Category Archives: short story

From the Horse’s Mouth

gathering

I ‘spect you ‘eard the rumours back then, but you can’t set too much store by Chinese whispers. I know exactly what ‘appened that day, since I was practically there. See, my mum used to chat with Sally, the fishmonger’s wife, when she went to get our lovely fresh cod of a Friday, and Cuthbert – her ‘usband – well, ‘e used to deliver fish, regular, to the Royal Kitchen. He got quite pally with the Royal Cook, Sally’s Cuthbert did. Oh yes, he moved with the cream of society, ‘er Cuthbert, what with goin’ round to all the best ‘ouses an’ mixin’ with all the best cooks in the realm, an’ all. He was a nice chap so they all made allowances for the smell. Anyroad*, the Royal Cook got the story from the kitchen maid who got it from the chambermaid, who got it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. That’s right; the lady-in-waiting ‘erself, who was peaking round the door just after it ‘appened.

So, like I said, I was practically there at the time, and this is ‘ow it went:

The girl ‘ad been tossing and turning all night – couldn’t sleep a wink by all accounts. The palace was getting ready to celebrate since it looked like she’d passed the test, but now she was turning a nasty shade of green an’ ‘aving difficulty breathing. The king ‘appened by, and he saw it and summoned the lady-in waiting, who called for the chambermaid, who ran to find the courtier, who rushed for the physician.

The doctor examined the girl, then wrung ‘is ‘ands, like they does when the king looks at ’em, and mumbled something about balls.

“Speak up, man, and moderate your language, or I’ll order the guards to cut off your head,” cried the king. Just like that, an’ I wouldn’t put it past ‘im. I could tell you some tales would make your hair stand on end, but me lips is sealed.

The physician gathered up ‘is wits and spoke more clear. “Your majesty,” says ‘e, “there hhis no cure for this lady’s hhallergy. I fear the worst. If only Hhi had had been hhinformed, Hhi would have recommended a golf ball and a dozen extra mattresses instead.”

(Physicians is trained to talk proper, for all their funny ideas about leaches and blood-letting. They knows where the aitches is meant to go.)

Just then, the girl sits up like some knight ‘as stuck a red-hot lance up ‘er unmentionables, gives a scream, and collapses as if dead, poor dear. The worst of it was, when she fell back so sudden like, the pile of mattresses started wobbling, and before you know it, she’s rolled out of them and plummeted all the way to the floor like a bloomin’ bag o’ teddies*.

Oh, bless, don’t go upsetting yourself, dearie – I’m sure she didn’t feel nothin’, but like I was about to say, next thing,  all them mattresses got to slippin’ an’ slidin’, and before you know it, the floor’s plastered in ’em. By the time the dust settled, she was buried up to her neck – just lying there underneath those stuffed wodges of striped ticking, with only one pale arm sticking out like the dead end of an amputee party or what-all.

And what did they see but that little green pea, released from its feathery prison, rolling across the floor, like it didn’t have a care in the world. ‘Course, it was quickly absolved of that notion, since the dog – I forgot to tell you about the dog; there was a dog asleep in the corner of the room, an’ it’d managed to sleep through having a mattress land on its back, but it must have ‘eard the pea, makin’ its way across the royal rug, takin’ a straight line between two of them puffy mattresses. The daft dog musta thought it was a rabbit or what-have-you. It was up and on the pea like lightnin’. In a blink, the evidence o’ cause o’ death was down ‘is gullet.

So then the prince come ambling in, with that clipboard they made for him from the last o’ the gold what ‘is previous wife had woven out of straw. I’m talking about his second wife, mind. I ‘spect you ‘eard about the first one, who broke an old glass slipper, trying to prove that her feet were the same size as back when they first started courting. Turned out they wasn’t. She’d bled to death, which was a shame, ‘cos she was pretty, but ‘e married again.

