“Come And See”: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 743 words.

“You know I will help you, Jimmy. I would do anything for you, you must realise that. What help do you need? Just tell me”. Lesley sounded desperate. She had been surprised by Jimmy turning down her offer of moving in permanently, and that showed in her quivering voice. He explained that he would need someone to look after him, but to ask no questions about where he went, and what he did. And if anyone came to the house asking about his movements, she was to say they were together at the time mentioned.

That sounded easy enough to Lesley, and she nodded vigorously. “I can do that, Jimmy. I will look after you, and tell anyone anything you ask me to tell them”. To seal the bargain, Jimmy led her upstairs to mum’s bedroom, and rewarded her with what he knew she liked best.

He got the afternoon off the next day, to go and see the doctor at the hospital. Lesley said she would get more things from her flat, including the television, then bring them over by taxi that evening. It was a different doctor who Jimmy was shown in to see. A young man who had already lost most of his hair, and seemed stressed during the conversation. “Well, Mister Walker. I think you are aware that there is little more that we can do for your mother at the moment. Our plan is to move her to the Edith Cavell unit, where long-stay coma patients are cared for. I would caution you to not expect to see any improvement, even in the long term”. Jimmy took the leaflet he was offered, explaining visiting times and procedures at the unit. Then he thanked the doctor and left.

On the way home, he called into Killane’s Solicitors, taking the man by surprise. “Mister Walker, I wan’t expecting you, but it just so happens I have some papers for you to sign. By the end of the month you should be able to control your mother’s money, both her current account, and deposit account too”. Jimmy told him about his mum moving to the long-stay unit, signed two documents at the bottom of the page, and then looked Killane in the eye. He said he was trusting him with all this, and sincerely hoped that it was all above board. Something in the young man’s gaze made the solicitor decidedly uneasy. “I assure you, it is all legal and straightforward”.

Lesley was flushed and excited when she turned up in the taxi. Jimmy helped her carry the portable television in, then paid the taxi fare as she dragged another large suitcase into the house. She produced a bottle of wine from her shoulder bag, and stood a carrier bag on the table. “I got us two nice steaks for tonight, and I will make some chips to have with them. I have sent my landlord a a letter giving notice on the flat, so by the end of next month it will just be you and me, living here”.

She headed off into the kitchen to peel potatoes and start preparing the meal. Calling to him from there, she sounded happy and upbeat. “I am going to have to change my address and phone number with work of course. That might cause a stir, so I thought we should say that you are renting me a room here, you know, just as a lodger. We can explain that you need the money to pay the rent once your mum’s sick pay stops. What do you think, Jimmy?”

When he didn’t reply, she carried on peeling the potatoes. Jimmy was writing down names in his notebook. George Greaves was already in there, and now he added the surname Killane, with a question mark next to it.

Over dinner, Jimmy said that the idea of her being a lodger was a good one, and they should stick to that story for now. Later on, they could start to let people know they were a couple, and it would seem like a natural progression of their relationship. Lesley loved the sound of that, imagining that she might even get an engagement ring to wear. If she had to buy it herself, she didn’t mind. With dinner over, it was still a little early to suggest going upstairs, so she had another idea.

“Why don’t we set up the telly, Jimmy? See what’s on”.

“Come And See”: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.

Lesley wasn’t at all sure what Jimmy was on about. “Come and see. See what? What are you talking about, Jimmy?” He smiled at her, making her feel even more uneasy. Then he told her that it was just a thought he had. Something he needed to do. His mum wanted him to make a difference, and he had worked out what that meant. Lesley was relieved, presuming he was talking about charity work or something, so she went upstairs to have a bath.

Jimmy took out an old notebook, and started to jot things down.

Swords were not really an option. You didn’t exactly see many swords, and trying to buy one might be noticed. Still, big knives were like swords, and you could buy a big knife anywhere. Hunger was a possiblilty, and he would look into that. The third option was Death. That was easy enough, as it encompassed any form of death. Definitely the most flexible option. Beasts of The earth. That was a tricky one. No locusts in England to cause starvation, only one kind of poisonous snake, and no man-eating beasts outside of a zoo. But he thought of a couple of possibilities, even so.

