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Jen Hughes

Homeless      person


 Jen Hughes is a young writer from Ayrshire, Scotland, who has been writing stories and bubbling with ideas since before she could hold a pen. Her mind buzzes so much, which gives her the difficulty of sticking to just one project so she has a bad habit of having several going at the same time. She writes mainly short fiction and poetry at the moment.


Fred has lit the bonfire. But fire is danger! Fire can kill! I don’t want that sparkler, it’s burny! I’m so scared, I want to run away. Fred is laughing: it’s OK as long as you’re careful. A soldier has to deal with worse than this, be brave. This fire is much bigger than me. I don’t like it one bit. Fred’s giving me a marshmallow on a stick, he says if I hold it over the fire it’ll become a smore. The fire is looking at me with mischief. I’m still scared, but I need to know what a smore is! So here goes, bit by bit, the stick’s going into the fire. I hope I don’t die! The mallow’s toasting in the flames, melting a little bit. I take it out, and it’s burnt-looking. Ouch! It’s a bit too hot on my teeth at first but Fred smiles: keep going. The crispy burnt shell of the mallow snaps as I bite into it. And then it goes all soft and melty and yummy and moreish. Now I know why it’s called a smore! Fire isn’t so bad after all. I just need to be careful, like Fred. The fire’s smiling at me. I smile back. My big brother laughs warmly and puts his arm round me. I do so love it when he comes home.

I am but a ghost; I don’t even come to mind to my own family. Now, why would some stranger want to even look at me? Nobody wants to spare me any change- not even one of those stupid wee coppers they complain about. Nobody sees me, or they try not to see me. They hurry past, wrapped up in their own pathetic lives, and I can even hear the coins jangle in their pockets. I guess I was done for the night. The wind was biting. I picked up what little I had and called Lucky to find somewhere sheltered with me. Lucky’s my dog. We have two things in common: we both have no home and nobody to look out for us anymore. I guess he’s the only true friend I’ve ever had. Then I saw a lighter on the ground. I shook it- there was some juice. I had a thought: I could start a fire tonight. I looked around for a metal bin, Lucky following close behind. I reached into my pocket for my secret notebook; I tore out a page and held it close to the lighter. Nothing. I flicked frantically, hoping for a spark. Come on! My face was frigid and my hands were raw from the cold. Suddenly whoa: a spark! It caught the paper and started to burn. I threw it into the bin. I smiled with relief, as I stretched out towards the heat. I sat down and put my arm around Lucky. We both looked at each other. I lifted the rest of the notebook- containing all my worst reminders - and dropped it into the flames. Now, I could let go of the past. I looked down at Lucky and ruffled his fur. It was just me and him now.

It was too hot in front of that fire, but I had to get things done.  I shouldn’t have taken it on, but I offered to finish those reports. I work, and that has been my life from an early age. Non-stop, on-the-go 24/7. My family just want me to sit down on my arse and stop working for two minutes. They say I can’t sit still and that I should retire, but me? Retire? They can’t be serious. I could see out of the corner of my eye Jolene and Janet hurrying about like headless turkeys preparing Christmas dinner. I kept working. Jolene shouted “Dad!” Give me two minutes! “It’s Mum.” Then I knew. I dumped the laptop and ran through to the kitchen. Janet was on the floor and there was goose, stuffing, vegetables and roasted potatoes all over the floor. The Pyrex tray was in pieces. Jolene was kneeling beside Janet. She looked up at me, her eyes said ‘I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen’. This dinner was too much for her. I had never known Janet to be in this kind of state before.  Janet was always very much in control of things. She managed the household and I worked. That’s how it always was. We helped her to her feet. She kept saying sorry, over and over again, but we told her: dinner is the least of our worries. We helped her through to her favourite armchair by the fireside. Looking at Janet at that moment, I knew I needed to stop. My strong wife looked so small in that chair. She needed me now. I took my place next to her and held her hand. The fire was dwindling.  All that work.  What had it all been for?  I seized the poker and stabbed the logs till they burst back into life. Our lives would be different now.

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