A Car Called Bastard

I can’t help thinking how nurses look so young these days, but that’s because I’m old. These girls are pretty but not as pretty as Moira. One of them reminds me of my daughter, the other belle of my life. She has the same baby blue eyes.

The nurses like this time of year when the garden turns to red and gold. They gather the falling fruit and put me by the window to watch the dancing leaves and the jack o lanterns.

Kids come to visit the other residents and remind me of my grandchildren, so full of life when they were alive. Everywhere I look there are memories, some of them happy, most of them painful beyond comprehension. I’m reminded, all the time, of everything that has happened. I have lost so much, so many loved ones, and all of them so young. And it’s all my fault. I don’t do much crying these days. They say you can be too sad to cry, but today, to my surprise, the tears are rolling.

These youngsters are all dressed up for Halloween and they tear round the garden playing tag and pretending to put curses on each other. I can’t wipe the tears that fall, the accident put a stop to that. Luckily, if a nurse comes by, she’ll think it’s just my rheumy eyes. I couldn’t bear for her to wipe them away. I still have some dignity left. I want to tell these kids that it’s not harmless fun, to put spells on people. I want to tell them to stop, it’s no fun at all, it’s anything but.

Witchcraft has run through my family right back to 1692, a number of my ancestors were burned as witches. My great grandmother taught me how to dowse and read palms and tarot. She had a whole shelf full of spell books. It kind of missed a generation with my grandmother but my mother was into it big time. She never owned a spell book in her life, never needed one, she’s always been a natural. If anyone upset her in some way, she would curse them in a blink of an eye. She was like Jesus cursing the fig tree. I saw her do it many times, people would become ill or suddenly have awful money or relationship troubles. Sometimes they would die unexpectedly. Sometimes it would be objects she would target, like buildings, and they would burn to the ground, become flooded, uninhabitable and eventually demolished. Sometimes it would take months, or even years to break a person or an object down, but when it happened, she would look at me proudly and say, ‘Do you see that son? I did that.’

There was one time when I was very young, she met a woman in authority, of a certain status. a doctor, lawyer, bank manager, something of that ilk. I don’t remember much of what went on but what impressed upon me, even at that young age, was how attractive, wealthy, sharply dressed and extremely competent the woman was. As we were walking out of the building, my mother was furious, her pride hurt over something or other. I couldn’t remember what had transpired back there but she said to me. ‘The next time you see that woman, she’ll be begging on the street, scrabbling in dustbins and having sex with strangers.’

Being so young, I didn’t comprehend the levity of what she said, but to my utter shock, five years later when I was walking down the street, there she was, that powerful confident woman, but now she was dazed, in dirty old clothes, her good looks and strong presence faded with the ravages of her ill fortune. She turned to my mother and begged for money. Mother turned to me, smiled and said, ‘Told you so. I cursed the bitch. I cursed her to hell.’ And with that, she gleefully tossed a coin to the woman, who scrambled for it hopelessly, before it rolled down a drain.

I had no doubt as to mother’s power. I never thought it was bad or good, it just was. I envied her, her weapon of revenge, a deadly weapon that need never be detected, a weapon for which there was no consequence, no reprimand. I experimented but I never seemed to have my mothers touch. I used to call it the Midas touch in reverse, everything she touched turned to shit.

I got into Hollywood easily with my mixture of rough charm and physical prowess. Moira was just the prettiest girl and she wasn’t even in the acting business. Well, she was in a sense, she was a make up artist. I wanted to get up at 4.30a.m so badly, if I knew it meant being in her chair, with her hands gently stroking my face.

It was ironic really, as a stuntman, I didn’t need much make up, but she would practice on me. Sometimes she dispensed with brushes, didn’t use them, and I would be in ecstasy as her fingers blended the foundation into my skin. When it came to Moira, I was as tongue tied as hell, and for some reason, I couldn’t even flirt half decently when it came to her, never mind asking for a date.

So many mornings she practised on me, when she was just starting out. And in return, I would let her onto the set to see the actors I was doing the stunts for. I was never going to be front of camera, I don’t have the face for it. But she should have been in front of it, with her face and her delicate touch, so feathery light and yet so purposeful, like she wanted to reach into my soul.

This is why I had to mess with him. If he’d have just left her alone, at that moment when I was about to ask her out, then everything would have been okay, because believe me, I was about to, at some point along the way. I had had enough make overs to last a lifetime. She thought she was practising her art but it was my heart she was practising on.

“So, how’s the stuntman business?” she asked as I slid into the make up chair one lunchtime to practice on me. She was like that. Half a sandwich would be sitting on the dressing table in front of me. I could see the bite taken out of it. I would see the imprint of her teeth, her mouth, and imagine those lips on mine.

“You’re very talkative today.” she said, pulling me out of my daydream. She wouldn’t have pulled me out of my night time ones quite so easily. “Sorry, I was just thinking.”

I felt her warm breath on my neck as she let out a little laugh. I shuddered slightly. The soft, sensual scent about her that day, hung like an elusive mist around us both.

“I like it when my actors keep still. They usually move around too much. It’s like they’ve got ants in their pants.”

Her emphasize on the word ‘actors’ was our little joke. I was her actor while I was in her chair and she was my actress when she came on set.

And I suppose that’s when it all started, on set. I would sneak her on sometimes, usually just within the boundaries, out of sight of the directors, who were strict about things like that, especially for wet-behind-the-ears make up apprentices. So I would sneak her on, way behind the cameras and the wooden partitions, and one time, I sneaked her on during one of his takes.

“Wow,” she said in awe. “He’s beautiful.”

I turned to her and she must have seen the anger in my eyes, for she said, quick as a flash, “Of course, he’s too much of a pretty boy for me.”

I grimaced. Oh, how sad, to be so pretty that she wouldn’t even consider him. How very unlucky for him. Just like the car crash that came after really. Unlucky. Isn’t bad luck sometimes called a curse? Am I, was I, the curse, and does the curse ever get to die?