A Fourth Of The Earth was a big ask. Even a fourth of that town was over ten thousand people. He wouldn’t have time for that, and it would sure to attract attention. He concluded that he would have to settle for what was practical. Even a few would be making a difference, and sending a warning to people to fear God into the bargain.

When Lesley came back down, she had made an effort. Hair washed, make-up on, and a nightdress that was almost transparent. She had decided that if she was to keep Jimmy’s affections, she had to make sure she looked her best. Convinced his mum was never coming out of hospital, she saw her chance to move in and be a couple. The fact he was ten years younger didn’t seem to bother him, and it certainly didn’t bother her.

He was writing in a small notebook. “What you writing about, Jimmy, is it work stuff?” She was hoping he would turn around and look at her, notice how sexy she was. But he carried on scribbling, and shook his head. He told her it was just a few ideas for a project, and if she wanted to, she could help. She was more interested in her own current project though. That of keeping Jimmy attracted to her. “Why don’t we go upstairs? We could have some fun, before an early night”.

Closing the notebook he nodded, then followed her up to his mum’s bedroom.

She was sleeping soundly when the voice woke him up, and she didn’t seem to have heard it. It was a man’s voice, in what was best described as a loud whisper. “Make A Difference”. Jimmy wasn’t remotely afraid. He knew what it was. God was finally talking to him directly, and confirming what he needed to do. He turned over and went back to sleep, a wide smile on his contented face.

There was a good library at work. Lots of books about chemicals, poisons, contaminants, and bacteria. It wasn’t permitted to take them home, but they could be read at anytime, and as a new employee, he was expected to study. Whenever he had a spare moment, he would be in the small library, making notes and flicking thorough large textbooks until he found the sort of things that interested him. The head of department even mentioned to Lesley that Jimmy was an excellent employee. Hard working, keen to learn, and no clock-watcher.

Sounding proud about that, Lesley told him what the boss had said, as they were on the bus home from work that evening.

After cooking a nice chicken dinner, Lesley cuddled close to him on the sofa. “Why don’t I bring my television from the flat? We could watch it in the evenings, maybe a film, or a nice play? I could bring it over in a taxi, it’s not very big.” Jimmy shrugged and told her she could if she wanted to, but he was going to be busy with notes on his project. Lesley pressed her advantage. “Maybe I should think about giving up my flat, and moving in here full time? It doesn’t look like your mum will be coming back to live here”. He shook his head, and told her that wasn’t going to happen.

Unless she really wanted to help him.

“Come And See”: Part Eight

This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

All Jimmy knew about women was what he had learned from his one copy of Men Only magazine. In other words, he knew nothing at all about women. After thirty minutes with Lesley, he decided that the real thing was far preferable to a photo in a magazine, and she had also taught him more in that time than he had ever imagined. Following a short pause to finish the bottle of wine, she grabbed his hand and led him back upstairs.

“Your mum’s room this time, for the double bed. That tiny bed of yours will give me cramp otherwise”. Jimmy was tired long before his usual bedtime, and as Lesley curled her body around him and stroked his hair, he could feel his eyes closing. “Don’t worry, Jimmy. I am on the pill, so no little Jimmys to worry about. Not that I’m easy, you should know. There was only one before you, and he was a complete bastard”.

If she said anything else he didn’t hear it, as he was already asleep.

The next day at work, he felt awkward around her. She hadn’t bothered to make herself look nice that morning, so it was unlikely anyone suspected anything. Though on the way in, she had mentioned about packing a case again, and reminded him to get the key back from the neighbour. “And you really should ring the hospital today, and ask how your mum is”. He had almost forgotten about mum, so agreed he should do just that.

Mrs Wilby in the general office let him use the phone, and when someone was finally free to talk to him, he was told there was no change. That didn’t tell him much, but at least he had made the effort. Back in the laboratory, he told Lesley what the nurse had said. She seemed happy about that. “Oh good, I can come round tonight as planned then. I might just pick up fish and chips for dinner though, is that okay?” Jimmy was studying a slide under a microscope, so simply nodded.

