Friday, 6 December 2013

Beautiful Whores

It was looking like it was going to be a good day until I walked past the dead flowers by the side of the road. Suddenly I was filled with a sense of incurable sadness and headed to the nearest open bar. The door was thick and heavy and creaked loudly on the hinges. I knew I had probably made a mistake but I entered anyway. I found myself a place at the bar and ordered a drink. The smell was bad, and it was the type of place that only ever attracted the misfits and degenerates of society. You'd never expect to find anyone here with any class but here they were, alone in an empty bar.

She was elegantly dressed, wearing pearls and cautiously sucking on a cigarette perched between her fingertips. He adjusted his hat that rested upon a carefully folded newspaper on the table, and he took a mouthful of bitter. He checked her glass of gin and tonic to see that she had enough before having another mouthful. He returned his pint glass to the table and ran a wrinkled hand through his hair. Not a word was said between them and their silence was profound. There was no longer a need for small talk. Every story of youthful adventures had been told, and there was no longer a need to impress. Their love and affection was mutual and understood. They struck me as the symbol of everything we ever strive for. They had someone to keep them from drinking alone. They had no fear of dying alone. When one of them died, there’d be someone to kneel at their graveside and mourn their loss. They could die knowing that they left behind a soul on this earth that would give the remotest shit about their existence and notice when they were gone. I studied them closer in awe and wondered why I couldn't see either of them wearing a wedding ring. They could have been wearing them - my eyesight has never been the finest, and I wasn't planning on staring at them too intensely or walking over to join them to get a better view. I was fine by myself.

Perhaps they weren't married at all. Perhaps they had nothing to say to each other because they had nothing in common. They had no interest in caring about each other. They had both loved and lost enough in this life that they never wanted to go through it again. Their relationship involved no emotion, it was purely physical. They were just here now to take the edge off it. Having a drink just seemed like the appropriate social protocol before returning to their lifeless rest-home to do unspeakable things to each other. To fulfil filthy and kinky dreams that most people would be scared to even imagine. They'd push their bodies and their joints to their very limit in pursuit of a little bit of ecstasy. They couldn't know how long they'd be around for, so they'd enjoy it, and they'd be damned if anyone would stop them. They wouldn’t let themselves be forgotten, the beautiful whores.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Up in Smoke

It started out as a humble purr before erupting into a vicious growl, as the beast sank its teeth into its prey. There was a deathly silence as the stiff, wooden body fell lifelessly to the floor. It had been the last reminder of a phone call I had never hoped to make and now it was gone, just like all the others.

I was at my mother's house when it happened. I was sat in front of the TV with the thing on mute and my nose in a book. It wasn't a good one but I was on the last page of it and I was engrossed, when I heard a call from upstairs to look out the window. I ignored it and turned my attention back to the words; they seemed more important. It was shortly followed by a much more urgent call. It still didn't sound serious enough to dignify it with a look, but my father's sudden burst of expletives summoned me to my feet to look outside.
I made no hesitation and made straight for the telephone. I steadied my nerves and punched the telephone number into the handset and made the phone call I never wished to make. Twenty-six years and I was grateful I had never had to make one like it before.

The neighbours' house was on fire.

I kept as calm as I could, followed the procedure they taught us in school and told the operator everything they needed to know. They thanked me for the call and told me help was on its way. I hung up and made my way outside.

The first thing I noticed as I opened the door was the wall of heat greeting me. I could feel it against my cheeks and it was oddly welcoming. In the street, there was a chaotic hustle and bustle of bodies as neighbours moved nervously between the houses, trying to fathom what to do and how to help. In the sky, the flames made their home, stretching thirty feet in the air and dancing. It was the purest, strongest, brightest orange I had ever seen and it was truly alive. Plumes of thick, black smoke effortlessly slid from its tip and filled the air. We were all powerless as it spread, devouring anything in its path.

Some people dashed to their back gardens to spare their clean washing from being spoiled as it hung out to dry, and others dashed inside to shut their windows to keep the rich smelling smoke out of their homes. Some people were comforting children and soothing them from a panic while others dashed to do what they could to limit the damage. I didn't know what I could do, so I stayed the hell out of everyone's way. I fetched a cold beer, cracked it open and watched. I wasn't alone. This was a spectator sport. For what was usually a quiet, suburban road was now a popular point for people with cameras to drive to and turn their cars around. Some people seemed to get pleasure from watching this part of the world go up in smoke. It was a spectacle, and a relentless one at that. There wasn't a whole lot you could do but to sit and watch.

