View Full Version : First Love - A short story

08-10-16, 11:49 PM
Once there was an old man who spent his days watching the world go by. Each day he would wake up to the sound of birdsong outside his window. He would give a huge yawn, stretch until his bones popped and belt himself in to his plaid dressing gown. Then he would haul himself into his wheelchair, put in his teeth and wheel himself over to the window where he would weigh up the rocks he had lined up on the windowsill, pick up the biggest and proceed to launch it at the tree.

"Fecking noisy birds! Every fecking morning. Nothing but flying rats!" he would grumble to himself.

He would then wheel himself to the kitchen, still muttering and grumbling, and make a strong cup of tea and a slice of burnt toast while he read the morning paper. Each day was the same routine. He was a creature of habit; get up, berate the birds and read the paper before brushing the crumbs from his beard.

By eight a.m., he was always dressed in his tweed trousers and beige checked shirt with polished leather brogues. On cold days he would add an old, worn cardigan with leather patches on the elbows and a crocheted blanket over his knee.

By half past eight he could always be found sitting beside the front window with a cup of tea by his side and a battered, leather-bound diary on his knee. His staff could set their watches by him, he was so consistent. The old man would spend each day watching the world passing by his window, watching the people scurry past like ants as they busily went about their business. He would occasionally utter a fervant exclamation and furiously scribble something in his diary and then go back to watching the world pass by. He spent hours in this manner, moving only for comfort breaks. His staff brought his meals to him in his little nook by the window and he would eat while watching the world pass by. Only when the light faded would he move away from the window. He would often spend his evenings reading one of the many books he'd collected during his long and remarkable life before retiring to bed and doing exactly the same again tomorrow.

He had been doing the same thing for so long that changes to his routine made him grumpier than normal and he was pretty grumpy to start with.

"Sir. That journalist has arrived to see you."

The old man grumbled under his breath for a few moments.

"Stop dithering then and show the young upstart in." He went back to muttering under his breath whilst he furiously scribbled in his diary about something he'd just seen.

He paused briefly at the creak of the door and then carried on recording his musings. He refused to turn around and acknowledge the interloper in to his ordered day. It still rankled that his staff had manipulated him into giving this interview but they insisted that he had a fabulous story to tell which would interest generations to come. Even so, he was determined to make things as difficult as possible.

"Good morning Mr Smith. My name is Peter. I really appreciate you agreeing to see me."

The old man smirked to himself before turning around to greet his guest. He knew exactly how to deal with insincerity. He had no doubt that his housekeeper had briefed the young man about just how difficult he could be before she showed him in.

"Don't stand on ceremony lad! Sit! You don't need an invitation do you? You certainly didn't to get in to the house did you! Mrs Watts, would you bring tea for me and my... I suppose he's my guest, please."

"Certainly sir."

Peter stood still as a statue, appearing shocked and dumbfounded at the brusque greeting he had just been subjected to.

"Why so shocked lad? Surely the staff warned you I am a cantankerous old goat."

Peter blushed deeply, looking uncomfortable.

"Erm...no. They didn't. I mean...erm..."

Peter stuttered in to silence and turned even redder. The old man laughed.

"Relax lad. Take a seat and make yourself comfortable. You want to hear my memories don't you? You'll be here a long time."

Peter perched nervously on the edge of the leather armchair that had been placed ready for him.

"Relax! I'm told my bark is worse than my bite." The old man chuckled.

"So my boy, what do you want to know?"

Peter shifted in his chair.

"You're not what I expected Mr Smith."

"What, you expected me to be taller?" The old man chortled; he was starting to enjoy himself.

Peter blushed again. He placed a small tape recorder on the table next to the old man and took out a notebook from the satchel he had placed next to his chair. The old man knew he was making him nervous. He watched as Peter fumbled through his bag, and then turn even redder as he pulled out a pencil and spilled the contents over the floor. The old man laughed as Peter dropped to the floor and quickly scooped everything back in to the satchel. Peter sank back in to his chair looking flustered and picked up his notebook and pencil.

08-10-16, 11:56 PM
"Erm...if you don't mind, can you start by telling me about your childhood?"

