The Star

Salona Martez savoured every single step as she moved slowly down the aisle, the thunderous applause ringing all around here. This was the pinnacle to which she had aspired, and tonight she had made it. An Oscar. The Oscar. Best Actress.

Just hours later the shy, pitiful girl that she was, lay in her pool of tears. Men had once again thrown themselves at her feet. Her money would buy her whatever she wished. One word and the world sat up. Yet looking up into the stars she knew, it would all come to an end. Perhaps it had already come to an end. All those bright stars out in the universe. Some of them had ceased to exist. And those that were shining brightest, were already in decline.

And beneath her in the streets a lone paper boy called out to passers-by:

Transient Power big winner at the Oscars!
Best Actress!
Best Director!
Best Film!

Read all about it!


Good morning, you're listening to RNJ and coming up right now is the daily interview.

Few of us will have heard of this week's guest, Proctor Digal but as Digal Kayne of the notorious Skin Basher rock band he was a household name back in the 60s. His raucous singing and audacious lyrics as well as his dissolute lifestyle meant he was never out of the headlines for long. Then, in the summer of 69 he stunned the world with an about turn few even believed possible. So what has become of Digal Kayne since he left the public eye, and what does he think about his former life as public idol n° 1?

Proctor Digal, welcome to the interview. Back in 1969 the first change you made was to your name. Why was it so important to you?

Well, actually I didn't change anything. Proctor Digal is my true name. After my about turn my friends started calling me Pro and that kind of stuck because it fitted in so nicely with what was going on in my life. What I didn't want was to keep my stage name. I really wanted to get out of the public eye and begin anew. I could never have done that as Digal Kayne.

But why, I keep asking myself, would someone want to give up a life as a public celebrity and turn into a virtual recluse? What could possibly motivated you to do such a thing?

Well, there were a number of reasons, some of which I don't want to elaborate on here. But the overriding pattern was that things were slipping slowly out of control. At first, it was all so exciting, the parties, the fame, the women, the money. I was in the driving seat. But that soon changed. I can't say when or how, but I soon found myself being driven and I didn't like where I was going.

There were rumours that the money was not going to last much longer. Is that true?

Yes, indeed. That was one of the small kindnesses of providence for which I am eternally grateful. It was that more than anything else which opened my eyes. I had everything. Money, friends, success, popularity, women by the dozen, fame and fortune. But little did I realise how this house was built on such a shaky foundation. The moment the finances showed signs of drying up, my latest conquest found another source of champagne and diamonds. That may have been to be expected. But worse was that some of my best friends suddenly began disowning me. I became a pariah to them. That's when I first started to question where I was going.

So you have no regrets?

None whatsoever. Why should I?

Well, you were the idol of a whole generation of young rebels, including myself I might add. You showed us how exciting life was. You helped break free from the shackles of convention. We adored you. We gave you everything.

Yes, and I took it. I had a new girl every night. What we got up to doesn't bear mentioning. It was better than any drug. But you see, what happens, the next morning? The girl left. I didn't take anyone twice. And then, there was loneliness. Only I didn't notice it, because I had other friends: drink, drugs, fame and more girls that night. Sometimes, even two or three together. But I was still alone. I just never realised it.

But now, you must be more lonely than ever? You live in a small village far from the limelight where you... to be honest I don't even know what you do? Are you telling me this a better way of living?

Well, better is a moral word isn't it? I'm not trying to hand down my morals on a plate. I'm not saying to you, this is the way you ought to live. But look at it like this. I now have friends, I can trust; people who will go with me through thick and thin. I know, they've been there with me. I have a wife who - since that's what you seem most interested in - doesn't get me high on sex like some of the girls I knew back then. But in the morning she's still there. She's chosen to be with me. And that one smile and that one caress on the cheek first thing in the morning mean more to me than all the frenzied climaxes others used to give me. I have a job running a small town library and community education centre. It fills my life with purpose. I can give something to others. And I get far more in return when I see people prospering and making sense of their lives.

So, you've turned your back on rebellion to become a small town do-gooder. Is that your way of trying to sooth your conscience?

