Friday, 14 December 2012

Play the Game

My faith in love is blind.
Not that it matters,
she never shows her face around here anyway.
That's if I'd even recognise her.
I couldn't care.
I'm flat broke and blind drunk.
So I turn my attention elsewhere
and Lady Luck is looking good as ever.
I can always find the time
to settle down
to a game of cards.
I can always find the money to lose too.

I won the first few times - got hooked.
Lost a game - never looked back.
but I'm playing just the same,
I can't see where I'm going wrong.
Then again, I am blind drunk.
And now flat broke.
More so than before.

Before I know it,
it's the crack of dawn and
my ribs are cracked and
I'll need three stitches above my eye.
My car keys are gone,
they kept those for themselves when
they left me in the street.
What's worse, my car is too
worthless to repay my debt.
Sober minded with
my hung-over eyes sun-blinded, I
climb to my feet with one thing on my mind.
Eggs & bacon.

I'll need the strength to play the game again.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Devil's Liquor

Peaches. I called her Peaches. She always wore tight jeans and Peaches was the only word that would come to my mind when I’d watch her. She never noticed me. She didn't know I even existed. They never do. They never can know. Secrecy is crucial. It's detrimental for what I wish to do. The day I'm discovered is the day that I am finished.

She'd go out drinking straight from work most nights and stand alone at the bar, waiting for company. She'd wait to see a man with a wedding ring and seduce him. She was a slut and she liked to screw married men in cheap hotel rooms. She felt particularly empowered if she could get them to cry afterwards. I'd overheard her telephone conversations telling her friends about it. She'd even giggle a little to herself as she confessed this. She claimed it made her feel bad but I knew better. It never stopped her. She was no girl looking for redemption; she was just a girl looking for a cheap thrill. She'd give up anything for it and it only turned me onto her. It made me want her more. She was perfect for what I needed.

Tonight was just like all the others. I had my eye on her and she was clueless. She was propped against the bar, slowly wriggling her hips as she tried to catch the eye of the barman. I watched her body snake before my eyes. Her unintentional flirtation was reckless. Pining for her, I approached the bar.

Wild cries of desperation and need flew across to the barmen who controlled the supplies of golden nirvana. Everybody wanted a taste and everyone wanted a taste of it now. There was little room at the bar to rest an elbow and the fever grew. Bartenders moved fluidly from customer to fridge, taking orders and money without flinching. Yet nobody on my side was ever satisfied. They hungered for a drink. Even when they got what they desired, they’d consume it and become eager for another. They were never satisfied. I adored their greed. I adored their lust. The object of my desire was no different. Peaches pulled her top down a little, pushed her elbows together and winked at the barkeep, just to down the shots of tequila placed before her without even considering paying for them - she knew she wouldn't be asked to.

I muscled my way to a stool at the bar - keeping her in sight - and ordered absinthe at every possible opportunity. The world around me soon blurred as I slipped into a delusional bliss waiting for the sounds of bells to send her home. I'd easily slip out behind her. Unnoticed.

On these rare nights when she went home alone she always caught the last tube. Below ground was my territory. The underground station was characteristically empty for this time of night. There were no souls present except for us. She may have seen me on the platform, but she hadn't recognised me. She had no idea who I truly was, or what I wanted. She certainly didn't know I was going to get the thing I desired.

As the train rumbled into the station I laid her in my sights. The hairs pricked up on the back of my neck as my stomach grew tight. I was so close. She was finally going to become mine and there was no way she could escape me. I shuffled silently behind her and placed my hand on her shoulder. Startled, she turned suddenly to face me and as our eyes met, I thrust my arm forwards, hard. Peaches fell limply to the tracks and was forever mine. She became another soul to add to the eternal collection.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Another Walk of Shame

The air was thick and heavy and held her close like a blanket, comforting her as she staggered down the road. Her make-up was smeared on her face and her clothes were creased and crumpled from the night before, with her leather jacket hanging from her handbag by her side. She walked barefoot, but was too proud to consider this another walk of shame. She was still drunk.