The second marriage had started off awright, what with all them roomfuls of gold and all – bound to make you ‘appy, seems to me – but pretty soon it was all around the palace that his wife was ‘avin’ an affair with a short ugly bloke with a bad temper, who kept comin’ out with strange rhymes an’ wouldn’t tell anyone his name, and if you ask me,  I’d say the rumours was true; she weren’t no better than she shoulda been.

Well, that’s another story, and I’m not one to gossip, but it’s worth a mention since it was ‘cos of ‘er that they weren’t taking no chances this time. The next one ‘ad to be a proper princess – the thing they tried with the glass shoe ended in tears, and they didn’t want any more of that hobnobbing with commoners who makes ‘oles in the floorboards and disappears down ’em before you can cite them as just cause for divorce. See, it’s not like they wanted to behead her – they’d rather have done it the nice way, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Not that they was beggars; they was royals, but still.

Getting back to the prince; the shock of seeing the grisly scene before ‘im give ‘im a bit of a start and his bowler ‘at slid down over ‘is eyes. Did I mention the bowler? ‘E liked to wear it for official stuff like checkin’ for the authenticity of princesses – reckoned it gave ‘im an official air; professional like, along with ‘is important clipboard with its long checklist of names of all the virgins in the realm what claimed to be princesses – or was it all the princesses in the realm what claimed to be virgins?

None of us was sure, but no matter.

Regaining ‘is balance an’ dignity, ‘e slid the bowler back into place an’ stepped over to what he could see of the young woman. Kneeling down, ‘e reached toward her slender ‘and. By all accounts, it looked like a romantic what-‘ave-you, till ‘e pressed a finger to her wrist, where the pulse should ‘ave bin. He looked up at the doctor, ‘oo avoided his eyes, and then at his father, the king, ‘oo rewarded ‘im with a “you win some, you lose some’ kind of a shrug.

Smartly getting up from ‘is knees – princes is good at that kind of thing; standing and sitting and generally moving graceful like dancers, it’s their upbringing, you know – ‘e pulled a pencil from beneath his silk doublet, licked the end and neatly crossed ‘er name off the list.

Written for 3TC: Mattress, Golf ball, Green

*anyroad: anyway

*teddies: a regional name for potatoes.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Three Sisters

water-1759703__340

.

A grave motorcade
rolls along the old pitted lane.
Amidst the relay of mourners, three sisters
lurch in separate cars, each clutching a tissue,
each nursing a lonely grief.

Lily-laden funeral wreathes cast cruel shade over flashes of sensory screenshot:

mother reading an article from the Guardian, words falling on deaf ears that would be keen to hear her words today;

the Saturday fragrance of vanilla and yeast, of cocoa sifting into a blue-striped bowl, while she recited poetry, the selection of which reflected her mood;
the humour of Carroll and Lear, the beauty of  Shakespeare, the passion of  Yeats;

the ballet of her every movement.

Joyful memories
choked by white-trumpet odour
chased off by the celebrant’s tribute,
distanced by mortality’s truth.

Heavily, they host the wake,
making sad celebration in a room where once
they ate and fought and played.
Greeting the sombre-suited guests, a sense of
distance
marks each sorrowful hug, a feeling of
alienation
punctuates every platitude. A dun-coloured wilderness
gapes
where a mother’s rainbow love once encircled
a fertile horizon.

Three blonde heads
dutifully nod in a jaded knot of grey, brown and red,
keeping their distance like amnesiac triplets,
unable to acknowledge the bond between them,
though grieving the body that links them.

And yet…

Esther breaks away, promptly retreating from the pompous uncle
who once told her to pull her socks up.

Sophie escapes from the neighbour who ran over her favourite doll.

Marie extracts herself from the babble of a virtual stranger.

Three sisters, divided
by the gifts and thefts of time, estranged by perversity
of personality; yet each makes an unplanned dash
in search of an echo of childhood laughter.

Landing together by the river,
the sisters silently step back, form a line,
firmly grasp each other’s hands, unsurprised
by this impromptu contact; this once
cherished routine.

With one accord they take
a running leap, screeching with fear and hilarity,
bracing for a wet slap, sinking, rising encircled by
a naughty water-dance of funeral garb.

