Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Janus Stone

Paula R C Readman 

Whisky Mac on the rocks

‘It’s that age old question,’ my wife said turning an accusing eye in my direction as we stood staring at a stone circle high up on the wind swept moorlands
As far as I was concerned, it was of no importance to me to find the answer to riddle of the sentinels.
‘That’s the trouble with you, Janus you’re so blinkered, when the facts are before your very eyes.’
I cast my eyes toward the heavens and held my breath and my tongue, knowing there was no point in arguing with her. She was like a starving wolf, once she has a bone between her teeth.
‘There you go, you can’t deny it now. The truth hurts,’ she said bitterness edging her tone.
I gave her a sideways glance; suddenly realizing she wasn’t talking about the stones at all.
‘Too busy looking back, aren’t you?’ she said, with an air of smugness.
Oh yes, she was right there. I’ve been accused of being backwards looking before, but I do often look forward too. Dreams of a peaceful life seemed impossible from where I was standing.
‘Well, haven’t you got something to say for yourself?’ she snapped.
I narrowed my eyes, and wondered if it was possible.
‘Oh yes, just like your father as your mother use to say, you’ve no balls. Well, it’s about time you manned up.'
I shrugged, turned, and walked away.
‘Where the hell do you think you’re going Janus Lot?’
As I drove out of the car park, I did look back.  My wife stood rigid with anger and disbelief that I was finally leaving her. I laughed. Not quite a pillar of salt, but close enough to leave a nasty taste in her nagging mouth.   

 

About the author

Bridge House, Chapel town, English Heritage, Parthian Books have published Paula R C Readman’s short stories. She was also the overall winner in the Writing Magazine Harrogate Crime Short Story Competition 2012.
Check out her Blog: paulareadman1.wordpress.com

The Instruction Manual

Greg Bresciani 

warm malted milk  

Why does everyone keep saying that children don’t come with an instruction manual? Sure they do. I use one all the time.
I can never have children of my own- my lazy sperm made sure of that. However, since becoming a foster carer, I always read the instruction manual for each foster child that is placed in my care. The instructions help me with that which I have no previous experience in.
The first section of the instruction manual covers the basics: clean your teeth, clean your room, have a bath before bedtime etc.  This is the easiest part. You can’t go wrong with it.
Much of the instruction manual’s focus is on open-mindedness. Achieving this requires plenty of field trips to festivals and cultural events. I don’t know why so much emphasis is placed on open-mindedness, but I do know that the children in my care rejoice in the weekend outings- and so do I.
The section on discipline is unusable. I am instructed to smack naughty children with a wooden spoon. I refuse to do this as it is common knowledge that most foster children are victims of abuse. The lessons taught by the sting of a wooden spoon would be lost on them.
Another concern with the instruction manual is section four: teaching children good manners. No matter how hard I try, I can never get good manners to stick. It doesn’t help either that the pages for this section are blank.
Hmm. This could be a problem. Technical Support may be the solution. I should phone them; their contact details will be somewhere inside the front cover. Yep, here it is.  Only after I’ve dialled do I realise that Technical Support has the same phone number as my mom.
“Hello?”
“Hi mom.”
“Oh, hi Glenn.”
“I, um … need some advice mom.”
“Yes?”
“I’m trying to teach my kids manners, but it’s not working mom. How did you do it? You know, with me.”
“But I raised you from a baby. Foster Care is a totally different situation. “
So, it seems the problem with the instruction manual goes far beyond the support provided by Technical Support.
Am I even using the right instruction manual? Is it an older version? Do I need to upgrade to a newer one? I should contact Head Office and ask. I’ll just find the company’s details- ah, here it is: Kiehna Incorporated. Kiehna? But … that’s my mom’s maiden name.
Shit! What was I thinking? Children don’t come with an instruction manual. They never have. That’s just silly.
When I’m raising a foster child, I’m not mentally flipping through the pages of a booklet. Oh-no. It’s much more grandiose than that. I’m accessing a file cabinet inside my head with thousands of memories filed away in each draw. Memories of a mother’s love and devotion directed at me. Memories of being reminded to clean my teeth, clean my room, have a bath before bedtime etc. All throughout my childhood, my mom asked me to do these chores more times than there are people in China.
Memories- I will cherish forever -of weekend outings with my mom. Festivals and cultural events, if it encouraged me to explore the world around me, my mom would take me there. Only as an adult, do I now understand my mom’s hidden agenda of teaching me tolerance and to value diversity.
I remember the fear of the wooden spoon more so than the smacks across my buttocks. I believe this was the whole point. The fear of being smacked forced me to stop and think of the consequences of my actions.
I have no memories of my mom nurturing my good manners. She would have taught me this valuable lesson as soon as I could walk and talk. No one has memories of their life under the age of four.
It amazes me, the more I consider it, that parenting skills don’t begin with the birth of a baby. Everyone has memories of being raised by their parents that they can use as a reference, should ever they find themselves raising a child.  Plus what’s most exciting, I can gain new parenting tricks- or undo bad parenting habits –through learning and experience.
With the foster children in my care, my success or failure as a parent depends on how these children will one day parent children of their own.   

