MUSIC DEFINES MY LIFE

MUSIC DEFINES MY LIFE

I have very few loves in my life. I have my wife Jane. We made a vow to each other over twenty or so years ago, not to God but to each other that whatever happened to either of us we would see the bond between each of us through to the very end of our lives. And it has been a very rough life. It has not been easy because I have had Parkinson's for over forty years and it has just got harder by the day. And, we are still living through it. It took its toll, not just on me but on Jane as well. But that isn't what I wanted to talk about because my love for Jane will go with me to my grave. The other great love of my life is music and I can't express how important that is to me. It has been with me through the good times in my life. It has been through the bad times. It has been with me my whole life. It has defined me. I can think of no other form of self-expression than music. You could write a song about absolutely anything. There is no single emotion that you couldn't express in the form of music. And I am thinking in particular of record collecting. I could give you a soundtrack to my life through the records I have bought at any particular point in my life. Because the music you listen to through your life expresses an emotion, a memory. Something that happened at that point in your life when you first heard that particular record. And that's why when you listen to music it should evoke something in you. An emotion. It can define a mood you are in. it can define anything you want it to but it must mean something because that's what it does for me. I have memories attached to certain records even to the memories of actually buying those particular records and where I bought them from. It could be a record say from the 1970s when I was a teenager which reminds me of a girl I wanted to go out with but failed miserably but it doesn't stop you dreaming and that's what a certain record should do. And it's even more vital to me now than ever because music has got me through really bad days when my failing body won't allow me to do anything but listen to something. And that's where my music has saved me. It's been, my only friend. It's got me through everything because when I listen to it I can just lose myself and I am so grateful to it for that.

Rob Keene (2020)

 
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MUSIC IN DREAMLAND

MUSIC IN DREAMLAND

If any of you watch my music videos on a regular basis you should recognise the phrase MUSIC IN DREAMLAND and if you don't it doesn't really matter anyway because its a song written by BILL NELSON from the band BE BOP DELUXE who only ever released fIVE studio albums AXE VICTIM, FUTURAMA, SUNBURST FINISH, MODERN MUSIC and DRASTIC PLASTIC but as far as I am concerned they are five of the innovative albums ever made. They were all released in the mid to late 1970s and leaving aside the first album AXE VICTIM which was BILL NELSON finding his feet with his newly formed band all of whom never made it to the next studio album because they just weren't musically competent enough to fulfil BILL NELSON's ambitions particularly in the songwriting field and I would imagine that they were inferior in their musical ability as well. Although AXE VICTIM did have one or two decent songs on it such as the title track AXE VICTIM and ADVENTURES IN A YORKSHIRE LANDSCAPE the rest of the album tracks was pretty ordinary when you consider what was to follow because the next album FUTURAMA was like a quantum leap in comparison. I really don't know what breakfast BILL NELSON was having every morning when he was writing the songs for this album or what particular reading material he was reading but whatever it was it provided him with some magnificent material for the songs he was writing. The most impressive moment is the epic SWAN SONG which turns to be the final track on the album. The one thing that's always fascinated me about BILL NELSON'S music especially with BE BOP DELUXE is that when you first start listening to his music the thing that always stands out is his incredible guitar work. I have always maintained that he was probably one of the best and most underrated guitarists around in the mid to late 1970s. And should have got a lot more recognition but when you're competing alongside HENDRIX PAGE CLAPTON etc. it's perfectly understandable why you might be overlooked. But that isn't the only stand out the thing about all five of the BE BOP DELUXE studio albums. Music is an individual choice of any person. We are never all going to like the same music but you should be able to appreciate the qualities of certain types of musicianship and artists even though you may not like their music. And I get so annoyed when people dismiss certain types of music out of hand without giving it a listen because I have always found with certain artists and types of music that your tastes in music can quite easily change as the years roll by and what you initially claimed was rubbish was actually better than you thought and all of a sudden you start to appreciate the genius that the artist really was and the incredible music that they produced at that time and in a way that's what's happened to me with BILL NELSON and BE BOP DELUXE because although I always liked what they did and saw them play quite a few times it was only when we were all in lockdown in this last year that I decided to dig all five albums out of the loft and listen to them again. And I sat down one night and put the first album on AXE VICTIM, and then I put FUTURAMA on and before I realised what I was doing it was nearly 3am early morning and I had literally listened to all five albums. And I just couldn't believe my ears. BILL NELSON and BE BOP DELUXE had literally painted pictures in my mind and THAT'S why I have been making all these music videos to give the music a new lease of life. Because it was never really given the praise that it fully deserved so I decided that one way of doing it was to give my interpretation of what I thought the music was all about in a visual way because it's so surprising that if you can get the visuals right then it can bring the music to life. The other thing I have come to realise about BILL NELSON was that he wrote some great lyrics to his songs which were far more interesting than a lot of the wishy-washy lyrics around at the time and if he had only expanded on what he had written he could have been the best selling author as well. But the one thing I will always be eternally grateful for was that I decided to revisit his music again because if only other people would do the same as I have done they would discover a musical treasure chest.

Rob Keene (2020)

 

TIME NEVER STANDS STILL

TIME NEVER STANDS STILL
This  morning I felt so lucky because I was able to lie in my  bed. Just lie there. And , I couldn't remember the last  time I was able to do that and what seemed like hours was just thirty minutes but  it felt so nice. The normality of it all. And to anybody else it would mean nothing  at all, but to me it meant absolutlely everything. It was like finding an oasis in the middle of a desert. That's what it meant to me. Such a simple little thing. But I knew it wasn't going to last but while it did I was going to wring every last drop out of it while I could. While I was still a relatively normal human being. That's how important those moments are to me because they don't come around very often but when they do you have got to enjoy them. And that is exactly what my life has become now. It's about maximising everything I've got and getting the most out of it while you can and that is so important and people take it for granted. If you have an ounce of potential in anything you do  then use it while you can otherwise you've wasted that chance and its gone. And I see that in so many people now. They have so much potential and ability but they're just not using it and that is so frustrating to see for me now having struggled with Parkinson's for so long. Every single ounce of talent that I have is slowly being stripped away but whatever I have left I am going to get every drop out of it and enjoy it. Which is probably why I work so hard at my writing, music and vidoes while I am still able, because everything to me. I could spend eihgt or nine hours on a music video or a radio show and I try to turn them into a work of art or as good as I possibly can because it means everything to me. 
       The days when I used to half heartedly do things are long gone. I put everything into them my heart and soul so people can see what I would have been capable of if I'd been given the chance. And that's why Parkinson's is a terrible condition to suffer from because it slowly but surely rob's you of any potetntial you might have, and so it is important that you maximise the things you can do while you are still able to.
        Time is such a big factor in my life now and it feels strange because when I was young I always felt as if time was standing still and just wasn't going anywhere but it is because it's always moving on and never standing still but the trouble is that you don't realise that until its too late and then you've run out, and all that potential and ablity that you had has dissappeared with it.
Rob Keene (2020)

 
 

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS


Can you ever remember making a decision about something in your life and only wish you hadn't? Well, when I was just fifteen years old I made a conscious decision to stop playing the guitar not because I didn't enjoy playing it but because I didn't think that I would have enough time to devote to it so inexplicably I stopped playing and sold all the equipment that I had. Which at the time seemed the right thing to do because I wanted to concentrate on my exams and do a degree course at University.
It was a really bad error of judgement on my part because it deprived me of the years when I could have enjoyed being able to play the guitar that I loved whereas now my hands are totally uncoordinated and just fumble up and down the fretboard. But that turn of fate could be applied to lots of people in lots of situations who are just saying to themselves if only. But I have always said to myself I wouldn't regret any decision that I made and I don't to a certain extent but that one I'm not quite sure about.
And when I think of all the trouble I went to get the instruments and equipment that I had and in the end, I just virtually gave it all away. Although in saying that it was hardly worth anything anyway because it was all second hand. But that didn't matter to me at the time because at least I had something to learn to play on. My mom and dad struggled with money when I was younger so I never thought I could ask them to pay for anything like that so I was always scraping around to get a little bit of money as and when I could and when I heard about somebody who was selling something musical I always got round there as quickly as I could and tried to broker a deal before anybody else could with any cash and usually if I managed to reach an agreement with them I always asked them to put it in writing and sign it so they couldn't back out of the deal and that's how I worked things in those days. It was literally the law of the jungle so you just had to make sure that you got in there first and that's what I always did. And then if my negotiating skills were good enough I'd manage to arrange payment by instalments which gave me a bit of time to get the money organised.
In the time that I actually played the guitar I only ever owned three. The first was a beech coloured six-string traditional Spanish guitar which had three metal and three nylon strings but in the early nineteen seventies, it was always fashionable to get an electric pick up for an acoustic guitar to give it a bit more oomph and make it sound a bit louder and in order to do that you had to have six metal strings and in my great misguided way I decided in my wisdom to swap the three nylon strings for three metal ones the only problem being that if I tightened the string keys too much that it would put too much stress on the tuning keys and probably break them. But luckily for me, it worked and it didn't do any irreparable damage to the guitar. And as most young boys tend to do if they have any ambition of being in a rock and roll band you graduate from learning to play an acoustic guitar to try and master an electric and what you don't realise at the time is that there is a hell of a lot of difference between playing an acoustic guitar t playing an electric guitar and the first obvious thing that you notice is the very narrow fretboard compared to an acoustic one in so far as its harder to learn to play the power chords needed on an electric in comparison to an acoustic one. And the big difference is that in order to project the sound out of an electric guitar you will and amplifier and a lead to protect the noise coming out of the guitar you are playing and comes as a bit of a shock due to the sheer power of it. And when you want to make an even better sound you will almost certainly need a more powerful amplifier and so it goes on but the very basics that will need are an electric guitar and amplifier and guitar lead. Of course, if you want to learn to sing as well you will need a decent microphone and a stand. But that's not the only thing that you will need because you will also need a P.A. system to plug your mic. into. So it's not as simple as you think. As I said earlier I was never in a position to be able to buy anything brand new but I always felt a little envious of my friends whose parents could always afford to buy brand new equipment even though they weren't really bothered learning to play an electric guitar in the first place.
And I can remember to this day going round to one of my school friends houses and looking in total admiration at a brand new Les Paul guitar and Fender amp which one of his Aunties had bought on a whim to stop him whinging while he was out on a shopping trip with his parents. If I remember correctly he had one lesson and gave it up. You quickly realise later on in life that it is the equipment its the person that's playing it that matters. I'm sure that if you asked the same question to Jimi Hendrix if he was still alive he would totally agree. But when I compare it to the equipment I owned you would totally understand. Apart from the acoustic guitar that I have already mentioned I managed to buy a battered old red guitar the make of which was totally unknown but it had three pickups one of which didn't and the fretboard had been so worn down over the years that you could hardly play a note on it anyway. And it was definitely the heaviest guitar I have ever picked up and I don't mean in sound I mean in weight. It's a, wander my guitar strap never broke and I still have the grooves in my shoulder to prove it. And because that "tank of a guitar was so I unreliable to play I then invested my hard-earned paper round money in a "Woolworth's" own brand guitar. Yes, they did make them in those days although if the truth is known they probably fell off the back of a boat that had just arrived from China. And that was the extent of the musical instruments that I ever owned apart from a homemade amplifier which I bought off a young teacher at the secondary school I was at who tried to make it look like an orange amp but wasn't really because it only ever emitted the equivalent output of a two-stroke engine. But that didn't matter to me because I was enjoying every minute and I should have carried on but didn't.
Rob Keene (2020)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

