AMANDA’S STORY

This is a story from Gillian.

AMANDA’S  STORY

My name is Amanda Pendleton-Fosdyke.   There were so many Amandas at my school that I was nicknamed Fozzy.   Daddy calls me that in a jokey sort of way, but Mummy was very correct and always called me Amanda.   Mummy was the Hon Lavinia Morpeth before she married, and to be honest, I don’t think she ever forgot that.   Daddy didn’t have a title, but he is enormously rich, being something obscure in the City.    He is expecting a title any day now, as he will soon retire.     David and he are very close.   That’s Cameron to you.

Mummy always expected me to marry a suitable young man, and breed some more aristocratic children.   She was always pushing gormless young men at me, but I put them off quite easily when I started talking about my passion.

I was never a horsey child, though I was forced to learn to ride, but I much preferred sneaking off to the various pubs and clubs and hangouts in London where real funky music was played.   I discovered I had a rip-roaring voice that could shake the rafters of any pub, so I became the lead singer in the group we formed.  ‘We’ being the friends I made as soon as I left school and could get away.   I was never A level material, so Mummy enrolled me in a sort of finishing college near us in Bayswater when I left school at 16.    She thought I should shake off what she called ‘my hoydenish ways’ and make some ‘nice’ friends.   Who, after all, might have eligible brothers.

Well, that didn’t work out.   She was horrified when one of my more disreputable-looking boyfriends arrived in his psychedelic old banger, which had been souped up to make the most glorious noise.

When I was 18 I left home, and went to live with Jake, who shared a scruffy house in a highly unfashionable part of east London with 4 other men and their girl friends.   Life was glorious, unhygienic and totally liberating.   Jake played the sax in the band, I sang, and Ivan and Jerry played the drums and guitar, and any other instrument they could get their hands on.   Those two were Polish or something, with unpronounceable names, but answered quite happily to Ivan and Jerry.

All this fell apart when I became pregnant.   No one had any money for an abortion, and somehow that didn’t seem an option to me, so I kept singing, kept going, until I was so large the men got worried I would drop the baby on the stage.

I couldn’t imagine bringing up a baby in that rather squalid place, and when my labour pains suddenly started, decided to place myself at the mercy of the parental home.   I packed up what little I possessed in a Tesco carrier bag, and managed to rake up the taxi fare home.    The taxi driver took one look at me and drove so fast we made it in record time.    The housekeeper who answered the door said ‘Miss Amanda!’ in a horrified voice, and pulled me in.

‘It’s an ambulance you need right now, never mind what’s been going on’ she said and dialled 999.

The ambulance arrived just in time, and baby Laura was delivered quite quickly.   I was taken off to the nearest Maternity Unit, as it was discovered I had never seen a Doctor for the whole of my pregnancy.

Daddy was tickled pink at the thought of being a Grandfather, but Mummy was quite horrified, and I think would have liked to have got rid of me as well as the baby.

Mummy was given 20 years for Laura’s murder, and is now at Styal, hundreds of miles away.   I haven’t forgiven her for what she did to that little defenceless baby, nor for saying ‘No black baby is ever going to be part of our family’.

Oh, didn’t I say?   Jake was Jamaican.

© Gillian Peall 2017

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ABI AND THE OUTLAWS

A story from Gillian, ‘This is my ‘take’ on modernising a very old story.   I’ve tried to keep the spirit and atmosphere of the original.’

ABI AND THE OUTLAWS

Everything was silent in the scorching afternoon sun.   Even the dust hardly stirred.    The group of masked men stood outside the ranch door, hands on rifles, a swagger in their stillness.   This place was dripping money.   They’d get what they wanted here, no problem.   One of the men thumped the door, twice, with the butt of his rifle, then stepped back into the group.

Nab flung down his poker hand, and hitching his trousers over his belly, staggered to the door.   He flung it open, but when he saw the men his eyes grew hard and angry.

“There’s nothing here for the likes of you!” he shouted, “I don’t want nothing to do with riff raff like you!   Get off my land!”

He slammed shut the door, rage flushing his flabby, over-indulged face.  A couple of ranch hands vanished quickly as Nab stamped back to the frowsty room and the poker game with his cronies.

An hour or so later, Abi drove up to the back of the ranch house, and parked the truck by the door. As soon as they saw her get out, the two hands came nervously towards her from the outhouses.

“That gang was here, Ma’am” said the taller one.   “Asking for food.   But he sent them packing”.

