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Posts: 27 Member Since: 10/18/09


Oct 28 09 10:21 AM

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The Card

The only thing I ever got off my old man was a birthday card when I was ten. He'd gone off when I was three and left me and mam and my sister to fend for ourselves. Mam never talks about him but my sister remembers him.
  ‘What was dad like?' I ask.
  She looks at me through dark, sleepy eyes, pushes her hair back from her eyes. Her arms are scabbed like she's been shinning up a rusty drainpipe and accidentally slid back down and scraped herself. ‘Whu?'
  ‘I said, what was dad like?'
  She smiles at me, and I suss that she's still trippin' and I should ask her later when she's straight. 
  Anyhow, the only thing I ever got from him was a birthday card when I was ten. It said Happy Birthday Mickey! And then there was a verse inside the card that went:
Now you're ten, and how you've grown
  It really won't be long
  ‘Til you're a man, and fully grown
  With arms both big and strong.

And on the front of the card was a picture, a cartoon, of a little boy wearing a hardhat and driving a tractor. But I mean, how would he know I'd grown? To be honest, I was surprised he knew where I was, we moved so often.
But the killer was, at the bottom of the card, below the rhyme, he'd added:

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Posts: 27 Member Since:10/18/09

#1 [url]

Oct 28 09 10:22 AM

Remember, no one's got your back 
  XX. Dad.

I'd studied this card on more than one occasion, trying to work out some depth to what he was telling me. ‘Laura, what was dad like?'
  Three hours later and she's washing up. The dutiful daughter. She looked up a little, thought about my question for a second or two. Then she said, ‘I love him. Still.'
  ‘Well I hate him. What was he like, though?'
  And she said, ‘Stern.'
  ‘Stern, huh?'
  ‘I don't mean strict; more like serious. Like you, a bit, but smarter, taller and better looking.' Then she laughed and slapped me across the arm, ‘Dry the dishes,' she said.
  It's funny, I learn a lot from my sister, mainly don't do drugs, which I should have written in capital letters instead of italics, but never mind, the thing is, when she's not high or shaking ‘cos she needs some stuff, she's really smart and, truth be told, she's the core of our family, the strength, believe it or not. Honest, she keeps us together. There's me, fifteen, bright, got a future, they tell me, though I haven't and I'll tell you about that later, and then there's my mam, as honest as, and working, and sensible (though not in her choice of boyfriends or anything) and all that stuff. And then there's Laura. Nineteen, and a junkie, but she holds the family together. Cos mam's a flake and useless, and I, basically, am at a loose end; financially, educationally, socially, morally… I won't go on.

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Posts: 27 Member Since:10/18/09

#2 [url]

Oct 28 09 10:22 AM

Laura has one thing going for her; she's honest. And because she is honest she sees more than most, so she knows more than most, and she holds me and mam together.
  Hold on, I was told by my English teacher, Miss Wright, that I should show, not tell; ‘too much exposition,' she'll say to me (look it up). So maybe I should stop describing my life, start showing what happens instead, but I'll get to that bit in a bit, so to speak.
  Ok, so mam. My mother. She is thirty seven years old and she is a flake. A total dribble. Weak as. They should do a reality TV show on my mam – "How Not To …"
  "How Not To bring up your children."
  "How Not To save for the future."
  "How Not To get a good job."
  "How Not To attract a nice boyfriend."
  She did once. Attract a nice boyfriend, that is. And I've read all the women's magazines she buys and I knew from the off it wasn't going to last. From the moment she said to me, ‘He's kind, thoughtful, good looking. He's got a good job, Pete, and a lovely car' (a bloody good car, since you ask. You didn't? But you would have. A Kompressor. Which means Supercharger. Which also means money. Cool. German. Cool. And much more). But anyway, as she's telling me all this I'm thinking, Yeah, but mam, you're going to fall for a skinheaded nightclub doorman or a carpet salesman called Wayne and you're going to jack Pete in and tell me ‘there was no spark' which translates as, you think that love equals pain, and affection means distress and you think that being nice is the equivalent of being invisible. Which it kind of is. So just be honest. Please. So, as predicted, Pete went the journey. Kompressor and all. And in moved Marc. Fifteen years younger than mam. What a tosspot.
  What a racket.
  It was embarrassing. It was the crime that no parent should inflict upon their children! Making those noises. I was twelve, which made Laura sixteen; she'd just failed her exams and was working in Safeway. Very content. Regular money, dreaming about her own flat. Boyfriend. And the last thing that Laura wanted was mam and Marc doing that upstairs halfway through a Sunday afternoon. Go on mam; be a mam, not a flake. Don't be desperate, please. But no. And when Marc made a play for Laura one afternoon, just a suggestion you understand, she screamed the place down and mam came dashing downstairs half-dressed and slapped Laura to shut her up and then slapped her again when she heard what she was accusing Marc of doing.

