Sunday, 26 January 2014

We All Fall Down

All winter through I bow my head
beneath the driving rain;
the North Wind powders me with snow
and blows me black again;
at midnight 'neath a maze of stars I flame with glittering rime,
and stand above the stubble,
stiff as mail at morning-prime.

~ The Scarecrow by Walter de la Mare

Scarecrow (by GreatJester

Scratch My Back

Eat Up - one of Saturday evening TV's biggest draws.

Famous for its hefty winning cash prize and luxurious three week holiday in the Bahamas.

Beloved by food critics and millions of viewers alike.

Cheap TV. 

Five hungry contestants have to create the perfect dinner whilst culinary wiz kid Joe Gill tastes and confers with the viewers. The handsome blue-eyed presenter with a penchant for flamboyant ties and winkle picker shoes addresses the cameras with a toothy grin.

"It's gonna be a close call folks!" Gill cries as he surveys the scene.

Tobias Bell.

A former city trader and newly divorced man of leisure who still can't believe he is appearing on a top rated TV show where he is cooking dinner.

Tobias Bell is surreptitiously putting the finishing touches to his grilled jumbo shrimp Cavatappi pasta. 

He eagerly watches the other contestants through the corner of his eye.

And mentally compares their offerings to his.

Two men and two women with their heads bowed as they silently pull their meals together.

Bell is particularly mindful of the tall brunette to his right.

He has spent most of the evening trying not to make eye contact with her.

The tension has been palpably mounting throughout the evening.

In between shooting - the several contestants retire to the green room except for Tobias Bell.

Bell has been smoking outside and trying to forget things he has no business remembering.

Now time is running out.

The theme tune to Eat Up is playing in the background as all five participants feverishly focus on their final presentations.

The music reaches its crescendo.

"And that's it folks!" Joe Gill exclaims with a flourish.

Standing beside him is his counterpart - one-time pop singer and model Callista Dean.

"Ladies and gentleman times up and its over to the viewers to decide!" Gill declares flashing his white teeth at the camera.

"And what an exciting finale its been!" Callista gushes effusively "You can cut the tension with a knife!"

"It's been a memorable contest!" Joe Gill adds knowingly "There are some pretty spectacular meals out here folks!"

Gill left his wife two weeks ago and moved Dean into his new Chelsea apartment three days later.

All the contestants smile in unison to the camera.

A member of the crew gives them all the thumbs up from the side of the set and signals to the contestants to keep smiling.

The modest studio audience breaks out into loud applause.

As the Eat Up theme tune begins playing and gets louder and louder as the studio lights gradually dim.

Then its all over.

Outside in the studio car park,  Tobias Bell struggles to find his car keys.

Tall and good looking with black hair and clear blue eyes - Bell got his decree absolute two months ago and he is just tasting the first fruits of his freedom.

But so far thing's haven't quite been going as he planned.

She is the dark shadow in his life again.

Traces 9 (by Mymosa
"Lost something" A familiar voice enquires crisply from behind him.

Bell turns slowly to see his ex-wife standing behind him with her head held high and her green eyes shining.

"Only you" Tobias Bell replies dryly.

Lucy Spencer.

Tall and attractive with a high business acumen and a pocketful of resentment for Tobias Bell.

They had both been married for ten years before they realised they actually hated each other.

"I hope you find what your looking for" Spencer responds with a smile "before you turn into a pumpkin"

Bell sneers under his breath as the attractive brunette strides past.

For a moment he considers murdering her and stuffing her in the boot of his car.

She flashes a bright smile at him as she gets into her car.

Of all the places he had to meet her here.

He thought he'd seen the last of her.

Now he's pitted against her in a TV cookery programme.

Driving home -Tobias Bell remembers all the reasons why he hates his ex-wife.

"Let me count the ways ..." he snigger's bitterly.

Stopping off at a restaurant in town, Tobias reminds himself that he is a free man.

He is like a snake shedding it's skin - he has shed his cantankerous ex-wife.

Now he is at his favourite restaurant and ready to celebrate.

The Orient Delight.

The restaurant proprietor Kemal Terim welcomes Tobias Bell warmly into his Near Eastern palace.

"Where have you been my friend?" The rotund Turkish Cypriot man grins as he enthusiastically pats Tobias Bell on the back and leads him to his favourite table.

"I was in hell" Bell asserts.

Good times.

One hour later and Bell finishes his bottle of red wine and his plate of Kolokas.

He quickly checks his watch.

Its 9.20 pm.

At 10.30 pm they will announce the winner of the Eat Up challenge.

"Then I'll show that bitch ...I'll show that bitch who is king" Tobias Bell snarls.

As he drives home - Bell makes plans.

He'll sell up and move away.

He'll burn any lingering artifacts of his life with Lucy Spencer.

He'll start up his own business.

He'll grow his hair and get a tattoo.

"That fucking bitch won't win!" Bell cries as he turns up the car stereo and sings along to Iron Maiden.

