Readers On The Storm

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Hardback)

It’s time to take off the tinted glasses, remove the blinkers and the ear muffs.

Take the red pill, not the blue pill.

I feel that this is an important book – important enough to become a mandatory curriculum book in every school in the country.  For the questions and issues it raises are compelling enough to activate a change in future generations.

There are hard truths and fundamental messages within this book, e.g. “We don’t live in a meritocracy and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise of wilful ignorance.”

The chapters :

Histories                                            – “History only remembers the winners”, an eye-opening discourse on how our perception of history has been edited and warped

The System                                        – Describes and dissects the structural racism that exists around us and within us

What is White Privilege?               – A term often used, but always understood and is there a common consensus of what it means?

Fear of a Black Planet                     – The age old hyperbole of the white British becoming a minority in a few generations and the rabid fear of multiculturalism in this country

The Feminism Question                – How the feminist movement seems unable to cope with intersectionality

Race and Class                                   – The continuous fallacies of the age old class system versus the more realistic view of class and how appending “white” makes all the difference

There’s No Justice, Just Us            – What on earth do we do?  Small step changes and challenges to the norm, question and challenge the default white position – the book raises hard questions within each of us and allows us the grace to make our own decisions on what we choose to do about it.

2 quotes I’d like to share, although I could quote this book many more times:

The mess we are living in is a deliberate one. If it was created by people, it can be dismantled by people, and it can be rebuilt in a way that serves all, rather than a selfish, hoarding few.”

The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence. White privilege is dull, grinding complacency. It is par for the course in a world in which drastic race inequality is responded to with a shoulder shrug, considered just the norm.

Whilst none of this makes for easy or comfortable reading, the author’s tone, whilst passionate, is elegant and even handed throughout.

It has already changed my outlook and I would recommend this book to anyone.

And I will leave a final quote here:

Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.

My Rating: 5/5


Readers on the Storm

The Dry by Jane Harper

I thought this was a fantastic book that conveyed the suffocating atmosphere of a small isolated town, beset by tragedy, in rural Australia: Pen-pushing Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to the town he grew up in to attend the funeral, following the death of his old best friend, Luke, and his family in an apparent murder-suicide.  Luke was Aaron’s alibi some 20+ years ago when they were teenagers and their friend Ellie was found weighed down in the local river.  What follows is an intense investigation into crimes of the past and the present in an atmosphere of stifling heat and hostility.  The town and its inhabitants are vividly brought to life during an intolerable drought pushing the whole community to the brink of bankruptcy both financially and morally.  Jane Harper brilliantly evokes the mob mentality and rumour-mill of a small town where everyone seemingly knows everyone else’s business, whereas the reality is that many secrets remain hidden and run deep through the core of the community.  IN short, it is terrific and I highly recommend it.


Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

I’m a big fan of Southern Gothic novels and so have a real fascination with the Appalachian trail and its inhabitants, so often referred to as hillbillies.  They are generally regarded as people of a bygone era where family honour, crime, tough love and intricate familial relationships have seemingly remained the same since settlers first laid the foundations of the communities.  So, I was intrigued by this book and the publicity it has been receiving: supposedly this book gives, according to The Independent, “…a great insight into Trump and Brexit”.

Personally, I don’t see it. For a start, I couldn’t warm to the narrator. Vance seemed to veer wildly from gritty hillbilly dramatist, Crocodile Dundee / Country Mouse / and extremely self-aggrandising scholarly sociologist. He generalises massively and seems to have declared himself a spokesperson for his people. It does not come across as a level headed view at all. The only genuine feelings that came through were those of his Mamaw and Papaw who he did characterise magnificently well, which shows he knew those people inside out and had a very close bond with them. The general viewpoint of the book reminded me of when Bill Cosby did his series of talks blaming Afro-Americans for their own poverty (in a nutshell). It’s uncomfortable and proffers nothing constructive.  These “pull your socks up” tales are comparable to anecdotes about the power of positive thinking, clean eating, prayer, etc. curing cancer.  The tales may be inspirational, but they can obstruct the actual issues that need addressing.


