Two Stories – one for the young and one for the less so…

Still Breathing

Megan strode up the road propelled by indignation at her mother. Pinged from the house like a rubber band, she could still feel the judder from slamming the front door. It was a good slam, satisfying in every way, a really loud bang that would give the neighbours something else to complain about. Megan imagined the lumps of plaster on the floor that woman would be sweeping up right now – flapping more about the state of her house than her daughter.

It was her room again, plus a few other things her mum threw in for good measure. Why did she never believe Megan could still find stuff. Today, the ‘other things’ were “Why can’t you put your rubbish in the bin?” and “What about your coursework?” and “You knew it was your turn to walk the dog today, you shouldn’t have left it so late!” Well, she had the dog now, didn’t she?

The dog, a labrador named Billy stopped for a sniff at the corner of the road. She yanked his lead; Megan wasn’t done with indignation yet.

Billy’s sniffing made her lose momentum and her insulating glow of pissed-offness was evaporating; a bitter wind was brewing. She patted her skinny jeans pocket and felt the familiar shape of her inhaler. That was another thing her mum was always going on about. She did today. “Have you got your inhaler? An attack could come on just like that!” She snapped her fingers at Megan like she was summoning one in a restaurant. “You remember what happened to that boy? He was on the common and he didn’t have his inhaler and he died!” Yeah, yeah everyone who’d ever had a bit of a cough knew that. It was in the paper for ages when Megan first learned to use one by herself. It turned out the boy didn’t have his inhaler because his girlfriend nicked it for a joke. Then what did the stupid cow do? Only go and top herself. It was horrible. Well Megan didn’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend for that matter and she had her life support in her pocket. She’d be fine.

The sky was one big cloud with a few stripes of brightness reassuring you the sun was still out there somewhere but you couldn’t feel it. “Take your coat. They said on the radio it’s going to snow.” Was her mum’s parting shot. She’ll believe that when she sees it. It never snows here. They always say it’s going to but it never does. The cold wind seeped through her hoody that was made somewhere it’s always hot so what did they know about the British weather? Besides, she hadn’t worn a coat since she was in the juniors. Coats were for saddos.

“It’s going to get dark in an hour so just give him twenty throws of the ball and then come straight home and don’t go down Hawthorns Road! Some strange types hang around there this time of day.” Her mum hovered while Megan was clipping on Billy’s lead. It took twice as long because a tear was making everything all blurry. Well this is showing her, isn’t it? She decided to slow down a bit more, be late, give her a few heebie-jeebies and remind her that going on doesn’t work. That’ll teach her a lesson.

She was at the crossing by the entrance to the common now. Billy stopped to sniff the traffic light post while they were waiting. Megan’s head was beginning to hurt and she needed to pee but there was no turning back today, none of her mum’s ‘I told you so’s.

She was conscious of her breathing, of her chest rising and falling more often than it should, of the little whistle that would sometimes escape with the puff of water vapour lingering on her breath in the cold air. She checked for the lump in her pocket again. She didn’t need it yet. The green man bleeped and she yanked the dog across the road.

Four trees into the common, along Hawthorns Road, she let Billy off the lead. Now she could put the lead round her neck and pull her sleeves down to cover her hands. Her fists grabbed the hoody cuffs from the inside. Billy disappeared to crap in the bushes.

The propelling ping of indignation had completely run out now, Megan dawdled along the road, which wasn’t really a road. This time of year, only dog walkers and cyclists used it. In the summer, families came along here in the shade, to get to the paddling pool and play park. In the winter, it was dark and the bare trees scratched the sky like witches’ fingers and other people, men who should know better came here to do their own kind of crap in the bushes.

An icy gust rolled down Hawthorns Road, nudging her past the cemetery gates. They were locked up already. She skirted round all the dead people tucked up in their beds of earth and brambles to a huge expanse of grass bordered by trees, a duck pond, a distant cycle path to town and the cemetery.

This afternoon, the field was like rock. The mud of a few days ago had dried in hard clay ridges. There’d been a frost that morning, so her mum said, but Megan hadn’t seen it. She tried throwing the ball with her sleeves still over her hands. It didn’t work and her fingertips started to turn blue. She was regretting the no coat thing. A couple of distant cyclists zoomed down the cycle path but apart from them it was just her and the dog. She felt like a speck in a nothing sandwich of earth and sky. As the light faded, oranges stripes streaked across one cloudy corner where she supposed the invisible sun was sinking to give people in Australia skin cancer.

To keep warm, she walked and wrapped her arms round her body in between throwing the soggy tennis ball for the idiotic dog. Sixteen, nineteen, twenty, that’s enough. She tricked the ball off him and hid it in her pocket. Megan let the dog run off to look for some mud in his favourite ditch while she waited on the bench by the duck pond. She watched the sky fizzle out and the twilight turn to dusk.

After a while, Megan realised the dog hadn’t come back; not even to check she was still there. “Bill! Billy! Come here!” She peered through the half-light expecting to see a mud dipped golden labrador bound over from the direction of his ditch. She stood up and called again, “Billy! Come on!” No dripping dog loped across the field, so Megan started walking towards the ditch to flush him out.

From the woods on one side of the duck pond she heard Billy bark. The dog sounded like there was a point to him barking his head off. She called again “Billy! Here! Come on boy!” He didn’t come. Oh God, she’d have to go and get him!

I’m thinking of putting this on one of those short story apps. So if you’d like to read on and would pay 59p to do so, leave a comment and it might persuade me.

Sneaking Out

I didn’t come here by choice you know. I was kidnapped, kidnapped! Now there’s a daft word for me, silly-old-fool-napped that’s what I was. I let Marie take me for an outing – a lovely drive in the country she said. She brought me here, sat me down for a cup of tea and that’s when I knew where I was – Golden bloody Sands retirement home. It was too late to escape, my bags were already in my room, they said and Marie, my devoted, caring daughter was out the door with a ‘See you tomorrow Mum, when you’ve had a chance to settle in.’ ‘Chance to settle in?’ What she meant was see you next week when you’ve had a chance to calm down. Well it’s next week now and I’m not calmed down, as the loving offspring has just found out

She said I was becoming a danger to myself, that I’d be doing myself an injury if she hadn’t taken the matter into her own hands. ‘What if I had a fall,’ she said ‘and there was nobody around to find me? What if I couldn’t get out to do some shopping? What if I forgot to turn the gas off?’ Well I’d rather gas myself in my own kitchen than suffocate from boredom in here.

Look at them all, plonked round the room like a set of those nodding dogs you see in the backs of other people’s cars. You’ll not catch me doing that, I can sit up straight and I’m not going to waste my time sleeping. I’ll do the crossword in a minute; that should keep the old brain going. Then, perhaps I’ll be able to work out an escape plan. I watched that film ‘The Shawshank something or other’ with my grandson, Sam – not sure I’ll last long enough to make a hole in the wall that’s big enough for me with my pudding spoon though! I’d be better off sneaking out through that that big hole with a hinge and a handle, if only my legs would work like they’re supposed to.

I’m thinking of putting this on one of those short story apps. So if you’d like to read on and would pay 59p to do so, leave a comment and it might persuade me.


One response to “Stories

  1. Definitely want to read on!

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