Thursday, January 24, 2008


I watched you today.

I watched a smile grow from your lying mouth and spread across your lying face. It never touched your eyes but he didn't notice. He was too busy with your breasts - hoping that if you leaned forward a little more he would glimpse more than the soft cleavage that was already on offer. His eyes glued to the young flesh that had been denied him for so long.

Did you know he loved me? I doubt it even crossed your mind. No one in the park would have known either, only seeing love spread out on a blanket along with champagne and my favourite chocolates. He never had much imagination.

As I sat watching you I saw your trick. A clever trick of youth that I can never compete with. I have long since worn the invisible cloak of fortyhood - lost to all in a kind of sexless fog. He felt the touch of that fog too and went looking for you.

Your theft has gifted me dark glasses and a park bench, and denied me a security that was mine by rights. I watched your lying eyes and know clearly now that you never intended to involve your heart.

In a few weeks, months, you will grow tired of your prize, discarding him for the piercings and tattoos that are age appropriate. He will look back then, realising that the bulge in his trousers has let him down badly and he will come for me. And there I will be. In the farthest corner of the darkness night he will find me waiting for him, ready to spit in his eye.


Also published here The Pygmy Giant

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Once upon a time there was a small girl who grew up on a diet of fairy tales and fables. It was a happy childhood full of imaginative poisoners, granny gobbling wolves, and stupid princesses who got too close to spinning, pricking things.
As the small girl got older she searched in vain for the pea under the mattress and realised miserably that there was no such thing as gingerbread houses and no point in continuing to
kiss frogs

The small girl grew into a minx and longed for the days when knights in tights saved girls with impossibly long hair who had been locked up in towers by deliciously evil relatives.

So please, end my misery before the season of the red, fat man and ...


..and restore my belief that there are trolls under the bridge, there are such things as seven little men all living in one house, and that the temptress, Goldiwotsit, was nothing more than a small, blonde, chair-breaking thief!

Contributions of prose (up to 900 words) and poetry, will be gratefully received and will receive a prize of great value (Baba Yaga cut my tongue out for such lies).

You may find me in my turret at - innerminx at googlemail dot com

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wolf Run - Taffiny

I feel their feet coming fast upon the earth. I hear them behind me, panting. My own breath hard and quick, burning cold, as it’s forced into my lungs. I can’t outrun them. The wolves will catch me. My body will fill their jaws. I can’t slow down though, I wont surrender. I will go on till my breath is taken from me, as they rip my body apart.
I would be dead already, but they are finding sport in the chase, not so hungry as to want the game to be over quickly. When they first spotted me, they yipped and wagged their tails so happily, for a moment I thought I wasn’t in danger. Till the saliva swept into their mouths, dripping out into the snow. Revealing their joy in knowing a good meal would soon fill their bellies.
I do not feel the numb toes I run upon, but the burning pain of my legs and arms pumping frantically says, “I am still alive”. I will fall soon, into snow, the pack upon me, hopefully my head will be struck upon something as I land, so I pass out, I want to feel nothing, none of this.
Have I been running forever? This moment seems the entirety of my life.
My eyes scan about desperately, wildly, searching for any escape. Through the trees, a building appears. I must make it inside. I hurl my body forward with all my force. Grabbing the handle, opening, tossing myself in. Shutting the door behind me, I hear the first wolf slam into it. I see their black nails through the space at the bottom of the door. Fear shakes me, I have to keep hiding. I have to tuck myself in, deeper, smaller, further.
I run about opening doors and cupboards, looking for a place to hide. I throw my body into one. huddled in darkness, but I don’t feel safe. I hear them scratching, and digging. Then a long “howl”. It is their victory. We all know I am trapped. It is just a matter of time till they find their way in. I jump out of the cabinet, searching for another place to hide. They whimper excitedly biting at cracks in wood, they will draw their own blood tearing this structure away, till the crunch of my bones, is felt between their teeth.
Another door reveals a narrow stairwell.
Climbing to the second floor I find a woman, or a beast. Hair of long wild tangles, hulking body naked but for the fur that covers her deep in places. I have never seen such a creature before, but know she has been waiting for me. She moves to the window, opens it, jumps down two stories, landing on her feet in the snow, she looks back up at me. Only her eyes speak, they say “We can do this, you and me, this is something we can do, this is a power we have”. She walks off into the woods.
I stand at the open window, paralyzed with shock. I can’t do that, my legs will break. The wolves are still down there. And as I think of them, I hear them again, pushing through the house door. Terrified, I run into the next room closing the door behind me. I hear their claws on the stairs. There is nowhere for me to run, to hide, to escape. I am frozen, still in the center of the room. They are at the last door, scratching, pushing against it, eager to get to their prey. This is it. It is over. I stand my ground, I have no other option. I wait for them to come get me. They burst through, charging, lunging. I open my mouth, screaming, louder, longer, wider, than I ever have before. So fast I hardly know what has happened. My finger moves up to my mouth to tuck the last bit of velvety ear inside, and I swallow down, hard.
I feel sick, nauseous, acid burning in my stomach, burning its way through fur, flesh, bone, blood, teeth, consuming rows of those black nails that had been clicking upon the wooden floor.
I fall to the ground, exhausted, uncertain, half dizzy with confusion. I access; I am alive, I have survived, they did not get me, they were coming, to kill me, to eat me. They burst through the door, and.......I ate them. Swallowed them whole. At the thought acid comes up from my stomach and fills my mouth. Horrified, disgusted, I want to puke them back out. But no. Then they will be out around me again, then I will run from the sight, from this act. No, I keep them in my belly, great as pregnant, while consuming them, devoured till they are no more, but what can fuel me, or become waste that will leave my body, thought of no more.
I stand up, walk down the stairs. Place my body unhidden in the open doorway to this dwelling. Knowing I can choose to walk out into the woods. Knowing I can stay and build a home here. I do not know at this moment what I will do. But I know I will no longer be chased. I know I will walk unafraid.

Taffiny blogs HERE

Monday, December 10, 2007

Goldiwotsit and Boldigrushin by G&G

She wasn’t the most affectionate person in the world, but when Goldiwotsit wanted loving she knew some covers she could climb under to reap all the affection she and Boldigrushin ever needed. They both slept alone most of the time just for the comfort of guilt free farting and collision free restlessness. They both had their middle of the night inspirations to get up and write, draw, make or eat something and middle of the day siestas and passed each other affectionately in their separate interests throughout their lives. When the weather grew chilly the farts and the nearness kept them warm every night.

Goldiwotsit had a special life all her own of which she never spoke nor would he be aware had he not loved to watch her in his idle hours as she followed her muse about her day. Without benefit of books or teachers he watched her learn about reflection, refraction, spectrums, magnification and fluid dynamics by experimenting in the pond near their home. These were experiences she would never forget due to complete lack of need to explain herself to anyone. The closest she came to discussing such things was gazing into Boldigrushin’s eyes until they both slowly closed them with a nod of mutual understanding and ultimate love.

