These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

12/12/12 - More than just numbers ...


12/12/12

Today is the 12th day of the 12th Month of the 12th year of this decade. A great date that’s easy to remember. I know that it’s obvious and people in your circles have no doubt been talking about it all day, but just in case you missed it I thought I’d also mention it. As, no doubt, several other people may have. There. You’ve been informed!

But, information is not all the day is about. Information and facts are totally different to understanding. I decided to understand this date in my own way.

With all the doom-mongers and negative predictions that have been associated with this date (including the end of the world – I guess if you’re reading this then that particular prediction has not come to pass ...) I thought that it would be a good idea to use this date for something positive.


Something associated with the number sequence 12.12.12

I decided on 12 people, 12 words, 12 items.

My plan today has been to focus on interacting with (at least 12 people) on a significant and meaningful level, to speak 12 special words (from my heart) and to give away (a minimum of) 12 items.

It has been enlightening.

These are my 12 special words for today:

Love
Compassion
Forgiveness
Balance
Peace
Calm
Family
Friends
Humanity
Nature
Beauty
Trust

I think I may repeat all (or at least some of this) tomorrow. That’ll be 13 then ...

What did you do that was special today?


Saturday, 1 December 2012

A day of mindfulness


For our morning meditation I chose some verses from Psalms 8 (1,3-4).

In order to focus and be fully mindful of something throughout the day we chose to look at wood. In the day that followed we discovered anew the wonder of wood.



The discussions that followed throughout the next few hours were enlightening and everything led us back to God.

Thinking about wood we went forwards looking at all the things that wood can make. And we also went backwards ... to the tree, and to God.

In one room we discovered so many wooden items in our lives. We identified the following things made from wood: a bookcase, books, paper, pencils, cabinets, table, chairs, floor, guitar, coffee table, wicker basket, door, easel, sofa feet and a fireplace surround.

Being mindful of inanimate objects all day made us conscious of things but also of each other and of God. God is constantly mindful of us, of the earth. We also need to be mindful of each other, of the earth, and of God: all the time.

A life of mindfulness is needed I think. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Storage (Chapter 6) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4   

Chapter 5   (To read all six chapters in an e-book format please clink on this link ... Storage [so far])

Chapter 6

Rosie sat down heavily. It was as if the bench morphed around her and became part of her. She sank back and sighed. It was the same every time. Whenever she needed to get away from ... anything, she came here. To see Ryan. But Ryan never saw her. She felt as lonely as before she met him, but at the same time she felt like she was more at home than anywhere she had every been since she left Crown Wood. That’s where her other family lived, the one that didn’t want her any more. She knew more about them than they knew about her. That’s the way it had always been she felt.

Another sigh escaped from her soul and this time she felt tears running down her face. She hated to cry. The tiredness that accompanied her on the way to the bench prevented her from even raising her hand to wipe the tears away. So they ran, unhindered, down onto her pink uniform. It was a colour she hated because it reminded her of her bedroom, but she didn’t have a choice. It was a uniform, after all.

Conforming was not something that Rosie had dreamt of ten years ago when she had first made her escape. The short time with Ryan had confirmed that she wanted to be a free spirit, like him. Rosie looked over at the spot where Ryan lay still beneath the ground and remembered his laugh, his smile and them being together. After that first day they just seemed to follow each other around. Neither of them ever said anything that constituted an agreement to be together, it was just accepted. Sometimes there is no need for words.

Their days together were similar, but so different. The day after Ryan told Rosie his story they woke up and untangled themselves from each other and then packed their sleeping things together to go and sit in their usual spot. They didn’t talk about it. The only difference was that they looked at each other more, but only when they thought they were undetected.

Rosie sat on the bench and was filled with the same desperation to know answers that she had felt the morning after Ryan’s revelations. The drugs had worn off and she was shaking. Feeling irritable as usual she decided to use her mood as a reason to question him. 

“I could pretend I’m still sleepy,” she mused as she opened her mouth around the question in her head. It never made it out of her mouth. Fear of changing the status quo drove the words back into her heart and now they sat heavily there, alongside questions about this new man that had just died at the hospital. Ryan had been the first person that she saw die, this man was just another patient that didn’t make it. Rosie couldn’t understand why he was now lodged in her brain next to Ryan. Ryan was special. John Doe was nobody to her.

Yet she wanted to know more about both of them. Ryan would have the answers, she had thought that’s why she was sat on the bench near him. Later, as usual, she would speak aloud. She would ask the questions that twisted her insides, that was the only way she could rest.

Rosie was beyond tired. She was exhausted but not just because of the long night shift. The unanswered questions were heavy.

It was the same as when Ryan had shared, but different. She loved Ryan. Not that she ever told him that. They didn’t need to say love, they showed it. This man, with the odd coloured-eyes, had shared something and thrown so many questions at her in the process. All the questions of life. With no answers.

Rosie was frustrated.

When she had desperately wanted to ask Ryan some questions she hadn’t done it because she didn’t have any information that she was willing to trade. So she kept quiet. Once, a week or so later, she was just about to tell him about the birthday party when she saw an unfamiliar look in his eyes and she closed in on herself again.

She was laughing to herself when he looked at her again.

“What’s up?”
“Nothing.”
“What’s the joke then?”
“Nothing.”
“You’re strange sometimes, Rosie. Did you know that?”
“Yes.” She smiled at her private joke. “Yeah, I know I’m strange ... but you like me!” Then she laughed again, a bit more nervously than before. Inside she swore to herself for making that mistake and then she promised to be more careful again. She knew she couldn’t afford to go down that road again – not even with this man.
“After all,” she thought, “I’ve only known you for about eight weeks, what was I thinking?” she continued to smile at him, but it wasn’t a real smile.

Ryan just looked at her for a long moment, he started to say something then changed his mind, shrugged and turned away.  When he was no longer looking at her she let the smile drop completely. And she remembered – all of it.

The blank looks to the left and the right returned and she knew she was in danger again.

Ryan knew what was happening but he pretended he wasn’t interested.
“It’s better this way, anyway,” he thought, “I can’t really take her crap on right now.” His arm was sore again and he needed to get the dressing changed but that would mean more questions that he didn’t want to answer so he scratched at it to soothe the pain.
It’s bleeding.” Rosie spoke casually to him as she looked over. She had been watching him as well. They were like distant chess players.
“What?”
“Oh. Damn!”
“You’d best stop that or it’ll get ...”
“Shut up, Rosie! Who the hell d’ya think you are? My doctor?”
“I was only trying to say ...”
“Well, for Christ’s sake stop trying. It’s boring and it’s none of you damn business anyway.”
“Suit yourself you ignorant sonofab...”
“I will! Now butt out will ya?”
Ryan had turned away from her by now and was scratching his arm vigorously.
“Fine, I will!”
“Fine! Do that!”
Ryan moved the now bloodied and dirty bandage down his left forearm. I really hurt and he didn’t know what to do. It was a different kind of a pain, not the nice pain that he wanted, this pain was jagged and bitter. His scratching had opened up the wounds again and there was a yellow pus as well as the blood soaking into the grimy crepe bandage that was wrapped around the cuts. There was a time when that bandage had been white. Now it was difficult to remember as the crusted dried brown blood and dirt mixed together.

Trying to reposition it back over the open wounds he unwound it slightly and tried to retie it more neatly. Holding a piece in his left hand he rewound the bandage but it wasn’t doing any good. The blood came right through the loose layers.

Rosie just looked at him. She wanted to help but refused to budge until he apologised. She practised the words in her head, “Here, let me help,” they sounded right. She watched as Ryan grimaced when he the shredded pieces of bandage together.

“Nearly there,” he thought, “I’ll show her.” Then without warning he started to cry.

They were both shocked.

Laughing was just about OK but crying was definitely not expected or accepted according to their unwritten rules.

Ryan tried to stop but he couldn’t. Dropping the tattered ends of the bandage – and all pretext of trying to fix it up – he let his left arm drop heavily onto his thigh. The pain jerked through him but he didn’t do anything different. He just cried. Like a hungry baby. Rosie stared at him. She did not move.

