Sunday 31 March 2019

Heaven's Waiting Room

by NT Franklin

double espresso


Becky walked into her Dad’s room at the Cedar Creek Nursing Home and said, “How are they treating you here?”
He glared at her. “Nursing home? Bullshit. Look at the people in this place, waiting to die.”
Becky leaned in close like she did with her kids and whispered, “Dad, we’ve been over this. This is where you need to be. You’ll be safe and properly cared for here.”
“Dad, this is the third nursing home you’ve been in over the last six months. Coarse language upsets the staff and the patients. In case you’ve forgotten, your behavior and language caused you to be removed from the past two places.”
“Yeah, yeah.”
Becky rolled her eyes.
“Don’t you roll your eyes at me, young lady. I’ve been telling you that your entire life.”
Becky closed her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts. Dad had always been in charge, always took care of everything, but now he couldn’t. “This is the only nice nursing home left. I don’t want to put you in the one run by the county, it’s really depressing.”
“Then don’t, Becky. Take me home.”
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be, Dad. This is your home now. Your house was sold to cover medical expenses for you and Mom. The proceeds came up way short. You know all this.” Becky’s eyes moistened.
“Yeah, fat lot of good that did. What’s-his-face doesn’t want me. That’s why I can’t come home with you, isn’t it?”
Becky sighed. “His name is Randy; he’s my husband, the father of my children, your grandchildren. You know I can’t provide round-the-clock nursing care like Cedar Creek.”

This wasn’t Becky’s regular visiting day She’d only placed him in this nursing home five days ago and they’d already called about him verbally abusing the staff and generally being rude and uncooperative.
She stressed in the entry interview that the last six months had been difficult for everyone. He wasn’t dealing well with the loss of his wife and being wheelchair bound. Despite that, he was healthy for his age but was losing his will to live without his wife of 50 years. None of this she could have said if he was present.

Becky pushed the wheelchair toward the games room but was intercepted by a huge but jovial orderly. A towering man stopped in front of the wheelchair, bent down and said, “I’m Jerimiah, who do we have here?”
Becky cleared her throat and said, “I’m Becky, and this is my dad, Eugene.”
Jerimiah stood up and smiled a wide, toothy smile. The white teeth were a sharp contrast to his dark skin and warm brown eyes. “My dad was named Eugene, so we’re already friends. He’ll love it here. Come along, bingo starts soon. Becky, let me take the stern and guide this gentleman to the game room.”
Before Eugene could protest, Becky stepped aside, saluted, and said, “Aye, aye, Capt’n.”
Jerimiah let out a belly laugh that shook his whole frame. “We’ll soon be friends, too. Follow me. The game won’t start without me calling the numbers.” Jerimiah winked at Becky and pushed Eugene to the game room.
Becky relaxed her shoulders, releasing tension.
Jerimiah’s deep musical voice filled the room as he announced, “Hey everyone, please welcome Eugene. He’s going to be playing bingo with us.”
Becky smiled a half smile when a chorus of “Hi, Eugene!” filled the room.
Jerimiah turned the wheelchair back to Becky with a nod and went to the front of the room.
“See, Dad, this is going to be a great place.”
“Take me out of here, Becky,” he growled.
“There are nine other players. With one card per player, the odds of winning are ten percent. I need better odds to play.”
“For Christ’s sake, Dad, play the game and don’t worry about winning. Can’t you enjoy yourself without having to be in control?”
“No. I can’t.”
“Learn to. We’re staying.”
“B 7,” came the deep, rich voice. Followed by “G 55”, then “N 41.”
“Where’s your card, Dad? This could be fun.”
“Becky, with ten players, odds are there’ll be a winner by 26 balls. Unless these old bats aren’t paying attention. Do we really have to wait until then before we can go?”
Becky fought back tears.
When Bingo was called, the winner received a crisp, new one-dollar bill as a prize. Becky wheeled her dad back to his room.
Becky was trying to think of something to break the uncomfortable silence, but didn’t have to.
“You know, Bob and Martha two doors down have it made.”
“Glad to hear you’ve made friends here,” Becky said.
“They’re not friends, just names on the door.”
“But you’re socializing with them?”
“Hardly. They cleaned out their room yesterday. Seems that Martha died one day, and Bob died the next day. Nice that they went together.”
Becky sat on the edge of the bed and searched for words. “Maybe you should try to talk to some people here, Dad. I’m sure you’ll find someone interesting.”
He stuck out his lip like a pouting child. “Harrumph.”
Becky looked into his sad eyes and knew she had to leave or she would break down. “I’ll be back later in the week, Dad. Be nice so I don’t get an unpleasant phone call from the nursing home. Try to enjoy yourself. Please try.”
“Nursing home. Bullshit. It’s a place to die, it’s Heaven’s Waiting Room.”
Becky cried the whole way home thinking, maybe Dad’s right.

