Thursday 31 August 2017

Double Act

Linda Casper 

lemon and ginger herbal tea

It was another full house.  May noted that the audience was mainly made up of middle aged ladies with eyes firmly fixed on Frankie.  With his youthful figure and his full head of hair, he was quite the silver fox.  May thought back to the time when she was the main attraction of their comedy double act as they toured prestigious venues; the Tower Blackpool, big hotels at Scarborough, the Spa at Bridlington and City Varieties in Leeds.  In those days she would wear slinky, low cut, mini dresses with sparkly high-heeled shoes.  Young men would be waiting for her at the stage door, sometimes with flowers, often with proposals which she never took further.  Frankie would be jealous but May had always been a faithful wife.  

May knew she still looked good on the publicity posters but nothing short of cosmetic surgery could conceal her true age under the spotlights.  This was not an option for her; she had seen too many female performers trying to hold on to their youth but ending up looking more like freaks.

The show was going down well.   The “knock, knock” jokes were always a good icebreaker and the mother-in-law stories always raised a laugh.  The banter continued and the audience was responsive.  After years of working together, Frankie and May’s timing was excellent.

“Who was that lady I saw you with at the bus stop?” May asked.

“That was no lady, that was my wife!” retorted Frankie.

“Who was that lady you were seen with at the Red Lion on Tuesday?” May asked.

The hesitation was apparent and May saw Frankie visibly pale beneath his stage make-up before he collected himself and answered, “that was no lady, that was my wife”.

The audience was puzzled and even more confused when May began to storm off the stage, pausing only to slap her husband across his face on her way out.

You may be wondering if that was the end of the double act.  Not at all, only now it was billed as Frankie and Hayley with the latter getting most of the attention from the audience.  

About the author 

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Still Waters

Sandy Wilson

still water

On the first day of the holiday, Colin Ashby was stretched out on the bed covered only by a sheet. The sun, forcing its way round the edges of the heavy drapes cast just enough light to see where his blood had sprayed across the suede upholstered headboard, and the pleasing watercolour rendering of Lake Como hung above. At the time of the discovery Colin Ashby's wife Julie, running along the edge of the lake, far from the hotel, did not hear the screams of the unfortunate chamber maid.


The holiday had come as a complete surprise to Julie and Colin. A letter, from Angela Osborne of Tricorn Travel, addressed to Julie, invited her and a partner to travel to Lake Como and spend a week at the Hotel Serbelloni in Bellagio. The writer of the letter extolled Julie's reputation as a travel critic and blogger, and expressed admiration of her weekly column in the Guardian. The holiday was gratis, on the proviso that Julie would write and publish an article about the establishment. The hotel management and staff would be unaware of Julie's professional interest; she would be a secret guest.

The holiday offer could not have arrived at a better time. After a whirlwind courtship, Julie and Colin had hardly been married a week; an impromptu honeymoon would be the icing on the cake. The letter, along with two airline tickets, fluttered to the tiled floor as they embraced, laughed and danced in the kitchen of her apartment.

Landing at Milan airport in glorious sunshine, they emerged, luggage in tow, from the terminal to scan the unfamiliar surroundings for a taxi. To her surprise, a man standing near the door held a card with her name scrawled across it in capital letters. So much for travelling incognito she thought, as she introduced herself to the driver. They sat in silent absorption of the scenery and themselves as the car effortlessly negotiated the narrow roads leading to Como. The car stopped at the edge of the lake where the Hydrofoil would take them on the last leg of their journey. As they turned to thank the taciturn driver the car was already moving away. They enjoyed the swift journey across the lake and were soon making love on the king-sized bed in their luxuriously appointed room.

Later, in the dimming of the day, after a pleasant dinner, they had sat on the patio in elegant wicker chairs looking out over the placid waters of the lake that held the image of the mountains beyond. As the sun slowly set, their first evening deteriorated as slightly drunk they argued. A flute, half full, had been unbalanced and fell on the paving scattering shards of glass that glisten and sparkled in the lamplight. Julie, shocked and upset at this turn of events, had gone to bed alone.


After formally identifying the body of her husband, Julie numb with shock, stared out of hotel manager's office window. She failed to see or appreciate the beauty of the vista; the late morning sun touching the mountains on the far side of the lake. The policewoman who had earlier taken her statement now sat beside her on one side of the rosewood desk. A senior officer of some sort sat opposite, silently reading her words. The harsh chainsaw rasp of a moped filled the room, then faded as the officer looked up and spoke.

