My Words, My World

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

Archive for the tag “Relationships”

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.

Grains of sand

A thousand grains of sand couldn’t grate on me as you do,
she said.
I winced.
Only a thousand? 
You can count them on a dessert spoon.
Is that all?

I must try harder.

Mon stylo

My pen
is a stranger to me,
estranged from me.
L’etranger.

My pen
has sat for weeks,
idle, spent, silent.
Oublié.

My pen
turns in my fingers,
once a part of me.
Perdu.

My pen
welcome back, great
to see you again.
Ça va mon ami?

Sometimes, always – part II

“I’m already in town Stephie.  I’ve an hour before I have to meet Dan and Bill.”

“OK Jules, see you at Starbucks in 10 minutes.”

Julie gathered the various carrier bags and took a slow walk along the pedestrianized high street.  She stopped to look at the new releases in the window of W. H. Smith then made her way to Starbucks.  Her friend was already seated, looking at the coffee menu.  She looked up as Julie came in then looked at the bags.

“Hello Jules.  It’s not Christmas come early is it?”

Julie placed the bags around her chair, smiling.

“Bill’s birthday next week.”

“Where is he, with Dan?”

“Yeah.  They’re taking a walk along the beach.  Bill loves the sea.”  She shivered.  It didn’t go unnoticed.

“Have you tried talking to anyone Jules, apart from Dan I mean?”

She shook her head.

“I think it’s time you thought about it.  You can’t go through life with this fear that stops you doing something you always liked before.  Cappuccino?”

“Stephie got up and ordered two coffees, leaving Julie staring at the black plastic table.  A minute or so later she returned, coffees in hand.

“Four years have passed; you’ve got to move on Jules.”

“I will. I will.  I’m just not ready for that last step, to air it out in public.  Not at the moment.”

“What does Dan say about it.”

“That he understands.  He can’t though.  How could he?”

“Well, no one apart from you can really understand, it’s impossible.”

“At least, as a woman, you can understand me more.”

Stephie stirred in the sugar slowly, contemplating this last comment.  She looked up into her friend’s eyes, which were starting to glisten.

“You can see a psychologist Jules.  Professional secrecy and all that.”

“The psychologist will still know though.”

“Yeah, but you won’t have to go back there.  I’m sure it’ll do you good, you can start to enjoy walking with Billy again.”

“All Billy’s ever known is that I’m scared of the water, that I can’t bear the sight of it.  How will explain the sudden change, if indeed I do change?”

“That you did it for him.”

“And how am I going to tell a psychologist?”

Stephie looked into her friend’s face.  Her eyes were still glistening.  They were more than glistening.  Her eyes wrinkled around the edges.  She pinched her mouth shut to control herself, but she couldn’t hold it back and sprayed coffee over her jeans.  Customers looked round as Stephie howled with laughter.

“It’s like this, Doctor.  I was sunbathing on a beach when a bloody big crab came along and nipped my tit.”

Sometimes, always

The pebble skipped across the water, hit an incoming wave, flipped and sunk into the grey shallows.

“Five bounces Dad.”

“Best one yet Billy.  We call them skips, when the stone bounces like that.”

The boy picked up a stone of his own and launched it.  It went more sideways than forwards and landed with a plop.

“You’ll get there Bill.”

“I’m too small Dad.  I will when I get bigger though, won’t I?”

“You will son, you will.”  He ruffled his son’s tangle of blond hair that shone even in this miserable, murky light.  It looked like rain.  They turned and walked along the water’s edge, enjoying the sound of the waves breaking on the pebbles and the rattle and sigh as the water withdrew, rolling the pebbles with it.

“I’d like to live here Dad.  Would you?”

“I’d like to Bill.  Your mum wouldn’t though, she can’t stand the water.”

“If we lived here she wouldn’t have to come with us to look at the sea though Dad, she could go shopping.”

The man smiled.  He envied the innocence of the child’s mind and the questions it generated.

“It’d still be too close for her bill.  Your mum doesn’t just dislike the water; she can’t bear the sight of it.”

“Why’s that Dad?”

They continued walking along the shore, their feet sinking between the pebbles that rattled under their feet.

“Let’s make a move now son.  We said we’d meet Mum at 2 o’ clock.  She’s probably loaded down with bags and needs our help.  Feeling strong Bill?”