When he was rapt at his drawing board at times of her repose she could just sit and watch his concentration, his inhalation upon inspiration, his exhalation of herbal dilation, his tongue flicking in and out as if whittling out the precision of his expression. She wondered what the source of his need to have the rest of the world see what he sees might be. He’d spent a lifetime getting better at it and when they’d met he’d left the city behind to establish this wooded home as a place he could draw his pictures to trade for bullets to keep the wolves from their door. This gave him the quiet solitude to write his stories and tootle his flute for the pure pleasure of expression and learn to grow his vegetable garden for the satisfaction of self reliance in supplying the absolute necessity of life. She didn’t understand and felt no urgency to end such an interesting, alien mystery.

When she needed his attention, his touch, she knew she had only to nuzzle his ear to draw him back from the world of his imagination and gain him all to herself so long as the feeing was mutual or until either one became interested in something else. No matter who they may be with or what they were doing, they both knew their primary interest was in each other. It was less concern about whether they were doing well and more admiration for how well they did everything in their lives, even the learning from their own mistakes part.

Her curiosity was mostly satisfied by watching one place for long periods to let the pitter-patter pattern of local activity establish itself wherever she alit so that she could filter it out of her attention to spot the anomalies by the slightest glimpse, peep, scent or electric charge out of the ordinary. Boldigrushin had learned the method from her while they meditated on the mystery of life each sunrise sitting in his potting shed over looking the garden. She knew he understood her when he entered the state required to notice and watch a clod of dirt become dislodged and unbalanced by an emerging broccoli sprout and roll several inches away.

When this autistic, fugue, trancelike patter analysis state gleaned curiosities sufficient for further investigation, she was all over it whether it was a slithering lizard, a four leaf clover, new noise, scent of jasmine, nose right down in it for all the rare sensations to be offered. Seeing life be a such joy for her, whether snoozing or active, lightened his sometime jaded attitude toward his species’ jaded attitude toward the nature of the planet that sustained the lives of all its species. He got especially upset with their treating the rest of the world as property, always prompting him to explain to her that they even think they own their daemons and call them pets. When he got this agitated she knew he needed to be kneaded in his tense shoulder muscles now that she’d learned to hold in her claws.

G&G blogs HERE

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Dragontale by LM Noonan

My mother was a dragon.

Did my father know?

Well not until the moment of his passing—gods rest his ignorant soul.

Ah, I see the doubt, I hear the chary thoughts—another gift of my ancestors.

How could he not know? Or; how could…he know a dragon?

She was bathing in an icy puddle of snow-melt, surrounded, suffused with steam and dragonbreath. The milk thistle sun glancing off her scales created a hall of mirrors effect. My father— hallucinatingly malnourished survivor of the harsh northern winter but rather handsome in his gauntness; caught sight of himself reflected, refracted as a hundreds of winsome, angular girls, all with the same startled blue eyes.

What can I say in his defence—there are no mirrors in the village, no reflective surfaces, the only potable water, dull, tea coloured, choked with debris; what can I say…I have my mother’s intellect.

Any normal yokel would have turned tail or hurled a testing stone or two. My father began instead to stroke her scales so enchanted was he with the fractured vision. He didn’t stop to wonder when they rippled beneath his hands—she says she will always remember his touch. He dropped his trews and pressed himself close to her trembling scutes, rubbing, caressing—she turning, turning.

Just as Daddy found the chink in her armour, a place less hard, less chitinous and—it seemed; a perfect temperature, she opened one dreaming eye to regard her lover.

She assures me that he died instantly.
The human heart can only take so much, which is why….it is a good thing I have a dragon’s heart.
But still, she wishes that her dragongirl had at least a few scales.

LM Noonan blogs here at Failed Painter

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Capricious Dragon - Leslie Hawes

Upon a time

somewhere near Wales

there dwelt Capricious Dragon.

He spent his days

seeking knights

to scare, or pull a gag on.


Outside the town

in forest groves

he’d stand in arching lurking.

Knights would ride

beneath his hide

not knowing

of his smirking.


Out he’d jump

to dance a jig

in front of men of valour!

His great delight

to cause them fright

and take on shades of pallor.


He’d hide behind

a great big rock…

await the unsuspecting.

Crouch and wiggle.

Sproing and giggle!

It took years perfecting.


He’d never tire

of his games.

He’d even raid the castles.

He’d raise Hades

with Faire Ladies,

and scare away the vassals.


No moral here

to be discerned,

though you remain suspicious,

because you will not ever know

when you might meet Capricious.


Leslie, a talented illustrator with a good eye for a yarn blogs HERE


Monday, June 25, 2007

A small but perfectly formed competition - results

Two winners because I am an indecisive creature.

Well done Canterbury Soul and Mutley the Dog

Thank you for all the entries. For a competition that gave you less than a week I think the standard was brilliant!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

12. Captured still hanging - Taffiny

His leather shoes on the marble floor, moving in long smooth strides. She is upstairs, in the contemporary wing of the museum. He longs to be with her. He enters, eyes cast downward, the paintings on either side, a blur. He finds his exact placement on the bench, only then does he look up, taking all of her in at once. Feelings rush through him. His back straight, dark suit perfectly aligned, uncreased, but soon he will yield, and be unaware of his posture. A stillness within him, he only feels when he is with her. She doesn’t turn to look at him, she never does, maybe that is why he forever longs for her “ just turn and look at me”. She is captured, still, and hanging, a moment in time, yet somehow, she represents everything to him.

He knows many women, is continually dating, but no matter how pretty or clever, he feels nothing. With her, he feels it would be different “I know I could love her”. Walking down the street, the sight of a woman, in a pale trench-coat, or white dress, dark hair pinned up, makes him gasp, “one day, one of these women will turn around and it will be her”.

He knows his affection is odd, he once forced himself to stay away. Shaky and uneasy, after three weeks he took out the postcard of her, bought to help him if it became too much to endure, but when he looked at it, it wasn’t the same, it was just color on paper, nice, but didn’t make him feel anything. “What if this feeling is gone?” He rushed to her, emotions once again crashed over him, then calmness. Something about the paint on the canvas, the thickness, overlapping colors, the way light hits it, presses parts of his soul, and sings, in the picture, and through him. He can’t touch her, can’t run his hands over her surface, but he can stand really close, her form becoming thousands of dots, then walk slowly backward, to see at what moment, streaks of color become a woman. He doesn’t try to understand what it is that strikes him so. He needs to see her, to feed this hope, “that somewhere there exists a woman I can love.”. If he stopped feeling this way about her, then he would feel this way, about no one.

He wonders how long he can hold onto this feeling of hope, that he can be like other people, can love. Will he just give up someday, feel he was crazy, foolish, to waste his time staring at a painting, believing it could hold some clue, to a possible future? His dream, a vision of one day, holding the hand of a woman, who makes him feel the way this picture does, wondering if he will ever have the courage to tell her, he fell in love with her a long time ago through a painting.


Taffiny blogs HERE at To Taste a Peach

Friday, June 22, 2007

11. Her time alone - Seamus Kearney

It was mother’s time. Every morning between five and seven. No one was allowed to spoil it. Terence, Keith and I had no choice but to obey. We knew that to do anything else would’ve been too painful. She never had to hit us to make us stay in bed; she simply had to cry. Her power had always been in her tears. She would weep with sharp little intakes of breath, just like she did that night the phone rang and all colour seemed to disappear, when people streamed through the house with wide, strained eyes, repeating lots of exaggerated things about my father.