 About the author 

NT Franklin has been published in Page and Spine, Fiction on the Web, 101 Words, Madswirl, Postcard Shorts, 404 Words, Scarlet Leaf Review, Freedom Fiction, Burrst, Entropy, Alsina Publishing, Fifty-word stories, Dime Show Review, among others.

Saturday 30 March 2019

Baby Blues

By Carter Nipper

double shot espresso

So here I am at 2am trying to plug a nipple into a slobbery little squirm with a diaper on one end and a siren on the other. How long has it been since either one of us actually slept? Seems like years. Sometimes I wonder what ever possessed me to have a baby.

How can Bill sleep with this fire drill going on? He didn’t even roll over. Sleeping like a baby. Who thought that one up? Must have been a man. I can’t blame him too much, though. Some things a man just can’t do, and he does help when he can. He did help when we were making this little critter. I guess he’s good for something.

OK, that’s better. Just like a man, when he hollers, give him a tit and he shuts right up. Listen to him slurping like a greedy little Dust Buster. His head smells good.

He’s finished; time for a burp. Come on, come on. I know there’s one in there someplace. Good grief! How can something so small make a noise so big? That one’d make his daddy proud!

Got him filled up just in time to change his diaper. Stuff goes through him like he’s hollow. It’s a wonder he gets any nourishment at all. Maybe we could just get a tube and connect his two ends together. Save everybody a lot of trouble.

I’ll just sit for a while and rock. Look at those little fingers. They’re so small, but so perfect, and those blue eyes, the way they almost cross when he tries to focus on something. When he smiles like that, it makes all the noise and trouble worthwhile.

He’s asleep. I’ll just sit here for a few more minutes. He feels so good in my arms, fits like he was made for them. Maybe he was.

It’s so quiet. I can hear Granny’s clock ticking in the living room, and this old rocking chair has just the right amount of creak in it.

Oh, well. I better put him down and try to get some sleep. He’ll go off again in a couple of hours. I can’t wait for him to grow up. I take that back! I take that back! God, what am I saying? I don’t want him to ever grow up!

I just wish he would let me sleep sometimes.

Friday 29 March 2019

A Perfect Stranger

by Stephanie Simpkin  

craft beer

We had been separated,  for nearly two years. Meeting up next week to discuss the divorce.

Divorce, neither of us, really wanted. So strange, no one else involved. No passion, no disagreements, we just drifted, no, kids, just a wonderful dog, Fido, which we shared, one week each.

It would be an amicable, divorce, a fifty-fifty split, we would sell the house, in Muswell Hill, both buy apartments in central London, and go our separate ways, still remain friends, forever.

Our friends, were shocked, we were so right for each other, perfect, a five year marriage, poof! Gone, over! Are you sure, you could try again, try.

Work, both doctors, me a  general surgeon, Mike a consultant, in orthopaedics, at different London hospitals.

 Great careers, unsocial hours, stressful, no time for each other, no time for love, indifference, really.

 We had discussed  having children, who would give up their jobs, their very successful jobs? We were like ships, that passed in the night, you have to, have sex, to get pregnant, I know that, trust me, I am a doctor!

At first, I went on various dates, friends, colleagues, introductions, dinner parties. All my friends, leaning forward, in anticipation, excitement. They always, had a better time, than I.

If, I fancied them, wanted sex, I didn’t like their company.  Dull, boring, neither amusing, nor intelligent. If, I didn’t fancy them, I found them amusing, intelligent, but if they had touched me, tried to kiss me, No, No! They had to have nice hands.

I know I sound shallow,. Who do I think I am? I know who I am, fussy, and why not?

Friends, told me I was, attractive, young, well, thirty- eight, a  good catch, what was I?