The boy picked up a last pebble, crouched down and threw it, his arm straight, in a sweeping motion.  This time it didn’t go sideways.

“Well done Billy boy.”

The boy ignored the compliment.

“Why’s that Dad?  Is it because she likes shopping?”

“You and me like walking by the sea.  Your mum feels good walking in the town centre.”

“Shopping, Dad?”

The boy wasn’t looking as a grin stretched across his father’s face.

“Sometimes Bill, sometimes.”

“Sometimes always Dad.”

Broadsheet

I looked up from my phone.  My girlfriend had texted me.  She’d changed her mind and decided to go for a drink with the girls from the office so could I get something for myself?  Yep, I thought, I’ll also pass the off licence for a bottle of Australian red.

I started people watching, something I never do.  I’d never taken much notice of how much people now walk around in their own world, without passing a word between them.  People passed each other like unlit ships on a foggy night, unaware of each other and in danger of colliding.  Heads tilted, eyes down and in total ignorance of their surroundings.  I guess once upon a time people used to wander along with paperbacks or something.  I can’t remember.

A man stepped out into the middle of the pavement, a newspaper (a newspaper?) under one arm, an umbrella under the other.  With his Bowler Hat, he gave me the impression of a Magritte painting.  He looked around at the tide of people ebbing and flowing around him, smiling and amazed as they avoided walking into him.

“Excuse me?”, he said.

Screen-lit faces continued to shine briefly then they were gone.

“Excuse me?”

Palm-held virtual reality maintained its silence.

The man looked around once more, coughed politely and took the newspaper from under his arm.

“Very well.”

He unfolded it and shook out the creases.  Looking around once again he opened it, arms wide, and stood in the middle of the pavement.

Two lines of people opened up, one going east, the other west.  I watched him stand like a beacon in the middle of it all.  A low hum of voices murmured.  He watched their faces, gently lit in the phone-glow, as they approached him, an unwanted distraction as they tried to avoid him.

“Can’t you move?”

“Mind out!”

“Do you have to just stand there?”

A gust of wind rustled the paper in the man’s hands. He ignored it and continued to stand there, arms wide, as an army of new-age hunchbacks flowed around him.  I laughed.  The other people at the bus-stop looked at me, now distracted from their own telephones.  Smiling, I left my place in the queue, forgetting all about the number 38 that would take me home.

I took an Evening Standard from the rack and walked up to the man.  Standing in front of him I opened the newspaper.  I heard his paper shuffle as people continued to tut and moan their way around us.  A face peered round his newspaper.  He raised one eyebrow, disappeared behind his paper and cleared his throat.

“Shares due to plummet.”

Smiling, I scanned the pages.

“Sex scandal secretary wants top job”, I replied.

“Do you have to bloody well stand there?”, asked someone as they almost collided with us, his sappy smartphone face a picture of indignation.  He went back to his phone and moved on.  The man behind the paper coughed.

“Environment minister to quit over unethical shareholdings”

I took up the game.

“Woman jailed for manhood attack.”

“Price of oil to continue dropping.”

“Actress in no-underwear shocker.”

It continued to and fro as we worked our way through the papers, ignoring the protests of passers-by.  Finally, we’d finished.

He doffed his hat to me as he folded the newspaper and stuck it under his arm.

“Same time next week,” he said, “but next time, bring a broadsheet.”

Contradictions

Love is a stroll in a sunlit garden, under a perfect blue sky

Love is the lurching axeman, blood dripping and stumbling through corridors hard and white

Love is the warm sun and a light summer rain

Love is the vise-grip of ice, the cold that rips the breath from your lungs and tears from your eyes

Love is the warm bed, as sunlight drifts through the gaps in the blinds

Love is the sword on which we commit the ritual of Seppuku: and give all.

Leaving

The hand moved across the table, casting a shadow under the glare of the uncovered light bulb, now dull with dust. There was still strength in the hand, and a life of hard work and physical activity showed in the knots of vein and muscle as it moved.

A muscular forefinger which had shot and killed men in war, under orders and without hesitation, now lifted, paused then started to tap, without rhythm, on the plastic table. The window rattled as the wind picked up snow and threw it against the glass, a draught blowing past the single pane. The finger stopped while a deep, chesty cough ripped the silence and echoed in the room devoid of furniture except the table and two chairs.  A car horn beeped twice outside

“It’s time,” said the voice, finding breath once again.

