Thursday, 9 June 2016

Grubby Harry

Well, this is a bit of a departure for me for several reasons. 

  1. Of late I've only managed to post once a month, and that's the link to the ACW More than Writers post that I still manage to scratch out on the 23rd. There has been so much going on that my writing has been sadly pushed aside. I'm hoping that I can find a way to change this.
  2. This post is a writing exercise that we did at the Scargill Writers' Retreat last weekend (of which more later). It's supposed to be around 300 words (give or take, heh heh) and it could be about pretty much anything. I'm feeling pretty good about the editing, to be honest, as it started out at 950.
  3. Harry is a product of my imagination, inspired by a sad, neglected little house on a road near me. 

I remember Grubby Harry. As I was growing up Harry was a figure of fun, an eccentric behind dirty twitching curtains at no.6. The neighbours grumbled that Harry’s house let down the rest of the street – his fence was rotten, the lawn overgrown, paintwork dull and peeling. 

Years ago, Harry told stories.  The local kids would call in at no.6 on their way home from school and he would give them chocolate and tell stories – spooky stories, sad stories, exciting stories.  Then, as people’s awareness of the evils of the world grew, they stopped the kids from coming.  He was a lonely single man. Wariness developed into suspicion, and suspicion into assumption. 

Harry retreated from a world that rejected him. He drew his curtains one day and didn’t open them again more than a crack.  This was to foil the snipers on the roof of number 7. 

Harry the Hermit sealed up the letterbox with masking tape after local lads put a firecracker through his door.  When the postman came, as he did, once in a while, you might see the door open as far as the short chain would allow, a hand would snatch the envelopes and slam the door with a rattle of deadlocks.

Mad Harry unplugged the telephone in case they were listening. He crept about in the dark in case the lights revealed his location. He sat close by the television, notebook and pencil in hand, determined not to miss the hidden messages.

He’d been dead for a week or so before the postman raised the alarm.  Paramedics broke in through the front window.  Unkempt and emaciated, Smelly Harry sat at the table with a mass of wires and switches in front of him.  The bomb squad was called and the area evacuated, but it turned out Harry had died while dismantling electrical equipment. He had been checking for surveillance devices.

The drama of his demise would have pleased Harry. Many years ago his stories had topped the bestseller list. He’d written thrillers about espionage and counter-terrorism and someone in Hollywood had bought the film rights.

His was an exciting story and a sad one.

Lying in his hallway, unopened, were half a million pounds worth of royalty cheques.

Photo by Melodi2, via Morguefile
Used with permission.


  1. Oh Helen first of all please tell me this isn't a true story.
    Wow, this is poignant and gripping and really, really good. Thanks for sharing.

    1. No, as far as I know it's not a true story. Not far from here there's what we call 'the sad house' which is very run down and neglected and a little old man lives there, but I don't know his story.
      Thanks, Mandy. :-)

  2. Helen I loved this! It kept me hooked right to the end, at which point I said aloud,with a sharp intake of breath, "Aw...!" Literally. Great story! x

    1. Thanks, Deborah. That means a lot. :-) x

  3. Loved this! Such a well-drawn character. I'd like to know more of his story.

    1. Thanks, Fran. It was an exercise in editing! The first draft was over 900 words long and I pruned out so much, and then when I realised I'd put it on here instead of reading it out I nearly reinstated it all! It's been very good for me....


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