Treading water,
spluttering with mirth,
they smack the surface, watching diamonds spray
in the late-summer light.

Their thoughts play in silent harmony:
Forty years. Forty years since mum, grinning at our antics, leapt,
describing a perfect pirouette, to land with a blithe ripple
that danced in a widening embrace as she swam back to the bank.

The river steps back in time,
The coffin regresses to become a strong tree.
The lilies of death are gone; are less than a twinkle
in the eye of an unborn seed.
The three sisters feel the length of their mother’s reach.

In this divine moment, she lives.
Three giggling children await
her refined splash.

.

Written for today’s Word of the Day Challenge; Mirth

©Jane Paterson Basil

Dropped Stitches

“It’s like knitting a scarf,” the woman said, plopping herself down with another G&T.

She appeared to be talking to me, so I glanced her way.

“Life, I mean. It’s like knitting a scarf. You choose the colours, and make it as long or short as you want. You can make an intricate pattern, or keep it simple. It can be dull or exciting.” As she looked up, I noticed a tidemark on her neck.

“I suppose so,” I said uncertainly, taking in her unkempt appearance.

“D’you want to see mine?” she asked, opening a large carrier bag and pulling out something woolly. She proudly held it up. The lower end of it trailed on the floor, soaking up a pool of questionable liquid.

The scarf’s erratic hues screamed painfully at each other. Shamelessly dropped stitches and ladders gaped.

The Daily Post’s word prompt for today is Knit. Yesterday I wrote a poem about knitting, so today I had to come up with something different…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Those whose hair isn’t yellow…

“Good morning students. This morning we are going to discuss Metaphor. I’ll illustrate metaphor with my story of the little people of Halfworthy. I’ve drawn a sketch of them, showing their yellow hair, vivid blue eyes, and purple skin…

“- Yes, Calum?…

“You’re quite right. A few of them had different coloured hair, eyes and skin. These were people whose parents had moved there from other villages many years ago, or whose grandparents had been taken there by force, and purchased for slavery, before such abominations were outlawed. Although they were different colours, they were just the same as all the other villagers.

“…Halfworthians lived beneath rocks. The rich enjoyed spacious accommodation under big rocks and the poor made do with tiny, cramped rocks. The edge of the Road More Travelled was to the East, while directly to the West, beyond a sheer drop of over three feet (a considerable height for someone only four inches tall)…

“- Yes Calum, four inches is very little, now please take your feet off the desk.

“… As I was saying, there was a fast-flowing river to the West of the village. Other villages were dotted along the riverbank, and each village had its own language and customs, but these neighbours were a friendly bunch, and many years before, they had decided to start a club. All of the villages were invited to be members of this club – which was called the New Inclusive Club of Everyland, or NICE – but about half of the Halfworthy folk were of a standoffish nature, thinking themselves better than others, so they didn’t join at first.

“- Ashleigh, would you like to tell me what you’re whispering about?… Oh, for goodness sake, take this pamphlet and waft it around a little. The, um, odour will soon disperse. Perhaps Caitlin would like to go to the toilet? Go ahead Caitlin. Don’t run in the corridor, but don’t dawdle.

“…Whenever the NICE met, Halfworthy sent someone to spy through the clubhouse window, and every time, the spy returned to his village, discribing the multicultural splendour of the scene; the richness of accent; the wide variety of hair, skin and eye colours, and declaring that were they having loads of fun in there, particularly as each village placed wonderful local delicacies on the table for everyone present to enjoy.

“- Yes, Calum? … I don’t know if they had burgers… Yes, Kendal, I expect some of them brought vegetarian food… No Dan, I very much doubt that any of them were cannabals, and even if they were, it’s extremely bad form to take sweet-and-sour human to a multi-cultural function. Now could everybody stop being childish and I’ll continue.

