A Little Light Relief

I found an old memory stick today. On it I found a long short story (about 11,000 words):

A Christmas Miracle

I haven’t seen it in ages; it must be three years or more old. I used the basic plot for my first Nano in 2013, which one day will be a MG/YA book. It’s set around a disused railway in woods near where I live.

The entrance now looks like this:

sydenham hill woods 2

This is the opening from the original. Hope you enjoy it.

I’m Dan and I will be fourteen on Christmas day which is precisely one day and four minutes away. Five minutes ago Dad went out of the front door to kick our neighbour’s car. Mr Sense’s old Volvo has a dodgy car alarm and this is the third night in succession it’s gone off. Mr Sense sleeps through it. Two minutes ago I heard a thump and a scream and one minute later Mum went outside. Each year, ever since I can remember, I’ve hated how slowly the clock moves as I get closer to my birthday/Christmas but right now I really want the clock to go backwards. It’s just about to become Christmas Eve; Mum calls out. “Dan, Dan, quick.” Oh heck.

 

***

 

The ambulance has just left with Dad strapped onto a trolley. He has a bandage across his left eye. Mum’s gone with him. ‘He’ll be alright’. They all said that except the man in the green uniform. He talked to Dad who kept opening and closing his eyes. Mum told me to look after Judy and keep Myrtle out of her bed. Myrtle is our cat and has fleas. Judy is two and was a mistake. I base this statement on two facts: first she’s twelve years younger than me and the biggest gap in any family at school is four years; second everyone thought Mum had some disease from going to India (Dad said dengue fever; he’s a hypochondriac) before they realised she was pregnant. Also I don’t understand how it happened because Mum and Dad are ancient and so have lost the power to have babies.  They pretend they love her but I’m pretty sure Dad was up for it when I put her on eBay last Easter.

Just before Mum left she said my auntie was coming round. My auntie is awful but I didn’t argue. Judy grizzles and I need my sleep. She arrives in a taxi at twenty three minutes past two and smells of cigarettes. She holds onto the post at the bottom of the stairs while she pulls her shoes off.

“How’s Judy?”

I’m ok Auntie. “Asleep.”

“He’ll be alright.”

I go to bed.

 

***

 

Auntie doesn’t go to Judy when she cries and six seventeen. I wait for twenty three minutes before I go to the spare room. Auntie’s not there. She’s in Mum’s sewing room asleep in the big armchair. She’s still in her outdoor coat and Myrtle is sleeping on her lap. I can see Auntie’s fillings and she’s snoring. The room stinks.

When Mum gets Judy in the morning she always changes her nappy. I’m pretty sure I’m too young to be allowed to do that. Mum says I’m too young to be left in the house with her. Judy calls out for Dad so I carry her to the bathroom and pull off the wet nappy and leave her with her potty. She stops asking about Dad.

 

***

 

Auntie wakes up while I’m feeding Judy. I like feeding her because she throws her weetabix across the table. Auntie’s has narrow eyes and doesn’t really speak. I tell her I’ll put the kettle on and she nods once. Mum puts the kettle on when Dad squints like that in the mornings. “Has Lulu rung?” (Lulu is my mum).

“I don’t think so.”

“I’ll call her in a minute. They don’t allow mobiles in hospital, do they?”

I make a cup of instant coffee which Auntie sips.  She still doesn’t speak except to shout at Judy when she bangs her spoon on the table.  I take Judy and we go and get dressed. I’m helping her with her doll’s house when Auntie appears.

“He’ll be alright. Lulu is staying with him while they do tests. Your cousins will be round soon so you can all play together. That’ll be nice, won’t it?” I think Auntie wants to be sick. She keeps putting her hand to her mouth.

I say, “Hound needs a walk. I’ll take him before they come.” I don’t like my cousins; I’ll stay out and hope Mum comes back with Dad and we can be alone.

Auntie leaves me with Judy. When I go to tell her I’m ready to walk Hound I find her she’s asleep again in the armchair. Myrtle is back with her. I put Judy on the floor and leave her with her colouring book. I manage to get outdoors without either of them noticing.

 

***

 

I take some money from the jar to buy some bread given I’ll need energy today. Outside Hound decides not to pull but to be really slow and sniff at every gatepost; there are forty seven gateposts from our drive to the end of Stable Lane. The bakery is round the corner. It’s run by Mr Gold. He sells really weird stuff; black bread and hard rolls with these awful herbs on them. But he also sells cinnamon rolls which are the best ever.  Mum and Dad are always saying we must support the local businesses, Gold’s Bakery being one but Mum forgets and buys what she needs from Sainsbury’s in East Dulwich.

