Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Fear me

If I come knocking on your door at two in the morning, fear me. If you open the door and the wind is howling down your driveway and rushing damp autumn leaves over your doorstep, fear me. If the streetlamps happen to have gone out (because it’s two in the morning and no one in their right mind would be out in this weather even if it wasn’t two in the morning) and the iron gate at the bottom of your path is swinging open and shut, fear me. If you are startled by the milk bottles which have fallen off your doorstep and are now rattling away down the your driveway and over the drain cover and smash into the wall and by the roar of the wind scattering the fragments of glass like gravel in a fish tank, fear me.
If you hear a cackle coming from one end of the street which is instantly echoed at the other end, followed by the banshee-like screeching of owls in the oak trees, whose branches batter and tap on the side of the house in the storm, break loose a roof tile and send it clattering over the porch roof, fear me.
If you sense that there is a presence in your house, that it slipped through whilst you were distracted by the storm knocking on your door at two in the morning, that it knows where you are but it is not mutual; that this inner presence will snatch everything that is dear to you, including your love, so fear me.
You can hide your head under the pillows and pretend it’s not happening but you will still fear me. You will still for fear me when I’m thirty and sober. Next time, leaave the keys under the mat.

It's no joke

It’s no joke being the only kangaroo in here. The last time they did a head count I got counted more than once because they don’t make allowances for my need to jump. They just don’t appreciate my need to express my kangarooness, that I can’t be a panda, a jaguar or elephant just to please them; it doesn’t work like that.
It was tough when I first got here and not just because I was ill. The others just stared at me, made no attempt to welcome me at all. I even heard one of them saying that I was snooty because my nose is always in the air but Jesus, you should have smelt that air from where I was standing, especially nearer to the ground. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t hung up about being a bloke kangaroo just grateful that I had no need to be doing all that bending down to my pouch business and I could stay upwind from those smelly beasts.
I did try to make friends at first but you soon toughen up when you realize the mentality of places like this. I mean, where I came from we were all happy, just bouncing around in the dust. Any problems, you just gave a quick bop on the snout and it was sorted out then we could just kick back and chill ‘til the sun went down. No chance of that here, no dust, no one to bounce with, to gaze at the horizon with and share a drink or a scuffle. At least not until now. That bloke in charge, he’s a right know-all, joked about women always taking ages to get ready. There’s late and there’s late – but Noah still lowered the gangplank and let her on.

Just like your mother

You’ve got her hooked nose, you know, and those nostrils which flare outwards when you’ve got your hands in the sink and you’re up to your elbows in suds and I can see your head nodding, your eyebrow’s rising and falling whilst sucking in your cheeks, admonishing an imaginary adversary; I know the conversation’s over when I hear that final sigh, the last plate is upturned on the draining board and the white tea towel claps the air as it is being shaken ready for its work.
You’ve got her hands as well, you know, with transparent, papery skin stretching over ivory knuckles and those fingers that can skip like loose elastic across the octaves on the piano and cause the dust in the dining room to dance in the beams of sunlight coming through the patio doors and turn the pages of the music book without missing a beat.
You’ve got her stomach too, you know, its tautness and youth long forgotten, meeting hips moulded into a seat for children to cling to like monkeys whilst telephone calls and shopping lists are made and the daily chores of tidying and cooking go on uninterrupted.
You’ve got her wit, I know because I’ve heard you make others laugh and you’ve got her laugh too.
And her bust. I can’t go without mentioning that you’ve got her bust too although as the years pass, less will be seen and whilst the outline of it will be visible through the layers of jumpers and obscured by poorly fastened, mismatched buttons (especially in your later years), the memory of it will carry you through so that you don’t notice it’s gone.
So don’t worry, you’re just like your mother and although she’s here with me now she’ll watch you and laugh with me.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