“Yes love, it’s time to go.”

“They’ll look after us Eve.”

The hand reached out across the table and grasped one no less young but smaller and softer and cold to the touch. A sob broke the brief silence.

“54 years in this house George. We raised children who’ve raised their children and all the while we’ve stayed here. It breaks my heart to leave it yet…”

Another gust of frigid air escaped from the rattling window pane.

“At least we’ll be warm my love, and we’ll have company our own age.”

The smaller hand gave another squeeze.

“You’re right George, I guess we have to go.”

The hand, cold and white at the fingertips, helped Eve to her feet and into her coat. It reached for the light switch, and hesitated, as it touched away a solitary tear from a wrinkled cheek. Wind tore past the loose window pane.

“At least we’ll be warm, Eve.”

Bonds

She haunts my dreams

And waking hours

She is gold and silver

And ringed with flowers

Her presence stills me

Her words enthral me

I am hers

And she is mine

A train, and Ernest

The train leaves Milan Central station and heaves over the tracks in the rain which streaks the dirty windows; its carriages are packed with steaming rush-hour tiredness and anger.

The young man sits in the corner up against the window, as the rain beats time, with Hemingway’s words falling off the pages as he tries to concentrate but can’t.  For Whom the Bell Tolls?  The bell was tolling for people who want peace and quiet on a train carriage to allow them to read, he thinks.

A fat man who’d possibly eaten only garlic for lunch sits opposite, hand wrapped around his phone in some strange death-grip as he seethes and steams, letting the person on the other end know as well as the other three occupied seats around him that, Cazzo! the fucking contract has to be there by Friday or it’s not just his balls on the line, understand?.  He doesn’t say which line, which is OK; the less he talks the better, the young man thinks, his own anger rising.

Through the red mist that descends before his eyes the young man looks up and sees her, in the opposite seat across the aisle.  Her silky, shoulder-length hair is dark, and her hazel eyes strike out from her face which seems to have had the benefit of a tan recently.  In her jeans and blue sweater with white stripes (a little French he thinks: oui mademoiselle, oui), she becomes his calm in a storm-tossed sea.  He watches from a distance, as her forehead wrinkles and she glares at the woman opposite her.

This woman opposite has her tablet on her lap and has wires and a mike stuck to her head as she babbles continuously, her voice rising, informing everyone that didn’t want to know that Cazzo! how the hell is she supposed to fit in another meeting on Thursday, she isn’t a fucking machine you know.  Sat there looking like Robo-Queen that could be debated, the girl thinks, as she lowers her head and raises her book in an attempt to block out the irritation. As she does so the young man opposite gasps.  A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway; she’s reading Hemingway!

Mr Garlic is making another call but its wafting anger slips into the background as the young man looks only at the young woman across the aisle, his book held up to his chest, now half-forgotten.  The train starts to slow.

Robo-Queen finishes her call and transforms into e-bitch as she proceeds to beat the hell out of her tablet, with two fingers having some maniacal life of their own as she sends an email, probably shouting Cazzo, cazzo, cazzo!

The fat garlic man wheezes his bulk into an overcoat big enough to protect a small car from winter frost and grabs his briefcase, stuffed full, as its leather creaks for mercy, and he makes his way to the door.

The young woman looks up.  She sees the young man looking at her and her eyes drop to his chest.  She sees.  Fine lines around her eyes appear and she gives him a smile.  He returns it just as e-bitch starts to make another phone call.  He waves her over to the now-vacated seat opposite him and they whisper words of Ernest, in earnest, as the train takes them home.

Bleach dilutes

Heart
stopped
Sliced by razor
made hollow
bleached with sorrow
Hung out to dry
to die
Then I
saw your smile,
felt your kiss
The razor’s wound
internal, infernal
but never eternal
As the heart beats once again

We

We sit,
we look,
we stare.
I know you’re there
You know I care, and
I’ll always be here

We.

Keep her well hid

They were sitting in the corner, I guess looking for a little privacy but they came to the wrong place if they wanted that. The tables were too close together for one thing, and besides, everyone had to pass by that table to go to the toilet.

