I'll not be updating this blog any more. But I've not stopped writing. If you go over to http://merewords1958.wordpress.com/, you'll find my latest fiction as well other posts relating to words, language and my life. So this is an "au revoir" and not a goodbye.
I know Mama didn't really like me sneaking into the saloon. But I also know that once there, she wouldn't send me home. Today was delivery day. That made it easy. I could get in through the hatch and up the stairs when Mama wasn't looking. But I didn't like the mustiness of the cellar, so I hung around until the men were finished and Mama went to check. I sneaked in through the front door and went straight to the corner table. As usual it was empty and I hid underneath. This was one of my favourite places. From here I could see everything – even things the grown-ups couldn't see. I could see the pretty, coloured garters some of the ladies wore round their ankles to get the men to buy them drinks. And I could see how some of the players used to hide cards until they needed them.
Mama soon came back in but I stayed under the table for a while yet. Then I saw Billy Scoopdug sidle up to her. That meant Mama would have her hands full. Once a week regular as clockwork he'd turn up at the bar and push his charms onto Mama. I was hiding in the corner by the counter once and heard him.
"Come on Sal... Ya know that man of yours won't dare show his face here again with the law round. Ya don't wanna stay tied to an outlaw all your life, do ya. Ya need someone to look after ya and the littl'un. A saloon like this ain't a proper place for a lady like you. Someone's gotta protect you."
I hated him for that. How dare he suggest that Papa wouldn't come back again. Mama'd have none him either. She'd listen to his talk with that well-we'd-best-stay-polite smile of hers, all the time filling him up with some yellowy water stuff that made him ill. Then she'd get one of the guys to chuck him out.
Well, seeing as Mama seeing as Mama was occupied I reckoned it safe to come out. The piano was ringing out full pelt and there was some dancing going on, so no one bothered about me. I went and stood besides the piano and old Mr. Powell gave me a wink. It was strange seeing him there, sleeves rolled up, a half-empty tankard on top of his piano, his whole body swinging along with the music. He didn't look at all like he did Sundays when he taught me Sunday School. He was the only one of the church crowd to come into our saloon. Mama had stopped going the day the preacher told everyone how Papa was a vicious outlaw and a good for nothing who'd never know how to reform.
Of course, some of the other people in town thought the same thing about Papa. But for most of us he was real hero. Sure, he sometimes took what didn’t belong to him. But he only did it to help the poor. He never kept anything for himself. And although, he was the best shot in the neighbourhood, he never killed or hurt anyone.
“You have to be a good shot, if you’re gonna do what you have to do without hurting people son. It takes some shooting to frighten people without touching them.”
I gave old Mr. Powell the thumbs up and was about to take a swig from his glass when I was whisked off my feet. It was Aunt Lilli and as she whirled around the floor with me, singing at the top of her voice I saw Mama raise her hands in that helpless way of hers. Lilli passed me on to one of the other girls, hitched up her skirt and started kicking up her legs. Everyone cheered at that; even Mama joined in.
If a silence could come to an end with a crash, then that's what I'd say now. That's the way it seemed to me anyway. The piano jolted to a halt and Lilli collapsed onto the floor. She turned as pale as old Mr. Powell's hair. The girl I was dancing with dropped me. Every eye fixed itself on the front door. I scrambled to my feet. I wanted to see for myself. A large, dark shadow towered over me. A pair of dark boots came towards me and two massive hands grabbed around my waist. I was catapulted up into the air, but I wasn’t afraid now. I’d recognised his tattoos. As I fell back down, I wrapped my arms around his neck and shrieked:
This week's Fiction Friday prompt: “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Write a scene where this proves to be true for your character.
Richard slung the ropes over his shoulder and glanced up towards the administration block. Guilt? He wasn't sure. He certainly felt no guilt over what he was doing. Last year, he had acquiesced; this year was different. This year he hadn't asked permission, so he hadn't been given a refusal. Not that there could be any doubt as to what Gerald felt about the matter.
To a certain extent Richard could understand Gerald's point of view.
"The slightest mishap... it doesn't even have to be an accident and that would be the end of the school."
He was right of course. And it was probably the best way to run a school. It was Gerald's way of doing things. But Richard was different. Nothing dared, nothing gained, that was his motto. It had almost broken his heart not to take the kids climbing last year. He'd even threatened cancelling the class weekend altogether.
"After all, if the kids aren't allowed to take any risks..." Gerald knew him too well for that to work.
