24 Stories for charity and entertainment. Stories Five and Six.

Story number Five in the collection is one I’m particularly fond of. The Little Christmas Tree by Paul Skelton has a whimsical charm and straight fowardness to it that makes it quite an easy read, while at the same time it has hidden depths. It is in fact, both a story that could be enjoyed by children for it’s adorable characters (the Nordic pine trees and Mickey the Magpie) and also by adults for its deeper layers and environmental message.

I have often thought that the Little Christmas Tree would do well as a Pixar style animation and I’m happy to say that the last time I saw Paul, he was musing on the possibility of a sequel!

Paul ‘Skelly’ Skelton himself, is someone that has become a good friend and enthusiastic supporter of the OMP. I first met him through his son Daniel – also a good friend of mine and obviously creative talent runs in the family as Daniel has also written some stories and worked up some imaginative concepts, including helping me develop MEET THE ASBOES, an OMP comedy that you’ll hear about in a future blog.

But back to the Little Christmas Tree.

CHAPTER ONE: THIS WHOLE WORLD
‘Ey up Jack lad, yer Uncle Jim’s nodded off, he he he,’ laughed Dick

‘He has, he he, he has Granddad!’ Jack replied, ‘Granddad? Do you ever nod off?’

‘Nay lad, I have to keep alert, being the biggest and oldest tree in this whole world.’

‘Keep alert Granddad? What do you have to keep alert for?’

“Well…er… just to look out for us all, ahem…yes, that’s it. You know Jack lad, I make
sure we’re all happy, and safe. Mm yes.’ Dick smiled benignly at his Grandson.

‘I always feel happy and safe with you Grandad, and Uncle Jim, but, well, how big
is this whole world Granddad?’ asked Jack earnestly.

‘Ah, yes, well you see them common trees, them shabby ones way over theer?’
(Jack was too small to see them), ‘Well, they’s near the end of this world and, furthermore ..,’Dick continued importantly, ‘…it’s about the same distance whichever direction you look.’

‘WOW!’ exclaimed Jack excitedly ‘How do you know that Granddad … coz we’re,
we’re rooted aren’t we? So, as we don’t move, how can we know over theer is the
end of this whole world? Is it just coz we’re intelligent?’

‘Oh yes we’re Nordic pines, we ARE intelligent, as are the birds, to some extent.
They fly about in all directions and bring us information… Plus I was here at the
beginning of time, just after this world was formed and there were no other trees back
then and I could see in all directions Jack lad.’

‘Granddad, if you were the first tree, where did you come from?’

‘The first seed, Jack lad.’

‘And where did the first seed come from Granddad?’

‘Well, that came from the first pine-cone, which fell from the sky.’

‘Gosh you must be very clever Granddad.’

‘Ho ho ho,’ laughed Dick ‘Yer Uncle Jim doesn’t always think so.’

As if he could sense he was being spoken of, Jim chose that moment to wake up with a massive tree creaking yawn.

‘Ey up Jim, had a good nap?’ called Dick.

‘What? Oh it was only a few minutes…wasn’t it?’ asked Jim sleepily

‘A few minutes?’ Dick scoffed

‘A few minutes?’ Jack mimicked his Granddad

‘A good hour I’d say,’ mused Dick

‘An hour? A whole hour? Piffle, it were just a few minutes.’

Dick and Jack laughed heartily, so much so that Jim started to laugh with them.

‘A whole hour. Really? Haven’t missed much have I?’ Jim chortled.

‘Granddad was telling me how big this world is..,’ said Jack ‘…and all about the
beginning of time Uncle Jim.’

‘Really? Well your Granddad should know, he’s nearly four thousand years old. Ah,
but do you know what’s at the end of this world, eh?’

Jack and Dick looked at Jim.

Dick was poised to say something, but Jim continued, ‘Well, I’ll tell thee, it’s water,
masses of it that goes on forever and ever.’

‘Is that so Jim?’ Dick looked bemused

‘What…like…like… puddles Uncle Jim?’

‘Aye lad. That is so Dick, surely you remember – massive never ending puddle of
water, and the birds told how it moves this way and that?’ said Jim

‘Ah ha…yes, yes, it’s coming back to me now, ahem, of course, yes, it moves with
the wind and heaves and swells,’ said Dick

‘Crumbs, you and Uncle Jim know everything!’

‘Just about.’ said Jim proudly

‘Aye, Jack lad, we know all that’s ever needed to be known,’ said his Grandfather solemnly.

And they fell into a contented silence, suddenly punctuated by a loud SCREECH…
CHAPTER TWO: PLOPPED ON
‘Screeech! Ello geezer” Mickey the Magpie landed on one of Dicks lower branches.

‘Woss occurring then?’

Dick replied ‘Hello Mickey; You tell US what’s occurring, it’s you that flies about!’

‘Would yer believe it? The Mrs only wants a new build nest this year. I mean I asks
yer. Wot am I, eh? A boggin’ builder?’

‘But other birds build new nests every Spring Mickey,’ said Jim reasonably.

Mickey just got even more agitated ‘Ha! Bloomin’ Spring,’ and then just realising his own wit ‘Bloomin’ Spring….Ha ha ha…gettit? Spring?, flowers?, bloomin’? Aah, forget it. Me mates, they get away with re-using their old nests but my Mrs. won’t ‘ave it, she sez, “no nookie ‘til I’m nested an’ rested in a brand new build nest! She is so demanding!’

‘High maintenance eh?’ Dick murmured, ‘I see your dilemma Mickey. What if you
cleaned up your old nest for her?’

‘She won’t ‘ave that. I mean she’d suss, wouldn’t she? She’d remember the location.’

‘You’d better get busy then Mickey,’ said Jim, sniggering.