I need to tell you something

Carla wrapped the tissue around her index finger for the hundredth time that morning. As far as she was concerned, it could well have been the afternoon or the evening; registering those divisions, those little routines like meal times and being vertical or horizontal which marking time through life had become a silent metronome to her. Some things she continued to do automatically; reflexes like putting a tissue in her dressing gown pocket but she had been wearing it for three days now and she hadn’t noticed that the contents were spilling out onto the settee. In fact, they weren’t tissues; those had run out within the first hour as she wasn’t usually one for crying and so didn’t keep a back-up supply. She had grabbed a new packet of toilet rolls on her way back from the bathroom, pulled the curtains together, curled up into the foetal position and put a cushion over her exposed cheek. The toilet roll was half wedged down the side of the seat cushion but it was loose enough to allow for being unravelled every few minutes.
By this time of the morning, Carla would usually have been flicking through the channels waiting for her favourite programme to come on but today, the red standby light remained aglow; the neighbours on the other side of the paper-thin walls were unaccustomed to such silence which was broken only by Carla’s sobbing. Harrold from number thirty tried knocking and peered through the letterbox but there was no response. He decided to leave it. After all, Carla was a young woman and it seemed unlikely that anything catastrophic might have happened.
Three days had passed since Carla’s mother had telephoned with the news. ‘I need to tell you something. Neighbours has been cut from the BBC ’.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Looking out of the window

She sensed an overwhelming rush of warmth thrusting from behind, a feeling she had forgotten existed. The moment had arrived when the past seven years - no, the past in its entirety - ceased to be important; it was no longer hanging on to her ankles, casting an obscure web over her eyes or pouring black ink over the pureness of hopes and dreams. She almost wanted to rush to the mirror but she didn’t because firstly, she was afraid that if she left her position at the window, the feeling would disintegrate into dust and secondly, the thought of looking at her reflection was somehow both daunting and irrelevant; the mirror was a joker, a swindler of fate whose background was false and future one dimensional. The mirror had held her hostage in this house for seven years, its superstitious nonsense was cold, hard, unforgiving and had turned her to an insipid lump of pale jelly.
Today, an envelope had arrived. She had been pleased that it was the usual postman. Whilst she accepted that he would inevitably be sick or have holidays occasionally, she did not like the change in routine, the way that the others’ bicycles didn’t squeak the same and give her fair warning of their arrival so that she could avoid being anywhere near the front door. A large part of her world was lived through the letterbox, the rest observed, a series of stills framed by the front window.
Today, the picture outside was flooded with golden sashes of sunlight and the passing children were wearing vibrant grey school cardigans and brilliant black shoes gleaming like cubes of coal. Today, looking out of the window wasn’t enough. Today was her birthday and she was going to make it as far as the gate. Perhaps.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

What's in the shadows?

I enter the forest through a door, a door in the hedge of bracken and gorse that whips at my shins and tries to stop me from going in. The overhanging branches start to close in over my head so that I can only see downwards as I slip down the slope over the buttery mud, past the badger sets protected by oak roots and I stumble as my gaze lingers too long on the blackness of the holes waiting for a pair of eyes to stare at me defiantly for disturbing their sleep but they don’t come yet. My legs have already moved on and I smell the dampness of the dead leaves, layered little hands dragging me down into the depths of old footprints and watery troughs approaching the edge of the stream. I quicken my pace as if this will stop me sinking forever into a dimly lit underground peaty pit where I would lie curled and cowering to be scolded by the hibernating creatures who would eventually give me up to the witches and warlocks to do as they pleased with me and make broth from my sins.
I hear a loud crack from overhead and I break into a run. I’m not the only one startled; a large crow has taken off from the upper branches, its wafting black cloak of wings scattering twigs and baptising me with teardrops of rainwater. I wish I could fly.
What’s in the shadows? It’s a hint of something, an ominous gloom, a darkened shape of something, a threat, an inferior remnant, a constant companion. Is it a phantom friend? A guardian, a silhouette of my alter ego? The light is fading, my sight clouds from the edges to blackness. I hear nothing more. I am the shadow itself.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

