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…

Mirror #WritePhoto

At the bottom of my great-grandfather’s land is a small shallow pond. In the summer, my younger brother, Dusty, and I would go to stay with him, great-grandma and Grant, one of our many cousins. We would spend all day playing outside. Unless it was raining then we would play in the barns.

Those were our golden days. We became wild children of the woods with no cares or worries. We would play all kinds of games, forge for food and create worlds of our own. Sometimes, the sound of the farm would bring us back to reality; the mooing of cows, the bleating sheep, a tractor engine.

We would stay out for however long we pleased then return to the large farm house for a hot meal, bath and bed. The fire in the kitchen would always be lit, no matter how hot it was outside.

The pond had held a fascination for both of us. It was where the Lady Of The Lake rose up from and give us Excalibur to help us on quests. In other stories; the water had magical powers, drinking it could bring you back from the dead or kill you or give you protection. Whatever we needed it to be in that particular moment.

The pond was also home to the ‘Bogoh monster’.  He’d wait in the depths of the mud then crept out, grip you and try to drown you. He took on many different forms but was mostly like a kacken creature with a hundred eyes and two thousand tentacles!

We saved each other countless times from the Bogoh. It was one of my brother’s favorite stories.

I don’t know how many years, perhaps around thirty?- it’s been since I last stood at the edge of the pond. It seems a lot smaller then I remember but then so does everything else.

Looking down into the rippling water, it’s like seeing into a mirror reflecting my past. My younger self playing with Dusty, who has stayed eleven every since that day.

I can hardly remember it. There was a storm, we had gone to the nearest barn but Dusty had forgotten something and went back to get it. I thought he’d taken shelter somewhere else but next morning, Grant found him floating face down in the pond.

The Bogoh had gotten him.

Tears drop from my eyes, I brush then harshly away. I didn’t really want to come here but I had to say goodbye. All this has been sold, tomorrow work will start to make it gone and soon there’ll be houses built on my childhood world.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/08/22/thursday-photo-prompt-mirror-writephoto/ with thanks).

Port #WhatPegmanSaw

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They sat on the pebble shore, reflecting on what they had seen in the museum. It had been a shock to see the half section of the Mary Rose which their distant ancestor had sailed upon, looking so well persevered.

The wooden hull of the ship had dripped the protective water being sprayed a upon, making it easier to imagine the Mary Rose riding the sea waves.

They had seen items that their ancestor might have used on board and learned about the life he’d lead. They felt closer to him now then they did before.

 

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2019/07/06/portsmouth-hampshire-uk/ with thanks).

 

 

St. Mary’s Retreat

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St. Mary’s Retreat was miles away from the tiny town of Brogan, hidden in the mountains and the forest that surrounded them. No one went up there anymore, there was no need, expect for the brave teenagers who wanted a scare.

I was walking around the old stomping ground, having been away from Brogan for almost ten years. I had grown up here, an orphan kid angry at everything and the memories were painful.

Somehow, my feet took me to St. Mary’s whilst my thoughts went back into the past. A crow startled from a tree, brought me back and I stopped and looked around. Through the thick foliage, I could see a complex of abandoned buildings and a small church.

Smiling, I walked towards them. The buildings looked intact but rotting away. Windows and doors were smashed in. There was graffiti on the walls and remains of furniture about. I toed bits and pieces, turning things over, it was mostly building material. Everything could have been salvaged had been removed and the rest broken by teens.

I found a wooden cross still attached to a paint peeling wall. A sharp memory came back to me. When I was seven, St. Mary’s had recently been vacated by the nuns who had lived here for forty-odd years. They had been using the place as a retreat for old and ill nuns who couldn’t do they duties anymore.

Before then and originally, the area had been a holiday retreat. Which explained why there there was a bar, tennis court and a swimming pool. The nuns had the church built which is why it looked more newer then the other buildings.

I walked outside and found myself at the pool side. It was drained of water, expect for the rain which had gathered at the deep end. There was so much scum on the surface it was hard to tell how deep it was.

