.

She made it all sound so easy. When I was with her everything seemed possible. Gradually I learned to change my thinking from a purely negative viewpoint to something far more positive despite my condition. I made friends with Freya who was an artist. She suggested that I used the process of painting to help heal myself, so I bought paints and paper and spent Sundays sploshing bright colours everywhere in a very haphazard way. It was fun and I found myself smiling at my childlike paintings. My friends began to notice the change, saying I was more like the old Luna. I was still afraid but I found ways to cope.

Another teacher came in the form of Lisel. She knew a lot about nutrition and the right foods to eat. She suggested that I change my diet to include some cancer busting foods and devised a healthy eating regime for me to follow. The down side of that was that I had to start eating disgusting broccoli but if it made me feel better I was happy.

When Roma discovered I had been a full moon baby she asked if I knew anything about rituals around the moon.

"You mean magic?" I asked.

"If you want to think of it like that, but I call it working with the Universe."
"Be grateful for your life Luna and be joyful. Things may not be perfect right now but in time those things can change," she said. "You and I will perform a cleansing and healing ceremony. Can you remember what you were wearing on the day you received your diagnosis?"

How could I forget that dreadful day. I see the stupid turquoise T shirt with the cartoon bird pulled on in haste, my hair scraped back and my old trainers.

"Bring them with you and we will see what we can do tomorrow night."

The following evening we met in Roma's back garden where she had lit a small fire. We stood either side of it not speaking, just staring up in the sky admiring the full moon's beauty. I felt alive and connected to it's energy and brilliance. Roma spoke quietly telling me to feel the earth beneath my feet and to stay focused.

"See the clothes that you have brought with you as a symbol of your disease. I want you to cast them into the flames and declare what you are releasing. Say it boldly to the moon and the fire. Step out of your disease and your negative thoughts and step out of that old skin. Allow a transformation to take place deep within you."

I happily threw the clothes into the fire and watched them shrivel up and burn. Imagining the cancer cells shrivelling up and dying too I called out in a strong voice, "Cancer I release you now!"

For a moment it was as if everything was perfectly still and silent: as if time had stopped. Then the tears came. Roma put her arms around me so comforting and motherly.

In the days that followed I found a new energy despite the continuing treatment. Everything felt different somehow. I wasn't a believer in magic but I did feel as if something magical had come about that night. I began to focus more and my schoolwork steadily improved. Mum was not on the receiving end of my ungrateful comments and bad behaviour. Friends were happy that I was more like the old Luna and in turn this made me happy.

At the end of the course of radiotherapy the doctor told me that the tumour had shrunk by 50% and I felt the heaviness leave my body and mind. I now knew about the mind/body connection and realised that by releasing guilt, fear and pessimism I could begin to heal.

Roma continues to give me her wise words and Mum and I go to Soul Café once a week to meet up with her, Lisel, Freya and all my new friends. I'm back to watching the moon and saying a quiet thank you from deep within my heart as I see it´s brilliance spread across the heavens. I continue to improve and heal. Whether it was medical intervention, eating the right foods or my healing painting that brought about this miracle I'll never know, but deep down I truly want to believe it was "Moon Magic!"


 

 

Minger


The stench was too much to bear and Nurse Gladys balked at it, gagging to keep the bile in her stomach down. His feet were in a terrible condition and the socks seemed to be part of the skin now which made it difficult for Nurse Gladys to remove them. The blackened dirty infected skin held warts hard like diamonds and the surface of the foot was infested with fungal bacteria. Corns and calluses must have made it difficult for the man to walk without pain and blisters resulted along with Spurs causing calcium growth due to badly fitting shoes. He came in with wellington boots turned over at the tops even though it was August and burning hot outside. Old sweat rancid and pungent reeked from them like a First World War gas attack.

He sat there with filthy clothes, tattered and torn and still wore a thick overcoat that looked like someone's throw away years ago. Very seventies looking out of place on him. His beard was red and thick, matted with tats and lice could be seen crawling between bristles.

"What's your name?" Nurse Gladys asked, but the man sat silent and said nothing. He gave what appeared to be smile and his black teeth reeked almost as bad as his feet.
"Just wait here and I'll get someone to wash those feet for you and clean them up!"
Nurse Gladys left the man sitting there wishing the Police had not brought him in on her shift. She looked for Stephany the Sister.

"Come on Sister, I had to do him the last time. Can't someone else do it?" Gladys complained. "He stinks!"

"Do your job, Nurse!" Sister Stephany responded with little sympathy. They argued for a few minutes but it became evident that nothing was going to change.

Nurse Gladys went back to her patient stony faced.

"Come on, let's get you cleaned up"

Two other nurses arrived to help and they informed Gladys that Sister had arranged a bath. They were to make sure the man was cleaned up properly before they put him back out on the street. Between them they performed the unenviable task with a repugnant reluctance.

 

"Minger! Dirty Minger!" The kids shouted towards the tramp. That was the name that the scruffy hairy flea ridden stinking tramp was known by. Even grown-ups knew who the 'Minger' was.

Turning angry, screaming displeasure, 'Minger' glared at them gesticulating with his fist. There were no words just irritated sounds like a dog growling at its tormentor.
"Minger, Minger, Minger…"

'Minger' dodged a stone, stumbling backwards tripping over his oversized wellington boots. The boy who threw it picked up another one as the others laughed. Tossing it with pin point accuracy the next stone caught 'Minger' above the eye drawing blood. This time he fell to the ground.

The boys ran as fast as they could, leaving 'Minger' on the ground, dazed and injured. Blood oozing from his would, congealing with dirt and sweat.