The excitement was short lived. I was barely at the bottom of my second beer when the flames began to dwindle and turn into a quiver of smoke. It was over. The panic had receded. Fire-fighters had tackled it from the other side and won. Peace was restored in suburbia once more. All that was left were a few tall, blackened reminders of what had happened, and an impending battle with the insurance companies. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

One of the Best

Summer mornings are always the worst. I stagger out of bed, blinded by the sun that pours through the blinds of every room in the house. The first thing I get to see when I manage to peel my eyes open is the first piss of the day resting in the toilet bowl. It's a bright, copper orange and serves as a dead giveaway that I am hung-over. I don't care too much though. I feel pretty good. I feel pretty invincible. I finish up in the bathroom, doing my usual daily chores of vanity and hygiene and check myself in the mirror. I look good. I've shaved five years off my face but I am looking good. There's not a single cut, scratch or nick. I've kept a steady hand when I so frequently get the shakes. I am invincible. It's going to be a good day - one of the best.

I float downstairs and slot myself behind the wheel of my car. It all feels right - mirrors, seatbelt, ignition and clutch. It all feels right. It's going to be a smooth ride, I can just taste it. I point the thing towards work and get rolling. The hours will slip by today. It's one of the better ones. I'll even hit the bars on the way home as a reward.

After dishing out the usual spiel, it only took a round of shots and a couple of cocktails to get her back to mine. Soon we were fumbling with each other's clothes until we were left with nothing on but the skin we were born in. I had to spit on it to get it inside her, but once it was in it was good. We were drunk. She gripped me tightly and moaned like she was set to die. She had claimed she had never done this before, but that was clearly a lie. She sunk her nails into the small of my back, so I bit down on her shoulder and thrust myself in deeper. She liked that. Outside the window a train rolled by. The tracks were so close to the building that when the trains did rattle past, the bulb that hung above my bed would swing back and forth, causing the light to play about the room. It was an irritating distraction. I pulled out, bent her over and buried her face into the pillow, working my way back into her. The light continued to rock back and forth and I felt a migraine coming along. I needed to finish soon before it ruined everything. I pounded away as quickly as I could; bouncing off of her round, white rear. She let out a loud squeal as I filled her with long spurts of warm come. Whether or not she came too, I didn't care. I rolled over and stared at the ceiling as the light gradually came to a halt. I thought about rolling a cigarette. I thought about all the other girls and all the other days. I had definitely had better ones before.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Carnival of Judgement

The chairs were hard, metallic blue and uncared for. They were the kind that folded in on themselves when nobody was sat on them, and currently nobody was seated. We were alone in this vast, stagnant room, in a sea of dirty, paint-chipped chairs. Rows and rows of the uncomfortable planks, just waiting to be filled with the well padded rears of the desperate and lonely. The kind of people who were just one rung above the bottom of society and would be arriving soon for today's freak-show to feel better about their own petty little lives. God knows why we were here so early. She was clearly eager. God knows why I was here at all. I guess I just wanted to get laid afterwards. She sat beside me clutching my arm and resting her head on my shoulder. At least she seemed comfortable, but I couldn't see how it was possible on these seats. She was content, and I guess that meant that I should be too. I had succumbed to her pleas. I had allowed her to drag me here, on the promise that it would be a laugh; that it would be outrageous. She assured me I'd get a kick out of it. I wasn't so sure.

Up at the front was the little wooden platform that would serve as a stage and on top of that were three chairs. Three glorious looking armchairs equipped with thickly padded cushions. Oh how far I have fallen when in this festival of monkeys and degenerates I don't get a little padding to rest on when these inbreds do.

They soon started to file in. The hordes and the masses. They're ready to spill blood today should they not be adequately entertained. They expected the best from their messiah and they refused to be let down. They eagerly awaited his arrival. The clank of metal and springs filled the room as they took their seats.

"Baby, I hope this isn't a sad one."
I just shrugged my shoulders in response. I didn't even know that they made sad ones. I thought it was all just bottle fed reassurance that no matter how shitty your life is that things are always a little worse elsewhere. There is always room to fuck up on a grander scale. One month of unemployment and a handful or rejection letters isn't so bad, when you could have a mild addiction to cough medicine and a healthy dose of crabs thrown in too. How the better-off can laugh at the peasants. I knew it was all bullshit, but the tickets were free and I had a shot at sex, so I couldn't care less about contributing to this abhorrent carnival of judgement. It would just be an hour or so out of my life. Time I would have only spent scratching my balls in bed.

