Tag Archives: child

THE WAY IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN… or THE ANAGRAM GIRL

5 Jul

I am the Queen,” announced Amy Ashtree.

And she meant it. She had always wanted to be the boss. It had started when she was really young, an infant one might say, and her mother had scolded her for depositing smelly faeces into a nice clean pair of lacy knickers.

I can do it if I want,” she had announced, and proceeded to force out a further supply of foetid stuff whilst her mum was trying to clean her up.

You’re a naughty girl, Amy!” protested the mother, who slapped her firmly on the legs, making her howl in rage if not in pain. Her mother wasn’t actually a cruel woman, merely harassed and exasperated, and those legs, once clean, seemed a fair target for a slap.

I’ll tell daddy!” screamed Amy, and she did because she was boss.

There was a row about it.

You don’t slap a baby’s legs!” shouted daddy.

She’s no baby, she’s growing up fast and needs to be put in her place!” replied mother.

You still don’t hit a child!” roared daddy.

Then you tell her not to poo on me!” wept mother. “How would you like it if she pooed on you?”

You’re pathetic,” responded daddy.

And a year and a day later they were divorced. Was it the poo or was it the slap? Who can tell.

Mother was relieved, even that she had lost the custody of her only child, and daddy was exuberant. He had his Amy and all was well in the world. For a while.

It’s not good enough, Ashtree,” growled his boss a few weeks later. “You’re an integral part of Snobnose and Company, but you’re not pulling your weight. You’re having far too much time off work, and this is your first warning. Pull yourself together, man, or I’m afraid…”

He wasn’t really afraid.

But a few months later Amy’s daddy was back in front of his boss.

You’re fired,” he was told.

But it’s what Amy needs,” pleaded daddy, “she tells me so, all the time.”

Bugger off,” growled the boss. And daddy made his way out of the offices of Snobnose and Company for the very last time.

Amy Ashtree was delighted. At last she could be boss all day long and not just when daddy returned from work in the evenings. True, there had been carers, a whole retinue of them, one at the time, and they had slapped her legs as required and been dismissed as equally required. Daddy wasn’t going to put up with his precious little Amy being slapped. Not at all. He was dead against any form of physical punishment.

Until he slapped her legs a month or so later.

And when he slapped her legs it was meant to be a once in a lifetime slap. A slap to be remembered. The sort of slap that would enter her mind as a warning about behaviour and responsibility and not being a pain in the backside for daddy, and stay there. Absolutely. It was a particularly hard slap and left a cherry-red mark that lasted for, oh, for almost an hour.

Amy wasn’t ever going to forget that slap.

She told everyone about it, and in the telling what was initially quite an almost painful slap became a huge assault on her tiny legs. By this time she was at school and had already advertised her boss-like charms widely, and everyone (except her teacher, who had got to know the real her), frowned and said how evil it was being beaten like she was, and how the social services should be told.

And the social services were told.

And Amy Ashtree was taken into care.

Daddy Ashtree was angry at first, and then relieved. Amy, he told himself, was a difficult child. She always seemed to need to be in charge. To be boss.

And in her absence he went out to find a job and a boss of his own.

To say that Amy’s life became difficult after this would be to tell a downright ugly lie because it didn’t. She had a series of foster parents, one after another, all of them very nice at first until they slapped her legs, and almost suddenly and completely without warning she was in her teens.

And it was then that Amy Ashtree knew that she was special.

At school, she got a reputation as a tease. Her desire to be in control of everything incorporated the need to enchant the boys (the horny boys, that is, not the still-little boys with their still-little ways and games of conkers) with her own obvious physical charms which she learned to display without displaying anything, and then deny them what they most wanted. Can I be more blatant than this? Probably not. Suffice it to say that her underwear always remained firmly in place though her luscious (and they were luscious by now) lips did the teasing as she said this or that almost naughty and suggestive thing to the more suggestible lads in a most authoritative way. What a card was Amy Ashtree! What an incredibly wicked card!

By the time she went to University she had learned one thing above any others, and that was that to be in charge she must first and foremost ignore everyone else. Other people might claim to have opinions but if they did have any they were of absolutely no importance at all. Not to Amy. And not to her path in life. And though some of her opinions might have been described as crass and nonsense they were precious because they were hers and hers alone.

