Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Doug Harcourt – Short Story Competition 2007


Robbie was eleven, fat and lonely.

Jibes, bullying and disapproval were his constant companions. Life for him in Hastings was not a beach.

So, he escaped to wild places, particularly to the shaded banks of the Old Roar Gill. Here, he would sit, daydreaming, believing himself the only person in the world, silently wishing it could be so. Often he fantasised over Emma, a girl from his class and pretty as a picture.

This day, he followed the path to where a small waterfall splashed onto the rocky stream bed. As he approached, he was startled to see a slight figure by the water. She turned and Robbie blushed.

It was Emma.

She smiled and he tried to speak, but was struck dumb. Remembering previous fantasies, he blushed deeper.

‘Hi Robbie,’ she said, lifting a hand, ‘I’ve been waiting. We can’t miss the parade.’

Robbie, still tongue-tied, lifted his own hand.

And woke up.

For a moment, he lay still, the memory of the dream remaining strong. Then tears filled his eyes and the injustice of the world to small, fat boys threatened to overwhelm him. But many mornings were like this and he survived.

He breakfasted alone, his mood sombre. The doorbell rang and he walked ponderously to see who visited on this Bank Holiday Monday.

He opened the door and there stood Emma.

‘Hi Robbie,’ she said shyly. ‘Do you want to come to the parade with me?’

Robbie grinned, hope rising.

Could dreams really come true?



The dog was ordinary, medium-sized, a nondescript tan colour and with a floppy ear. Yet someone loved him, for he wore a collar and was sleek and well-fed. He had winning eyes, a sloppy grin and a tail that wagged constantly.

He stood on the path, his head cocked to one side as he watched me approach. Thunder and lightning presaged a storm as I hurried through the woods, but I had to stop and greet the fellow.

‘Hello, old chap,’ I said, stroking his head. ‘Where’s your master, then?’

He whimpered at a crash of thunder. I made to move on down the path and he changed, suddenly in front of me, growling.

‘Hey!’ He would not move and countered each of mine. I was getting annoyed when a bolt of lightning hit a tree twenty yards along the path. The giant toppled and I dived for cover.

After the commotion, I turned to the dog. He was gone. Spooked, I thought. Still he saved my life.

Rain was falling when I reached the country inn where I had booked a room. Seated at the bar with a pint of ale, I recounted the story of the dog to the friendly landlord. He regarded me with suspicion.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘You just described Ted Bannister’s dog, Gypsy,’ he said softly. ‘They were both killed by a falling tree last year.’

I gaped.

‘Aye, were a storm much like this,’ he added thoughtfully.



The noise, oh the noise!

Then the silence. Worse, far worse, for all sorts of horrors can be imagined in the silence.

Ordered to move, will limbs obey?

Now on my feet, head down, adrenaline pumping, here I go!

Gunshots. Falling, endlessly falling.

‘Move, move!’

I can’t obey. Funny that there’s no pain, only a dullness of time suspended. I lie for who knows how long. Movement! Hands touch me and words are spoken. Now there is pain. Such pain! I’m annoyed. I was flying like a bird on summer thermals and the air was soft. Leave me, leave me! Let me return to the wind and the waves.

The pain goes. I hear a voice, deep, gentle, rhythmic. My sight returns to the normal world, hot, dusty, noisy. A priest stands, making crosses with his hands. The last rites, well, well! I catch his words, but they have no meaning.

I’m drifting, rolling on a sea. So calm. Clunk! My bed of ocean and sky lands hard and the pain is an ache, relentless. I focus and the noise strikes me. Long moments until I realise. Helicopter rotors! I prefer my kind of flying.

The trip is soon over, but the pain has increased. Why, why, why?

A large figure looms as I float over fields of waving grass.

‘Hold on son, you’re going home,’ says the General.

I’m on the thermals again, no pain.

‘That’s what the priest said.’

I close my eyes. No noise!




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