When his tears stopped he got up, packed up his bags and started to walk away. She watched him as he walked further and further from where she sat. He never looked back.

Ryan waited in the accident and emergency room of the hospital for his name to be called. It was an unusually busy week night. He hadn’t been there for a long time. He hated it there but there was nothing else he could do this time. He’d opened up an old would before it’d healed properly and now it wouldn’t stop bleeding. He knew what they would say and how they would look at him.
He was right.

“Ryan Carroll.”
“Yeah,” he mumbled as he got up and walked to the nurse’s office for triage.

“Hello Ryan," he knew this nurse but he wasn’t sure that she remembered him. He was good with faces and people. That was something he had learned quickly when he was sober.

“I haven’t seen you for ages, Ryan.” She did remember him after all. His heart dropped. He preferred to be anonymous.

She went through the patient identification routine quickly as she glanced up at him from the computer screen in front of her. Leaning across the table she beckoned to him.

“Let’s have a look at your arm,” she said as she wheeled around the end of the table towards him on her low stool. She was not one of the rough ones so he lifted his eyes to look at her for a brief moment.

Staff Nurse Stanton her badge said. He said the name over and over to himself like a chant while she used her gloved hands to peel back the bloodied bandage. He’d try to remember her name but he didn’t really want to see any of them again. Rosie. That’s who he really wanted to see. He didn’t know why she had to be so nosey.
“They’d been getting on fine before she ...” he paused mid-thought as he tried to remember exactly what she had done that had made him so mad. It must have been something. It was always something.

Nurse Stanton gently peeled back the dirty bandages and threw them into the bin. She didn’t show any of the usual signs of disgust some of them wore when he was here.

“Ah. Let’s clean this up a bit,” she said.
“Ow!”
“Sorry, but I have to see what’s going on in here. Hold on a minutes and I can tell you what we can do for you.”
“It hurts,” he mumbled, almost to himself.
“I know it must but I’ve nearly finished here, just a few more seconds and we’ll be done.”
“OK.” He winched as she pressed his arm. He had experienced much more pain than she was causing so he couldn’t understand why any of this was bothering him.

Two hours later he had ten stitches in his arm and a new dressing on it. The nursing staff had also managed to make him promise to visit the outpatient’s department in a week’s time to have it checked  - because he didn’t have a GP. He had no intention of going but he said yes just to get them to stop talking, to give him some pain killers and to let him go.
He was thinking about Rosie all the time he was in there. He thought she would have liked the chance to sit with him on those seats as the hours drained away slowly. She may even have slept like she did the last time they were there. He needed to see her, but he couldn’t go and find her. He wasn’t weak. He had to prove it.

After agreeing with the nurses to return Ryan picked up his dirty bag from the clean hospital floor and headed to the doors that led into the ambulance bay and the car park. He knew he was wasting his time being in there. He had money to get because he needed to get high – quickly. 

Rosie ducked down behind a car as Ryan scurried out of the A & E department. In her hurry to drop out of sight the lighter that she was always playing with fell from her hands. Frantically she reached beneath the car to retrieve it. When she looked up again he was further away from her than she had planned. Her move wouldn’t work now. Rosie sighed. She had practised her lines. They stayed in her throat as she watched him leave. She was getting used to watching him leave. Ryan never saw her as he hurried out of the door with his head down. He looked as if he was searching for something on the ground. He acted like he was in a play, like Hansel and Gretel, but he was on his own, searching for an invisible trail. And his Gretel was hiding behind the car – watching him go.

Keeping hidden she followed him back to the squat and waited for him to make his way in. Pulling the temporary boarding away he burrowed through the opened window on the ground floor and replaced the board behind him.

Shivering, across the road, Rosie hunched down by a hedge and waited.

A dim, unsteady shaft of light appeared in the gloom – he had lit the last piece of the candle that they had kept. The batteries for the torch had run out weeks ago. They hadn’t been able to either steal or buy any in the time since. They had been busy getting high.

As a slice of wind hit her Rosie realised that she was shivering and hungry but she didn’t move. She had to see what he would do. When he went to sleep she would crawl in and go to sleep next to him. Then, in the morning, they’d carry on as if nothing had happened. That was the way they always did things. But it had never been this bad before. Nervously Rosie talked herself into waiting a while longer. She couldn’t feel her feet anymore because they were cramping, but she stubbornly refused to move. She deserved to suffer, that’s what she thought. That was just one of an avalanche of thoughts that came at her as she sat there. Thoughts about pink bedrooms, birthday parties, a place in Crown Wood and the lighter, they all tumbled around her head as she stared at the space where Ryan had crawled into the squat.

Eventually the light went out. She’d estimated that they had about an hour’s worth of light left and he’d put it out after about thirty minutes.

“Good,” she thought, “he’s gone to sleep.” She was wrong.
As she started to straighten herself out to walk across the road she saw the board moving. Rosie threw herself behind another parked car and grazed her knee in the process. She prevented herself from calling out in pain.

Questions filled her head and made it heavy.

“Where’s he going? What’s he doing now? What the ...”

Ryan climbed back out of the window. He put his bag on the ground. Then he reached back in and pulled out another bag. Rosie had never seen that one before. 

“Where was that hiding?” she thought as she looked at the Burberry patterned holdall on the ground next to the dirty rucksack. It was packed to the brim. It was clean. She got angry in a second.

“What’s that?” she said to herself. Then, as she saw him lift both bags up and lope off down the road she whispered, “Who the hell are you?” Sat behind the car Rosie felt more alone than ever before. She tried to stop breathing but it only hurt her lungs and her head. It had been months since she’d slept alone and the night fear returned to grip her throat.


“He lied.” She said it over and over again to herself. “He lied to me.”

“I’ve got to get a hit,” she thought and standing up she defiantly walked in the opposite direction to Ryan. At the corner of the road she looked around but he had already gone.

Friday, 9 November 2012

You never know


You never know ...

Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Today was once that all elusive dream of ‘tomorrow’. Now it’s here. Enjoy it before it’s gone forever.

One day last month I was talking to a man. The next week I heard that he was dead. He was the same age as me. In fact, he was just younger than me. He had been born in the same year but he looked a lot older than me, and that’s not just me who said this: he said it himself. He thought I was about 20 years younger than he was. We always talked a lot when we met up.

As I walked near his shop I planned to stop in there and get some special biscuits. He called me the ‘ginger biscuit lady’ because I always bought packets of thin ginger biscuits from his delicatessen shop. I called him Alistair. That was his name. He was lovely and kind. Always had a few minutes to talk about life and other things.

He went unexpectedly. That’s how the newspapers reported it. I also experienced it in the same way: unexpected.

I wrote this the morning of his funeral. I saw cards of condolence in his shop window as I passed by yesterday. I was in shock when I realised why the shop was closed. The beautiful soft pastel coloured drawing of him in the window only served to emphasise that there was a new void in the world: it was beautiful, but one dimensional and so silent.

There was no laughter attached to it, no smile, no depth of being.

It represented him, but it was not him. He was already gone.

We never know when someone will be gone. Let’s enjoy them today.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Just a word - poetry by Marjorie H Morgan


Just a word ...

It’s the choice
that excites my ear
and caresses my heart.

It’s
just a word.

It’s ‘us’ instead of ‘me’,
it’s ‘ours’ instead of ‘mine’
it’s home,
it’s love,
it’s direct, it’s now, it’s happiness.

The word is you and me: together.

Is it just a word?

To us it’s ...  everything.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

November thanksgiving note on: love


November thanksgiving note on: love

Love should not make you angry. But it can. I have known frustration and even anger with people because they have shown me love when I could not accept it. You see I didn’t love myself enough to recognize love.

Things are different now.

I used to hide big, and important, parts of who I am when I was with certain people and then I would think,  ‘If you knew who I really am you could never love me.’

Sometimes we are too scared to believe that people know exactly who we are and still love us. We can’t believe that they can love us despite ourselves, because we don’t even believe or love ourselves to that extent yet.

The bits that we don’t like about ourselves we categorise as evil, bad, wrong ... and maybe it’s true, but we have to remember that it is just a part of us, not the whole of us.