They always come to me

I don’t know how I got myself into this situation. I didn’t advertise on the internet (although back then it wouldn’t have existed) or in the newspaper or even discuss my availability too carelessly at a party. One thing’s for sure, parties are right out of the question now.
In the beginning, I tried to ignore the fact that anything had really changed for me and with hindsight, it was quite easy to do at that point. I remember going to a fancy dress party as a cat and anyone who didn’t already know me would never have guessed what had happened to me just three weeks before. After that, I began to be a little more circumspect and as a measure of the change taking place and for the sake of continuity in this analysis, I can tell you that I went to my next fancy dress party as a nun. The habit was quite forgiving and comforting and I was beginning to lose sight of the person I had been before; this single-minded, single-bodied feline form hell-bent on having a good time had been consumed by aliens.
Mostly they came to me in the night or the early hours; as if they would slip out unnoticed if the rest of the world was on hold. Often, their arrival was heralded by much thrashing around, heaving, cursing, dripping, gripping, writhing, seething, cursing, sweating, ripping, snipping, tearing, crying, wailing, puffing, pushing, prodding, searing, bleeding, slipping, squelching, sliding, wiping, padding, wrapping, sighing, crying, sleeping. Four times this happened. Three times it didn’t.
And there they are, my seismic creations laid out around me on a circular map on which I am plotted as its epicentre. They always come to me in times of trouble. Is it too late to become a nun?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Looking in the mirror

Shirley used to enjoy looking in the mirror. A lot. She had a knack for using it to feed her self-delusions. If she dieted even for just a day and if she approached the glass at a certain angle and with sufficient consciousness, it was inevitable that it would reflect a drastic change. Chin up, definitely not tilted downwards, shoulders back, not slumped, stomach heaved in, arms not be pressed against her sides, one leg slightly in front of the other and rotated gently to expose the long line of the inner thigh right down to the ankle and if possible, the toes should convey the appearance of being pointed. Then there was the hair. It didn’t have to be perfectly brushed but it shouldn’t have started to clump, frizz or become oily and if it was a parting day, it should be straight in a casual way, not as if it had been created with anything other than nonchalance. Any make-up should not have slid down the face and in particular, eyeliner should be slightly smudged but not smeared and should not have migrated into the corners of her eyes and mixed with sleep as she deemed this to be slovenly. Lashes were to remain separated. If lipstick should be apparent on the teeth this was bad, especially if it had worn away from the lips.
This self adoration took place for Shirley daily over a number of years until one day when she was swanning through the cosmetics department to see what was new. ‘Hey, you, over here’ called a voice. As she peered around the pillar she was startled to find herself face to face with a wrinkled old hag. Shirley sank to her knees, sobbing publicly. Her mascara ran freely into the cracks in the mirror.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Goodbye Wendy

I would tell them not to worry, that it had been expected, that she’d had a good life and then wonder why I should be reassuring them. It was time to be thinking about myself and my new position in the hierarchy of life. I would now be the one who sat in the winged armchair with a blanket – not yet, but soon because I know how time flies – looking over the heads of the grandchildren scrambling on the carpet for lost toy parts on Christmas Day. It would soon be me who could say what they wanted without fear of reproach except for that knowing look I have come to perfect over the years myself; the one that follows a stifled response, that moment when you can’t look the person in the eye because you don’t want them to see your fear of losing them so you look down or change the subject. The next moment, you are brought back together because they’re back to repeating an old family story again which used to annoy you but now serves as proof that there is still something in there; the stories have stopped being rewritten and the book is closed but it is a classic, a Peter Pan world and worth savouring those last few wise words.

But now things had shifted and I was facing my own immortality. Soon it would be my own children looking into my milky brown eyes, towering above my diminished frame and always trying to conceal the tension and rigidity of an arm at the ready to catch me because I am as fragile as an egg wrapped in tissue paper.