That's probably the best question you've asked today. It's one I've often asked myself. It's true, I've a lot to be ashamed of. I used people shamelessly and dumped them at will. I'm not proud of that. I have in the past met some of these people and been able to ask forgiveness. Some refused. Others accepted this with grace. Some have even become friends. In one or two cases, I have been able to help people get a life back on track. But my work is not a bid to pay for past wrongs. It's something far deeper. It springs out of a conviction of the personal dignity of every being that walks on this earth. That includes their potential. What I want is to help people realise what they can really aspire to. I guess that's how I achieve my potential. And it's far more rewarding than anything I knew in my previous life.

Well, you obviously seem satisfied with your life away from the limelight. Thank you very much for coming to speak to us at radio RNJ and I wish you all the best for the future.


I awoke from my reverie shortly after eleven o'clock. It hadn't really helped that much. If anything I felt even more worn out than when I had gone into the park. My body may have rested but my mind had still been running at full speed. I needed some sustenance quick and decided a nourishing glass of Guinness would do just the trick. The Irish pub would surely be opening soon, so I made my way back to the village square in an attempt to retrace my steps of that morning. I scarcely dared look up at the imposing Town Hall building on the opposite side. Despite the noonday sun, it cast a menacing shadow over my future. Gone was the resolution of the morning. David had become a cowering soldier and Goliath resumed his blasphemous mocking from across the impenetrable divide.

I found the Irish pub somewhat quicker than I'd expected and the long, dark Guinness was beginning to revive me. If I was going to stay here, I'd have to act quickly. Somehow I'd have to find somewhere to stay. And that meant getting a job. But more than anything I needed a friend. I was sure Gérard would be totally oblivious to my presence. His father would see to that. But if I could just let him know, I was here. Maybe a few discreet questions to the pub owner and I could figure out a way.

It was just then a familiar voice rang out from the entrance. "Simon!" My heart skipped a beat. It was Gérard. I was saved.

"Hi! It's great to see you after all this time. Man, you look great. And you can't begin to imagine how good it is to see a friendly face."

Gérard looked down somewhat sheepishly at his shoes. "I thought, I might find you here, when I got Dad's phone call."

"You mean your Dad called to tell you I was here!"

"Not so much to tell me about you, but to scream down upon me all the burning coals of hell. He was absolutely livid. You see, I hadn't told him much about my time in Ireland. And I certainly hadn't mentioned a word about you. He'd never understand. He belongs to the work generation and anything that's not work is of the devil. So, I'm afraid... I'm afraid, you can't stay here."

I looked him in the eyes. The sense of betrayal must have been written all over my face. His eyes averted my gaze. I said nothing. There was nothing to say. Just as the silence began to overwhelm us both, Gérard turned and made straight for the exit. Not a word of greeting, not a word of farewell.

There was only one option open to me. I'd have to return home and face up to my past. The flight was over.

"You Irish then?" The question, asked in English, caught me by surprise.

"I only said the word 'Guinness'. Is my accent that bad? Or is it my perfume?"

"Neh! The whole village is buzzing about the Irish man the Mayor threw down the steps this morning. I figured as that young man who's just left was his son, then it must have been you."

"Threw down the steps!"

"Yes, well the local gossips are a little too eager to embellish their accounts. But we all know what happened. So how come you're here."

"Just trying to begin a new life. Not much going on back home in Ireland. Figured the world might offer a better chance. What about you? How come you're running an Irish pub in the middle of nowhere?"

"Me wife is Irish. But I'm from here. So when Irish pubs started catching on out here, decided to turn the family business into one. Best thing I ever did. It's made me a fair penny, it has. And if you're by any chance looking for a job, then I could sure do with a hand round here in the evenings. Mayor never comes in, so there's nothing to worry about on that front. And you can stay in the room above the cellar, til you find something better."

Dear Friends,

You have come here to mourn the loss of your fellow citizen James Sinclair. Well, the truth is that my name is Jack Dawkins, and how I would love to be with now to see the bewildered looks on your faces. Yes, it's true; the man you've known for decades as James Sinclair, honorary citizen of this great town, is really called Jack Dawkins. And there's more, for if Jack Dawkins is my real name, then it's not the one I am most known by. I don't mean by you all, but by the world in general. Yes, you see, your husband, father, neighbour, colleague and friend is not who you really think he is.