A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is a decent unsettling, rather than scary, horror that pays homage to the ambiance of The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist.  Exalted company, you might think, but it somewhat falls short.  Perhaps because I’ve seen enough to be cynical about horror novels these days: I’ve been desensitised by exposure.  An average middleclass family are drawn into a world of exorcism and horror after their fourteen year old daughter, Marjorie, does not respond to therapy for psychological issues.  Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry, is the eyes and ears of this story with a loose enough reliability to keep you guessing.  The book has an interesting structure with time hops that enable the story to progress and remain intriguing.  As one reviewer on Goodreads said it’s like Exorcist fan fiction and it is, in a way, but it is way clever than that.  There are loads of homages and references to other horror works which just manage to stay the right side of OTT.  Paul Tremblay clearly revels in this, as he even includes a glossary of all his horror references at the end: a bit like a director’s commentary.  Apparently it did scare Stephen King though…


The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs

Image result for the monkey's paw ww jacobs

Now this is how you write a short story!  WW Jacobs packs more atmosphere of fear and dread in its few pages than some authors manage in huge tomes.  The Monkey’s Paw is a cursed talisman that grants wishes to the holder with a dark macabre twist.  It is gripping (pardon the pun) and definitely worth ten minutes of your time to read it.


The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Quivering Pen: Sunday Sentence: The Things They ...

If, like me, you find the Vietnam war a fascinating era in history, then you may already be watching the fabulous The Vietnam War documentary currently screening on BBC Four.  I’m only a few episodes in, but I am stunned by the depth of the documentary and the knowledge it is imparting.  There is so much to learn from how Vietnam has been treated and occupied prior to the USA’s Vietnam war and much of it still resonates today when bringing to mind troops on the ground in hostile environments and occupation of other countries.  Michael Herr’s Dispatches is often the “go to” book on the Vietnam war and rightly so: it is an excellent insight into the war and a prime example of New Journalism.  The Things They Carried stands comparable to Dispatches.  Told in interlinking vignettes the stories follow members of O’Brien’s platoon during and after the Vietnam war.  I have been lucky enough to visit Vietnam as a tourist and although it may seem macabre to visit sites such as the Cu Chi tunnels, I feel that I treated my visits with the respect and gravitas that they deserve.  This is a country still reeling from after effects of Agent Orange and, rather than become a forgotten war, it should be remembered for the horror it was and still is.  The Things They Carried is an important accompaniment to this history.


Short Story: Vigilante


Sleep was the worst when it eventually came.  Night terrors they call it on TV. I watched a lot of TV.  I hadn’t been to bed since I returned home from the hospital.  At best I dosed in front of the TV, only occasionally sinking into a deep enough sleep for the nightmares to appear.  Those movies that show people sitting bolt upright, sweating and gasping isn’t just make-believe.  It happens.  It’s a primal fear that seems to envelope you.  It makes you tremble and, more often than not, cry.  I can’t live like that.  I won’t live like that.

I remember this much: It was a cloudless night with a full moon and I was pretty cold.  Blood loss does that.  Makes you shiver.  I kept my eyes on the moon until it disappeared as I entered the ambulance.  I passed out.

Around £25, my bank cards, my watch and my phone.  My phone might be worth a fair bit and maybe the watch, but the bank cards were cancelled.  No villa on the Costa del Sol for them.  They’d have to rob a lot more people for that.

14 stitches.  It should have only been 13, but the doctor said I had been unlucky enough, so he put an extra one in.  That’s all I need, a superstitious doctor.  I guess I should be glad he didn’t shrink my head or sacrifice a chicken to save me.

I gave the police a description.  The usual stuff they must hear: it was dark; I didn’t get a good look; it all happened so fast, etc.  That was the truth, I guess.  I’m certain I’d recognise him if I saw him, but I can’t visualise him enough to describe him.  And I know, as soon as he sees me again, I’ll see that look of recognition in his face that will confirm it.  And he will see me again.

Every city, in fact almost every place, has dodgy areas: the places you don’t walk alone at night and this city is no different.  I’d been in one such place when stabbed and robbed.  You could say it was my own fault.  I’d missed my bus and so I decided to walk home.  The shortest route took me through this neighbourhood.

