Photo Prompt Story: Crime Scene

This is a short story, in 960 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, seen on one of Fraggle’s blogs.

https://fragglesotherplace.com/

Shanice noticed a small crowd of people up ahead, standing near the fence of the basketball court. Pulling up the hood of the pram to protect baby Krystelle from the drizzle, she walked a bit faster. Bikey Darren was there. He seemed to be glued to that bike, and she couldn’t remember ever seeing him when he wasn’t riding it or sitting on it.

“What’s going on, Darren?” He didn’t turn to face her. “Dead body over there, Shan. Cops are setting up a tent round it, and lights. Nobody’s allowed in”. Alan was standing next to him, headphones on as always, and staring at his phone. “Who is it, Dal, do you know?” He grinned. “Terry reckons he zoomed in with his phone camera and saw bright red trainers and a blue BMX. Only know one kid around here wears those. S’pose it must be Little Luke”.

Yellow Coat Terry was staring into his phone. Shanice guessed he would have already posted his photos or video onto Facebook. His coat was filthy, as it usually was. He was given it to wear for his job in the warehouse and never took it off, whatever the weather. She was a bit wary of him. Still lived with his mum, and didn’t say much. He always came across a bit simple, and liked to make a fuss of Krystelle.

After what Darren had said, she wondered about Little Luke’s mum. Sandra was a grumpy cow, and she had lots of kids by different dads. But Luke was her youngest. He couldn’t be more than ten or eleven. “So you reckon it’s Luke? What do you think happened, Dal?” He still didn’t turn, the slack mouth half open in a vacant grin. “Might have been Curtis and his lot. Luke was doing runs for them on his bike, everyone knows that”. Shanice nodded. “Best keep that to yourself mate. I’m off to get fish and chips, see ya later”.

The tall young policeman was rolling out blue and white tape all round the basketball court as the news crew turned up with their camera and a shivering reporter. Inside the fence, figures moved around in white paper suits, hoods, and masks. The flash of a camera kept going off, briefly illuminating the scene. Darren, Terry, and Alan were going nowhere. This passed for great entertainment on the estate. Some other people stood further down, and those walking past glanced across without stopping. They wanted to get home. Get inside in the warm, have their dinner.

By the van, the reporter was waiting for a senior officer to arrive to make a statement. He wasn’t interested in talking to the gormless bunch hanging around the fence. Regretting not wearing his puffa jacket, he did some run-throughs and sound checks, trying to stop himself looking like he was shivering on camera.

A police minibus turned up, and lots of cops wearing blue overalls got out and walked across into the court. Someone wearing a white suit switched on a row of lights, and the men in blue began to search in a line, crouched down close to the tarmac surface.

By the time the senior officer showed up, a girl from the local paper had arrived, and a national news crew too. They had a big satellite dish on their van, and seemed better organised than the cold young man who was already there. The officer looked smart in his pristine uniform, which was covered in all sorts of braid, medal ribbons, and badges. After a brief chat inside the fence, he reappeared to make his statement.

Darren took the opportunity to get behind him on his bike, grinning stupidly at the cameras, and sticking two fingers up behind the cop’s head.

“The body of a young boy was discovered at five-forty this evening. He appears to have been killed by a single stab wound. Investigations are ongoing, and I will not be releasing any more details at the moment. Please allow my officers to do their work. If anyone has information concerning this incident, they can telephone one-one-one”. As the reporters started to shout out questions, he raised a hand. “I am not taking any questions at the moment. There will be a further statement once we know more”.

Two streets away, a plainclothes policeman approached the house, accompanied by a female colleague in uniform. In the overgrown front garden stood a battered and soaking wet sofa, with an old-fashioned television set dumped on it. The net curtains looked like they had never been washed, hanging stiff against the window.