And by then there was nobody around who would dare to slap her legs, which is a shame because she rather liked them being slapped and anyway a good cherry-red glow might have helped her understand people. She didn’t understand people at all. After all, she was boss and bosses never understand ordinary people.

Bosses like Amy plough their own furrows.

She achieved a moderately decent education at university, mostly in the bars where she held court to a select group of mostly male colleagues whose opinions, though of no importance as far as she was concerned, occasionally coincided (almost) with her own. She enjoyed such gatherings because she was always the boss and they were always her subordinates, and what’s more they knew it.

And liked it. The lads and some of the more assertive lasses saw it as a sure way into her knickers, though it hardly ever was. If she was anything she wasn’t lewd. Not our bossy Amy Ashtree.

And it was then that she decided to enter public life.

She loved praise. She loved the dichotomy of both being in charge and being worshipped. And public life, local politics, promised to offer her that. She had ideas, of course she had ideas, and they would have to listen.

Whoever they might be.

So when it came to the next council elections, who should be a candidate but Amy Ashtree.

So she canvassed in her own inimitable way. Told everyone what was uppermost on her mind, and there was nobody around to slap her legs and tell her not to be a silly self-righteous girl.

And the voting went in her favour. Of course it did. There was no doubt about it. She was a success and she hadn’t said much yet.

And it was then that, out of the blue, she announced “I am the Queen.”

One or two murmured and shook their heads and it was even mooted that she was getting to be too big for her size six boots. There was a queen in London, and everyone loved her. There wasn’t a vacancy for another queen. There couldn’t be, so who was this upstart?

And it was at this point that someone, anyone, should have slapped her legs and told her not to be so silly and that the Queen is someone very different from the Amy Ashtrees of this world, but nobody did because nobody dared to.

The truth is, at last she had reached a point at which the only way forwards had to be via the gift of humility, and that was something she couldn’t understand. She said and did things on this or that committee that once upon a time would have made the young men tense with expectation and be rewarded by a warm feeling in their nether regions. But they were no longer young men. They were portly, balding old farts who smoked pipes. And they sneered when she implied time and time again that she was the boss.

She wasn’t anyone’s boss and she didn’t know how to cope.

With rejection.

With her schemes being ignored.

With having nobody to slap her legs.

I don’t know what happened to her next, though I did hear she’d given up the public life and settled down in a lonely singletons flat with a cat she somehow rather loved. A cat who would never, ever slap her legs. She called it Philip even though it was a girl.

And maybe it was her that served me moodily at the checkout in Morrisons when I popped in the other day to buy a ready meal for one.

Or maybe it was someone else. Anyone, probably.

© Peter Rogerson 05.07.17

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TOO MUCH BLOOD FOR A CROSS

6 Jun

The sun wasn’t shining when Laura Pinner went to cast her vote. It couldn’t be because her heart was hanging low as she entered the polling station and looked around at the desk where the officials were sitting, and then at the kiddies drawings on the wall. It was the local school, closed for the day for such an important event, and the sun went further away when she saw her daughter’s simple picture with a golden star stuck to it by the teacher.

But today was polling day and nothing mattered save the vote. She sniffed and presented her card to the Returning Officer, who smiled at her and told her it wasn’t that bad, surely?

Because she was crying.

She shook her head. The sun would never return to wash over her spirit. It couldn’t. There was no light where he thoughts went, no warmth, not even the tiniest glow.

She looked at the voting paper.

Memories came flooding back.

Her parents had always agreed over politics. At least, daddy had expressed an opinion and mummy had smiled and nodded and poured some tea.

Daddy knew which side his bread was buttered. He was on a ladder and he told everyone about it. With no special education he’d set foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and slowly, almost painfully, managed to reach the second after ten years of struggle. But he was on the way up! The government was seeing to that, the men and women in Parliament and the laws they passed that guaranteed that the factory owners would make a killing, would grab hold of the gigantic cake of industry, but he, on that precious ladder, was in an ideal position to catch a few crumbs. And the crumbs had been there, some of them, morsels of goodness, a few savoury droppings from his master’s plate.

