My Words, My World

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

Archive for the tag “courage”

Morning mist

Waiting for the kettle to boil I took my usual 5-minute breather on the balcony, around 5.30am.  It had rained heavily the night before and the morning found itself under a heavy grey cloak.  I always enjoy standing out there; breathing, observing, listening and thinking.  The mountains wore skirts of cloud.  I came in, tea in hand and sat down, with just the first sentence in my head.  Strange how things go off on a tangent as they develop.

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The cloud clung to the sides of the mountain.  Beyond it, the sun had risen but the day had dawned pale and would remain that way.   Water from last night’s rain clung to everything.  Hidden blackbirds chattered in the trees and every now and again a crow would raise its voice above the drip, drip of the water.  Pine scent filled the air, which was clean but sombre.

It was time to move.

There was now enough light to get a helicopter in the air and heat imaging would see through the cloud.  He was sure he’d heard dogs in the valley below, and the rain wouldn’t cover his scent for long.

He grit his teeth as he tipped a little schnapps from his flask onto the blood-soaked gauze on his thigh.  The schnapps was the only thing between a usable leg and infection.  In this humidity gangrene would take hold soon if he didn’t find the help he knew was waiting for him.

Four miles to the border.  Four miles till the forest sloped down on the other side of the mountain.  He put all his weight on the pine branch he was using for a crutch and placed his holed leg forward.

It was time to move.

Over yonder

Do not step into yonder pasture,

however the grass may be greener.

Do not follow the grass-flattened footsteps

of another,

who will lead you tither.

For the fickle will change

and though you may rage

and cry against your injustice

and spill tears that are useless.

 

To whom will you turn

when the wild winter wind burns

your face and tears your eyes,

as you stumble and chastise

your decision taken,

your intention mistaken.

 

For however that distant green field

may taunt you,

do not stray across those borders,

entrapped by those hoarders,

who will suck your soul

and bleed you dry and left to lie;

choked and broken

God speed this bullet

96 years ago the First World War, the Great War, was finally over.  A generation of young men, those that returned home, were left to pick up the pieces of what they had experienced, seen and endured.  They said it could never happen again. but it did; 21 years later.  As terrible as the Second World War, the same as any war, was, there is something truly horrific about the trenches.

***

The ground heaves and shakes and small rivers of dirt fall, splattering my helmet and the pounding of the earth is like a fist in my back. I look at Jenkins; he’s now bleeding from the ears and nose from the concussion of this incessant artillery barrage. I look at the lieutenant; his face flares white in the explosion flashes; dark rings his eyes and he’s gaunt, like the rest of us. He’s one of us now. After two years in this hell-hole the only part of Cambridge that remains is his manners. He looks at me.

‘Don’t,” he says.

He knows I want to look, I can’t help it; George was my friend from the pre-war days. George who had the nerve to stick his head above the trench, only for a piece of shrapnel to tear it off and fling the rest of him across the trench. The trench, this devil-made wormhole. What will I tell his wife when I get back…if I get back?

A let up in the barrage and the shadow of the black Somme night passes across the trenches, leaving destruction, torn and twisted bodies, fatherless children and husbandless wives but now all was silent. We’ve been stuck here for months, barely advancing, barely retreating. The smell of the ripped earth and dank mud in which we wallow is everywhere, except when the wind blows towards us and the stench of death and decay replaces it.

‘Help…’

The voice is faint but it’s there. In the sudden and welcome silence it’s as clear as birdsong on a June morning, agony and suffering coming through in just one word.

‘Who the bloody hell is that?’  Symes; newly arrived from the train, all shiny boots, clean puttees and enthusiasm. They always arrive with enthusiasm. What the hell are they telling them back home? Five days a week killing the Hun then Saturdays and Sundays off, French whores and bistros thrown in?  ‘Can we not do something for that poor bugger sir?’ he says, turning to the lieutenant, who sighs.

‘Corporal, take a look and be bloody careful.’

I take off my helmet and place it on the butt of my rifle and slowly raise it above the trench, joggling the rifle to simulate movement: nothing. No sniper fire to split the night. The lieutenant hands me his field-glasses as I replace my helmet and climb the ladder. They say there’s nothing blacker than no-man’s land at night but that’s not strictly true, especially following a barrage. The artillery will always find something to burn, even if it’s just human remains, and little fires dotted around cast an unholy light in the field-glasses. I first scan the enemy lines, looking for movement, but I see none.

