The Graveyard People

It has often been said that children are more perceptive than adults.  They notice the little things that grown ups are too busy and preoccupied to see: a missed page during their bed-time story; or knowing where your resident family of spiders live.  For children, adults are strange creatures who live way up there, almost touching the sky and talking to the birds as they fly by.  They have a strange language that children cannot possibly hope to understand, and this works the other way round as well, because adults have no chance of understanding children.

When a child says to his mother, “Mummy, what do all those people in the graveyard do all day?”  She is bound to respond:  “People go there to remember their friends who’ve gone to live with God.”

“No Mummy, I know that, but what about the ones who live in the graveyard and can’t ever leave?”

“Don’t be silly, darling,” said Mummy.  “You can always leave a graveyard!”

Mummies and grown ups in general are like this.  I think it’s because they are so high in the sky that they can’t see what we can see here lower down.

I asked my Mummy this because she knows everything, but her answer didn’t please me this time, because I’ve seen the Graveyard People.  There are millions of them!  (Well, I’m not sure if there are actually millions because I’ve never been able to count that high!  But there certainly are a lot!).  “The Graveyard People”.  That makes them sound scary and horrible, but they’re people just like me – even some are my age!  There are others like Mummy and Daddy, and Granny and Grandad, and others who wear the oddest clothes I’ve ever seen!  I see them on the way to school and on the way back passing through the cemetery behind the church we go to on Sundays.

They never seem to change in looks, or their clothes, so they must be quite smelly, because Mummy says you should wash at least once a day and change your clothes.  There are the four men that sit together around a gravestone playing cards and smoking; there are ladies strolling around together wearing long dresses and huge hats; there’s a lady who looks like Granny sitting against a tomb knitting; and the children my age are running around playing catch, and hide and seek – it looks like play time at school.   The others sit on their graves watching, talking with their neighbour or just staring into space.  I remember one man was reading a tombstone crying like I do when I fall off my bike.  Everyone seemed to be laughing at him or just staring at him, but no one did anything to comfort him, or put a plaster on the place where it hurts.  Seeing this, I left Mummy talking to Mrs Coates and approached him.

“Have you hurt yourself?  Shall I get Mummy to help you?”

“I don’t think she’ll be able to do anything for me, kid,” and turned away crying so hard that he managed to dissolve himself with his tears.  He just wasn’t there anymore!

“Where did he go?”  I said, not to anyone in particular, but one of the card-players answered.  He was an old man, with a huge tummy, no hair and a pipe in his mouth.  “You get his type occasionally.  The new ones don’t know how lucky they are.  He’s gone now, son, off to a better place, after being here for about two seconds.”  There must have been a joke somewhere in there because the four of them started laughing, but it must have been in adult language because I didn’t get the joke.

“But why was he sad to be going to a better place and why can’t you go with him?”

“Nobody knows anything when they get here.  It’s always the same – they arrive, see the stone, burst into tears and then POOF, gone in a puff of smoke.” 

“But if everyone does this, why are there so many people here?  Shouldn’t you have gone too?”

“You can’t choose to go, son.   It’s up to the others as to whether you go or not.”

He interrupted my next question by continuing, “Take me, I’ve been here for nigh on eighty seven years, waiting, but there’s no chance for me now.  “Because,” he said, interrupting me again, “no one alive knows I’m here.  That’s the way it works you see.  Your family and friends say a little prayer for you and you’re a step closer to going.  The bulk of the prayers come just after you arrive so you have enough time to read your stone, cry a bit and you’re off.  But then slowly people forget that you’re gone, or they join you here – that’s my wife, there, with her knitting – always knitting!  Eventually, you all end up here and there’s no one left there to pray for you.  So here we are and here we stay.”  And with that he turned with a sigh to continue his card game, and the others drifted back to playing, sitting, knitting and staring.  I was left alone in the crowd.

As I walked back to Mummy and Mrs Coates I knew this was one of those things that grown ups wouldn’t understand, and didn’t say anything to Mummy.  I could feel millions of eyes watching me and as I passed through the rusty gates I said a prayer for all the Graveyard People, and continued to do so each time I went through the cemetery.  As the school year finished there were less and less of them there, and each time I walked past the ‘card table’ I felt the emptiness coming from the tomb, and felt very proud that it was me who sent them to that better place.  Mummy was right as always – no one stays in a graveyard forever.

The Girl on the Train

This was written half inspired by a daily commute and half by random thoughts of escaping from the daily grind. 

The electric doors hummed open and a blast of fresh air hit her in the face and she really believed for a moment that she might step off the train. She believed that she was ready to face the truth. The platform was grey, the skyline was grey, the buildings were grey– it was suffocating. Her head spun and she grasped the door frame trying to breathe, but the greyness was cloying. She heard the tutting and sighing in the distance as she blocked the exit with her bag in her hand.

Continue reading

Story Cubes

What are the odds of being able to be inspired indefinitely?  Pretty slim I would say.  Recently I was given this brilliant “toy”.  I say toy, but it’s not going anywhere near my child just yet!  Story cubes are basically dice with pictures on – you throw them and make up a story from the pictures showing.  The possibilities are great!
 
Here are some of my throws:
 

Story cubes

Story cubes

 

Story cubes

Story cubes

Story cubes

Story cubes

 
What story would you come up with? 

A Macabre Writing Challenge

On my Writer’s HQ course that I’m currently doing, there is a recurring theme of “just get writing”.   So I revisited my lovely Writing Challenge app which does exactly the same thing, and here’s what came out this time.  

It’s slightly macabre – I wonder what is going on in my head sometimes! I suppose this is what happens when you switch off the planning and switch on the writing. Continue reading

The Boy and his Bass

The boy and his bass 

I wrote this after a gig – it struck me that musicians have a special relationship with their instruments.

He held her in a loving embrace.  She was taller than him by a good few inches and leant back into his shoulder nestling into his neck.  They curled elegantly around each other.  He tweaked and played with her, stroked her neck, slapped her side.  The crowd were transfixed.  They felt like they had stumbled upon an intimate moment.  The rest of the musicians were oblivious – they each had their own love affairs going on.   The beat picked up and the slapping continued.  The audience roared its approval.

Musicians and their instruments

Musicians and their instruments

As the set carried on the music rocked and rolled and rocked again to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  The boy leant in close to his double bass in the slow numbers and murmured into her neck and flung her out with a spin when the beat quickened.

The finale saw a majestic pirouette then as quickly as the boy had been to stroke and caress his bass, he let her go and lay her down on the sticky pub floor. 

The boy’s girlfriend came up to help clear up.  She held the double bass’s cover up to throw over its’ head.  The boy took it from her hands, kissed his girl on the cheek and said, “I’ll do that,” and lovingly tucked his bass away. 

His girl stepped aside and just stared at them.  Her eyes gleamed in the stage lights.  As the boy zipped up the bass’s case his girlfriend glared.  She felt jealousy bubbling up inside her.

The boy put his arms around her and whispered in her ear.  “Thanks for coming tonight.”  She smiled and de-clenched a fraction – there were some things she could do which his double bass couldn’t.  Her smile froze.  He let go of her and picked up his bass to carry in both arms. 

She frowned again. The three of them left together.