JOHN AND PAUL

JOHN AND PAUL
Part One
"What do you think John shall we give it a go"
"We might as well what have we got to lose".
John and Paul had just put their names down to join the guitar club at their school which started in a couple of weeks time but the only trouble was that it said at the bottom of the sheet that was pinned to the school notice board that you had to bring your own guitar to the class but neither of them had one. "What we gonna do John ?" said Paul in a rather desperate voice. "I do'know it was your fucking idea!" said John rather disparagingly. But Paul took it on the chin like he always did because he knew that John didn't really mean it. Well, there's no fucking way that my mom's gonna give me any money because she just hasn't got it since Dad left us the fucking wanker, and he kicked the chair by the side of the wall in frustration. "There's got to be away," said Paul as he started to put his thinking cap on. "Oh yeah" shouted John much to Paul's dismay "So how are we gonna write all those great fucking songs that are gonna make us millions if we ain't got any fucking guitars ! " shouted John in an even louder voice. "John calm down I'll think of something just stop shouting yer fucking head off the teacher will be coming over in a minute and we'll be getting in trouble again". "I don't care I'm fed up of this anyway I want to get a job and get my own money and then I'll be able to get the 'Ricky' guitar that I've always wanted." "John put yer brain in gear, you're only fourteen years old, who gonna employ somebody of that age?" said Paul trying to look as sensible as he could. "So, what we going to do the clever clogs ?" said John as he picked up his school blazer and school bag and headed for the exit. "As I said I will think of something," said Paul trying to sound as confident as he possibly could realising that he hadn't got a clue. "Well I shall wait with bated breath Mr Einstein, But in the meantime, I'm going to chase one of those two girls around the bushes and try and get their knickers down or at least die trying." John, put that thing back in your trousers and get it under control 'cause it's gonna lead to a lot of complications in your life I keep telling you that and you never listen. If you want to be a songwriter you need to have a bit more self-discipline because the only way we gonna makes any money out of it is to write at least half a dozen songs a day and they've all got to have the word ' love' in them because that's the key to our success.
"Don't make me laugh Mr Know it all?" said John looking mockingly at Paul. "I think you're jumping the gun a little bit there pal firstly, we haven't got any guitars, secondly we haven't got any money to buy the guitars and thirdly we ain't got a fucking cat's chance in hell of getting the fucking money and buying the guitars within the next two weeks anyway so what's the point ?" said John trying to come to some sort of logical conclusion.
"The point is that we've got two weeks until we have to make that decision so I'm not going to give in just yet," said Paul trying to sound as confident as he could." Alright kiddo I'll go along with that but short of robbing a local bank I don't see how we are going to do it but I'll go with the flow for the time being." "I'm off home now I want my tea. I'll see you in the morning." at which John sped off up the road on his bike pedalling as fast as he could because he was starting to feel really hungry by now. Paul pulled his satchel back over his shoulder and carried on walking down the road. He could just see his mom pegging the washing out in the back garden. The great thing about Paul's mom was that whenever he was stuck for ideas his would always come up with solutions but he was not sure how she would react this time when he tells her what he is panning by he is about to find out.
Rob Keene (2020) 