‘Help…’

My vision jumps from crater to crater, searching for life and hoping for it also, in this God-forsaken pit of human misery. At first I see nothing, then I take a slower, longer sweep with the glasses. I see movement; slow, shambling movement some twenty yards away where the barbed-wire is stretched across and upon which hang torn and crow-picked corpses, like some infernal spider’s web. A slow, crawling movement catches my eye and even in the dead-light I can see enough. It’s a soldier, a German soldier, gone from the waist down, pulling and dragging himself inch by agonised inch towards our trench.

‘Well I’ll be damned. It’s a Jerry sir and in an awful state by the looks of it.’

‘What the Dickens…’ as he climbs up, taking the field-glasses from me and looks upon the awful site before us. He wipes his mouth with the heel of his hand, sighed and turns, stepping down into the trench. Not a moment too soon, as a high whistling noise is followed by chaos. The concussion from the blast is enormous, filling my head with a death-roar and I could feel my ears and nose bleeding freely. Symes is on the floor of the trench, his legs pinned down by dislodged sandbags but he’s ok. Upon hearing that whistle, the lieutenant, Jenkins and I all threw ourselves against the wall of the trench. Symes will learn, if he has time.

‘Corporal, who’s our best shot?’ but he looks at Jenkins, the Welshman is a crack shot and needs no introduction.

‘Help…’

‘Take him out Private. I won’t risk stretch-bearers to bring him in but the sorry blighter has suffered more than enough.’ He moves aside from the ladder to let the Private through.  The figure is nearer now but still a good fifteen yards away. No trouble for Jenkins, who could shoot a canary in a Welsh coalmine from fifty. The first signs of dawn are beginning to pink the early clouds, which a rising breeze is scattering. Jenkins brings the rifle up to his right shoulder, intent only on what he sees at the end of the barrel.

“God speed this bullet and put that poor devil out of his misery”, the lieutenant says, to no one in particular.

“Amen,” says Jenkins, and his finger tightens on the trigger.

As if in response the morning sun throws its first rays of light through the breaking clouds and onto the battlefield. The bombardment has done a lot but not enough; the barbed wire is still in place. If we have to go over the top we’ll be torn to pieces by the German machine-gunners.

The report of Jenkins’ Lee Enfield barks out. The lieutenant raises the field-glasses but they aren’t needed. As more lights floods across the battlefield the sliding, shuffling figure shimmers and fades to nothing.

We look at each other in silence. We’ve all heard stories of ghosts on the battlefield and I guess with so many men butchered on a daily basis it was only a matter of time. I wonder, should God grant any lasting peace on this Earth, in 100 years how many of our souls will still wander here, lost in a foreign land far from home.remembrance_day___poppy_day_by_daliscar

***

I’d like to acknowledge http://femaleimagination.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/11-november-world-war-i-ends/ for the use of the photograph.

I’ll just close my eyes a while

Ah, at last.  I’ve finally written something fictional, it seems ages since the last one.  Thanks to Morgen Bailey and her Story Writing Exercises I found myself writing this at half past midnight, using the keywords:  need, leave, Nebraska, pick, song.  I went slightly over the 15 minute limit – 17 to be exact.  Then I left it, went to bed and came back to touch it up this morning.  So, thanks for that Morgen.  Great exercise!  So, let’s see how this little 550-worder stands up in the warm light of a summer morning shall we?

  ***

My back is sore, my legs cramped and my coat can’t be pulled any more tightly around me. My breath fogs and my fingers and toes seem to have left me for warmer climes, but my ribs, hard against the hard cold wood, jolting and jerking, are the worst.

I’d taken a beating before leaving Summer Creek. Panning for gold in them hills can make you feel like a king, but it can make others feel like killing you, make them envious. I’d gotten away as best I could I suppose, considering the kicking I got. Still, I kept my gold, or most of it. They only found a few nuggets and the rest was well-hidden. It was the gold I’d promised not to touch: Janie’s gold. The gold I wanted to win Janie back with, the gold I need to win Janie back. As I move I can hear her letter rustle in my coat pocket, a crinkled reminder of a love gone bad, and a love now gone.