“… In addition, between meetings, the members all helped each other out. For example, the micro-climate in Berryham was perfect for soft fruit, while the natives of Whizzbury built safe, sturdy clockwork vehicles. While club members were scratching each others backs, swapping products and services and having cosy coffee mornings, the Halfworthians were hanging around on street corners, disconsolately complaining about the price of blackcurrants and strawberries, which didn’t grow in their locality. Most of them walked everywhere, unable to afford cars, and were unwilling to to use the odiferous public transport system, which involved sitting on the back of a rat…

“- No, neither would I. Now would you all please stop interrupting… Ugh; Zavier, don’t wipe that on Dan’s sleeve.

“… Eventually, the village wrote to the club secretary and asked if Halfworthy could join. The Everyleans were delighted, and welcomed their new member-village with enthusiasm.

“At first the villagers were very happy, but, owing to the combination of greed, selfishness and stupidity of about half of the Halfworthians, some quickly became dissatisfied. They thought that Halfworthy was giving more than it was receiving. They didn’t like the rules, although those rules were agreed by democratic votes. What’s more, they were offended by the influx of people whose hair wasn’t yellow, whose eyes weren’ blue, and whose skin wasn’t purple. Anyone lacking just one of these attributes was considerd to be an enemy.

“Years passed. The rich got richer. They bulldozed the rocks of the poor to make space for extensions to their rocks. At night, those who whad been evicted sought shelter wherever they could. They were bitter and angry, but they didn’t know what to do about it. Even those whose rocks had not been taken were dissatisfied with life. They looked at the palacial rocks of the rich, and resented the meagreness of their own lives.

“- Welcome back, Caitlin… You used the boys toilet? Why?… Well, the next time you find the girl’s toilet blocked, could you please use the one beside the headmaster’s office… I’m sure you know you should have done that. Yes, you’re quite right, I did tell you not to dawdle, but… Just sit down, please, and I’ll continue.

“… People began grumbling, and the grumbles grew louder. Posters began appearing in windows. These posters declared that the people with different coloured hair, eyes and skin were to blame for everything that was wrong in the village. An unpleasant, sly faced man became their ringleader. Wherever he went, a self-appointed army of shaven haired thugs followed, aggressively displaying Nazi Swasticas, proudly brandishing Halfworthy flags, and declaring that they should throw all of the immigrants into the river.

“Now, students, you’d think that this would alarm the populance, wouldn’t you? But instead, about half the villagers agreed.

“- Yes, Billy?… no, I’m sure you wouldn’t have. I can see you don’t need this lesson as much as some, but please try to keep your thoughts to yourself, and would the rest of you all please stop acting as if you’re eight years old, rather than twelve. I’ve been patient, but it’s not funny any more. Dan and Xavier! Stop smirking, and put whatever it is you’re playing with under the desk. I don’t like your attitude.

“… The village was divided – about half the people thought the immigrants should go, while the other half considered the majority to be useful citizens, and useful to the local economy.

“Time passed. The nasty, sly man and his cohorts thought that Halfworthy should leave the NICE club, so it was agreed that all the villagers should put it to a vote. For weeks representatives of the two opposing viewpoints campaigned to win as many votes as possible. The campaign, which was unfriendly from the start, became positively nasty, and then viscious. I will not assail your delicate senses with the details, children, but instead go stright to the point.

“Polling day came and went. The next morning the 51.9% of people who wanted to leave the club were celebrating a victory, while the 49.1% wept for the future – of their village, and of their immigrants.

“Soon, as agreed, Halfworthy – which, in my opinion, should have changed it’s name to Underhalfworthy-  left the NICE club. In no time at all, villagers were complaining about the price of blackcurrants and strawberries. Almost everybody was unhappy because they couldn’t afford the things they needed, and nobody would do them any favours. Just over half of the villagers agreed that the people with different coloured hair, skin and eyes were to blame for all their misfortunes, and even if they weren’t, they had no right to live in the village because they hadn’t been born there, except for those whose parents and grandparents had moved there many years before, but they didn’t like to show favouritism, so early one morning they captured everyone who had different coloured hair, skin and eyes, tied them up, filled their pockets with stones, and threw them into the river, where they drowned. Unfortunately their bodies piled up, leaving a slipstream which affected the flow of water, wearing away the bank, making a hollow beneath the village, and one night during a particularly heavy storm, the ground collapsed under the weight of the rich people’s rocks, and everyone was drowned, not only the 51.9% of villagers who caused it to happen, but also the 48.1% of innocent people who wanted to continue to embrace the wider world…

