Friday, 23 September 2011

The Box in the Attic

Hello and welcome to my blog – thanks for dropping by.

Lots of people have a place where they keep things they’re not quite ready to part with.  These places come in all shapes and sizes; a cardboard box in the attic, an old biscuit tin in the garage or a high shelf in the spare bedroom.

This is where we put things like unwanted gifts, odds and ends that “might come in handy later” and stuff that has too strong a sentimental value to be thrown away.  The trouble is, we put these things away for safe keeping then forget we ever had them.

I recently found a virtual “box in the attic” on my computer.  It’s a folder where I saved previously published or submitted stories and then forgot about them.

A lot of what I found made me think it wrong  that these stories, having been published once, should now be destined to languish in a dark and dusty corner of my hard drive (ok – I know, hard drives are round so don’t have any corners).  They deserve the chance to find a new audience.

I’ve blown a bit of dust off here and there and started to collate the stories into a collection that I hope to self publish as an e-book – hopefully in the not too distant future.

I could try to describe the stories (and so my writing style).  But as John Locke (@DonovanCreed) points out in his book "How I Sold a Million E-Books in Five Months” your time is precious. So, using the “show don’t tell” approach, here is one of the stories that will be featured in my book.

Hope you enjoy it.

The Boxer

Stepping outside and back to his liberty made Billy Draper blink.  Six months at His Majesty’s pleasure had kept Billy in perpetual darkness - even the courtyard walls permitted scant sunlight to fall on the incarcerated.  Greedily, Billy drank in the sunlight and the open space as he took his first draughts of air as a free man.  His tiny blind cell had filled Billy with a choking terror as, seized by claustrophobia, he had hung over the brink of madness while the demons of his mind tortured him.
            In a more lucid moment Billy had solemnly sworn that this first prison sentence would also be his last - nevermore would he be confined without light or space.  A change of profession must then surely follow for a pugilist and petty thief, whose trade, plied amongst the dark streets of London’s dockland, pitched him daily against the servants of the law.
            Complementary to Billy’s stone fists and nimble fingers was a glass heart.  A heart he had given to his beloved Nell.  It was thoughts of her that had sustained Billy during his hours of dark despair - and it was to her that his thoughts now turned.  A raven haired beauty, Nell served at the Black Dog alehouse on the waterfront.  She readily conceded a fondness for young Billy, but then she held a fondness for many a lad free with his money.  In blissful naivety, Billy was ignorant and loved the girl beyond the point of worship.
            ‘’What’s first then?’’ Billy mused, sauntering along.  ‘’Mr. Harlow or Nell?’’  Mr. Harlow, Billy’s employer, was a businessman of dubious integrity: fencing Billy’s gains and providing work, both in the bare-fist rings of the East End and amongst the trinkets and baubles of London’s wealthy.  Work could wait until tomorrow; a visit to Nell at the Dog was the tonic Billy needed.
            The bar was full.  Dockers were enjoying a respite from their labours.  Billy suddenly felt hemmed in and grew anxious.  Through the throng he caught sight of Nell - then watched, mortified as a fat merchant filled his opulent hand with Nell’s ample buttocks.  The contact was fleeting, Nell would brook no such conduct - at least not while she was serving.  Billy’s blood became ice, then boiled.
            Like a whipped horse, Billy scattered the crowd.  The fracas was brief -  Billy’s anger dissipating as the man’s life spilled to the floor.  A scream pierced the ensuing silence and the victim’s shocked companions found their feet as one.
            Instantly, Billy was folded into a scrum of cohorts, propelled towards the back of the bar, out into the alley beyond and away from the scene.
            Presently, Billy found himself sitting in a small store room at the rear of Jacob Steenbaum and Sons, bespoke tailors.  He was in a cold sweat.  This was a nightmare!  How could everything have gone so wrong?  So quickly?  The walls began to close in slowly.  Billy could not breathe.  Sweating profusely he fought desperately for air, each frantic gasp rasping loudly in the shrinking room.  Billy began to shake as his demons chuckled.
Suddenly, the door opened, the walls retreated and the demons fell silent.
            ‘’Billy, Billy, what have you been doing?’’  A tall thin man, with dark penetrating eyes seated himself opposite the fugitive.                       
‘’Hello, Mr. Harlow.’’  Still trembling, Billy was contrite.
            ‘’You have no idea of the trouble you have caused me, young man.’’  Mr. Harlow’s tone was flat and devoid of any hint of emotion.  As Billy had no idea what his employer was alluding to, he chose to remain silent.  ‘’I should really turn you in.’’
            ‘’No!  Mr. Harlow.  Please......’’ 
            A raised hand curtailed Billy’s tremulous entreaty.  ‘’Don’t worry.’’
Mr. Harlow’s smile was incongruous on his chiselled features.  ‘’I’ve no intention of that, you should know we look after our own.  No, in fact I have a job for you.’’
            ‘’Don’t you think I should be lying low?’’
            ‘’Oh, you’ll be doing that all right.’’  Mr. Harlow laughed at some unseen joke, then became instantly serious as he continued.  ‘’A small chest of gold bullion is being shipped to America.  You are going to snatch that chest.’’
            ‘’But guv’nor, there will be guards everywhere,’’ Billy objected.
            ‘’Not in a locked cargo hold,’’ Mr. Harlow revealed.  ‘’You will be secreted into the hold in a crate.  Once there you will switch the chest with a dummy one.  It’s that easy - no-one will ever know you’re there.’’
            Suddenly, Billy’s demons crashed gleefully into his consciousness at the realisation that he would be spending several days entombed in the lightless crate.
            ‘’I can’t do it.  The box.  I can’t stay in the box.  No!’’
            ‘’Then you will hang.  You can’t hide forever.  Think about it.  A new start for you and Nell in a new country.  You could do well as a prize fighter in New York.’’  With that Mr. Harlow departed.

            Billy eyed the crate nervously.  The open sarcophagus seemed innocuous enough, but he knew his demons were in there, waiting until he was alone - in the dark.
            ‘’Be brave my Billy boy,’’ Nell sang in his ear.  ‘’Just a few short weeks, then we’ll start our new life together.’’ She placed a delicate kiss on Billy’s cheek and turned away.  Mr. Harlow’s wink was met with a shy smile as Nell passed him.                                                                                                        
            Freshly emboldened, Billy climbed into the crate.  As the lid started to close he tried to read the docket on the fake bullion case.  Being semi-literate, the words meant little to Billy, not even the name of the ship - RMS Titanic.  The lid came down and darkness closed around Billy Draper.


  1. First impressions on upon reading your short story. It was very dark, well written. Great dramatic ending, you have a certain talent. I hope you continue to write more :)

  2. Immediately I knew we were in times gone by - accomplished by the words you chose. I liked it very much - especially the surprise ending. That was great.

  3. Love the setting, it's where I was born, although a tad before my time :)
    Good atmosphere. Looking forward to reading more of your stories

  4. I got moved by your short story:-).... Created interest to follow up in future.