The hell was she doing in Nebraska anyhow? What, or rather who made her leave? I knew the answer to that; she couldn’t live alone for long, she needed company and preferable the male-type. The Lincoln postmark was the first thing I saw when I received the letter, two months ago now. It made my heart sink, then I panned just that little bit harder, worked just that little bit longer to bring her some gold from the Black Hills, to get her to come back to St. Louis. I’m a fool, I know but this is no fool’s gold in my possession. She’ll see that, when we meet. I still can’t believe she’s gone even now. I can think of nothing else as I sit, freezing my ass in this slow, empty cattle wagon, shunting and bumping through the South Dakota night.

I lay my head back, close my eyes and listen to the movement over the tracks, each cross-tie and rail joint out to get me. I’m sure I can taste blood now; punctured lung? Could be, 6 pairs of boots can do damage to a man already weakened with a broken heart. I begin to hum an old song; The ship that never returned, one of our camp side favourites. Billy would take that banjo from the sackcloth and pick like an Appalachian angel. Billy. Billy bust flat this autumn, running up debts and making enemies. They took his banjo, then they took Billy. Mountain justice. No one said anything, we all had debts but most of us were panning enough for our need; except Billy.

All this gold weighing down my pocket and I’ve not eaten in almost a week; feels like my stomach is touching my backbone: it probably is. At least I’ve Janie’s gold, hidden good. I would write her a letter or a note but my fingers couldn’t hold a pencil. I’ll just sit here all quiet. I wish there was at least a cow for company.

I feel so weak, so tired, it’s getting colder. I can taste the blood good now, getting stronger with every jolt of the train. I think I’ll just close my eyes a bit. I know I shouldn’t but just for a short while, I’m so tired. And so damned cold.

Flash Fiction Friday 132: Where There Is Hope There Is Hunger by Christopher Farley

Spring is now in full swing and I’m still writing with winter as a background. I think I need to see the sea…
As ever, thank you Morgen.

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and thirty-second piece in this series. This week’s is a 420-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 40 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 25th May.

Where There Is Hope There Is Hunger

The bees were the first noticeable difference. Within just a few years there weren’t any. The pollen must have been modified in the same way the plants had been. The honey stocks fell quicker than a suicidal stockbroker after a Wall Street crash. They told us to be patient and that they would replenish the honey from laboratory stock, which they did. I don’t know what the hell it was made from but it was soft, runny and sweet, so I guess some people were happy. However, honey wasn’t the biggest problem; after all, we had sugar if we had the money…

View original post 747 more words

One Step Lovers

They stood side by side, hand in hand and their feet touched.  Mary could feel Tom’s hand squeezing hers, letting her know, without words, that they were one, a couple, and were in this together, as they had been for almost two years now.  He turned to kiss her.

It had started as a slow, drunken dance at a Christmas party; his steps awkward, a little drunk and she, not sober, sometimes trod on his feet, giggling.  They held each other close enough for their colleagues to start nudging each other and pointing.  Tom didn’t care; he didn’t want the dance to end, ever.  He was aware only of Mary’s perfume, the clean, shampooed scent of her shoulder length raven hair and her soft skin as he pressed his cheek against hers and whispered ‘you’re beautiful’.  Mary felt a butterfly take flight inside and she slung her arms around his neck as he held her, while Bryan Ferry sung “Slave to Love”, and the evening finished with a lingering kiss.

They started going out together over the Christmas period and returned to work a couple.  Both thought that working for the same company would get in the way but as Tom worked on the brokerage floor and Mary in the back-office a floor below, they rarely saw each other during the day and always had something to talk about in the evenings.  Recently they’d spoken of engagement, normally after a bottle of wine but they talked of it nonetheless. 

Tom let go of her hand, turned and placed his hands either side of her face as he bent to kiss her.  She held his gaze as her lips parted to meet his.  She felt their lips crush and she threw her arms around his neck, pulling him towards her.  The kiss was passionate although love had now replaced the lust that Tom had felt that first night but she still drove him wild.  He didn’t want that kiss to end, ever. 