A bloody herring, hate kippers, the smell, stays longer, then my soon to be, future, ex-husband. I would end up an old, lonely, Miss Marple type. I didn’t knit.

Eventually friends tired of me, well, my behaviour, no more blind dates, any dates.

I was happy, at first. I took up yoga, joined a creative writing class, I met some nice, new people, made new friends, saw my old friends.

I tried internet dating.  Tinder.  I never swiped to the right. I went speed dating. Wasn’t quick enough for me, maybe, I would become a lesbian, why not? Don’t knock it, until, you try it, so, to speak, no!

Why don’t we meet people like we used too, pubs, bars, gyms, no, not gyms, at work, by chance.  Like when, I had first met Mike;  he was the love of my life, or so, I had thought.

I was asked out, sometimes, on a promising date. I would be paged, rung, an emergency. On a dull date, never happened, even the Gods, were pissed off, with me!

A spinster of the parish, dying alone, friendless, childless, no family, a paupers funeral.

I joined a gym, well, was given, a free months membership. Large, sweaty, smelly men, tattooed, I know that sounds, old fashioned, but. The wimpy ones, trying to get six packs, and not, Stella Artois!

I was meeting a girlfriend in a bar, after work. I sat at the bar, ordered a drink. She rang, had to cancel. It had been, a particularly, bad day, for me; a patient had died, (worse day for him) very stressful. I tried to relax, took off my glasses and  sipped my strong, drink.

Then, I saw him, across the room. Tall, dark ,and very, handsome. He was standing by a table, sipping a beer.

Probably, waiting for his girlfriend, his wife, his boyfriend, his husband, hope not. Maybe, a business meeting; he’s wearing a dark suit, white shirt. Hope he’s, been stood up, suppose he’s got children, oh, he is answering  his phone, he looks dejected, he’s sat down.

What are his hobbies? Hobbies, what is wrong with you, sounds, like something out of brief encounters, maybe, you could drop your, handkerchief, maybe, he will leave you at the altar, no, you are not, Jane!

Is he English, Italian, what a beautiful language, does he like the sun, the beach, snow, the cold, hope it’s the sun. A modern house, a period house, a poky flat, he may not live in England, in London.

Is he a vegan, a vegetarian, no, a steak man, now, he’s standing up, is he going, no, a full glass, its dim in here, hope he’s not dim, he’s back.

Another drink, a double, get, a taxi home! Does he love his mother, does he have one, cause he has one, had one.

Is he sporty, yea, he looks good, great, bet his body, is smooth, taut, what is wrong with you? Wonder, what side of the bed he prefers, hope, it’s the left.

Opera, ballet, the Stones, the Beatles, hope it’s not folk, don’t mind country, grunge, or is that a dance, maybe, he is a Morris Man, no!

Wonder if he is a solicitor, a doctor, an actor, unemployed, is he kind, generous, hope he doesn’t have cats, bet he dances well, is he into art, antiques, books.

Nice friends, nice family. Shall I go over, smile, say something witty, he will, throw his head back, and laugh, invite me to sit down, buy me a drink, no, I can’t, can I?

Does he speak French, has he a nice voice, is he generous, fair, faithful. A social conscience, charitable. A Tory, Labour, not National Front , Green Party, stay or Brexit, football, rugby, does he cook, I am useless, live on takeaways.

Is he tidy, no, that doesn’t matter. Bath or shower, travel, the theatre, the cinema, red wine, white, rosé. Hope he doesn’t’ smoke, take drugs, well, the occasional spliff.

He looks suave, sophisticated, BBC four, the Archers, not Corrie, EastEnders.

He’s standing up, looking, straight at me, he’s smiling, what a great smile, he’s raising his glass, no one behind me, he’s coming over, too late, shit, shall I run, my heart, it’s too fast.

He has just, touched my hand, wow! An electric shock, up close he is so, good looking, perfect, could he be the one? He, is the one!

“May, I join you? Not, wearing your glasses? How’s Fido! “

Thursday 28 March 2019

Bonzo the Dog

by Wendy Pike

a nice cup of tea

I grew up with Bonzo, my hand knitted, cuddly, childhood chum.  I admit he always was an odd looking dog but I loved him.  Even when, after succumbing to years of enthusiastic hugging, he morphed into a threadbare, bedraggled mutt, Bonzo retained a certain raggedy charm.   In terms of esteem, he was right up there at the pinnacle.  Along with Tiny Tears doll, which, at my hand and creative styling, endured a permanently bad-hair-day following one disastrous haircut makeover too many.

