The Mystery Of The Night Bus

Stella had stopped on the corner of a crossroads, her phone pressed into her cheek. “I can find my own way, no, I don’t need help, I just wanted someone else to know where I was, you know, precautions and all. Honest, just covering my back, being responsible, a cautious daughter. I will, I will, yes, I’ll send a text once I get back. Yeah, love you too, bye Mum.”

She felt her mascara run as the light rain made her eyes water. > It’s good that it’s too dark for anyone to see me. What a state I must look, < She thought as she rubbed at her eyes with a screwed up piece of used tissue found in the pocket of her pale pink faux fur jacket. A half-laugh left her as she stuffed her phone in her silver clutch bag and click-clacked her way to a bus shelter she could see illuminated by one flickering bulb in the distance. At least she would be dry. Even she knew, standing on a street corner dressed in pink fluff and sequins at way past midnight was not the most sensible thing to be doing.

Sella had a smashing night, dancing at the club. It was great just her and her bestie, gyrating and giggling like when they were kids at the school disco. Until her fellah came. Jenny twitched and became shy, almost childlike. “Stell, this is my Gavin.” Stella frowned, stuttered, then had to shout to be heard over the music. “Jen, I thought it was just us. I am crashing with you in your bedsit. At least that was the plan?” Stella loved planning and needed to know what she would be doing next. When and how was the minimum, the basic stuff. “Gav missed me.” She said, lifting her arms as if doing some sun salutation or worshipping a sky-bound deity. Jen was promptly gathered up for a session of face sucking, right there on the dance floor. Stella was mad. A studio pad was not a place she wanted to be. Not if the demonstration in front of her was a prelude to the main event. So Stella left the club. That was how she ended up on a wet night in town, in the early hours of the morning, alone. … Dressed like a Christmas tree.

Stella tried to read the timetable, it was not helped by the flickering light. It seemed there was a bus. The night bus, but it gave no destination or times. She shivered as she tugged off her jacket and shook some of the rain from the fur, then pulled it back on. Fastening it firmly around her against the wind. A taxi passed with its light off > probably finished for the night she thought < All she could do is sit and wait for the night bus and take it from there.

A rowdy bunch, of mostly blokes, poured out of a building. They were staggering, jeering, pushing and shoving each other. Some stumbled into the road and were getting closer. “Ello darling on yer lonesome then.” A wolf whistle and shouts got louder the closer they came. “cor, I could, yeah, c’mon shows us what you’re selling.” shouted another. Stella pretended to call the police and spoke loudly down the mouthpiece. “Yes, a bunch of louts officer come right away!” A bloke at the back of the group shoved them along. He nervously checked behind as they passed. Soon they were out of sight, but she could still hear them in the distance. Usually, Stella was confident and strong. That night, she was decidedly uncomfortable and felt vulnerable. Tugging her skirt down, Stella pressed her bum into the rickety wooden bench. She twitched at each sound. The passing street cat startled her everything felt like a threat. The hiss of air from the buses brakes made her jump only then did she realise the night bus had arrived.

Stella hadn’t heard or seen it coming. Cautiously she approached the doors they unfolded with a whoosh. “Hello, can you tell me where you’re going, where you stop, please?” She put one sparkly foot inside the bus. looked up and down the aisle. “This is my last stop tonight, but as you can see, she’s empty. Where are you wanting to go?” Tom, was written on his name badge, had friendly eyes and a soft voice. “I um, … Stapleton, about six miles from here.” She flinched as her teeth nipped the inside of her lip. “No problem, I know it well, Stapleton it is. Make yourself comfortable I will have you home in no time.” She fumbled in her bag for her season ticket, swiped it on the pad and took a seat.

Now, if you were to meet Stella today, she would tell you, there seemed all but a minute between the whooshing of air as the doors closed to leave that bus stop and the hissing of brakes as he stopped and called, ” last stop, please disembark.” His bus pulled up right outside her door. Though she never told him where she lived. Stella would say that when she inquired, the council told her, the night bus was a pilot project supposedly run by volunteers in the 1970s. After only a month, it folded. The scheme was never funded and didn’t catch on. She would tell you that in the library archives, after investigating, she found that the bus shelter had long been taken down and replaced with a bus stop sign more than a decade past.