“He’s done it this time, Ma’am” interrupted the shorter one.   “Turned them down flat.   Give them nothing”.

“I’m sure it was Dave’s gang,” whispered the taller one.   “Dave won’t stand for that sort of rudeness, and he’ll come back and we’ll all be shot!   What’ll we do, Ma’am?”

Abi thought for a moment, twirling her red-gold hair in her fingers.   Then she said briskly “load the truck with flour, oil, a couple of haunches of beef, and a sack of dates, and then park it over by the barn.   When it’s dark I’ll take it up to them.   I reckon they’ll be over by Gibbet Gulch.”

As darkness began to fall, Abi peered quietly into the room where Nab and his pals were still drunkenly playing poker.   Shutting the door, and wrapping her coat round her, she walked over to the barn, and starting the truck, drove quietly away from the ranch.  As she drove up the rough track along the gully she looked anxiously for signs of the gang.   Would they still be here?   As the narrow gully opened out at the top she thankfully saw the glow of their fire beneath the bluff.   She parked the truck a little way away and turned off the engine.   It was very quiet, and cooler now the sun had gone down..

Walking along the track, she chewed a fingernail nervously, then straightened up, and holding her head high, strode into the camp.   She soon spotted Dave, sitting on a rock.   His air of authority was palpable, and she stood respectfully in front of him.

“Don’t take any notice of my husband, Sir” she said.   “He’s a fool.   I’ve brought your provisions.   Don’t do anything rash.   You are going to be a great leader, and you don’t want blood on your hands.”

Dave looked at this young woman in front of him.   Surely much younger than that fat lout they had seen.   Very desirable.   Soft skin, despite the heat, neat little waist, and oh! that hair!

Dave called a couple of his men over.   They moved promptly to his side.   “Unload the lady’s truck, and put the stuff safely away” he commanded.   The two men ran to where Abi had parked it.

“I’ll see you back” he said gently, and walked with her to the truck.  Lightly, he placed a hand on her arm.

“Any trouble, you come over.   You know where we are”.   He turned abruptly towards the camp.

Abi drove back to the ranch, and went indoors.

“Where have you been?” growled Nab.

“Doing what you should have done” replied Abi briskly, “looking after strangers stuck out here, miles from anywhere”.

When Nab discovered what Abi had done he flung his poker hand onto the floor, and shouted he’d thrash the living daylights out of her.  Knowing his temper, his buddies melted away into the night.   Abi stood her ground.   Nab got up, and towering over her, began to unbuckle his belt.    As he did so, he suddenly clutched his throat, and his face turning a dull puce colour, he doubled over and crashed to the ground.   He lay there without moving.

Abi screamed, and the two ranch hands rushed in.   The two men and Abi stared at Nab’s body.

“I reckon he’s a goner”, said the taller one, feeling for his pulse and peering at his eyes.

They hauled Nab into the bedroom.   They’d see to him in the morning.

“Deserved all he got”, muttered the stocky one, as they shut the door.

Later in the week, when all the decencies had been observed, Abi drove back up to Gibbet Gulch.   It was getting dark by now, and Abi was anxious.   Would they still be there?   She stopped the truck at the end of the track, and peered towards the bluff where the gang had been before.   There was no sign of the fire, and all was quiet.

If there was no fire, then they would have gone: a fire was essential to keep predators away in this wilderness.   She turned back towards the truck, and climbed in, but as she did so, she saw the flicker of a fire further along the bluff and under a stand of cottonwood trees.   Was that the camp?   She looked towards it, undecided.   Should she go over there?    What if it was a different gang?   Abi decided to stay in the car, but drive it over the rough ground towards the fire.   Turning the engine off some yards away, she sat and watched.  A figure appeared from behind the trees.

“I knew you’d come,” Dave said, as he helped her down.

This is my ‘take’ on modernising a very old story.   I’ve tried to keep the spirit and atmosphere of the original.

© Gillian Peall 2017

FOUND DROWNED

A story from Gillian.

*****

FOUND DROWNED

William carefully dropped his stick into the river, and then ran excitedly across the footbridge to watch for it coming out the other side.   Pooh Sticks was his favourite game at the moment.    Joyce shivered as she stood waiting patiently for William to tire of his game.

William suddenly ran back.

“Granny” he asked, “why is that lady in the water?”

“What lady?” she answered.

“The lady with the hair’ replied William ‘I don’t think she can swim’

He ran back to the bridge, his face screwed up with worry.

