light by Michael Keeble

Light

You watched the news and what you found
Was devastation all around
And all one hears now is the sound
Of pain and anguish on the ground
And bombs in flight

In Africa severe drought
And camels corpses lie about
And folks so starved they cannot shout
What’s in their heart “Please get me out
Beyond this Blight”

In makeshift craft they cross the seas
Cramming boats like podded peas
The traffickers ignore the pleas
Of babes and mothers as the breeze
Picks up their fright

And so we watch and can’t conceive
Of horrors such as we perceive
On TV news.  Are we naïve
To hope that they can yet receive,
From darkness light

‘Dirty deeds done good’, by Kevin Murphy

‘Dirty deeds done good’, by Kevin Murphy

Jack choked on his mead as he heard a commotion in the outer office. He swept the nucklebones off the table and indicated the mead flagon to Harold, and the goblets to Ned. They slipped their playthings out of view as Jack sat back into his ample leather chair.

There was a scream from outside. The door banged open and three roundheads rattled in. The captain stood up to the desk.

The guardsmen blocked a swift exit with stamped feet and crossed lances. Not that anyone had legs to run with.

Jack’s nonchalant grin greeted the glare. He sucked his teeth.

‘Smells like a whorehouse in here,’ snapped the captain.

Jack sniffed. ‘I wouldn’t know.’

‘Sir!’

Jack looked around.

The captain, slapped a handbill on the table. ‘Is this your handiwork?’ he said.

Jack struggled up from his slouch and peered at the object which appeared to be causing some offence. ‘No sir.’

‘No sir! No sir?’

‘Prin’ers ’andiwork, sir. Nice ain’t it?’

The captain narrowed his eyes and took a noisy breath through flared nostrils.

‘Ow,  I gets ye, sir,’ said Jack, ‘ye sort a means is the rats my ’andiwork, but er…you gid me that job … so ye kinda threw me at first.’

‘Stand up when I speak to you!’

Jack wriggled in his boots. His voice changed. ‘I am sir.’

The Captain looked back at his smirking men. He stroked his chin and said, ‘of course, just the man for the job. Ferreting the vermin out.’  He turned and jutted his chin into Jack’s face. ‘But you haven’t, have you?’

‘Well your boys pretty well cleaned up round ’ere. Not left me a lot to go at.’

‘When did you last see your Master?’

‘Now, that’s another question I knows you knows the answer to, sir,’ said Jack drawing his left cheek off his teeth. ‘It were you dragged him and the Missis out, what, free month ago?’

The Captains eyes were now a squinting slit. Through gritted teeth he hissed. His looked to his gloved fists as he clenched them and banged them down on the desk. ‘He was sprung, you insolent slob. You know he was sprung!’

Jack stood back a little, almost falling into the chair, then up onto his tiptoes. His face blanched. He cleared his throat. ‘Do I?’

‘Do I? Do I?’

Jack wasn’t trying to be facetious. Try offended, Jack. ‘Well I don’t know sir. Who…?’

The captain looked at Jack’s two henchmen one at each side of the ‘desk’ … table. They didn’t look like they could hench much. ‘Stand up!’ he bawled, ‘both of you. Get over there with your master.’ He stood back between his two men and three faced three.

The Captain drew his gauntlet across his mouth looking steadily into each man’s eyes in turn, before addressing the sentries.

‘Like looking into the eyes of fish in a barrel – long dead. Smell like them too, I’ll be bound.’

Nobody laughed.

‘Are you trying to tell me that we let you keep your room in the manor house, and the Squire has not been back to…?’

‘Very kind of you, it were. Nice it is too … having it to ourselves…’

Our selves? Our?’

Jack shuddered. ‘Well yeah. Not these two, like. Missis an’ me sir. Me and Missis. Dint expect me to live there and her back in the cottage?’

‘But I did expect you to do something for the privilege, Horner! This is a damned Royalist hotspot. Veritable nest of Papist vipers.’ He stabbed the handbill. ‘What’s that say?’ He said pointing to ‘RATS, LICE, VERMIN’.

Jack looked at the captain. ‘Dirty deeds done good, sir.’

