My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

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Tooth out, all out

He couldn’t remember how long he’d been walking. he remembered coming out of the sanitary-white hospital ward, the stench almost too much to bear. The place was littered with bodies, beyond stiffening, and the buzz of flies seemed like a road-drill in the silence. As he left the building he caught a glance of himself in a shattered window. MacQuade was 28 years old. He’d had black hair when he entered the place, now an old man looked back at him, or what looked like an old man. White, fluffy hair stood up from his head and beneath it a face, as white as the hair, drawn and gaunt.

The scene in the ward was replayed outside, but on a much grander scale. Vehicles crashed in the road, bodies on sidewalks, on grass verges, on the road itself. Whatever had happened had happened with a suddenness that took everyone by surprise. Most car doors were still closed, meaning the occupants hadn’t even had time to stop and get out.

“Hello? Hello?”

MacQuade’s voice croaked in his ears but it was the only sound he could here on the four-lane boulevard which lead past the hospital. He stopped and walked over to a grass verge, ignoring the bodies which had been walking instead of driving. He stooped to look at what else lay on the grass. Sparrows, pigeons and even a crow, its eyes open and as cruel in death as in life. Wholesale human and animal fatalities and yet, here he was, alive, here on this green verge, the grass still healthy. The Rhododendrons in the flower beds still full of colour, roaring pink and fuchsia.

That evening he’d found tins of food in a supermarket but everything else had gone over. Christ! How long had he been out? They’d operated on his wisdom tooth on a Wednesday, the 28th July. He’d gone in search of a calendar. Someone had marked off the 28th on the calendar in the supermarket office. He just had no idea what day it was now. The bodies were skin on bone and that didn’t happen overnight.

He’d found a bottle of whisky in the store and got right into it immediately after the can of tuna flakes. Halfway down it he remembered his wisdom tooth no longer caused him pain. He smiled until he looked out of the window.

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The end of his tether

He’d often wondered about his tether and the end of it.  Until he picked up a dictionary only a week before he hadn’t known what a tether even was.  Now he knew and now he thought he’d reached the end of it.

He was glad it was winter.   He didn’t mind the cold and the snow and, in happier times, he’d always been an enthusiastic skier.  In happier times.  Yes, he thought, he didn’t mind the winter with its snowy peaks, white crystal frosted fields and the smell of mulled wine in the market square and steaming paper cups warming hands in the cold.

He looked out of a window to the outhouse.  The cold.  The cold was good.  It killed off many of the pests that hung around in warmer climates or even down in the valley, although now other pests had found him and disturbed his peace.  Footprints and a strange indent in the snow crossed the yard, as if a sack of firewood had been dragged.  Yes, he’d reached the end of his tether, and the bodies mounted up in the outhouse.

The pain and pleasure cycle

An intermittent intermission
while life melts in fission.
Fused and confused.
A pause for breath,
like death
but not so long
or so final
or so primal.
As each beginning is an end
in a cycle which contends with us
and renders us with reality bites.
Slights and fights,
while in the sand we bury our heads
and look for the treasure
of pleasure.
Delectable and delightful…
Any place to leave the pain.

It’s easy to write about writer’s block

No words can express my…

non-expression.

The blank page remains blank.

Lines to be read between

have yet to be written between.

In my hand, my Waterman,

that might as well be made of, well,

water, man.

It would drip faster than any words I could write.

Dry

The old man stood with a length of coiled rope around his shoulder and spat into the dust.  The sky was cold and clear.  He looked at the sky every day but the clouds still avoided him.

“Giovanni, what’s the latest?”

“January, papà.”

In November they said early December, then it was going to be mid-December, then Christmas.”

“No one really knows, papa.”

“No one knows?”  The old man spat into the dust once again.  He took a leather pouch from his jacket pocket and started to roll himself a cigarette.  “My father could tell what the weather was going to do, a week before it did it.”

“You know as well, papa.”

The old man flicked a match.  He scuffed his boots in the dust, kicking up a little cloud.

