Punch (Part 2)

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Chester arrived home close to ten and parked on the small driveway. He turned off the engine and got out of the van. Stretching his aching limbs, he noticed how cold the autumn nights were now getting.

He walked to the bungalow’s front door and unlocked it. He turned the hall light on and put the numbers into the alarm’s panel to turn the security system off. He was half tempted to leave everything in the van but it had broken into a few times and it wasn’t worth the risk. He had been lucky every time that the thieves hadn’t taken the puppets or the show equipment, clearly they didn’t know the value of things.

Chester unpacked. He put things into the no longer used dinning room. By the time he had done a few trips and was on the last box, he was so tried he could feel it in his legs. Making sure everything was locked up, he went into the living room and sank onto the sofa.

Sprawling out, he told himself he should get up to bed but he found his body was too heavy to move.

Quietness and darkness pressed upon Chester. He could hear the wind picking up outside and rain tapping on the window. The pressure on his ears and head was too much, so he put the TV on. He channel flicked until he found the news. He also put on the lights before getting back on the sofa.

Deciding he would go to bed as soon as the news finished, he caught up on the reports he had missed. Then the weather forecast came on.

A knocking noise came over tomorrow’s weather report.

Cheater dragged himself up and staggered to the front door. Who’d be calling so late? he wondered.

He looked through the spy hole, saw no one but still cracked open the door. There was nothing there. A gust of wind dragged a few rain drops onto his face and Chester felt a chill across his skin.

‘Kids messing around again! You stay away! Leave an old man be!’ Chester shouted.

He slammed the door, locked things again and went back to the sofa. Wide awake now, he huffed at the TV and crossed his arms tightly over his chest.

Knock Knock.

Chester looked up then around. That sound hadn’t come from the front door but from the back one.

‘Blast those kids!’

Chester got up and stormed into the kitchen. He turned the light, unlocked the door and flung it open. He screamed into the night, long and loud. As his voice faded, he dragged in deep breaths and looked around. There was nothing on the step or in the garden, just the wind shaking the bare branches of the dead apple tree and the back gate.

He prowled around, looking for an access point and signs of someone being here. The gate was lock and like the fences too tall to climb over. No lights came from his neighbours’ houses and as he paused the only other sound was a cat meowing.

Chester went back inside. He rubbed his chest, feeling pain burning him. He turned everything off and got into bed. He was too tried to play games and the cold was clearly starting to effect him.

He got ready for bed but Chester heard the knocking once more. This time because he was closer, he realised it was coming from the dining room. He got up and went to investigate.

Glancing at the show stuff, he heard the knocking again. It was coming from one of the cases! How could that be? He opened each case till he came to the last one.

‘Hello, Punch,’ he whispered, ‘were you knocking?’

Chester picked the puppet up. There was the soft clicking of wood on wood and the rustle of clothes. Chester slipped the puppet onto his right hand like a well fitted glove. Then he clapped Punch’s hands together and said in that high pitched, nasal voice, ‘well done, you’ve found me!’

Punch laughed a long haha.

Sighing, Chester closed the case and went back to his bedroom with the puppet still on his hand.

‘I’m sorry things have come to this, Mr. Punch,’ Chester said, ‘I would be passing you on to my son now just like my father and grandfather did. But times have changed and there’s no longer a place for you and Judy in this technology world now.’

Chester slipped Punch off his hand and arranged the puppet on the bedside table. He finished getting ready and got into bed. Leaving the lamp on as he did every night, Chester began to doze off.

‘Such a shame, that,’ Punch’s voice whispered.

Chester open an eye and looked at the puppet who was strangely lit in the glow of the lamp. There was an eeriness to the painted features, a wicked twist to the red painted lips and an evil glint in those blue eyes.

‘Yes, it is,’ Chester replied.

‘What you going to do about it?’

‘I’m sorry?’

There was a clicking noise then a drumming wood on wood sound as Punch swung his legs against the bedside table. The puppet’s hands gripped the edge and the head turned fully towards Chester.

‘What,’ Punch hissed, ‘are you going to do?’

‘I…don’t know…’ Chester trailed.

‘So, I’m locked in a box forever?’ Punch snapped.

‘Well, no. I’d get you out sometimes. Maybe leave you around the house for company. We can still have our conversations….and on Halloween we can scare the children together! Just like we always do,’ Chester suggested.

Punch scoffed and began climbing down the bedside table.

Chester sat up but stayed huddled in the bedding. He watched as the puppet reached the floor then began clambering up the bed by using fist fulls of duvet to do so.

‘What is going on here?’ Chester muttered, ‘is this a dream? You can’t talk without me.’