The Captain double checked and glanced at a sentry, who smirked out of the window.

‘It – says – rats, lice and vermin…’

‘That too sir, yeah.’

‘Dirty deeds, not done…!’ he growled. ‘Not done, are they?

‘Run off our feet ain’t we boys?’ He elbowed Harold to stop scratching his arse. ‘Printer done a great job and everyone callin’ on us to … look at that,’ he said shoving his rat-bitten hand under the Captain’s nose.

The officer slapped it away. ‘For us who are paying handsomely.’

‘We got some good leads, for you, ain’t we boys?’

They were all nodding like donkeys.

‘Just need to get a … well don’t want to send you in after any wild gooses. That’s our job. But, we will get you some sitting ducks ..’ He looked to his men ‘…this time next week. How’s that?’

The Captain took off his gauntlets.

Jack wondered if that meant either business, him in the rat trap, or the soldiers were going to get comfy. He glanced hopefully at a full flagon on the shelf behind the door.

‘That Manor house you are living in: you do know it could be yours?’

Jack thought it already was. That was the deal. He had given them seven houses – well the deeds he had found in the pie – and Lord Frederick had agreed terms. Keeping one was only fair. Did the Captain know? Did he care? He wheedled, ‘His Lordship … enjoyed the pie I took him?’ He waggled his head. ‘Not got indigestion, now I hope – Lord Frederick, I mean.’

That seemed to hit the spot. The Captain stood back, looked at his gloves and put one back on. He raised an ungloved finger very close to Jack’s nose.

Jack looked disdainfully at it, as it slowly retreated.

‘A week, Horner! Seven days. Same day next week – that’s Thursday, but morning, not late afternoon. You had the wits to look into that pie, and to bring it to his Lordship. You might not be able to read the word ‘deeds’, but you know what a Deed is.’ He stopped to ensure a reasonable tone, before continuing. He tapped the lose gauntlet on the table. ‘His Lordship appreciated you bringing him those other six…’ he looked all round and coughed ‘… but if it had been me, I would have you for spoiling the pie in the first place…’

‘What and take the pie where it was sent, eh? To one his nibs Royalist cronies, Eh? Eh? I ask you? That what Lord Fred…’

‘Calm down man. Of course not. Let’s be reasonable.’ He coughed. ‘Lord Frederick, is a fair a reasonable man and well … we don’t want that good nature being taken advantage of now, do we?’

Jack was beginning to relax.

‘You and me, Jack?’ He let the stress sink in. ‘That Manor is yours. Yes. The deeds from the … pie … are for keeps. His Lordship did indeed … if you’ll excuse the joke … enjoy the pie. He drew himself up to his full height and raised his voice, just a little, ‘but he is busy about the Parliament’s business, and you must be also.’

‘I realise what you are saying Captain, I need to deliver some of my Master’s friends, if I am to … enjoy my slice of the pie … and live in peace. Yessir.’

The Captain leaned in. ‘You pulled out a real plum, there Jack, and don’t we know it? But there is a reason why his Lordship let you keep it. Have some nice juice for me next Thursday, else I’ll leave with you just the stone. He indicated the door to the sentries and they turned out.

Jack’s mouth hung open.

The captain’s round-head helmet flashed sunlight from the street as he turned in the doorway and shouted ‘That’s a good boy.’

Jack clapped his hands, ‘Gives me the pip, that bastard’, but he cackled and pointed to the new flagon.

‘Yes indeed lads, what a good boy am I.’

THE CALL by Angela O’Connor

THE CALL by Angela O’Connor

She spat down the phone, vile words of attack;

Meant to harm

Meant to humiliate

Meant to help her

 

Holding the phone like a white hot coal

No sentence formed

Simple or complex

 

My ears accepted their host’s brutal yet beautiful deceit

I placed it in its cradle, ceasing the explosion of betrayal.

 

Shaken with cruel reality, I slumped into an old chair

Outside rain hit the panes, tinkling on the glass-

Sounding my resurrection

Respect by Michael Keeble

Here’s Michael’s response to the trigger ‘respect’.
Respect by Michael Keeble

I woke up in a doorway at some time in the morning.  I had no idea what time it was as I seemed to have lost my watch together with my wallet.  I also seemed to have sustained some injuries to my ribs and I had a big lump on my head, and the headache from Hell.  I felt like shit.

