DEAD RINGER By David R Graham

DEAD RINGER  By David R Graham



‘Stan Whitman. I’m Jack Shackler’s agent.’

‘Bobby Holler. What do you want?’

‘You look just like Jack.’

‘I know. What do you want?’

‘How’d you like to be Jack’s stand in?’

‘Stand in?’

‘His double.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘Very. Jack’s in great demand. He can’t be everywhere at once. He needs a double.’

‘I don’t sound like Jack.’

‘No problem. It’s strictly a walk-on role.’

‘How long for?’

‘Until the pressures off.’

‘How long will that be?’

‘Difficult to say. He’s a popular guy.’

‘What exactly would I have to do?’

‘Appear where he can’t. Parties, receptions, premiers, etc. No TV, no interviews.’

‘What do I get in return?’

‘An all expenses paid lifestyle. A grand a week. Plus Jack’s identical wardrobe. To keep.’

‘…Is this legit?


‘…I’d want a contract.’

‘No contract. Strictly cash.’

‘When do I meet Jack?’

‘You don’t.’

‘…When do you need me?’

‘Saturday. An A List party in Juan les Pins.

‘Where’s that?’

‘South of France.’

‘…Ok. Strictly cash. No cash, no show.’

‘That’s the deal.’


Bobby still found it hard to believe his luck. He had been banking a thousand bucks a week for the past nine months. Now, wearing a two thousand dollar suit, he was being chauffeured to Grauman’s for the latest movie premiere in company with a well-known actress. Ok, so she was off limits. Who knew?


THE stalker wanted an audience when he took down Jack Shackler. So he chose this particular red carpet event for maximum publicity. Bobby Holler’s feet had barely touched the famous forecourt when the stalker moved in, swiftly pumped four .38’s into Bob, and turned to flee. In the ensuing confusion and panic he was cut down by a hail of .45 slugs fired by four members of Mr. Shackler’s personal bodyguard. His body was handed over to the LAPD.

Bobby Holler was rushed by private ambulance to a private hospital, where he was pronounced DOA.


 After being gunned down outside Grauman’s just eight week ago by Guy Montelle, the superstar is said to be have made a remarkable recovery.

Immediately following his attack Montelle—who had been stalking Jack and making death threats against him for the past year—was shot to death by Jack’s private bodyguards.


‘You got the creep, Stan.’

‘We got him, Jack.’

‘It worked like a charm. I can come out of hiding now.’

‘Sure can. Just play the part, until the spotlight shifts. And you’re in the clear.’

‘No comebacks, Stan. No loose ends?’

‘None whatsoever. It was a sweet operation, Jack. We’re clean.’



‘Yeah, Chief?!’

‘Missing male. Robert Anthony Holler’, the Chief said handing over a glossy colour photograph. ‘Been missing ten months.’

‘Hey, Chief!’


‘This is Jack Shackler!’


‘The superstar! Got shot outside Grauman’s! Couple a months back!’

‘No way! That’s a picture of Robert Anthony Holler! Just came through from his ol’ man in NYPD Homicide!’

‘Well, Chief. Robert Anthony Holler sure is a dead ringer for Jack Shackler.’


Cynthia Smith

MY SECRET PLACE by Cynthia Smith

I have a secret place, behind the garden wall,
Where fears and cares are erased;
It holds me in its thrall.
I lie and watch the birds, as they try to reach the clouds.
There is no need for words
And no harsh sound is allowed.
Breezes caress, flowers delight.
Hedgehog shuffles past, no cause to take fright.
All is gentle, all is calm;
My secret place brings this healing balm.
Such rare tranquility is quite fragile;
Unwanted intrusion leaves my mind less agile.
Leave me alone, with the drowsy drone of the bees.
My secret place is where I find most ease.

Georgie Porgie Part 2 by Chris South

Georgie Porgie Part 2 by Chris South


Georgie Porgie’s at it again

Every budget brings the pain

For some poor unsuspecting soul

Whose purse has sprung a gaping hole


He’s unpicked yet another stitch

To line the pockets of the rich

By scourging disability

And stripping some of PIP

Oh Georgie Porgie you’re no good

You psycho pseudo Robin Hood

When will your scheming ever end?