These were sobering thoughts as I entered the hospital side room and closed the door behind me. To my surprise, she was levitating.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A love letter to a household object

Dear Tumble Drier

Firstly, at the risk of sounding pedantic, I want to double check how you like to be addressed. Are you double-barrelled in the hyphenated sense or do you prefer to have a definite space between Tumble and Drier? I would never presume so much as to refer to you as T.D. although it does have a certain ring to it and I know that your neighbour, W.M., calls you that but then I suppose your relationship with him is much more intimate working as closely together as you do.

Secondly, I would like to thank you for your years of service and congratulate you for not exploding the day after your warranty expired as your predecessor did. Such loyalty is commendable these days in our throw away culture.

Thirdly, I must apologize for not noticing the kink in your venting hose earlier. I should have realized that my eldest (you know, the one with the t-shirts he wants to shrink because he likes them tight) retrieved the cat bowl from down the back wouldn’t know about your hose. Of course, the signs were there; the slightly damp waistbands, the same loads being dried twice over but you know how it is, too bogged down in being bogged down to notice. And talking of cats, I hope you don’t mind about them eating on top of you, it’s just that if I put their bowls on the floor then the dog eats their food and they’re OK really, aren’t they? Well, one of them is, the one that doesn’t look possessed but they won’t bother you, I promise, as long as they’ve got food. Much like the rest of the family really. Clean clothes and food.

I must close now – M.W.’s calling me. (‘Ding!’)

Yours truly, truly grateful

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Everthing looked different

Everything looked different in the morning. She had hauled open her eyelids, weighed down by the drama of the night and lifted her bottom to try and untwist her nightdress. She slipped her leg out sideways from under the duvet and put one foot on the floor and there was a heavy pause. Her other foot wasn’t following quite as willingly as she had hoped and the upper half of her torso was as perfectly still and flat against the mattress as it had been in the seconds before she awoke.

Yesterday all her troubles had been so ordinary. Yesterday, she had been shopping in the January sales and indulged her passion for shoes. Somehow it seemed justifiable to buy limitless pairs of shoes provided that they were displayed with a red sticky label. Red was this season’s colour for Pamela and the shoes were red. Shiny red patent with three inch stilettos. And a matching handbag of course with a large buckle which reminded her of the way her new dress (in red) was pinched in at the waist by a wide leather belt (also new).

Red must have been on her mind. It’s a dangerous colour and Pamela felt dangerous. Her dreams that night had her doing dangerous things, driving a mini down the hill where she had been brought up but there were no brakes. Her red stilettos were pumping at the pedal and scuffing the back of the heels. She did a handbrake turn and caught a glimpse of her patent leather handbag in the footwell. There was a car coming down the hill and a car coming up the hill. A cyclist. A cyclist wearing a red jersey. There was a lot of blood flowing onto the tarmac. It didn’t match anything else at all.

Monday, 21 January 2008

I've never seen his face

I look around the bedroom, towards the wardrobe and I see a dark outline of something long, black and almost human in its shape. It’s absolutely still and I watch and wait for him to make the first move. What will I do? Perhaps I should pretend to be still asleep and then I can watch to see what he does when he thinks he’s not being watched at all. Then the fuzz clears from my head and the spangly bits disappear from the outer edges of my vision and I’m awake enough to remember the suit I left hanging on the outside of the wardrobe last night.

Sometimes, if I’m lying on my left side, there is a tapping on the window and it reminds me that the oak tree is very close and peering in at me in my sleep. Sometimes, I hear owls in the woods at the back of the garden; sometimes they call to each other and sometimes there is one in particular who must be sitting on the largest branch overhanging our garage. His call is comical a deep ‘whoo, whoo’ which sounds more like a man doing a drunken impression of an owl; it is one I have now identified as belonging to a long-eared owl whose habitat is woodland and conifer plantations. I’ve never seen his face but I have reported a sighting to an organisation interested in these things and I’m glad that my insomnia isn’t a completely lost cause for someone.