“This story is a metaphor. Who wants to tell me wh…

“Dan! Xavier! Put down the knife! Leave Deepak al…

“All this blood… Billy… get my phone… my bag… Phone 999… Deepak… I can’t… somebody… help Deepak…”

©Jane Paterson Basil

Her mother’s daughter

aknife 123

Option A:

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok,?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

I suddenly feel irritated. She would be unlikely to believe me anyway. Her life is so simple. Nothing like this could never happen to clean Shirley, with her squeeky clean Christian parents, her clean shaven, clean living fiance and her sickeningly clean life.

Then there’s Kazza, sitting at the desk which she apologetically insisted upon pushing up against the wall on her first day here, because she thought she was taking up too much space. She’s such a mouse, always trying to make herself invisible, stooping slightly because she’s so embarrassed about her height, constantly apologising for her existence. She should try living with my problems for a while.

I hear Kazza’s chair scrape as she stands, her whispering footsteps, and now she is behind me, a hand on my shoulder, lips close to my ear as she bends her tall, willowy frame. I can feel kindly concern emanating from her in waves, and I guiltily curse myself for having such uncharitable thoughts. What is happening to me?

“You’re finding it tough, aren’t you Sophie? You know you can talk to me any time. It’ll take a while for you to come to terms with what’s happened, but I’ll be here for you if you need me.”

Kazza knows all about my mum. It happened just over a month ago. She launched a viscious physical attack on another inmate at the prison. The woman had somehow managed to fashion a sharp knife, which she drove into my mother’s jugular vein. They told me that my mum died quickly. At first my only feeling was one of relief that it was finally over. She had her retribution.

The following day was Friday, and I went to work as usual. I was able to start making telephoned  arrangements for the funeral; after all, it wasn’t as if I had any interest  in selecting a quality coffin or sitting in the undertakers office discussing special arrangements while tearfully dabbing at my eyes with a wad of soggy tissues.

I explained to Kazza and Shirley that my estranged mother had died, so they wouldn’t wonder what was behind the unusual phone calls. At lunchtime Kazza and I went to the little kitchen where we eat our lunch. Shirley didn’t join us because she was leaving early to travel to a family wedding somewhere in Scotland. Kazza had suggested that although I didn’t realise it, I may be in shock.

I was looking out of the window, feeling strangely blank and distanced from reality, as she told me about how she switched off when she heard about the death of her abusive father, and the grief and shame she felt when it hit her. She was apologising for him; explaining that he hadn’t always been that way – it was only when she hit puberty. He couldn’t help the way he felt and maybe her skirts had been too short, maybe she did inadvertently egg him on…

As she was talking, I saw Shirley walk past the window with her parents. They had come to pick her up in their car, so that they could all travel together. Mr. Clean, the boyfriend, was with her. I suppose what triggered my reaction was a combination of what Kazza was saying and the sight of that carefree family knot outside; suddenly all of the grief and pain and anger and horrible, horrible childhood fear and loneliness exploded through my eyes, nose and mouth.

Through tears and bubbling snot I ranted and screamed. Spittle was flying from my lips, but I didn’t care.

“You can forgive your bastard father if you wish, but I will never forgive my mother. I was there when she raised the butcher’s knife in her left hand. I saw my father’s look of terror as his arms jerked in an effort to protect himself.” I shouted. “I saw the blade sink into my father’s bare chest and the blood that escaped from the hole it left when she pulled it out to stab again. I saw the blood and heard that last gurgle as his life leaked into the carpet. I heard her gleeful laugh as I ran for the door and escaped.”

