Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Letter to Chrystal

Dear Chrystal,

I've been meaning to write you back for a while and I hope you can forgive me. I kept meaning to get some words down on paper for you but things kept coming up and I just wasn't able to get it done. Please don't hate me for that, I never meant to leave it so long.
I've been doing okay. I've taken some work at a bar called the Bucket of Blood. Yeah I know, the name sucks but the pay is alright. As you'd expect the place is a dive but the rest of the staff are cool and the manager pays on time. I work as hard as I can but I never suspect it's enough. I met a girl there and she liked my hair. We started seeing each other for a while but I got scared and stopped calling her back. I don't know why I do these things, but it happens. Well I messed up. I shouldn't go into details but I don't have anyone else to tell. I found out later she'd been fucking some other guy. He lived across the road from her and so I went round there and beat him up pretty bad. I left him in a mess. I'm not proud. I had to take up smoking again for a while just to get over it. I wonder if I should go back to find out if he died, but I haven't heard anything or read about him in the local papers, so I suspect he is fine. I'm a bad person, Chryst, but you know that. You were always right. I shoulda turned myself in that time when we were on the coast. Fuck. Let's forget those times. The guy'll be alright. Let God be my judge and let's move on.

My parents aren't so good, but thanks for asking. My dad hasn't been the same since he found out my mother was cheating on him. He kicked her out the house and I haven't heard from her since. I don't know where she went. I go pay my old man a visit about every fortnight. We just sit there and drink beer and watch the racing. He never says much, but that's okay because I never know what to say to him anymore.

I hear you're engaged now and have a kid on the way. That's fantastic. You've deserved it after all you've been through and I know you'll get that cut of happiness you've always been searching for. "Smiles on rainbows" and all that poetry you spoke of has finally come true. Sometimes I lay awake at night, thinking. It's been easier to sleep since I heard your good news. I love you Chryst, and I always will. Our hearts are the same even when they belong to others. Stay safe and stay true.

I'll try and come visit you some time. I managed to fix my car up at last and now it's running again, so it shouldn't be too hard to travel out to you. Let me know, yeah? Write back soon and tell me everything.



P.S., I finally took your advice and quit eating meat. At last you can take me to that restaurant you’ve always raved about. I’d appreciate it now. My body certainly does; I’ve never felt healthier.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Isolation Up the Walls

“50 years is a long time to be alone. It’s even longer if you’re with somebody. But I don’t really know. I been alone too long to know much of anythin’ anymo’. I like it that way, but I cain’t even tell. Sometimes I think I got comp’ny, but I’m jus' staring at ma reflection in the mirror. Sometimes it’s jus' a spoon. If the spoon’s clean. I cain’t remember the last time I washed ma spoons though. I never have guests to share ‘em with. Except that one guy, who talks at me.  He even talks over me. But I like what he says. I like how he thinks. Sometimes he even smiles, jus' fo’ me. But I cain’t never be too sure if it’s a friend, or if it’s jus' me. I don’t think I care. Caring’s too diff’caught. Most things are, to be 'onest. I’m jus' happy to git things off ma chest. To anyone who’s lis’ning. If anyone’s even lis’ning. When they do, they never say much back. So I git bored, and head to the kitchen. Stick ma head in the fridge and look for food that ain’t even there. It’s never there. But I look anyway. I like it that way. I don’t go hungry and I don’t go lonesome. But nothing’s ever there. 50 years is a long time to be alone. It’s even longer if you’re with somebody. That’s why I killed ma dawg. And I loved that dawg. But it always wanted feeding. Petting. It never said much neither. It’d maybe bark, but it’d run round and cause all kinds of fuss and trouble. I preferred what the other guy had to say and had to do. He gave me no worries at all.  If I turned ma back he gave me peace. Let me go to sleep if I could. I always tried, but the thing you find with sleeping is that it’s always a lot harder to do than you’d think it’d be. You wanna close yo' eyes and go, but that ain’t never the case. I done too little with ma days to sleep anyhow. And I done too much that it keeps me awake thinkin’ of ‘em all. I don’t care anyhow. I git alon’ fine with all the sleep I can manage. I git comp’ny too.  Like that one guy who looks jus' like me. He’s ma fave’rite. Always got good things t’say. And he don’ judge me for killin’ ma dawg. I tells ya. 50 years is a lowng time to be alone. But I wouldn’ have it any other way.”

He just kept on like that for hours on end. He’d do it if I was listening or if I wasn’t. He didn’t really care. I don’t think he noticed. He stunk pretty bad and so did his place, but I kinda liked that about him. He had character. It was alluring. Sometimes he’d get annoyed with me and chase me out, but I’d come back. He often left his door open to me, to anybody. He didn’t have much in the way of things and so he didn’t care about security. He’d just sit, or sometimes he’d stand, and he’d holler all this crap at the walls. He would keep on like that for hours on end. Just hollering anything that came into his head. He had that accent too that made him sound like a dumb hick. A bastard of incest. He sounded like a bad actor who had never been to the south but was never gonna let that stop him from doing his best impression of a cowboy or a Nascar driver. I didn’t think much of him, but his house was warm and he never did me any harm. I liked his dog too. I liked his place and I liked his dog, but he would go on for hours, just rambling. Eventually I’d grow tired of him and when that happened I’d just spread my wings and get outta there. I had better shit to smell. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Housemaids Won't Sing the Blues

She was short and she was wide and she wore a perm in her hair. She looked Spanish, but that was often expected of her because she was a maid. Her mother was from Norway and her father somewhere else. She always suspected he was Irish, but she never knew for sure and she never asked. She’d move around the house she cleaned, whistling every song she ever heard played on the radio. She didn’t get to listen to music often, but she picked up melodies quickly. She’d dress in a pastel-coloured blouse and an apron splattered with small flowers. Tulips, roses, whatever. It was cream behind the plants and always covered in a thin film of dirt. She kept whistling and she kept cleaning. Dusting, polishing, whatever. Her mind would wander back to her past but she would never dwell, not for too long. She had killed a man. No court had convicted her. No evidence was ever found. Nobody who knew enough about the situation to form an opinion blamed her, but deep in her heart she knew she killed a man and her conscience would never let it go. She just scrubbed the dried urine off the toilet seat and continued with her life. She had a job and a roof over her head. She had enough to get drunk on a Tuesday afternoon when she was afforded a day off. And she had recently managed to save a little up for a week away by the sea. It was fast approaching and she’d smile at the thought of the sand between her toes. She imagined the waves breaking into foam. And she’d stand there and watch and rejoice the fact that she was free. But forever mourn for her soul. She’d look to her God and pray to his tender side. She was a murderer. A killer. It played on her mind continually, but she fought against it. She could only hope that as the sea caressed the sand beneath her feet, she’d finally forget.

More than once her ability to cope with her thoughts had pushed her to her very limit. The first time it happened, she was crossing the footbridge that she passed over on her way home when she stopped and peered over the edge. She stared longingly at the cars that drove beneath and tried to pick her moment. She was seduced. She wanted to land as the wheels hit her spine. No time to brake. No time for the driver to be blamed. She couldn’t trust the tarmac to finish her off and she didn’t want a car to miss. She had to time it right. Car after car passed on by, but that railing was just too damn difficult to get a leg over with ease. She thought she had it when a collection of school kids, 8-10 year olds, stepped on to the bridge. She let go of the railing and walked home. No kid needed to see this.