'So, Signora. You have told me the last time you saw your husband was when you closed the curtains of your suite. Signor Ashby was sat where you left him, while a waiter swept up the broken glass around him." Said the inspector.' Then, unable to sleep, at sunrise you went out running. Yes?"

'Yes,' Julie confirmed in a barely audible voice.

'And yet,' continued the inspector, 'your husband, your late husband was found in your room, in your bed. Murdered.'

'I don't understand... I can't explain....he wasn't ..'

'Perhaps then, you could explain, please, the argument.'

'We quarrelled about my family, my father, my sister. They didn't attend our wedding. He, Colin, that is, didn't want them there, or my friends. He wanted a quiet affair. There were other things......... I'm not sure if I knew him at all.'

'Then, I may not shock you a great deal if I tell you that Colin Ashby is not your late husband's name. Another interesting discrepancy in your story is that the company that you tell me arranged your visit, Tricorn Travel, does not exist. The only facts at my disposal are you and, forgive me, a corpse.'

'But the letter. Angela Osborne's letter is in the bedroom, in my briefcase. My mobile, the texts..........'

'There is nothing in your room. No letter, no briefcase, no cellphone.......nothing.'

Julie held her her tear stained face in her hands.

'However, for now I cannot connect you the to crime. The modus operandi points to others," said the inspector. 'I have arranged for you to stay in Como. My assistant will accompany you. Please do not leave the town until I give you permission to do so.'


During the afternoon the weather changed. Dark ominous clouds gathered above the slate grey water. The atmosphere became oppressive. The dull vista mirrored her mood as Julie, sitting in a lakeside cafe, watched the hydrofoil cut through the still water as it sped towards Como. Only the day before, she thought, the car had dropped them off here in Como and she and Colin had taken the same boat to Bellagio; Colin, or whoever he actually was.

'There will be a storm soon,' said a voice behind her, 'then this thick unpleasant air will clear.'

'Do I know you?' said Julie looking up.

'No, but, by a strange twist of fate, we are related.'

'May I?' The young woman asked in accented English, indicating that she would like to sit, to join Julie at her table.

Despite the absence of an invitation, the woman sat. But this discourtesy was soon forgotten as Carlotta Trovato related a strange, but to Julie, a familiar story.

Carlotta's story began in London in the summer of 2014. At the time she was estranged from her family in Sicily; a disagreement, a collision of an impetuous daughter and an overbearing father. She moved to London and found work in a recruitment company in the Strand. One client she managed was an importer of fine wines.

'My client was a handsome man and attractive. A relationship developed. I was, as you say, swept off my feet. Like you, Julie, I married James, or 'Colin' as you know him,' said Carlotta. 'I had an inheritance from my grandmother which he persuaded me to invest in his company. A company, that like him, did not exist. To cut a long, very long story short; he disappeared, I was left destitute. In time I was reconciled with my family, and with my father. Then at the beginning of this year, a friend, one I had made in London, a follower of your blog, read the exciting news of your engagement to marry. And, of course, she recognised your fiancé, my husband.'

'My God!' whispered Julia as she recognised the familiar theme.

'It was our mutual husband's misfortune that I am the beloved daughter of Don Diego Trovato,' said Carlotta, 'He is the head of a Cosca, a clan of the Siciliano Cosca Nostra, the Mafioso.'

A clap of thunder almost drowned out her last few words and large rain drops landed on the cafe umbrella like stones.

'I am sorry it was necessary to involve you, to bring you here,' said Carlotta. 'But, there is nothing to connect you with all this. The police know investigation is futile; this crime of honour will remain unsolved. Go back to your world, pick up your life and move on. You will soon discover that your money is still in your late husband's account; you are of course now the next of kin. My inheritance from my grandmother? Well, that is gone. But my father is satisfied.'

For the second time in the day Julia sat with her tear-stained face in her hands. The deceit, all the lies, death; It was all too much, too much.

Carlotta Trovato leaned forward, touched her hands lightly, almost affectionately. 'Of course, we have not met nor spoken of this matter.' Then, standing up , she walked away into the rain.

About the author

Sandy's poems The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.

