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normal Public Fiction Showcase

  • diggoryvenn
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17 Oct 2014 16:16 #67094 by diggoryvenn
Public Fiction Showcase was created by diggoryvenn

Harry was in the pool at the local leisure centre, enjoying a relaxing swim. There was a commotion at the far end of the pool, and the attendants, walking quickly along each side, ordered everyone to get out of the water and return to the changing rooms. As he did so, Harry saw one of the staff in the water, alongside the motionless figure of a woman in a red and black patterned swimsuit. He knew that costume, with its decorative red bow at the neckline. It was Melanie. She must have been swimming that morning, though amongst the noise and movement of a fairly busy pool, Harry hadn’t noticed her.

Melanie had drowned. Back in the changing rooms, staff told everyone to wait for the arrival of the police. Two constables came and took people’s names and addresses and after a quick initial enquiry, told each swimmer to come to the police station the next day to make a statement. When Harry told the police that he knew Melanie, they kept him there for a little longer and asked him some further questions. As he hadn’t even known she was going to be there, and hadn’t noticed her in the water, Harry was only able to offer limited information.

The police enquiries revealed no information about anyone seen in the pool with Melanie and it seemed that her death had been a tragic accident. At the inquest, there was no evidence to suggest any other cause, and the coroner brought in a verdict of accidental death. The only additional information that came before the inquest was that she was pregnant.

Harry and Melanie had been more than just friends. Not long before, they’d had a brief affair lasting just a few weeks. She’d ended it and had gone back to her long term boyfriend; not because she loved him, but because she was frightened of him. Tim was a control freak and a violent man, though he was not known to the police. Melanie had tried to break away with Harry, but in the end she couldn’t.

Harry wondered if the baby had been his. He’d fallen for Melanie in a big way. Their lovemaking had been wonderful, like a Beethoven symphony performed by the London Philharmonic. Now she was dead, he would never know about the baby.

But there was more that he didn’t know. Tim had found out about the baby, and had questioned Melanie until she told him about Harry, and admitted that the baby was Harry’s. Tim had coldly plotted revenge on them both. It was Tim who had killed Melanie; it was no accident.

He’d lingered in the small learners’ pool, pretending to be a non-swimmer. When some kids came in and started shouting and bombing, as they often did, the attendants moved across to tell them off. The commotion gave Tim his chance. He had taken hold of the bow on her costume, and had swum down to the bottom, pulling her with him. Because he was an unusually strong man, with the ability to hold his breath for much longer than the average person, he’d been able to accomplish the crime without leaving any bruises or other marks that might indicate violence rather than an accident. He’d got out of the pool before the body was discovered, and out of the building before the police came. No-one saw him, and he’d left no evidence of his crime.

All Harry knew of Tim, from a few things that Melanie had said, was that he was an unpleasant character. But when he received a note through his letterbox asking him to meet Tim, he felt that he must go. Perhaps there was something important that he could learn. Tim’s message told Harry to bring the note as identification, as they did not know each other. They met in the poorly-lit car park of the Blue Boar, a pub which Harry had never visited before. Once they had introduced themselves, Tim told him the full story. He seemed very emotional and said that he wanted to confess, and asked Harry to go to the police with him.

Harry was completely taken aback by Tim’s contrite manner. The feeling of satisfaction at Tim’s confession, and the prospect of justice for poor Melanie, was all he could think of. Those thoughts formed the second-last emotion of his life. His very last sensation was terror, coupled with an excruciating pain, as Tim slipped a knife between his ribs.

Tim removed the note from Harry’s pocket. There would be no evidence of this murder, either.

Be kind; tell the truth; do your best.

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  • Jiminy
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  • Now sadly gone , but left a legacy of wit
18 Oct 2014 10:11 #67117 by Jiminy
Replied by Jiminy on topic Public Fiction Showcase
Well done Digger, first away from the starting block!! Now it's my turn

Bill Hartman lay alone in a side ward at Bradford Infirmary. The sides of his bed had been raised to prevent a fall, and palliative treatment meant he suffered no pain. But he could see from the expression on the nurse’s face that he hadn’t much longer to live. Ah well he thought, my life has had its ups and downs but on the whole it hasn’t been too bad, so I suppose I should be grateful for seeing my sixtieth birthday. As Bill lay calmly in the last bed he would occupy on Earth memories came crowding back into his mind.