‘Bah! I get ‘er luvverly shiny fings, lotsa bling y’know? Out every day duckin’ an’
divin’ to get ‘er stuff an’ now she wants me to be a builder as well. When I told ‘er
enough’s enough, she only flits off in a huff. Then, would yer credit it, she starts givin’ this young Magpie the c’mon, yeh? An’ ‘e’s givin’ er the glad eye. So I sees im orf, an I sez to er, I sez, listen love, I’ll see wot I can do, but there won’t be any more bling for a while if I’m off building.’

‘Mickey, other birds do it, you’re not the only one,’ chipped in Dick.

‘Uvver birds? I am not uvver birds mate. I’m a geezer, I got me reputation to fink about, know wot I mean? I tell ya don’t ever get wed.’

‘We don’t,’ muttered Jim

‘She sez, ‘I want it built proper Mickey, not shoddy Mickey, plenty of room Mickey,
nag-nag nag-nag,’ she never lets up. Not forra……”’

Suddenly Jack piped up ‘Couldn’t you find an old nest in another tree and make it look like it’s brand new?’

‘AHA! There you go Mickey, that’s Nordic pine wisdom. In fact I was waiting to see
who’d spot that solution first.’ Added Dick pompously.

‘Cor blimey. Yeh. Nick an old nest, yeh? Me cunning an’ macho reputation intact,
me air-credibility maintained. Yeh, I could do a refurbishment. Line it up wiv fresh mud mix, a few fevvers, bit of bling. Move her in an’ it’s WAY-HEY-HEY for Mickey boy. So you’re young Jack eh? I tell you son, you’re a bright one an’ no mistake.’

‘I’m going to be big tall and clever like Granddad and Uncle Jim,’ Jack announced
with the conviction of blind faith in his own kind ‘Aren’t I Granddad?’

‘OH YES, Jack lad. OH YES,’ said Dick proudly.

‘Yer clever already,’ Mickey told him ‘Well gotta fly boys. Mickey’s nest hunting! In a bit lads.’ and off he flew.

‘He he he he hee.’ Jack started giggling, and then Jim started to chortle

‘Ho ho ho ho, oh no, he he he.’

‘What? What’s the joke?’ Dick wanted to know.

‘Ho ho, I can’t tell him, ho ho ho you tell him Jack, he he.’ Jim was spluttering with
mirth.

‘Tell me what?’ demanded Dick.

‘Well, he he heee, Granddad, he he he…”’but Jack couldn’t finish for laughing.

‘WHAAAT!?’

‘Mickey’s only gone and plopped on you Dick! Ho ho.’ Jim was now getting control of himself.

‘Oh crap.’ said Dick with feeling, which set Jim and Jack off again into hysterical laughter.

‘It’ll wash off in the rain.’ said Dick irritably.

‘Ho ho, if and when it rains Dick, and only if it isn’t baked on by the sun. Ho ho.’ chortled Jim.

‘BAH.’ snorted Dick, and the sun shone, and shone, the stuff was still there when
summer came.

*

Story Six is TONTINE or to give it, it’s full title. ‘The Catman in the Case of the Unofficial Tontine.

Firstly … for those of you who haven’t heard the term, a Tontine is a pact between a group of people, usually revolving around treasure or some sort of prize. A tontine is simple – imagine a gang of 6 bank robbers have hidden millions in stolen jewels. They agree to let years or even decades pass before retrieving the fortune. In a tontine, the last surviving jewel thief would be the one to return and claim the jewels.

Actually this might not work amongst thieves but in Victorian literature it was often a device where gentlemen of honour were concerned and talking of Victorian literature, I absolutely love the style and this is one of two OMP stories written in the late Victorian Detective mode.

Actually the genesis of Tontine came about some dozen or more years ago. I had just had my first story published – a three part prose piece in AC comics’ Femforce. This led me to have contact with Paul Monsky, who ran the Femfans site and later contributed to the comic as a writer. Paul invited me to join a competition wherein I had to write a story using one of the public domain ‘golden age’ comic superheroes that AC had revived. I chose The Catman – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat-Man_and_Kitten

However, rather than just writing yet another modern superhero tale, I decided to reinvent the character as a Victorian detective, while keeping all of the core elements from the original superhero. My version owes more to Sherlock Holmes and pulp noir heroes like The Shadow, than he does to brightly coloured heroics of the 1940’s onwards. In fact Captain David Merryweather is mostly plain clothes and only dons his fearsome nocturnal identity when absolutely needed. He even has has own Watson figure, the Deacon.

THE CASE OF THE UNOFFICIAL TONTINE

From the Journals of The Deacon.

It was late in the summer of 1885 when I returned at last to the sedate confines of Holyoke City, that bastion of refined eastern seaboard civility, not thirty miles from the centre of Boston. After eight months abroad on the lecture circuit of Oxford University, taking in the great medical city of Edinburgh, the delights of London and of course within my own field –the cathedral cities of Coventry and Salisbury; I thrilled and exulted at the hustle and bustle of Americans out and about conducting their everyday business in an American City.

Of course there were vast similarities between Eastern Ivy League cities such as Holyoke and the cities and large towns of the United Kingdom, but back home there was a sense of barely repressed buoyancy beneath even the most dignified pillar of the Holyoke community that threatened to burst free at any moment, as opposed to the dry, calm, sometimes plodding pace to be found in English cities such as Oxford.

This air of excitement gripped me from the moment I stepped off of the gangplank onto American soil. I was seized with such an urge to be out “doing” that I had to mightily resist the temptation to unpack my long compiled ecclesiastical notes on the spot and dash off a chapter or two of my planned “Journal of the Modern Church: Its Differences Between Continents and Modern Practices Thereof,” which I’ll admit is a mouthful to say and I’d confess a recipe for curing the insomnia of the common man should he be put upon to crack open the first volume.

Nether-the-less, as a churchman interested in the arts of writing, philosophy, medicine, politics and the workings of the human mind, I fancied myself able to tell a fascinating factual tale which would both be useful and enjoyable to those in literati of like mind.