So daddy had sallied forth every election day and voted Conservative. It was his duty. It would ensure that every tomorrow saw the cascade of crumbs all nice and precious for him to try to grab. It guaranteed that life would always promise to be good, one day, when this or that boat came in.

Daddy had died a year or so ago. He’d been proudly on the fourth step and so much of the climb still lay ahead, but work had taken its toll and his heart hadn’t been up to it. The strain had been too much and the crumbs, regrettably, too few.

She looked back at the voting paper and the names on it.

Mummy had been a real joy. Although she’d never agreed with daddy because she saw things a great deal more clearly, she’d never argued or rowed about politics but gently, like the woman she was, gone her own way. Daddy had never bothered about the way she voted because he was sure that she voted the same way as him because that was the right thing to do. She had to. There were the crumbs to think about. But on the sly she’d been an independent person with a mind of her own and always voted the way she felt. Despising extremes, she’d always voted Liberal and then, when things changed, Liberal Democrat. Laura knew that and thought it a wonderful breath of fresh air, that mummy had voted differently from daddy, that she’d been her own woman. But grief had been too much for her and taken her, and she’d died too.

She looked back at her voting paper and shook her head.

The picture on the wall made tears form in her eyes again when she caught the least glimpse of it.

Sophie had drawn it, Sophie had painted it so carefully it was a miracle of a child’s talent, and Mrs Blossom had stuck a gold star on it and praised the girl and whispered effusive commendations into her ear.

But wonderful as that was it hadn’t cured the cancer.

Sophie was only eight, and she had cancer. And not so long ago she’d died in an overcrowded children’s ward where they just couldn’t get their hands on enough nurses or medicines or doctors or anything important.

Sophie had been an angel, but the shortages and the wonderfully unsuccessful austerity caused by bankers and their mischief a decade or more ago had helped her die. They’d said her time would be limited anyway, that the cancer was so evil and so unresponsive to any kind of treatment and most certainly inoperable that she would have died sooner or later.

But like she did?

A great deal was being said about the cost of health. Politicians had rowed about it. They made promises, all of them hollow, none of them going to help Sophie because Sophie was dead and so was Laura’s heart.

She went into the voting booth. Nobody could see her. Nobody would know until she’d cast her vote.

Which she did in the fleetest of moments.

She placed her voting paper in front of her and took a blade from her small perfect handbag and, closing her eyes, slashed it as deeply as she could across her own left wrist.

And when she opened her eyes she smiled to see so much blood.

With barely a tremor she marked a cross, in the purest and reddest of blood, on her voting paper, and then closed her eyes again.

She was in that voting booth for quite a long time before someone noticed the pool of blood oozing under the curtain that made her voting secret, and raced to see what might be wrong.

An ambulance was called, but too late. There’s only so much blood in a frail woman’s body, and she had used all of hers to mark a simple cross.

“She voted labour,” muttered the officer, and he slipped her paper into the voting box before glancing at the pretty picture by a child called Sophie and thinking how lucky everyone was to have such a child in the world.

© Peter Rogerson 03.06.17

THE TUTU TEDDY

8 Oct
So everyone thought I’d finished with this? Well, I haven’t! I’m enjoying mulling over a life and death I’ve created and want to give it more breadth and depth with a few extra little scenes that might do just that…

There was a dizzying flicker from the looking-glass, and a new scene wobbled into being.

“Is that me?” asked Bernard nervously as a small child in a push-chair gazed ahead of himself as his mother, a scowl on her face, that same scowl he remembered her always having, almost pushed him off the kerb in her hurry as a car zoomed past, its blue exhaust fumes choking the child who was on a level with them.

“Of course it is,” replied the Devil, grinning dreadfully as the toddler-Bernard burst into tears. “It’s what you were brought up with ” anger and carelessness. But look. See what’s going to happen … is that a toy shop I see in front of you? The small place on a street corner with rows of terraced houses everywhere? Is that what your precious mother was trying to avoid and nearly killed you?”

“I never had many toys,” sighed Bernard, “at least I don’t think that I did. But I guess they were hard times … it was the late forties, the second world war hadn’t been over for long and there were all sorts of shortages.”