Monday 28 August 2017

Murder Most Perfect

Paul Westgate



A glass of ice-cold water

I cannot say how or why I formed such an intense dislike for a man with whom I was not acquainted and indeed had never seen before three weeks ago. Nevertheless, whenever I saw him, which had been every day, I was hard pushed not to strike the fellow, so repulsed was I by his very presence.
Equally, I cannot identify the exact moment that I resolved to kill him.
For me however, while the act of killing was simple enough – any street ruffian could do as much - it would have to be a murder of refinement, with an elegance that would raise it above mere killing. It would need to be a perfect murder; the perfect murder in fact. Not only one where I would not in the least be suspected but one where murder would not be suspected at all.
I began to plan.
I had for some time been enjoying the novelty of travelling on the newly opened railway. A regular journey of some 40 minutes. My quarry, as I will now refer to him, making the same journey and often sitting opposite me. Within, I observed, arm’s reach. It was during one such journey that it came, fully formed, into my mind. I would kill my quarry on the train and in such a way that it would pass unnoticed and be unremarked.
With that objective I embarked upon a period of research and practical application.
Back in my rooms I read widely, purchasing books from numerous bookshops in order to disguise my particular interest. I also read rapidly, for I had a mounting dread that my quarry would suddenly lose his taste for railway travel and I my opportunity. After a week of study I had my method.
I then moved to its practical application. Arranging sofas, chairs and screens I created the closest facsimile of the railway train carriage as I could manage. With pillows, cushions, towels and clothed in old garments I created a life sized simulacrum of my quarry. A mannequin would have been better but I did not wish to prompt questions with such an unusual purchase. A further three nights and I had perfected the sequence of moves. I could perform the act with my eyes shut, which in essence I would have to do.
The railway ran, for the most part, through open country but there was a single stretch where it left woods and fields and entered into a tunnel. There was gas lighting of course, this being a modern railway, but this was not lit for daylight journeys with only such a brief period of darkness. I had timed it during the course of a week. We were in complete darkness for an average of 43 seconds and for never less than 38 seconds. I needed thirty.
I did not so much choose a day for the murder as simply wait for an appropriate disposition of the dramatis personae. I did not have long to wait.
I must confess to a slight quickening of heart and a shortness of breath as we neared the tunnel but I fancied that my fellow passengers were unaware of any change in my demeanour.
At the first marker, a peculiarly-shaped tree, I leant forward slightly as though easing a stiff back so that subsequent movements would not be noticed by the passengers on either side of me.
At the second marker, a whitewashed barn, I fixed my gaze upon the spot I would need to reach. The train entered the tunnel and I began counting. At 3 seconds I leaned further forward, arm extended, hand open. The train rocked side to side as it always did at that point shunting the passengers left and right. A piece of uneven track I thought. The movements were more violent than I remembered, perhaps we were travelling faster than usual, but I had continued the movement of my arm and hand and found my mark. At 33 seconds I eased myself back, placing my hand on my thigh. Six seconds later bright sunlight burst into the carriage and I quietly settled back into my seat.
I calmly studied the victim. He sat quietly, his head resting against the carriage wall, as if merely asleep. It would take, I felt, a close and sustained scrutiny to realise that there was an unnatural stillness about him and no perceptible breathing. I was confident that his death would not be discovered until the end of the journey when the passengers disembarked. There would be no marks suggestive of foul play and his death would be attributed to unknown but wholly natural causes. The perfect murder!
But I felt no triumph, no satisfaction of a job exceedingly well done. I brooded on a simple fact, that the absolute raison d’être of a murder is that the intended victim dies. My quarry sat unscathed and oblivious to the victim sitting next to him. The murder was perfection in all respects save one, and in that it had been a perfect failure.

About the author
Paul was born and brought up in Essex and spent his working life in London. He is married and continues to live in Essex. He began fiction writing after attending a writing course in 2011 and regularly contributes to and other on-line magazines. He was delighted to have a short story published in The Best of CafeLit 5 in 2016. As well as writing, Paul pursues an eclectic mix of activities and is cultivating a 1920’s gentleman’s lifestyle.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Do Pigeons Ever Get Bored?

