Archive | April, 2011

SURPRISED PARTY…

24 Apr

 

 

Feeling the worse for wear Paul crashed into the Xerox machine, felt his stomach lurch and staggered into the corridor. It was too early to tell if he was going to make it or not. The evening had started off fine; determined not to make an arse of himself he’d stuck strictly to the punch. After last year’s debacle with the secretary in the broom cupboard, embarrassingly witnessed by everybody with a corporate e-mail account, he couldn’t afford to make another mistake. When he retold the story to friends he always emphasized how she’d been worth the grilling he’d received from the Human Resources department. Confronted by the frumpy, bespectacled, man-eater on a daily basis he was only too aware that his dalliance wasn’t worth the written warning he’d received. 

He had to find somewhere quiet to lie down, gather his thoughts, get himself back together before attempting the drive home. Some bastard had spiked the punch – probably Jenkins from marketing who he’d seen disposing of an empty bottle of rum in one of the secure document containers? After nearly falling off one of the managers desks, whilst waving his shirt above his head and dancing the Lambada with Sanchez from export, he had a moment of clarity; the flashing lights from handheld telephones helping to sound alarm bells and trigger an awakening. Climbing down he sought sanctuary in one of the back offices; maybe a couple of hours of sleep would help to clear his head? 

The corridor was deserted, just him and the bright neon lights that burned his eyes and frazzled his brain. He was a mess; if he didn’t get his act together quickly he’d been trolling the corridors of the unemployment exchange. He wobbled through the door of one of the corner offices and ran to the window – fumbling with the catch he was unable to get it open. Things were coming to a head, the room was spinning, sweat leaked from every pore, his core temperature verging on pyroclastic. He jetissoned the remnants of the Chinese buffet that two hours earlier had looked so appetizing. Now transformed into green-goo, the effluent sheeted across necessary paperwork and ergonomic keyboards, filling the in-tray and overflowing through the out. He retched again and again, evacuating every morsel of General Chow’s Chicken from his being, swamping personal items and spattering photographs of wives and kids. 

Suddenly horror took hold, the lava coursing through his body turning to ice. The photographs in the spackled frames looked a little too familiar. The friendly faces of Mr. Johnson the C.E.O. and his lovely trophy wife, twenty years his junior, peeped out from behind emerald obliteration. 

“Oh my god, oh my god!” 

He held his head in his hands and staggered drunken ellipses around the cut-glass table in the centre of the room. They were going to bloody kill him! They wouldn’t just sack him they would first cut his balls off with a rusty razor blade and  throw him in front of a firing squad to finish the job. 

What the hell was he going to do?

His stomach lurched again, his head throbbed – he had to lie down. The leather couch that ran the length of the wall looked as inviting as a five star hotel. He grabbed the trophy zebra pelt from the wall and draped it over himself. Just a couple of hours and he’d be fine; clean everything up – nobody would ever know. 

After what seemed like five minutes, but according to his watch was the best part of an hour, the door to the office squeaked open. He heard the clink of glasses, the lilt of feminine laughter and saw the static-flash of clothes discarded. He peeked from beneath the Safari-souvenir that now  smelt far worse than the animal ever had, his eyes adjusting quickly to the darkness. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Mrs. Croft the chief financial officer was pushing the gorgeous Miss Smith from quality control towards the desk. Both women were already down to bra and panties, their lustful urgencies filling the office. 

“On the desk, get on the desk.” 

The two lovers fumbled their way to where the large wooden desk patiently awaited their personal administrations. Miss Jones slid herself backwards and spread her legs, her voice heavy with expectation – the financial officer wriggling herself into a favorable position. 

 Bloody hell! -Paul couldn’t take his eyes off what was about to happen. 

“Oh my god,” screamed Miss. Smith “what the hell is that?”

“Jesus Christ its puke!” Said the financial guru coming to a quick and assertive conclusion. The moment was gone, the passion extinguished; the women disgustedly left the office. 

Wow could you believe it?  Mrs. Croft, now there’s a dark horse!

Dream filled debauchery coursed through his mind as he slid once more into unconsciousness. Wild imaginings of women in business attire swimming in a crystal clear lake of pea green soup.. Naked limbs splashing the surface – flimsy undergarments decorating the surrounding trees and bushes. 

“Alright Johnson, you got me this bloody time but it’ll be the last. I’m sick of your blackmailing arse, come near me and my family again and I’ll kill you.” 

Paul awoke still caught between dreams and reality and peered above the zebra carcass. 

“You cowardly bastard you’d better hide under there – make sure you destroy those Polaroid’s or I’ll destroy you. Here’s your fucking money you Judas. Don’t start this shit again!” 