The second time around came when she found the cord for his dressing gown sitting loose on the bed.  When she picked it up she was drawn to how soft it felt between her fingertips. The cotton was thick yet silk-like. She raised it to her cheek and closed her eyes tight, breathing deep and letting out a groan. She wanted this feeling on her forever, nothing else mattered. She could escape with it and go in comfort. She wandered from room to room, looking for a location, with the cord trailing on the floor behind her. The bedroom would do. It had a view from the window that she found romantic and so began tying her knots. She looped the cord around her neck and fastened it as best she could to the hook on the back of the door. She had yanked on that hook several times to see if it would hold her weight and it did, it was strong and it would suffice.  She made her peace with her lord and let go. The world turned to black and she was gone. She was crumpled on the floor with her neck free of the cord when she finally reopened her eyes. The hook held. The knot did not.

So she found hope in the beach. She had aimed for it for a long time and knew she’d make it okay. The ocean could cleanse anything and so no doubt it could cleanse her soul. Her pride was withered and her conscience filthy and she needed this trip to make things bearable again. Her boss had treated her alright and now she had this extra time off work, too. She had earned it. She’d worked overtime for him and it had left her apron stained and dried and stiff and her conscience filthier than before, but like her apron her conscience had hardened. It had provided her with the cash that was necessary to escape. She finally had her getaway and she would feel pure again. Her God was forgiving. She flushed the chain and looked for her vacuum cleaner. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Only Train Out of Town

The girl sat on the edge of the bench, leaning forward, with her elbows on her knees. Dressed in blue jeans, trainers and a green overcoat buttoned up, she sucked on a cigarette and looked pensive, slightly nervous, as her eyes flickered up to the timetable above the platform. 36 minutes remained. She exhaled, with the cigarette perched between her first two fingers whilst her thumb picked at the nail of her third finger. Between her feet sat shopping bags of clothes she didn’t really want and certainly didn’t need or could afford, but buying them made her feel warm, made her feel like things were okay for a short while. She wasn’t alone, either. Next to her sat a young boy. He looked about 6 or 7, with mousey brown hair and grey eyes. He hummed aeroplane noises as he waved a small toy car in front of his face. His lip was quivering and occasionally his entire body would shudder from the cold, but he was content. He was totally absorbed in his plastic plaything.  His right cheek bore a fresh scar from colliding with the edge of a radiator having been pushed down a flight of stairs. He had been told that it had knocked him out for ten minutes, but he was still unsure what had actually happened. He couldn’t really remember. It was fuzzy to him. Curiously running his index finger over the scar, he looked up at the girl. To a stranger she looked no older than 17 or 18, but he knew that wasn’t true, he knew she was much older than that. He looked at her lovingly. He adored the way she would tuck her hair behind her ear, but he remained unconvinced about her choice of earrings today. Satisfied she was paying no attention to him he quickly observed the rest of the platform before slipping the finger from his scar up into his nose and rummaging around. No luck today, he was empty. He wiped his finger on his leg anyway, just to be safe, but also partly out of habit. He continued to wave the car in his left hand, now preferring helicopter noises even though he found them difficult to do. He was proud when he managed to click his tongue against the roof of his mouth just right. He’d be a pilot someday, he just knew it.  He squinted at the timetable, 34 minutes remained.

The kid’s stomach growled. He hoped she didn’t hear it, but guessed she was too absorbed in her own thoughts to have noticed. He wished he could ask her to take him back inside the station to the fast food shop so he could get a cheeseburger. He’d get the kind that came with bacon. Hopefully some chips too. And a drink of lemonade from a paper cup and lots of ice that would make a loud slurping noise when it was getting empty. He could throw the left over ice for the birds or he could play with the plastic lid, pushing the bubbles on it in and out. He always liked doing that. He stayed quiet. He knew it was best not to ask. She’d say something about saving money. He never understood that though; she was always buying clothes for herself but they could never get takeaway food. If she quit smoking maybe they could eat. She lit another cigarette and he let out a sigh.

The girl finished the cigarette and tried to flick it onto the tracks. She failed. It fell lifelessly within a foot of the bench. She pushed her heel into it and ground it along the platform, leaving a trail of broken ash behind it. She stared down at the remains. It reminded her of a slug trail, but powdered and black. It looked like the leftovers of an old, dried lava flow. She continued to look at the mess and pondered it. In truth she didn’t know what it looked like and she didn’t really care. She thought it looked sad and lonely. She took a glance around. Everything looked sad and lonely. She turned back to her left to where the kid was sitting. He had his feet up on the bench and, resting his chin on his knees and hugging his shins, was staring at his shoes. She wanted to reach out and put an arm around him. She wanted to pull him close and place a kiss on the top of his head, tell him that everything would be okay. Tell him that she knew where they were going. She couldn’t bring herself to do it. She couldn't lie, not to him. She had no idea what awaited them on the other end of the train journey. She looked back up at the clock. 28 minutes remained.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


There it goes. Yapping once, twice, three times. Some kind of hellhound serenading tonight's full moon whilst I lay in my bed wide-eyed, staring at the ceiling and waiting for sleep to drag me into an oblivion of dreams. I consider shutting the window to give myself some peace but know that I am in a stage of sleeplessness between consciousness and the land of nod. I'm in some kind of limbo. I'm paralysed. My senses are too sharp to sleep but I'm too tired to move. I'm trapped. I wait, and listen to the barks, to the growls, to the cries of desperate pain. I have no idea what the noise is, but it is continuously flooding through my window and it is relentless. It's starting to feel like torture.

Beneath my bed something felt unnatural; it creaked, shuddered violently and burst into life. I clung to the sheets, I clung to the mattress, and I clung on to anything that was in arms' reach. I was shitting my pants. The bed was moving uncontrollably and I had no idea why. The legs thumped hard against the cold, wooden floorboards as the thing started to lift into the air. I had no idea what was happening and I was trying not to lose my nerve completely. I exhaled deeply in a vain attempt to extinguish my panic. I couldn’t get a grip – on neither my emotions nor the bed beneath me.  If only I didn't bite my nails I would have something to dig into the mattress. I was scared. I was having reruns of horrible Hollywood horror movies running through my mind and none of them were any good and none of them were supplying any answers. The bed was moving by itself. Nothing else in my room was moving, it was just the bed. I was sober too, so I couldn't blame it on the drink and stretch a leg out, lay it on the floor and stop the world from spinning around me. It was alive and it was moving. I felt it, I heard it. I could even sense its pulse. This couldn't be real. I had to wake up. I had to challenge this nightmare. It erupted. My bed erupted upwards, towards the ceiling and bolted like a frightened colt, fleeing a venom filled cobra, and darted towards the window. My bed, which on so many nights had been my sanctuary was now inexplicably out of control.  The covers would be my only protection. I'd duck beneath them and find safety. I'd revert to a child and pretend to be mining some precious material before the mine would collapse, turning me into a martyr and leave a beautiful girl behind to mourn my loss. If I believed that, then I really was stuck in the world of dreams. I lifted my head above the covers and saw the window explode into fragments of diamonds as the bed hovered in the sky above the street. The moon was bright and full and gloating. The clouds cowered out of sight. The night was beautiful and my sheets were grubby. I inhaled hard on the clear night air and tried to fall back to sleep.