So, yeah, if you’re thinking that it’s my fault I got stabbed and robbed because I chose to walk home, then in your mind you’re probably right.  In my mind, I should be able to walk wherever I choose without fear of violence.  Especially if I miss my bus and take the shortest route home. In my mind I’m probably righteous.

I spent 2 weeks in the hospital.  I returned to my flat and a heap of post to open.  I found myself pausing to consider the potential damage my letter opener could do if used with malice.  In my mind’s eye I pictured an entity of the guy who stabbed me.  I smiled.

The guy in the store had to check my ID.  Technically it’s a camping knife.  Technically I was going to use it for outdoor pursuits.

After a week of sitting at home, lost in my own thoughts and troubled by nightmares, I made a move. Although still not yet fully mobile, I walked the exact same route, at the exact same time as the night I was attacked.  I walked the route every night.  I gripped the knife tightly in my pocket every time.

Nothing happened.  That frustrated me.  Could it be such a random occurrence?  Like the flip side of winning the lottery?  No.  You make your own luck.

I changed my route.  It took me deeper into the heart of the neighbourhood I had skirted around when attacked.  It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets, alleys and passageways.  Graffiti tags and trainers looped over telephone wires mark out gang territories.  Not a hospitable place for an outsider, yet people still visit daily.  Drugs & prostitution seem to be the main exports of this economy.  Cash, violence and intimidation are the main currencies.

I used my phone to guide me on a circuit of the estate: the dilapidated shopping centre, the pubs with heavy drawn curtains and steamed up windows, debris littering the streets.  With phone in full view, it took all of half an hour for someone to approach me.

He asked me if I was lost.  I said yes.  He offered to walk me to where I wanted to go.  I followed.  We called each other mate and small talked about sports.  He advised me not to walk these streets.  There are some dodgy people around who’d take advantage and take the phone.

He walked me to a dead-end.  He no longer called me mate.  His instant aggression caught me by surprise.  He was on me before I had a chance to catch my breath.  He shoved me hard in the stomach and I felt as though my lucky 14 stitches were torn.  A burning sensation and dampness seeped from my wound.  Pushed up against a fence in the darkness I smelled the weed and the booze on his breath as he came in close.  My wallet and my phone or I will die.  I told him ok and he stood back arms folded.  I grinned and waited long enough for that to register with him before producing my knife.  It scared him momentarily and then he tried to face me down.  He taunted me to do it.  He didn’t have to ask twice.

The blade went in through his jacket and I felt the edge of the blade grind up against the inside of his ribs as I plunged it upwards.  He screamed and I covered his mouth.  He bit down hard on my hand.  With no free hand I head-butted him to knock his jaws loose.  His nose emitted a large cracking sound and blood splattered over his face and my forehead.  His eyes rolled up into his head.  He passed out.

I splashed water on his face from a leaking gutter.  He was slumped up against the side of a garage.  His face was a mess and his eyes and nose had already swollen.  He clutched at his wound as though trying to keep the blood from leaking out of him.  I knew that feeling.  He tried to speak, but he caught sight of the blade in my hand and thought better of it.  Dogs barked in the distance. I wasn’t sure if I’d have long, so I got to the point.  “I just wanted to make sure you knew this was happening”. I grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and sliced the blade across his neck.  He gurgled and panicked. He kicked his legs out and grasped at his neck.  When he stopped moving, I left.

I’d expected to feel more.  I was numb.  But I slept soundly.

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Film Review: Skyfall


To the manor Bond

There’s nostalgiaabout this film as it marks 50 years of Bond.  It also fulfils audience requirements in that since Casino Royale thrust Bond back into fashion audiences have been waiting for another action packed Bond Film (considering Quantum of Solace garnered less enthusiasm).  Plus, a Bond film is one of those films that you go to the cinema knowing you will like: you may be able to see its flaws, but on the whole you know you’re gonna like it.  It inspires and revisits the excitement of when the new Bond would be out (or even an old one on television) from childhood.  But…

…Don’t believe the hype: this is not the best Bond film ever made.

It is a Bond of two halves:

It’s definitely Casino Royale mk2 for the pre-title sequence: a pulsating chase through Istanbul that culminates in a reasonably edgy segue into the titles.  I liked the titles and the song is fittingly Bond-esque (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adele involved in further films).