Mysteries for children, though, are unbearable. One summer morning, way before the alarm sounded, I decided that I had to see for myself how mother spent those few hours alone. It had never occurred to me that all I had to do was sneak along the edge of the landing and in behind the statue that my father had brought back from Moscow. Between the smooth legs of some handsome Russian oligarch, I had a splendid view of the living and dining rooms.

At first I didn’t spot her, probably because I had expected to see some kind of obvious activity such as letter writing or the altering of one of her dresses. When I finally spotted her shape by the window, way off to my left, I was surprised at how elegant and relaxed she looked in her dressing gown. My mother was standing before me and nothing looked familiar. I had never seen her chest area so uncovered. I had never seen her with a hand on her hip, actually looking rather sexy. I had to fight the urge to go and wake up Terence and Keith.

I remained in the same position for a good ten minutes, with my knees scrunched up to my chin. I just watched her. It didn’t feel wrong. It didn’t feel like anything. After a while I tried to imagine what her eyes might be fixed on. She hardly moved, except to raise her mug to her lips a few times. I kept looking. She kept looking. I imagined that our breathing shared the same measured, relaxed pace.

Then, without any warning, she put a hand up and started waving. There was something unreal and disturbing about the wave though; the movement was slow and deliberate, as if she weren’t sure if the other person could see her. I immediately understood.

When mother turned around to place her mug on the table, I could tell that she’d been crying: the tears had made her chest all shiny and the skin beneath her eyes was swollen. I desperately wanted to race down the stairs and comfort her, to tell her that things would get easier with time, just as she’d told the three of us. But I didn’t. I dared not move, afraid of how she might react. This was her time alone.


Seamus blogs HERE at Shameless Words

10. Adjustment - Roberta

They told her she would have to go through a period of adjustment.
There are exactly three hundred and sixteen tiles in the ceiling. The neighbor comes home at exactly 6:14 in the evening. Their dog barks fourteen times in the night.
She sighed and rolled over to his side of the bed, reaching for something familiar, to find only a pillow – a new pillow. His closets were bare. She’d given away every article of clothing he’d owned. She’d burned his underwear in a fit of rage and thrown out his toothbrush and his razor. She’d broken half the dishes.
There were days when she didn’t leave the house. Friends would call with concern. “I’m FINE!” she would tell them as she crawled on her hands and knees to make sure that nothing of him was in the house. “He’s dead. I’m fine.” And then she would find herself sitting in the middle of a darkened hall weeping.
He’d always had a penchant for blondes.
Mr. Carl Bruinheld had come home early from work to find her husband in the throws of passion with Mrs. Carl Bruinheld. The police report said he had removed the revolver from the dresser and shot them both before they could get dressed and bolt. He shot the pretty Mrs. Bruinheld in the face. He chose to cripple her husband before he finally finished him off.
She admired the man.
Now she paces the house through the night. Rage does not keep easy company. It robs one of sleep and keeps one motivated to move like a caged tiger.
At dawn, she can be seen in the window as the street lamps go out. She seems to be staring at something -searching -a cold cup of coffee in her hand.
Perhaps she is looking for adjustment?


Roberta blogs HERE at Turn the Page Roberta

9. Door left open - Canterbury Soul

Aubrey puffed the cigarette. She refused to cry. The emotions from within could still be contained. She knew she had done the right thing. As much as she cherished her girl, she had to do it.
Alan put his hand on her shoulder. His touch reaffirmed their faith in each other. He knew he was right. There could not be another way out. As much as he cherished his girl, they had to do it.
The screen had been telling a promising story. Images of her eclipsed the dark side of the house. The playground, the barn, the pony ride, the swimming pool, the birthday cake… Her life could have gone on to a fireworks display.
“……happy birthday to Adele! happy birthday to you!” the cheers and applause preceded the end of the movie clip.
“It’s time now,” Alan kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll wait for you.” He disappeared through the door.
Aubrey finished her last bit and put the stub away. Then, it came. The sorrow from deep down surfaced tremendously and took over her entire being. She wept, her hands on her face. She went on for about five minutes, absolutely losing control.
Then, all of a sudden, the tears stopped completely. She removed her hands from the face that was scarred with trails of her mascara.
She stood and moved towards the long flight of stairs. She scaled it slowly, and came to her door. It was left open. She pushed it away and walked to the bed. Alan was there, head hung low. He was sobbing. Aubrey put her hands on his shoulders and pulled herself close.
“I’m sorry, Adele! I’m really sorry!” he couldn’t help but utter, visibly shaken. She was the composed one now. Perhaps, she had dried up all her grief. She took her husband’s hand and placed it on the girl’s face with hers. It was already cold by then. Obviously the drug had worked. She was gone.
They stayed there for quite awhile.
They took one last look at their motionless girl. No more goodbyes, no more pain. They left and came to their lounge. Aubrey sat on the bar stool. Alan went behind the counter and uncovered it from a locked box.
“I love you!” he said, looking at her.
“I love you too!” she answered, eyes closed.
He put it on her head. He pulled the trigger, and she was gone.
He placed it on his and pulled. He was gone too.
The sunlit rays filtered through the curtains and woke her up. She just had a long, wonderful dream. The little girl stretched her tiny body. Then, she was up. She saw the door that was left open. She yelled in excitement and ran through it, the pacifier still in her mouth.
“Mummy! Daddy!” she shouted as she searched. Then, she saw it… through the balcony. The morning sky was bathed in a golden hue. She just stood there, admiring God’s gorgeous backdrop. She smiled.


Canterbury Soul blogs HERE at Doors Left Open

Thursday, June 21, 2007

8. Half an hour - Vesper

The Rolls arrived at 6 o’clock, sliding silently, and stopped by the kerb, underneath the street lamp whose fading light somehow fuelled the illusion that the night was still there. That night of all dreams, and all fall backs.

She didn’t flinch, did not withdraw. She held the steaming mug in her hands, as if its mere closeness were enough to thaw her freezing core, or lift her sinking heart. She cared little if he could see her from down there. She imagined him, behind the darkened windows, on the wide leather seat, his morning suit impeccable, his hands resting quietly at his sides, the crisp unopened newspaper next to him. «Financial Magnate Elopes with Prima Ballerina», that front page might show in a week or so. A tiny rueful smile curved her lips.

“I’ll be here at six,” he’d said, just as he was leaving her flat the evening before. His eyes had sparkled for a moment, so fugitively that it could be only an illusion. “But you must come down. I won’t come up.” She frowned at the lingering coldness in his words, even as he held her tight, hands on her bare shoulder-blades, lips on her neck.

At six-fifteen, the rear window slid down and cigarette smoke spiraled into the cool morning air. He’s getting impatient, she thought.

Almost against her will, she breathed deeper, as if she could possibly catch a whiff of that smoke, wondering if he was looking at her through that narrow space above the tinted window.

“I’ll wait for half an hour.” So much like him, to speak in absolutes, give ultimatums.

Still time, to throw the peignoir aside, to slide into her worn jeans, maybe to call at him, foolishly, from the window, knowing that he would deeply disapprove of that.

