A WINTER’S NIGHT IN THE CITY

A REEDSY PROMPT

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A WINTER’S NIGHT IN THE CITY

by John Yeo

  The time by the clock on the Cathedral spire chimed with three loud sonorous peals, assaulting the night and the eardrums of the lone figure wrapped in a dirty blanket, who was lying almost out of sight in a stone archway.

 In the near vicinity, a loud siren screamed with an urgency as an ambulance sped through the city streets, answering a distress call or transporting a sick or injured person to hospital.

 A vicious wind, whipped around the tall tower blocks across the way causing a harsh updraft. The rain, correctly forecast by some of the passers-by; the few who took the time to talk had temporarily become slashing sleet. A chilling sleet that quickly turned to icy hard drops that stung the face of the figure lying prone on some sheets of cardboard. Clearly visible was a partially torn off address label that simply had the word Amazon left for all the world to see.

 Suddenly Spot, the dog lying close to this frozen figure gave a low growl and bared his teeth.
  ‘What is it, boy?” Exclaimed Freddy, the sad supine sleeper who was forced to spend his nights out in this unfriendly cold atmosphere. Freddy tried to wet his frozen lips with spittle to enable his words to become audible.
Freddie had suffered a marital breakdown several months before and he was now forced to live on the streets.
Spot gave another louder growl as a four-legged, doglike creature padded past them on the pavement.

  ‘Ah! I can see him.’ Said Freddie to himself, ‘An urban Fox on the prowl for food scraps, you’ll be unlucky here Foxy. We’re both starving, it will be a while until any hopes of food arrive.’

 Soon another sound broke the silence as Karla, a heavily made-up lady of the night stepped out of a taxi that suddenly drew up alongside the curb where Freddie was sleeping. Flicking her long peroxide blonde hair from her eyes, she frowned at Freddie and said,
  ‘Hey there! I brought you a cold hotdog and a cup of coffee. You’d better drink this fast before it turns to ice!’

 A strong smell of cheap perfume wafted into the alcove, mixing and fighting for supremacy over the damp musty smell of unwashed humanity.

  ‘Thanks!’ grunted Freddie, wiping ice crystals from his lips. ‘Are you by any chance an angel?’

Freddie broke the hotdog in half and gave half to the dog.

  ‘Are you kidding? All my flying high is in my dreams. I’ve had a rough night, one of the punters tried to beat me up. If I had a minder I would have been fine, but I don’t believe in encouraging pimps to steal from me.’

   ‘What happened?’ Asked Freddie.

 ‘I kicked him hard between the legs and ran for my life. Goodnight to you, I would invite you home but my husband and the kids are fast asleep up there.’
With that she entered one of the tower blocks across the way, clip-clopping on her outrageous red high heels.

Soon with a sudden silent glare of headlights, two police cars stopped and stationed themselves across the street, right outside Oscar’s, a large nightclub a dozen yards or so away.
  ‘Must be chucking out time Spot, the law has arrived in case of trouble.’
As the club emptied, two bouncers stationed themselves each side of the door, a large crowd of people surged out into the streets at once.

The worldly-wise policemen just sat inside their high visibility police cars watching. They knew it was far too cold for any of the club crowd to hang around causing trouble. A fleet of taxis soon started ferrying the clubbers away and before long silence descended on the city streets again.

Dawn broke and as Freddie was drifting into a fitful dozy state. Spot gave a loud bark as a man in a Salvation Army uniform, wearing the familiar peaked hat greeted him with a friendly grin on his ruddy chilled face.
  ‘Are you OK? I’ve got sandwiches and a hot drink here if you feel like eating.’

 Freddie grabbed the plastic carrier bag and immediately wolfed down a cheese and pickle sandwich. Mouthing his thanks, Freddie sipped the scalding coffee, that burnt his insides as he swallowed the steaming fluid slowly. He wrapped his hands around the outside of the polystyrene cup for warmth. Spot made some hungry doggy noises and Freddie fed him half a cheese and pickle sandwich,

  ‘Thanks be to God and the local supermarket’s largesse,’ said the kindly soldier of the Lord. ‘Are you in need of anything? I can take you to a shelter but I’m afraid dogs aren’t allowed.’

  ‘Then no thanks!’ Freddie replied, ‘I go nowhere without Spot, he’s my constant companion.’