Joyce went to look.   ‘Oh my God’ she breathed, ‘come over here, William, and we’ll phone for an ambulance’

‘Will it have blue lights?’ asked William, jumping up and down.

‘I expect so’ said Joyce as she keyed in 999., and with her voice shaking reported the body in the river.

Within minutes a police car drew up, an ambulance following.  A couple of policemen walked over to the river bank and looked at the body of the woman.   She was floating face up, her hair streaming out in the fast flowing water, while her legs had caught in the branches of an overhanging willow tree.  Her face was putty-coloured, bloated, and distorted.  She was naked.  The larger of the policemen hastily pulled out his radio and called for the necessary back up.   The smaller policeman approached Joyce.

‘Could you tell me madam, what happened?    Joyce looked meaningfully at William, who was gazing at the police car with longing eyes.

‘Come and sit in the car, young man, while I talk to your mother’.

‘That’s not my mummy, that’s my granny.   Mummy’s at work.   Can I sit at the front?

Joyce told the policeman briefly what had happened, but said she was anxious to get William away from the scene.   He understood,  and she pulled a reluctant William out of the police car and started for home.

‘Why was that lady in the river?

‘Was she hurt?’

‘Why didn’t she swim?  Could she breathe?  Why didn’t she have any clothes on?’

Joyce managed to field these questions with the promise of an ice cream on the way home, but feared that the subject would weigh on William’s mind,

But he seemed to lose interest when his ice cream materialised.   Joyce told her daughter what had happened; ‘I do hope it doesn’t prey on his mind’, she said, ‘it was such a frightening sight.’

Donna was horrified but promised to watch William.

Joyce went home and shut the door.   The woman’s hair floating in the water filled her mind, and the horror of the bloated face and staring eyes seemed to look at her from every corner of the room.   She thought William had not noticed the disfigurement, but Joyce felt she would never forget it.

The days passed and Joyce became more and more agitated.   She could not settle to anything, she made herself a meal and then couldn’t eat it.    She wandered from room to room, trying to dismiss the bloated face and streaming hair from her head. Every day she walked down to the footbridge to see the place where the body had been.   It looked peaceful now, but to Joyce the place held both a terror and a fascination.   She became obsessed with the woman, cutting out every reference to the suicide.  She stopped going to the shops and her evening classes:  She saw the swollen face in the shop windows, and her flowing hair on the girls in the streets.

******

 William too seemed obsessed with the sight of the drowned woman.  He kept asking Donna the same questions over and over again, and although she tried to answer them so that a 5 year-old could understand, nothing seemed to satisfy him.   He started wetting his bed and then climbing into Donna’s bed. Donna herself, short of sleep and irritable, worried about William, was in no mood for any sort of intercourse with her partner Mike.     With her child-care arrangements totally trashed, as Joyce was utterly unable to look after William, Donna took unpaid leave from her job.    Mike was livid.

‘For God’s sake pull yourself together, woman.   William will get over it, children do.   Your mother’s not incapable; she needs to get hold of herself.  William will have to go there.   Just get back to work!   How do you think I can keep the three of us on my salary?    It was your fault we had William, if you hadn’t forgotten to take your pill, he wouldn’t be here’.

Donna felt as though he had hit her in her stomach.    She burst into tears as Mike went out and slammed the front door.   It wasn’t the first time his anger had erupted, and Donna shook as her safe little world began to crack around her.

The next morning, as Donna gave William his toast soldiers, and poured the tea out for herself and Mike, William threw his toast on the floor.

‘Don’t want soldiers’ he said and got down off his chair.   Mike erupted

‘Pick that toast up, William, do you hear me? Now.  At once.’

William looked mutinously at Mike.  ‘No’ he said.   At that Mike stood up, grabbed the toast, pushed it into William’s mouth, and then slapped him hard. William let out a loud howl.   Donna picked him up in her arms and shrieked at Mike ‘Get out!   You have no right to do that to a child!   Get out!’

Mike swore at her and slammed out of the door.   Donna heard his car drive off furiously spitting gravel as it went.

Later that morning, after she had dropped a still-tearful William off at Pre-School , and having had a quiet word with his teacher, she went to a Locksmith who promised to come up and change the locks on all the doors straight away.   At home, she dug out the biggest suitcase from under the stairs, packed as much of Mike’s clothes as she could squeeze in, and left it in the front porch.   She then phoned her best friend Debs, who normally collected William from Pre-School together with her own little boy and kept him until Donna could pick him up on her way home from work.   Debs came straight back with the two boys, and stayed with Donna until they heard Mike come back from work.

