Mr Harrington. (A short tail)

 

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Something astounding happened yesterday I must tell you about.

I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes from lunch and gazing out of the window as I did so. In the corner of the kitchen little Jack was playing with his favourite toy, a fabric clown. I could see Jack’s delight each time he made the clown squeak.

Outside, a flock of sparrows were devouring some crusts I tossed on the lawn earlier and I could see Mr Harrington pottering about in his garden, which adjoined the end of ours.

It was pretty much an ordinary and uneventful day, until Mr Harrington looked my way.

In fact, I am sure he looked directly at me. A strange type of challenging stare. It was most unusual for him to look at me in that way and most disconcerting too.

Mr Harrington then stood, stretched his back and began running towards me. With one flying leap, he hurdled the back fence, continuing to run at full speed the entire length of our garden, scattering the sparrows as he neared the house.

Mr Harrington did not stop running, he came dashing through the kitchen door, ran straight up to little Jack and hit him on the side of his head with a vicious, swinging swipe, before turning around and dashing off.

Jack spun across the floor and slammed into the cupboard doors. Jacks toy clown flew into the air, bounced on the floor with a pathetic little squeak before coming to rest under the kitchen table.

The entire act happened so quickly, I only had time to pull my hands from the suds and pick up a towel ready to dry them, by which time Mr Harrington was half way back down the garden and heading home.

Jack was far quicker than I. He scrambled to his feet and was after Mr Harrington like a flash, jumping on him and raking his claws along his back. The two cats tumbled and twisted, matted clumps of fur flying into the air and letting loose a series of those blood curdling, high pitched, ear shattering screeches and meows that resonating throughout the entire estate during the early hours.

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Catching up with them I clapped my hands, stamped my feet and shooed at them. Mr Harrington giving up the fight and running home, while Jack came and rubbed himself around my ankles like a furry slinky, purring away as if nothing untoward had occurred.

Looking up, I saw Mr Harrington sitting on the fence between the two gardens. He was looking back at me, head slightly tilted and wearing an expression that said “This ain’t over yet”.

I know this to-do it is mostly my responsibility.

You see, until I brought Jack back from the sanctuary we welcomed Mr Harrington into our house and garden, fed him on occasion and spoilt him with tid-bits of ham and the odd prawn or two.

Now Jack is here, Mr Harrington feels pushed out. He is understandably displeased and disgruntled!

© Paul White 2016

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Dawn. (a short story)

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This morning two men walk with me into the courtyard.

I am centre, they one on each side. We do not rush, we amble. We do not talk; but take in the freshness of a new day, each lost, deeply lost, in our own thoughts.

The sun lifting itself over the horizon. A lazy stretch of glowing amber soaking into the fading darker blue at the edge of night.

 The sun’s rays fall upon my face, the chill air recedes, letting the light gently warm my skin.

I hold my cigarette before me, one eye squeezed shut, matching the glowing end to the suns circumference.

I breath out, slowly watching the smoke. Momentarily it is there, almost solid, a thick clump of particles hanging in the air, moving oh so slightly, before twisting away on the light breeze, dissipating and…. gone.

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It is amazing how you see things when you only have the moment, how the commonplace, the everyday, the simplest of things become detailed, become special.

I would like to be gone from here, to fade into the ether like the smoke. There is much I should like to do, much I would to see and so many places I would rather be, than here.

But I have no choice. Circumstance dictates today, not I.

Far to my left the two men who walked with me into this courtyard lean against the wall, their heads turned, not looking my way, trying not to make eye contact.

Before me stand fourteen more men. One, the officer, standing at my shoulder, waiting for me to take the last drag from the cigarette.

I suck the filter, the acrid, bitter taste of tobacco flowing into my mouth. I breath in, pulling it down, down inside. A slight dizziness buzzes in my head, I purse my lips, let the smoke slowly out, a steady stream.

Flicking the butt away casually, watching as it bounces once and rolls across the compact dirt of the ground. It stops, the filter burning away. Soon it will be gone.

As shall I.

The officer offers me a black band, a blindfold. I shake my head.