The volume on the television in the house was so loud, they had to knock very hard before anyone answered. Sandra was unimpressed. The police had been to her house many times before over the years. She took a big puff on her hand-rolled cigarette, and made sure to blow the smoke into their faces. “What now? What have they done this time?” His face was serious, and as he looked at the woman with her leggings and top straining against a body containing too many years of take-away food, he actually felt sorry for her.

“We need to come in, Sandra. Something bad has happened”.

Something in the way he was talking, and the look on his face, made her stomach turn over and her knees start to sag. The policewoman stepped forward to support her before she could fall to her knees.

The queue at the chippy had been so long, Shanice had decided to go to the kebab shop instead.

By the time she was walking past the basketball court again, there was already a small bunch of flowers propped against the wire.

The Cows Have Gone

A couple of months ago, a herd of cattle was placed on Hoe Rough by a local farmer. This is done in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust, who like the natural way the cattle eat lots of the unwanted scrub grasses. They also churn up the ground, allowing some other plants to seed, presumably.

But for my walks with Ollie, this is bad news. Once the cattle are there, it is not a good idea to wander around with a dog. Not that Ollie would take any notice of them, but they might well be alarmed by his presence. Cows can run at up to 28 m.p.h., and for a long distance. They can outpace almost any human runner, and certainly beat me in a race. If alarmed, they might also trample Ollie, causing him grievous injury.

As cows kill more people than any other animal here in Britain, I keep away from them at all times.

I heard today that the cows had gone. They have presumably been removed to provide succulent joins of beef for the coming Christmas season.

For the first time in weeks, I could take Ollie over to his second-favourite stomping ground. Once through the gate, he was visibly excited, spinning in circles as I took his lead off. And then he was off, ready to sniff anything and everything he hadn’t been able to sniff for so long.

Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains and the presence of the cows had left the side paths deep in sticky mud, some eight inches deep. Even in my new boots, it was hard going, and made the walk more difficult than usual. But Ollie was so happy, I slogged on for a few circuits of the area.

By the time we got back, the sun was setting, and I had a tired dog ready for a nap.

Ollie: An update

Well, as expected, Ollie does not have ringworm.

After some ‘moral blackmail’ from the Vet, I paid over £30 to have him tested, even though I was 100% convinced he didn’t have that.

28 days later, she rings me to confirm what I already knew. ‘Ker-ching!’

However, his fur is not growing back as quickly as I had hoped. His ‘crop-circles’ are still evident, though minus the sores he had before.

The Vet suggested it might be his age. He will be eight in February, quite old for his breed. She suggested I wait for another eight weeks, and if the regrowth is no better, bring him back.

I always care for Ollie, as you know. But I am reluctant to line the Vet’s pockets to be told it will get better in time.

So for those of you that worry about him, and I know there are many, he is doing fine. He eats his dinner, doesn’t scratch any more, and is happy to play with any dog he encounters over on his long walks.

And now I have the ‘all-clear’, he can go to the groomer in December, and have a nice wash and brush up, ready for Christmas.

Thanks to everyone who cares about Ollie, and asks after him.

He sends a curly tail wag to you all.

(This is an old photo. Ollie in the sea, just one year old)

A Favourite Photo

Obviously, this is not a dedicated photography blog. I follow many of those, and love to see the outstanding images that people create with their cameras, and sometimes enhance and improve using Photoshop, or Lightroom. I do like taking photos though, as regular readers will know, having seen the many photo posts I have published before. I spent some time last night looking back at every image I have posted here, those stored in my WordPress Media Library.

Many are of Ollie, some of historical sites, seaside locations, or records of trips to places around the UK. I thought long and hard about those I liked best, and surprised myself when I settled on this one. Only a ten-minute walk from the house, on Hoe Rough, a place I go almost every day of the year. The weather is perhaps my least favourite, snow, and the subject of sheep is far from interesting or original.

But I really like it.
(Please click on the photo to see it full-size)

Photo Prompt Story: Table For Two

This is a fictional short story, in 2320 words.