I digress, however. Let us skip forward to the second evening of my return to the United States and the point wherein the pertinent events of this narrative commence. Having suffered one uncomfortable night at my not yet prepared home, I left the business of dusting, warming and generally making my property liveable again to my valet Stuart and presented my credentials at my club; for it was there that I intended to spend a comfortable few days until my house was once again ready for occupancy.

The Tem Street Gentleman’s Club, so named for its founder, a Mr August Tem, dated to Revolutionary times and traced its origin to the Republican movement in Holyoke of the 1770s. These days it was a fine traditional establishment catering mainly to gentlemen of high professional standing and the occasional gentleman of means but no regular occupation. It was one of the latter types I chanced upon in the billiards room … an old friend in fact. Captain David Merryweather and I had shared lodgings for a four-year period until I had purchased my property a year ago.

Spying me, a look of delight crossed his usually stoic darkly handsome features.

“Deacon!” he cried, “My lord, it’s good to see you again!”

At this point an aside to note that although my name IS Nathaniel Deacon, it is much of a standing joke that due to my past, firmer affiliation with the Church and the coincidence of my name; among friends and professional colleagues I am often referred to as “The Deacon.”

Now, a word about my good friend Captain Merryweather. As previously noted I had first made his acquaintance in the year 1880 shortly after his retirement from the service, although he was still only in his late twenties. Merryweather and I had both applied for the same set of rooms and on meeting had taken an instant liking for each other and thus decided to share for companionship and to defray expenses.

He presented a fine figure of a man, standing well over six-foot in height, his build an impressive reminder of his service days that he had kept up. In looks he possessed the dark wavy hair and Byronic features that would set many a society lady to blush in his presence, yet he remained distant and aloof to the charms of the cream of Holyoke society.

It was several months into our acquaintance, when our friendship had begun to grow, that Merryweather first began to mention the dark days he had spent in Burma and even longer before he imparted the full tragic tale of his lost love the Princess Afzula.

Altogether the Captain was a fascinating man. He had been born in Europe of mixed parentage – his mother a quarter Hungarian-American gypsy and his father an English soldier who had died during his childhood in Burma. Merryweather, possessed of dual nationality, had returned at the age of seven to America with his mother to rejoin his maternal grandfather’s travelling circus. His mother had learned the arts of animal training from adepts in Burma and young David had spent his early years surrounded by magnificent great cats with whom he had developed a surprising affinity. Then a few years later his mother had died under circumstances Merryweather has never disclosed to me and he withdrew even further from the company of men, preferring to associate mainly with the favoured tiger of his mother called Roxanne.

At the age of 18 his life took another drastic turn when, on the urging of his grandfather, young David enlisted in the United States Cavalry and rose to the rank of Captain over the following eight years. During that time he travelled the length and breadth of the country, fought in the Indian wars, joined army intelligence and discovered his fascination with the art of detection. Finally, he could stand no more of the white man’s treatment towards the Indians and, refusing to condone what he termed “the inhuman persecution” of that race of native Americans he had come to admire so much, he resigned his commission.

Seeking adventure and his past, Merryweather, now a man of means through judicious investment of his salary began to travel the world ending up in Burma. His exploits with the race of Burmese mystics known as the Cat People, his discoveries of his past and the tragic end of the Princess that he loved, I shall not impart in this narrative. All the years I have chronicled his exploits, Merryweather has been glad to add detail and give his blessing to my humble efforts but of those days, his reply is always the same. “Not yet Deacon, the pain is still too fresh in my memory. Some day the story will be told … but not this day!”

Now, I mention Merryweather’s exploits matter of factly. To my old readers who pick up my published accounts after a near year long absence (and I apologise for same), please bear with me as I explain to newer readers that which is known to you already. Namely that shortly after I met Captain David Merryweather, we became embroiled in the affair I then documented as “The Curious Account of the Yellow Hilted Dagger,” for Merryweather, my friends, although retired, was still a man of action and on settling in Holyoke City he soon established a reputation as an adventurer stroke consulting detective. It has been my privilege to chronicle the many adventures we have found ourselves involved in and by this account I resume my duties once more … but with a difference.

I have mentioned Merryweather’s wish that the story of Princess Afzula and those dark days in Burma be kept secret until the time arises when they may of a readiness be told. In the past I have been obliged to alter or omit certain details from my narrative – the names of the foreign diplomats in “The Case of the International Incident,” for example or the identity of the poor demented girl in “The Madhouse of Infamy.” It was also necessary to alter the identity of the relatives of the “Deranged Boston Poisoner,” lest those innocents suffer unjust retribution. Nor would the gentlemen of the board of a certain reputable bank be appreciative should they be made to look foolish by revealing them as victims of “The Swindling Ghoul.”

However as my older readers know, I have always plainly stated that certain names and events have been altered to protect the innocent and those who would not allow permission to have their part in certain adventures known in print. In all these narratives a glaring fact has been omitted. Although, to be fair, my writings are made up of my own firsthand experience and notes of the accounts of others, including Merryweather, and it was he who kept one major fact even from myself, his best friend until a year ago. Yes, I have known of this fact during the two narratives prior to this one, but have not been at liberty to reveal my knowledge until now.

In the past I have referred to an urban legend … a legend that kept cropping up through half gabbled confessions of an underworld informer, tavern gossip … the whisper on the air itself when facts are revealed as half truth, rumour, gossip and innuendo, but no man seems to know from whence these whispers originate.

This urban legend I speak of is in fact solid truth. The legend I speak of is the tale of the fearsome nocturnal avenger known as the Catman and at last I can reveal he exists … for when Captain David Merryweather and the Deacon have exhausted all possible avenues in our explorations of the lower reaches of the criminal underworld, even after we have been forced to resort to physical means and failed … hours later Merryweather would return as the Catman and as the Catman he WOULD get the answers he sought. For all Holyoke’s criminal fraternity has one thing in common … They all fear the Catman!