Alison reached into her bag and pulled out a small business card with his details on it. If it wasn't for his advice she would never have gone to that meeting. If it wasn't for him she would never have met Shane. If it wasn't for him she would never have relapsed and she wouldn't be here right now. She screwed the card into a tight little ball and dropped it to the floor. She wanted to vomit but instead swallowed hard and staggered on. She didn't have far to go.

Her nostril was stuffed and empty and it caused her purse to weep. She couldn't stand it. She wondered if either would ever forgive her, if either could ever recover from what she put them through in the night. Her brain knew it. She could feel it, swollen with the grief, the guilt, the agony. It was swelling and trying to crush her skull. She couldn't escape the thought that the pain was thoroughly deserved.

She wanted to run away, to get out of her shitty little life. She wanted to move to Chicago. She didn't really know why Chicago, other than it was the only city she could name in Illinois and she only wanted to move there because she liked the way it sounded. She liked the way Illinois rolled off her tongue. It sounded beautiful to her. It left her with a pleasant tension in her chest and she felt foolish for thinking that way. Still, she had her mind set. One day she would get out and move to Chicago, Illinois. Lake Michigan beckoned. It would be her new home.

Turning the corner, she could see her destination across the damp street. The Bucket of Blood stood out from its surroundings, although its exterior didn't match its name. It looked like an ancient building, with its white, cracked paint and black beams it appeared to be from Tudor times. Smoke lazily rose from the chimney and disappeared into the grey sky of early autumn. It beckoned her. Formerly the Green Witch, it was once a family orientated bar, but when the owner died it became desolate, rotting in the skyline. Several years passed before a collection of rich students took it over and turned it into a lousy dive bar. It soon became a cult venue. Walls were lined with old tour posters, leopard print wallpaper and drunken graffiti. The floor was mostly wooden except for a small patch of thread bare maroon carpet by the jukebox and the ceilings were a tobacco-stained beige. The place reeked of mould but nobody cared. It was a venue for slobs and drunkards. The booze was cheap and nobody gave a shit about any rules.

The heavy wooden door creaked as Alison pushed it open and stepped inside. She was welcomed by the sound of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and the usual dank aroma of the place. She suddenly felt violently nauseous. Behind the bar, her favourite tender, Joel, was standing, twisting a dirty rag into an empty tumbler. They'd fooled around a few times but it had never amounted to anything serious. She knew she could easily get a free drink out of the guy with just a wink or a smile, but she couldn't face him now. Fortunately he hadn't noticed her, so she walked straight past the bar, trying to ignore him, and headed for the back door hoping for some fresh air and a clear head.

Outside, Alison saw the exact site she hoped to see - her closest friend, Lucy, in her finest form. She was slumped over the only table, unconscious with her face cradled in her arms. She was a beautiful, slender, brunette and Alison loved her dearly. She didn't dare wake her. Instead she picked up the half consumed bottle of white wine from by her side and took a long heavy drink from it. Sighing from refreshment and choking back the vomit she raised the bottle back to her lips and drained the rest of it. It warmed her gut and she started to feel human again. She started to feel a lot better. She started to wish she hadn't thrown that card away.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Call of the Wild

I jerked out of sleep and lay there, coated in sweat with my heart pounding hard against the inside of my chest. It took a moment for me to recognise my surroundings but I soon realised that I was safe. I was free. Here in my room I no longer had to worry, it couldn't get me. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and sat upright. Resting my chin in my palms, I rubbed the dust from my eyes with my fingertips in an attempt to wake myself fully in preparation for the day ahead. It was a day full of business meetings that I knew would be a bitch but I was grateful for it. I'd escaped the nightmare.

My back stiffened and I tried to leap. I couldn't move. I felt the pressure snap around my ankle. Cold fingertips gripped my leg from beneath my bed. I was done for. It had me.

I sat bolt upright in bed and let out a loud whimper. I was breathing harder than usual and it woke her.
"Are you alright, baby?"
I let out a grunt in reply, but tried to make it sound as positive as possible. I'm not a morning person and that was a fucking scary dream. Inception shit. I can only convince myself that I'm safe now. Shit, why didn't I close the blinds properly last night? Or was it her? Whatever, light is pouring through them and it's unbearable.