Twenty minutes later and Tobias Bell is sitting alone in his modest little apartment with only a bottle of Cheval Blanc to comfort him.

Tobias Bell sits back on his leather sofa and watches the clock tick on the wall.

A sparsely furnished place in a respectable part of New Acres

They were living apart but their antipathy and resentment still bound them together.

Both of them were stunned into silence when they arrived at the studio.

Their animosity towards each other was obvious from the start.

They grinned flatly as they attempted to avoid each other thereafter.

"Stay away from me!" Lucy Spencer hissed under her breath at Tobias Bell.

"No need to worry you frigid bitch" Bell retorted "You spent most of our married life saying that in bed!"

A frost descended upon the warring couple but they maintained an outward show of amiability.

They could have fooled anyone.

Except for the make-up artist who noticed their behaviour.

By the end of the day even the gaffer knew about the estranged couple.

"Screwing you was like screwing a corpse!" Tobias Bell sneered maliciously "I should have married a stiff instead!"

"Marrying you was worse than a sympathy fuck!" Spencer snapped back as she considered stabbing Bell through the heart with a meat cleaver.

Later in the show as they took their places behind their markers - the gloves were off.

"If you upstage me,  I'll chop your bloody schlong off with this carving knife" Lucy Spencer warned.

"I thought you'd stabbed me in the back with it already!" Bell growled back at her.

Now Tobias Bell helped himself to the Cheval Blanc and began mentally counting down the minutes.

After a second glass of wine he began to feel drowsy.

His eyes were heavy and unable to fight his exhaustion he drifted off to sleep.

Tobias Bell was dead to the world.

Waking up abruptly, Bell turned the TV on in time to catch the final moments of Eat Up.

"For the first time ever in the history of Eat Up, we have a tie!" Joe Gill announces to the camera as his brilliant white teeth flash in the studio lights.

Along with his black Prada suit he is sporting a polka dot cravat.

"That's right Joe, its a TV first!" Callista Dean exclaims dramatically.

Dean is wearing a tight blue Balenciaga gown and impossibly high Jimmy Choo heels.

"Because tonight we have to announce that there are two winners ..." Gill cries with a flourish.

The camera's zoom in on Joe Gill and Callista Dean as they pause to smile in unison like Siamese twins.

Consummate professionals both.

The studio audience breaks out into wild applause on cue.

The Eat Up theme tune begins playing.

Joe Gill launches into his charm offensive.

"Ladies and gentleman, tonight we are delighted to announce that ..."

Tobias Bell moves in closer to the huge TV screen.

"... that the joint winners are ..."

Bell's hands shake as he pours himself another drink.

Ready for dinner (by valentina
"... Lucy Spencer and Tobias Bell!"

Bell drops the bottle and the glass.

Just then,  Lucy Spencer rushes into view and is avidly embraced by the two hosts.

She is dressed in a black Versace gown with a revealing slit down the side and black Manolo Blahnik heels.

Slowly turning to the camera, Spencer behaves as if she has lived her entire life on stage.

"Thank you ... thank you all so much ... I am sure I will speak for us all when I say how much fun it's been participating in the show ... and how great it is to win ... and I'm sure I will speak up for Tobias Bell when I say that money isn't everything ... and that is why I am giving my winnings to the Fairy Lights Foundation for sick children ... and that I will be giving up my holiday for a terminally sick child to enjoy!"

The audience is rapturously applauding her speech and cheering Lucy Spencer.

Joe Gill turns and smiles to the camera.

"Come on Tobias!" He exclaims "Show us you care and donate your winnings to those less fortunate!"

Back in his apartment,  Tobias Bell is seething with rage and wishing he had finished Lucy Spencer off earlier like he had planned.

Scaredy Cat

The scarecrow stood in the cornfield as the three crows descended and sat on its frayed shoulder.

None of the birds that frequented the New Acres fields were afraid of the raggedy stuffed mannequin who hung on a rotted perch.

Nobody questioned the fact that the apparently inanimate hay mannequin had moved around on its perch.

Save for eight year old Melisa Carter.

She had been coming to the cornfields every day since school had broken up three weeks ago.

There she would sit for hours and talk to the stuffed decoy as if it were a real person.

Melisa's friends were terrified of the scarecrow but not she.

All the little boys and girls would avoid walking through the cornfields because they were so frightened.

They never left the beaten track.

"Scaredy cat's,  scaredy cat's!" Melisa Carter would taunt them as she ran through the open cornfields to where the mannequin hung.

"He's got an evil face" little Tommy Finch informed Melisa one day as they walked home.

"No he hasn't!" Melisa replied indignantly "He's the nicest man in the world"

"But he's not a man" Finch protested with a shudder.

"He's as real as you and I!" Carter replied brightly.

"When you talk like that it creeps me out!" Tommy Finch declared with large frightened eyes.

Melisa Carter smiled back darkly.

Then the little boy ran away when they reached the cornfields.

Melisa confidently informed the girls in the school playground that the scarecrow was real.

She loved telling them stories about him.

She loved to see to their reactions and the affect she had on them.