So there we sat, two old friends catching up on old times. Once settled in the smoking room in two comfortable armchairs, brandy glasses within easy reach, Merryweather lit up one of his favoured cheroots while I puffed contentedly on my old Meerschaum; he turned to me and said “Your timing is quite fortuitous Deacon, for I am about to embark upon what I fancy will be an interesting diversion and your assistance would be most welcome.”

I leaned forward. “I should be delighted old man. What may I ask is the nature of the case?”

Merryweather snapped open his pocket watch and glanced at the face “In precisely 60 seconds I am to meet with Colonel Preston Danforth in this very room. The Colonel knew my father in his army days and contacted me recently to implore my aid in a matter he claimed related to an incident occurring during their service days in India. It’s my hope that I will learn more about my father as a result and so I have agreed to hear the gentleman out.”

The Colonel Imparts a Strange Tale.

Three minor events occurred simultaneously. The old grandfather clock struck the hour; Merryweather snapped his watch fob shut and the door opened to reveal a distinguished grey haired man in his early sixties. It was obvious at a glance, despite the gentleman’s civilian dress, that he had until recently been an active military man – his stance and bearing displayed such as did his no nonsense stare and analytical eyes. My own eyes were drawn to his impressive handlebar moustache, thicker and greyer than my own … a strange thing to observe at such a time, but such is the way of the human mind on occasion.

Merryweather rose to greet our visitor and once introductions were exchanged and Colonel Danforth was seated, my friend bade him begin his tale and we listened without interruption as the story unfolded.

“Gentlemen, I am not a man given to idle fancy. No, indeed I am too pragmatic in my dealings to give much credence to myth, legend and old wives tales. I am a down to earth type who prefers to deal in reality and cold, hard scientific fact. Yet with my own eyes I have witnessed … I can only describe them as unexplainable incidents. In the years since I have endeavoured to either find rational explanations for my experiences or to put them from my mind. I had been rather successful, for the most part, at the latter for some years … until recently.”

If you would like to read the rest of Tontine or The Little Christmas Tree, simply head over to your local Amazon and type in ONE MILLION PROJECT. All proceeds to CANCER RESEARCH UK and the homeless charity EMMAUS.

Thank you,

Jason.

 

My Self-Publishing Experience

My Self-Publishing Experience

Rachel Wollaston

There is an out-dated judgement in the writing world that self-publishing is a last resort for writers who had no success in finding a traditional publisher.

While it may have been true before, this outlook kindle-381242_1920has been turned completely on its head with the  arrival of services such as Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace. These sites have made it much easier for authors to publish their books independently and still get the recogntion they deserve.

I always had the pre-conceived notion that I would go down the traditional route and spend months looking for a publisher who would be want my book. But when I looked into the arguments of traditional vs independent publishing, doing things myself sounded a lot more appealing than it did before.

Of course, traditional publishing has worked for many successful authors, and there are many reasons to still go down that path. It depends on…

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24 Stories for charity and entertainment. Stories Three and Four

The third story in the collection is PRAY TO THE VOID by TONY O NEILL – I considered it a great coup to get a Tony O Neill story and it all came about through a mutual contact and friend who writes under the name Cosmo Clinton.

Tony has so far been famous in two creative areas. In his teens and twenties he was a musician and played with bands such as Kenickie, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and with singers Kelli Ali and Marc Almond.

His first foray into writing was with DIGGING THE VEIN which was published in 2006. This debut novel and many of his subsequent works used his years in the music industry and addiction to heroin and crack as inspiration – he was also on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008 for ‘HERO OF THE UNDERGROUND,’ a book he co wrote about the memoirs of  NFL player Jason Peters. Several of his works have been sought after and optioned for potential movies in Hollywood.

As far as I know PRAY TO THE VOID, the comic misadventures of an addict fresh out of rehab, has not been published elsewhere but you can read it in the ONE MILLION PROJECT, placed in the third position due to the prominence of its author – its also a damn good story!

Here is an extract from the opening :

‘I had left drug rehab half an hour ago and I was in a liquor store trying to cash a check for four hundred and fifty dollars. For the past three weeks I had been looking at the giant neon sign for this liquor store from out of my window. The sign was an enormous grinning neon clown who promised ICE COLD BEERS – CERVESA. Now I was here. Before, the place had seemed as mysterious and inaccessible as some long forgotten continent. Now that I was out of rehab it was just another liquor store, containing no magic whatsoever, just bottles: row upon row of bottles.

The old Indian behind the counter took my check, took his cut, before counting the remainder back to me. I put the money in my wallet and went to leave. Then I stopped, and turned around. I walked to the back of the store. Banks of refrigerators lined the back wall. I opened up a door. The cool air hit me immediately. I examined the rows of glistening cans and glass bottles. They had Mexican beers, European beers, and 40oz bottles of American beer. The bottom two shelves had the heavier stuff. Bum juice: shit like Olde English 800, Crazy Horse, Steel Reserve, and Colt 45. I grabbed a 40oz bottle of Crazy Horse and walked back to the counter. Handed over the bills, twisted off the cap and took a long, thirsty slug from the bottle. I breathed for the first time in weeks, and looked at the old man again. He had been staring at me. He dropped his gaze and I took another two or three long belts, killing the bottle. I dropped the empty in the trashcan on my way out.

I was free.

Susan picked me up half an hour later. As I sat baking on the street under the fierce sun, the last few weeks of prayers and advice ran through my head. If you use again, you will die. That seemed to be the general idea. After a month of nothing stronger than coffee the booze had given me a pleasant high. When Susan pulled up she was driving some piece of shit Volvo station wagon with rust patches. She had put on weight and shaved her head. She had a look in her eyes that scared me. Susan seemed to get crazier when she was sober. The insanity that the drugs were masking was closer to the surface now.

I got in the car. We just sat there in silence for a while, not making eye contact.

“How you feeling?” she asked.

“Fuckin’ good to be out.”

“What d’you wanna do?”

