Archive | October, 2011

SUGAR DADDY

31 Oct

 

 

Jack swirled the ice in the glass and glanced into the bar’s mirror. Reflections of people having the time of their lives were all-pervasive – the hum and clatter of slot machines filled his ears. There was something about Vegas! Sure, it wasn’t the rat-pack romance of the fifties, but beneath the stylized, packaged decadence the seediness was still palpable. Vegas was a turd that had been polished, shone, and spun to pure brilliance. Everything about Sin City fascinated him. From the one-armed bandits that stood waiting to accost the unwary as they entered the Casino, to the girl at the end of the bar who, despite her perfectly applied makeup still bore the haze of a five o’clock shadow. Jack watched as she delicately sipped her wine, noticed the telltale trace of an Adam’s apple that bobbed greedily as she drank. He smiled again. God he loved this place, although God had very little to do with it – the devil’s playground and he was determined to have one hell of a good time. 

Life had been kind to Jack – over the last couple of years the dealership had really taken off thanks to regular clientele with more money than sense, who were eager to splurge on unnecessary luxury vehicles. The ensuing success had led to more money, a bigger house, a faster car…all the trappings of a self-made man. When his marriage had collapsed and he’d parted from his wife of twenty years he’d felt utterly defeated. Having to leave behind his son and everything that went along with belonging to the ‘Mr.and Mrs Institution’ had propelled him into the bottom of a bottle. Fortunately an intervention from the last of his friends had put him on the right path and ultimately the bar stool on which he now sat. 

He watched as couple of pert twenty-somethings traipsed by in short skirts and heels, clicked his tongue in appreciation and motioned for another drink. Yes, life in the fast lane was definitely preferable and being able to spend quality time with his only son was fantastic. Sam had recently turned eighteen and was now capable of making his own decisions, which was why the two of them had jetted off into the sun – a good looking, shy boy, who reminded him a lot of himself. So far they’d raced buggies over the dunes, bungee-jumped and even enjoyed a helicopter ride above The Strip. He felt he’d a lot to make up for, and now that he was flush with cash and minted in success he was able to mend fences and build bridges. He glanced at his watch, the phosphorescence of the hands glowing in the half gloom of casino lighting. It was nearly seven; he was supposed to meet Sam at eight. 

The bar tender splashed drink into his glass and onto the counter whilst dexterously scooping up the dollar bill in one easy practiced motion; grinning he reached for his drink. The telephone lying on the bar started to vibrate. Wiping his hand across his mouth he picked it up, flicked it open, and read the text. 

“I’m here.”  

Right on time. Everything was coming together. 

* 

His mother had been wrong about his father; he really wasn’t the bastard she’d made him out to be. 

Vegas was a gas. 

The fun hadn’t stopped since they’d disembarked the aircraft two days ago. His father had the energy of a man half his age and he’d enjoyed the time they’d spent together. They hadn’t discussed his mother or the divorce, in fact, if anything, they’d just picked up from where they’d left off all those years ago – as though nothing had ever happened. New cards, new chances; a fresh page in what was turning out to be a great read. 

Steam rose from his body and condensed on the glass as Sam stepped out of the shower. He was running late, meeting with his father – they were going to dinner and then on to some comedy show. His father had promised him the best steak of his life. 

Another night, another good time. 

Sam thought he heard a knock on the door and turned down the radio. The knock came again. His Dad was early and he wasn’t even dressed. Wrapping a towel around himself he padded over the thick carpet and swung open the door expecting to see his father. 

It wasn’t him. 

Pulling the towel tighter around himself and skulking behind the door, Sam stuttered an apology. In front of him stood a petite, crimson-lipped brunette with beautiful wide eyes, dressed in a short, black, cocktail dress and holding what looked to be a very expensive handbag. 

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” she said, “but I’ve lost my key and I really need to make a phone call… my mother, you know? She’ll be worried.” 

“Of course, of course,” stuttered Sam, half listening but registering the distress in her voice. He opened the door to allow her in, standing back as the beautiful stranger entered and closed the door behind her. 

She held out her hand, “I’m Cynthia.” 

Sam struggled to hold on to his towel. “Sam,” he mumbled, amazed at what was happening. Only in Vegas, he thought. “I’m really sorry. I just got out of the shower. I’m meeting my father. We’re going for dinner.” The brunette span around ignoring his explanations and widened her eyes. “Oh, the telephone. It’s over there by the bed. I’ll just…” and he gesticulated towards the bathroom. 