“I did once.”  His rummy eyes looked up again at the clear blue sky.  “This year is different.”

From their lofty position on the lower slopes of the mountain, where the pastures lay brown and dry, they could see the distant Monte Rosa.  Even from that distance they could see its barren slopes; only its vague glaciers flickered white in the sun.

“There’s no tourism yet.  Tourism’s suffering and we’re suffering with it, Giovanni.”

“The snow will come papa, it has to.”

“Do you think?  When was the last time it rained, son?”

“October.”

“It drizzled for a couple of hours, Giovanni.  It hasn’t rained in anger since July.”  He flicked his head in a backwards movement.  “Those woods are a tinderbox.”

Giovanni nodded his head.  “The weather channel put the area on high alert for forest fire risk.”

The old man crushed his cigarette carefully under his heel.  “It’s about the only thing the weather channel has got right this year.”  He lifted the rope from his shoulder and placed it on the old trunk of a walnut tree that served as a chopping block.  He nodded down the slope.  “I want to get that fence in the bottom field repaired.  If the snow does come at least the animals will be contained.”

This last comment fell like an axe blow between the men.  They’d already lost a few animals, sickened by the drought conditions; they couldn’t afford to lose any more, there dwindling finances couldn’t take it.  They’d lost the annual orders from the surrounding ski resorts, whose slopes were bare and car parks were empty.  In his 72 years the old man had never known anything like it.  He was almost glad his wife had passed away the previous spring and didn’t have to see what the farm had become.  His son brought him back to the present.

“Five months ago we were enjoying a beautiful summer and everyone said we’d pay for it, that the winter would come early and the snow would be heavy.”

“Yeah, and I was one of them, telling the same thing to anyone who’d listen.  Now I’m just the foolish sheep farmer who can’t tell the direction of the wind even if I wet my finger and hold it in the air.”

“Come on papa.  This year’s caught everyone out.  It’s not just down to us anymore.  Think of all those satellites out there and they still can’t give us an accurate forecast.”

“Any farmer worth his salt should be able to mind his own, without the need for satellites or weather channels, son; just like my father and grandfather used to do.  Maybe the people are right; maybe I am just a foolish sheep farmer that prophesises ‘red sky at night’.”

“Enough papà.  Come on, let’s get the fence fixed so I can go to Cristina’s with that firewood.”

Giovanni looked into his father’s face.  This autumn had taken everything out of him.  His face was drawn and his eyes sunken and dark-ringed.  The quick smile was no longer there, replaced by a stare which admitted defeat.

“We can do the fence later, son.  Take the wood over to Cristina; if her father’s down in town, you’ll have to unload yourself, it’ll take time.”

Giovanni considered this.  It was true.  All the while the weather held, and it looked like holding for a fair while still, the bottom field fence wasn’t a priority.  The nights were cold and Cristina needed the wood.  He took the pick-up keys from his jacket pocket.

“Get some rest papa.  I’ll be back in a couple of hours, three at the most.”

“Give my regards to Cristina and her father, if he’s there.  I guess you’re right, I could use a little rest.”

“There’s nothing more any of us can do papa, at least until this weather shows signs of breaking.”  He got into the pick-up truck and the electric motor hummed as the window rolled down.  “Get some rest papa.  How about we go into town for a couple of beers this evening; it’s been ages since we’ve done that.”

“About the last time we saw any money coming through the door, son.”

The truck engine revved into life and Giovanni waved through the open window.  His father watched as the brake lights flashed once before the car drove out onto the road.

With a final spit into the dust, the old man looked once more at the sky.  With his head bowed, he heaved the coil of rope onto his shoulder and walked slowly to the still-empty barn.

50 word fiction – Beebee

“Have you seen Beebee?”

“No, where’d he go?”

“He was out of whisky, out of smokes; he went to the liquor store.”

“Where the fuck is he now?”

“He must still be there man.”

“Did he take…?”

“Don’t know.”

“Did you give…?”

“No.”