Then the lights came up and a ripple of applause echoed through the crowd until it grew in strength and was soon accompanied by whoops and cheers. The man they had all been waiting for was finally ready to take to the stage. He was amongst his people, his brethren. He stood at the top of the steps that ran through the middle of the studio, dressed in a fine grey suit, with no tie, and lapped up every inch of their worship. His face was smug and his hair neatly trimmed as he made his way triumphantly through the midst of his flock and onto the stage where he belonged. This was truly his domain and it made me sick. I couldn't bear to watch. The big screen behind the stage flashed on with his name lit up in large letters before changing to the nature of today's show.


Holy shit. This sounded wild. I leant forward in my chair and took my baby by the hand and held it tightly. I needed to find out how this fiasco panned out.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Grit Beneath My Fingernails

The fluorescent lights of the tube sank me into a deep stupor. Between the barrage of unnecessary information about un-required products beaming down at me from above the windows and the peculiar paint-splattered design of the vinyl floor, I lost all interest in existence beyond the world of my own thoughts. Looking around at the grey faces of the mundane people surrounding me I knew I was not alone in feeling this way. And like most men with nothing better to think about, my thoughts soon turned to sex. It only seemed natural.

All was not lost in the ether of this miserable train ride. A radiant little soul sat opposite me clutching a worn out copy of Edward Abbey's "Fire on the Mountain". I instantly warmed to her. Not only did I warm to her choice of novel, but also to the fact she was reading it from a paper page and not from an electronic screen. I looked at her dainty facial features framed with long, auburn hair - which looked as if it had been woven from silk - and I looked to see if I could catch her eye as they danced across the page. She was engrossed and clearly did not wish to be disturbed. I wanted to approach her, however, and discover which passage of the book she was currently absorbing and whether she was enjoying it as much as she should. It could be the start of a blossoming friendship. It would be a lot easier to approach her in a bar, to seduce her and to never speak again, but to try to start an innocent conversation, to start something meaningful that stretched beyond sex was terrifying to me. I had heard of guys complaining about being stuck in the friendship zone. It was some kind of relationship status that meant a guy would never get to sleep with a female friend, like sex was the only reason for the origin of the friendship and he would be gutted that it would never come to fruition. It must take one helluva cruel bastard to hate women so much that they deem their friendship not good enough for them. It's as though attractive women aren't worthy of friendship. I couldn't wrap my head around it, so my thoughts returned to the girl. There were probably plenty of secluded benches in the next station where we could slip away to unnoticed and screw. I pictured the pair of us hidden around some urine soaked corner, sat on a half-rusted bench, with her on my lap, my fly open and my hand working its way up her summery dress, grinding our hips in animalistic delight. We wouldn't know each other's names but we would share something vaguely intimate, something carnal and primitive yet entirely hollow, before going our separate ways. We’d each find our own methods to deal with the guilt and to try to forget how low, empty and cheap we would both feel. I knew I would find the nearest bar to sidle up to and sink into oblivion, whereas she may well cry herself to sleep. It was neither glorious nor romantic but it was easy and the simple satisfaction and thrill of it would make it easy to forget any stigma or negative emotion attached, and to jump at the opportunity to do it all again with some other stranger.

I looked at her elegantly crossed legs pointed towards me and I wondered if being with such a beautiful creature wouldn't prove too exciting for me to cope with; particularly being with someone who was not only physically beautiful but also possessed a soul that sparked my curiosity and intrigue. I thought of all the things I would try to occupy my mind with in order to keep myself from getting overly excited. I wanted the deed to last as long as possible. I thought about dead fish. I thought about the President of the U.S. and the faces he may pull when sat upon his porcelain throne. I thought about the smell of antiseptic and I thought about the feel of grit beneath my fingernails. It all seemed farcical. To spend so much time thinking about sex when you can't get it or it's not around, just to try your hardest to think about anything else when you're actually with someone. The things some men must think about when trying to keep themselves from coming in their pants. I knew I wasn't alone in this practice; everyone wants to last longer. Finding out these thoughts would be a quicker way into the workings of a male mind than any Rorschach test. To conjure up thoughts that can prevent ejaculation while maintaining an erection is an incredibly bizarre concept to manage, and would speak volumes of the individual's psyche.