A story came into my mind, one of those scary ghost tales that children love to tell. I had forgotten about it but seeing the pool reminded me;

One day, a new nun came to St. Mary’s Retreat. She was young and sad. She was kept in isolation from the others. The head nun claimed ‘the child, had an infectiousness disease.’ but this was far from the truth.

Somehow and unbeknown to the young nun she had become pregnant. A lot of people had tried to find out what had happened but the nun stuck by her words and started claiming like Mary in the bible, an angel had come and told her she was to carry the next Christ. No one believed her and she was cast out to the retreat to have the baby in secret.

The nun give birth to a boy all alone in the middle of the night. She looked at him and realised he was the Antichrist. Wrapping him in a Holy sheet, she took him outside and walked into the swimming pool which then was still full.

In the morning, the nuns found her and the baby dead, floating in the water.

From then on every night at the pool side, the crying of a baby could be heard and the ghost of the nun was seen.

And that’s why the nuns had to leave because the ghosts were haunting them and no blessing or anything else they tried would get the spirits to move on.

Of course, we had all believed it then but now, I wasn’t sure it could have happened. Walking down into the pool itself, I want to edge of the collected water and looked into it. There was a rotten vegetation smell from the dead leaves and other decay. There was a stillness too, that I didn’t like.

I found a large fallen branch and began to poke about in the water. I was bored.

What was I doing here? What was I looking for?

Clearly, a part of me was still looking for answers. I had been abandoned here as a day old baby, left on the doorstep in a box. The nuns had taken me in but a year later, I went into foster care then was adopted by a childless couple in Brogan. They had been good parents whilst I had been a difficult child.

I had come to the the retreat many times as a teenager, I had always known this was where my life had began. Perhaps, then the story of a pregnant nun had been true? Maybe, she hadn’t tried to drown me but had dead some other way and the nuns had always planned to get me adopted anyway?

Was I the Antichrist? How would I know? Frowning, I tried to wonder if I felt any different and if anything in my past could give me an answer to that. But I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t religious, didn’t believe in such things nor did I believe in the supernatural. Surely, if I was evil, I would know about it.

I signed, threw the branch into the water and got out of the swimming pool. Walking back through the buildings and towards the road that brought me here, I knew I’d never find out who had given birth to me and what had happened to them. I turned back, seeing the edge of the swimming pool from a broken window.

But what if that childhood ghost story had been true? All stories had to come from somewhere and what if mine had really began here?

Kettle #FridayFictioneers

Relics of the past reminded me that no one had lived in this house for sixty-odd years. It was like a time capsule, frozen forever in a single moment.

I would have liked to have know what had happened here. Why had everything been left behind? Where were the owners? But those answers were long gone.

I took photos, documenting everything because despite this museum likeness, I knew it wouldn’t last. Vandals, burglars and homeless people would eventually find the house then the silence would be broken.

All would be lost to time as it should be.

 

(Inspired by;  https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/06/12/14-june-2019/ with thanks).

Reunion #TaleWeaver

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He stood on the beach alone, leaning on his walking sticks and staring out to sea. For the last few days the remembrance and celebration events had been going on and he had been reunited with some old friends. Still, he couldn’t believe it had been seventy-five years since he had first walked across this beach.

He could picture everything still; first light, the cold rough waves of the sea, first against the boats then against his legs as he struggled forward with his company. The heavy weight of his gun and pack. The bundle of nerves in his stomach and the twisting thoughts of what might lay in wait for him.

The sounds of machine guns and other weapons boomed out from the cliff tops creating a noise so deafening, it had never left his ears. He had only just been able to hear the orders to run forward, to take the beach. The sound of friendly fire was even louder then then enemies’ and so close it made him feel terrified.

The first soldiers got shot. The sea foam turned red and bodies bobbed in the water face down. More fell on the beach and were left behind as their pals ran onwards. Victory must be had! There would be time later to help the dead.

More and more men fell, the sea and sand seeming to be their final resting place. Everything turned red with blood, the cries of the dying and wounded came into competition with the gun noises. Bullets zipped this way and that, zinging through the air till the hit something.