“Oh, they were hard times all right, and if you play your cards right I’ll take you to where you can kick a particularly hateful football in the face as punishment for all the privations you suffered in your childhood…”

“A football?” asked Bernard, “what football…?”

“You’ll find out soon enough.” The smile on the Devil’s face was particularly eerie as he said this.

What will I find out soon enough? wondered Bernard silently. “So why am I looking at me going down that road in a push-chair?” he asked, aloud.

“Can’t you remember?” sniggered the Devil. “I’d have thought it was a very memorable day, this one, though in truth a great number of the days you lived through back them must have been equally memorable. Now look: what’s happening?”

Bernard watched himself as the push-chair was edged towards the toy shop. He remembered that in those days there weren’t so many large toy shops and the smaller ones tended to have equally small displays – and sold expensive things. Like the teddy bear.

In the small window that fronted the shop sat a teddy bear on a small cardboard box. He could see it clearly and it shocked him that he did have a kind of remnant-memory of that day even now, past the end of his life. But to his eyes, in front of the mirror, there was very little to remark about that teddy bear. It was small, true, it was oddly dressed like a ballet dancer in a tutu and even wearing what looked like ballet shoes, and not at all loveable. But that was through his dead eyes gazing at the huge looking-glass and not through the eyes of the two year-old Bernard. That Bernard fell instantly in love with the fluffy, cuddly toy.

For the young Bernard saw a spectacularly beautiful thing. He saw the golden fur, new and ready to be hugged, and the pretty clothes, a white tutu that flared out beautifully like his mother’s skirts never did. And underneath that tutu was a pair of frilly knickers, just tatty bits of cloth in reality, but beautiful. He pointed and shouted out loud on that quiet street, pointing,

“Mummy, mummy, mummy, toy!” His vocabulary, thought the late lamented Bernard, was obviously limited by his young age. How old was he? Two? Maybe three? He couldn’t be sure.

His mother paused in her pram-pushing and stared in the window and saw the golden teddy bear.

“No, Bernard, no, no, no!” she shrieked. “Look at it! Look at the way it’s dressed in evil dancer’s clothes, all designed to seduce a child like you, and turn you from the straight and narrow, and into sin!!”

“I wouldn’t have understood her when she said that,” murmured Bernard to the Devil. “I wouldn’t have known what seduce means! I doubt I even knew what dancers or dancing were, and as for sin…!”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” growled Satan.

“It’s the most evil toy I have ever seen!” raged his mother, and the words sailed over the tiny Bernard’s head and got lost in the maelstrom of noise that was his angry childhood. Then she slapped him across the head, firmly, cruelly, and his senses reeled.

“That’s for staring at the sinful thing!” she raged, “that’s for wanting to own a creation of the dark lord who has spent all of time since beguiling Eve in the Garden by waging war against the forces of good and righteousness! And that’s for even thinking in your tiny mind that you might join forces with all the foulness that is the demonic ruler of hell-fire and damnation, and own that evil bear!”

“What did you make of that?” smirked Satan.

“Back then? I didn’t know … I didn’t understand what she was going on about, the words meant nothing except that she was angry, but then she spent most of her life being angry. I don’t know how she went about conceiving me because she was too angry to love anyone. I can’t perceive how my father got entrapped by her because he wasn’t a bad old stick… though he could have done more to help me when I was only a little child….”

“Look,” whispered the Devil, “here he comes…”

And it was his father, striding along towards the woman and her push-chair.

“Hello there!” he called, “I was looking for you! What’s got into you now?” That last few words was addressed to Bernard’s mother who was still raging against the tutu-clad teddy bear.

“What do you want?” snapped his mother, not lovingly, not in a friendly way, just words moulded from anger. Then, “look at this foulness, and your son, this creature I have to push along, wants to play with it! A toy in a sex-crazed skirt with knickers to eat into the desires of an innocent child! And Bernard, who should be bathed in the light of childish innocence, wants it!”

“It’s only a teddy,” said his father mildly, “I must say I don’t like the outfit that it’s been put in, but what’s wrong with ballet-dancing bears?”