Two weeks later, I went to sit in the chair and she was nowhere to be seen. Her make up, which was usually spread out on the counter, was gone. No brushes, no perfume, no her. It was much later that day, I finally saw her in the canteen. She was excited, different. She always had a twinkle in her eyes and a warm smile for me, but yeah, I couldn’t deny it, she was more sparkly than usual, bouncier.

“You’ll never guess what just happened?”


“Well, the powers that be have seen how I always give up my lunchtime for my art.”


“The Chief make up artist. She’s seen my work, been watching me, and apparently I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?”

She smiled and it lit up her whole face. “I’m going to do him!”

I stared at her. “Do him?”

“You know, pretty boy.”

“Oh.” Deflated wasn’t the word.

“Of course, he’s more than just that.” she said composing herself quickly. “He’s intelligent and such a good actor, deeply sensitive, plus, I’m not star struck. I’m professional now. It’s all about the make up, the make up comes first.”

She flounced off and I didn’t see her for several weeks, she had moved to a new dressing room.

After that, she was with him most of the time. I didn’t have to sneak her on set any more, she could come and go as she pleased, but she would always look at me, almost wistfully. Perhaps in some small way, she was missing our little get-togethers at the dressing room mirror. I certainly was but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Then a week or so later, she approached me. “He’s asked me out,” she said.


“You know who.”

“Pretty boy?”

She smiled a little but not much. “That’s right. What do you think I should do?”

“I thought you were already going out with him. You’re practically inseparable and drooling over him all the time.”

“We’re not going out…yet.”


She began to blush and twist her fingers nervously between her hands. “We’re not…an item.”

“Really?” I said, unable to keep the bitterness from my voice. “I thought he’d have well got his end away by now.”

I saw the hurt and shock reach her eyes, then just as quickly, I saw the anger flash in them. She turned on her heel and stormed off.

I first saw the car a couple of weeks after that and it took me over the edge. It was a Porsche 550 Spider. I wondered how many times he’d parked with her.

I began to realise that it simply wasn’t enough to flaunt it in my face, to take my girl, he had to dress up that Porsche a little bit more. He gave it tartan covered seats, got two red stripes daubed over the rear wheels. On the doors, hood and engine cover was the number 130. People used to come over and admire it. They would be in awe of it but to me, that car was a little bastard, just like its owner.

I started drinking in a local bar, nursing my hurts and chewing the cud. One night I went home and consulted the tarot, my mother had never needed stuff like that, but maybe I did. I discovered I was good at reading the cards. They told me unequivocally what I should do. If I didn’t do it, he would run away with the only girl I had ever loved. I had never followed in my mother’s footsteps, I wasn’t a serial curser like she was. The opportunity, or rather the drive had never come up before. I wasn’t like her, The Queen Of Curses, doing it to everything and everyone on a whim, but like her, my pride was hurt and my heart ached. Suddenly I had motivation.

When they were at the canteen one lunchtime, I went outside to take a look at it. I put my hand gently on the hood, just above a headlamp. I prayed to Lucifer that he would die in that car. I prayed for an accident. Then I went back to work.

The next day, I saw them together on set. She was touching up his make up. He had his arm around her waist. It was like I’d been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I made some excuse about feeling sick and ran outside into the parking lot. And that’s when I saw it. ‘Little Bastard’ had been painted onto the car. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, thinking it was some sort of wish fulfilment on my part, a crazy hallucination, so I ran my finger through the ‘B’.

It was still wet. What had possessed him? Was it me?

I stepped back from the car, shocked at the strength of my own curse.

I was to become a lot more surprised a few weeks later when I watching a ball game in my local bar and it was interrupted by a news bulletin. I nearly choked on my beer and one of the other bar flies had to thump me on the back to stop the coughing.

The first thing I did, after nearly choking to death was to find out if she was in the car too. I was so relieved to find out she wasn’t, that I cried like a baby. People thought I was crying for him, maybe I was.

She was upset for a time but I was a good shoulder to cry on. Months later, she told me that she’d always wanted me to ask her out. So I did, finally. We married quickly. We had a son, a daughter and three grandchildren. And she never suspected. How could she?

“How are you today?” A nurse has come over to give me a drink with a straw in it. Then she feeds me. I never answered her question. And when she asks again, I only need to nod or shake my head and she’ll understand me, on a basic level. I see pity in her face as I nod. She wrinkles her nose slightly at the smell and says, as casually as she can. “Oh, I think you might need a new diaper.”

Then she pulls the screen over and brings it around me.

Later, when I’m all changed and smelling fresh, my one and only living relative comes to visit, my only surviving child from the crash. She’s not been the same since the accident, obviously. It’s been five years now. She still has nightmares, still sees her siblings bloodied faces, lying crushed beneath her maimed children.

There were seven people in the car, me, my son, my wife, my daughter and her children, my three grandchildren on laps, no-one belted in. My daughter was the only survivor, besides me. I can’t stand the pain in her eyes. It goes so deep. She is still going to counselling, still cries herself to sleep at night. She was so vibrant, now she’s a shell of a woman, and there’s nothing I can do…except confess.

But what would I tell her exactly? That I was jealous of her mothers boyfriend and decided to put a curse on his car. That he died in that car, but she lived and we went on to have a happy life together. Would she believe the second part of it, that five years ago, I had bought a Porsche 550 Spider steering wheel from an antique car fare and installed it in the family car, unaware that it came from ‘Little Bastard’. Unaware, until it was too late. I guess I thought I was being clever, a reminder of my powers and what I’d got away with. I never thought it could be the same one, until now.

The car had been a right off. After they got me out, the whole thing went up in flames, leaving just a husk, and yet, not a mark on that old steering wheel.

As I look into the sad deadened eyes of my daughter who was once so happy, I truly do feel like confessing, I can’t bear living with the pain I’ve caused, but instantly, I feel a pain in my chest and a shortness of breath. My daughter calls for the nurse, then gets a doctor and the screen goes round me once more.

