The Library

The stack of books wobbled precariously in my hands as I attempted unsuccessfully to navigate the library door. “Need a hand?” I turned my head as best I could and nodded a grateful assent to Dave the Librarian, who deftly turned the handle and swung open the door. I staggered inside, the books in my grasp weighing heavily and hampering my movement. “Here let me help you” offered Dave, who took the books before I could reply. My thanks were drowned out by his buoyant reassurance that it was no trouble, and what else was he here for, if not to help encumbered readers such as myself. I smiled in reply and made my way through the towering shelves and artificial alleyways of words to my favourite spot. Though I had worked my way through a substantial amount of books here there were still many I had yet to enjoy. Time slipped away from me as I perused the titles names that sounded reassuring, places that I conjured up strange images. I lost myself in another world.

I was startled from my reverie by a slight movement. Dave was standing behind me, his outline stylised against the dwindling light from the window. “We’re closing soon,” he said, his voice soft albeit alien in the dome of silence that had enveloped around me. I nodded and began to gather the books I would be taking. “I’ll take those” he whispered, his cold fingers closing around my wrist.

The silence swelling once more. The darkness, resolute and indecipherable.

Angie Mullins

Incantation

May neither wealth nor sadness overwhelm you

may sunshine follow in your tread

May obnoxious winds not chide you

nor poverty’s chill find grip

May dreams not leave you empty,

nor shadow you with regret.

May music echo your weary step

down every crooked path

May joy and light embrace you

like a blue scarf wrapped around

and may you find redemption

In the everyday, wherever it may lead

Kevin Dowling 2016

The Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor

 

“I’ll just be a minute, the painting is in the back” Old Crosby announced and disappeared into the storage room at the rear of the shop, leaving me to rummage alone through the array of stock he had scattered throughout his antique store. A wildly eclectic mix of items presented themselves before my eyes, items that had not so much been placed as had found their way to where they now lay. Watching as so many eyes in the ethereal stillness of this space where the dust seemed to hang expectantly in the air and the shadows of so much past cast themselves heavy upon on this dusky domain. I found myself drawn to a set of ornate Russian dolls hidden between a serving platter and a gramophone and proceeded to dismantle them absent-mindedly as I awaited the old man’s return.
 
Presently he announced himself, bounding up the corridor with the aforementioned object in his hands. “This is the piece I mentioned to you – it’s something I encountered in my ramblings, let’s say”. Wrapped in a velvet cloth, I could see the outlines of a frame. He carefully proceeded to remove the outer protective layer to reveal the painting beneath and placed it on a small table in front of him. “This is the work of Johannes van der Lember, painted in his late, shall we say, darker period”, Crosby stood away from the painting with an unabashed show of pride on his face and turned to me expectantly.
 
The painting itself was a characteristic piece of that 17th century Dutch masters, an exposition in shadow and light and with an attention to detail and realism that suggested surgical precision. The subject of the painting was a red-robed and white-bearded figure, standing in a torch lit room. Alongside – or more accurately, cowering beneath him was a man, bound and seated in an elaborate wooden chair, his face a mask of abject terror as the other figure loomed over him. In the shadows, lurking was a series of implements and tools hinting at the portents of a darker outcome in store.
 
“The First Time before the Grand Inquisitor” stated Crosby “one of a series of works van der Lember undertook towards the end of his life and without a doubt, his finest masterpiece. And…” he paused for effect “a much-coveted item”. “It had been given up as lost until… well… certain information came to light”. He stroked his chin and started to pace the floor slowly, back and forth. “Look, let me get to the point. What I’m about to tell you will put you, as well as myself, into a difficult position but I believe I have no one else that I can trust.” He then began to recount his tale….
 

  • John Wid, February 2016

The First Time

THE FIRST TIME..

 

He’s gone. Ding dong the bully’s gone.  She picks up the receiver.

“Yes Dear, I’m certain, I won’t change my mind. Send Jimmy over in the next hour, he knows what has to be done”.

Putting the receiver down, she lifts her head.  Looking in the mirror, she notices a slight change to the eyes.  Still tired and weary, but now with a hint of defiance. Ding dong the bully’s gone, a smile starts to gather in one corner of her mouth.  Ding dong the bully’s gone, the smile reaches the other corner.   Where did that noise come from?  My goodness, that’s coming from me, it’s been so long since I heard that laugh.

