The Showroom, that night by Faymarie Morris

Fay responded to the trigger ‘Anniversary’ with a true story:

The Showroom, that night.

He suddenly realised he was cold as his eyes began to refocus on the papers he was clutching. Icy fingers trailed a pathway up his spine and he shuddered. He heard a thin scream, followed closely by the sharp sound of splintering glass and then a wraithlike shadow dropped, with a dull thud, onto the roof of a dark blue, A reg. Austin A40 and although he tried to stand up, he couldn’t.

For as long as he could remember David Dobson had wanted to be a salesman and he certainly had a gift for talking. His mother often said that he could sell anyone anything, so when he saw the ad in the Free Press for a trainee car salesman at Pearson’s Northbridge Garage, he applied and got it. Pearson’s was the main BMC dealership for the area and Dave soon realised he had found his calling when he was promoted to head salesman of their large showroom on the High Street, where he soon became known as Dependable Dave, a truly honest car salesman, something quite rare in the burgeoning car-owning, social revolution that was the 60s.

And the building had had a chequered history. Built in 1845 as a warehouse for storing wool and grain, with it’s original, deep ridged glass roof still in place, it was later used as council offices and because of the abundance of natural light, a lawyer had rented a large section of the ground floor during the late 1800s. Then a wealthy accountant leased most of the upper floor from 1910 until 1925 before it closed for a decade because of unspecified structural problems. It then re-opened as a Reading Room and a Miner’s Welfare Hall.

Jed Pearson bought it in 1950, as storage for new cars, then a showroom, when the vast floorspace and glass roof was fully utilised, and both Dave and Tom Dixon, the sales manager, often boasted that between them they could park 42 cars in what would normally be floor space for 38.

The worst part of his job was having to do the Tuesday late night stint, twice a month, especially when it was slow. It had been dark for hours and the pavement outside still twinkled with reflected Christmas shop lights as people scuttled by, on their way home from work or maybe just going out for the evening. He’d had only 2 callers, tyre kickers, he mumbled as he read with envy the logbook of a mint condition, racing green, Mini Cooper S, before putting his feet up, on the desk, then tipping his chair back, against the wall.

He was bored to distraction and couldn’t wait to lock up then head to Scott’s for some chips then the King’s Arms. His best friend John would already be there, enjoying a pint. Margaret, the new barmaid, had wavered the last time Dave had asked her out so he’d try again and maybe tonight, yawn, might be his lucky night…

Wow, what on earth was that? He thought as his eyes flew open and he glimpsed something falling, on the far left of the showroom. When he attempted to stand, the chair held him fast until the back legs suddenly went out from under him and he finished up in a heap on the office floor. He scrambled to his feet in a daze, steadying himself against the door jamb before gingerly zigzagging his way through the car filled showroom, towards the midnight blue, Austin A40.

a40

Then he reached out, bracing himself against the bonnet of a red Morris Oxford, dreading what he would find.

He blinked and rubbed his eyes but saw nothing. No broken glass, no smashed car roof, no blood, nothing. He then systematically checked every car in the showroom, just in case he had missed something. Nothing was out of place. It was all exactly as it had been 2 hours ago when Tom had gone home and he was left on his own. He staggered back to the office, picked up the phone and immediately put it back. No! How could he explain this, they’d be sure to say he’d been hallucinating, dreaming, drinking or …probably more like it, going nuts. No! He’d make himself a strong coffee and think it through.

 Scratching his head he checked the floor around the A40 several times more and then the whole showroom, again. He had seen something, hadn’t he? He wasn’t going mad, was he? It was now 8.53, he’d had enough and decided to go. As he drove slowly past the King’s Arms he could see his mate, John, leaning on the brightly lit bar chatting Margaret up, but Dave didn’t care. He was so on edge he felt that if had one pint, he would probably keep going until he was blotto and then he might blurt out to John what had happened and that would mean everyone would know and he’d be a laughing stock. The scene was replayed, over and over, during his drive home and much to his annoyance, his mother was in. Tuesdays were usually Bingo nights but tonight she felt queasy, she said, as she lathered butter on his toast and stirred his beans.

“Mum, what…?” he started, then changed his mind.

“What, what?” she answered, sharply.

“Oh nothing. Don’t worry about it.” He said, sitting down to eat.