  ‘I understand,’ replied the kindly man, ‘Here’s an address where you can get help in the morning, even with Spot staying with you for a short while.’

  ‘Thanks again,’ answered Freddie. “Goodbye!’

A road sweeping vehicle trundled by, with large brushes that swept up most of the detritus left in the road by the clubbers who seemed to consume vast quantities of fast food washed down with cans of drink and coffee.

Morning broke as the thick clouds in the sky lightened slightly. The persistent rain and sleet had stopped now. Freddie dragged himself to his feet and picked up his crutch. He rolled up his sleeping bag and his blanket and packed them into a large canvas bag.
He headed for the local hamburger restaurant where he could use the toilets and clean himself up a bit if the staff didn’t notice that he hadn’t purchased anything.
He tied up Spot outside and muttered, ‘Sorry boy, I won’t be long, I have an appointment at the hospital today. Got to get my leg sorted out.’

Spot whimpered and stood guard over the three bags that were all the possessions Freddie owned in the world.

Soon the roads were full of traffic, cars, and buses transporting workers heading for the city offices as another winter’s night in the city drew to a close.

Copyright ©️ Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

 

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CONFLAGRATION

I wrote the following piece of Flash Fiction for our Church magazine in response to the monthly theme of Inflation.

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Image Courtesy of pixabay.com

 

Conflagration

by John Yeo

  It started as a tiny spark that jumped from the orange flames with a crack that made old Ben jump, as a gleaming ember settled on his hand.
Ben, well known as a worthless, no good, lazy member of the parish, was roasting a plump pheasant  in the embers of his campfire.
Ben cursed volubly and brushed the ember from his hand, causing a large area of his skin to be affected by the burn. Ben ate his meal and as his hand became painful, he made his way to the local surgery where it was cleaned and dressed by the Practice Nurse.
   ‘How did you manage to do this?’ Nurse Amelia enquired.

  Ben thought for a moment and said, ‘Oh! I discovered a fire in the woods and I noticed it was beginning to burn out of control heading for the village. I simply stopped it from spreading.’

Soon after, with a cacophony of sirens, six fire engines from several of the neighboring towns descended on the village. There was indeed a large fire burning out of control in the woods. It seemed to have rekindled itself somehow.

Later in the Pedlars Arms, Robin the landlord and some of his cronies were excitedly discussing the events of the day together.

   ‘I understand we have a local hero, Poacher Ben discovered a forest fire that was heading towards the village and he single-handedly doused it and saved the lives of us all. Sadly it started up again the emergency services were quick to respond.’

‘Wow! you mean that worthless wretch is a hero.’ said Roger, the local Draper.

‘Yes that’s right,’ continued Robin, ‘I understand Mrs. Peabody has telephoned the local rag and they are sending a reporter to interview him here. Sarah my wife is comforting him and cleaning him up right now to face the Press.’

Ben quickly became a celebrity as he described the fire that he had somehow managed to divert towards the river bank.

The local newspapers had banner headlines. ‘Local hero saves his community.’

A certain wise member of the village was heard to mumble.
‘If it takes just a spark to start a fire that becomes a raging conflagration.
It needs but a tiny pin to deflate the inflation of an ego that becomes hugely inflated.’

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved

 

A Winter Wonderland

This is a piece of Flash Fiction for our church magazine, in response to the theme of Snow.

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THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT SNOW

by John Yeo

 

I see flurries of silent snowflakes

falling, drifting, settling,

A winter wonderland is created.

~

The snow hangs thickly

on the branches of bushes and trees.

Bending, almost breaking

beneath the weight.

~

Garden birds search hungrily

for hidden food under the icy blanket.

Snow covers and hides all.

~

Water is frozen, solid and hidden,

beneath the thick snowy blanket.

Thirsty birds and animals

lick snowflakes for moisture.

~

A snowflake is a thing of beauty

ice crystals that shine

with geometric splendour.

~

Children wrap warmly in scarves and gloves

to welcome the snow with joy.

Skating and sledging, to and fro

With whoops of sheer delight.

~

A snowman is built by children of all ages,

Mum and Dad and old Uncle Tom.

A carrot for a nose and an old battered hat

with a scarf around the neck.

~

In the snowy wastes, travel

over the glassy smooth surface is fast,

furious and exhilarating.

~

Visibility in a snowstorm is impaired,

the snow falling thickly, too dense to penetrate.