Jimmy starts to work.  She starts to plan. Can’t remember where I put the decorations.  Yes, I’ll make a list.  As she writes, her hand shakes.  Last year, it wasn’t just her hand shaking but her whole body.  Fear had made her shake last Christmas.  This was different.  It was excitement that was making her shake.

The noise of the drill was like music to her ears.  She didn’t want it to stop.  If freedom had a sound, it was the sound of that drill. She breathed the sound in and exhaled it with a sigh of thanks.

“All done Mary, will I put the kettle on”.

Jimmy looked so concerned that her heart warmed with tender love for the man who made her daughter so happy.

“I’m grand Jimmy. Is 3 O’clock ok? everything will be ready by then.

“We’ll all be there”, Jimmy replies, as he plants a soft kiss on my cheek.

“Well done Mary, you’ve made the right decision”.

“I know Jimmy”

So busy, she didn’t have time to think, but now looking at the clock she had five minutes to spare, five minutes before her life would start again. Five minutes was all he was going to get, five minutes to resurrect the past.  The hurt, the pain, the fear, all wrapped up as presents from him to us at Christmas.  Each year I vowed that I would never let another Christmas be as the last one, but I was weak.  Not anymore.

The door-bell rang.  His five minutes was up.

“Nana, Nana, look at my lovely new dress, isn’t it beautiful Nana” my granddaughter screeched in delight as she twirled around the room.

“Just beautiful pet, it’s nearly as beautiful as you are” My heart was bursting with happiness. My family together again on Christmas day. Two arms wrapped themselves around me “Happy Christmas mam” my daughter whispered, “ It’s the first of many more to come”

“Nana, Nana, did you not hear the ding dong, someone’s at the door”

Looking out the window I saw him put the key in the lock.  When the penny finally dropped that the locks had been changed he fired the bunch of keys as far as he could, which wasn’t far considering his drunken state.

If only he realised he had thrown away all our lives along time ago.

“It’s ok dear; the silly man just came to the wrong house. It’s getting dark; I think I’ll pull the curtains”.

Ding dong the bully’s gone.  This time she started to giggle.

 

Annette Tobin

 

Sojourn in the Devil’s Lair

 

Sojourn in the Devil’s Lair  By Angie Mullins

 

A shuffling creep with a twisted leg:

My first encounter with the living dead.

He gestured me into his home

I felt as though I should atone

For all my sins- I was made felt

That I was going straight to hell.

Alas, the joke it was on me-

I had just entered hell, you see.

 

Then his wife, a terrible demon

Conceived of some abysmal semen

Did grace us with her presence thus.

My insides turned to instant mush:

What hatred dwelt behind her eyes!

I near fell to my knees and cried.

Such cruelty in the hearts of men

Are found within the coven’s den.

 

Her sister then I chanced to meet,

Her cloven hooves concealed by feet.

The grey pant-suit and 80’s hair

Could not quite hide her fork-tongued tail.

Her puckered scowl which didn’t bend:

The image of a cat’s rear end.

I dared not move, I couldn’t rest

Embedded in that vipers’ nest.

 

For two long weeks I battled bravely

Against these fiends- my chances gravely

Faltered yet I strongly fought

Until the day in which I caught

A lucky break, and so I fled.

Another week and I’d be dead.

I wept with tears of joy abundant;

Relief as such makes fear redundant.

 

And so I’ve tried repress this tale:

It marks a most unpleasant fail.

An ink blot in the copy book

Which rather smarts-I seldom look.

But yet today I did receive

From skulking Pant-Suit (scowl of glee)

A bill to pay, a handsome fare

For my sojourn in the Devil’s lair.

 

 

On Your Way Son

On Your Way Son

It’s a time of wonderful transition in anyone’s life. High school exams a recent memory, a feeling of euphoric relief washing over a never before felt trepidation as we stand on the edge of the daunting void, the unknown entity that is the future.

For me, the time came in 1997. Facing my future alone for the first time in my life. No school friend sense of solidarity, nobody to tell me what to do. Just me and a headful of well-meaning advice.

