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"The Bone ole" by Gavin Turner

I was on the way back with the dog, last street. People don’t know neighbours in other streets. The man started the conversation about dogs. This is the only reason anyone can strike up a conversation with a stranger. If it was just a man standing in a field it is doubtful that you would walk over and strike up a conversation. Especially if I was carrying a length of rope and shouting “come here, come here, do you want a treat?” at you. I had never seen this man out with a dog before although he clearly owned one. I spotted the dog jumping up to the window. I could not be sure of the breed, however this was certainly the largest dog I had ever seen. It was monstrous, a bear. A black hulking mass of animal.

“He’s a Caucasian shepherd,” the owner nodded. “Bet you never heard of one of those. I don’t dare let him off around other dogs. I don’t think he’d do anything but…,” he shrugged. “Not worth the risk is it?” 

He eyed me up as if I was about the size of the Caucasian’s lunch with my little dog acting as an amuse-bouche to the main dish. “He’s a big softy, honestly. He’s just big”.

 I was glad the dog was inside, I tried to step away with the casual demeanour of someone who had to be getting on.

“Were you round here when they started that building work down by the canal?”

I shook my head.

“No? Surprised you couldn’t smell it when they started digging over there. If you aren’t from round here, you probably wouldn’t know. Used to be factories. All covered over in concrete.” 

I did remember that, miles of concrete block, and the noise as they broke them up for months on end.

“Bet you don’t know why they was digging at night though do you? I do. I went down there, I took things.”

“What things?” I replied, regretting it instantly. Curiosity was a bitch at times, no matter how half-baked the tale. You can’t get away from that.

“Well, like I say it was factories. One was a glue factory. The Bone ole they used to call it. In the old days you had to wind up windows on the train, it’d stink, melting down for glue. Melting bones. 

I had heard this. Or read it in Animal Farm. I couldn’t remember now.

“Yes, but what I took from down there, weren’t what you’d expect.

If he starts talking about human bodies, I am on my way right now, I thought.

“They was chucking all this stuff straight into the canal. If it ain’t natural to this country it’s got to be contained, processed. He rubbed his thumb and finger together to indicate money. “So they chucked it all in the water.” He folded his arms in conclusion.

He took a long drag on his roll up, then coughed. He kept his eyes on me the whole time. It was unnerving. “I have a thigh bone from a rhino, a giraffe's neck and a bison skull in my back room. I can show you if you like.”

I glanced at the massive furry face glaring at me from the window. “It’s alright. I believe you” 

“So they knew you see, they knew I had it and it were evidence. If I showed it around they wouldn’t let them build the houses on it, costs money. It’s just a big fraud” he folded his arms again as if his point was made. “Anthrax out of them bones, other stuff too, benzene, mercury, not tested, that’s why it was covered up”.

“So what did you do?” I asked. I was still curious, but had to draw the conversation to an end somehow.

“What did I do? I took them to court, to high court in the end. It’s cost me my house to do it. Them flats is built on a bone yard, pal. Them people down there don’t know that – and that’s wrong” he spat.

The story hung in the air between us for a moment. I thought of the people, hoovering their carpets, making brunch, stepping over a zoo-like graveyard.

“Well, I must get on, things to do," he shrugged and sloped back to the house. I stood for a few moments outside, thinking about what had just happened. The crazy old fellow, his bear dog, and the museum of bones down by the water.

But it got me thinking, about all that stuff in the air, the ground, the water. If this was real, or just a way to start a conversation with a stranger. I googled it later. There really was a glue factory down there for many years and it certainly used to stink. I just hope the people who live down there now aren’t too keen on gardening.

Gavin Turner is a writer from Wigan. He has published numerous short stories and poems with JAKE, Punk Noir, Voidspace and Boats against the current. He has released two poetry collections, The Round Journey (2022) and A mouthful of Space dust (2023). You can reach him @GTurnerwriter on Twitter.


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