I've always told you, I'm from London and that I left to make my fortune. Well, that is only part of the truth. In reality, I was ordered out of London by a magistrate's court as a young boy and sentenced to deportation to the colonies for thieving. Had I known what I know now, I might have accepted this punishment as a way of furthering myself. For, in the colonies, many of society's leading figures are former deportees with not a hint of scandal attached to that fact. Here in New England, however, it was necessary for me to invent a past; one that would mark me down as a hero against adversity, one that would bring tears to people's eyes, one that bore no relation whatsoever to reality. But with the money to back up my story, it was easy to dazzle you all with my new truth.

Yes, money. The pickpocket industry paid well in those heady days. Most of the money went to the gang, of course, but some was reserved for a private little retirement plan. It proved enough to bribe my keepers into letting me abscond and to find safe passage, not to the colonies but here, to the so called New World. But this New World didn't prove to be as new in manners as the old one. I'd first settled close to New York but was soon hounded out despite my money, when my true identity was found out. So I left New York, took on my new identity as James Sinclair and obtained employment as a personal tutor right here in your town. My carefully cultivated home accent gave me an air of respectability and I was taken on in the best of families. Which is how I obtained employment in the home of my beloved Lavinia. The rest is history. What you don't know is that it was all a lie. Only my darling Livinia is aware of something of my past, although even to her I dared not reveal the full truth.

There was, however, one moment in my life among you when I freely and openly responded to the name by which the whole world knew and possibly still does know me. Several years ago, our local amateur theatricals put on a performance by that most admirable of English writers, Charles Dickens. Some of you were surprised by my refusal to act out the role of Fagin in the show and by my insistance on being given the role of The Artful Dodger. Yet, my performance was a big success. The Plymouth Daily Chronicle talked of "a truly authentic performance worthy of the celebrated bandit himself." I was not surprised, for you see, I am Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger.


This Week’s Theme: Pick an unusual phobia and explain why a character has it.

That dream remains stamped on my memory now as the day I first dreamt it some twenty years ago. We were all dreaming rugby. It was normal. Not only were the Welsh school trials coming up, but the inaugural Rugby World Cup was in full swing and Wales were leading the way. They had qualified with few problems from the group stages and a resounding quarter final victory against old rivals England put us up against favourites New Zealand in the semis. Glory beckoned and we all wanted to be part of it. And if the trials went as planned, then one day we might well be pulling on that red shirt and walking out onto the hallowed turf of Cardiff Arms Park to represent our country.

The Semi-Final was to take early Sunday morning UK time. I'd have to get up before 4 a.m. to see the game broadcast live from Brisbane, not a good move with the trials taking place on the Monday. But there was no way I was going to miss this event and I was further comforted by the thought that all my rivals at the trials would be doing the same thing.

I retired early on Saturday but sleep was hard to find. I tossed and turned in my sheets as if trying to escape marauding New Zealand forwards. Then with five minutes to go and Wales only two points down, Jonathan Davies broke through the All Blacks defence with a stunning run. The ball came down the line and I latched onto the pass with just 5 metres to go and just one player in front of me. A neat side-step put pay to him and just as I dived for the line the ball slipped out of my hands and my brother was standing over me asking what was wrong.

Well, after that nightmare sleep became as scarce as the number of points Wales actually managed to notch up in the match. They were thrashed 49-6. And I never made it to the trials either. In training that morning, I deliberately botched, fumbled and messed up every ball that came my way. The trainer sent me home disappointed. He would never understand the relief I felt at his decision, nor my subsequent fear of catching balls. Because if I started catching them again, then maybe one day there would be that one vital miss that would ruin everything.

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Last week I began a series for 3WW about the fictitious adventures of an Irishman in France. You can read last week's episode here. Hopefully, a new episode will appear every Wednesday on this blog.


It wasn’t until the train had left that the full extent of the folly on which I had been about to embark hit home. It had been easy to convince four young students that everything was under control; so easy that I had even succeeded in convincing myself! But as the train moved slowly away, plunging me into the darkness of a small village in the midst of nowhere, I felt very different. I looked at the small scrap of paper in my hand and wondered what the next few hours would bring.

I left the station, realising that my first priority had to be to find someone who knew English. I had always been told that the whole world spoke English, so I anticipated little difficulty with this. However, the few early shift workers waiting at the bus stop were evidently not very French, and they knew no English. I showed them my paper.