The heavy envelope ricocheted off Paul’s already pounding head. Before he could utter a word the stranger was gone. 

What the hell had that been about? 

He reached for the envelope and choked, almost achieving sobriety when he saw the wad of cash tucked inside. He flicked through the bills, there must have been close to twenty thousand. He shoved the envelope down between the cushions – that was going with him! 

Alcohol took the helm, and he drifted back into sleep. Scantily clad maidens chased each other in and out of trees sheathed in dollar bills. Money tumbled from the sky; the more clothes the naughty nymphs discarded the deeper the cash became He strained to catch a glimpse of nubile nudity but each time was financially thwarted. 

The door splintered open, slamming back on broken hinges. 

He came awake instantly, all thoughts of personal gain forgotten and discarded in dream land. Two men burst into the room intent on bodily harm. He saw fists fly, saw the kicks connect and watched as the executive suite was turned to match-wood. One of the protagonists lay prostrate on the floor, the other standing menacingly over him. 

“You’ve had this coming for some time Johnson!” 

He heard the downed man plead for his life, followed by the double illumination of an obviously silenced pistol – the thunk-thunk of bullets piercing living flesh. The killer left – the man on the floor groaned once and then fell silent. 

What the…? 

He had to get out of there. He straightened his clothes, stuffed the envelope inside his jacket and unsuccessfully tried to hang the zebra skin back on the wall. Moving quickly into the executive bathroom he rinsed his face and straightened his tie – he’d be the next corpse if anybody discovered what he’d just witnessed. He hit the light and walked back into the corridor. 

The dull beat of disco music emanated from the cafeteria. He looked at his watch – it was nearly ten o’clock. 

Bollocks – in for a penny in for a pound!

He’d have one last drink before hitting the road – what difference could it possibly make?

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PLASTIC FANTASTIC…

22 Apr

 

Surrounded by unopened bills and empty condiment bottles life’s joy was wearing thin. With a house that belonged to the bank, a wife that had run off with the milkman and two grown kids that didn’t care if he lived or died things were looking bleak. What was the bloody point? He opened the refrigerator door and pulled out the last beer and thanked God for small mercies. Where had it all gone wrong, the happy home life, kids playing in sprinklers, the new car parked on the drive way?

Was it all his own fault?

Sure he had to take some responsibility – but all of it? A victim of society, the flotsam and jetsam of a neap-tide economy, a statistic on a government chart.

The radio crackled in the background, a monotone voice reciting the litany of government under pressure.

“Of course as we tighten our belts and prepare ourselves to face the harsh winds of austerity we must stand firm. This is what we as a nation do. When times are rough, and jobs hard to find, neighbor stands by neighbor, friend by friend, family by family.”

Jack nearly choked on his beer. There weren’t any neighbors – the meter high grass in the next door houses betraying midnight runaways, the victims of foreclosure. Friends were few and far between, the majority having chosen his wife’s side – apparently finding his dalliance in Vegas hard to forgive.

 One weekend of pleasure for a life time of pergatory and pain. It hardly seemed fair.

At the time it had seemed worth it, the stranger in his hotel room who’d looked so good in thigh high boots and a push up bra. How was he supposed to have known she was a cop? She hadn’t looked like a cop! The way she’d grabbed his balls and stuck her tongue down his throat in the elevator hadn’t felt like she was a cop. No one was more surprised than he when the door had burst open and he’d been confronted by fully dressed persons unknown.

One night of stupidity for this.

His wife was gone, the kids hated his guts and every friend he’d ever had had dropped him from their social network. Friendless, penniless and soon to be very homeless the future wasn’t looking its rosiest.

When his picture had appeared in the paper his company had let him go. Someone had seen it, blabbed, and before he knew it he’d been carpeted in front of his boss. Conduct unbecoming they’d called it. Something they couldn’t possibly tolerate. Given the new economic pressures the corporation had to be squeaky clean – no whiff of impropriety. They’d shaken his hand, thanked him for his twenty years service and even paid him six months severance. Pretty pathetic for a lifetime of corporate servitude, slaving day and night to fill the coffers of those nameless faces who graced the pages of the monthly company magazine.

The money was long gone, spent on bills and other necessary items. Now he was broke, penniless, in need of a friend and a month’s salary. Of course he’d tried to find another job, however once his police file popped up on the background check it was over before it even started. Who wants to employ a degenerate arrested for lewd behavior? Lewd, what kind of word was that? It conjured up pictures of child molesters and perverts, not people out on a bender with a couple of drinks inside of them.