Although my parents were poor they contrived to keep me well fed and clothed. At primary school I was top of the class, but on moving to secondary school my pass marks became fewer until eventually I left school at sixteen with no qualifications. However, feeling that any job was better than no job at all I found a place as a gopher in a wholesale grocery warehouse: sweeping the floor, stacking crates of potatoes, anything that was needed. Sadly though, I was dismissed for dropping a crate of vinegar bottles and found myself queuing at the local job-centre

After this set-back I decided to pull myself together and make a new start in my life. So after some thought I decided I would like to become a TV repair man. So with this thought foremost in mind I applied for a skillcentre course. Then, after a successful interview, I joined my fellow students at Leeds skillcentre. And although I knew the course would be demanding I resolved to do my utmost to succeed. My fellow-students came from many walks of life, including a failed undergraduate and a Ugandan shop-keeper. But most importantly, our tutor’s excellent teaching methods ensured that most of his students would be successful

Following a high pass-rate it was time for an interview with the careers official who told me that although there were no TV technician posts available he could recommend a career as a TV and radio components salesman which would involve some technical expertise. So, feeling my future was secure I duly arrived at Hi-Tek Components Limited, and after a brief interview I was given a position as technical representative for Yorkshire and Lancashire

It was at a wedding party that I first met Pandora. Her brother had married into a moneyed family and the wine was flowing freely. While dancing a slow foxtrot I felt her bosom pressing close and sensed her vibrant sexuality. After this meeting we soon found ourselves a snug little apartment in Rawdon where we held wild parties with Pandora’s university friends. But after a while the glamour began to fade and I felt I was dreaming the impossible dream. There was no rancour when we parted, just a feeling of je ne sais quoi

My job took me to many places, including the Metropole Hotel in Leeds where I met Tony Marchment in the saloon bar. He had recently arrived from overseas where he made a living doing whatever came his way. But after a while it became obvious that he was a Jack the lad who seized any opportunity to make a living by fair means or foul. So when he offered to make me his accomplice of course I refused. However, when business became slack due to fierce competition from a well-established company I agreed to join him in his dodgy enterprises.

Tony specialised in what he called distraction techniques. In other words I would engage the shopkeeper in conversation while he made off with the goods. This might be a TV, radio or whatever could be sold on the underground market. This worked well for a while until one day we messed up, leaving me to face the music while Tony did a runner. I was hauled before the magistrate who committed me to Leeds Assizes where the judge sent me down for a three year stretch in Armley jail. But eventually when my sentence was commuted to two years for good behaviour I breathed a sigh of relief and resolved to make a new start in life. There’s not much more to tell except to say that I gave up all thoughts of marriage and having kids, but I suppose I’m happy in my own way.

Bill groaned as the nurse came to change his bedpan. His life hadn’t been much to shout about but at least he’d had his dignity. Then later, during the night, he had a strange feeling of floating in the air, then gradually he lost all sense of being as his life ended peacefully. Almost immediately there came a sensation of being enclosed in a dark damp place. Then suddenly there came a feeling of passing through a narrow tunnel into a blaze of light. It was the beginning of a whole new life with all its possibilities for joy or sorrow. Eileen smiled contentedly as her new baby snuggled close to her breast.

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  • Dobra
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19 Oct 2014 10:16 - 19 Oct 2014 10:19 #67196 by Dobra
Replied by Dobra on topic Public Fiction Showcase
La Boule, 1935

La plage is packed with holiday makers making the most of the cloudless sky and 30 degrees. Queues for snacks, and packed restaurants boded well for the townsfolk. Trouble was, the changing huts were busy, and some people used to be changing for fifteen minutes or more, despite the frustrated hammering on the doors! Corsets take a long time to unhook n’est pas?