Robin Wrigley

fortified wine

‘Are you alright Oliver?’ Blast, it was the verger’s wife Mrs Mutton wandering through the churchyard and there was no lookout to give us our coded warning – ‘Baaaa’.
     Gerald Godfrey or ‘Horse’ as he was known to his friends and I were lying in the poorly maintained, long grass, the result of the verger Mr Mutton being off sick with a bad back. We were trying to hit pigeons in the yew trees with marbles fired from my catapult.
     ‘We were watching the pigeons and wondering if they ever get bored Mrs. Mutton.’ It was all I could think off the top of my head and no warning. At that moment we were saved as the first bell began ringing for Morning Prayer.
     ‘You boys really have some daft ideas Oliver. But there is the bell so you’d better get yourself into the vestry and get changed before the choirmaster is out here looking for you. Go on – do pigeons ever get bored, what ever next?’
     ‘Phew that was close, Horse.’ I whispered as we got up and ran to the back door of the vestry stuffing my catapult into my blazer pocket as we went.
     Inside the vestry the creep, Melvin Walton was pulling the bell rope making it look like it was some form of a dark art when in fact anybody could do it. I even did it one Evensong when I happened to be the first there to volunteer and Walton was away.
     Fifteen minutes later and we were all in cassocks, surplices and ruffs and positioning ourselves in two lines behind the creep Walton who not only claimed the position of bell-ringer, but also the carrier of the stave and brass-cross leading us two by two up the aisle.
     This is the part I liked best as we silently walked up between the assembled parishioners trying our best to look meek and mild while sneaking looks to the nearest pews to see if there was any new young girls present. Horse and I led behind the creep with me on the left in order to peel off left and get the nearest seat on the left-hand pew and the best view of the congregation.
     Our choir-master and organist, crabby Crabbe was bashing away on the organ using the mirror placed above so he could see us filing into place and when to end his opening piece. His playing was quite amusing, pushing and pulling various stops, playing the keyboard in a very dramatic way, his head moving in time with the music. His antics, swaying and exaggerated hand movements making it look as though he is on some famous stage rather than hidden behind the choir stalls where only the choirboys opposite could see him. He loved these opening pieces, they were his pride and joy and he attacked them with gusto. It was the only time he ever appeared to be really happy.
     Once the last of the grown-up singers were in position behind us trebles and the creep had secured the stave and cross, made a big deal over his genuflection as though he was Gregory Peck or something while we prepared to lower the hinged choir-stall seat into position.
     It was at this point when my plan to ogle the blonde girl in the front pew went horribly wrong. The bench seat we seven choirboys sat on hinged up until we were all ready to sit down; when the time came for us to sit we lowered the seat onto three wooden brackets. I was sitting over one of the end brackets and my longest finger got trapped between the seat and the bracket.
     How I managed not to scream out I will never know. Trying to explain with nudges and sign language to six idiot choirboys to get up sufficiently for me to get my finger free took forever. Close to fainting, leaving the stall from the side nearest the congregation, I quickly crossed myself and shot towards the altar and out of the other side door by old Crabbe. I could sense him glaring at me with that look of his that we all knew so well from rehearsals.

Once out in the open churchyard I was able to let out a huge yell and burst into tears. My right hand long finger was white, twice its normal width and hurting like I have never felt in my life. My yell must have alerted Mrs Mutton who came shuffling round the corner with a sickle in her hand. Scared and frightened as I was I thought she was going to attack me and I cowered away from her.
     ‘What on earth are you yelling about Oliver, what the Dickens is wrong with you and why are you out here?’ I couldn’t speak, words wouldn’t come out I continued crying and hung my hand up to show her my injured finger.
     ‘Well boy, that be God’s retribution for attacking his innocent birds and telling lies. That’s what that be.’

Friday 25 August 2017

Waiting for Pogo

Penny Rogers       

breakfast tea – well brewed.

