Andrew Alison

Mr Leneys shed

The boy turned the lock hurriedly with his rusty duplicate key, and slipped into the dark warm mustiness of Mr. Leney’s shed.  He shone his penlight torch and snuck into the shadowy corner of the shed snuggling up behind a pile of bagged potatoes, the very same potatoes he would have to fetch and carry come Saturday morning. He wriggled himself around trying to get comfortable and being careful not to squash his school lunch sarnies, and orange pop bottle against the hard unyielding potatoes.
Finally the boy lay quietly and easily in the pitch black and began to adjust his eyesight to his new surroundings. He let out a deep sigh of relief and whispered to himself ‘now go burn in hell John’!
He then retreated into peaceful bliss, closing his eyes and listening only for the well recognised tones of Mr. Leney the greengrocer who he worked for on Saturdays. ‘The plums are in the outdoor fridge’ he could hear him shout to Cal the midweek girl, ‘now go and bloody get em, plums a’int got legs’!
It was a cold grey English Monday sometime in late September, the boy Frankie had just endured along with his younger sister Rebecca another desperate weekend of endless beatings, rage and torment at the hands of their stepfather John.
It felt like there was nowhere to breathe, nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, Frankie was eleven years of age and his sister ten. Frankie should have been at school today fro Maths, PE, Geography and Biology, but he needed quiet, peace somewhere to recover, somewhere to think. He had walked his sister to the girl’s school this morning and made sure she was safe, and then sprinted like mad to get to Mr.Leney’s shed before Mr.Leney opened up shop. Even while he was running he could feel how much he loved his sister.
Lost commendations
Frankie knew that his school would mark him absent and a letter would go to his home address, but he also knew that his stepdad John and his own blood mother Margaret would not care and would make no response or offer any explanation to the school. Since starting Secondary school Frankie had tried hard in all areas even winning some trophies and commendations for his efforts. He did this to try and earn a smattering of respect for himself in the hope his parents might view him differently and also to try and rid himself of the hard and ugly world he and his sister lived in.
However the commendations were left unopened sitting next to the gas and electric bills and the trophies were quickly put in a plastic bag and thrown under the sink cove and left there, Frankie was not allowed to take them out. Forever not displayed, forever not shared.
Frankie for a reason he has never understood remained determined and insisted there must be something else to his and his sister’s existence. But on this Monday he had endured enough and could face no more.
Frankie had been using Mr.Leney’s shed for sometime now, he would wag school usually on a Monday after the merciless weekends and would just lay on the spuds right through until he could hear the distant school bell telling him school was over and he could emerge from his den, refreshed and hoping for a second chance. He knew in his heart of hearts this arrangement could only be temporary and that something had to give soon. Both he and his sister had already been seen by a woman from Social Services but despite her best efforts both he and his sister had said nothing, not because or due to misplaced loyalty but because they hated nosey, interfering parkers. Each evening after a day in the shed he would run to meet his sister from school. He had vowed to care for and protect his sister as much as possible, although there were days and nights where he had been swept aside by the sheer physical strength and putrid evil of his stepfather and his own mothers unwillingness to protect both him and his sister, this really cut Frankie deep; on the one hand he felt red with anger, and the other numb with sadness and weakness. It was at times like this that Frankie felt the need to withdraw and hideaway in the hope that all of this would go away forever.
Frankie allowed his thoughts to quietly drift back to the present; he stretched himself out across the potatoes and stifled a long yawn; he then reached inside his inside blazer pocket and pulled out a well worn and crinkled copy of JD Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and began to read small sections of the book intermittently in order to save his torch batteries. He sensed the main character Holden Caulfield's melodramatic struggle to survive in the adult world; the words fell easily off the page for him. Reading for Frankie had become a welcome release a form of escapism an opportunity to experience thoughts, feelings, and actions lost to him in his miserable violent life.
Frankie had made a mysterious friend while spending time in the shed; Arthur the big black ugly spider, always in the same spot on the underbelly of the shed roof, always looking down at Frankie trying to work out whether he could catch him in his web or not, and enjoy a hearty meal.