Sometimes as I get undressed for bed at night, I wonder whether I’m going to be bothered by suits or owls. I should probably worry that our curtains are almost sheer against the lamplight and that I’ve been undressing publicly like this for the last six years without realizing.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

My real name is ...

‘What are you looking at?’ growled the tattooed ogre with the Rottweiler. I smiled in what I thought was an appeasing manner, embarrassed by the redness seeping upwards from my chin and moved to hurry on, quite unnecessarily adjusting the collar of my jacket. With my back to him, I heard some heartfelt obscenities strung onto the word ‘bitch’. I wasn’t really sure what I had done although it was clear that I had done something awful. I replayed the scene in my head and as I always tended to do, became more and more angry as I contemplated the unjust treatment I had been served. It was little comfort to think that he probably treated many a stranger in the same way or that the moment I walked away, he would not have given our exchange a second thought; the fact that I had been wronged and that perhaps directing abuse at me may even have alleviated the pressure of some pent-up aggression and put a lightness in his step, elevated my anger to a new platform. I felt sure that the redness in my face had now blanched to a steely white, my hackles were rising in unison with the stiffening of my wiry frame until it was almost rigid as the adrenaline powered around my body.

My walking pace had slowed considerably and I had ceased to notice the wind; in fact as I turned back to face the direction from which I had come, I felt no fear in the gust that accelerated my gait towards that obnoxious being still leaning against the lamp post. Perhaps it was the whiff of Miss Dior or the sound of stilettos; he turned to me with a curled lip and I said: ‘My real name is Bernard. What’s yours?’

What are you looking for?

What are you looking for? Is it that cup which went missing last week? It could be in the cupboard with the old mugs and children’s mugs (the ones not on display); it could be in the cupboard with the plastic beakers; it could have been put in the cupboard with the dinner plates. Perhaps someone made a loose connection in their head, one you can’t quite put your finger on right now – you might call it a free association – and put it in the cupboard with the baking ingredients. It’s really very hard to say without turning everything out onto the floor and then what will happen is that the dog will eat everything or kick it across the tiles if anyone new enters the kitchen. So perhaps we’ll leave it missing for now.

Now what are you looking for? Is it last month’s credit card statement? It shouldn’t be difficult to find seeing as how it translates into an inventory for the toy department of Amazon and has more print on it than a Sunday paper. It’s probably buried beneath the other bills for the January term. They should use coloured paper if they want people to pay but then I suppose they don’t, do they? Or they could use paper which changes colour as it approaches the statement date; now that really would be useful. Perhaps some mysterious benefactor has whipped your statement away and the letter from the credit card company will glide so gracefully through the letterbox that the dog won’t hear it and puncture it with his teeth unlike the bills which arrive so aggressively, laden down with loan adverts and covered in saliva. The letter will be thanking you for being such a fine customer, for being so incredibly loyal, for your zero balance.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Someone is calling your name

You drag the past around with you no matter where you go. Dark spectres, matted with the mud of life are captured in the invisible net spun by your unconscious; it stretches and groans under the weight of the passing years, the misdeeds and near misses overwhelming the sunnier memories that trot along gaily without bothering a soul.

I want to put my teenage years into a box and throw them into a fast moving river but it seems impossible; I look at them, cringe and then I just throw them back over my shoulder until they creep up on me once more. Nowadays, it’s not just me I’m dragging around, add a few children to the equation and then there’s my black Labrador who likes to drag me around. The other day he dragged me to greet a couple of dogs coming the other way.