“It’s what we call independence,” my Father would say. He should know. He left school at 14, started work the day after. Followed his own burning ambition to the UK and climbed his own personal career path right to the top, plaudits and media glare never far behind. A tough act to follow? You can sing it.

His standards were high, but he was supportive in every way. University wasn’t for me. My education was important to me, but the avenue would have to change. And anyway I was 17, it was 1997, my self-perceptions were built upon the foundations of the trendy, north of England Britpop swagger, the outward confidence inspired by an Oasis-led working class revolution, and I wanted cash in my pocket.

My confidence was purely outward. This was a colossal transition – far too big for self-assurance. I was inwardly uncertain bordering on nervous as I applied for what I described as my dream position. An apprenticeship in graphic design. My teenage brain said “yeah. This is cool, arty.  I could do this!”

Dressing formally for an interview at 17 years of age only adds to the nerves. That feeling of buttoning the shirt all the way to the top, before stifling yourself with a tie. My heart was pounding as my father ran his mock interview questions by me in the car. In reality he wasn’t helping, only adding to the overwhelming sense of foreboding as our destination limbered into view. We stopped outside the entrance and my Dad left the engine running. I guess I was somehow expecting him to lead me in and do the talking for me. For the first time that day my Father looked me in the eye. “Well, are you ready?” His smile was reassuring, he was good at that. “Just be yourself, be natural. I’ll be waiting for you when you come out, we’ll get lunch, my treat.” I smiled and nodded. “Go on then” he said, “on your way son.” That was his line when he trusted me.

I paused before I entered, facing nothing more than a mere prospect. I was genuinely scared as I pulled the glass door open, my CV providing an unlikely comfort screen as I took my seat in reception. For the first time in my life I could actually see my heart beat – my shirt pulsing as I sat waiting. I glanced up at the wall mounted clock. I comforted myself with the fact that when the big hand got all the way around I’d be outta there. Childish but reassuring at a moment when I needed something.

“Five minutes!” The gruff female voice punctured the calm air and startled me from my semi-daydream. “Sorry?” I replied. “Gerry will be with you in five minutes love!”

I had heard of Gerry Davitt. He was one of those entrepreneurial brain boxes with a hand in everything. He was a businessman – a name.

I glanced at the array of awards and plaques decorating the walls with no idea what they represented. It was a rather unassuming place, dusty blinds allowed shards of September sun to emanate from the window over which they hung. There was a radio playing somewhere behind the receptionist’s desk, a tin-like muffled sound which provided more irritation than entertainment. The volume was low enough to allow the dull ticking of the clock to filter through. It carried a soothing charm and unlikely source of temporary escape.

“Now then, you must be Craig.” I looked up alarmed. How did I not hear him approaching? Not a sound. No door opening, no footsteps – nothing! I stood and offered my hand. “Thanks for coming, I’m Gerry” he smiled. “Sorry for keeping you waiting.” The Yorkshire accent when spoken with the correct tone is wonderfully warm and welcoming, as was his handshake. Continue reading “On Your Way Son” »

New Year’s Resolution

 MY NEW YEARS RESOLUTION

It’s that time of year again and the New Year’s resolutions come out thick and fast. It’s part of Christmas and its part of tradition. The Inevitable subject raises its ugly head after our traditional overindulgence in food, drink, material obsession, and excessive behaviour. I suppose that is one of the reasons why we humour ourselves in making new resolutions for the forthcoming year. I don’t claim that this is the behaviour of everyone but quite a lot of us are more than willing participants in this annual cause.

Commence and engage; the herd mentality comes to mind and I am no different from the rest, and like the man in front of the running bulls of Pamplona who cries “Stop” I am forcefully carried in the wave that ensues, only to succumb to the frenzy and the rush to the starting line which seems to getting longer and longer each year and ends on the 25th of December. Some of us will endeavour to battle on well into the month of January before stumbling into the light…”Crying”…Enough! Enough! Only the faithful old Roy Wood wishes it was Christmas every day, and by the way things are heading he’ll have his wish one day.

Feeling somewhat remorseful for having capitulating on the previous year’s resolutions, I am determined to make amends for the coming one.

