If this is actually appearing with this introduction, it’s a miracle, because it means I’ve successfully scheduled it to be posted automatically. Anyway, the reason for that is that I’m not near a computer and won’t be for a few days. I can’t ask Ron to step in yet again so I’m using a ploy I’ve used several times before – the cop-out blog. I could write something about the collection of short stories I’ve just published, Other People and other stories here in the UK, and here in the USA but, instead, I’ll just post the prologue to my novella Alternative Dimension ( UK here, USA here). If you’re so inclined, you can hear me reading it on the TRAILERS/AUDIO page, too. It goes like this:
Stitchley Green hated mirrors as much as he hated his name. His parents, Samuel and Samantha, had been flower children and they’d met at a ‘happening’ in a barn which called itself The Stitchley Experience. They’d tossed a coin to decide whether to make love that night or wait until the following day and do it in dew and sunshine. It was tails, so Stitchley was conceived, twelve minutes later, on a hay bale. If the coin had come down heads, he’d have been called Dew, so his beginnings weren’t as bad as they might have been.
The two Sams stuck to their Peace and Love convictions long past the time when those who’d shared joints with them had become bankers and copywriters for ad agencies. As a result, Stitchley’s early schooling had involved sitting in fields looking at blades of grass or, with dad on guitar, singing along to his mum’s lyrics about ‘stones of repentance, trees of despair, and all the bright confusion of disaster’. He didn’t understand any of it but he did like living in a tree.
At last, though, their tree was felled and reality started to push its way into their idyll. Both Sams got jobs so Stitchley had to go to school. Which was bewildering. You’d think, with such a name, he’d be bullied. In fact, to his surprise, he turned out to be quite popular. But it was mainly because the other kids in his class were always entertained by the answers he gave the various teachers. When they were studying the Tudors, the History master had asked him how many English kings had the name Henry.
‘Well, I’ve heard of the one who killed his wives, Henry VIII,’ said Stitchley.
‘Good,’ said the teacher. ‘So how many Henrys were there, then?’
Stitchley gave it some more thought and said, ‘Four’.
It was the same in Modern Studies. The teacher wanted to know which middle east country was causing problems by threatening to make hydrogen bombs. It was the main one in what George W Bush, when he was president of theUSA, had called the Axis of Evil. Stitchley tried Cardiff, then Ireland, then asked for a clue.
‘OK,’ said the teacher, and he suddenly ran down the aisle between the desks.
‘Now, what would I say I’d just done?’ he asked, panting a little. ‘I—?’
‘Went to the back of the room?’ said Stitchley.
‘No,’ said the teacher. ‘Listen – today I RUN, but last week I—?’
‘Walked?’ said Stitchley.
And so it went on. Stitchley frowning with puzzlement as his classmates and teachers fell about roaring with laughter. He told the Religious and Moral Education teacher that the Pope was Jewish, and his efforts at Creative Writing are still kept in a special file in the school library, which gets read more often than any of the great literary masters on the shelves. People just love reading stories in which ‘Sir Lancelot was as tall as a horse which was six feet tall’, or ‘They had never met before that day, so they were like two people who had never met before’.
After school, he’d had a series of poorly paid jobs until the economic situation and some brutal government cuts ensured he’d probably never find work again. So when we meet him, at the age of forty-two, he seems to have lived down to his name with great success. One look at him explained immediately why he hated mirrors. The kindest word one might use of his appearance and demeanour would be ‘unprepossessing’ but most people satisfied themselves with sounds of simulated vomiting. Later, though, when he resurfaces here, we’ll see how a simple online role-playing game turned his life, and reality itself, upside-down and brought him satisfactions far in advance of many of those enjoyed by his contemporaries and an opulence which changed his sixty-eight year old mother’s lyrics forever.