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…

A Rainy Day #MenageMonday

I didn’t like rainy days, it meant staying in and the kids got bored. I had a plan; ‘we’re going to make a circus!’ I told them.

‘I’m going to make my teddies into circus elephants!’ Jewel cried.

‘Can we make a tent for the big top out of sheets?’ Conrad asked.

I nodded and we all hurried around the apartment gathering up what we could.

‘We need some flowers,’ the twins, Letty and Hetty spoke out.

‘Look in the windowbox,’ I called over my shoulder.

Soon, the circus rolled in and we all had a great time.

 

(Inspired by; http://www.caramichaels.com/defiantlyliterate/2019/03/25/menagemonday-challenge-week-2×26/ with thanks).

Suitcase Bear #FlashFictionChallenge

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Bag handler, Frank slowly opened the abandoned suitcase, preparing for the worse. The soft, fuzzy head of a brown teddy bear popped out. The bear smiled at him then attempted to climb out of the suitcase. Frank stumbled back in shock.

‘Is this America?’ the bear asked.

‘No, it’s Scotland.’ Frank managed to answer.

‘Oh, stuffing!’ the bear cursed, ‘must have put the wrong labels on….Can you help me get there?’

‘What…?’

‘They went on holiday and left me behind by accident!’

‘I’ll see what I can do…’ Frank uttered.

I must be dreaming, Frank thought turning away.

 

(Inspired by; https://carrotranch.com/2018/07/27/july-26-flash-fiction-challenge/ with thanks).

Wash #ThreeLineTales

three line tales week 103: a sanitation van in front of pink graffiti

It was just another day, another job as he pulled up next to the wall of graffiti. Getting out of the car, he looked at the brightly coloured imagines of teddy bears. His shoulders dropped and he knew he was going to be able to bring himself to wash them away.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/01/11/three-line-tales-week-102/ with thanks).

Empty Swing

There was one swing in the playground that no one ever sat on. Sometimes flowers, teddy bears and cards decorated the swing then were gone. Despite all the stories, one stood out the most; a little girl fell off the swing to her death. But no one knew the truth for sure.

Shine

Free stock photo of light, art, water, space

 

The streetlamps’ orange glow reflected off the slowly falling snow, making the flakes shine like fairy lights. Then a gentle wind twisted the flakes away and they fell to the all ready white carpeted ground.

From her bedroom window, Charity watched and wished she could go out to play. However, the clock stated it was two am, well passed her bedtime. She sighed and watched the glass mist up under her nose. She pressed a finger to the mist patch, going to draw a C for her name when an idea came into her head.

Grabbing her desk chair, she put it against the window sill and climbed on top of it. With a lot of effort, she opened the top window. A blow of freezing air drifted into the room and around her. Ignoring it, she stretched her small hand out of the window.

A snowflake landed in her palm. She giggled at the coldness and watched it melting. Reaching out as far as she could, Charity felt more snow landing against her skin. She twirled her hand in it, feeling the softness of the flakes then the wetness as they melted.

Drawing back a frozen hand, Charity watched the snow falling thicker and faster. The streetlamps were the only lights on in the street, but they now could not penetrate through the white flurry. Darkness crept back in, making the snowflakes lose their magic and turn eerie looking.

The wind picked up, gusting the snow around and through Charity’s window. Gasping, she reached up to close it, but felt the wind tugging the latch away from her. Charity yanked the window close, but lost her balance on the chair at the same time and tumbled to the floor.

Landing hard, Charity tried not to cry out. She bite back tears and caught her breath. Slowly getting up, she rightened the chair and peered out of the window again. Snow was hitting her window hard and she could no longer see passed it. The winter storm that the news had warned of earlier and her parents had tutted over, had finally arrived.

Wiping her face, she put the chair back under the desk. Then going to the window again, she half drew the curtains. A few minutes ago, she had hardly heard anything, but now Charity could hear the wind howling and the snow hitting everything. Shivering, she went back to bed and hugged her favourite bear tightly.

 

(Prompt from; https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/shine/)

Fairy Shrine

mystery

Lucy walked briskly through the woods, letting her dogs run free. This early in the morning the paths were almost empty and Lucy thought how wise people were to stay in bed. She longed to be back in the dry warmth instead of out here in the freezing damp.

Winter had arrived over night shaking away the mild glorious autumn. A thick frost covered the ground turning everything white. Small puddles were iced over and tree trunks were splattered with water crystal patterns. A thin fog hung high between the tree tops, hills and clear bright blue sky.