Snow blindness can result from the glare.

~

Housebound by thick snowy drifts

the old folk are trapped indoors,

many look out desperately for help.

Sleigh bells ring jubilantly as horses arrive

with a sledge,

laden with food and warm clothing.

~

Falling flakes add wonder to

the miracle of dazzling white snow.

A thick white carpet brings clean,

fresh magic everywhere.

~

Life is harsh as plants push through

the snowy white blanket.

When the snow stops falling

sunlight begins the thaw.

~

The world becomes a sea of slush

as the snow melts swiftly away.

Leaving behind a muddy, watery, dirty

sea of sludge.

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Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

JUSTIFICATION

A REEDSY PROMPT

Write a myth to explain a mysterious part of life (such as what happens after death).

Unicorns

Image Courtesy of pixabay.com

JUSTIFICATION

by John Yeo

 

  I heard it from my Father, who heard it from his Father. The origins of the tale go far back in the mists of time. Apparently, the saying goes that a horse with a horn situated in his nasal area, actually raised his head and spoke. Of course at that particular period in time, nobody understood what he had tried to say.

The Shaman, as the wisest person present, led the creature into a small field attached to his hut. A little later a loud whinny was heard by the assembled villagers. A sound that was enough to send shivers down the spines of the hardest-hearted person there.  

Soon the Shaman came into view and sternly said ‘It is finished.’  

Wiping the blood from a huge sacrificial knife, he said. ‘We must end the line of animals that presume to be equal to us by talking.’

The Chief of the village then came forward and addressed his subjects. ‘Kill any horse born with a horn. Especially the creatures that have the temerity to attempt to speak.’

There was a murmur of approval and cheers from the assembled villagers.

 Following this major event, almost every horse born with a horn was slaughtered.

  I say almost, as there were survivors. A group of three of these unusual animals were corralled and secreted in a valley surrounded by dense jungle.

 Danito, who lived with his woman and lifelong partner Marita were isolated from the rest of their neighbours and treated these lovely creatures as equals. Marita even learned to speak to them in a basic but quite fluent way.

 The Shaman was quite sure that the Chief’s instructions had been carried out and the unusual creatures were gone.

 Until the special day, Marita’s Father decided to pay her a visit to celebrate her birthday. Marita knew her Father was a mystical man, although she hadn’t seen him for many years, she welcomed this visit.

 Unbeknown to Danito and Marita the person who arrived was the Shaman, who happened to be Marita’s Father.

  Suffice to say, when the Shaman had greeted his daughter, there was a huge welcome and a feast was consumed. With wine served from the horns of a strange animal.

    ‘What meat is this?’ asked the Shaman.

  Marita replied, ‘This is the meat of our friendly animals who die and return to us supplying an endless supply of food. We have grown to know them and they have proved there is life after death, by returning in many different forms. Sometimes they come back with wings and fly away. Father, there will always be life after death in one form or another, once we leave this husk of a body behind.’

 The Shaman was overwhelmed with this and kept the secret of his daughter’s location.

 So the story of life after death began as the slaughter continued and the creatures came back in many forms. Sometimes absolutely unrecognizable.

  Thus was born the myth that is fine to eat the meat of animals as they always come back to life after death, in another form.

 

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

 

THE PIPER’S LEGACY

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

A REEDSY PROMPT

‘The urge to dance was overwhelming.’

The Piper’s Legacy

by John Yeo

  The two brothers, Donny and Flip were out playing in the fields, wandering around at the bottom of Piper’s Hill. This steep local hill was suffused with local legend and magical tales were told about many mysterious occurrences throughout the ages. The two brothers were as alike as chalk and cheese as the old saying goes. Donny was tall and thin with a shock of black hair and piercing blue eyes; he was the oldest of the two by eighteen months.
Flip was shorter, much to his chagrin, with brown straight hair and brown eyes to match. A daredevil, always game for anything.
The one thing the brothers had in common was their quick wits and friendly demeanor.

  Flip was acting as a hunter and racing along ahead of Donny.
   ‘Slow down Flip, we don’t want to lose track of each other, it’s getting late and we don’t want to get lost.’ shouted Donny.

   ‘It’s OK, I know exactly where we are. That’s old man Grieves’s farm over there.’ replied Flip. A startled Blackbird flew up as he continued to run, making the familiar squawking sound that is the Blackbirds cry of alarm.
  Then he suddenly shouted, ‘Hey Donny, come quick.’