“You men!” snapped mother, “you’ve only got one thing on your minds, and that one thing is evil! It’s sex here and sex there and never a thought for holiness! Don’t forget why we all know about sin, because of the forbidden fruit in the garden…”

“And don’t you forget that you’re a woman,” said father, a little more firmly. “Don’t forget that, according to you, it was a distant female ancestor of yours that caused all the trouble in the world!”

“That’s typical of you!” raged the almost incandescent woman, “and you know just how hard I try to erase anything evil from my life, how I have spent all these painful terrible years trying to make up for that first dreadful evil when Eve was beguiled by the serpent!”

“I know how you’re obsessed,” growled Bernard’s father, quietly, “and yet you weren’t always, were you? I remember that night nine months before Bernard was born when you were very different! Very different indeed!”

“The night you raped me!” shrieked mother, “the night you had your evil way with me and forced me into sin with that … with that… thing of yours!”

Such was the anger and the shouting that a small crowd started gathering in ones and twos. Bernard realised that his mother was no stranger on this street, and her behaviour was becoming the source of considerable amusement as the small crowd tittered and nudged each other.

“And you lot are no better!” she snapped at them, and leaving Bernard in the push chair with his father, she raged off while the little crowd giggled and dispersed.

© Peter Rogerson 08.10.16

DESMOND PEW

9 Jul

DESMOND PEW

cartoon vicar photo 7871554-funny-hand-painted-priest-on-white-background--illustration_zpscaa86877.jpgThe Reverend Desmond Pew was a good man. There have probably been few better since mankind crawled nervously out of the African savannah and spread across the world, though if you’d told him how good he was he wouldn’t have believed a word of it because like all wise men he knew better.

His story is as follows.

He was born to Jenny and Barry Pew, and they didn’t want him. He was an accident that a visit to an ancient neighbour who knew a thing or two about abortion couldn’t shift. As soon as it was confirmed that Jenny was indeed pregnant and it was much too late for her to do more than she and the neighbour already had failed to do about it, Barry absconded. He took a carrier bag containing his personal possessions and went to live in the Highlands of Scotland where he got a reputation for poaching. It wasn’t that he was a particularly evil man, just that he needed to live and poaching provided him the means.

Jenny, on the other hand, couldn’t get away so easily so she attended to her favourite mind-destroying past-time with extra vigour and managed to sniff more cocaine than should be compatible with life as well as successfully submerge her consciousness under the palliative love of several other unbalancing substances. Somehow she managed to get copious quantities of her poison and she used it with relish, even quite enjoying the way he nostrils started disintegrating under the beneficial ministrations of her drug of choice. And she was hardly ever in her right mind. She was barely capable of acknowledging what day of the week it might be and who was who under the bright yellow sun, and she almost died more than once, but by some miracle came round before her heart gave in.

And the baby was born.

She called him Desmond because she was watching a programme on the television about a Desmond at the moment he found his way out of her unhealthy flesh a couple of weeks before he was expected. And he was his own midwife even though the ancient neighbour already alluded to discarded her abortionist’s hat and became, a temporary midwife’s assistant for the occasion.

Jenny barely knew what was going on in its young life. Several times she was quite perplexed when she discovered it attached to her skinny bosom and sucking as if there was going to be no tomorrow. And she was deaf to its squawking as slowly the child managed to cure itself of cocaine (and other substances) addiction.

This was the world Desmond was born into and this was the world he had to conquer, or go under.

The first four or five years of his life were a period of self-education. He taught himself what was good to eat and what made him retch – and a great deal in his environment did just that. He taught himself how to crawl from place to place and even up the stairs, learned that it was silly pooing where he was going to sleep and best to find a corner to mess in, and by the time he was three he had taught himself how to read – not everything but enough for his three-year old purposes. In particular, he learned the word “poison” and that substances with that word on their labels were best avoided.

And by the time he was five he knew that the one true obstacle to him growing up to be good and proud was the junkie he shared his life with. It was clear as day, and he needed to put it right.

So he killed her.

He had to. He used poison, which his self-education had taught him a bit about, and fed it to her until she stopped moving, and then, to be quite sure, he pushed some more down her throat.