And now I lay my hand over hers. I lean towards her. I tell her the half-truth that she expects.

“Yes, it has been a shock. I thought my mother could never hurt me again, but she has, and it doesn’t go away.”

I don’t tell her about the phantom night-time visits from my mother when I am trying to sleep, or the way she conjures up the spectre of my gentle father for her grisly theatre. He’s bare chested as he was on that hot summer day, accidentally knocking over a vase of plastic flowers on the table, apologising, apologising, apologising – even though no harm was done, nothing was broken, dirtied or damaged – inciting the rage that caused her to stab him to death. I don’t tell her how I have to hear him apologising over and over, and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop the thing that happens next.

I also omit to mention the blind rages that fly up from nowhere, or of coming out of them in a different place than I was when I became angry. Each time it happens I seem to be gone for longer. I tend to take walks late at night, to put off the time when I must go to bed. Although my mother’s ghost doesn’t visit me every night, there’s no knowing when it will happen, and I dread it. I was out after midnight last night. The streets were empty apart from a drunk, who was lurching along. When he got alongside me he staggered and stumbled against me. He immediately started slurring his apologies, trying to brush my coat down, and saying “There, see? No harm done,” before saying sorry again. I became angry at his constant repetition. Everything else is a blank until the moment when I found myself standing in my bathroom with both taps running, rinsing something off my cuff. I was distressed to discover, later, that I had somehow lost my coat.

I sit in that small room with Kazza. I cut up an apple with a sharp kitchen knife as I talk instead about my memories of my mother during those times when she was well.

Our lunch-hour is over. I pick up the dirty plates and the kitchen knife, and take them to the sink to wash them up. Kazza brings her cup over. She didn’t drink all of her tea, and it’s gone cold. There’s something slippery on the floor, and it causes her to lose her balance for a moment. The liquid flies across the room, splashing my closed handbag. It’s plastic, so it won’t stain. She grabs a cloth, and starts wiping at it, repeatedly telling me how sorry she is, how clumsy. There’s nothing to apologise about, and yet she’s apologising again. I’m beginning to feel angry. It’s all just pointless, maddening noise.

It feels just like that time way back, before they locked me up, when my irritating husband wouldn’t shut up. He just kept on and on about those stupid plastic flowers, while he tried to arrange them properly in the vase, and apologising because he couldn’t make them look the way they did before. I had to kill him. It was the only way to get some peace.

I feel young and rejuvinated. The strength has returned to my fingers. I switch the knife to my left hand, and grip it tighter, and turn towards the tall babbling woman who is wiping at a spotless bag on the floor. It’s good to be back. It will be better still once I’ve silenced her.

<><><>

This is my response to this weeks challenge from Esther Newton.

Esther says:

This week I’m going to give you two choices:

Option A: I’ll give you a story opening and the challenge is to continue the story from that point.

Option B: For this choice, I have a story ending for you and your challenge is to write story up to the ending. 

Here is your opening and your ending:

Option A:

I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok,?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

Option B:

I was wrong. I thought finding a ghost would be exciting and fun. At the very least I thought it would be scary. But it was more than that. So much more.

<><><>

I was inspired by Option B, so I used the idea, but I started the story with Option A.

<><><>

©Jane Paterson Basil

KICKSTART

Embed from Getty Images

Nobody seemed to have noticed that they hadn’t seen Rudy for months.

Afterwards his friends claimed that they had been concerned for his welfare, and yet his final, untouched ready meal lay forgotten far beyond the stage of rotting and liquifying, to dry up and become a solid glaze on the plate.

The neighbours said that they had checked on him when they could, and yet they didn’t notice that his car hadn’t left the drive for months, that his bathroom window was open still, although autumn and winter had passed, or that the bluebottles in his living room were battering themselves against the window, drunk from gorging on dead flesh.

His family said they loved him, but they didn’t show up to break the door down and discover his broken body lying in dried blood, or the empty vodka bottles which littered the room.