A siren screams in the night.

“Beebee.”

She was free

His heart sank.

It happened while she was watching.  She supposed it had always been coming; in fact, she knew it had been.  It was all he’d had to give.  For months; ever since it had happened.  They’d gone through so much together; then the accident, but he’d held on.

“My heart will always be yours,” he’d said, “until the day it sinks so completely and can never rise again.  When it does, you’ll be free”.

Six months had passed since he died.

She stared at the heart at the bottom of the jar of formaldehyde.

She was free.

Hell’s kitchen

The Sous-chef was on the floor. I left the knife where I found it, in a red puddle beside his foot. Its blade pointed towards the door, as if indicating the escape direction of the guilty party. The stainless steel worktop dripped and I noticed more splatters up the wall, behind the sink. A saucepan had overturned, spilling its now-smoking contents over the hobs.

A constable came in. “We have him sir; he was outside the rear entrance, behind some dustbins,” his face registering shock as he looked around at the scene.

“Where is he now?”

“In the car, sir.”

“Keep him there.”

The constable backed out slowly as I turned around, taking in details. A handprint, red and smudged, hailed me from the fridge door. I felt something drip onto my left shoulder. I knew what it was even without looking up, but I looked anyway – curiosity is like that. Then I heard a muffled voice behind me.

“Yes!”

Knee joints clicked as the Sous-chef rose to his feet, a look of triumph on his face as his arm withdrew from under the fridge with his prized wooden spoon, a gift from Keith Floyd apparently.

“So much for Hell’s Kitchen eh, officer?”

“What happened?”

“Well, when the Maître announced Gordon Ramsay’s arrival the chef became agitated, to say the least. Then, while he was plating Mr Ramsay’s Penne al Pomodoro, I happened to mention he’d forgotten the basil and then …” He waved his spoon around the kitchen.

Black

How black is the soul

that shrinks from the radiance

of the night?

The man who counted the dark

He knew how long he lay there. He never had the problem of keeping time in the dark. He would lay with his eyes closed and his mind would toboggan along the cold hard slide of his twisting thoughts but he would still keep time. He loathed the fact he could keep time in the dark while others slept and he couldn’t.

He didn’t have this problem during the day. During the day he would yawn and lose track of time if he didn’t look at his watch. Minutes could drift into half-hours and hours. If he didn’t have his watch he wouldn’t know the difference. Minutes ran and stumbled into each other as he yawned his way through the waking hours until he wound down for the evening until around midnight where, after a drink and a read, he would sleep. He would sleep until the night, cruel and vengeful, would wake him and the process would start over again, as surely as ice will form on a mountain lake in winter, and he’d lay there keeping track of time.

For ten years now he’d lain awake in the dark counting the minutes that ran into hours and he guessed that it would now always be like that until the darkness could no longer be counted.

Lugano Summer

The heat
The sultry heat
Humidity
Show humility
When my temper frays
And my patience craves
The rain
The wind
And the cooling
Of my soul
The summer lust
The heat-filled dusk
The night
The tortured night

Thank you NaNoWriMo

Well, the 30th November has come and gone.  How did I do?  Was it a success?

Let’s be frank.  I didn’t get 50’000 words down during the month; far from it, in fact I finished with under 20’000.  This was due, in part, to two factors.  One of which no-one could have foreseen and necessitated 3 weekends out of 4 away from home.  The other simply being that work commitments HAVE to come before my writing for pleasure as I’ve never earned a buck from my writing and I’m not in the position to do so now.  Bills must be paid and there were times during the month when I came home late and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of another computer.  I did force myself a few times, and it shows in what I wrote (I’m sure I’ll be murdering a fair few of THOSE darlings…).  Instead, the times when I felt at ease the words flowed, humour was easier to come by and the characters gelled and developed.