And then it tilted downwards. Like a cold, heartless killer - calm in the act and dangerously patient - the nose of the machine I floated on aimed directly at the ground and, shooting to kill, the thing plummeted. Surely I was done. It was the final chapter. Here'd be the story that might take up an inch or two of the local newspaper if anybody cared or even if it had just been a quiet week. Down, down it went. I expected to snap out of it. To jerk, twist and panic and find myself in between the sheets with my heart tapping on the inside of my chest as though it was begging to be let out and finally set free. It had decided that it could take no more suffering. There'd be sweat, too.  It would be gathered on my forehead and my temples. It would be gathered on my palms and the soles of my feet. Maybe even beneath my arms, too. My eyes would part and absorb the familiarity of my walls, but it never came. Down, down I went instead. Wind in my hair, stomach in my mouth, testicles six feet above me, still in the air from where I was falling. The ground grew and swelled. The pavement was spinning towards my face. I should open my eyes. Where was the jolted jump and return to safety? Down, down, down I continued.

Then it happened. The lights came on. I was safe. I peeled my eyes open prepared for the row of small spotlights of my bedroom ceiling staring back at me, but was fully aware I shut them all off before I crawled into my resting place. It must be morning, with the light coming in through the window. My curtains are thick and always closed tight. Nothing gets through them. I stared ahead and saw nothing but light. My peripheral vision was hazy - grey turning to black. The harder I stared the brighter and more focussed the light became. Soon there'd be nothing but light as it approached me. I had tunnel-vision. Now was the time to wake up. Pinch me, punch me, even fuck me, but this couldn't be it, not like this. A light at the end of the tunnel? Bullshit. I wanted a desperate, eternal emptiness. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to wake up.

Monday, 8 August 2011

$10 Funeral

My brother is in jail for public indecency and statutory rape, my sister is now dead and I am drunk. I'm staring at my suit, spread out lifelessly on my bed and I am trying my hardest to think straight. It's the only suit I own and it's stained, it's torn and it doesn't fit. At least it's black; it does have that going for it. I cannot afford to go out and buy a new one but there is a chance I might be able to get enough money together for it to be dry-cleaned. The rips I can deal with myself, somehow. Maybe I should go visit my Grandparents. It's been a while and now seems like as good a time as any. After all, there is the impending funeral and my Grandmother is a deft hand at sewing.

I knock four times before I get a response. They're expecting me but they can't hear me. I know because from the front porch I can hear the vacuum cleaner. The piece of shit. It sounds worse than a screaming child in a supermarket, but my Grandmother swears by it. She's a loyal creature and she hates change. She hates a lot of things. She's a hard creature to impress and if you do, she'll stand by you forever. Regardless. Stepping into the living-room, I look at the piece of shit, asleep on the floor. It's held together by a tangled, knotted tape-measure. I've got to give it to her, my Grandmother is creative; she can find a use for anything in her sewing basket and she adamantly refuses to give up on that piece of shit vacuum cleaner. Such a stubborn creature, if she wasn't such a hard-nosed bitch at times, she would be quite beautiful. She's old, I should be more respectful towards her, but she does make it hard. I thought highly of her handiwork, that'll have to do. She sits me down in a dusty old rocking chair and insists on getting me some coffee. Black, no sugar.

The coffee is vile. It tastes like hot water with a hint of coffee. So I secretly add a nip when they're not looking. It's not hard to pick my moment. My Grandmother is constantly pottering about in the kitchen and my Grandfather refuses to take his eyes off the television set. He barely acknowledged my entrance. Not that I really care; since my mother died we have had very little to say to each other. For some reason I think he blames me for her demise. He doesn't want me in his house. My Grandmother doesn't mind me being here and what she says, goes. Tough shit, Grandpa. In truth, my Grandmother only tolerates me because she respects how long I did stick around for my mother; I think she sympathises because she knew about a lot that went on in that house. Also, I'm family; she won't turn her back on family, irrespective of the intensity of hatred she harbours. Most importantly, I’m paying for the funeral. (Please don’t ask me how). I take another sip from my cup. With my beautiful addition, it now tastes like hot, watered-down bourbon with a hint of coffee. Even with the whiskey it didn't taste any good, but it was definitely an improvement. I could happily have another.

I look over at my Grandfather, who is deeply absorbed into a shamanic, trance-like fixation upon the flickering lights and rumbling sounds of the television screen. He’s skinny and fragile. He looks weak. I’m not sure his legs will be strong enough to carry him upstairs and I’m fairly confident that he wouldn’t want them to take him that far away from his precious television set. I wonder if he actually sleeps downstairs, in the armchair with the T.V. on. I hate to think where he pisses. He scowls at the screen and changes the channel. It’s a rerun of some kind of old detective show. He turns the volume up.

My Grandmother shuffled back into the room. She had a plate of stale biscuits set out neatly on her best crockery and her finest smile spread across her face. I felt terrible.
"It's lovely to see you, it's been too long. Can I get you a biscuit?"
She put on such a brave face. She was stoic. I was stoic. It was as though my sister's death and her funeral meant nothing to either of us. There was nothing left between us, so we pushed that behind us and got onto the reason for my visit.
"Gram, can I ask you a favour?"
"Of course"
She was too sweet.
"My onl...The sui...You see..."
I didn't know where or how to begin. I felt lousy. This woman hated my guts, but would clearly do anything for me and I had turned up out of nowhere just to ask her a favour and then disappear again. I had to ignore the guilt. Families are fucked up beasts; there's just too much politics involved. I was here so that I could look good for my sister and I had to remember that.
"It's to do with the funeral. It's not a big thing; it's just the suit I was hoping to wear for it. I have a bit of a hole in it and I wanted to get it fixed and it turns out I don't have anything at home that I can use to fix it. I was wondering if you ha..."
"Oh, sure honey, just bring it round and I'll see what I can do. I'll fix it up a treat. Make you look perfect for our..."
She choked back a tear. I needed to get out of there, it was proving too much for me and the supply of bad coffee had run dry. I didn't feel bold enough to drink straight from my concealed hit flask and so I decided it was best to get out of there before I disappointed my family further. I couldn't handle giving them another reason for hating me by openly drinking in front of them at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.
"Thanks, Gram! I'll give you a call and bring it round soon. Thanks. I really appreciate this."
With that I made my excuses, thanked her for the coffee and made my departure. I doubt my Grandfather even noticed I had left.

*             *             *

I wish I could say it was a freak accident, but it wasn't; she had it coming. She decided to fuck a horse and it split her open. Well that's a lie. But she did get kicked in the chest by an over-excited horse and it destroyed her. Goodbye Kathy Slim. It was nice to know you. A real delight. Who would've guessed the clean-cut, tea-total veterinarian-in-training would kick the bucket before her unemployed, degenerate, alcoholic, older brother? Life is a fucked up beast and just like politics, it's never fair. Good things just aren't meant to happen to anyone in our family and the worst things happen to those who are good people, trying to do the right thing. Maybe the bottom of the bottle is the safest place for me to be. Maybe I should kill a hooker tonight then maybe I'd live forever. Shit, I haven't eaten anything in days. I guess that's the only upside of this tragedy, I'm too sad to care that my fridge is empty. One last can of beer and half a bottle of gin will have to do me for tonight. That orange juice is probably out of date, but it'll work as a mixer. One thing's for sure, I can't feel any worse tomorrow than I do now.