The worst thing about walking Hound is dog poo. Today Hound decides to do his ‘business’ as Dad calls it in the gutter. The man from the florists with the pierced eyebrow comes over and tips a bucket to wash it into a drain. “Sorry about your dad. Frank said. He’ll be alright.” Frank is our neighbour.  I suppose he feels guilty.

Hound’s lead is a leather strap with a rusty clip at the end which we got at a car boot sale over in Sydenham, just after Hound arrived. I tie it to the drainpipe and stare at Hound trying some hypnosis; he often does a second poo soon after the first.

While I wait to be served, I think about my cousins and my uncle. The Shepherds. Dad calls Uncle Martin ‘a blot on the landscape’. He is very fat. He stinks of cigarettes and insists on what he calls his ‘man-hug’. Dad hates it too. Then there are my cousins. Beth and Liam who are really annoying babies of twelve and sixteen; Liam is only older than me in age. Beth has long, long hair which she’s always sucking, if she’s not asking stupid questions like ‘who’s the prime minister of Bosnia?’ and Liam chews the skin next to his thumbs constantly like a beaver gnawing at a tree. He likes collecting things and trying to show me. Neither of them likes maths. I think they will work in a supermarket or sell caravans. Dad hates caravans.

Mr Gold appears by my side, clapping flour off his hands. “Oi, how is your papa, Danny? Will he be alright?”

“I hope so, Mr Gold.” Suddenly I want to cry. Mr Gold puts a hand on my shoulder. “I’m cooking buns. You come back in one hour, yes? I have hot buns for you and your mamma.”

 

I love the rain, preferably with a bit of wind attached so it blows at me and makes me narrow my eyes. The feeling of being fully dressed with the water running down my face and nose is just magic, like showering in your clothes. Not that I have because Mum would go mental but I’ve tried imagining it. I do a lot of imagining. Sadly, today, there’s no wind, just a steady drizzle but it’ll do ok. Hound loves it too though he likes to come up behind you and rub it out of his eyes by sticking his head between your legs. Mum hates that.

‘Let’s try the woods, Hound.’ Hound is a thingy, you know, a mix of dogs. Dad says that one of his ingredients is mud. There’s this pond, up the top of the woods, by this giant Douglas Fir; it is full of branches and this really oozy chocolaty mud. If it’s full it’ll be an early Christmas present for Hound and I know Auntie will hate it.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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28 Responses to A Little Light Relief

  1. Simon says:

    I love this, the story, the story behind the story. It’s also hit upon a kind of cool thing. What would it be like to get a load of USB memory sticks and drop them all over the place and see which ones are found, put stuff on it, even advertise. A bit hit and miss, but could also be powerful.

    Like

  2. Gulara says:

    What a great story, Geoff, glad you found that memory stick!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Judy Martin says:

    I really enjoyed that Geoff. Can we have a bit more please?! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sacha Black says:

    Interesting. I’ll be honest, I don’t like it as much as I love you’re normal writing. And You know I LOVE your writing. I spend half my life wishing I could write like and as well as you. I’m not sure what it is about this piece though, maybe it’s the kid? Duno I’ll have a think. Hope that’s ok to say that. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The problem as I see it Geoff is that you have such an engaging writing style that once the first paragraph is read there is no backing out! Despite the odd grammatical error the story is already flowing along and I’m hooked in for the journey. 🙂 As Oliver Twist once so famously said, ‘Please Sir, I want some more.’

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ali Isaac says:

    Yes go on give us more! Just a waffer-thin slice! You know you want to…😁

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jan says:

    Delightful! I love the fresh voice of the child. It’s so authentic and touching. A great find!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. willowdot21 says:

    I like this little chap and his dog…. Where did he get such awful relatives??

    Like

  9. Mick Canning says:

    Looks very promising, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: A Little Light Relief – Part 2 | TanGental

  11. Well, that was a nice read between packing boxes and I see you’ve also published Part 2.
    It’s a nice easy read, Geoff, and I like that. You’ve already built up a nice little community in this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    A story worth finding and keeping alive! I agree with how engaging your writing style is, but you’ve grown sharper in your delivery since this earlier piece. That’s awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: To the woods, to the woods… | TanGental

  14. Norah says:

    Cool Geoff. I love your light humorous style and look forward to reading the whole story. I’m interested to find out more about what’s his name (Dan) – another first person. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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