I reached into my bedside drawer looking for a cigarette. It was a reflex, more out of hope and desperation than any kind of expectation. I just want a fucking drink. Just one.

*          *          *

Jerry Slim had never taken his life seriously. He had never dreamed of fitting in and living a regular, normal lifestyle. He'd always considered himself as something of a lone-wolf. Not anymore. Now he belonged to a marriage. Now he was living a suburban dream and it was costing him his mind. He wanted to belong, but not to this. Not right now. Right now he wanted to be part of a pack, running with the wolves. Hunting. Sinking his teeth into flesh. He had had enough of this life and wanted to be crazy. He wanted to go back to his youthful days. The wild days. He longed for things he could no longer do. He wanted to take drugs. He wanted to take large quantities of hard drugs, get high, climb things and shout at small children. He wanted to terrify them and be feared by them. He wanted to break them. To see them collapse in a fit of tears and run, crying, home for the comfort of their mother's sympathetic breast, with shit in their pants and piss warming their legs. He wanted to go out and fuck women. He wanted to go out and fuck all kinds of women. He wanted beautiful women. He wanted round women. He wanted strange women and pretty women. He wanted hairy women, black women and women who spoke no English and had names he couldn't pronounce. No, he didn't want to even know their names. He wanted short women, too. He wanted one so short that she could fellate him while she was still standing. He thought of murdering them after but thought that too far. Rape crossed his mind, too, but he preferred the idea of consensual. That made him feel better about himself.

He wanted to buy large bottles of whiskey, gin and brandy and sit on park benches, touching himself as people walked by - watching them with arrogance. Maybe he'd buy a gun and shoot their little bastard inbred dogs that they dragged along behind them. Maybe the death of their beloved pets would make them cry and mess their trousers like all the other spoilt children. What did he want of this world other than to lose his mind? He wanted to break it. Destroy all boundaries. He wanted godliness. He screamed.

"Baby, what's wrong?"

He turned to look at his wife, lying beside him in their matrimonial bed, perched on her elbows with her long blonde hair covering most of her face and falling down over her shoulders and touching her bare breast.

"You okay, honey?"

Her sleepy voice was full of sympathy.

"Yeah, babe. Fine. Just fine."

Jerry sighed, casting his eyes to the ceiling and focussing on a spider crawling across the textured white paint. He wanted a cigarette and he wanted one badly. Clean, sober and smoke free for a year and seven months now, but this just felt like the perfect time to jump off the wagon, roll around in the dirt and beg for acceptance from the rest of the wolf-pack. Whoever they were.

"Honey, snap out of it. You're away with the fairies again, like the old days."

Jerry turned his head slowly, to face her, frowning.

"I can't remember the last time you got like this" She continued, "What's troubling you?"

"Nothing, just nothing. Don't worry yourself. You care too much."

"I just love you, Jerry."

"I know you do."

He wanted to scream again. If she wasn't so pretty, so beautifully fragile and perfectly feminine, he would've raised his fist high and brought it down on her head. Not to hurt her - he'd never deliberately hurt her - just to silence her. He only wanted some peace. He wanted to be left alone. Only the wolf-pack would do for company right now.

"Jerry, baby, how about I tell you something to cheer you up?"

Her voice was high-pitched and excitable. She was talking rapidly.

"Well, I know we haven't really spoken about it, that money is tight and the flat is small and I need to work and that you don't want help from my folks but Jerry you know they love you and they'd be willing to help out if only you would let them and please, Jerry, I think you may really need to consider letting them help us, it'd make them happy, it'd make me happy, but if not I'm sure we'll be fine, we're both strong and you're a good man, Jerry..."

She continued in the same rapid manner but Jerry had stopped listening; his attention was back on the spider, now weaving a web where the ceiling met the wall above his head and thinking about his escape, his return to the wild, about finding his wolf-pack. He felt a sharp prod to his ribs and cast his eyes back across to his wife, who was now scowling at him.