Old IDS is round the bend

He’s cashing out his losing hand

And going to live in Brexit Land!

But here’s the sweetener to the deal

That bitter aftertaste appeal

To spare our kiddies’ heart attacks

He’s introduced a sugar tax

With extra maths, more hours at school

Academies become the rule

They’re certain now to reach the top

Deprived of all their fizzy pop!

But will he stand to take the blame?

When poisoned by more aspartame

Our future generations cry

Oh Georgie Porgie why oh why?

And for his final last Huzzah

Our poor deluded chancellor

Will pull a bunny from his hat

A budget surplus nice and fat

In 2020 so he claims

Having fluffed two fiscal aims

Despite his dodgy dealing games

Well would you bank on that?

A NEW ADDITION by Michael Healy


To all the world, you should know,

We have a grand new Grandson.                                                                                   


He’s now just eighteen weeks of age                                                  

And his names are Douglas, Jack

Of a sparkle in his little eyes, there is no lack

To give a cheeky smile – and a little squeak back.


Of course Mum and Dad love him to bits

And on Gran and Gramps knees he often sits

His sisters and brother want him to play

But they must wait for future days.


He likes to lie out on the floor

And shake his hands, his legs and more

Last night he moved his legs to slide

Across the floor to reach dad’s side.


So quiet and happy is his mood

Until it is time for his food

Then he shouts until he’s fed,                   

Afterwards, eyes are heavy for bed.

Michael with baby

How wonderful it is

To have this new addition

Each stage as he grows

His joy will be our mission!


By Michael Healy (Grandad)

WHERE COMFORT LIES by Faymarie Morris.