"He's just like a person!" Melisa announced as a circle of girls sat around her and listened avidly to her every word.

"But isn't he just a stuffed toy?" Little Priya Patel enquired "Like a teddy bear!"

Several children giggled.

"No he's real!" Melisa answered intensely "He's a real person ... and every night he gets off his perch and he walks around like you and me!"

All the girls were staring at her with wide eyes.

Most of them were too scared to say anymore.

Except for Priya Patel.

"I'll believe he is real when I see it for myself!" Patel declared.

"Then I'll take you to him tonight!" Melisa Carter replied.

It was dark when two little figures scampered across the field.

The scarecrow was hanging limply on his perch.

There was a full moon in the sky.

"He's just a dummy!" Priya Patel proclaimed as she strode towards the stuffed mannequin.

"You'll see ... you'll see" Melisa Carter replied knowingly as she followed the little girl.

The following morning Mrs McGuinness solemnly addressed the class.

"Boys and girls ... I regret to inform you that Priya Patel was taken into hospital early this morning"

An audible gasp arose among the children.

"We do not know what happened to her but we do know that she is very poorly and I would like to pass this card around for you to sign"

Melisa Carter was completely emotionless .

Over at St Michael's Hospital,  the black nurse had gently taken an anxious Mr and Mrs Patel aside.

"We are doing the best we can" Nurse Junita Johnson assured them "It seems that Priya has gone into some kind of shock and she isn't responding to treatment at the moment"

Sunita Patel began sobbing on the shoulder of her husband as the Nurse attempted to comfort her with soothing words.

Priya Patel was lying rigid in the hospital bed.

Her large blank eyes were staring fixedly at the ceiling.

Back at the Carter family home that evening, Melisa's mother watched her daughter intently as she played with her dolls.

She was behaving as if nothing had happened.

As if the horrible predicament of her school friend Priya Patel had never actually occurred.

Melisa was sitting cross legged on the floor and singing to herself as she jigged her dolls around her.

Maria Carter was obsessively worried about her daughter. They had been living in New Acres for eighteen months now and already her daughter had been growing attached to a horrible stuffed scarecrow in a cornfield.

Jake Carter's work as a volcanologist took him around the world and they were used to moving.

"She'll grow out of it" Jake Carter whispered as he joined his wife "it's probably a stress thing with the move and all"

"I only hope you're right Jake" Maria answered "because she's been talking about him again"

"I'll speak to her" Jake Carter assured his troubled wife.

Early evening and Melisa Carter had escaped her parents and run to the cornfields.

"Please Mr Scarecrow ... speak to me" Melisa was pleading with the dishevelled mannequin 

His stuffed stitched face remained silent. 

The black button eyes were blank.

dream (by ~alexkatana
A worn felt hat sat atop his expressionless face and he was dressed in an old jacket that had seen better days.

But the little girl was convinced there was a smile on his withered face.

Melisa wiped away a tear as she continued to wait for the scarecrow to speak.

But the straw decoy remained staring resolutely ahead.

As Melisa walked away - she turned to look at the scarecrow and in the dying light he looked like a man with his arms outstretched.

He looked like Jesus.

That night Jake Carter tried to explain carefully to his daughter that a scarecrow wasn't real.

The little girl listened quietly as tears streamed down her cheeks.

"You are not to visit that vile thing again" Jake Carter informed his distraught daughter.

"Yes daddy" Melisa answered sadly "he isn't real ... he is just a scarecrow"

"Take it down" Maria Carter urged her husband when he had finally sat beside her on the sofa.

"Are you mad?" Jake replied "Its only a stuffed dummy and nothing more!"

"I want you to get rid of it!" Maria reaffirmed "Nobody will know who it was ... otherwise it will never go away"

Against his better judgement - Jake Carter shut the front door behind him and with a large spade in his hand he strode over to the cornfields.

The sky was black and there was a bright full moon.

And the scarecrow was gone.

Carter was perplexed as he looked around him.

Only the rotting mannequin's perch remained.

A year passed quickly for the Carter family. 

There was no talk of the scarecrow.

The last of their things had been packed and bundled into the waiting camper van.

The last furniture removal truck disappeared into the distance.

Jake Carter put his arm around his pregnant wife.

The house they had barely lived in was empty at last.

Maybe this time they would stay in their new abode longer and settle down at last.

Now Maria Carter stood at the foot of the stairs and called up to her daughter.

It was time to leave.

There was no answer and when Carter entered the little girls room she found her bedroom window wide open.

Melisa had already escaped and was running to the cornfields. 

Her heart leapt at the sight of the scarecrow.

"I missed you so!" Melisa Carter cried.

She flung herself at the feet of the scarecrow and looked up adoringly at his shriveled face.

"I've been so lonely without you" the little girl conceded.

A large crow descended upon the scarecrow's shoulder and squawked loudly.

"And I have missed you too little one" The scarecrow finally replied.

His knitted face grinned,  showing rotten black teeth.

Moon (by OzZcr


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