Suzette was a pretty blond girl of sixteen and her younger troublesome brother, Anton only eight years old. They lived in La Boule, and Suzette decided to take little brother to the beach for a swim as it was stifling indoors. She packed two beach towels, light sandals and sun oil. Anton wanted some sandwiches, so she made some. All neatly packed in their wicker suitcase.

It was only a five minute walk to the beach, and with the sunshine, Suzette looked a picture in her pink floral dress. Anton was not looking too good in his grey flannel shorts, school socks and aertex shirt. They climbed down the steps on to the hot sand, then looked for a vacant changing hut. After looking for ten minutes, Anton spotted one where an old lady was leaving, so dived in yelling to Suzette to come vitement.

In the hut, Anton took off all his clothes, and Suzette held up his wool bathing costume for him to step into. She adjusted the shoulder straps, and he look very smart in his royale bleu number. She then slipped off her dress, and proceeded to take off the rest, with her back to Anton. Unfortunately, she dropped the top on the floor, bent over towards him, and Anton was goggled-eyed at his sister’s assets. A toute alors! There is a first time for everything, and Anton was curious……

Unfortunately for Anton, when they went back to a hut after swimming, Suzette insisted on going in first on her own. Merde! They wandered back home, only to find Suzettes boyfriend Patrick waiting at the gate. She panicked in case her parents were in, so she sent him off to wait at the corner. Anton and Suzette went inside, and found their parents dressed in their Sunday best. Maman announced they were off to enrol papa in the French Army.

They departed, so Suzanne sent Anton into the garden with his books and a bottle of squash to play. She then dashed to the front door to wave to Patrick – all clear – he could come in. They went into the sitting room and immediately kissed passionately, as though they were nearly devouring each other. No time to spare, they went upstairs to Suzanne’s room, where the kissing and feeling got even more torrid. Patrick gently lowered the girl onto her bed, and the scrambling to undress reached fever pitch. Mon Dieu, the girl is willing thought Patrick.

They became almost blind with lust as their grappling took on more and more angles of passion. Not the first time for Suzette, but certainly not the last….. Outside, the heat was sapping Anton, and began to spit with rain, so he packed up his bits and pieces and wandered into the kitchen for another drink of water. He heard giggling upstairs, so crept quietly up the stairs. The door was just ajar to her room, and what he saw made his eyes bulge with shock. My sister is doing exercises with her boyfriend on the bed.

Unfortunately Anton touched the door, which made it creak. The pair on the bed, stopped dead, and clothing replaced at high speed. Anton pushed the door open and just stood there. Patrick, while pulling his trousers up, beckoned the boy to him. He pulled a FF5 note out of his back pocket. “Pour vous Anton, you have seen nothing – with no strings attached – merci beaucoup”. The boy ran into his room and thought about the lovely sight of his sister, naked in the bathing hut. So that was what it was all about. Wait ‘til I grow up.



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  • Caroll
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21 Oct 2014 11:06 #67307 by Caroll
Replied by Caroll on topic Public Fiction Showcase
We set each other challenges. The Challenge on this occasion was.......

’Address book, a silk ribbon, broken glass’

He feared it was a mistake, but could not help himself. Quietly driven from within, he slowly slid his hand under the bed, pleating the grey felt of dust that then snowed tiny motes into the shard of sunlight reflecting from the oak floor. His fingers stumbled on the box he knew was there, that he steadfastly tried to ignore but to which he intermittently fell victim.

He exhaled, tripping gently the motes as they had prepared to settle again, then gripped the roughness of the wood and slowly started to withdraw it, wondering if he might, even yet, find the strength to push it back out of sight. This box held his heart. This box would give him untold pain but untold joy. This box was all he had left.

Briefly, he relaxed his arm; his last chance to avoid the soul-splitting dichotomy of the golden burst of exquisite joy and the suffocating blackness of utter joylessness. He sensed it through his fingertips, urgently straining to be released, these emotions laid momentarily to rest but ever-present in their desire to be savoured again and wreak their havoc on him. The painfulness of the anticipated joy was overwhelming; the pleasure of the inevitable pain a salve that exonerated him from all blame.

