Star by Margaret Moreton

Margaret Moreton

Once upon a time there were two, early teenage girls. They lived miles apart and never knew each other, though they had much in common. For them both, there was a stable family and equally they respected their elders. They were at that age which saw their awakening sexuality; involuntary blushes were not uncommon. They both accepted their school days and the lessons they absorbed there, though with varying degrees of interest or success. Naturally they longed for approbation.

For Kathy, this came one glorious summer day. She was called from her class and lauded as a master of her craft – she had written a verse or two about the wonder of the sky at night: the ethereal beauty of a new rising moon; the glorious clarity of a dark, cloudless sky, giving a backdrop to a whole galaxy of stars. Her teacher was impressed. He told her that her work had earned her a star. That star, a gold beauty, was fixed to her work. Star of wonder! It glistened; it reflected her exhilaration – approbation in deed. That star was the half-open door to a possible literary career. She returned to her seat on cloud nine. Her future suddenly seemed bright.

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Her contemporary, Katarina, was awarded a star – a bright gold emblem. She too had a star which defined her future. Her star was awarded in the company of her family and friends, not because of any excellence in her work, simply because of who she was. It was emblazoned on the lapel of her coat, for all the world to see. He who demanded that it be there intended just that.

An aching train journey followed this award, which took her far into the country, away from what she knew and loved – all because of her star. Journey over, she stood with her family, and that reassured her somewhat. Soon, though, she had to leave her dad and her brothers and go with her mum for a shower. She was filthy and smelly after her long, long journey, so to her mind, that had to be good.

That was the last she knew – the Zyclon B did its work and so did the ovens. Her star had truly defined her future. Her Dad, focussing on the giant belching chimney, saw in fatherhood’s mind’s eye, her star taking its place among nature’s galaxies, that would shine there forever.

Once upon a time, no fairy tale this, all this happened: two stars; two messages; two outcomes.

What means a star?

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The Hat by Pete Brammer

The Hat by Pete Brammer

The cruise ship Ocean Splendour had been at sea seven days and just entered port at Cadiz.
Penny Dixon-Wright and her daughter Carla Elizabeth, disembarked, to make their way into town. On their way back, Mrs Dixon- Wright suddenly grabbed Carla’s arm. “Look at that beautiful hat. It’s the most fantastic hat I have ever seen.”
The ladies entered the establishment to be met by a tall, long legged, black shiny haired, Spanish assistant. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“You certainly can my dear.” Penny pointed to the hat on the manikin, in the window. “I would like that hat, my dear.”
The assistant reached in and removed the hat. “You like it very much? Yes?”
“Yes. Very much.”
Minutes later she skipped out of the shop, box swinging from her hand, with a beaming smile across her face.
“I think you are happy mother, you look as if you’ve lost a penny, and found a thousand pounds.”
“I’ve never paid so much for a hat in all my life, but it sure was worth it.”
“It’s my cousin Jessica’s wedding soon after we get back,” said Carla, “It should be perfect,” she grinned. “There’ll be a few bursting with jealousy mum, you can bet.”
The following day, Mrs Dixon-Wright strutted up and down the numerous decks, like a peacock showing off her new headgear.
Suddenly an unexpected gust of wind whipped the hat off her head.
“Oh God! My beautiful hat!” she screamed, running across the deck, only tosee it fly off into the ocean.
Seconds later, passengers gasped as a crew member hit the water. “Man overboard” the cry went out.
It took what seemed an age, for the ship to eventually turn round and head back in the direction of the unfortunate seaman.
When they eventually rescued him, he was holding aloft the hat, with passengers cheering loudly.
As they hauled him back on board, the captain slapped him on the back. “Woodall, you should not have put your life at risk like that, especially, not for a bloody stupid hat. But after saying that; is there anything I can do for you?”
In reply, the crewman said. “Yes captain, you can tell me who on earth pushed me in!”

Excuse me while I kiss the sky by Kevin Murphy

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

by Kevin Murphy

The year of the Summer of Love didn’t even afford me a kiss. After eight years of yearning I had arrived: I had a new habit and a new name: Brother Bernard. I chose both over pretty frocks and the love of a good woman. I loved the life, but celibate throughout my teens, did I really know the choices? Before taking vows, I left to discern my true vocation.

Over almost a year I chased the back of two pretty heads. I couldn’t get a look in. Now I had a date with a real woman. Lizzy Lafferty was a looker (her parents had not anticipated a lisper for a daughter), but possibly fed up with handsome guys hitting on her she picked me. The Super – the flicks – what to see I have no recall – at the time it was of no consequence either.

My coaches in the courting code were three younger sisters and even the thirteen year old had tips. I don’t recall any sartorial suggestions – things were on the turn. I had my last ever short-back-and-sides a month after I left the monastery. The look to go with it was a sports jacket and drainpipes with a cravat. ‘Nice’. Jimi Hendrix had intervened – I probably wore a tie dyed shirt and the buff cords that I had carefully flared by the insertion of a tapestry chevron.

As indicated by her formidable mother, Lizzy’s formal costume did not inhibit her lovely bottom from sashaying in the pleated skirt, or her ample bosom from challenging the buttons of her blouse. My siblings’ pep-talk joined Lucy and her Diamonds in a purple haze.

She resisted but I insisted on buying our tickets. I was then strapped into the electric chair for three hours: my heart pounded; my hands were clamped; sweat dripped; toes tensed; teeth clenched; the screen fixed my head. My sole point of vision was the corner of my eye. Lizzie moved occasionally. I saw her flash a smile at me and I know I moved my lips. Her hand moved from her lap but, elbow contacting elbow, my heart shot through my brain and her hand returned. My mind failed against the matter of the restraints on my arm – I must put it round her. No good.

‘Good film wasn’t it?’ we lied. Walking for the bus, she relieved the hand nearest me of her bag. The Code! The girls hadn’t told me that. The ‘Z’ was all I memorised: ‘When you get to her door, you can kiss her; if she lingers, you can try tongues; if she lets you, you can ask her out again – she’s your girlfriend.’

At the Bus Stop I was the look-out of a desert island. On the top deck my hands were jammed between my knees – my knees. The short path to her door was across a desert.

But her door was not opened – she was.

Forty years later that kiss is the best I ever had.