His first attempt had been laughable. He’d written the note, finished off the cooking sherry, jerked off and then fully clothed walked down the steps into the shallow end of the swimming pool – slipping beneath the sparkling blue. He’d read that drowning was painless although considering the source how true could that be? He’d held his breath for as long as possible, which in hindsight probably wasn’t in the best interests of somebody trying to commit suicide. The fact that he held his breath until his lungs nearly burst was self-evident that he wasn’t truly committed to his cause. He tried to push himself down holding onto the drain cover but failed miserably. He’d eventually given it up as a bad job and puddled his way back into the kitchen. Pathetic he thought, he couldn’t even do that right!

The pistol had also been a mistake; he’d nearly deafened himself, flinching at the last second. He still hadn’t fixed the smashed window broken by the poorly aimed bullet. It was a natural reaction – of course he’d moved – wouldn’t anybody?

The rope, hanging from the garage rafters offered a seemingly inescapable solution had been equally disaterous. After crashing through the plastic chair it’d nearly choked the life out of him, if it hadn’t been for the packing knife in his back pocket he’d have been toast.

Despite being halfhearted and an abject coward to boot, he was deadly serious about ending his life – it’s just that he wasn’t cut out to be a suicide victim – his heart really wasn’t in it. If he was going to do this then it had to be fool proof, beyond his control. Given the opportunity he knew that he would load the dice, stack the odds, do all he could to avoid his necessary fate. On the other hand, if he put his death in the hands of somebody else there could be no escape, no parachute; he would simply cease to exist. He thought long and hard, there had to be a way.

****

The wind howled around him, the updraft from the traffic racing beneath him sending swaths of warm exhaust across his face. A fail-proof plan that would end the pain; closing the chapter on a life worth curtailing. He’d hurt his hand climbing over the wire barricade, felt the sting from where the wire had scratched at his flesh. It didn’t matter, in a few minutes he’d feel nothing, the pain and torment of the past year terminating in a ground rush of brain-splattering asphalt. He’d probably never even feel it; all he had to do was lean out, let go and let gravity do the rest. A quick drop through space culminating in eternal rest, the sweet release of a serious weight forever lifted from his shoulders. He had to be brave, this is what he wanted – this would resolve everything. His employability, the family shame, the necessary insurance money that would take care of his family. Salvation at hand he took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and let go.

****

The traffic through Phoenix had improved, the new speed control cameras helping to modulate the push and pull of commuter haste. He’d been driving for the better part of two days with a load of plastic pellets from Mexico that was destined for the ports in San Francisco; a cargo ear-marked for sports shoe production for an over indulgent nation. Politics wasn’t his thing and to be honest thoughts of child labor and salary inadequacy in developing nations never crossed his mind. The country music was blaring, the coffee was hot, and the sausage biscuit adequate. So long as he got his paycheck he really didn’t give a shit. Driving under the bridge he saw the shadow pass above him, looked briefly and then returned to the joys of three chord ecstasy. He warbled along to “truck don’t work and my dog just died” lyrics and sipped his coffee. One more day and he’d be there.

****

Jack couldn’t move, his arms and legs pinioned by an overt heaviness. He was suspended as if in air – free floating yet held captive at the same time – the out of body experience perhaps? He’d felt the blow as he burst through the barrier between life and death, seen the rush of heavenly light racing to meet him – the tunnel of radiance he’d read about? Now there was nothing; no light, no sound, absolute cushioned nothingness. He tried to move but couldn’t; if this was death it wasn’t so bad. He was oblivious to the world around him, conscious only of the intense smell of plastic. Surely heaven was supposed to be a blooming garden of excess? Where were the dead relatives rushing to meet him? He drifted into unconsciousness, accepting his fate, relieved that his temporal troubles were over. His family would thank him later.

**** 

The truck driver shifted gear and pressed his foot to the floor. With the bright lights of Phoenix behind him it would be smooth sailing – just had to watch out for those damn cops skulking under bridges. He’d heard the flap of canvas, checked his mirrors and seen nothing.

He’d check it again when he got to Frisco.

WEATHER OR NOT…

18 Apr

 

The feckless practice of employing weathermen in Arizona can be likened to paying large sums of cash for a state of the art chocolate fireplace. (Belgian chocolate of course!) 

Absolutely bloody senseless! 

Superfluous, a waste of rations, excess baggage, a complete and utter misappropriation of the cable-customers hard earned remuneration. Given that we have over three hundred days of sunshine, the speculative difference between a one hundred degree and a one hundred and two degree day really doesn’t faze or influence my plans in any way. Grey clouds gathering over surrounding mountains are a sure sign of rain and snow capped peaks in the distance are a definitive indication that Flagstaff is getting hammered. So, for fear of stating, nay questioning  the obvious, what’s the point of  a weatherman in Phoenix? 