The film continues apace punctuated with a couple of dull moments that are clearly there to show depth to Bond’s character, but feel clunky and ill-conceived in relation to the rest of the film.  It seems that in this “Bond universe”, contrary to the rookie Bond in the previous two Craig outings, Bond is a washed up (literally) drunk: battered and bruised and self-aware enough to know that espionage is fast becoming a young man’s game where technology outfights brawn.

But, with a list of secret agents being leaked by a disturbingly camp former agent Silva (Javier Bardem), Bond is soon found to be useful, particularly as this adventure becomes more personal.  Silva is potentially Bond of the future: as an agent he pushed the boundaries of his remit too far and M hung him out to dry.  Silva explains as much to Bond, but the similarities between them seem to pass him by and, unfortunately that theme does not get revisited.

There are some great set pieces and when the action does get going it grabs the film by the scruff of the neck and lifts it way beyond the shaky plot.

At some point the main plot, the secret agents list, is discarded and it becomes a film about Bond protecting M from all-out assault from Silva.  This second half of the film seriously loses its way for me and I began to lose interest.

Silva also inexplicably discards his clever scheming and terrorist tactics in favour of all out warfare.  Perhaps it was to show that the list was trivial to him and all that mattered was M, but this was not really represented in the film.

What this film does do is give M much more screen time than previous Bonds.  Judi Dench’s clipped and matronly interactions with, particularly Craig’s, Bond have always been well worked.  Unfortunately, in this film Judi Dench shows more of her “As Time Goes By”, rather than her Academy Award winning acting chops.

Although the “Straw Dogs” style siege at the end offers up impressive action again, the shine is taken off by the manner in which we got to this point.

At times it feels like fan fiction: revealing more of Bond’s past and knowing nods and winks to previous films (and Bonds).  That’s not to say that it doesn’t work, but it places Daniel Craig’s Bond in that uneasy area where previous Bonds are regarded as the same person: George Lazemby clearing his desk in OHMSS springs to mind. 

This might seem like a damning review, but I actually enjoyed the film.  You do have to suspend belief when watching Bond and I’m more than ready to do that.  I suspect the hype led me to believe that this really could be the best Bond of all.  It always helps when you like a Bond and, Brosnan aside; I’ve liked all Bonds (yes, some more than others).  I honestly think that Daniel Craig is a great choice and conveys Bond’s ruthlessness and charm extremely well.

The film redeems itself massively in the final 20mins and I also suspect that audience members leaving the film on a high and full of anticipation for the next film in the series will have also added to the rave reviews.  It sets up the next phase of the series really well and I will be relishing when…James Bond will Return…

My Rating 3/5

Happy Times

Greg knew it was old-fashioned, but he liked it.  It reminded him of when he was a kid.  He and his mum and even his sulky older brother George would eagerly await his dad’s arrival home from work the Friday after they’d returned from holiday.  It was always a special occasion.  They’d get a Chinese takeaway and load the holiday photo slides into the projector.  They’d project the photos from the holiday on the wall and the room would fill with their excited chatter as they all regaled each other with anecdotes as to what the circumstances of the photos were and any other funny stories that they remembered.  It was light-hearted banter with plenty of laughs.  Even George would laugh and join in.  The total opposite of the monosyllabic grunts he’d make the rest of the time.  It was a cosy, joyful bubble of a world for that night.  The biggest laughs often coming when the slide was loaded upside down and Greg would swiftly twist himself upside down on the sofa only to be tickled by his dad until flopping down onto the floor. Happy times.

Greg made sure that he kept that tradition alive much to Amy’s chagrin.  She couldn’t see the point in having some corny old projector when they could hook up the laptop to the 42” plasma TV and view the photos in high definition. But he’d done it all through their relationship; even their wedding photos were on slides and she’d endured it up to a point.   They had to put up with poor quality pictures shone onto a patchy wall in their living room.  It wasn’t so much as a special occasion, it was a chore.  Even the Chinese food was unwanted.  Greg was the only one who liked it.  His twin son and daughter had never enjoyed it and so they’d all be forced to choose one of the “English specials” from the menu because Greg would flatly refuse to walk the further 100 yards to the curry house.  Greg’s enthusiasm failed to rub off on Amy and subsequently their kids.  It was an effort to get through the slide session and his moronic commentary to placate their dad.