I unwound my body from the doorway and tenderly stretched my limbs, checking for injuries.  My ribs hurt and my joints were stiff.  My hands were bruised and cut across the knuckles and I found that I couldn’t close my left hand.  I sat up and my head swam and my vision blurred.  Someone was beating a tattoo inside my head.  I leaned against the door and closed my eyes.  

I hate it when I get these blackouts.  

The drumbeats subsided a bit and I opened my eyes.  I wasn’t sure where I was.  It seemed like a small backstreet with old Victorian industrial units.  I gingerly pushed myself upright and tried to stand.  I wobbled a bit and my ribs and head screamed at me.  Eventually I managed to stand more or less upright and leaned against the wall.  A woman walking along the road crossed over to the other side and hurried past with an anxious glance backwards at me.  I took a look at myself and saw that my suit was torn and covered in filth.  I had lost my shoes somewhere.  

It was time for me to get myself out of this backstreet and home and into the shower and then think about getting myself off to hospital.  The tune she had been singing suddenly came into my head.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me”
I started to walk out towards the main road to see if I could get my bearings.  As I rounded a corner I paused to look at my reflection in a shop window.  As well as my generally dishevelled look, my hair was matted and one side of my face was covered with what could only have been blood.  No wonder that woman crossed the road to avoid me.  I looked around and realised that I was only about a 30 minute walk from my home.  I tried to hail a cab, thinking I could pay when I got home but it was as if I was invisible.  Penniless and looking like a tramp I started for home.

I couldn’t get the tune out of my head.  I remembered now, she’d been singing it at me when I came in from the pub last night.  I don’t remember anything much after that except that I must have gone back out to the pub because I now remembered getting into a bit of a fight and being thrown out.  After that it’s all a blank.  Maybe that’s when I got all my injuries.  I hate it when I get these blackouts.

Shuffling along in stockinged feet it took a lot longer than 30 minutes for me to get back.  As I approached through the quiet suburbs where I lived with my wife, for once I was relieved that the neighbourhood was so quiet.  No one walked anywhere, so I staggered onwards without meeting anyone.  My wife would have gone to work by now so I wouldn’t have to explain anything to her.  I just needed to get home, call into work sick, get into the shower, lie down to rest and think about whether I needed to go to hospital.  I rounded the last corner and was met with the sight of a policeman standing by police tape stretched from one side of the road to the other.  The street seemed to be filled with police vehicles of all sorts, policemen and others in overalls, all wandering about.  The policeman behind the tape approached me.

“There’s nothing here for you mate.  I think you should get on your way.”

“But I live here” I said, then by way of explanation “I got mugged last night”

“I see sir.  Can you tell me which number you live at?”

“Number 23.”

The policeman paused for a second, then asked if I had any identification.  I explained that I had lost my wallet in the mugging and that had all my ID in it.  He seemed to come to a decision and lifted the tape.

“Would you come with me please sir?”

I ducked under the tape and with the policeman’s hand on my upper arm, allowed him to guide me to the nearest police car.  He spoke to the policeman in the driving seat and then opened the back door for me.

“Could you wait here for me please sir.  I’ll be back shortly”

He wandered off and I tried to find out what was going on from the driver, but he was totally uncommunicative.  A few minutes later the policeman returned with another man in plain clothes who opened the door to the car again and asked me if I could get out and talk to him.  He introduced himself as Detective Inspector Carpenter showed me some ID, and then explained that there had been an incident at number 23 that they were investigating.

“What sort of incident?” I asked “Is my wife all right?”

“A woman has been found dead in the house sir”

“Oh my God.  Is it my wife?”

“We don’t know sir.  We only have your word for it that you live at number 23.  We’d like you to come down to the police station with us to answer some questions”

This was asked in the sort of way that made it far more of a demand than a request, particularly as at the same time he opened the car door, and taking my arm guided me into the back seat while a uniformed colleague entered by the other side.

And just for fun – here’s that song.

