Archive | March, 2011

LUCKY JACK…

30 Mar

 

When Chernobyl melted down, signing the death warrant of nearly a million people and exposing half of Europe to radioactive fallout, Jack was on the beach in Thailand. Far from the prevailing winds of nuclear holocaust, his toes in the sand, beer in hand enjoying the vista of sapphire blue seas, and scantily clad bikini delights.  Happy days in deed; no longer the grey skies and perpetual drizzle of what the yokels ridiculously claimed as God’s country – rain sodden, wind ridden Yorkshire. Of course he perpetuated the ex-pat myth of the good old days, surrounding himself with the memorial ephemera of traditional home cooked meals, good times down the pub and halcyon moments under an English sky. He’d kicked it up a notch, stolen the ladder to financial success and was enjoying his ill-gotten gains – how sweet was that? In between satellite beamed episodes of Coronation Street, East Enders and the delights of England soccer disappointment, he was quite content to eke out his life in a high rise condo towering above the poverty line in down town Bangkok. 

**** 

Back in the day before his good fortune and his mother’s propitious cancer he’d enjoyed a very different lifestyle. One where the word sun barely enjoyed the vernacular, where the warmest welcome you could hope for was a nod and the possibility of a grunted good morning. Sparing with words and wary of strangers, Yorkshire folk were legendary for their fell-side hospitality. 

As his old dad used to tell him, ‘Why would I waste me breath on nowt? I might bloody need it someday!”  

He’d endured year after year, suffocating in the monochromatic effluent of day to day British survival. Bombarded with the impossibility of newspaper and television commercialism offering glossy celebrity lifestyles, blatant lingerie clad sexuality and footballers salaries while he eked out an existence on the bread line, or rather the dessert line, at the local cake factory. 

When people asked what he did for a living he told them he was a baker which was as far from the truth as a council worker with a spade that tells you he’s a horticulturist. He didn’t actually make the cakes he stuck the strawberries on the top. You’ve probably seen his handy work down at Marks and Sparks, the luxury cakes with the six strawberries? 

When the conveyor belt came to a crashing halt and the cakes flew off the end severely injuring two colleagues and bringing production to a standstill for a week the engineer had blamed it on technical malfeasance. Not the fact that Jack had rewired the emergency stop button so that he could run his radio and listen to the breakfast show. Lucky Jack is what his co-workers knew him as; shit didn’t stick to him no matter how deep it got.

 ****

Whipping through the pedestrians on his Vespa, he trolled the familiarity of the Patpong district in search of willing flesh – the younger the better. Life had become a game of self-gratification and with his mother’s inheritance it would be criminal not to live a little. Big cars, fast women, beach fronted vacations – Jack was living the life and doing his best not to disappoint. Helmetless he rode his scooter through the market, the smell of wok-ed street food and overflowing sewers filling his nostrils. Bangkok was a dirty horrible disgusting town however it had its upside. If he wanted it, it was there – a supermarket of sin, an emporium of personal excess. Anything and everything his twisted heart desired. Screw the beggars, the culture and the impoverished locals; life was for living and his for the taking. A Vice-roy in the land of smiles, with a pocket full of green and a flexible friend to catch him when he fell. 

He parked the scooter and walked through the plastic beads that hid the den of iniquity from prying eyes and curious tourists. Mick’s Bazaar was for the serious connoisseur, a graduated step on the road to debauchery – a local and a frequent stop on his magical mystery tour of excess. 

**** 

 His mother had been dying for years, the black scabs of cancer slowly digesting her lungs, stealing her breath, purloining her life. 

 It had been a release, for the best – or so the well-meaning relatives had told him when they’d shaken his hand at the funeral and wished him well. He played his part, shed the tears and accepted the condolence offered with stoic reserve. With the insurance check burning a hole in his jacket pocket it was surprising the other mourners hadn’t seen the smoke rising above his shirt collar. Lucky Jack he may have been, however Clever Jack he wasn’t. 

