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Short Stories from Power of the Pen

The Power of the Pen project at Arkbound was dedicated to reaching out to individuals in Scotland who had found their mental health exacerbated by the social isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim of this National Lottery funded project was to help individuals tackle these issues and create a new sense of community through a series of creative writing workshops. Some of the participants agreed to share some pieces of the works they produced during the program on our blog:

‘A Winter’s Tale’ by Inesa Vėlavičiūtė

A wild snowflake dances in the bitter cold. Enchants. Bewitches. 

A thick white blanket of the tiny ice crystals floats in the air glistening, then descends and paints the fields in light, translucent colours.

Some star-shaped white puffs are graceful and plastic in their journey down; resembling the noble palace ladies they gently land on the black soil and bare tree branches, cloaking them in a polar fox fur coat.

Others are rushing… whirling… spiralling down till they disappear into the endless white universe.

The remaining falling flakes of snow are performing in Nature’s concert: bending and flexing in tandem with the melody of the wind’s bagpipe. Pine trees are swaying to the beat of this music too, coming to life in the depths of winter as the naughty snow spirits hop on their evergreen needles.

Look! They jump into rivers, leaving no tracks behind. With minuscule frosted fingers they hug the fish and water bubbles, inviting them for a dance, entertaining.

Just as a snowflake’s shape changes and evolves while falling through the air, the human mind unfolds over time too, depending on which path each has travelled. These little sparkles of delight are all unique as every person on the planet, no two are the same.

Perhaps that’s why I am so fond of snow clouds.

‘Beneath the Kitchen Sink She Kept a Leprechaun’ by Lesley O’Brien

In a cupboard, beneath the kitchen sink, granny kept a leprechaun. Flanagan O’Flaherty, he was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. He wore the usual leprechaun regalia; green tweed suit, matching waistcoat, feather in his cap and silver buckles on his shoes. When I visited granny, first thing I would do, was make a bee line straight for that cupboard. It’s the 28th of October 1973 and my chubby wee hands yank at the handle, nails manky from carefully moulding mud pies at the back entrance of our tenement close.  Light floods into the dark recesses of the cupboard. I lean inside, cup my hands around my mouth and call behind the tins of Brasso, boot polish and old yellow dusters, ‘Flanagan O’Flaherty, oh Flanagan O’Flaherty, I know you’re in there, come oot, come oot, wherever ye are’.

‘Ocht, what is it you’re wanting, waking me up on a Sunday morning when all decent leprechauns should be in their bed snoring?’

Flanagan appeared from behind an old, mottled mirror, a scowl engraved on his grumpy wee face. He was having a good scratch at his bright orange beard that was the exact colour of the glass of Irn Bru, granny had just poured and placed on the pale blue Formica of the kitchen table.

‘It’s my birthday, come oot, come oot, we’re gonna have a party!’.

‘Ocht, I’m not that keen on parties, I’ll just go back to bed’.

‘Naw, ye cannae dae that! I’ve told everybody you’re comin!’.

‘What?! Do you think I’m some kind of performing leprechaun?  I don’t do Irish jigs and I’m certainly not telling anybody where the pot of gold is’.

‘Aww come on Flanagan, you don’t have to dance, and you don’t have to give away your secrets.  Please, it’s my 6th birthday today…there’ll be lots of sweeties and cake’.

‘But I know what adults are like, they all want to catch me. You’ve no idea what I’ve been through with folks trying to get their hands on that gold’.

‘I know, why don’t you go inside Billy’s cage, Billy will protect you?’.

‘What that bird brain, protect me?’.

‘Shh, he’ll hear ye!  Aye, he could protect ye! I’ve seen him givin’ granny a right sore peck on her hand if she doesn’t give him his wee treat of Irn bru, and most adults are quite scared of birds, even if he is just a tiny wee canary’.

‘Hmmm…I’ll feel like I’m in the zoo, with everybody staring at me’.

‘Please, fur ma birthday, will ye, pleeeease?’.

‘Surprise’ by Sarah Morris

Jenny is lounging about in the run-down pub ‘The Crown’, a Lees owned pub that sells warm beer, rum and coke and the luxury Blue Lagoon. Her friends are with her, all bunking off from the local school. A comprehensive where everyone gets a CSE and never an O Level.

Susie, Scott’s big sister, buys the drinks for everyone – no questions asked. The drinks are warm, no ice but hit the spot.

Jilly has started smoking, getting fags off of Susie. Jenny reminds herself she must bag her clothes when she gets in and spray some Impulse deodorant over them. ‘Hint of Musk’ is her favourite at the moment. It makes them smell worse but better than have mum find out. It is smoky in there anyway – ghostlike dead fingers streaking the air.

Her friends are arguing over which track to put on the jukebox, which, considering the state of the pub, has some current tracks. The main two rivals seem to be David Bowie, of course, and Boy George, also of course.

Jenny gazes through the nicotine wraiths and suddenly sees someone that makes her sit up straight. She sees what looks like her brother, Mike. He is supposed to be working away in the fish packing factory on his YTS.

Jenny looks across the worn, deep maroon, velvet topped bar stools, and over to the rickety, copper topped tables. If Mike saw her here, he would tell her mum.

Meanwhile, Susie gets the juke box going and the sounds of David Bowie’s ‘Red Shoes’ belts out and everyone starts to dance and bump about a bit more. The floor has that comforting stickiness, that reminds you that plenty of folks have spilt their rum and coke many times before. Boy George would be next.

Jenny moves around the bar, keeping an eye on her brother, as he laughs and smokes with a group of people she doesn’t know. She then realizes that they are both breaking rules – her brother not being at his job and herself not at school. She can make that work to her advantage. Moving around the regulars huddled over the wobbly wooden tables with their pints of bitter, betting slips and their pipes, Jenny taps Mike on the shoulder.

He turns around, “Hey! What are you doing here? You should be at school!”

“Yes”, says Jenny, “and you should be packing fish up the road. So, shall we accept quits on that then? What are you doing anyway…?”.

“Not much sis’. The job is awful – all I’m doing is making cups of tea for people who think I am trash.” says Mike, feeling sorry for himself

Jenny thinks that this is still a bargaining situation and says the least he could do is buy her another rum and coke. He laughs, takes out his wallet and hands her two notes.

Jenny goes to the bar. She wonders if she should buy some fags with her windfall. She decides against it and orders some rum and coke and two packets of peanuts. She is relieved that the packet covering the pin up girl’s breasts is still in place and wonders if it ever comes off. 

She carries her booty back to her friends. They are now in full voice and sing ‘Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon, you come and go-o-o-o. You come and goooo—o-o.’ Jenny turns to smile at Mike, “thank you” she mouths, and then joins in with the singing.

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