 

The 'Wagon Way' was quiet at night. Nobody ventured that way in the darkness. There had been one or two muggings in the past and people tended to avoid it. For that reason, Minger thought he would be safe there. 'Minger' stuffed the newspapers he'd collected from the bins into his shirt and trousers then climbed into the cardboard box he found at the back of a local garage. Shivering, the sub-zero temperatures assaulted him. He wheezed with bad lungs, slavering down the side of his mouth until it froze. This was the only time the world was friendly to him and he dreamed of a lady with long flowing blonde hair with eyes of emerald.

"I love you, Gerard" She said. The voice was soft and full with warmth. Gerard stretched his hand out to his love only to be awoken with a violent tug.

"Get off me you bloody 'Minger'", the drunk growled pushing the hand away that protruded the bushes. "I knew it would be you. You dirty Minger"

The man lashed out with his foot kicking the tramp hard. Repeating the blows several times he felt the dull nauseating thud soaking into his victim.

"Find somewhere else to sleep you stupid man. You scared the living daylights out of me you bloody Minger" The drunk warned, then lashed out a boot once more, hearing a sickening crack of ribs.

Minger slumped backwards as air rushed out his lungs catching his long disheveled hair and beard on the barbed wire fence that lined the old wagon way.

The drunk hurried away worried he'd done some damage. If something happened the police would assume the old duffer had just fallen over.

 

Sunday morning Peter always took the dog for a walk with his dad. He idolised his dad and looked up to him much in the way Max his German shepherd did. They decided to take a cut down the old wagon way and get the morning newspapers from the high street. They watched Max dash into the bushes ahead. They heard him growl as he caught something snarling like a hunter.

"Dad, I think Max has a rabbit!" Peter shouted with excitement Then, ran after the dog as it approached a heap of rubbish. His breath trailed back like a wisp of smoke in the chill air.

Brian Robson followed his son as he raced ahead to where the dog was. The call back came as a surprise.

"Dad! Dad! I think it's a body!"

Mr. Robson rushed forward alarmed. Bending down he examined the body under the rubbish pushing the dog away who was trying to chew a leg under the box. "Max, get off!"

"Is he dead Dad?"

Just then, the body moved and groaned a feeble sound.

"Bloody hell, It's the old tramp 'Minger'" Brian informed his son. "Quick, take the dog to the garage at the main road and get them to call an ambulance! I'll wait here, quick now!"
The boy did as he was told.

Half an hour later an ambulance turned up just as the frost was starting to thaw.

 

Nurse Gladys cringed, 'Not him again?' She lamented as the Ambulance Crew brought him inside. After a long nightshift it was all she needed.

"Great, the Bloody Minger again"

Cleaning the tramp up then treating him for broken ribs the hospital staff went about their business like any other day. It seemed futile as they would just be putting him on the streets again but the Sister always maintained that everyone was equal in her hospital. Although, sometimes Gladys wished they were equal on somebody else's shift. When they were done Gladys found herself summoned to Sisters office. Fearing a reprimand she went exhausted to face the music.

"Good bit of nursing" Gladys!", Sister complimented much to the amazement of Gladys. They chatted a few minutes only as the Sister was aware it was shifts end.

"How does someone get into that state?" Gladys asked shaking her head. "Probably through booze or drugs or something"

Sister Stephany smiled with sadness, "No, He was a top medical surgeon believe it or not"

Astonished Nurse Gladys perked up with curiosity, eyes wide with disbelief, "How?"

"I was just a kid like you when it happened" Sister explained, "He was a brain surgeon until he lost his wife to cancer. Beautiful woman she was with long flowing blonde hair" Gladys did not go straight home after her shift. Instead she went to help the other nurses fix up the 'Minger". When they discharged him she felt a tear roll down her cheek.

 

On the way home from school football the boys kicked a ball between them. There were four of them together when one of them overshot a pass and the ball went towards the old concrete bridge. Peter went to get the ball when he heard his mates start shouting obscenities.

"Minger! Minger! Dirty little Minger!"

Startled, Peter turned around to see the tramp wedged in a dark space under the buttress of the bridge. A chill wind blew with a sharp cutting wickedness. 'How could anyone sleep there he thought. It's freezing?'

"Minger! Minger!"
"Stop it! Stop calling him that!" Peter furious turned on his friends.
"Woo! Peter Loves Minger! Peter Loves Minger!"

Peter ignored them for a moment looking back at the tramp. His sad old eyes full of pain. Full of life's stories, an untold misery. Unhappy and unloved, in need of help.

The boys began walking away since Peter did not rise to the bait, leaving him behind with the tramp. Emptying his pocked Peter counted the coins. They amounted to the princely sum of 90 Pence. He moved towards the tramp and placed the money into his hands.
Minger smiled and began to cry. "Thank You!"

Peter stepped back in surprise. 'Minger' could talk after all. All those tales untrue now.

"You are the first young person to ever give me anything" Minger grateful, cupped his hands in prayer. "Thank You!"

Peter left feeling like he'd actually done something good for once. It made him feel good.

 

Peter looked out for the 'Minger' every day after his encounter. He even told his father about him and they both carried a little something on them and some sandwiches in case they saw the old man again. They walked the old wagon way each weekend for the Sunday newspapers but there was no sign of him.

Peter went into the newsagent for his Dad as he held the Dog outside. When he came out of the shop he was white and gaunt'

"What Is it?" Brain Robson asked his son concerned.

Peter said nothing just handing the paper to his father and walked off. Brian looked down at the newspaper at the headline. "Shit!"

'Local Tramp found dead. Sub-zero temperatures claimed the life of one time brilliant brain surgeon Gerard Stevers'.

"Peter! Wait up!" Brain Robson ran anxiously after his boy.






The Artist's Chair
 
by J.F. Dodgson

The North Sea was cold and Alan dabbed himself down with the ragged yellow towel he held in his hand. Warm sun made the experience bearable as it beat down on his white skin which looked almost blue with the cold of the water. He curled a smile of enjoyment. There wasn't much for him to be thankful for in life but as it was his 18th birthday he afforded himself that much. Quickly he put his clothes back on faster than it took him to spend his dole money as he eyed a young girl with her family close by on the sand.