How do I overcome my weak resolve? Where did I go wrong last time? And how can I make it work this time? These are just some the questions that are overloading my already overactive and fragile brain. With the New Year fast approaching I have to make up my mind fast. This year I have decided to be quick and decisive and tell no one of my master plan, my mistake in making my resolutions for the previous year were; too many resolutions, and telling too many people about them. The pain of remembrance is acutely working overtime as two of the people I shared my resolutions with, come to mind. Paddy Moore the local but likeable neighbour who makes sure that personal news becomes public news.

“I thought you were going jogging today Mick? Or is that gone by the wayside? He casually asked with three or four neighbours in earshot.

“No Paddy, I sprained my ankle” Nosy Bastard

My dear beloved wife is the other person; she takes great delight in casting up. She is a formidable lady and when armed with ammunition, she is lethal, and by God is she lethal, her barbs are like spits coming off the frying pan.

“I thought you were giving that up” she says in an underhanded off the cuff remark

“Well there’s a genuine reason…” I start to say before being cut off…

She nods in that condescending way “I thought as much” How can she be so cruel…I cringed as I slinked away from the wounding words. “Another waste of money” she calls after me as I make my exit. When I think of the humiliation and embarrassment whenever the subject of Christmas comes up, and it does, I bite my lip and give a clenched smile.

Never mind I’ll show the lot of you yet. Needless to say the aforementioned will not be privy to these coming New Year’s resolutions.

But you have to tell someone…Don’t you?  What’s the point in making them if nobody knows the personal sacrifices one makes, and who would know if you actually carried out your noble resolutions if you didn’t tell anyone; you see there’s my argument and my dilemma. So you have to tell someone and that’s where I had a brain storm.

I decided to write down my noble and aspiring resolutions on a sheet of paper, five in all. I won’t bore you with the details, only that they are worthy and worthwhile. When I had finished this work of art I put my signed declaration of good intent into a white envelope and sealed it with date and proof. I then addressed it to Mrs Kennedy a dear and lovable neighbour. My plan of action was to ask Mrs Kennedy to hold on to letter for me until next Christmas, with which I could proudly boast of my supreme efforts or secretly destroy the evidence should I falter along the way, either way. My reputation would be enhanced or would be none the worst for ware.

It’s the day before New Year’s and it’s time to deliver my letter to Mrs Kennedy when all of a sudden I am gripped by a surge of anxiety. The dear old lady is eighty nine years of age, God forbid, but what if she were to die during the year. How would I retrieve the letter? Worst still, what would her next of kin think of the letter? Would they think that I was trying to inveigle my way into her good graces? And lastly how would I explain a returned letter in the event of Mrs Kennedy’s death to my wife. This last thought of an opened letter being returned to my wife, and especially if I were not there to get it before “she” brought me to my senses, and so with deep regret I have decided that the best thing to do is to make only one resolution and that is to make none.

 

Michael Mullins © 2015

UrlingfordSourcewritersgroup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

On a clear day and looking out the front window of my friends’ living room you can see the hermitage, that is, if you know where to look. It is approximately half a mile from their house. You cast your gaze across farmer’s fields until your eye catches the wooden structure situated almost in line with their middle window. There the hermitage nestles beneath a magnificent backdrop of Ash, Beech, Pine and Oak, the woodland acting as its guardian protector. The panoramic view from the porch of the hermitage spreads its coat in splendor. And in spring if you listen carefully you can hear the cacophony of sound bringing forth new life.

A group of friends had been invited to spend a Sunday afternoon with John and Madeline’s at their house, an idyllic spot on the outskirts of Errill. The occasion was to celebrate the hermitage which was the culmination of a dream that our dear friend John had harbored for many a year. The thought, but only a second took, completion a little longer tucked away in procrastination’s workshop. We were asked by Brother John to set off on our short journey to the hermitage by foot, individually and at intervals of between five to eight minutes.  A simple request from a brother to his friends before we began our journey to contemplate and later share the thoughts with pen and ink.

Our course was set a journey slightly longer than the ‘Crow flies’ starting from the lane-way until we reached the road. Looking for landmarks along the way that would lead us to the hermitage. I started Walking at a leisurely pace and soon overtook my companions; walking but not talking, lost in the moment, lost in space. I missed the yellow colored cottage were we should have turned right. I stopped to gather my bearings. My purpose was to find the hermitage, but where was it? I knew in which direction it lay, but could not see, my vision obscured by high ridges, my vision obscured by arrogance.