The above vignette is in response to Esme’s monthly picture prompt #3, the link to join in or read other responses is in the link under the picture of the bus. I hope you enjoy reading them. Have you ever travelled alone and been scared or uncomfortable please let me know, leave a comment in the box I love to chat?”

Put Out To Grass.

The crop snapped his flank,

the pop spurred him on,

His acclaimed turn-of-foot

would deliver his swansong.

A snort a twitch

The winning post Past

At the final stroke

This race would be his last.

Put out to grass

Racing finished

Time to shine gone

No friends to race

Or bowls of mash

No roar of the crowd or

heads to clash.

In this meadow

Grinding grass all day,

does he swat memories like flies away.

does he miss the cheers

Strings of horses nose to tail

Or is he happy to watch the red Kite sail.

This was for Charli Mills 99 word flash fiction prompt press https://carrotranch.com/2021/09/17/september-16-flash-fiction-challenge-2/ to join in or simply read all the responses.

Cigarette Smoke and Bad Memories

To join in or just read -> Prompt here

On the anniversary, she hung her dress at the window. From her mattress, she watched the morning sun catch the turquoise fabric making it shimmer. She studied it through a haze of thick Cigarette Smoke.

The dress was the cleanest thing in there. The dress still bore the stain of his urine. Time had turned the intricate chiffon bodice a dirty shade of chartreuse.

Such a glorious name ruined as she had been ruined. It wasn’t only the prom he spoiled, but herself, her innocence and the only connection to family that she had left, her Grandmother’s beautiful dress.

September 2, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

Led more by the picture I hope it sufficed to fit the requirements. Leave a comment please I just love to talk. x

Respond by September 7, 2021

The Day Tommy learns to fish

Tom grabbed his Mothers hand his eyes as big as saucers. Over his shoulder was a keep net and his three legged seat was planted close to Dad’s big rod where he concentrated on baiting a hook with wriggling maggots. “Mummy,” Tom whispered, “if we catch this one can I just have one fish finger for tea please.”

Gone Fishing

This is the last photo on my roll, taken at the #RedRoosterfestival and in response to Esme’s prompt #2 To take the last pic on the camera roll and write a short story or rhyme go where the prompt takes you. PressThis to join in or read.

Did you have a funny Story when you were small, leave me something in the comments and I will get right back

The Remnants of what was.

Photo by Elina Krima on Pexels.com

He knots his fingers and flexes his hands jerkily, leaves clean stripes on his arm and neck when he rubs hard. My lip twitches with sadness at his grimy hand trembling. Eyes down, glued to his boots, they’re good boots. He startles onlookers with his strange muttering. I’m only a step away or at least a short distance from him. My gaze wanders across his prematurely lined features and the weathered cloth of his twine tied coat. I catch the eye of my passing waitress, who nods knowingly. I wave my fingers, more chewed than she would have seen before, so quickly fist them away, out of sight. She returns with a bag for takeout. I keep watch as I settle the bill. Coffee spilt due to its weight on the wobbly-legged table. Her eyes pool as she apologises while wiping it up. She rips the cover from her note pad expertly folds it then squats to push it under the leg. I think ‘If only it could be that easy to fix everything. Her smile is kind. Blinks away the telltale tears undercover of the table. Nods once looking back towards the road. Her shoulders slump, and with a sigh, she continues to clear tables. My explanation spilt out six months ago when I first found him. Now it sits like secrets between spies ‘A nods as good as a tapped nose.’ Dad used to say when we were kids. We loved telling him it was wrong. “No, it’s a nod is as good as a wink,” We would taunt. He doesn’t joke much anymore; not one of us does.

I wipe my eyes with a paper napkin that I am twisting thoughtlessly in my fists. I hold my breath as I watch. Martin takes too much time manoeuvring unseen enemies and mined traps. I am counting his steps, speaking out loud. I am startled to silence by a mumbled word (Crackpot) coming from a suited man brushing past me. Four minutes it took for him to walk six feet of the busy pavement. The lunchbreak office staff, bankers, business people and shoppers moan and gripe as he blocks their path and swallows a moment of the hour of freedom they have. A pensioner’s rheumy eyes spot him. He nods knowingly, pats his arm and dodders on.

