Spare Change

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Normally, I wouldn’t have stopped but today I was feeling too happy, so when I spotted the homeless man sitting against the car park wall, my hand was already going to my pocket.

‘Got any change?’ he asked in crackling, horse voice.

‘Maybe. Sure,’ I added.

I removed my hand and opened my palm. The coins were digging against my fingers, so I moved them and looked closely what I had. Counting out a one pound in the sliver coins, I give them to his out stretched hand. His hand was filthy, his fingernails black with dirt and his skin dark with too sun and not enough washing.

‘Thank you,’ he replied.

I nodded and made to move off as he dropped the coins to the ground in front of him.

‘How old do you think you are?’ he asked suddenly.

I paused. His voice was calm and curious, not mocking or angry.

‘Well…I know how old I am….twenty-nine,’ I answered.

‘No, no, no! A woman should never tell a man her age!’ the homeless man gasped.

‘I don’t mind….’

He shook his head, ‘let me tell you how old you look….twenty-four!’

‘Well, thanks. I’m use to people telling me I’m younger,’ I explained and smiled.

‘Do you remember the sixties?’ he asked.

‘Erm…no….Sorry, but I…’

I started to shuffle away, regretting I’d stopped in the first place.

‘Let me tell you want happened!’ he shouted.

‘I have to be somewhere,’ I spoke.

‘My wife got pregnant,’ he cut in, ignoring me, ‘only I was shooting blanks, so I knew it couldn’t be mine.’

‘Oh…’

‘Shooting blanks, I was!’ he shouted and burst into laughter.

I felt the urge to get away growing. Something wasn’t right about this man and I was feeling uncomfy. My good karma was fading and I reminded myself this was why I didn’t give money to the homeless.

‘I knew it wasn’t mine,’ he ranted, ‘so, I looked and looked and found she was having an affair with her best friend’s husband! The baby was his. So, I left.’

He waved his hands around then leered at me. For the first time I fully took him in. He had black hair, streaked mostly grey that was long and shaggy. He had a short beard that was also grey and his face was wrinkled like a dried fruit, making him twenty years older then he seemed. His dark blue eyes looked worn and heavy, he’d seen too much bad stuff. He was wearing an ancient track suit that might have once been blue but was now holey and dark with age and dirt.

‘Okay. I’m sorry about that, but I really have to go now,’ I said gently.

He moved as if to reach my hand and I stepped back but he was merely shifting around.

‘You know what they named him?’ the homeless man asked.

I shook my head.

‘Hal. Do you know what it means? First seed,’ he snapped.

I pressed my lips together and eyed the exit door, it was only a few steps away and I could make that in a few seconds, especially, if I ran.

‘Hal! They did it to spite me! Are you religious? You don’t look it. But it’s in the Bible that.’

‘I am actually,’ I uttered.

The homeless man didn’t seem to care any more. From under his jacket, he pulled out a white rosary and danged it between his fingers.

I nodded to him.

He began to play with the beads, muttering to himself. Perhaps it was a prayer.

‘Well, bye,’ I said and walked away, what else could I have done?

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Money Tree

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Standing under the first apple tree in the row of twenty at the end of my field, I thought about what my granddad had told me when we had been planting these trees thirty years ago.

‘Money grows on trees, you know. And these trees are very special. They are going to make you lots of money, Abbey.’

He hadn’t been wrong. The trees produced a large amount of sweet apples which were good for eating and cider making. The extra money had always been useful and the harvest had never failed.

Staring up through the branches at slices of sky, I wondered what was going to happen now.

‘I wish you did grow money,’ I said.

The wind gently shook the trees, rustling the green leaves and I breathed in the heavy fragrant scent of spring.

 I shut my eyes and though it was childish, pretended that the trees were answering me.

‘Perhaps, we can’t grow real money. But haven’t we provided you with more?’ the trees whispered to me.

‘And I’m grateful, but now…I’m at a loss. I don’t want to give you up but what else can I do?’ I asked.

The trees seemed to sigh.

Money isn’t a thing that bothers trees; they didn’t value it. Life however is something they need.

‘You could be cut down….’ I mutter and picture this bright meadow gone and replaced by houses.

‘Whatever will be will be,’ the trees tell me, ‘if you have the power to change it then try. Life’s cycle will continue no matter what.’

‘Then, I’ll try and change it…Everything in my power I’ll do and I’ll save you trees!’ I yell.

Birds startle into the sky flapping loudly and the wind shakes the trees as if they are cheering me on. The field becomes quiet again and I know what I must do.