I am just a coward though, and without any form of Dutch courage on my side, I watched the fair angel glide from the chair opposite, and with a farewell smile disappear from the train and out of my life forever. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I hadn't even noticed the train had pulled into the station. I had no intention of following her, despite the smile it would just feel creepy. Instead I remained on the train, alone, gloomily aware that I had one less friend in the world. I looked at the other grey faces around me and I knew that this was where I belonged.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Locked Up and Broken

Locked up and broken and breaking out anyway. Breaking out into a madness and viral insanity that is plaguing the airwaves instead of any kind of wild jazz or blues or low down rock and roll. The kind that everybody needs without even realising it. No. Instead we're stuck with this artificial madness of one-upmanship and eternal nothingness. I hate it all. And yet I am stuck. Locked up and broken and breaking out anyway. Too lost to know where to break out into but I try anyway. Desperate in drunken madness. The kind that Kerouac and Bukowski taught me about but never really hung around to show me the way. And now they've all taken it away. The technos. The poliTICKS making you scratch beneath the skin. There are some itches that just can't be scratched and one day we will find our freedom from any suit with jelly in his back. So many of us right now may be locked up and broken, but the good news is we're breaking out anyway. But it's okay. Just like so many others I can crawl out from between my sheets and close the door behind me to face the blistering sun and sit in a bar until the brightness turns to night. That's the best time. Half-cut and surrounded by women and / or girls on their way out and in need of something. I can do nothing but ignore them. But so frequently with the right kind of nod or smile or even walk, one might approach and / or take a liking and let me take them home. Nothing really matters when you can take a girl from a bar and fill her with everything you have. There is no time to fall in love. Someone always gets hurt and there are enough people around right now to hurt you and / or fuck you over that there is no need wasting your time doing it to the people you remotely give a shit about. Besides, nobody wants to aim to be locked up and broken and if they are, then they probably are breaking out of it anyway. Oh to fuck somebody and let out all the loneliness and hope that the loneliness doesn't come back bigger, fatter, thicker and more venomous during the act. It's happened before, it'll happen again. The stars take on a brighter shine on those nights. The moon drags you closer and sings to a spiritual entity that can never be explained. Freedom in the evening. Starlight bullshit. It's all to be let go of. Forget everything and just exist until the sun returns to send us all back to work and to enslave us. The sun, guarded by its clouds, locks us up and breaks us. We're slaves to it as much as money and the whole world of crap just goes on ‘til we can't experience it anymore and have to pass it on to our kids or brothers, or even fathers and mothers if they managed to outlive us. Someone ain’t been living right if that happens though. And I type this all listening to recordings of Charles Bukowski speaking. His voice does nothing to match his words and his attitude. His battle-scarred face bears no reflection in his voice. It lacks edge or any of the ragged wounds you would expect. There is no growl. Perhaps I'm just a slave to the lack of my own imagination and originality for expecting it. I should let go of these things before I truly break. And goddammit I fear I could be breaking. If I ain't already broken.

But I know I'm better than all that anyway.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

And I am

the sun sets on another day
and i am drunk
the world rotates around great beauty
and i am drunk
a flower bursts open into flirtatious life
and i am drunk
a puffin flaps its wings in flight
and i am drunk
A barman rings the last orders
there is objection
while i am drunk.

The world rolls
the world goes
So much in life just happens
and it keeps on happening
and I am hungover.

I was once, once so very drunk.

Monday, 1 July 2013

A Little Altercation Down at the Bucket of Blood

In a haze of wine and whiskey
there was a new face in the Kid's bar.
With an eye for the ladies, and a gut full of drink
trouble was never really far.

He was dancing with the Kid's girl
down at the Bucket of Blood,
And the kid didn't take kindly to that,
down at the Bucket of Blood.

"Why don't you wanna share, mister?
There's enough to go around.
You can't keep 'em all to yourself, arsehole
Not when I'm in town."

"I don't keep notches on my bedposts
I keep them on my gun
And if you keep running your mouth off, stranger
you're bound to be the next one."

"I don't care about your notches
I don't care about your gun
And the thing you'll find with my mouth, mister,
is that it's always on the run."

