Dear friends, if you like a good chuckle, dim-witted heroes, and larger-than-life villains, then you'll love this fascinating series. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ stories. You can check in regularly and read them for free, or wait to buy the entire story when published.
#2: Enchanter on the Roof ® James Field. Part 45
In the last post: Bert recouped his Rolex and engagement ring, but he wasn't stopping there…
Before Dick Charmer could protest, Bert snatched the pouch of stolen jewellery and shoved the unsuspecting man back against the tree trunk. “I’m in a hurry, so I’ll take the lot.”
“But you can’t,” groaned Dick Charmer. “I worked hard to get those.”
Bert dropped his hand on Dick Charmer’s shoulder, making it sag under the weight. “Sorry about that, but like what I told you before, I used to be a thief too.”
He didn't miss those days. Stealing other people's possessions had always left him feeling guilty. At first, he'd plundered cash from his mum's purse and his dad's wallet. But they were poor, and when he found his dear old mother crying one day, empty purse in hand, he stole from other people and made regular secret donations to their funds.
They weren't as bright as him, and apart from scratching their heads now and then, never suspected where the heaven-sent money had come from.
He'd hated school, and from the age of thirteen had played truant almost every day. He sneaked rides on buses and trains, stole comics and nosh from shops, and looted unlocked garages and garden sheds.
During one of his terms in prison, he made friends with Alf, and together they formed a partnership, working at a successful career of mugging. Even then, Bert had insisted they left women and children alone.
The crook in front of him now, Dick Charmer, concentrated on stealing from women and children, and Bert despised him for it. He lifted the gold chain and locket that Dick Charmer had planted on his neck, and dropped it over Dick Charmer’s.
“You can have it back. And like what you told me, Dobby the Bobby won't chase me when you tell him where it came from." He tugged on his bottom lip. Is that really what he'd told him? He shrugged. "Better hurry off before the police catch you with it.”
“You’re a thief,” screeched Dick Charmer.
“Yeah. Ain’t lost me knack, have I?”
Dick Charmer slammed his fists into the tree trunk behind his back and then scrubbed his face with his hands. “Can I go now?”
“Yeah, you better run. No hard feelings.” Bert held his hand out for a shake. “Honour among thieves and all that crap.”
With an impatient snort, Dick Charmer took Bert’s hand. His flimsy little fingers disappeared inside Bert’s massive mitt, thumb and all. Then Bert squeezed and the muscles in his forearms bunched into knots.
Trapped in the vice-like grip, Dick Charmer sunk to his knees: teeth clenched, eyes crossed, and a gurgle in his throat.
To be continued…
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Like to know more about Alf, Bert and the rest of the gang? You can read their chaotic history in What on Earth.
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A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To save the jobs of those in the Japanese government who helped him escape, Masaji Ishikawa wrote: “…obviously I wasn’t going to start talking to the press.” Instead, he wrote this mammoth best-selling book? Sorry, but I don’t believe this man’s autobiography can be true. If it is, then he is likely responsible for the sacking of those government officials who helped his return to Japan, and worse, expose his family to torture or execution in North Korea.
It may well be that he moved to North Korea in 1960, aged thirteen, where he lived until his escape in 1996. However, I rather believe his memoir is an over dramatised collection of exaggerated incidents he picked up from others. In which case, good for him.
I hope this is the case; otherwise, he puts himself in a poor light. From his book, he already comes across as egoistic, beating up anyone who upsets him and often leaving his family to starve while he runs off to find work to feed himself.
North Korea is undoubtedly not an agreeable place to live, but propaganda and false news flourish. The story in this book is captivating and mind-bogglingly tragic, hence four stars. I just don’t accept Mr Ishikawa’s life was as awful, or maybe I don’t want to believe, as he relates.
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