This occasion was different.  It was the first since the divorce.  Everyone bar Greg sat in silence.  Even the curry, for which Greg had gone the extra yards to bring, was left untouched.  A palpable atmosphere hung in the room of the flat in which until 4 months ago Greg had called home.  The lights were off throughout.  Only the whir of the projector provided a soundtrack to Greg’s commentary as the sole source of light projected photos from their past on the wall.

“Great Yarmouth 2008:  Do you remember?  Burning hot summer we had.  You kids turned 6 just before we left for the holiday.  The car was loaded up with toys.  You always got boys and girls versions of everything.  When did that stop?  You get your own stuff now don’t you?  You get what you want now.”

The next photo showed Amy and the kids lined up and posing awkwardly in front of a static caravan.  Everyone is squinting into the sun while Greg takes the photo.  His shadow stretches out from the bottom of the frame, elongated by the sun’s angle.  His elbows are high up on his frame holding the camera.  Sun seeps through the gaps between his arched elbows and his head.  The shadow looks like a giant eye on a man’s body.

Greg leaned forward being careful to use his left arm to raise his beer can and have a drink.  Amy was snuggled under his right arm and he didn’t want to spoil the moment.

“Brilliant holiday that was.  One of the best.  Great caravan park with a kids club and everything.  Beach was only 200 yards away.  We’d spend all day every day on there.  I don’t think any of us wanted to come home after.”

Greg pressed the button on the control.  The next slide shone fuzzily.  It is Greg, buried up to his neck in sand on the beach.  The kids are either side of him.  They are all smiling.

Greg laughed.  “What a wally, eh?”  He extended his right arm around the back of Amy and nudged the boy curled up on the sofa next to his mum.  The boy ignores him; doesn’t move.  “Fancy doing that to your old dad, eh?”  Nothing, but silence.  “Gruesome twosome I used to call you.  Your mum didn’t like it, but you didn’t mind.  You knew I was just kidding.  It was her and her spoilsport ways.”  Greg’s face turned from a smile to a look of disgust as he gazed down at Amy.  “Always spoiling the fun you was.  Couldn’t just have a laugh could you? No.”  He shrugged Amy off him and stood.  He walked to the wall, picking up a prawn cracker on the way.  He cast a large shadow over the centre of the picture.  His head, protruding from the sand on Great Yarmouth beach, projected onto his shirtless back.  The twins still shone brightly on the wall.  Greg studied them seriously.

“Look at your faces.  Unbridled joy.  So innocent.  Just fun isn’t it?  That’s all.  The sort of unblemished enjoyment of doing something so silly.  Enjoy it while you can kids, it doesn’t last.  Once you get the weight of the world on you, you don’t have fun.  You just exist in an endless cycle of work.”  Greg crunches noisily on a prawn cracker.  He spits crumbs as he talks. “ If you’re lucky, you get family.  Like us.  And you experience that fun again when you have kids.  If you’re lucky you won’t get divorced.  You won’t get a restraining order for trying to put your family back together.  To stop everything from falling apart.”

He stood hands on hips staring intently at the picture; His own beaming grin from yesteryear shining brightly on his glistening wet back.

He turned from the wall and looked back into the room, hands still on hips, like a craftsman surveying his work.  Amy had remained on the sofa as though limply trying to still snuggle up to the space where Greg was sat.  Her hair matted with slowly congealing blood.  Her dressing gown shredded and bloody.  The kids were both coiled in the foetal position, save for the boy; his arm was outstretched in self-defence, punctured and bloody from the wound he caught trying to protect himself from the knife.  The girl had slumped further onto the floor.  She was limp and ragged.  Her eyes remained open with a look of fear.  They had lost their shine, but the light from the projector still flickered on them.  In the dim light seemingly black streaks of blood splatters had touched almost everything in the room.  Greg himself is covered, but none of the blood is his own and in the light of the projector it remains a vibrant deep crimson.