It slid from under the bed as if under its own propulsion and not through his desire. He had no control over it once it was in motion, inexorable in its inevitability. His heart was here, beating its echo to the heart within his chest, finding its expression in everlasting regularity. Did he push it back, momentarily, or was that his imagination wishing he had the strength? No, of course not; there was no going back now, and he let his hands press tightly on the sides and lift it into the light, settle amongst the softness of the goose down duvet and sit silently daring him to lift the dull grey clasp.

The burst of scent was all too familiar as he raised the lid, the broken glass of the dark green perfume bottle redolent still with the enigmatic smell of her. He bent forward, slowly and deliberately and inhaled the essence of his love. Painful joy shot through him, lungs filled with remembered passion and muscles tensed to hold her still. His eyes were closed but saw with clarity undiminished by loss. Frozen in time for ever his consuming desire, but his breath escaped once more, his eyes opened and his lungs emptied their delight back into the box. The pattern of the days, the weeks and the months were deeply ingrained and with no need of thought his fingers stroked the glass, deliberately running his fingertip along the sharp edge to leak crimson beads along the thinnest of lines on his skin, then gently laid it alongside the box on its crimson cloth dotted with the desiccated spots from previous bleedings.

The crackling cache of letters, tied with a crimson silk ribbon and speckled with undefined agonies, teardrops and fear, blood stains and ecstasy, called feather-light to him. Pages crumpled by time and repeated reading spilled their story, as if he needed telling, but read them he did, every word familiar but new in its effect on his emotions; her love for him and his for her pumping into the chambers of his already bursting heart. He wept, as he knew he would, as he needed to, the driving force that brought him to this place that was the only stimulus for his release.

Years later, years that might in fact have been but minutes, he kissed the memories and thus added to the traces of his own humanity on the surface of each missive. Retied, they found their familiar home back in the box, the perfume bottle nestling across them once more. As always, he paused, reluctant to close the box and return to the reality of his life without her. He knelt by the bed and bent his head briefly to touch the box in salutation, golden hair spread momentarily across the darkened grain, and then slowly pushed it back out of his sight.

Later that evening, still drained but strangely calm, he opened his address book at the page where she had lived since first they met and stayed inscribed forever. Next to her was the entry for her parents and he dialled the number that, in truth, he knew without the need of prompting, but he needed to feel his finger tracing the numbers she had written in her neat italic script.

“Hello, it’s me” was all he had to say before the love and warmth and comfort he craved enveloped him across the miles.

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  • Dobra
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25 Oct 2014 18:19 #67520 by Dobra
Replied by Dobra on topic Public Fiction Showcase
A Hastily Scribbled Note, a Key and a Haunting Piece of Music

“Has someone left this key here on the bar?” Henri yelled across the room of Le Grand Cocquerel. Most of the men barely glanced up, and continued reading their papers or gambling a few sous away. Vast jugs of vin ordinaire sat on each plain pine table, many of them half empty. Fading pictures of de Gaulle, and Mitterand clad the grubby walls, and a well used dart board hung precariously from a rusty nail.

Most of the men in the bar were local farmers and foresters and many were habitués of the bar, living in and around the remote village in the Haute-Savoie. Visitors were few, apart from walkers and hikers; some were lost, of course. But the mystery of the key bugged Henri, obviously the customers had no interest or knowledge…… Anyway, he went out the back to tidy some paperwork and for a break from the moaners sitting in the bar.

Place de Gaulle was a typical square in a village in these parts, a small hotel with a decent restaurant, the Hotel de Ville with its French Tricolour and EU flags lazily fluttering in the warm breeze, and a few grand houses. Two dogs snoozing in the shade, and an old widow woman sitting under a tree completed the scene.