CHRISTMAS DAY by Michael Healy

CHRISTMAS DAY                                                                                   

C the Carols we sing in celebration,

H the Holly to help our decorations.

R for the Reindeer who pull Santa’s sleigh

I is Ivy to go with the Holly, we say

S the sweet Sauce we pour over our pud

T the green fir Tree where our presents are stood

M for the Marzipan wrapped round our cake

A in our bed the night before, ah that is Awake!

S as we Sing on Christmas Eve.

D for the Day that we all should be pleased

A for All those in need of our help.

And so to Y, Yuletide,

                        the old name for Christmas.

And a Merry Christmas to you all.         

By Michael Healy  

FIRE By David R Graham

David’s response to the trigger from the elements

FIRE By David R Graham

‘A match is lit by striking it against the side of a matchbox. The reddish material coating the side of the box is made of red phosphorus, a stable form of the highly volatile white phosphorus, made infamous during the Vietnam war. It is mixed with abrasives such as tiny fragments of glass to create heat through friction.

When you strike a match the red phosphorus is converted to white phosphorus for a fraction of a second, just enough to cause a spark of heat by reacting with oxygen in the surrounding air.

This heat then ignites the first chemical on our journey – potassium chlorate. This is an oxidising agent, fuelling the spark into flame using oxygen stored in its molecular structure.

While this produces the distinctive flame when a match is struck, it will quickly burn out if it can’t ignite the next step in the reaction. Antimony trisulfide – the same stuff that gives gold-coloured fireworks their colour – is ignited by the potassium chlorate and continues to burn steadily. The antimony is responsible for keeping the match head lit long enough for the underlying wood to catch fire.

The distinctive smell of a safety match is also thanks to the antimony, which when oxidised, forms sulphur oxides. The match is now lit and ready to go to work. Paraffin wax coating the match ensures that the flame travels down the match in a controlled fashion.’

Katelyn watch in awe. Like the rest of her classmates gathered round Mr Ellis’s workbench, she barely understood a word he had said. But she was fascinated by the fire he had produced at the tip of the long stick when he had scraped it down the side of the big yellow box, and she was mesmerised by the colours that danced and flicker round the black head of the match he held up between the finger and thumb of his right hand. It was the first time she had seen a naked flame. The sight of it sent a flush of excitement coursing through her young body that left her almost gasping for breath. She had never seen anything so perfectly beautiful. 

When the class was dismissed, and Mr. Ellis was cleaning the whiteboard, Katelyn moved round the workbench, opened the drawer, took out the big matchbox, closed the drawer, and walked slowly out of the room.

The Past by Kevin Murphy

Kevin’s response to an earlier trigger ‘The Past’.

The Past by Kevin Murphy

Inspired by Auld Lang Syne

When I was engrossed in genealogy, my wife asked why I was so interested in dead people.I asked why we read books – they are mostly about dead people – even fictitious people, but almost always, except for science fiction, they are, as Stephen King says, based on true character traits.

I did add at the time that it was a was fair comment, so I must look up some old living friends.

So I looked up some old girlfriends.

Truthfully, looking into the past brings up a sense of regret, but much as Piaf’s popular song obviously touches on people’s empathy, I think David Ford more accurately captures on my own sentiment – “I am ashamed. I am ashamed, but I don’t regret anything.”

This is part of having to be careful what I wish for, and therefore be thankful for what we did get or do have instead. All those girls I longed for and either never gained or lost, yet in the end, I did really end up with the best. I am ashamed of some of the stuff I got up, and of hurt I caused, I take it that this is inevitable in love which is as just as war – a to and fro that arrives at a peace, and hopefully a just one.

Sorry, however, I am not going to tell you anything I am ashamed of.

But should I forget old aquaintants simply because they are in the past? My pastime is past times, I read and I write. Doing this helps me to make sense of our world.

I have a friend – he may no longer be a friend – who said of old friends, including wives and girlfriends, ‘I move on’.

I do not.

Of course I do move on, but my old friends, these I have loved, do remain in my heart and thoughts.

(Shame not regret by David Ford)   (Sorry not a brilliantly recorded version, though David Ford himself is excellent.)