Suddenly the floor shook beneath them once again; another explosion.  The heat and smoke were becoming unbearable and the couple parted.  Tom placed his cheek next to hers and whispered ‘I love you’, and Mary heard, above the noise and chaos she heard.  She pulled away and mouthed ‘I love you too’ back to him.  He felt tears sting his eyes as he smiled at her, drinking in her beauty in the late summer sunshine.  Then they turned.   

They stood side by side, hand in hand.  Mary could feel Tom’s hand squeezing hers, letting her know, without words, that they were one, a couple, and were in this together.  They stood, eyes closed and he gave her hand one last, tight squeeze.  They stepped off; into nothing and into forever.

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Recently I read an article on 9/11, about those that became known as ‘the jumpers’; those men and women that chose to jump from the Twin Towers instead of burn.  It’s estimated some 200 people jumped before the towers collapsed.  In fact the images of those men and women are some of the clearest memories I have of the tragic events of that day.

I didn’t know this before reading but America in the main has tried to forget the fact that people jumped, because that would be considered suicide and that is contrary to God’s law.  I like to think instead that it was God and God’s love which gave them the initiative and courage to find that second way, knowing there was no way out. 

There seems to be a shadowy recollection of a man and woman jumping together but I can’t be sure after 12 1/2 years.  The possibility of a couple jumping together, finding strength in each other at the very last, pulls my heart strings, very tightly. 

I don’t do dedications, as they seem (to me) a somewhat futile exercise.  However, the events of that day in which 2’977 people lost their lives, between NY, Pennsylvania and The Pentagon, were so great that no-one remained untouched.  To all of those lost, and especially to the 200 who found the courage to take that final step.

Walking Out

The wall clock ticks off time as I sit in the pre-dawn darkness, a small white table lamp throwing faint shadows on the wall every time a bug goes near it.  I turn in the revolving office chair and look out into the darkness, trying to gather what kind of weather awaited my day.  I don’t want rain, I’m sick of it.  Every night for the last two weeks the only sound that has accompanied my dreams is the hard, flat beating of water against the hard, flat roof above my head.

I sit with my hands in my lap.  I look down at them, now almost devoid of colour, intertwined and wrestling with each other, a habit of mine.  I want to feel the sun on my skin, warming it, burning my face and reddening my neck.  Of all the things I miss the most, the sun is in my top two list.  The other is Lizzie, my daughter, the only family that has come to see me during the last 6 years.  I see the sun when I see my daughter, all beaming smiles, overflowing long, dark curly hair smelling of apple-scented shampoo and with wrinkles of laughter around her eyes; always pleased to see me.  Together we’ve sat and planned this day when I would finally walk from this cell and now, finally, that day has come and I sit at this wooden desk, scarred from a hundred cigarette burns and awaiting her arrival.  Even the guards had treated me differently this morning, maybe even those hard-noses appreciate the importance of today.

Before she arrives I have to have another interview with the warden.  While I sit looking at my white, continuously wringing hands he comes in, his hands resting on his thick, brown leather belt and trying to smile.  Yes, today they all seem happy for me.  If smoking were still permitted inside the building I think he may have even offered me a cigarette, hell, possibly even a cigar.

“So Mr Onfray,” he says, trying to wedge himself between the wooden arms of the chair and not doing a very good job, “your last day.  I guess it’s a stupid question but I want to ask how it feels.  How do you feel Mr Onfray?”

My hands stopped trying to strangle themselves and I look him in the eyes.

“It’ll be the last time my Lizzie sees her daddy in these prison blues, Warden.  I’m thankful for that.”

He raises an eyebrow and one side of his mouth, which I take to be a smile, and nods his head, his bulging neck doing its best to escape his shirt collar.

“I guess you’re right,” he says.

After all, how many men had he seen walk out of here, their last meal served at noon no longer weighing heavily in their stomachs.

That long, last walk.