I shrugged. “I have four hundred and thirty seven dollars. Do we have a place to stay?”

“Yup. Found an apartment in Hollywood, belongs to a guy I met in rehab. Says we can stay there as long as we want so long as we don’t use drugs there. He’s clean now. Working the program.”

I nodded.

“You wanna get high?” I asked.’

*

Story Number Four is the second entry of mine out of eleven, but its not the second one I wrote. Having started with a more serious one (SLICE OF LIFE) and seeing as the first three stories, while not without humour, were reasonably heavy, I wanted something very light and full on comedic to follow.

THE DIARY OF AN INCONSEQUENTIAL MAN is sort of a mix of Adrian Mole (if he were in his fifties) and some inspiration taken from my experiences as a teacher working in PUPIL REFERRAL UNITS where I met some very arrogant and egotistical people as well as many lovely ones. Diary looks at the kind of pompous tinpot dictator who finds himself the big fish in a very small pond.

If this story ever became popular enough for a small screen adaption, I would definitely want Peter Capaldi to play the main part!

Here is an extract from near the start – December 26th is in fact the first entry.

‘December 26th 20**

Thank goodness that Bob and Julie have finally gone, having consumed the better part of my wine rack and all the comestibles they can get their porky little hands on.

Honestly, I know Margaret loves her brother but do we really have to have them round on Boxing Day. Well I suppose it’s my fault as I did tell Margaret 27 years ago on the eve of our wedding that she could pick two holidays in the calendar year and I didn’t want to deal with them out of a larger group and not at our home if it could be avoided, apart from those two days. Boxing Day and Easter Sunday are my crosses to bear.

It is now 3 minutes to nine and at last I can measure my penis!

Tonight’s measurement inconclusive. Penis remains flaccid and unresponsive to stimuli. I firmly attribute this to Bob over staying his welcome. Margaret should have ejected him and his dreary wife earlier so I had more time to compose myself before my 9pm measurement. She knows my anxieties flare up if I fear I will not be able to keep to a schedule!

December 27th 20**

A relaxing day without disturbances. I am gratified to record that I was able to get on with some work on my non work projects and tabled a sufficient time for relaxation.

I rose at 7:30am precisely (I have always been an early riser. Father used to say Early to bed, early to rise and a full day of accomplishment awaits the organised man) which is my holiday waking time. If it were a school day I would already have been forty minutes in my office.

My routine is simple but as you dear reader of the future … perhaps you are little Michael all grown up or my son Clive may well have had other offspring in the future. Never-the-less, you can learn from your old grandfather or great grandfather as the case may be, just as I have benefitted from the last several generations of Hooper men. I hope one day also to include Great Great Grandfather Charles invaluable journal among my effects. His description of Victorian life and the rigid schedules and standards he held himself to, are inspiring reading as I hope you will find my own.

I rise at 7:30, proceed at once to urinate and then my bathroom routine, in order – clean teeth, a nice hot shave (A man should always shave. I do so every day religiously at either 5:47am or 7:47am depending on work day or not and again at 6:45pm. Occasionally I will add a third shave in the afternoon if I have time. My office has a small en-suite reserved for my exclusive use) then a shower. Breakfast at 6:10 or 8:10am and out of the house at precisely 25 past the hour for work if working or to walk Basil (dog) if not.

Penis situation – the relaxation has done me some good. I managed to achieve a not insubstantial erection. Just a tad under 6 inches so not my best one lengthwise. Tomorrow Margaret is expecting our monthly act of love. I don’t know if I feel up to it; physically I am fine. Perfect even. I just don’t really like doing it anymore. It’s a lot of effort and I’m very concerned I’ll put my back out again.

Have discussed these concerns with Doctor Filmore (Recording of penis stats was his suggestion. 9pm time my own choice.) and he agrees with my conclusions that I am not somehow incapable and that the problem is less a physical thing but more a lack of motivation. He suggested trying role play with Margaret. I shall consider it but in the meantime there is tomorrow to get through. I am loathe to postpone the coitus because Margaret and I discussed the issue of scheduling three years ago and I pride myself on my timekeeping and it is contrary to my very being to not keep a previously agreed upon appointment.

December 28th 20**

I have purchased the tie from M & S. I now have 51 ties so I decided to give the purple one with the jagged blue line to Clive. It was always on my danger list but there was a slight chance I would go with getting shot of the cream silk. In the end though cream silk survives another round of tie elimination. Maybe I will wear it with my blue blazer for the New Term open evening.

Off to walk Basil. In fact I might take him to that new grooming place. Next door have had something done to spiff up their Alsatian (ugly thing. Basil is much more of a handsome hound) and I feel Moncrieff is on the offensive again, smug bastard with his new coy carp pool and garden ‘centre-piece.’

That reminds me. Jetways are coming in on the 30th to fit the Jacuzzi I ordered. Noticed Moncrieff peeking over the fence checking out the new decking. Wait till he sees the finished product!

What a great evening. I don’t know if it was the look on the neighbours face when he saw the newly groomed Basil (Kapow. Double whammy fishpool!), the news that Bob the slob was deservedly taken in to hospital (hardened arteries – poetic justice) or Margaret’s new nightie but tonight I was like a much younger man in the boudoir. Everything working, no loss of excitement and the wife is purring like a kitten. The only downside is I have now set the bar very high for next month!

December 29th 20**

Unable to journal until now. 9:07pm. Back still killing me. I’ve been on pain meds since shortly after waking up. Hardly able to move so Margaret has been waiting on me hand and foot as she bloody should. Did this to myself trying to pleasure her. It’s the least she can do!

Set up an app on my phone to buzz Margaret’s phone when I need her and the best thing is when I press the app upstairs her phone makes a sound like a bell ringing,

Penis completely non reactive but to be fair my efforts to enliven the beast were only half hearted.