Monies

Copper Cent Coins

Jasper loved money. There was something comforting and reassuring about the feel of coins in his hands. He liked the weight and the coldness which quickly became warm. The sounds the coins made as they clinked together or on to things was music to his ears.

He marvelled at all the different designs there were on the backs of coins from all over the world. He enjoyed watching the British Queen’s face changing through the years, the USA Presidents switching around and special editions for events like the Olympics.

Coins was not were it ended though, Jasper also enjoyed paper notes. He liked the rustle sounds of them, the feel between his fingers and the oily printing smell of them. He hung on to notes that were crisp from the machines, not parting with them till he had no choice.

Jasper’s collection was huge and though it took over his house, he wouldn’t give it up for the world. He had perfectly fitted cabinets and drawers made to protect and store the money. The most valuable coins and notes lived in numerous safes hidden in the walls, floors and ceilings.

Even his job in involved money handling! Jasper would hurry to the bank five times a week and carry out his role as a finical accountant manger. He loved watching money roll in and out of accounts and the stock market changing. Sometimes he would go into the vault and look at what was on display down there.

However, he loved home time when he could return to his collections and study his coins in greater detail.

 

Job

apple, black-and-white, cup

If Sophie was being truly honest with herself, the new job was never something she’d really thought about doing. Now, sitting at the reception desk, she cast her mind back and mapped how she had ended up here.

University had promised so much. The new friends, the new skills, the experience of adulthood and when she had left, she had thought herself walking up to employers and waving her degree in their faces. They’d hire her on the spot!

That though hadn’t happened and in the months after graduating, Sophie recalled how she had felt so lost. Sighing, she let her thoughts linger on those two years when she felt like an outcast. Her friends had all moved away and gotten jobs, cars, some had even married and had babies. She, however had been alone and stuck at home.

Volunteering had been a calling she had often answered. Sophie remembered how she had turned to that again. Finding places and people that needed her help. It had been a delighted feeling but her degree had begun to get dusty. Somehow, she had been offered a job out of the blue from one of those places. Even though it was only in the morning for half the week, it had been welcome money.

Then everything had gone down hill. Her boyfriend broke up with her, the support money she had been receiving was cut and her mum got ill. Sophie felt tears growing, she swept them away and stared hard at the computer screen. Last year, had been bad and she wished she could just erase it from history. She pictured taking a calendar and a black marker pen and just going through and blanking all the months out.

Perhaps, though it wouldn’t really matter. The past was the past and she couldn’t get rid of it. But she could just turn away from it and move on. Sophie smiled at that thought and looked around herself. Today it was quiet in the centre and the heater was blowing hot air on her face. She looked down at the contract of employment she had just sighed and even though she had re-read it a few times, she flipped through the pages again.

On the second page, it clearly outlined her dates and times of employment.

A full time job,  she thought, though I totally didn’t think I was ever going to end up here! I made it somehow and now it’s time to embrace that and start living to the full again. 

Winter View

PHOTO PTOMPT © Lucy Fridkin

From the penthouse apartment, Isabella watched the snow falling. The city below was already covered in white and yet more flakes were coming down. From this window, she could see the large expanse of the river and the other part of the city across it.

Clutching the fleece blanket tighter around her naked body, Isabella felt a wave of relief that she wasn’t stood on a street corner right now. She was warm, safe and well feed for the first time in years. The grimy single apartment she had shared with seven other women a fading memory.

‘Issy?’ a soft man’s voice called from behind her.

She turned her head and took in her savoir, who was standing naked next to the sofa in the large open plan living room.

‘It’s snowing, Gideon,’ she spoke, the English words still sounding foreign in her mouth.

‘Come back to bed, then,’ Gideon said.

Isabella looked out of the window again. Down there somewhere, the women she had called sisters were working. They were selling the only thing they could to pay off their debts for being smuggled into this country. Whilst she was up here, her body now belonging only to one man who had paid her debt and brought her.

‘What is it?’ Gideon asked.

He came to join her and drew her into a hug. Isabella nested into his embrace. Enjoying the familiarity of his cooling skin against her own.

‘I wish I could help my sisters,’ she mumbled into his shoulder.

Gideon stroked Isabella’s blonde hair and cast his dark grey eyes out at the river and city.

‘I wish I could too,’ he said, ‘but you’re the one I chose,’ he added as he put his hands onto her cheeks and raised her head.

Their eyes met, her enchanting bright blue gaze holding his. Isabella put her hands on top of his and gently rubbed the backs of his hands with a finger.

‘I know…Still I want to help,’ she spoke.