"Jerry, you dumb lovable bastard! Are you even listening to me?"

He mumbled quietly in agreement, nodding his head slowly.

"Well, are you? You could at least look at me."

"Yeah, babe, I get it. You're about to tell me you're pregnant and the world is falling to shit. What's there to live for? I never wanted my sanity anyway."

"Fuck you, Jerry, fuck you." Her voice cracked as she fled the room. Her pillow was already wet from her tears. Jerry just laid back and smiled.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Washed-out Sunrise

The birds are singing outside
in the tree beside my window
but that does not change the fact that
it's dark and bleak and miserable
and I cannot find my shoes.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

His Ego Smiles

Rear of waiter pinched his ego smiles - Mid-life crisis and round, menopause made them do it, it drew them to his eyes. Tip for that his wallet frowns but they are round - old - they would do. His ego smiles as he takes one by the hand then by the hair in the backroom beneath a table. Another in a bathroom cubicle. He turns to the till, fiddles the numbers in the hope that he'd get caught, all things and fingers in, by the chef or his pretty blonde assistant; the manager never notices a thing as he trickles liquor half full into a glass from the broken optics. Where is Peggy Sue? She ran out on the world, with no wedding bells. His shift has ended and no fantasy of filth lived out sits at the piano waiting for the boss man to leave the bar and hammers on the keys bum note after bum note, he sighs. Is Crow Jane dead? Murdered in Columbia. Killed by Mexican gun-runners working with the FBI. A little bit of cocaine never hurt anybody. Maybe it was the ATM. Or is it called the ATF? It could've been them. Suddenly he is ten years old and walking through a zoo. His mother is crying and his father is somewhere else. Maybe he's taunting the lions. Plans to report them to the ATF. Teddy got drunk, had an abortion. It knocked the stuffing right out of him. He's got no soul. You should check out his head, doctor says, the result is just the same. Kid waiter takes his sister by the hand and leads her to the monkeys. They're flinging faeces at each other and masturbating aggressively. It made him feel nauseous. Anxious. She giggles at the scene and he shields her eyes. There's no escaping the smell. He hits another bum note. I came out of Texas fresh faced, uneducated. Kicked my cocaine habit just fine but it was the china white that broke my foot. He stomps a pedal and stomps upstairs sights a fight out the window. Two vagabonds are going at it. Punch-drunk - A swing and a miss. Aimed for the wrong mouth, the other one is laughing at him. They collapse to the floor and scream to the cloud-coated night skies. Who gave birth to God? Manager by his side... rear of waiter pinched "assault, brother, you'll do ten to life! And I shall get my raise for silence." He turns to face his assailant and sees her blonde hair blue eyes. His ego smiles.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

In a Dirty Motel

It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon when I finally tried to drag myself out of bed. I had only been asleep for an hour and a half – it had been a long and heavy night and I knew I wasn’t going to show up for work. I couldn’t care less, frankly it was a relief.

I stumbled into the kitchen, filled the kettle with water, set it on the stove and fired it up. As the metallic beast slowly groaned into life, I rinsed out my only mug, spooned in some instant coffee and filled it half-way with my favourite bourbon. Kentucky coffee. That’s the name I’d given the concoction and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

I rubbed my eyes and tried to piece together the events of the previous evening as the kettle meandered its way to its whistling climax. What exactly did I get up to last night? I didn’t care. I just ran my tongue across my numb teeth, blew my nose on the tea-towel and waited patiently for the kettle to fully burst into life.

Returning to my bed, I hoped that sleep would grab me. The whiskey made my head swim but my heart thumped from the caffeine and my legs ached with restlessness. I felt both lost and trapped. I reached into my shirt pocket, searching for my tobacco, but I only found an old, bent cigarette and a couple of filter tips. Snapping the cigarette at its crooked bend, I lit it with the lighter from the bedside table and dragged deep. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. The cigarette was spent. I exhaled finally and stubbed the ungenerous bastard out on the radiator by my side. I had nothing left to do but lean back onto my pillow and wait for sleep to take me.

