Archive by Author

Today’s passengers – a list by Jerome Dample

22 Oct

Route 57: Central Depot to Lowton Street.

Central Depot

  • 2 men in overalls
  • Old person
  • Old person
  • 2 old people
  • 3 youths
  • Mother, 2 children
  • Old person
  • Middle-aged couple
  • Young woman with backpack
  • Slow man
  • 2 youths with no change
  • Old person
  • Old person
  • Father with child
  • Old person
  • Maria, wearing her blue-green summer dress and carrying a blanket and a thick novel that seemed to be by Anne McCaffrey. Her hair is down. She got on at Purmondsey Street and smiled when I gave her the change. She sat three rows from the front and smiled contentedly out of the window the whole journey save for three glances forwards in my direction.
  • 4 brightly-dressed children
  • Old woman with exact money all ready
  • 3 friendly youths
  • Man who looked like the mayor.
  • Maria gets off at Park Street. She leaves by the rear entrance and doesn’t thank me.
  • 2 old people
  • 5 mean-looking youths
  • Really slow old person
  • Mother with 3 crying children
  • 2 men in overalls
  • Old person
  • Old person
  • Old person
  • Old person
  • Old person
  • Old person

Lowton Street

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Prone

4 Sep

Covered in fake blood and screen-mud, the seething carcass of Neal Bettafour lay inert just to the left Robin Glint, the man who had fictionally slaughtered him. Was there ever a more poignant depiction of the injustice of the world than the image of Neal Bettafour lying prone and bespattered at the feet of Chestal Spring’s own Robin Glint with Chestal Spring’s own Robin Glint standing tall and unnaturally, like the heroes of old. This is how it seemed to Neal.

Robin Glint! Real name: Robstein Halofski. Robin Glint! The man who put Chestal Spring on the map. Robin Glint! Only alumni of the Chestal Spring Academy of Acting to have had a named role in a motion picture. This was his third starring movie. Third time playing some wayward but moral action hero with a flawed past.

Third time would mean the money would be good.

The director called for a little bit more mud to be added to Glint’s cheek and looked down at Neal and said, “You. Look a little more dead.”

Neal couldn’t imagine being any more dead than this. He looked up with glazed eyes at the star. He loathed that square face that looked like it had been carved out of a smug tree stump.

The make-up girl fled and Robin looked down at Neal and winked. His smile was proof that Robin recognised him. Proof he recalled those classes at Chestal Spring Academy of Acting. It wasn’t clear whether he remembered that it was Neal Bettafour who always got the lead roles in the end of term productions. (Neal Bettafour! Real name: Neal Bettafour.) Or that Robin would always get smaller roles because he was so stiff.

As Neal lay there, the director murmured, “action!” and Robin delivered his line in his trademark flat style. The director called “cut!” said it was great and that he’d like to do it again. He hopped down out of his chair and stood over Neal. “That was great,” he said encouragingly. “But could you try to look a little more like you died in agony.” Neal nodded and focussed his gaze on the leading man.

The Fall of Man

6 Aug

Thrusting down the receiver of the sturdy but ageing telephone, The Reverend Malcolm Manswade struck up his pen and prepared to write another sermon on Eve and how she brought about the fall of man.

The Astrologer

25 Jul

The ancient wisdom of prophecy from the stars told her they were meant to be.
Her heart told her they were meant to be.
Her loins cried out that they were meant to be.
Her head backed up her heart and loins with clear reasons that proved they were meant to be.
Her friends nodded and agreed with all of these that they were meant to be.
From every manner of source she could query, the answer came back that they indeed were meant to be.

Only he, without the knowledge of the stars, the connection to her mind and body, and the access to her friends, insisted, despite all this, that they were “simply not meant to be.”

encounter in no man’s land by petermore

15 Mar

Usually the nearest bar to a school is a kind of no man’s land. The pupils avoid it suspecting it to be riddled with teachers and teachers avoid it fearing awkward encounters with the pupils. They tend to unnaturally quiet. In fact, ironically, they are the perfect place to go if you like to drink in secret, which a significant number of pupils and teachers like to do.

Principal Jenkins wasn’t a drinker. He saw no point in lowering your intellectual faculties merely to break the so-called ice. Inhibitions, after all, serve a very useful social function. Not that Principal Jenkins would have any objections if you were to offer him something expensive from the top shelf. But could it really be called drinking when one generous measure would last him an evening?

He took a sip from the battle-scarred glass in front of him. It contained a disappointing attempt at a brandy from a dusty, sculpted bottle which promised so much. Still, he wouldn’t be there long enough to finish it. All he had to do was sign the papers and say goodbye to the soon-to-be-former Mrs Jenkins.

He would swear she had chosen this place deliberately just to spite him. She knew he’d be ill at ease in a bar so close to school. He felt conspicuous but a quick glance around assured him he was invisible. The barman was engrossed in one of those novels where the cop finds out the bad guy is his brother three quarters of the way through; and the only other patron was engrossed in his own thoughts.