Down the hill, the village church of St Georges was host to a wedding. Jeanne and Jean Houge were emerging, and posing for Ernst the local photographer. Rice was being hurled by the small party, and then when the posing and giggling finished, the group slowly made their way up the hill to the Hotel de Ville for a reception in a private room. Speeches, toasts and good luck from all guests there, and from those absent. The best man then handed Jean a piece of paper with some scribble on it. Both grinned.

At the end of the reception, the bride and groom strolled across Place de Gaulle in the sun to the bar and walked in. Suddenly, all hell was let loose. Henri leapt across the bar, waving a key (so he did know something) and handed it to Jeanne, a symbol of a house to come. Then a CD was put on, with some pleasant but haunting music recently composed by Jeanne’s father which played in the background. Then Jean’s father and M le Maire walked into the bar and asked the assembled group to raise their glasses to the young couple, and it was then the father handed the pair a large envelope – and it contained details of a plot of land in the village on which they could build their house. Jeanne wept a little, and Jean couldn’t stop shaking hands with everyone in range.

So, from us, the readers – bon chance to Jean et Jeanette.

Merci beacoup mes amis.

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  • terry
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29 Oct 2014 21:30 #67797 by terry
Replied by terry on topic Public Fiction Showcase

Got a minute to spare, or just at a loose end
Then have a quick read of this rhyme
It’s all about squeggers and what we can offer
So read on if you’ve got the time.

If you’re feeling left out and have something to say
Then join us and say what you feel
Don’t sit on your hands or just pace up and down
Come and join a good crowd that are real.

If issues upset you don’t shout in the wind
Or bite your tongue till it is sore
There’s a page called ‘obnoxious’ I think you will find
Can accommodate all that and more.

Maybe saying hello and good morning is all
That you feel is enough for the day
We won’t mind or complain if you do not stay on
Just pop back when you can - that’s okay.

There are games you can play if you feel like some fun
Some are easy and some will frustrate
But if you get stuck then just simply move on
The frustration will quickly abate.

Give Fast Fiction a go with it’s theme words to use
In a story that’s written each week
The discipline needed put’s you to the test
But it isn’t perfection we seek

A limerick or two maybe right up your street
Or a clerihew written with style
Maybe a Haiku or two fit’s the bill
Or a poem that could make us smile.

Come in and meet Andy our mentor in chief
The man who will open the door
And welcome you in to our friendly small group
With a smile and a wave that’s for sure.

There’s so much to say but I really must stop
Or this rhyme will go on for to long
So if you think maybe you should have a go
Come on in, we will do you no wrong
And meet all the gang who will say how de do
And put you at ease with a wave
Have your say, have a laugh, or debate your concerns
Take that step tick that box and press ‘SAVE’.

Thank you.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Rafe

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  • Dobra
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07 Nov 2014 09:34 #68364 by Dobra
Replied by Dobra on topic Public Fiction Showcase
The 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall coming on the 9th November reminded me of this shortie I scribbled.

Look Back in Anger

Greta peered out of her sitting room window wondering what the noise was. Below was a melee of police, everyone shouting, and a few armed soldiers looking serious. She and her son Hans looked at each other, and realised what was going on. Mein Gott!

Labourers had dragged barbed wire across the small square, and secured it to poles to hold it up. Greta and Hans realised what was going on, and almost fell down the stairs from their 4th floor apartment. They rushed into the square, and looked with disbelief. The police were sealing off West Berlin from the east. A Stasi man moved towards them and asked them to keep clear. Greta screamed at him, “Mein mann is trapped over there”.

But Helmut was working in the western part of the city under licence from the Stasi, copying documents of electronics designs under his cover as a supervisor in Technische Verkauf GmbH. Life had been quite good, as his salary from the firm, was topped up by the Stasi every time he passed them some documentation.

Suddenly, he realised he was trapped in the west. The local police would not let him go back, but his darling Greta and son Hans were also trapped and not free. Alles kaputt.

After much thought, Helmut could only resign himself to never returning to East Berlin and to his family. There were even rumours circulating that the authorities were going to build a wall as a permanent structure. Over the other side of the wire, the reverberations for Greta were equally severe – fatherless Hans, and her beloved Helmut gone for ever.