‘This is outrageous, utter rubbish, and you are an imposter.’ A small crowd gathered around the formidable figure of Mrs Portiboys and the slight, rather exotic young woman that she was addressing. Aware of the interest her outburst had caused, the older woman lowered her tone. ‘Go away’ she hissed. ‘You are nothing to do with my brother. If you do not go immediately I will call a policeman.’
The girl replied nervously in heavily accented English, ‘Please listen to me, I can explain.’
The clock on St Martin-in-the-Fields struck eleven. Thirty years was a long time to wait for anyone, even the brother who had meant so much to her. She considered the girl carefully, and for once she changed her mind. 
‘All right young woman, but you have got some explaining to do. And not here.’  People around them were drifting back to their normal business.
At the base of the steps to the National Gallery a newspaper vendor shouted ‘Evening News! Russian ships going to Cuba. Evening News!’
Mrs Portiboys shuddered; nuclear war was looming. ‘I suggest we go for a cup of tea.’ They walked in silence towards the Strand.
Something about the hoarse cries of the newspaper seller resonated in her memory, Father’s angry voice shouting dreadful words most of which she did not understand at the time. She recalled doors slamming, her mother’s cry and the silence that followed Pogo’s departure.
The two women reached the Lyons Corner House at the end of the Strand and found a table near the window.  As she had done so many times before, Mrs Portiboys carefully positioned herself facing the street and the direction of Trafalgar Square. She clutched at the remnants of her fast dwindling hope that one day he would be there, just slightly delayed. The Nippy came for an order. ‘Two teas’ she snapped, quickly adding ‘Please’ as the waitress turned away.
‘We gotta trust Mr Kennedy,’ an American accent momentarily rose above the subdued murmur of the cafe ‘The President’ll hold his nerve.’
The young woman took the initiative ‘My name is Elena; I am your brother Paul’s daughter.’
‘So I know you are a liar. He cannot have any children.’  Years of practice kept her voice steady, but her thin lips all but vanished into her trembling mouth. Their tea arrived and she carefully poured out two cups. ‘But seeing as we are here you’d better go on with your story. Before I call the police’ she added.
‘My father told me that when he left home he promised to meet you on his birthday, at eleven o’clock on October 23 by the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square.’  Mrs Portiboys thought to herself whoever she is, she has done her homework. Out loud she said ‘So why are you here and not him?’
‘Sadly my father died last year. He had been ill for some time’. Mrs Portiboys felt a wave of sadness, but after so long her sorrow was tempered with relief. Thirty years was a long time to wait, and here was some sort of resolution. She was starting to believe the girl. ‘He lived in Argentina,’ continued Elena ‘he emigrated there after he left England.’
In her handbag Mrs Portiboys had a photograph of Pogo. It was the only one she had.  Her late husband, the Colonel, had not approved of photographs; he was not a sentimental man. Although Pogo had left two years before she even met the Colonel, he had made his disapproval of both photographs and his missing brother-in-law very clear.
In recent years she had wondered if she would even recognise her brother. The woman claiming to be his daughter looked nothing like him.  Mrs Portiboys was wary again; suspicious that some sort of trick was being played on her. 
‘So, if you are indeed my niece why do you look so, well...’ she uncharacteristically fumbled for the right words, ‘ so…Spanish?  Who is your mother?’
Elena sighed. ‘I don’t know. I lived in an orphanage until I was two. Then your brother adopted me. I was just one of a large number of children in orphanages in Buenos Aires. Many never left, some ended up in sweat shops or prostitution and a few were adopted. The authorities were just glad to see a child go. To any sort of family; they did not ask too many questions.’
The Nippy placed the bill in front of them. 
‘Shall we walk for a little while?’ It was more a command than a question. They negotiated their way across Trafalgar Square, through groups of people anxious for news of the drama unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic.
Mrs Portiboys remembered when Pogo was born. There had been a governess who took her for walks and talked about the baby. He was almost two weeks old before she was allowed to see him. Father told her that one day this tiny baby would be a great soldier and that she must help Mama look after him.
She had spent hours reading to him, playing games, telling stories, even writing a play for them to act in front of their governess. It was never an imposition, he was simply her life.  Paul Hugo seemed a big name for such a small child and she always called him Pogo, much to the irritation of her parents.  For years Mrs Portiboys had never mentioned her beloved brother to anyone. She had tried once. Not long after she married, with all the confidence of a new bride she had asked her parents if they knew where Paul was. Her father retreated behind The Times. Her mother looked directly at her and said ‘Paul? I don’t know anyone named Paul.’
‘Why didn’t he contact me?’ Mrs Portiboys fixed Elena with a cold stare.  The young woman responded gently ‘I don’t think even he could answer that.  Time goes on and in the end I think he just kept you in a secret corner of his mind.’
‘Yet he must’ve known that I would come here every year in all weathers to wait for him.’ She was irritated that her brother had not kept his promise.
‘He only saw your advert a few years ago.’  Elena knew how lame this sounded, so she carried on quickly ‘One day he bought a mirror that was delivered wrapped in an old copy of The Times. He flattened it out and read it, every word. Then he reached the Personal Column and he saw a message from you. It was the only time I saw him cry.’
‘Yet he still did not get in touch.’ Mrs Portiboys shook her head with disappointment.
Elena sensed the older woman’s sadness.  ‘He did mean to, but the newspaper he saw was five years old. He wasn’t sure of your surname, or where you lived. He only knew that you were keeping your promise.’
Mrs Portiboys recalled the awful arguments, the hurtful words and eventually the realisation that her parents would never understand, or forgive, their son. She had never spoken about their rift with her brother to anyone, so she had to struggle to find the words. ‘Father wanted Pogo to be a soldier like him. He had ambitions for him, a glorious career in his old regiment. He was so proud when Pogo did well at school. They had a huge row when Pogo refused to go to Sandhurst.’ She still could not mention the final confrontation, when Pogo dropped his bombshell and walked out of their lives.
She turned to Elena ‘Your father was a fine man.’
Elena paused before carefully continuing. ‘Then he became ill and could not travel. So I promised him I would come and find you. Here I am.’ She looked tired and cold; the anxious crowds pressing around them clearly disturbed her. Mrs Portiboys noticed that her companion was shivering. She relented. ‘I think I believe your story, but there are still many questions to be answered. Shall we go and find some lunch?’
Later she retrieved the precious photo from her handbag. ‘Do you have a more recent picture of your father?’ She hesitated as the treasured photo was passed across the table.
Elena took a wallet out of her bag. From it she retrieved a photograph and passed it to her aunt.  The picture showed a laughing man with curly hair. It was clearly Pogo. Standing by his side was a tall man wearing sunglasses. The tall man’s hand was on Pogo’s shoulder. She took a deep breath. ‘Who is the other man?’
‘That’s Maxwell.’ Elena’s eyes lit up. ‘I still have one father. I am very lucky. He knows that I am here.’ She hesitated. ‘He asked that if I found you I should pass on his respects to you.’
Mrs Portiboys said nothing. She took a crisp handkerchief from her bag and discreetly blew her nose.

