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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Peaceful Protest...
Peaceful Protest...
by Willie Cross

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Calderburgh's Young Communist League, comprising Ackie, Podge, Crunch and Molly, had scrounged 7/6 for petrol to attend a Ban the Bomb march.

The whole village knew about it. Crunch's dad, a motor mechanic, had checked the tyres, water and oil on the 'brake.

"What colour is that motor, Ackie?"

"It's shamrock-green, Podge. Green, like grass; Molly pinched the paint from the Polaris base we held a sit-down demonstration at last summer."

"Green's not that colour: Christ, they'll see us coming, for miles."

"Get used to it, that's what we're using tomorrow."

"Tomorrow's a turning point, eh Ackie?"

"It sure is pal, Ruben's writing an article about us for The Worker."

Ruben was a journalist on The Worker, a left-wing journal.

Calderburgh's fame was its rich coal deposits. It had survived mining disasters, strikes and closures, as its seams were still viable. It was a fiery Pit; fire also symbolised those who lived and worked there: men were breadwinners, women, the homemakers.

The League attracted young people who were sceptical about Boy Scouting and the Boys Brigade. They had serious concerns about their future, supporting world peace through the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Operation Walter was planned along military lines. Banners were painted with gigantic black and blue lettering on white cotton sheets. Meetings spilled over onto cold, damp scullery floors, smelling of carbolic, where Ackie's mum sustained the conspirators with steaming baked potatoes, cooked in the AGA.

Everyone was up at dawn. Molly had loaded the loud-hailer, ropes, brushes, leaflets. Molly's mum was in charge of supplying breakfast-baps, scarves and balaclavas.

Other helpers had risen to darn socks, air clothes, make sandwiches or fill flasks with hot soup. Podge's granny spoke to Ruben:

"We've seen the poor loves on television, looking dirty and untidy, miserably cold and wet, marching for miles, sometimes days; even anarchists need clean clothes with something wholesome inside them."

The march was in Glasgow, 45 miles away, over steep terrain. The winding B-road was uneven and water-logged. November was icy, with poor visibility; large black crows screeched loudly above the coal-slags, like lunatics from a locked ward.

Ackie was driver. As a van man with Muirs Bakery, he was ace at tackling pot-holes. His passions were cars, the League, and his girlfriend, Molly. Podge, a trainee miner, was navigator; he'd worked out they'd take the A74 Hamilton to Cannisburn Toll. Crunch, a coalface-worker, had his transistor-radio to pick-up coded messages on Radio Clydeside. He was an experienced rock-climber, having scaled Edinburgh Castle and the Forth Bridge on previous manoeuvres.

Ruben thought of himself as a war correspondent in the class struggle. His Reporter's Notebook, with chewed pencil-end pushed through its spiral binding, was full of scribbles.

"It's shorthand," he said to Molly, eyeing her at the back of the 'brake.

"Reckon we'll do twenty-five mph easy Uncle, until the dual-carriageway."

Jimmy Coulson, Podge's uncle, was Secretary of Calderburgh's Marxist Party of GB. He stood like an Inspector General, seeing the protestors off, with fraternal greetings from well-wishers.

"Watch out son, for freezing fog. It comes over the moors unexpectedly. First, it rises like steam from a kettle, then it hits like smoke from a pipe, then it nips like poison gas in the trenches. Watch! You'll be stranded with not a phone box for miles.

"Good-luck comrades. Oh! I nearly forgot, here's a wee present, it's half a bottle of Buckie. Get that down you, should you get stuck."

They left, the 'brake chugging down the full length of The Raws. Folk cheered, others stuck up thumbs, or fists or applauded. Molly dangled the Red Flag from the window, like she did on village gala-days.

"Good old Uncle Jimmy. He's always talking about marches he's been on from his heyday."

"What marches Podge? Tell me," said Ruben, excitedly.

"It's a big list. Easter '58; Vienna '59; the great CND marches, Aldermaston to Hyde Park '60, '61 '62; Stonehenge, Holy Loch, Trafalgar and Grosvenor Squares, three years running. He saw the police lift Rev Johnstone, at Gretna. They swooped down like eagles, carting him off in a Black Maria. He's been on a platform with Billy Graham, the Yankee preacher. Great guy, he was in our house having his tea, last week."

"What, Billy Graham was in your house for his tea?" enquired Crunch.

"No, you daft bat, Uncle Jimmy!"

Everyone laughed.

"Uncle Jimmy's our hero," added Ackie.

Suddenly, there was shouting. Morag, Calderburgh's publican, who'd just woke up, came running in her dressing gown, and matching slippers, behind the 'brake, screaming, as if her establishment was burning down.

"Stop! Wait! Take this..." She held up an ancient travel-rug, inherited from an old lodger.

As they left, the night shift was finishing at the Pit. Miners were heading towards the baths. They saw the green 'brake and cheered.

Time on the journey was spent telling jokes, humming tunes, and whistling. Molly handed round Opal fruits, keeping back the lime ones for Ackie. Ruben composed his headline:

Exploit by Young Socialists

From Our own correspondent with the Scott Saboteurs.

Through semi-darkness, the scarred landscape was gripped by sludge. They'd been travelling two hours, with stops for a landslide, Irn-Bru, crisps and the toilet.

"That's her - the City of St Mungo."

Giant cranes on the Clyde spread like HG Wells' invaders from Mars.

The crowd in George Square numbered thousands, the pipe band was playing

"We're no awa' tae bide awa'". Women in curlers with prams and skimpy coats; beatniks in sodden tennis shoes, playing guitars. Many were carrying the black and white banners of the peace movement. One group, numbering twenty, encircled by police, had a banner, "Keep the Bomb". It was a sea of placards, sandwich-boards, balloons and bands; it was like a holiday carnival.

"This is our city's arena, like others the world over: Trafalgar, Wenceslas, St Peter's, Red, Times. They represent the power of the establishment over us.

These statues are to the elite... Queen Victoria and Consort, Peel, Scott, Moore, Clyde... effigies to war-mongers; they don't represent real people." Ruben scribbled Ackie's remarks.

The memorials were protected by rickety fencing. Podge and Crunch formed the spearhead. Watchman was Ackie, whilst Molly handed out leaflets, distracting policemen near Sir Walter Scott's Column...

Crunch clamoured up the high base, reaching a ledge. Podge passed up the green paint and brush. Like a gaucho, Crunch lassoed a noose around the figure of the Melrose poet, pulling himself to the top.

The act of vandalism that followed involved daubing the symbol for Nuclear Disarmament on the monument, although the pigeons had already marked it.

Ackie cried, "Victory, Victory," over the loud-hailer.

"Our League wants peace. Ban the bomb... We want to live."

Supporters stood in front of them. Women, children, nuns, soldiers, an ensemble of clergy, people in suits, kilts - some carrying flags, shaking banners - held the police as they pushed forward. Others grabbed them rolling them like The Beatles onto blankets. Arrests followed, however Ruben escaped to safety to dispatch his story. The tin of green paint was recovered as evidence.

Ruben's article appeared a few days later. He'd added to the final story.

Scott Saboteurs Arrested and Fined

Four members of the Peace Campaign have each been fined £200, with the alternative of 30 days in prison, for a daring attack on the Sir Walter Scott Memorial in Glasgow's George Square.

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