Donna shook as she heard Mike try his key in the door, and then ‘What the hell…?’  as he noticed the suitcase.     But they heard nothing more until he drove off again.

‘I think he’s got the message’ whispered Debs.

Donna nodded.   And started to cry

*****

To Joyce, the collapse of Donna’s relationship with Mike finally tipped her mind off the fragile edge of her reality and she now identified with the drowned woman who had taken her own life.   She just wasn’t good enough.   There was no point in anything any more.   Joyce watched the river as it ran deep after the autumn rains.   Slowly she walked to the bank, and slid down into the water.   The current was far stronger than she had imagined, and she lost her footing immediately.

As she was tumbled along under the water, her hair streamed out behind her.   But she knew nothing of that.

© Gillian Peall 2017

Light and Dark Trilogy

This is a trilogy by Gillian Peall

*****

LIGHT OF DAY

They call it cold,
the light of day,
harsh, unfeeling,
all-revealing.
Prying in corners,
opening up secrets,
disapproving.

The morning light
shines on sequins
and cheap satin
turning them into rags
by a pumpkin.

Flat noon sun,
leaching colours
draining depths
short shadows
or grey nothingness.

Evening sun, holding hope
of trysts, meetings, love.
Shadows linger, golden rays,
the depths of life
reflected in shady places.

Twilight hides, distorts,
distances bewilder,
lights flicker, shine
steadily, daylight fades,
the shades of night appear.

*****

NIGHT WALK

Listen, for the wind will pass you by
And the rustle of the leaves,
And the cracks that the twigs make
As they break beneath your foot,
Will set your ears quivering,
Was the sound you heard  another?

Wait, for the night sounds
That creep round your head,
laughing as they move from side to side
confusing, and then staying silent
You wonder what you heard?

Stand still, and silent, hold your breath
What was that soft sound you heard
From behind, where the trees close in
And the undergrowth grows thick?
The dark shape that seems not there
Is gone, but unknown eyes remain.

*****

DARK FEAR

The day grew dark
and fear came out of the corners
dark angles where street lights never reached
shadows sliding across the waste ground
turning daytime normality
into concealment for evil.

Those walking unaccompanied,
fuelled by adrenaline
hurrying, seeking security,
their footsteps echoing on the pavements
advertising their aloneness.

© Gillian Peall 2017

WAR HEROES?

This is a response by Gillian to our recent notes on ” Creative Non-Fiction”. She says, ‘It is based on truth, all the family ‘instances’ are real events, though by no means all the same family.   Truth as fiction?   Fictional truth?  Very creative non-fiction?   But definitely not Fake truth!’

WAR HEROES?

My grandma hated war.
It took her handsome young husband
Leaving her with two children under five,
And very little money
It spat him out from the Somme,
Blinded and suffering from nightmares
When he would shout “Over the Top”
For King and bloody country”
And lie shaking tangled in the sheets
Underneath the eiderdown
Where grandma would hold him in her arms
Until he slept.
Grandma kept the family by making beautiful dresses
For beautiful ladies
Who had handed out white feathers.

My mother hated war
It had taken her handsome young husband
And left him for dead
Somewhere along the Burmese Railway,
A bag of bones, bayoneted.
She worked in the Accounts Department
At the Bakery, until she retired
But she never spoke to her cousin again
After he bought a Honda car.

I hated war with a deep dark hatred
After Tom came back from the Gulf War
Sitting like a zombie and weak as a kitten
Until he threw himself off the top of the multi-storey car park.

“Michael”, I said to my son
“I will personally tie you to the bed post, and cut off your foot
If you so much as think of enlisting”.
But he laughed and said
“Its OK Mum, I don’t want to be shot at.”
And went and got a job at Tesco.

But his best friend has joined the Cheshires
And will likely go to Afghanistan.
His mother is in a terrible state.

What can you say?

© Gillian Peall 2017

This is ‘Why’

This Gillian’s reply to ‘Why’.
I protest because I want to make things better.
I protest because I want to build
I protest because I am not a yes-woman

And think the status quo is the best.

have learned, I am educated
And I know that things do not have to be like this.
I want to preserve our planet
To keep it cooler, to make it
A good place for all.   Including bacteria.

I am too old to march or camp
Which is why I help finance those
Charities which can, and do help others.
Others who have not even one tenth of what I have.

No system will ever work perfectly
Whether socialism, capitalism, communism
Dictatorship, democracy or oligarchy.

