What Pegman Saw : The king of meaningless expressions


The sun slumped low in the sky as we pulled into the drive-in. Kids clustered at the entrance, the girls whispering and giggling behind cupped hands, a boy tossing a ball on baked concrete.

Mansell turned off the engine, cuffing his top lip. His shirt collar was dark with sweat, his tie hanging limp. ‘Damn this weather, eh? Hot as asses out here.’

My partner was king of the meaningless expression.

Pulling on his suit jacket, he nodded towards the drive-in shelter, its corrugated iron roof, its strings of dusty bunting. ‘The boy’s parents run this place, you say?’

I checked the manila file on my lap. ‘For the last five years. Mother and stepfather.’

He opened the door to the SUV, pulling his jacket collar straight. ‘I’ll lead.’ He nodded to the open file. ‘Keep those photographs hidden. We need answers – the sight of blood only ever brings more questions.’


Written for What Pegman Saw, a photo prompt using Google Streetview. See here to join in and to join in.





What Pegman Saw : Where I began

Today Pegman walks through  Portal, ND


Mum told me the place was called Railway Avenue.

When I was a kid lying on my bunk, pillow wrapped round my head to block the shouting, I imagined what it was like. A countryside lane, maybe, with a redbrick station and a flower bed, the town name picked out in yellow begonias. Maybe the line had long closed, leaving the grass to grow tall between the sleepers, with only the field mice left to follow the old ways.

When she finally kicked me out, I packed a bag and hiked there just to see, just to know the place where I began. I found a truck stop, a rundown cafe surrounded by wide open tracts of churned up dirt grubby with engine oil.

It made me smile. I was sixteen and it seemed right that my life began somewhere where even hope couldn’t survive.


Written for What Pegman Saw, a great writing prompt inspired by Google Streetview. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

What pegman saw : Mystified Cottage




Mystified Cottage it was called, a stocky one storey building snuggled in the lap of the Dales.

In the parlour two Carver chairs scuffed their backs against a worn sideboard, in the kitchen a Welsh dresser wore a motley of grease from generations of braised brisket and pigs head pies, gifts from the blackened range.

Tom Dunty the coalman would chuckle under the slick collar of his backing hat that the cottage was so called because all were mystified as to how the Crofts raised seven children inside. Though as Tom signed the register on his wedding day with an X, I’d guess he was parroting his snippish wife Mary.

He was wrong of course.

The name was no riddle to any who stayed a night beneath its eaves, any who dreamed of oily black feathers, of straw dollies swinging from dusty beams. Who heard The Lady call their name …


Written for What pegman saw, a weekly prompt using Google Streetview as its inspiration. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

The ‘backing hat’ Tom Dunty wears was a cap with a strip of leather sewn to hang from the back in order to protect a coalman’s neck and shoulders. See here to learn more.

What pegman saw : Under a blood red sky*


Chen and Kochanski exchange snaphots over the rehydrated mac cheese.

‘This your boy?’ asks Kochanski, looking down at a dogeared print, a child no more than six years old with Chen’s face, his wide-set eyes.

‘Yeah,’ says Chen. ‘He just had his twelfth birthday. I sent him a vidi-message but you know what it’s like. It’ll be a few weeks till I get a reply.’

Chen takes a similar print from Kochanski, creased, well thumbed through lonely nights in a single bunk. They share stories about their kids, how they’re a similar age, how in another life they could – should – have been friends.

Kochanski glances at me, but quickly looks away. She’s been the same since the first mission brief, gaze sliding away, distrustful.

She’s smart. In my pocket are similar photos, downloads from the internet of other people’s kids, a perfect, unknown family.

Not everyone was sad to leave Earth.


Written for What pegman saw, a writing prompt using Google Street View. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

For all you sci-fi aficionados, Chen and Kochanski are characters from the BBC comedy sci-fi series Red Dwarf, set a long way from Earth, millions of years in the future.

The title is taken from a U2 album of the same name.

What pegman saw : The Whisperers


It’s after the museum closes for the day, after the last tourist has shuffled out onto Nassau’s sweating streets, that the Whisperers come.

Jalen takes his time locking doors, scooping dropped tickets from the floor. The dust slowly settles, a powdery gauze slipping over the displays.

When he’s done he stops, lets the thump of car stereos, the calls of passersby drift like silt to the bottom of his mind as They float to the surface.

They’re shy at first, hugging the shadows, but then one will step forward, whisper a name – Efe, Temitope, Abena – then another comes and another, name after name, countless names. Jalen feels the manacles cinch his own ankles, the sea water swell his lungs as he sinks below the waves, as the sun slips away and green night falls.

Some days he wonders if he’ll join them, whispering in the darkness.


Written for What pegman saw, a prompt using Google Streetview. See here to join in and to read the other tales. Inspired by the Slavery and Emancipation Museum in Nassau.

I’m still in Mothers Day recovery mode, brain still frizzed and frazzled, so my usual Monday instalment of The Devil of Moravia will be tomorrow instead.

If I have some brain cells back by then.


































What pegman saw : All’s quiet in the Brazen Head

Dublin courtesy Google Maps

Dublin courtesy Google Maps


‘Will you sit, Tom?’ Pat was there as arranged, toying with his pipe, filling the bowl with threads of chestnut tobacco.

Tom nodded, chose the stool beside him. Both men wanted their backs to the wall.

Pat worked the pipe, tamped and lit it, drew the smoke deep and long before exhaling. A slattern wiped dregs of ale from tables and benches with a filthy cloth. An old man was slumped at the bar, snores rumbling through the wood. Too quiet for Tom’s likiing. He preferred a crowd, a melee to be lost in.

He felt something brush his knee, felt the package in its oil cloth wrappings and his pulse raise with the holding of it.

Pat winked. ‘Mind how you go.’

With the package under his coat, Tom stepped back into the hive of Lower Bridge Street, back into the melee.


Reading more about the Brazen Head, I learned it has been a meeting place not only for thinkers and writers but also revolutionaries, so I thought I’d conjure a couple of the latter.

Written for What pegman saw, a prompt using Google Streetview. See here to join in and to read the other tales.


































What pegman saw : Out on a dogleg road


That old place was isolated even when Mr and Mrs Murphy lived there – on the edge of town on a dogleg road that led to nothing but a dried up stream bed filled with dumped refrigerators and tyres.

The couple kept themselves apart. They didn’t use the local store. They didn’t go to church on Sunday. Never even borrowed a cup of sugar. In fact afterwards, no one could remember more than twenty words that passed between the Murphys and their neighbours.

There were rumours, but that’s one thing that breeds well in small towns. When people are starved of the truth, they like to invent their own.

But there was no denying what was found when the men came to unblock the sewer. No denying the smell, the bodybags lined up in the makeshift mortuary.

No denying how well the place burned after the news got out …


Written for What pegman saw, a prompt using Google Streetview. This week we have a picture of St Louis. See here to join in and to read the other stories.