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THE BUS STOP


THE BUS STOP
Rob Keene (Copyright)
"I'm gonna be bloody late again" Joe muttered to himself as he grabbed his coat and briefcase only half shutting the front door behind him and ran out into the Monday morning rain. He still had half a piece of toast in his mouth while trying to put his tie on straight and button his coat up at the same time without any success at all. This was becoming a regular thing being late arriving for his new job every morning and there were already grumbles amongst his fellow workmates that he was getting preferential treatment and that wasn't going down too well at all. Joe hurried along as quickly as he could because he only had five minutes to go a quarter of a mile to catch the 8.30 am bus from Essington to Cannock and arrive at the bus station just in time to scramble in through the doors of Boot and sons Accountants his new employers and hope that his boss didn't spot being late again!
"Oh well, if it happens it happens," Joe mumbled to himself as he jogged and along puffing and panting in the pouring rain not really bothered whether he kept his new job or not because he hated it and was secretly hoping that he would get the sack anyway. The only good thing about going to work and catching the 8.30 am bus every morning was the chance to see Genie sitting at the back of the bus. Genie had always been the girl of Joe's dreams and always sat at the back of the bus surrounded by trainee bricklayers on their way to Cannock ChaseTechnical College. "Like a bunch of feral cats on heat." Joe always used to grumble to himself clearly irritated by what went on at the back of the bus every single morning because he never got the chance to sit next to Genie and he always wanted to.
"He had a minute and a half to run slightly less than a third of a mile in the pouring rain with a bulky briefcase under his arm and a piece of soggy toast in his mouth. He was never going to make it he thought to himself as he could see the bus turning into the top of the road but then he thought of Genie Briggs with her long blonde hair and her absolutely stunning looks and Joe Grimshaw suddenly sprouted wings in his feet and said to himself "There is no way I am not going to be on that bus" and shot off into the drizzle as fast as his bandy legs would carry him.
They say that true love never runs smoothly and Joe's first encounter with Genie wasn't the best of introductions when he accidentally ran into her on his bike one day when he was coming out of school too quickly and broke her arm. But she never resented him for it. She just never noticed him. She was always surrounded by the best looking boys at school but for some reason, she wasn't interested in them either. She was more interested in her girlfriends and her schoolwork than stupid boys running around blowing kisses at her but Joe had always had a big crush on Genie. And he never went out with any other girls in the school because he was waiting for that one chance to talk to her but it never came. Whenever there was a disco or a school drama production Joe would always go just to see if she was there. He wouldn't be interested in the music or the play he just wanted to stare at Genie all night. As far as Joe was concerned there would only be Genie. But the trouble is with school fairytales they eventually come to an end and so did school. Everybody goes their separate ways and you think you’re never going to see them again but fortunately for Joe fate gave him a second chance and he ended up getting the same bus every morning from Essington to Cannock and from Cannock to Essington back home every night And that was just the sign from the Gods that Joe needed. The stars had aligned as far he was concerned. But at some point, he knew if his dream of Genie was to come true he would have to break the ice? He did have one idea of writing everything he had wanted to say to her down on a piece of paper and posting it here but that was absolutely stupid he knew that.
Joe managed to catch up with the 8.30 a.m bus from Essington to Cannock just before it left the bus stop. He was gasping for air when he staggered onto the bus but as soon as he saw Genie Briggs he took a deep breath puffed out his chest and paraded down the aisle like a cockatoo looking for a seat but he couldn’t see one so he kept working way down the bus until he reached the last seat left that he could sit on and suddenly Joe 's lower jaw had suddenly dropped on the floor because the only seat left was sitting next to Genie Briggs.
Joseph James Grimley tried really hard not to get flustered but he could feel a bead of sweat slowly starting to drip down his forehead as he tried not to look too nervous. This was Joe's big moment. he couldn't blow it could he?
Joe just about managed to land one buttock on the seat without making himself look like a complete idiot in front of the whole bus. The only embarrassing thing was, although he didn't know at the time was that he had a piece of toast that he had been trying to eat while he was running for the bus had stuck to the lapel of his jacket and looked like some strange food badge. Now he had to think really quickly before Genie noticed that he was sitting next to him. "What am I going to say ?" Joe kept mumbling to himself like some demented Tibetan monk who had lost his mind and just kept chanting to himself for the sake of it! He began to smell the delicate perfume that Genie was wearing and he already felt like he was in some sort of boy's wonderland. It was so intoxicating that he felt like he had drunk ten pints of beer in one minute. Would anything sensible ever come out of Joe’s mouth when he needed it to? Any second now Genie would stop looking through the window of the bus look straight at him and expect something sensible to come out of his mouth. What was he going to say? This was the earth-shattering moment in the life of Joseph Grimley that would go down in the annals of ineptitude forever. As Genie turned to look at him his mind went completely blank for anything even remotely sensible to say to her but something must have come out of Joe's mouth because Genie responded to it. What he actually said to her and he only found out many years later was "How's your arm?" and she responded "Fine thank you" so he had actually hit the ground running! But then Joe realised that Genie was about to ask him a sensible question and that 'he' would have to respond to 'it'. But he comes out with anything that was remotely sensible.
"What are you up to these days Joe?" Genie asked him in a clear and confident feminine sounding voice.
Joe tried to think as quickly as he could of something sensible or even remotely intelligent to say in reply. He'd thought of something but it was only two words but he felt he needed more to impress Genie Briggs. And then he said "Not much" and then he suddenly realised that he had just spoken the words of a complete moron! Fortunately for him, Genie Briggs was going to let him off the hook. "Oh come on Joe you must be doing something with your life ?" she said in a confident and clear sounding voice.
Joe only managed two more words. "Trainee accountant," he said in a rather slurred voice. He still felt slightly drunk from the smell of her perfume. He started to feel slightly easier about the situation now and the self-confidence was starting to flow through his veins. That confidence was built on the fact that he managed to utter four words. But never mind it could be the start of their future relationship together he hoped. And then just as he thought that the 8.30 am bus from Essington to Cannock pulled in to Cannock bus station and they both got off the bus to start their respective days. But Joe knew deep down that he had done something really important in his life today. He had made a start.
After coming down from cloud nine Joe just managed to get through the door of Boot and sons (Accountants) before his boss arrived but as with most trainee jobs he had to start at the bottom of the ladder and make cups of tea and coffee for everybody in the office. After that, he got down to doing some work but he couldn't concentrate at all. All he could think of was his brief encounter on the bus. Well, it was very brief? Genie only spoke to him for ten seconds. The rest of the time she stared out the window but that was ok. Joe felt he achieved two of his main goals in life. A) To sit next to Genie and B) To actually speak to her. Well, it may have been only four words but it was a start. The only thing that hadn't done was asked her where she worked. So that would be his next goal. To find out where she worked and what time she got back the bus back to Essington. As soon as his dinner break arrived Joe was out scouring Cannock town centre trying to find her. But he had no luck at all so a little disheartened he went and bought himself a beef pasty for his lunch and walked up to Cannock park to sit on a park bench to eat it. He sat down next to the rhododendron bushes and munched on his beef pasty. "Ahh" Joe suddenly screamed because he'd burnt his tongue. He should have waited until his pasty had cooled down but he never did. "Ah well it's a small price to pay for progress." he thought to himself looking like a New Zealand rugby player trying to do the haka badly. His tongue was still throbbing as he walked down to the office. It was just starting to rain heavily again from this morning and in his haste to rush out he hadn't put his coat on. "Bwugger" Joe exclaimed with frustration trying really hard not to bite his burnt throbbing swollen tongue which was twice its normal size. This is worse than the dentist's chair he thought to himself as he took shelter from the pouring rain in the foyer of Cannock Library.
"Hello Joe have you come to borrow a book?" came an all too familiar voice from behind. He recognised the voice straight away. It was Genie's voice. She must work in the library.
"Nwoo I'm Jwust twying to shwelter fwom thwe wain" Joe tried to say suddenly realising that he couldn't talk properly because of his swollen tongue. Genie started to smile.
"Thwis wis whap wappems whem ywu twy twu eap aee bweef pastwee twu qwikllee." Genie's smile grew broader until she just burst out into hysterical laughter. She put both hands on Joe's shoulders, sweetly kissed him on the cheek, turned and walked away. Joe was absolutely stunned. He didn't know what to think. Was that love or was it laughter he didn't know which ? but there was something that felt strange about it that wasn't right and he had to find out...
Nothing ever turns out the way she wants it does it Genie thought herself wiping the tears away from her eyes as she locked the door behind her into the ladies toilet. She opened the letter again just to confirm that what she had read was correct. Yes, it was. She'd got cancer. No doubt about it now and she'd got six months to live. She had to go to the hospital tomorrow but for some reason, all she could think about was being with Joe and she didn't know why? The rain had stopped as Joe was slowly walking back to Boots and son trying to work out what had just happened and he walked he could hear somebody running up to him very quickly from behind and suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was Genie "Joe there something I wanted to ask you ?" said Genie trying really hard not to show Joe that she had been upset'
Joe suddenly realised that there was something wrong but he had absolutely no idea what it was and Genie wasn't going to tell him "Is it those bricklayers on the bus? Have they been upsetting you ?" that was the only thing Joe could think of.
" No, it's not that Joe, I just feel a bit under the weather and was wondering if you would go out with me tomorrow night ?" I need a bit of company that's all. "
Joe stood in stunned silence, and then after a few seconds he said quite clearly and calmly as if it was always meant to be "Yes of course." Genie stood and looked at him for a few seconds put each hand on Joe's cheeks leant towards him and kissed him on the lips
" Thank you." in a grateful voice then she slowly turned slowly around and walked away because she was starting to feel tearful again and she didn't want Joe to see her.
"What time do you want me to meet you ?" Joe shouted feeling totally confused as to what was happening.
"7.30pm at the bus stop tomorrow night," Genie shouted back to him without turning her head because she didn't want Joe to see the tears that were streaming down her face.
"I'll be waiting for you" and as soon as he had said that he kept looking until Genie was back in the library then he turned and walked back towards work feeling slightly confused yet elated at the same time. Joe concentrated on his work as best he could that afternoon. He felt so happy and yet so confused. He always hoped that things would turn out this way but something didn't feel quite right. He knew there was something upsetting Genie and he wasn't sure who or what it was, but whatever it was he was going to be at the bus stop tomorrow night before 7.30 and make sure that she was safe and sound in his company and hope that she would just get to know him a bit better and learn to love him because that is all he has ever wanted out of life and if he had the love of Genie Briggs, he would die a happy man.
Joe Grimley had absolutely no idea of the mixed emotions he would have to go through in the next 48 hours of his life but whatever it was he would have to live with it forever.
Joe didn't see Genie on the bus the next morning and was a bit mystified as to what was happening but he knew there was something that did not feel right about all this and why had she turned to him? He was completely lost in his thoughts all morning and decided to go over to the library to see if anybody knew where she was. Nobody knew a thing other than the fact that she hadn't phoned in sick. She'd just asked for a day off. He kept going over in his mind the events of the day before. Why had she suddenly taken an interest in him? They hardly knew each other? The only plausible answer that Joe could come up with is that she had broken up with a boyfriend that he knew nothing about and that she just wanted a bit of company with somebody who she felt comfortable with? Yes, Joe said to himself that could be the only reason that made any sense otherwise why would she suddenly take any interest in him? Joe kept going over the same thing in his mind as he made his way to the bus stop. He had great difficulty before he set out trying to decide what to wear. He knew it had to be absolutely stunning so that Genie would never forget how he looked on their first date. He'd spent an hour just washing his hair because he wanted every strand to look perfect. He'd even ironed his underpants although in hindsight he wished he'd have bought some new ones because these were looking a little bit threadbare. In the end, after trying suits trousers every possible combination of clothing he plumped for jeans and a shirt because it was quite a warm evening and he was comfortable but he took his leather bikers jacket with him just in case... Just in case of what he had absolutely no idea? Anyway, it was nearly 6.30 pm so he had to get a move on. He grabbed the extra money that he'd drawn out during his dinner break just in case Genie wanted to go to the pictures or something, shoved it in his pocket grabbed his leather jacket and set off for the bus stop not knowing what to expect. In fact, if he was being honest he was totally confused but deep down Joe Grimley wouldn't have missed this chance for the world. It's what he'd always dreamed would happen but he didn't know why. For a start, he hadn't got a clue what they would talk about or even what he might think of to say to her. But what he was absolutely sure about was that he loved her and always would do whatever the outcome of tonight was. He was just happy to be with her. It was almost like he would be in the presence of royalty and he felt a little bit overwhelmed by it all. Why would a princess-like Genie want to know a commoner like him? He just hoped that all his questions would be answered and that everything with Genie was alright because if she needed a knight in shining armour Joe Grimley was her man, her Buzz Lightyear, her Woody. But unbeknown to Joe what Genie was facing was something that no superhero could save her from, but Joe didn't know that and was about to find out.
For once in his life, Joe had arrived at the bus stop early so if the bus arrived with Genie on it he wouldn't have to run down the road like Husain Bolt to catch it. The bus was late and Joe was starting to feel a little nervous. He was over analyzing things in his mind he knew that but he couldn't help himself. What if she wasn't on the bus and it had all been a big joke and when he got on the bus the next morning all the trainee bricklayers who were on the bus as well all started laughing and making fun of him? And what if Genie had set this up as a prank and that she had no intention of catching the bus whatsoever and wanted Joe to stand at the bus stop all night and look like an absolute pudding!
He could just see the bus turning at the top of the road and he could make out Genie Brigg's blonde hair sitting at the back of the bus.
" Thank God for that. It's not a joke after all," he said to himself as he got on the bus, paid the driver and walked down the aisle to the back of the bus to sit next to the blonde-haired girl of his dreams.
"There was no easy way to do this "Genie thought as Joe sat down beside her and she realised that although she had hardly ever spoken to Joe she liked him because he had always been around at times when he felt happy. And that reassured her because she knew she faced dark times ahead. But tonight of all nights she wanted a bit of warmth and comfort from someone outside her circle of friends and who is better than Joe Grimley. Mr Reliable as her friends always used to call him.
Joe sat down beside Genie on the bus and knew he had to say something but he didn't know how to put it. So Joe thought he would ask the obvious question first. " Where would you like to go tonight Genie ?" Joe said not trying to sound too defensive.
"Nowhere Joe nowhere at all" Genie replied not really caring where she was apart from being somewhere.
"Nowhere what do you mean nowhere ?" Joe replied as he started to believe it really was a windup after all and the trainee bricklayers were going out from somewhere. Genie reached across with her hand and picked up one of Joe's hands and held it as tightly as she could and started to well up. Joe could see she was upset and thought his other about her splitting up from some boyfriend might have something to do with it.
"Has somebody upset you Genie Briggs cause don't worry I'll protect you tonight, nobody will get near you. I'll make sure of that." Joe said in a most gallant voice as if he was Sir Lancelot protecting his Guinevere. Genie looked up into Joe's eyes and felt his warm reassurance. She knew she had chosen the right person to be with tonight because she could tell that Joe had got a warm heart and meant what he said. She could tell just looking at him that he loved her and would do anything for her. She had always known even at school because she knew he had always been staring at her but she didn't want to embarrass him so she never told him.
"Where would you like to Genie because in the evenings on me." Joe pronounced in a much more confident manner. Genie smiled and looked up at him. "Nowhere Joe nowhere at all," Genie repeated it again as she had done before.
"Well. What do you want to do then, stay on the bus all night ?" said Joe, feeling more confused than ever.
" No, I just want to go to the park and just breathe." Genie sighed with a resigned look on her face.
"Ok my lady we'll do whatever you desire," Joe replied in his best Sir Lancelot voice.
"What I desire is to just live." Genie almost cried out in an emotional voice but managed to stifle it. And as she said it she looked away from Joe and stared out the window. Joe had heard what Genie had said but didn't question her about it. But he would ask her another time when it felt right. But what Joe didn't know at the time and wouldn't find out until much later was that this night would be the last night that he would ever see Genie again but he would cherish the memory of her from that night with him in his heart forevermore.