It was prompted by a photo taken by Sue Judd, and featured on her blog. https://suejudd.com/

Losing her mother at such a young age had greatly affected Veronica’s life. Just at the time when she was looking forward to moving away from home and going to university, the shock was compounded by her sense of duty to stay and keep Dad company, as well as help out around the house. Not that he ever expected it, or asked her to. In fact, he tried to insist that she carry on with her plans, adding that Mum would never have wanted her to stick around just to look after him. But she would not be shaken in her resolve. She left school that summer with good exam results, and started working for the City Council just one month later.

She had asked herself if she was being self-sacrificing to prove a point, or even to compensate for what she saw as her own inadequacies. But she never truly faced the reality that she was just scared. Scared of a new city, scared of meeting new people, and scared of not making a go of it three years later. Mum’s unexpected death had actually provided her with a means of escape from all that fear and stress, but to acknowledge that would be unthinkable.

The new job meant starting at the bottom, but the prospects were good, and her skill with figures would prove its worth in the buying department. Most of the others in the office were older, and seemed to get some satisfaction from telling her what to do, and giving her all the repetitive, mundane tasks. Her below-average looks and decidedly above-average height meant that she didn’t attract the attention of any of the office Lotharios, and she was left alone to get on with her work. Home life with Dad worked out well too. He was in for dinner most evenings, appreciative of her efforts with the housework and cooking. And was always ready with the car when she needed a lift, or to go shopping on Saturdays.

She spent a lot of time in her room though, as she was secretly studying for professional qualifications. It never occurred to her to miss the few girl friends she used to hang out with. Most had gone off to university anyway, and made new lives in different towns and cities. Without worrying too much about it, she soon realised that she was turning into a version of her own mother. Life went on, and it seemed like a blink of an eye when she celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. Where had those seven years gone? But as a bonus, great results in the exams meant she was next on the list for promotion at work, and now had the eye of the head of department. She was given the deputy job three weeks before her thirtieth birthday, and Dad beamed with pride when she told him.

The years passed without too much notice. By the time she was forty, Dad had started to cough a lot. He had never been what people thought of as a smoker, but had enjoyed a few cigars most weeks, and the odd glass of malt whisky. Approaching his seventieth birthday, his breathing began to give some concern. The doctor told him his x-rays were not good, and he had to give up the cigars, and take things easy. Veronica kept an eye on him. A low fat diet, no cigars anymore, and whisky only at the weekend. Some years later, she hardly remembered how many now, she had to go on a seminar for work, as it was implied that she would soon be the new department head, with the impending retirement of her boss. Dad would be alright, as she had arranged for some neighbours to check on him.

The guest speaker was no less than entrancing. Julio worked in the huge city of Los Angeles, and had vast experience in urban planning, and how to buy products from suppliers. He noticed her sitting at the front, and Veronica was sure that he was smiling just at her. Never having had a boyfriend, she had no real idea what to make of it. But when he sought her out at the wine and nibbles reception later, she could only feel flattered. He was younger than her, undoubtedly, and his Latin charm overwhelmed her. He listened to her, that alone was something unusual. When he suggested they go on somewhere, she agreed without hesitation. He held her coat, stood up when she came back from the toilet, and opened the door of the taxi for her. His manners were impeccable. She found herself relaxed in his company; he was easy to talk to, and making her feel rather girlish with his compliments.

At the end of the evening, he escorted her back to her nice London hotel, and kissed her briefly on the cheek. Never suggestive, never pushy. In many ways, Veronica regretted his restraint. She laughed to herself as the lift took her up to her room. He would never know how close he had been to deflowering the oldest virgin he had ever met.

Back home, she settled for fond memories of Julio. He was back in America, pursuing his consultancy business, and had no doubt forgotten her by now. Dad was getting worse though. The hospital tests confirmed their greatest fear, lung cancer. He went into a downward spiral, refusing some treatments and medication, and ultimately declining surgery that might give him nine more months. He couldn’t see the point, and Veronica had to agree with him. The end wasn’t pleasant, and she had to use up all her goodwill at work, and most of her annual leave, to see him into the next world.