When I plant my backside of an evening after peering through clean glass and generally poking around other people’s unmentionables, the local snooze is always a cause for frivolity. Mrs. Jones’s dog is still missing, the drug cartels are taking over the universe, and the entire United Sates hates Arizona because it’s actually taking a stand. Short, succinct and to the point with little or no corroboration or provenance. Less than adequate factoids and spun here-say for a nation with the attention span of a goldfish. A collage of commercialized disinformation and corporate financed fear mongering, closely followed by the weather. 

Cue jovial suntanned, bleach toothed, dyed-haired, wanna-be young guy. With state of art computer graphics and dilapidated Doppler radar he delivers with mucho-gusto enthusiasm and faux bonhomie his forecast for the morrow. If I were a gambling man who enjoyed the clatter of dice or the spin of the roulette wheel I would wager that tomorrow will be much the same as it was today – bloody hot. (but I’m just guessing!) 

No rain, no downpours, no deluge – no worries about searching for a hammer and a bag of nails to cobble together an ark in the back yard before the torrents arrive. We live in a desert – I get it; that must be the reason we’re surrounded by dirt and cactus. Just a tentative hypothesis but one hardly worth donning a deer stalker hat , or smoking a curly pipe for. Elementary my dear weather guru, tomorrow will be a scorcher. 

“…and expect strong winds.” 

What a tit-bit, a random fact, a little trivia to lighten the mood and ease the burden of triple digit insanity? Strong winds, what should I do buy a kite, steal a sailboat or how about I assemble the IKEA windmill I still have lying around in flat-pack boxes? 

Strong winds my arse! 

Given the copious quotidian quota of Mexican delicacies consumed in the land of Apollo I proffer the theory that strong winds may be inherent to the valley and not necessarily news worthy. Strong winds – humbug!  I sneer,  laugh out loud, open another bottle and switch channels. Time to get down to the serious stuff – American Idol is on. 

The next bum-burner of a day finds me cleaning windows for a woman who probably believes she’s blind. The dirt on her glass is so thick it’s a wonder that any light penetrates the den of crapola closeted within. The floor is piled high with everything she possesses – I need a machete to fight may way through her accumulated junk. 

There appears to be about twelve people in the house, the majority of whom are toddlers. Obviously this is some slapped together, make money quick, child minding scheme. A cottage industry supplied by the desperate and needy for the impoverished penury of two-job families. Mine is not to question why, but judging by the happy smiles and chocolate covered faces the kids are having a fantastic if unsupervised time. The doors are locked and those little plastic things are on the electrical outlets; what could possibly go wrong? 

Inside completed I just have the sun-screens to replace outside. The lady of the house can go back to watching day time TV or whatever else it is that she does when she’s busy doing absolutely nothing. 

The wind rustles the trees and I recall yesterday’s sage warnings. Beware the winds of March and the skin stripping oven temperatures that will sear flesh from bleached bone. Luckily I came prepared with multi-max-factor skin cream, a hat, and a pair of shades. As for the wind? Well its just wind, what could possibly go wrong? 

Climbing on to the roof I’m the master off all I survey, king of the world, untouchable, beyond the reach of middling-kind. Love that feeling – really puts a very necessary buzz into the window cleaning profession! I’ve always enjoyed heights and can’t understand those who cry vertigo or who’re afraid to climb a ladder. Did a house for a policeman once, a motorcycle cop. The man had size sixteen boots and carried a pistol to work everyday and yet was afraid to climb a ladder, and so hired me to the job instead. To be honest I’m grateful that it’s him with the pistol and me with the squeegee – but I’m sure you get my point. 

The wind starts to pick up, and a strong burst grabs my hat sending it spinning from my head, closely followed by my ladder which clatters to the ground. I’m left high and dry, stranded fifteen feet above terra-firma. 

“Tomorrow, beware of strong winds,” – the toothy TV grin flashes through my mind as I grip the window sill -pushing myself into the wall to stop myself from falling. Suddenly it’s not so amusing. Somehow I have to extricate myself form this precarious predicament and I’m short on brilliant ideas. In an instant my world has changed; what was normal and possible two seconds before is now completely impossible and beyond the scope of mortal man. I’m stuck, stranded, marooned, cast away on a radiating roof top covered in pigeon poop. 

“Tomorrow’s going to be a scorcher,” – BASTARD!! 

Like Robinson Crusoe perusing his island for a means of escape, I search uselessly for a footprint in the sand. 