  Donny pushed his way through some bushes at the bottom of the hill and suddenly saw Flip standing in front of the strangest wizened wrinkled old man he had ever seen. This man was wrapped up in an incredible multi-green coat, covered with streaks of brown that looked suspiciously like mud. The old man had a twinkle in his green eyes that were almost dazzling when he looked directly at Flip and Donny.

   ‘Hello,’ he said, What do I see here? Two young escapees from humdrum, looking for adventure? Sit on this handy log here and I will tell you a story.’

Donny sat down straight away and signaled to Flip to join him. Both of the boys were captivated by this strange old man with his merry grin.

The old man picked up an intricately carved wooden tube that was lying at his feet and waved it in front of the boys.
   ‘You see this lads? This is an ancient tube, in the right hands, it makes the sweetest sounds you have ever heard. I inherited this from its mysterious owner many years ago. When I was your age, our town was plagued with vermin. The town council hired the man who owned this magical tube to get rid of them. A price was agreed and the fun began.’
  The man then suddenly picked up the tube, put it to his mouth and blew once. Soon every tree and bush in the vicinity was covered with hundreds of birds of all shapes, sizes, and varieties.’

 The strange old man continued.
   ‘This musical man dressed in a strange multi-coloured costume was leading the thousands of assorted troublesome vermin from the town. My Mother and Father watched with glee, as the Piper worked his magic. Just as he had predicted, his music was hypnotic to the ears of the vermin and his assignment to clear the town was an instant success. I was 7 years old at the time, and the sight of these vermin leaving the town produced loud cheers and much happiness from the townspeople.’

 The old man continued, laughing loudly.  ‘What do you think happened next?’

  Both boys were dumbstruck and simply shrugged their shoulders.

    Flip piped up and said, ‘Can I have a blow on that whistle?’
Donny kicked him in the shins and said,
  ‘Shut up Flip! Please carry on with the story.’

 The old man smiled. ‘Well, the mayor decided not to pay the agreed fee and tried to cheat the piper.
The piper was angry at this and blew a strange tune on his whistle. A tune that got into the ears of every child in the town. I remember beginning to dance along with hundreds of my friends. The urge to dance was overwhelming. We followed the piper, dancing to the merriest tune you have ever heard. We danced to this very hill and suddenly two huge cave doors appeared and we all danced inside, to find a Wonderland. A place where dreams come true in the blink of an eye.’

The boys were overwhelmed with curiosity.

   ‘Why have you come back?’ Asked Donny.

  Then Flip interjected. ‘Can we come with you to see this place?’

With a shake of his head and a wave of his hand, the ancient traveler suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke.

  Then Flip bent down and picked something up, something long, tubular, intricately carved, with holes in. ‘Look, Donny, he’s left the pipe behind.’

  Donny grabbed the pipe and put it to his lips but nothing happened. Flip tried to get a sound from the flute without success.
Both boys then returned home with their treasure. They tried many times over the years to get a sound from this pipe, without any success.

  The boys didn’t let on to anyone about their magical meeting with the little old man on Pipers Hill.
However magic certainly came from the meeting as Donny became a talented well paid Flautist and Flip made a name for himself by playing the Saxophone in a famous orchestra.
The brothers became renowned as a duo that rocked the jazz world.

 

Written by John Yeo, (With apologies to ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin.’)

© ~ All rights reserved.

SNOWBELLS

This is a piece of Flash Fiction for our church magazine, in response to the theme of Bells.

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SNOWBELLS

by John Yeo

   The afternoon had been warm and sunny as Peter and Rosie happily wandered through the green fields and lanes that ran around the outside of the village bordering their Father’s farm. Peter dragged his younger sister along by her hand. At eleven years old, Peter was two years older than Rosie and he was expected to look after her whenever they went out together. There was no mistaking they were siblings, both of the children had a shock of black hair and unusual piercing blue eyes.

    ‘Don’t pull me so hard, please Pete, you are almost pulling my arm off.’

   ‘Sorry Rosie, but it’ll be getting dark soon and Mum wants us to be home.’

Suddenly as they got close to the woods, the evening sunlight reflected off a sea of blue and green that stretched deep into the woods.

     ‘Look Pete, beautiful Bluebells. Oh, please let’s pick a bunch to take home to Mum.’