"What would you like to know? I grew up in the mountains. There is no point telling you where, the country doesn't exist anymore and hasn't for a long time. We were poor, but myself, and my six brothers were happy. We lived in a small cottage. Mother kept it clean, though as I'm sure you can imagine, with six growing boys under her feet, it was a never ending job! Still, we knew we were loved and we were happy. We didn't see our father all that often, he worked in the mines further up the mountain. He made it home maybe once a month, so while he was away, we made sure we looked after mother. We fetched firewood, water from the stream and tended the vegetable garden. My older brothers went hunting once a week too so we always had meat on the table. And we always made sure that the cottage was in good repair. Like I said, we were poor, but our home was a happy home."

Peter looked wistful.

"It sounds idyllic."

"Oh aye lad, it was indeed. Unfortunately, mother caught a chill during my fourteenth year and never really recovered. By the time winter arrived she had developed a fever and was delirious. She never saw spring, thank the Lord." The old man sighed deeply. "Come spring, there was a cave in at the mine. Our father was caught in it. They never recovered his body. So, before I turned fifteen, I was an orphan. My brothers and I moved higher up the mountain and entered the mines ourselves. We had to make a living somehow, our youngest brother was a sickly child and needed medicines quite regularly. The village herbalist was a bit of a conman and knew how to charge you if he knew you were desperate. Hard times my boy. Hard times."

The old man paused to gather his thoughts. He hadn't talked about his childhood in many years and his memories were dusty.

"What happened to your brother?"

"Eh?" The old man shook his head and straightened in his chair. "Oh he grew out of it lad. Good job too, if he had gotten seriously ill we would never have gotten him help in time, not with how far up the mountain we were living. Aye, he had no choice but to get stronger."

"It sounds like you had an interesting start in life Mr Smith."

"I think I had a better start in life then a lot of kids nowadays lad."

The old man took a sip of his tea and glanced out of the window. The street was quiet today, almost as if it knew he had a story to tell and so had removed any distractions to enable him to tell it. He turned his attention back to Peter.

"How did you find working in the mines?"

The old man tutted.

"I'm sure you can do better then that lad! How did I find it? How do you think I bloody well found it! Fourteen hour days in a stuffy, dusty, dark mine; only candlelight allowing you to see. It was damned hard work! By the end of the day it took all of our energy to climb back out of the mine and head for home. Try again lad."

Peter swallowed nervously. The old man's previous willingness to talk had lulled him in to a false sense of security.

"Can you tell me about your early adulthood? How you lived? Your first love? That kind of thing."

The man nodded approvingly.

"Much better my boy. Much better." He scratched his beard and focused on a point over Peter's shoulder.

"Pretty much my whole life has been spent doing the same thing. My brothers and I all worked alongside each other digging for precious gems. We were lucky enough to discover a rich vein of diamonds and so we were able to start working shorter days; ten hours instead of fourteen hour days. We built a cottage in a forest clearing a short walk from the mine entrance. It was lovely. Quiet, peaceful, and near a quaint babbling brook. We had everything we needed. Just as in childhood, we led a simple life. Quiet. We worked enough to keep us and put something away for our old age. We didn't need a lot; we weren't bothered about the luxuries that seem to drive people now. Drives me to distraction all this demand for the latest gadgets. Spoilt! That's what people are nowadays. Spoilt rotten."

The old man took a deep breath.

"And then she showed up."

Peter's interest awakened with this.

"By heck lad! She was a sultry little thing. A buxom little wench who everyone, and I meam everyone, lusted after. She was all eyes and curves. Not like them twigs you get now. She was beautiful, a proper woman, and she knew she were beautiful. Oh aye, she definitely knew it! There were many a young buck, and a few maidens too if my memory serves me right, who were completely enamoured with her," he said with a lecherous wink.

"She's getting me all heated just thinking about her and at my age that's a dangerous thing. Very dangerous indeed my boy." He closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "But she weren't conceited, not at all. She had one of the kindest souls I've ever known, and I've lived a long, long time my boy."

09-10-16, 12:03 AM
"Who was she?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you lad." He opened his eyes and looked directly at Peter. He could see the burning need to know lurking behing his eyes, but he was too polite to blurt out the questions he was dying to ask.