I want to be remembered as one
who fought for those less fortunate,
The refugees, the starving, the ill, the wounded
And those desolate from countries torn apart by war.
Wars using weapons manufactured here.

And if that means protesting against
What exists now
Then I will protest.

© Gillian Peall

New Year… new idea 34 – cheese

This is Gillian’s response to Lois’s prompt 34 – cheese…

ANNIE AND THE CHEESE

Annie piled the dirty plates from their dinner onto a tray and took it into the kitchen.   Just where she wanted to place the tray on the table was a large green carrier bag.   She pushed it to one side and put the heavy tray down.

‘Fred’ she shouted, ‘what’s this carrier bag doing on the table?’

‘What?’ grunted Fred, who was busy figuring out how Wigan were going to win their League game.

‘Fred, I said.  This carrier bag, what’s it doing here?’

‘Oh, that ‘ud be Jack, ‘e said ‘e’d drop a few of his first earlies in’, and Fred returned to the problem of Wigan.

Annie looked at the bag.   Didn’t look much like Jack’s usual scruffy Aldi bag.   It was a good strong paper carrier bag, in shiny green, with gold writing on it, and tassled handles.   She peered inside.

‘Fred!’ she shouted again, and only Annie could make two syllables of his name.   Fred got up.   He recognised the danger signals.

‘It’s not spuds, it’s full of cheese.   Packets of cheese.!

‘Must be meant for someone else’ said Fred, peering in the bag.   ‘Best go round and ask next door, she knows everything, nosy old baggage’. And he retired to his newspaper.

Annie did the washing up, and then went next door, across the road, and to the neighbour the other side, though she didn’t think that poor old soul would be likely to have a bag of cheese delivered.   No one knew anything.

Annie came back and looked at the bag again.   Definitely foreign, she could read ‘France’ at the bottom of what was obviously an address.   She emptied the bag and put the cheese in the larder, and tucked the bag behind the flour bin.   She needed to think about this.

A couple of days later a postcard arrived, with a picture of white horses on the front, galloping across wide open countryside.   On the back was a foreign stamp, and a message

‘Hope you like the cheese, I know how much you enjoy it.   With love, Trev’

Annie sat down as her legs gave way.   Her brother Trevor had died last year, in a nasty accident at work.

Fred looked at the card and stated the obvious  ‘Trev’s dead.  We went to ‘is funeral, down at St. Michael’s.   Vicar gave a lovely talk.’

‘Can’t be him, then’   Annie closed the subject.    ‘You want custard with your apple pie today?’

Annie turned the matter over and over in her mind.   Trev, her older brother had always wanted to go to France, to a place he called the Camargue, where he longed to see the wild white horses, and the pink flamingos.    The horses on the post card looked as if they might be wild.   And the writing was definitely his.

Later on, Annie, never one to waste anything, divided the cheese into three piles.   She was amazed at all the different sorts, and puzzled over some of the names on the packets.    She gave each of her two girls one of the piles, in old Aldi carrier bags, telling them she had won a bit on the Lottery, and was treating them.    The one she kept one for herself included a lovely big bit of Brie, her favourite.  ( But she did pop a bit of plain-looking cheese to the old lady next door.)

Shelley, the younger daughter,  with twin toddlers and an out-of-work husband, accepted the cheese thankfully, and asked no questions.

Sandra, who was  bright and taught French at the local Comprehensive knew for a fact her mother had never put a penny on the Lottery, regarding it as daylight robbery.   She had also accompanied her mother to the Undertakers, where Trevor lay in a coffin, the back of his head thankfully hidden, and both she and Annie had cried over the undoubted body of her Uncle.

On her next visit, she found the carrier bag behind the flour bin, and wrote down the address and phone number of the delicatessen in Arles.

One telephone call later, and Sandra had been assured that ‘Certainment, L’Epicerie de Pierre Charretier et Fils was in Arles, and their Fromages et Charcuterie were of the finest.   The sacs they provided for their customers were undeniably of strong paper and green with gold writing.   Madame would like some of their cheese?

Madame would indeed like some of their cheese, and promised to visit their establishment when she came to Arles.

Sandra, Shelley and Annie enjoyed the cheese over the next few weeks.    Even Fred granted that ‘that St. Paul stuff went nicely with a bit o’ pickle.’

Annie kept the green and gold carrier bag and the postcard underneath her nighties in the bottom drawer.   She wasn’t one for prayers, but she thanked Trev in her head, and there the matter rested.

But she did hope he had found the white horses.

© Gillian Peall