Second Short Story Published in Newspaper:)
The draft of this story, Box of Secrets, was published in an earlier blog in September. Check it out!
The story as published, is below. Enjoy:)
Box of Secrets
My box of secrets lies under my bed. It’s a brass-bound travelling trunk that belonged to my Grandfather in the 1920s. I’ve had it since I was two, and I can’t imagine ever not having it. The big, brass lock is engraved with his initials:- CAD, Charles Arthur Dobson. My name is Charlie Dobson, I was named after Granddad. The old key is heavy. I keep it hidden behind my Horrible History books on the top shelf of my bookcase.
The chest was given to me to keep my Lego in when I was small, to stop my bedroom floor being covered in tiny plastic pieces. I grew out of Lego long ago, but the chest remains. Now I keep my secrets in it.
We all have secrets, don’t we? Things we’d rather other people didn’t know. I’ll let you into a few of mine. I know you won’t tell them to anyone else - you’d better not.
# # #
When I was eight I was run over by a car. I was in hospital for six weeks with my leg pinned together. No football for me that summer. After I left hospital people noticed that I wasn’t acting the same as I had before I’d been knocked down. I was snappy, and would fly off at the slightest thing. I even hit my mum one day. She’d said ‘No.’ when I asked to watch a DVD.
‘But why, Mum? There’s nothing on TV.’
‘I think you should go in the garden for a while and get some fresh air, love. You might not be able to play football, but there are lots of other things to do.’
‘Well, there’s the boules set in the shed; your basket ball or darts board on the back of the garage door, you’ve always loved playing darts. You could try your bike. The doctor said you could do most things now, as long as you don’t overdo it at first.’
‘But I want to watch a DVD, Mum. I don’t want to go outside.’
‘I said “no”, Charlie. That’s the end of the matter. Please go outside and get some fresh air. If you don’t want to play, then take a book outside. I’m going to vacuum the house, and I don’t want to be vaccing around you. Off you go, please!’
Next thing I knew, Mum was on the floor; a red river running from her nose.
‘Mum, are you ok? I’m sorry, Mum, I’m sorry. Mum? MUM! Wake up, Mum!’ I grabbed the tea-towel and held it to her nose. I felt awful. I could see drops of water on her t-shirt; that’s when I realised I was crying.
I was so relieved when she started to move, and her eyes opened. ‘Oh, Mum, thank goodness you’re alright. I’m so sorry, Mum. I don’t know what happened. Your nose is bleeding. Are you ok? I’m sorry, Mum, I’m sorry.’
‘It’s ok, Charlie. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.’ She said, but she didn’t look it.
Her face was so white you could see all the freckles that are normally hidden by her tan. And the blood! I felt sick; there was so much of it. I just stayed crouching there, until she started to move. Then I leapt up, and helped her. She was a bit unsteady, and I pulled one of the stools from under the breakfast bar for her to sit on.
‘What shall I do, Mum? Shall I make you a cup of tea?’
‘Yes, please, love. That would be nice.’ She said. ‘Come here, though, first.’
I turned back, and walked over. She pulled me to her and gave me a hug. ‘Don’t worry, son, I know you didn’t mean it. Make me a cuppa, and get yourself a glass of orange. I was planning to talk to you, so we’ll have a little chat and a drink. Okay?’
I nodded, and ran water until the red ball hovered over the half litre mark. I put a pyramid in a mug for Mum, then opened the fridge. By the time the switch clicked off I’d poured my juice. When it was just how she likes it, I carried the mug of tea into the lounge, where Mum was sitting. She’d changed her t-shirt, and washed her face, so she didn’t look as bad; but her nose was swollen and bruised. I sat down next to her, I felt like a little boy again.
‘Charlie, love, since you came out of hospital you’ve been finding it really difficult to control your temper, haven’t you?’
I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak, I felt like crying again, and boys don’t cry.
‘Well, remember last time we saw Dr. James, and he said he’d arrange for you to see someone who can explain how to manage better?’
I nodded again.
‘Right, well the clinic rang earlier. They’ve made an appointment for you to see a counsellor to help you; her name is Angela. I’m taking you to see her tomorrow morning. Okay, honey? She’ll help you to stop hitting out at people, or being so cross when little things go wrong.’ She smiled at me.
‘Yes, okay. I’m really sorry, Mum; I didn’t mean to hit you.’
‘I know, sweetie, I know. It’s okay. Dr. James says Angela knows all sort of tricks you’ll be able to use to help you get back to normal. Let’s enjoy our drinks, shall we? We’ll both sit and watch a film together. How’s that?’
‘Yes, great. Can I have a biscuit?’
Mum nodded, and I ran off to get the biscuit tin.
# # #
My counsellor, Angela, explained all about “traumatic shock”. She explained that some soldiers who come back from war zones suffer nightmares and personality changes. It’s called Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome.
Angela said that what I was going through was much the same thing, and was common after an accident that wasn’t your fault. It was more like an illness, not me being naughty. I think I remember seeing something on the news about soldiers coming back from Iraq and acting oddly, so I’m like a soldier – cool!
But, Angela was very clear that it was up to me to conquer my problem. Nobody else could do it; she could only help. Angela said we would work together, until we’d found the best way for me to control it. She called it ‘Anger Management’, and I saw her twice a week for the first month, then once a month for a while, then again after six months. When I was ten, she said I was handling things well, and I didn’t need her any more.
The best way we found for me to stop exploding when things went wrong, was to carry round a small notebook and a pen. I had to write down whatever it was that had annoyed me; fold the paper up into a tiny ball, then flush it down the toilet when I got home. Once it was gone, she said I must recognise that I had dealt with it, and it was over and done with. I had to forget it and move on.
So, that’s what I did. At first. After a while, I was just flushing pieces of blank paper. My real notes I locked away in my trunk, along with my log of the revenge I took against anyone who annoyed me.
Take Brian, for instance. He kicked a muddy football at me one rainy day in September. He kicked it at me, not to me, and my new coat was filthy. I asked to be excused during afternoon art, and took his new jacket and stuffed it into one of the cisterns in the boy’s toilets. It wasn’t discovered for ages, not until someone complained about the toilet not flushing very well.
Then there was Arshid. He knocked over my Coke©, then laughed. That really pissed me off. Later, when nobody was about, I peed into his glass of orange juice. I could hardly keep from laughing when he drank it later!
Keeping my “Retribution Record”, as I call it, has really helped. I never lash out at people now, no matter how mad I feel at the time. I heard somewhere that “revenge is a dish best eaten cold”. I know what it means now. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to find the perfect opportunity to get my own back, but that’s fine; it’s all the sweeter for the waiting.
If I can, I take something to remind me of my revenge; a bit like a souvenir you’d bring back from a holiday. It might be a button, like the one off Brian’s jacket, or the laces from a pair of football boots, taken so that James couldn’t play in the school final. He was well mad, but he shouldn’t have taken my football without asking me that playtime.
They’re all locked away with my log book. I got that idea from an episode of CSI, where Grissom discovers that the murderer kept souvenirs of all his victims. Sometimes there’s nothing I can take to remind me, so I make a more detailed entry in my Retribution Record; I can relive it better, then, when I want to sit and gloat.
So, now you know some of my little secrets, and where they’re hidden. You’d better remember my name; and if we meet, be careful not to bug me. I always get my own back. Be warned!