"I can see that you're dying to know. You won't get far in your line of work if you're not prepared to ask questions."

Peter thought about his comment.

"Will you tell me who she was?"

The old man picked up his wallet and removed a dog-eared piece of paper which he handed to Peter. He unfolded it and looked down at a sketch of an exquisitely beautiful young woman. She was stunning; with skin like alabaster and hair as dark as pitch.

"She was a princess my boy. We came home from the mines one day and found her asleep on our doorstep. The poor thing was terrified. She'd run away from a huntsman her stepmother had sent to kill her. She was a terribly jealous woman her stepmother, she couldn't handle the thought that her stepdaughter was more beautiful than she. We persuaded the young princess to stay with us, admittedly we had ulterior motives when we first suggested it but she was such a sweet young thing, we soon forgot about that! Her stepmother tried her damnedest to get to her. We tried our best to protect her but she was so trusting. When an old peddler woman knocked on the door selling her wares, she thought nothing of letting her in. The poor girl was poisoned by an apple she gave her. She never realised it was her stepmother in disguise. Evil woman. She got what was coming to her. She ended up being ripped apart by wolves. A fitting end if you ask me. We buried the young princess in a coffin made of diamond. We thought it only right that her last resting place was as beautiful as she was."

The old man wiped a tear from his eye.

"Ah lad, the follies of youth eh?"

Peter studied the old man closely.

"Can I ask you what your name really is? I get the feeling that 'Mr Smith' is an assumed name."

"Does it matter lad? Does it matter?"

Peter thought carefully before answering. Did it matter? He didn't think so but his curiosity demanded to be satisfied.

"Not really sir, but my curiosity is begging for an answer."

The old man chuckled to himself.

"Honest, my boy. I admire honest answers. There are far too many people willing to tell you what they think you want to hear."

The old man paused, thinking carefully about his answer. He looked Peter directly in the eyes, as if he was looking forward to his reaction.

"My name is Klaus lad. But I was known to many as Grumpy."

09-10-16, 10:36 AM
That's brilliant! The twist was amazing! Loved it!

09-10-16, 10:55 AM
Thank you! I actually submitted that as an assessment piece and got a 67 for it :) Found it the other day and thought why not share it!

09-10-16, 11:40 AM
Very interesting to read. I agree.

09-10-16, 11:59 AM
Enjoyed that. Thank you.

09-10-16, 12:06 PM
I like how you were able to simply paint the picture of the old man in peoples minds.

09-10-16, 12:40 PM
Loved it - totally didn't expect the twist

09-10-16, 12:46 PM
Brilliant. Never heard that version before. A nice twist.

09-10-16, 05:04 PM
I enjoyed that!...got any more like it?

09-10-16, 06:55 PM
Thank you for all the lovely feedback!

Flo, I have other bits but I think this was my best effort.

09-10-16, 09:52 PM
I'm just looking through my uni notes and have found this. I think I need to do some more work on this! (giggle)

He fought his way through the rose bushes, jagged thorns clawing at his clothes and skin.

"Ouch! Sodding bushes! Can't she bloody hack them back instead of festering in bed all day?! Lazy cow!"

The roses seemed to be never ending; each time he beat a path through they seemed to take exception to his horticultural violence and invade the space he'd created. There was no wonder he looked like he'd been attacked by an army of (swear)(swear)(swear)(swear)ed off cats. He was more scratches then skin.

09-10-16, 09:53 PM
It's definitely a short story ;)

09-10-16, 10:03 PM
5 minutes with just fairytales as a brief, could be shorter ;)

09-10-16, 11:48 PM
Love it!

10-10-16, 07:00 PM
Me too!.....sorry Jaq..I'm always late in replying to posts ...nothing personal, I just seem to lag behind. Seriously though, I loved it! very contemporary, almost like a modern Romeo & Juliet type scenario...have you ever written short stories for magazines?

10-10-16, 08:36 PM
can I use this in the 10th anniversary postings?

10-10-16, 08:38 PM
I haven't Flo! Always contemplated it as a starting point but never had the guts to actually submit anything.

Feel free Suzi! :)

10-10-16, 09:06 PM
Awesome! Thank you!!