A little help if you please…? 

More desolate than a lunar landing, the roof-scape offers no shelter, no sustenance and very possibly a warm lingering death. 

I envision a silk-suited wanker on TV reporting on an errant window cleaner who stupidly chose to ignore weather warnings and who despite specifics still dared to venture into the unknown. Stupid bugger what was he thinking? I see disinterest course across Americas face as they reach for fresh beer bottles. 

Self preservation is in my own hands – it’s just me, myself and I. How the hell do I get out of this ridiculous situation? I rap on the window but little-miss-industry downstairs has Judge Judy turned up so loud, my ears are ringing despite the double pane. I continue to rap. Hearing my plight a chocolate faced child puts its head into the room. I wave, try to look urgent, hoping for the best but fearing the worst – the child waves back, smiles and then disappears. Ignored by the youth of America I turn to the one thing which will give me comfort in my hour of need, raise my eyes heaven, close my eyes and scream like a girl. 

My plaintive cry rattles windows, and shifts tiles; Richter meters at geological institutes around the country flicker momentarily. 

Nothing! 

Not even the dead, who I’ve awoken with my girly petulance, consider coming to my aid. The sun bakes and I begin to burn. I can smell the hairs on my arm frazzling. One hour more and I’ll be Melba toast – a dish best served hot and sweaty.There’s no dust clouded cavalry salvation; I’ve no choice, help isn’t coming. 

I’m going to have to jump. I peer over the ledge and look below. Vertigo strikes, and fifteen feet suddenly looks like fifty – my apologies to the speed cop! Doesn’t matter, I have to do this. If I’m ever going to live to kiss the dog and kick the wife again I need to grab myself by the inappropriates and just bloody go for it. 

No guts no Glory! I leap into space. 

My solo flight doesn’t last long and in an Icarus moment of self delusion actually believe I can flap my wings and land this thing. The cactus scratching my face and digging into my arse, like an overly zealous T.S.A. agent, proves otherwise. 

Mother earth beckons – what goes up, must crash and burn. As I pull thorns from my nether regions and brush desert dust from my eyes the front door swings opens. There she stands, the princess of domesticity complete with ham sandwich. 

She looks at me – looks at her destroyed cactus – and slams the door. Clearly the tip from the weatherman is the only one I’m going to get on this job. 

BOLLOCKS!

TWENTY-20…

16 Apr

 

 

 

Where the heck had she put them, she’d searched everywhere?

She normally left things in the same place; it made things easier that way. Getting old was no fun; the trial and tribulations of maintaining a semblance of independent dignity was getting harder and harder. Things hadn’t been the same since Jerry died; he’d always been there for her, picking up after her, helping out when she had one of her senior moments. She missed him now more than ever. Her friends had given her the usual flannel – how things would get easier over time. Of course they’d been wrong!

The pain she’d felt when she found him slumped in the garden shed over the onions was as real now as it’d been then. Lying sprawled on the floor surrounded by smashed plant pots and spilled earth he’d cut a pathetic figure. A bear of a man whittled down by age and disability. Death had softened the lines at the corner of his eyes and the baby blues she’d fallen in love with all those years ago stared out peacefully from his lifeless face.

Where were they, she had three pairs?

Without her glasses she was useless, the world a grey blur. The cataract operation had been successful and although not fully restoring her site had gone a long way to making her world a little brighter and clearer. Now she could actually recognize shapes, however it was her spec’s that bought her world into crystal clear focus.

Her appointment was at two, the annual humiliation with a government representative from the department of transport. The indignity of standing in line with a bunch of teenagers waiting for their first driving permit and her fellow second class senior citizens, hoping on hope that they’d receive bureaucratic dispensation – a pass ,not a fail.

The possibility of lost automotive privelages at the hands of some draconian nit-wit, only an eye-chart away.

****

The funeral had been the usual awful affair accompanied by the few surviving commiserating friends and family members who’d made the effort to travel in from out of town. Pseudo relationships rekindled after time spent in  Christmas-card-every-year purgatory. Luckily the weather held and the funeral hadn’t crumbled into a graveside mud extravaganza.

She’d hoped her budgie would be ok; she’d left it with the next door neighbor. All the fuss over Jerry’s death had got her in a proper old tizz – she didn’t know if she was coming or going. The wake had been fine, they’d the buffet down at the local pub – The Queens Arms – Jerry’s favorite place when he was able to get out for a drink. The ulcers in his legs had curtailed his weekly game of darts and the fare weather friends he’d called mates had eventually stopped knocking on their front door to see how he was.