A prayer for the Right

Aguilar, this one at least, wasn’t a real boxer, so boxing history buffs needn’t get their gloves in a twist.  I pulled a name out of a hat, liked it, and went with it.  It’s another pre-dawn creation that gets left to pickle all day until I can get back home and tinker with it.  I found my mind resting on a Cuban table just after the revolution

**************************************

We sat and listened to the Aguilar fight on the old, battered radio which normally lived on the shelf but was now placed before us on the table, with a couple of rum glasses and an ashtray filling with cigar ash for company, imagining the scene at Madison Square Gardens.  The crowd of Fedora-wearing men, looking like Sinatra and staring at the ring through the smoke of a thousand glowing cigarettes.  The ring girls parading around the ring while holding the number of the next round, and showing off their bathing suits.

We didn’t bet.  It was enough to go halves with old Fernandez for the bottle of rum and a few cigars.  The smell of the grilled chicken and rice we’d eaten earlier still filled the air, even above the cigar smoke.

“He’s going down in this one,” said Fernandez, his chin resting on his hands, squinting and coughing, “he won’t last until the eighth.”  I stayed silent.

The bell sounded for the seventh round, we heard that bell all the way from Madison.  A cheer went up, probably a sympathy vote for Aguilar.  We love to see bloody people, it must be a trait left in us from the days of the gladiators, they suffer and we love them for it.

“He’ll go down in this,” repeated Old Fernandez, “his legs have gone and he can’t see.”

Fernandez could sense how the fight was going even without the commentator.  His battered face a reminder of his bare-knuckle fights 50 years before.

I was willing Aguilar to stay on his feet and for the Lord to put strength into that mighty right of his.  I felt my prayers failing as he fell to the canvas once again.  The wind outside the open window moved the palms to a low lament, as the commentator lamented his bloody face.  I carried on willing my strength and prayers to cross the slip of ocean between my land and his.

Aguilar ha terminado, no puede continuar asi!” the radio screamed at us.

“Courage Aguilar!  Courage!” I shouted back.

The rum sat shimmering in the glass as my hands twisted and wrung themselves into knots in my lap, unable to help.  My cigar had fallen onto the table.

I would feel every hurt Aguilar took to the very end.  I stretched out a hand for my cigar but it never reached it.

Un milagro!  Un milagro!” yelled the commentator.  I looked at Fernandez’ stony, face and saw his wrinkled eyes shine.  A miracle?  What miracle?

He’d done it.  Aguilar had done it.  That mighty right hand had found the strength from somewhere and the referee was still counting out his opponent above the roar of the crowd.

My cheeks were suddenly wet and I look at the old man in front of me, his handkerchief in his hand.  Aguilar.  My little brother.  Quito, the fifth son.  The only one of us who had made it to the promised land but who could now never come back. 

The Old Iron Gate

In a recent edition of Writer’s Forum, I was interested in an article called ‘Morning Pages’, where you set yourself a morning hand-written (in my case) writing exercise of 3 notebook pages.  At first it read more like a diary and I was for giving it up.  Then I started pulling sentences out of the air and adding to them.  I didn’t really intend to air them but this morning’s one pulled me a little.  It’s not a story as such, more a descriptive exercise, however the last line leaves itself open for future ‘maybes’.

 

The path led out from the garden gate.  The forest appeared as a line of trees above the tall, well-kept Laurel hedge which ringed the garden.

            The grey gravel paths criss-crossed the smooth green lawns, unblemished by weeds or unwanted flowers and stopped in front of the tall, white marble water fountain, its centrepiece depicting St. George slaying the dragon and instead of spouting fire from its mouth, the dragon spurted water.

            From the fountain another gravel path rolled its way across the immaculate lawn, maintained like a tennis court, and to the huge iron gate.  The gate was 9 feet high, with a gargoyle detail atop its heavy wrought-iron metalwork, which twisted this way and that, and the gate made an impression, from one side safety and from the other a daunting, forbidden door.  A heavy iron bar bolted the gate and both moved without the slightest sound, as if the huge hinges were oiled daily.

            Turning my back on the gate I took in the whole garden.  The centrepiece fountain and the zig-zag paths which made their way to the old house in one direction, to the wide red-gravel driveway in another and to the landscaped gardens in another, the riotous, seasonal flowers vying for attention against the well-watered green backdrop.  I breathed deeply, as if inhaling the beauty and perfection.  Turning, I breathed deeply once more, because as soon as I turned and saw the gate, a dread surfaced in my stomach.  The world outside the gate fell into shadow by comparison.