“I’m not worried, or I wasn’t until you told me not to be. What’s up? Something happened at work?” “No mum, leave it. I’m tired, that’s all.” And he tucked into the plate of beans on toast.

But she knew her son, he had something on his mind and he would tell her when he was ready. He didn’t sleep well at all and awoke with a jolt around 4.30am. He kept hearing the harrowing scream and decided to get up and make a cup of coffee. An hour later his mother joined him and she asked again what was wrong.

“I think, I think I’ve seen a ghost, mum. Last night at work I saw and heard something weird and I don’t know what to do. It can’t be a ghost, there are no such things, are there?”

“I don’t know, son. I’ve never seen one but…your Uncle Percy reckons he saw one once when he was staying at Monk Fryston Hall… why don’t you ring him?”

So, he reckoned, if Uncle Percy had seen a ghost, told people about it and was Ok, maybe I will be too. He arrived early to work Wednesday morning, hoping to see Tom before the others arrived.

“Er, wwell, what sort of a night did you have?” Tom asked anxiously as soon as Dave walked through the showroom doors.

“Bloody slow one. Only a couple of tyre kickers all night. Late nights in winter are a waste of time, I reckon.”

“See anything interesting, did you? Something unexpected maybe?” Tom queried.

“Whaddya mean? You bloody lot weren’t play…”

“No, of course we weren’t but…you did see something, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did and I hardly slept. I thought I was going mad, I’m not, am I?” Dave pleaded.

“We didn’t want to tell you about it, just in case you didn’t see it because not everyone does, but… the 28th December is the anniversary of…well something pretty distressing. It appears that during the 1920s part of this building was leased by an accountant and his office was on the second floor, overlooking this glass roof,” he pointed over to where Dave had seen the…?

“The accountant had been working late and his wife and family, 3 sons and 2 daughters, were with him. His youngest son was playing with his Christmas present, lining up all his new tin soldiers on the window ledge, but the window was open and one of them toppled over. He reached for it, a bit too far, and fell. He smashed through the glass and then bled to death on the floor below, out of reach, in front of their eyes. His siblings struggled for years with what they had seen and his mother never got over it. His father suffered a mental breakdown, lost everything and finished up destitute.”

“Bloody hell. Have you seen the… the ghost, Tom?”

“Yes, I have and it shook me up, I can tell you, but it affected Billy the worst. He hadn’t been with us long and didn’t tell anyone what he’d seen so we all thought he hadn’t seen it. But he became so withdrawn, his mother told the doctor and it all came out. Pearson agreed to move him to the Worksop depot but he left there soon after and we haven’t heard a word since. If only the daft young bugger could have told one of us straight away, maybe he’d have been OK.”

“Well, you should have told me.” Dave was angry. “Not sure if I can do another late night because I’ll be waiting for it. We could change it though, to Thursday?”

“But that’s no good because the date was the 28th December and the day changes each year. My Aunt is a medium and she says the event would have been so traumatic, it was captured in the very fabric of the building and will continue until the time is right, and not everyone will see it. Usually the people who do are sensitive but the conditions have to be just right, too. Neither Pearson or his wife have seen it and only 2 of the service department. Are you Ok, Dave?”

“Yeah, but what about all the times no-one sees it? Every year that poor little lad falls out of the window, through the glass and onto the floor where he dies alone. He must wonder why nobody cares. How about we get together, every Dec 28th to show him exactly how much we do care, and you never know, it might even help.”

30 odd like-minded people were gathered in the showroom on the next anniversary of the little boy’s death and to everyone’s relief, he was never seen again.

 

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Robin Hood (The true story of a Legend) by Gerry Fruin

[Re-listed June 2014 with the first section of three in full. Editor]

Rough draft of the start of a story in three chapters. Target readers 8 to 10 year olds. Total book words approximately 8,000

Part One

Robin Hood (The true story of the legend)

It all began a long time ago before iPods and computers. In a land of ice and frozen forests lived a people called Siberians. They hunted and fished for food and raised a very special type of horse that they sold all over a vast country called Russia.

To the south great armies were gathering and a wise old man decided that his life’s work in raising these horses would be lost if the Khans decided to take them all away. So the tribe selected the fittest and strongest young people to take their skills, and a small herd of horses, far to the West.