Frankie whispered quietly to Arthur throughout the day, he reminded Arthur that he came in peace and that he was here as a friend, and anyway he repeated over and over to himself, a little nervously; ‘he ‘wouldn’t taste very good’!
Arthur’s beady black eyes thought otherwise; if there was a boy in the potato shed he was a free meal. As a result of this uncertain cold war truce Frankie continued to check Arthur’s whereabouts just in case.
Frankie’s other amusement on his shed days was to quietly hum and memorise the tunes and lyrics of David Bowies ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ album (this would have been much to Arthurs amusement) Frankie was hooked on this music he had a Blue "FIDELITY CRP2" Portable Record Player given to him by his long gone and well missed Nan in Bristol, she loved Elvis and that part of her had been passed on, his sister too enjoyed Irish Dancing.
Frankie had managed to save enough from his paper round and Green grocers job to buy the album and what a joyous and exciting feeling it had been. Glorious! The alien otherworld quality in Bowie’s persona and songs forged a powerful connection with the same alienation Frankie endured everyday. Frankie could run through the music and lyrics in his head and was transported to a beautiful, weird, faraway place. John, his mum, the school, Social Services, the boys he fought with daily at school could not touch him;1* ‘Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in’
Mum’s voice
He found what he needed in Mr. Leney’s shed. Somewhere to breathe, to hang, to recover, to circumvent the violence in his life, to deal with the deck of cards God had thrown at him and his sister. Occasionally he was overcome by a wave of sadness, and tears forced their way out. Too powerful he thought ‘nothing I can do, let them fall’. Frankie had an underlying sense that his immediate problems were not going to go away, this left him bitter and at times introverted but he also cared greatly about stuff and refused to be walked over, by anybody or anything.
Frankie drifted deeper; he imagined his mum was calling him, that she was outside of the shed door:
‘Frankie come out, I know your in there, we’ve been worried sick about you’!
He knew his mind was playing a cruel trick and snapped himself out of his slumbers quickly and shone his torch upwards into Arthur’s steady gaze and seemingly ever larger web. He knew his mum had not spoken to him and that Arthur was just a normal spider always looking for an opportunity. He knew that’s how life could be, full of tricks.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
The distant peal of school bells broke the hurtful illusion and brought Frankie back to his senses. Frankie rose-up, blew his nose, wiped his eyes and drew a long breath then let out a long sigh and clenched his teeth down hard at the thought of the evening that lay ahead. Somehow despite wind, rain, cold and unfathomable misery, he knew deep in his heart that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. He didn’t know why that thought lay there, shipwrecked but still afloat. He had every reason in the world to want to right his wrongs but something held him back, something strong.
*2(Many years later after endless psychotherapy sessions and searching Frankie found something pretty close that explained this incredible quality it was the notion of ‘Physis,  an organising principle which gives material bodies their qualities, as well as empowering them with activity’ )
He knew it would take him many years to find out the true meaning of forgiveness, and whether or not it was possible to forgive. His mother had brought him and Rebecca up in the catholic faith but in their eyes she was the worst possible hypocrite there could be and Frankie found it really hard to hold onto the sense of forgiveness his faith taught, but equally he could not dismiss it.
Frankie turned the corner into the High Street and was startled.
‘Frankie you wagger, your in deep brownies from Sir at school!’ shouted out little Stevie Herrick’s a schoolboy equivalent of Arthur the spider.
Frankie decided to ignore the remark, then bowed his head and quickened his pace.
‘I bet your going to get a hiding tonight for  whatever it is you’ve been up to?’ little Stevie added nosily.
Frankie kept walking hard and mumbled in a resigned reply; ‘Oh I will, I will, that’s a certainty but it won’t be for bunking off school!’He grasped his sister’s outstretched hand; she smiled back at him and for that brief moment the trials and tribulations of the evening that lay ahead were forgotten.
1* Bowies ‘Five Years’ Lyrics (copyright control)
2* Definition of the word ‘Physis’ taken from a website licensed by the ‘Creative Commons License’


Mr Leney was a tall wiry scary man who owned the greengrocers in Kings Norton Birmingham. I was twelve nearly thirteen years of age.

Mr Leney had a large shed filled with sacks of potatoes out the back of his greengrocer shop, his shed provided me with shelter, warmth and comfort and lots of hairy spiders.

I have never forgotton it.
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All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Andrew Alison.
Published on on 07/14/2010.


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