Category Archives: Part of a series

The Dance Contest – Next Steps

A continuation from Ted’s story where we meet Madge and her new partner Ronnie entering a dance marathon- read it 1 here and inspired by some family photographs I recently found – the lady is my Great Aunt.

Madge felt she could sleep for days, and perhaps she would’ve if she lived somewhere else; instead she was brought rudely to wakefulness by the clanking sound of the plumbing, protesting at her neighbours’ requirement for water with which to flush, shave, bathe and cook. All around her, apartment doors were opening and closing, feet clattering on the winding staircase. The street door slammed frequently as those living hugger mugger, having made their morning ablutions, set off to work.

She threw an arm over her face, shielding her eyes from light streaming in through her narrow window, but even that limb felt leaden. Madge’s legs were worse, her knee and hip joints screamed from overuse while her feet were throbbing as insistently as when she’d slipped off her dancing shoes the night before.

But we won! She reminded herself, then rolled stiffly over to check the money was still stashed safely under her mattress, folded into her winter muffler.

Now she was wide awake, her mind began gnawing at the problem of their next competition. White City Amusement Park was a step up, but pretending to be married – that didn’t sit easily with her. Ronnie was a dreamboat, for sure, but what did she really know about him except that he came from Cleveland?

They were meeting at the diner for lunch, she could put him through the hoops then, find out his intentions and prospects. Pulling the thin blanket over her head to cut out the light, Madge was determined to grab another hour of rest now the building was more or less empty and the water tank was silent.

*  *  *

Yeah he was cute. Madge smiled at Ronnie as he approached her and slid into the booth.

“Morning,” he smiled, acting as bashful as she felt. 

Strange, they’d danced together for nearly four days, held each other close, offering support to one another as fatigue made their limbs sag like cooked spaghetti. Now they were giving each other sidelong glances and there was a silly grin on her face she couldn’t wipe off.

“What can I get you?” Their waitress looked tired, her apron bore a splash of gravy from today’s special, Irish Stew.

Ronnie looked expectantly at Madge, ladies first his eyes said, and she awarded him points for politeness.

“A plate of the stew please.”

“You want that with potatoes or cornbread?” 

She chose potato, mopping up sauce with bread seemed unladylike, and she wanted Ronnie to think of her as a lady.

Ronnie ordered the same, but with bread and collard greens. 

“Coffee?” the waitress asked, and when they assented, she brought them large white cups which she filled to the brim.

Adding creamer and sugar, Madge found sipping at the hot drink revived her. It also gave her a chance to study Ronnie, to notice the velvet depths of his brown eyes and a cheek dimple when he smiled.

“So – what next?” she asked.

“Find a job I guess,” Ronald shrugged.

“What do you do?” 

“I was training to be a butcher,” his eyes flicked to hers, gauging her reaction.

“So you’re planning to stay?”

“Why not? We’re good together, we got another competition coming up. We could make a go of this.”  

He lowered his cup, leaning back as the waitress set wide brimmed bowls in front of them. The rich gravy steamed and settled round slow cooked carrots, beef and onions. Madge’s stomach growled loudly, and both of them laughed.

“So you plan to stay in Chicago?” she asked once she’d swallowed a few mouthfuls.

“Sure,” he nodded, “Can’t exactly travel back and forth.”

“What about what the promoter said – better if we were married?”

Ronnie chewed his mouthful maddeningly slowly, Madge’s toes curled in her shoes. Finally he raised his eyes to hers, dark brown meeting green with gold flecks.

“That wouldn’t be so bad.” 

Her stomach gave a swoop worthy of a ride on the big dipper.

To be continued on Ted’s blog. This post submitted to MindlovesMisery’s Sunday writing prompt : Light

The Harmony Aggro[2]

Image from Pixabay

Continuing a Sci-Fi tale by my Guest Author Pamela Cleaver. Written in the 1970s, it was originally published in Space 2, an anthology featuring writers new to the genre. While much of the technology and style references have become out-moded, the plot is intriguing. In a new-ish town, acts of violence have been happening, involving two groups of youths unfamiliar to the culture, which has Inspector Deeping baffled.

Next day, Inspector Deeping sent Sergeant Peel on a tour of Everington’s trendier shops that catered for the tastes of the young, to make enquiries as to whether they sold many silver suits or scarlet robes. He then read the reports through again and tried to assess an analyse the crimes. He thought about his conversation with Tim the previous evening and smiled to himself about the new vogue word “intergalactic”. He knew “way out” and “far out” – he even new that “near in” was sometimes used as an alternative, but “intergalactic” tickled his fancy. He had been a science fiction addict since he had come across his first copy of Amazing as a boy, which was probably why he liked the word.

He toyed with a pencil and stared out of the window. He began to think of intergalactic in its SF sense and a wild thought occurred to him. The silver-gear boys couldn’t possibly be from another planet could they? The first wave of an invasion from space who had landed in Everington? He let his imagination fun free for a few minutes, then laughed, shook off his fantasies and went back to his paperwork.