*             *             *

The silence in the room was burning my eyes and tearing at my gut. In my spot on the pew, I could feel my hands beginning to tremble. I thought my entire body was going to collapse in on itself in a series of violent convulsions. I kept my head bowed and found solace in my feet. I withdrew into my own little world where only my toes and I existed and I was safe. Best of all, I was finally starting to feel numb. Maybe there was hope for me yet.

The heat was getting too much. The room was dimly lit and only a few beams of sunlight seemed to pass through, showing the dust dance in the air. I could feel the beads of sweat starting to gather at my temples by my hair line. Every now and then one would slip down my spine and even a few rolled across my cheeks. But, for all my sadness and immeasurable misery, my eyes remained dry. I lifted my chin to get a view that wasn't of my toes in my shoes and stared to the front, at the minister. Behind him lay Kathy. The centre of attention. Nothing but love for her today. She lay there peacefully. We were all burning in this heat and she couldn't feel a thing. I envied her for that.

Lifting my eyes up out of my stupor and scanning the glum faces I searched longingly for that of my brother's. I couldn't seem to see him anywhere. I had made all the necessary arrangements with the prison and he was expected. Where are you Joe? Where are you? Kathy was the best thing to happen to us; c'mon Joe, you should be here by now.

Our Grandmother showed. I was unsurprised to see her dressed elegantly in black, standing alone at the back. She didn't acknowledge me, and left as soon as she could. I knew my Grandfather was still seated in front of his television set. I imagine he would be watching the horses. He always did. He was the man responsible for introducing my father to it. That's how they bonded. That's how he got my Grandfather's consent when asking for my mother's hand in marriage and I guess it's where Kathy got her - eventually fatal - love for equestrianism from.

The rain was starting to fall outside. It reminded me of a line of a book I once borrowed off of Kathy. "Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on". My sister lent me a lot of books when we were younger and a lot of them now blur into one. I'm pretty sure it was the Great Gatsby. Or it could've been The Grapes of Wrath but I can't say for certain. I doubt it matters. I'm not entirely convinced I understand the relevance of remembering that quote at this exact moment, or if it is any consolation. I'd tell myself I should start to read more, like I used to. Maybe go through Kathy's collection and pick out my favourites to read over and over again, and donate the rest to charity. It's a nice thought, but I know it'll never happen. I remember reading one that used to belong to an old drunk. There were crazy scribblings in the margin. "We agree" or "We disagree, how disappointing" made regular appearances. I finally gave up when I saw the word 'SATAN' etched in large, bright red capital letters. I erased it as best I could and, with it, the legacy of another drunk was gone forever. Thinking about those old, dog-eared second-hand books did make me realise one thing for certain. I was going to miss that little sister of mine. I will never have another. Not that I'd want to. She was irreplaceable.

*             *             *

I still remember the day I moved out. She cried her eyes out. She begged me to stay. She was still too young to understand the reasons for me leaving and I felt bad that I couldn't sit down and tell her. I couldn't tell anyone. She had it all right. She wasn't treated the same way I was and my mother didn't need me around, so I could get out. I'd taken to the drink to dull my memories and didn't want them to be around that. Above all, I really didn't want to be around my step-father. If I stayed under the same roof as him any longer I would've killed the bastard. I couldn't put my mother through that. I couldn't put Kathy through it either. It would have destroyed them. So I just slipped out the front door and into the world. Sixteen and struggling at school. I had £58 in my pocket and no place to go. Kathy gave me an extra 12 that she had been saving and I was on my way. I placed a kiss on her forehead, hugged her tight and left. I promised myself I'd send her something in the post. Six months passed before I sent my first letter. It was two years before I saw her face again. Our mother's funeral.

Then there was the evening she decided she wanted to be a veterinarian. Our step-father decided that it would be a good idea to lay down some poison to rid the mice that had made a home in our house, and on one of the nights he was out drinking, or gambling or screwing whatever piece of cheap trash that peaked his sexual interest, Kathy found the little one that slept beneath her bed that she had befriended, crawling across the kitchen floor and desperately struggling for air. The poison had taken its toll and the tiny creature no longer stood a chance. It was suffering. I was left with no choice and with a heavy heart I took the scurrying fiend out into the garden and ended it with a shovel. I buried it beneath the apple tree as Kathy read him his rites and we went inside. I held her for an hour as she sobbed violently into my shoulder, swearing to never allow another bad thing happen to any living being ever again. That little girl was ten and remained true to her word until her last day. What a fucking angel.

*             *             *

Stepping out of the little church hall and into the fresh air, I couldn't help but be hit by the smell of the damp left by the rain that was cutting through the heat of the day. It left the air cool and it was more than welcome. I was in a place of overbearing humidity. Physically comfortable and, now, emotionally melancholy, I walked out into the light and back to my hole.

I was nearly there and nearly home. There it stood, the dilapidated building that housed the apartment which was the corner of this world in which I habituated and fended for survival within. Looking sadder than I currently felt, the building was two-storeys high and L-shaped. Walking into the courtyard that rested in the heart of the triangle that the building formed, my flat sat on the upper floor of the wing on the right. The grass out front was patchy and the hedges were long dead and resembled skeletons - made of twigs - guarding a depressed palace. The brickwork was once a bright red but now dirtied from pollution and cracked, whilst the paint around the window-frames was white and chipped and peeling away. My front door was last in the line and although it had no door number attached, you could still see the outline of the ‘12’ embedded into the blue paintwork from where it used to hang before it was unjustly stolen. It had hardly been a crime worth reporting, but one of many in the area. The door had its own private set of black iron stairs leading up to it. Or maybe they were steel. Who knew? It was the only thing the flat had going for it. It was nice to have a balcony, but so did everyone else. So that was no big deal. That private staircase was the clincher when I moved in all those years ago.

There was a time when I would casually hurdle these steps two at a time. Not today. I couldn't face them. I could barely lift my feet high enough to take the first one, but I needed to get home and so I dragged my heels behind me as high as I could to get me to my bed. The metal clunked and echoed as my boot heels hit the floor of each step. It was a familiar sound. It was the sound that I was nearly home. It was a noise that had often terrorised my bladder. It was a sound that had too frequently triggered an uncontrollable desire to urinate before I would have any chance of making it inside. It would come out of nowhere. I'd rush to the door and fumble in my pockets and desperately try to find my keys, only to pull them out to see a bundle in front of me that is too large for words - so many keys left that I no longer use - but I'd try to separate them anyway and panic further as I'd get the ones I needed but by this point I'd be shaking as I'd aim them at the door knowing I'm not there yet but so close and struggling to hold on, and I'd scratch the precious key across the lock in desperation without being quite able to get them inside. I never failed to make it. I guess lady luck was always on my side. Fortunately she was back and this evening my bladder had enough respect not to play such games and allowed me to enter my home with ease.

Closing my apartment door behind me, I noticed the red light of my answering machine flashing a solitary "1". That was uncommon. Nobody ever rang me. It was rare enough that I often wondered why I even had the contraption attached to my telephone. Then I remembered. It was a gift from an old girlfriend who became tired and pissed at me never answering the phone. She had a point. Not that I ever returned the messages. It was no wonder why we didn't stay together long. I should throw that thing out. Bad memories. The phone could go with it. I hated them both and just wanted to be left alone. I'd listen to the message first.