With his mother’s terminally earned cash he’d invested in a sure thing – a no loss business venture that would enable him to double his money within the year. As part of the ever expanding leisure industry he was setting sail on a rising tide of projected prosperity. The economy was strong. People had money to spend and the number one destination for their cash was leisure. 

 Excusing himself from his baking duties he handed in his weeks’ notice. It was only fair – who was going to take his place. Without his expertise the multi-billion dollar corporation would probably fold within a year. Nobody placed a strawberry like Jack, it took time and practice – the dexterous handling of sugared fruit an art form. The long haired lad with the earing they’d hired to replace him had caught on quick and Jack felt that his sacrifice had been worthwhile. The management had wished him well, and presented him with a cake. Lucky jack they called him – as he walked out the door he dumped the cake into the garbage. 

**** 

Micks Bazaar prided itself on its cuisine – English fare with a Thai flare. Fish and chips, roast beef, you name it Mick’s had it – from the choicest cuts to the most tender of flesh. If you had the cash then everything was on the menu. Want to stuff it up your nose, stick in your arm, or ride it like a rodeo king – Mick’s, like a favorite uncle, was always there. 

Jack smiled at the young girl behind the bar who handed him a beer. He was a regular among the tropical shirted clientele and the ten day flip-flop brigade, the place awash in a sea of faces he recognized from past adventures. Club music belted out of speakers as young Thai girls gyrated on the bars. 

“Where’s Cindy?”

“Upstairs.”

“She busy?”

“No, she wait for you.” 

Lucky bastard that he was, not only did he have a choice but he’d the pick of the litter as well. Little thing she was, fresh from the country – said she loved him but he didn’t care. It wasn’t love that Jack was looking for. He finished his beer and headed for the stairs, looking down from the landing on to the spinning fans and dancing go-go girls below. He was ready; it’d been a couple of days since he’d seen her last. Things were different over here, they weren’t hung up silly little things like age – aint nothing but a number anyway right? He pushed open the door and walked into Cindy’s room. 

**** 

Jack quickly found that the leisure industry wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Clearly the fella who’d sold him the business hadn’t been quite as forthcoming as he’d seemed. Things would pick up he’d told himself as he turned on the music and scoured the neighborhood for hungry children. Chock-Ices and 99’s were the stock in trade of the ice-cream salesman, and Jack rued the day he’d bought a franchise in Mr. Whippy. After six months of torrential down pours and unseasonably abysmal summer weather he’d managed to find a fool from whom to part money Guaranteeing the new owner that the leisure business was all the rage – after all  if you couldn’t make money in this game then clearly there was just no hope for you! 

He sold his mother’s house and with the funds from the ice-cream truck transaction he bought himself a slice of paradise and a one way ticket to the orient. Blue skies, perfect beaches, golden sands everything the brochure said it would be – and much, much, more assured the colluding holiday agent who’d winked, shook his hand, and sent him on his way. 

They’d come to wave him off at the airport, wish him well, bon voyage. Lucky bugger was Lucky Jack. He looked out of the window as the aircraft lifted from the ground. There was no turning back now – paradise or bust.

 **** 

The first boot caught him in the gut, the second in the face and he slumped to his knees. The baton crashed down on his head and he felt his arms nearly pulled out of their sockets as they were forced behind his back and cuffed, the steel biting into to his sun bronzed skin. 

Through the blood misting his eyes Jack could see a man silhouetted against the window. Small and wiry, smoking a cigarette, a typical Thai. 

What the hell had just happened, where was Cindy? 

****

The detective looked at the pedophile in front of him, disgusted by the man and disgusted by his work – dragging white-devil foreigners off the bloom of Thai youth, exploited for the pleasures of these western pigs. He’d been specially drafted in from Chang Mai after wreaking havoc on the baby-lovers there. Well a change was as good as a rest and so he’d accepted the position – not only a promotion but a pay rise as well.

 His wife was right this was going to be their year, the stars were aligned. 

Lucky them.