The funeral was on the same day as her fifty-fifth birthday, and Veronica made a decision, after everyone had gone home. She would sell the large house, and downsize to a smart apartment in the city centre. After all, she needed no more than one bedroom, and the new place would be close to shops, restaurants, and some vestige of life. And it was time to give up work. She had been the department head for a long time, and now had thirty-seven years of service with the city council. Her pension had topped out at thirty years, and was not far short of her salary for still working. On top of that, the difference in equity from selling the house and buying her new apartment for cash left her very well off. By some standards, she could in fact claim to be a rich woman. She tendered her resignation, and reluctantly agreed to attend a mercifully short retirement party, where she declined to make a speech.

But life in the new place was surprisingly lonely. It occurred to her that this was the only time in her life she had been alone, and she didn’t even have the daily routine of work to break up the seemingly endless weeks. One night, she screwed back the top on the bottle of white wine she had become accustomed to drinking, and decided to do something out of character. Taking Julio’s card from a compartment in her purse, she used her new Apple Mac Pro to send him an email, hoping he would still have the same contact address. She was still only fifty-five, presentable, and whilst not attractive perhaps, far from ugly.

Despite the time difference meaning it was very early in the morning for him, the reply was almost immediate. Veronica tingled. He did remember her. He had never forgotten her. He always thought of her, and regretted not taking things further that night in London. He didn’t care about the sixteen year age difference, and he thought she was an elegant and attractive lady. She found herself breathing much faster than she was used to. Replying quickly, she told him that she would be very happy to meet him again, the next time he was in London, or anywhere in England. Failing that, she was now in a position to fly out to America to see him. He could even show her around Los Angeles, if he so wished. Her heart was fluttering as she sent that reply, She had a good feeling about the future, at last.

A long time passed until he sent another email. She opened the wine again, and finished the bottle as she stared at the computer screen, waiting.

Oh, he was so sorry. The consultancy business was in trouble. He had debts, and could never afford to fly to England, let alone expect Veronica to entertain him while he was there. And he was now living in a shabby apartment, on the wrong side of the city. He would be too ashamed to invite her there, and was too poor to even be able to show her around. He really had no idea what the future held for him, and couldn’t imagine when he could ever get back to England, or be able to show her a good time in his home city. He still thought about her every day, but had to sadly accept that nothing could ever come of it.

Halfway through the second bottle of wine, Veronica made a decision. She emailed Julio again, offering to send him two thousand dollars to cover the cost of a return ticket to London. He could stay at her new apartment, and eat with her. She would never mention his situation, or his lack of money. She promised faithfully that her intentions were only good ones, and assured him that she was now wealthy enough to fund his trip, after the death of her father. She sent the email with her fingers actually crossed, then went to bed, where she found it hard to get to sleep.

At seven the next morning, Veronica checked her email. dismayed to find that Julio had rejected her kind offer. He had debts of over fifty thousand dollars to settle because of his business, and could not dream of leaving America while that was hanging over him. On top of that, he was about to lose his lease car, due to missed payments amounting to six thousand dollars, and he currently owed over two thousand dollars in rent on his small apartment. He wasn’t about to worry Veronica about his problems, although he missed her, and wanted to see her again, really badly. She hardly hesitated, sending an email asking for money transfer details. She would send him seventy thousand dollars, which would solve all his immediate problems, and allow him to get plane tickets to visit her. If things turned out well, maybe she could even go back with him, and start a new life in America.

He refused of course. Too proud, too ashamed. He couldn’t possibly accept her generous offer. But she kept on insisting. After her third email that morning, he accepted with thanks, as long as he could pay her back one day, when his business improved. He sent bank transfer details, and Veronica sent the money from her account immediately. She felt relaxed and happy, and composed a reply, outlining her plan for their first day together in the city.

