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UntoldStories

The Road That Swallows Us

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The politicians eat in fancy dining halls, whilst the rich wear crowns of gold, and yet still people go hungry, still, people go cold and still, people live and die on the streets, streets that threaten to swallow the less fortunate.

He sighs another sigh, lights up another cancer stick (homemade) and beds down for the night. Traffic rushes by as one clubber goes to one club, another to another and so and so forth. The bright lights of clubland it seems, do not disturb him anymore. He has been here too long for such nuisances to bother him.

“Beats the telebox,” he says to himself as he takes a drag.

                                             

                                                    *

Meanwhile...

“Now fuck off,” says the tall fella to the short fella. “You know more about table football than the real thing.”

The short fella offers a laugh.

“Subutteo!” is his retort, as the daft pair, soft lads if you will, move along the pavement.

“Look, we could make a killing if we twist a few heads. Nobody will ever know,” the tall fella says. “And by the way Frank, your shoes are leaking again.”

Frank looks down and indeed, his cheap 'going out shoes' do have a hole in them.

“Jeez, I’m never getting off tonight with these boats.”

“Now that is the most sexist thing ever have I heard,” says the tall one. Damien is his name.

“Glue. You need glue. Come on over here,” says a voice.

Tall and short look at the bag of rags in the floor with the smoke drifting from it.

“Did those rags just speak?” Asks Damien.

“Fucked it I know,” says Frank.

“Jesus,” is heard from the bag of rags as a body emerges from it.

“First night out in a while lads, yeah?” asks the body, whose real name is, well we never really know until later.

“You alright in there, fella? Jeez ya scared us half to death,” says Damien.

“Him more than me,” offers Frank. “But still.”

The man from the rags lets out a laugh. 

"Here," he says reaching into his rags and producing a tube. "Glue. For your shoe. Affix one part to the other and go dancing. Enjoy, but with the greatest politeness, fuck off and leave me to sleep in peace."

The rags fold in on themselves and the smoke chimneys again. Frank and Damien nod their heads in respect, then do as they are told. They fuck off.

 

                                                *

The buses pass, the overhead train hums and the taxis beep and manoeuvre from lane to lane. All nighttime white noise to the man in the rags until-

"What the fuck do we have here?" snorts an educated, overindulged, drunken, foolish, twenty-something. He pokes his toes into the rags again.

“Whatever it is, it stinks,” offers one of his Uni chums. “Give it another kick.”

Chum One obliges as Chum Two, Three and Four delight. Actually, so do their girls.

“Do that again and I’ll cut you,” are the shocking words from the rag.

“Did that just speak?” says one of the Chums and at this hour of the morning, who fucking knows which Chum it was?

“Do you know, I think it did.” 

Another Chum, another education wasted, but not for long. He is about to get wise.

The rag is up before anyone can say “Masters Degree,” and a Chum is against the wall, blade at throat, heart in mouth, shit in pants.

“Do that again,” the rag says.

“Do what?” The Chum asks.

“Embarrass your mother.”

“I don’t know what you…”

“Yeah, and Jesus wore sandals. Now fuck off.”

As the previous (but ever so more politely chaps) did, Chum One, Two, Three and Four fucked off. Along with their girls.

The man of rags tries again to bed down. It isn't easy. The cold hurts, the streets bony against his bones, but the quiet is finally here and he and his mutt can catch a fitful sleep. It's nice for a while, the sound of silence, the sound of the river waking with the ships coming in. It’s nice, the peace, the relief from the madness, pressure and sadness. It’s nice.

“Arthur, you still with us?” It’s a harsh but well-meaning voice that shakes him from his rest. “Here, tea and toast,” the lady says.

“Yeah, I'm still with you,” Arthur says, “The road hasn’t swallowed me just yet,” he says, sharing his toast with his dog.

The Rat, The Drunk and Their Fairytale
              (Which surprisingly is based on a true story).

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Simon, "Yup, this is based on my own experience and one I wouldn't recommend to anyone, but certain factors gave the rat a little nudge along the way.

Anyway, read on and be pleased that the rat? Well, he has gone now."