Bonzo the Dog was two tone.  Beigey-brown and creamy-white with short whiskers and a cheeky tongue sticking out complementing his stitched on black nose and eyes.   And like many hand crafted soft toys of his vintage, he was stuffed with chopped up, worn out tights.  His creator was a super-skilled knitter.  My mum.  Bonzo’s most significant features were his proportionally rather large, somewhat floppy ears.

Despite being such a cherished pal, I’m ashamed to confess I don’t know what happened to Bonzo over the years.  Maybe he was consigned to the loft with other childhood belongings to be indiscriminately chucked out in a clutter cull years later?

But it doesn’t matter now because unearthed from the treasured collection of knitting patterns I’ve inherited from my mum, is one for Bonzo.  It means I can recreate him.  Why, half a century later, I should wish to do that is not clear.  But I shall re-build him. 

Mum paid sixpence in old pennies for the 1950s Robin design by Amanda Laine (number 879).  Finding the pattern has led to another discovery.  It was, so to speak, the moment the dog saw the rabbit.

It came as quite an upset to learn that for decades my dear Bonzo had been living a lie it seems.  He’d been masquerading as a dog.  The pattern revealed the shocking truth.  Bonzo was really a rabbit.  A pretty special, celebrity one though.  All the while lurking, hidden, beneath that doggy persona was Bonzo's genuine leporine lineage - The Easter Bunny.

This poses an identity crisis dilemma for Bonzo mark II.  Dog or rabbit?  Do I let sleeping dogs lie and think of him as canine?  Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Wednesday 27 March 2019



by Copper Rose


Abilene swings her feet from the warm bed. She gathers the frayed edge of the nightgown around her skinny thighs and sucks in her breath as her soles touch the cold floor. Hiking up her hem, she tiptoes to the bathroom to relieve herself. She sighs. She is always in search of relief, scanning every area of her life, hoping it will come in language, in a form she recognizes. She never wishes for a lot.
Abilene tugs at the collar of the gown, inspects her neck and face in the medicine cabinet mirror, spots nothing out of the ordinary and nods her head in satisfaction. One less thing to worry about. She glimpses her hair, shakes her head, nothing to be done about it. The only thing to do is focus on something else.
Abilene peeks in her husband’s bedroom. They had stopped sharing a room eight years ago when Henry became ill after working thirty-seven years at the parking garage, for the city parks department. He is too restless. Exhausted. Fuming. Selfish in his pain. Abilene finds a smidgen of peace in having a room of her own after fifty-two years, her room to the right of the bathroom, Henry’s to the left.
Henry is snoring, his head propped awkwardly on the pillow, one scrawny leg flung from beneath the tangled blankets that cover the three-quarter bed, his mother’s bed with the rounded, maple foot board where it is hard to tuck things in but looks lovely in the spare room. His puckered mouth open—the one gold tooth glints in the morning sun shining through the window. Veins bulge in his forearms, above his balled-up fists clutched to his chest. He’s been pounding his lungs again, trying to squeeze out every ounce of air trapped inside. His eyes flutter open. His head lifts slightly as he scans the room searching for his wife.
“You hungry now, Henry?” Abilene asks.
“Not today.”
“Bacon then?”
Abilene ducks into the kitchen to fix his bowl of oatmeal, with a spoonful of powdered gelatin added, softened a little to help it blend in. The protein he needs, but hates. There are two servings left in the box of oatmeal. Three servings left of the gelatin. No money at the end of this month to buy more if she decides to pay for the electricity they need to run Henry’s oxygen concentrator.
Abilene balances the bowl and spoon in one hand, carries a glass of water in the other. Henry turns his face away when she holds the spoon to his mouth.
The next morning Abilene swings her feet from the warm bed. She has made a decision. Henry is sleeping, his puckered mouth open. She is quick with her morning work, something she has to do before the oatmeal. Before she changes her mind.
By the time the oatmeal is ready the bleeding has stopped. Henry opens his mouth as Abilene spoons in the oatmeal. The gold tooth glints in the sun—on the kitchen windowsill next to the gold watch the city gifted to Henry upon his retirement. The pawn shop opens at ten and there is just enough gas in the car.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Footprints in the Snow

