John Fish B.Sc. Publishers of Tenby in Wales (UK)




Paul Read

e-mail: Paul Read










This is a strange tale, set in England in the 1960s. The story has no moral and it is left to the audience to make of it what they can. The ‘present’ is set in London in the early 60s and the ‘past’ is a series of flashbacks to a working class suburb in an industrial town in the north. Harold, the hero (?), is a brooding person, darkish in appearance, hooded eyes. He did not begin speaking until he was four years old and when he did, he spoke with a ‘posh’ accent rather than the accents of his northern surroundings. He was left on the steps of the Ganesh home when he was newborn but did not learn of his adoption until he was 13 or so. After that he always resented his family although he felt guilty about his resentment.

The story begins with Ganesh arriving at Waterloo station in London. He is to stay overnight and then catch a plane to Hong Kong where he has been offered a teaching position.

He engages to services of two porters who attack him, steal his suitcase and lock him in a room in the station. Ganesh is hit on the head and loses consciousness.

Flashback: Ganesh is an orphan and is raised along with his similarly aged stepsister, Sylvia. His school friend Alf plays a big part in his early years. At the age of 15 or thereabouts, he has sex with Sylvia in a fox den in the woods where they are wont to go playing. A fox watches them from the undergrowth. They continue this illicit relationship until Sylvia dies mysteriously in a fire. There is a large dog print nearby. The coroner records an open verdict although he reveals that Sylvia was five months pregnant.

Harold gets a job in a garage and meets a young lady who comes in to have her bicycle fixed. Later, she is attacked by the river, and killed by a large dog. Harold is not suspected because it was clearly an animal.Harold’s adoptee family is poor, but Harold manages to get a scholarship and go to university in the nearby city. He finds a boarding house run by a not-too-old widow. They become lovers but she too dies, viciously attacked by a large dog. Harold has an alibi. She leaves the house and the car to him.

Harold has a girlfriend but she finds him too spooky and plans to leave him. She is attacked by a large dog but manages to fend it off and escape. She leaves Harold who passes university, applies for and gets the job at the Tee Ming Middle School in Hong Kong.

When Harold recovers consciousness he is still in the room but he manages to escape through an air vent. Thus begins a period when Ganesh thinks he is a dog. He lives in the tunnels and air ducts of the station for some time, stealing food through grates etc.

Harold finds a way out of the station tunnels and ducts, gets some clothes and money, and finds a butchers shop where he buys raw meat and consumes it outside. He then finds a blues/pop music club from which he is eventually ejected because of his strange behavior.

By this time the police have been alerted to Harold’s disappearance (alerted by Alf who has had no word from his friend) and to the strange happenings in and around Waterloo station. They plan to investigate.

Harold returns to the tunnels and ducts the way he has come, and resumes his canine existence. By this time Wilf has sought police help in finding his friend and they eventually manage to rescue Harold from his doggy world.





Sample Chapter

Chapter One

The train was late arriving in London. Three hours late. The express had been due to arrive at eight on the Sunday evening, but it was almost eleven when it finally expired with a gush of steam under the giant, vaulted, glass and metal dome of the main station.

The journey to London would take seven hours, the guard at Bercester station had told Harold, but he was wrong. He meant well, and if the train had proceeded according to the timetable he would have been correct give or take a minute or two.

‘Good luck sir,’ the guard said to Harold shortly before the express left Bercester

station. ‘Hope you have a good trip.’

‘I shall, thank you,’ Harold assured him. ‘I shall.’

Those were the days when staff at stations, on buses, on trains, in offices, and people who dealt with the public in general, were usually polite and had time for their customers who were not just a number on an invoice or ticket and a means of making money, but real, live people who breathed and who had an overdraft at the bank, a plot of land near the railway line where they grew vegetables and a daughter made pregnant by the boy next door who denied he was the father.

The conductor on the train, however, was of a different ilk.

‘Works on the line, mate,’ he had told Harold. He was a fat, little man with a red, round face, his cap perched far enough back on his head to reveal the shiny beginnings of baldness in his ginger-gray hair.

Harold regarded the conductor with some distaste: he did not like the familiar use of the word ‘mate’ and he was offended by the odor of stale alcohol which he detected on the man’s breath.

But the conductor did not seem the least bit disconcerted or apologetic about the delay. ‘Tracks has to be changed,’ he said. ‘New rails. Take some months, I’ll be bound. Never mind. I get the over-time, you know. We’re on union rates now.’ Those were the times when the unions had some power and were learning how to wield it.