“Monsieur Demille…?”

Thank God, he was well known. Several arms pointed in the direction I was to go. Hoping beyond hope that only one Mr. Demille lived in this village, I set off.

It had all seemed so simple just two days earlier. I would arrive at the train station and walk straight into Gérard’s welcoming arms. How could I have been so naïve?

I arrived at the end of the street which had been pointed out to me. In front of me was a large square and opposite, a large mansion like building with the word MAIRIE chiseled across the top. I let out a long low whistle. Who would have thought Gérard would live in a place like this. A young lady eyed me suspiciously at the whistle, and had I been a little quicker I would no doubt have seized this opportunity handed me on a plate. But we hadn’t slept all night, and I was beginning to feel it.

I slowly made my way around the square. The clock tower which rose high over my head chimed 5.30. Where was I going to find help at this time of day? I continued wandering around and soon found myself in a narrow street with rows of terraced houses and the odd shop in between. My spirits rose at the sight of a building sporting the famous Guinness sign. The inscription over the top read “Irish Pub.” But, of course, at this early hour the shutters were firmly closed. Still, it bode well and convinced me that all was not lost.

Slowly, people began venturing out into the streets. I saw a door open in a side-street and some people came out carrying a world-famous French baguette. The smell was irresistible and I went up to the door but for me it remained resolutely closed.

A tram rolled by somewhere in the distance and once again I made my way towards the village square. Passing in front of the post office I saw a telephone box. I slipped inside and flicked through the phone book. Thank heavens, there was only one Demille in this village. That was a stroke of luck. I heard footsteps behind me and turning round I held out my paper and stammered “English!”

“Ah, Engleeeeesh!” from a man who tapped the side of his head in a somewhat ambiguous fashion as if that explained everything. I had better luck with the next passer-by. He looked at my paper and took me by the hand, leading me to a large notice board in front of the mansion. On it was a man in full official regalia standing in front of a French flag. “Meeeester Demille!” the man said.

I was struck with horror. Gérard’s father was the Mayor of this village and the address he’d given me was that of the Town Hall.

I shall pass over in silence the events of the next two hours. They are far too distressing to dwell upon so soon after that fateful day. Suffice to say that as I redescended the steps of the Town Hall at five past nine I swore that Mr. Demille would hear from me again. I would stay in this town and one day I would make him swallow his words. I would prove to him that Irishmen were not all those things he had screamed at me in his oh so incomprehensible French.

The Auction

There were still thirty minutes to go before the auction was due to begin, but the buzz in the room spoke volumes. Everyone was moving around, greeting a long lost friend, who for some thirty minutes would become a bitter enemy. To a newcomer all this activity was surprising, but the experienced collector knew full well, this was a part of the obligatory build-up. The moment the auctioneer pronounced his first words, everything would come to a standstill and the strain of concentration would be visible in everyone's eyes.

It was David's first and last auction. His father had been a collector but he had never attempted to buy anything before. Indeed, he would not be doing so now, were it not for his father. He prefered the easel to the collector's room. Nonetheless, he was here now to fulfil his father's dream. The one item missing from his father's collection was an impressionist masterpiece. Not that he could ever have afforded to buy one of the greats. Indeed, Van Gogh would probably return from the grave for a second chance at life, were he to realise the prices being paid for his paintings; he who only ever sold but one meagre painting and that for a pittance. But he had always hoped for one of the lesser works, dying before he could accomplish his dream.

David felt decidedly ill-at-east in these surroundings. It took a supreme effort of the will to stay. He would have preferred to send one of the agents. But they were too well known. That would only have driven the price up further. And David was unsure whether the sum his father had set aside would be enough. The one thing that kept him there was his love affair with this work which had begun the moment he had set his eyes on it. Until then, he had only wanted to contemplate the beauty of a canvas, never desiring to own it. But Sisley's "Early Snow at Louveciennes" had changed him. It was the one thing in life he wanted.

The auctioneer mounted the podium and looked into the hall. At a glance he knew who were the serious bidders, and who was only there for the thrill of the event. Some of the collectors he knew personally. Others, he knew were hiding behind unfamiliar faces. One young man didn't seem to fit in the crowd. A newcomer, or a joker? Well, if he was a newcomer, he wouldn't have a chance in this crowd of cutthroats.