So this year he didn't ask. He knew full well, it would cost him his job if it ever got out. He couldn't even plead coercion on the students' part. You don't just stumble upon a beginner's climbing cliff with all the correct equipment. But he accepted that. His reward would be to see the light in the students' eyes once they'd made it to the top. It was a once in a lifetime chance. Their little school could never afford to send a class to one of these innovative mountain centres that were springing up all over the country.
He packed the last of the equipment into the back of the van and returned it to the car park. The students were already waiting and the kids piled in the moment he stopped. It took them just over an hour to reach the hut. They unloaded the van and were just starting to get kitted up when a small, green coupe came crunching up the drive.
"Look, it's Mr. Sanders," cried out one of the kids. As Richard looked up and caught his eye, he knew the time had come to look for a new job.
Like some of my fellow Fiction Friday writers I don't go in for New Year resolutions, so here are some anti-resolutions... things I promise not to do.
I will not mourn over Wales defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final by going on a singing spree around every pub in the town. I'll do the singing spree the night before. And please note, I said singing not drinking. For Welshmen the two are incompatible. First we sing, afterwards we pursue other less important pleasures.
I will not sacrifice any roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dishes to Eyjafjallajökull in a bid to appease him and try and prevent a repeat performance of last year's breakout in 2011. The resulting digestion would almost certainly prove to be counterproductive and bring about the cancellation of our holiday in Spain to visit our son who's studying there for one year.
I will most certainly not start living up to my old fogey age by refusing to make a fool of myself at folk dances, sing songs etc.
I will not back away from the annual "sing our anthem before the game" competition before the Wales v France game at our local pub just because my son will not be singing along beside me. Even if the French doubled the 19 people they put out last time, that still won't be a match for me alone. Besides, if the wind is right, we might even hear my son singing his head off in Spain.
I will not give way to pressure to write a trashy, political novel filled with violence, sex and corruption. My imagination just could never do justice to what's actually happening.
This week's 3WW words - grimace, phase, stumble.
"Hi, is this seat free? Thanks... Phew glad I got through that safely, last time I was here I stumbled over the top step and fell. My briefcase burst open and my papers went flying all over the departure lounge... Eeeh, do you mind if I smoke."
He followed the eyes of his newest neighbour and victim to the large white sign with a red circle around the circumference. Inside, a cigarette and a thick, diagonal, black stripe.
"Oh, of course. Wouldn't do to smoke here, now would it. I'm Michael by the way, Michael Glasdon."
"Aaare you flying for the first time? ... Well, there's nothing to worry about you know. They know their stuff, these pilots. They'll have in Mallorca in no time. Of course, there was that time the navigator left his map at home. We were in the air for three hours before anyone realised we should have landed half an hour ago. It was when I saw the river I realised we were going the wrong way. Still, from there it was easy. The pilot just had to turn the thing round and follow the river down to our destination. So we got there in the end."
"At least, we're not late today. Not that I'm in a hurry but I do so hate waiting round. The worst part's once you get in the plane and are waiting for take-off. They have to put the plane through all these different phases before they let it loose. Mind you, good job they do to. I was in Africa once... didn't check on anything. Fastest take-off and landing you ever did see. We were in the air just one minute and twenty-two seconds. Turned out we were overloaded. Some bothersome official insisted on loading a truck full of goods into the hold. That's why we came down so quick. Perfect landing though. They're so well trained, pilots nowadays."
"Would you like a polo? No! OK. Course, I love a polo myself, love sticking my tongue through the hole in the middle. Nothing like it. Hang on, I'm just going give those kids opposite some... Cheeky little blighter that little one. Offered him a polo and he poked his tongue out at me. Never had anyone give me a grimace like that before. Took the polo though. Mind you, mustn't suck a polo on the place. Dangerous with all that turbulence. Here I was one minute enjoying a nice little suck when my stomach came up into my head and the mind got lodged in the back of my throat. Turned green I did. My wife had to give me a good thump on the back to get the thing out. Said she should do it more often, but I've never had anything stuck since."
"Here, look at the guy over there. There, look. Right in front of the phone boxes. Long grey hair, that's the one. Don't you think he looks a bit suspicious. Better keep an eye on him. Might be a terrorist. Never know, do you? That time I was flying to Moscow they had one. Mind you, never have noticed to look at him. Seemed perfectly normal. But when the police came to get to him, he swore at them in who knows what lingo. That's how they found out, he really was a terrorist. Thirty minutes more and the plane would have gone sky high. Not that anything like that is can happen to us, today."