 

RUBY LANE

RUBY LANE
Ruby Lane was sixteen years old and she would go behind the school bike sheds and have sex with any boy she liked. She really didn't care what any of the other girls thought about her. She enjoyed sex and she could have the pick of the boys in the school. The only trouble was, she was too good at it and she was wearing them all out. And she was getting a little bit bored because none of them seemed to satisfy her any more because they all came far too quickly and sex with them was over before she knew it. The only reason she carried on with it was that most of the boys would insist on giving her a bunch of flowers or a pair of earrings or a box of chocolates all of which she used to give to her grandma on the way back home. She always told her nan how she had come by all the gifts and her gran always used to laugh about the stories that Ruby told her about it. Life was so simple to Ruby and she could sum it up in just three little words " just enjoy life" and that was Ruby's whole philosophy in a nutshell. She would try to have sex with as many men in the world as she possibly could until the right one came along of course? But, how would she know which the right one was? Because they all seemed the same to Ruby except they all come in different shapes and sizes. And her grandma laughed even louder as she waved to Ruby on her way home. Ruby skipped down Evans st. and as she turned into Monumental road a bunch of labourers from the local building site were climbing out of the back of a transit van and started wolf-whistling her but she just stuck two fingers up to them and carried on her way as if it didn't matter. Ruby had nearly reached the bottom Monumental road when she caught sight of a rather overweight looking boy picking himself up off the floor. It was John Smith commonly known as 'Fatboy' and he'd fallen off his bike Ruby tried not to giggle as she ran over to see if there was anything she could do? "Is there anything I can do to help John ?" The sympathy didn't entirely sound as if it was meant. " Oh my God that's all I need sex served to me on a dinner plate," said John mumbling to himself. The last woman on earth he would rather see was Ruby Lane who seemed only good for one thing and one thing only. Sex."How can you help me Ruby ?" said John inquisitively just to see what Ruby would say in reply. "Well I can help you pick your bike up off the floor for a start,""When are you going to kiss my bruised knee better ?" said John with disdain. "Whatever you're offering me I don't want it because usually there are too many strings attached so go away," said John really forcefully and this time she knew he meant it but was taken aback by the ferocity of his reply Ruby was a little bit confused because she wasn't sure if he was mucking about or not But she decided to trail after him as he made his way down Monumental road. John stopped limping and turned around to see what Ruby was doing. "Why are you following me ?" said John in a rather angry way "I am of no interest to you, I am very fat, very ugly and I have a small" "I know I've seen it," said Ruby cutting short mid-sentence. "And how on earth did you manage that," said John almost waiting for the punchline so he could laugh himself. "I bought myself a microscope." and John's face turned from being very angry to uncontrollable and hysterical side-splitting laughter and they both fell on the grass verge. Then suddenly Ruby said, "But it's cute even though I need a microscope to see it."Which prompted another burst of hysterical laughter, and then silence. John stood up dusted himself down, picked up his bike and carried on down the road as if Ruby wasn't there. "Don't you want to talk to me any more than 'fat boy' ?" "Sticks and stones Ruby sticks and stones." And with that John carried on pushing his bike down the road and he never looked back at Ruby. And Ruby watched him waddle down the road before she set off for home. Ruby had a strange thought in her mind that there was something quite charming about John fat boy Smith and maybe something quite loveable too. As soon she had eaten her tea and done her homework Ruby grabbed her denim jacket and headed off to see if she could find out more about john fat boy Smith because the more she thought about him the more she was interested in him because he didn't see her as an object of desire because Ruby was starting to get bored with all that. She was looking for a challenge and John fat boy Smith was certainly that alright but more than that he intrigued her because he didn't seem to be interested in that side of her, in fact, he didn't seem interested at all so maybe he was gay? But that didn't bother Ruby because she excepted people for who they were and as far as Ruby was concerned if they were nice to her then she was nice to them. But there was something about the fat boy that attracting her like a moth to a flame but first she had to gain his confidence and even more important than that she wanted him to trust her but he certainly didn't do that at the moment probably because she had been so footloose and fancy-free with all the other boys in school, but that didn't mean anything to Ruby, as far as she was concerned that was just for fun, she didn't care what anybody thought about her reputation or thought about her she was just carefree about herself and just enjoying her youthful innocence. She was just exploring and having adventures because when real-life eventually hit her in the face things would be completely different. And for somebody so young and take as many chances as she did she always knew that something might go wrong and end-all of it but while she was on her rollercoaster ride of fun she was going to make sure she stayed on that ride for as long as she possibly could. Before her mum died her last words to her were "Ruby whatever you do in the rest of your life enjoy yourself while your young because it only comes along once in a lifetime so make the most of it and just enjoy your life while you still can." Ruby's mother meant everything to her they did everything together. She was her best friend who she could confide in and she missed her so badly but she knew she would never come back again so she had started to look for that one person in her life who she could share things and who would trust her and love her for who she was and she was just hoping that john fat boy Smith might just be that person.
Copyright Rob Keene (2020)

 

LIFE'S A GAS

LIFE'S A GAS
FROM MY DIARY
I met Bernie for the first time in the students union bar of Wolverhampton Polytechnic at 8.37pm on October 17th 1978. As I walked in for my first pint with a couple of friends she was walking around collecting all the plastic beer glasses off the tables. She caught my eye straight away because she was smiling at me and I couldn't work out why? It turned out later that my flies were undone but I never felt any draught but Bernie had spotted it straight away and was giggling every time she saw me. The first thing I ever asked her was had she always had a fixation with men's flies? To which she grinned at me and smiled and said "Only some but yours was particularly interesting " with a knowing smile waiting for me to give the obvious reply. And being pretty naive at the time I gave the obvious reply. "Why is that ?" I said setting me up for Bernie's reply. " Because you were wearing pink underpants" at which we both burst out laughing which relaxed me at once because I had felt a little apprehensive at our first meeting because I was thinking "why is she talking me when she could probably grab the attention of any male student in the bar but she chose me and I was grateful for that. It was my first year as a degree student and I felt a little uncomfortable because I had only decided to do the degree course a week before it had started so it was a bit of a rush job. And because I was late I couldn't get any student accommodation in the student halls of residence so I was having to commute from my family home each day from Cannock to Wolverhampton and back again. And the trouble with not being in student union accommodation was that you tended not to hear about a lot of the social life that was happening such as the non-stop parties that were taking place and since I had been a party animal at that time and since that was partly the reason I got on the course in the first place I didn't want to miss out on any of the nightlife in and around the Polytechnic itself and for the first year that meant a lot of rough sleeping on people's floors or sofa's if they were available or even more luxurious accommodation although that usually proved most uncomfortable towards the end of the night because students accommodation tended to have very narrow single beds and there was only going to be one winner, under those circumstances, and it wasn't going to be me. So unless I managed to get the last bus back to Cannock which would have meant me leaving every single social event I ever attended early I had to ask some the friends I had to let me sleep on their floor or walk it all the way back home from Wolverhampton to Cannock which was dodgy at the best of times because there were a lot of gangs roaming around in that era such as "The Temple street gang" for example and if you lived in and around the Wolverhampton area at that time you would certainly have heard of them. So it wasn't very safe to walk around the back streets of Wolverhampton by yourself late at night but I ran the gauntlet many times during my first year as a student because I had no other choice. But that was the sort of person I was at that time. I'd just turned eighteen and I really didn't care about the dangers around me. All I cared about in 1978 was enjoying my life. The academic qualifications and all the rewards that went with getting a good honours degree were peripheral to me at the time because that wasn't what I was doing it for. The truth of the matter was that I didn't know why I was doing it but it seemed a good idea at the time? But Bernadette or Bernie who was of the best student friends who I ever had become my lover and constant companion during the three years we spent together in Wolverhampton and I will never ever forget her because she was the first serious girlfriend I ever had and she taught me how to have fun, how to drink, how to love and how to get everything out my student years and although we split up before the end of the degree course I will always think of our time together with great affection.
Rob Keene (2020)

 