Because Lesley had to go to her flat and pack, then queue for the fish and chips before she got to his house, Jimmy had plenty of time for reading when he got in from work. He was on the last chapter of the whole bible, The Book Of Revelation. Once he had finished that, he would have managed something few people have ever done. Read the whole of The Bible, Old Testament and New Testament too. Less the Minor Prophets of course, but they were probably best skipped.

He found a passage that really interested him, and read it twice.

‘And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.’

Now that was his kind of God. No messing about, take out a whole quarter of the human race, because he could. That was so much more interesting than parables, miracles, and all the ‘do unto others’ stuff he had put up with for years. A different reader might have interpreted that as a warning. Be God-fearing, or the fourth seal will be opened and Death will appear on a pale horse to punish mankind. But Jimmy wasn’t that sort of reader.

For him, it was a suggestion. Perhaps even an instruction.

When Lesley got back with her case and the fish and chips her hair was greasy, and she had no make-up on. Jimmy was hungry, and ate the food straight from the paper. She was a bit flustered, and looking at him with a worried expression. “What’s up with you, Jimmy? Sorry I’m not dressed up, but I’ve been busy. You didn’t even help with my suitcase, and I paid the taxi myself too. You have to learn to be a gentleman, to be kind. I’ve been very nice to you”. She didn’t like the strange look he gave her, when he turned round and said.

“Come and See”.

“Come And See”: Part Seven

This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 735 words.

Lesley was beginning to get on his nerves. As he tried to concentrate on learning the new job, all she wanted to talk about was what he liked to eat, and what his house was like. She told him not to worry if his mum never came home, as she would look after him for as long as he needed her. He had to actually ask her to talk about work instead, and he noticed that she was rather miffed at that comment.

By the time he got to Killane’s that evening, the staff had gone home, and the solicitor was waiting for him in the outer office. He treated Jimmy with respect, ignoring his age, and the fact he had no experience with legal matters. “Your mother recently changed her instructions to me. I know she is still alive of course, but given her condition, we may be looking at trying to get you a power of attorney, so you can access any finances should you need to. Are you happy for me to do this on your behalf?” Jimmy nodded, and had to sign three different pieces of paper on the line marked with an ‘X’ in pencil.

Killane was looking at him seriously. “Are you aware of your mother’s instructions in the event of her death?” Jimmy shook his head. “Well you should probably be aware that she has left everything to someone called George Greaves. She added a note that he should use the funds to continue to spread the word of God. In all honesty Mr Walker, you are in a far better situation if she remains alive, that’s the truth of it”. Jimmy didn’t find that very surprising. Though his mum had never mentioned leaving her savings to anyone else, it was just the sort of thing he would have expected.

The solicitor told him he would be in touch about the paperwork, and mentioned his own fee of course. Then he shook Jimmy’s hand and wished a speedy recovery for his mum.

It was past seven by the time Jimmy got home. Lesley opened the door for him, suggesting she had been looking out for his arrival. He would have to get mum’s key back from Mrs Faraday, he reminded himself. She had cooked a spaghetti bolognese with some garlic bread, and had a bottle of red wine open too. Jimmy had never eaten garlic bread before, nor drunk red wine, but he tried both, just to be polite. And as they ate, he noticed something different about Lesley. Her hair looked nice, she seemed to have a lot of make-up on, and her skirt was much shorter than she usually wore them at work.

He decided he should probably say something, so he thanked her for doing the cooking, and said she looked pretty. That was all he could think of.

“Well I had a wash and blow-dry on the way home from work, and bought a new outfit to wear. I’m glad you noticed, Jimmy. I can go to my flat after work tomorrow and pack a bag, presuming you would like me to stay and look after you of course”. Jimmy shrugged, and with his mouth full of pasta, settled for a nod. When they had finished eating, Lesley cleared away and went into the kitchen to do the washing up. When she went back into the living room, she was surprised to find he wasn’t there.