THERE BE DRAGONS…

28 Mar

 

The pistol fires, the tape falls, the rat race is on. I’ve packed the cheese, combed my whiskers and stroked my tail. Time and tide have grown impatient and I hasten to the cage aux folles of the gainfully employed. Traffic’s hellish, congested with all the other eager beavers and animal metaphors scurrying to find their own particular hole in the economy. Enchanted by the silent lilt of Hamlyn-pipes we rush and scamper for our lives – fat ones, thin ones, old ones, young ones, graceful runners and old grey plodders; another day on the wheel of life.

 The freeway is brutal and I crash into the tsunami that is the morning commute; the ebb and flow of the cordially invited, the coalition of the unwilling that lubricate the gears of modern American society. Cogs in a machine, the vital components of daily life; champions of capitalist commercialism insuring the smooth progression of financial largesse. 

A mad dash through the surf towards corporate Normandy beaches, ready to take on the daily fascist and blood our swords in support of free market enterprise. Pamplona participants determined to outrun bull markets and maintain the status quo of Americanism. It makes one proud to breathe the same air as working men, rub shoulders with fellow wage slaves, communally commiserate with the subjugated and the oppressed. Dreamers and chancers lost on the American way, battling to fulfill long neglected aspirations. The opportunity to shovel coin into gaping bank accounts, refloat Poseidon-adventure mortgages and brood upon retirement nest eggs. It’s what we do; it’s what the man expects.

Joined by the common bond of fast tracked disappointment, an ethereal element binds early morning insomniacs. The dull ignition spark that illuminates the massed machinations of a mobile zombie nation. The specter of imagined freedoms that prevents us from gargling the bleach and stampeding to the exit. 

…ARBEIT MACHT FREI!!! 

A little common courtesy from one fellow road user to another makes for a degree of cordiality. A wave, a smile, a blinkered well thought out mirror-signal-maneuver that’s to the detriment of nobody and the benefit of all. No man left behind as we leave the home fire hearths and venture onto the field of labored Elysium. A checkerboard of chance, we throw ourselves into the game of life and hope for the best. Demanding fair play but prepared to exceed and bend the rules of the game at the drop of a hat.

 The factory clock quickly counts down the period – twenty minutes until the steam whistle blows. With jobs on the line and hungry mouths to feed, the rock stars of industry ignore advisory speed limits and push their chariots ever faster on the hippodrome of necessity. I grip the wheel, depress the gas pedal and whip my horses to fresh exertions. Flooded eyes are purged dry by the Arizona wind as I shed tears of regret, despairing of the warmth-of-wife and the extra ten minutes spent in bed. No matter I’ve done this before, this isn’t my first Ben Hur rodeo and I dig my spurs deeper  into my plated steeled German thoroughbred. 

Checking the mirror I’m cautious of the gate keepers who patrol the underworld, wary of the demons that lurk beneath bridges and behind road signs. Slick bounty hunters whose only mission in life is to separate me from the hard earned shekels in my pocket. They never rest, never sleep, always on the lookout for day breakers and chance takers. My urgency’s too great and I disregard my sixth sense, choosing to ignore the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. One nervous glance and I realize my mistake. Far in the distance, yet gaining ground, I see the fiery reds and blues of the beast’s breath. Unable to hear its siren’s song I feel compelled to ignore the obvious. It has caught my scent, noticed my mad dash for cover and is homing in for the kill. Sensing an easy victory and a federally mandated meal the beast grows larger in my rear view. Realizing all is lost I bolt for cover, turn off the engine and hope that darkness cloaks my nefarious activity. 

The overheated engine plinks, acting as a beacon to the bat like senses of the persuivant.. I feel the dampness, smell the angst. Fear chokes my throat.

Shadows lurk around the car, the beast is close. Maybe, just maybe he hasn’t seen me. 

I foolishly lower the shield on the passenger side of the chariot, squint into the inky blackness before recoiling in horror as the tractor-beam of cycloptic curiosity scans the vehicle’s interior. Now is the moment, now is the time, to run with desperation at my heels. Too late the beast mutters and trembles, spittle rolls down it chin, its scales glinting like wet leather in electric light. 

I’ve heard people speak, heard wise men tell, seen children cower closer to parents, but now I’ve experienced it first hand. If I survive I’ll spend moonless nights around countless camp fires telling and retelling of how it came to pass that I escaped. 