He opened the proceedings and introduced the first lot. It took just two minutes for it to be sold. David was overwhelmed. Try as he might, he didnt see a single person make a bid. But the auctioneers price just kept rising and rising until the final bid was made. What on earth was he to do? He didn't stand a chance.

It took well over two hours for the final lot - the Sisley - to come up. True, David had begun to recognise some of the tricks others were using to make their bids, but he seemed so self-conscious when he tried the same. The auctioneer thought the same and soon wrote him off as a serious contender. But the moment the Sisley came up, things changed. No David didn't become the super-hero of the auction houses. On the contrary his first bid had been so obvious and so high, everyone knew what he was after and he became easy prey. Just let him bid away and in the very last split of a second outbid him. He would soon give up. But what the auctioneer recognised in his eyes was passion. No, not passion, something far greater - love. Here was someone who loved art and who loved this painting.

Bidding was brisk and as the price rose the serious contenders gradually showed their hand. As the auctioneer had predicted, they had given David free hand, only intervening when absolutely necessary. As the price rose, David's gestures became less convincing. The auctioneer knew he couldn't go much further.

David made his last bid. And disaster struck. The auctioneer bent double and reached to the floor. He straightened up again. Fifty-two thousand five hundred once... Fifty-two thousand five hundred twice... and sold for Fifty-two thousand five hundred to the gentleman in the dark tweed suit. A howl of protest went up as the auctioneer called across to the clerc for help. I've lost my contact lense he whispered desperately; it has to be here somewhere.

That at least, was the excuse he gave his directors that evening when questioned about his failure to recognise several bids for the Sisley. His loyalty to the firm and his previous exemplary conduct counted in his favour and he was cleared of all misconduct. He could not however fool his wife. That tell-tale as they sipped their sherry together more than convinced her that for the first time in his life he had committed professional misconduct. And she would never have forgiven him, had he not done so.

This Week’s Theme: Write a story, poem, or essay from the point of view of an inanimate object.

Allseeing is allknowing. That's what humans say. But maybe we should examine this premise a little closer. True, a CCTV camera sees, if not everything, then most things. That must make him pretty ominiscient, possibly even a rival to God.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't want to set myself up as a rival to God. Have people get up early every Sunday morning just to sing my praises has always been tempting; or to have them pray to me five times a day without fail. I must say I'm not to keen on this fasting business; I love the occasional snack of celluloid, and can't work without a regular source of energy from somewhere. But then, if I'm God, I wouldn't have to fast.

The problem is if humans set me up as God on the basis that seeing everything, I know everything, then I'd have to live up to that expectation. And I'm not sure that I can. Take a case a friend of mine came up agaist, last week. He was adjudicating at a sports game and the referee needed his help. Well, he saw everything exactly as it had happened. He saw a man run with the ball, cross the line and then there was an enormous struggle. Eventually, a hand appeared and pushed the ball to the ground. No doubt, about that. But whose hand was it? To which team did it belong? My friend had no idea, but the referee insisted he made a decision. After all, he had seen precisely what had happened. Of course, he won himself a lot of friends by his decision, but a lot of enemies too.

Then, they say, the camera can't lie. But pictures only ever give one particular perspective. From the other side, things may look totally different. Perhaps Julius Caesar would have survived his assassination, had he had a camera, but only if it was positioned so as to see what his assailant had behind his back or under his toga.

So by all means, give credit where credit is due. Give us praise. We do deserve it! But please, leave off the divine stuff. We too are all too fallible.

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The world's most original Irishman - that's what you could call me. That's definitely what the four young travellers I bumped into on my way to France thought of me. Both they and you would, of course, be right. But then, you must bear in mind the fact that anyone outside his own native environment is always more original than inside it.

Over the next few weeks, you'll be getting every Wednesday some of my adventures in France. But to introduce the series here's the journal entry one of the four young travellers This should put you into the right mood for my next eccentric happenings.

