Tales From Under The Rainbow

Chapter 1 – Journey

“Oh my god, they’ve written about your arse. I can’t believe they mentioned your arse. Look!”

While grabbing the paper from the barman, Danny Johnson’s eyes instantly focused on the title of the publication. London’ Bears.

Sensing the wide-opened eyes of the barman on him, a big grin appeared across Danny’s face. He knew that his body’s best feature was his bottom, and here it was now being confirmed in a publication. And, more recently, it had been confirmed by Nick, Danny’s boyfriend.

Standing at five feet ten inches tall, Danny Johnson may have had the best bottom in the world, but he disliked his pale complexion. He always had to cover up during hot summer’ days, which meant no going shirtless with all the other guys. Freckles dotted his arms, and his red hair would have been very wavy if he’d let it grow. But he never allowed it to grow, always getting it cut at least once every three weeks. Danny disliked long hair on men. It just made them look feminine.

He always felt on top of the world after a haircut. It made him feel clean and confident, but most of all, Danny believed it made him stand out in a crowd.

His confidence would dwindle as his hair grew. It was as if the confidence was sand in an egg timer which would fill up again the moment his hair got cut.

Whenever he needed a confidence boost, Danny would get the hair clippers out. As he clipped his hair to the number one setting on the clippers, the confidence would come flooding back. There would be occasions when he would find himself cutting his hair at three o’clock in the morning. It tended to happen after miserable nights out where he had played at being a wallflower all evening without anybody attempting to chat him up.

Today, though, Danny’s hair wasn’t his primary concern, because his life was turning a corner.

Life had given Danny many exciting and memorable moments, but it hadn’t finished with him yet. It had many more situations planned for him.

On the last day of his life, Danny looked back on this part of his life journey and felt confident that he had lived it to the fullest.

The tearful faces looking down at him didn’t help, though. He wished they were celebrating with him; not crying the final moments of this part of his journey away.

On closing his eyes for yet another interlude, Danny wondered what next would be in store for him. Life never ended. You simply moved on to the next chapter.

What lay ahead for Danny was something he had often dreamt about ever since the first time he’d stepped off the train at Paddington station. Seven years earlier had been his first trip to London. Now on his fourth trip, his romance with the city was about to get serious.

Climbing the three steps to board the coach in Middlesborough station, Danny came face to face with the driver whom he acknowledged with a smile.

“Ticket please”, demanded the driver with a cheeky smile.

Blushing, Danny placed his bag on the floor. Thinking how ridiculous he must seem to all the other passengers, he fumbled around for his ticket. Although he disliked large groups of people starring at him, he still craved being the centre of attention.

He remembered how exiting he’d felt the day he’d purchased the ticket to London. The prospect of starting a new chapter in his life had stayed with him right up until this moment. Now, however, doubt was setting in. Was he doing the right thing by moving to London?

“Sorry,” announced Danny, looking up and noticing the badge on the driver’s shirt. ‘Dougie Marsh.’

“No problem,” responded Dougie. “Take your time. I’m guessing you’ve packed in a hurry. Running away from something or to something?” he chuckled.

“Both,” replied Danny, hoping that the other passengers could not overhear the conversation. “I’ve lived here for six years and have decided to get away from it all.”

“Oh come on, driver,” shouted a voice from the far end of the coach, “I kinda need to get to London today, not next week! Stop flirting with the cute guy and get on with getting us there.”

Blushing again, Danny wondered if Dougie Marsh was flirting with him. Surely not? Anyway, even if he was, he wasn’t Danny’s type.

“Ah, here it is,” announced a delighted Danny, pulling the ticket from the inside of his wallet. “I’ve hardly let this ticket out of my sight since I purchased it. It’s become as important as having a best friend.” Handing the ticket to Dougie, he noticed how bitten down Dougie’s nails were. Maybe he was an ex-smoker who had just quit or perhaps he was going through a tense time in his life?