The Kid squeezed the trigger hard
left a corpse face down in the mud.
But the Stranger had squeezed his faster.
And laid his claim on the Bucket of Blood.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Grey Death

Even the half decent ones are being laid to rest. I read The Wasp Factory half-drunk by candlelight until it gave me nightmares. It was a strange period for me. When my eyes grew tired of reading someone else's words, I would drag out my old Remington, load it with paper, fiddle with the ribbon and start feverishly pounding at the keys in hope that I could get some words down of my own. Hoping to form sentences and paragraphs that would eventually mount up to some kind of story, something meaningful. It never really went well and the anguish of that would often give me nightmares too. I'd give up pretty quickly and would see it as a good time to sleep. To crawl between the sheets and try to get some kind of rest before my sub-conscious would start to haunt me. I got nightmares every night. Pretty bad ones that would make we wake up, bolt upright, sometimes shouting, sometimes screaming, but always sweating. There’d be so much my sheets and pillows would be soaked through. The damp made it hard to fall back to sleep, but that didn't bother me too much. I was never sure I wanted to face the terrors again, but I knew I needed the rest. I'd take a long drink of stale, four day old water from my bedside table, lay back, and hope that morning would come soon.

The dreams never seemed so bad in the daylight. Come morning, I didn't want to leave the comfort of my bed. The beckoning call of porcelain was my only motive to ever move. If I was lucky it was just to piss or shit, but in those days it seemed mostly that I needed to vomit. To then just lay there on the floor, counting the tiles and wondering what was wrong with me and what I would need to do to remove the taste of old beer from my mouth and the burn from my throat. I'd slip sluggishly down the stairs and try to justify to myself that it was okay to line my coffee with bourbon just to take the edge off the day. I knew food was the sensible choice but there was rarely ever anything in my fridge that I fancied. I tried frying eggs, but ultimately I would end up scraping the contents of the frying pan straight in to the bin, overwhelmed with disappointment and a lack of appetite. I fantasised of escaping. Getting out and embracing the world away from the confines of myself.

Outside was grey. It was autumn, when the better poets were telling me the world was alive and on fire. Multiple tones of reds, golds and browns could be seen everywhere, but all I could see was a grey death. The sky was grey. The ground was grey. The buildings were grey. What little wildlife around was dying or hiding. I was told autumn was beautiful, but no amount of beauty could save the world from the passing of time and the arrival of a new season. Death was everywhere. I was better off inside and so there I stayed, not wanting to leave the kitchen.

On one occasion, while hunting down the spatula for my daily futile attempt at cooking breakfast, I came upon a carving knife that I never used. I pulled it from the drawer and held it up to admire its shimmering power. A killing machine designed to tear flesh apart, to pull meat from bones. I then imagined sinking its sharp point into my own skin and tearing out the veins. I wondered if I had the grit and determination to go through with such an act. The worst thing that could happen would be that it would hurt - a lot - but that it would soon be over. Then there would be nothing and nothing else would matter. I had always lacked courage, and flirting with this element of danger ignited something inside of me. I stared longingly into the blade, catching my own reflection. My eyes were wide and dark, my cheeks hollow. My hair was once thick and full of life, was now thin, limp and greasy. I questioned what I had become. I immediately grew tired of all the self-involved bullshit and let the knife slip from my fingers. The clang of metal on tile echoed through the kitchen and through my head. I needed to get laid. Above all, I really needed a steak and just to write something decent.

Friday, 7 June 2013

More of Everything in Front of You

With summer rays burning hot on my skin, the metal of the bench seat was surprisingly cool. It was the first bench I came to and by far the best. Sat atop a hill I became a king of this world. The grass rolled steeply down, thick and richly green, until it finally flattened out to where kids were running around, kicking a ball back and forth, overlooked by tree tops, which soon turned into the roofs of people's homes with chimney stacks exhaling plummets of smoke as if they were on a lunch break. What sort of maniac would light a fire on a day like today, I could not tell, but the smoke rose and disappeared into the eternal blue sky. It was a crisp, flawless summer sky that went up and on and around until it eventually ended up behind you. You could easily ruin your neck trying to take the whole thing in.

Right here from my recreational crow's nest I could see everything there was to see and nothing at all. The wildlife that lived in the shadow of the trees was hidden from me. The ants and worms crawling between the blades of grass were hidden from me. The walls of houses concealed daytime bums, resting night shift workers, plumbers, housewives and audacious thieves. Even the greatest of stars, planets and entire solar systems were hidden beneath a thin veil of blue. The whole world was alive and it was in existence right before my eyes. I leant back on the bench and let the sun beat hard and hot against my face.