Tuesday 7.30 a.m. After a long and tiring trip, arrived safely in Besançon some two hours ago. The girls were excited and nervous, but nothing untoward happened. Unless, that is, you consider our chance encounter with Simon. Simon was an Irishman. Now I know what people say about the Irish and I'm not usually in favour of stereotypes, but as far as Simon is concerned, they really do fit the bill. He wasn't really stupid but very very naive.

We met him about 30 minutes outside of Calais, when we heard someone out in the corridor calling out whether anyone here spoke English. His joy at finding us was evident and he settled into our carriage endearing himself to us with his Irish lilt and his offer of beers all round. To our bemusement, he hadn't a clue where he was going or what he was going to do when he got there. He didn't even have a ticket for the train; he had just got on counting on sorting out any other matters when they arose.

What he did have was a well-worn piece of paper, obviously torn out of an exercise book of some kind with an address written on it. That's when we treated us to his story and you can picture the five of us tearing through the French countryside finishing of the remains of his beer as he told us his story.

Some fifteen months earlier he had gotten to know a young Frenchman on holiday in Ireland. Simon had picked him up in his dad's car on the way home from work and invited him to stay as long as he wanted. They'd visited most of the local watering holes together and had had a pretty rum time at a weekend folk festival - 72 hours non-stop. Well, when this stranger had left, he'd invited Simon to come over any time he wanted and wrote his address. Simon hadn't heard a word from him since, but on the strength of this invitation he'd decided to close the door on his all too conservative Ireland and begin a new life in France. His only luggage, a small carrier bag with the handle of a tennis racket sticking out of the top.

He held out the piece of paper. "Any idea where this place is." I took it and with a bemused smile passed it to the others. It read:

Gérard Demille
La Mairie

We pointed out he'd been given the address of a village town hall.

"That's right! Simon mentioned something about his father being the Mayor."

I couldn't help wondering if this wasn't a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. If he was escaping from Ireland because he didn't fit into its conservative infrastructure, this little village along the Doubs river was not going to be much better. But I refrained from saying something and we soon reached Paris, where we stocked up on the beer and found our connecting train. As Besançon was not far from Gensdouce we stuck together until in the earlier hours of the morning the train pulled into his stop. We'd explained exactly what he had to do and written down the instructions in both English and French. That way he'd only have to show his piece of paper to whoever might want to help. I can see him now skipping off into the darkness on his quest for a new life.

3 Wishes

This Week’s Theme: 3 wishes

Sometime in another age and another world three wishes met together before setting off on a long journey. Each of the three had issued forth from the goodness of the most benevolent master imaginable. Indeed, such was his disposition, that his one desire was to grant the wishes of those whom he carried in his heart. Which was why he had chosen, these specific three wishes.

As the three gathered together they reflected upon the task which had been set them. This was somewhat different from the standard go-to-soandso-and-grant-him-what-he-wants approach. Instead they were to scour time and space and find some in need of the particular wish they had been commissioned with. At their final meeting talk soon turned to the wisdom of their master in setting such a task.

"It's obvious, he has a lot of confidence in us," mused the first. "If not, he would never have let us choose ourselves, whom to help."

"I think it's also a reflection on human society," chimed in another. "Just look at look at the standard wish lists we keep getting. Money sex and power, just to gratify macho men unable to see beyond the end of their noses."

"Well, I think it points the wisdom of the master. It'll be hard to do wrong with these wishes."

With that the third wish got up and set off whilst the two others followed in turn each visiting a different time and location.

This third wish wasn't really sure where he was. But he didn't feel at ease. It was a dark, bleak country, one that hadn't seen much light from the master for many a year. He wondered why people so often refused his goodness trusting to their own self-deluding inventions instead. He hadn't gone very far when he saw a small, forlorn-looking dog straying about the valley. His heart melted at the sight of this half-starved lonely creature and he took it up in his arms. He had no idea what he was going to do with it, but was confident something would come up. Passing a woodcutter's hut, he heard a little girl singing to her precious little doll, but when he looked in there was nothing in her arms. Here was someone with so much love to give, yet no one to love. In a flash the dog was out of his arms barking gently, its little tail wagging. The girl scooped it up and the smile on her face sent the first wish hurtling through space back to where he had come from. Smile's mission was completed.