The family viewed Alan with suspicion. His clothes were tatty and dirty and the mother motioned to her daughter to put her purse at the other side of their towel away from prying eyes. The girl was about 16 years of age and complied not liking the way the youth opposite looked her up and down.

Her two little brothers continued to play with buckets and spades in the sand making castles and moats whilst fighting off fictitious soldiers surrounding them.

"What you F'n looking at?" An angry voice snarled.

The family averted their stare from Alan just in time as the father returned with ice creams

"Is he talking to us?" the man quizzed.

"No Dad, don't cause trouble. Just leave it"

The man bit his lip with outrage and red flushed his face as he took in a sharp breath.
"I'll give him such a hiding…" he threatened.

By this time Alan had already started running. Looking back at the man trying to dispense with sugar cones and ice cream tubs in order to come after him he hurled abuse.

"You're just an F'in wanker but your daughter is worth one" Alan laughed

The man chased him all the way up the steps from the beach to the main road but he was no match for Alan and he gave up grimacing with gritted teeth out of breath.

Alan laughed again and gave him the finger.

 

Back in North Shields Alan arrived home to The Ridges. It had not taken him that long to walk from Tynemouth beach and he'd saved the bus fare for some cigarettes in the process. The local Asian shop sold them in singles and although if one added the cost of those singles together it was outrageous, Alan still wanted one though.

Suddenly, Just then, he took a blow to the side of the head and his ear rang like a bell and hotter than a furnace crucible. He covered his head quickly and hunched over.
"Empty your pockets or I'll kick the shit out of you!"

Alan's heart sank and a cloak of despair covered him like some dark shadow. He knew that voice and he knew if he did not obey it then he was going to be sore in the morning. Nipper Harris always got what he wanted and always took pleasure beating Alan to a pulp. He didn't have to ask twice and Alan gave him the money he had in his pocket without resistance.

Nipper Harris smoked the cigarettes Alan was going to buy and all the while grinned wickedly laughing at the younger boy. There was a pecking order on the estate and Alan Peterson just happened to come lower down the ladder than himself. When he'd smoked the fag down, he threw the butt towards Alan.

"You can have my nipper" he told Alan. That was the reason he was called Nipper and his face displayed a wicked satisfaction. Alan Peterson stooped down for his cast off.

Alan smoked the nipper until the ash went into the filter cursing his tormentor walking away down the road. One day he'd do something he thought but not today.

 

By the end of the summer Alan Peterson was still on the dole. There was no future for him or anyone else from the Estate. Everyone he knew was on benefits and he was exactly where his teacher had told him he would be in life. In fact his whole life he'd always been told he would never amount to anything.

"Peterson, you'll end up in jail. You'll never contribute anything worthwhile to society you're a loser", those words reverberated around his brain like never before and he felt worthless. That old bag of a teacher was right though he contemplated. What could he do? He was good at nothing except getting into trouble.

He decided to go to the beach again. At least it cost nothing to spend the afternoon there and he could stay away long enough to avoid his father who would no doubt be drunk by the time he got back home.

 

Alan Peterson didn't really have friends. He knew a few boys but he spent most of his time on his own. There was no place in the world for someone like him, but the loneliness didn't matter today as he sat on the rocks outside the old open air swimming baths at the edge of Tynemouth Long sands. The sun warmed his face and he cast his attention along the beach towards other young people who obviously had jobs and money. He found himself wishing he could be one of them. Even if it were just for one day.

"Would you look who it is!" that familiar voice cut like a bullwhip with a painful crack on his eardrums. "Peterson you got any money?"

Alan gave a heavy sigh knowing there was nothing in his pockets and Nipper Harris and his mates would not be happy. Demonstrating empty pockets he waited for the blow that normally followed.

"Nipper, why don't we make the scumbag dive off the rock's?" One boy gushed. "If he does a good dive we'll let him live and if he looks like shit… then we'll kick the shit out of him" The others laughed including Nipper.

"Tell you what!" Nipper informed him. "We'll be the judges like on the telly. If you please us with your dive these scumbags can each give you 20p. That's enough to get you an ice lolly or the bus home. Your choice?"

The others moaned but Nipper Harris liked the idea so much he furrowed his brow and gave them all the kind of stare they knew not to question.

Alan placed himself strategically on the highest rock. His tatty clothes lay beside and he wondered whether the others would steal them and leave him only in his underpants.

"Some bloody Y-Fronts them, Peterson..." the others giggled with ridicule.

Shivering perched on the rock Alan composed himself and Nipper Harris watched him intently impressed with the way Alan carried himself today.

"Come on, we don't have all day!" came impatient cries.

The jump was clumsy and the splash loud as a slap as Alan entered the cold water, dark and uninviting.

The boys held up hands shouting out scores, 'Four', 'Six…'

After seeing the group of boys run, a prick of suspicion alerted P.C Davis and he turned to face the direction they'd come from when he saw the motionless body in the water. It resembled a ship in its death roll about to sink forever, stern up for the last time. Jumping into the water fully clothed he dragged the body ashore in desperation. To his astonishment the young boy was still alive.

"Please, let me die" a weak voice whispered.

"What's wrong? Are you Ok? What happened?" like rapid gunfire the officer demanded an answer. He called for an ambulance and help on his radio with a sense of urgency. Beachgoers gathered around the scene trying to see what was happening.

"I can't feel my arms or my legs. What do I have to live for if…?" the boy wept. It was something that would stay with the officer for the rest of his life for he knew it was serious.