Greg’s eyes filled with tears.  He picked up the knife from the table on which the projector sat.  He studied it in the light from the projector: blood and torn flesh on the blade.  He turned and sat back on the sofa.  He pulled Amy back under his arm and cuddles her still warm body gently.   Hands shaking he fumbled for and retrieved the control for the projector.  The next slide appears.  The photo shows all of them together, but it is projected upside down.

Greg laughed.

A siren wailed in the distance.


Charlotte Clarke looked again at the clock on the mantel piece as she crossed living room, drink in hand.  It must have been the one hundredth time she had looked at the clock and, as before, the time had only moved on a few minutes.  She placed the highball glass of gin and a splash of tonic down on the coaster next to her husband.  It was only the rattling of the ice in the glass that caused him to notice, he was so far gone.

He picked up the glass and guided it unsteadily to his mouth.  Charlotte had been fixing his drinks all night and she had been fixing them good and strong.  He noticed at first and she offered to replace it, knowing that he wouldn’t want her to.  It’s not that Philip was an alcoholic, but he did like a drink and when Charlotte offered to make him a G&T she knew he would not say no.

That was several drinks ago and although Philip was still alert and reasonably coherent, he swayed when he went to the toilet, his head now looked too heavy for his neck and he slumped in the armchair more than before.  Charlotte had had two glasses of red wine; more to combat the nerves than to enjoy a drink with her husband.  She glanced at the clock again: almost nine.  He should be here soon.

At 9:02 Todd came through the front door and into the lounge looking distressed.

“Dad, Mum, there’s been an accident.  I think someone is hurt.” Todd didn’t take his eyes off his mother.  They both turned to Philip.

Philip was already getting unsteadily to his feet.  Todd had only passed his test months before and Philip had reluctantly allowed him to drive his car.

“What?  Where? How?  Are you ok?”  Philip’s words slurred a little, but the shock had seemed to rouse him from his stupor.

“On the Old Mere Road…I…I crashed your car, dad.  I’m sorry!”  Charlotte exchanged glances with her son once more.

“Don’t worry about that son.  Are you ok?  Who’s hurt?”, asked Philip.

“I think I hit someone.  We need to help them.”

Philip swiftly took command of the situation.  “Charlotte, stay here and call the police and ambulance.  We are going out there to see what we can do.”

“Perhaps I should come with you.”

“No, call the police and stay in case Laura wakes up”.

“I am awake!  What’s going on?”

Their 5 year old daughter stood halfway down the stairs that led into the living room rubbing her eyes.

Philip looked up at Laura while Charlotte and Todd looked for meaning in each other’s faces.  They’re eyes darted nervously.  Philip looked at his wife.

“Hell, we’ll all go, but Laura, you have to stay in the back of the car with your mother, OK?”


Charlotte was thankful that no one had seen her sigh with relief when those words passed Philip’s lips.

They left the house, not noticing the bike Todd had leaned against the garage wall, and made their way to the car.  Instinctively, Philip got into the driver’s seat and studiously followed Todd’s directions to the scene of the crash.  Laura soon fell asleep in the back of the car, safe in the knowledge that were anything to happen, she would not miss it.  They journeyed in silence.  Charlotte smelled the stench of booze emitting from Philip and she smiled and looked out of the side window to avoid him seeing it.

Over the brow of a hill, by a humpback stone bridge Todd opened his mouth to tell his father to stop, but he had already seen the car and was slowing down.  Deep grooves were fresh in the mud where the car had left the road and the trail led to a large old tree.  The car was mangled up against it, nose first.  The airbag had deployed and billowed like a used parachute in the open doorway of the driver’s side.

Philip got out of the car open mouthed and he walked towards the steaming mass of metal.  Charlotte and Todd followed behind.  Charlotte allowed herself to give Todd a congratulatory hug.  Todd smiled.  Philip turned to them and their smiles dropped immediately.

“What did you do?” asked Philip, but he expected no response.  This was not the time for questions.  Todd had moved to the back of the car and was rummaging on the boot, presumably to get a blanket for the victim.