WHERE COMFORT LIES by Faymarie Morris.
It wasn’t long after her 5th birthday that Rosie first began to question things. Her Mummy had been very ill and Daddy had sent Rosie to stay with Grandad Percy, Grandma Bella and Auntie Meg, until Mummy felt stronger. Rosie loved Grandad Percy and liked nothing better than listening to the stories of her Daddy’s mischievous antics, when he was a little boy. But grandad was deaf and often had to resort to an ear trumpet in order to hear her. Rosie was mischievous too and would whisper in grandad’s ear until he took out his trumpet, then she would yell loudly down it. She always made him laugh though. Her exploits amused him and he loved her to sit near him, by the fireside, and read stories.
       Grandad Percy was deeply religious and had been a methodist preacher, when he was younger. Sitting next to him in chapel always made Rosie giggle because he used to sing all the well-loved hymns, in a rich, baritone voice, but just a few bars behind everyone else. The poor organ player struggled with the ever changing tempos and was constantly having to readjust. But everyone excused him because he was a well respected member of the community.Then one morning, while she was waiting outside the post office for Auntie Meg, a snooty looking lady with long grey hair approached her and asked.
     ‘Well, who are you? You don’t live in Milton, do you?’
     ‘No,’ answered Rosie, ‘I’m staying with Grandma and Grandad.’
     ‘Who are your Grandparents? I don’t recognise you at all.’
Rosie, a little miffed at this interrogation, leaned forward to wave at Auntie.
     ‘Oh, but that’s Miss Wise. So how do you know Miss Wise? The woman’s voice was quite sharp as she glanced at Auntie, then sneered knowingly.
     ‘ That’s my auntie Meg,’ Rosie said, beaming.
     ‘Well, that explains it, dear. You must be Mr and Mrs Wise’s granddaughter.’ Suddenly her tone had changed into some sickening parody of the original. ‘But, but, that must mean you…you are Hedley’s daughter? Well I never.’ Realisation had finally hit her. She peered sideways at Rosie with a look that anyone older would have described as envy, then added, ‘your father…your father was…ooh, your father was such a handsome young man. I remember that all the local girls called him ‘the dashing major’ each time he went galloping past them on his horse.’
Rosie was getting bored now and started to edge away. The woman had funny eyes that weren’t even looking at her.
     ‘I hope you realise that your Grandfather is the most well respected man in the area. You do know that, don’t you?’
Rosie nodded absent-mindedly and turned away.
     ‘Your Grandfather is a wonderful, god-fearing man and you must love him dearly.’ She had said, suddenly spinning Rosie around to face her. Rosie shuddered as she looked up at this woman with strange eyes, now raised heavenwards in some ecstatic, beatified trance.
      ‘Rosie, come on sweetie. Time we were heading back. If you want those new colouring pencils, we’ll have to cross the road to the newsagents.’ Auntie Meg whisked her away, leaving the frustrated, indignant, cross-eyed woman behind them.
      The conversation had puzzled Rosie and during that long afternoon she had gone over it, again and again. She had considered asking someone but Auntie Meg was busy baking apple pies. Grandad was in the conservatory, taking his afternoon nap and Grandma was sitting in the bay window, knitting, so Rosie decided to do some colouring in, instead.
The summer-house was damp and smelled musty and Rosie didn’t like it but soon that dislike was replaced by the look on the woman’s face. It was so clear in her mind it kept getting in the way of her pictures. Suddenly Rosie threw down her pencil, raced to her bedroom and flung herself down onto the bed, sobbing. She missed her Mummy and Daddy so much. They would have known how to make things better. Her innocent, 5 year old brain had no idea how to process what she had seen or heard.
    On Sunday morning they all went to chapel. It was the week before Easter and the chapel was full. The lesson and hymns all contained the Easter message, delivered with great passion and watched over by an image of Jesus, suffering on the cross.
    As the preacher delivered his sermon, Rosie had tried to take everything in. She listened to each emotive word the preacher used and studied his overblown actions. It was soon pretty obvious to her that Grandad didn’t hear much because he kept turning his head and cradling his ear. Then, while they were singing ‘There Is A Green Hill Far Away…’ Rosie was casually looking around at the worshippers when she noticed the woman with the funny eyes, about 3 rows back and immediately turned to face the front. There was something unsettling about her, apart from the eyes, that is and Rosie wanted to go.
     She grabbed Auntie’s hand and whispered that she felt sick and Auntie seemed more than happy to leave. Of course she hadn’t felt sick, well not really but she had felt uncomfortable and once outside, felt instantly better. She had imagined they would just head straight back home but instead, Auntie sat on the low wall, outside the porch, waiting for the others to come out.
     Rosie wondered if she should tell Auntie why she wanted to leave, but didn’t quite know where to start. She was watching the antics of a group of rooks that kept circling and swooping around the graveyard. One of them landed on an old gravestone, a few feet away, squawked loudly and then did a long white poo and Rosie watched it slowly trickle down. It made her smile but not for long because soon everyone started to file out then milled around in the porchway, like sheep.
     Suddenly the lady with the eyes burst out of chapel, into the light, and headed straight towards Auntie Meg. Rosie didn’t know what to do. She wanted to go, but she was only a kid and couldn’t. She didn’t even want to look at the woman let alone talk to her. What should she do? The cross-eyed lady was coming closer and Rosie’s stomach turned over.
     A stream of vomit ran down the woman’s coat and dribbled onto her shoes. Rosie started to heave again but managed to turn away in the nick of time, and aimed it into the flowerbed. All the pretty flowers were covered in bits of food and the whole disgusting mess was slowly merging into the soil.
    The woman, clutching her handbag closely to her chest was running up and down. ‘Keep her away from me,’she yelled, looking at Auntie Meg. ‘She did it on purpose. I know she did.’
Auntie Meg winked at Rosie and said, in a simpering voice, ‘But, but, Miss Ellis, I did nothing, really I didn’t. It wasn’t me. Ppplease don’t accuse me.’
    ‘I didn’t mean you, I meant her.’ This time she was looking at Mrs Foster, the vicar’s wife, who also strongly denied doing anything.
      Rosie was so confused. She kept thinking of what the cross-eyed woman had said outside the post office and could make no sense of it. Rosie loved her Grandad. Grandad was a good man, the woman had said so herself and anyway, wasn’t God supposed to be good too? Well, if that was right, she reasoned, with the simple logic of a 5 year old, why is my Grandad frightened of God? When the cross-eyed woman said Grandad was a wonderful, god-fearing man, Rosie had been terrified. She wondered if Jesus had been frightened of god too…but she didn’t say anything.
     No one knew how she felt, especially adults because they didn’t understand. They always said, don’t ask so many questions, Rosie. You are only a child and children should be seen and not heard and must always do as they are told. You will understand everything, one day, when you’re older…
     The years passed by and Rosie kept her own council. She was 13 when her favourite teacher Mrs Dobb, had been trying to explain something that Rosie obviously didn’t understand, and ended up by saying,
    ‘Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, Rosie. If you don’t understand something something adults say or if what they say feels at all uncomfortable to you, ask questions. Question everything Rosie. Just because adults say they know everything, doesn’t mean they do and, you know what feels right, don’t you? If you trust your instincts you won’t go far wrong.’
     And for the rest of her life Rosie had done just that. She trusted her feelings, questioned everything, and slowly decided, for herself, that there was no place in her life for god. God was unnecessary and as soon as she was old enough, had read about atheism. They were rationalists, humanists, sceptics and freethinkers and at that moment a light switched on in her brain. This had made total sense to her and just felt right.
     Atheism wasn’t even a little bit scary. Atheism was warm and soft, like a deep feather mattress and for Rosie, atheism meant comfort.