It was the two red, beady eyes that got Samuel first. Long after his lovely wife had said, “Enough is enough.” And she was right, but the beady eyes had other plans. As he jumped out of the wall, Samuel too jumped, but out of his skin. “Come,” said Rat. “We shall take a walk,” Bemused, dazed, confused and thoroughly, so fucking thoroughly fucked up, Samuel followed his trail. First this way then that, through snowy streets and fires of hell and yet they hadn’t even left the bedroom. Samuel stole a quick look to his right and his Sleeping Beauty was right there. Sleeping and beautiful. Rat seemed annoyed at this distraction and snapped his fingers, claws, talons, whatever these little fuckers had. “Pay attention, Samuel. For the love of God pay attention.” Samue paid attention. He followed him. “Do you remember her?” he sneered, pointing. “0hhh, my favourite Aunty,” he offered with a rather sarcastic tone. But she was. She was indeed Samuel’s favourite Aunty, him her favourite nephew. Except now Aunty Trisha was a lampshade. A lampshade with a mouth and one that could talk for sure, but still…a lampshade. Her lips moved up and down giving a silent sermon of disappointment, but as Samuel struggled to hear, Rat tugged at his ankles. And then, strangely enough, because this wasn’t strange enough already, at his shoulders. All without reaching up. “C’mon old Samuel. No time for family reunions, this is going to get worse before it gets better.” And then the little fucker nipped at Sam’s ankles. There seemed to be a melody playing somewhere. A piano from the room downstairs, then a jazz band from the garden next door. What did Samuel care? Rat and he snapped their fingers (or his whatevers) and danced them a good one. How they laughed! Then Rat disappeared. “Back in a bit old chap,” and literally went, left Samuel solo, no more fun where that came from. Sleeping Beauty wasn't sleeping anymore, but she sure was still beautiful as she watched from the door, didn't even notice the Rat was gone. “Get some sleep, Sam. Please don’t keep the kids awake.” And for a few hours, a few glorious hours, Samuel slept. It was the tapping that woke him again. From the inside of the window, but at the same time the outside, fucking beady eyes Rat was there, like an old lost friend. “Wanna go to the fair?” he asked, his sneaky voice matching his sneaky stance. “Don’t listen to him Sam,” Sleeping Beauty said. “There is no fair.” "Now we don't know that, do we?" Samuel asked his girl. "Ask Aunty Trisha there. She will tell you." Aunty Trisha just rolled her lampshade eyes and went back to sleep. Sam and the Rat, the Rat and Sam, man they would have had them a time on the Waltzers, but Rat bottled it. Sam span on his own until a few bulky boys in blue put the brakes on. "You haven't paid for this ride, son," said the biggest one. "Now put your shoes on and get in the car." Sam looked for his friend for backup, but Rat just sat on the roof, watching, laughing, pointing and plotting. And, of course, nibbling on popcorn. Rat wasn’t there for a while. He didn’t see the flying boy, the kids in tents having fun, so much fun. He didn’t see the football fan throwing balloons at Sam as he tried to speak to the old couple next to him. He reappeared though. Yes indeed, yes sir, he reappeared. On the man in the white coat’s shoulders, Rat sat there filing his nails as the clever man delivered his deliverance. "You do know you are quite ill, don't you, Samuel?" “It’s Sam,” Sam said, distracted by Rat’s choice of nail varnish. “Sam, Samuel, Ebenezer was a bullfrog, whatever,” continued Whitecoat. "You need to stay with us a while." “Sure, sure, just tell him to tone that pink down,” Sam said, pointing at Rat. Whitecoat gave a very polite glance to his shoulder. "Maybe longer than I thought," he said, tapping Sam's knee and nodding his head as he went away. “Good,” said Rat. “Good,” said Sam. "Let's continue this soiree without him, shall we?" So, Rat and Samuel linked arms and moved on. What a cinema it was. "Look my man, we can go over the bad, the good, the ugly and the Sleeping," “No,” Sam interrupted him. “You leave her out of this.” Rat shrugged his shoulder in only a way rats can do. “Nip, nip,” he said. “As you wish.” “Here be bad things, here be bad men, here be things no one should see.” “Get on with it, rat," Sam said, any respect he had for him disappearing as quickly as his capital ‘R’. And so Rat showed Sam the bad things. Sam didn’t like them. Then he showed Sam the good things and his heart yearned for them. And with that, the bastard left him again. “Abandon ship rat,” Sam said. “As always.” Before Sam fell into a fitful, troubled sleep, he felt a furry claw patting him on the head. “Night,” said Rat. Turmoil, pain, anguish, men in horror, women forgiving, no way out, every way back in. It was all there in that night. Jolted awake, there sat Sam’s little un’s and Sleeping Beauty, also very much awake and behind her Rat. No words, no acknowledgement. Just the return of Rat’s capital R. Behind this crew though, behind all this, sat bad men with guilt in their hearts. They were ignored. They had done enough damage, and played more than their part in this, well, this adventure, I suppose. Sleeping Beauty and Rat just shook their heads. Sam nodded his. “Rat,” said Sleeping Beauty. “Would you like to come home for tea?” Rat nodded and took Sleeping Beauty’s arm. "Why, that shall be lovely." The bad men were not happy, but who cared? Sleeping Beauty, Rat and the little ‘un’s went home for tea. Samuel? Well, Samuel slept for many years knowing Rat was really on his side after all…

An American Bar

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Simon on An American Bar. "I have always loved America and her bars, having drank in a few of them and made friends in some more. They have always held an interest for me and we have always been made to feel welcome.

Now some may say that my grammar isn't particularly correct in this piece, but having read a few contemporary  American works lately, I kind of like the raw feel to it and so yes, the grammar was deliberate. I hope you like drinking in An American Bar."