Rifles levelled, pointing at the small white cotton square pinned over my heart.

I stare back, looking my executioners in the eyes.

The officer shouts his command, “Ready”

His voice echoes from the walls.

“Aim… Fire”

I hear a crackle, the discharge of those rifles.

I do hear not the echo reverberate from the walls of this courtyard.

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© Paul White 2017

Lavinia

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My first sharing short for 2017
Enjoy x.

Lavinia

Her name was Lavinia. She was tall and slim, or dare I say thin?
I ask because I am no longer sure if that word is an acceptable term today.
Yesterday ‘thin’ was fine; you could say thin without heads snapping to look at you with sneers of derision plastered upon them.
Even ‘skinny’ was allowed if used in the right context, say when describing the ‘cut’ of a denim jean or milk in a café latte.
I am never sure which words are in fashion, in season, which have been cast aside or banished. I am not ‘with it’ any longer, or so it seems.

However, I wander far from the main thread of this tale; a tale about an elegant woman named Lavinia, who I saw frequently working out at my gymnasium.
Such an unusual presence was Lavinia, as she ran on the treadmill or pumped away on the cross-trainer, in comparison that is to all the other people there.

Long before I introduced myself, long before I knew her name, Lavinia fascinated me. Clearly, she was not a ‘spring-chicken’. I guessed she was aged late sixties, possible early seventies. Yet here she was, several times a week, working out and putting many of the younger folk to shame.

Then again that should be no surprise, because many of the regular visitors to this gym were not here to follow any physical fitness routine. Many, mostly the younger women and several young men, used the gym as a place of preening and for posing.
I found their pretentiousness posturing and outright displays of vanity rather entertaining. Watching them often helped while away the time when working up a good sweat during a training session.

Now, back to Lavinia.
One day she was on a treadmill next to my own. I could not help but occasionally glance at her. She always looked so neat, so prim and proper and she had a certain air, one of elegance and athleticism combined.

I asked “Are you a dancer?”

She replied with a question “Why do you ask?”

I thought I detected the slightest of blushes.
“The way you move your hands, the way you hold them when you bend”.

She smiled; bright, kindly, understanding and motherly all at the same time, but not with a slightest hint of patronisation.
“I have studied dance” she said, “a long time ago”.

I worried myself, afraid I had embarrassed her and tried not to watch her after that conversation. But she was so poised, so collected and unself-conscious it was impossible not to occasionally glance her way.
It sounds stupid for a mature man, a man of my age, but I never worked up the courage to speak to her again.

I think I was looking for an excuse to start a conversation, a reason to say something, something I thought would not sound pathetic.
Each time I found something I could say, another part of me said I was being foolish, that she would most probably dismiss me if not laugh at me.

Then Lavinia missed a few of her regular sessions.
I asked the staff if they knew the reason that she was not as regular. I was answered with shrugs and a shake of the head.
Even if they knew, they said, it was against company policy to divulge any information about any client.
Fair play I suppose.

After a while Lavinia stopped coming to the gym altogether.
I asked around, speaking with some of the other women I had seen her associating with.

It seems she was a widow and the gym was her way of coping with grief. She wanted to meet people, to make new friends.

Could I have been one of those friends if I had not been so shy?

I shall never know, because I was informed that Lavinia died alone and lonely in her small flat.

It seems few people spoke more than the obligatory, almost necessary, ‘passing words’.

Or maybe they, like myself, are just as lonely as Lavinia, yet too afraid to venture beyond the fear of rejection?

Perhaps we shall never know, until it is too late?

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© Paul White 2017

Such is life.

 

Life flows past, a river of time, ever changing but constant.

Caught in its current as it pushes onwards, we cannot fight against it. All we can do is get by, survive until the next day.

I consider it a bonus to wake, to see the sun, hear the birds singing and to feel the wind on my skin once again.

I consider it magical to find friends along the way, as I am washed relentlessly downstream, towards the oceans of oblivion.

Such is life; my life anyway.

Perhaps, by some miracle or off-chance, I may have fallen into another river, a gentle stream or a babbling brook. Life may have been different.