I was hazy as to how much time had passed before I was dragged back out of sleep by the incessant, shrill cry of my telephone. Ignore it. I had to ignore it. It groaned and whined, pleading me to answer, but I was going to ignore it. There was only one person it could be. It was going to be him. No doubt he would be ringing to find out when he was going to get his money back from the night before and then claim that I owed him a little extra than I actually did. He’d probably also want to know how far things went with the pretty brunette that was hanging around last night’s party. I couldn’t face talking to him. I immediately regretted ever allowing him to have my telephone number, or any means by which to contact me. I waited for the ringing to cease. I tried to shield my eyes from the sun flooding into my room, but the half-broken blinds were clearly being no help this morning and the light was penetrating my brain and it was not helping my fragile state. Finally the phone shut up. Thank fuck.

I dragged myself out of bed, in need of a shit. It’d be loose and wet and it would smell foul. Best not. Maybe I should save it for later and let it harden. I walked over to the desk by the window where my typewriter now lived. I felt so cool and chic when I bought that damned thing, but now I couldn’t help but think that it would probably have been easier and cheaper to just buy a cheap laptop. As I stared at the archaic thing resting on the desk, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was a dick. It lay there, motionless, with a blank sheet of yellow paper already loaded into it. Apparently I had expected some poignant late night creative spree when I got home last night but was instead met with the frigid bitch that is writer’s block. Oh well, at least the old trooper is good to go now. I should write a letter to Chrystal. It’s been a while since I spoke to the girl and she has been popping up in my thoughts on a regular basis these last few weeks. I started pounding on the keys...

"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."

Done. The load had been shed. I leant back in my chair, clasping my fingers together behind my head and blew steadily outwards – eyes clamped shut. I was feeling better for it. Sighing hard, I reached for the letter and yanked it from the typewriter. Where the fuck was I meant to send this little bastard? Where was she living now? It’d been too long since we had last spoken. To hell with her. I screwed the page into a tight little ball, dropped it to the dirty floor and crawled into the sanctity of my motel bed. If only there was ganja.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Falls Motel was a hole. There were blinds half hanging from the window, a broken television set, indeterminable stains on the carpet and cigarette burns on the sheets. The place was cheap and cheerless and that's exactly why I chose it. I couldn't see much from my window. The car park was empty except for an old blue pick-up truck diseased with rust and a kid's slide turned on its side. It was a depressing view. Beyond the car park I could see the rest of the town that I found myself in. It, too, was a hole. It consisted of one long road with nothing but dirty motels, bad hotels, oversized restaurants, a casino illuminated in neon, a run-down cinema and a few bars beyond that. That was it. That was the town I was stuck in. I'd finished my own meagre supply of drink; a six-pack of weak beer and a handful of little bottles of vodka, and I needed to find some way of entertaining myself until the bars opened. I was hungry and I couldn't afford to start gambling. I'd have to hit the streets and see what I could find. There had to be something else to do.

"Ganja. Ganja. Ganja, weed. Ecstacy. Ganja. MDMA. Ganja. Some shrooms. Whaddya say? Ganja."

"Fuck you! What the hell did you say? Fuck you! No, I don't want your shit. Stay the hell away from me! Crazy mind controlling Nazi. I don't need your shit. Can't you tell that I'm drunk? Hell, can't you see the bottle of scotch in my hand? Hell, where did it go? Joe! Joey! Joe you stinking crack-whore, where is my whiskey? Oh shit yeah. Hip flask. Fuck. How could I for... Hey! Hey, man. Where are you going? I don't have any ganjey. Whatever the fuck you called it. Sod you, Nazi-hippie cunt. I don't need your shit. I should smash this bottle on your face. At least I pay taxes. Yeah. I get drunk. You see this booze? It's tax motherfucker. None of this illegal shit. Yeah, I know you're selling shit. Who am I talking to? Come back here you little rat! Where the hell are you going? Come back here with your damned dread-locks.  You're not Marley. You're no better than me. Fucking fuck. Come back. Don't walk away when I'm talking to you. I know you can hear me. You shit. Utter shit. You've got no soul. I fucked your mother. I fucked her in Hell. Fuck. Where did you go? Drug dealing son of a whore bitch. Fuck!"