 

Barbara Greenwood looked forward to the Inspirational talk arranged at the Women's Institute in Whitley Bay. The head of the WI arranged a speaker that would inspire everyone. It was a story of courage and the mystery speaker was also an artist just like her. Since retiring some 5 years ago Barbara had taken a brush and put to canvas. She found it relaxed her and filled her days. She was pretty good too and the WI had sold one or two of her paintings at a charity event recently. At school in North Shields she taught English but these day's paintings was what excited her and stimulated her world. Retirement gave her the time to explore herself.

In the hall the artist laid out paintings to display their work. They were exquisite exhibits with vibrant colours. Barbara liked in particular the country scenes and wished she too could emulate such fine art. Whoever had painted them was certainly an artists with talent she pondered.

She missed the speaker's entrance since she was getting a coffee and some biscuits and when she got to her seat she did not have a good a view. Imagine her surprise when the artist moved out to the front of the audience in a battery operated wheel chair. It made no sound as a paraplegic man with custom designed controls maneuvered it into position.

The man spoke with a specially adapted microphone attached to his throat, taking gasps of air with each word. He explained with some difficulty what had happened to him and how it had been a blessing in disguise. The crowd of women mesmerized could not believe their ears but this man explained that as a youth he had no friends and was bullied but since his accident he'd made so many friends. His life had meaning helping other people with their own lives and difficulties. One of his proudest moments He'd even managed to save someone where he successfully helped a suicidal teenagers from taking their life.

Barbara listened intently in awe at this man. It was wonderful that in such tragedy that he found the will to live. The fact that he had been so successful with others to help them to realize the wonderful gift of life impressed her greatly. Looking down at her watch she wondered if there had been a double booking and the artist would attending later after the speaker when the man began to explain his artwork was for sale and he would be donating a painting to the WI Charity that night. The floor opened for questions and immediately someone asked how it was possible for him to do the paintings.

"Well, I ask someone to put the brush between my teeth then I ask god to help me put love into my painting. It takes me a long time"

The crowd clapped loudly and the ladies in the Women's Institute brought forward a beautiful piece of art depicting a Lakeland scene at dusk. Barbara Greenwood felt her heart melt as she saw it. It was so good a painting that she found herself wishing she could produce a work of such beauty herself. Never again would she complain about her easel or brushes or paints. Never again would she complain about her life.

The organizer made an announcement, "Well, ladies. Tonight this beautiful art painting done in Windsor Newton Oils has been given to us by the artists and is being auctioned. So please, it's for charity so let's be generous"

The bidding went well and the picture sold eventually for 500 Pounds. "Sold to Mrs. Barbara Greenwood at the back!"

As she paid the money Barbara told the woman collecting it she'd also like to give the artist a personal donation to help him with his accessories. She handed over another hundred pounds. On learning this the artist asked to meet the buyer.

After the auction Alan operated the wheelchair to where the lady who had bought his painting waited sipping her coffee. On his approach he recognized her immediately as she talked with other members of the Institution.

"Mrs. Greenwood!" Barbara turned to face the man but it did not register.

"I hope you are proud of me now?" the man asked.

"I'm sorry?" Barbara Greenwood confused turned to face him.

"You said I'd never amount to anything" he said, "Alan Peterson, do you remember?"

Her jaw gaped open with the look of surprise as she began to realize just who this man was.

"Oh Alan, I'm so sorry…" She wanted to give him her sympathy.

"Don't be sorry. I have never been so happy" He explained. Although life dealt a hard hand he decided to do something positive instead of giving up much to the disbelief of others.

Barbara Greenwood found herself filling with pride for the man Alan Peterson had become. They chatted about his condition and how he overcame all the difficulties. Someone brought over the painting she'd purchased and Barbara smiled as she took it in her hands.

"I wish I'd known all those years ago you had such talent in you" she lamented.

"Me too, but I've since found we all have some purpose, something to offer. Each and every one of us. Don't you think so Mrs. Greenwood?"

"Call me Barbara, please", She softened.

"I have an exhibition in Newcastle next week. Would you like to come Barbara?"

Barbara Greenwood smiled in awe at the bravery and stature of the man in the wheelchair. A man that was such an inspiration to the ladies of the Whitley Bay Women's Institute. A transition of a troublesome youth to a brave man and talented artist.
"I would be proud, Alan Peterson!" She nodded.

Alan Peterson smiled with satisfaction. "Let me tell you again how to get that reflection tone on the water" and he began to explain his methodology to his fellow artist Mrs. Barbara Greenwood from the Artist's Chair.

 


Is it really you?

by J.F. Dodgson

 

Harold Calthorpe-Browne had relocated back to London to take up a position as CEO of a German Investment Bank. He was a millionaire and very accomplished. The door of his Porsche Carrera clunked shut with the sound of quality and he stood there admiring the German Engineering smoothing his hair back in the sheen of the gunmetal grey glistening in the sun.

It had been years since he'd been in London and the unusually sunny day was a pleasant after Singapore and his previous assignment. Jostling his keys into his pocket drawing a deep breath of fine British air he lamented the inconvenience of the temporary car park one hundred meters from his new office. As he started to walk he noticed a homeless man sitting in a doorway. The man was unkempt and sitting with an equally unkempt dog.

"Spare a few quid for a cuppa tea Govenor?"

Harold grimaced. He liked not these kind of people. Freeloaders and the scourge of Britain and suddenly he thought of life in Singapore and his model Singaporean wife. What had he done bringing her to London? It was not as he remembered.

Harold was still young in his forties and considered a high flier, because of his business acumen. He'd been head hunted and the financial package was just too good to turn down. The City of London was not exotic but it was still one of the financial centres of the world and the jewel in the crown. His Singaporean Chinese wife always loved Harrods and the shows in London so it would probably not take them that long to adjust.

