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Archive for January, 2013
Ben mopped up the tomato and bean sauce with his fried bread. The salty taste of the bacon lingered in his mouth until he swigged his mug of sweet tea. The cafe was packed and noisy but he liked the atmosphere. There was no-one nagging him about his health and the dangers of cholesterol. He wiped his plate clean; nodded to Jess, the waitress and made his way out to his van. Taking the southern road down to the sea, he put his foot down as he mustn’t be late for work again. They were doing up a house. A big job. The place was riddled with damp. For just a moment he realized he felt ill and then a pain so terrible shot threw his chest. He clutched at his arm and then blackness blotted out the day.
Lynda sat at the kitchen table and carefully applied her make-up. The children were dressed and their breakfast was ready for them. It was an important day today. She had an interview. If she got the job it would make a huge difference to their lives. She was wearing her smartest dress and had studied the company details and aims. She knew she was as well prepared as she could be. She needed the job to help her get out of the house. Since Pete had walked out to set up house with young Kate, Lynda had felt worthless, unattractive and had wanted to hide away. Only her children had kept her sane.
“You look nice mummy,” said Zac.
“Thank you, darling. Come and eat your breakfast. We need to get off to school.”
They left the house at eight thirty and Lynda dropped Zac and his sister at the gates and watched them walk in. She then made her way north, away from the sea, to the out of town shopping centre. As she drove upwards along the narrow winding road, she turned a sharp corner and saw a van embedded in a tree.
‘I can’t stop,’ she thought, ‘or I’ll miss my interview.’ Then she noticed there was someone in the vehicle and the engine was still running. She was out of the car and wrenching open the door of the van before she realized what she was doing. ‘Now would be a good time to have a mobile phone,’ she thought. On the seat next to the fat man she saw his phone and picked it up. Quickly she reported the accident. He was alive and bleeding. It was pouring from his arm. She ripped her petticoat and tied his arm into a raised position. Then with another band she tried to stem the flow of blood by tying a tight knot round his arm. The man was still unconscious. Relief flooded over her as she heard the sirens approaching.
While the ambulance crew took over, she picked up the man’s phone again and called the shop where her interview was being held.
“Sorry love if you can’t get here on time you’re not for us,” the woman who answered the phone said and was about to hang up.
“Wait,” Lynda shouted. “What did you want me to do? Leave a man dying by the road? I stopped to help an injured man. The least you can do is see me.”
“Well, I’ll add you to the end of the list, but you’d better get here sharpish. I’ve heard some excuses in my time.”
Lynda handed the phone to the policewoman and gave her details. She explained her urgent need to get to the interview and was allowed on her way. When she arrived at the shop she went straight to the Ladies and washed her face and arms. She sponged down her clothes and quickly changed her tights, which were torn. She certainly didn’t look the smart, calm lady from this morning, but she had to try her best.
As she was ushered into the room she took deep breaths to calm herself. The two ladies who interviewed listened as she explained the accident and agreed with her that she couldn’t have driven on. They offered her the job. It was not just the extra money, which would help stretch Pete’s miniscule maintenance payments, it was the staff discount that would help too. She would be able to get cut priced food, clothing and household goods from her new employment.
‘What a day,’ she reflected as she sat and ate celebratory cake with her children, after school. When they had gone to bed she telephoned the local police station and asked if there was any news on the driver.
“He made it to hospital alive, so there’s every chance he’ll pull through,” said the desk officer. “He was lucky you came along.”
It was two months later when there was a knock on the door of her house. There was a couple standing there with a large bunch of flowers. Lynda recognised the man from the van.
“I’m Mavis and this is Ben. You saved my husband’s life a few months ago and we wanted to say thank you.”
Lynda invited them in and they sat down and had tea.
“You gave me the most precious gift,” said Mavis. “I love my husband very much. If he had died I don’t know how I would’ve carried on. If there is anything we can give to you to help you or your family you must let us know.”
Lynda noticed that Ben looked at his wife in surprise when she’d said she loved him.
“The flowers are lovely and I don’t want anything else from you. You’ve already given me a wonderful gift. Before the day of the accident, since my husband left me, I felt useless and worthless. But I helped to save a life and realized that there is a point to my being. I am a worthwhile person. You gave me that. Thank you.”
As they left Ben whispered, “ and you’ve given me my marriage back. She hasn’t said she cared for years.”
Lynda smiled. “And you? When was the last time you said it?”
The door creaked open slowly. Agnes felt the cold creep into every part of her body. The heating was on but it made no difference. She pulled the woollen blanket up round her chin. The air shimmered in front of her.
‘Is there anyone there?’ she called out in a frail voice.
There was silence.
‘Who came in?’ she asked.