"Hello, Mr Slim? It's Duncan Barnaby here. We spoke the other day about your brother, Joe, being given a day release to attend a funeral." I couldn't help but wonder why he was being so informal. It seemed strange, but I let the message play on. "Well, Mr. Slim, I'm reluctant to tell you that Joe will be unable to attend the funeral. There was an incident. We recommend you contacting us immediately. I expect to hear from you soon." The line went dead before being followed by the usual dull tone of the answering machine that always came at the end of messages.

I didn't need to contact them to know what happened. I knew Joe all too well. It'd all got too much for him. There was no doubt he had done himself in, it was just a matter of how. At least I was now prepared for a funeral. I had everything I needed. I could say goodbye and mourn his end properly. I cracked open a bottle and slumped into my chair. I noticed a large candle was burning. God knows how long it had been going for and God knows how it hadn't somehow managed to burn the house down. I blew it out and watched the trail of smoke rise and dance before my eyes and allowed the scent to fill my nose. I closed my eyes and wished that I knew how to cry. There was only supposed to be one funeral; it's been a bad, bad day.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

White Line Fever

I had accumulated gambling debts that I had no way of repaying and when the debt-collector came to break my legs, I broke his neck. At least I think I broke it - I can't be too sure. I had knocked him down and I had knocked him out. I don't know how I managed it, but it was a desperate moment and I had no choice. I was a rat with its back to the wall, snarling its teeth in a fight to the end with a rabid fox and I came out alive. I didn't know if he survived the blows or not, but I wasn't planning on sticking around to find out if he had died. I got scared and I fled. I packed up my things and I took to the road.

Dylan had taught me that if you want to hide a tree, you should hide it in a forest where nobody would find it. Maybe I should hide in a casino. All the local croupiers knew my face and knew my name and ultimately would know I was on the lam from my creditors, so that wouldn't work. I'd spent my entire life running from one thing or another, so maybe the road was the place for me to be. I'd make sure I'd never be found.

I can't tell you how much time has passed or even where I've ended up. I might have even lost my mind. I've been on the road for so long now that they've all blurred into one. Like the way the lines in the middle of the road blur into one as you're driving. White line fever was driving me insane. It was punishing me for my sins. There was very little money left in my pocket and I had just blown the last of it on coffee, which was burnt and luke-warm. If I had a little more I could've bought myself a sandwich or a slice of cake or something, anything solid, and then maybe I'd feel satisfied right now. Oh well. Such is life on the road, life on the run. I need to get from A to B. A is no home for me now and I still have no idea where B is, but that's exactly where I'm heading and I'm going to get there someday.

Well, now I was outside and hungry, licking the film of stale coffee off my teeth and staring hopefully to the horizon at the end of the road with the casual breeze in the air pushing my hair around like an adolescent bully. My thumb was erect but directionless. If I got a lift I didn't care where it took me, it just needed to get me out of here. Wherever here actually was. I was now definitely in the middle of nowhere but at least it wasn't the middle of the night and dark. It was getting there though. It was that eerie period between sun-down and moonrise. There were no planets overhead and no stars keeping an eye on whatever shit we got up to down here. The roadside cafe's light was on. Purple, triangular and neon with a coffee cup in the middle. It was a horrid sight but it provided a good leaning post. Soon my lift would come. My stomach growled.

Leaning against my post with the thumb out, waiting, waiting, my mind started to drift into the depths and shallows and through the ripples and waves of my ever flowing stream of imagination as it meandered to the abyss of the ocean. If I were a cowboy I wouldn't need to be here; I could climb on top of a horse and just ride into the Sun. If only. All the horses were gone and couldn't be ridden. There are now too many dogs to feed and broken vases to be glued. I could hitch a ride in a car, with a family inside and they'd welcome me in to join them on their trip to the nearest aquarium they could find, or they could spray my face with the dust and debris that their car wheels spat out as they passed by. Another embryo would take its place on the horizon and eventually grow up to become a vehicle. A truck. A truck would do, with its mysterious bounty of treasure for its cargo as the family car disappears forever with the cowboy and the horses. I wave the truck down and I'm allowed on board.

The driver was large and breathing heavily. He wore a dirty, green trucker's cap and a droopy moustache, which provided shelter for the heavily chewed toothpick hanging from his mouth. The cab smelled of stale sweat and the leather seats were cracked, with patches of duct-tape holding in their stuffing and keeping them alive. He had a strangely sinister looking Jesus statue hanging from his rear-view mirror by its ankle.

As I settled in my seat in the cab, I heard the door lock behind me. The trucker looked into my face with his lonely, longing eyes and whispered "Yo' mighty purty."


He reached for my thigh and squeezed tight and I knew from now on I'd be running on adrenaline and instinct. I thrust my forearm upwards into the flat of his chin and pulled my leg free of his grip. Seeing him reach for the handle of the gun beneath his chair, I pulled the knife concealed in my boot and thrust it thrice into his side. Steel on bone, steel on bone, steel in flesh. Bingo. It slid right between the ribs. The blade pierced meat, flesh and organs. He screamed like a sinful dog fleeing Hell with its tail set on fire by Satan's breath. I raised my free hand high and brought it down as hard as I could on his temple to silence the wails. I pounded his skull repeatedly and his head flopped back and forth on the hinge of his neck like a fish on shore fighting for life whilst the fisherman takes his proud photographs. Near his ribcage, the blood stain had formed and was growing rapidly, turning his chequered shirt a dirty mauve. It didn't take long at all before his eyes glazed over and he was gone. This time I was certain.

Not again. I had to think. I couldn't leave him here in the truck and get out, back in front of the roadside cafe and hitch another ride. Someone would notice. I'd get clocked. I was already on the run and couldn't hang around. I'd have to move him somehow and drive the truck out of here myself. If only I knew how. There had to be a way. Run or drive. I could do neither.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Farming of Wasps

Wasps; nature's way of making us look like dickheads.
Though it could be worse
than the wasp.
Condom - used - pulled from dog's mouth
found out back
in your yard.
Or taking a shovel to mouse
on death's door
a baby, not yet grown
crawling languidly across the kitchen floor.
     He cried
in pain
                She cried
                              He died.

Returning the shovel to shed
I couldn't fight it
though I felt it
I had done the right thing
    but I still felt a dickhead.
      Such things that I do
        I'll always own up to.
As for the used condom...


No comment.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ol' Cousin Ike

The Houston sun was high and hot. The air was thick and humid. With no electricity to power the air-conditioning it was hard to breathe, let alone move. Having exhausted our back-catalogue of card games and tricks, and with only 4 strings left on the only acoustic guitar available to us, there was now very little to do to pass the time other than to sit on the back porch, sipping warm, unrefrigerated beer and listen to whatever station the battery-powered radio was capable of picking up.

We found the news and the message was the same and repeated frequently. "There is no looting in Texas". As the hours wore by, I could feel the sweat form beneath my hair and my bladder grow large and hard; I faded in and out of sleep as my ears grew numb to the message. "Stores are robbed every day, sometimes at gunpoint. These are called robberies. If it happens after a hurricane, during a city-wide power cut, it is still a robbery and not looting". They stressed, "There is no looting in Texas!"

I'm still not sure how well the message sank in, or if everybody believed it. On the other side of the road, in four-foot tall letters, spray painted on the shutters of the, temporarily closed, tattoo parlour were the words: "YOU LOOT, WE SHOOT!". I guess that's why nobody went looting in Texas.

Friday, 1 July 2011

When Nature Calls, Hang Up.