It felt like a good time to get lost and so I reached for my book. It was a collection of poems by some writer I had never heard of before but I guessed by his name he was probably of central European descent. I flicked through the pages and read a passage aloud to myself.

“His arms were ink-stained displays of 3a.m. madness,
cast out with the world moving beneath yr feet.
That time of night when your eyes are opened
to see more of everything that is already in front of you.
A moment immortalised in patterns on skin
In red, black & blue.”

I held the book lightly in my hands and started to wonder. I had picked this book up from some second hand store in town. It was the kind that had dust everywhere and the aroma of vanilla hanging in the air. I thought about all the people who had held this book before me. I studied it in my hands. The spine was creased but only half-way. It had never been finished. Was it so bad that nobody could stomach it to the end? Would I be the first to read its final pages? Perhaps I was only the second owner of the book. In my head I imagined the book being deposited at the store by a broken hearted widow, throwing out the last words her husband ever read. A great pain stuck in my chest as I gripped the book a little tighter. The possibilities were endless. I shifted uncomfortably on the bench knowing that hundreds had sat here before, each with their own thoughts and each with their own visions. I wondered about the other grand conversations and views absorbed before me from this very spot. My brain was becoming curious, so there was no chance of me being able to get any reading done. I took the old, dog-eared five dollar bill I used as a bookmark and slid it between the pages to guard my spot. My mind was ready to wander and the potential of that crumpled five dollar bill soon fascinated me. I leant back on the bench, closed my eyes and let my brain run. My feet needed the rest.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A Tall Tale

Robert didn't have much in this world, but he did have work and he did have his guitar. It was more than a lot of other people had at the time, but it still wasn't enough for him. Robert wanted to be better and he wanted to be recognised - traits that were not uncommon in other men. Robert also had a tall tale to tell.

The moon hung full and bright in a clear, purple night sky. Robert walked alone, taking slow and deliberate steps to ensure he didn't upset the dirt on the road beneath his feet and fill the air and his lungs with dust. As he walked, he clung to the guitar that dangled at his side, wary of the flimsy nature of the strap he had made to carry it on his shoulder. He had crafted it himself out of spare string and it dug deep into his flesh. He was fully aware that the knots he managed to tie were not particularly tight, but they were the best knots he could muster with his unusually large hands.

The weight of his guitar and a hard day's work were beginning to take its toll on Robert and he desperately needed distraction from his blistered fingers and the ache that clung to his spine. Robert started to whistle. It was a slow, mournful tune, full of lament and regret. He soon forgot about the world around him and disappeared into the blues. He was blissfully unaware of the stranger approaching him from the junction up ahead.

"That's a mighty fine looking guitar you've got there, Mister."

Robert looked up at the tall stranger stood before him. His wide-brimmed hat not only cast his face into shadow but seemed to spread the darkness over his entire body.

"Mind if I take a little look at it? I'll be real gentle."

A bead of sweat formed at Robert's temple as he reluctantly handed his guitar over to this seemingly mystical character stood by the roadside. He couldn't bear the thought of losing his one earthly possession; the one item he relied so heavily upon to pass his spare time; the object he frequently lusted over and was so eager to master. Despite his apprehension, Robert freely - willingly - handed him his guitar and watched as the man steadily re-tuned the machine before strumming a few chords drenched in melancholy. The stranger meekly returned the guitar and without uttering a single word of thanks or farewell, turned on his heel and started walking down the road heading south. Robert gazed, almost dumbfounded, as the stranger disappeared into the depths of the night.

"A ghost?"
"Straight up."
"A ghost?"
"Yeah, Sonny. A ghost. Or something like that. Somethin' out of this world."
"A ghost? You're tellin' me you met a ghost, or somethin' outta this world, up at those crossroads and he just decided to show you how to play the guitar? That somehow he made you some kinda better player?"
"Sure thing. He was as real as you are sittin' in fronta me; as real as the cornbread and beans in my gut."
"That's a mighty tall tale, Robert, and I ain't too sure I believe it."
"You callin' me a liar, Sonny-Boy?"
"Naw, I'm callin' you a drunk. You bin suckin' down whiskey outta open bottles agin ain't ya? I tole you notta do that. You cain't ever be sure what's in 'em."
"I'm tellin' you I was sober, and I'm tellin' you I'm tellin' the truth, so help my soul. An' I've tole you before; never, ever knock a bottle outta mah hand, Boy."

