General Fiction posted September 19, 2013

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500 word contest entry.

Richard's Lies.

by PhilipCatshill

Of all the stories Richard told when we were kids, only once did I believe he lied. We were in hospital at the time, with him in the bed next to mine. Margaret clung to his bandaged hand, though her other was bound in plaster.

All this pain arrived after a week of rain had kept even the stalwart indoors. As though some telepathy bound us, as soon as a bit of blue sky broke through the clouds, Richard's gang, as we called ourselves, gathered under the trees alongside the churchyard wall.

When the storm returned with vengeance, the trees offered no shelter, so with rain striking our faces like needles, we scrambled over the lichgate and ran to the church for cover. A voice in the mist bellowed, "Clear off, you mongrels."

Stephen said, "It sounds like God is getting angry."

Davy said, "It sounds like the verger." Davy's dad kept pigs. The rain had dampened Davy's coat but not his pigsty odour.

"What's a verger?" I asked.

Nobody knew, but all became silent as Richard replied with a story. It was about battles and Indian wars. I was more interested in the lightning so I missed most of it.

"That's a lie," Stephen shouted. "Your dad couldn't have known General Custer! He died years ago. It said so on TV."

Richard replied, "Yah-hahwey-hatoo."

"That proves it, Stephen, Richard speaks Sioux." Margaret declared in support. "They didn't have telly in the olden days. You mustn't tell lies in church."

"I didn't lie!" Stephen screamed with tears on his cheek. "I will never lie."

As he ran into the rain, I heard the crack of the lightning bolt. The groan that followed the thunder was that of a thousand dead. The tree fell towards the church as its roots flung gravestones asunder. I saw a coffin lid fly from the ground and still the tree fell towards me. Stephen tripped as a branch whipped his head. I screamed his name as bricks and tiles fell about me. That's all I remember.

I heard Richard cry out in the night. When he saw me awake, he sobbed, "I'm never going to tell another lie." Later in the darkness, he whispered, "My Dad isn't a spaceman or a spy. He's in prison for stealing things." That, I thought, was his only lie.

Davy called up one day. "It's been twenty years. Perhaps we should get together. I've had a bath for this so you'd better be there!" I knew I couldn't refuse.

Richard and Margaret, still hand in hand, had travelled up from Wales. They had brought flowers. I wished I had. The lichgate had gone, and so were all the trees. With his clerical collar shining white, Davy led the prayers.

Richard nudged my elbow and whispered, "I stopped telling lies that day. Read that. I let Stephen take over." He nodded towards the stone. I read the words with tears on my face, "Here lies Stephen... aged 9 years."

500 Words Writing Contest contest entry

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Artwork by the author, modified from the water colour "St James Church" Spelling is UK English.
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