Sounds like thunder by Joe Lyons

Sounds like thunder by Joe Lyons


The elephants come into view tramping down the track

Inbred in each of them they knew they’d be coming back

The ground shakes like an earthquake

With branches falling in their wake

Onward they tramp with never a backward glance

Single file never faltering they move like in a trance

There are so many elephants here it sounds just like thunder

Trees now a shake so bad, would it tear them all asunder?

It took more than an hour for the procession to pass

Moving forever forward they travelled on, in mass

Only the old bull moved warily his eyes missed nothing

Their pace raised smelling the river, where they’d soon be quaffing

A leopard stopped in front of them before scurrying away

The old bull trumpeted loudly as if to save the day

The river refreshing as they wash and drink their fill

Now crossing the river to where the land is greener still

They make their way to a place of safety where elephants can rest

In the past here they stayed with food and safety it will be best

Elephant migration is a sight to behold

For those lucky enough to see; these are the stories to be told

The Dragon (and George) by Michael Keeble

A Piece from our new ‘recruit’. It could fit one of our earliest triggers, to write the ‘true’ story behind a Nursery rhyme. (Or make one up.)

The Dragon (and George) by Michael Keeble

The story of St George is of a brave and noble Knight,

Who saves a Princess in distress by offering to fight

A dragon, armed with nothing but a horse, a shield and spear,

And then, with God upon his side, and therefore naught to fear

He overcomes the beast at last, returns the Maid unhurt

And for these deeds takes this reward: to preach, maybe convert

The town to Christianity, and having thus his say,

He girds himself in red crossed cloak and softly rides away

Well that’s what legend’s telling us about his little brawl.

That’s the story, here’s the truth, from one who saw it all.

George was just a little boy when he came to Honah-Lee.

I was lying in my cave when he first encountered me.

There aren’t so many visit, so I was quite surprised

To be presented with a child so ripe to terrorise.

I started with a little smoke (that often makes them quake)

But this lad kept on coming; not a tremor or a shake.

Next I tried a flash of flame to really make him think

He didn’t even falter once, nor did he even blink

But came and hugged my horny head and scratched behind my ear,

And told me he would be my friend for ever and a year

Well so it was.  We stayed good friends and always kept in touch.

When he was far away from me I missed him very much.

He’d come into my cave at nights; we’d chat until the dawn.

I’d tell him of the hundred years that passed since I was born

He’d tell me of the places he had been since last we met,

And talk of things he dreamed about that hadn’t happened yet.

One day he told about a king with wealth beyond compare,

Whose daughter was a beauteous maid with golden flowing hair.