Prosperity, in turn contemplated the scene in front of him. Never had he scene such a rich city. But, never had he seen such poor people. True, they lived in rich, luxurious houses, in which they slept from 1-5 A.M. every day, before the radios issued the inevitable order for the daily grind to begin. As people began to appear on the streets large, overdimensioned coins appeared. But instead of the people chasing after them, the opposite happened. The moment one of these coins spied someone crossing their doorstep, off it set in pursuit, and the person had to run like the devil to avoid being caught. True, each coin gave freely whatever its slave required, nevertheless the price of freedom was a high price to pay. Prosperity turned his pockets out. He hadn't been prepared for this. All he had was a few keys and an old stopwatch. Anyone watching him meditate would have seen the concentration on his brow, but the careful observer would also have seen the light slowly beginning to shine in his eyes. He entered the first house he came to, fixed up the watch and left it on the table. A man came running from somewhere in the back of the house. He suddenly stopped short, looked at the watch and exclaimed: "Strange, I've still got ten minutes left. I wonder when that last happened to me."His wife came out and they started talking. Over the next few minutes, he looked again and again at the watch, it always showed ten minutes left, although time was ticking away. But soon the watch was forgotten amidst the unlikely pleasure of talking to each other. And prosperity made his way back to the master.

In the meantime, a battle royal was raging back in middle-age Europe. The battle was hard and several people lost their lives. They were the lucky ones. The other wounded were suffering terribly. No one wanted to help them for fear of getting hurt themselves, or because they were enemy soldiers who deserved everything that came to them. The third wish tried his best to persuade people to do something, but he was only laughed at. Dragging a wounded soldier back towards his lines, tears streaming down his cheeks the sun suddenly caught his face. Those waiting turned away almost blinded at the sight. When they looked again, each to his surprise saw his own face reflected back to them from the suffering solider and his helper. Somewhat sheepishly, they started to move one by one out onto the battlefield, and before long the place was transformed into the first military hospital in the history of our world. He was tired and aching but Care had also succeeded in bringing some much needed relief into our world of misery.

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One Pound Off!?

This week's 3WW prompt features the words sunglasses, pound, wild. I've deliberately tried to keep this short, like a snapshot. Wonder how you like it?

The woman staring at me as I picked up the card was wild looking. From behind her sunglasses her eyes beckoned invitingly. Her tantalising lips were mouthing:

Tony's! The hottest spot in town

I flipped the card over.

One pound reduction to the first hundred visitors

I couldn't help wondering how much my one pound saving would actually cost me?

The Lie

The flashing lights wiped the smile off my face as soon as I saw them. I stood riveted to the spot not daring to advance an inch. A cold sense of foreboding came over me. My conscience?

The moment the two policemen come out of our house leading my Auntie Gill between them, I took off as fast as my little legs would carry me. Cars rushed past as I raced down the side of the old Empire cinema, slaloming my way between the crowds of shoppers in the High Street. The jukebox in Tony’s café blared out the familiar strains of Cliff’s Summer Holiday. But not even my heartthrob could comfort me now as I pressed on: no time to stop; too afraid to face up to my deed. I shivered at the familiar faces of our soccer heroes staring accusingly down at me from the hoardings. I turned away, hurried up the uneven steps and slipped through the gap in the railings into the schoolyard. It was holiday time: I could hide here as long as I wanted. I made straight for the gap behind the bike sheds where my cousin, Ron, used to go to hold hands with his girlfriend far from the prying eyes of spoilsport adults and young sniggerers like me. Here, I’d be safe.

I sat there in a daze, trying with all my might not to think those thoughts that kept forcing themselves into my mind. What were the policemen saying to Auntie Gill? Were they kind, or did they keep shouting like Uncle Brian next door? Now, the tears started to flow. It was like Noah’s flood all over again..

What had I done? My aunt had been taken away by the police. They were going to put her in prison, all because of my lie. My mind went back to that fateful day when Auntie Gill came to wish my Mammy a Happy Birthday. She’d brought a huge cake with her and some crazy party hats we’d all put on. We hadn’t laughed so much in ages. That was when I asked:

“Auntie Gill, do you think England will win the World Cup?” It was 1966. The World Cup Finals were being played in England and the whole country was caught up in its fever.

“Well, if they don’t, we’ll just have to steal it, won’t we? We’ll never let it leave England again.”

More laughter.