by James Bates

Cafe Mocha

Out for a winter's walk I came upon some footprints in the snow. Whose were they, I wondered? I paused for a moment, thinking, but came up with no answer, so I impulsively decided to follow them. As I walked, I began remembering how much I enjoyed this, walking outside like I was, not up and down those long hallways in the mall like I've been doing lately. You see, I've been having a little trouble remembering where I am over the past year so my wife has taken to driving me to Ridgedale where she and I walk with an oldsters group. It's been okay, and I like walking with Kath, but it's nothing to write home about. However, let me tell you, back in the day, back when my memory was clear, I used to do it a lot, this walking outside. I liked it then and I was liking it now, even though I didn't know where I was.
            Having the fresh invigorating air with the cold bite of winter on my cheeks not only felt wonderful, it made me feel young again. Out of the blue old time memories came flooding back: My younger brother Tim and I in our youth, walking in the winter woods outside of town with our field guides in out backpacks, teaching ourselves how to identify birds; Young Kath and I before we were married, shuffling along a snowy, moonlit trail in a wooded park in January, talking quietly, planning our future and stealing warm kisses behind a convenient oak tree; My daughter Janet and I strolling along a snowy river path near the college she attended as she told me of her dreams for her future; My grandson...
            Suddenly I heard Zak's voice calling, shaking me out of my reverie, "Grandpa, Grandpa, you need to come inside. Grandma Kath says it's time for dinner and great uncle Tim's starving." I looked over and saw him grinning. We all knew how much my brother liked to eat.
            "I'm coming," I said, pulling my mind back to the present and making my way through the snow to the back door of the home Kath and I have lived in for over fifty years. So that's where I was. Our backyard was a tiny open area, and the edges of the property were thick with evergreen trees; in a way it was kind of like being in a wooded clearing in northern Minnesota. I'd have to try to remember that.
            "What were you doing out there, Grandpa?" Zak asked as I came up to him, stomping snow from my boots. He was eleven and in middle school, and this winter he was busy with hockey, his friends and class work, in that order. I didn't see him as much as I used to, or liked to, for that matter.
            "Reminiscing," I told him. He didn't need to know I'd had absolutely no idea where I'd just been except lost in fond memories, reliving the past. I recovered valiantly and said, "Thinking about walks we used to take."
            "Like when you took me out that one winter night and showed me the constellations? I remember we saw Cassiopeia and Orion."
            "Yeah, exactly," I said, mentally shifting gears back to the present (rather smoothly, I thought.) "Back when you were young and just a kid, like four or five." I reached out to jokingly muss up his hair as he ducked away, laughing.
            I stepped into the back entryway, closed the door against the cold and began taking off my winter jacket, scarf, boots and hat. I used to babysit him one day a week before he started grade school. Those were good times back then, special times, especially now that he was getting older and busy with other activities. I glanced up and saw Zak looking past me to the backyard, quietly thinking. The house was filled with the aromatic scent of cinnamon, baked sweet potatoes and fresh apple pie. My mouth involuntarily started watering. I smiled to myself, thinking of my brother. No wonder he was starving.
            Zak interrupted my thoughts, "Hey, Grandpa, how about after we eat, you and I go outside and go for a walk? It's been a while."
            I was shocked almost to the point of speechlessness. It was the last thing I expected to hear from my busy grandson. I almost put on my jacket right then and there, grabbed him by the arm and went back outside. Instead, I reached for him and enveloped him in a big bear hug as he good-naturedly squirmed to get away. "That'd be wonderful, Zak, just perfect." Our meal couldn't be over soon enough, as far as I was concerned.
            Afterwards, as Zak and I got ready to go outside, snow flurries started falling ever so lightly. The sun was setting, painting the western horizon dusty mauve, and the soft glow of street lamps were illuminating the drifting snowflakes like floating specs of glitter. It was so pretty that we were spontaneously joined by my daughter Janet (Zak's mom) along with Kath. Even my brother Tim dragged himself out of his easy chair and made it outside. I couldn't recall the last time all of us had gone for a nice family stroll together along a snow covered street. It was way better than being at the mall. In fact, I wouldn't mind if we made a habit of it, all of us making time to get together and go walking. Winter, summer, spring or fall, it wouldn't matter. I'd like that a lot.
            But today was special, having us all together. And you know what? The whole time we were walking, I remembered where we were from beginning to end. In fact, I still do. It was unforgettable. 