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Posts: 27 Member Since:10/18/09

#3 [url]

Oct 28 09 10:22 AM

I'm not tough, really, I'm not. And I'm not pretending to be not tough so you'll think that really I secretly am tough either. I'm just not. So when mam took his side against Laura I couldn't drop Marc with a right hook to the jaw or a knee in the family jewels, though I really, really wanted to, so I just went and sat on the front step and listened to them row. 
  It was one of those afternoons with dark and light grey clouds flying across the sky on the wind (scudding, as they say in really old novels). I sat on the step of our front door watching the seagulls wheel and fly and sail on the wind. I wished I could do that. 
I have this theory that, to us the world is a flat thing we stand on, but to birds it is a cliff they cling to, a huge ball and they cling to the side and then fall off and fly and glide. I'm digressing here, but I can't remember what else happened, except I know how it ended. The next morning I waited until Marc went out and then I used mam's phone to call the police and grass Marc for the twenty grams of cocaine he had stashed in a haversack under the stairs. 
  Job done.
  Like I say, I'm not tough. But I don't need to be when there's five polis and a German Shepherd dog breaking down the door and dragging Marc screaming down the path and into a van.
Anyhow, this card I got from my dad. It said, remember, no one's got your back, like this was some piece of information I'd known but had forgotten, or like I already had asked someone to get my back and then discovered they hadn't got it, or something. I mean, come on dad, I don't know who you are, or where you are or what you do or anything, but come on, be a dad for a minute. For as long as it takes not to write that sentence. 
  I was ten years old for Chrissake. 
  Write I miss you or We'll meet up when you're older or Stick in at school. In fact, here's an idea. Don't send me a card.

 Go on. 
  Unsend it.
  But the funny thing is, daft, one-off card with a stupid picture and a deranged verse it might have been.
  But he was right. 
  No one's got your back.

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Posts: 20 Member Since:04/14/10

#4 [url]

Apr 14 10 5:41 PM

Although it may seem impossible for Archie to exhibit a personality, you will find that he is usually saying what he shouldn’t and is getting unexpected reactions from crowds wherever he goes. Nothing ever bothers Archie. He’s a happy go-lucky little guy who really isn’t serious about anything. His outlook is one of “That’s okay with me - whatever it is.” If he is right about an issue, he becomes elated with himself. If it is revealed that he is wrong, that’s okay too. He never gets hungry, never has bills to pay, never gets tired and never sleeps. You see, Archie is a puppet.

He plays many roles. One day, he’s a baseball player. On another, he’s a South American bandit, a leader of the parade or a stock broker. Sometimes, he’s a teacher, trying to teach what he doesn’t know. Other times, he’s a student, trying not to be taught. He seldom gets his facts straight or understands how to conduct himself. Most of what he says has little or no value. But, he doesn’t care. Archie is an entertainer. He just has fun and helps others do the same. He gives a thrill to small kids and entertains adults of all ages. He has a lot of help though. His help comes from those whom he entertains. From time to time, it’s good to stop for a while and just relax with a little bit of fun and laughter. That’s what Archie is all about.

As you continue to read, you will see how Archie's antics in entertainment came to be and the positive and wholesome affects that the reading of good short stories can have on the entire family.

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Posts: 20 Member Since:04/14/10

#5 [url]

Apr 26 10 10:45 AM

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

There was a king who had twelve beautiful daughters. They slept in twelve beds all in one room and when they went to bed, the doors were shut and locked up. However, every morning their shoes were found to be quite worn through as if they had been danced in all night. Nobody could find out how it happened, or where the princesses had been.
     So the king made it known to all the land that if any person could discover the secret and find out where it was that the princesses danced in the night, he would have the one he liked best to take as his wife, and would be king after his death. But whoever tried and did not succeed, after three days and nights, they would be put to death.
     A king's son soon came. He was well entertained, and in the evening was taken to the chamber next to the one where the princesses lay in their twelve beds. There he was to sit and watch where they went to dance; and, in order that nothing could happen without him hearing it, the door of his chamber was left open. But the king's son soon fell asleep; and when he awoke in the morning he found that the princesses had all been dancing, for the soles of their shoes were full of holes.
     The same thing happened the second and third night and so the king ordered his head to be cut off.
     After him came several others; but they all had the same luck, and all lost their lives in the same way.
     Now it happened that an old soldier, who had been wounded in battle and could fight no longer, passed through the country where this king reigned, and as he was travelling through a wood, he met an old woman, who asked him where he was going.
     'I hardly know where I am going, or what I had better do,' said the soldier; 'but I think I would like to find out where it is that the princesses dance, and then in time I might be a king.'
     'Well,' said the old woman, 'that is not a very hard task: only take care not to drink any of the wine which one of the princesses will bring to you in the evening; and as soon as she leaves you pretend to be fast asleep.'