The man walked on the verge opposite with two Labradors was grey, fatter but the same. Mr Benson, Deputy Head, black whiskery beard and a polished head glaring through his dark comb-over but most notably, the deepest, booming voice I had heard. Welsh, I think, but I’m not sure. A certain lilt, musical and deep, a bass voice. He did assemblies, not so much religious but a daily injection of morality. I remember two really big things about Mr Benson: being hauled into his office because I had been present when golf balls were used to smash the gym windows and the Addidas assembly. A bag had been stolen. A black Addidas bag. A black Ad dee das bag, with a drop of about three octaves at the ‘dee’ syllable dividing the word until it was completely unrecognisable.

So there you are, walking your dog and someone is calling your name. ‘Dee? Dee Walsh?’

Thursday, 17 January 2008

A Scar

When I was born, I was covered in a soft downy hair, a floating cloak of microscopic blades of satin which curled around my dimples. I had chocolate brown hair with the letter ‘C’ circling in front of my little rosebud ears and at the nape of my neck, it was ungroomed, zigzagged and not heavy enough to fall with its own weight but distinct enough to be starkly apparent against my pink skin. A darker circle of pink, a blotted ‘O’ was half hidden beneath my hairline but its visibility to my parents prompted them to name me Olive. Did they have the foresight to know that I would indeed turn out to have olive skin unlike either of them? Sometimes you just know. Not that I could have known all of this of course, it was told to me in bedtime stories, woven in and out fairytales where I was the beautiful Princess Olive. Who ever heard of a princess called Olive?

Princess Olive wore glittering sequinned gowns with collars like oyster shells lined with pearls which obscured the magical mark on her neck or at least took the eye of the beholder away from its site. Princess Olive went dancing in purple palaces, overhung by sweeping turrets with shuttered, perfectly square windows swathed in violet silk. One night, Princess Olive danced a waltz with Prince Charming and she was besotted with the look of him. He swept her across the dance floor like a dragon fly skipping over the surface of a pond and he gazed at her intently. Such was their love that they never said a word but lived happily ever after. Their love grew over the years and they died together.

The real Olive, that’s me, is still looking for the strong silent type.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A bed

When Angela and her husband had viewed the house, the vendors, the McDonalds had gone to great lengths to point out that the bedroom looked small because they had an oversized bed. Of course, the room was small and quite out of proportion to the rest of the house and it seemed to be a small compromise when it offered so much in the way of downstairs accommodation.

Angela was six months pregnant with their third child and she remarked to Mrs McDonald that she couldn’t imagine ever wanting to move to a bigger house than this one. Sure, it needed a little updating, the eighties needed to be exorcised from virtually every room in the house but there was nothing that couldn’t wait until they had enough money. It would be worth stretching themselves, Angela was certain and Derek was about as enthusiastic as Derek could be; he was a bit of devil when it came to expressing himself.

Within a year of moving in, Angela was pregnant again and they vowed that this would be the last child on the grounds that the bedrooms would be full. Angela and Derek’s bedroom felt hot. It felt so hot that Angela couldn’t bear to brush against Derek’s legs in the night and she would spend the entire night sliding her calves to a fresh, cool spot on the sheets but in their standard double bed, these were limited.

With Derek’s annual bonus they invested in a superking sized bed and it was heavenly. A vast expanse of cool, white, cotton rippled and fanned Angela’s thighs as she spread her arms and legs like an angel spreading her wings. Derek took to sleeping downstairs in front of the fire and within another year they had gone through a really hellish divorce.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