People can love ‘all of you’ – not just the part that you still can’t like about yourself.

Love doesn’t give you a choice on how to act. You do the right thing because of  love. That’s Hobson’s choice – the same thing every time. The right thing for myself, the right thing for my neighbour ... that’s you.

Love brings people closer together.

Today I am especially thankful for love.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

November thanksgiving note on: friendship


November thanksgiving note on: friendship

Friendship is a mystery of love. Like Russian dolls that seem never-ending love connects people and the friendship they share.

This is from a conversation with a friend:
“I love you lots and it will never be goodbye. You’ll always be with me.” It is true. I think of them frequently and we remain in contact despite distance and time zones. Love impels you to act and connect. Love for yourself as well as love for your friend.

Whenever I am in the company of my friends I feel like I’ve come home. I feel contented, blessed and, above all, happy.

As I said to a friend many years ago, “Be happy forever.”  

Today I am especially thankful for friendships that last through time and distance.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Blueprint


I had a conversation the other day that got me thinking.

At various stages of life we have different roles, purposes and goals. We have to define and prioritise each of those aspects of our identity as we move along life’s path. What’s OK for us as children will probably not be right for us later on in life. Whereas we accept roles laid down for us when we are still dependent on our parents, when we reach any significant level of maturity we start to define and prioritise our own direction and identity.

We all make our own blueprints.

We may use the one we gained from the family home as a basis. Or we may rip that up and start all over again from scratch.

What I have discovered is that we can’t keep blaming our current situation on the blueprint we received from our parents.



This is what the conversation was about. The person I was talking to insisted that because of family dysfunction when they were young, they were never equipped with the tools to succeed in later life. He insisted that all the parental ‘stuff messed me up for good’.

I think if one day you realise that you are in wet cement and then you stay there – when you could move on – then you cannot blame the people who poured the cement around your feet for your situation. You can only take the responsibility of your current immobility upon yourself.

We have to look at our current situation, take action steps, and remember to constantly review where we are to keep creating a workable life plan. That’s how we build a good blueprint for ourselves.

We have to keep moving from our current reality to our ideal reality. One cement-freeing step at a time. 

See previous blog entry: Architects and Interior Designers

Friday, 2 November 2012

November thanksgiving note on: memory


November thanksgiving note on: memory

I have some wonderful memories and I am thankful for them.

I remember my childhood and the freedom of the streets and parks. I remember happy times with my family. 

I remember the halcyon joy of school and my growing love of the written word, I remember innocent play. I am thankful for the memories that I have and for the memories that I am making now. Today I am especially thankful for family and love and the fact that I can remember.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Loss is personal


I had a lesson in loss while I was walking through town a week ago. I was lamenting a misunderstanding that made me feel bereft when I saw a young child, maybe about two years old, run from the Disney shop in one of the shopping arcades.

On its own this even would not be peculiar but the child ran with tiny rapid steps of desperation. Glancing around I saw that no adult was pursuing this mini tornado and others were avoiding the child as it ran past busy legs going in the other direction.



I was cautious about doing anything but I set my own worries aside and quickened my step as the child ran towards the bus station. Not knowing what to do for the best I followed and when the small person came back out of a shop doorway with a perplexed look on its face I approached.

“Hello,” I said as gently as I could while reaching for the child’s hand. “Are you OK? Are you looking for somebody? Mummy? Daddy?”

I was initially met with a blank stare and tight lips. However, in seconds the child’s eyes spoke volumes. Like a barrier at the Niagara Falls the tears were set to cascade down its face. Still, not a word passed the child’s lips.

I repeated the question and looked up to see what other adults had also see the runaway child. Thankfully, a kindly faced woman was nearby. She stepped closer.

I explained the situation to her.

I suggested that we retrace the child’s steps to the point where I first saw them running free.

“Do you want me to come with you?” the woman asked, even though she was weighed down with several shopping bags. “You don’t want people to think you’re kidnapping him.” It was a girl but I didn’t think it timely to point that out to the other Good Samaritan in the shopping centre right then.

Together we made our way back to the shop where I first saw the child escape like a speeding bullet.

No amount of gentle talking as we walked back would persuade the child to give any information about who they were with. I suggested that we take the youngster to the security guard.

Just as we were arriving at the entrance to the original shop where I first spied the child, a woman with an empty pushchair came out into the main walkway; the child released itself from my hold and ran towards her and jumped into the pushchair. The woman said a few words to the child and looked away. The child started pointing at the window displays in the Disney shop and was laughing. That was the only laughter shared between us all that day.

I started to explain to her what had happened. The mother (I think) then created something that could have been described as a smile, if you were desperate, and threw it in the direction of the other woman and I.

I didn’t expect flowers, hugs, or a reward but her whole attitude was perfectly summed up by the other Good Samaritan as we walked back in the direction that we had just come from. I guess she must have felt somewhat deflated because she turned to me and said, “She didn’t seem too concerned at all, did she? Or grateful.” I concurred. I was confused why those minutes of loss had not etched a greater sign of concern on the mother’s face.

I remember when I thought my child was lost – it was a completely different experience.

Later as I wandered around the supermarket picking up a few items for the evening I realised that loss is always personal.

The child ran like their life depended on finding the mother, their eyes were clouded with tears of desperation. The mother, on the other hand, had an air of nonchalance about her. She put the child in the pushchair and turned on her heels without even expressing a word of thanks.

What means a lot to one person may be handled in quite a different way by another. We all have our individual needs and individual reasons for dealing with loss in our own way.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Storage (Chapter 5) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4   (To read all five chapters in an e-book format please clink on this link ... Storage [so far])

Chapter 5

William walked into the container. He thought of it as a room now, not just a storage space. An extra room to his house, that was far away. It had changed since he first saw it. Back then it was just a cold metal box. The only relief on the eyes was the intermittent yellow stripes along the walls of the container – that was the main reason why he had chosen it: for the colour. It had remained almost bare for years.

Now it was more like a living room. He stands and looks around himself before slowly wandering around the space. “Beryl will like this,” he muses silently. He hasn’t ever mentioned it to her. He always pays for it in cash and keeps the key hidden away safely. Right in the centre of this pseudo-room is the chair. It was going to be a surprise, for their anniversary. He liked to surprise her. It made her happy. It made him happy. The last surprise was a holiday to Verona. Just for the weekend. It was not something William made a habit of. Dry laughter gurgled in his throat as he thought of their short Italian holiday.

“Where are we going, Wills?” she had asked for the hundredth time as they turned off the motorway.

“Ah, you’ll see.” Was all he would say as he hummed along to the radio and watched her from the corner of his eye. He couldn’t identify the feeling that he was experiencing at that moment but he knew he liked it. Later, on the plane, he decided that it was somewhere between satisfaction and happiness.

“The airport? What for? Are we meeting someone? Who?” the questions tumbled out of her as the wheels sped along the road. He refused to answer her with anything but a smile and a squeeze on her thigh.

Beryl had squealed with delight when he took their packed case from the boot of the car at the airport. He whipped out the passports from inside his jacket pocket and she almost did a jig right there in the dimly lit car park.

It was that joy that William was planning on capping with the gift of the chair. Well, there were two chairs now; the first one for her and the other one, not so well preserved – for him. William went over to Beryl’s chair, the one he had been saving for the anniversary delivery, and he ran his hand along the studs. They feel comforting. Smiling again William touches the wood and is reassured. Then his eyes fall on the heavy metal safe in the corner. Instantly he is saddened because he knows what Beryl can never know. “I wish I’d told her straight away,” he says aloud. No-one can hear him, at least he hopes no one can. William always talks aloud in this private room.

Lifting up the table that is set between the two chairs William moves the nearest corner of the rug back and takes the long key that lays there. Leaving the rug bent back he walks to the safe in the corner and with a deep sigh opens it. It’s all in there, his other life. The one before Beryl.

“Oh, God!” Leaning onto the top of the cold iron safe William starts to cry. This is the only place he ever cries. As the tears fall he does nothing to stop them or to move. His sobs get louder and he lashes out with his fist and hits the top of the metal box. The searing pain makes him stop. He knows that he will have a bruise later and immediately begins to worry about how he will explain it to Beryl.