Gideon sigh. He dropped his hands from her face then gathered her hands into his,’come back to bed.’

He moved, tugging her gently away.

Isabella with a last look towards the window, let him led her up the glass staircase and into the master bedroom. She didn’t pay any attention as Gideon slipped the blanket from her and settled them both into bed. Her thoughts were far away, back on that street corner again, trying to keep warm whilst catching the eyes of her next customer.

 

(From Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/9-december-2016/ with thanks.

PHOTO PTOMPT © Lucy Fridkin)

Wishing Well

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He threw the coin into the wishing well and didn’t think any more of it, until a week later when a beautiful blonde moved in next door.

 

Just Be

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Looking down at the tarot card in her hand, Moon thought it was too much of a sign. The Queen of Swords was sat upside down in a Gothic style throne and frowning as if she was very disappointed in Moon. The Queen’s long sword pointed upwards in a threatening manner as if it was questioning Moon too.

Setting the card aside on the purple velvet covered circle table, Moon shut her eyes and tried to block everything out. Still though, she could hear the arcade staff setting up for the day, their voices mixing with eager cries of children waiting outside and the sea waves splashing against the wall. She breathed in deeply, focusing on relaxing and opening herself to what the universe was saying.

Letting out a deep sigh, Moon opened her eyes again and looked down. The Queen of Swords was still there. That frown looking deeper then before and the eyes more piercing. Of course, she knew what the card meant. There wasn’t one in the whole deck she did not know. It was just that…She was having an hard time taking in the message.

The sound of the arcade’s doors opening drew her attention. She stood from the small high back chair and took a few steps to the side. Trying to make her skirt and bangles not jangle so much, Moon peeped out from the heavy purple curtains that surrounded her little box and watched people entering. There was only a handful; a few local kids with no where else to go during the summer holidays, grandparents with their grandchild, a tried mother with her trio and two very elderly women.

Moon let the curtain fall back. She was not due to open yet, even though she was desperate for the money but she knew none of those people would come to her. Stepping back and sitting down again, she looked at the Queen of Swords then picked the card up.

‘I shall try to be more myself,’ she whispered, ‘though being less like any female in my family is hard. It’s difficult to find your own path when someone’s already cut it out for you. Looking at all the different angles might help though.’

Moon placed the card back with the others, shuffled the deck and placed them into the small wooden box again. Placing that in her bag and picking it up, she left the tent. The curtains that had been muffling the sounds and smells of the outside world settled behind her and Moon walked away.

Going out of the arcades bright red painted doors, she turned and walked alongside the sea wall. Breathing in the fresh, salty air, she took a few minutes to think deeply about things. The Queen of Swords was firmly fixed in her mind’s eye and Moon could almost hear the Queen’s voice telling her to listen to her inner self.

‘What do I want?’ Moon said aloud without meaning too.

A nearby seagull squawked at her and Moon turned to give the creature a dirty look. The bird took flight, flapping large white and grey wings across the sea’s choppy surface. Moon rested her arms on the wall and looked out. The morning sky seemed full of promises and it was beckoning anyone willing enough to travel towards the horizon a chance to take one of those promises.

How difficult can it be to reach out and take what I want?  Moon thought.

She looked back at the arcade and beyond it the wooden pier. She could just make a few people all ready walking down towards the funfair and the theater at the end. Turning back, Moon watched the waves knocking against the wall. The water seemed to be asking her to let it in and in her mind, Moon let it in.

 

Dear Diary #23

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow is my birthday and for the first time ever I’m spending it alone! Okay well, not so alone because I have the three dogs, two cats, the rabbits, the hens, chicks and the two baby lambs. It didn’t dawn until this morning when I saw the date, realized it was my birthday tomorrow and thought I’ve made no plans!

I guess though the more older you get the more birthday’s lose their excitement. When I was little birthdays and Christmas were always big and the only times of the year when you could really ask for a lot of stuff and get most of it. The parties seemed so much fun, even if they were simple and easily forgettable.

Getting older having my own money meant  could just buy whatever I wanted when I felt like it. No more waiting for my birthday and Christmas to role around! I could have it now with a click of the PC mouse and scan of a card. But I miss those special presents. The ones you hadn’t even thought to ask about but your parents and friends knew you’d love. I do kinda wish to re-live those times again.

I guess I should figure out what to do, see if anyone is around. I can’t be alone for my birthday! I don’t think anybody should be.