About the author

Greg is n Australian who is a factory worker by day and a writer by night. he an his partner have been caring for foster children for seven years.  His stories on foster care have been published on the websites Parenting Express and Next Family. 
 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Rest is up to You

Paula R C Readman 

dandelion and burdock wine

'The rest is up to you', she said giving me a final shove. I hadn't really seen myself as one who could fly, but l suddenly felt l had to learn quickly as the ground was now come up to meet me. 
 
I guess that's how all baby birds feel on their first step into adulthood, but me a mere fairy and a clumsy one at that had hoped that l could forgo learning, but Mum had other ideas.
 
 Too proud of our family history to allow me to just focus on painting ground loving flowers. 
 
'No, you aren't going to let the family name down', she said, grabbing me by the collar and hauling me to the tops of the trees. 
 
I guess l better give it a try, because I'm sure I've run out of time.
 
'Woo yes!' Quite easy once you get the hang of it! 
 
Oh, at least Mum looking pleased for once. Though it's going to be sometime before l master the art of landing elegantly on flowers.



The Rest is up to You Dandelion and Burdock Wine

'The rest is up to you', she said giving me a final shove. I hadn't really seen myself as one who could fly, but l suddenly felt l had to learn quickly as the ground was now come up to meet me. 
I guess that's how all baby birds feel on their first step into adulthood, but me a mere fairy and a clumsy one at that had hoped that l could forgo learning, but Mum had other ideas.
 Too proud of our family history to allow me to just focus on painting ground loving flowers. 
'No, you aren't going to let the family name down', she said, grabbing me by the collar and hauling me to the tops of the trees. 
I guess l better give it a try, because l'm sure I've run out of time.
'Woo yes!' Quite easy once you get the hang of it! 
Oh, at least Mum looking pleased for once. Though it's going to be sometime before l master the art of landing elegantly on flowers.



Friday, 28 April 2017

Toast Three Ways

Robin Wrigley

 

Scotch on the Rocks 


Just after Nancy left for work I noticed the smell. She’s done it again. To the kitchen, shut off the grill and remove the two pieces of bread that have gone through several physical changes and are now smouldering tablets of charcoal. 

     Nancy and I have been together for nearly two years. She works. I keep house. My thoughts are interrupted at hearing the front doorbell, ah that will be her running back to tell me she’s remembered the toast.

     
 ‘It’s alright I’ve dealt with your bloody toast. Why can’t you use your own keys to open the door instead of having me run through the house?’ I yell as I’m opening the door.

     A somewhat bemused postman offers me a delivery of mail. ‘Sorry mate but this package wouldn’t fit through the letter-box. It was a package for me from Amazon.

     ‘I’m awfully sorry, ‘thought you were my partner,’ I say shame-facedly at his retreating back.    
      
Along with my package are several fliers, a couple of fashion catalogues for Nancy and an expensive embossed-velum letter for me, addressed in the unmistakable style of familiar hand-writing.
      
Instinctively I know what it is before I open it. What twisted mind would do this? It must be a wedding invitation? Sorting the mail, I put my package and the catalogues on the hall table, toss the junk next to the kitchen recycling bin and carry my letter through to the lounge, sit down and turn it over thinking, Jane, oh Jane how could you be so cruel? 
   
     She and I had been at university together. We were the complete item. Everyone commented how we were made for each other. Then one day three years ago she up and left. Said she needed time away to think. Think of what for heaven’s sake? She didn’t know, couldn’t say? I never saw her again. She left her job in the company, a good position, better than mine.    
      
With the smell of Nancy’s burnt toast still in the air my mind went back to our time at university. Hungry and short of money Jane and I often toasted crumpets on a fork on the gas fire in our student digs; bliss.
      
Now I was going to have to raise a glass of champagne. To toast her happiness – in marriage, how cruel.

     I won’t go.  How would I tell Nancy? I’ve always refused to talk about her, never uttered her name. I left the company. Created a new life as well as I could and then met Nancy.
   
 Now this, I opened the envelope. The moment I saw the black edge on the card my hands began to tremble. Resentment was replaced with remorse. Just how wrong could I be? Jane was dead and I was invited to her funeral.
      
On the back of the card in handwriting remarkably similar to Jane’s was a note from her younger sister saying, ‘Please do and try and come, David. She never forgot you.’



Thursday, 27 April 2017

Who is it?

Roger Noons

a small... is tot of single malt

 
 
I demand to know how he got in. I’d not left any doors open, all windows were locked and barred and his appearance belies an ability to climb up onto the roof and slither down the chimney, or burrow into the cellar.
 
    I’ve called the police, but they say I’m low priority and it could be some time before an officer calls. Private Investigators quoted high rates plus generous expenses. But I must find out the identity of the old man who, every time I look in the mirror comes and stands in front of me, blocking out my reflection.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Brief History Of ...

Richard Shaw

brandy Alexander  

April 1588. Maurice Kyffin paced up and down his writing study. He brushed his chin thoughtfully with the feather of his favourite quill. 
 
       'I need something,' he said out loud to himself, and then his voice trailed off. 
 
       'In my stories, I need something to denote,' but then he sighed in exasperation, and again he left the sentence unfinished.
 
       'The problem,' he said, addressing the inkwell and vellum on his desk, 'is that there are only so many ways to say ‘his voice trailed off’, or ‘he left the sentence unfinished’ without repeating myself. What I really need is something…'
 

About the author 

Richard Shaw lives in Solihull with his wife, two children, two cats and two goldfish. As a hobby he sells second hand books at www.ricksbookbasement.co.uk