It's my belief we're all crazy

Fiona stopped suddenly at the end of the painting and decorating aisle when she saw her subject. This was an unexpected pleasure as she had only popped in to buy a new piece of downpipe for the side of the house which had become clogged with leaves and collapsed. She was becoming accustomed to spotting her subject purely by sensing the certain way in which she moved and she had congratulated herself on the acquisition of this is new skill. She wondered whether it was because she had been studying the movement over a period of nine years or because it was so extraordinary that it could not be ignored by her, even if it was just an unconscious glimpse on the peripheral of her vision. In any case, opportunities such as this one should not be ignored because one never knew when they would present themselves again. She stretched out to touch a packet on the clearance range situated at the end of aisle display. Anyone who knew Fiona would be instantly suspicious; she was unlikely to be interested in stencilling leaves on a wall in her house but on the assumption that she was still operating unacknowledged by her subject, she considered it adequate cover for her real intentions. It was a matter of intrigue for Fiona that in all the years of furtive exploration she had yet to discover her subject’s name despite close proximity on a number of occasions. In the first instance they had sat opposite one another on a training course but the subject had fled in tears. Secondly, their children had attended the same school but in different year groups. The third time was in the clinic, a very discreet environment. It’s my belief we’re all crazy but some more so than others.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Why Not?

Doris sat on the wooden bench, shifted uncomfortably and tucked her shopping bags under her armpit. There was a young man approaching. He was wearing a hooded zipped sweater, baggy jeans and a woollen hat. She didn’t want to stare, to attract attention so she turned her left palm upwards and appeared as if she was examining her nails. Actually, she didn’t really have any nails because they had been worn away scrubbing the kitchen floor. She considered whether she’d want the young man to know that she had no nails; that should he attack her, she couldn’t scratch him. Then she realised how futile this thought was, that an individual capable of inflicting bodily harm on a mature lady such as herself would consider naillessness a barrier to attack. He may even consider that a lady with perfectly manicured talons to be the wearer of expensive rings or worse still, the owner of a whole stash of co-ordinating sets of jewelery to which he would march her, her arm behind her back or a knife in her ribs whilst he muttered obscenities through a stocking. And no one would know because the lady, a frequenter of the bridge club and music circle and who played golf on Wednesdays wouldn’t have told anyone that she was going to sit on a park bench. She would’ve told people that she was visiting her friend Valerie in hospital and they would have said “But Vanessa dear, you’ve never mentioned that you knew Valerie” and she’d blush and have to pretend that it was another Valerie altogether and hope that they didn’t see through her.

But now Doris could see that none of this could happen. Why not? Because she’d put on her glasses and realised that the young man was her grandson.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

After Midnight

It was after midnight and Lucinda slid down the back of the chestnut leather sofa into a slouch. Shattered triangles of tortilla chips from the previous night were digging into the exposed area of flesh newly released and spilling over the top of her jogging bottoms. She could just about muster enough energy to lift one buttock and reach for the offending crumbs so that she could pass them to her dribbling mouth.

On the floor in her flat, part of a grand mansion block overlooking Hyde Park, lay the debris of her debauched life: some empty lager cans, not crushed of course as this would have required effort, three pizza boxes, each one smeared with a mouldy mayonnaise dip and adorned with the odd slice of wilting onion, two greasy foil cartons tipped so that a brown sludge had seeped onto the parquet and some white crumpled paper housing the remains of a kebab, namely some transparent lettuce and more onion. Had you looked two days ago, there might also have been some pitta bread to see but the mice had made a meal of this and were long gone upon Lucinda’s arrival back home.

She viewed the flickering screen through half closed eyelids and pressed the ‘channel +’ button in search of something worthwhile. There was pop music on one channel, a football match on another (sport wasn’t really her department), a seventies cop drama which she had seen at least twice (in the seventies) and a current affairs programme discussing the growing trend towards obsesity in youngsters. She opted for the latter so that she could throw peanuts at the screen and the government minister she’d danced with earlier that evening before the heel of her slingbacks had shattered and she’d fled the ball alone and carriageless.

And Here's Something I Prepared Earlier....

I wrote this one a few days ago in response to Sarah's prompt My younger self fled not toward but from:

It’s funny how your hair seems to grow in spurts isn’t it? You can go for weeks and it seems the same and then one day something changes when you’re not looking. It was one of those days when I realised that something wasn’t quite right and I felt a little rough.