The silence extended its way into the room like the creeping tentacles of a vine. She looked at the shape appearing in front of her. The form was misty but vaguely familiar. She wished she didn’t live by herself in this old draughty house, but she refused to be frightened. She’d always been strong.
‘Who are you and what do you want?’
‘I used to live here. My name is Thomas.’
‘That’s a good name. Well Thomas, this is my house now and I’d like to know why you’re here.’
‘It’s my home,’ the small child replied. ‘I’ve never left here.’
‘I don’t understand. What do you mean?’
‘I lie beneath the apple tree in the garden. No-one ever blessed me or said a prayer. I can’t leave because of how I died. I’m tied to this house.’
‘Why have I never seen you before then?’
‘That’s what you always say,’ said Thomas.
The image faded before Agnes’s eyes and the room grew warmer.
‘Hello, it’s only me,’ called Martha from the front door. ‘How are we today? Oh, it’s nice and warm in here.’
‘Hello, who are you?’ asked Agnes.
‘It’s me Martha. I’ve just bought you a nice hot meal. I come every day. Do you remember?’
‘Hello Martha. What’s for dinner today?’
‘Macaroni cheese, followed by apple pie. Let me just get you some cutlery, and then I’ll have to go. Lots of people waiting for their dinner.’
When Martha closed the door, Agnes settled down and ate her meal. She had just finished when the door creaked slowly and Agnes felt the cold again. A little boy appeared before her out of a mist. She held the blanket close to her.
‘Who are you?’ she asked.
‘My name is Thomas. When I was alive I lived here. Now I lie under the apple tree in the garden and I can’t leave because of how I was killed.’
‘Well Thomas, this is my house now. I think you are making me very cold.’
‘I’m cold. I’ve been cold for seventy years.’
‘What can I do to help you to leave?’
‘You can say a prayer about how sorry you are that I died such a violent death.’
‘Well, of course I am sorry. No-one should die a violent death. Let me go and get my coat and I’ll come into the garden with you.’
Agnes went out of the room to get her coat, but when she got to the hall she couldn’t remember what she’d gone to collect. She went back to sit by the fire and pulled the blanket round her. The soft texture was comforting but there was a chill in the air. A young boy appeared before her.
‘Who are you?’ she asked.
‘My name is Thomas. You were going to get your coat and come into the garden and say a prayer for me about how sorry you were that I died young.’
‘Was I? Well Thomas why would I do that?’
‘So I don’t make you cold anymore.’
‘That’s a good reason.’ Agnes picked up her pen and notebook.
She wrote, ‘Get coat. Go into the garden. Say prayer for Thomas so he doesn’t make me cold anymore.’ Then she stood up holding her notebook. When she reached the hall she put on her coat and went back to her chair and put down the notebook. She headed for the garden, following Thomas but when she opened the back door she couldn’t think why she was going into the garden and turned round and went back to her chair. Agnes snuggled under the warm woollen blanket. She was very cold. She picked up her notebook and read: Get coat. Go into the garden. Say prayer for Thomas so he doesn’t make me cold anymore. Then she looked up and saw a young boy.
‘You must be Thomas. Can I say the prayer here?’
Thomas looked at her sadly. ‘If you like.’
Agnes was not a religious person, but there could be no harm in saying a prayer.
‘Dear world, I am sorry that this poor boy, Thomas was killed violently and is now buried under my apple tree. Please let him go where he should be, so my house won’t be cold anymore.’
Thomas went out and lay under the apple tree again.
The door creaked slowly. Agnes felt the cold creep into every part of her body. The heating was on but it made no difference. Her thick fluffy blanket felt like the inside of a freezer. Nothing she did made her warm.
When Martha arrived the next day it was to find Agnes stiff and as cold as an icicle. While Martha waited for the ambulance she felt a severe chill enter her bones and then a small boy appeared before her.
‘My mother killed me when I was eight, but she could never be sorry about it because she lost her mind and memory.’
‘Who was your mother, Thomas?’
The little boy pointed at Agnes. Martha said nothing, but opened her arms to hold the child. He went straight to her.
‘I am so sorry Thomas,’ she said. She felt a strong hug and then he was gone. Sun started streaming in through the windows. Rays of light danced on the mantelpiece and there they struck an old photograph she had never noticed before of a young boy. He was smiling.
A very happy 2013 to everyone who pops in here from time to time. I have just updated The Green Book, which is published for free on a separate page of this blog.
It’s also available in hard copy from www.Lulu.com for £3.99. In the book there are illustrations and the formatting is different from the blog version. It will soon be available from Amazon.
The book is suitable for primary aged children from about five to ten years old. If any young readers read the story I would love to hear from you.
A new short story for older readers will be posted next week which I hope you will enjoy.