He was no longer thinking, just acting on instinct and that’s why he didn’t really remember things. Everything seemed to blur into one. There was a body, there was a fallen gun, there was the sea behind him and the boats now awaiting them. He had seen so much but no words could ever describe it.

He had been nineteen. Just a boy. A boy who had wanted to do his bit to save his country. Make his parents proud and his sweetheart love him more. His teacher had said he should sign up, become a hero. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

He had never felt like a hero. Not even now.

‘The dead are the heroes!’ he had told one news reporter and he had meant it too.

 

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In memory of all those lost on D-Day.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/tale-weaver-226-reunion-june-6th/ with thanks).

Books #1Linerweds

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Ill and off on long term sick, Sadie had quickly got bored being at home all day. One morning, going into the box bedroom, now a storage room, Sadie found a box which contained books from her university days, now fifteen years in the past.

Inside, she found classic literature; Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Robinson Crusoe, The Monk and many more titles.

Sadie smiled remembering those too fast gone by days. Thinking, I’ve more time now to read and enjoy them, Sadie selected one of the books and began turning the yellowing pages.

 

(Inspired by; https://lindaghill.com/2019/05/22/one-liner-wednesday-books/ with thanks).

Roots #WritePhoto

They say family roots run deep but how does that apply to an orphan? Especially one in his fifties who’s only just found out that his parents weren’t actually his.

Sitting down in the root maze, under my favorite trio of trees in the park, my thoughts were clouded by betrayal and lies. My ‘parents’ had never told me and now they had both passed, the lawyer had been the one to break the news.

Sitting in the leather chair, a huge desk between us, I had read the looks on the lawyer’s face and decided he was going to tell me some super bad news. Like; ‘your parents had nothing to leave you. Or your parents left everything to a cat charity.’ But no, it was; ‘James you are adopted. Margret and William were not your biological parents.’

I didn’t know what to say or then did he have the right family? Was this the last joke of my father? Funny man he was, always up for a laugh and a prank. But no, it was all true. Here was accounts from a police officer and social services and newspaper cuttings too; Baby Boy Found Abandoned In Park; Police Appeal For Parents To Come Forward. 

The lawyer said no one knows who my parents were but Margret and William created a paper trail if I wanted to try and find out. The lawyer give me a box file then my not parents’ house, money and everything else. I left numb and not sure what else to do I came to the park and the trio trees.

Reading through the some of the papers, it interested me to note that I was actually found close to here, in a yellow blanket. Perhaps, that’s why I had always been drawn to here or maybe it was just one of those things. Whatever it was, wasn’t important right now.

I felt myself slipping away, everything I had known no longer felt true. Who actually was I? I felt like an actor playing the role of James McBride who had forgotten his true self.

I shoved everything back into the box file and looked up. The sunlight was dancing through the leaves of the trees, like disco lights. I shut my eyes.

I was still me.

My parentage didn’t change anything.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/05/09/thursday-photo-prompt-rooted-writephoto/ with thanks).

Birthday #3LineTales

three line tales, week 170: an unhappy birthday party

Gone were the birthdays of her childhood which had always been filled with excitement. Now, they were the same old parties with the ageing relatives and friends, the boring talks, the out of fashioned music and the too sweetly iced cake. She longed to be taken back in time, to remember birthdays were it was good to be another year older and not feel her age creeping upon her.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/05/02/three-line-tales-week-170/ with thanks).

 

 

Zemblanity #AToZChallenge

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Zemblanity; the inevitable discover of what we would rather not know. 

I stood by his headstone and re-read the words written there. They revealed a secret I  never wanted to know about.

For years, mum and I had thought dad had abandoned us because he was depressed over the death of his brother. I told myself that story so many times it had become truth but now I knew it wasn’t the whole truth.

Dad had moved countries looking for peace in the aftermath. However, in Spain he had found more then that; a new wife and children.

The headstone told me I had a younger step-brother and step-sister but I didn’t ever want to meet them. Their father wasn’t really the same person my dad had been to me. I’d rather not know anything about his new life or family, all of that could stay with them.

I had just wanted to see where my dad was buried and the gravestone prove he was gone.