Two weeks later the Cup was stolen. I was stunned. I never really believed that my aunt had stolen it but for days I agonised over the possibility. My aunt, a thief!Tt A few days later I told Julie that it was my aunt who had stolen the trophy. I was bragging, of course. It made me seem important to have a thief in the family. Never did I imagine that Julie would tell the police. And now Auntie Gill was in prison because I had told a lie. The tears still flowing, I lay my head on a patch of soft grass, trying to forget.

I awoke to the touch of a warm, loving hand on my brow. Opening my eyes I saw mother’s tender, yet worried smile settling on me.

“What happened?” said a weak voice from somewhere within me.

“Ron and Maria found you lying behind the bicycle sheds behind the school. What on earth were you doing there?”

In a flash, it all came back to me. The flashing lights, the policemen, Auntie Gill, the flight… I tried to get out of bed.

“I have to go and see Auntie Gill. I have to go and tell her everything. It’s all my fault. I need to explain.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” Mother was holding me back. “Now listen, young lady! I want you to stay here and rest. You’ve obviously had a bad shock and you’re still very weak. So, you get some sleep while I go and help Gill make some dinner. Afterwards, you can tell me all about it. Now promise me, you’ll stay quiet!”

“But Auntie Gill is in prison. I saw the policemen come to take her away. I have to go and explain everything.”

“Auntie Gill is here at home. The policemen took her away because her boss had been cheating at the office. They wanted to see what Gill knew about it. But since she’d done nothing wrong, they let her go again. She’s here now, and she’ll stay with us until her new house is ready in the summer.”

I stared wide-eyed at my mother. What was she saying? I hadn’t sent Auntie Gill to prison. Auntie Gill wasn’t even in prison. Julie hadn’t told the police, she’d stolen the World Cup. There was no holding me now. I jumped up on my bed and started bouncing around on my mattress like a champion gymnast.

Just hours later the news broke. Pickles, became a hero overnight. His photo was in all the newspapers the next morning. Whilst out with his master he was ferreting under some bushes and emerged with an object wrapped in newspaper. To his master’s astonishment it turned out to be the missing World Cup. Pickles had saved the day, not only for his country but also for me. Snuggled up between Mammy and Auntie Gill watching the story unfold on T.V., I told them all about what had happened. Auntie Gill nearly died laughing.


This post is my entry to the short story contest going on at Write Stuff. Do go over and join in. The more the merrier. And there'll be lots of good reading there too. And after all the work comes the fun part, you get to vote for the winner.

Not The End

The end is never the end but merely a new beginning. So when this weeks Sunday Scribblers prompt came up, I wondered what would come after for my four protagonists.

Laughter burst onto the streets as the four of them exited the building for the last time. Four weeks hard grind had produced some quite amazing results. But now it was all over. They hugged their goodbyes and made their home.

Richard felt drained. He turned away from the others and walked slowly away. The seminar had taken a lot out of him. But worse still, there was nothing left. Nothing more than an inch of brandy at the bottom of the bottle he hadn't touched in over four weeks. Interacting with others for the first time in years he'd started to hope again. But hope proved bitter; it had come and gone, it had betrayed him. At least, the bottle was still there.

Rose skipped down the street towards the taxi rank. The world was at her feet and she was out to conquer it. The seminar had been interesting; her three colleagues friendly. She had been bowled over by Mike's charm but his cynicism didn't go well with her optimism. Anyway, now she was on her way to America, recording contract in hand. And the next time in London her name would be flashing across the town in bright lights. Life was wonderful.

Liz felt contented. She watched the city grow dim in the distance. It had been worthwhile, but she was not sorry it was over. She could already see the warm fire awaiting her. Her treasured desk, the book-laden shelves. True, writing could be a grind. Nothing happened, but excitement was all it was cut out for. And as Keith advanced through the shadows to envelope her in a vast hug, she knew she wanted nothing else.

Mike walked a few steps before flipping a coin. Heads, Trafalgar Square, tails Kensington Gardens. The result didn't really matter. Wherever he went, something would turn up, it always did. That's how he had gotten to where he was. Sheer luck and some his Irish charm meant he could turn anything to gold. And he must remember to call on Richard before he left tomorrow. Life was surely better than an old bottle.

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