There was a nice restaurant just at the bottom of the steps leading up to her apartment. As soon as she knew his date and time of arrival, she would book a table for lunch, and send him the address of the restaurant. He could get a taxi from the airport, and meet her at their table for two. After lunch, they could walk up to her place, and discuss what to do with the rest of their lives. Less than one hour later, she received an email with the flight number, and the arrival time. Only three days to wait, and Julio would be joining her at the restaurant. She rang down, and booked a table for two, for twelve forty-five on Friday.

Veronica had never followed fashion. But she knew how to dress well for her age, and always bought quite expensive clothes, of good quality. She went out and bought a white linen top, a nice flowing skirt in yellow, and matching shoes. The ensemble was finished off with a navy cashmere cardigan, and a tan leather handbag that was twice as much as she would normally ever pay for a bag. She had her hair cut a little shorter, more suitable than the shoulder length it had been, and decided on some auburn highlights too.

On the day, she made sure to arrive at twelve-thirty. The young waiter was friendly, and showed her to an outside table, on that sunny and warm morning. Veronica ordered some still water, and a large glass of white wine. She told him that she was expecting company, and would see the menus once the gentleman arrived. Just after one-fifteen, the waiter hovered, asking if she needed anything. She smiled, sipping more of her wine. “Perhaps another glass of the same”. He nodded professionally, and returned with the wine soon after. Twenty minutes later, Veronica took out her smartphone, and checked the flight arrival online. It had landed on time, no delays. She scrolled down to Julio’s number, and rang it. The constant beeping confused her. Was it engaged, or unavailable?

At two-twenty, the waiter returned with menus. He leaned forward, speaking quietly. “We are of course open all day, madam. But if you want the lunch menu, I am afraid you are supposed to order by two-thirty”. Veronica ordered the first main course on the daily specials. “The salmon fillet, with salad please”. The food arrived quickly, and she nodded her thanks. Picking at it, she was distracted, constantly checking her phone. The afternoon was becoming warmer. Taking off the cardigan, Veronica wrapped it around her waist. Just before four-thirty, she waved a hand at the waiter, indicating he should bring the bill. Her face flushed as she paid, leaving a generous tip.

The walk back up the stairs to her apartment was strangely arduous.

Ollie and his medical history


Ollie’s eyes are stitched in the photo.

Ollie’s recent trip to the Vet got me thinking. The unfortunate dog has had so many things wrong with him, from a very young age. I have written about them all separately on this blog, over the years.

But this post is by way of collecting together the whole medical history of my very brave dog.

It started with a condition called Entropion. This is where a dog’s (or human’s) lower eyelids and lashes grow into the eye, instead of around it. It is unfortunately common with Ollie’s breed, and we were worried he might get it. And he did. At a few months old, his eyes were streaming with tears, and they were causing wet sore patches down both sides of his face.
Off to the Vet he went.

Sure enough, Entropion was diagnosed. They suggested stitching down his lower eyelids, in the hope of correcting the way they were growing. The poor young dog had to endure a general anaesthetic, and then walk around with his bottom eyelids stitched to his face for weeks. He stood it all very well, and didn’t let it bother him too much.

But when the stitches were removed, nothing had changed. The local Vet recommended specialist treatment, at the famous Animal Health Trust Hospital, near Newmarket. We took him off for the 90-minute journey by car, and he was seen by a canine eye specialist. Little Ollie had to endure having test-strip papers inserted in his eyelids, and sit there until they changed colour. But he didn’t complain at all. Not once. They told us he would have to come back for surgery, to have a section of the lower eyelid cut away.

Not long after, we took him back there, and watched as he trustingly walked off with one of the nurses. He would be staying for three nights, after surgery that morning. They telephoned to say it had gone well, and that he was recovering. The next night, they even took the phone into the recovery kennels, so he could hear our voices over it. When we picked him up, he had to wear a ‘cape’, to stop him being able to use his back legs to scratch the wounds. But he was pleased to see us, and didn’t seem too bothered about the experience.