"Just a bit pocket change Guv, please? I've not eaten in two days" the voice pleaded.
Harold turned his back and ignored the vagabond, hurrying to his office. He would make sure the parking spot under the office was ready for him that week as he didn't fancy having to pass scruffy beggars each morning. After all, he was now CEO of the biggest German Bank in the world.

In his office Harold made calls to Frankfurt and New York. He quickly felt at home and after speaking to an old friend in Goldman-Sachs he managed to stroke his ego to such an extent that he even managed a cheeky little wink to his new secretary, an attractive blonde lady with ample assets of her own.

"Angelina, make sure I have plenty Cohiba Cigars for the strategy meeting on Wednesday!"

"Yes sir"

Harold watched her walk across the office to the door to leave. Instantly he knew he could have her any time he wanted. The guilty thought made him turn the photograph of the exotic Asian lady on his desk outward towards the window.
"Will that be all sir?"

"For now", Harold confidently oozed. His eyes narrowed with interest.

On his way home Harold noticed another homeless man under a bridge just off the main road. The chap was draped in a bin liner and cramped into a cardboard box in plain view. He reminded himself to make a call to the Police Commissioner to see if he could get the offending sights removed from view.

"What's this bloody country coming to?" he thought.

Another company went to the wall that night. The banking crisis putting the squeeze on what was considered a good business but the bank called in loans. Men and women went home that night to an uncertain future.

At home Harold made love to the exotic beauty who had stolen his heart. She was a model and successful in her own right having parts in TV and fashion shows in Asia. She was most certainly the most enviable trophy any man could ever wish for. The kind of woman that a man of his stature could pull because the excitement of all that money the likes of the bankers in Singapore reeked of was so intoxicating. Harold grinned arrogantly at his success.

The temperature dropped significantly and even in the summer air the cold bit hard. A group of homeless people gathered under the arches huddled together for warmth. The toff's had gone and the streets were empty. Someone shared a nipper that some geezer dropped five minutes earlier from a delivery van and each of them got two puffs from it. The joy led one of them to give thanks to God in gratitude. "Ah, luxury man…"

Settling down for the night they shivered contemplating where they could go when winter set in. Just then, a copper drove by stopping at the kerbside staring over. Rolling the window down the officer viewed the group with suspicion.

"Move along from here!" He barked.

Stirring, the homeless group groaned. There was just no rest in the City if you had nothing.

"I said move along! I'll not ask again"

Picking up their belongings as though they were the crown Jewels themselves, the hopeless unwanted, weary with exhaustion and cold trudged away as the policemen watched carefully their every move.

Sitting in his warm car the police officer watched the group split up. Three of them peeled off and found a space at an underpass near the banking district. The officer radioed in the call for back up and within minutes six burley policeman manhandled the dregs of society from its dank cubbyhole. One of the tramps defecated in his trousers, shivering uncontrollable.

"Sarge, going to have to take this one in. He needs cleaning up badly" Reluctantly, the officers held the tramp at arm's length, holding their faces away from the stench.

"Uhh, bloody hell, he stinks Sarge!" An officer complained.

After bundling the offender into the van the officers drew short straws as to who would process it. A young officer who'd only been on the force a year was the unlucky one and the others stood there laughing at him. Of course it was a stich up lesson to be learned.

"Come on Harold, let's get you cleaned up" The old man had not given his name but the officer had to call him something. He would book him after the hospital checked him over and cleaned him up to something acceptable. With relief he offloaded the scruffy stinking excuse for a man to the nurses. The liberation was enough to alleviate his nostrils and he vomited as soon as he got outside.

 

Winter came and the temperatures plummeted. Mrs Calthorpe-Browne struggled with it. It was still around 30 degrees centigrade in Singapore and the damp mist of the UK lay upon her like a blanket of depression. When it hit negative territory it became the final straw and by minus 5 degrees C she'd already decided to go back to Singapore to visit her mother. Even when the rainy season came there it was better than London in winter. She' never experienced a sky so low or so grey and for so long and, it was perpetually night which started at something like 3pm.

When Mrs Calthorpe-Browne received the first class boarding pass in her hands her mood changed. The thought of a few months in Singapore with her family lightened her frame of mind to a new disposition of enthusiasm. That night she told Harold who took it well enough. After the news of his 20 million pounds' bonus and stock options nothing seemed to knock him from his perch and his look of satisfaction told her there were no objections.

At the office Angelina brought in his coffee, black and one sugar just as he liked it. The aroma permeated the air mixing with her perfume. Harold noticed something new about her. It was her hair, a new style and he liked it. Her blouse tightly hugging her body and the top button she'd left undone gave him just a hint of warm bosom, softly heaving up and down as she breathed.

"Congratulations on your bonus sir, and thank you for mine" Angelina said with appreciation.

Harold stirred in his seat and before he knew it he blurted out words before even thinking it.

"My wife's away in Singapore!"

"Oh!" Angelina's surprise unmistakable.

"How about we celebrate our bonuses tonight together with some champagne? I can organise us a driver to take us both home later?" Startled, Angelina straightened up with poise. "That would be nice sir". As she closed the door behind her leaving the office she smiled, fastening her top button of her blouse.

 

The bill at Le Gavroche was only a few thousand pounds and the champagne exquisite. Harold suggested they go to a private club afterwards. It was too early to go home to an empty house he thought to himself. He took his secretary to Mayfair enjoying her company. More champagne was ordered and the two giggled like love struck teenagers.

"You know since I returned to London I keep seeing homeless people everywhere" Harold laughed as if talking about a character from a TV show. "You know, they seem to appear like the crying baby on a flight who always seems to get near you, even in first class", They both hooted with amusement at the thought.

"No, but seriously" Harold continued composing himself for a moment. "It's no Joke. It's like the Universe pushing at me"

Angelina placed her hand over his, "Harold, you are a man who has everything. What are you doing filling your head with such things like how the poor people live. Come on! Let's enjoy the champagne!"