She found him in his bedroom, reading a huge Bible.

“That’s not very nice, leaving a girl sitting on her own downstairs. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming up to your room to read?” It hadn’t even occured to him that she had expected him to stay downstairs, so he apologised and told her he was close to the end of the New Testament, and hoping to finish it that week. “Are you Bible-crazy then, like your mum?” She seemed unhappy. Jimmy told her that he was used to being alone, and he only had The Bible to read. He wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and why his mum and her friends were so obsessed with it.

She reached over and closed the book. Slipping off her shoes, she knelt on the edge of the bed and began unbuttoning her blouse.

“Oh I think we can do better than reading that old thing, Jimmy”.

“Come And See”: Part Six

This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 690 words.

Jimmy checked that his mum was actually breathing. Then he rang 999 and asked for an ambulance, telling the dispatcher that his mum seemed to be unconscious. After that he ran along the street to Mrs Faraday, gave her his mum’s keys, and asked her to wait in his house for the ambulance. He told her he had to go to work, and couldn’t possibly be late. Giving her no time to argue, he headed off to the bus stop.

At the eleven o’clock tea-break, he mentioned to Lesley about his mum, and she was shocked to hear that he had still come into work. She went to tell the head of department, and he insisted that Jimmy leave work immediately, and go to the hospital. Jimmy was reluctant to go, telling his boss that he would call into the hospital after work, and see if she was still there. But with Lesley joining in, he had no alternative but to go and get the bus to The Royal Victoria.

Casualty reception was quiet that morning, and a kind older woman said she would get one of the nurses to come and speak to him. Ten minutes later, a crisp and efficient Nursing Sister appeared. She took Jimmy into an unoccupied cubicle and told him that his mum had suffered a serious stroke. She used the word ‘catastrophic’ in fact. Although she was still alive, and likely to stay alive, she would probably be unable to speak or move. She asked Jimmy about family who could help, and he told her he was it. Then she took him to see his mum in a side room.

Norah Walker looked like she was sleeping soundly. In fact, she was snoring. Jimmy looked at her, thinking she looked a lot older than she did yesterday. Behind him, the nurse talked about long-term care, possibly in a residential facility. She was sure Jimmy could never cope alone, and said the doctor would come to speak to him soon. She left Jimmy siting by the bedside, without a clue what to say or do.

The doctor looked tired. He said his name was Doctor Singh, and he was wearing a turban. But his accent was the same as Jimmy’s. He repeated what the nurse had said. Mum might never recover, but she could possibly live for many years yet, maybe as long as twenty years.

When he concluded by asking if Jimmy wanted him to try to get her into long-term care, Jimmy was nodding before he had finished speaking.

That night at home, Jimmy did something he had never done before. He went through all of his mum’s papers, which were stored neatly in a drawer in her bedroom. There was a life insurance policy, but as she was still alive, he ignored that. Then he found some papers from a solicitor in town. Patrick Killane Solicitors seemed to have dealt with all of his mum’s business, and he thought he had better contact them.

He phoned the number on the headed notepaper, and he was eventually put through to Patrick himself. He didn’t have the expected Irish accent, and spoke softly in a very cultured way. “Mister Walker, I think you should come in and see me. I have things to discuss now Norah is in this condition. Will tomorrow at six be suitable?” Jimmy confirmed that appointment, and hung up.

That night, he carried on reading the New Testament, and got as far as 1 Peter before falling asleep.

Lesley was all over him the next morning. She wasn’t talking about work at all, just telling him she would cook him dinner, even come to his house to do it if he wanted. She said he shouldn’t worry about work, as she had spoken to the boss. He was happy to give Jimmy as much time off as he needed. Norah was a long-term employee, and much valued. Lesley said that if he wanted, she could stay in a spare room at his house, and look after him.

Preoccupied with the meeting with Killane later, Jimmy just nodded, and gave her his door key.

“Come And See” : Part Five

This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 746 words.