In the turbulent blackness of the bedroom where I stood on the splintering floorboards my brittle hair kept blowing in front of my eyes. I needed to be able to see the horrors coming at me so I tried to get a hold of it but as I did so, my hands tore it away in clumps and I saw that they had turned a brittle grey. I bunched the swirling folds of my nightgown around my thighs so that nothing would creep up past my knees and I wished that my feet weren’t bare because then I wouldn’t have seen my toenails curling into yellow crusty talons. My mouth had been open but to stop the decay spreading, I clamped it shut and my teeth started to crumble. I spat the contents venomously onto the eiderdown repeatedly until my mouth was empty and my gums were shrunken and dry. Who were these creatures slithering from the shadows in the corners of the room and bellowing a foul stench of unintelligible curses at me? How could I deal with them in my deteriorating state?

But it wasn’t all bad. My younger self had fled not towards these demons but from them. My worst nightmares were about to be surprised. I had to let go of my nightgown but it was a small sacrifice. As I rose into the wind, I grabbed the wooden bedpost (the drapes had been torn away in the gale) and I flew at them.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Second Response of the Day (for one day only!)

The prompt for this one was:

These are the things women know about love.

Susan lowered herself down carefully, evenly onto the dressing table stool. It was an odd shape for a piece of furniture designed to take a person’s weight. She presumed that it had been made to compliment a kidney-shaped dressing table and when she bought it from the antiques shop, it had been this fancy which had attracted her to it. The problem was that if she sat towards the front edge, the concave side of the stool, then her weight put too much of a strain on the front joints; if she sat further back – as she had tried on a number of occasions – there was a real danger of tipping right over. She had also tried turning the stool around the other way but the problem was just reversed. When she had bought it for £28, it had seemed a bargain but then what did she know about buying antiques?

She had planned to make a new cover; its large pink flowers and green leaves had blended to a milky grey and the piping was missing in two places. Susan lost enthusiasm for doing anything about the shabby stool when she realised just how useless it was. But she sat on it nevertheless and tolerated the nuisance of not being able to guarantee she wouldn’t fall off at any moment. If she did start to tip either forwards or backwards, she would automatically grab for the dressing table; this also had two wobbly legs, bought for £30 off eBay, described as shabby chic.

Because of all this, she has never dared to let go long enough to put on make up. But it is OK. Susan knows that her husband understands problems like not having enough time and unevenly distributed weight. These are the things women know about love.

My First Blog Page!

How exciting, I'm really getting to grips with technology now. The purpose of this is to make me write every day no matter what it is. I've recently been taking prompts from Sarah Salway at and I'd recommend anyone stuck for inspiration to do the same. I'd also recommend everyone to read her wonderful books.

The prompt for this one was 'He'd never let me take his photograph':

He has taught me everything. He has taught me about the importance of family. Not the family of soap operas, mafias, glossy celebrity magazines or politics but pure the earthy essence of surviving what life throws at you.

He has taught me not to make assumptions, to be thorough, not to leave any rock unturned. He has taught me to keep a bit of myself back, to hide in the shadows just a little and if something’s really good and if I just keep faith in myself then my fate will be decided. He has shown me how to care for my children, to maintain a distance and let them fight because it’s good practice for later.

He has shown me that there’s no need for fancy food, that nature is more than capable of sustaining a body, especially one with a cunning instinct and a nose for the finer pickings in season. He has helped me to realise that sometimes, it’s OK not to go out. If it’s cold outside, if you don’t really need any food or feel the need to socialise, then just stay in where it’s nice and cosy; not seeing anyone for a bit can be quite refreshing and when you do venture out again, it will be all the more enjoyable.

He has taught me not to be too obsessive about my appearance; life is too short for vanity and a good respect for life is more rewarding in the long term although he does concede that it’s good to avoid bright lights.

I’ve seen him regularly because our house is on his route and he always stops by. I’ve read books about him, searched the internet and if there’s one thing I know about my badger: he’d never let me take his photograph.