All Stories, General Fiction

A Sign of the Times by Hugh Cron

She walked her dog, the same places, the same time at night and also first thing in the morning.

Those who knew her spoke, but the youngsters all had their heads down reading whatever pish was on their phones.

Garibaldi was a boxer and he wasn’t the brightest, but he made her laugh.

“Hi Ella, how’s it going?”

She stopped outside the butchers.

“Jim, how the hell are you? Busy enough?”

“Nope! Fucking supermarkets take away more of my business every fucking day.”

She laughed, “Maybe it’s your language that’s scaring folks away.”

“I’ve never thought of that. That’s it, no more fucking swearing for me.”

“And how many times have I heard that?”

“Every fucking morning that I speak to you.”

He leaned down to pat Garibaldi who was wiggling his arse as well as his tail. “Paul, bring me out a knuckle for the dug.”

“How’s the boy doing?”

“Actually, he’s doing well. He’s not as stupid as those other wee wankers that I gave a chance. He isn’t squeamish and I think, with a bit of practise he’ll have some really good knife skills.”

“Hello Ella. Garibaldi! Here’s your bone.”

“Aww Jesus! Don’t let him see it, he’ll drool from now to I get him home.”


“It’s fine but I think you should ask him for a kiss.”

The boy looked at the dog who had started to drool, “Naw, your alright Ella. I’ll get back to my work.”

She giggled as he left her standing there with Jim.

“You watch yourself when you’re walking hame.”

“I’m fine. Garibaldi does come across as stupid but no-one would come near me with him with me.”

“Naw, he’d droon them!!”

Jim gave him a rub of the head.

“See you tomorrow Ella.”

“Put my usual order by for me. Is it still the same price?”

“For as long as I can keep it that way.”

“Thanks. See you tomorrow.”

Ella and Garibaldi walked into the next street and she went into the paper shop.

“Hello there Jean, my usual Herald please.”

Jean was already around the counter, on her hunkers and cuddling the dog.

“Whit a handsome boy!”

Garibaldi wagged his bum again.

“Do you want a mouse, do you??”

“Jean, chocolate’s not good for him.”

“Fuck sake Ella, they are white and I buy them at a hundred for a pound so I really don’t think there will be much chocolate in them.”

Ella smiled, “You spoil him.”

“You are my favourite customers!”

“At this time we are your only customers!”

Ella paid for her paper and nodded thanks.

She had only one more stop to make, to top up her leckie card and then it was home for breakfast.

Ella opened her eyes. Three years was a long time, or maybe in her case, a very short time.

The padlock and chain that she had stolen had been a Godsend, she was able to lock the gate to the shop-front doorway. She leaned into her backpack and took out the survival blanket that the very kind ambulance man had given her. She wrapped it tight around her and then took out a black bin liner and covered herself over. It had worked so far.  If anyone looked, they only saw a bag of rubbish.

Only six hours to go to the Church would give her some breakfast.

She wondered if the family that took Garibaldi were being good to him.

She missed him.

…She hoped that he didn’t miss her.

Hugh Cron

20 thoughts on “A Sign of the Times by Hugh Cron”

  1. Hugh
    I recently saw a Petunia Snowflake type on the news saying (to the effect) poor people shouldn’t have pets due to higher food cost and high vet bills. Typical. Society can certainly afford an extravagant amount of poor people. “Fortunately” society will take care of a Dog before a street person or a stray Cat.
    This is touching made especially keen by the outstanding finishing sentence. And what it says about the loss of shops underscores you can be anything you want as long as that means working for Walmart. Great work here.


    1. Hi Leila,
      Thanks so much.
      It takes me about an hour to walk into work and this was what turned up one night when I was wondering where I’d sleep if I was ever misfortunate enough to find myself in that predicament.
      A lady I used to work with always said that we were all four paycheck’s away from being in a very similar boat.
      Thanks again, I really do appreciate your kind words!


  2. To me this is a story of how society slides down it’s scale of neglect and becomes a sad observer of others who need help. It is a shame the family looking after Garibaldi couldn’t look after Ella.
    What I couldn’t understand was why should Ella be so afraid walking home. A reflection, perhaps, on the vitriolic attitude too prevalent around us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi James,
      It’s always a pleasure to see you around the site!
      With the way things are going, I hate to think about how many folks were cuddling up to their pets to keep them both warm.
      I love how the government states that they can’t give people any more money when their salaries have increased around twenty grand in under five years.
      It is a sad state of affairs when some of us can’t even afford to work!
      All the very best my fine friend!

      PS – I was delighted to see a submission in from you – Not got around to it yet but will very soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ed,
      Thanks so much.
      I always get a kick out of a comment.
      I really do appreciate your kind words.
      All the very best my fine friend.


  3. One of those stories that’s able to have a big impact in a few words. I think it’s from the realistic dialogue and the innocent Garibaldi. The closing where Ella hopes her dog doesn’t miss her is particularly effective. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks as always, your continual interest in my work makes me so happy.
      We never take on many stories that have cruelty to animals so doing this the opposite way around was interesting. (More a happy coincidence that it worked if the truth be told!)
      Hope all is well with you and yours!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks so much.
      I totally agree. It’s fine to cut your cloth to fit if you have a big enough piece of cloth!
      Not many of us have.
      All the very best.


  4. Oh my goodness that was a punch in the kidneys! Great use of language and a powerful & poignant last line. One that’ll stick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steven,
      Many thanks for your sore kidneys!
      It’s always great if you can come up with a last line that is appreciated.
      All the very best my fine friend.


    1. Cheers Mick!
      It is worrying how much life can change in quite a short space of time.
      Not often does it change for the better.
      Hope you are happy and inspired!


  5. Thoughtful & moving story –the spirited characters care about each other in spite of society and commerce pressuring them not to. Heartbreaking that there are so many Ellas whose only shelter is a strategically arranged garbage bag. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much.
      I find it sad that most of the shops that are open from 6.00am around here are those 24 hour supermarkets that destroyed the bakers, butchers, newspaper shops and grocers. The greedy bastards did that very well!
      All the very best.


    1. Hi Doug,
      Our old cat could tell when our bank-balance was low as that was when she needed her medication!
      …So it was soup for four days and watery soup until we were paid!
      Hope all is well with you my fine friend and thanks as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent, blistering dialogue – that you are a master of. I think you might well be one of my favourite swearers. The refrain and the sadness at the end was a jolt – in a completely good way of course – it works so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Paul,
      I have a link between swearing and alcohol – I try not to but then I go into my work for five minutes, I need to!!
      Thanks so much for the kind words!


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