 

***

(Side note; with it actually being my birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d have a theme of ‘birthday’ this month. Just thought I’d announce that. Also, planning to get the first short story collection out by the end of this month! Thanks for reading and please like and share. Hayley)

The Crying

England, Terraced House, Stone Facade, Masonry, Facade

Bradley paused and listened again. The faint crying of a baby brushed his ears once more. He looked over at the wall next to him, with its slightly peeling and faded floral paper and old family photographs. The noise seemed to be coming from behind there. He wondered if someone had finally moved in next door. He tried to remember if he had seen any signs this morning or before when he came back from work.

The crying stopped and Bradley, with a shrug, unmuted the TV and started eating his pasta ready meal. The news was full of the latest political scandals, murders and weather. Bradley hurried through his food, trying not to notice the gloopy, bland taste. He turned the TV channels over and turned on his game console.

The crying came again, muted only slightly by the single brick wall between the houses. The wailing noise rose and fall and Bradly couldn’t help but think about a baby in a cot seeking comfort. Shaking his head, he got back to his game, the sound of gun fire blocking out any more noise.

He went to bed far too late. The creaking of the stairs in what had once been his grandfather’s house, but was now his, seemed to accuse him of laziness. Getting ready for bed, Bradley just knew he was going to be grumpy for work in the morning. He flipped back the covers and stopped. The baby was crying again, only it seemed to be directly behind the bedroom wall now. Bradley walked over and put his hand on the wall then his ear. There was most defiantly a baby living next door to him now.

Groaning, he got into bed and put a pillow over his head. Luckily, he was far too tried and drifted off quickly.

His phone alarm clock broke into Bradley’s dreamless sleep. He reached out and turned it off before rolling over and snuggling back down. He awoke suddenly minutes later and hurried out of the bed, nearly tripping in his desperation. Flying through his morning routine and skipping breakfast, he dashed out of the house and into his ancient red Mini.

Driving, he had no other thoughts other than to get to work on time and he did barely make it. Dropping into his chair, he dragged a few breaths of stale, coffee scent air then cracked open the window next to his desk. He spent a few moments straighten his black tie, white crinkled shirt and trying to flatten down his mop of blond hair.

‘Morning, Brad.’

He brought his hand down and nodded at Mark, the only real friend he had in this Hell hole.

‘Sleep okay? Looks like you didn’t,’ Mark chucked.

‘I think someone moved in next door,’ Bradley began.

‘Oh yeah?’

‘They have a baby,’ he finished.

‘Damn. Unlucky. When my neighbour had her brat it kept me up all night too. You’re going to have to invest in some ear plugs, my friend,’ Mark stated and patted Bradley on the shoulder.

Mark walked to his own desk, which was behind Bradley’s and began shuffling papers around. Bradley nodded and looked down at his clutched desk. Too much work with left over from yesterday and he knew today’s would have to wait.

‘Hey, you coming to the pub tonight?’ Mark called out.

‘Maybe,’ Bradley replied over his shoulder then threw himself into his job.

 

Work done for the day, Bradley couldn’t talk himself out of going to the pub even though he didn’t feel like it. He sank into a plush sofa that felt too hard and still stank of cig smoke though the ban had been years ago. He nursed his pint and thought about all the trouble he was going to be in on Monday. He couldn’t risk getting fired; there were too many outstanding bills of his grandfather’s left to pay. Someone brought another round just as he had finished his first and he couldn’t refuse a free drink.

It was late by the time he left, the sky was dark with clouds and no stars or moon peered down. Bradley got into his car, sure he was over the limit as he put the key in. He drove back straight enough, with the street lamps flashing by like a count down. A light rain started falling as he pulled up outside his house.

Getting out, he wobbled up to the terrace house on the end and let himself in. He stumbled in the dark upstairs and into his bedroom. There he threw himself on the bed, grabbing pillows and blankets to wrap himself in. He was fast sleep when the crying began.

In the morning, his head hurt so much, it took him a while to clock the sounds of crying coming from the wall. He sat in the living room, sipping too hot coffee and regretting last night. He put a hand to his head and thought about the fact he could have gone into work and tried to catch up on everything. The baby screamed.

‘Shut up!’ he yelled and almost threw his coffee at the wall.

Instead, he splashed it down and stormed to the front door. Opening it, he walked out and around to the gate of the next house, he went through and was at the front door before he realised that the front bay windows were boarded up and so was the front door. A for sale sign stuck up from the front fence and the street was as silent as ever.

Unclenching his hands, Bradley looked about confused then quickly left. Going through his house, he went out the back door and looked over the wired fence that divided the two gardens. He could clearly see the boarded up back door and windows of the house next door. Wondering what was going on, he went back in then out onto the street once more. Maybe a neighbour had had a baby and the noise was carrying a lot?