As time rolled on, Hans grew up, and eventually went to a technische schule and became an engineer like his father. Greta struggled with a lonely life, and certainly missed a warm cuddle from a devoted husband. She picked herself up gradually, and with a new job began to look forward again.

For Helmut, the only thing he had in common with his new life was the German language. As an Ossie, life was far more difficult, no loving family or family fun. The whole kultur was different. He gradually started to look at the wire in a negative way, and despite the big advantages of the West, began to look back in anger at the life he had left where alles in ordnung made life easier. Two years after the wire was put up, Helmut was found lying dead on the rail track in west Berlin – his final solution.


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  • diggoryvenn
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04 Jan 2015 12:01 #72833 by diggoryvenn
Replied by diggoryvenn on topic Public Fiction Showcase

October 1917, Passchendaele; the landscape was a bloody, muddy morass. Frank Packham’s thoughts went back to 1914 and how he and all his mates had rushed to join up, to teach the Kaiser a lesson. Now it was all so different. Seconds later, a fusillade of bullets ended Frank’s war, and his life.

March 1945, North West Germany; the landscape was thick forest. Every tree, every bush might be concealing the enemy, and Bert Struthers, cut off from his platoon, was alone. Bert was a brave man; only two weeks earlier he had rescued five comrades pinned down by enemy fire. Bert did not know it, but he had been awarded the Military Medal for that action. But now he was scared, and he wanted to run. He demurred, for he knew that to run away would mark him as a coward; but the feeling of terror was strong. As he stepped out from behind his tree, a sniper’s bullet ended Bert’s war, and his life.

November 2013, in the Cotswold village of Moscombe; it was Remembrance Sunday. Rev. Harry Thompson conducted the service, and reminded the congregation that next year would see the centenary of World War One.

George Day, chairman of the Moscombe branch of the Royal British Legion, laid a poppy wreath at the War Memorial. Janice Struthers, village shopkeeper and local poppy seller, looked on with pride, and laid a small wreath of her own. Her grandfather had been killed in the First World War and her father in the Second. The memorial recorded their sacrifice: Edmund Struthers, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 1917, and Herbert Struthers, MM, Royal Norfolk Regiment, 1945. Janice had never married and the shop was her life, along with her work for the RBL.

Joan Rogers, head teacher at the village school, looked on. Joan was the only one who noticed a slim young man, standing a little apart when the congregation moved outside for the two minutes’ silence, as if he were not quite one of them. Although he was formally dressed in a brown suit and tie, there was something odd about his clothes; as if, perhaps, he had been kitted out by one of those retro shops that sold vintage outfits.

After the wreaths had been laid they all went back into church to finish the service. When they came out, Janice exclaimed angrily “Look at that!” The wreaths had been turned around, to face the stone and the list of names. “It’ll be those kids from that new estate!” she grumbled. “I’ll report them to the police when I get home.” Joan was not so ready to accuse anyone without evidence, but she did wonder about that young man; she’d observed that he hadn’t gone back into church with everyone else.

Over the next couple of weeks there were several strange occurrences in the village – trivial in themselves, but seemingly connected. The victims of these pranks had all been at the remembrance service. First, the vicar lost his keys and couldn’t get into the vestry. An hour later, he found them in his blazer pocket. Harry was puzzled, as he felt sure that he’d checked that pocket at least twice. It was as if someone had taken the keys and returned them later.

It was a similar situation concerning George Day’s medals. He had always polished them to a brilliant shine whenever they were on display, particularly on Remembrance Sunday. When he got back after the service he took them off and left them on the sideboard during lunch, but when he went to put them away in their soft wrapper they were as tarnished as if they’d had no attention for twenty years. Like the vicar, George ended up mystified; when he took them out next morning to polish them they were shining again, as if there had never been any problem.