For Jimmy, the best thing about the new year of 1970 was that he would soon be eighteen years old, leaving school, and starting work. He had got the good pass grades he expected, and should be starting at Hopgood Pharmaceuticals just after Easter. For his mum, the best thing for her was that it was no longer the ‘Swinging Sixties’. She had hated all that pop music, free love, mini-skirts, and girls being on the pill. She was hoping for a better decade, a more God-fearing time to come.

Jimmy hadn’t had any of that free love, and since mum had sold the telly and thrown away the transistor radio, he hadn’t had any pop music either.

Mum’s prayer group had expanded a little. His mum said they now had twenty-six members, and Reverend George was better than ever with his fiery rhetoric. Jimmy had never been inside after that first time, and he had eventually got used to his mum always being out. He had also read a fair bit of the New Testament, though he had found it rather disappointing.

Jesus had started out well, throwing out the money-lenders and stuff, but Jimmy had found it hard to tolerate all those miracles. They seemed too far-fetched for his liking.

With the end of his schooling coming up, and a new job to prepare for, he had closed his Bible for now, reading up on his chemistry books instead. He was determined to make a good impression, and carve out a genuine career for himself in the Testing Department at Hopgood’s. As well as testing the efficacy of any new drugs, they also had contracts for blood tests, and bacterial testing. They would get samples sent in from hospitals, local councils, and even the police.

He had read up on that forensic side; establishing blood groups, identifying possible suspects, detecting poisons in tissue samples. It was all still rather new, but he hoped to get involved in that area, as it interested him.

The first day at work was rather embarrassing. Jimmy’s mum insisted they travel in together, then she walked him up to the head of his department, and introduced him as if he were a child on his first day at school. He could see his new colleagues eyeing her, and raising their eyebrows. She was not averse to expounding her salvation theories during the lunch break, something she had already told her son. Jimmy resolved to take the latest break allowed, as his mum sitting with him would tar him with the same brush.

That first week was something of a blur. He met a couple of dozen people whose names he was sure he would never remember, and was shown around the whole complex of buildings, even parts he would never be required to work in.

Then he was assigned a mentor. Lesley was a woman in her late twenties, and she had been working at Hopgood’s since leaving university. Jimmy got the impression she was unpopular, but his experience with women was no experience, so he didn’t notice the fact that she was overweight, wore thick-lens glasses, and had greasy hair. He treated her with great respect, and was keen to learn from her.

Very soon, Lesley liked Jimmy. She liked him a lot.

Once Lesley was on his side, Jimmy got to finally do some science. She mentioned extending his mentorship past the first week, just to be certain he was comfortable. He was happy to accept that, and she was soon showing him lots of the different aspects of the job, including the forensic analysis, which was her speciality. Because of her age, Jimmy naturally assumed she was married. But during a conversation when she mentioned living alone, he found out that wasn’t the case.

On Thursday, Lesley asked him outright if he was as crazy about religion as his mum. He explained about his dad leaving, having no television, and only having The Bible to read. But he was quick to critisize the prayer group and Reverend George, telling her he thought it was just a way for George to get money. Lesley looked very pleased by his answer.

On the way home that night, Jimmy’s mum complained of a blinding headache that she couldn’t shift. Back in the house, she prayed for The Lord to take away her headache, and went to bed early, unable to eat any dinner.

The next morning, Jimmy couldn’t wake her up.

“Come And See”: Part Four

This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 742 words.

After that first experience of the prayer group, Jimmy did a deal with his mum. He would wheel her there on Sundays, but not stay for the meeting. He had to tell the scary old lady not to bolt the door, and then made his escape before Reverend George appeared. There was something about that man he really didn’t like. He would hang around for an hour, then collect her for the trip home.

At least the broken ankle stopped his mum from going to the shopping precinct, or standing outside the Londis shop.

The downside was that she was off sick from work, and around all the time. At least he had school to get a few hours away from her, but she started going on about God as soon as he got home, so he retreated to his bedroom at the earliest opportunity. More used to the the very old-fashioned style of writing by now, he had got as far as Judges, and was almost up to Ruth. The main conclusion he had reached so far was that God was a very vengeful God, and anyone who crossed him was in serious trouble.