It was just another one of those nights. One of the good ones. Coming out of a club, drunk, with a pretty girl on my arm. I'd like to pretend they happened more often, but in truth they don't, but that is besides the point. Covered in a thin film of sweat from drinking too much and trying to dance in a massively overpopulated space, the warm, late-summer air was doing very little to cool me down. I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, preferably with the pretty-girl-in-tow.

I wanted to move on, she wanted to stay. Or at least wait. She had a friend still inside and wanted to make sure she was okay and had a way of getting home that wouldn't see her molested or regaining consciousness in a gutter by the side of the road at 6 o'clock in the morning when the milkman made his route past her. She was a good friend. But it left me in a dilemma as I really needed to get moving. Nature called.

As much as I love booze, at times it is not my friend. Taking more effect on my body than on my mind, I could feel it pressing down on my bladder and making an overly desperate attempt to escape. An unwanted bid for freedom by my body's unwanted fluid. Now was not a good time. I had to let it loose and I didn't want to lose the girl. There was no way I was going to sit with this feeling on a bus back to wherever we were going to end up and I sure as hell didn't want to be waiting - hopping from one foot to the other - for her friend to finally come out of the club. Life would be so much easier if I was just allowed back in to the club to drain. The bouncers were having none of it. They had worked far too hard to get anyone and everyone out in the first place that they weren't going to jump at the idea of undoing that by letting anyone back inside. I had to be the dirtbag. I had to find a private place in public.

My first question was "where to go?" The club spilled out into a trash-filled, dirty, little side-street and usually that would be enough. It would be a haven for the deed I would need to bestow upon the world. It wouldn't be a problem, either; it rained enough around here to wash the streets clean of any binge-drinkers' bile and filth. Being a side street wasn't enough though. There were the masses. The runts and the fuckwits. Drunk with no place to go. Just hanging here, there and everyfuckingwhere they could lay their feet to save themselves from having to go home. Some too drunk to leave. Some too desperate. Well, I needed to wade through this bunch of pricks, scenesters and wannabes and find myself a place to let rip. Every little alley and sub-road that led off this back-street was full. Kids chatting. Kids copulating. Kids dragging on weed and kids vomiting. There was no place left for me. No place except one road. One little diversion from the party. One little route to privacy. I'd nip down there. Nip down my flies. Let all hell break loose and then find the pretty girl again, in time for her friend to arise. Simple.

Little did I realise that where I was pointing was in fact the entrance to the car park of a nearby police station. It was dark, how was I supposed to know that's what it was? Where were the signs? In my ignorance, I didn't react to the car pulling slowly down the backstreet. I merely turned my back a little to try to save myself a little dignity. It wasn't until I took a startled double-take that I realised the nature of the mechanical beast bearing down upon my call of nature. The lights on top were a dead giveaway and triggered my deadly panic in the dead of this night. I tried to stop myself midstream but knew that was no good. I could at least hobble away and try to drain the last of it as I escaped. There'd be the masses back around the corner. I could disappear amongst them. The beer was cold tonight and plentiful. It had taken its toll completely on my bladder and at this moment it was relentless. I couldn't stop. It wouldn't stop. I felt the firm hand on my shoulder that would spin me around. I tried desperately to hold it in. It wouldn't stop. It would never stop. It splashed - it poured - freely on to the shoes of the, at first unimpressed but now irate, police officer's shoes. At this point I realised it would take a lot of charm and sweet-talk to get me out of this one. It was time to bid the pretty girl goodnight.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Heads or Tails

The little French restaurant was small and dimly lit, with candles flickering passionately on every table. A man and a woman sat alone at one of only two tables that were occupied on this quiet, bitterly cold winter's night. Despite the romantic setting, they were clearly not a couple. There were no signs that they were deeply in love. She was in her mid thirties, had a slender figure and remarkably cold, hard eyes that were framed by wavy blonde hair and exceptionally pretty facial features. Sitting cross-legged and constantly teasing her wedding ring with her thumb, she looked nervous and agitated. He, however, looked calm and serene. Sitting directly opposite her and leaning casually back on his chair, he looked almost bored. He referred to himself as the Doc, but didn't look like any kind of conventional doctor. He was tall, wide and oafish. Dressed in a finely tailored suit, his stubble-covered cheeks made him look unkempt and scruffy. They spoke in hushed tones.

"Heads or tails?"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Heads or tails? Call it. I need to know where to shoot the fucker!"
"I don't care where you shoot him; I just want the cheating bastard dead."
"Don't worry, lady, he'll die. I just want a little fun first. So please, do me the favour and kindly call it. Heads, I shoot this pretty boy in the face. See how charming he is then. Tails and I shoot him in the heart. That'll teach him for loving too much. Or not loving right. Whatever it is."
"Look, sorry to spoil your fun 'n' all, but I'm not paying you to play games; I'm paying you to kill my husband. I don't care how you get it done, just make sure you do it right."
"Okay, okay, fine lady. I'll make the call myself. One last thing though; do you want me to cut his balls off?"
"Y'know, cut off his manhood. Give you his prick as a sorta trophy to celebrate your riddance of the two-timing lover boy."
"No! No games, no trophies. What am I meant to do with his little cock now? I don't want this to be traced back to me in any way."
"So leave his prick in one piece?"
"Hmmmm, if you think it’s necessary, just don’t return it to me after."
"So I cut it off?"
"Yeah, cut it off. Start with that. Make the cunt suffer. Just make sure he dies at the end of it. Now, here, take your money. You'll get the rest when I'm a rich widow, as we agreed."
"If you know what's good for you, I will."
"Don't threaten me."
"Whatever lady, are we through? I've got bills to pay and kids to feed. Marriages to save."
"Yeah, go. Just make sure he dies."
"Always do, lady. Oh, one last thing; got a coin I can borra?"
"Oh, for Christ's sake, enough with the coins!"

Reaching into her handbag she pulled out a piece of shrapnel and tossed it onto the table, landing head-side up.

"I'm tired of looking at your face and hearing about you prattle on about fucking coins! Just do what I'm paying you to do and..."

She broke off, realising that she was speaking far too loudly in a public place for this kind of subject matter.

"Cool it lady, cool it. The coin doesn't matter now. I can see ol' Queenie's face and that'll do for me. We're golden. The coin's been good to me. I'll be on my way. Like I said, bills to pay and kids to feed. Marriages to save, and yours is first."

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Miles from Broadway

Outside the café
sits the elderly gentleman
at the solitary table
that wobbles when you lean on it.
And he sits sipping coffee
with a thin cigarette
perched between his wrinkled finger-tips.

Across the road
a dog is tied to a lamp-post
outside the newsagents
that is also an off-licence,
owned by the brothers
whose religion prohibits alcohol,
but they drink it anyway,
and on this quiet afternoon
they stare out the open door
at the black Labrador,
panting outside
and sniffing at the scent
of next-door's takeaway,
or the outdoor butcher's stall.

And driving by are the
two blue-eyed boys,
with the red-headed girls,
in the car;
windows down
with music loud-
bass-heavy and beat-driven.
Off to the local cinema
to find a film
to get them in the mood
in the back-seats, where they fondle.
Within a week
they will swap partners-
simple teenagers,
looking for cocaine
or weed
or whatever they can get.
Maybe their parents' rum
bought on holiday
a decade ago,
untouched and dust-coated
at the back of the liqour cabinet.
It'll do
to get them drunk.
It'll do
for them to fuck to,
with music loud-
beat-heavy and bass-driven.