Or maybe it will change or alter. Maybe a current will pull me to the bank, a gentle eddy swirl me to the shore or pour me into a lesser torrent.

Although I doubt it shall; however hard I may wish or pray.

The world is not like that.

In this world you have little control over your existence.

Such is life. Your life.

We have what we are given, all else is but illusion.

Which is why it is important to grasp the simplest of moments, the slightest of chance, however small, however insignificant each may seem at the time.

We should have no regrets for reaching out, for caring, for showing love and affection.

Or for taking the same, accepting the comfort of another’s arms. To be pulled close. To feel warmth and soft tender flesh during those times our hearts and souls ache with longing and unfulfilled dreams.

Accept the little victories over uncontrolled chaos, over life’s unjust consequence.

We have no knowledge of where this river of life will take us, how long we shall ride its currents or where our passage will end.

We know only our journey will be far too short.

The future is not our place of residence.

Ours is the journey.

Unpredictable, uncontrollable and arbitrarily erratic.

Such is life.

Estelle’s Tattoo

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 (NOTE. Sometimes our battles come from within or own society &communities. This story is a fictionalised essay of a true account. It has been written in support of the fight against rape in Africa. Brief notes are posted after the main essay).

 

      Grace and Estelle and I once more walked along the dusty path that wound its way from our village, down the steep hill and on towards the river. The river was wide and twisted, like a glistening giant brown snake that wound its way through the lush green vegetation of the forests.

     As we became closer to this river the path changed from dust to crushed grasses. Many feet had trodden this path and in their passing had squashed the plants along the way, so that now only the toughest grass and the most persistent of weeds grew along the narrow footpath.

   Grace, Estelle and I spoke of many thing during our journey to the river this day and when we were not talking of our village or family matters we sang our songs. I am sure that on this morning many birds came close to us to hear our sweet tunes, or at least that is how I remember it.

    I do not remember before that day seeing so many birds along the edges of this footpath. On any other day to see such colourful birds you would have to stray deep into the forest and sit very still for a long time. But that morning they came to us.

    It took us about one and a half hours before we reached the river. On arriving we put down the large bundles of clothing we had brought to the river to wash. All through our journey along the footpath we had balanced these bundles upon our heads. It is the way we women carry heavy loads over such long distances.

    Once we placed the laundry on the bankside we sat and drank water and rested our legs for a short while. In fact it was a long short while because today was also a very hot day. The winds were not blowing at all and the sun shone fiercely down upon the earth, baking the soil into a hard crust which began to crack open and crumble.

    But here, in the shade by the river it was much cooler. So we sat and spoke between ourselves for a long time during our short rest.

    Finally we began to wash the clothing we had carried all this way, which was after all the reason for our journey to this place today. Using stones and a lot of effort we washed the dirt and grime from the materials. After which we hung the garments upon the branches of the nearby bushes to dry in the sun. The sun would soon dry the clothes today as it was a very hot sun, much hotter than on most days, something I have told to you already.

    We had also brought with us a little food. So as the sun beat down from the sky we sat near our drying clothes and ate. After that we decided to go into the river to cool our bodies and to cleanse our own skins from the dirt and the dust.

    Being in the water was such a good feeling, cooling but not so cold as to make you shiver and bring out little Goosebumps on the skin. We played in the water, splashing each other and saying rude things about each other’s bodies. I told Estelle that the boys from the village could share her breasts as they were far too large for one man alone.

    Grace said I should not be so silly and should grow up like an elder and that I should also grow some hair between my legs too, because like this I looked like a little girl that should stay at home and help her mother.  We were very happy at that time.

    But soon the clothes were dry. We packed them up into the bundles which we lifted onto our heads and began to climb up the steep bank away from the giant snake of the river.

    As we reached the top of the bank and started along the footpath, in the opposite direction from the way we had come, the men came from the bushes. There were many, maybe eight or maybe ten. I do not remember precisely because they did not stand still long enough for me to be counting them all.

    These men were not from our village. I had not seen any of them before, but I knew that they were not good men. Soon they stood all around us, poking us with machete and spears. Telling us that they were strong warriors and had been hunting. Hunting for women. Now they had found us we belonged to them, they said.