Janice Struthers, too, was affected. First, a light in the shop was switched on, when she was certain she’d switched it off. Then, her signed autobiography of Sir Robert Brown was thrown off her bookcase onto the floor. It was put back by morning, but upside down. Janice had long admired Brown, especially when he had opposed the legislation passed to pardon those soldiers “shot at dawn” in World War One. Even though Brown accepted that their actions had been down to shell-shock rather than cowardice, he’d said in Parliament that the pardon would dishonour those who had fought on, and Janice, with two war heroes in her family, admired that stance immensely.

Later that week, the young man from the remembrance service came into the shop. Janice wouldn’t have known him, but Joan was in the shop and recognised him. At least she thought it was the same man, but maybe not; he looked very similar but there was something not quite right. He was dressed in modern casual clothes, but it was more than that. The young man told them that his name was Tony Wilson, and he was searching for information about Frank Packham, a family member. Frank had enlisted in 1914 aged 17, and had died in action, but Tony had no more information about him.

Tony’s great-grandmother was Frank’s sister Nellie. Tony had recently become interested in genealogy and had had a lot of information about Nellie and her six siblings, with the sole exception of Frank. All that family folklore could tell him about Frank was that he had been killed in the war; nothing else. Tony had come to Moscombe because the family had been living there at the time of the 1911 census and he had hoped to find Frank’s name on the war memorial there – but no.

Janice listened to this story attentively; with her knowledge of military matters she knew that the absence of a memorial, combined with family silence, often meant a dark secret. “I’m afraid I can’t help you, young man” she said, and turned to serve another customer. Joan stayed in the shop until Tony and the other customer had left. She was curious about Janice’s dismissive attitude. Joan asked Janice outright; they were close friends and she had no inhibitions about doing so.

“It’s simple” said Janice “the obvious explanation is that his ancestor was a coward and was shot at dawn. I’m not going to help him find that out; when he does he will want the name put on our war memorial”. She put heavy emphasis on the word our. “Not next to my Dad and my Grandad, no, never!”

Joan was thoughtful; then she said “You know, don’t you? You’re not just speculating, you know that he was executed!” Janice admitted it. Her father had told her, before he went to war.

Meanwhile, Tony had gone to the Golden Cross for lunch, and had got into conversation with some locals. He asked them the inevitable question – did they know anything about Frank? One of them did; his tongue loosened by the beer, he told the story. “Yes lad,” said the old chap “my Grandad was his mate and they went to war together. Frank suffered from shell-shock and ran away, and they shot him for a coward. My father told me - and he told me, too, that I must never tell anyone what I know. I’ve kept true to that, but you’re his relative and you deserve to know the truth.”

The strange happenings were the talk of the village. People were beginning to ascribe them to a mischievous ghost, and were eagerly anticipating its next bit of naughtiness. But then things got more serious. Janice found Brown’s book torn to shreds as she went to bed. As she slept, a figure entered her bedroom. It was a young soldier, his eyes covered by a strip of cloth around his head and, in contrast to his muddy uniform, a white handkerchief was roughly pinned to his chest. It was blood-stained, and bore five small holes.

She turned her face away, and tried to sleep, but was continually drawn back to the figure. Each time it was still there, but said nothing. Then, several hours later, it spoke.

“Please do right by me, Janice” the figure said; and vanished.

Later the same night, Joan too was visited by the same ghost; she recognised it as the young man in the old-fashioned suit at the church.

“Please help Janice to put things right, Joan” the figure said; and was gone.

Next morning, the two ladies conferred. Joan tried to persuade Janice that it was her opposition to Tony Wilson’s quest that was causing all the trouble, but she was adamant. She wouldn’t go back on her principles.

The following night, another ghost came to Janice’s room. It was her father, and he told her of his terror in the moments before he died.

“I was about to run, Jan, when Jerry got me” he said. “But for that bullet I’d have been branded a coward. People who’ve never been on a battlefield talk glibly about courage and cowardice. But if you’ve been under fire, you know there’s not so much difference between them; you just act by instinct at the time. Young Frank, he wasn’t to blame. He was just sickened by all the killing and maiming”.