He warmed his hands upon my breath and then before me laid

A cunning plan to part this king from riches and from maid.

We would arrive at dead of night when all were fast asleep,

And I would roar and be quite fierce and eat up all the sheep.

“OK so far”, I said, “but wait, there’s one thing’s got it beat.

“In spite of what they say you know us dragons don’t eat meat”

“We’ll hide the sheep” said George at last “and let them think it’s you

“Perception is reality.  To them it will be true.

“Then you declare a comely maid of royal blood’s your taste,

“And if you don’t get one right soon you’ll lay the land to waste.

“Along I come and tell the king that I’m the man to rid

“His kingdom of the nasty worm, and then I’ll make my bid

“For half his wealth, his daughter’s hand and named as his sole heir

And we will live in luxury without a single care.”

“Hold on,” says I “Am I the worm referred to in this plan?

“You know that as we’re firmest friends I’ll help you if I can,

“But do I have to be a worm?  It seems to denigrate.

“My pref’rence would be ‘dragon’ when you two negotiate

“The terms of my demise and then the dowry for your bride,

“And hopefully, for me, a little something on the side.”

The planning done and terms agreed we flew away anon,

Arriving in the dead of night when all the folk had gone.

We rounded up the sheep and put them in a lonely byre,

And then I landed on a hill and roared and breathed out fire,

Demanding princesses for lunch and threatening the worst

And trying to assure the King that all his land was cursed.

Our George meanwhile gained audience and followed up his plan:

Convincing of his Majesty that he’s the only man

That can defeat this dreadful worm (He really did mean me),

And happy to achieve this feat for one quite modest fee.

These terms set out in simple words, he waited for assent,

But got instead a swift repost and major ego dent.

The King it seemed was not so green as he had seemed to be

And called the bluff of our brave George, and by extension me.

He staked his pretty maiden girl upon a far off hill,

And sent a challenge back to me to do just what I will.

Well I have no more appetite for maidens than for sheep,

So I slunk off a mile or so to sooth myself in sleep.

When I woke up I found that George was standing by my side,

And with him was the Princess that he wanted as his bride.

He said he needed help again to make his dream come true,

And while I listened carefully he told me what we’d do.

He tied a rope around my neck and led me into town,

I walked as if I was subdued, my head was hanging down.

The Princess held his hand so tight and looked at him with eyes

That brimmed with adoration for the man who’d cut her ties.

The three of us took up our place in front of City Hall,

The crowds were gathered in the square and George addressed them all

“You people see what I have done that your fine King denied.

“I have subdued this fierce beast and maybe could have died,

“Your beauteous Princess I have saved from dragon’s tooth and claws,

“The Lord thy God was on my side and He alone ensures

“That you will live in peace and love and never want a thing,

“He only gives He does not take unlike your greedy King.

“And as a sign of His good faith to show His love is deep

“He has performed a miracle and has returned your sheep”.

At this the crowd all bowed down low and praised our God on high,

And even I (who knew the truth), a tear came in my eye.

We flew away that afternoon.  The sky was blue and clear,

We made good time with chasing wind.  Of course we had no fear

Volcano dust would bring us down or interrupt our flight.

We just flew back and soared away at dragon cruising height.

When Honah-Lee came into view I felt a twinge of joy,

Adventuring is very well if you’re a headstrong boy

With confidence and fighting talk and actions of the brave,

But dragons like their comforts too: a warm and cosy cave.

I never went with George again. He still roamed far and wide

Righting wrongs and telling folk to keep God on their side.

I heard he’d died in foreign lands when fighting in some wars

That some smart politician was convinced was in God’s cause.

That was many years ago but still I can recall

How one man and a dragon tried their best to fool them all.

It’s true that even though the plan was daring and was bold

We didn’t come back laden down with rubies and with gold

And nor did George win fair maid’s hand (she didn’t want to leave)

But I know it was all worthwhile for what we did achieve:

My George was made a saint and came a champion of the poor,

And I have made a fortune from this well-paid lecture tour.