December 30th 20**

Can hear Jetways men outside putting the deck together and installing my Jacuzzi. Just in bloody time too – back still aching. Could do with a soothing soak. Plan is for tonight at 7:30pm at the start of Corrie – Moncrieff can’t fail to notice as his window faces directly into our garden. The heaters I paid an arm and a leg for will keep us nice and toasty.

Successful evening. Enacted plan and persuaded Margaret to go into hot tub with me. Saw Moncrieff trying not to look at us. I could almost feel the waves of jealousy coming off the balding cretin.

I must be some kind of super stud. Alright, back was not up to the act of love but at least I know everything is working as I sustained a massive erection while in the hot tub with Margaret. It would not die away so I got Margaret to give me relief with her hand. I think Moncrieff must have known what was going on. The pervert was trying not to look.

December 31st 20**

As I look in the mirror and tie my new M & S tie, I can’t help but reflect that life can sometimes be good and I am a fortunate man. Here I am 52 years old but still slim and trim (unlike Fat Bob. Why do people let themselves go in such a disgusting way?) and I have all my hair (Thinking of you Moncrieff) albeit grey (Margaret called me a silver fox). I am a successful family man with a successful adult son and small grandchild. I am at the top of my field (for now … until they wise up and make me Head of the entire centre not just Head of the Old Treelake site) on fantastic money and my reputation is second to none as is my keen intelligence and insightful mind. I am loved and respected by most, feared by some (gotta keep those T.A’s and newly qualified teachers on their toes!).

Life is indeed good and best of all, Bob and Julie won’t be at tonight’s get together. In fact I’ve managed to swing it that my (chuckle) ‘cronies’ will outnumber the plebs. Yessir there will be plenty of Treelake top brass there.

That reminds me, must ask my Deputy Head of Centre, Helene if the council got back to her about my proposals for the new intensive surveillance policy.

Between you and I dear diary, I sold it as a bold new initiative to keep the evil little sprogs in their place but that’s just an additional side benefit of me having complete and utter control and cognizance of what goes on at my centre. Bloody T.A’s won’t be able to take a shit in their dingy little bathroom without me knowing colour or texture!

January 2nd 20**

A day of diary time missed because some people don’t have a bloody sense of humour! Well admittedly I was too hungover all of yesterday to gather up the enthusiasm but if I had done so I would have had some strong words to say about certain proles and ingrates.

First of all who does Miss ‘Tightarse’ Proctor think she is!? A silly little girl with the brains of most of her gender (with a few exceptions such as Helene and occasionally my wife) and a bloody cheek. Why if I had argued against my bosses opinion when I was 25 and just starting my career, I would have got a right bollocking and the sack and quite rightly so!

I don’t even know what the wench was doing there. Some bright spark in the Science Dept invited her I shouldn’t wonder. Alright she’s been on staff for two years now but as far as I’m concerned that little bubblehead was still on probation and she marked her cards good n proper. Just need to be clever about it. Hmmm, could be I’ll reassign her as class tutor for 10F and simply wait for the meltdown and resignation letter. If that doesn’t work I’ll think up something to get the tart kicked out on her tight little arse.

Fascist and Draconian am I? I have never been talked to like that in all my days in Education and certainly not by a subordinate.

Calm Duncan. Calm.

I should put this in perspective for you dear reader of the future. Helene Morrison, my number two had just toasted me and was positively gushing about my strong, firm leadership and brilliant initiative and how we have turned Old Treelake from a failing PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) into an outstanding (Ofsted’s words, not mine) new school for SEN (Special Educational Needs) children.

Alright, fair enough I have instituted a policy of reclassification – it’s still the same old problem brats in the same building but my genius was to rebrand as ‘not quite an exclusion centre.’ Sure our kids had all been chucked out of schools for extreme bad behaviour or they were ‘vulnerable’ (malingering mental cases some of em) but we considered Old Treelake and the other sites to be a sort of half way school … we put em in uniform and put the fear of god into em and those few totally untameable incorrigibles were quietly removed to some shit hole where they would be stood guard over till they hit 16 and were someone else’s (police probably) problem.

One of my most inspired and genius (Helene’s words not mine) initiatives – the very same one that had made my rep in teaching circles – an initiative that got Duncan Hooper face and name recognition with the likes of Michael Gove – was the very same one which Miss Alison ‘Loony lefty liberal hippy rabble-rouser’ Proctor, felt the need to call ‘disgusting and morally dubious.’

By now you all really want to hear about my brilliance and I will not disappoint you. It was simple. The worst of the brats were coming into the centre and falling asleep on their desks. It soon became apparent that they were staying up all night playing computer games and watching age inappropriate DVDs. What’s more their bunch of spineless waste of space parents (my god, don’t get me started on those cretins!) couldn’t do a damned thing about it.

So leave it to the Duncster. Enter one Duncan Hooper, head teacher extraordinaire – I took one look at the problem and said ‘I AM NOT HAVING THIS!’ and I let it percolate in the old grey matter and before you could say Bob is your fat and despised brother in law, I had in my wisdom, solved the issue with simple elegance.

If a sprog is on their phone in class you confiscate it. Obvious.

So if the problems with electronic gear at home … well, the parents were easy to talk round and as soon as permission was granted, I was round the worst dozen or so offenders’ houses like a whippet. Surprise attack – turn up on a Saturday with the other head teachers, parents let us in and we go up to the stinking cesspools these kids call rooms, brace ourselves against the noxious fart gas therein and liberate the brats of the offending computers, DVDs and electronic gear.

I was rightly called a genius for this and it bloody worked so how dare Miss ‘Your time is numbered’ Proctor criticise me at the new years party.

Can’t toe the line Missy? Well there’s a simple solution for that too.

January 3rd 20**

Technically we’re not back until Monday the 6th but I run a tight ship and I had made it known at the end of last term that while teachers attendance for an unofficial ‘Inserts’ day was not mandatory, I would be noting who did or did not turn up. In fact everybody did with the obvious exception of Mr Von Deckhardt, Head of Math and a very good friend of mine.