I returned from visiting my folks in England at the end of October and sat down (as I’ve previously mentioned on here) on 1st November with little idea what to do or where to go with it once I had it. I always thought it an exageration when I read that writers, or rather successful ones, don’t know what their characters are going to get up to when they sit at the keyboard.  “What a load of old tosh!” I said to myself.  However, now I’m a changed man.  It’s not tosh at all.  I started the beginning of the exercise with no plot whatsoever – none!  It developed and it is still developing and I love it.  It’s the first time this has happened to me and it’s a fantastic feeling.

So; what about my novel?  It’s there, it’s at early stages.  My characters are still sussing each other out.  I’m discovering traits in a couple of them that weren’t there at the start.  A couple of big-hitters are still yet to show their faces but they will, in time. I’ve been learning how to tell their story, I hope by the end I make at least a reasonable job of doing so.  I hope so.

Finally, I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to the NaNoWriMo team for uniting writers from all over the world for one cause; to write.  No more, no less.  In my 19’000 words you helped me become more of a writer than I was at the end of October.  There’s the possibility I may never earn a buck from my writing, but I do know I’ll enjoy it all the more for the experience during the last month. You see NaNoWriMo has given me the discipline to write, when I can.  One evening I turned out 2’000 words in one sitting.  I’ve never done that before and boy, what a feeling.

So, was it a success?  Personally, yes.

Thank you.

Companion For Life

This is the life, he thought.  Sat here in front of the big bay window with my love, side by side, the perfect married couple.  What can anyone else give me?

He sat on the brown, leather pouffe in front of the open door.  He smoked his cigarette, as he always did after his evening dinner.  He took his glass of wine and drew a sip.  He smoked and drank in silence, as he always did after his evening dinner.  He passed the cigarette from his right hand to his left hand and with the right patted the other brown, leather pouffe, to his side.

He continued smoking his cigarette.  He drank his wine.  He breathed in the cold winter air, tainted with his cigarette smoke, as he always did ater his evening dinner.  It wasn’t always cold.  It wasn’t always winter.  His right hand reached out for the reassuring touch, as it always did, every evening as he smoked his cigarette and drank his wine.

She was gone now, his love.  He touched the pouffe at his side to remind him, as he always did after his evening dinner.

The Road

I wandered listless but restless.

I walked in the shadows, defenceless.

I wandered thinking, without knowing.

My soul in pain, my self-doubt growing.

 

I lost my way, though the way was marked.

So I waited at the crossroads, wishing I’d asked

What do I do? How? What shall I give?

To find the way home; distant, elusive.

Niente di nuovo (as they say in Italy)

Nothing New – great song by one of the greatest bands ever to grace the stage – albeit till 1985 – Hanoi Rocks.

It sums me up at the moment.  Nothing new, nothing borrowed, nothing blue.  I’m on a creative non-wave.  It’s not writer’s block; I have flashes of inspiration all the time, I just can’t do anything with them, or rather I can’t sit my ass down and do anything with them, which is worse.  I blamed it on the summer – beautiful weather, drinks with friends on the lake, holiday in Ibiza etc. but now autumn is officially here (a week of rain proves it) I am still producing Nothing! Nada! Zilch! Niente! Rien!

A writer should be able to at least read when he’s not writing – I can’t even do that.  I’m sifting through (albeit pretty damn good) music biographies (Mötley Crüe, Led Zepppelin, New York Dolls, Johnny Cash).  I’ve hit a literary (literally) wall.  Aaaahhhh!!!  What do I have to do, wait till the snow arrives?  Become like Jack Torrance in The Shining (without axe-weilding tendencies obviously…)???

I’ve slept on it, I’ve drunk on it, I’ve partied on it, I’ve moped on it, I’ve meditated on it – I am a man without an answer.

What am I gonna do?  I’ll let you know.  I’ll be back…

Writer’s Block, day 2

So, the experts told him to place his desk against a blank wall, away from a window which could distract him. Distraction is at least use of the brain, he reasoned, as he looked up at the smooth white face in front of him, his eyes searching for some minor blemish in the paint, hoping a slight deformity in the painting and decorating department might aleviate him of his numbness and provide the meerest spark of creativity.

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