And outside walks alone
the actor,
or writer,
or musician,
who never made it.
His face beneath beard and scars;
his hands beneath fingerless gloves, tremble.
Feet blistered and hair itching;
skin dirty and clothes stiff.
Eyes bloodshot and jaw worn from grinding-
at least three teeth missing
many more black and yellow
guarding a breath so putrid.
Cold and desperate and hungry
and aching from the tired
he will never sleep away.
Ignored by the smoker with his coffee.
Hated by the shop-owner he tried to steal a loaf from.
Heckled by the teenagers, bored,
proving their bravado,
but loved by the dog
who shares his hunger-pains.
Walking the roads alone,
with pride long forgotten
he's now miles away from Broadway-
Miles from Broadway, without a home.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

A silky black cat I found
continually follows me around
until I stop
and wonder
Where did I leave my gun?
the one with the silencer on;
the one that never makes a sound.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Through Eyes that Hide

"Everybody wants work. There's no work left."
That's the message I overheard and it was a pretty apt one, too. I sat alone on a bench in the late spring sunshine, surrounded by several misfits, and I could do nothing to prevent myself from being privy to their words of wisdom that they passed on to each other. 

"My mother's from Austria, she moved here in the seventies and gave birth to me in King's College, raised me in Peckham." I couldn't help but feel that was the most interesting anecdote that he could offer from the back catalogue of his life-story. Next.

"She left me"
"Come again?"
"She left me. Lucy left me, man."
"Don't say that, man."
"Don't say that about her."
"Well, what do you want me to say?"
"Not that."
"Okay, well let's go get laid."
"Fuck you, man. You're a fuckin' shit. I'm sitting here, heart in pieces trying to open up to you. I'm trying to tell you how shitty I feel and all you can think about is sex. You're meant to be my friend, man. You're a fucking dog. Cut off your cock and balls and you're nothing. Fuck you, man. Fuck you. I loved her and she's gone. So fuck you!"
"Whoa, whoa. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Are you okay?"
"No. But I will be. Let's just go find some girls and get laid, yeah?"
"Yeah, but first we get drunk."
"Deal. I still mean it though. You are a fuckin' shit, and we're gonna need some luck finding girls around here in the middle of the day."
"I know. I know. Well let's move, it's your turn to buy."
"Fuck you, man."

They shuffled off together and I turned my attention elsewhere. Opposite from me, a man sat alone talking on his mobile telephone. I noticed he only had one leg. Not that it made a difference. He nattered on, "Well that's no good. Call them back and if there's still no joy, I'm going to the police." It seemed like it was an unnecessary reaction considering the apathy of his tone and, as a result, I wasn't entirely sure I had heard him right, but with only half the conversation available to me, I hardly cared. What he said could never make total sense and I really didn't fancy wasting my time trying to decipher it all. Move on. Next misfit. 

A lady sat a few yards to my right, violently dragging on a cigarette and mumbling incomprehensibly to herself. Then she would twitch a little, tousle her hair with her free hand, inhale again on her cigarette and continue to mumble. I was equally curious and terrified. I watched her from the corner of my eye knowing she couldn't see where I was looking through my dark sunglasses. They are a great accessory for people-watching when you find yourself alone. Sadly they don't work as well in the winter months - people get suspicious. 

The only person nearby not making any noise was a middle-aged builder. Sitting in just his work-shorts, with headphones in ears and eyes closed, he was absorbing every ounce of sunlight available. I guessed he was asleep. He was certainly my favourite.

I didn't want to have to listen to any more of their nonsense, and I wasn't going to. Shifting my body to reach for my headphones and squeeze them out of my jean pocket, the old bench creaked beneath me and shifted suddenly, causing the first precious sips of my pint to splash onto the table. The puddle would quickly evaporate in the sun and never make it into my blood stream. I quickly gulped a mouthful or two down to ensure that such an accident wouldn't be repeated. I felt amateur for waiting so long for my first wet taste, but this drink had to last and so I was taking my time and savouring it. I was in no rush. I had no work to get to.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Peter's Pedestal

Hi, I'm Peter Tettrick. As far as life goes, I'm a pretty uninteresting character; I'm just trying to get by. A drunk once told me that my name fitted my face. Peter Tettrick was the best way to describe how I looked to her. It was nonsense, but somehow I understood what she meant. I have sharp features. A strong jaw line. A pointy nose. High cheek-bones. My name is quite sharp, too. It's those 't's that do it. Well, right now I find myself back in that same bar where the drunkard told me I resemble my own name. Here's to the foresight of my parents - I take a drink from my plastic container of flat beer, served at room temperature and cast my eyes towards the stage. A girl sits alone on a tall bar stool, guitar on lap and a harmonica hanging from her neck. I fell instantly. Her olive-skinned face was framed by a head of finely straightened long black hair and her eyes glimmered beneath the stage lights. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I watched her mouth intensely. The way her lips parted to reveal perfectly-straight white teeth and a smile. The words just fell out from between them in the form of a beautifully soulful voice. I was falling in love and growing hard. Watching her lips was causing me to stir. I had to snap out of it. I turned back to the bar to order another beer followed by a shot of tequila. I had to shake the thoughts that were dirtying my mind and dirtying the angel gracing the stage.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Mitchell's Inn

Black pudding
in the frying pan
and morning beer
in my hand.
The eggs are
out of date
but I cook them
I cook them with
the grease
of the bacon.
I am half-dressed.
The fat spits,
splashes my bare chest-
It burns but
it doesn’t hurt.
Breakfast is ready soon
and my stomach,
to be a full one soon.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


There's a mountain in my mirror,
but no face
I am off of it.
A thousand empty scotch bottles
dotted about the floor
and beer cans fill my bed.
At least, that's how it feels
in my liver, in my head;
everything aches
especially my feet
but it's impossible to care
when the world looks as it does
right here from my porch.


The drummer sat up. Perched high upon his stool he stretched his neck out as his head reached for the microphone that hung stiff and lifeless above his kit. Either side of him sat the towers. Amplifier upon amplifier. Stacked high. A daunting presence that cast a shadow over the world. You could grow dizzy trying to focus on their peak. Appearing to touch the ceiling, they threatened to burst through it with the first notes that were due to be played. Trapped on the stool, he felt the butterflies flutter and bounce from wall to wall inside his stomach. He swallowed hard, suppressing the gut-wrenching nausea. He held his sticks lightly and rolled them in his palms as his hands trembled from wrist to finger-tip. The years had not been kind on his nerves. He closed his eyes and, breathing in deeply, he prepared himself for the impending explosion of noise . . .


Monday, 18 April 2011

True Love Ways

Her dress swirled
as she moved
in front of he,
the one she so adored.
He was tall and wide-
her eyes found his
and he smiled-
her best friend
with Irish pride.
He was handsome
with his shirt buttoned
and shirt tucked into
trousers just the way
she liked it.
More handsome than
she had ever known;
he made her feel
much prettier than
she had ever known.
She was drawn to him
shy and coy
and into the night they danced.


I’ve taken too many pills,
I’ve been awake for too many days.
I stare at the line
that traces
the figure beneath my sheets;
she lays still
and I know I got my share of good luck
and I know she’s treated me well,
but she has done too many lines-
her cocaine habit,
out of control,
finally too much,
and I weep a solitary tear-
put ice and whiskey
into my glass
and swallow a handful of pills.