She was angry, upset, pissed off. Choose any adjective you want; she looked ready to stick her cocktail stick and untouched olive where the sun don’t shine, his sun at least.

I arrived after being dragged around the shops for two hours and I’d run out of patience and my credit card out of, well…credit. I put Lucy in a cab, with bags, they were all hers anyway, and made my way down to the King’s Head. Football was on the TV and I wanted, no, I needed a pint or two and anyway, I was busting for a lash. I nodded to the barman, asked for a pint of ale and made my way to the Gents. That’s when I noticed them.

He had his hands out in front of him when I passed, and, relieved at being relieved, I made my way back with less haste and he still had his hands in front of him, like he was praying or testing for rain or something. Whatever he was doing was having no positive effect whatsoever; maybe he’d run out of credit too. I got my pint and made my way to a little table, a little way off to the right of them, with one of those retro Heineken mirrors on the wall next to me and I could see them in action, as well as hear them.

“You were a twat Paul.”

“I know love, I don’t know what happened, it just happened.”

He’d chatted up, touched up or ballsed up by the sounds of things. Typical bloke, I know how you feel mate, I thought. I went back to the football, trying to concentrate on the game which was slower settling than a pint of Guinness. The ball was pinging about all over the place, no fun to watch but I watched it anyway, it certainly beat the hell out of shopping. A free kick got my attention but not for long.

“Where is she? Where did you put her?” Her? This made my ears pick up a bit. I pretended to watch the football.

“Behind the allotments near the railway embankment. There’s some old garages there and I left her there.”

“You f…”.

“Do you want some more drinks?” It was the barmaid, taking their empties from their table. He said yes, she said nothing so I guess she either nodded or shook her head, there are only so many things you can communicate without words. The barmaid plonked the glasses on the bar and poured a lager.

“It won’t be for long, it was like a temporary measure, you know. I didn’t have the time.”

“You could have done better than that. She’ll be found in no time Paul. What the bloody hell were you thinking?”

“Shh…, she’s coming back.”

The mirror told me she’d folded her arms, a frown that looked furrowed with a hand-plough creasing her forehead. She looked at her phone, he looked at her. The barmaid put two glasses down, it was a nod then.

“I’ll go now, after this drink, alright?”

“Yeah? Well, I suppose it will be dark in half an hour, won’t it?”

“Yeah, it’ll be alright, you’ll see.”

Who was she? What had she done? What had he done to her? I had a hundred questions and didn’t know what to do with the information I’d heard.

“I hope you’re right Paul, she’s been in the family for years.”

“She’ll be alright Trish, really. Who’d want an old car like that anyway?”

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

I entered a competition recently where I had half an hour to write on one of three subjects given.  I chose “a conversation” and out came the above.  While I was writing I didn’t know who “she” was but as the minutes ticked away I decided I wanted to write something that didn’t involve death or murder, and as we English-speakers have a penchant for talking about our cars as feminine, the little ending came to me.  I submitted with one minute left and received a ‘commended’ so it was ok. 

Hemingway once said “write drunk, edit sober” – when you only have half an hour to do both, which do you chose? 

Flash Fiction Friday 146: Colours frozen in time by Chris Farley

My ever present and never diminishing thanks once again to Morgen.
I’m still unsure as to whether I should be disturbed about the fact that I sat in a pub looking at a tattoo and invented this story around it…

MorgEn Bailey - Creative Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and forty-sixth piece in this series. This week’s is a 436-worder by Christopher Farley.

Colours frozen in time

The tattoo was the first thing I noticed; it was beautiful. She sat opposite her friend drinking Belgian beer from a huge glass and I saw it as I walked past, making my way to the men’s room.

Her thin, white arms poked out from her even whiter t-shirt, then a waterfall of colour burst from the sleeves of the t-shirt. Three lotus flowers, red, green and pink, one on top of the other. But oh, the arm. How could something so pale and delicate suffer so much pain? I returned to the bar and pretended to look at the game on the big screen. Her friend rose from the table and headed for the toilet.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Sorry, I couldn’t help…

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The dark kitchen

Another tip of the hat to Morgen Bailey and this time her poetry prompts. “the dark kitchen” immediately took my fancy and this time I had it down in less than a third of the allotted time.  Once again, thanks for that Morgen.