Oh well, it was only to be expected – that’s life she supposed. Love you when you’re fit and well but soon as senility and old-age hit they disappeared like Scotch mist.

The interminable handshakes –how sorry they were – how pleased to see she was managing – such a brave soul.

The pub had done them proud, the spread, for the money, had been marvelous. Tongue sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiche and some of that Indian muck for the kids; seemed to be all the rage these days. Chicken bloody tandoori – what was wrong with steak and ale pie? Never much enjoyed foreign food herself. She and Jerry had frequented the local Chinese but that was hardly foreign now was it?

****

Where were they?

She’d searched everywhere, under cushions, in the pantry – wouldn’t be the first time she’d  left her specks on the shelf next to the cornflakes – even found them in the fridge next to the strawberry jam once! She looked at the clock it was nearly half past, if she didn’t get her bum in gear she’d be late.

Late for your own bloody funeral Jerry had told her. Funny thing was, he’d made it a few days earlier into his casket than the doctors expected. Bugger for punctuality was her Jerry.

Damn it she had to be off.

It was only down the street, two sets of traffic lights and she’d be there. She’d be all right, besides she’d her sunglasses and they were prescription. Hardly fashionable given it was the middle of February -snow was still on the ground, but any port in a storm.

They’d have to do, she had to get going.

One thing Jerry had left her, apart from the pension money and the insurance for which she was very grateful, was a working car. Stickler for regular maintenance was Jerry and the car gleamed like it was new – you’d hardly know they’d bought it second hand seven years ago. Chrome was polished and the paint shone – hummed like a Singer sowing machine. She’d  take it down the car wash after her trip to the registrations office.

Got to get the salt off; Jerry would never forgive her if she let the thing rot away.

Doors locked, budgie fed and with Sophia Loren sun glasses perched on her nose she reversed the vehicle. Smoke billowed up from the exhaust, condensing and fogging the drive-way, huge plumes of grey announcing the passage of something much larger than a family saloon. She looked left and right –nothing coming – squinting through tinted lenses she pulled out in to the road, pressed the accelerator and moved swiftly down the High street.

 She bounced over a speed bump, her handbag spilling from the passenger seat.

Oh dear she mumbled, as lipsticks, pills, and potions disappeared into car floor crannies.

There they were.

 In the middle of unmentionables and necessaries were her glasses.

What a bit of luck!

She quickly leant over to grab the glasses; her fingers barely nudging them before popping back up behind the wheel to stare at the snowscape in front of her. Down again – she delved deeper, her fingers grasping at the box before finally closing around them.

Surprising she hadn’t found them earlier?

The car hit the kerb, bursting the front tire and flipping the vehicle on to its side. Sparks flew as metal grated against asphalt before somersaulting over the railing and crashing through the dry stone wall edging the narrow village road. The sheered petrol line and choked fuel streaming through the carburetor ignited as it contacted the hot engine. The car erupted into a fire ball, the explosion from the petrol tank shattering windows in nearby houses.

Luckily for Bella, she never saw it coming.

HOME..

14 Apr

 

 

It isn’t rolling hills of carpeted green, nor is it the crystal clarity of babbling brooks and picture-postcarded waterfalls. The Kodak moment is gone – fizzed and flashed in extinguished chemical illumination, the retina burnt image of time worn memory. The depths of culture and history you’ll find in other towns and cities can’t be found around these parts no matter how deep you dig, and the ballet and opera are mere optimistic figments of performance imagination.

No page goes wasted in the travelogues that ignore us and the Lonely Planet isn’t a lonelier place for not making our acquaintance. The sun doesn’t break whimsically above thick limbed trees and when the rain falls it doesn’t shimmer, nor does it refresh cool green grass. It pisses down – puddling and morassing village-squared greenery allowing for duck dominance until it once again shrivels and evaporates in what passes for Indian summer sunshine. There are no red carpeted galas to flaunt faux fashion; the impecuniosity of wealth and dearth of celebrity make for scant headlines and lack of journalistic interest.

The paparazzi don’t have us on their itinerary!

World travellers and jungle adventurers ignore our whistle stop station, their mind’s eye fixed on far horizons and yet to be discovered whatevers. The only local event worthy of historical retrospect is no longer taught to eager children but remains book-bound in the newly improved government regulated schools. No contrails stripe our skies and we’re not on the departure board down at Heathrow. You won’t hear our average daily temperature gleefully town-cried by pregnant weathergirls on the evening news. Our travel center is a deserted bus-stop with a one-way time table to Anywhere but Here – the last traveler already having exited stage left. Love has left and is lost, never to return. When romancing the stone, our dry walled boundaries neither acquiesce nor do they requite.