< 2 >
     Then she gave him a cloak, and said, 'As soon as you put that on you will become invisible, and you will then be able to follow the princesses wherever they go.' When the soldier heard all this good advice, he was determined to try his luck, so he went to the king, and said he was willing to undertake the task.
     He was as well received as the others had been, and the king ordered fine royal robes to be given him; and when the evening came he was led to the outer chamber.
     Just as he was going to lie down, the eldest of the princesses brought him a cup of wine; but the soldier threw it all away secretly, taking care not to drink a drop. Then he laid himself down on his bed, and in a little while began to snore very loudly as if he was fast asleep.
     When the twelve princesses heard this they laughed heartily; and the eldest said, 'This fellow too might have done a wiser thing than lose his life in this way!' Then they rose and opened their drawers and boxes, and took out all their fine clothes, and dressed themselves at the mirror, and skipped about as if they were eager to begin dancing.
     But the youngest said, 'I don't know why it is, but while you are so happy I feel very uneasy; I am sure some mischance will befall us.'
     'You simpleton,' said the eldest, 'you are always afraid; have you forgotten how many kings' sons have already watched in vain? And as for this soldier, even if I had not given him his sleeping draught, he would have slept soundly enough.'
     When they were all ready, they went and looked at the soldier; but he snored on, and did not stir hand or foot: so they thought they were quite safe.
     Then the eldest went up to her own bed and clapped her hands, and the bed sank into the floor and a trap-door flew open. The soldier saw them going down through the trap-door one after another, the eldest leading the way; and thinking he had no time to lose, he jumped up, put on the cloak which the old woman had given him, and followed them.
     However, in the middle of the stairs he trod on the gown of the youngest princess, and she cried out to her sisters, 'All is not right; someone took hold of my gown.'

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Posts: 20 Member Since:04/14/10

#6 [url]

Apr 26 10 10:54 AM


'You silly creature!' said the eldest, 'it is nothing but a nail in the wall.'
     Down they all went, and at the bottom they found themselves in a most delightful grove of trees; and the leaves were all of silver, and glittered and sparkled beautifully. The soldier wished to take away some token of the place; so he broke off a little branch, and there came a loud noise from the tree. Then the youngest daughter said again, 'I am sure all is not right -- did not you hear that noise? That never happened before.'
     But the eldest said, 'It is only our princes, who are shouting for joy at our approach.'
     They came to another grove of trees, where all the leaves were of gold; and afterwards to a third, where the leaves were all glittering diamonds. And the soldier broke a branch from each; and every time there was a loud noise, which made the youngest sister tremble with fear. But the eldest still said it was only the princes, who were crying for joy.
     They went on till they came to a great lake; and at the side of the lake there lay twelve little boats with twelve handsome princes in them, who seemed to be waiting there for the princesses.
     One of the princesses went into each boat, and the soldier stepped into the same boat as the youngest. As they were rowing over the lake, the prince who was in the boat with the youngest princess and the soldier said, 'I do not know why it is, but though I am rowing with all my might we do not get on so fast as usual, and I am quite tired: the boat seems very heavy today.'
     'It is only the heat of the weather,' said the princess, 'I am very warm, too.'
     On the other side of the lake stood a fine, illuminated castle from which came the merry music of horns and trumpets. There they all landed, and went into the castle, and each prince danced with his princess; and the soldier, who was still invisible, danced with them too. When any of the princesses had a cup of wine set by her, he drank it all up, so that when she put the cup to her mouth it was empty. At this, too, the youngest sister was terribly frightened, but the eldest always silenced her.

< 4 >
     They danced on till three o'clock in the morning, and then all their shoes were worn out, so that they were obliged to leave. The princes rowed them back again over the lake (but this time the soldier placed himself in the boat with the eldest princess); and on the opposite shore they took leave of each other, the princesses promising to come again the next night.
     When they came to the stairs, the soldier ran on before the princesses, and laid himself down. And as the twelve, tired sisters slowly came up, they heard him snoring in his bed and they said, 'Now all is quite safe'. Then they undressed themselves, put away their fine clothes, pulled off their shoes, and went to bed.
     In the morning the soldier said nothing about what had happened, but determined to see more of this strange adventure, and went again on the second and third nights. Everything happened just as before: the princesses danced till their shoes were worn to pieces, and then returned home. On the third night the soldier carried away one of the golden cups as a token of where he had been.
     As soon as the time came when he was to declare the secret, he was taken before the king with the three branches and the golden cup; and the twelve princesses stood listening behind the door to hear what he would say.
     The king asked him. 'Where do my twelve daughters dance at night?'
     The soldier answered, 'With twelve princes in a castle underground.' And then he told the king all that had happened, and showed him the three branches and the golden cup which he had brought with him.
     The king called for the princesses, and asked them whether what the soldier said was true and when they saw that they were discovered, and that it was of no use to deny what had happened, they confessed it all.
     So the king asked the soldier which of the princesses he would choose for his wife; and he answered, 'I am not very young, so I will have the eldest.' -- and they were married that very day, and the soldier was chosen to be the king's heir.

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