Still time, maybe, to tell him about the plane tickets for Greece that she had bought as a surprise for him.

She looked around the room. Her red suitcase was standing by the door. The bed, in which she hadn’t slept that night, still held the shapes of their love, if not the warmth.

“I won’t continue like this,” he’d said. “I will leave them. We shall take the Channel train to Paris tomorrow.”

“Your daughter will…”

“I want you.”

So curtly.

… as another beautiful object, she had finished silently the sentence, just as she was making up her mind, right then, with the face of his daughter, wide eyed, and so trusting, floating before her eyes.

Yet, had he run over the street to her, had he at least come out of the car and look up at her window, she might have – even now - gone to him.

“Darling,” she whispered. “I will let you go…”

At half past six, the automobile started rolling down the street. She took a sip of tepid coffee and lifted her eyes to watch the rising sun. Plenty of time to catch the plane to Athens.


Vesper blogs HERE at Chick with a Quill

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

7. An evening in - Good Thomas

The dinner party starts in one hour but she insists. And I cannot refuse. I have never been able to. I am weak when I am near her.

She looks to me, a stern and intent look. “I must,” she says simply. Her curly dark hair pulled up, an armless black dress silhouetting her thin figure. There is a great strength in her exposed arms, in her heels, the solid black that accentuates a solid line. She is a vision of perfection, every curl a perfect ring, everything just as it should be. In one hour, I will sit across from her as she converses with the bespectacled man on her left, laughing with the blond woman on her right. I will watch her smile, her outstretched fingers move about as she talks. I will watch her eyes narrow as she discusses the book she is reading, the presidential candidates or what constitutes “good design.” Later in the evening, we will dance and I will hold her body close to mine, hoping that by letting all of my love surround her, she will forget her strength, and she will never leave me.

I tell her that now is not the time for this, but her look says she will not be deterred or persuaded otherwise. She reaches out and rests her fingers on my chest. “I don’t know why. I don’t know why now, but I must. I must do it. I know it will make us late but I must do it now,” she says and smiles. She knows that all she has to do is ask. I want to make her happy.

I return her smile, for I am weak within her vulnerability. I must give her what she desires. She lights a cigarette and slowly sits in the chair. I ease behind her, my hand grazing the top of her shoulder, her skin soft to the touch, but I do not look at her as she slides deep into the chair, her left hand gripping the arm. I reach down with my right hand and push the silver lever, and the machine winds itself into a whirl, and a beam of light shoots forth, illuminating the wall. The film begins to turn on the metal reels, moving across the light. I swallow, deliberately, for I cannot bear what we are about to witness, yet I cannot turn my eyes from the screen.

I feel her breathe, almost in time with my own breath. On the screen, in a faded purple shirt, he is sitting behind a birthday cake, three yellow candles awash in yellow flames. Her hand comes into the frame and moves the cake slightly. He smiles and looks to the camera. Her face appears, curly dark hair pulled back, and kisses him on his head, her right hand brushes the spot where her lips had just been.

As the film projector vibrates beneath me, I whisper that it is time to go.


Good Thomas blogs HERE at Good Thomas.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

6. Stolen away - Mutley Dog

“There are eight in front of me, and one behind me!”

The voice announcing my arrival in the Post Office queue was unfamiliar. A figure in his fifties a black man - a West Indian - in dark glasses, a white stick heralding his blindness. He did not turn his head as I took my place behind him. Short grey hairs protruding over the blue collar-shirt from the nape of his neck, a crumpled brown coat, jeans, sandals over socks

“There are six in front of me, and three behind me.”

His voice was deep holding the accent of his youth, but his tone simply conversational, nevertheless heard everywhere around the cluttered shop. He did not move a muscle, no reaction as the queue moved forward. There was no indication how he knew who was coming – who was going, what was around him.

“There are four in front of me and four behind me !”

A slight hint of a smile in his voice, he continued without moving his head, “Hello Jack, there behind me – how are you?”

Unease at the uncanny rose inside me, the parcel heavy in my hand, flat and square, safely wrapped in brown paper- my stolen Vettriano, travelling incognito. Just a coincidence, a mad old blind man pulling a parlour trick, listening to who came and went, using his ears to tell him what we – the sighted -could all see anyway. I pushed a faint grin onto my face. Pointless to smile at the blind a voice told me.

“My names not Jack .” I started, hating the quiver in my voice “It's William, I’m pleased to meet you.” Taking control “You were right about the number in the queue though.” Lame and patronising, that should do it.

“There are three in front of me and seven behind me.” He observed, less calmly now.

He still hadn’t turned his head. But his white long cane was twitching in front of him.

“But if you’re William – then” He moved the white long cane to one side, then the other. Moving like a snake hunting through grass. “That makes eight behind me – with Jack….” He tailed off and for the first time seemed unsure. He paused for a long moment, the queue was silent listening for his conclusion

“Where the hell is Jack?” He asked, his head turning now sightless eyes searching behind him and around him.

Sweat gathering about me, I turned and headed quickly to wards the door, this had got a little to close. Hugging my stolen painting against my chest, feeling it cool and heavy. Ten years in prison in a parcel.

“There are two in front of me and only FIVE behind – William's gone – and Jack Vettriano's gone too.”

His voice carried into the street, as I scurried off to safety.


Mutley Dog blogs (amongst others) HERE at Alloted Span

Saturday, June 16, 2007

5. Cine Club - Barbara Smith

‘Curious, this little film, isn’t it?’
‘I know, I never get tired of it.’
Her cigarette smoke wafted into the light trail of the projector, making the grainy tone of the film slide further almost out of focus. Other eyes in the room watched her face for a trace of reaction. She kept her face neutral, not allowing any emotions to travel there. Michael thought it amusing to show these moments sliced from his family archive. Martha shifted slightly, ash slipping onto the ground. She took another luxurious drag and blew the smoke out in a rush in front of her. She almost couldn’t see the images playing out another drawing room scene – one where the predictability bored her beyond the next cigarette. Nana standing up; Nana reaching towards the camera; Nana shaking her head. But there, there was a telling detail that Martha hadn’t noticed before: a small bottle on the table nest beside Nana’s armchair. There was something. Martha sat up now paying attention to the film. Nana’s eyes seemed heavy, her gestures muted, almost clumsy – not how Nana was. As the film snapped and flapped around the reel uselessly, Martha crushed the cigarette in the tray. She had questions that would not stay inside her smooth marble throat. Not tonight.
Michael rummaged with the film trying to get it back on the projector. Martha yawned. ‘You know, it’d probably be best if you left that now.’
Michael frowned at the infernal machine and turned to Martha. ‘Slip me one of your fags,’ he smiled, pleased at her attention. She passed him cigarettes and lighter. He lit one and exhaled a smoky draught in a smooth motion. ‘Poor Nana, that was probably the last time I got her with the cinecamera.’
‘Yes, I should think it was.’ Martha’s voice dripped acid and Michael looked at her, a query forming in his eyes.
‘How do you mean?’
‘There was a bottle on the table beside her – didn’t you see?’
‘Her tablets – I’d never forget that blue label: the amount of times I had to pop it open for her.’
‘Yes, her tranquilisers. What about them?’
‘They were knocked over.’
Martha turned away from Michael and stared at the blank pull-down screen, wondering how to frame the next few words.
‘Do you mean that...’
‘Can’t be sure now: it was ten years ago.’ She smiled back at him, head turned away from their guests, an eyebrow raised in a perfect black arc. He stared at her, as comprehension sank in suddenly, a boulder of uncertainty muddying the past. He thought quickly.
‘But the coroner report...’
‘I know,’ she countered.
‘And the carer ... she did fifteen years with Nana.’
‘Yes, dear. I know.’ Martha smoothed the vowels over in a finite measure. She looked away from him again and turned towards the Robinsons.
‘Now, then – who’s for a game of cards?’