About the author

Penny writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry.
She has been published in anthologies including Henshaw
One and Two, This Little World and The Best of CaféLit 5
as well as in Bare Fiction, Writers’ Forum and

Thursday 24 August 2017

Antipeter Pan

Glenn Bresciani

Hot Milo  

I’ve always wondered what would happen if Peter Pan and the Antipeter Pan should meet. Would they annihilate each other, just like Matter and Antimatter will if ever they collide? Or would they bring about the Apocalypse, the end times, as it is supposed to happen when Christ and the Antichrist finally confront each other?
I’m sorry, what was that? What’s an Antipeter pan?
You know how Peter Pan is the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Well, the Antipeter Pan is the child who lost their childhood when they were forced to grow up. They are the children you see in public, using adult smarts to outwit their care giver’s adult supervision.  Caseworkers and Psychologist, employed by Social Services, have labelled this behaviour as pseudo adult.
The transformation of the Antipeter Pan, from childhood into adulthood, isn’t a natural one. However, it is as simple as the full moon transforming a werewolf from a human into a beast. All it takes is a fistful of abuse from their irrational parents and- hey presto! –a child transmutes into the Antipeter Pan.
Having scoundrels for parents, the Antipeter Pan must rely on themselves for all their parental needs. If they are the oldest sibling, they must parent their baby brother or baby sister as well.
Just like Peter Pan, the Antipeter Pan also has a fearsome foe. While Peter Pan is off in Neverland clashing with Captain Hook, the Antipeter Pan is stolen from their parents and forced to live in a foster home with their most vile enemy. Beware, the foster carer who will constrict their small victim in coils of discipline, squeezing until they shatter the pseudo adult shell, exposing the vulnerable child underneath.
The Antipeter Pan fights back, just like any adult would when told how to behave by another adult. They get defensive, certainly angry, won’t hesitate to use explicit language.
The foster carer can go on and on all they want about the importance of a child’s routine, the Antipeter Pan will use a grown up’s common sense to punch holes through the logic of the boundaries entrapping them.
To protect a child’s innocence, the foster carer will block their victim’s access to adult content, be it on a 40 inch Plasma TV right down to an iPad Mini. The Antipeter Pan despises being treated like a child; they have been taking care of themselves long before they were forced to live in a foster home.  
Foster care is all about caring. So who can blame the foster carer for trying to intervene every time their victim pours a drink for themselves from a two litre juice bottle they can barely lift. The Antipeter Pan will scowl at their enemy, offended by the offered help. Damn it! They are independent and want everyone taller than themselves to know it.
The experienced foster carer can do wonders for the Antipeter Pan aged 6 and under.  Placed into care at such an early age, the Antipeter Pan has had their supply of parental abuse cut short. Their pseudo adult shell is thin and brittle. The foster carer can easily peel away the flimsy shell until all that remains is a toddler craving adult supervision.
There is no such happy ending for the Antipeter Pan over the age of seven. Not even a life time of carer knowledge and experience can aid the foster carer in breaking through the unbreakable shell. Many years of neglect have encased these tweens and teens in a shell so thick and knobbly, that they can easily be mistaken for belonging to the crustacean family.
These older versions of the Antipeter Pan are not only proficient at adult smarts, they are also masters of intimidation, manipulation and bullying. Most foster carers- or a sensible adult –would avoid a sociopath. Why would anyone want to care for one?
These are the children no carer will care for. These are the children who become the foster care version of pass the parcel.
Myself, I’ve been doing foster care for over seven years and whenever I’ve cared for an Antipeter Pan, be it tween or teen, I’ve never once tried to remove their pseudo adult shell. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I admire it.
Take a closer look at the magical forces guiding the antisocial behaviour of the Antipeter Pan, and you will discover a cleverness and rapid witticism that will take most adults over twenty years to perfect.
I wish- oh how I wish, I wish upon a star –that pixie dust could be sprinkled on my brain, to swap my dim-witted neurons for the sharp witted neurons in the brain of the Antipeter Pan. I struggle to socialize with my fellow humans, yet I am a member of a race of sociable creatures. When I speak, I have no confidence in the words my mind clips together, as I consider all my thoughts to be worthless. When a discussion requires a clever response, I always think up a good one.  .  .an hour after the conversation took place.