The lights flicker on but not all the way up, just up enough that a man can see his beer. The boy says, “Can I get a beer.” The bartender says, “Well that’s original.” From behind a door at the back, a small dude arrives slinging a guitar. He surveys the crowd. The crowd is the boy and his friend. “Two,” says the small dude. “Guess things are looking up.” Small dude gives the boy a nod. The boy nods back. The boy’s friend does nothing but try to look cool. It doesn’t work. Small dude bursts into Springsteen’s Glory Days. The boy lets out a whoop. “Hey! I love Springsteen,” says the boy. “No shit,” says the small dude. Small dude takes an obvious look at the boy’s T-shirt. The boy’s eyes follow his. “Oh right. I walked into that,” says the boy as he reads the T-shirt’s writing upside down. ‘Springsteen’s The River Tour’. “Hey!” says the boy to small dude.” What’s your name man?” Small dude replies with neither friendship nor fierceness. “Riff.” “Oh yeah?” comes back the boy. “Why so?” Small dude looks down at his guitar and back at the boy. “You really need to stop doing that,” says small dude, otherwise known as Riff. “He is right you know,” says the boy’s friend. The door opens and in walks a gaggle of geese. Well, ladies really but the way some of them stumble on wobbly legs, well maybe ladies is a stretch. “Jesus,” says the bartender. “Jesus,” says Riff. “Jesus,” says the boy but for different reasons than the first two men. The walkers and the stumblers are the hens although they don’t know they are known as that. They just are. “Three,” says their apparent leader, holding up four fingers. “Which is it to be honey?” asks the bartender. “How the hell would I know?” replies the apparent leader. “I’ve been drinking by the pool since nine am.” “Yeah? asks Riff, who has since stopped playing. “They put water in that thing yet or do you all just haul pails to it from your trailer?” “Screw you,” says the apparent leader. “Would if I could but I can't,” replies Riff as he burst into Blinded by the Light. The hens stumble to a table and light up. “You know you can’t smoke in here,” says the bartender. The apparent leader nods to Riff. “And he knows he can’t play but it don’t stop him trying does it?” she replies. Behind this soiree more lights light up, brighter than the lights that lit up before. The boy, the friend, the hens and the bartender all look to the source. Riff does not. A DJ spins his tracks and from the shadows, people emerge and dance. The DJ’s entourage whoop and holler as his beats drown out Springsteen. “You gonna let him do that?” the boy asks Riff. “He has connections,” is Riff’s less than enthusiastic reply. “Cool,” says the boy. “Like the kind that can get you a record deal?” “Like the kind that can get you killed,” replies Riff with less enthusiasm than his last reply. The hens rise as one and join the busy dance floor. “I remember when those chics used to have loyalty," says the bartender. “Yeah, and you remember when those chics were too young to be called chics and rode bikes with stability aids,” says Riff. He cranks up his amp and turns his attention to Hungry Heart. “You only know how to play the Boss?” asks the boy. “Sure, that’s all I know who to play,” says Riff and immediately turns his attention to Summer of 69. "Cool," says the friend and nods his head, but nobody is sure if it is to the beat of Bryan Adams or the DJ, who by the way, is now scowling at Riff. For good measure two of the DJ’s entourage are offering the same scowl to the bartender. “What did I do?” the bartender offers. Riff shrugs his shoulders. “What does anyone do around here? Give them a round of club sodas. On me.” The door opens for a second time and two burly, shaven-headed men walk in. “Hey, the black and white team!” shouts Riff. The boy looks up at the men. This time he neither asks nor states the obvious. “So Riff, you want me to go talk to that dude?” says the large black bouncer, nodding at the DJ. The large white bouncer laughs. “You want to sleep safe in your bed tonight?” the large white bouncer asks the large black bouncer. “Guess I’ll leave it.” “Guess you’ll leave it.” The friend peers behind the bar. “You do food in this place?” he asks the bartender. “No,” is the reply as the cook in the back kitchen fires up the fryers. “Thought not,’ says the friend. “I’ll just take a burger and fries and the same for the boy here.” “Why didn’t you just say two burgers with fries?” asks Riff. “And why don’t you change from Canadian to your very own American dude, dude?” “He has a point,” says the large black bouncer. Riff sighs, re-tunes his guitar and changes his tune. The hens turn to listen and as one (or three, or four, we aren’t really sure) burst into song. “Born in the USA, we were born in the USA.” And the night went on and on and on, as did nights before and as will nights after. It was that kind of place. For two youths travelling abroad for the first time, the evening would be one they would remember forever. For Riff, maybe not so much.

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    A Title for Joe
             by
        Lee Mayo

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The ring seems to look at lot different now. It is as if it has more importance attached to it and somehow doesn’t feel the same. Sure, it has the same four sides, the ropes are the same size, the guy in the middle, the one that will call the shots and hopefully keep us safe. Well, he may be a different human in a different suit, but essentially, he is the same man doing the same job he and his have done for centuries, but for me this one just isn’t the same. This one is different for a massive reason and that reason is Joe. And of course, the fact he isn’t here to share it with me, with us. No, but he is the reason I am here at all.

The Lost Essex Boy
              by
       Brian Rolfe           
       (Richardson)

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On Wednesday 6th December, in the year of Nineteen Ninety-Five, an incident took place that would shock gangland Britain, causing rifts in friendships, splits in loyalties and see two men sent to prison even though they and many others protested their innocence.

 

A farmer, Mister Peter Theobald and his friend Mister Ken Jiggins discovered the bodies of the three men in a farm lane in the early hours of the morning.

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