There’s a bit of poking and prodding and I don’t feel very much of it, then they put me to bed. Looks like I won’t be seeing the Halloween celebrations after all. The doctor came round again a bit later. “You’re doing just fine.” His grin was like a terrible grimace, stretching from ear to ear. “You’ve a heart like an ox and you’re a very healthy man despite your years. So, don’t you worry,” he promised, as he pulled the covers back over my paralysed body. “You’re going to live for a long time yet, a good long time.”


Monday 9.00 p.m

“It’s your move.” said Tim.

The Hell-raiser rolled the dice. Double two. He moved pewter dog four paces onto Mayfair, where a big red hotel sat, but it wasn’t his. He took a sip of tea, then calmly returned the cup to its saucer. He looked at Tim, who was busy counting out his paper money. Could he get away with it?

“It’s your move.” said the Hell-raiser, without a quiver in his voice. Tim looked up from his money distractedly. “What?”

“It’s your move Tim.” Perhaps another distraction was in order. The Hell-raiser looked at the clock above the bar. Tim followed his gaze and glanced at the clock, instead of the gameboard. The Hell-raiser looked at Tim with penetrating blue eyes. “Roll.” he said.

Tim looked at the dice and not at the Hell-raiser’s silver coloured mutt on the land of one of his most expensive hotels.

“Come on Tim, there won’t be any time for Scrabble at this rate. For God’s sake man, roll!”

Tim, like a deer in headlights, knowing it has to move in order to live, was suddenly cajoled into picking up the dice and rolling.

“Ha!” cried the Hell-raiser pointing at Mayfair. “I was on your hotel!”

“Oh damn.” said Tim.

“Damn and blast.” corrected the Hell-raiser. “Get it right.”

The Hell-raiser took another sip of Earl Grey tea as Tim landed on the Water Works, which was part of The Hell-raisers monopoly. Perhaps he could scrape back a pound or two from his devastating loss on the May Fair rent.

“Ollie, roll the dice. It’s your turn.”

The Hell-raiser turned his penetrating gaze onto Tim and said in a menacing whisper. “You can’t kid a kidder.” He put out his hand, palm up. “That’ll be two fifty, if you don’t mind.”

“Aye up!” said Bill the barman, polishing a pint glass. “The Paps are in!”

“Bloody hell!” said Tim.

“Now, now Tim,” said the Hell-raiser, waving a finger at him. “Don’t use expletives, at least not until…”

A gaggle of photographers and tabloid journalists burst through the double doors of the public house. A stream of expletives poured from the Hell-raisers mouth, at the same time he poured the half-full teapot onto the floor. Tim slapped the Monopoly board shut. Little plastic houses, pewter counters and coloured paper money flew out with the back draft. The Hell-raiser snatched it from him and wore it as a hat.

Tim tried to hide the rest of the game contents under the pub seat. Bill got a glass and poured a large pint of whiskey. The rest of the photographers piled in and began to laugh as they saw Ollie dancing around with the board on his head. He found a five hundred pound monopoly note, licked it and stuck it on his chin, making a pink beard.

“Good old Ollie.” someone said, and the light bulbs flashed. Bill held out the pint of whiskey. “Here’s your seventh drink Ollie!” he said, emphasizing the ‘seventh’ so everyone could hear. “I think you’ll find it’s my eighth,” said Ollie, downing it in one go. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Call that a drink? Fill her up again, only this time, I’ll have a bit of that, a bit of that and a bit of that!” He pointed to every optic in the place and Bill filled it with gin, vodka, brandy, rum, crème de menthe, Cointreau, until all the colours blended into an unappetizing muddy looking mess in the glass. A photographer looked at Ollie’s game board hat and said, “Been playing Monopoly again Ollie?”

The Hell-raiser took the board from his head and ripped it in two. “This is what I think of your bourgeoisie capitalist stale soup and slippers game!” The men laughed and Ollie bought them all a drink. Tim looked at the broken board in regret. “And I was winning too.” he said.

Tuesday 9.00 p.m

The Hell-raiser found a nice spot in the park where he could have a peaceful picnic in the early evening sunshine. He had some beautiful flowers in his flower pressing book, from his many peaceful days in the park, woods, forests, valleys and dales, lakes and seashores, cliffs and the foothills of mountains. He looked at his book happily, and, remembering how countless flasks of tea had fortified him on his wild flower adventures, he took a flask from his rucksack and poured a cup. Then he had a sandwich and began to search for interesting flowers.

While minding his own business and fully immersed in his hobby, people strolled by. They recognised him and wanted his autograph. He picked a flower and pressed it into the place where his signature should go. “Here’s my autograph.” he said.

Soon, a crowd of people had gathered around the Hell-raiser. At first, some of them just wanted autographs but others became curious and wanted to know what he was doing.

“I’m looking for flowers,” he told them, “to go into my flower pressing book.” The Hell-raiser was up to his old tricks it seemed, making a joke, pulling their legs. A man with a newspaper under his arm decided to humour him and asked how it was done.

“Well now, you take a common garden daisy like this,” said the Hell-raiser, “make sure it’s fresh and dry, then put it between two pieces of absorbent paper, like so, some of your newspaper will do nicely for now, but you don’t want ink all over the petals do you? So keep it plain paper if you can. Then press it into a heavy book, like a telephone directory, then leave it for about seven days.”

Soon, a bigger and more fascinated audience had formed to watch and listen to the Hell-raiser’s knowledge on flower pressing. “After seven days, you remove the flower carefully with tweezers, being careful not to tear it, as it’s even more fragile when it’s been dry and pressed…and voila, you have one perfectly pressed flower to add to your flower book collection.”

Everyone wanted to see the Hell-raiser’s flower book. They gathered round, murmuring in awe. One woman who had been walking her dog and wouldn’t believe the Hell- raiser could possibly be interested in flowers, said “Can you make a daisy chain too?”

“Certainly madam.” The Hell-raiser made a daisy chain and put it around her dog’s neck. A man reached into his plastic supermarket bag and brought out a bottle of wine. “Would you like some wine?”