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
Greg has just about had enough, "I feel like ending it all" he keeps muttering to himself as he jumps off the number nine bus in the centre of town. Greg has had a bad day in the office and is heading for the "Wheeltappers" his regular port of call when he has had a bad day at the office and as per usual Steve, the resident landlord of the "Wheeltappers" for the last thirty years has prepared Greg's customary 'bad day at work' pint for him. "You've had a bad day then," says Steve chuckling to himself. "Sod off Mr Landlord or I 'll never come in here again then your takings will be down." "Only by a couple of quid you never buy anything," says Steve muttering under his breath to himself. The rain starts to come down heavily and Greg suddenly realises he's left his coat at work. "F**k I'm always doing that," he growls indignantly. "Language please this is a public house." Greg looks around, "Steve we are the only people here, don't talk a load of b****cks. "Ok but mind your language if anybody comes in." and then suddenly the door of the wheeltappers swings open and in walks a slim looking dark-haired woman soaking wet. "Forgot your coat?" says Steve. "I'm always doing that," said Lydia as she shook her head like a pet who had just scrambled in out of the rain. The speckles of rain from Lydia's hair hit Greg straight in the face. "What the f**". and then it was as if Greg had been cut short by a Mills and Boon advert and a full-size orchestra breaking into the opening bars of the theme tune to "Casablanca". "Greg". "Lydia" they simultaneously Said to each other. "Of all the places.. and then Greg checked himself because he suddenly realised he was starting to sound like Dirk Bogarde. Lydia looked at Greg and
recognised those features immediately.
The trouble with student reunions especially if you were a couple during your students days and the relationship ended badly they can be very awkward and quite embarrassing affairs to coin a phrase and this was no different especially the opening volleys of the conversation. And it was a never destined to start well especially from Greg's point of view because he was the jilted party, and to make matters worse it was his best mate. "I presume you're still with him then after all these years, I bet you've got about ten kids by now, I always knew the pair of you would breed like rabbits because that's the only thing he ever knew especially shagging his best mate's girlfriend and he didn't stop there after you he must have shagged half the university campus and believe it or not Lydia he also had an eye for the men as well. I kept trying to tell you Lydia but you wouldn't listen to me and I only had your interests at heart and it wouldn't surprise me if you'd have caught some strange sexual illness off him which wouldn't surprise me because he'd shag a brick wall if it could have given him sort of sexual pleasure, I always believed he should have been locked up for sexual perversion anyway !" Lydia cut short Greg's rant in mid-sentence "Greg !" "What, I haven't finished yet, I've been wanting to say this to that fornicating b**tard for years he deserves every word of it, do you know I never trusted him from day one he was the most untrustworthy w**nker that I ever met if I was being strictly honest, I only befriended him because I felt sorry for him and why you decided to shack up him heaven knows he was always as ugly as sin, you must have realised by now that I would always have much more to offer you than him, I really don't know why you did that Lydia if it wasn't going to be me you could always have done better than that miserable son of a bitch where is he anyway !" Greg, I've just come from his funeral, he's been buried today he died from cancer, you were sent an invite to the funeral but it obviously never arrived. There were quite a few of our old friends at the funeral from our student days and they were all looking to seeing you." Well, that's a shame but...sorry Lydia.
Copyright Rob Keene (2020)

 

villains and heroes

VILLAINS AND HEROES (Copyright Rob Keene 2020)
Bertram Cox was lucky to have survived the war and like so many others went back to his old job as a coal miner hoping to return to normal family life. But that was never going to happen because he knew that eventually, his past would catch up with him. And it did.
The chill of the autumn air cut straight through Bertram's face as he gently squeezed the door handle to and pulled it quietly shut behind him. He stood there for a few moments and thought about what he was about to do. Bertram Cox the coal miner and family man, the reliable union man, the socialist was about to break every rule in the book and become what he reviled the most. A scab. He pulled the collar of his overcoat up, pulled his cap on, sucked on his last bit of fag, dropped it on the floor and stubbed it out with his boot.
Bertram stood there for a few moments looking around, making sure there was no one about. He crept down the garden path as quietly as he could trying to figure out how to avoid being seen by his comrades who he knew would be standing around at the entrance to the colliery. There was a way in around the back near the railway loading bay but how could he get there without being seen? Bertram had an idea.
If he climbed over the neighbours’ garden fence and crept in around the back of the railway yard he might just get lucky and slip in without being seen. His eyes narrowed as he thought about his next move. Carefully he made his way down the garden path and grabbed the old compost bin to climb onto the roof of the garden shed. He slid over the top and down the other side into Mrs Titley’s vegetable plot. He looked around to see if there was anybody about but it was clear. He crept as low as he could over to the other side of the garden.
Suddenly Bertram froze and didn't move a muscle. He could just make out the rhythmic sound of hobnail boots on the cobbled street. It was a squad of coppers on their way to police the strike. He waited until the stomping faded away then swiftly climbed over the next fence. He had nearly reached the last house when he accidentally stumbled into Harry Jones’s pigeon loft. That was the last thing that Bertram needed. The pigeons started flapping around causing a commotion as if there was a cat or a fox about.
Immediately he dropped to the ground as if on night patrol in no man's land targeted by a sniper. He saw a light go on in the upstairs bedroom and the sound of a window being slid open. Then he heard one of the children shout "Dad, I bet it’s that fox again! Shall I go and throw a couple of stones at it "?
“Go on then but be careful and mind that step” Harry replied. “ I don't want any more bloody accidents around this house and you pair can get back into bed until it’s time for school! " he shouted at his other children who were eager to see what all the fuss was about. “Oh, dad!”.
“Get back into bed I said" Harry retorted.
Bertram could hear the window being slowly pulled shut. He had to think quickly because there was just a matter of seconds before he was found out. The only place he could hide was the pigeon loft itself. He scrambled to his feet as fast as he could and had to force the lock before he climbed in hoping that he would not be spotted. Bertram prayed that none of the pigeons escaped. He just managed to slide the two doors together as the light from the back door of the house shone through the bars of the coup. He sank to the floor and suddenly realised he was lying in a pile of pigeon droppings. The smell started to waft up into his nostrils. Bertram listened to the sound of footsteps coming down the garden path. He held his breath so as not to give himself away and mask the stink. He heard the sound of the bedroom window being slid open again and the voice of Harry bellowing out "Have you found anything?."
"No Dad." came the reply.
“Well come back in then it’s freezing out there “ he shouted to his eldest son.
Sid ran back up the garden path and Bertram heard the creak of the back door being opened and then firmly slammed shut. He breathed a huge sigh of relief and waited a few minutes to make sure that it had all gone quiet before kissing one of Jones's pigeon's and mouthing the word ‘thank you’ to the rest of the flock. Quietly he slipped out into the smog trying to figure out how the hell he was going to get into the colliery without being seen. Now he had reached the bottom of the cobbled gully way at the end of the row. He had to find a way to sneak in while the vehicles with the scabs were at the front entrance to the pit. That would be his chance to cross the road while his comrades were distracted.
He could see the flames coming from the empty oil barrels that were used to light up the entrance to the colliery gates. The only other way in was through the storm drains at the back and he didn't fancy going through those. The thick smog was just starting to lift a little so Bertram was able to see more clearly what was going on. An idea came to him. If he managed to get over the road without being seen he could climb into one of the coal wagons at the back of the yard and hide while they were being taken into the loading bays to be filled. Then he could jump out and hopefully not be recognised but how was he going to do that he thought to himself? He was bound to be seen by someone. Maybe not because they were being brought in from other coal areas just for maintenance. It was a little bit risky but it just might work
.He hid in the bushes at the side of the road and waited. He could just hear the rumbling of coaches in the distance and see the pickets starting to become agitated by the sound of their imminent arrival. “Get ready lads, they’re coming!” Bertram recognised that voice straight away. It was Oswald Kettle, the union branch leader; a man whom he had crossed swords with many times. He loathed Bertram simply because he had married the girl Oswald coveted most in the world - Nelly Grimes, the red-head who had lived just around the corner from them when they were growing up. It was Bertram whom she chose and an intense hatred had built up between them. Even though they had fought alongside each other in the war they were never friends. Oswald had tried to get Bertram killed once or twice but Bertram had always survived which had made them sworn enemies. That rivalry had continued and it was still festering inside Oswald. He would do anything he could to make life hard for Bertram.
As soon as the first bus came into view the pickets standing in front of the gates surged towards the police line like a demented football crowd who disagreed with the referees’ decision. All Bertram could hear was ‘scab scab scab’ and he was going to become one of them. He only had a few moments to spare so he raced across the road hoping he hadn’t been seen. Just as he thought he’d got away with it he soon realised he’d been spotted. Someone was running down the side of the road towards him but he wasn’t sure who it was. He hid behind a nearby hedge, took a deep breath and waited. Bertram could feel his heart pounding. He hadn’t felt like that since being in the trenches. What was he going to do? He had nowhere else to run? And then instinctively he knew. He stood up and started rummaging in the bush as if he was looking for something. The question was, would this rough-looking miner who Bertram didn’t recognise be fooled?
“ What are you doing?” said the stranger in a croaky voice.
“ Didn’t you see somebody run this way?” said Bertram in an agitated manner.
“I saw you run across the road” he growled.
“Well, why did you think it was me? “ Bertram replied, knowing full well the man didn’t believe him.
There was an awkward silence.
“You're a scab aren't you?!” he snarled but before he could raise the alarm Bertram grabbed him from behind and twisted his neck. There was a loud snap then nothing. Bertram had silenced him, permanently. Quickly he dragged the limp body into the bushes like a lion about to devour its prey. He could hear the screams and all the commotion in the background and the shouts of scab scab scab but nobody heard him. His mind was blank; he felt numb. After a few second’s reality hit him straight in the face. He had committed cold-blooded murder without any feeling of remorse. He had killed an innocent man. Bertram was in a state of shock.
“What have I done?” he thought, staring at his hands. Bertram Cox had killed to save his own skin. He could have justified it on the battlefield but not here; not in his own hometown. He didn't have a lot of time; he had to think, think! Suddenly he remembered why he was doing all this; it was for his son Jack who had influenza. Bertram didn’t have any money to help him. Yes, that’s why he was doing it and that’s why he had to carry on. In the end, it didn’t really matter what happened to him as long as Jack survived. Bertram Cox knew he had to keep telling himself that and just put everything else to one side for now and deal with it all later.
Bertram Cox was lucky to have survived the war and like so many others went back to his old job as a coal miner hoping to return to normal family life. But that was never going to happen because he knew that eventually, his past would catch up with him. And it did.
The chill of the autumn air cut straight through Bertram's face as he gently squeezed the door handle to and pulled it quietly shut behind him. He stood there for a few moments and thought about what he was about to do. Bertram Cox the coal miner and family man, the reliable union man, the socialist was about to break every rule in the book and become what he reviled the most. A scab. He pulled the collar of his overcoat up, pulled his cap on, sucked on his last bit of fag, dropped it on the floor and stubbed it out with his boot.
Bertram stood there for a few moments looking around, making sure there was no one about. He crept down the garden path as quietly as he could trying to figure out how to avoid being seen by his comrades who he knew would be standing around at the entrance to the colliery. There was a way in around the back near the railway loading bay but how could he get there without being seen? Bertram had an idea.
If he climbed over the neighbours’ garden fence and crept in around the back of the railway yard he might just get lucky and slip in without being seen. His eyes narrowed as he thought about his next move. Carefully he made his way down the garden path and grabbed the old compost bin to climb onto the roof of the garden shed. He slid over the top and down the other side into Mrs Titley’s vegetable plot. He looked around to see if there was anybody about but it was clear. He crept as low as he could over to the other side of the garden.
Suddenly Bertram froze and didn't move a muscle. He could just make out the rhythmic sound of hobnail boots on the cobbled street. It was a squad of coppers on their way to police the strike. He waited until the stomping faded away then swiftly climbed over the next fence. He had nearly reached the last house when he accidentally stumbled into Harry Jones’s pigeon loft. That was the last thing that Bertram needed. The pigeons started flapping around causing a commotion as if there was a cat or a fox about.
Immediately he dropped to the ground as if on night patrol in no man's land targeted by a sniper. He saw a light go on in the upstairs bedroom and the sound of a window being slid open. Then he heard one of the children shout "Dad, I bet it’s that fox again! Shall I go and throw a couple of stones at it "?
“Go on then but be careful and mind that step” Harry replied. “ I don't want any more bloody accidents around this house and you pair can get back into bed until it’s time for school! " he shouted at his other children who were eager to see what all the fuss was about. “Oh, dad!”.
“Get back into bed I said" Harry retorted.
Bertram could hear the window being slowly pulled shut. He had to think quickly because there was just a matter of seconds before he was found out. The only place he could hide was the pigeon loft itself. He scrambled to his feet as fast as he could and had to force the lock before he climbed in hoping that he would not be spotted. Bertram prayed that none of the pigeons escaped. He just managed to slide the two doors together as the light from the back door of the house shone through the bars of the coup. He sank to the floor and suddenly realised he was lying in a pile of pigeon droppings. The smell started to waft up into his nostrils. Bertram listened to the sound of footsteps coming down the garden path. He held his breath so as not to give himself away and mask the stink. He heard the sound of the bedroom window being slid open again and the voice of Harry bellowing out "Have you found anything?."
"No Dad." came the reply.
“Well come back in then it’s freezing out there “ he shouted to his eldest son.
Sid ran back up the garden path and Bertram heard the creak of the back door being opened and then firmly slammed shut. He breathed a huge sigh of relief and waited a few minutes to make sure that it had all gone quiet before kissing one of Jones's pigeon's and mouthing the word ‘thank you’ to the rest of the flock. Quietly he slipped out into the smog trying to figure out how the hell he was going to get into the colliery without being seen. Now he had reached the bottom of the cobbled gully way at the end of the row. He had to find a way to sneak in while the vehicles with the scabs were at the front entrance to the pit. That would be his chance to cross the road while his comrades were distracted.
He could see the flames coming from the empty oil barrels that were used to light up the entrance to the colliery gates. The only other way in was through the storm drains at the back and he didn't fancy going through those. The thick smog was just starting to lift a little so Bertram was able to see more clearly what was going on. An idea came to him. If he managed to get over the road without being seen he could climb into one of the coal wagons at the back of the yard and hide while they were being taken into the loading bays to be filled. Then he could jump out and hopefully not be recognised but how was he going to do that he thought to himself? He was bound to be seen by someone. Maybe not because they were being brought in from other coal areas just for maintenance. It was a little bit risky but it just might work
.He hid in the bushes at the side of the road and waited. He could just hear the rumbling of coaches in the distance and see the pickets starting to become agitated by the sound of their imminent arrival. “Get ready lads, they’re coming!” Bertram recognised that voice straight away. It was Oswald Kettle, the union branch leader; a man whom he had crossed swords with many times. He loathed Bertram simply because he had married the girl Oswald coveted most in the world - Nelly Grimes, the red-head who had lived just around the corner from them when they were growing up. It was Bertram whom she chose and an intense hatred had built up between them. Even though they had fought alongside each other in the war they were never friends. Oswald had tried to get Bertram killed once or twice but Bertram had always survived which had made them sworn enemies. That rivalry had continued and it was still festering inside Oswald. He would do anything he could to make life hard for Bertram.
As soon as the first bus came into view the pickets standing in front of the gates surged towards the police line like a demented football crowd who disagreed with the referees’ decision. All Bertram could hear was ‘scab scab scab’ and he was going to become one of them. He only had a few moments to spare so he raced across the road hoping he hadn’t been seen. Just as he thought he’d got away with it he soon realised he’d been spotted. Someone was running down the side of the road towards him but he wasn’t sure who it was. He hid behind a nearby hedge, took a deep breath and waited. Bertram could feel his heart pounding. He hadn’t felt like that since being in the trenches. What was he going to do? He had nowhere else to run? And then instinctively he knew. He stood up and started rummaging in the bush as if he was looking for something. The question was, would this rough-looking miner who Bertram didn’t recognise be fooled?
“ What are you doing?” said the stranger in a croaky voice.
“ Didn’t you see somebody run this way?” said Bertram in an agitated manner.
“I saw you run across the road” he growled.
“Well, why did you think it was me? “ Bertram replied, knowing full well the man didn’t believe him.
There was an awkward silence.
“You're a scab aren't you?!” he snarled but before he could raise the alarm Bertram grabbed him from behind and twisted his neck. There was a loud snap then nothing. Bertram had silenced him, permanently. Quickly he dragged the limp body into the bushes like a lion about to devour its prey. He could hear the screams and all the commotion in the background and the shouts of scab scab scab but nobody heard him. His mind was blank; he felt numb. After a few second’s reality hit him straight in the face. He had committed cold-blooded murder without any feeling of remorse. He had killed an innocent man. Bertram was in a state of shock.
“What have I done?” he thought, staring at his hands. Bertram Cox had killed to save his own skin. He could have justified it on the battlefield but not here; not in his own hometown. He didn't have a lot of time; he had to think, think! Suddenly he remembered why he was doing all this; it was for his son Jack who had influenza. Bertram didn’t have any money to help him. Yes, that’s why he was doing it and that’s why he had to carry on. In the end, it didn’t really matter what happened to him as long as Jack survived. Bertram Cox knew he had to keep telling himself that and just put everything else to one side for now and deal with it all later.