“If only I’d have known before ...” Looking at the photograph in his hand he shakes his head angrily. Reaching into his inside pocket he takes out another photograph, adds it to the ones in the safe and closes the door with a bang. The key won’t turn properly. “Damn!” He says trying to turn the handle and slot the three heavy bars into place. They won’t budge. This sometimes happens but usually it doesn’t bother him. Today it does. William wants to swear without stopping but instead he calmly reverses the twist of the handle and fully opens the door again. The only thing he does without stopping is crying and sighing.

Two hours later he wakes up from his nap in Beryl’s chair. The key is on his lap and the rug has not been put back into place. Panic sets in as William looks at his watch. He was supposed to be home half an hour ago. “What will I say this time?” he wonders. He never became comfortable with lying.

It was forced on him.

“I’m only doing this because I love you, Beryl,” he says quietly as he quickly moves around and returns the container to its tidy state.

Each year both William and Beryl become like furtive rabbits. For months before their day they smile at each other without explanation and go missing for hours at a time. William hopes that he can explain this afternoon’s sleeping oversight as one of those occasions. The only thing he remains worried about is the bruise that has started to appear on his right forearm. It hurts like crazy and is already changing colour.

As he stands by the opening of the container to have his customary last look, he hopes this late arrival will get passed over quickly because they both made a big deal out of remembering the day they met. He practises his smile to himself then turns off the light and locks the door. With rapid firm steps he walks down the long uniform corridors and heads towards the exit sign.

Not having time to put the key in his usual place he opens up his wallet and caressing it briefly he puts the small metal key in between two notes. “Beryl never goes in there,” he thinks. “It’ll be safe until later.” Hurrying along the damp streets William involuntarily thinks of the number on the key when he would rather be thinking about the 15th June: the day he and Beryl first met.

Beryl had just started working in the cafe and William had missed an important meeting with his father’s boss just to stare at her that day. That was the day it all changed for them.

Some things stayed the same through the years. The roses William ordered always arrived on time. Each year Beryl received another long stemmed red rose. Each one with its own message attached. The family at the florist shop now knew William well. The first year, Jane – the original owner, had just smiled at his romantic fervour. By the fifth year they were on first name terms and she was making a special effort to get even better roses for him. By the time she came to retire Jane was passing on her box of notes to her daughter, Ellen. On the information card with William’s details Jane had written, “always the best.” These were the words taken from William’s own lips when he came into the shop that very first day.

Jane had shown him the complete range of blooms that were available and, seeing what she thought was an impulsive young man, she had offered him a deal on the flowers that would have to be thrown out in a day or two – she always regretted that suggestion. Immediately he rejected them saying, “Anything I get for Beryl, even though I’ve only just met her, will always be the best.” He kept his word. Always.

In the end he settled on a single long stemmed rose. The petals were the same colour as the velvet on the first armchairs that they had bought together. He knew that Beryl kept all the roses, especially that first one. He pretended that he didn’t know, but he had discovered it one day when they were moving the old dressing table to the new house. She loved that piece of furniture – she had inherited it from her grandmother. Furnishing the houses that they lived in had become her passion. The removal men had the slim drawers out and they were taking the seemingly empty draws down the stairs when a piece of paper floated in a spiral across the railings and down to the hallway. Inside its folds were the carefully pressed flower and the handmade card that he had insisted was included in that initial delivery. He had a beautiful script – something that his father had wanted him to utilise in the same company that he had worked at for forty years, but because of meeting Beryl, William did not attend the interview and his father never forgave him. His own spotless record was spoilt by the non-appearance of his youngest son. They didn’t speak for ten years. His father, Stephen, never even attended his wedding to Beryl six years later. They were ready to get married after three years, but – hoping that his father would change his mind – William delayed the date. Beryl didn’t mind the delay as much as her mother did. “You’re not getting any younger, dear,” was the usual comment when Beryl failed to give a firm wedding date. Beryl just held William’s tightly whenever he met her after he had visited his parents’ home. They never argued about when they were getting married, they both knew it would as soon as things were sorted out. That was important to William. He had been close to his dad before that day. He wanted his relationship back.

Whenever they discussed it Beryl simply said, “I’m not going anywhere. It’s only a ring and a fancy ceremony. It won’t change how much I already love you.” So they waited.  Until one October evening William’s mother, Clara, said after the usually quiet family meal, “I’d like to attend your wedding before I can’t walk anymore.” Her illness was making her less mobile every year. She looked at her husband and said, “He’s not going to change his mind, love. He’s stubborn. Pigs will never fly here. I know. Trust me.” Laying a hand on her son’s leg she set her face in the familiar look of resignation that she had had to wear for many years.

Stephen shifted in front of the television and picked up the newspaper. He turned his back to them. It was his habit not to speak at all when William was in the house. Afterwards was a different matter.

After leaving his mother William went to see Beryl. He didn’t take her with him to his parents’ house anymore because not being spoken to by his father was painful enough for him but when Stephen also refused to be polite to Beryl, William felt a deep stirring anger that made him want to hit his dad really hard.

Beryl opened the door and they kissed without needing any words. After a few minutes of silence as they stood in the doorway together William spoke, “Beryl, do you want to get married as soon as possible?” Then before she could answer he added, “Let’s not wait anymore.” He knew that she’d be happy, what he didn’t know was how happy she was. Uncharacteristically Beryl jumped on him and hugged him when he asked the question. It was more enthusiastic than when he had first asked her to marry him. She threw her head back with joy and her green eyes seemed to sparkle more than usual.
“If I said yes a thousand different ways would you believe me?” She grabbed his hand and danced around the room. Three months later they were married.

Immediately after their honeymoon in France they moved into a house that William had already bought. That first house had been an experiment. He cut his teeth there. Beryl’s only doubts about William were the ones she had in the three years before they were married. He didn’t meet her as often as he used to, and all he would say was that he was busy. Although he smiled at her still Beryl felt uneasy because he told her everything before that. It was something they had promised to always do – be open with each other.

Secretively William inhabited a different world. One that she was not included in. It worried her. William, on the other hand, was proud of what he was doing. Every time he went to the house he smiled. It was to be their home. He was building it to suit them both. It had to be the best. That was the biggest surprise he had for her in all their years together.

At first he didn’t tell Beryl that he had bought the house three years previously as a wedding present – it was when he thought his father was close to giving in and talking to him again. But that never happened. He remained disappointed in his father. William had determined to be different and have good family relationships in his life. He started off by making regular monthly mortgage payments on a house he couldn’t live in, visiting it to keep it clean, and through all that time he never said a word. He was building a better life for them both.

As he hurried back towards their home, the fifth one they’d lived in together, he thought about the chairs that he had just checked on in the storage container. The surprise would be revealed soon. He could hardly wait for that day to come. It was approaching the end of May and there were only just over two weeks before he got to see the huge smile on Beryl’s face when she saw the chairs she had been yearning for for a decade.

As he got out of the car and walked towards the front door William saw Beryl through the window. He felt the same as he did that first day. It still surprised him as he felt the joy seep up through his legs and into his heart.

He would do anything to make her happy. Except tell her about what was in that safe. She could never know that. That would kill them both. Sighing then smiling became a habit. William did them both and opened the front door with a smile on his face and a sigh in his heart.

It was worrying him that he was becoming an expert at keeping secrets.


Monday, 8 October 2012

Storage (Chapter 4) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan



Armadillo. That’s what Ryan had called her, an armadillo. It made her smile now, but when she had first heard it Rosie lashed out at him. Ryan just sat there, covering his face with his hands until she stopped hitting him.

“Have you finished?” he laughed and she immediately started hitting him again. But this time it was not with as much fury as before. Ryan laughed at her, but it didn’t hurt her. They both laughed as her blows turned to a hugs. Ryan released his head from his knees and stretched his arms around her. Then they sat in silence.

“You’re a cheeky f..”, she started but her words were lost in a kiss as his stubble made a path for his lips to reach hers.