“No thanks. I don’t drink.”

The crowd gasped.

“It’s a little early in the day.”

“But you’re a hell-raiser.”

“I am, aren’t I?” The Hell-raiser shielded his eyes and looked at the sun setting over the park. “In that case, I’ll have a little glass.”

“But I’m giving you the whole bottle.”

The Hell-raiser looked at the bottle of wine, then at the flowers he was pressing, then at the crowd of people. They were suspicious. The tea, the sandwiches, the jam filled biscuits in his knapsack and the flower picking would just have to wait. He sighed inwardly. “The things I do for my public.” he said under his breath.

He bounded to his feet, grabbed the bottle of wine, opened the screw top and began to glug. The crowd cheered. The Hell-raiser stamped on the beautiful flowers, crushing them under his feet. The crowd cheered. He tore the daisy chain from the dog’s neck and started eating it, head back, dangling it into his mouth like one large noodle. The crowd went wild.

“Good old Ollie.” someone said. “He never lets us down.” A reporter took notes. The flower incident would be in one of the leading tabloids the next day with the headline. ‘Ollie Ate My Daisy Chain.’

Wednesday 9.00 p.m

It was Scrabble Final at the community centre and The Hell-raiser was winning.

“Why are you so good at this?” asked Tim.

Ollie sipped at his peppermint tea. “I went to public school.” he said.

Triple word score after triple word score later and the Hell-raiser was holding a trophy aloft. Tim was patting him on the back and there were cheers all round. The kettle was put on for more herbal tea, but then the Hell-raiser saw a paparazzi with his face pressed against the window of the community centre. He reached for the bottle of some spirit or other, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. He poured the bottle into the trophy and drank. He reached for the blonde girl in the bikini, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. The paparazzi snapped a shot. That would make a great photo for tomorrow, plus headline. “Trophy Floozy and Trophy Boozy! Good old Ollie!”

Olly felt the liquid from the trophy spill into his lap. He hugged the bikini girl closer.

“Get off! You’re tangling me up!”

It wasn’t the honeyed tones of a sex kitten. It was a gravelly, trembly voice, like shards of glass. Ollie opened bleary eyes and looked into the rheumy eyes of an elderly woman. “You fell asleep and spilled your tea!” she said. She mopped at his knee with a handkerchief. “And you need to keep your hands to yourself, grabbing me like that…” She shook her head with disapproval, “And you made me drop a stitch!”

The Hell-raiser sat up from his slouched position. “Oh Mabel, you know very well how to come back from a dropped stitch.”

“How’s your cushion cover coming along?” she asked.

The Hell-raiser held it up. “It’s coming on lovely.” she said admiringly. “You must teach me to crochet some day.”

“I certainly will Mabel, it’s so much easier and so much more relaxing than knitting.”

Mabel smiled toothlessly. “Where’s Agnes, is she making more tea?”

The Hell-raiser looked at the Craft Circle. There was no one there under seventy four. He counted eight heads of silver, one of cinnamon brown and another two with blue rinses. Agnes’ hair was dyed an unnatural orangey red and she wasn’t in the circle. “She’s making tea.” he said.

“I hope she brings out those marzipan squares.” said a blue rinse. “Those custard creams are too hard for me teeth.”

“Dip ’em in your tea.” said Mabel.

Ollie was happily crocheting when Agnes returned from the kitchen with a tea trolley. She let out a sharp cry and pointed at the window. “Oh my Gawd! It’s a peeping Tom!”

Everyone looked to where she was pointing. A paparazzi was peering in. De ja vu, thought the Hell -raiser. He reached for the bottle of spirits under his chair. It wasn’t there. He reached for the bikini blonde. Not there either. His nightmare was coming true. In a desperate panic, he grabbed Mabel again instead. “Oh, he’s at it again! They’re all sex maniacs Agnes!”

The paparazzi flashed away.

Thursday 9.00p.m

The Hell Raiser spread out the tabloid newspapers on the pub table in front of him. Tim and Bill were hunched over the front covers like war strategists. The headlines were not pretty. ‘Ollie Knits For Britain’ over a photograph of a surprised Hell-raiser caught red handed with crochet needle and wool. The next picture was on page 2, an equally shocked Hell-raiser sat between two elderly women. He was grasping one of them firmly round the waist.

“They’re not too bad.” said Bill.

“Yes, could be worse,” said Tim. “Very flattering I think.”

“It’s a nightmare.” said the Hell-raiser. “My reputation is shot.”

“Not necessarily.” said Tim.

“Very necessarily.” said the Hell-raiser sipping tea. “Look at this one, it has the tea trolley in it, with tea on it, in a teapot, and tea cups and tea things, not a bottle of plonk in sight.”

“For all they know, the tea has brandy in it.”

The Hell-raiser shook his head. ‘This isn’t good enough. he thought. I have to do something. I have to put my thinking cap on.

Bill began to collect the empty beer glasses around the rest of the pub. “More tea Ollie?”

He nodded and perused the newspapers. As he sipped his second cup of tea and the others drank their beer, a plan began to formulate. “ I have an idea,” he said. “I’m doing a red carpet thing at the weekend, some film premier. Perhaps I can mend some of the damage that’s been done to my reputation.”

“How?” asked Tim.

The Hell-raiser leaned forward and smiled. “Well, I could wrap myself up in the red carpet and floor anyone who gets in my way. The other famous people will scatter like skittles. They will have to cut me out or something. I’ll pay for it the next day, of course.”

“Not a bad plan, but where does the red carpet begin?” asked Tim.

“Or indeed end?” said Bill.

Ollie shrugged. “I don’t know. Just think, I’ll be like Cleopatra in that film.” He took out some coloured crayons and a colouring book from beneath the chair and began to colour in a picture.

“Nearly filled that book Ollie?”

“Almost. Just a daffodil scene and this teddy bears picnic to do.”

“Let’s have a look,” said Tim. The Hell-raiser held up a picture of two big bears and three baby ones sitting around a picnic table with lots of food and drink.