The low of our farmyarded husbandry isn’t the call of the wild, and vaunted stabled nativity occurred the other side of imagination. No wandering stars, no wise men, no invading armies – popular uprising lies snoring in an unmade bed. Only the shrill whistle of wind rushing down highways and byways serves to recollect, before disappearing to god only knows where via abandoned public footpaths. No cries for change, liberty, or justice – the echo of disinterest falling on deaf ears.

Society has left us behind, the cutting edge of everything having blunted itself on dull tiled roof tops radiating grey skies. If artistic endeavor had ever been licensed then it would have been the monochromists and not the impressionists that soiled their singularly splattered canvas. Not so much a patchwork of fields and forests, more a patch on an otherwise perfect pair of jeans. The unshone shoe standing out among paraded polished footwear; foiled by its own dull inadequacy rather than eclipsed by the brilliance of others.

Listed on the menu as the chef’s surprise, never the dish of the day; forever the wedding crasher, never the invited. The last fingered delicacy at a children’s party; the silver foiled wedding cake that molders and spoils in the back of the larder. Passed over for cellophane wrapped, supermarket store-bought brilliance, before being thrown into the existential pedal bin of life.

The uninvited guest, the blood stain on freshly laundered underwear.

If it had a smell it would be vaguely familiar but unremarkable. Car farted flatulence, yesterday’s takeaway; the stench of tide drawn mud and the street level choke of smokeless fuel and burned wood. Boiled cabbage and cremated offerings adding their aroma to the buffet of industrialized dormitory living. Never more the glory of mother’s cooking, but the half remembrance of plates past and meals left to spoil on mismatched crockery. The squeezed and emptied condiment bottle, the wind-borne crisp packet, the discarded Styrofoam container – a forgotten eye sore, once so necessary but now just so bloody useless.

So if that’s the case why is it that I yearn to return to this forgotten much maligned agrarian dystopia?

Why do I treasure the golden age of rural disfunctionality with such spectacular rose colored clarity and candy-striped fondness? I would give anything to wander its streets and lanes – walk its fields, wait in the rain for the bus I know will never come. Why is it that I long to rekindle the memory of familiar tastes and enjoy the scent of wind born excellence – fried fish, larded pasties, pub grub, and smoky chimneys? How I long to revisit pubs I’ve never entered, return to villages I’ve never known – yet can recall with boundless ex-patria enthusiasm – the halcyon days  imagined there.

 The cold no longer bothers me and the rain doesn’t spit in my face. The lack of things to do at the weekend and the interminable boredom of teenage life dismissed – the forgotten trauma of memorialized youth. I know that I’ll be disappointed, that the familiar faces won’t be waiting for me on the platform of cognizance to alight from the memory train that’ll never materialize. Nobody will know my name and the best I can probably expect is a half glance from a half remembered stranger.

Standing on the corner  of the village square next to the telephone booth, watching the locals eye me as they pass, wondering who I am perhaps, or more likely not caring at all. What’s another face in a sea of faces when you’re drowning in your own existence? They’ll never understand that it was the childhood laughter, the scraped knees and plastered wounds of youth that helped to cement what’s traditionally known as village life. The return to family values exemplified by boys playing football in the street, choosing between goodies and baddies when playing at war. Running around neighborhoods with sticks, screaming machinations of machine-gunned excess. Pushed from pillar to post by irate neighbors with perfect lawns, kicked off cricket greens and chased from tennis courts by card carrying members.

Damn our insolence for daring to entertain the thought that we too could one day be great – grace the courts at Wimbledon or mount the field at Wembley. Where do the football heroes of the future get their start if not on the village green or by dodging commuter traffic?

Just one more time – just one more visit. I know what to expect and can already taste the disillusion.

It matters not.

Right now I just want to go home.

THE CERVANTES SYNDROME…

3 Apr

 

He stood in the vegetable patch at the back of the house, hoeing and weeding to insure bumper harvests. The king of cabbage surrounded by an empire of dirt, a cornucopia of utilitarian sustenance destined for the family freezer. Picked, bagged and tagged to be dumped and forgotten in sub-zero temperatures, only to resurface at Easter and Christmas dinners. 

Nothing like fresh green beans in December! 

You could taste their earthiness, the crisp juiciness of hand-reared crops, so much better than the store bought crap that had started to appear in the refrigeration shops up and down the high streets. Ice-blocked and deep frozen for perennial enjoyment – triangular fish alongside dubious meat and pastry products. The veg tasted like wood pulp – didn’t matter how much butter and gravy you added to the dish, it just wasn’t the same. It was worth the effort, standing out in all weathers making sure the plants were groomed and nurtured, insuring that the soil was tilled and sifted. It might have only been a common-or-garden neighborhood allotment but it functioned like a Swiss time piece. 