Cailleach blogs HERE at Barbara's Bleughh

4. Projector - Jon Mayhew

The image bubbled and spread like a bloodstain on the screen. Except it was white, pure light. Not red. Molten celluloid and cigarettes smoke. The insane metronome click, click, click, click proclaimed the vanishing time.Speeding, careening a car on a bend to tight to turn. Waiting for the pathetic, tin crunch, never an explosion and rending of metal. Never a rolling, twisting, screaming ball of destruction. Just a bump, a clank, a click and a sudden jarring, neck twisting. Full stop.


Click, click, click, click. The ragged tatter of celluloid lashes itself with remorse of a memory melted, burnt, cauterised but not clean. My heavy heart is cold. Its chambers are loaded with bad memories but only one with the bullet that will kill the me and you, sitting and watching. Click, each turn brings realisation. Click; what we saw was the past. Click, when we were young. Click, too young. Click, different people.


Click. No explosion, no spattering of gore or rending of flesh.


A hat.


A coat.


A final click.


As the door closes behind him.


John Mayhew blogs HERE at Writing in a Vacuum

3. Baby, Bye Bye - Wanderlust Scarlett

As I find ways out of the night
Darkness fades into dim light
And so do you, my lover gone
Distance takes you far and long

Did you come and reach for me
In secret and in dire need
Urgent fire burned in haste
Blinded passion here misplaced

I held you close to make you feel
Like you were young and it was real
To taste hot lust and satisfy hunger
Prove prowess as when you were younger

Heated desire within your touch
Fast it pales and cools so much
Washed away your selfish torment
Passing with each empty moment

A tempest night you won’t regret
And miles that you’ll soon forget
You’ll justify the wrong to right
Black sin washed in dawn’s new light

In thoughts of her as you disappear
Of all the love and all the years
And all your life and promises,
For her, cold hands and lying kisses

And slowly though I turn at day
A trace of you will always stay
And I’ll go on, a new life found
And chance for me may still abound

Memories linger and shadows drift
But over time the ache will lift
And I will wonder if it was real
If we only touched or did we feel

Nothing really stays or lasts
So I’ll be strong and time will pass
Our roads will reach so far away
And never will there come a day

When your hand reaches out to mine
And suddenly we wake to find
That this was not a reverie;
Heart for her, and hands for me

One long last look, then turn and try
To let you go my Baby, Bye Bye


Scarlett blogs HERE at From the shores of Introspect and Retrospect

Friday, June 15, 2007

2. Picture Two - Theonlygolux

I watch her face as celluloid ripples through the projector, her flickers of emotion mirroring those she showed on screen. The passion running into her again as she watches its imprint move upon the screen, a flash of distaste as the camera zooms in on her thighs, a sparkle of desire as it shows the man's muscled back. She never liked her thighs, and always coveted those of other men than I.
His face always hidden, his blond hair falling over features I want to destroy, to rip apart, despoil. His back muscled, tanned and bare. I need to ask but I stand frozen, unable to ask, titillated and disgusted as whoever shot the film zooms in and pans down her body, her black hair falling over perfect pearly flesh. Looking down I see the same flesh curving away from her hair and sliding out of sight beneath her dress, flesh I ache to hold, to squeeze and scratch in passion.
Despite myself she still exerts a hold upon me, drawing me to her, to smell her, touch her, feel her. Above the screen turns pink with naked bodies as they intertwine. I have seen it before, watched it disbelieving, resigned a dozen times before I asked to see her. Where it came from, for what purpose it was made I cannot guess, I cannot even tell the effect it has on me. It should make me wish to spurn her, beat her, kill her, but it makes me want her more.
Her cigarette sits forgotten in her hand, the smoke curling up into the light, breaking apart, turning and spiralling, rolling and boiling in the air that sits between us, stale and silent with unease. Her breath comes faster as her image reaches climax. I can tell she wants to ask to see the film again, but I will not accede to her request. The celluloid whips as it leaves one reel behind, moving onwards to a new pursuit, tearing the screen to white. It is time to speak. The silence must be broken.
She turns to me and opens lips I want to kiss, raises eyes that I can see no love in any longer. She does not speak, just sits and looks at me.
"I'm sorry, darling." I hear myself saying, against my will, but I cannot fight those eyes, her lips, her perfect skin commands me beg for my forgiveness. "I am sorry."
Theonlygolux blogs HERE at Concepts for a Buntiful World

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

1. Jack Poo - Skintwriter

It is like a pint of cool frothy beer on hot day in June; it is like a Christmas drink glowing with warmth and promising a snuggle in front of a fire. It is a beautifully painted composition with colours that resonate and calm. But is it art?
Because it is a lie.
And art is the truth.
It is superficial; it has no depth. It does not touch the soul. It is an emissary of a set of dangerous myths, beguiling us with its prettiness, but brings nothing to our humanity.
Stick it on the front of a chocolate box please, but not on my wall.


Skint blogs HERE

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Ritual

I give you this.
You may not want it at the moment, and it may take years for you to even realise what it is. But here, take it. It is yours.

It is a strange thing I give you. A thing that you cannot touch, cannot taste, cannot see - although I know that plenty would disagree. If this thing were visible I am not even sure that I could begin to describe it. It is beyond colour, beyond texture, a thing so beautiful that no painter, no photograph, and no eye has ever been able to define. But, of course, it is tangible, reminding us constantly with the footprint that it leaves silently behind it.
As you lie there, watching me with those eyes that reach beyond, I know that at this moment I am able to hold it in my hands. It is as solid as rock and light as feathers. It is here as well, in my head and in my heart, ready and waiting for you.

You frightened me though. I didn’t prepare for how much I would have to give you. I worry that it is so huge that you will not be able to carry it and you will be suffocated by the power of it. That it will grow so enormous that I will never be able to let you go from my arms negating the true purpose of this ancient gift.
But I do have confidence. I know that this has happened a million, million times. Not only to our own family, parents, grandparents, but to strangers, friends and to our enemies, who have all done what I am about to do now. As life starts, this ritual is going on all over the world, every second of every day, and as it happens we pass on a legacy that has been the glue of mankind since we began.
My need to give you this is as strong as your need will be to pass it on in the years to come. There is no choice if we wish to learn and to live and to grow.
And so I give you the seed of my love. It will grow as you grow, change, alter, ebb and flow with time. You are my child, and in you I have planted my love, whether you want it or not.
(This was an entry in the Moon Topples competition on the theme of 'growth'.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Just Lily

In later years Lily would say that her legs looked like two pieces of string, dangling down from a dress that was too inadequate for the weather. At the time the legs didn’t notice and continued hanging loosely from the swing that she had not quite grown into, and probably never would.