About the author

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota and tries to go for a long walk everyday. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed and Paragraph Planet. You can also check out his blog to see more:

Monday 25 March 2019

Maddie's Dream

by Michal Reibenbach


Big Maddie knocked on the scratched, weathered beaten, wooden door of the tired looking house. Some of the houses large, whitish grey, stones were covered in moss and the white paint of the window’s wooden frames was flaking off. It took a while before an old, plump woman opened the door; peeking out from behind her was a little girl. Big Maddie recognized them: the old woman was her grandmother and the little girl was herself as a little child. She didn't understand what was happening; 'had she somehow gone back in time?!'

"What do you want?" asked the old woman. In her heart, Big Maddie felt she wanted to cross the threshold, enter into the house, and somehow help the motherless girl that had once been herself as a little child; so she said, "Please don't be alarmed! I just thought you might need some help around the house?"

"Yes, actually I do," answered the old woman, “The house is in an awful mess and I don't feel very well. I really do need some help but I'm afraid I won't be able to pay you very much."

"Oh that's alright," said Maddie. "You can give me whatever you can afford."

She didn't tell the old woman that she was even willing to work for free, for it might have seemed strange and suspicious. The old lady let Big Maddie into the house, "If you could begin with cleaning the kitchen and the sitting room, and then folding the laundry—I'm afraid I'll have to leave you now to go and lie down for a while, for I feel rather dizzy," said the old lady, and she shuffled off to a back room to rest. At the same time, her grand-daughter scurried up the stairs and out of Big Maddie's sight; as a result, she was left alone.

Big Maddie began to look around curiously. As she did so, she could see the belongings of the little girl's father lying about everywhere; and that brought back memories as to how much he used to resemble an Ogre, which was what everyone had called him: ‘The Ogre.’ She could feel his presence all around her, even though she couldn't see him. She thought to herself, "He's made himself invisible, to make it easier for him to torment me!"

Upon entering the kitchen which was in an awful mess; she set about washing the dirty dishes and cooking-pots with great gusto; until there was a large pile of them drying on the draining board. Next, she washed the floor down with a cloth, until it shone. Then, as Big Maddie stood still waiting for the damp floor to dry, she called out to the Ogre, "Even though I can't see you, I know that you are around here somewhere, for I can feel your presence! I've journeyed back in time in order to help the pathetic, motherless child that used to be me all those years ago. Now that I've cleaned your filthy kitchen and washed your dirty dishes, will you show your little girl some love?"

The Ogre roared with laughter, "Ha-ha-ha-" and then he shouted out in a slurred, cocky voice, "I can't give her any love, for I don't have any emotions!"  Big Maddie could tell that he was drunk. The Ogre was so enraged with her request; so much so that, with the force of his anger, he managed to knock some clean dishes off the sideboard and consequently they smashed down onto the floor and broke into tiny pieces. In despair, Big Maddie sat down on the kitchen floor with her shoulders hunched over and began to cry into her chest, tears burst forth spilling down her face for the little girl. Finally, she pulled herself together, got up and wiped away her tears with an old tea-towel she found in a kitchen drawer, then she set about sweeping up the broken dishes with a broom and threw the pieces into the dustbin. Next, she dried up all the pots and dishes with her tear-soaked towel and placed them in the cupboard. Having finished cleaning the kitchen to her satisfaction she took the towel, along with a broom, mop and a bucket of water with her into the sitting room; where she set about tidying it up and scrubbing the floor. This also involved dusting off any toys she found lying around and placing them into the toy-chest; while she was doing this, her tea-towel got caught in the wheels of a toy car and as she pulled at it, she accidentally tore the towel---she thought to herself dismally, 'All I'm armed with to help the poor, motherless child fight her battles, is a wet, torn, tea-towel..'

Maddie cleaned the sitting room until it sparkled. Once again, in desperation, she called out to the Ogre, “Now that I've tidied up and cleaned your previously messy sitting room, will you agree to help your little girl, at least in ways that don't include love? For example, give her a little kindness and please stop beating her, you're damaging her, taking away her dignity and making her feel very lonely!"