A cigarette hangs from my mouth
and a tear rolls down my cheek;
my hand trembles as the
phone slips through my fingers-
I inhale hard until the red tip
reaches its end at the filter-
Everything goes numb
and I collapse to the floor,
to form a fist
to punch anything hard
to split my knuckles in two.
I can still hear the voice
at the end of the line;
it wants to know if I’m there-
I am here.
I don’t want to be
but I’m here.
I just wish my daughter still was.

Fallen Apple

The church looms over my apartment with only me and the cemetery’s dead bodies for company. I stare out of my bedroom window and watch the rain stain the stone of the building a deeper grey. It is grim and depressing. I need an escape from it and so I watch the rain fall onto my window and imagine it how I did when I was a child, sitting in the backseat of my father’s car. Times were better then. Life was sweet and my stomach was full. I didn’t realise it yet, but I was truly happy as I gazed, care-free, out of the car window as the world flew past.


in a club
and I am drunk
in a neon haze-
just searching for that somebody
who, tonight, doesn’t exist-

Suburban Garden Scene

I sat there in the garden, bleary eyed, hung-over and unable to focus my mind on anything. The morning rays of the summer sun beat down on my face, coating my forehead in a thin film of sweat. I was too hot and too uncomfortable to try to read so I simply tossed my book on to the garden table and poured myself another cup of strong coffee from the pot that was keeping pleasantly warm in this uncharacteristic British heat. Turning my mind over and over I searched desperately for something to fill the void. I was empty and alone. I was bored. Gazing to the end of the garden my attention was drawn to the activities of the birds feeding from the five-day-old bread that I had tossed out for them. Alone at the peak of the bird table was a large pigeon feeding furiously on the crumbs in front of him. Either side of the table perched patiently on the garden fences were the smaller birds, a species I do not know the name of; standing, hopping, hoping, and waiting. The pigeon was having none of it. The smaller birds remained there atop their fence looking desperately and hungrily towards the bully sat upon the mountainous throne of food that he currently lorded over them.

The Girls of 5th Avenue

She had paid for my bus ticket and she had kissed me passionately for the entire ride back to her stop. Tonight it was our stop. She spent a lot of the bus ride with her hand in my lap, caressing me lustfully. This came at a price of course. I’d have to stand up on a busy bus and try to stagger off and ignore the stares I was bound to receive. We had been jeered by various jealous strangers on several occasions and now they would get their final farewell show. The perverts. Standing up, I tried to rearrange myself slyly and I could feel the heat. Tight fitting jeans are never a good idea in these situations, but hell, I like the attention.

Cupid's Bullet

Draining the dregs of his drink and kicking the chair in, he took her by the hand and led her to the door at the front of the bar. It was nearly closing time and they were out of money. It didn’t matter to them, though. They were already drunk enough. They were drunk on liquor and they were drunk on lust and they were drunk on love. It was to be a perfect midsummer evening. Even the stench of stale beer and old smoke that still clung to the barroom walls had a beautiful aroma tonight.

Broken Balcony

In a world of sex and heartbreak there is little room left for the romantic. He knew this and there they sat, on the floor of a balcony – two young lovers – holding each other tight. Beneath them the world lived and breathed as they stared at the London skyline in the sweet, summer night. Sharing a cigarette, they didn’t need to say anything to each other; he just held her close. They felt totally comfortable together, even though the stone floor of the balcony was cold and hard. He wanted to protect her from the evils of the world and he wanted to make her feel safe in his arms. He knew he was far from perfect for her but was determined to be the best he could be. He would do everything and anything he could for her. She was his princess and he adored her deeply. They shared a connection that he had never felt anywhere else and nothing could top the way she made him feel. He wasn’t naive enough to believe that it would last forever, but that only made him cherish these moments of happiness even more.

Lady Luck

Jerry, you dumb bastard! You dumb fucking bastard! You lost the ticket. You lost the fucking ticket! Four and a half million pounds sitting on those little numbers that you picked and you lost the fucking ticket. Well, there you go, Jerry, you’re penniless; you’re destined to remain penniless and that’s all you have ever fucking deserved! Go to the pub and drown it out. There’s nothing else to do. If you were a better man you’d find another way to deal with it, but you’re not. Well done Jerry! Here we go again. It’ll be just you and the bottle, forever. You had your out, but you had to go and throw it away. That ticket is gone and there is nothing else. Nothing. Fuck. Oh Jerry, how did it come to this? You are a stupid son of a bitch. God damn you Jerry, when will you learn? When will you fucking learn? What’s left now, eh Jerry? Stare into oblivion. Stare into oblivion and smile that greasy bent-toothed smile of yours.

Walking Home

Was I seeing things? No. No I wasn’t. She was dressed as a Christmas tree. It’s that time of year; the last Sunday before Christmas and people are doing strange things. For me it’s the morning after a party and I’m just trying to get home. One foot in front of the other. Desperately trying not to fall over on the ice and snow. It’s cold and my hands hurt. I don’t mind. Frankly, I’m too drunk to care. I’ve got this bottle of Jim Beam in my hand and I’ve been swigging from it as I walk. It’s been a welcome change from the usual rot-gut whiskey I pour down my neck. I walk on. One foot in front of the other. Staring at my shoes. Daydreaming. Repeatedly telling myself not to fall or slip (I might be drunk, but I don’t want to embarrass myself). My hood is up and it’s keeping me warm. With my earphones in I am separated from the world. Tom Waits is singing to me with his wild take on jazz, beat poetry and his voice. “For I am a Rain Dog, too”. That voice! It is a voice made of gravel and nails and I cannot get enough of it. “You’ll never be going back home”. We’ll see about that, Tom. But I have always been out of my mind. I walk on. One foot in front of the other. I take another drink and let out a small, quiet growl. It tastes good but it burns. I don’t know if I am more drunk or hung-over. I can’t be sick though. It’ll freeze in the snow and never go away. I don’t want that on my conscience as well. My feet are consuming all my thoughts and I don’t want to take my eyes off them. I have to though. I look up just in time to realise I’m about to walk into someone. A guy with his beautiful child nestled in his arms. I feel bad and apologise profusely. He just smiles, places his hand on my shoulder and says “Don’t worry, it’s okay. It’s okay.” That makes me feel worse. I would’ve been happier if he shouted at me, told me to watch where I was going and try to make me feel bad. He tried to be understanding. Sympathetic. I reeled in his pity. I hated him for it. He couldn’t be nicer but I hated him for it. I guess I’m just a bad person, but then again, I don’t want to care about that and I’m not going to. I’ve just got to get home. It’s too cold to be out on the streets. I walk on. Take another drink. One foot in front of the other. I’ll get there eventually. I walk past a prospective employer and he looks at me in disgust. So much for that job then. Life is just one foot in front of the other and we’ve all got some place we need to be. I take another drink.

Lost in this World

I lay in bed with my eyes closed, daydreaming of another life. I stand outside my record shop, with a cigarette in my left hand and a tattooed spider climbing up my arm, watching the people roll in and out of the front door. I’ve taken up smoking because I quit drinking and I need a vice – it’s okay though – I don’t smoke much. In truth I only took it up to convince myself that I’m cool and I will do anything to make myself feel cool. Even if I am the only person who thinks it.