I endured it all. Teeth clenched, eyes fixed on the pavement beneath me. I'd been in the safety of the cinema, watching a film in darkness with lovers mumbling and fumbling around me and my feet sticking to the floor as I idly watched the man's fearless face on screen as the beasts tried to hunt him down while he desperately tried to find his way out of the wilderness and back to humanity. I needed to get out of that quiet little torture chamber, but I timed my escape all wrong and ran into this nut. Outside the air was cool after a long day of hot, horrendous, relentless sunshine. It'd been too much for some and had taken its toll. I exhaled hard as I fanned my t-shirt slowly.

"I should slit your motherfucking throat!"

I stared at my shoes. I really needed to find new friends in this town. I really needed to tell this dirt-bag to shut up and I really needed to get moving. I should've ignored him when I saw him approaching me in the street. I definitely shouldn't have agreed to go for a drink with the arsehole.

"Hey, wait, I've got ganja. Ha! Fuck you! Hahaha! Oh. No. Fuck, I don't. Where the fuck did you go? Forget what I said. I need you, little bastard. Come back or I'll cut your balls off. Those alleyways won't hide you forever. This city ain't that big. I'll find you, dipshit."

He had been talking to himself and I couldn't understand why I was still tolerating his rants and jeers. Perhaps they amused me. We all need something to laugh at – something to lighten the load. Drink was good for me. Plenty of others had turned to drugs. Mixing these was a bad idea though. I didn't care. I had strolled from the flickering lights of the auditorium, from the gaping, empty eyes of the sparse audience and out into the street. I'd stumbled out into the Greatest Show on Earth. Roll on, roll up. Ganja for one. Ganja for all. I couldn't take any more. I'd had enough. I was looking for some kind of safety but instead I had found this.

"Come back you bastard! Ganja? Who cares? Fuck you!"

I'd had enough. It was all too much.

"Get me outta here!"

I moved to the edge of the road and thrust my arm out in desperation. I needed a cab. I needed a ride. I wanted to escape the Greatest Show on Earth and I wanted to get to a better party. Any kind of bar would do. Headlights shone in the distance. I knew I'd be going home.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Run in the Woods

It was one of those crisp autumn afternoons. The trees were dying and the dead leaves crunched beneath our feet. We could even see our breath, which reminded me that even though the summer was gone, we were still alive. In spite of the trees the place was full of life. Dogs, on leads, barked at squirrels teasing them, hungry to be freed from their owners desperately trying to restrain them. Children's eyes peered through the windows of their classroom prisons and over the hedge-fence of the neighbouring school, equally hungry to be set free to run into the world. The birds had all the freedom. Serenading each other and dancing in the air, before returning to their branches and nests. The trees, decorated with vermilion tips, looked on fire, just waiting for the first snow of winter to extinguish them. It was still early in the afternoon but the sun had already begun to set. It hung low in the sky and although too weak to provide any warmth it was still bright enough to blind you. We walked with our backs to it and our shadows stretched far out in front of us. The gates behind us were once painted a dark green but were now chipped and rusted and the path before us was cracked, snaking across the gentle slope of grass before disappearing into the woods.