I had advised Dietrich to stay away until these ridiculous allegations about inappropriate touching had been cleared up. I’d pushed through paid leave for him and promised to look into the matter, which reminded me I had to look at that report I was compiling on the Rathe boy – the one that was causing the trouble for my old friend and college room-mate ‘Creepy’ Deity.

First order of business was my recommendation that the boy was a compulsive liar and fantasist whose behaviour was too extreme for Old Treelake and should be sent to a permanent exclusion unit for incorrigibles. If pressed on the matter I would say that Mr Von Deckhardt was in a committed relationship with his partner Klaus and was a gentle soul, incapable of doing what he had been accused of.

Of course it was to be hoped it didn’t come to light that Klaus had left in tears 5 months ago after Dietrich’s affair with the paper boy (legal age mind! 17 I think) and there was the matter of the time Dietrich had spent in the violent sexual offenders institution in Dusseldorf many years ago (mistaken identity). Hopefully it would all work itself out and I can tell you, old VD was going to owe me more than a few pints at the Badgers!

Helene, my number two seemed to be in a strange mood. She had appeared at my door earlier hugging the sanctions file to her chest and smiling strangely.

I had asked her what was a matter and she’d replied ‘Oh nothing Duncan. Did you have a nice break? I like your tie.’

I told her I had and that the tie was £6.99 from M & S and then bizarrely she had felt the need to tell me she’d had her roots done and added highlights. Looking at it her red hair did seem brighter than before but what on earth did she want me to know that fact for. I shall honestly never understand women!’

Ended the day on a high note. Called Miss Proctor in and told her I felt her behaviour at the party was both inappropriate and disrespectful. She attempted to speak but I told her to keep her mouth closed if she knew what was good for her. She left my office in tears.

January 4th 20**

Forgot to add last night’s penis statistics. I have topped six inches – a fine strong manly growth that lasted a good fifteen minutes. There’s nothing wrong with Duncan Hooper and that is a fact my friend!

Today my son Clive came round with his wife Susie and my grandchild. I did that old trick with the pennies appearing from out of little Michael’s ears. He was enthralled and called me Gwanpa Dunky. I wish the evil little changelings at the centre were like my little Mikey but then again he is only three and he has the benefit of superior Hooper genes.

Semi stiff tonight.

January 5th 20**

A very enjoyable Sunday afternoon in the pub. No not the Badgers which is work pub for occasional ploughman’s and a good session on a Friday after the school day. My Sunday pub is my local – the Horse Chariot.

The enjoyable part was talking cars and trains with old Charlie. Charlie is a fellow engine enthusiast and I could and have sat talking for hours with him. Today he brought in the much promised Hornby – a 1962 piece from the tail end of the Dublo era. We discussed signals and the romance of the old time rails until I noticed it was dark and had to excuse myself as Margaret had made Lasagne.

My penis was back on form tonight. Very prominent. Had to show Margaret and she got frisky so I had to remind her about our agreement re monthly coitus and no exceptions except birthdays. She got a bit upset and removed herself to the bathroom.

Heard that strange faint buzzing sound from in there again. Must ask Margaret if there’s something wrong with the overhead fan.’

*

More from Duncan to be found in the ONE MILLION PROJECT. The above entries were written during his holiday and the very next day he would be back to work and at his pedantic best dealing with important issues such as …

‘Top three items on the agenda – briefly mention that I haven’t forgotten the last day of Christmas Term ‘Duncan Hooper is a Twat,’ spray paint incident and remind staff a full and thorough investigation will be conducted. When I find the little shit who did it, I’ll show them just how much of a bloody twat I can be!!!’

Thank you for reading and please check out the collection – proceeds to Cancer Research UK and EMMAUS.

Jason

24 Stories for charity and entertainment. Stories One and Two

The OMP is a multi faceted thing and while the charity aspects are the most prominent, its also a book full of great stories of varying genres. Over a bunch spread out blog posts I’ll be telling you a bit about the stories, starting with the first two.

Story number One is by Dan Impossible and also has an impossibly long title – STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. Actually the original and intended title was even longer – STOP ME IF YOU THINK YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. I had to shorten that on the print version for editing/aesthetic purposes.

In my introduction to the story in the collection, I sum up why I chose Dan’s story as the opener – ‘Short, sharp, snappy and clever.’ This is a tale of time travel (a favourite sci-fi concept of mine) but not presented in the usual way. You won’t find any blue boxes, adventures in the past and future … or even any actual time travel! The time traveller himself – one Jelly, by name, is giving an interview – he talks about time travel, paradoxes and even parallel universes.

‘Jelly was a dangerous man to have the gift of time travel. Nobody that impulsive should ever have the ability to go from one time to another, but Jelly did. He had seen the past and he had seen the future. He’d seen them with his own eyes, lived in each of them in turn. He had straddled time like a whore with dislocated hips and he was unsure as to which of the two was worse. I know this because he told me. Eventually. But first I had questions. So many questions and so little …

‘Time’, said Jelly as he pointed to a picture on the wall of his East London flat. ‘Time is … complicated.’

Dan’s protagonist has done and seen a lot – he’s stolen famous art work (replaced with forgeries), seen hat wearing goldfish the size of men and had sex with Marilyn Monroe, among other abuses of his ability.

‘He had owned everything there was to own at one point or another – he’d amassed great wealth and lost it so many times that the very idea of ownership held no meaning whatsoever. Jelly was everything that anyone could hope to be. He had fucked his way through time and made a Messiah of himself in the process. Jelly was Jesus Christ. He was Elvis. He was Charlemagne.’

This was a very different take on time travel to many I’ve read – mature, immature, irreverent, deep, shallow and complex. I hope Dan writes more with this character – it’s certainly a unique take.

Story Number Two is SLICE OF LIFE, which is one of mine.