The journey took a long time and was very dangerous, but Sophiedropalotsky and her brother Benbowsky were as tough and strong as anyone. They crossed mighty rivers and huge mountain ranges as they travelled on. They met a group of people called Vikings who told them the best place to be was over a great sea even further to the west, called England. The Vikings agreed to take them in exchange for some of their horses, which they would use for farming and for fighting, for they were very fierce and frightened of no one.

Many months later the small group arrived at a place where they could start to make a new life on the edge of a great forest called Sherwood. It was a small hamlet called Clayton and right at the top of the hill. To the West they built a small house and workshop. The land belonged to Lord Locksley who when he heard their story gave them some land to raise their horses in exchange for some work they would do for him.

They learnt English from the local people and changed their names to Ben and Sophie because no one could say their Siberian names. Sophie, being Sophie, thought that a more English name would be better and said Marion would suit her; though to Ben she would always be Sophie.

One day Lord Locksley came to see them and was very sad as he thought that the new Sheriff would be taking his house and land to pay for his taxes. Unfortunately, his son Robert, the Earl of Locksley, was still on his way back from some far distant war called the Crusade and may not be back in time to stop the sheriff and his men. The trusting King Richard had left his brother John in charge of England and everything went bonkers.

It got worse. Lord Locksley was killed and all his land taken. That meant when the young Earl finally got back there would be nothing left for him. Soon after this a gang of thugs came and beat up the villagers. The gang leader, Sir Guy de Gisbourne  told them that the new Sheriff of Nottingham would need more money from them. Of course, they could not pay, so the thugs beat them up again and said they would be back.

What could they do? The villagers got together and decided to send their head man to speak to the Sheriff. He was thrown into jail and the villagers were told that unless they paid double taxes and a huge reward, their leader would be hanged. This was really bad, no one knew what to do.

Oh! Doom.

Oh! Despair.

Oh! Help!

Ben was worried that they would have to find somewhere else to live if these strange people kept fighting each other. For Ben it was good for his work as he was a master Bow maker and his sister Sophie/Marion the best arrow maker. Their skill had become well-known and people from all over the area came wanting the best bows and arrows for hunting. Also Lords and knights wanted the weapons for their men to fight, but Ben wondered what would happen if they killed each other off? One day, far to the south, while he was selecting the best wood for his bows Ben saw a man sitting hunched on a tree stump with his head in his hands. He seemed to be very sad as he gazed over what used to be Lord Locksley’s land.

“Hello.” called Ben. “Are you alright?” The man leapt to his feet and in a lightening quick flash whirled round, flung back his cloak and drew out his sword. “Whoa, whoa, hold on Sir.” Called Ben. “No need to get in a tiss. I only thought you might need some help.”

“Oh! Sorry.” The man said. “Just a really bad day.”

Ben shrugged and smiled. He told the man who he was and what he did. The stranger said.

“I am Robert of Locksley, Earl Locksley, but no longer. The pretender King seems to think he can take the land which has been ours forever. Now my father is dead I do not know what to do.” He looked very sad. Then he smiled a little and said. “Anyway I have never used my title so why not call me Robert.” He held out his hand and they shook hands in friendship.

Ben told Robert the sorry tale of the last few months. How small-holders of rented land had been forced off their land and farm hands and labourers had no work. Families were starving all because the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham wanted more and more money, which they didn’t have.
“Lord Locksley told me he was waiting for you to return and sort out the problem, but…” Ben shrugged. “What can you do? This Sheriff is very bad and if you go to him he will throw you in jail.”

“Well I can’t wait until King Richard returns. So I will raise a band of men to fight for the return of everyone’s land and I will capture the thug who killed my father.” Robert announced bravely.

“That will take a lot of money.” said Ben. “But if you can find the men I will make the bows.” Robert thanked him and asked where he could find a fletcher. “Oh! Arrows and lots of them I guess. You need to talk to my sister So… er, Marion.” Ben said airily.

Robert thought this very odd indeed – a woman making arrows; he had never heard of such a thing. Anyway he was happy that his new friend had offered to help and shrugged of the thought off a woman making arrows. An arrow was an arrow, wasn’t it? Little did he realise the importance of his error.