We had never walked through a park before and I couldn't understand why; it was full of beauty. She didn't care about that or the cold. I looked at her and she seemed bored. I thought to put my arm around her but hesitated and withdrew. I had caught a glimpse of venom in her eye and knew it was best to leave her be. She had clearly had enough of this outing and was probably going to take it out on me. An argument would ensue and the day's peace would be ruined. Instead she just started to laugh. She took in great lungful after great lungful of air and laughed. She sounded maniacal. She was. She started to tear at her clothes and temporarily blinded me by tossing her long faux-fur coat over my head. It was a sight I wish I hadn't missed. I pulled the jacket from over my eyes and dropped it to the floor; I would've been sour about it, but I could still see her broken hourglass body running away. Her pale flesh quickly turned pink from the cold. She just ran, naked. Those hips of hers wriggled like no other. She knew they drove guys wild and that's why she would shake them. She never lost it, even when she was running through a park with no clothes on. She was a creature of pure sexual chemistry.  She was just another wild animal running free. People started to stare but she paid them no mind. I didn't know what to do - I was excited but my inhibitions would never allow me to join her. I went to chase after her, but instead lit a cigarette. I didn't need the exercise. I was happy to watch her shrink into the distance. When she finally disappeared into the trees, I picked up her underwear, stuffed them into my pocket and walked home. I didn't want a pervert to find them. I would've taken the rest of her clothes, too, but I was lazy and I figured she could do with rescuing some decency if she ever decided to turn around and come back. I wasn't going to stand and wait around in a wind-bitten park for that. I knew she'd be knocking on my door as soon as she got cold.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rum and Coke

If I wasn't asleep I didn't know how to spend my afternoons. There was a time when I'd drink the day away, but not anymore; I had my health to think about. I didn't like the idea of dying young. There was only one place I'd go when I was bored and couldn't sleep.

I'd wait anxiously for her to open the door. I could never be sure if she'd actually be in or even conscious enough to greet me, but I'd turn up anyway. She was unreliable, but I enjoyed her company and I had no better place to be.

She'd pull her front door open and stand there, staring blankly, with her hip cocked and a cigarette in her hand down by her side. Even when she was expecting me she wouldn't be dressed and she'd take no time to put on any make-up or do her hair. She had no need to and I didn't care. Her green eyes had flecks of brown, and when they locked on mine, she smiled. Her teeth were tobacco-stained but her eyes glowed and made her look almost beautiful.
Her hand would tremble as she'd drag on her cigarette.
"Well, whatchya waitin' for?"
She'd blow the smoke out of the side of her mouth.
"Come on in, you sonuvabitch, and gimme a hug"
As I'd step into her home I would be met by the smell of a combination of cigarette smoke and coffee, but as we'd embrace, the aroma would dissolve and my nostrils would instead fill with the floral fragrance of her perfume. I always liked that smell; it reminded me of walks in the wood as a child.

It was the same routine every time I went round there. It never changed. She'd go into the kitchen and offer me a cup of coffee, to which I'd always oblige. She'd also offer me a shot of rum to go in it, to which I'd always decline and remind her I'd given that up and was now looking after myself. She'd laugh at that. "Suit your shitty self" she'd say and sometimes her tongue would fall over the S-H's and it'd get tied up. She didn't care though. She'd just light up a joint or do a line before finishing making my drink. One time she even managed to snort sugar and put coke in my coffee because she was so messed up. I stopped having sugar in mine after that. I'd see myself into her living room, which was empty except for the sofa, a handful of pictures on the walls and a television set sitting on top of a pile of old hardback books. I'd turn on the television and sit down and wait for her to join me. The shows we watched were always bad, but we rarely paid enough attention to them to notice.

This one time it was different though. This one time there was a knock at the door and when she heard it, she turned her head to the window to see who it was and her face instantly turned white when she saw him. She threw her body to the ground and hissed at me to do the same and keep quiet. She fumbled for the remote and quickly turned it to standby. She was in a panic and falling apart. She looked so scared I thought she might be dying. She just lay there with her head buried against the floor, trying her hardest not to move. I watched her as she started to sob but I didn't really know what I was meant to be doing, so I just lay there as silently as I could.

When he finally left I tried to approach her and comfort her, but she just pushed me away and refused to talk. She slumped into the chair, hiding her face in her hands and shaking as she cried. I sat back down on the sofa and waited for her to talk. That was the gasman at her door, making his rounds and reading people's meters. She didn't want to let him in because she figured that if he didn't know how much gas she used, she wouldn't have to pay her bill. I knew she had lost her job but I didn't really know why; she never really talked about it and I wasn't going to pry. I could see there was something really troubling her. It looked like she wanted to tell me something pretty big, but every time she went to speak she caught herself and remained silent. Eventually she just gave up and walked back into the kitchen where I could hear her chopping up cocaine. I just turned the television back on and watched it in silence for the rest of the afternoon. I just wanted to get out of there, but I couldn't leave her in that state.