Nathan was an addict who happened to see the open window. His courage and conscience banded together to fight and lose a familiar, half-hearted battle, before he climbed in to see if he could aquire something to sell, to pay for an overdue hit.

Instead he discovered what remained of Rudy, lying in full view in the middle of the floor, basked in an eerie blue light from the moon, ribs arched upward and neck twisted, skeletal head facing him, proffering a sarcastic, toothless grin which would linger in Nathan’s memory evermore. Beneath and around him the carpet was darkly stained by fluids which had once been Rudy’s vital organs.

Terror sent adrenalin coursing through Nathan’s veins. Although afterwards he could not remember what exit he used, he got out of the house more quickly and less cautiously than he had entered, and he ran until his stomach could no longer contain its contents, while at the same time, his quivering legs gave up on him. Crouching on hands and knees he delivered his half-digested takeaway onto the grass verge where he had landed, not noticing or caring that vomit was splashing all over his hands and jacket.

He crawled towards some nearby bushes and leaned against them while he waited to recover.

His first thoughts had been irrational, of killers hiding behind curtains, of sharp blades and blunt instruments. Now, as his breathing returned to normal and his heart stopped pounding, he saw the tragedy for what it was. The empty bottles and the undiscovered corpse told the story.

Nathan stayed to watch the sun rise, and then, empty handed and ill, he went back to his bedsit. He ran a bath in the communal bathroom and undressed, dropping his clothes into a bin bag. He bathed and washed his hair, then put on the cleanest clothes he could find. He walked to the police station, told the police that he had broken into a house and found a dead body.

Rudy was buried twelve days later. Nathan was unable to attend the funeral, because he had booked himself into rehab, and that was the day that his journey into the future began.

© Jane Paterson Basil

NICKY’S KNICKER NICKER

Embed from Getty Images
This is the story of Nicky
And her knickers so shamelessly nicked
By a nasty knicker nicker
Who finally got nicked

Nicky was tired of her knickers
Which were tatty and shabby and grey
When she got her first weeks wages
She threw her old knickers away

Yes, Nicky bought new knickers
In red and green and blue
Because she’d got her wages
And wanted something new

Nicky wore her knickers
in the normal knickery way
And as one would hope, she wore
A different pair each day

At the end of every evening
Getting ready for the night
Her knickers went in the laundry bin
Tucked down out of sight.

But when she did her washing
And hung it out to dry
She realised a horrible thing
Which made her want to cry

Someone had nicked her knickers
She could see that her knickers were gone.
There was nothing left of those knickers
She’d so recently sat upon.

Now Nicky lived with a family
And two of them were young men
Nicolas was the older brother
And the younger one was Ben.

She couldn’t believe that either one
Would commit such a heinous act
As to nick her pretty knickers
So slyly behind her back.

Time went by as it always does
And her knickers were never returned
And poor little Nicky was saddened
By a lesson so harshly learned.

Life was never the same for Nicky
She decided she had to be strict
And stick with tatty grey knickers
To ensure that they wouldn’t get nicked

Now many years have passed and gone
And now she’s old and grey
And although it made her unhappy
She’s stuck to her rule to this day

But it’s funny how things can alter
When hope is all but gone
Soon for the first time in fifty-five years
Nicky will put her bright knickers back on.

Her brother he lives in a flat in a block
And Old Nicolas lives below
And her brother came to say to her
“There’s something I think you should know.”

“A knicker nicker’s been nicking girls knicks
Right off the washing line
And the police came along and arrested Nick
After all of this time

“And they found two bin bags of knickers.
He had kept hidden in his flat
And I bet that your knickers are with them.
What do you think of that?”

And now she knew for certain
Old Nick was the naughty nicker
Nick had knocked her knickers off
And Nick was the clothesline picker

He’d nicked those natty knickers
And kept them all those years.
Now knickerless, Nicolas has been nicked
For stealing things that belong on girls rears.

Now Nicky’s at the cop-shop
Identifying her rainbow pants
And as they hand them back to her
She’s trilling out her thanks.