Punch swung himself up onto the bed and sat in Chester’s lap like an elf on Santa’s knee.

‘This isn’t a dream,’ Punch squeaked, ‘I’ve always been able to talk and move without a hand up my back side! You just never choose to notice until now….And ain’t that always the way? The master needs help from his puppet. Bah!’

Chester felt lost for words, he struggled to deal with his whirl of thoughts. He shut his eyes and decided this was a bad dream. He was sad at the loss of his show and his mind was trying to get him to come up with ideas to save it.

‘I’m too tried and too old for this!’ Chester shouted.

He pulled the bedding up and waved it so that the little puppet went flying through the air. Chester buried himself under the duvet, muttering about nightmares and forcing himself into actual sleep.

Punch had let out a startled cry at being thrown about. Luckily, he had managed to grab some of a blanket and use it to slide down to the floor with. Now seated, he looked up at his ‘master’ and decided something had to be done.

‘I won’t be locked away forever!’

Wooden feet tapped on the floor and Chester listened as his door was opened and sounds like someone grunted. The footsteps carried on towards the dining room and there were noises of something moving about and a high pitched voice swearing.

‘Go to sleep, go to sleep,’ Chester uttered, ‘this is all a dream. Punch hasn’t come to life! What a crazy idea!’

The sounds carried on and Chester fell asleep. That was until something slapped Chester across the face.

‘What the-?’ Chester roared as he shot out of bed.

‘Haha!’ Punch laughed.

Chester looked and saw the puppet with his wood slap-stick in-between his hands.

‘What are you doing with that?’ Chester yelled.

Punched giggled and brought the slap-stick down onto Chester’s face again. Chester raised his arms and felt the stick hitting there instead.

‘Give me that!’ Chester snapped and tried to grip the stick.

Punch danced out of the way and began waving the slap-stick around trying to hit any part of Chester he could.

Cheater shouted and cried, he tossed around in the bed, trying to catch the puppet. Punch was laughing his head off but then his wooded foot slipped on the duvet and he tumbled to the floor.

‘Right!’ Chester said and made to jump off the bed after him.

The bedding had twisted around him and as Chester struggled to free himself, he tumbled from the bed and banged into the bedside table. The lamp went flying and the bulb smashed on the floor, sending the bedroom into darkness.

Chester, sprawled across the floor, felt a shocking, shooting pain in his chest and arms. He gasped desperately, unable to breath and felt dizzy.

‘Do you give up?’ Punch’s voice’s sounded from above him.

Chester tried to move his head but the pain was too much and he could only groan.

‘I can’t hear you!’ Punch yelled.

‘No,’ Chester croaked.

‘You sure?’

Chester mumbled something into the floor and then despite the pain coursing through him he reached out and fumbled for the puppet.

There was a clicking of wood, a muffled laugh then Chester felt the slap-stick on his back.

He roared in pain and tried to move but found the pain in his chest too much. Tears came to his eyes, ‘stop, stop stop!’ he cried.

Nothing but laughter came back to him and more of the slap-stick which hit him repeatedly.

Red then black filled Chester’s vision. The pain grew too intense for him to handle anymore and then a last thing came to him, a voice in his ear whispering, ‘that’s the way to do it!’

Punch (Part 1)

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It was Chester’s last fete. No one was interested in Punch and Judy shows anymore. They had grown scary and not politically correct. Soon, he imagined, that everything would be offensive and no one would be able to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing and being put in jail.

Packing the puppets away, Chester knew he would keep them all. He would sell everything else- the red tent, the Italian style back drops and the small van he transported around in. He was in constant need of money and the puppets would have sold for a fair bit but he couldn’t part with them.

He put the doctor, clown and constable in one case. In the second went the crocodile, the dog with his string of sausages and the skeleton. The third was for the baby, Judy and Punch and his whacking stick. The four case, bigger then the others, which he hadn’t opened for this show contained the lesser used puppets of; the hangman, the devil, the ghost, the lawyer and the beadle.

Chester placed Judy then the baby inside. Finally, he picked up Punch. Feeling the weigh in his hands and studying the puppet, Chester felt the deep connection he had always had to this character.

Punch was wooden like the rest of the puppets and dressed traditional in a jester suit of red and yellow trimmed with a matching cone hat complete with pompom at the end. He had yellow painted stockings, red and shoes. His face was hand painted with a long hooked nose which was bright red end, wide teeth flashing grin, red lipstick lips, red circle cheeks, staring blue eyes and just the hint of flock grey hair coming out from under the hat.