When I finally walked home that evening I thought a lot about her and the gasman. I couldn't understand why she was running and trying to escape. The bill would come through her letterbox at the end of the month anyway and she'd have to pay somehow. She couldn't run forever. We're all scared of something and I could now see that running would get us nowhere. We can't live forever, not like that. Not in fear. I kept thinking about it 'til I got home. I just couldn't understand it. I fumbled with my keys and, when inside my flat, kicked off my shoes and walked to the liquor cabinet. There was one last bottle of rum hidden at the back for emergencies. I poured myself a strong one with ice and Coke. Suddenly I didn't feel so scared anymore.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Strangers at Midnight

The platform was abandoned. I don't know which sound I heard first, the high-pitched rapid beeping that indicated the doors were closing or the shouting. But as I looked up to see him, fists clenched, shouting at the girl, it was too late. The doors were shut and the train had begun to pull out of the station. There was nothing I could do to stop it except watch them slowly disappear into the night. He was spitting fury at her. The girl was cowering in fear, with tears in her eyes, but she looked ready to fight if she needed to. She was desperate and nobody cared to help her. I could see other passengers through the window as the train passed, just sitting there doing nothing. They were pretending they couldn't hear them arguing and were trying to ignore them; just hoping they would go away. I hoped he would stop shouting. I hoped he wouldn't hit the girl.

It was cold and it was wet and I had missed the last bus for the final leg of my journey home. I would have to wait for the first night bus and try to forget about the girl, frightened and crying. I didn't know what to do, or where to go, so I did what I always do. I looked for a bar. That image was going to haunt me all night.

Walking out of the station I soon realised my chances of finding a drink were slim. Everywhere was either closed or completely boarded up. Every shop sign was turned off and there wasn't another soul out on the street except for me. The bright lights of the big city aren't so pretty on a lonely Sunday night. I stared at my feet as I walked down the road, trying to forget the girl. The rain began to fall again, rippling in the puddles and breaking up the reflections of the lampposts and the moon. Turning the corner I could see a solitary light coming from a window and there were people inside, drinking. Finally things looked promising.

Inside the smell of stale booze hung in the air and the hard floor was sticky. The manager approached me.
"Are you still open?"
"Yes, yes, come in. But we're closing shortly."
It was music to my ears and with it I waltzed to the bar where the barman was wiping down surfaces. With no beer on tap I focussed on the fridge full of bottled beers at the back. My vision was hazy and I started to realise quite how drunk I actually was. I picked out the only bottle I recognised, a bottle of Desperados. I knew it would be a good beer, strong too. I liked the sound of its name as it fell from my lips. I paid, collected my change and sat down at the nearest table to drink.

Taking mouthful after mouthful of beer, I kept seeing the girl calling to me for help. Tears streamed from her blackened eyes and her bleeding lip trembled. I was lost in my own imagination when the manager came to ask me if I was okay. He startled me. We talked for a while about where I'd spent the rest of my evening and about late night bars. He told me business was slow and so he couldn't afford to turn away late arrivals. Soon the only other customers that were left had joined in the conversation and asked me to sit with them. I got to talking to one guy who played saxophone for a wedding band and he told me all about his weekend. He told me about the wedding he'd played the day before and how it had been a beautiful ceremony. He also told me about his Sunday afternoon spent fishing on his friend's boat. His friend, sitting next to him, beamed when he heard this. It had rained hard and they had caught nothing, but the beer on board was cold and plentiful, which is all they really cared for. They invited me to join them sometime just as the manager returned to the table to offer us more drinks. Apparently he should've shut an hour ago, but business is business and he needed the money. He told us we were good people and the conversation and the beer continued to flow. Before I knew it I had forgotten about the bus home I was supposed to be waiting for. Before I knew it I had forgotten all about the girl.