He had to go back for a post-op check, and the news wasn’t good. The eye tissue was growing back rapidly, and into the eyes again. He would have to endure more surgery, this time to remove much more of the lower eyelid, and the eyelashes too. Once again we had to leave him to face surgery, and another three day stay. He was still no trouble, and the staff loved him, as he never complained at all. After this third operation, his eyes were literally ‘wide open’, and he had no recurrence of the condition. That was a relief.

Then his skin started to flare up. There was a redness under his body, and between his back legs. Very soon, large patches of his fur fell out in perfect circles, leaving bald skin with a large crusty sore at the centre. It was obviously causing him some distress too, as he wasn’t eating, or wanting to play. Off to the Vet once more. They diagnosed a bacterial skin infection, and told us is was associated with certain breeds, including Ollie’s. It was a yeast-based infection, and not something that could easily be cured. He came home with a special shampoo, and assorted tablets for the irritation.

That slowly cleared up, but we then found that the infection had spread into his ears, something that would come back to haunt both us and our dog. More tablets, and now ear-drops too. His little ears were so swollen inside, he would cry out when I put the long spout of the applicator down deep into them. The medication eventually did the job, but we were to learn that this was going to be a lifelong problem for him, at least twice a year. And it has been, right up to last week.

Once I thought I was on top of everything that was wrong with him, I considered that I could at least cope with knowing what to expect. Then one day over The Meadows, Ollie tried to dominate a small feisty terrier, and the tiny dog turned and bit off the end of my dog’s curly tail. Not only did he scream with pain, he wouldn’t let me look at it. For the first time, he turned on me as I tried to examine the wound. When I got him home, I noticed the small injury wouldn’t stop bleeding, so had no option but to take him to the Vet.

They gave him an anaesthetic, cleaned out the wound, and bandaged it. But when I picked him up, it was apparent the bandage irritated him too much, and he wouldn’t stop shaking, until it fell off. I went back in, and they re-bandaged with an adhesive option, adding the bad news that this could be very serious, as it was at the tip of his spinal column. If infected, it would kill him very quickly. So surgery was the only option once more, with the top of his tail being amputated, so they would have enough skin left to close over the wound. Ollie had to go under the knife for yet another procedure.

Now with a slightly shorter tail, perfect eyes, and me having a handle on the continuing skin infections, I finally hoped that all the trauma was over for Ollie. Then in the summer of 2017, he was chewing on one of his favourite plastic ‘bones’, when he yelped, and jumped up. When he wouldn’t eat his dinner that night, I knew something was wrong. I carefully lifted his jowls, and inspected his teeth. I knew he must be in pain, but he let me do it with no complaint. I found an otherwise perfectly good large molar cracked in two, and was able to move it with my fingers.

Back to the Vet for Ollie. Another anaesthetic, and no option but to remove the damaged tooth.

This post is now well over 1,000 words, and all about the treatment one dog has had to endure, over just seven years.

It is frankly amazing to me how he has remained so docile, and such a loyal friend.

A message from Ollie

A 2014 plea from Ollie. This is for the benefit of new followers, as many of you have seen this before.

beetleypete

DSCF1450My dating profile photo.

OK, just because we can’t talk, does not mean that we cannot learn the basics of how to work a computer, and publish a blog post. After all, I have watched countless hours of Pete doing this, so it can’t be that hard. It is a bit tricky with paws, I will admit, but if you are careful with your nails, it is not impossible. The mouse is a lot easier, as my right paw covers that completely.

You will know a bit about me, if you read this blog. I am Pete and Julie’s dog, Ollie the Shar-Pei. The truth is, I am a bit lonely, and would like to have some female company. I thought that I would use this blog as a platform to advertise myself. If you are regular readers, you already know a lot about my life. It is a comforting routine…

View original post 504 more words