The Dark Kitchen

The dark kitchen
The darker drawers
The still darker knives,
Each telling their story

The darkened oven
Black from the roasts
The un-cleaned fat
That spat; and sizzled.

The dark old woman
Dressed all in black
Black widow in waiting
Black venom giving

The death-grey husband
Now ever in the dark
Her dark kitchen her web
Her poison pernicious

The dark pantry
Away from the light
Locked in tight
Opened only at night
When all is black

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.

Story A Day May day 4 – I do it for you, baby

I’m a day behind – there’s nothing I can do although this was half-written yesterday. Life gets in the way sometimes and certain people and things cannot be refused. I aim to be back on track by tomorrow evening…promise!

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

‘You have pen and paper in front of you, and an hour to produce an award-winning competition piece. Today’s prompt is “The empty chamber”.
There comes a time when you lose control of your dream and it takes control of you. It doesn’t happen often, at least not to me. This time though it’s worse; this one’s really got me.

I, like you no doubt, let my passions intertwine with my dreams. The things that I want in life, the things that are tangible, doable, reachable – they become my dreams. I don’t dream lottery wins, a Rolls Royce or a mansion on a hill, I dream in words, in black and white, created by me for me, usually. This time it’s different.

Mr Farrow, Martin to his friends so he remains Mr Farrow to me, teaches afternoon writing classes at the local college. He’s good, I’ll give him that. He’s published; he wins things, people look up to him. Last year I started his creative writing class, in the hope of a little dream realization; I was working a couple of bars at the time, keeping myself busy at night and staying at home during the day; perfect.

Except my days now are empty, with only words to fill them. My live-in partner, Shareen, left me months ago, calling herself a victim of my obsession. I’m not jealous, I just like to know where she is, who she’s with, what she’s up to. In addition there was my writing. At first she thought I was a novelty, someone to show her friends – a writer. I write all the time but I’ve never won anything. After a time she saw that as a reflection on me and saw my lack of success as a trigger for my obsession with her. She’s wrong. I will win, I know this time I’ll win and win big too then that’ll get her back, that’ll teach her. She’ll want me then. My name and my fame, she’ll want that.

‘Just fifteen minutes left now, you should have closed your story and now be reading through, editing where necessary. Polishing till it shines – this is the big one.’

I sit there looking at Martin, at Mr. Farrow, and sight the barrel on him. I hope he’s written for his life, there only one empty chamber.

StoryADay May 2014 (day 2) – My fridge, my end?

I know, I’m late but there was no way of doing this yesterday, work gets in the way sometimes. “Magnetic words” – that took some thought and alas…this is all I came up with. Roll on to Day 3

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

I can feel my heartbeat, my temples are thumping; a bit like the sound of a washing machine on slow spin at the end of its cycle. My stomach cramps, or rather alternates between cramps and butterflies that flutter by. I need to step away, I need to get a grip. What is going on?

I woke up, splashed my face and made my way to the kitchen, no changes from my usual Sunday morning habit of making myself a pot of tea and preparing a plate of digestive biscuits and placing both on the little coffee table, spreading out and opening a book. This morning however I awoke early; thunder trounced my head and lightning tried to sear its way through the blinds and the rain hammered on anything it touch. A perfect day for reading, I thought, pouring the first cup from the pot. Then, without taking either opening a book or switching on my laptop, I step over to the fridge.

I, now, you, why, see, kill

It’s been a week now. Last Sunday morning I awoke, made my tea and started to read when a whispering noise made me look up from my book. I didn’t see anything; at first. The words, they rearranged themselves, on their own. There’s no one else here except me. There hasn’t been since last Saturday, except now I think she’s come back. Or she sees why I did or else…I’m going to see why she will.

StoryADay May 2014 – Getting Home

Well, I didn’t expect to take part in this, I never have done. When I received my StoryADay May 2014 email this morning I paid it little attention as I had a busy, busy day ahead of me.  However a couple of inspired hours this evening have produced 1,500 words – whether they’re good words or not I’ll leave up to you.

I’ve no knowledge of Ohio but Google maps gave me a geographic idea. I’ve no way of knowing if there’s a bus station in Marion, Ohio. I know there’s a Route 23 – Google told me. Anyway, here it is.

Thanks Julie, thanks Neil.