"You're making me furious!" roared the Ogre, and this time he used the force of his anger to pull all the toys out of the toy chest, causing them to tumble onto the floor.

"I lock her up and beat her because she annoys me, and anyway it's good for her to be frightened of me!"

Big Maddie could tell that she wasn't making any progress with the Ogre, that in fact, she was simply aggravating him, making the situation worse. In despair, she tidied up the toys back into the toy chest and moved on to her next task: folding the enormous pile of washing which she found in the little washroom. She placed the dry laundry in the airing cupboard and laid out the still damp clothes to dry on the sofa. As she worked, she had an idea: turning to the ogre, she said: "If you keep on being cruel to your motherless child, I'll report you to social services!"

"You can report whatever you like; they're much too busy, they won't interfere!" scoffed the ogre at her in his gruff voice. Then, in order to annoy Big Maddie even more, he called out to his little girl, "Maddie, Maddie, come down to the sitting room.

Soon Little Maddie appeared. "Go and jump on the sofa, on all the damp washing, It'll be fun," he urged her.

Little Maddie did as she was told to by the Ogre for she feared him; she climbed up onto the sofa and jumped up and down on the washing. From time to time, she looked at her older self guiltily, expecting her to be angry, but Big Maddie just stood by silently. Inside she felt like a deflated balloon and a useless failure; for she had gone back in time to help the poor, unloved, motherless child that she had once been; and she was failing pitifully in her task.

Suddenly, much to Big Maddie's surprise, an enormous soap bubble came floating in through the open window and landed on the sitting room floor. There it popped; revealing inside of it an old, white-haired lady who was holding a large ginger cat in her arms. The old lady smiled at Little Maddie, who was staring on in amazement, and said: "I'm your ‘fairy godmother’, dear."

Then she turned to Big Maddie and said, "I think I know how you can help her: you can sit down beside her and encourage her to tell you her sad story; and while she tells it to you, you can write it all down. It'll help her to know that you care for her and that you want to hear her story. It will make her feel better about herself."

Big Maddie rushed over to the fairy godmother and hugged her, "Thank you so much for coming to help us,” she said.

Swiftly she went and collected a paper-pad and a pen from off the table, then briskly walked up to Little Maddie, caught hold of her hand, and said, 

"Come with me, we’re going to write a story together."

They walked over to one of the sitting room’s large, old, battered armchairs and slumped down into it. Thus snuggled up close, little Maddie began to tell Big Maddie her sad story: about how her mother had died and even though her granny had come to live with her and ‘the Ogre’ her father, he had been continuously nasty to her ever since then…Big Maddie wrote down everything that the little girl recalled. All the while the ‘fairy godmother’ watched over them, stroking her cat, and waving her magic wand at the invisible, outraged Ogre to keep him away, for he was continuously trying to interrupt them. When Little Maddie had at last finished telling her story, and Big Maddie had finished writing it all down; Big Maddie hugged little Maddie and said, "Never forget that I love you." Then she turned to face the ‘fairy godmother’ and said, "It's done, it's written."

"Good," said the ‘fairy godmother’, and then to little Maddie, "I'll leave you my ginger cat so that you won't be so lonely; she's a magic cat and if your father, ‘the Ogre’, tries to hurt you or her, she'll turn into a tigress and frighten him away. Does that make you feel better? " 

"Yes it does make me feel much better," answered Little Maddie, adding, "and thank you so much for your cat."

”I'm glad I could help you. Good-bye, Little Maddie, and good-bye Big Maddie," said the ‘fairy godmother’ and then she vigorously waved her magic wand, twirling it around above her head. This caused an enormous flash of light to bounce off the wand and up into the sky; thus the ‘fairy godmother’ was able to travel up along the beam of light she had created, and she disappeared up into the sky…

A few moments later, a rumble of thunder could be heard from far away beyond the blackened clouds…. It woke Big Maddie up and she found herself in her bed! When she looked up and out of her window she saw that a storm was raging outside; there was a downpour of rain and streaks of lightning split the sky. It was then that she realized she had been dreaming.
As she snuggled deeper into her soft eiderdown so that it enclosed her with its warmth, she thought to herself, 'I didn’t have a very happy childhood, I'm glad that I'm all grown up now!'