The adults were whispering again, standing in the kitchen making those large-mouthed silent words in the hopes that she wouldn’t understand. They were also drinking grainy coffee and smoking the fags that made Julie, from next door, sound like Marge Simpson’s sister. Julie only appeared when there was oh-my-God trouble.

Lily stretched out her toe with every swing, trying to reach the stone that was embedded in the middle of the worn patch of grass below her. She knew that if she caught that iceberg rock it would mean blood. Blood, a plaster and a certain hanky produced from a pocket of mentholated sweets.

“You never cry. Brave girl.” grandma said once, dabbing at the nailess horror that appeared from under the bloodied white sock.

“I am saving them,” Lily said “someone else needs them more than me”.

“You’re an odd one,” grandma said, with a sort of smile “you need a brother or sister, you spend too much time on your own.”

Grandma was funny, but a brother, or sister, would be nice. Lily dreamed of having a Stella of her own, or an Alice, or heaven-forbid-a-Michael. Someone who could share her days and someone to keep her company behind the sofa when the shouting got louder than the television.

A Stella would be round and plump and look like aunty Mary’s Fat Louise. Mum said that Fat Louise had a head that was too big for her body but that she would grow into it. Lily didn’t quite understand, but she liked Louises' biscuit stuffed cheeks and the little girl was always smiling. That would be nice.
An Alice would read her stories. Lily liked stories. They took you to other places and let you play around without getting dirty. Mum fussed about the dirt, and bloody socks and messy books. Lily knew that she couldn’t have an older sister. That would be silly, but an Alice would be a clever thing and she would be able to reach those books that Lily wasn’t supposed to touch. Alice would be smarter than a smart thing, unlike heaven-forbid-a-Michael, who would, in fact, be thicker than shit.

Mum said that all men were thicker than shit, but that was before dad had broken her jaw again, because up until today mum hadn’t said much at all.

“And now it will be much better.” mum said, while the kitchen gang smoked another fag.

Lily had listened to the words that removed dad from her life, but the only words that counted were the ones that had stolen the dream.
Now there was never going to be a Stella, or an Alice, or heaven-forbid-a-Michael. It would always be just her.

Just Lily.

Tree sonata

It was not intended to be a joke, but his ramblings were not to be believed. Ramblings that had lost him his wife, son, home and now, almost certainly, his life.
Cold was the water they had pushed in front of him, unpalatable as the grey, dirty rain thudding silently against the bulletproof glass that kept the truth from their ears. He sipped at the re-cycled muck, trying to move the stone that was once again lodged in his chest. Would these people never realise the fatality of ignorance?
"And the trees are telling you this?" sneered a Savile Row pinstripe.
He studied their mean suits and their lying faces, wondering where they kept the velvet blindfolds. Even today they still gave reverent service to the lip, candyfloss words that satisfied the dim, and calmed the bleeding hearted. No one wanted truth to be served on a cold plate.
The rain never stopped now. A constant, miserable echo of life unsupported. As the world came undone, he had fled. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from the man-made holocaust that now squatted on a surprised world . The music had stopped, but for three years he had nurtured these last remaining trees, appointing himself shepherd to a flock whose feet were already beset by the rot of humanity.
Now the earth was audibly crying, a last lament for stupidity, tears for wanton disregard. He picked up his instrument for one last sonata.
(photo courtesy of Robert ParkeHarrison)

Tree Sonata first appeared on The Inner Minx - HERE

Friday, February 16, 2007

If. (a study in foresight)

If the shot had missed completely, there would have been no problem. David Kramer would have gone past the drugstore, and Bella Polson would have made it to the bar and to her first chance of sex in over a year. But then, that’s the way of things. They never go according to the great plan.
Bella was annoyed. The shooting was already on the local radio station and would no doubt make the front pages by morning. The call from the hospital could disrupt all her plans, but the poor guy had been shot in the butt, and butts were Bella’s forte. As she reached for her cell phone to tell them she was on her way in, Bella laughed at the headline that went through her head – “Assbandit”.
If the scotch had not smashed miserably on the bathroom floor then Margaret Lasco would not be on her way to the Seven Eleven to replenish the stock. Her husband would notice if there was no scotch in the cupboard and then he might notice that Margaret was consuming at least a bottle a day washed down with a couple of Buds to take the tang away.
She’d had years of driving drunk, and driving at ten miles an hour meant that she had a very good view of the man with the gun, who was now running out of the drugstore and making straight for her car. With a gun against her head, Margaret Lasco set off on the road out of town.
If Vernon Spangler had stopped for that last donut before getting off duty he could have avoided the mess that he now found himself in. The cop patted his stomach and was just congratulating himself on resisting another burger when Margaret Lasco passed him at the speed of sound. He jumped in the car and set off to book his last speeder of the day.
If Mervyn Farser had paid more attention to the cop car he was repairing and less on the magnificent cleavage of Miss July, then Officer Spangler might just have avoided the rear end of Margaret Lasco, who was now on her way to a twelve-step programme faster than you could say “I’ll have a chaser with that”.
Vernon Spangler’s brakes gave out just as Margaret was approaching her original destination.
If Bella Polson had not chosen that moment to reach for her cell phone, then who could say what would have happened.
Vernon Spangler clipped Margaret Lasco’s bumper and sent it spinning into the path of Bella’s beat-up Chevy, which in turn sent Bella straight through the window of the Seven Eleven.
As fuel, and Oreos (on special offer), rained down on Bella’s dying body, the radio informed her that David Kramer, who had been shot in the butt outside the drugstore, had died of his injuries. Funny really, that had been the name of her blind date…

This story was an entry to the first Moon Topples competition.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


(This was a story in the first Skint Writer competition. The theme was - being skint, broke, lack of funds. This is my interpretation)

The sound came to me randomly, like bubbles struggling upwards through melted chocolate.
Whuruump, wherrrump.
I listened intently for minuscule changes in these strange noises. There wasn’t much else to do. I found myself repeating them, copying them, perfecting each nuance as they came to my ears.

Whirr rump, whirr roomp.