I wrote eleven out of the twenty four stories and also put the collection together – one important facet of that was to decide story order. Slice was chosen as the second story for several reasons – firstly because it wasn’t a comedy. I do a lot of comedy and light stories so I wanted my first entry to be more serious and literary, based on the assumption that if I started with comedy, I might be ‘typecast’ as ‘the funny guy,’ and I wanted to show straight off that I could do a lot more than that.

In fact, up until this point and with certain big exceptions (my novel FOREVER TORN) I mostly did comedy, sci-fi and fantasy writing. In a way Slice and one or two others in the collection were the start of me really branching out and experimenting in other forms, types and genres. With Slice, I challenged myself to write something grounded and real – I think I succeeded but would love to know your thoughts.

Slice of Life does exactly what it says on the tin – it presents slices of life. There are ten characters who live and work in or around a council estate in London or the home counties. I keep the location slightly vague but there are clues in the text, although this may not be immediately obvious as the first two characters are a Northern woman and a guy from Scotland.

Slice takes a slightly cinematic approach – imagine the camera on our first character (Enid) – it follows her and then she meets character number two (Ross) – focus then shifts to Ross and follows him – he then meets a third character and the focus shifts again, through ten characters in all.

This is a visual technique I use loosely in a lot of my writing – literally imagining my story playing out as if on film, in my mind – in Slice it’s much more tighter and becomes part of the layout of the story.

There are four pieces of amazing art to be found in the download, by the talented Renata Kopac, who rendered 5 characters/scenes (Enid, Ross, Samantha, John and Michelle) in their full painted glory.

https://www.facebook.com/renata.kopac?fref=tsImaginitive date

Here is an excerpt from the story.

 

 

‘Ray lived on the north side on the 14th floor and Rakim and Matthew were downstairs on the 3rd and 7th. He saw them home and walked slowly up, shaking his head.

Things had been very tense lately around the flats and the greater estate. Seven years ago when Ray had been eleven and he had moved in with his mum and gran, they hadn’t been much better but recently the bigotry and hate seemed to be getting out of control.

Ray and Rakim had been friends since school and now they hung out together with a few other black and Asian kids, mostly for protection; around here if you weren’t protected you were in trouble and it wasn’t just race hate. Them two gay lads Stephen and Michael had been found badly beaten last month and their openness was obviously the reason.

The irony is that there was not a competing gang of black youths dealing drugs on the estate. Everything was controlled by Danny H and this wasn’t the first time they had, had to go and get him to get his old man to back off.

Danny would help, he hoped. Danny always said that hate between the races around here was bad for business and he had a no exclusion policy – when it came to dealing drugs, Danny Junior believed in equality and he didn’t care if you were white, black or purple – if you had money, you could purchase his product and that same philosophy extended to hiring youths around the estate to work for him.

Of course Danny Senior had a blinkered view and nobody could convince him that his darling son was the major dealer around here (Big Danny Henshaw admitted only that young Danny sold a bit of weed mostly to mates and that was ok as lads would be lads) and he was convinced that a mythical black and Asian gang peppered by Polish immigrants had been stealthily over-running the area and turning it into a cess pool.

The truth was it had always been a cess pool but most of the residents lived blinkered lives and wouldn’t admit that to anyone least of all themselves.

As for Ray, yeah he dealt some weed – he had to. Otherwise Rakim and the others wouldn’t hang with him and that would leave him exposed and alone. He refused to advance to harder drugs though and even what he was doing now wouldn’t be forever.

Ray was taking some college classes and pinning his future hopes on good grades. He desperately needed the scholarship he was working towards. If he got a uni place far from here, he could turn his life around and get a good job. Then he would come back for one brief instance – just long enough to move his mum and his gran out of the flats and into the new place he would buy them.

When Ray turned his key in the door, his grandma Florence opened her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief that her boy was back home, safe and sound. Another day survived.

Early on Monday morning Florence started her week in her usual manner.

She was up at 6:30am and dressed by quarter to in an orange and brown florally dress, covered over by a red cardigan that had been a cherished possession since her daughter in law Lisa had bought it last year for her 67th birthday.

Kneeling by her bed and facing the white ‘ivory’ cross edged with ‘gold’ Florence began her daily prayer, shifting her eyes from time to time from the cross to the small porcelain figurine of Mother Mary holding the baby Jesus. She liked to start her day looking into the sympathetic eyes of the blessed virgin – in some small way she drew strength from the gaze as if the real Mary and baby Jesus were with her through her travails.

A little after seven, having prayed for her poor dead son, her daughter in law and her beloved grandson as well as the souls of all the sinners on the estate, Florence, a plump but not fat woman, none-the-less feeling the weight of her years, struggled to rise from her kneeling position.

She sat on her small bed puffing with the effort and took some more time to regain her breath before the first chores of the day; Florence liked to tidy up the evenings mess so everything was perfectly spotless for her family in the morning. By the time they emerged at around 8am, it would be to the cheering smells of frying and hot coffee.

Suddenly her mind took her back to the old days, when breakfast would hardly stretch between Papa and Maman and her eight siblings, not to mention Grand’Mere and Uncle Sebastian. As bad as some aspects of life in the autumn of her years could be, at least they weren’t hungry – not like back home growing up in the slums of Cap-Hatien.

It was a hard life back then but it could be beautiful too. Glorious sunshine ruled her memories though of course the rains and the winds and the occasional hurricane were there too, edited out in the fondness of recollection until she reminded herself of the worse parts. That scenery though – whenever young Florence felt hunger and despair, she would take herself on long walks along the northern coast of Haiti to either side of the city and she would thank the almighty for his bountiful creation and the beauty of nature.

Eventually though, the beauty and warmth of home could not make up for the feeling of hunger in your belly and clothes turning to rags on your back. Disease ran rampant through the slums and took her brother Albert and her baby sister Sally. So finally when Grand’Mere died of natural causes, Papa had said Enough’ and he had told them of a life of opportunity in a far of land where they would never starve again.’

Thank you for reading – look out for the next blog in this series.

Jason.