****

The wooden shed which housed the tools and ephemera of the backyard enthusiast was filled with calendars and ready-reckoners, almanacs and farmer’s digests -when to plant, when to sow, when to dig and when to harvest. Gardening advice by the bookbound bucketload lined the shelves; hand-written insertions insuring leafy greens and crunchy veg. 

It wasn’t just a storage shed but a sanctuary, a place where a man could escape the cares of the world; abscond from pressure and domestic drama. It was kitted out with all the necessities – no need to run back to the house should he feel the urge for a cup of tea. There was an electric kettle in the corner with a box of biscuits; the shed was siege-resistant. Should the proverbial hit the fan and the communist hoards suddenly decide to journey up the dual carriageway from York, Roger could sustain himself for weeks. 

As deadly as the Lorelei  to merchant sailors, the lure of the shed was siren song to amateur gardeners, seed sewers and potato drillers alike. Hours evaporated in mere minutes – life sucked through the worm hole of warped wood and cheap single paned glass. Under the pretence of having things to do, the faux emergencies of organizing the garden prior to the arrival of friends and family, he’d sit in an old deckchair and smoke his pipe. Curled in the skeins of freshly-burnt tobacco, a man could forget himself and ponder those thoughts he’d otherwise ignore. 

Despite the allure of the garden and the vegetable plot, Roger would always keep a weather eye on the horizon. It was good to be prepared – forewarned was forearmed. His knapsack hung on a nail by the door, ordnance survey map, binoculars, and camera safely stowed inside. With rapid-disappointment-team deployment he could be off in a second, speeding towards distant horizons. The hint of a breeze on a warm sunny day would have him scanning the skies, huffing and puffing as he vainly attempted to keep the pipe alive in his mouth. He knew they were out there; it was just a matter of time. Following the advice of Tsun Tzu, he’d studied his enemy and prepared for battle.

They’d come, they always did. Regular as clockwork, soon as the mercury started to rise on the old barometer by the front door. Like an angler wary to the wiles of his aquatic foe or a big game hunter eagerly waiting upwind in the hope of a rack with which to embellish his collection, he bided his time.

 No point in being hasty, no use in jumping the gun. The quarry would eventually find him – time and tide would have to wait. 

****

His wife stared through the kitchen window at the man bent double scrabbling for weeds. Of course it kept him out of her hair, and the vegetables were a bonus, however she sensed there was something else going on – who knew what debauchery went on inside that shed? She’d her suspicions of course that her husband’s keen interest in gardening had something to do with the young couple who’d moved in next door. Not exactly prudish when it came to shutting curtains or bedroom windows, their non conformist lifestyle revealed by the young wife’s penchant for wearing itsy-bitsy bikinis the second the sun appeared. She shook her head – not old Rog. Some young thing with her boobs hanging out may keep him entertained for five minutes but not for weeks on end. A dark shadow suddenly passed over the window, she felt the chill as the sun was momentarily blocked. 

**** 

There they were, he’d been expecting them! Roger dropped his rake, ran to the shed, grabbed his bag, and pounded up the cinder path towards the house. 

****

Mouth agape, she was amazed to see him move so fast; expecting the worst but hoping for the best, she was relieved to see the grin and the wave he threw her. All  was obviously well. 

**** 

Tucking his trouser bottoms into his socks he jumped on the old sit-up-and-beg bike and cycled down the pavement. An Englishman in the midday sun, Roger, like a bullet, shot away. 

It was balloon season – massive colorful globes of hot air pondering slowly over the countryside. 

Balloons were his first love – after the wife of course; he’d seen the neighbor’s wife and wasn’t impressed. He loved  how they floated like gentle giants, the bright colors, the creak of the rigging as they drifted above the housing estate. He’d follow them for miles down country byways, across rivers and fields. Snapping shots and taking wind speeds – compassing direction and correlating their positions on the ordnance survey map. Balls of color hanging above the drab agrarian landscape of  Yorkshire. 

Stalking balloonists or tilting at windmills; one man’s obsession was as good as another’s. Like a dog chasing cars, what would he do if he ever caught one? 

**** 

His wife checked the clock on the kitchen wall, he’d be back in an hour or so, he never stayed away too long. Loved his balloons did Rog. 

The neighbor’s wife leant over the fence, hanging out of her nearly-there bikini. The wife waved back and smiled – she’d need bigger bait than those if she was going to catch Roger’s attention!