I could drift away from these noises if I chose, and I chose often. The noises were too confusing. I could close them off to the total relief of silence, but more and more I was listening. Straining my ears until they felt like they would bleed.
I came back once to a newness. A sound that grated rudely against my nerves and sent me scuttling back to safety. It was a long time before I could subject myself to the pain again but I figured that it was better than the nothing. The more I heard, the more my nerves stopping jangling and I began to get used to the scraping, metallic sounds that had invaded the warm, comforting confectionary.
These new noises had the familiarity of a long lost memory. They were sounds that had been locked the cupboard since a childhood disease, like something on the tip of your tongue, known but unknown. They stayed on the tip of my ear for a long time.
I picked each syllable apart, repeating them like a mantra, but it was only when my penis was moved that I put meaning to the strange language. I could feel the lukewarm, gentle wetness spread over my thighs, trickling down to pool somewhere below me.
‘I’m going to wash you, John, okay?’
I enjoyed those hands, but they departed and in their leaving, I could feel a part of me once again. The damp member irritated me more than it should but I usually hung to the right and those hands had left me on the wrong side. I had a penis, it was something.
The baby cried for a long time, a colicky baby whose cries would have woken the dead. Later the cries turned to sobbing that would outdo Scarlet O’Hara.
‘No, he can’t move,’ I interpreted when Scarlet had gone ‘both legs are broken and he has sustained extensive fractures and trauma to the chest.’
The words were clearer now and came to my ears fully formed. I didn't like what
I was hearing, so I scuttled back to the quiet and waited for the gentle hands that washed.
You know, when you live with someone for a long time their whole being is imprinted on your psyche. I knew it was Laura even before the dreadful crying stopped. I cannot see her face, or smell her perfume but I know when she is here.
She sits (I presume she sits) for hours, holding my hand, stroking my forearm, silently. She was told to talk to me but we both know that she would find that difficult. Poor Laura, she found it hard enough when there were two of us in the conversation.
Sometimes when the world is bereft of the scraping noises, she whispers in my ear. I can feel the warmth of her breath as she speaks and I have begun to dread the time when my ear goes cold.
‘I didn’t mean it John.’ she says ‘I didn’t mean it, you understand, please come back to me.’
‘I’m here,’ I shout back ‘it’s all right. I can’t really understand what you’re saying, but it’s okay, it’s okay.
I don’t think that she can hear me.

There is a silence again that I don’t think I made. When the sound returns I find that my chest is rising and falling by itself, accompanied by a harmonious machine that mirrors each breath. Scarlet has returned, sobbing over ‘brain injuries’ but the rhythm of the breathing lulls me into a long, dreaming sleep.
For the first time in ages I can see properly with my eyes, real people, real places, not the shades of grey that manage to get through my eyelids. I enjoy the dream but not its content. The argument is there in vivid Technicolor, the harsh words, the biting, the sniping, and the new car.
‘Why?’ Laura screams ‘For god's sake why? You know we haven’t got any money- we’re broke.’
I huff and puff and stroke the bright, glossy paintwork.
‘But I wanted it’ I say petulantly, and it is beautiful. My red heaven on four beautiful alloy wheels.
‘Selfish bastard,’ my wife spits ‘this is the last straw, Get out, and take that heap of trash with you!’
Laura is here again but she has left Scarlet at home. No more crying, only a desperate whispering that makes me listen when I don’t want to.
‘I didn’t mean it John. I don’t care about the money, I would live with you in a cow shed if I had to. You never bought me anything in twenty years of marriage and I don’t care, not now. We could buy another car, but the doctors say you will never wake up. They also say that hearing is the last to go, so I hope you can hear me when I say that it really doesn’t matter now.’

‘Oh Laura, listen to me,’ I shout, gathering the darkness around me for the last time ‘if I wasn’t broke I’d buy you diamonds…you know I would…don’t you?’

Funeral Greys

( This is an entry for the Silent Grey competition on Clarity of Night)

“If you screw up your eyes real tight, you can just about see it” Mickey said.

Mickey had drunk more than the rest of us. He could probably see the craters on the moon with the naked eye if he put his mind to it.
I still couldn’t see it. The wall just looked like a wall to me. Grey, flat, pockmarked with years of baseballs and the scrabblings of feet that had used it as a getaway.

“He always thought he could see it y’know.” Herbie said “All those years later he still insisted that the fucking Virgin Mary was right there.”

I smiled. Herbie and Huey had been the only two to stay on home turf. The rest of us had deserted the neighbourhood, our past, and the silent grey wall that divided our rooftops.
Funny really, we had all talked of joining the FDNY, right under this fucking wall, but only Huey had made it. We had made plans here, elaborate, unbelievable plans that didn’t only involve the conquest of Linda Marconi. We were friends, comrades in arms, buddies to the last.

Eventually time will allow us to sit back, let out a breath, and thank his invisible Virgin Mary that the Tower had come down without us under it. But for now, we just screw up our eyes, trying to make a picture on the grey wall in a vain attempt stop the tears that feel as if they are never going to end.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Year of Constant Mourning

Tomorrow Jude Melville Kingston Kennedy will have been dead for a year. I pour another large glass of wine and rejoice at the thought of it.
One more night and the mourning will be over and I can stop wearing the awful black wardrobe that has dominated my life for the last twelve months.
Black does not suit my skin at all. I look like some kind of pale manikin, a ghost of my former self. I know many that could carry it off, adjusting their make-up and falling into role as if they had been born to it. Not me. I am planning to burn the whole miserable lot and have a party that I will remember until I am old and grey. This shindig will be for a select few, confined to those who know, and those who understand what I have been through in the last year. When I think about it, there are not very many.
At first, all my friends had gathered around and supported my grief stricken soul. Solid and reliable like so many sturdy fence posts. They held me up when I threatened to fall and listened to the constant repetition of chained events that had led to the awful point of it all. I was boring to the extreme and I was not at all surprised when their kind words and gestures petered off leaving me in the limbo of my misery. At this point, I succumbed to the little yellow helpers. The doctor had doled the out without even looking me in my red-rimmed eyes. He knew my story.
I left the world for one that I could make my own and one where black didn’t come into it. I fled to the land of no emotion where I stayed until I was no longer welcome.
‘Don’t worry about it’ the steadfast Molly had said ‘you know who your friends are when the time comes.
She was right. I did now know who my truest and dearest friends were. None had disappointed. They were my valiant heroes. Rescuing me from abject misery and saving from the greatest horror of my own imagination. The calls in the night had been taken with sleepy concern and the shouts in the day had been quietened with a ready hug that spoke volumes to my floundering soul. I am lucky.
Lesser acquaintances avoided me in the street, unable to put together the few words that I would have heard. Part of me was glad of their sudden interest in a shop window but the other half wanted to scream ‘Look at me! Look me in the eye. The words don’t matter’ and they didn’t. Anything would have done. But who am I? I am in no place to judge. How would I react if placed in the same position? This is all new to everyone.
And did he deserve to die? Oh yes. There is no doubt about that. The bastard broke the law, a number of times. There was no argument in the court. The defence counsel nodded knowingly and escaped through the back door, leaving me to my womanly hysterics and the flash bulbs that told the world that he was the first to keep the prisons free of live inmates.