"You're right", he responded allowing her hand to stay.

 

In the morning Harold nursed a huge hangover. Pulling back the silk sheets he reached for his Rolex on the bedside cabinet. As his eyes focused he did not recognise the room. Turning to his side a naked Angelina stirred.

"Morning Tiger" she oozed. "What a night!"

Harrold jumped up with the gravity of the situation. "Did we? You know? Did we…"

"You don't remember? Wow" Angelina sat up. Her perfectly rounded breast breaking free from the sheets in plain view nipple erect.

Harold turned his attention to the breasts and it did not go unnoticed by Angelina. "Yes, you do remember something about last night…" she laughed.

She reached over allowing her warm breasts to gently touch Harold's skin and it had the desired effect.

"Don't worry Harrold I won't break up your marriage, but any time you want a little…fun" Pausing for effect she took in a deep breath. "I'm here for you tiger"

The temptation was too much and Harold took her there and then. At least he would remember this experience. She was right he did have it all and secretly he felt pleased with himself. Who could touch such a powerful man?

 

Over the months Harold took advantage of the arrangement whilst his wife was away in Singapore. She even sent him a photo from the MRT subway system with the caption 'How the poor people live' showing ordinary Singaporeans packed in like sardines on their way to work.

It was risky having Angelina in his own home but the servants were used to late night meetings and visits from various people. It was all just in a day's work for them and they were handsomely paid for it.

"I'm going to buy you something nice" Harold proclaimed and Angelina looked up from the desk of Harold's personal study. "That's lovely Harold, Just let me send this off to Goldman-Sachs and I'll be with you in a jiffy".

They worked late into the night finding themselves not too surprisingly in the marital bed at the end of it. They made frantic passionate love leaving the pair exhausted. Harold knew the staff would be up soon so he decided to run Angelina home himself. He often went out at dawn to the office so it was nothing new.

 

In Knightsbridge approaching Angelina's flat Harold cursed, "Look a bloody homeless person is camped out in a doorway there. I'm sick and tired of them. Why don't they get a job…"

Angelina put her hand on his arm to calm him. Harold bit his lip and stopped the angry rhetoric.

"We'll have to see about getting you somewhere else" He said bitterly.

They parked on the street under a lamp light. It was still dark but it would be light soon. Harold opened the door for Angelina and they stood and kissed on the pavement. Suddenly, Harold felt a knife in his back. "What the…?"

"Give me your bleedin money!" the desperate voice demanded.

Angelina stepped back momentarily and the robber punched her in the mouth dropping her like a stone. "Give me yer f'in money you Toff or I'll kill you I swear to god!" he demanded once more. The thought of him being found there on the pavement outside his secretary's flat in the early hours of the morning made him cold. He was a man who made deals and the best deal here was just to pay the money and be done with it.

Out of nowhere a fist came over his shoulder catching the jaw of the assailant with such force it knocked him several feet away. Harold quickly moved to face them. The assailant picked himself up and ran down the street hurling abuse backwards at the two men and the woman who still laid on the ground.

Harold turned his attention to Angelina who was coming around now. "Are you O.K? Come on we'll get you inside and cleaned up" he instructed her and looked for assistance from the mystery helper.

To his complete surprise a scruffy looking tramp stood there next to him. The smell of the man hit him like a train and he stood grinning with black teeth and scabby face.

"Thank you" Harold feeling guilty told the man standing there before him. "What would I have done without you?"

Getting Angelina up on her feet he then reached to the glove compartment of the car where he kept his wallet. Opening it up he had about a thousand pounds in it. He pulled out a hundred to give to the man so he could get something to eat, then chastised himself and pulled the rest out and decided to give him the whole thousand. Harold's head was still inside the car as he fumbled with the latch on the glove compartment. He said again, "What would I have done without you eh?". The reply stunned him.

"Without me, how would you recognize yourself?"

Bumping his head stepping from the car doorway Harold turned to face the tramp but as he did the man was gone.

"Where did he go?" Harold asked. Angelina was nursing a fat lip, dabbing the blood. She did not see where the man went. He just disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared.

After cleaning her up Harold told Angelina not to come into work today but take the day off. He promised to take her to Harrods to pick out something nice. He'd let the office know and he would pick her up later that afternoon. Harold went to work thankful and grateful with a different view of homeless people. He could not get out of his mind what the man said. It reverberated in his brain.

 

Mrs Calthorpe-Browne arrived from Singapore unannounced before the servants had risen. She planned to go straight in wanting to surprise her husband and slide into bed with him and send him to work with a big smile on his face. She had her own keys so no need to wake anyone and let herself in, creeping to the bedroom on her tip toes. When she got there she grimaced that Harold had already gone to the office. How he works so hard to keep us in this lifestyle she lamented, but there was no way she could ever go back to life without money.

She wanted to just flop into bed after her long flight. Pulling back the sheets she was exhausted and the light just pierced the room through a chink in the curtains when she noticed the stains. Grabbing the sheets distraught as she switched a light on, she yanked them back and an earring she knew was not hers flew out from the pillow. Her blood curdling screams could be heard around the house and maids rushed to see what had happened.

Harold took the call in his office from his wife. As the temporary Secretary brought the coffee in she noticed his ashen face.

"Is there something wrong sir?"

 

 ____________________________________________

 


The hole in the sky

by Annette Ryder

 

Laura Kelly lay on her bed in an alcoholic stupor. The evening had started at the pub with the usual group of friends celebrating the fact that it was Friday, and a whole week end of pleasure lay before them. Everybody was in a good mood and the beer and wine drinking soon escalated into downing many and various shots all in one go. Laura´s competitive streak kicked in and she started laying bets with the lads that she could drink faster and greater quantities than they could. She won hands down!