 

irma's last dance

IRMA’S LAST DANCE
(Copyright Rob Keene)
Irma Gonzalez stopped daydreaming and tucked her mom up in bed for the night. She had looked after her for some time now without any help. Her mom had Parkinson’s and she knew it wasn’t going to get any easier. Times were hard and they barely had enough money to cover the bills. Irma stood there motionless waiting for her mom to close her eyes so that she could leave the bedroom. “If only her dad had still been alive things could have been better,” she thought to herself. She was sixteen years old when her dad died of a heart attack and she had been left to look after her mom and the house.
“Irma you are still going to the dance tonight ?” her mom said in a low but reassuring voice.
“No momma, I told you I’m not gonna go,” Irma replied defensively trying to think of any excuse she could but she couldn’t think of any.
“Well, you should Irma, “ her mom replied. “ It will do you good to get out.”
“But”. That was the only word that Irma could think of to say.
“But” she repeated the same word again and couldn't think of anything else. Irma desperately wanted to go to the dance. It was the one thing she still loved doing. Dancing. She spent hours by herself dancing in the living room as a child when her mom and dad were out. She would dance the waltz in perfect time with her imaginary prince but that was just a dream wasn’t it? The dance floor was the one place where she could lose herself and forget about the drudgery of her life. But how could she?
“No mom, I can't go. Who’s going to look after you?” Irma said in a disappointed voice.
“I’ll be fine, just go and enjoy yourself.” her mom insisted.
And with that Irma Gonzalez turned around, walked to the door and for once in her life didn’t argue with her mom. For the first time since God knows when she was actually doing what she was told.
She closed her mom’s bedroom door behind her and suddenly started dancing down the corridor like an excited young teenager again. Then stopped as quickly as she had started because she didn’t feel the same. She felt old before her time. She felt trapped and she couldn’t see any way of getting out. That was it. That was Irma’s life in a nutshell. She looked at herself in the mirror. She couldn’t see herself anymore. She didn’t know what she could see. But whatever it was. It wasn’t her.
Irma opened her wardrobe door and looked inside. There were three dresses hanging on the rail. A green floral patterned dress which her mom had bought her when she was eleven. She could remember the day they chose it. It was raining and they had gone into town and Irma kept fussing about her hair because she’d only just had it cut and she didn’t want to get it messed up in the rain. Her mom told her that if she didn’t stop fussing they would go back home and she wouldn’t buy her the green dress that she had always promised her. She passed it every day on her way to school and would stand there just staring at it. And now they were on their way to town to buy it and she just couldn't wait. As soon as they were inside the shop Irma went straight to the display but before she could utter one word to the lady who owned the shop her mom had grabbed her by the arm and was dragging her off to look at a less expensive dress which was half price. Irma shrugged her shoulders at it because she knew what she wanted. But her mom insisted that if she didn’t try it on she would not buy the one she had wanted. Faced with this ultimatum Irma did as she was told but was never going to change her mind.
Her mom told her what she'd been doing so Irma gave her a playful shove on her side as they walked home.
Irma stared at the faded green floral dress that was hanging in the wardrobe and remembered the happy times she had worn it. The dress that was in the middle of the wardrobe she really didn’t want to think about because that was the black dress she wore to her dad’s funeral. The only other dress left in the wardrobe was a blue dress that she always wore to birthdays and weddings and dance’s which didn’t happen very often in this part of Mexico. She still wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea to leave her mom in the house by herself but something inside was telling her to go because things can change if you only let them happen.
“Oh?” she just couldn’t think of anything else to say. She felt stupid. whether it was a good idea to even speak to him. From over his mouth. “Do you want a lift?” “I’m going into town?”. Irma didn’t recognise him at first and abruptly said without thinking about what she was saying “No, I’m waiting for my dad, he’ll be here soon.” so did the light. She was starting to worry. The lorry that was heading towards her in a cloud of dust suddenly started to slow down. Irma was even more unsure because she had nobody with her. The lorry began to slow down in a cloud of dust that blew up all around her. Irma started to cough and splutter and curse whoever the idiot was who was driving the lorry. Irma stepped back from the road. She could hardly breathe. And as the dust settled she could see somebody walking towards her so she started to step backwards and was about to run when she heard a low gruff voice say.was no way she was ever going to get into her dress but she had to try. She pulled some clean panties and a bra that she hardly ever wore out of the drawer next to her bed and put them on. Then she gingerly stepped into the dress and pulled it up to her knees. Then she pulled it up to her thighs and stopped abruptly. She started to pray to whoever might be listening to her. She very carefully pulled the dress up over her waist and took a deep breath. She pulled the dress right up and let out a big sigh of relief. Irma Gonzalez could still get her blue dress on!.
It was a mile walk to the nearest bus stop. Irma made sure her mom was settled then set off at a brisk pace. She remembered that her dad always used to give her a lift to the stop where she’d meet up with her school friends but now they were all at college. She felt alone and vulnerable. She had nobody to talk to pass the time so she wasn’t exactly sure when the bus was due because there was no timetable. It never turned up when you wanted it to, she remembered. That was how it was. If the driver felt like stopping and letting you on the bus that meant that he liked you, if he didn’t he’d just drive past.
Irma had been standing there for half an hour when she heard the sound of an engine in the distance. She was hoping it would be the bus but she couldn't be sure.? She could see a trail of dust behind whatever kind of vehicle it might be. It was a large vehicle so it had to be the bus right? Wrong. It wasn’t a bus. Irma’s heart sank and so did the light. She was starting to worry. The lorry that was heading towards her in a cloud of dust suddenly started to slow down. Irma was even more unsure because she had nobody with her. The lorry began to slow down in a cloud of dust that blew up all around her. Irma started to cough and splutter and curse whoever the idiot was who was driving the lorry. Irma stepped back from the road. She could hardly breathe. And as the dust settled she could see somebody walking towards her so she started to step backwards and was about to run when she heard a low gruff voice say.
“Irma Gonzalez I thought it was you.”
Irma turned to see who it was as the dust settled. A dust-covered young man with filthy clothes pulled the handkerchief down from over his mouth. “Do you want a lift?” “I’m going into town?”. Irma didn’t recognise him at first and abruptly said without thinking about what she was saying “No, I’m waiting for my dad, he’ll be here soon.”
“Irma I know your dad isn’t around any more, don’t you recognise me it’s Jose, Jose Ramirez, We went to school together.”
“She was confused because she didn’t recognise him and really wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea to even speak to him.
Jose could see she was scared and tried to reassure her. “Irma, the only reason I’m asking is you’ll be waiting forever because the bus doesn’t come this way any more.”
“Oh?” was the only thing Irma could think of to say. She couldn’t think of anything else at all.
“Look if you want me to make sure you get home safely I will but I’m heading home to get cleaned up. I need some sleep. I've been on the road all night.” Jose was trying to reassure her that it was safe.
“Oh?” she just couldn’t think of anything else to say. She felt stupid.
“I can give you a lift into town if you still want to go? '' said Jose, trying to reassure the totally dumbstruck Irma Gonzalez that she would be safe.
“Are you going somewhere special, you’ve got that blue dress on, I always liked that.”
. “Oh,” Irma said again. Her mind was racing trying to think of something sensible to say. And then she thought of something. “Alright then.” At last, she thought of something that made sense. But it didn’t.
“You mean you want a lift home or you want a lift into town?” Jose said rather puzzled as to what Irma wanted him to do.
“Irma was trying to think what she wanted? If there wasn't a bus she wouldn’t be able to get back and what about her mom, what about her? She knew what she had to do. Her heart sank.
“Irma, what do you want to do?” Jose said because he couldn’t hang around for much longer.
And then without considering the consequences of what she was about to say she suddenly blurted “Can you take me into town Jose I’m meeting my boyfriend, we’re going to the dance tonight and he’ll make sure I get home safely.” She said it so quickly that Jose could hardly tell what Irma was saying.
“Ok” Jose replied at least knowing what Irma really wanted to do. “Ok, Irma let’s go then.” Irma was just starting to realise the consequences of what she had just said. She was about to go into town to the dance with a boyfriend that didn’t exist, who was going to make sure she got safely home afterwards? What the hell was she doing? How would she get back home? And who was going to look after her mom?
Jose pulled the truck up just outside the dancehall. Irma hadn’t spoken a word on the way. She just stared straight ahead, lost in her own thoughts. Jose had tried to talk to her but she wasn't interested. Irma climbed down from the truck and stood on the pavement.
“No,” Irma replied.in a monosyllabic way again. She really didn’t know what she wanted anymore. She was in a total state of indecision.
“Who?” Irma wasn't really listening.
“ Your boyfriend,” Jose asked again. Jose was getting fed up with Irma' ignoring him.
“No,” Irma replied.
“Well what do you want me to do Irma ?” said Jose
” Nothing.”! Irma replied in a monosyllabic way again. She really didn’t know what she wanted anymore. She was in a total state of indecision.