“A best friend?” commented Dougie. “I remember having one of those.”

A loud cough from the back of the coach interrupted the conversation. The young man who had earlier accused Dougie of flirting gave him a piercing look.

Picking up his bag, Danny made his way down the coach not realising the eyes of the driver were admiring a perfect backside in the rearview mirror of the coach.

Although he was the last passenger to board the coach, Danny managed to find a row of unoccupied seats.

As Dougie revved up the engine, Danny sat down. A woman in the opposite row sighed relief and looked over at him.

“Air conditioning,” she declared while finishing fanning her face with a magazine. “I just hate being so hot!”

She had short brown hair with a slight curl to it and a gorgeous doll-like face with large brown eyes. Danny thought she reminded him of his grandmother’s porcelain doll collection. She looked about the same age as Danny and wore a long, white dress decorated with a large, red floral print. Danny recalled seeing a similar character on a children’s TV show, and he nicknamed her ‘Hamble.’

Smiling back at her, he could have taken what she’d just said one of two ways. Either Hamble was saying she hated the heat, or that she had a problem with so many men she encountered because she considered herself so sexy.

“Not been a bad summer so far, but don’t you hate it being so hot that the news features those stupid stories of people claiming to have fried an egg on the pavement? Why would anyone want to fry an egg on the pavement? It’s not as if you can eat it afterwards,” giggled Hamble.

Out of politeness, Danny nodded his head.

“Then again”, she said, “maybe they’re making a point?”

“Yes,” replied Danny. “I’m not too fond of the heat either. I’d rather be too cold than too hot. At least you can wrap up warm.”

Danny’s mind began to wander again. It was as if he had sat in the row of seats named ‘daydream alley’, but why was last Christmas on his mind? As usual, he’d spent it with Nick. Ah, yes, Nick. Where was Nick? He’d driven him to the coach station. He hoped Nick had stayed to wave him off to London.

The noise of Hamble fumbling around some items in a plastic carrier bag broke his thinking. Taking out a giant chocolate bar and unwrapping it carefully, she took a large bite out of it, even though it was on the verge of melt-down.

“I couldn’t live without air conditioning or chocolate,” Hamble announced while savouring the day’s first taste of chocolate. “Unless it’s chocolate in a cake or a biscuit. I once worked with a girl who ate two large chocolate chip cookies and drunk a can of diet cola for breakfast. We nicknamed her ‘Fat Nat’,” she laughed.

Danny asked if Nat ate salad for lunch.

While Hamble carried on talking, her voice became a dwindling echo in Danny’s head. Panic set in again, and he could feel his heart pounding the wall of his chest.

As the coach turned out of Middlesbrough station, Danny realised he’d not waved to Nick. Quickly peering out of the window, his eyes searched for his ex-boyfriend, but Nick was nowhere in sight.

To be continued…

32 thoughts

  1. Hi Hugh late to the party as usual, but I really like Danny he is so likable you have made him real. He’s a Samson in reverse, needing his hair cut to gain confidence, apposed to Damon who lost all his strength from having his hair cut..I like it.

    On to the next chapter 💜

    1. Thanks, Willow. I’m glad you like Danny. Like you, others mentioned his likeness to Samson, only in reverse. Danny clipping his own hair will feature quite a bit in the story.

  2. Hugh, that’s some good writing my friend! I’m very much interested in following the story, and a creative way to do it! I also love the 550 cap! ❤

    1. All written with the fantastic feedback I got, Debby. I’m happy with the first section of chapter one, and the feedback on the next part has been great too. Knowing how busy everyone is, I left the word cap at 550 per post because I don’t want to overwhelm everyone who is helping me by giving feedback. I’m excited by this project, mainly because it’s got this book out of the archives on the hard drive of my computer.

    1. I took a quick look on Amazon, and they’re referred to as ‘hair clippers.’ I guess they’re referred to by different names, but I’ve always referred to them as clippers. Thanks for questioning it, though.