 I brace myself, the end is nigh… 

“License and registration please!”

SHINY RED BALL…

27 Mar

Unlucky my son, rather you than me! Ain’t that the way though, it always seems to be somebody else? Whether it’s the stranded motorist in the middle of the H.O.V. lane or the wheel-changing gymnast on the hard shoulder; tired of life, dodging traffic with the dexterity of a dancing gnome, there’s always something to distract. 

SWISH….. as another forgettable vista WHOOSHES… past the wind screen. The road becomes so commonplace that one forgets paths most travelled. Did I already pass the tunnel? Am I through the stack? The mind has observed, but the eyes haven’t seen – the uninterrupted familiarity that is the quotidian commute. 

Travelling the same route day in, day out, one reaches a threshold of indescribable subliminal monotony. It’s the unusual which stands out – the out of the ordinaries, the second glances which brings the rest of the journey into crystal clear focus. 

A metaphor on life or a religious experience? 

Neither, it’s simply the way it is; one’s interest is only randomly peaked. Which subsequently, of course,  begs the question. Is this lack of conscious experience also happening during non-commutable hours- how much am I missing during the day

Q.E.D. – My boss speaks, I see his lips move, but no sounds come out. A revelation that perception is reality and that everybody’s reality is their own. Is that why we hanker for praise and recognition in order to justify our own virtual beings? If somebody recognizes our talents and failings then surely we exist? Unless of course you want to get existentialist about the whole thing and side with the Buddha who claims that all things are one. Consequently neither my boss, nor I exist. So what does it really matter anyway? Why did I even show up to work today? 

It’s the little things that jar us out of our own reverie, away from  personal thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. It’s the out of the ordinary which tickles our conscience. From climbing in the car, to alighting forty five minutes later, the whole journey is a blur, a miasma of nothing. If I truly concentrate I can probably cobble together a good five minutes of the complete journey. So what’s really going on during my travel experience? If I can’t remember the road, the traffic, the usual landmarks, where the hell was I? 

Was my brain on auto-pilot while my thoughts were fishing in Carbo, romancing with the lights turned down low, at dinner or lost in conversation? How many times have I found myself mumbling retorts to past arguments, posing looks in the mirror that I should have flashed? Time is relative. A week with a dying father may pass in a second, an intimate exchange of pain-for-cash with the dentist a lifetime. 

If I put a camera on the dash I know that I will have three quarters of an hour of nasal excavation, swilled coffee and concrete evidence of every vice perpertrated whilst ensconced behind the wheel.Where’s the Kino of the mind, where’s the magic lantern show recalling the journeys taken, the heated conversations of well worn-memory?

 A true separation of church and state, when we consider the body a temple and the state a mind. 

A coffee stain on my shirt proves providence that it was me in the car. The fact that my breath is rancid with the aftertaste of Java is televized- LAW-AND-ORDER-irrefutable evidence that I’m the perpetrator. Thing is though, I don’t remember. I don’t recall my passage through the tunnel, nor do I recall the majority of the commute. The I-10 is a blur, barely a memory; simply a realized experience which may or may not have happened. My pay check mysteriously appears every month so I must have got to work somehow! 

Even Einstein, when he wasn’t busy struggling with his shoelaces, declared time travel  possible – maybe that’s what I’ve discovered. My interspatial vehicle is a Volkswagen Rabbit, my worm hole a much in-need-of-repair, state funded, mettled chute through the space time continuum. 

So if I’m correct, and I rarely am, then life – or at least my journey – is nothing more than dream state interspersed with shiny red balls; distraction tempered with utter mind-numbing banality. Seems to make sense, when you consider  we have to peruse old photo albums to recall familiar, forgotten faces. Recollections of past & present, with the polarizing aid of instamatic Kodak-ism.

Neglected and displaced; imperfect recall enhanced by the prosthetic of a page. 

The past experience of home town visits that endeared us to those special few, now left shelved, forgotten and undusted until  elbow-nudged into foggy recollection by thought provoking luminosity. Precious time spent with loved ones now dependent upon a handful of post-it-notes and fading sepias – waiting to spark neurons and kindle fond rememberance. 