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

It isn’t normal, there’s no way this is normal. Bob Dylan once said you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows and normally I’d say Old Bobby was right. I do however wonder what he would’ve said if he was stuck here with me in this dog-turd bus station, where the lounge caters for both arrivals and departures, somewhere in these back-fields of Ohio, watching a little Vespa getting blown around like a dropped chewing gum wrapper on a Chicago street. The wind and storm came from the north; now it comes from everywhere. What can I do to get back in time for my presentation tomorrow in Chicago?  I look out of the greasy, finger stained window. The rain meets the glass two inches in front of my nose horizontally.

‘It’ll blow over,’ says some farmer Joe, probably a local from two fields down the road, ‘it always does.’

Genius. A down-home nougat of wisdom from the corn flats of Ohio. It most certainly always does, it’s called a weather pattern, and weather patterns; unlike other patterns, like those of the floral leaning on my wife’s dress, blow over.

‘You hear that honey? The man said it’ll blow over.’ Mrs 1978 big floral dress speaks just as I was thinking of her. Is that a sign of true love?

‘Blow over, my ass,’ not even bothering to turn around. I can see her reflection in the darkening window, trying to look sympathetic with arms folded, at least, when one of them isn’t shoving a donut into her cake-hole. Then, joy of joys, the baby starts crying. Tommy was fed only an hour ago but now he took up a wailing normally reserved for paid mourners at funerals. He takes after his mother; two peas from the same pod. I snatch half the piece of donut from her hand and shove it in the baby’s face. He shuts up and eats, he always does. It’ll give me a chance to think. If I wasn’t at the presentation at 9am the next day I was out of a job and out on my ass. And here I was stuck near Marion, Ohio. Not even Marion, Indiana, where at least they have the ghost of James Dean for company.

‘Don’t give him crap to eat; it’s not good for him.’ I presume she must’ve sprayed donut as she had a mouthful when I took half of it from her. Shame it didn’t fall backwards.

‘Start taking some of your own advice sweet cheeks and lemme think.’

‘The hell you think you’re talking to? I’m your wife and dammit you better treat me like it.’

I jump with a start as horizontal water turns to horizontal hail, big enough to bring joy to any gin tonic. My reflection mopes back at me in the now-black glass. The overheads come on full and an announcer’s muttering something through a wall of static. Hell you say boy?

‘I said, you skinny son of a bitch that you’d better treat me like it.’ A sugary paw that seems to be growing around the wedding band given aeons before pinches my shoulder and scatters refined fat-powder over my jacket. Enough weather watching. I drop my shoulder and spin round, nose to donut-crusher. The view outside was better. The rustle of the donut bag plays me in.

‘We flew to Cincinnati and we came here to this forsaken land of the corn, to see your father who doesn’t know who you are, your mother who’s too drunk to remember who you are and your shit-for-brains farmhand brother who doesn’t give a ding-dang-doodly who you are. Any why? Because you get…’

A chubby hand with weight behind it pushes me up against the window. A spray like a winter gritter truck fans out to great me. I blink.
‘You leave my family outta this.’ Another push and a podgy finger wave. ‘You leave my poor daddy outta this. Ma mama’s worked double shift trying to bring up Billy and care for pa.’ Tears somehow found their way around her ample cheeks. She’s a-hurting. Not as much as she will be if I lose my job and she has to cut back on her pastries. Hell, this is her fault anyway. Even the lack of rental cars is her fault.

‘Start eating three, yeah just three square meal a day and maybe, just maybe, you could get your ass in the car and travel further than the KFC before you start complaining and threatening to throw up. If we’d brought the car we would’ve been halfway to Chicago now.’

‘Maybe if you had yourself a decent car I’d be able to travel in it; that thing stinks and makes me sick.’

‘It stinks from the shitty Marlboros you smoke and the greasy food you eat. And what about my frigging presentation tomorrow?’ I bang my hand against the window, punctuating every syllable, raised voice barely audible over the wind trying its best to rip the roof off and the windows out.

People start to give us some space and make an unconscious ring around us. Great. End of the world weather outside. Hey honey; let’s watch the Laurel and Hardy couple go hammer and tongs in this excuse for an bus station lounge.

‘Maybe if you were the sort of husband you should be, I wouldn’t eat so much.’