Martin is opposite me, with only one road to cross. But I am hopeful today, whisper > today I will be successful <. He stoops, scans the tarmac, takes an audible breath and runs as if his life depends on it weaving towards me. I stand, my face pulls the biggest of grins I feel my arms start to lift. Then a horn blasts, I see him freeze, a voice shouts obscenities at him. And just like that, he is gone. There is no point in chasing him. I learned the hard way how that goes. No, I will try again tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that no doubt there will be. With sisterly love and a heavy heart, I tip the server, straighten my back and fasten my coat. Before I leave, I pause to pass a raggedy bundle in a shop doorway the bag of food that Martin did not get. For we never know their story, we only see the remnants of what was.

Too many of our ex military, police, medics Firemen and others are left broken by the trauma they see and clear up every day. This flash fiction is a glimpse at that, a speck of what we know is on our streets, in our towns and villages. Broken discarded people #MentalHealth. Please comment leave me your thoughts below.

An otherwise ordinary day at the library.

Ilminster Library.

In a small market town in Somerset where most buildings are made from Jurassic Hamstone. The public library being one such building sits solid in the ground. Drawn as I was to it, not just because I am to anywhere that books live, the building looked as old as a gnarly tree (Ancient buildings often do) it caught my attention. I was welcomed by a sign outside saying ‘libraries love readers, step inside and read.’ So I did.

This sign I took literally, so with a huge smile, for such a miserable day … I marched right in. Reading stories and making them up has always been my thing. I have been spilling tales from my mouth uncontrollably since I could speak . I have been known (since this day) to fold myself into the children’s corner like a master of yoga and read aloud. Like a character from a Grimm’s fairy-tale or a strong magnet, people would be drawn to me … mostly small ones.

This specific day I did just that. Once I crossed my legs, I pushed my sit bones in to a cushion and began. Parents and children sat and stood around me, eyes wide, mouths open, as they sat in silence. This silence made the voices I gave the characters more pronounced and my face more animated as I read. I elaborated, asked for their input, both big and little people joined in, calling out questions and might have beens. I warmed to the twinkles in their eyes and dimpled smiles, they were the best moments. At the end I was clapped, which pinked my cheeks. I recall a moment of surprise washed over me; chased by a hot shade of embarrassment.

At that very moment a bespectacled gentleman of the Library; the custodian I believe he called himself, shushed me forcibly. So forcibly in fact I would swear his teeth rattled as If they would be blown clean from his mouth. A kind librarian stopped to ask If I would like a regular spot. We all I suspect had a lovely interlude, to an otherwise ordinary day.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

What tale do you find your mind wanders to if a child asks you to tell them a story? Do you fabricate one, or prefer to read from a book? Do let me know in the comments.

This is a photo of the first present my husband gave me after our wedding. We had been married about eight weeks when he came back from the shops with the groceries a newspaper and a bottle of Fizz.

After he unpacked everything onto the work top he plunged his hand into his trouser pocket and handed me this. Yes a potato, a heart shaped potato and said. “I couldn’t leave it in the greengrocers  once I found it. it just reminded me of you.” We laughed at his words and joked that I looked like a potato, but honestly it was bloody romantic the most romantic my husband could get.

He is not a man of big romantic presentations, he could not gush if he tried. The husband, as I refer to him on my Blog is spontaneous, some might say impulsive, I say he is just simply kind. He said, he did not think a potato could label him romantic. That he would never be accused of being soppy or a sap but this gift though long since gone rotten and recycled to a better place in the compost, will always be first in my memory for the gift that needed no reason. The gift that meant the whole world, it didn’t cost him a penny but took guts to ask for it, and courage to give it to me.

My man has few words of the romantic kind, neither a poem, sonnet or rhyme, would ever pause on his tongue. No love letters will be received but my heart shaped potato is the most significant measure of his love for me.

What a pair.

Have you ever had an extraordinarily odd but perfect gift? Leave your answer in the comments I am dying to see what it is.

The most romantic gestures arrive from the simplest of moments.

What Is The Colour of Christmas Mummy? And Finding My Sanity in Lockdown.