So if reality is memory, then we live in the past. If the past is only accessible through medium then clearly we owe it to ourselves to leave something behind. 

People often ask me why I write; I guess I’ve found my answer. 

WHOOOPS…..SHINY RED BALL!!!

LOLLIPOP

26 Mar

 

Mrs. Weirs stepped out into the road, the yellow uniform of a lollipop lady stretched taut like  sail cloth across her ample bosom. The job didn’t pay much but at least it got her out of the house. There was only so much she could do for her ex-miner husband coughing up his life in the back bedroom at home. Twenty-two years down the pit at Selby and all they had to show for it was a council house on Viking Close and a second-hand Ford Escort she couldn’t drive.

Back in the day Bert had been as strong as an ox, the very image of vitality, before years of coal dust slowly slicked his lungs, turning him into an old man before her eyes. He was only sixty-two but you’d probably give him twenty years on top of that if you met him for the first time. Haggard and ashen-skinned he rasped his days through a plastic tube whilst petrified in front of a television set.

It was no way for a working man to end his days – they wouldn’t allow a dog to suffer the way they did poor old Bert. It would be deemed inhumane, there’d be all kinds of palaver over abuse , animal cruelty and the like – they’d probably even make the local papers. But supposedly human life was precious; to end it with dignity was tantamount to murder. After dealing with the dirty nappys, assisted baths and feeding tubes, her time on the streets was golden. As time went by it was amazing what became more important, especially when realizing that her own accumulated materialism was worthless; life’s penury making even the smallest things precious – things that someone with money and position would consider normal, run of the mill, mundane.

Twice a day she’d walk down to the zebra crossing outside the primary school, carrying her thermos of hot tea and her sandwich box. She liked to get there early, as being the lollipop lady in Stanton Bridge held a certain cache – akin to being a local celebrity. People would wave and smile, accost her in the village shop, offer to buy her a drink on the rare occasion that she could find a baby sitter for her husband. If she didn’t get to the school early she’d spend her time chatting and waving and hers was a life or death business. Ever since the young Evans boy had been run down by one of the potato trucks she’d taken her traffic duties extremely seriously.

She’d made her first lollipop board herself with the help of a DIY savvy neighbor who was handy with a hammer and a bag of nails. The morning she’d stepped off the pavement and into the road had scared her nearly as much as the unsuspecting commuters encountering her for the first time – workers speeding from the sleepy dormitory village of Stanton Bridge to high rise office buildings in downtown York. She recalled how dressed in a white plastic Macintosh and holding her make shift warning sign she’d ventured into the road. The first few vehicles had been the worst; staring death in the face as the cars racing towards her had screeched to a halt at the very last second. She’d barely escaped injury herself however as word spread about the village people soon got the message.

It had been the new constable who had accosted her first, Mr. Warwick – nice man. A policeman from the city adapting to village life, trying to accustom himself to the spring and neap of rural life rather than the tsunami of the city. He’d called her out of the road. It’d been hard to refuse but reluctantly she’d moved to the pavement – the pressed blues of his police uniform exuding the necessary authority.

“Now then missus, what’s going on ere? You’re gonna  get yourself killed woman if you stand out there with those idiots racing past!”         

She’d explained the situation and watched as he licked his pencil – strange habit – and wrote down the details.

“Makes sense to me luv. Sounds like the council need to get their affairs in order and sort this situation out. Leave it to me and I’ll have a word.”

As soon as Warwick disappeared she was back in the road, waving down cars, absorbing the abuse of irate drivers, allowing the gestures and insults to roll off her back. Hard to believe when she looked back. Now she was treated like royalty; a regular rock star, including groupies.

Warwick had been true to his word and phoned a journalist he knew at the Pickerington Times; a smart young man with whom he’d dealings with in the past. The journalist  turned up on the third day and was waiting at the school before Betty arrived. Nice young man who’d written down her details and promised to take the matter further. He told her to watch for the press the next day – he thought she’d be happy with what she read.

