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Sunday The Fiftieth Of May

July 15, 2012

Sounds like sci-fi, doesn’t it, ‘Sunday The Fiftieth Of May’?  My story so titled is nothing of the sort, though.  Fiction it is, and seemingly far fetched, perhaps, but the essential story is rooted in my long past experience of dealing with the victims of domestic violence, including admissions to women’s refuges.  It’s a chilling fact that the more obsessive abusers were often resourceful and dogged in pursuit.

I read the piece at a BLAZE event at Hartford Hall, Northwich, in May last year.  And it seemed to go down well, much to my relief!  The organiser, our local poet Angela Topping, described it as “a strange and wonderful story”.   I’d introduced it as “flash noir”, and our guest that evening, the flash fiction writer and managing editor of Gumbo Press, Calum Kerr, responded with a piece of “flash noir” of his own, ‘Waving and Drowning’.

The story was also well received when it later appeared on Rammenas, the Dutch flash fiction site, now closed.

Helping the homeless, and domestic violence victims in particular, was the work that mattered to me most during my career in social housing.  I hope that Crystal’s plight in my little story touches you too.



She wakes to the buzz of a wasp behind the curtains, haggard, stale, mildly overhung.  Pigeons call over the river.  Something scratches her brain.  It’s Crystalmas Day, Sunday the fiftieth of May.

Muriel is the Warden at Watson’s High Security Refuge, a big woman with a big heart.

Crystal is four years dead today.  She was the only one of the Watson’s women ever to have thrown her rug out.  She’d loved the stone-slab solidity of the former farmhouse floor.  She’d grind her feet into the grain of the stone until they bled; until, with blood, came belief.

“Ah, no boards,” she’d cry, ecstatic.  “No boards with cracks between.  No cracks for an evil eye.”


After three weeks at a guesthouse in the Highlands, Crystal had begun to hope.  Safe at last – oh, if only…The rustling beneath the floor she’d put down to rats.  Then she’d seen him peering up at her through a crack.  Kevin…

He’d found her again.


In the protected environment at Watson’s, two hundred miles south, in a remote rural location, the true Crystal gradually emerged.  It did her good to tell the tale.  She held the other women in thrall. 

“I was right, there was a rat down there!  A fixated, vicious rat.  I loved to write poetry; Kevin destroyed my work.  I loved to swim; he’d beat me for it.  He couldn’t swim himself, of course…”

Slightly built and quietly spoken, Crystal had a certain charisma.  The women listened to her.  They loved her.  Muriel loved her too.

Bluebells her eyes and daffodils her hair,

Snowflakes clothed her soul.

So ran one of the poems in a little pamphlet Muriel printed for her.

Crystal’s calendar was adopted by the women following her death.  It worked on the countdown principle and gave hope in the long wait for a home.

When down The Hollow foxes play,

Rejoice, girls, for keys are on the way!

For Crystal, it had seemed the foxes would never play.  Then one sweet Spring morning they did.  She rejoiced with a dip in the river.

Muriel found her on the pontoon, dead, a young man weeping over her. 

“Are you Kevin?”

Ten minutes later she rang the police on her mobile.  She’d found two bodies, she said.  Crystal, strangled.  And a young man facedown in the water.


It’s Sunday the fiftieth of May, Crystalmas Day.  She sits in her garden at Watson’s.  Crystal is four years dead.  The evening is fragrant with spring-flowers.  She blows the open end of a half-drunk bottle of lager.  The result is a passable pigeon call.  A real pigeon calls back over the river.

The scratch in her brain has eased now.




Copyright © Paul Beech 2012

  1. stella permalink

    Paul, this story gives me goosebumps – definitely one of your best. stella xxx

    • Thanks, Stel.

      As you know, it was working with the homeless that mattered to me most in social housing, demanding and emotionally draining though it often was. It took a lot out of me but was deeply satisfying too when all my efforts on behalf of a client bore fruit in the form of a set of keys to a new home.

      ‘Sunday The Fiftieth Of May’ is my own favourite piece so far and definitely one for inclusion when I eventually put a chapbook together. Now let’s see what else I can come up with to produce a goosebump or two!

      Paul xxx

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