I avoid going to parties, they frighten me.
Where I work, the supervisor and her bossy attitude can easily push me around. I can’t even stand up for myself; I have no self-confidence to stand up on.
Real people living real lives- no thank you; it’s all too intense for me. That’s why I always scurry away into my own private Neverland. A daydream world built upon my childhood obsessions I still obsess over as an adult: Japanese cartoons, Smurf collecting and Nintendo   excitement. My internal world is a dragon bashing, Yoshi questing , gorilla racing go karting world- overpopulated by tiny blue people.
I’m sure Peter Pan is envious.
Because of my social inadequacy, I believe pseudo adult behaviour in children should never be removed: it should be preserved.  If a child has a head start on irony, cynicism, and repartee, why would anyone want to take that away? It’s a gift. Why are you looking at me like that?
Consider fencing. It is a sport involving two opponents trying to stab each other with long thin blades. Not a sport children should be playing, but play it they do. Fencing should be dangerous, a child could easily have their eye poked out or their skin pierced by a foil, but it never happens as all the competitors wear a padded jacket and a helmet with wire mesh covering the face. Plus, let’s not forget, promoting good sportsmanship and sword fighting discipline has made, what originally involved Nobility killing each other in a duel, into what is now the safest sport in the world.
Like the swash buckling clashes in fencing, so too is the Antipeter Pan in my care.
They slice through my discipline with a blade of defiance- the edge serrated with sarcasm for a deeper cut. So I sheath that blade in the cotton softness of my devotion, to teach them that no matter how much trouble they are, they’re worth it.
They stab me with their stinging criticism, because when they see me hurt or angry they know they’re in control. So I place a pillow of empathy under their heads, to teach them that other people’s feelings are breakable and therefore must be handled with care.
I will do all this, yet still they are hostile towards me. So on a gentle breeze of praise I lift the Antipeter Pan up high, way above their beliefs warped by imaginary threats, to a new zone of experience often called safety and security- otherwise known as tender loving care. Keep them in that zone long enough, and eventually the Antipeter Pan will slide out of the armoured protection of their pseudo adult shell, handing over control of their lives to an adult carer they can trust. Accomplish this and at long last a child will finally get to be a child- the way it should be.
Best of all, when these children finally mature into real adults- not the pseudo ones –their mature minds will get the best performance out of the adult smarts they’ve been carrying inside their heads since infancy. Maturity and responsibility ensures they will use their faster and smarter wits for defence- never to attack. Where they will work, should ever they need to verbally strike back at their bossy supervisor and his unreasonable demands, I’m confident they will do so with inner strength while being mindful of the situation and considerate of other people’s feelings.
In the presence of this magical metamorphosis of pseudo adulthood into childhood, then a child growing up to become a mature and responsible adult,  I no longer have to wonder what will happen if Peter Pan and the Antipeter Pan should meet. I know exactly what will happen. There will be no annihilation, no end times. The universe won’t implode. Rather, contact between the two would be anticlimactic as they would both cancel each other out.
Peter Pan will have no time to waste on Neverland, nor the luxury of entertaining his childish whims. He now has a foster child depending on him for all their parental needs. Such a big responsibility, the boy who wouldn’t grow up will be forced to grow up, and his self-esteem will rejoice and his confidence will soar, what with all the professionals he will now have to meet.
The Antipeter Pan, protected and loved by an adult carer they can trust, will no longer fear the world like they did when in the care of their pseudo adult. Instead, they will rediscover the world as a place of wonder to be explored- and explore it they will with childish glee.
Only when the negative and the positive cancel each other out will Neverland fall and Oz will burst. Everything in Narnia will melt away and all of Fantasia will be gobbled up by the Nothing.
All that remains in a realistic universe, governed by the laws of physics and hard facts, will be two souls, both young and old, living their real lives to the fullest.     