      1. I’ve been using my husband’s beard trimmer to cut his hear during lockdown. It’s definitely a clipper until you take off the guides – I think it’s only a shaver when it’s down to the skin (and even then it isn’t as close as a shaver sold as a shaver).
        NB: I tried using the dog’s clippers on the back once, but it wasn’t strong enough for his tough old hair – who’d have thought?

        1. Oh, Cathy, you’ve got me laughing about using the dog’s clippers on the back of your husband’s head. Thanks for confirming to me that you refer to them as ‘clippers’ rather than a shaver. I’m keeping them as ‘clippers’ in the story.

  3. I think I’d like a little link between D’s vanity and his postumous (as it seems) recollections. What’s triggered his memory of Lee’s comment and segue into his best and worst bits? Is it seeing himself now, old, bald with a saggy arse and hoping in his next plain of existence he’ll be granted at least some decent hair or similar?! Just a thought.
    Having said that the top parts in themselves work v well. We get a sense of the young Danny in part one and get the intrigue of oooh What’s going on in part 2 which really pulls us into the next section. Well done mate!!

    1. Geoff, thanks so much for your valuable feedback. I’ve had even more input on part one since publishing my ‘Help An Author’ post, so there have been a few more changes. However, the most important and significant difference is the opening which, of course, came from you.

      I’ll have a think about those links you refer to but, for now, I’m leaving part one in its current form. Just the fact that the feedback I’ve had has cut out just over 100 unnecessary words is a great achievement in itself.

      Part 2 is being published today. It’s a continuation of chapter one. If I get as good feedback as I’ve had with the first part, I’ll be making a very merry dance all the way down Swansea Bay seafront.

  4. How about getting rid of knew or know and substitute it with something different?

    On the last day of his life, Danny looked back on this part of his life journey and felt confident that he had lived it to the fullest.

    I belong to a writer’s critique group and we discourage writers’ attempts to defend their work. We always state, these are suggestions, but it’s your story and you have the final say. Good luck. I’m excited about following this story. HUGS

    1. Hi Chuck, thanks so much for the feedback on that paragraph. It’s been budding me, so your suggestion is excellent.

      I agree with what you say about all the advice. Yes, it’s my story, and I may not agree with all the suggestions and advice, but it’s wonderful to have so many people wanting to help me with this story. The next section is being published later today.
      I’m looking forward to it going live and getting feedback on it.

      Thanks again. Hugs to you.

  5. Hi Hugh. Just read your opening piece from your novel, and it does read like something that would have the reader coming back for more and feels original, which always helps! A couple of things did come to me however, if it helps. In the opening paragraph, ‘the words were spoken by Lee, a barman’ to me felt like too much exposition. It’s a great opening line, I just think concentrating on what he says would give it more impact still. I think ‘said an excited Lee’ or something similar reads sharper, the speech marks themselves tell us someone is speaking, we just need to know who says them. And I think we should find out he is a barman by something he is doing, rather than telling us what he is. He could be pouring a drink, wiping the bar with a cloth, interjecting his speech by asking a punter if he wants ice in his drink, that kind a thing. And that’s if we need to know if he’s a barman at all, at this stage.

    Other than that, o’clock starts with a capital O on the seventh chapter and not sure if that is right, though that’s maybe not what you’re asking us to comment on at this stage.

    Take all the above with a pinch of salt if you wish, I won’t be offended as I’m no expert. Look forward to the next piece!

    1. Hi Paul, thanks so much for your feedback. It’s excellent feedback, especially considering that Lee (the barman) doesn’t feature in the book again. I do have plans for him to be featured in the story, but it’s a long way off in the future and would be another book (if I get that far). So, I’ve changed the opening paragraphs to reflect this.

      If I do decide to put the book into publication, it’ll be professionally edited, but thank you for pointing out the error with ‘o’clock.’