            Wind-blown leaves, dead and dry as animal bones in the desert, stuck against the bottom of the hedge, unable to find a way through.  Outside the gate a path led in 3 directions; left to the village, right to the little churchyard and straight, if one had the nerve and courage, straight to the forest.  The last remnant of a much grander forest which was here at the time of the civil war, when even the cavaliers and roundheads shied away from it, unless need drove them inside.  Woodmen stayed at the fringes, their axes reluctant.  Firewood was taken from the ground, no-one ever thought or dared to cut fresh wood to make a fire, should they have to spend the night in the vicinity, whilst passing through, or rather round the forest.

            Now looking through the iron gate a dread chilled my blood.  My happiness at being surrounded by such beauty in the garden was extinguished, as the sun behind a raincloud, when I turned to look at the forest, the grinding of ancient branches in the breeze, the death-rattle of the leaves leftover from autumns past adding its voice to the melancholy chorus.  My hand touched the cold iron and without looking back, I took the middle path.

Flash Fiction Friday 108: A Shrinking World by Christopher Farley

Thanks once again to Morgen Bailey.
Still can’t get the hang of this reblogging malarkey though…

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The greens and greys reflect on the surface of the lake. It’s almost 11pm and it’s still hot and humid. There may be another storm tonight.  More water.  At least the clouds will block out the sun, which won’t set, not this far north.  It’s like having a yellow moon in the night sky. Or what should be night.

You see, Greenland really is a green land now.  The glaciers turned into water quite a while ago.   This high up on the plateau we’re safe from the rising waters, for now.  Ice at the North Pole?  That’s a memory for some of us, for others, the kids, it’s just a myth, like dragons and hoards of gold.

Oh, the push on the boundaries of science.  Fools! In their search to prove or disprove something called Higgs Boson with their atom particle collider something went wrong, horribly.  They shrunk the planet.  Continents started sliding under or over each other and the world, as the old communications advert used to say, just got smaller.  All that water had to go somewhere and so it went up.

The world became estranged mountain communities; the Rockies, Andes, Himalayas.  I even heard there’s a small Alpine community but no one has ever returned to confirm this.  They want to and they try.  They leave in old, rusty ships from time-to-time.  People still insist on leaving, buoyed by hope but not by water.  The oceans are far too dangerous now.  The Earth has become one continuous stretch of water so when a storm hits there’s no longer any landmass to break up the huge waves that just continue to build and the wind continues to blow.  I’ve heard even the most massive ships wouldn’t have a chance out there.  My chance?  I’ll take it on the land under my feet, what remains of it, and hope.

At one time, the world worried about nuclear war and an atomic winter. Now the Earth’s crust is edging nearer to its core and it keeps getting hotter; they created an atomic-particle summer.

And the waters keep on rising.

 

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and eighth piece in this series. This week’s is a 349-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 34 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 1st December.

A Shrinking World

The greens and greys reflect on the surface of the lake. It’s almost 11pm and it’s still hot and humid. There may be another storm tonight.  More water.  At least the clouds will block out the sun, which won’t set, not this far north.  It’s like having a yellow moon in the night sky. Or what should be night.

You see, Greenland really is a green land now.  The glaciers turned into water quite a while ago.   This high up on the plateau we’re safe from the rising waters, for now.  Ice at the North Pole?  That’s a memory for some of us, for…

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+books =Peace (+libros=Paz)

El hombre con un grande corazon. Raul Lemesoff, you are indeed a hero.
A huge thank you also to Doris, for bringing this to my, and therefore your, attention.
Muchas gracias Doris.

A Wing and a Prayer

Originally to be called Angel Wings when I wrote it yesterday, following a thunderstorm after work, just as I got on the motorbike…nice..  However at 4.30am this morning that title seemed like an old UK advert for a sanitary towel (Sorry Ladies…).

***

This has to be the quietest flight I’ve ever been on.  Even the kids have stopped squabbling.  Thank Heavens for small mercies.