‘What? I do 12 hour days in the studio to keep you in ices and him in diapers.’

‘You don’t know what it’s like bringing up a kid on your own, cos your husband ain’t there half the time.’ Thank God for small mercies. I take a series of deep breaths, my eyes blaze fire. She steps back and takes her hand away.

Noses and glasses peered over sports pages. To hell with them; I have to get out of here. I look around just as a gust hammers the window. Suddenly a garbage bin, the size of a small car, spins away from its post and heads toward the window. A communal intake of breath: even we’ve taken second billing now. I push my wife away from the window but she takes it badly, falls over on her ass and curses me to the four winds, except I think there are more than that outside.

Mr “it’ll blow over” comes over to me, holding up a key. ‘Son, we ain’t going anywhere yet. I got a cousin down in Columbus, you can take my car and leave it with him. You can get a plane from there; sure as hell get you there quicker.’

I liked the sound of down. The storm came from the north, from the lakes. Maybe it wouldn’t get that far. My wife, still sat on the floor, looks at me and shakes her head.

“It’s the job or us,” she says, without a hint of emotion.

I take the key and thank the man, and promise to fill up with gas when I get there. The address of his cousin is written on a torn flyer for a nearby agricultural show and tucked in my back pocket. I go over and ruffle Tommy’s hair and bend down to kiss him.

“Without my job there’ll be no us. Now get up and get going.”

She pulls Tommy away from me and holds him close. “Get away from us you selfish piece of shit.” The last word spat with cobra-like venom.

Against the advice of a security guard I head outside. The door is almost ripped out of my hands as I step out and hail rips into my body as I look for the brown pick-up. It’s sitting 50 yards away, rocking on its springs. I’m finding it hard to breath but tuck my head down and try to run. I fall over twice before getting to the door, fumble with the key in the lock and get inside. I turn the ignition and the truck starts straight away. Even with the lights on visibility is difficult. I head out onto the back roads trying to find my way onto Route 23.

I manage about a dozen miles, the last two through a black wood, without seeing another vehicle, which begins to concern me a little. I think back to my wife and kid sitting there in the airport, no doubt wondering how I can be so callous as to leave them there. Lost in thought I don’t see the fallen tree until it’s almost too late and I slam on the brakes. That was a close one. Now what shall I do?

I’m sitting here feeling the will drain out of me and join the puddles of water around my feet. A head-wrenching ripping sound comes from outside the car and I look up, and see a huge, dark shape crashing down in my direction.

Shadowplay

Living in a daily world of imaginary conflicts, in which the tide of others washed and pushed against him, He lived ever in anger’s twilight. The anger simmered, threatening to boil over but not quite managing to do so. In some ways it would have been better if it had.

In his make-believe world in which everything was a hurt against him, either directly or indirectly, he no longer lived; not in the true sense of the word. Whereas sensibility to his condition was heightened, other important aspects of his character were made obtuse. Happiness was an emotion felt by others. His anger would obtund any sense of enjoyment or achievement and his spiral continued downwards.

The world outside is bright
Spring fills the air
The fields and the trees are colour
Animals awaken from winter slumber
But within him the winter remained
And for him the clocks unchanged
He slivered on ice
where others walked on grass
He shivered with cold
while others warmed to the sun
He withered, his face white
when others danced with new life
He lingered in the shadows
whilst others cavorted in the long,
joyful hours of sunlight
He revered in his head
his sufferance in a world
where hurts imaginary
and conflicts obtusely
Beat him to the ground
into the dust, to be found
Where maybe hope one day
will bring him out;
out into the world again.

Depression can take manifest itself in various guises, this I know from personal experience.  Whilst at the height of my chronic insomnia 4 years ago the hospital put it down to depression which, personally, I couldn’t understand as there was no real motive, so I believed.  I just thought it was the other way around – that I was shot to pieces in the head, imagining scenarios which weren’t there simply because I didn’t sleep.  Thankfully, with loving support and no lack of determination, I managed to untangle myself from the shadow-spectre of this awful and destructive condition. 

During last 4 years I’ve started writing, which is a therapy in itself.  I still don’t sleep anywhere near the recommended 8 hours but whoever recommends this probably has nothing to do all day.  The above, in a very rough form, has been around quite a while, probably written during ‘recovery’ stage.  Ordinarily I avoid personally-related posts, but this is different – I want that reminder there.  I want to remind myself of where I was and where I am and be thankful for it.