School was going well though, as long as he could avoid the taunts of the boys who teased him about his mum. They called her ‘Bible-Basher’, or ‘God-Botherer’ and one asked Jimmy why Jesus hadn’t just reached down from Heaven and healed her ankle, to save her having it in plaster. Good news was that he won a prize in Chemistry, and when he told his mum she said she would buy him a small statue of Jesus to keep in his bedroom. Jimmy would have preferred some chocolate-covered Brazil nuts, but said nothing.

He took his exams that summer, and when the results came in, he had Grade One O-level passes in Chemistry, Biology, Maths, and Physics. The passes in English, French, and Geography were not so great, but that didn’t bother him, as he intended to be a scientist. He would be going on to the A-levels the following year, and the Chemistry teacher told him to start thinking about university. But Jimmy’s mum had already fixed him up with a job after the A-levels, at the pharmaceutical company here she worked as a typist in the office. They would take him on as long as he got A-level Chemistry, which he was certain to get. Then he would get paid, be able to learn to drive, and hopefully save up enough money to rent his own place, and get away from his mum.

During the summer holidays, with mum no longer in a leg cast and back at work, he had more free time. But with no friends to speak of, and no telly to watch, he was soon up to the book of Proverbs. One line in that caught his attention. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”. There it was again. Fear. You had to fear God, and if you didn’t you could be sure you were in trouble. Once Proverbs was finished, Jimmy realised he was still only halfway through. They certainly knew how to write a book in the old days.

Of course, with mum mobile again, she resumed her preaching. She didn’t bother to buy another three-step stool though. Just in case. Some days, three or four of George’s group would work together. They went knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, and generally bothering all the neighbours. It wasn’t long before almost nobody talked to Jimmy, and when they saw his mum approaching, they would cross the street to avoid her. No telly, no friends, and now nobody talking either. Jimmy was starting to feel like an outcast.

By the time he had taken his exams the following year, he felt lonelier than ever. Mum had taken to preaching after work every evening, and all over the weekend. She told him she was guaranteeing them both a place in Heaven. But he had to cook his own dinner every night, and sit in the silent house on his own.

More time for reading meant he had almost finished The Old Testament. He was nearly at the end of the Book of Daniel, and there were only the Minor Prophets to go. Keen to get onto the New Testament to see if it was more interesting, he thought he might skip those.

They were only Minor, after all.

“Come And See”: Part Three

This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 750 words.

The prayer group meeting was nothing at all like Jimmy had imagined it would be. For one thing, it wasn’t in a church, but in the hall next to the Working Men’s Social Club. He had hoped to be able to wheel his mum in and make his excuses, but after he got her inside, a scary old lady bolted the door behind him. She said to take a seat at the front, so the wheelchair could be in the aisle.

Looking around, Jimmy guessed that his mum was the youngest in the group. Everyone else looked really old, and the whole place reeked of lavender water and smelly feet. He counted just eighteen people, besides him and his mum. They were sitting on the old wooden chairs arranged in rows, but everyone was in the first two rows. There must have been fifty chairs with nobody in them. He presumed it must be a slack day that Sunday.

Above the stage was a banner with ‘MAKE A DIFFERENCE’ printed on it in huge letters, and a black cross in each corner. Just like mum had written inside his Bible. Nobody seemed to be doing anything. There was no praying, and no hymn singing. Everyone was sat there just staring into space.

Then a man walked out onto the stage. He must have been standing to the side out of sight. As he appeared, the people all raised their heads and started smiling, including his mum. He was a big man. Tall, and stout too. He looked to be about fifty, and he was dressed in a three-piece black serge suit. In his left lapel was a silver cross, shining in the overhead lights, as was the greasy stuff he had used to stick his hair down. He looked around the room, nodding.