Chester slide his hand inside the puppet and brought him to life with simple movements. Whispering words in Punch’s squeaky, high pitched voice, Chester felt like he was saying a final farewell to what had been his life since he could first remember.

The shows had been his grandfather then his father’s trade and naturally Chester had followed them. The puppets, who had been repaired and repainted over the years had belong to his grandfather. It was hard to get good looking traditional puppets like this now, collectors went crazy over them.

Sliding Punch off his hand, Chester placed the puppet in the case. He closed the lid and wondered if he would ever get the puppets out to perform again.

He took the cases to his grey van then drove back to pack up the rest of his show. As he did so, he noticed some of other stalls packing away too. It had been a good crowed for the autumn harvest festival in this farmer’s field and the weather had held too.

The smell of pies, cakes, cheeses and burgers had filled the air all afternoon. Children had ran about laughing, holding balloons, candy floss and over sized stuffed toys won from the game stands. The music and noises of the fairground rides in the field next door had become background to everything else.

Chester drove his van back to the car park, made sure it was locked tight and walked back to the field. He brought a few last minute things – a pie, some cheese and a fancy bottle of fruity wine. He walked passed the craft and snack stalls into the tea tent.

They were still just about serving. He got a cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake. Sitting at one of the empty tables – of which there were many- he people watched and listened to the chatting.

The creeping feeling of being alone came across him. He was an old man now in his mid-sixties. His wife was dead, his only son moved to Sweden for work then stayed due to marriage and two children. Chester had meet his grandchildren once or twice. He didn’t have a good relationship with son or his wife, there was too much bitterness there. Nor was Chester a fan of being called ‘farfar’ the Swedish for grandpa.

He kept his distance, just like he had done with other family members. They had frowned at his career choices, said he was too close to his puppets, thought he was odd and the black sheep of the family. He was best written out and forgotten about.

Chester sighed and finished eating and drinking. He sat until the tea tent closed and an old woman shooed him out.

The fete was slowly closing but Chester walked through the prize flowers, veg and fruit and autumn themed displays as they were packed away. It was always nice to look at the hard work of other people and celebrate their achievements which were so unlike his own.

After, he crossed fields and wandered around the fairground. There were many rides all being lit up as the evening darkness arrived showing that though the fete might have ended the night was still young here.

The air smelt of greasy burgers, hot dogs, chips, melted cheese and burning donuts. There was also a smokiness from all the grills and the sweet smell of sugary treats.

Adults, teenagers and children crowded the muddy pathways. Their voices raised above the booming music to point out a ride they wanted to go on or a food stall they wanted to visit. Ticket booths had queues outside and there was an atmosphere of a party.

Chester walked passed the rides, noticing ones he recognised from his youth; whirling waltz, bumper cars, carousel, helter skelter, haunted house and the ferries wheel. 

He looked at the game stalls. Grab a duck win a goldfish! Throw three darts pop a balloon for a prize. How many hoops can you score? Tin can alley knock down them all. Ladder climb, ring the bell at the top to win! Bingo. Horse Derby Racing. Whac-A-Mole and finally, the one he wanted; Shoot ‘Em Out

He paid for three rounds, heaved the air rifle to his shoulder and aimed at as many targets he could. The rife give a kick back he recalled from the real thing. In a flash, Chester saw himself in the woods with his grandfather and father shooting deer, rabbits and pheasants.  

Chester focused on the moving targets like they were real animals. His score came close the first tine. The second and third rounds, he shot down enough to win two medium or a large prize.

‘What do you want?’ the grumpy looking vendor man asked Chester and began pointing out the stuffed toys as he named them, ‘a tiger, a unicorn, a panda, a dog or one of these kids movie characters?’

Chester looked across to the other prizes and the vendor continued, ‘the medium ones are a fish, a turtle, a teddy bear, a rabbit….whatever.’

The vendor shrugged his shoulders then crossed his arms over his stained waist coat. 

‘Two teddy bears, please. One white and one brown,’ Chester replied. 

Begrudgingly the the game’s owner handed them over. Chester thanked him and walked away. He would keep the teddies to send to the grandchildren for Christmas. He started to head back to his van but his stomach growled at the scent of food. 

Why not? It’s a two hour drive home now, Chester thought.   

He brought a burger then some chips which tasted much better. For the trip home, he got some bottled water, sweet rock pieces, sticky toffee and hard humbugs.

Back in his van, he sucked on a black and white, minty humbug and tried not to feel tried. Starting the engine, Chester looked in the rear view mirror into the back of the open van.

‘Right, Punch,’ Chester spoke, ‘I hope you’ve had a good last show because it’s time to go home for the last time now.’