Undecided, he went back in and spent the day being too hungover to do much else. As evening came through, he heard the crying of a baby once more. Getting up, he went to the living room wall and really listened. The noise was just too loud and there could be no doubt it was coming from next door.

Maybe, squatters got in somehow? He thought.

Grabbing the phone he dialled the police and told them what he now believed.

‘I’ll send someone around as soon as I can,’ the too cheery female voice on the other end replied.

Bradley hung up and turned the TV on to block out the noise.

The knocking at his door came hours later and it was now dark outside. Bradley let the two male officers in and told them about the baby crying. Together they went to the front then the back of the house, looking for away in. The wooden board was nailed down too well and no corner had come away at any of the doors or windows. There was no access inside.

‘Maybe it’s an animal they left behind?’ one of the officers suggested.

‘I don’t know,’ Bradley replied, ‘I’ve been here four years now and before that it must have been empty for about six years or so…would a pet survive that long?’

‘No,’ the other policemen put in, ‘it could be a wild animal that has got stuck though. We’ll get the RSPCA and come back tomorrow.’

‘It just doesn’t sound like an animal though…’ Bradley muttered as the cops left.

He went back inside and got into bed. As soon as his head touched the pillow the crying started again. Growling, Bradley put the other pillow over his face and tried to ignore it.

Finally the morning arrived. He awoke, sore eyed and tried as if he’d had another night drinking. The sound of hammering and a drill buzzed through his head. Scrambling up, he threw on some clothes and rushed outside. A police car, an RSPCA van and a locksmith’s van were parked outside.

He looked across and saw a burly man removing the board over the front door. Two different police men and a female animal inspector were standing next to the gate, watching him work. Bradley eager though he was to join them, decided to stay where he was and just watch. Soon the locksmith had gotten in and they all entered the building.

It seemed to take forever, but at last the animal inspecting came out. She was gulping down air and looking very pale. She walked down the path and back to her van, where she rested against it as if trying not to throw up.

‘What did you find? Was it an animal?’ Bradley called out.

She looked at him, wiped her hair back then got into the van. Starting the engine, she drove off, leaving Bradley more puzzled. He went and lent on the wall to try and peer into the now open front door, but he couldn’t see anything. For a few minutes, he debated jumping over and going inside to see for himself, but then the locksmith and cops appeared.

‘What was it?’ he asked.

The cops looked at him, whilst the locksmith hurried off as if desperate to be far away.

‘I was the one that phoned about the baby crying last night,’ Bradley explained.

‘Oh…did you know the people who lived here?’ one of the officers asked.

‘No. I never saw them and I never asked my grandad about it,’ Bradley answered.

‘All right then, I’ll go and call it in,’ the second policeman said.

‘Wait, wait! What was it?’ Bradley shouted.

The two cops eyed each other, then the second walked away as the first turned to him, ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this,’ he said a low voice, ‘but we found the mummified remains of three babies…..Now, are you sure you know nothing about the people who lived here?’

Bradley shook his head, too shocked to open his mouth.

Eleutheromania

Woman, Girl, Freedom, Happy, Sun, Silhouette, Sunrise

Eleutheromania: A manic earning for freedom – Collins Dictionary

The impulse to move on was getting too strong again. James looked at the sleeping form of his girlfriend then got quietly out of bed. He padded bare foot to the small balcony of her apartment which looked out across Manchester city centre.

Breathing in the polluted air, James noticed the roads and pavements were already busy with people heading to work. They were dressed in winter clothes, which seemed odd for the middle of spring, but the forecast had stated there was a cold front coming. To James it actually felt more like an autumn day with the chilly wind and grey sky.

He went back inside and put his running clothes on. Creeping out of the apartment, he felt slightly better as he reached the hallway. Once outside on the street, he felt even better. He smiled, filled his lungs with exhaust fume and cooking fast food tasting air then began his run.

The wind whipped around him as if racing him, but in the wrong direction. James held out his arms to embrace it, feeling his urge for freedom getting satisfied. Letting his body do all the work, he fell into thinking as shop fronts and apartment blocks clustered around him. He wished he was in the countryside again or even back in Sweden or Canada, where he could be with just green fields or woodlands.

The urge to pack up and leave swelled. That little voice that lived in the back of his head told him to get on the next plane out of here. He almost stopped and turned around. Instead with a glance up at the sky, he forced himself onwards. For now, this would have to do until he had enough money again.