The journey from Bodbridge via Bercester should have taken five hours but it had been interrupted at least four times because of ‘works on the line,’ and at one of these unplanned halts Harold found himself staring out the drizzle-run windows at the distorted expanses of countryside that bordered the line.

He was, even now, on the verge of leaving it all behind -- the village, the country, his parents, his past -- but yet it clung as stubbornly as the clay in the fields on a wet autumn morning. Could he never be rid of it? He had worked so hard to disencumber himself from the mire of his life, the life which had been thrust on him and on which he had had no influence. Now the final pages of that chapter were being expunged.

If they’d just get the bloody train going, thought Harold. Goodbye Bodbridge and agrarian sod; hello Hong Kong and say good morning to your new teacher of English at the Tee Ming Middle School. ‘Good morning, Mr Ganesh,’ came the chorused reply.

Tomorrow he would fly the country. Three p.m. and a DC-8 flight far over countries and oceans. Dogs can’t swim that far. Can they? Anyway, the Chinese eat dogs, don’t they? All worries will evaporate, be they canine, vulpine or lupine.

Again, he cursed inwardly at the delay of the train.

The fields and hedgerows of the deformed green and yellow checkerboard that stretched before him were alien. They were part of his past, part of his parents. His adoptee parents. And they invoked remembrances of his vixen step-sister Sylvia, her of the blond hair and blue eyes; she who had died so mysteriously in the Great Bodbridge Brickworks Blaze of 1965 (so the local newspapers had dubbed it). Did she fall or was she pushed?

Harold sank back into the green, cracked leather of the seat and tried to doze. But he was just drifting off when the train jerked into life once again. The movement woke him and he sat for some moments, trying to dispel his thoughts and his impatience.

Finally, in desperation, he arose, opened the door into the corridor and went in search of the conductor. When he returned he was holding a large whisky in a tumbler. He sipped it and enjoyed the affect. He took another sip.

Harold found it necessary to drink several more glasses of whisky while the train was making its stuttering journey southwards. Just to relax. He was happy with the effects of the alcohol, the conductor was happy with the money Harold had paid. Everyone was happy.


At 10.53 that night, the train’s gushes of steam echoed hollowly in the giant dome of the London terminal, drifted heavily in the cold night air, and then died.

Harold staggered a little as he alighted from the train and dragged his large suitcase down the platform after him.

Anyone watching would have seen a young man, quite self-confident, with collar-length dark hair, high cheek bones and a complexion that was both sallow and fashionable at the same time. His long, black coat flapped as he walked, revealing a dark pull-over, white shirt, black jeans flared at the ankle, and a pair of shiny, pointed-toed black boots. A small shoulder bag also black which he clutched with his free hand. Eyes, too, were dark. Hooded. Brooding.


‘A bit late, ain’t it, guv? Take your bag? Bit heavy after all this way. Must be.’ A small red-headed porter appeared at Harold’s elbow. He was as stocky as a bull, and evinced an ingratiating air. Harold usually would have preferred to carry the large bag himself, but the whisky had taken its toll so he welcomed the porter’s intercession..

‘Thank you, my man,’ he replied in his best voice. ‘That would relieve me much.’

And so the red-haired porter hefted Harold’s large bag effortlessly on to his shoulder and led the way to the main platform. Shops and stalls were mostly shut now. News-stands held no papers – no news is good news. Sounds rang briefly in the empty, cold night air.

‘Quicker if we go this way, guv. Warmer, too,’ said the red-haired man. ‘Get you to a taxi, eh? Staying at a hotel, are we? Expensive one for a toff like you, I’ll be bound.’

Without waiting for a reply, the porter headed off at an angle from the main platform and led the way to a tunnel that branched away to the left. It was lined with faded yellow and green tiles and smelled stale as if it was seldom used. Down they went, and then the tunnel ascended, and then it veered to the right until Harold had no idea where he going. He simply followed the stocky form of the porter and wished that the journey would end.

Suddenly the porter suddenly halted beside a small wooden door.

‘Just a tick, guv,’ he said. ‘Won’t be a minute.’ He swung Harold’s bag to the ground. ‘Just got to check the schedule.’ Disregarding Harold’s desire for haste, he produced a key from his blue serge waistcoat, twisted it in the lock, opened the heavy door and disappeared inside.

Harold waited. And he waited. Then, despite the warmth of the tunnel, he suddenly felt a chill and a wave of irritation swept over him. He was on the verge of picking up his bag and trying to find his own way out of the tunnel when he heard sounds on the other side of the door. He waited again. The door opened . And a large meaty well-knuckled, calloused fist hit him on the right side of the temple. There was a moment of brilliant darkness which stretched into eternity, and then he knew no more.