At closing time she could barely stand and was helped into a taxi by Alice´s boyfriend Tom. Arriving at her destination the driver took pity on his inebriated passenger and helped her unlock the flat door before speeding off to his next pick up.

Laura drank to excess…it was simple. Her mother Jeannie had died 4 months previously after a prolonged battle with stomach cancer, and now at the age of 26 Laura felt like a lost child. Mum had been the one constant in her life after her father walked out when she was barely 3. Her only recollection of him was that he was tall and dark haired and smelled faintly of tobacco.

In the bedroom the blind was half drawn, but she could see a sprinkling of stars in the dark sky. It was very quiet apart from the sound of a cat miaowing in the neighbouring garden. Then suddenly a brilliant pool of light appeared outside the window, and to her amazement she saw silhouettes of small figures running in and out of the brightness. She blinked, and when she opened her eyes again there was just a hazy glow in it's place.

Groaning, she put her head in her hands. She had to stop drinking like this. Perhaps one of the lads had slipped something into her drink as a laugh and she was hallucinating. What the hell had she just seen? Rolling over onto her side despite her throbbing head she positioned herself on the edge of the bed so she could peer out into the garden, but now all was darkness and silent. Minutes later sleep overtook her and the next thing she felt was the sun beating down on her face at 9 o´clock on a blue sky Saturday morning.

With pounding head she thought about the vision of the night before. She realised that she hadn´t been scared, just disbelieving. After several cups of strong, black coffee and some pain killers she dismissed it as a dream and thought no more about it.

That afternoon she accompanied her neighbour Ros and her little girl Maisy to the park to feed the ducks. Maisy, just 6 seemed to have a wise head on her young shoulders, and was always full of questions. As they sat on the park bench with their bread crusts Maisy turned and asked, "Auntie Laura do you believe in angels?"

Unsure of what to say, Laura turned the question back on the little girl.
"Well I don't know. Do you believe in them Maisy?"
"Oh yes I've seen them," she answered matter of factly.
Intrigued, Laura asked Maisy to tell her more.

"I saw them from my bedroom window one night when I woke up. You know where the stars are…well there are holes in the middle of them where people can look down at you and see if you are happy or sad."

"What people?" said Laura carefully.

"You know like my grandpa and all those other lovely people in heaven. Then if you are sad they send an angel down on a bright light to cheer you up." With that she tossed her bread into the shallows and laughed as the ducks squabbled over it.

Laura smiled at the idea. Maisy was an imaginative child and Laura thought she was spinning a tale around something she had heard to make it more exciting.

The following night Laura decided to pamper herself and had a long, hot soak in the bath, painted her nails and settled herself on the sofa with a box of chocolates. Ignoring texts from her mates she watched a D.V.D. and by 11p.m. was ready for bed. This time she pulled the blinds right up so she could see the night sky fully and smiled again at Maisy´s words. It was a lovely idea to think that her Mum was looking down on her through one of those starry holes. She read a chapter of her book once she was settled in bed but soon fell asleep.

At around 2p.m. she woke abruptly to the sound of faint music. The room was so bright it was almost like day. Fully awake she jumped out of bed and flung open the French doors. The garden was a dazzling spectacle of coloured lights and figures, and from those lights emanated a beautiful song. It was a track from The Secret Garden, her Mum's favourite piece of music. As she stepped out into the garden the winged figures came to her side one by one, touching and stroking her hands just as her Mum had done when she was a little girl and got upset. Filled with emotion she looked skywards and the tears rolled down her cheeks. She wasn´t sad but felt some kind of release from the depression she had been experiencing in the last few months. Looking through her tears she saw a single shooting star arc across the heavens, and she knew that her Mum was looking down on her just as Maisy had said. With that realisation the light dissolved into darkness and the garden became still and silent once again.

In that moment she decided that life was for living and that the continual grieving for her Mum would not help her move forward with her own life. She would quit the binge drinking and be happy. She wouldn't tell anybody about her amazing experiences except Maisy perhaps. She realized that she´d glimpsed some other dimension and it had brought her to a place of peace and acceptance.

____________________________________________



Short Spiritual Story

by J.F. Dodgson

 

The refugee crisis had not gone unnoticed to Heidi Bauer. It was in the news almost every day in Germany and her city of Cologne had taken a leading role in the debacle of Angela Merkel's open door policy. Although Heidi had sympathy for the refuges she did not consider herself racist. Although she found herself agreeing with Mr. Beck next door.

"Bloody refuges, they should respect our laws, our culture"

The cultural clash seemed to fill every one's mind except Heidi's. The agony of her daughter's condition was all she could think of now. How she prayed that a bone marrow donor could be found compatible with Gerty her beloved little girl who would be four next birthday if she made it that far. Heidi wiped a tear forming from her eye.

"I know it's enough to make you weep" Mr. Beck said, forgetting for a moment the pain the Bauer woman was going through.

Mrs Bauer made her excuses to leave still trying to appear polite to her neighbor but wishing he would just shut up about those Muslims and refugees. She was sick of the whole thing. She was sick of her pain. Why had God abandoned her in this moment of need?

"I'm sorry Mr. Beck but we must take Gerty to the hospital. My mother is waiting"

Mr. Beck apologized realizing the urgency but warned her to be on her guard when she went to the city. Refugees had no respect for women.

Getting Gerty dressed, her Grandmother kissed her forehead and stroked her bald scalp where almost white blonde hair used to be. The little girl's once blonde locks contrasted with her gaunt dark sunken eyes and grey sallow skin now. Heidi entered the room with a look of concern that she took to be worry for the hospital appointment.

"It's going to be OK", Heidi heard her mother say as Gerty managed a feeble smile.

"Will they find a donor to make me better Mummy?" the child asked wide eyed. The two women looked at each other but words were not needed. The terror and fear was there in both of them.