I waited for a couple of minutes to see if anyone was behind me and in the distance I could just about make out Sister Ita following  in confident step for she assumed I knew the way. “I’m sure he said the yellow cottage was just around the bend” I said to her. The bend came and went with no yellow in sight. I was lost, but my pride demanded I take command. I stopped and turned toward my companion “we’ve missed the turn… I’ve missed the turn”.

She just smiled “you’ll find the way” she assured me. We walked on, stopping to catch our breath, stilled by the silence; broken only by the sound of voices echoing in the stillness of nature.

Listening with determined intent for the sounds of our friends voices carrying on the wind, we forced our way through ditch and muck with my size ten thick heeled boots.Through rugged hedges, and over fences we stumbled and fell like drunks without a care in the world. Arriving unscathed and last, cheered on by hearty friends.

I remembered this short journey in a short lifetime in an analytical, analyzing way; all the points covered until they became blunt and blurred, coming to no particular conclusion, only asking the question. Is there meaning in everything we do? And should we look for meaning in the moment? I don’t know. Why can’t we just be, and learn from our experiences through our experiences? I know personally that I’ll never increase my levels of awareness looking for external answers. We all need help, and maybe that’s what we’re here for.

One thing that struck me at the time was the irony of being first on the road to nowhere and ending up being the last ‘the last shall be first and the first shall be last’ is the first thing I thought of on reaching the hermitage. Nobody gets lost they just get mislaid, their journey may take longer according to another’s perception, but then again the journey we take may be the one that you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Mullins © thesourcewritersgroup 25/10/2014

The Path beneath the Haze

The Path Beneath the Haze
 

Off the beaten path I walk

Terrain harsh and unfamiliar

The hard sun casts my shadow long

Truth and courage I remember.

The eyes of the wolf upon me casting;

Judgment with his stare.

Unscathed is my approval

My soul naked and laid bare

Basking in thought I summon regret

Loves lost and times swallowed whole

For life offers no refund

Now, I wait the horizon to soothe my soul.

Brian Mullins

 

Christmas Lights

 

Christmas Lights

It was the day before Christmas Eve, in the year of Our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Eight. Maggie, who was Paddy Donnelly’s wife of twelve years, gave him some money to go and purchase some decorations for the Christmas tree. But before she parted with the money she gave him strict instructions not to buy anything from second-hand shops, cheap markets, or anything made in Hong Kong but above all…not to buy anything from Gerry Stanley.

“I’m giving you three pounds Paddy and I expect some change back as well. I’d go myself but I haven’t the time, as I have to have this house in tiptop condition before my Mother, Phil and that stuck-up wife of his and their three brats come over for Christmas dinner” she paused briefly before continuing “and I won’t get it done with you hanging around”

Paddy wore a solemn look and made to cough before responding as he took the three crisp pound notes from Maggie’s outstretched hand. “I can put up with Phil and Marjorie and those kids to a point, but it’s your Mother that really unnerves me, why she has to poke her nose into everything every time she sets foot in this house is beyond me”

“Paddy! let’s not go there” Maggie replied in her best vexed pose “she only gets to come a couple of times a year so the least you can do is be clean, smart, and be nice to her when she does come, now be gone with you and don’t take all day” as she angrily wiped crumbs from the formica kitchen table.

Paddy hated when Maggie was like this, she was always on tender hooks whenever her sister in-law visited, coupled with the fact that Maggie’s mother thought the world of her daughter in-law ‘My son married a real lady there, and you wouldn’t see Marjorie wearing anything cheap and vulgar’ she was fond of saying, especially in close proximity of Paddy’s earshot. This real lady malarkey nonsense really irked Paddy, as he was sure that his mother in-law, whenever given the chance was quick to fire a shot across her bow at him. She’d never forgiven Maggie for marrying me Paddy thought. Well I’ll show the lot of them, what a real Christmas should be like’ Paddy said to himself as he hopped on the number fifty nine bus into Oldham. Continue reading “Christmas Lights” »