Inside a tiny house, nestled in the suburbs of London. Emma looked up at her Mum. “Mummy the sunshine in my picture,” she said pointing to the drawing on the fridge door. “It is sunshine colour, isn’t it? The grass, with Daddy and Mummy, it is grass colour… isn’t it?” A frown shaped her face as she waited for an answer.”That Orange” Emma poked the pencil into the paper, “It Is an orange Orange isn’t it.” Emma’s neck was stretched to its full length, her lips pursed and a chubby hand holding a colouring pencil was pointed at her drawing. Mary dropped to her knees beside her daughter. Intently, she looked into her eyes and explained about colour and how a few had the same name as the things she drew; like Orange and lemon. Emma and her Mother drew and labelled a colour chart, while her little brother straddled Mary’s hip. They learned the colours of the clothes in the laundry bag and the cushions on the sofa; though Emma’s wings threw in some confusion. During the day they sang songs and told stories, together glued tissue paper rainbows to add to the already crowded fridge door. Mary and Joe Carpenter, went to bed that night almost as tired as the children. They were both happy, knowing that tomorrow would be Christmas. The anticipation of the excitement on their children’s faces, the reactions to the parcels beneath the tree. Though not many, each one had been chosen with love, and need in mind.

On Christmas morning Emma skipped into the Kitchen. “What colour is today mummy?” Mary lifted her head, wearing a huge smile. Her eyes crinkled as they met that face. Her five-year-old was clutching pencils and pursing her lips. Her hair knotted from sleep; her giraffe under her arm. Mary’s pride shone from her face, as she wiped her forehead with the back of her flour encrusted hand and bent to her daughter’s height. “What colour do you think it is?” Emma screwed her brow and as if contemplating the world and left the room.

Within the hour Mary had worked her magic, children clean, fed and playing nicely. Food cooking nicely and preparation almost complete. Mary wriggled and hummed to the music on the radio as she cut the last sausage roll. She wiped her hands on the tea towel stuck in her waistband. Throughout the house, the air was thick with the scent of pastry and cinnamon and the sounds of happiness. The little girl’s question forgot; in the excitement of the day.

Tom crawled up the hall chasing his new train blowing spit bubbles; giggling as he went.
Dad burst through the front door stamped his feet and brushed a light dusting of snow from his hair. Joe’s nose was red and he rubbed his hands briskly to warm them.”Kisses” he called as he smacked his lips and waved mistletoe above his head.”Kisses I want kisses” he roared. Emma and Tom rushed to be lifted in a sloppy lip smacking embrace.
There were lanterns, twinkling lights and paper decorations dangling from every space in the little house. Carols rang out from the kitchen radio and sparks snapped against the guard on their open fire. It looked a perfect Christmas to him.
Dropping everything Mary ran to join Joe for a kiss; Singing as she went. Flour covered kisses ended in chuckling and tickles. With all four sat breathlessly on the floor. Emma looked up into her Mother’s eyes and quietly said
” I think the colour is Christmas mummy.”

During the weirdness of 2020 when the world went a little bit mad, and I admit during the lockdowns I did too, and needed a way to refocus like many did, I took to Zoom.

my own scribbled picture

I joined the Theatre for my first ever virtual workshop. With guidance of our creative director, actor and teacher Lynn Whitehead We wrote scripts and radio plays.

Some of us narrated, some were characters and others of us wrote. All of us worked as a team. We made soundbooths under duvets, in wardrobes, or padded dens. Tim our ( on loan) sound magician, stitched and spliced the recorded voices, added the backing tracks and effects. He worked on it for days to transform our groups efforts into a complete piece.

The writing, producing, directing etc, all happened in different places. Not once did we leave our homes or meet in person. ( To be rectified at a later date)

We fulfilled the remit set to deliver a 45 min recording for people to listen to over the Christmas period,( possibly, huddled around a snapping fire). We planned to finish with a collection, something for everyone, and let people see the Theatre still came alive, despite 2020s pandemic.

A group of tales linked in a framework that visitors to the Theatre website, and the local radio could log on and listen to. This story became one of the tales we turned into a dramatized piece.

Below is the finished article I hope you take the time to enjoy it. Tap the next three words to listen.

Merry Belated Christmas.

Here I raise a glass to you all, co-co-conspirators, followers, friends and visiting readers. Supporters of the arts.

Do leave me a comment I love to chat.