It was sound advice given by old Sonny-Boy; advice that Robert would have been wise to adhere to. Several months later, Robert met his end drinking whiskey from an already open bottle that had been laced with strychnine. It had been passed to him by a stranger in a wide-brimmed hat. He was only twenty seven when he died. With his soul taken - lost - his blues still echo through the ages. They cry out from the heart of America. His songs can still be heard today, saving many a soul of the beaten, blue and downtrodden. The desperate ones, the unlucky ones, the misfortunate and the broken ones, they all still have a voice. They all still have the blues. Blues born from one man and his mighty tall tale.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Train Rumbled On

The kid's pillow turned hard and cold and began to vibrate, waking him up. Lifting his head, he watched as the world outside blurred and disappeared behind him. Shaking his head lightly, the kid looked around to absorb his surroundings and gathered from the backs of chairs and the heads peeking out from above them that he was on a train. He immediately remembered the trip he had been reluctantly taken on.

As he awoke he became aware of the itch. His scar was fresh and he was reluctant to scratch. They had told him not to. They had told him it would heal better if he just left it alone, so he ignored it as best a kid could. He yawned hard and started to pick at the hard crust in the corner of his eye that formed while he was sleeping. Examining it closely, he rolled it into a little ball between his forefinger and thumb and without any hesitation or thought, offered it up to his tongue to taste it before wiping it on the seat beneath his leg. His mind was elsewhere. He stared vacantly out of the window at the countryside rolling by, gently tracing imaginary shapes on the window with his finger. He was getting hungry and was wondering how long he'd be stuck in this metallic tube for. He didn't want to think about his hunger but he couldn't help it. The train was eating the tracks beneath it while it rumbled along and he was jealous. He wanted something of his own to eat. The walls of his stomach had started to close in and it almost felt as though they were touching. It didn't even have the strength to growl at him anymore. His stomach was a wide open cavern with a lonely pool of acid resting in the bottom. He really needed food, and would take whatever he could get, fearing he may just have to leave his seat to do so.

The girl was nowhere to be seen, but this didn't surprise him. She was often running off, unannounced, on her own little secretive missions and maybe it was time for him to go on one of his own. He didn't want to come on this little trip; it was all her idea, so why should he sit around hungry and alone, waiting for her to return to feed him? It wasn't fair.

He didn't know how long it would be before she would return. If only she left him with some money. If only she had left him with something so he could go to the food carriage himself. He imagined the adventure, wandering alone between the rows of strangers. He'd reach the end of the carriage and use the big button to make the doors part with a roar. It would be just like on the spaceships on TV. Imagining it all made him feel ten feet tall. Then his stomach finally rumbled and all he felt was hunger. He no longer even noticed the itch.

Searching around the carriage longingly for help he noticed something on the floor. Sat revealing itself from beneath her seat was the shy snake of leather that was attached to her handbag. He couldn't believe it; she'd actually left it behind. He prayed to himself that she'd left her purse inside, too. He let out a little squeal as he reached for the bag. Finally he'd be able to get something to eat and anything would do. He promised himself that no matter what he found in the handbag, he'd spend it on something healthy. He promised to not spend it on sweets. He'd buy a sandwich. He'd buy fruit. Anything good for him that would make them proud, just as long as he could eat something.

He pulled the bag up onto his lap, eagerly dragging the zip open and reached inside. As he rummaged around, he inspected each item individually. Inside her bag he fumbled with various boxes of tablets that he knew not to touch and hairclips and scrunchies of all colours. He pulled her hairbrush out and laid it on the empty seat by his side. Delving back in, he pushed some little square foil cases out of his way and from beneath a pile of dog-eared train tickets and receipts uncovered an old pack of chewing gum. He valiantly fought the temptation to slip one in his mouth though, for he knew that chomping on it would only make him feel hungrier. Amidst all the little alien treasures and pieces of junk he discovered, he found no purse. He didn't even find a handful of old pennies.

The train rumbled on.

Monday, 4 February 2013

A Hat Without a Man

A cross I fashioned out of two sticks sits
in a pile of half melted snow.
A dirty hat grieves by its side, all alone
mourning the loss of the most patient man I will ever know.
Once worn with love - now empty - it rests on the floor.
A solitary tear hangs, frozen, from it's brim.
Now that is the saddest sight I have ever seen.