“Oh that’s very nice, you’ve used very pretty colours.” said Tim.

“I got the extended colour pack, three different shades in each colour.”


“Yes! Take a look. Three different browns! These bears are going to look magnificent.”

As the Hell-raiser coloured in a bowl of apples on the teddy bears table, he was unaware of the man behind the newspaper, sat in the cosy booth next to him, who surreptitiously took another photo, then turned up his recording device. All he had to do now was to get that colouring book. It was finally the proof he’d been looking for, to prove once and for all, the suspicions he’d had all along, that Ollie wasn’t an inebriated, chaotic, rebellious Hell-raiser after all. All these years, he’d been pulling the wool over Fleet Street’s eyes, pretending to be something he wasn’t. In fact, quite the opposite. Well, the truth will out, mused the man. He believed in truth above sensationalism. The knitting incident helped but he knew that after hearing about Ollie’s plans, it would only be a matter of time before the papers were made to look foolish again. Besides, the truth was so much more interesting, and profitable. There might even be a promotion in it for him. Certainly, as a lesser known journalist, he needed it, as even the Hell-raiser didn’t recognise him, and that was an indignity he wouldn’t tolerate. A diversion was needed. He folded up his newspaper and went to the window. “Is that a journalist out there? I think there’s actually three or four of them and they’re headed this way.”

Ollie looked up from his colouring book.

Bill stopped collecting empty glasses and went behind the bar. He grabbed a pint glass and filled it with vodka. He was about to put some orange juice in it when The Hell-raiser came running up. “Hold the orange juice.” he said. Bill was about to give him the vodka filled glass but Ollie wasn’t there any more, well certainly not all of him. He could see his feet. He looked up. The Hell-raiser had climbed onto the bar but before he had taken a sip, the lesser known journalist had swiped the colouring book and legged it out of the pub with his bounty.

Friday 9.00 p.m

The Hell Raiser was in the green room of one of Channel Four’s T.V studios. He was about to appear on a programme called ‘The Word’ He perused the day’s newspapers, as usual. The headlines said things like ‘Ollie’s Big Softies’ and ‘If You Go Down To The Woods Today.’ There was a blown up photograph of the teddy bears picnic from the colouring book, which to his shame, was only half coloured in. If only they had given him a chance to complete it, then he could have held his head up, just a little. He smiled sadly at the half coloured daddy bear. It was a travesty. He put his head in his hands and sighed. It was only 9.00 p.m and the show didn’t go out until around 11.00p.m. There was a crate of beer and many bottles of wine at his feet. So, someone, somewhere still thought he was a drinker and perhaps a Hell-raiser to boot. Maybe it wasn’t too late. The nation thought he was a tea swilling, crochet making crayonist. He would have to turn this around somehow…

The Hell-raiser was extremely drunk when 11.00 p.m came along. He wasn’t used to the booze and there’d been a boat load back in the green room. He quaffed the lot. He came onto the stage, in white trousers and leather jacket, open, to reveal a robust bare chest and torso. When he unevenly got to his feet, and sang, ‘Wild Thang, I think I love you!” to an impassioned crowd, he knew he was driving the nail home. This would show the losers, putting paid to Earl Grey and herbal tea, board games, flower pressing, the Knit and Natter Club and the fervent colouring in. He could wipe it all away in this one moment. A moment that would define him for good or bad. A moment that people would remember, rather than his fine creative talents, natural charisma and generous nature. This may even make it onto that new-fangled thing called You Tube.

At long last he really did feel like a Hell-raiser.

Diamond Is A Girl’s Best Friend

What am I doing in the newspaper today? Did I just make a new movie? Did I tell the world about my journal, about Bobby and Jack, about Chile and the Bay Of Pigs? People would never believe that I could be interested in those things and write them down. I wrote a whole lot of other stuff that had nothing to do with politics. There was a method in my madness and I’m good at pillow talk. It’s surprising what people will divulge when their guard is down. Maybe you didn’t think I would know a word like divulge. You thought I was dumb. Well, there are a lot of things you don’t know about me. I’m a fast learner and it’s surprising what you can learn between the sheets and then use against someone when the chips are down. That sounds mean and I’m not a mean person but I’m just fed up of being treated like a piece of meat.

So, that photograph, in the New York Times, blowing along the wet street right now, that’s me with my blonde curls, in my white dress covering my generous curves. I remember my curves and so do all the men. I remember that photograph being taken as if it was yesterday. It’s the one where I’m not wearing any underwear. My dress billows up around my thighs but I manage to keep it down with both hands. It’s a good job there wasn’t anybody hiding in the grate underneath. They’d have got an eyeful for sure. I used to be her, that woman in the photograph. A Hollywood starlet who became a huge star. It’s difficult to remember, it seems so far away.

I’m confused. I see my photograph in the newspaper but I also see my reflection in a large store window in down town New York and they don’t match, not even a bit. I’m not the woman in the photo any more. In fact, I’m not a women at all. I remember that sexy, vital, alive person that I was. Men would say those things about me. Sexy. Vital. Alive. Funny that, because sometimes, I couldn’t be more dead inside.

Strange, how they saw me. They thought I was actually what it said on the tin. And maybe I was, sometimes. Or maybe that was an act. Or maybe that was just a part of me, or none at all.

Now I am getting confused, because as I walk forward to the big glass front of the New York store, I see that I am very small against the huge window, a scruffy little thing. I feel small and vulnerable, like a child. It reminds me of when I was a child. A man, a lodger in my home, lured me into his room, did things to me and told me not to tell anyone, because nobody would believe me if I did.

I could even scream if I wanted to but I wouldn’t be heard, I wouldn’t be believed or heard.

But, despite this, I told my mom and she slapped me across the face and said I was a liar.

Well, all I can say is, that man was right. I wasn’t believed. He didn’t know her at all, yet, he was able to paint everyone with the same brush like that, and come up smiling. He was completely on the nail there, very sure of himself. But how did he know I wouldn’t be believed? How do men like that know?

