A chewy-bar-lesson

Posted: June 30, 2011 in #fridayflash, Short stories

“What’s your earliest memory Joel?” Stanley said.

“Erm.  Me earliest memory…” the twenty year old sat and scratched his head, “Dunno,” he chuckled nervously.

“Go on, we won’t laugh.”

“Well its probably, me dad bursting through the front door, running to the back garden.  He knocked me Gran’s tea out of her hands on his way past, then jumped the fence into the neighbors’ garden.”

The rest of the group laughed.

“Why was he running?” one of the youngsters said smiling.

“Getting away from the pigs ‘en-it!” Joel said smiling, as if it was one of the biggest achievements in his family history.  “He was on the run for an armed robbery.  The idiot used a banana in his jacket pocket to scare ‘em, but then dropped it when he tried to grab the bag of cash!”

Gary was laughing so much you could see tears in his eyes. “That’s like me old man.  He was always on the run from coppers.  I remember him pulling up on the old Kennet housing estate, in a big white van.  Everyone was well shocked!”

“Why?” Joel asked curiously.

“The man ain’t got a license, that alone his own van!” Gary said smirking.

The roomed roared with amusement.

“Not only had he pinched the van, but it was full of stuff from the retail toy shop.  Bikes, Lego, computer games, trampolines…”

“and a cuddly toy!” smirked Louis from the other side of the circle.

“Yeah bruv.  Me dad sold the lot, except a red go-cart wiv’ a white racing stripe on the front.  He left that for me.  He gave me sister some doll.  Best day ever.  Until he got nicked!” he smirked.  “Suppose I’ve always been destined to end up in here, like-father-like-son and all that.  Me mum always referred to me and my sister as ‘banged-up’ and ‘knocked-up’.  She weren’t wrong either!”

Stanley laughed along with the guys in the group.  Mark, was a similar age to Stanley maybe about twenty-five.  He just sat doodling on his notepad.  It was his turn to ‘share’ with the group.

“I ain’t really got an early memory,” he said calmly, “move on to the next one”, he said lifting his head up slightly and nodding it in Danny’s direction who sat next to him.

“You must have a memory dude!” Gary said wiggling in his chair to reposition himself in a more upright position.

“Na.  Me earliest memory is me ma’ dying when I was about eight.  Haven’t cared about anything enough to remember since then.”

The room fell silent.  Prison was a lifeless place to be and even laughing and joking came to an abrupt hault at times, just like this conversation.  The walls had etchings and marks of all kinds, whilst the ceilings echoed the silent whispers of souls departed.

“It must be your turn now Stanley,” Gary jolted up again, still unable to sit still in his seat.  Stanley was convinced the guy had some sort of attention disorder.

“Well, we should work around the circle I think,” Stanley said.

“Na, go on, tell us your earliest memory,” Danny said eager to divert the question that was now looming over his head. Newbies should go first.”

“Ok, well, it has to be, the day of the ‘chewy-bar-lesson’. My mother acted like I’d stolen a car or something.

Stanley coughed and proceeded to mimic a lady’s voice.  “You go over to that shop young man and pay them every last penny of your pocket-money.  Then you come home and you will do chores with me all day.”

I remember shouting “MUM! Its ten pence!  Why do I have to give them all of my pocket-money? A whole five pounds!”

She said calmly, “You need to prove to the shop keeper and me that you are sorry and are actually a trustworthy young man.  Today a ten pence chewy bar, tomorrow it could be something worth fifty times that amount.”

I said “But mum,” when she interuppted with, “No buts! Except for yours, being spanked into next week, if you don’t get a move on!”

“I remembered feeling my mum was being overdramatic, ‘cos she usually was.  She was a bit like a tub of bicarbonate of soda, very dormant and calm, but mixed with the wrong atmosphere, she could froth and overspill in a matter of seconds.”

The group of lads loved this image and all laughed as Joel sprung from his seat and making the noise of a bomb, jumped in the air, before shriveling up on the floor.

“I went to the shop and told the owner what had happened.  He was totally gob smacked when I handed over the five pounds.  He gave me a handful of the chewy bars for being so honest.  I was so worried my mum would find them and punish me again that I gave them to all of my friends at school the next day. But the teacher told my mum and I was grounded for a month, for “continuing to be dishonest”.  Legendarily referred to as the ‘chewy-bar-lesson’.”

Stanley laughed as he reminisced about his earliest memory, he realised his mum always had a point to make and tried to teach him something.  By trying to teach him between right and wrong from an early age she hoped it would instill into him, discipline and respect for the world around him.

This group of lads who surrounded him in a circle of chairs, were no different to him, they had just had disparate types of influences, expereinces and as it turned out memories of their not-so law-abiding parents.  The Prison was a cold place at times, but today in this small group, they each learned about each others lives and for those more clued-up amongst them, why they had turned to crime.

Gary looked amazed, “Can’t believe you was a thief as a youngster Stanley.”

Mark nodded, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, especially for a Priest.  Thought you was well boring like!  Might come to the prison chapal more often”.

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Comments
  1. Sonia Lal says:

    Very interesting conversation they were having! Like how they said stuff, too.

  2. Helen says:

    I really liked this, it has a feel good element to it and the essence of hope that those who make a wrong choice can be influenced in a new and more positive direction.

    This was a wonderfully visual piece of writing “She was a bit like a tub of bicarbonate of soda, very dormant and calm, but mixed with the wrong atmosphere, she could froth and overspill in a matter of seconds.”

  3. John Wiswell says:

    At least he went appreciated. They always laugh when they say they won’t!

  4. Tony Noland says:

    I felt like I was there amid the conversation, especially when the laughter fell silent.

  5. Good reveal at the end.

  6. Didn’t see that coming and really enjoyed the whole. The inmates all have very strong voices which adds to the power of the story.
    Typo alert: I think you mean ‘halt’ not ‘hault’ in the “abrupt hault” line.

  7. marc nash says:

    I went through this with one of my twins. We blasted him & he has never stolen since. His brother on the other hand…

  8. cookme25 says:

    That was neat. I liked the lesson and how you showed that even though prison was a hard tough place, there was a group of people who were just….human. You always think about cons being these tough people but you showed that they were just like us but they made some wrong choices. Very well done.

  9. FARfetched says:

    Great twist at the end! Sounds like some of the prisoners will pay attention to Stanley now.

  10. ~Tim says:

    Nicely done. The dialog feels real and I wasn’t expecting the reveal.

  11. I liked this, nice the sharing of the different stories. Especially enjoyed the bicarbonate of soda bit but it felt out of place here, given the characters and the way they’d been speaking I don’t think they would have got the reference. Good work though!

  12. Icy Sedgwick says:

    Oh that final line is awesome! I guess it shows a certain humanity in this situation, but also that nobody’s perfect.

  13. techtigger says:

    very nice, loved the dialogue. Made the characters feel real, and that was a great little surprise at the end. Well done!

  14. I didn’t see that coming, I was gearing up to see what crime he had committed!

  15. Spot says:

    I was wondering how Stanley ended up there with a mother like that. Nice twist! Loved the feel of the conversation. Good characterization.

  16. adampb says:

    You created a great atmosphere in this piece, sharing stories like old friends, so the reveal felt natural and a great end to the story.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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