At that moment two Magpies began chasing each other in the low overhanging branches on the nearby trees.

    ‘Two for Joy,’ shouted Rosie happily.

   ‘OK Rosie, good idea! They won’t be angry if we take them some flowers.’ Peter replied, he knew his sister would be upset if he said, No!

They soon began to pick armfuls of Bluebells to take home. Suddenly, there was a rustle at the far end of the glade as a Brown speckled Doe, dashed for cover. This made them both jump, as the sudden noise took them by surprise.

  Peter nervously said, ‘C’mon Rosie, it’s time to go home now.’

   ‘OK, Pete’ replied Rosy.

The children soon reached the ramshackle collection of buildings that surrounded the cosy farmhouse. As they arrived, Trusty the farmhouse guard dog barked loudly, overjoyed to see them both. Their Mother appeared looking quite worried, her expression softened, immediately, when she saw the Bluebells.

   ‘Come in quickly, you two! Your Granddad is here and he has been waiting for you for ages.’

  ‘OK Mum,’ said Peter.

As soon as their Granddad saw the Bluebells he said,

‘Have you two heard the legend about Bluebells?’ he asked with a smile.

‘Well, some years there are White coloured Bluebells among the Blue ones like you have here. This means there is bound to be a White Christmas coming up and if you listen carefully sometimes these special Bluebells actually ring when they are tossed by the wind.’

‘Oh! Come on Grandpa. How can flowers make a noise?’

Granddad smiled as he said, ‘Ah! You have to listen carefully and believe, if you want to hear the music of the Snowbells.’

White Bluebell

 

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved

SOPPY

Field

A REEDSY PROMPT

Write a story based on an experience from your childhood — but have that experience happen to a person or group of people who are nothing like you or your family.

 

SOPPY

 

by John Yeo

   Our boarding school was a large old country house set in 100 acres of the most beautiful wooded grounds. Sadly for the boarders, 99 of these acres were out of bounds unless there was a sporting event in progress. The school boasted two full-sized football pitches, two cricket pitches, tennis courts, both lawn and hard courts, and an outside swimming pool, that was icy cold in the depths of Winter
     When we were playing on our large playing field behind the school, we dug a large pit in the ground and put planks over the top and made ourselves a comfortable little den. We enjoyed our self-provided privacy in our own little world of dirt and worms and grassy comfort.
One day a new pupil arrived from a well-to-do family and needed to be welcomed and looked after.
     Mrs. Simpson, the matron said. “Give Rodney a lovely welcome boys. He is the son of one of the school founders.”

     “Yes Miss:” We all chorused.

Later that day, Rodney Blenkinsop arrived and he was quickly christened, ‘Soppy,’  for short, by one and all in view of his high-brow manners and his total dismissal of all sports as a waste of time.

    After our school day had finished, Tommy Jones piped up and said. “Hey Soppy, come and play with us in our den, you will enjoy the change from your big house.”

   “Oh, of course, I would love to join you. Your ignorance and continual mispronunciation of my name leads me to believe you are an inferior, up to no good idiot, Jones.”

  Tommy was taken aback by this attitude and was about to thump him when Mrs, Simpson appeared.

  We all then made our way to our den in the field. The boys all chuckled loudly when they noticed the total look of horror on the face of Rodney Blenkinsop.

   We all piled underground and waited for the new boy to brave the dirt and mud at the entrance to our secure little den.
The grins suddenly became chuckles…The chuckles became laughter…
The laughter became guffaws then turned to outright glee as everyone realized that Soppy was still outside the den.

  Then suddenly there was a shaking of the timbers on the flimsy roof, then a trembling of the earth around the den as the roof began to collapse.

  Somehow as the main beams began to fall inwards they were stopped in full collapse.

    “Get out quickly, while I keep trying to hold the wood my arms are aching. Quick! Get out now!”

   “That’s Soppy’s voice,” said Henry as everyone dashed for the hole which collapsed immediately the last person escaped. The roof then caved in, taking Soppy with it into the bowels of the earth.
Of course, he was rescued by a passing schoolmaster who had witnessed the whole episode.
Rodney Blenkinsop soon recovered in the school sickbay, none the worse for wear. Just a few cuts and grazes as badges of his courage.
No one ever referred to Rodney as Soppy again, From that day forward, he became something of a school hero.

 

Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.