After that, I developed a stutter. It never really went away but it was bad for a few years after that and particularly in my early teenage years. I was able to control more as I got older. I could make it go away most times, if I tried hard enough. I am an actress you know.

But when I get nervous or anxious, it comes back. I don’t have a voice now. I can’t seem to speak.

I’m right up to the glass and staring inside. A little girl is staring right back at me. She comes out of the store, stands and stares. She doesn’t look quite so little any more, she’s about eleven, twelve and has a calmness about her that I never had. That’s a comforting trait in another person, if you’ve never had it yourself.

Something tells me she’s a good person, not like Bobby or…Jack, or the others, not like all the other John’s who used me and left.

When I say John’s, I make it sound like I’m a prostitute or something. Ha. Why is that funny? I guess it’s not.

Well, I sort of…when I’ve been with men, I’ve always meant it, somehow, even when I didn’t.

The casting couches don’t count. I needed to get something back because there was no way out.

It was kinda weird, ‘cos I knew men. After all, a man had wanted me that way when I was eight. I was always wanted in that way, even when I didn’t want to be wanted. I was desirable to men from the onset, so, like I said, there was no way out, had never been a way out, no respite.

Wait! I remember now! I’m an icon. That’s what they call me. It was nice being an icon, sometimes. I needed the world to love me but I also wanted to love back. I wanted to be a mother so badly. A mother to a girl like that one standing outside the store. She’s looking at me in such a peculiar way. There’s a woman with her now and they’re talking and still looking at me. Now the woman walks towards a car, but the girl is still standing there, staring, for the longest time.

I think I’d have been a good mother. I wouldn’t have slapped my daughter if she’d have told me some man had done something to her. Children don’t tend to lie about stuff like that. I understand the shock and horror at first, but at some point, I’d have pulled myself together and sorted it somehow, to protect my daughter and make her feel safe. I’d try to make sure it never happened again. At the least, I’d know what not to do.

Looking back, I guess my mum couldn’t handle it. Unlike some moms I’ve heard of, who might enjoy the whole thing. My mom at least had the decency to go insane. In my mind, that gives her an out. Her insanity, her guilt, shows me she cares on some basic level. So that excuses her, and yes, I’d like to think I’d be a good mother. Or at least, know what not to do.

I also think I was a good friend. People said, I was just a dumb blonde. I hated playing all those dumb blonde parts. I could say you were dumb, or the person next to me is dumb but you don’t know what’s cooking inside. How dare people make assumptions about me. I’m a little hot headed. I might be a little crazy. I might be a little insecure now and again, but who isn’t?

I’m a quiet thoughtful kind of gal these days and empty vessels make the most sound. Isn’t that what they say? My last husband taught me how to hold still with myself, how to have a little healthy introspection. Playwrights know about things. But maybe I was a dumb blonde on occasion. Who doesn’t make mistakes?

I wasn’t stupid enough to know I wasn’t being used. And I was clever enough to know, my bust could get me places, straight on the road to Hollywood. I am also smart enough to know that my biggest mistake was to confide in my own mother. I guess you could say ‘she’ and ‘him’ helped make me who I am today…among others. There’s only two ways to go when you’ve been introduced to sex too early. You either go the closed legs way or the wide open legs way. No prizes for guessing which way I went.

Some people make a mockery of nature, they twist it and eat unripe fruit, but despite everything, I always thought sex was a beautiful thing. Early experience opens you up whether you want it to or not and whether you keep it to yourself or not. A door is opened, somewhere, never to be closed again.

The skull of a new born baby is soft, malleable. You can be modelled into any shape when the clay is still soft, then the shape stays.

I shiver now. I got wet when it rained earlier. That girl is coming over. She kneels beside me and talks in a soothing voice. Then she feel around my neck. “Thought so,” she says, “I’ve seen you around here for a day or two now. You don’t belong to anyone, do you?”

I tried to talk back but some kind of strangled something came out. She laughed and a hand came out to stroke my damp fur. “We need to get you dry.” she said. Then she turned and shouted to the woman standing by the car. “Mum, you were right! She doesn’t have a collar. Can you bring the blanket?” The woman immediately went round to open the trunk, took out a pink blanket and came towards us. I was gently rubbed down with the blanket, then the girl wrapped me up in it and carried me to the car.

I may smell of wet dog right now but I feel very special. Perhaps it was my birthday today and that’s why I was splashed on the centre page of the newspaper. Some sort of anniversary, but not of my life…of my death.

I wonder, who was it I talked to about reincarnation all those years ago? Was it Joe? Or Henry? Or Frank? Or maybe one of my girlfriends? It doesn’t matter who it was, but, if they could see me now…

Once we were in the car, the girl stroked me behind my ear and said thoughtfully, “I think I’ll call you Diamond. Would you like that?” Some strangulated sound came out again, but it’s okay, I’ll work on it, like I worked on my stutter.

Her eyes widened in delight and she cuddled me close. “I love you!” she said. Oh God. Why did I never hear that before? If a puppy could cry, I would right now. I seem unable to contain my joy any longer. My tongue comes out and licks the girls face.

One animal is much like another. We’re all slaves to the flesh. Dogs hump other dogs. Hollywood stars hump other Hollywood stars. I sure as hell ain’t blonde any more. I don’t have that white dress that blew up as I stood on that vent. I didn’t think that would go off in history and be one of those, what was I talking about before? Oh yes, icons. An iconic moment in history. That world that I needed to love me, a million people, could never give me what this person is giving me now. She is giving me hope…and something else. I’m surrounded, suddenly and finally, by love. I don’t care too much how I got here. I’m just glad I did.

Grandad Elvis

My Grandad’s name is Elvis Presley. He’s alive and well and living in a remote cottage in the Outer Hebrides. I know what you’re thinking, I’m either deluded, lying or both, but if you read on, you might just change your mind. I first found out about this life changing information one innocuous Tuesday evening while I was staying at my Nan’s.