It was years after they had first met that he told her how he had been watching her for about an hour before he came and sat next to her. He had noticed that she would slowly look left three times, then look right twice before releasing a measured sigh and close her eyes for about ten seconds; then she would do it all over again. Left, right, eyes closed. He was high when he told her about his secret observation of her. She was too, but she never forgot.

“After you blinked,” he paused as he took another hit while she waited to hear what he had to say. She was suspended in a cloud above his head and she could see the words as they fell from his lips. They were like a Scrabble tile board. When she got to the edge of forgetting, Rosie disappeared inside her head and re-imagined the scene. She saw herself on the pavement outside the bookshop as she sank into herself a little bit with each turn of her head. That’s what Ryan had said, now she felt it to be true. Ryan was her only truth in the past decade.

“It was like you were disappearing right there in front of me,” he finished as he blew a thin line of smoke up above their heads.

As her hand reached upwards to her face Rosie realised that she was crying. It was a river of silent tears but they steadily ran down her already wet face.

Startled by the clarity of the voice she heard Rosie looked over her shoulder. There was no one there. She sat alone on the bench in the church graveyard. She knew the voice was in her head. It always was.

“I remember what you sound like, Ryan.” She whispered aloud. In her head she knew this was a lie. His voice had faded from her memory but she would never say that, not even to herself.

“You remind me of me,” he said, sadly.
“You weren’t supposed to see me,” Rosie replied. “Nobody usually sees me.” She laughed in her special sardonic way – it held no joy. “I sit there all day sometimes, and I’m always invisible.”
“Why do you want to be invisible?”
“Dunno.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“Don’t want to say, then.”
“OK.”

They had smoked in silence for a long time after that. When the spliff was finished Ryan flicked the roach into the gutter and spoke again as he threw a sideways look at her.

“I’ll tell you my story if you tell me yours.”
Rosie didn’t look up. Her heart was beating too fast and she was afraid that the memories would be visible on her face if she raised her eyes from pavement level. As she concentrated on breathing evenly she heard a loud clock ticking and she started counting in time with that.

Ryan sat totally still as he waited.

Eventually Rosie spoke. She still did not look up. “You can tell me yours if you like. I haven’t got a story. I haven’t got anything to say.”

Hoping he believed her Rosie stole a glance in his direction. He was rocking backwards and forwards – the way he always did when he was thinking.

More silence punctuated the air around them. People walking past felt it and looked down at them for the first time all day. Then they hurried on. The pair on the ground with their back to the shop front automatically looked up like programmed mannequins. Everybody was uncomfortable with the shift and quickly retreated back into their individually cocooned silences.

“Fair enough.” Ryan spoke again. It must have been about half an hour later that the silence between them was broken. It was early evening and the streets were getting quieter after the shops had closed, they were exhaling before the next set of people took over the streets for the night.
“What?” Rosie forgot what they had been talking about, in her mind she was at her friend Claire’s house and they were playing with her dolls. That bit of her life was good. That was before it all went wrong. She went back there often.
“Nuffink.”

“Do you want some?” Ryan had just finished rolling the last spliff. He held it up and gestured with it towards Rosie. Then he moved it back towards himself and re-twisted the ends.
“Uh?” She was still vacant in her eyes. Ryan knew it was a bad sign, but he had been trying to talk to her for weeks about what had happened so he ignored the look and tried again.
“Are you sitting comfortably?” he used his best radio voice and laughed as he spoke. He hoped it would help. He knew he had to talk before he burst from all that information whirling around in his head. Rosie looked at him and blinked herself back to the present.
“Go on then,” she spoke casually pretending she had been waiting for him to speak, “you first.”
“This?” he questioned, holding the spliff between his fingers. She nodded and leaned forward with her lighter. It was the only thing that she had from before she lived nowhere.
She was always playing with it. She had scars on her hands where she had fought people who tried to snatch it away from her. He often wondered what was so special about it. But he never asked. The look on her face told him that it was not safe to ask. He trusted his instincts. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Storage (Chapter 3) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

At the end of the shift, after William John Chatsworth, aka John Doe, had been moved from the emergency area to the morgue, he was more alive than ever in Rosie’s head. He had joined Ryan in a part of her consciousness that she normally kept hidden from everybody. She was confused how this stranger could take up residence in her mind when she didn’t even know him. He made her think of Ryan. She didn’t like to do that either.

Although it was early in the morning and Rosie desperately wanted to sleep, she turned left instead of right when she left the hospital and started walking. The roads were starting to get busy as the early Friday morning traffic began to slow down around her. She was walking faster than many of the cars. She looked inside them all as she passed. She walked evenly, making stories up about the occupant’s lives as she walked hurriedly away from the hospital in the wrong direction for her bed.

There were women sat behind the steering wheels of stationary vehicles who were putting on the last bits of their make-up in the mirrors as the traffic lights delayed their journeys. The horns of the other impatient drivers brought their gaze back from their own reflections to focus on the road ahead as the mascara brush or lipstick was hastily thrown back onto the empty passenger seats. Rosie imagined them out at the cinema the previous evening with a bunch of their girlfriends, having fun laughing at the latest released romantic comedy together, then stopping for a glass of wine before heading home to more TV and maybe a slice of pizza. They were smiling at their recent memories while nursing the faintest hint of a hangover after that third ill-advised glass of wine. The windows were wound down and the music and voices from the cars mixed to make the sound of a battle on her ears. Rosie tried to tune out but then she remembered what she didn’t want to remember yet and so went back to listening and looking at the strangers that were all around her. She tried to be like them, carefree, but she had never achieved it. Her life felt heavy with unwanted memories.

With each step her tiredness lifted a small bit and was replaced with fresh anxiety: she always seemed to get a new dose every day. The further she walked the more the ages of people varied. The lone adults in their cars exiting from the maze of newly built city centre flats were replaced by the families heading out of the suburbs on their trek, like a colony of ants, to the school gates and then spreading out like an unfurled fan as they headed off to their various places of work. Their paths all crossed at some point. Many of these groups of attached humans were children – strapped in the back seats of cars, eating a snatched breakfast surrounded by hastily packed lunchboxes, kitbags, instruments and pets. It was the tall teenagers with their headphones that Rosie had to avoid the most, because they never looked up as they walked. She felt like she was a dodgem car as she navigated through the streets of early morning travellers.

Feeling under attack Rosie adopted the stance of the teenagers and put her head down. For the rest of her walk she decided to ignore them all and burrow through the streets until she could stop; until she was safe again. She walked. And walked. Unscathed she sensed a silence and looked up to see where she was. She already knew where she would end up – it was always the same. It was hardwired into her now. Even after seven years she couldn’t keep away. It was one of the reasons that John used to distance himself from her.

“You’ve got to let go of the past,” he shouted at her almost every week, “you love the dead more than the living.” His face twisted in anger when he talked about Ryan, but he never mentioned his name any more. That was the only thing that pleased Rosie about John.

Rosie remembered the first day she saw Ryan. He had introduced himself as Rye as he sat down beside her on the pavement. She smiled thinking “What a stupid name! Sounds crackers.” Then she laughed at her own joke. Well, a sad sound that could have been described as laughter came from her throat. They were less than a mile from the spot where Rosie would last see Ryan – but she didn’t know that then.

“I’m so lucky,” he said when he saw her there.
“Why’s that?” She responded to him without looking up. The only reason she spoke at all was because no one had said a single word to her for about five hours. She was lonely and desperate for any conversation to block out the ones going on in her head. Normally she just ignored the young voices – they always seemed to be accompanied by trouble. That’s what she wished she did. Treated him just like all the others. But he wasn’t like them.

“Lucky’s my middle name,” he continued as he settled down next to her. Rosie could feel him looking at her. It made her feel uncomfortable. “Anyway,” he said, “I knew you’d smile at me.”

Rosie smiled again.

It felt strange to smile at the strange man next to her but she couldn’t help herself. That’s how it had always been ever since that first day. Ryan would say something, anything, and Rosie would beam at him. He gave her a kind of permission to be happy. She’d forgotten what that was like before he turned up. Her thoughts had been heavy and she’d been so busy moving them around that he had snuck up on her and got through the crack in her mind.

(Go to Chapter 4)

Friday, 28 September 2012

Silence


Silence.