“Do you want me to wait with you until he gets here ?” said Jose who was starting to get concerned about Irma.
Jose Ramirez didn’t live far away from parked his truck by the side of the old house, picked up the rusty key from under the doormat and opened the creaky old door of his family home which hadn’t been lived in for at least three months. He opened the door and could smell the mustiness of the house that hadn't been lived in for a long time. Jose was hardly ever there because he spent most of his time on the road with his truck. It was but he had to pay the bills. It was a way of earning a living but it was a solitary way of life and could be very lonely at times because he never got to meet anybody. But he had met somebody tonight even though she had seemed a bit strange? Irma Gonzalez who would have thought that he said to himself as he ran the bath to soak the dust out of his daily grind of being on the road. Jose Ramirez had been living on his own since his parents had been killed in a fatal car crash some years ago. The truth of the matter was that he preferred to live alone because he didn’t consider himself to be particularly good company. In fact, he regarded himself as being positively boring in relation to the opposite sex. Jose Ramirez was suffering from a bad case of low self-esteem and he knew it. But he hadn’t been able to do anything about it because he never got to meet any girls until tonight and she was already spoken for? So he just kept himself out of the public gaze and led the solitary life of a hermit crab! If only he knew how to dance? But he never learned how too so he’d only got himself to blame for that. He climbed out of the bath and into the nearest bath towel as he pondered what to do for the rest of the evening?
“ Oh he’s the jealous type is he ?” said Jose in a resigned manner,” well, tell him from me he's a lucky man”. And with that Jose pulled the door too started the engine of his truck and drove off into the night. Irma. suddenly realised that she would probably never see Jose again but that was the way her life was going. And then another penny dropped in Irma’s brain. “Oh my God” I've just sent my only way of getting home off into the night and I have no idea where he lives?” “What have I done?” Irma screamed suddenly realizing that there was a throng of people starting to form an orderly queue for tickets for tonight’s dance. Things can't get any worse she thought to herself and joined the back of the queue. The ticket for the dance was three dollars and she started to wonder if she had enough money left in her purse to pay for a taxi to get back home?
Jose Ramirez didn’t live far away from parked his truck by the side of the old house, picked up the rusty key from under the doormat and opened the creaky old door of his family home which hadn’t been lived in for at least three months. He opened the door and could smell the mustiness of the house that hadn't been lived in for a long time. Jose was hardly ever there because he spent most of his time on the road with his truck. It was but he had to pay the bills. It was a way of earning a living but it was a solitary way of life and could be very lonely at times because he never got to meet anybody. But he had met somebody tonight even though she had seemed a bit strange? Irma Gonzalez who would have thought that he said to himself as he ran the bath to soak the dust out of his daily grind of being on the road. Jose Ramirez had been living on his own since his parents had been killed in a fatal car crash some years ago. The truth of the matter was that he preferred to live alone because he didn’t consider himself to be particularly good company. In fact, he regarded himself as being positively boring in relation to the opposite sex. Jose Ramirez was suffering from a bad case of low self-esteem and he knew it. But he hadn’t been able to do anything about it because he never got to meet any girls until tonight and she was already spoken for? So he just kept himself out of the public gaze and led the solitary life of a hermit crab! If only he knew how to dance? But he never learned how too so he’d only got himself to blame for that. He climbed out of the bath and into the nearest bath towel as he pondered what to do for the rest of the evening?
Irma managed to push her way in through the couples who were beginning to gather near the entrance to the dance hall. She didn’t recognise anybody at all. She felt so uncomfortable and out of place. She looked around and every girl had a dance partner with them so who was Irma gonna dance with? She hadn’t thought of that. In fact, Irma hadn’t thought of a lot of things that evening and all she seemed to be doing was getting herself deeper and deeper in a mess. The doors were about to open and she could feel the surge of excitement and expectancy of the young couples around her who were pushing and shoving to try and make sure that when they’d pushed their way in that they had the best tables and chairs in the dancehall. Irma decided that she would stand to one side with the older couples and wait until more impetuous couples had pushed their way in.
“Look at them !” came a voice from behind her. Irma turned to see who it was. There was an extremely well dressed old man with a tuxedo on and a black cane standing behind her.
“ I used to be like that when I was their age .” But now, well, my time is nearly up” said the elderly gentleman smiling and looking up to the sky. “Permit me to introduce myself my name is Mr Pancho and your name is ?” and as Mr Pancho said it he bowed slightly in acknowledgement of Irma. Irma could feel her cheeks turning red as she tried to think of something sensible to say.
“Irma, its Irma sir” and as soon as Irma had said it she realised how ridiculous it sounded.
“Please don’t get flustered my dear, I was just wondering if you would do me the honour of accompanying me to the ball this evening ?”
“What ball? “ Irma replied, not understanding a word of what Mr Pancho was talking about.
“ This ball, ah yes, it was called a ball in my day but now it is referred to as a common dance.”
“Oh you mean the dance?” suddenly realising what he meant.
“My late wife Conchita and I always used to come every year but now she has departed this world I have nobody to dance with ?” “Would you consider accompanying me instead? Irma looked into Mr Pancho’s eyes and realised how much it would mean to him. Mr Pancho had been coming to the dance every year since his wife had died just so that he could keep the memory of her alive. That’s all he had left. Irma could see it in his eyes and without hesitation agreed straight away.
“I would be honoured,” Irma replied and tried really hard not to cry because she realised how much she missed her Dad.
“ Thank you, my dear, you do me a great honour” and as Mr Pancho said that he took Irma by the hand and gently led her into the dancehall. Mr Pancho always reserved the same table he and his late wife Conchita had always sat at.
“She used to be the Belle of the Ball,” Mr Pancho remarked, “She was so so pretty.” “This was where we had our very first dance together and our last.” Irma was finding it very hard not to well up and burst into a flood of uncontrollable tears.
“In fact my dear you very much remind me of her. You have the same hair, the same eyes, in fact. You could almost be Conchita ?”
Suddenly, as if they were in a dream Irma could feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation as the music began. Mr Pancho stood up bowed in a formal manner to Irma as if she was royalty and then said: “Shall we dance my dear?”
“Of course Mr Pancho,” Irma replied and off they go hand in hand to the dancefloor for the first of many waltzes and tangos. Mr Pancho dances slowly but steadily so Irma keeps in step and is careful not to rush him around the dancefloor. After an hour or so Irma realises that Mr Pancho is getting tired and needs to rest so she insists on him sitting down. Irma could see that he was getting short of breath and she didn’t want anything to happen to him. Then she realizes what Mr Pancho is doing. He’s pushing himself around the dancefloor because he wants something to happen. That’s it.
“Mr Pancho you mustn't do this.” “I know what you're trying to do ?”Irma said in a concerned voice.
“I’m not trying to do anything Irma, I’m just dancing.” Mr Pancho replied in as innocent a voice as he can muster.
“No you want this to be your last don’t you ?”Irma replied.
Mr Pancho sat down breathing heavily and leant on his stick. “You don't know what it’s like to have been in love and lost someone, you’re far too young to understand. You probably haven’t experienced real love yet at your tender age my dear. It leaves a big hole in your life that you know you will never be able to feel. Real love is eternal.”
“Of course Mr Pancho,” Irma replied and off they go hand in hand to the dancefloor for the first of many waltzes and tangos. Mr Pancho dances slowly but steadily so Irma keeps in step and is careful not to rush him around the dancefloor. After an hour or so Irma realises that Mr Pancho is getting tired and needs to rest so she insists on him sitting down. Irma could see that he was getting short of breath and she didn’t want anything to happen to him. Then she realizes what Mr Pancho is doing. He’s pushing himself around the dancefloor because he wants something to happen. That’s it.
“Thank you, Irma. thank you for talking some sense into an old dog like me.”Mr Pancho uttered with a tired and quiet voice.
And with that Irma and Mr Pancho sat and watched the young and happy couples dance the rest of the night away as they reminisce about their lives, and when the last dance of the evening came Mr Pancho insisted that he would be able to stay alive just long enough to have the last dance with Irma. Irma thought about it for a few seconds and agreed and they slowly walked onto the dance floor as the house lights dimmed and the spotlight shone on the glitterball on the ceiling. Irma held Mr Pancho as tight as she could to make sure he was safe in her arms but she hadn’t noticed the tall dark stranger that had sat down at their table as they spun around on the dancefloor for the last time but Mr Pancho had and started to smile.
“What are you smiling at?” Irma enquired with a quizzical look.
Mr Pancho leant over to Irma and kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear “Maybe things might not be as bad as you think after all.”
Irma Gonzalez hadn’t seen the tall dark stranger who was sitting behind her at their table and had come to make sure that she was safe and well and could get home to her mom. But she soon would and she would come to realise that life could suddenly change direction without you even noticing it