When Sergeant Peel came back from his tour of the boutiques, he was tired and frustrated and no further forward with the case. There was no call for silver gear or red robes, he had been told by the shop keepers.

“That means they haven’t got any – they always try to tell you things are unfashionable if you want them and they haven’t got them.”

He stretched and poured himself a cup of coffee from the electric percolator in the corner of the office.

“There is one thing, though,” he told the Inspector. “Constable Hobbs has been over the last telephone box they smashed up and he found this caught on a nail.”

He threw a piece of silver material onto the Inspector’s desk. Deeping picked it up and examined it. It was most unusual, not quite like anything else he had ever seen. It was soft and flexible but it was not woven. He crushed it in his hand experimentally and then opened his fingers. The material sprang back at once to its original shape without a crease or mark on it.

“One of these new, man-made fabrics, I suppose. It looks expensive. Better send it down to the lab to see what they make of it and tell them we want some answers quickly. It’s the best lead we’ve had so far.”

Sergeant Peel picked up the fabric with a sigh and went out with it.

The lab rang back the next day, apologetic and chagrined. They were completely baffled. Analysis had not been able to identify the components of the material which answered to none of the known tests. They could only think it was some new, experimental cloth recently, or not yet, marketed. Sergeant Peel got the dreary job of ringing round the fabric manufacturers to see if they could help. Inspector Deeping began to wonder if his “visitors from space” theory was not so wild after all and then told himself severely that if he did not stop thinking on those lines, he would have to give up reading science fiction. He went across to the pub opposite the police station for a beer and a sandwich for lunch.

At about half pat two that afternoon, he received a phone call from Tim.

“Dad, get down here quickly!” said his son, “your silver-geared boys are in the club. They’ve smashed a television set and are trying to pick a fight!”

“Don’t let them get away, Tim,” he said urgently, “even if you have to fight them until we get there. Do you think you could hold them?”

He could almost hear Tim’s grin over the phone. “Yeah,” he said, “they haven’t much idea about fighting and it just happens that most of the rugger team is in here at the moment. Okay, burn down as fast as you can and we’ll hold onto them.”

Inspector Deeping left his office quickly, gathering up Sergeant Peel and Constable Hobbs on the way. When they arrived at the Youth Club, it was quite obvious a fight had taken place; there were overturned tables and chairs, the television set was, as Tim had said on the phone, well and truly smashed and everyone in the place looked ruffled. But Tim and three of his friends were sitting on the chests of the silver-gear boys, holding onto their wrists. The faces of the captives, framed in blue and green locks, were neither angry nor disconsolate as the Inspector had expected, but triumphant and pleased with themselves.

The boys did not resist arrest nor make any fuss when they were taken down to the station. While Constable Hobbs was booking them, Inspector Deeping had a quick word with Sergeant Peel.

“We’ll question them separately,” he said, “you and I will question each one for half an hour and then compare notes, before we go onto the other two, okay?”

Peel nodded and he and Deeping went into separate interview rooms with a boy in each, while Hobbs kept a watchful eye on the other two.

After half an hour, Inspector Deeping returned to his office with a glazed look about his eyes and waited for Sergeant Peel, who joined him within a few minutes looking thoroughly angry. Peel sat down heavily in a chair and said, “I think I’m being conned. I’ve never heard such a load of codswallop in my life.”

Inspector Deeping looked at him carefully. “Tell me what he said.”

Peel was disgusted. “It was trash, you don’t want to hear about it.”

“I do,” said his superior, “because I want to compare it with what I was just told.”

Peel sighed heavily, poured himself a cup of coffee and lit a cigarette. “Would you believe he told me he came from the 23rd century in a time machine, and nothing I could say or do would make him change his story?”

“I would believe it,” said Deeping grimly, “because I was told the same thing.”

“Ye gods, they must think we’re green!” said Peel. “Kids like that make me sick. They’ve been caught now, so they might as well tell us where they live, who they are and all that so we can get on with charging them. They must know we’ll find out the truth eventually.”

Inspector Deeping tilted his chair and put his feet on the desk. “Did he tell you why he came here from the 23rd century?”

Peel looked at him curiously. “I didn’t ask him, I just told him not to be such a fool and to start telling me the truth. We never got beyond his first statement.”

“Well I tried a different tack, I played along with Lant, as this chap tells me he is called, and asked him why he came here. It was a remarkable piece of fiction, if fiction it was. He says that in his time, everything is peaceful and beautiful. War has been abolished, there is no crime because everyone’s needs are provided for and there is no aggression because everyone is given harmony therapy.”

“You don’t believe any of it, do you sir?” said Peel anxiously.