The greatest silence is the absence of your loved one’s voice.

I cling to the unique sounds of people. I can freely reproduce their images and - for a time - inhale their scent, but nothing can reproduce their voice. Nothing.

The silence is loud.

I run from the silences of their absence.

I arrive to the sound of loud silence. There is only a void that I can’t avoid.

Memory fails. I am left with ... silence.


Copyright © Marjorie H Morgan 2012

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Storage (Chapter 2) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan



Chapter 2

It was the week before William had ended up in the hospital that the pains had started in earnest. He was sat outside a church when the first stab of pain hit him in his chest. Of the dozens of churches in the town William only likes to sit in the vicinity of churches that at least several hundreds of years old. He had once said - when the suit he was wearing was new and he’d worn it to the office - that churches built within the last few decades were more like arcades than places of worship. His colleagues had laughed with him at the time, but the more he thought about it he began to believe that they were laughing at him really. It didn’t bother him now, nothing did. Since Beryl was gone the only permanent things were the buildings.
William knew that he could not get any sense of reverence for a place built with red brick and without stained glass windows. He had tried for several years to find a good church to be in until, in his own opinion, he knew far too much about the inside of churches. None of them ever fit him. The people inside them were also ill-matched to his needs.

The last church he’d truly felt comfortable in was the one he’d been in with his wife, when they’d been on a walking holiday in the Cotswolds. They had stopped off in Gloucester and visited the tiny Beatrix Potter shop before spending a pleasant few hours inside the huge cathedral and surrounding grounds.
William drags a smile out of his memory as he sees himself and Beryl sitting quietly together in The Lady Chapel as the sunlight streams through the stained glass windows and makes patterns dance at their feet. They turn to each other spontaneously, reach out and share a gentle squeeze of the hand before returning to their own separate thoughts.

In recent years the only time William was really quiet was when he was in or near a church. He stopped believing in God when Beryl got her diagnosis. Prayers became like whiffs of smoke from a late-night bonfire. But the lure of the big buildings, especially the churches, kept pulling him back in. It was more than his job that made him seek out those familiar spaces.

Beryl was not that keen on old buildings but she saw the joy it brought to her Wills, as she alone called him, so she suggested many visits to ancient buildings just so that she could see that extra look of pleasure on his face. Then she would return to her own thoughts knowing he was happy.

In the early years Beryl loved the country walks when they would clamber, hand-in-hand, through unfamiliar country side, discovering new paths together. Then, as the decades and the familiar country paths wore away the bit she liked the best was the resting between the walks. Once she’d got to 55 it wasn’t as much fun for her as it had been two decades earlier. ‘True enough,’ she mused to herself, ‘it keeps me fit and I can get around much better than the ladies from the W.I. but I’d much rather have a dog to walk with than all these endless country walks from post A to post B – and they all look the same in the end.’ She never said that to William though. There was a lot that they didn’t talk about. They’d talked about dogs when they were first married, in their twenties, William had said that it’d be better to wait for a while, to see, when the children came along, he said. They never came, neither did the dog.

It was over dinner on their twentieth anniversary that William had confessed to Beryl that he never really liked dogs anyway. Beryl already knew this, of course, but she acted surprised. It made her wonder if he didn’t really want the children either. They were supposed to be a package deal.

That Friday morning it was the bench that William was sat on that was the only thing preventing him from dropping to the ground as he struggled to breathe. It was not the one that he’d had erected for Beryl a year after her death, it was one on the other side of the church. This one caught the sunrise and gave William a good view of all the people on their way to work. He thought that they scurried like beetles. No one seemed to look at anyone else. All they looked at were the machines in their hands. The connection was an invisible one – on waves that floated in the air. William never used his mobile phone after Beryl went. He didn’t see the point. His connection was in solid things. That’s why he liked the building. The church – that wasn’t going anywhere. The solid wooden benches – they were fixed into the concrete. Permanent. That’s where the consistent sun would be in the afternoon – Beryl’s bench. William liked to see the sunset when he was near Beryl.

After reaching into one of his many pockets for a handkerchief William had found a loose piece of cloth that could have once been a handkerchief with his initials in the corner. There was something raised on the material, it may have been the once blue lettering reading WJC: his initials. Beryl used to buy him a new set every birthday and Christmas. He’d come to expect it. The cloth he found was now used to wipe his clammy forehead. He hoped it was from Beryl. He missed her. William looked at the dirty rag in his hand and then shrugged. It was a lopsided shrug. He had difficulty raising his left arm, his strongest arm, so he’d had to rifle through his belongings with the weaker right one. Now he gave in to the reality that he was losing even more control over his body. He felt like his body was undergoing a partial landslide.

After that first unexpected incident there was another one a few hours later, then they seemed to come at more regular intervals. He didn’t fight them or try to get any help. As often as he talked to random people in the street about everything from God to politics but his favourite subject was always buildings. But he never talked about his own home. It was still a beautiful building. He’d designed it himself. He would walk past it occasionally but never go in. William never said much about himself. He wasn’t interested in himself any more, so why, he wondered, would strangers be curious? Especially now that his time was nearly over.

As the week wore on and the physical pain destroyed him from the inside out, William had moved about the town less and less. He had his usual routine of visiting cafés and restaurants as they were closing so that he could get the remnants of a good meal. But because he was moving less he didn’t need as much food. He missed being near the bakery. That was the place he liked to visit the best. He’d often hunker down near the back door and wait for one of the bakers to come out for a smoke then they’d give him the burnt or unsold loaves from that shift. It was always warm there as well. The layers he wore were thicker than his bones but they still didn’t keep him warm.

At the bakery it had taken them years to get used to him. He was going to that back alley where the delivery trucks parked each morning longer than some of them had been working at Fresh Bake, so frequently he’d have to give the newcomer time to get used to him being there. However, he increasingly tired of getting accustomed to new routines. After the first four years the old staff started leaving messages about him for the newcomers, so it got easier to get his ‘donations’ as he liked to call them. He’d never actively begged for anything. He just sat in the same place for hours. Sitting, waiting and talking. Talking to himself or to anyone who’d come close enough to listen.

It was easier to get close to him in the first few years after Beryl died because then he still used to wash. After a while his regular contacts didn’t seem to mind his smell so much, but they still didn’t touch him. Nobody did really. Nobody until the ambulance staff had picked him up, and then that nurse. The one who had the pain in her eyes. She smiled at him.

William was slipping away when he started searching his memory for where he’s seen her before. He had a good memory. He could pick out a type of stone, a architectural style or a face without prompting. That’s what got him all his early promotions. He remembered things well. Now he was trying hard to remember this one face in front of him. It wasn’t working. He sighed. Then he remembered as his mind started to get cloudy and the elephant-sized pain shot in a heavy zig-zag from his arm to his chest to his head. Everything else on him was numb. Opening his eyes, William looked at the nurse. She reminded him of Beryl when she was younger, when he was younger. When they were both alive.

They’d met in a cafe on a Saturday morning. It was Beryl’s new Saturday job, she was just starting her third morning and he had noticed her flame-coloured hair as he’d raced past to meet a friend. He was always on the move. People called him a social climber. After circling the shop for the next half-an-hour after he’d spotted her, he’d summoned up the courage to go in and order a drink. That was the only time he’d had a knickerbocker glory. It was the first thing he said when he’d regained the power of speech.

He sat at a table by the window studiously pretending to study the menu when she’d appeared before him.

“Can I take your order?”
“Um. Yes.”
“What would you like?” She prompted. “Would you like me to run through today’s specials?”
“Um. I’ll have a ...” He stuttered for a few minutes while looking away from her to the menu.
He wore his nervousness like a new pair of shoes, it made him accidentally knock the menu off the small table, she retrieved it with a smile and handed it back to him.
“Shall I come back when you’ve had time to think about what you’d like?”
“Um. No. No, it’s OK.” He looked to a nearby table where a woman was sat with her child, “I’ll have ... one of those,” he said as he pointed to the long glass sat in front of the smiling girl. He didn’t want her to leave him.
“A knickerbocker glory?” Beryl questioned his choice.
“Is that what they’re called?” He laughed.
“Yes. Are you sure you want one of those?” She smiled at him.
Although Beryl was not supposed to question customers on their choices she couldn’t help it with him. There was something about the way the light shone in his eyes that made her braver that she was used to being.
For a moment she thought his eyes were different colours but she put that down to the new awning at the front of the shop. Her boss, Janice, was always complaining that it hadn’t gone up straight since the day it was installed and as Beryl stood there with her notebook in hand she was sure that that was the cause of the changing colour of his eyes in the sunlight. It was several dates later that she really looked into his eyes and discovered the truth.