Harold awoke in darkness and two sensations were immediate: the darkness itself and a pulsating pain above his right eye. He lay where he was for some time, trying to collect, to recollect his thoughts. And when he had managed to focus them above the point of pain in his temple, he mentally explored his body and found there was no hurt apart from the pounding in his head. He smelled the air and found it fresh, no signs of danger.

Finally he arose – a difficult, almost impossible operation -- and he all but fainted with the effort. But he persisted, staggering, almost vomiting, until he attained an upright position, standing there like an invisible statue in the dark.

Having assured himself that nothing was broken, Harold dropped to all fours and padded across the smooth floor slowly until he encountered a wall. The texture was rough and it smelled old, of old paint, of dirt. He used the wall as a prop to raise himself to his full height, and then his right hand sought for switch just about shoulder height, where it should be.

It took him some minutes to find the switch. When his fingers finally felt the raised surface of the toggle, he pressed it, and the room was flooded with a warm, yellow light.

Harold surveyed his surroundings. The room was square, its ceilings high. There was an old wooden desk with a leather-backed swivel chair and a metal filing cabinet painted green. Walls were of green-painted stone; on the wall just below the ceiling a grate of some sort. He looked at himself. His coat had gone and so had his luggage -- the suitcase that was to take him to freedom, the shoulder bag with his passport, his money, and his ticket. He touched his forehead and when his paw came away he saw patches of blood on it. And he saw that his watch was missing. A pale pattern on his bloodied forearm marked the place it had been all those years.

Harold lurched to the small door, tried it, but it was solid, and firmly locked. (They were the days when good doors were made of stout wood and iron, not the flimsy chipboard things of today that have to be reinforced by chains and burglar alarm systems.) He sank to his haunches and tried to think. He sniffed, scented the air and then began to search that sparse room.

Sometimes he padded around on all fours, looking, searching, seeing, looking, watching. Then he would stand and peer from the top. Desk, nothing in the drawers; chair on, under; in front of the filing cabinet, all the floor, nothing; sides of the filing cabinet, nothing; behind. Bingo! At last! Harold heaved with all his remaining strength and yanked the filing cabinet away from the wall.

There, wedged in a crack between the floor boards at the back of the filing cabinet, the wan light glimmered on something metal. He pawed at it, using his fingernails as levers, and finally withdrew an ordinary metal knife. But the effort was too much -- he crumpled to his knees and fainted.


When Harold regained consciousness – he did not know how long he had been there – he did so with a renewed spirit. True, his head still hurt, but he felt mean, hungry. The yellow bulb still burned above him and by its light he perceived the knife and he saw the grating above.

Harold rose to his feet and, with a power he had never known before, he pushed the table until it was directly under the grating in the wall above. Then he grabbed the swivel chair and hoisted it on top of the table. He clambered on to the table, on to the chair and reached until his hands could feel the metal of the grating above. With the knife, he pried at the screws that held the grating in place. One by one they came out until only one stubborn screw remained. This he twisted at with the knife until the metal burred and when he could turn it no longer he pried at it with his fingernails until they bled and stained the rock of the wall with red-brown blood.

He was panting now. And when the grating finally came loose and exposed the cavity beyond it, he almost howled with excitement. The space was wide enough, with a small breath and a prayer, to allow him entrance.


Harold, as we see him now contemplating a deliverance from his unexpected situation, did not do what you and I might do in similar circumstances, should we ever be confronted by such a scene. You and I might have leaped for the aperture and gone on our separate ways.

But Harold did not, because whatever doggie sense (be it vulpine, canine or lupine) had assumed control of him at that moment dictated otherwise. He passed his fingers over the upper part of the aperture until he found a jagged point. Then he took off his belt, looped it around the grating and anchored it to the rough point. He dropped down to the floor, retrieved the screws that had fallen from the grating and put them in his pocket. Then, once again, he mounted the desk.

Harold stood stock still on the table and hyperventilated, gasping in huge mouthfuls of air, trying to relax. Ten times he gulped lungs full of oxygen. Then, when he finally felt he could attain no greater point of preparedness, he grasped the upper lip of the aperture with his hands, and hoisted himself up and through the gap. Chin-up, then arms straight in a searing effort, chest through, stomach through. Equilibrium.

Harold was on red-line now, but with his last-remaining resources, he pulled up the grate, unloosed his belt, and screwed the frame back into place. Sweat distorted his vision, but as the last screw fitted and held, he dimly saw light a short distance away and smelled the sweet air of early morning. Then he passed out.