Tomorrow she’ll have a secretive smile
Because no-one will ever know
That her brightly coloured knickers
Are fifty-five years old.

© Jane Paterson Basil

CRYSTAL

My mother rang. I told her that the place where I was staying wasn’t safe for me. She sadly reminded me that she was 200 miles away, living in a place that didn’t allow guests. She suggested I should go the housing association and explain that I was a vulnerable person.

My mother rang. I told her that people were trying to either kill me or make me go mad. She suggested I should have a word with my psychiatrist.

My mother rang. I told her that I could see worms crawling underneath the skin on my belly. She suggested I should go and see my GP.

My mother rang. I told her that people were drugging me, and having sex with me while I was unconscious, that I was waking up covered with the smell of sex, with blood on my body. She suggested I should go to the police.

My mother rang. I told her that people were leaving secret numerical messages on the receipts dropped onto the pavements where I walked, for me to find. I told her that the people I visited had toxic gas machines hidden behind walls, and they were switching them on when I was there. That I kept losing consciousness. That none of my friends could be trusted, that one of them had secretly fixed up a gadget in the bathroom which made the light fitting swivel ever so slightly, so that the shadows in the room moved subtly, to make me think I was going mad.

I told her they were trying to poison me, and even in supermarkets I didn’t know which food contained the poison that was aimed at me. I told her that I had received a letter, supposedly from my brother, but that it was from someone else, who had intercepted his letter, copied it out word for word, and sent it in place of the original one and I didn’t know why I told her that I have to keep changing my phone, because they put tracking systems in them, so that they always know where I am.

I told her about the many strange things to people were doing me. I told her about the magnets which I know are hidden everywhere, about the people hiding in bushes and watching me from rooftops. I told her that there was more that I couldn’t share with her, but that she needed to know that my life was in danger. I told her that she was in danger, too, and that soon, the same things were going to happen to her. She begged me to go to see my drugs councillor.

My mother came for a visit. There were tears in her eyes as she looked at my skeletal body, at my face, with the flesh so eaten away by starvation that my lips stretched tightly over my teeth. She saw the cuts and bruises on my arms and legs, my sparse, chewed up hair that was once so thick and luxurious.

I told her again, about all of the dark things that are happening to me.

She told me that she wanted to help me. she told me that until I stopped injecting Crystal* into my veins the psychosis would not go away.

I told her that I am no longer doing Crystal,* because it’s not relevant. It’s not the Crystal that is doing this to me. All of these things are really happening. I’m ill and alone. I’m frightened. There is nobody I can trust, except my mother, and she doesn’t believe me. Both of our lives are in danger, and I’m fairly sure they’re going to get my brother, too.

Why will nobody believe me?

© Jane Paterson Basil

*Crystal is an extremely dangerous ‘legal high’ amphetamine, currently being used extensively by heroin addicts.
This story comes from close observation of a victim, and is in no way exaggerated.

THE ART OF BEAUTY

She gazes down with half closed eyes and a knowing look, suggestive of a secret shared between us alone. Her titian beauty captivates me all over again. Every day I come, and every day I return her hungry look with one of longing. She whispers words of love in the silence between the clicking heels and murmered comments of other visitors.

And now I sense someone beside me. I turn to see a beautiful woman, looking up at the painting.

”It flatters me, don’t you think?” she says.

”It certainly does,” I reply.

I walk away, never to return.

© Jane Paterson Basil

LIVING SPACE

“If you take that space,” said Pebble, “I will crush you. That space is mine.”
“If you try to crush me,” said Grass, “I will dig my roots deeply, grow strong, and engulf you. That space is mine.”
Pebble rushed towarde the space, but Grass was quicker. He was peeping  through the ground long before Pebble had hoisted his unwieldy body over it.
But pebble made it in the end.
They fought and quarrelled. Time passed.
One day, pebble said “Your blades keep me warm, and I protect you from the jaws of hungry cows.
From then on, they lived in harmony.

© Jane Paterson Basil