William remembered the sickly taste of knickerbocker glory as he was laying in the hospital with the nurse holding his hand. “What a peculiar thought,” he mused to himself. Then he smiled as he thought it was a sign that Beryl had come to meet him.

William knew that Beryl had gone, but this young woman looked the same through his new pain. She had the same colour hair and the same light touch of sadness draped over her shoulders that he had first noticed in Beryl. It was the warmth of her hand and the memory of Beryl that made him wink at her. Then as he closed his eyes he remembered who the stranger was and squeezed her hand. She was the girl who touched his shoulder when he was sleeping on Beryl’s bench one evening. She’d been crying at the other end of the path near a recently dug plot and he’d been sleeping so he hadn’t seen her at first, but as she walked past him she took off her long black scarf and handed it to him.

“Here,” she whispered, “Take this. It may help to keep you warm tonight.”

“Thank you, love,” was all he said as he stuffed it behind him on the bench and returned to dozing some more.

When he woke up a few hours later he found an old sleeping bag next to him with a note saying, “I thought you could use this as well. Keep warm. R x” He knew it was from scarf lady. “Red R” he called her in his mind.

This memory was seen through a one-way mirror. Rosie didn’t recognise him because he had a full beard now and several more layers of grime. When she’d met him that day in st James’ churchyard he only had a small amount of stubble on his face, and he still had a functioning razor with him that he used before he went to sit in the church grounds at weekends – those days were always special to him. He liked to look his best for Beryl.

(Go to Chapter 3)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Connections


When I think about connections I automatically think of those people I am closest to. Then, like a mathematical diagram, the mind map of my connections gets wider and more spidery. The theme of connections seem to assail me at every turn this week. It may be because I’ve been thinking about a break in connections, a renewed connection, a repaired connection and yet undiscovered connections. It may just be because that is what I am constantly aware of in life: our connectivity on this planet.

In a book I am reading the new chapter is simply headed “Connection”; it greeted me this morning as I finished meditation on the previous chapter.  

Each connection is a contract. We need to have conscious responsibility for each link we have.

But what is it that connects us? Love, respect, need, trust, memories, hope and belief. These are just a few things that I can think of that join me to others.

What is a joint? It’s the location where two or more things make contact. I have connective joints in my heart to so many people, places and memories. Like a diagram of a Victorian plumbing system my heart is a complex maze of ephemeral and eternal links. Each link leaves a mark because it is spectacularly peculiar in its touch. Each connection is special and cannot be replaced with any other. Every bond is ingrained in my life.



I remain connected for ever. That’s the reality of my life.

Strength and flexibility are the main necessary components of lifelong connections. I think that we sometimes need to be like the Cortland Main sheet rope which has more than 52,000 individual strands with a minimum tensile strength of 1845 tonnes.


Too easily we witness the break in connections that maybe should remain intact. There are forces that can separate people, but – if it is the right thing to do – we can resist the external force and hold tight to the multiple strands that link us together. There is strength in the connection.

One thing to remember is that we are all ‘works in progress’ – I have a folder on my computer with the same name. That’s where I store pieces I have started writing, ideas I have that I make notes on, unfinished essays and stories. I connect to it frequently, I add to it, I alter things, I enjoy what I find there: that folder reflects my life – I am a work in progress. It’s where I connect to myself.

Connect with me?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Storage (Chapter 1) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan


Chapter 1 (Revised)

The first sound that William was aware of after the darkness threw him to the ground was the noise of the heavy plastic doors as they swung closed behind the ambulance men who were retreating from the room. He didn’t like it. The sound slapped him back into an awareness that he had avoided for decades. He frowned as the harsh lights assaulted his eyelids. He didn’t want to let it in. Then, suddenly, he did. He wanted it. All. He suddenly ached for the noise, the light, and the touch of … someone.

Feeling like an escaping balloon from a child’s birthday party he started to relax and was surprisingly content as he slipped happily between consciousness and his dream from then on. He felt warm at last. This lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but was in reality two and a half minutes. Then, without any fanfare or ceremony William exhaled. It was a deep and satisfying sensation. Nobody else was aware of it. He was having his own private performance.

The ambulance men were long gone back to their truck when the man they had brought in was signed over to the emergency team on shift that night – he was no longer their responsibility. The junior doctors were the ones who had to worry about him now. The crew had bagged him on the way in from the docks. He was big sick. All they wanted to do was to get him through the doors in one piece. Now they were off the road until they had cleaned up their truck. Then they would wait for another call from control, hopefully not another blue one straight away. He was their last job, the clean up was the next one. Their part in his life was over.

Behind the sign reading ‘Authorized personnel only’ the staff on duty in St Thomas’ A & E department had been experiencing unusual lull in the intake that night. They were appreciative of the chance to breathe and restock the supplies. They knew it wouldn’t last long. They were right.

Rest time was over a mere five minutes after it had begun.

Like well rehearsed soldiers engaged in a military operation they took their places around the body that was suddenly in front of them.

“On two …” Hugh, the junior doctor, who was leading the shift that evening, took control. “One, two …”
The man was lifted up and moved. Then they started work.

“Where are the obs?” The question was asked from the side of the bed where the nurses were already starting their life saving routine. The team moved like synchronized swimmers. Arms reached over and through others. They looked like a couple of octopus as they worked. In moments they had everything in place.

“GCS is 3 people, we’ve got to bring him back.”

Commands and responses flew through the air. Voices gave steady reports of the readings coming from the equipment that was already attached to William’s body. The team were confident in their actions. William lay still and let them knead him like dough. He didn’t move. He couldn’t move.

After several frenetic moments there was a break in activity as they all stood back. The temporary silence around William was buffeted by the noise of people doing the exact same thing in adjacent spaces. The collision of voices as they invaded the already damaged bodies was due to continue all night. The six people in the room inhaled as one.

“Who is he?” The nurse at the foot of the bed asked the room.
“He’s a nobody.” Came the flat reply.
 “Doesn’t he any ID on him?”
“No.” Another tired voice responded. “According to the ambulance crew they found him on the underpass by the river, he was on his last legs then. Some kids down there drinking, probably going to rob him but, look , he hasn’t got anything…”

Dr. Hugh Cross took a moment to look at the notes that had been handed over with the man in front of him.

“And, he wouldn’t speak to them either. So he hasn’t got a name. And he can’t speak now we’ve tubed him,” the staff nurse looked up at the rest of the team who were standing ready for the next action to be dictated. They all looked up at the monitor by William’s head. It made faint noises. They knew what would come next. Trying to fill the inevitable space they discussed him as he disappeared before them. The silence that followed the long steady tone on the machine was heavy.

“Time of death …”

One of the technicians spoke. “The crew brought that stuff in with him, that dirty blanket and bag, that’s all he came in with, apart from the clothes he’s wearing - if you can still call them that.  They’ve seen better days.”
“Poor sod.” Staff nurse Jane Clarke started the final process.
“Another one bites the dust …” This evening the attempts at humor didn’t result in any responsive banter. Nobody hummed a tune.
 “We did our best. We couldn’t do anything else. Could we?”
“Not much point really.”
“What possessed them to call us? Was he even really still with us when he came in? They don’t usually bother. Now we’ve got all the paperwork to do. They could have left him there and then…” Hugh sounded bitter, but he was not. He felt afraid. In that moment he remembered hiding in a wardrobe when he was 6 years old. He remembered thinking that no one would find him and he would remain lost behind his mother’s evening dresses for ever.
“…somebody else would have the bother not us.” Jane turned away from William and switched the monitor off. Hugh was glad that Jane was speaking. He felt like he was in a time whirlwind. He sensed the room spinning

Although they were used to finishing off each other’s thoughts this time everyone felt uncomfortable. They all sensed it, but no one wanted to voice it.