"No. With you around I'll be quite safe."
"What's that? Did you say something."
"Yes, I did. I said with you on the plane then the rest of us passengers will be quite safe. If anything's going to happen, then statistics dictate that it's going to happen to you. We're all in the clear."
The wink he gave to the grimacing monster opposite was one of great relief at the sight of his panicking neighbour fleeing through the departure lounge as fast as his legs would carry him.
This week's Fiction Friday challenge: The conversation took off when Louise mentioned Bruce Willis.
We had to wait almost ten minutes to get a seat under the parasol protecting us from the searing sun. We could have gone inside or even elsewhere but I was not going to miss my moment of glory. I'd waited three months for Louise to accept to go out with me and I didn't want to hide away from any passers-by.
In the corner I saw some people get up and raced to claim the table. I pulled a seat back for Louise as she approached. She accepted without a word and I took a seat opposite. I was about to say how happy I was to be with her when the Perfect Stranger theme rang out of her bag. Without a word Louise glued her cell phone to her ear. The silence that followed was punctuated only by the occasional shot fired from her lips: a single word or two at best, presumably hitting its target as it took two or three minutes before the next shot rang out. My mind went back to the warning Ted had given me. Something about Louise not being right for me. To be honest I'd not paid that much attention. I wasn't going to let him spoil my afternoon.
Over the next five minutes she shot out another few words whilst the server hovered in the background. I'd already waved him off twice and he was getting impatient. Several times I tried to get her attention before deciding to get her a glass of white wine. I took a nice, cold beer. I stared over the table at the face that had beguiled every member of our class since she arrived in April. The enticing, blue eyes seemed cold and distant today. A flicker of a smile appeared... something she'd heard, or did she notice me staring? It was not a welcoming smile. I raised my glass but again no reaction. It was another few minutes before the next volley rattled forth; louder, more questioning.
Now the conversation took off. Her voice softened. The occasional utterance built up to a steady stream. She was obviously warming to the subject... or to her partner. I was beginning to feel like number three in a proverbial crowd. With nothing to say, I soon finished my beer and got up to order another; just to give me something to do. I sat down again beer in hand. This time she actually acknowledged me, giving a thumbs up sign as she picked up her wine. I stared across at the gentle curves through the tight t-shirt she was wearing. Just an hour ago I'd persuaded myself, she'd worn it for me. Now I realised she had. Those words printed across the back:
My attitude your problem
I got up and fished in my pocket for a few coins to pay my beers. She didn't even look up as I threw them on the table and walked away just in time. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Luap and Annie coming down the street. The last thing I wanted was for them to see me with Louise.
This week's 3WW words: joke, leverage, remedy
The jokes were flowing just as easily as the wine was. What more could we ask for: a clear, blue, a three-star picnic table, more than enough to drink, and the prospect of some excellent music ahead. I leant back in my chair, closed my eyes and tried to forget the cloud.
Juliana crept up and put an end to my disquiet with a finger of comté: subtle and fruity With a touch of maturity. I nibbled the cheese down to Juliana's fingertips; with Robert here, I dare not go any further. I wondered if I would ever again have the opportunity...
The fingers returned to wherever they had been previously and I sat up to see her flitting from one guest to the other. Juliana's parties were always special and this one had been perfectly stage-managed. To think that in just 24 hours...
Juliana was an old friend and had been a client long before becoming an occasional mistress. And it hadn't taken me long to catch on to her game. The deal was simple. I kept the bank off their backs warning them only when their spending became critical. And I was a willing player even without the leverage she championed over me. In return, I got invited to all the best parties. I could indulge with impunity.
I watched as Juliana got up to make her usual little speech. She didn't even know it would be her last. Everything blurred as my eyes started to water. This had all seemed so real. Was it just the circumstances that had changed? I tried to work out how to put it to them. Actually, I spent the past 24 hours trying to work out how not to have to put it to them. I clutched at any and every straw remedy that passed through my roaming mind. But the moment I got a grip on one, it slipped away I know not where. So tomorrow, I was going to have to tell them: all about the shareholders' dissatisfaction, the takeover, my getting replaced as manager. Can anyone think of a kind way of saying:
"I'm afraid the first thing the new manager will do is an audit on all our accounts in the red. Bankruptcy is the inevitable consequence."