“I’m not sure yet,” said Deeping slowly, “but let’s suppose for a minute I do. Wouldn’t you have thought that those conditions would make for an ideal world? I would, so I asked him, if everything is so marvellous, why would he want to leave such a wonderful time and come back to our era?” His pipe had gone out, so he relit it as he waited for the Sergeant’s reaction.

“I bet that foxed him,” said Peel, “if life was like that, stands to reason everyone would be contented.”

“It didn’t fox him at all, he said that was just the point. Life in the 23rd century, he says, is too perfect. There is no friction, no challenge and in spite of all the entertainments provided, he and his friends are bored to screaming point.”

To be Continued (here)

The Harmony Aggro [1]

Silver shoes

A Short Science Fiction story written by Guest Author: Pamela Cleaver
This story was penned in the 1970s – more innocent times. Sci-Fi was in its infancy and much of the technology is out of date. Originally published in an Anthology entitled Space 2

Inspector Deeping was worried: it had been happening for a fortnight now and he couldn’t understand it. If Everington had been a big city, it would have been understandable. Muggings, vandalism and other crimes of destructive violence happened all the time in cities, but Everington was a suburban district which had only recently developed from a village to town status by the addition and accredition of various housing estates.

His first thought, when the crime figures for his normally peaceable area went rocketing up, was that some criminal element had moved onto one of the newer estates, but he had immediately checked and found it was not so. There were one or two bad eggs in the new batches, but they soon proved they were not involved in Everington’s new crime wave.

The other thing that troubled him was the description of the criminals; in the few cases where they had been seen, they did not appear to conform to any known group. Threee elderly people had been knocked down and rendered unconscious – straight-forward muggings, Inspector Deeping had thought, except that the victims had not been robbed and the crimes seemed gratuitous and motiveless. From the description of the assailants, seen in the half dark, he had built up a curious picture. It seemed they were young people (no-one was sure if they were boys or girls) their hair was long, the locks dyed a mixture of green and blue. They wore silver trousers, jackets and boots. It sounded even stranger than the usual weird teenage gear.

Then there were four telephone boxes that had been smashed up, and six automatic vending machines that had been battered. The blue and green haired boys seemed to be involved in some cases, but in others there were some even stranger characters : shaven-headed hooligans dressed in scarlet robes.

“Are you having me on?” Inspector Deeping asked Sergeant Peel severely when he brought the reports in.

“No, honestly sir, that’s what the woman said who saw them running away. I asked her the same thing. Thought she might have been …” and he tilted his wrist to signify drinking, “but she was sober as a judge, and swore that was what they looked like.”

Inspector Deeping sucked on his pipe sceptically, but put the reports in his file. If they were not logical, he wondered where the strangely garbed youngsters were coming from. He asked his car patrols whether they had seen any groups coming into Everington from outside the district on motor bikes or in jalopies. But they had seen nothing unusual over the past two weeks. Not really surprising, he said to himself cynically, Everington was the sort of place you went away from, not came to.

He decided the only thing to do was to consult an expert, and who would be more knowledgeable about teenage behaviour than another teenager? So after supper, he took Tim, his seventeen-year-old son, for a walk.

“I want to pick your brains,” he told him and Tim came willingly, flattered to be consulted. “I want to know about any groups round here who dress in a special way,” he said.

“What – like the Skins in their bovver boots, or the Angels in their leather jackets?” asked Tim.

“That’s the sort of thing,” said Inspector Deeping, “but we know about them, though. Are there any new groups?”

Tim shrugged. “The Skins have mostly grown their hair, they call them Suedeheads now, you know, and they don’t wear bovver boots, they’re into crepe-soled boots with wedge heels. The Angels are still around, but not much in Everington.”

“Any others?”

“Most of the kids are into embroidered denim, but that’s general,” said Tim, “not any special group. There aren’t really any gangs in Everington.”

Inspector Deeping made much of lighting his pipe before he asked his next question. “What would you think of chaps with their hair dyed green and blue, wearing silver jeans, silver jackets and silver boots?”

Tim breathed a great sigh of admiration. “Wow, way out – like intergalactic, man!”

Deeping tried not to smile. “Intergalactic – that’s a new one on me.”

“It’s even further out than way out,” said Tim patiently, “it’s the ultimate.”

“I see, but do you know about this group with the silver gear?”

“No,” said Tim, “but I wouldn’t mind!”

“I don’t advise it,” said his father repressively, “they’re in big trouble. Look Tim, you don’t mind me asking all this?”

The boy shook his head.

“Well there’s another group even odder. They wear scarlet robes and have shaven heads. Do you know them?”

“Nope,” said Tim, “but they don’t sound very turned-on. Say Dad, are you really looking for kooks like this, or are you putting me on?”

The Inspector shook his head. “I said almost the same ting to Sergeant Peel when he told me about them. I really have got problems dressed in those clothes. Do one thing more for me Tim? Keep your eyes open at the Youth Club, will you?”

Tim agreed, and they continued on their way.

To be continued (here)