The television screens are showing the ocean beneath, from the cockpit camera.  It’s very blue out there in the tropical sunshine.  Every now and again a ship, possible a huge oil tanker or bulk carrier will pass by, appearing tiny from this distance.  Have you ever looked, I mean really looked, at the ocean from a plane?  The way the sun creates 10,000 mirrors on the surface and how you can see the wave ridges, even from this height.

I’m stuck between members of the Ipod generation.  The skateboard guy to my left has Green Day blaring into his ears, he must be going deaf.  The girl on my other side has some awful rap stuff.  I don’t know what’s worse.  I’ll just go back to looking at the screen.  The book on my lap, The Outsider by Albert Camus, lies upside down and open.  I know it’ll ruin like that but I’m otherwise occupied.

My wife’s in the row behind with the kids.  Every now and again her hand reaches over and caresses my shoulder or my neck.  I reach over and put my hand on hers, giving it 3 squeezes. It means ‘I Love You’.  We’ve always done it.  I’d like to change places with one of my children but they want to stay close to Mum.  I can’t blame them.

An hour ago the pilot took us up to over 40,000 feet to avoid a storm.  40,000 feet!  That’s like sticking the Eiger on top of Everest.  We’re out of the thunderstorm as well, so I guess that’s another small mercy.

This has to be the quietest flight I’ve ever been on.  We were just under a hundred miles from Miami when the storm knocked out our engines.  The guidelines tell us our plane can glide that far.  I continue looking at the screen.  I hope they’re right.

Damaged

Would you accept damaged goods?
Would you accept a damaged heart?
Not physically, at least I hope
But damaged in the wars of love

Could, or should I even offer such
What would you think of me?
If I tried to hide the pain and hurt
Pretending nothing ever happened

I’d be like the used-car salesman
Who filled the noisy transmission
with sawdust, to cover up
The damage done before

I’d try plug the radiator holes
But my pain would still seep out
The mileometer I’d try to rewind
But the miles done would remain

 

 

 

 

An Unfriendly Alien

I wanted to get away, run or even be put under, anything to get away from this jolting, numbing pain running through me. I didn’t know how long I’d been here, time became irrelevant. As I looked up I saw only a shape, fuzzy round the edges, not clear, just a silhouette. Alien. I could think only of the Cybermen on Dr. Who, way back when I was a kid. It was alien anyway, as was the hurt. It was less traumatic to break a bone in the body, I thought vaguely between white flashes of agony, the nerves in my face were standing on end, screaming at me, waving angry red flags at me. Half a second then another bolt of pain. I closed my eyes and my body went stiff, I felt my hands, back and legs soaked in sweat, I hadn’t even been laid out almost horizontal for more than a few minutes but the pain was becoming unbearable. I tried to move my head but to no avail, foolishly I thought it help me. My hands crossed themselves, twisting, sweating and entwining as the pain continued. Minutes passed.

A respite. I was unsure whether this pain had subsided or whether I was gradually getting used to it. However it had started to lessen, the flags went from red to orange, I had hoped for green but I guess that was asking too much. My face went from fingernail-on-blackboard nerve shredding torture to uncomfortably numb. My hands were sweating less and they stopped writhing like mating eels in a bucket. My shirt however was still soaked. I was breathing normally at least. Fearful the pain would start again I slowly opened my eyes once more.

A hand went up, the Cyberman’s head switched off and my dentist clapped me on the shoulder. “Smile”, he said, “you’re free to go.”

Jump!

Danny edged himself closer to the edge, on his hands and knees.  He’d been thinking about this moment for a while now; thinking that at the end it would be easy but here, now, it was so different.

It seemed he could hear the water far below him, calling to him.  He knew that it was too late to turn back; how could he face the shame?  Inching himself backwards, away from the edge he stood up, his liquid knees barely keeping him upright, his heart beating a military march.  The palms of his hands were wet with sweat and he shivered as nerves took hold of his stomach and knotted it.

He decided he didn’t want to look down again, the only thing to do would just be to run and jump, eyes closed.  He took a few deep breaths, his eyes fixed upon the horizon.  This is it; he thought to himself, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for.  He ran.

Young Danny, 6 years old, entered the water with a splash.  When he surfaced he looked up at the high-board, raised his fist in the air, and swam to the side of the swimming pool.

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