They will be there again come the dawn. Waiting like craven vultures to catch death’s guinea pigs - for we were both punished. I have lived this death for a year. A year of constant mourning in a year of inconstant death.
Jude, my love, will be home tomorrow and death will have been overcome...for now.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Soul searching

You cannot stop this thing that is happening, it is part of the circle. An inevitable part of life and death. A truth.
I could tell you of my life whilst I wait and perhaps that would help you to get through this time.
I just hope that you are listening.
I had stolen your heart from the beginning. With the skill of a consummate thief, I took without asking and never gave it back. Swaddled in your love and affection, I grew a little too much in my first year, outgrowing the production-line knits that Nana Martin provided with monotonous regularity.
You took photos of me in every imaginable pose, and left the embarrassing one of me, naked on a sheepskin rug, in full public view for years to come. I was stimulated by numerous spinning shapes and squeaking toys that I could hardly focus my new eyes on, and my virgin ears were exposed to every record you had ever bought, or ever loved.
In the time that we had together at home, you spent every moment filling my world with colour and truth. I loved the stories that you read to me last thing at night. With an imagination that could have written a thousand books, you turned the banal into fairytales, and the boring into struggles between life and death. Enid Blyton had never had such a makeover.
You took me to Cornwall when you couldn't afford France. We made angels on the sand and elaborate, gravity-defying castles that were the envy of every child on the beach. You also taught me to fish with a piece of string and a safety-pinned orange peel. We never caught anything, but I always thought we did.
Back in the city, we raided art galleries and played commandos in the museums, taking out our targets with the stealth of renegade panthers. We ate the food of the world in every cafe you could find with a foreign name, and we soaked our bare feet in important fountains. Exotic camps were constructed under the kitchen table and we performed dreadful plays to a worldwide audience on the patio. We laughed at the stupidest things and argued over the green triangles at Christmas.
As my hormones kicked in, you took it in your stride, ignoring my rudeness and adapting to my myriad moods. I fashionably drifted away from you for a few years, ignoring your steadfast counsel for the erratic advice of my newfound, platform-booted friends. When boys dumped me for a new model, you were there to pick up my many pieces and put them back into some semblance of order.
University challenged us both, and when Nana died in my second year, I felt your pain at losing two of us. We got through it together and I came to that point in everyone's life when they realise that they must stand in those shoes that they have been avoiding like the plague. I was, at last, at the beginning of adulthood. We had nearly made it.
These gifts that you gave so freely, prepared me for life and when I found someone that I wanted to be with, you feathered our meager nest and cooked us a hearty meal on Sundays. Your shoulders took the brunt of my first marital arguments, but you patched me up, gave me the knowing benefit of of your mistakes, and sent me back into battle, helping to forge a relationship that would last a lifetime.
At the birth of my first child, you took the traditional role of knitter, and produced some items that would have won the Nana Prize for Three-ply Endurance. I took up the traditional role of suddenly understanding what a parent goes through. I looked at you with new and wondrous eyes. My daughter was the apple of your eye, but when I produced another two apples, you never faltered in your care of all of us.
I grew, my children grew, and when you died I thought that I was going to die too. The empty void remained for years to come but I had so many rich and varied painkillers that I could not hold you in that dark place for long. You were, and always will be, my lighthouse, my guiding light in the coming storm. You loved me, and I could smile again.
As the grey replaced the brown, and lifelines invaded my face, your grandchildren left the house one by one. I could see the legacy of our children stretching out in front of us like shining beacons, to the horizon and way beyond. You were the best of mothers and I was content.
Yes, I could tell you of our life, but the contract had already been signed long before we ever got to this point. Now, as you push me along the birth canal I know that there are only a few precious minutes left. The hole in my heart will not stand the pressure of this birth, I can already hear its death knell. As I break through life's barrier I cry with the sheer joy of being, and you cry along with me. We sit in the midst of red lights and screaming bleepers, trying to make some sense of it all. I am flooded with all that could have been but was not meant...this time.
It is all there you know, in those deep blue, newborn eyes. Our future history is laid out, if you only know where to look. I hope you do.
(dedicated to the ones I lost)

Sunday, June 18, 2006


'That will have to be the last of them you know' he said dropping a kiss on the top of my head and handing me a cup of coffee.
'I know' I said, swallowing back the bitter pill of understanding.
He left me alone on the steps and I watched the sun, gauging its descent through the leylandii that edged our country garden.
Not long now, the sun was almost down.

I knew he was right, it couldn't go on. Two years is enough.
The move to the cottage meant an hour's drive home for me every night. It was not unpleasant, a mechanical waltz through lanes designed to test one's resolve to make it home in one piece. I quickly traded the gas guzzler and my city speeds to struggle through the last of the hidden ice.
The spring brought joy and misery in one helping. My daily return to the cottage was easier on my driving but my eyes had picked up a new horror. Horizontal rain, and a strong will to live, had kept my eyes firmly planted on the road, now they wandered, picking up new bits of road information and scanning the tarmac for the natural obstacles that littered this little used lane.

The sun was just setting as I saw him. I call him a 'him' but at that time I had no means to 'sex' a badger. I stopped the car and wound down the window. I felt like a gawper at a crash scene, searching for the means of death, the bloody evidence. He had been hit cleanly.
'Probably never knew it was coming,' I thought 'on his way home to his badgery set but never destined to get there.'
Close up the badger was quite beautiful, not true black and white but a course pattern of smokey greys and off-white. I also noticed that one of his small ears was missing, bitten off in some desperate badger event. I shuddered and shut the window.

Five minutes later I was still sat beside the dead animal. The thoughts that were running through my head belonged to someone else and the someone else was now getting out of the car. There were carrier bags in the boot, loads of them, debris from all those trips to the supermarket when I'd vowed to recycle. I laid them out and wrapped two bags around my hands. The badger was a meaty creature, his body slumped into the back of the car like a sack of sand. What the fuck was I doing?
'I'll bury him' I reasoned 'I'll make up for all the roadkill that are left to rot unceremoniously at the side of the road.'

Simon wasn't home. His company was having a crisis in accounts so he didn't have to witness me dragging a dead body across the lawn and burying it between my favourite honeysuckle and the still dormant clematis. He would never know. But then there was the rabbit and after that there was a selection of smaller rodents and a baby hedgehog. Some were flattened and I turned my face away as I flipped them into a bag. Some needed some thought as to how to tackle the many grisly pieces.
'We'll have to buy the field next door' Simon joked when my secrets could no longer remain undetected. he had thought that we had a bad attack of 'mole'.
I smiled at his thinly disguised tolerance but he didn't know the whole story.

When we moved from the city my greatest happiness was to be able to sit in a garden that was more that a postage stamp. I vowed that whatever the weather I would take a few minutes each evening to revel in this longed for idyll. As soon as the dishes were safely stashed on the drainer my habit flicked the kettle on. I would take my coffee outside and sit on the stone steps that led down to the garden.
The night after the badger incident I took up my coffee position at dusk. The rustle caught my ear long before my eye caught the impossible. A badger wandered nonchalantly out from between the honeysuckle and the clematis. I had not seen anything in our country garden since we had arrived, apart from birds and the messy remains of foxes in the un-weighted dustbin.
The badger sauntered out and stood in the middle of the newly cut grass. I tried not breathing so that I wouldn't frighten him off, but he seemed content to stand there and watch me. Strange that he had a missing ear the same as the brother badger I had buried. He watched me intently and with a slight lowering of his head he faded into the grass.

I put my delusion down to tiredness and too much coffee, but the day after the rabbit was buried under the roses the same thing happened. Lazarus like, the mottled bunny stood patiently watching me until she slipped gracefully into the earth. It was the same with the moles, voles, field mice and grass snakes and I learned over time to listen to their names as they bowed their heads for the last time and went home.

'Are you okay?' Simon asked as I watched the last of the patio slabs being cemented into position.
'Yes' I said 'I am.'
And I was. Whatever made these animals come and thank me for burial can never be explained but it is time to move on. The garden is full and winter is coming again. Come the spring there will be more roadkill and somewhere there will be a new recruit for this very special job.