Within the week Betty had been splashed over every tabloid in the country forcing the local council to take action. The zebra crossing had been painted, the Belisha beacons placed and the necessary signage and railings fitted. Betty had won.

She’d neatly glued all the press cuttings into her scrap book.  The photograph of the visit to Buckingham Palace  hung above the mantle  in the front parlor next to the picture of her and Bert on their wedding day. It was the medal and her meeting with the Queen that gave her the energy  to confront the village traffic and climb out of bed each morning.

Now dressed in appropriate weatherproof gear, officially badged and hatted and carrying a regulation size stop-board, she strode  into the road.

Bert would be proud.

BRAKE FOR FREEDOM

26 Mar

 

Work’s over and it’s time to go. I gun the engine, turn up the sounds, check my look in the mirror, pull the booger out of my nose, adjust my sun glasses and head for the hills. 

Another day, another dollar. 

Appreciative as I am of real work in a labor market that has seen better days, the end of the week is the end of the week. A thing to be costered and appreciated, a moment of thanks-giving where I bow down to the gods of labor, thank them for their blessings and excuse myself for the debauchery I intend to wreak over the next three days. Time devoted to personal projects, sleeping in, enjoying family life and home as opposed to the confines and restrictions of the workplace. 

In the words of the ever-so-eloquent Mel Gibson, “Freedom.” 

I can hear flights of Valkyries buzzing through my speakers as I make for the exit and hasten my retreat. 

I make the first traffic light with time to spare, tires squealing through the crossing as the light turns a darker shade of red. I’m in a 45 mph zone, so 70 mph is probably acceptable. I quickly maneuver around a couple of colleagues who obviously don’t have the same burning desire to get home as I do. Probably have a nagging wife or screaming kids – a weekend of chores and honey-dos. Poor bastards; domestic help as well as wage slaves- probably better to end it all. Why continue to shoulder the burden? 

Ignoring the honked horns and gesticulations I press forward. They may be colleagues but it isn’t a marriage and therefore I don’t have to adjust accordingly and accept the status-quo of live and let live. We’ll pick up our forced relationship on Monday at the start of the new work week. But for now they’re nobody – out of sight, out of mind. A forgotten reminder of voluntary enslavement. 

Second light is up and my luck’s holding. Through a green and onto the open highway that will see me safely home. Half an hour of alone time with the radio blaring – thoughts on nothing except the strange lyrics in the new Britney Spears song. The fields whizz past, nothing but the monochromatic of the oh-so-picturesque Arizona desert landscape. A joy to behold, especially when it’s knocking off time. Not so much when heading to work in the morning. 

I look in the mirror and notice the headlights of a car behind; the driver must have pushed right behind me when I ran the last red. Clearly he’s a keen observer of weekend etiquette, eager to supplicate himself before the altar of doing absolutely nothing. I know I can beat him to the next stoplight and so depress the accelerator and push the car forward. The tenacious bastard sticks with me so I drop a gear, throw a sneer and maneuver ahead. Luckily my purchase of the How to Drive Like James Hunt C.D. has paid off and I’ve made at least five meters on him as I pull up to the stop. Might not be important here but imagine if this was Silverstone or Indianapolis, then my technique would count for something.

I have the traffic lights down – I’ve cracked the sequence. The Enigma of reds and greens in a supposed sequence is something I have been watching for years. The right turn is always a little slow, however once the green arrow pops up then the oncoming lane turns red. Mathematical genius and a keen eye have given me the edge, and the nano-second the light turns my foot hits the floor. 

The cars these days are all fly by wire which means even though I think I am giving the car more gas all I am really doing is decreasing the resistance between the gas solenoid and the engine. As soon as the electrons leap from my pedal and across the microchip I’m off. Not quite as sexy as the smell of burning rubber and the stench of unburnt fuel racing through carburetors, however it’ll do. 

The race is on, the crowd cheers and I gun the car like a spear through the straight, past the 45mph signs before accelerating through the 50. My competitor closes behind me, clearly miffed that I jumped to pole position at the lights. Obviously a man with a grudge and someone I shouldn’t have taken lightly. 