“He’s the fifth one this year you know.” Rosie felt brave enough to speak when the cleaners came into the room.

As they removed their gloves and aprons Hugh spoke again.
“The last one took me two days to complete the forms. I’m not doing this one. I’m dog-tired. One of you will have to do it.”
 
William John Chatsworth breathed his last breath inside the emergency room at 11:37. He had wanted to make it to the weekend, he’d always like going special places on the weekend. It was Thursday.
The staff stood back and sighed. His body, emaciated under the layers of the wardrobe that he always wore, sighed in response.
Each of them relished the quiet time and the group of them were reluctant to move for a while. Two of them were in their third day of the night rota and were already showing signs of the frayed nerves that they usually acquire after several intense nights fighting to save lives or limbs.

All present in the brightly lit room, except William, had chosen to exchange their time for different amounts of money and the chance to give their gift of healing to all who came through the smooth sliding doors. William, who had just left the room, had arrived too late to receive any benefit from them.   

William, also known as chatty Willie, hadn’t been inside a hospital since his wife died fifteen years earlier. He had been inside anywhere much. He liked the open air. It gave him a sense of freedom.

Gloved hands reached over his body.
“I guess we’d better get on with it. Who’s going to help me? We have to find something on him, you know, something to give us a clue.”

“I’m off for a kip. Sorry. You can do this, can’t you? Call me if a real emergency comes in. If nothing big comes in then please let me be. I’ve only had three hours in the last two day. Give me a break, please. Just five minutes, that’s all.”
With that Dr Cross, who was nothing like his name, swept out of the room and headed to the staff area. He was about to cry but didn’t know why, so he put his head down and walked rapidly away from his colleagues.

Like ants following a trail of sugar three others left the room just as quickly as Hugh did.
The two nurses that were left in the room didn’t protest, instead they chose an air of business efficiency as they set about their next task.

The layers of clothes were pulled back and they automatically recoiled as the smell rose from him. The gloved hands on both sides of his body worked like unknown robots. He was as anonymous to them then as they were to remain to him forever.

“How can people live like this?”
“Beats me. I’ve got to have a shower every day. This once a year washing thing would drive me mad.”
“Maybe it did, maybe that’s why he’s like this.”
“Oh, c’mon! You don’t believe that any more than I do. He’s just another example of people who opt out of the system and make it harder for the rest of us. Look at him.”
Two pairs of eyes surveyed the body they were stripping. This searching for identity was undertaken with a detachment they had had to acquire. The form on the table was no longer a person, it was a mystery to be solved. Written up and filed away. Under NFA: homeless man.
“He’s what? Maybe in his late 50s? Early 60s at a push. He must have had a home some time recently.”
“God, you say this every time, Rosie, but they don’t all have somewhere or someone who is going to miss them. Some of them are just alone. They choose that. Can’t you let it go? Just this once?”
“Someone must miss him.”
“Will it shut you up if I agree with you?”
“Will you two give it a rest? And just get on with finding something on him. We can’t have another John Doe this year, it’s too early. The other one has just been buried. I read it in the paper last week.”
“See, that’s what I mean,” Rosie raised her head towards the centre of the room, talking to all of them but no-one in particular. “We’ve got to find him someone who cares that he’s gone.”
“It’s enough having to touch him, I’m not going to take him home in an urn as well,” dry laughter spun across his body. William, however, did not hear it.
“Look, here you are. I’ve found something. Some papers in one of the coat pockets. Looks like letters of something. They may have an address on it.”
“OK. Put them in there.”
The silver tray became William’s new identity storage unit. The papers were joined by some newspaper cuttings.

“Is that it?”
The small pile of grubby papers sat to the left of William’s cooling body. He had no more use for them. Earlier that day he had fingered them lovingly and smiled. Now they meant nothing to the people gathered around him. They had closed his eyelids. The brown and blue mismatched eyes were visionless.
 
“God. I hope that when I die I amount to more than some mouldy old bits of newspaper.” The nurses turned to see Hugh leaning against the wall by the doors. They hadn’t heard him return.

“Sure you will, Hugh. You’re still on the fast-track remember. All those bonds and shares will come in handy when you decide you’re not going to muck in with us commoners any more. I’m sure Daddy will find you a cushy position in one of his companies. Either that or we’ll soon be calling you ‘Mr’ and you’ll pretend you don’t know us anymore!”

“Funny thing is, I think I’ve seen him before.” Hugh ignored the last remarks.

“They all look the same – and smell the same – when they’ve got to this condition.” Jane Clarke shook her head as she efficiently searched the body.
“Don’t get all weird on us now, Hugh, I think you’d better go and have a stiff drink – only coffee though! Remember, we’ve only just come on. Is it even kicking out time yet?” glancing up at the clock on the wall she sighed, “Our night is just starting. Man up.”

Nobody spoke.

“Anyway,” Jane continued awkwardly, “When could you have seen him? He’s stinking and dead, your stinking rich and … nah, you’d better stop that excessive partying at the weekends ‘cause it’s making you see things.”
“What about his shoes?”
Jane’s derisory laughter filled the room. It was hollow.

 “Oh, come on, Rosie, not the feet again. I swear you have a foot fetish, girl! But, if you’re so keen, you can do them.”

“I will,” her response was tired. She was tired all over. It was his eyes that made her want to finish the job completely. He’d somehow got to her. They had been trained out of making the connection with the patients that came into for a service, as they put it, they had all been trained to do their job and forget the bodies that came and went. Most of the time the training was adequate. Sometime, like this Thursday evening, things were different.

Rosie had arrived at work after an argument with her partner and wasn’t in the best of moods. She’d forgotten to bring any change or her credit cards and was therefore without money for food all night. It didn’t matter that she had worked with most of the team for months, and with some of them for a couple of years, she still did not feel comfortable borrowing money from them, even for the evening. She had had that trained into her as well. From childhood. ‘Look after your money and it’ll look after you. Stand on your own two feet.’ Drummed into her. Her parents’ voices were ingrained into her head. The years alone had also made her independent. The streets were the best teacher.

When this man laying in front of her had horizontally burst through the doors she had been put off all thoughts of food, anyway. He had a very unpleasant damp smell to him. His clothes had the scent of the streets infused into them. He was hanging on by a thread – if he was hanging on. The team had tried to kick start his life, but they got to him too late. As he lay on the  bed their firm hold on him brought no rewards. Rosie looked around her, the smell he wore didn’t really disgust her, it just unsettled her. It made her nauseous. She remembered that smell - too well. But her colleagues didn’t need to know about that.

The memories started flooding back and Rosie thought she was hallucinating for a moment. A thought implanted itself in her mind. It was a more recent memory. Just before he died she was sure that he had winked at her, from his one brown eye, and she felt a smile from him. Although she hadn’t seen his lips change shape Rosie had made a connection with the dying man and now she couldn’t just let him go without doing the search properly.

His shoes and socks came off.  He had three pairs of socks on. Inside the last pair was a small silver key, wrapped in some dirty material that could have started out as cotton wool. It was attached to his big toe by a piece of string.

Later Rosie sat alone in the break room. The coin she had found in the bottom of her bag had supplied her with the chocolate bar she was eating. Staff always eat the worst meals at night in the hospital. Rosie is used to eating odd meals at strange times she did the same through her training. After the medical education she had paid for by working two different jobs and studying when she had breaks getting on the night shift seems like a familiar routine. This is her new way of life. And it suits her more than usual at the moment because it takes her away from Stuart at nights.

He has changed. Or she has changed. They may have both changed. It is the time of night when if you stop moving for too long your brain rearranges known facts into a jumble and you have no idea what is right or wrong anymore. Rosie shakes her head sadly and thinks that memories can lie to you. She quickly pops the last bit of the chocolate bar into her mouth, licks her fingers clean and is immediately glad she is there, in the lonely and dark room, and not at home next to him in the bed. He has felt cold to the touch since February.

(Go to Chapter 2)
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