C.

p.s. – Shadowplay is a track by Joy Division from their “Unknown Pleasures” album.  It just seemed apt in this case.

How to say goodnight

This started out as a prompt in Writer’s Forum magazine, giving me the title.  I really enjoy these exercises and they can make a wonderful change from whichever project you’re working on.

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

Walking together
Under foggy street light
While you wonder
How to say goodnight

How to say goodnight
Will it end in a kiss?
Or will you return home
And regret the chance missed

Regret the chance missed
As she fades from sight
Wishing you knew
How to say goodnight

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.

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

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.

Broken Silence

The silence hangs like the first fog of autumn; denser than mist, more dangerous.  Blinding even, creating its own shadow.  A shadow falls across the newspaper that rustles at the table, struggling to break through the opaque shroud of silence.  The silence in the kitchen breaks as an oven dish crashes on top of the cooker whatever is inside now basted by metal on metal.

The newspaper, disturbed by the crashing metal, now lies flat and silent.  Its reader casts a last worn glance at the front page, frowns, gasps and smiles.  The smiling reader gets up, puts on his coat to protect him from the cold but not the silence.  The door opens, then closes with a thud.

The closing door is not heard in the kitchen, where knives are sharpened whilst thinking about the reader, with regret at how things have become.  The reader’s keys click and turn in the door which swings open, hinges crying out for oil.  His coat is off but his smile isn’t.

The smile continues as a few words are muttered in the kitchen, above the sound of the extraction fan.  The knives fall silent once again.

“Happy anniversary my darling.”

The cloak of fog disappears as a cork pops in the kitchen.

Amsterdam; funny old town

Amsterdam; funny old town

Rain splats in the Dam Platz

Friendships deeper than the North Sea

Red light window girl for all to see

All smiles and business

Display and pay

Canal boats and bicycles

Blond girls and blue eyes

Coffee shops and red eyes

Amsterdam; funny old town

 

Flash Fiction Friday 094: The Freedom Train by Christopher Farley

Thanks once again Morgen.

MorgEn Bailey - Creative Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninety-fourth piece in this series. This week’s is a 580-worder (with an American theme – happy Independence Day yesterday everyone) by Christopher Farley.

This story will be podcasted in episode 31 (with three other stories) on Sunday 8th September.

The Freedom Train

He closed his eyes for a second.  He finally began to believe it really was over.  The mountain of lies and the rivers, even oceans, of deceit no longer mattered.  The affair was finally finished and could now be considered a thing of his past, where it should stay.  It had become like a tedious end-of-season football match; neither side wanting to lose but both would be content if the referee blew time.  Each had said their piece and each had gone their separate way.  The thought of returning to his old life before his spree as a shoplifter in the…

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The war, Baby.

The lines.  So many of them it seems, interconnected and weaving a spider’s web of expression (exhaustion) on my face.  My face.  My Insomnia.  My card.  I present me and myself to you, my expression (exhaustion) for you to see.  Is it not enough to just get through the day without having killed or been killed, to keep your job, to love your wife/partner/mistress/friends?  What does the world want from me at this hour – always?  Why does it not let me sleep?

We went through the war, Baby.  Almost 15 years, you and I.  Our war.  Troughs deep as trenches, trapping body, poison, blood but offering shelter.  A temporary escape?  Choose the sniper’s bullet or machine-gun mow-down.  The result’s the same.  Bleeding, twitching body on the ground.  Life-draining.

The war Baby.  Those truces. Those long (but not long forgotten) truces.  Not a trough or trench in sight.  Poppy-field sunrise.  Blackbird reveille.  No scars, bullet wounds or barbed-wire kisses. Just us: and the world.  When did you realise that Baby?  Just us.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Senza di te

Lo zucchero è amaro

senza di te

Il giorno passa lentamente

senza di te

Non ho voglia di sorridere

senza di te

Spero che non è per sempre

senza di te

She

She whispers to me

the sound of the spring snowmelt

She holds me

in a snow-chain grip

She loves me

I’m pierced by an icicle

I slide unhindered

on black ice beneath me

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

 

 

 

 

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