      I’m publishing the next section of the story today, so I hope you’ll stay with me on Danny’s journey. I’m so grateful for you saying that you think the opening will have readers coming back for more. That’s music to my ears.

      Thanks again.

  6. Yes, Hugh, this beginning works much better! In my opinion, the last four paragraphs have some repetitiveness in them, about Danny’s life and how it was extraordinary. That section could probably be tightened a bit more.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Liesbet.

      I’ve had a look at those last four paragraphs and agree. I’ve cut out some of the sentences from two of them. If you’d be so kind as to reread them and let me know what you think. Personally, I think it sums up nicely what life (so far) has been like for Danny.

      1. Much better, I think, Hugh. The paragraphs kind of “sum up” Danny’s life – but in a very brief and general way. The reader has no idea what this exciting life of Danny was, yet. The details are missing; I suppose that’s what the book is about.

        It’s hard to find a balance between long-winded ways of saying something and being too brief. That’s why I am hiring a professional substantive editor for my book right now. Hopefully, she can help me define that balance and ways to make my prose smooth and “perfect.” Practice helps, as well as insights from your readers.

        In this part one, there is still one thing that bugs me a bit… The contradiction between Danny still having many exciting things ahead of him and then, in the next sentence, Danny is about to die:

        “Life had given Danny many exciting and memorable moments, but it hadn’t finished with him yet. It had many more situations planned for him.

        On the last day of his life, Danny looked back on this part of the journey he was on and knew that he had lived it to the full.”

        Maybe there’s a reason for this? Maybe the book covers this gap? Maybe the book discusses Danny looking back on his life and is set on the day he passes on? If so, I feel some kind of a transition is needed. Also, maybe the last sentence would be better in the present tense? Something is definitely missing within these two sentences to make it work better, I think.

        1. Same here, Liesbet. If this book goes to print, it’ll be professionally edited before being published. I’ve read too many bad reviews about unedited books.

          Yes, there is a reason why I mentioned the last day of Danny’s life. As you’ll find out in the next part of the story, the story is centred around Danny going to live and work in London, and not what happens after his death. I added the line ‘On the last day of his life, Danny looked back on this part of the journey he was on and knew that he had lived it to the full’ as a hook. I’m hoping it will hook readers into wanting to find out what had happened in this part of his journey to make his life to have been lived to the full. The beginnings of this will begin in the next section. This isn’t the end of chapter 1 yet. I only wanted to publish the first 500 words of the story as I thought people would be able to find enough time to read them. Knowing how busy people are, had I included the whole chapter, I don’t think I’d have got as much feedback.

          Thanks again for your feedback. It’s been brilliant. I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey and give me more feedback.

  7. Just my pov, I think know would be better too Hugh, because it reads Danny would look back… and know. If it read Danny looked back..and knew would work then.

  8. I like the changes you made based on Geoff´s suggestion. A great place to start. On the third to last paragraph, I think know would work better than knew. But that may just be me.

    1. Thank you, Darlene.

      I use Grammarly for checking for errors. I did have ‘know’ in place of ‘knew’ in that sentence but got a message from Grammarly saying –

      ‘This sentence appears to have two predicates with the verbs ‘know’ and ‘was’ creating an unbalance sentence. Consider changing the tense of either verb for a parallel construction.’

      Do you have any thoughts? I took Grammarly’s advice and changed ‘know’ to ‘knew’, but I know that Grammarly doesn’t always get it right.

      1. Grammarly isn’t always right I’ve found. I like Chuck’s suggestion of using another word altogether. I also agree with clippers. It’s what we would use in North America.

        1. I agree. I don’t always go with what Grammarly recommends.

          I ended up using what Chuck said. I think it makes for a much better sentence.

          Thanks for the thumbs up on the word ‘clippers’ too. That’s what I’ve always known them as ever since my first trip to the barber’s shop.

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