Philip turned back to the crash and thought to himself that if Todd had hit anyone with the car, they were surely dead and the blanket would only serve as a shroud until the ambulance arrived with a body bag.  He trudged closer, looking to the front of the wreck for a sign of a body.  Instead, he noticed, at the base of the tree, a shining object.  He couldn’t make out what it was, but even in this mess of wreckage, it looked out of place.  He moved closer and shouted over his shoulder for Charlotte to call the police and an ambulance.  Charlotte lifted the phone from her pocket, raised it and switched it off just as Philip reached the base of the tree and picked the object up.  It was a crash helmet.

“What the hell is-“.  Philip did not finish the question.  As he had turned back toward his wife and son, Todd had moved in and struck his father with an almighty blow to the head.  The crowbar made an audible clang.  Philip stumbled forward onto his knees with a loud gasp.  Todd moved in with the crowbar raised.

“Wait! Wait.” Charlotte reached her arm out to Todd and he paused at the top of his swing.  “The impacts have to be consistent with the crash”.  Charlotte moved over to Philip’s prostrate body and rolled him onto his back.  She squatted beside him.  He now smelled of alcohol and blood and he wheezed and gurgled for breath.  After removing the tape measure from her pocket and measuring the distance that she had memorised from his neck to his chest; a distance that equalled that between his neck and the airbag’s most significant point of impact were he to have been driving the car; she instructed Todd to strike.  Philip wheezed and gurgled no more.

Todd lifted his father into position in the car and then went to fetch the log that he had earmarked for the final touch.  He brought the log to the front of the car and smashed it through the already cracked windscreen and into his father’s face.  He picked up the crowbar and held hands with his mother, holding the crash helmet as they made their way back to the car.  Laura was still asleep and they drove back to the house in silence except for Charlotte checking that her son was ok and, apart from a sore neck and a bruise that he could feel, but not yet see on his chest, he was.

Upon returning to the house, Todd carried Laura to bed and tucked her in and then he went to bed himself after a kiss and a hug from his mother.  Charlotte finished her glass of wine.  Her hands were shaking; must be the adrenaline.  She went to bed.  Todd had had his big moment.  Charlotte’s was yet to come.

The police arrived an hour or so later.  They regretted to inform Charlotte Clarke that her husband Philip Clarke had been killed in a car accident.  Charlotte questioned the reliability of the information; her husband had been drinking at home that night and would have had no reason to have gone out in his car.  It couldn’t be him.

Denial:  The police had encountered that reaction before.  It was natural.  They comforted her and re-enforced the information until she understood the facts.  She sobbed.  An officer would stay with her until a doctor could come and give her a sedative.

Upstairs, Todd intercepted Laura making her way to the top of the stairs to see what was going on.  She heard muffled voices and what sounded like crying.  Todd told her it was the television and that she should go back to sleep.  Laura complied.  Todd returned to his room too, knowing he had only postponed the inevitable questioning that would come from Laura.  Her arrival on the stairs when Todd came home had not been anticipated.  Hopefully, mother would know what to do.

The following morning Charlotte broke the terrible news that the children’s father had gone out for a drive last night and had an accident.  Todd was shocked for Laura’s sake and he also supported his mother when convincing Laura that she had dreamt going out in the car with mummy, daddy and Todd.  It would be better for Laura that way.

Over time Laura’s nightmares went away and she eventually, with coaching from her mother and brother, learned to hate her father for being so reckless as to drink and drive.  Even more so when it came to light during the police investigation that Philip had most likely been on the way to his lover’s house at the time.

The insurance money afforded the Clarke family a much more luxurious lifestyle.  It turned out that Philip had been much more valuable dead than alive.  They became a closer family unit.  Todd and his mother often exchanged furtive glances, but never spoke of the events of that night.

The years passed until Charlotte, now old and grey was the matriarch of a family that had never moved on.  Todd, now in his 30’s had not yet found a girlfriend, let alone a wife and remained in the family home.  Laura too would not stray far from the home comforts and had few friends.

On Todd’s 35th birthday, Todd had chosen to spend the evening in with his mother while Laura was out running an errand.  Following some champagne and some rather strong cocktails that Todd had made, Laura burst into the room looking distressed.

“Mum, Todd, there’s been an accident!”

Charlotte turned to her son and saw him grinning.

The back wheel of the bike, where Laura had left it on one side in the garden, ticked as it spun gradually to a standstill.