About the author 

Glenn is an Australian who is a factory worker by day and a writer by night. He and his partner and I have been caring for foster children for seven years.  His stories on foster care have been published on the websites Parenting Express and Next Family.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Yes Boss

 Roger Noons

Kir Royale

‘You wanted to see me, Marion?’
    ‘Yes, come in and close the door.’ She stood up and walked around to the front of her desk. ‘How long have you been working for me, Martin?’
    ‘Almost twelve months.’
    ‘Then come closer, I won’t bite you.’ She stared into his eyes. ‘Please take off my dress.’
    He did as asked.
    ‘Now remove my underwear.’
    He carefully folded the silk garments and laid them on a chair.’
    ‘And if you come to work again wearing my clothes you will be sacked on the spot. Understood?
    He nodded.
    ‘Now get out.’
    ‘Yes Boss.’

Thursday 17 August 2017

Martin's Flags

 Gill James 

strong black coffee

“I got Martin to tidy out my cupboard,” said Steph. “Jane would never have coped.”  Both women watched the gaggle of Ofsted inspectors troop along the corridor.
“Well, she’d have coped better than any of them I should think,” muttered Ann. “Those who can’t, teach, and those who can’t teach, inspect. Do they move around in packs like that because they’re scared? I just hope he behaves if they come in next lesson.”
“Well, you know where I am if you need me.”
Ann moved towards her classroom. No sign of any suits or heels. Thank God. Just Year 9, bottom set.  All twelve of them.  Ah well. Would she get them to remember any French today?
She’d just got them answering her “Où habites-tu?” with “J’habite….” followed by the name of the country whose flags she held up when in walked the rodent-faced modern languages inspector. He nodded curtly and sat down right next to Martin.
Ann’s mouth went dry. Today Martin was wearing his Combined Cadet Force uniform. That usually gave him permission to bully other kids.
They started on colours.  “Quelles sont les couleurs du drapeau de la France?”
To her amazement Martin’s hand shot up. 
“Oui, Martin?”
“Bleu, rouge et blanc. »
« D’accord. »
The lesson continued. Martin kept  volunteering information. ”Le drapeau de l’Espagne est rouge et jaune. »  He certainly knew all of his colours and country names and it soon became clear that he knew more about flags than she did.
The Ofsted inspector hardly looked up from his notebook. Martin kept staring at him. Ann hoped he wouldn’t say anything rude. 
The lesson ended. The inspector nodded again and left the room. Martin came up to her desk. “That bloke who was sitting next to me didn’t join in the lesson. He was doing his homework all the time.”
“No Martin, he was making notes about how well you were doing.”
“Naw. He’s a loser. He don’t know nothing about flags. Miss, for my homework, can I print some out and put the names on in French? You can put them up in the classroom.”
Had she heard Martin correctly?  “That would be lovely, Martin. Thank you.”

Steph came up to her at break. “You’ve got a glowing report from the inspector. The whole lesson conducted in French, more or less, and bottom set Year 9 enthused.”
“Don’t know how I managed that.”  Something made her look out of the window.
A group of younger students had gathered round the big oak tree at the edge of the field. Martin was swinging from a branch of a tree. Was he shouting abuse at them? That would be his normal style.
After he'd been so good. She rushed out ready to remonstrate. As she got nearer, though, she realised that he was singing the colours of the rainbow in French. The younger students were enthralled. He grinned. "Did I impress that inspector bloke, miss?"