And that was the beginning of life for Desmond. There was a certain amount of fuss involving questions about whether a five year old was capable of murder, and it was decided the mother, a diseased junkie, had died accidentally, probably mistaking arsenic for cocaine and that the child had nothing whatsoever to do with it, poor little mire.

From that point on his life was simple. He was taken into care (to a really good family) from where he was sent to an unreasonably good school where everyone loved him. He passed a whole multitude of examinations over the years until he found himself in an excellent University where he was taught a huge amount about life and how to live it. And it was there that he made decisions.

He wanted to be a good man. He had no desire to atone for what he knew had been a pretty naughty thing to do, matricide, because the mater in his life that he had disposed of was, and always had been, worthless and given the chance he’d probably do it again. But that first five years of life had taught him one important thing.

If you’re a Desmond and want to get along you’d best take control of your life. And the best way he could think of doing that was by rising high in an organisation, any organisation, and making himself indispensable.

So Desmond Pew became the Reverend Desmond Pew, and he fixed his eyes firmly on Rome.

© Peter Rogerson 09.07.15

THE MAN IN BLACK

12 Oct

Girl child monochrome photo article-2165262-13CD3F2E000005DC-198_470x635_zpsf9dcd1ba.jpg

The child was dirtier than most – filthy you might say if you were being kind – and she stood in the broken doorway with tears creating paths of clean skin down her face.
“Is it true what the man said, mummy?” she asked.
“What man, scruffilocks?” grated her mother weary of doing the housework in a world so filled with the detritus of people that nothing stayed clean, not even for a moment. It all seemed such a waste of time. But that’s all time was good for: wasting. After all, breathing was well-nigh impossible even now the war was over.
“That God died,” said the child. “That there isn’t any God any more. That we can do what we please, and no eternal punishment. No writhing in torment. No Hell.”
“What man was it that said such a terrible thing?” demanded the mother, collecting a sack of cockroaches and washing them down the disposal shaft.
“It was the man in black,” said the child, blinking. “He comes by every so often, always in black, always singing, always happy even though he tells the most dreadful stories.”
“And he said that God was dead?” asked the mother, pulling the filthy child gently towards her and stroking the lice in her hair with a troubled hand.
“That he did, mummy,” smiled the child. “He said that once upon a time there was a serpent, a great snake, and it gobbled God up and spat his bones out, and that made the mountains…”
“It’s just a silly story told by a silly man…” her mother comforted her by saying. “God can’t die! Not even if an army of serpents come by and try to gobble him up! It’s plain impossible, so take no notice of the silly man and his mindless stories…”
“But he showed me, mummy…”
“What? He showed you stuff? Now don’t you go looking at stuff strange men show you!”
“He showed me the mountains…”
“Silly child! You have to travel for days before you see any mountains, past the glowing seas and the ruined forest!” chided the mother.
“Or close your eyes, and think…” whispered the child. “If you close your eyes and think … mountains … they’re there in front of you, huge as Universes and snowy capped! And the biggest one, the one that reaches highest, that’s the crumbling skull of God!”
“This is all too silly for words!” exclaimed the mother.
“And the smaller mountains … they are, mummy, they are the bones of God, all decaying, weathered, wind-swept, dusty….”
The Mother was about to clip her daughter round the ears when there was a knock at the door.
“Now who can that be at this time of life? Just you wait till I see what this is!” she stormed.
It was a man dressed entirely in black, save for the wan paleness of his face and the red fire in his eyes.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“I am … looking for a believer,” the man said, his hoary voice like frost cracking on a broken window in a cold January. “I am looking for she who sees the light. She who understands great things. I am looking for Innocence….”
“Just you go looking somewhere else!” raged the mother. “There ain’t no innocence here!”
“No. I have come. This is it,” sighed the man, his eyes flickering like a bonfire in autumn before the atmosphere failed and fires would no longer burn.
“What is it you want?” demanded the mother, irritably.
The man held his hand out towards the child and she glanced back at her mother. Then she took the two steps necessary and took the man by his hand.
“I’m coming, daddy,” she breathed. “We will do it again, like you promised.
“Almost all of it,” hissed the man, “but not quite…”
© Peter Rogerson 12.10.14