I know I can beat him, it’s just a matter of how and when. I ease up slightly and the car begins to slow. The racing commentator Murray Walker virtually perched on my shoulder can’t believe what I’m doing and voices his distress into the microphone of my mind.

“What the hell’s he doing?  He’s going to lose this race if he doesn’t pick up speed! Theres still all to play for here.” 

The vehicle behind glides out of my slipstream, drops a gear, and cruises past me. I glance sideways and see the grin on my competitor’s face. The track is clear, the race is his. The laurels, the girls, the  champagne – all his for the taking. 

Again Murray Walker screams in my ears, “He’s lost it, thrown it all away!” 

However Murray doesn’t know what I know. Having travelled this road for the past seven years there’s a couple of twists and turns my competitor isn’t aware of. 

As his car disappears into the distance past the clump of cactus on the side of the road, he has nothing but victory on his mind. I give it time and then smile, as I see the dust cloud rise up from the right side of the road, closely followed by the flash of blue and red lights. 

There is no escaping the cop car that has joined the race and my nemesis realizes his mistake too late. He has no choice – he decelerates and pulls across to the side. The image of the police officer stepping out of his vehicle is the last thing I see before passing them both. 

The victory siren goes off in my head – Murray slaps me on the back and I head for home. 

Always nice to finish the week on a high note.

COMING SOON…

16 Mar

Exciting times ahead with the soon to be available anthology of short stories. A collection of the best of my work to date coming to an AMAZON store near you.

JUST DESSERTS…

6 Mar

 

 

The phone rings and I’ve a horrible sticky feeling that the person on the end of the line is someone I don’t want to talk to. I’ve been checking caller ids all morning and luckily her number hasn’t shown up – at least it hadn’t until now. I know she’s been hovering out there somewhere in unhappy-with-the-quality-of- your-services-land; it was only to be expected – a matter of time. 

Don’t get many whiners, but when I do they’re usually pretty obnoxious. You get a sixth sense for those kinds of people – the difficult to please- the never happy with anything brigade. I’ve learned to accept it, to bow and scrape and tug my forelock.

 “Yes Ma’am – no Ma’am, three bags full Ma’am” smiling politely as they begrudgingly hand you the check. 

I can’t complain too much. People pay through the nose for window cleaning and pigeon removal, so naturally as a practitioner an advocate of free-market enterprise I’m prepared to go the extra mile to insure satisfied customers and a positive source of income. 

Cleaning windows and culling pigeons is all based upon word of mouth. You can spend a king’s ransom on advertizing, but all it takes to ruin a good- thing is for whisper and rumor to take hold and spread their unretractable message. Before you’ve had time to bid your excuses you’re suddenly the ex-window cleaner. 

I know I’ve had it happen. 

Whole streets that’ve adopted my services on the say-so of some seemingly nondescript little old lady who, unbeknownst to me, wielded more power than Zeus. There is of course a reverse side to that same coin and I have occasionally lost work because a coffin dodger was unhappy with something close to nothing. Houses where doors have been slammed in my face, young children ushered inside before my arrival, streets that have turned into ghost towns – where the whistle of the wind and the tumble of weed has been my only welcome. 

Luckily that doesn’t happen too often, a classic case of you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Normally I am greeted with happy smiles and retire with “thank-you-so- muches,” and, “I’ll be sure to tell all my friends.” 

The phone is still ringing and I know exactly who it is. A lady on the far west side of town whose pigeon problem I was supposed to correct A customer who’d so much bird shit on her roof it looked like she’d committed to the green revolution and turned it over to organic farming. I knew as soon as I pulled up and the sky darkened with flights of scattering pigeons that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Armed with utter stupidity a few plastic anti-pigeon spikes, plus the knowledge that I’d pushed the envelope too far I pressed her bell. 