 

RUBIN'S WORLD

RUBIN'S WORLD
Episode One
Rubin Frey looked out of the living room window and wondered what the hell was going to happen next? He had just got back from weekly forage for what was left of the fresh food in his local area and everything else that he thought might just prove useful in the months to come but he hadn't got a clue what was going to happen because things had changed so very quickly. The fifteenth wave of the virus had virtually wiped out everybody and everything but there were one or two pockets of realistic civilisation left and he was just hoping there were enough people and enough production capacity within the world that he once knew to be able to produce fresh food and essential goods for as long as the last survivors would need them. But hope was all that Rubin had left because there was no certainty about anything anymore, there was only survival and that's all he thought about. Trying to avoid catching the virus and staying alive.
His mom and dad had finally succumbed to the virus and stopped fighting in the last couple of weeks and just let it take them because they knew it was the best thing to do for themselves and for Rubin. He would never have been able to look after both of them properly as well as himself. They thought it would give him a fighting chance of survival so one night they wrote him a letter explaining what they were planning to do and why they were doing it, placed on the kitchen table and left. And before Rubin could do anything about it they had crossed over into the restricted zone and that was it, so he was on his own now and that was all he had to worry about. At least he had managed to come across an isolation suit which was being handed out before things got really bad so at least he had some protection. The only problem was that it was bright red in colour and very noticeable so he only wore it when he was going into areas where there were large numbers of 'infected'. That was the name he had given to them. Groups of humans who were carrying the virus but were showing very few symptoms but were taking great pleasure in roaming around and infecting others. Rubin knew that if they spotted him in his red suit and helmet that they would want to know all about him so he tended to steer clear of the areas that he knew they were going to be unless there was something specific that he needed so he usually took the rifle he had found and half a dozen rounds of ammunition just in case he had to scare them off.
He had managed to find enough provisions for about a week so he was just planning to do a bit of writing over the next few days. The one pleasure he had left in the world and that was only because he had managed to rig up a basic wind generator which produced just enough electrical charge to recharge the batteries in his laptop and give him enough power to run some of his household essentials. Rubin had just finished clearing up after his evening meal when there was a knock at the door. Rubin stood motionless for a few seconds then put on his red isolation suit and grabbed his rifle. He had never had that happen to him before and it had taken him by complete surprise but whoever it was had had the decency to knock and not smash the door down. He carefully moved behind the front and shouted: "who's there?" And immediately came the rather whispered reply of a young female voice "It's me, Rubin, please let me in."
Copyright Rob Keene (2020) 

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THE MUSIC TIME MACHINE 001.png

THE TIME TRAVELLER


Vincent suddenly awoke from that recurring bad dream that he had been having where he was just floating in the middle of time and space and that he was literally going nowhere. He had been travelling on the intergalactic express trying to find a new world that he could live on because his old one had just been destroyed by some unknown asteroid that no one had seen coming. A bit like the alien illness that had dogged Vincent for most of his life that he hadn't seen coming either but all Vincent ever did when he thought about the matter was said to himself "It was meant to be I suppose" and just got on with his life as quickly as he could because that rusty old rocket of a body that he that been so proud of in the past was dwindling fast and wouldn't last forever and he couldn't afford to buy a new one, so what was a poor time traveller supposed to do? He never liked the idea of buying a new one that somebody had used before and the thought of having a second-hand sex organ? well, that didn't appeal at all. He could always remember when he was much younger a slightly drunken student friend of his from the space academy of time travel trying to convince him that a reconditioned body was the way to go because they were valued for money and that's what he had done and look at him now. He had got the body of a seventeen-year-old nubile boy with the sex drive of a twenty-five-year-old to match. The next day he had been found dead of heart failure trying to overdo that sex drive of his. Well that's reconditioned ones for you Vincent thought to himself as he tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes but for some reason, he couldn't because something was preventing him from putting his hand to his eyes and he didn't know what it was but the trouble was that his eyelids were so stuck together that he couldn't open them either so he didn't know what the hell was going on around him. All he knew was that he couldn't put his hand to his face to try and get his eyelids to open up so that he could see what was going on around him and he thought it was strange because he could hear absolutely no noise from anybody in the next cabin either because usually when you travelled on an intergalactic flight you could hear everything the passengers were doing even when they farted but for some reason, Vincent couldn't hear a thing. There was just nothing, well, nothing except the occasional hiss of the c02 sound that came out of the helmet of one of those intergalactic engineers that he had seen floating around outside his space bus trying to repair one of those cheap reconditioned warp engines that had been bought for the reconditioned space bus that he had been travelling on. And that was the trouble with everything to do with the universe these days Vincent used to think to himself everything in life these days was either reconditioned or second hand, never new because new was too fucking expensive and no intergalactic time traveller could ever afford to buy anything at such great expense. But Vincent had more pressing things to worry about than thinking about reconditioned ones. For one thing, why were his eyelids so glue together with sleep that he couldn't possibly open them? And why couldn't he put his hand and touch his own face? And most worrying of all why did he keep hearing the constant hiss of the c02 sound that an intergalactic space helmet would make as if somebody was floating in space, floating in space floating in space, floating in space, floating in space and suddenly Vincent realised what he been saying to himself over and over again. And then came the sudden realisation as to what was really happening. Vinen Correlli Junior was really not on any intergalactic flight to another world. He was REALLY FLOATING around in time and space' and wasn't on any reconditioned space bus. He had just been thrown out and dumped in the middle of nowhere. Oh, shit what was a poor fucking time traveller supposed to do now he thought to himself as he floated around in between worlds?