Someone behind Jimmy called out “Praise the Lord, Reverend George!” Then the rest of the people shouted the same thing. His mum reached out and grabbed Jimmy’s hand, beaming a smile at him, and inclining her head to suggest he join in. But he didn’t. Reverend George started speaking, and his voice was so loud, Jimmy wondered if he had a microphone hidden somewhere. He welcomed everyone, and thanked them for their preaching work in the community. Then he made a short speech about mum breaking her ankle, as she was preaching in the shopping precinct. How her willingness to injure herself to spread the word of God was an example to all.

Jimmy found that rather over the top. It wasn’t as if she had intended to fall off the three-step stool.

Everyone closed their eyes while Reverend George said a prayer about preaching salvation and repentance to those who had not seen the light. Jimmy kept his eyes open a bit, watching the man on the stage. When he finished speaking, the Reverend suddenly focused on Jimmy. He spoke even louder. “Today we have to welcome a new member of the congregation, young James. He has accompanied his mother to make her journey easier, and joined us for our service. Welcome to you, James”. Everyone repeated what he said, even mum. Jimmy felt his face go hot as he blushed.

For the next thirty minutes, George blabbed on about who should be going where to spread the word. He mentioned that there were plenty of leaflets available, and everyone should take some when they left. He kept on about how important it was for everyone to keep preaching in the town, claiming that the regular churches had been consumed by vice and greed, and only his group could make a difference.

Then he bent down and picked up a wooden box with a handle. Walking down the steps from the stage, he passed along the rows as the people stuffed money into the slot on top of the box. Jimmy was amazed to see his mum put two ten-pound notes into it. She didn’t earn much more than fifty a week, so donating twenty of that was a lot. When everyone had put in, George went back onto the stage to give the final prayer and blessing. It was more of a pep talk really, promising all the oldies a place in Heaven at the right hand of God if they continued to do their good work.

Just before they stood up to go, he suddenly called out Jimmy’s name.

“James! Be aware, young man. The Lord has special work for you. You will make a difference!”

“Come And See”: Part Two

This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 697 words.

By the weekend, things got a lot worse. Jimmy’s mum took the three-step kitchen stool with her, and headed to the new shopping precinct in the centre of town. She told him she was going to use the pedestrianised area there to get her message across to the Saturday shoppers. He had a vision of her standing on top of the stool with her placard, scattering her leaflets, and everyone laughing at her. All he could hope was that nobody they knew noticed her. But that seemed inevitable.

The weather was unusually cold, and by lunchtime it was raining heavily too. Jimmy had cracked on with his homework, and then stopped to make some slices of toast for lunch. Then the house phone rang, and that made him drop a slice of toast as he was buttering it. Nobody ever rang the house phone.

His mum was in hospital, and a nurse was ringing. She told him mum’s leg was in plaster after falling and breaking her ankle, and that he should come and fetch her in a taxi. She had slipped off her step-stool in the precinct, and a shopkeeper had phoned an ambulance. Jimmy had never used a taxi, and didn’t even know a number for one. But he did know that if he walked to the station, there were taxis there.

He asked the taxi driver to take him to the Royal Victoria, and told him he would need to wait while he picked is mum up, and that she would pay when they got home. The elderly man eyed him suspiciously at first, then eventually decided he was genuine. Jimmy’s mum was in a wheelchair by the entrance. They had given her crutches, and he had a difficut time getting her into the taxi. Especially as the driver just sat in his seat and made no effort to help. They had to leave the wheelchair behind, but his mum told Jimmy that he would have to go and ask Mrs Faraday for a loan of her husband’s old one. As he was dead, he wouldn’t be needing it.

She paid the taxi fare, but told the driver he was getting no tip as he hadn’t tried to help at all. Then she lectured him about the Good Samaritan, and how Jesus would be ashamed of him for not helping a woman with a broken ankle. Once she was settled in her armchair, Jimmy walked up the street to ask Mrs Faraday about the wheelchair. She told him he could borrow it, but that she wanted it back in good condition, and clean. Mum said that if she was a truly Christian woman she would have just handed it over without any conditions and been grateful to help.