Lucy’s breath misted before her face and no matter how much she tried she couldn’t stay warm. Her boots scuffed over the stone pathway then she turned off and walked up a slope of grass into large group of trees. The frosty grass and fallen leaves crunched under her in nice crispy sounds. Ahead, she heard dogs barking and as she walked passed the first tree, she saw her four dogs fighting over a large branch.

The big husky was yanking one end of the branch whilst the border collie cross and cocker spaniel had the other. The jack russel was stood in the middle barking his head off.

Laughing, Lucy took out her phone and snapped some photos.  Then calling the dogs to her, she carried on walking. The jack russel was the first to come to her heels. Encouraging him on, the others gave chase and they all vanished into the trees once more. Following the path upwards, she walked her normal route.

However, as Lucy reached the top of the hill she decided to go left instead of right and take the shorter way back. Calling the dogs to her, she headed into a more dense part of the woods. The tree branches were bare above her and arching upwards to the sky. There were less leaves covering the floor up here and the ground was hard. Hurrying on and making sure she had all the dogs with her, Lucy noticed something.

Above her was an exposed rocky section of the hill and there was a doorway a meter further down.

‘What is that? I’ve never seen it before,’ Lucy spoke aloud.

Interested, she walked towards it and came to a stop before the doorway. It was made of white stones and seemed to lead into somewhere. It was too dark to see though. Walking on, she wondered if there was a pathway along there. Forgetting about the cold, she headed on and when the path came to lead off in a few directions, she turned left on a path that rose up and matched the one she had been on.

The dogs were barking in the distance and for a moment she wonder what trouble they were causing. Her eyes spotted the white doorway and all other thoughts left her mind. The doorway was low and narrow, but she could fit inside. Digging out her phone again, she turned on the torch and shone it in.

A passageway led further in, the walls, floor and ceiling were white like the doorway. Lucy stood up and glanced around. She thought about calling the dogs back to her. If there was something dangerous in there they could defend her. However, they were bound to get in the way. Shrugging, Lucy walked inside.

A few steps and the passageway opened into a small room. Objects were scattered everywhere; dried and dead flowers, statues of fairies and angels, coins, a small plastic waterfall, burnt out candles, teddy bears, tea cups and note cards.

Puzzled, Lucy shone the light around more then bent to look at one of the note cards. It was in a child’s handwriting and she could hardly read it because of the bad spelling. It seemed to be a wish of some kind. Lucy looked at the next few and they all seemed to be wishes.

Something wet pressed against her hand. Lucy cried and jump twisted around.

‘Benny!’ she cried at the jack russel, ‘don’t do that!’

The little dog wagged his tail and barked.

Lucy patted his head and looked around again.

‘What is this place?’ she asked.

Benny barked and jumped up at her.

Scrubbing his ears, Lucy heard her other dogs scuffling outside. Sighing, she headed back out. Dusting herself off, she walked back along the pathway, wondering about the tiny cave, the offerings and the wishes left inside.

 

(Story inspired from: https://scvincent.com/2016/11/24/thursday-photo-prompt-mystery-writephoto/ with thanks. Click to read stories other writers wrote.)

Past Voices

Living Room, Man, Woman, Children, Cat, Toys, Old

The museum was silent as the last of the lights clicked off and the caretaker left. The old building, that had once been a grand country house settled to sleep. As the darkness spread and the full moon rose, the sound of small bare footsteps sounded across wooden boards in a hallway. Followed by a soft giggling then everything went still again.

In the large room which held the toy collection, things started to move. An old bear’s paw was gently dipped downwards, a book was half pulled out from a shelf and a tin fire engine moved in it’s glass case.

Two sets of children’s running footsteps sounded on the creaking boards then the worn rugs covering the middle of the room. A soft humming echoed then faded.

Inside the doll’s house, the small china dolls began to move as the ghost children began playing.

Date #1

Architecture, Mbs, Shopping Center, Glas

I never set out to do any shopping, this was meant to be a first date after all. However, the bargains in the craft and book shop were too good to miss out on. The window display beckoned me with special offers and since we were just wandering around the mall anyway, I told my date we should go in.

To be honest, I wasn’t attracted to him at all. He was a head shorter then me, sadly something I’d noticed as we had left the coffee shop and I prefer my men tall. He was dressed all in black; hoodie and jog pants, so not very date presentable and he had longish black hair and a beard too. In fact, he reminded me of an over stuffed teddy bear; not very good looking, but very cuddly.