They parted and Robert went off to find the men to fight the Sheriff of Nottingham. He soon realised that it would be difficult because many had left England to fight in the Crusade. Others had been put in jail for hunting on the King’s land. After a week he had a small group of men who had lost their homes and some, their families, but were not really fighting men. Then he came across a village by a small stream. A log crossed the water so people could keep their feet dry. At the far side stood a giant of a man. “Hello stranger.” called Robert in a friendly voice. The giant remained silent, standing with his massive arms crossed over a huge barrel of a chest. “What do you want?” rumbled the giant. “Well sir, free passage to the village where I wish to recruit men for a fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham.”

“Fight with that lot.” laughed the giant, pointing to the less than fearsome band Robert had gathered. “Go away, we have enough trouble from the villains of Nottingham without you making more. You’re not crossing here, this is what’s left of our village.” He waved a mighty arm at the burnt out shells of huts that had been the homes to the hungry crowd that had gathered behind their protector.

Robert was beginning to be annoyed. “Look, whoever you are, you are on my land and I demand the right of passage.” At this the giant laughed again, mocking the smaller man. “Really. Well my friend you will have to fight me for that right.” With that he picked up an enormous staff, which to Robert looked more like a small tree, and stepped onto the log. To the giant’s surprise a grim, Robert Earl of Locksley, turned to one of his men and asked to borrow his staff, and then he too stepped onto the log.
The fight became famous throughout the land and many a tale told of that day. The pair battled for nearly an hour; neither giving way. The giant swung mighty blows, slashing like a madman. Robert danced forward, and backwards, ducking and weaving out of reach of the bigger man, prodding his smaller stave at the big man until neither could move another inch. Both were exhausted. The villagers shouted encouragement; Robert’s men shouted louder. Finally the two combatants could move no more.

“A draw my friend?” said Robert holding out his hand.

The giant scowled then a small grin appeared behind his beard. “Aye.” he said, shaking the Earls hand. “I’ve met my equal and I’m proud to shake the hand of a fellow forester.” With that the two jumped into the water to cool off and the villagers and Robert’s band cheered and clapped for they had seen a jolly good fight.

Legend makes more of this but it was what took place when the two parties joined together in a meagre meal that changed the course of history. The men sat in what was the centre of the village while the women gathered what was left of their possessions in preparation to move to a new area away from the thugs from Nottingham.

“So my friend.” the huge man spoke in a deep rumbling voice. “First, what’s your name and second what’s this nonsense about this being your land? This is Lord Locksley’s land or it was until the swine from Nottingham killed him.”

“I am his son and heir, Robert of Locksley.” There was a gasp from the villagers and the women stopped packing and started to listen to the man dressed in rough Lincoln Green. “I have vowed to find the man who killed my father and make him pay. My plan is to gather a large group of men to stop the Sheriff stealing any more land and making people pay taxes they can’t afford.” He waved his hand at the ruined village. “Your name sir? enquired Robert.

“John Little, my Lord, and accept my apologies for my manners. Everyone thought you were still fighting in the Crusade. Your father was a kind man and I wish you luck in your quest, but we will move on before the so called knights return and kill us all off. We have no money and – as you can see – not many men of fighting quality.” Robert leapt to his feet and spoke to them all. “Then why don’t we join together and form a band. I will show you how to fight and with your forestry skills we can live in the forest until King Richard returns to take the throne back and bring justice to all England.”

The giant looked at the villagers. Shaking his head he turned back to Robert. “I’m sorry Sire but we…”

Before he could speak anymore a strong voice called out from the group of women. “John Little, don’t you dare refuse the Earl. We’ve had enough of cowering to the gang in Nottingham. It’s time to fight.

“Aye.” cried the villagers loudly.

The big man again shook his head. “I’m sorry my Lord. That’s my wife Bronwen. She and the others don’t understand…”

Again he was interrupted. “Don’t understand!” A small woman darted forward and stood in front of John Little with her arms crossed over her chest in anger. “We understand starving children, and men who are not allowed to work the woodland where we have lived for hundreds of years. Run or fight?” She turned to the villagers. “Say your piece. This used to be a free country” She shouted loudly. “Run or Fight?”

“Fight, fight, fight.” cried the villagers.

The big man tried to calm them but in the end gave in, and so the first band of Robert of Locksley’s was formed.

Robert was pleased with this and said to John Little, “We will be a merry band of fellows and I think a better name for you would be Little John, what say you?”

The big man grinned “Aye and I will call you Robin, My Lord Earl of Locksley, here’s my hand on it.

” Robert laughed loudly and shook hands. “Done.”