To Be Continued…

Balefire #WritePhoto

The child rubbed her eyes as smoke from the fire began to irritate her. In blurred vision, she saw dark shapes moving around the orange-red fire. The figures were dancing slowly in time with the movement of the tips of the flames which sent flickering embers into the night sky.

The child shouldn’t be here. Her parents had told her no and left her with grandma. She had escaped as soon as granny fell sleep in front of the white noise displaying TV. The child had never been out this late but she had come to find out a truth she all ready knew within her heart.

From her hiding spot under a spiky bush, the child heard the rise and fall of voices. At first she couldn’t make out what they saying then she realised it was not English being spoken. It was another language, one from the deep past that belong to ancient peoples.

Lulled by the song and tried, the child fell sleep. She had nightmares, swirls of black and red shadows trying to grip her but she couldn’t escape because the fire blocked her at every turn. Smoke got into her eyes and blinded her, it filled her mouth when she tried to scream. Something grabbed her legs, dragging her into a hole that opened up in the ground.

The child woke and was disoriented. Slowly, she crawled out from the bush and went towards the dying fire. The people were gone now, fading into the night as if they had never been. The sky above was becoming lighter but rain clouds were gathering.

Looking into the last of the flames, the child picked up an un-burnt stick. She knew, somehow what had gone on last night. Touching the stick into the fire, she waited till it began to burn then removed it.

Waving the stick in the air, the child said aloud, ‘I won’t be a dark witch. I will be a white witch.’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/10/24/thursday-photo-prompt-balefire-writephoto/ with thanks).

Spider #FOTD

He was going for pure fear this Halloween. The bone spider popping out of the flowerbed followed by the recorded sounds of deep growling were sure to send everyone running.

 

(With thanks to https://ceenphotography.com/2019/10/21/fotd-october-22-2019-a-spider-among-flowers/ Photo copyright to her).

Beyond the Gates #CCC

Charlie stood before the ornate gates. Her fingers on the cold metal bars as she looked at the pathway poking out of the overgrown nature.

She rattled the gates, not expecting them to open but they did. Fitting through, she walked to the burnt remains of a manor house.

Wondering what happened, Charlie picked up a piece of half burnt wood and felt a chill on her back. There was no wind and no one else here but she heard a woman’s whispering voice say, ‘you should not have come here.’

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/10/23/crimsons-creative-challenge-50/ with thanks).

The Costume #FridayFictioneers

The Halloween Ball was coming up and Lilac still hadn’t found a costume she liked. Deciding to make her own, she had searched the internet and raided the fabric shop. Now, she was surrounded by sewing things, fancy fabrics and trims.

Lilac felt over whelmed for a few minutes. It seemed far more difficult then she first thought. She was a novice sewer and making this vast dress seemed out of her league.

Still though, she had to try and it didn’t have to be perfect. Halloween allowed for every kind of mistake.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/10/23/25-october-2019/ with thanks.

Flash #FridayFictioneers

The lights were back again over the streets. He wonder what they were and what they wanted. All kinds of thoughts were going through his head; aliens, government mind control, a prank?

The lights came in a circle shape, were blue and became hazy if you looked at them too long. They didn’t seem to move much, just hovered at roof level.

He had noticed though that only some people seemed able to see them. Others were left confused at the pointing and whispering.

When the dead started appearing, he knew the meaning of the light circles then.

 

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/10/16/11-october-2019/ with thanks).

 

October Baking

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Dalili’s house smelt of autumn. Spices filled the air and wafting from the kitchen came bread and pumpkin. It was her time to shine and her family to marvel at her creativity.

As Dalili egg washed the pastry shaped pumpkins which inside looked like mini pizzas she smiled. There was nothing better then this kind of cooking. Hoping they tasted good when they came out of the oven, she put them into the heat.

What was next? Oh, the skeleton gingerbread men she had promised her youngest child. Checking the recipe, she got what was required and set about the task.

Swing

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There were no footprints across the fresh snowfall. Nobody sitting on the swing set yet the chains creaked and the swings moved. A shadow stretched across the ground. A small figure moving back and forth. A child’s laughter rang out into the darkness.

 

(Inspired from my search for story prompt images via; https://pixabay.com/photos/winter-swing-snow-cold-playground-1616037).

Wish #first50words

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I wish we hadn’t gone to the woods that night. It had been fun at first, playing hide and seek.

In the dark everything was more hyped, thrilling and dangerous.

Hiding under a dead tree, trying not to laugh, I heard something whisper my name then felt hands around my neck.

 

(Inspired by; https://first50.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/i-wish-4/ with thanks).