We split off; him to look at craft stuff and me to look at books. I browse the titles and book covers as my mind recalls something he had said before whilst we had sipped sweet coffee.

‘The last novel I read was last year and it was Fifty Shades Darker.’

I had shivered at both those things, ‘why?’ I had blurted as my mind screamed, I read a book everyday and get through one in about a week! How could anyone not read? 

‘I can’t get into them,’ he had replied and shrugged.

‘And what did you think of Fifty Shades?’ I asked slowly.

‘I liked it. Grey is an interesting guy. I haven’t seen the movie yet though, I’m worried it’ll spoil the books.’

I had hid the disgust on my face and finished my coffee quickly. I switched the subject back to TV series, which he seemed to handle better.

Shaking my head, to clear those thoughts away, I grab a book and looking at it decided it wasn’t for me. I choice another then a few more, but nothing appealed to me. Glancing over my shoulder, I track him down and see him talking to someone, a tall black man with a patterned shirt on. Must be a friend, maybe?

I get moving and wander a round. I spot a humors book about newspaper headlines and since it’s a pound decide to get it. I find some notebooks, really reduced, some craft stickers, two books on sewing and a few other things.

‘Looks like you found somethings,’ he says, appearing at my side as I am looking at the adult coloring books.

‘Yes, I did. I saw you talking and thought I’d leave you to it. Was that a friend?’ I ask.

He nods, ‘old friend, from about two jobs back.’

‘I’m going to get these and then…erm, I think I might have to go home,’ I trail off.

Silence creeps between us and we both hear a woman talking loudly on her phone as she goes past the shop. The traffic in the mall has picked up and I can hear school kids chatting and laughing.

‘What time is it?’ I ask.

He digs his phone out and answers, ‘almost five.’

‘Then yeah, I need to go.’

I head to the till with him following me then pausing to look at something. I pay, we meet again then walk out.

‘I wish I could stay longer. It’s been fun. I got this exercise class this evening and I don’t want to be late.’

‘It’s fine. I had fun too, maybe we could do it again sometime?’

‘Sure. Minus the shopping though? I didn’t expect to find all this stuff, but it was so cheap. One of the books I get was like three pounds instead of thirteen. It was too good not to get,’ I laugh a little.

We dodge a wave of people then head outside. I debate telling him not to bother walking me to the bus stop, but as we are all most there it doesn’t matter.

‘I shall text you,’ I say as we come to a stop.

‘Yes, please do. It was nice meeting up,’ he adds.

‘Yep, I had a good afternoon.’

He moves to hug me and met him. Hugging him does feel like a teddy bear. I break the hug before he can kiss me, though I am not sure if that even crossed his mind. We say goodbye and I watch him walk away.

I collect what I think about him and decided that though I don’t see him as being my next boyfriend, the possibility of friends is there.

This Old House (part 2)

House, Abandoned, Vacant, Vintage, Grunge, Empty, Aged

Opening the door, Shiloh walked in and saw the wallpaper she remembered still on the wall. It was pink with unicorns, flowers, love hearts and rainbows. She touched the wall, just to be sure then walked further in. She recalled where all her furniture had been and her collection of bears and dolls stuck into every free space.

Shiloh saw her eight year old self, just for a moment playing on the floor with a large pink horse. The window was open letting in a breeze and she could smell strawberry cupcakes. She rubbed her nose and felt tears pricking her eyes. She went to the window and looked out, below she saw the back garden.

Turning, she left and avoiding her sister’s and parent’s rooms, went back downstairs. The stairs creaked under her then she back in the hallway. She hugged herself and knew she had had enough. In fact, she wasn’t even sure why she had come back here. Going to the front door, she left for the last time officially. Not looking back, she walked down the path and got back into her car.

The pine trees shook in the wind and out of the blue she remember how the wind howling down the chimney at night had sacred her. Getting into the car, she sat there and remembered her mother’s soft telling her not to be afraid.

‘I’m still afraid, mum,’ Shiloh whispered.

She started the car and quickly turned the wheel. The house filled her rear view mirror, looking depressed with its peeling white paint. Her eyes flickered upwards out of habit and she was transported back to being that kid waving goodbye to the house.

‘Why did we have to leave when you died, mum?’ Shiloh muttered.

Silent tears began falling. She licked her lips and tasted salt. Her sister had always said she was a cry baby. She wiped her face and had to look again at the mirror. The house was still there, framed more by the trees now, which seemed to be waving.

‘I won’t go back. There’s no answers there,’ Shiloh sobbed.

She got the car on the road and drove away, the house still filling her vision even though it was no longer there.