I go to see if she needs any shopping done or a prescription from the pharmacy. Not that she can’t look after herself. She may be in her late seventies but she still runs around like a teenager and is as sharp as a pin. Well, it was on this Tuesday afternoon that I did all the little chores around the house and Nan went on Facebook. I went shopping to pad out her food cupboard, bought the evening paper and got fish and chips for tea.

I first noticed a change in my normally happy-go-lucky, upbeat grandmother, just before the daily dose of her favourite soap. She was multi-tasking as usual, reading the paper and watching telly. The opening credits of the soap started when she took off her glasses and began to stare at the wall. Tears were streaming down her wrinkled cheeks. “Nan?” I asked gently. “What’s wrong?” She broke out of her trance and wiped her eyes. “I’m fine,” she said scrambling out of her chair. “I wonder if I’ve still got that whiskey left over from Christmas?” I watched as my tea-total grandmother hurried over to the cabinet in the far corner and sank to her knees. I heard the clink of bottle on glass as she frantically searched for the booze. When she finally got her hands on it, she wasted no time, and swigged straight from the bottle. Something was very wrong.

“Isn’t someone getting married on that soap you love?” I said. “You always love a wedding.” She took another slug from the whiskey and fixed me with a hard stare. “How come you’re not married yet?”I felt like I’d been slapped. “W-what do you mean?” I stammered. “I haven’t found the right man yet.”

“Bollocks.” she said.

Again, I felt a bit slapped. “There’s never a right man to marry.” she continued. “Your grandad for instance. I never loved him. Well, not like that gut wrenching kind of love, the kind of love that tears you apart, that pulls your intestines out on the floor and tramples all over them.” I stared at her, as if I was looking at her for the first time, but then, I’d never seen her polish off a quart of fine Scotch whiskey either. It was the drink talking, surely, and what was all this about her not loving Grandad?

“Read that.” she said pointing to the newspaper. A large photograph of Elvis Presley took up the centre spread. A classic black and white picture of him in uniform, complete with peaked cap, fresh out of the army. The headline screamed, ‘Elvis Lives’ – The Hot Tub King! The King Of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, has been seen partying hard with a gaggle of bikini clad babes in a Swedish Hot Tub. A coach load of tourists spotted the Jacuzzi Hound Dog cavorting with the bevy of beauties in Gothenburg, a popular holiday destination in Sweden.’

Underneath the report was another picture, a blurry one this time, of a eighty something man, a silver fox in a hot tub, surrounded by young women. There was steam obscuring his face, but yes, it could have been just an old man in a hot tub, and with his aquiline nose, the characteristic little snarl on the upper lip and the cheeky dimpled smile, it could well have been an elderly Elvis, but the man was dead and had been since 1977, allegedly expiring on the loo from a heart attack. He wouldn’t be the first person to die from constipation and wouldn’t be the last. I sympathised. I had had some nasty bouts myself. Me and Elvis had a lot in common. In fact, I’d always been quite a fan.

After having finished the bottle of whiskey, Nan came over to the sofa and sat down. She stabbed the newspaper viciously with her index finger. “This is a pack of lies!” she said. “It can’t be him. He’s never been to Sweden in his life.” I nodded. “You could be right there. I mean he wasn’t allowed to tour was he? He never left America, so even if he is alive, why should he leave now?”

“Exactly !” said Nan folding her arms.

“I know it sounds stupid but I always thought Elvis could have been my brother in a past life.” I laughed at my own words, but Nana wasn’t laughing. In fact, she looked at me, almost in contempt, like I was imbecilic. “Well, he would be too old to be your brother now, wouldn’t he ?”

I laughed again. “I know. That’s why I said past life.”

She looked at me again, this time curiously. “Why would you think he could even be related to you?”

“I don’t know. Elvis was my nickname in college cos of my black floppy fringe and the way I can curl my upper lip.”

Nana give me the once over. “Yes,” she said. “You have his physique, before he put all that weight on.” She looked off into the middle distance. “Of course, he’s lost all that weight now, since he went on that new diet.”

There was a strange silence and I contemplated her use of Elvis in the present tense, but only briefly, then she said, “You lose your temper like he does.”

“I hope I can stop short of shooting out a television set,” I said. “But that’s because I don’t have a gun.” I laughed at my own joke but Nan wasn’t amused. She was anxious despite the alcohol in her system. She turned to me and gave me a crumpled tenner. “Will you get me some more drink from the off licence ?”

I looked at her in surprise. “But Nan, you don’t drink.”

“Well, I’m drinking tonight,” she said. I stood up and put on my coat. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yes, and you should join me if you know what’s good for you.” I didn’t ask any more questions, instead I went to the off licence and brought back wine and beer. I poured out two glasses of wine and handed one to Nana.

I noticed the newspaper was still open and a handsome young Elvis smiled up at me in his smart uniform.“I definitely have his lip.” I said and snarled to show her.

She smiled slyly. “That doesn’t surprise me. He still has it himself.” She looked at the paper again and took a sip of wine. She was starting to relax. “I should phone up those journalists and give them a piece of my mind.” she pointed to the Hot Tub picture. “He wasn’t in Sweden.”

“I don’t think so either.” I said humouring her. “I bet he doesn’t even have a passport.”

Nana gave me another contemptuous look, like I should know better. “I’m saying I know he wasn’t in Sweden, ” she said quietly, “because that day, he was with me.” I looked at her, saw the sincerity in her eyes and realised that she wasn’t joking. My heart sank. Alzheimer’s was the first thought in my head, but, she went to the doctors all the time, wouldn’t it have been spotted before now? Was this how it started? Damn, she’d been so lucid up until now. I felt tears prick my eyes and took a large gulp of wine.

So that was how it felt when you were losing someone you loved to dementia. It was devastating. Where had my Nan gone?

“On that day, last Tuesday, he was with me, in Scotland.”

“Last Tuesday, really?” I shouldn’t be humouring her but felt I had to. I was scared not to. “We didn’t do anything really. Just talked.” she said. I took another gulp of wine. She was ill, deluded, but at the same time, calm and almost credible.

She sighed. “I hope he doesn’t see it.”