     Grace was already crying in fear. Estelle stood still, so still I do not think that she was even taking a breath of air. I was also frightened, even more when one of the men took my arm and pulled me roughly towards him, causing my bundle of cleaned clothing to fall to the ground.

    All the men rushed at us, grabbing our arms and legs and pulling us this way and that way. It was all very confusing at that moment.

    What had been a happy day was not so happy anymore.

    We were dragged into a small clearing, not far from the footpath we had been walking on a few minutes ago. This was the place the men ripped the clothing from our bodies and began to rape us. One after another they used each of us to satisfy their evil wishes.

    I was being held on my back by my arms, while another man gripped my ankles, pulling my legs up and apart to allow another to enter me. Even like this and with the tears coming from my eyes, both in pain and in sadness, I twisted my head to look for Grace and Estelle.

    I saw a sharp knife slide across Grace’s neck, the blood poured from her wound making a red puddle on the ground beside her head. Grace was looking directly into my eyes, I could see the fear inside her as she silently pleaded with me to help her.

    But I knew there was nothing I could do to aid her. Soon I too would die.

    I kept looking at Grace until her eyes closed. I hope that the lord would take care of her soul.

   Twisting my head at the noise coming from my left I saw that Estelle had driven a knife deep into the chest of the man who was at that moment raping her, again and again she thrust the blade into his body.

     It was then I noticed the tattoo on Estelle’s arm. Her brother had inscribed her name and the name of our village into Estelle’s skin a few months ago. She told me it what all the women were doing. ‘So that when we are raped, our bodies can be returned to our villages, our families so they can cry over us, bury us correctly and mourn our death’.

   I had questioned her about that. ‘Why’ I asked’ do you say when we are raped and not if?’

   ‘Because I am certain it shall happen one day’ Estelle had said in a matter of fact tone of voice. I am afraid that she has been proven right.

   As Estelle fought the men like a lioness fighting for her cubs, the man raping me ran over to where she was. All of a sudden I was alone. I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as I could into the bush.

   I did not look back. I just ran in the direction which my feet were pointing and did not stop until it was so dark I could not see one inch in front of my face.

   Then I collapsed onto the ground. I was totally exhausted from all the running that I had done. But soon I was also very cold. I was still naked and the night air was not in the least comforting. I could not sleep in fear of the men coming for me, or for a lion finding me and eating me. I did not have any wish to become a big cats midnight feast.

    That night lasted for a very long time. I was so happy when the sun to rise began. I found myself running again as the suns light started to creep over the horizon and shine on the long grasses. Only this time I was not panicking, my heart was not beating itself out of my chest. This time I knew where I was going, I was running towards my village.

   As I ran I said a prayer for Grace. I also said a prayer for Estelle and I thanked her for her courage in fighting those men, for giving up her own life to save mine. Although I did not know for sure that Estelle was dead I cannot believe that such evil men would not kill her.

    In many ways I was sad for what had happened to my friends, but I was also sad for myself for not having the courage to help Estelle, to join in her fight against those bad men. I was thinking it would be better if I too had died.

   As I ran home I was deciding that I too shall have a tattoo on my arm like Estelle, because then when some men attack me again and I do not escape, I can be sure that my body will go home to my family too.

END.

 

Thank you for reading this.

Keep safe, Paul.

FFCO1108‎2014 © Paul White 2014   

 

Here are some frightening facts.

In many African states women are having their addresses tattooed on their arms so that their bodies can be returned after they have been raped and killed.

South Africa has the highest rape statistics in the world. Every 46 seconds a women in South Africa is raped. Often these women are murdered to prevent identification of the perpetrator.

Most women born in Africa have a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.

It is estimated that there are an estimated 500,000 rapes a year in South Africa, and the country has some of the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world.

Studies have found one in three African women say they were raped in the past year.

Other surveys have found more than a quarter of African men admit to raping someone. Those figures go up in South African cities, and the overall situation is getting worse, not better.

(change.org)

My website: http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white