"We must keep praying Gerty to God for a miracle" Heidi said without knowing where it came from. After losing her husband the day after the birth of her daughter she was all out of faith now. Granny hugged the small child reassuring her but part of it was for Heidi too.

The three females alighted the train to the jeers of Middle Eastern looking men all young and aggressive in appearance. One of them reached forwards and touched Heidi's bottom and she reacted angrily. "Leave us alone!"

The men followed them for a while gesturing sexually until they saw a policeman, before turning their attention to him with rhetoric that should have got them arrested.

Desperate and relieved Heidi and her mother hurried away. At the hospital Oncology department in Cologne Central they entered the waiting room cautiously. The pristine seats in regimental rows were empty and cold.

"Ah, Mrs Bauer please come in", the doctor urged coming out of his office.

After the disappointment the three left feeling exhausted and low. It was hopeless and the reality that Gerty was going to die an unsaid fact between the two women. Unspoken words that needed to be said lay dormant.

Suspicion was upon every one and Cenk Ozeul felt it just like everyone else. He'd been in Germany 20 years since he was 15. He spoke perfect German and attended Mosque like every good Muslim. He sat nervous in the waiting room for his results. Hospitals made him nervous and the look he received from the family leaving sent shivers through him. It was made better though by the news Doctor gave him.

"I'm so happy Mr. Ozeul. It's good news" Relieved Cenk Ozeul rolled his eyes to the ceiling in thanks. Sweat trickled down his temple in a rivulet of release. The doctor placed an understanding hand on his shoulder. "Thanks be to Allah", Cenk mouthed to him.

On the way home Cenk ran the gauntlet of right wing youths hurling abuse at him telling him to go home but he was home. Somehow after the news though all that did not matter.

That night Heidi cried in her bed. She threw accusation at the door, the wall, the ceiling. She hurled insult to God for what he had done to her daughter and for those bloody refugees she'd encountered that day. She got out of bed and paced up and down, searching, pleading, before falling to her knees to beg forgiveness.

"Please God, I'm so sorry for my outburst. Please understand, please help us find a cure for Gerty. Take me, do anything you want just please help Gerty"

The door opened slowly and her mother came into the room hesitant. She had heard the sobbing and wrapped her arms around Heidi as any good mother would.

"What am I going to do Mum?", Heidi asked with despair, but even her mother could not put this right for her.

The next morning Heidi made breakfast numb like never before. She turned the television on in the kitchen as a distraction to the news of some young woman who had been sexually assaulted by refugees and an old man who'd been robbed at an ATM machine. Her eyes filled with tears as she contemplated her world around her when the phone rang.

"Mrs Bauer the doctor would like you to come in today" the voice said. There was no clue to what it was about but probably more tests. How many more would Gerty have to endure before the end she wondered?

"Yes, we'll be there".

Heidi woke her mother and they both got Gerty ready for the appointment. All the while her mother tried to keep her spirits up but even she was flagging now. They fussed over Gertrude beautifying her with a brightly coloured head scarf to cover the cob web candy floss impression of hair that grew in between treatments.

"Do I have to do more tests Mummy?" Gerty asked, looking weak and drawn.
"Yes my sweetheart. I'm sorry but it is for your own good" Heidi explained but she did not believe it anymore.

"It's OK Mummy" the little girl said touching her mother's face with her little hands. Heidi hid her tears for her brave little girl who never complained. It was too much to take. How could anyone take such pain she thought, helpless ...

At the train station Heidi, her mother and little girl avoided migrants hanging around the platforms. It seemed like the world had gone mad and Heidi told herself she would kill herself when Gerty died rather than live in this awful world. Later At the hospital they were led through by the receptionist to the large cold waiting room a cavern of desolation. A room that terrified her, yet Gerty went ahead with new zest to choose a seat.

As Heidi scanned the emptiness she spotted a man of Middle Eastern appearance. Some immigrant with swarthy dark looks, unshaven, untrustworthy. His head was down as he seemed to be praying or something. To her horror, Gerty made for him and sat next to him telling him not to worry. The man looked up and smiled momentarily. Smiling with innocence explained she had cancer too.

"Don't be scared!" the child assured the man.

"Gerty!" Heidi snapped. "Come here at once!" It was an order fit for a concentration camp. The child startled began to cry. Heidi rushed to her and pulled the child away snatching from the man with a jolt, giving him a look of steel from narrowed eyes. As the man opened his mouth and attempted to say something Heidi cut him short and dragged the screaming child away. The man turned with unease from them and resumed his position again with his head down muttering what seemed to be jibberish.

It seemed an uncomfortable age before the doctor called them into his office much to the relief of Heidi and her mother. As there entered Gerty was still sulking from her chastisement which made Heidi feel bad. After all the poor girl was going to have to go through more painful tests yet again. She reached out to Gerty to hold her when the bad news came and tensed up bracing for the impact.

"Good news, we've found a donor!" the doctor gushed. "A complete match!"

Heidi and her mother fell backwards jaws agape. Instinctively, Heidi threw her hand to her mouth to muzzle her scream.

"Yes, it's true a complete match to the bone marrow!"

Heidi could not believe the words permeating the air with hope.
"But, how? Who? When?" She gulped in disbelief.
The doctor beamed a smile at them and opened his door to the waiting room and called out, "Mr. Ozeul, would you step in please?"

Heidi and her mother stood up with gapping mouths. The swarthy looking man from the waiting room sheepishly came forward head still hung low and awkward.

"Have you met Mr. Ozeul yet?" the doctor enquired.
Heidi threw her hands around him bursting into tears. The man she had so brazenly dismissed with distain.

A smile slowly curled on the lips of Cenk Ozeul from Turkey, a German immigrant as he thanked Allah for the opportunity to help someone live. He bent down to the little girl once Heidi let him go and said to Gerty "It's OK, everything is going to be OK now".