“Elvy. If he sees this story he’ll go ballistic.” She continued staring down at the newspaper for a moment and then sat bolt upright and sprang up from the couch. “I’ll phone him.” Nan ran to the phone and began to dial.

“Nan, who are you calling?” She couldn’t possibly be calling Elvis. He was a figment of her lost mind. The phone rang out a couple of times. Oh, let me guess, I thought, he’s out. Elvis is not at home today. I heard a click on the other end and held my breath. I wondered how she was going to get out of this one. ”Hello?” she asked. “Is that Elvy?”

I heard a faint voice over the phone, a deep Memphis drawl with a Scottish twang.

“Oh, so you’ve seen it?” said Nan. “It’s all a pack of lies. I don’t know who that man is in the tub, I mean he’s got grey hair and I knew it wasn’t you ‘cos I was with you last Tuesday. Yes Elvy, I know you didn’t need your Viagra.”

I’d had enough. I snatched the phone from her. “Who is this?” I demanded. I was met with silence down the line. “Who are you and how do you know my Nan?” Suddenly the phone went dead. Nan grabbed it from me.“Hello?” she said down the phone. “Oh, you frightened him off.”

“Frightened him off? What kind of fruitcake is he? If you’re playing a joke on me Nan, it’s not funny.” When she saw how disturbed I was, she softened, sat me down and said gently. “It’s not a joke. Elvis is alive.”

I sighed and put my head in my hands. I didn’t want to hear any more but Nan just kept going. “I know I should have told you about him, but I couldn’t. All these silly stories in the press are deliberate misinformation, to deflect from what’s really going on. And when I saw all that stuff in the newspaper…”

I went to get my coat. “Nan, I have to go.” I could hear the weariness in my own voice. “I’ll get a doctor to come and see you. He’ll sort…”

“No, wait ! I have pictures to prove it!”

“Nan, don’t do this. It’s not funny any more.”

But she was already running to the bedroom and before I could button up my coat, she’d brought out a shoebox full of photographs and had got me to sit down and look at the pictures. I recognised most of them, I’d seen them before. There were pictures of Nan when she was younger. There were even some of me as a baby. Underneath the photographs, at the bottom of the box was a brown paper package. She opened it carefully and took out a dozen black and white photo’s.

These were pictures of my Nan I’d never seen before. A young, slim, vivacious woman, dressed immaculately in fifties fashions, her hair piled high on her head in a beehive. In other pictures, she was dressed more casually, in checked shirts and cut off jeans. Next to her in each one, their bodies pressed together, was a young man, who looked so much like Elvis, it couldn’t really have been anyone else. A young and sexy Elvis, next to a young and sexy Nan, but it couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be.

“Look,” she said. “There we are outside some casino in Vegas. It’s still there. You can check it out on google Earth and this, this one was taken outside Graceland gates. Can you see them?” She pointed to herself and Elvis with their arms around each other and then at the golden gates with ‘Graceland’ embedded in the middle.

“We had a fling,” she said, putting the photographs back in the brown paper wrapper. “It lasted a couple of months, best time of my life, until I found out I was pregnant. I met your Grandad and married him quickly. I never meant to trap him or trick him. I was a lucky sod. No-one ever knew whose child I was carrying. I did love your Grandad and we had a very happy marriage, as you know.”

I shook my head. “What were you doing in America in the first place ?”

“I was on one of those exchange trips. I made friends with a girl over there, who had two tickets to go and see him at a local venue. We went backstage to meet him,” she smiled coyly, “and the rest, as they say, is history. We’ve secretly kept in touch for over 50 years.”

I shook my head again. I found it all so it hard to believe, but bit by bit, it was making sense. Last Tuesday Nan said she was going to stay with a friend, so I wasn’t to come round. She had also seemed strangely happy the day Elvis had died and I wondered why at the time. I thought she’d at least be sad. She was always watching his awful films, the ones he loathed himself.

I followed Nan into the bedroom and watched her put the box of photographs under the bed. “Elvis was blonde, just like your mother.” She looked at my black hair.

“I dye mine.” I said running my fingers through it.

“Just like your Grandad.” she said.

We drank and talked into the night and I learned about Grandad Elvis. “Don’t tell anyone.” said Nan. “Not even your mum. She doesn’t know.”

“How am I supposed to keep something like this under wraps?”

“I shouldn’t have told you, but I know you well enough, to know you can keep a secret. He doesn’t want anyone to know he’s alive. He loves just being Mr. Aaron Jones. And he has the best cover. He’s an Elvis tribute act. A critic last week said that he was nothing like the real thing and that suits him just fine.”

I stayed the night and we fell asleep talking. The next day, I had a lot to think about. “I mean it.” said Nan as she walked me to the door. “You tell anyone about Elvis and they’ll have to scrape you off the floor by the time I’ve finished with you.”

“Nan, that’s a terrible thing to say.”

“Well okay, I’ll just box your ears then.”

“Don’t worry. You can count on me.”

On the doorstep, we hugged goodbye. “Do you think maybe I might see him sometime?”

“We’ll see, but remember, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. Maybe I’ll get him to send you a lock of his hair.”

A month later, I got a package. The post mark was Scotland, the Outer Hebrides. Inside the parcel was a lock of black hair and a photo of a man with a mountain behind him. He looked like he could be Elvis and my Grandad at the same time. He signed the photo ‘Jonesy.’ I still have it, along with the lock of hair. Nan’s right, I can keep a secret. Maybe they’ll find it when I’m dead and it will end up in a tabloid newspaper. Whatever happens, it all goes some way towards proving that my grandad is Elvis Presley and he’s alive and well and living in the Outer Hebrides.

Quote Of The Week

‘I’ll not be vain or conceited anymore. People will think much less of me but that can’t be helped.’ But the funny thing was that everyone thought much more of Clickety Clack when he became humble and modest. They liked him very much, and often had happy evenings with him in his little toadstool cottage.’

Clickety Clack from Round The Clock StoriesEnid Blyton