A moment of stupidity comparable to when the kids get a box of chocolates for some random Hallmark holiday;  sneaking one every now and then – enjoying the theft as much as the taste of cheap chocolate. Knowing that one can evade detection so long as the multitude of other chocolates hides one’s crime. As the chocolates in the box diminish it becomes utter folly to continue to steal – unable to resist temptation I can’t help but put the last one into my mouth. Try explaining that to an irate twelve year old in need of a sugar fix. The cock is still to crow and my desperate denials aren’t even close to passing the litmus test of truth. Of course the fact that my teeth are covered in chocolate and my hands smell of caramel isn’t helping my case. 

(That kind of envelop-pushing idiocy!) 

The door finally opens and the pigeon breeder stands before me. Fifty questions about what I am going to do and how I’m going to do it. What will I be using, is it humane? 

“Don’t want to hurt the fluffy little things do we now? Let’s just gently shoe them away.” 

Despite the avalanche of questions my mind is focused on the last chocolate or rather the amount of cash I am going to demand. She tells me that her neighbors have similar issues and suddenly my penny slot machine is spitting quarters. 

Here we go baby, we just hit the big time

Dollar slapped and delirious I climb the ladder to confront my nemesis. Pigeon shit as far as the eye can see – nests and eggs everywhere, birds strutting around like they own the bloody place. There’s only one thing for it. I’ve got to call in the big guns. I open the nozzle on my hosepipe and adjust for full blast. Like Nazi machine gunners mowing down Polish partisans, I go to town. Shit flies everywhere but that’s the least of my worries. She wants it off the roof, she didn’t say anything about covering her drive way or filing her garden with premium grade guano! 

Pigeon’s stupidly pop their heads from under tiles and I send them flying as I catch them in mid peek – bouncing down the roof to splat on the concrete below. As always I’m achieving a certain amount of sadistic satisfaction – my lips curl high in a manic grin, my eyes narrowing as I hone my aim. I lap the roof in victory, waving my fist in the general direction of pigeon-dom. 

“Run you bastards, run; or incur the wrath of man.” 

My diabolical cackle echoes off the walls of houses in the cul-de-sac. They know when they’re beat. A squadron of bird takes flight from a neighbor’s house. I watch them fly off in mournful retreat, their newly and yet to be born offspring splattered on the killing fields of the drive way below. 

I feel no remorse, I have no sorrow; my hose does not sleep idle in my hand. My body rushes with the pulse of adrenalin, the euphoria of battle springing wild in my eyes as each pressurized blast of water eradicates a fresh victim. 

Murder and mayhem complete I go to work; netting and wiring, spiking and drilling – installing my Maginot line of demarcation. I’ve considered putting up small signs warning the pigeons to KEEP OFF. A kind of business card to inform my feathered friends exactly who they are messing with as well as a sad attempt at gallows humor. 

(Pigeon eradicators jokes- you just have to love them!) 

I return to earth, sliding down my ladder like an FDNY hero and step back to peruse the perfection that is pigeon depopulation. The down side is that there is shit everywhere the upside that there is none on the roof. Distraught pigeons sit on neighbor’s houses mourning their loss. I knock on the door and collect my prize. Like Beowulf with Grendel’s remains I offer my trophy up in expectation of high reward. The necessary cash is forked over and I climb back into the truck. 

As I pull away I glance in my mirror and watch as the last of the brave souls swoop down to survey what was once home, nursery and communal toilet. I suddenly have a bad feeling. 

Pigeons are tenacious little bastards and if they want turf badly enough they’ll take it. Entering through the smallest hole imaginable in the most secure of defenses – a constant battle between them and the expertise of a professional hit man like myself. A reverse Colditz mentality of breaking in rather than breaking out! 

The phone rings again and I continue to ignore it. Suddenly it stops and the only thing I can hear is my little girl talking. Fractured sentences as I cower under the computer table – “My Dad – pigeons?  -Yes he’s here- hold on for a second!” 

The pitter patter of tiny feet accompanied by the darkest of shadows cast over me by a five foot nothing dwarf. I look up from my bolt hole at the gargantuan figure towering above me. In one hand she has a telephone, in the other – an empty box of chocolates. 

I know her revenge tastes oh so much sweeter than my last stolen chocolate nut cluster. 

“It’s for you dad. The lady says her pigeons are back.”