Now Janice knew what she had to do. Tony Wilson had been to see George Day with the story he’d heard from the old man in the pub. When George rang Janice to tell her that he was putting forward Frank’s name for a pardon, she surprised him by offering her support. By January, Frank’s name was on the war memorial and it would be read out at the service in November.

Frank’s ghost was satisfied; but it had one last bit of fun. In Janice’s stockroom, a box of outdated tins of soup had languished for ages at the back of the top shelf, just out of her reach. Next morning, the cardboard box, neatly cut up, was in the recycling bin outside the shop, and the tins were in the rubbish bin.

Next to them was a ragged, mud-stained khaki uniform; and with it a blood-stained handkerchief.

Be kind; tell the truth; do your best.

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  • Caroll
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14 Apr 2015 22:16 #90451 by Caroll
Replied by Caroll on topic Public Fiction Showcase

Dawn comes very slowly. It isn’t the sudden popping up of the sun and an instant transformation from night into day; maybe in the tropics somewhere, but not here, not in England on the Grand Union Canal.

I had woken very early and crept out of bed, not wishing to disturb Mike. I pulled a jumper over my head and went through to the galley area and quietly made a brew, peering through the cracks in the little ill-fitting curtains while the kettle boiled at the very faint streaks of light slowly appearing. With hands round the mug for warmth against a chill that often pervades so early in the day, even in the sort of heavenly week we were enjoying, I sat on one of the seats in the little area at the back of our narrow boat and absorbed the magic of pre-dawn.

It was very silent, or so I thought at first, but I quickly became aware of gentle lappings on the side of the boat and the odd mysterious plop. Time stood still and I found myself breathing slowly, relaxing into the nothingness until, like the Piper at the gates of dawn, the first bird sent its message to all the others and the dawn chorus began. Unless you have been in a silent isolated place and experienced what I was listening to, it is hard to imagine how joyously loud and life-affirming such a simple thing as waking birdlife can be. Enchanted, I listened, saddened only by the fact I realised how few birdsongs I could identify.

The wisps of light were expanding, fingering through the navy clouds that were, themselves, showing just the faintest change of colour at their base, a rosiness announcing the sun was waking too. Yet this as yet invisible sun was sending warmth ahead of its light and the air around me thickened into opacity, cool air being greeted by the coming day. Droplets of moisture clung to me, hung in the air all around me until a slight stirring of the air sent them in gently moving drifts across the surface of the canal to swirl like smoke from a bonfire through the trees alongside.

My world too hung in suspension, the last grip of night challenged by the increasing lightening of the skies and the stirrings all around, poised ready to face the day. A duck had swum unseen alongside our boat and greeted its mate so loudly, I jumped and spilt thankfully cooled tea down myself. Its mate quacked back with vigour and gave chase. I smiled as they sped across the bow of the boat, seemingly walking on water like latter-day saints. I love ducks; they always amused me, having apparently caught God in a happy carefree mood during the Creation, for what other explanation could there be for such amusing creatures?

Almost at once, I became aware of many other species, night-time hunters scurrying into holes in the banks or through the undergrowth for the safety of their homes before day fully broke; others emerging, hungry, looking for their first meal of the day. A fox slunk from under the hump back bridge near which we had moored for the night and disappeared immediately and, shortly after, a family of rabbits felt emboldened to emerge to nibble on the towpath. The light was stronger, though still no sun, and I could make out the cowslips I had admired the night before, a rare enough sight these days, proud yellow bugles clustered on tall stems while gentler, paler sister primroses clung to the safety of the ground close by.

Then suddenly, yes suddenly, there really was a single moment when it changed after all, the mist was there one minute and in the next had gone just as a first ray of sunlight pierced the bridge's gloom and shone straight into my face in greeting for one brief unforgettable moment. No summer solstice at Stonehenge could eclipse my wonder at having been in the right place at the right time. In a flash, it had gone, as if an illusion, and the sun rose above the bridge and flooded my world. Content, way more than content, I stood and stretched and looked forward to another day just messing about on the water

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