Then she moaned about breaking her placard, and snapping the metal foot off the step-stool. Both had been thrown away by the shopkeeper who rang the ambulance, and he hadn’t even asked her permission to chuck them. Once she had worked out how to get herself in and out of the wheelchair, she gave Jimmy more bad news. He was going to have to wheel her to the prayer group on Sunday morning. She couldn’t possibly manage to get there by herself.

Funnily enough, she did manage to cook dinner though, standing in the kitchen supported by the crutches. She told Jimmy that she had to go back to the hospital next week for a plaster check, and would likely have the cast on for six weeks. He could only imagine what a pain it was going to be to have to cope with her for those six weeks. So he went upstairs to try to stop thinking about it, and started to read the book of Numbers. He had already skimmed through Leviticus, and hadn’t though too much of it, to be honest.

God was really harsh to those Israelites, he decided. Just for complaining about the conditions on the way to the Promised Land, he killed so many of them. Not someone to upset, that was for sure.

But he got to the crossing of the Jordan before he fell asleep.

“Come And See”: Part One

This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 700 words.

Things were alright until his dad left home. That was when Jimmy’s mum found God.

Well, not in the sense that she woke up one morning and suddenly felt all religious. But when someone she worked with suggested she go with them to a prayer meeting, as a way of getting over the shock of her husband walking out after nearly twenty years together. It wasn’t long before she was really into it. Jimmy was only fifteen when she brought the first Bible home. She turned off Top of The Pops, and started reading it out loud to him while he was eating the pie and chips she had carried in the same bag.

Of course, his first reaction was to laugh out loud. But when she carried on, he concluded she must have gone mad. If only his dad had told him where he had gone to, he would have walked out and caught a bus there and then. What was he to do? He didn’t know anyone else he could go and live with, and he didn’t have any money, except what she gave him to buy lunch. So he sat there drinking his can of Tizer, and let her ramble on about God creating every creature and every living thing, hoping she would soon get fed up.

But she didn’t get fed up. So Jimmy waited until she had to use the toilet, and went up to his room to have a look at the copy of Men Only that he kept hidden under the sports bag in his wardrobe.

That went on for a long time. One day when Jimmy got home from school, the telly had gone. He asked his mum what had happened, and was shocked to hear she had sold it to someone up the street. She started to trap on about how it only broadcast evil stuff, and was probably the work of Satan. He didn’t hear the rest of her ravings, as he was already heading up to his room to sulk.

For his sixteenth birthday, his mum put two wrapped presents on the table when she got in from work. The first one was a large box of toffees, and the second contained a huge embossed Bible. Inside the front cover, she had written his name, and the date. Underneath that, she had added the words ‘MAKE A DIFFERENCE’ in capital letters. Jimmy took the presents up to his room and started to munch the toffees. Then he reached under his sports bag to grab his girly magazine. But it was gone. He felt his face flush.

She must have known, all along.

So he did his homework instead. Chemistry, Maths, and Physics. Then for want of anything else to do before dinner, he flicked through the new Bible. It was a fancy edition, no doubt. Nice clear print, and some border illustrations down the side of each page. And it had the Old Testament and New Testament combined in that one volume. No wonder it was so big. He remembered Genesis from his mum’s readings, and some of Exodus too. But skimming down the pages until he didn’t recognise the words, he started to finish Exodus, trying hard not to fall asleep before his mum called him down to eat.

On his way home from school one day after staying late for cricket practice, Jimmy was mortified to see his mum standing outside the Londis shop. She was holding a big placard with the words ‘REPENT NOW AND BE SAVED’ printed on it. And she was shouting out quotations from The Bible. People were avoiding her as they went in and out of the shop, but some local teenagers on bikes were mocking her from the kerb; repeating everything she said, and laughing fit to bust.

Hoping she hadn’t spotted him, Jimmy turned around quickly, and headed for the service road behind the shops. Letting himself in the house, he was wondering if any of the boys from school had seen her. He could do without them making his life at school any more miserable than it was already.

As if not having a telly wasn’t bad enough. Now this.