As ever the soon-to-be-former Mrs Jenkins was late. Probably some sort of power game. Robert Jenkins, sat back in his chair, feeling more the man than the head teacher at last. The door opened and attracted the attention of the three occupants of the bar. To Robert’s surprise the frame wasn’t filled with the malevolent shape of his wife but a slighter, more feminine figure.

He recognised one of the nervous, musical girls from… he couldn’t remember which year. But he knew she was too young to be drinking in this state. But it wasn’t his problem. The mantle of Principal lay beside his chair. And maybe the mantle of Principle with it.

The girl looked round, her eyes adjusting to the exact level of dimness dictated by the bar’s franchiser. She rested them on Principal Jenkins for a few seconds before she fully recognised him.

“Mr Jenkins,” she exclaimed and then bit her lip. She looked around the bar, but nothing else seemed to help. She involuntarily stepped towards Robert Jenkins.

“Should you be here?” he asked.

The girl wavered but stood her ground. “I’m meeting someone.”

They both looked around.

“He’s not here I take it?” Principal Jenkins was too long a principal for this not to sound the tiniest bit mocking.

She shook her head. She stood on twitching feet, unsure what to do. A tug of war raged in her head that ended with tears fattening up in the corners of her eyes.

“I didn’t think he’d show,” she said trying to sound calm, but failing due to the broken voice and tears racing down her cheeks.

Principal Jenkins tapped the chair next to him. It seemed the only decent thing to do. He had no idea what to say. The barman hawkishly watched her sit over the top of his over-the-top novel.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” asked Principal Jenkins, now in full principal garb once more. It seemed unlikely she would, so he was surprised when she started blubbering a story to him. He murmured encouragingly but got very little of it. He was glad. This wasn’t something he should have anything to do with. Unless the other was a teacher, of course, but he had heard the word “boy” sobbed a few times and felt glad he could relax on that front. He let her tell the story. He assumed it helped. She was at that age when hearts were still eager little fragile boxes and it was natural for her to feel her life was in pieces.

The story seemed to come to an end and the real tears started. The girl slumped against Robert’s shoulder and he had no other option to put his hands on hers. The students clearly didn’t have as much reverence for him as he would have liked.

The door juddered and opened again. This time the frame was filled with the malevolent shape of the soon-to-be-former Mrs Jenkins.

“I knew it!” she shrieked.

She stomped up to the table and threw three identical stacks of paper down in front of him. Principal Jenkins retrieved his arm and drew out his pen. His wife’s angry appearance at an awkward moment made speech seem like a shameful act. He flicked through the top document and signed them all.

As she picked them up, the soon-to-be-former Mrs Jenkins gave her parting shot. “You might be happy now, young lady, but, by God, he won’t make you that in the future.”

When the echo of the slammed door had been absorbed by the panelled walls, Principal Jenkins found he was still staring at the girl.

“Didn’t she even see I was crying?”

“No.” And then he added, “That’s why we’re getting divorced.”

“Oh,” was the only response the girl could muster.

“Now, run along home. I know you have school tomorrow.”

The girl jumped up, her spirits lifted by Robert’s joviality. They shared a smile.

“Thank you, Mr Jenkins,” she called as she hurried out of the door. She left before he could reply which was good because he still didn’t recall her name.

He went to take a last swig of the brandy and then thought better of it. Instead he threw down a tip and stood up. As he walked out, the barman eyed him with an expression that said, “I know a dirty secret.” With the door shut again, the bar returned to its trademarked dimness and the barman went smugly back to his siblo-thriller.

the year at cannes by petermore

21 Feb

“You look like her.”

The words took Agnes by surprise. Sharon had been so silent that Agnes had forgotten there was someone attached to the plasma she was changing.

Agnes looked at her quizzically, trying to recall if this was part of a conversation she had forgotten she was in. It happens. Sometimes patients want to speak and an overworked nurse whose English was still “getting there” was apt to be only casually involved. Before she could ask anything, Sharon added more.

“You have her eyes.”

“Who’s eyes?”

Sharon stared at her annoyed. The annoyance changed to realisation and then apology.

“The girl at Cannes.”

“I do not know this girl?” Agnes finished securing the plasma bag.

“Of course you don’t.”

“Oh.” Ordinarily Agnes would have left now, but she hung round awkwardly like someone who is pretty sure they have been invited to stay but not 100%.

“She looked like you.”

“The girl at Cannes?”

“She was very pretty.’

“Thank you.” Agnes blushed and shifted the plasma pole a little.

“My husband thought so.”

For the first time Agnes sensed some bitterness in the words. Sharon bit her lips and started murmuring to herself. Agnes felt a prick of guilt at being glad the conversation would no longer involve her. She was busy and nothing Sharon had said had made much sense. And murmuring meant being alive and having some sort of brain function – which for some patients was more than they could hope for.

As Agnes reached the door, Sharon called out.

“Odette!”

Agnes turned and hung in the doorway. Sharon was staring at her, her eyes filled with decades of brine.

“Je vous pardonne.”

Agnes nodded and smiled. “Thank you,” she said without knowing why and left. An inexplicable sense of having done good followed her around all week.

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