“Thank you so much. I really appreciate this, and I know my mother will be pleased to hear from me.” She brushed a manicured hand across Sam’s shoulder and smiled her gleaming thanks. 

“No trouble. No trouble at all,” said Sam, as he backed himself into the bathroom and shut the door. What the heck was going on? He looked at his disheveled reflection and then horrified, realized his clothes were still in the bedroom. A voice shouted its thanks, and he heard the hotel door room bang shut. She must have gone? He was supposed to meet his dad in less than fifty minutes – he needed to shift his arse and get his shit in order. 

He rubbed himself vigorously, discarded the towel, opened the bathroom door and walked back into the bedroom. Paralyzed, he came to a dead stop. The girl hadn’t left but instead had stripped down to a pair of white panties and pumps, and lay lounged across his king-sized bed. Visibly aroused Sam was at a loss what to do next. Sure he’d kissed a few girls in his time but that was the extent of his experience. The girl smiled and beckoned him to the bed – her ruby lips oozed sex, her eyes flashed desire. Sam moved towards her. He was dreaming, this couldn’t be happening? What about his dad? A thousand thoughts flooded his head as the stranger reached out and pulled him towards her. 

* 

The one thing Jack had discovered was that money could get you anything. Whoever said money couldn’t buy a little happiness didn’t have any. He glanced at the Swiss time piece once more; it was eight thirty. No rush he thought, Sam would be down soon enough. Besides, if he couldn’t use his money to spread a little joy what kind of father would he be. The telephone buzzed on the bar once more. 

“Thanks Jack. Hope to see you both again soon.” 

 He motioned to the bartender one more time. Vegas…you had to love it!

Advertisements

WORKING STIFF at the Connotation Press

30 Oct

 

 

 

Working Stiff – the story of regular working man with an unusual occupation, will be printed at the Connotation Press and will feature in the January 15th edition.

http://www.connotationpress.com/

Many Thanks to Meg Tuite; the editor in chief of the magazine.

For those who missed it, here it is again. Working Stiff in all its Glory.

****

WORKING STIFF

The curtains at the window wafted in the draft as the man with the rifle looked through dirty glass. It was an easy enough shot, he just didn’t know if he wanted to take it. Course he’d been contracted and so was bound to – in truth he’d little say in the matter.

Terrace houses lined either side of the street. Dads washed cars whilst children ran around playing cowboys and Indians and mothers chatted over clipped hedges. A typical suburban scene where traditional London mixed with the new arrivals. Everyone had been through here – from the Romans and Huguenots to the Pakistanis, Greeks and Polish. A regular melting pot the Yanks would call it, only problem was this was one was boiling over. He wasn’t a racist himself although his father who he’d despised had been. He’d grown up in mixed schools, dated colored girls and come to realize long ago that color was truly only skin deep. It’s what was on the inside that mattered – the book not the cover. This was different though – this cloth-wrapped-muppet apparently had it coming to him. He glanced at his watch, it was nearly two o’clock in the afternoon. The sooner he got the job done, the sooner he could go home to the wife.

He’d been in the upstairs room since yesterday evening, had broken the window at the back of the house and forced his way through the kitchen door. A sleeping bag lay on the floor with some magazines he’d brought to kill the time – a Walkman and a couple of cassettes. He liked to listen to books on cassette, saved him from turning the pages. Quicker access to the theater of the mind, the stories and characters absorbing quickly into his brain – the willing suspension of disbelief rapidly becoming reality. It wasn’t that he didn’t like books, it was just that the presentation of a story through the vocal chords of a stranger was so much better. Got you there that little bit quicker, made the story that much more real. The way people will sit around a camp fire and listen to a guitarist play a couple of familiar tunes or a story teller, flashed by firelight, relating a story from way back when. He’d always been a sucker for an exciting tale. Probably why he was in this line of work.

It had started in the boy scouts with weekends in the woods , the field craft and survival skills he’d learned from the troop leaders. He could recognize all the animal tracks – jaguar, lion, tiger, however in Epping Forest there were so few of them to hunt. The big game around the city was all rabbit and squirrel sized!

Caught and cleaned and served up of an evening, the whole troop sitting around the camp fire. Happy ruddy faces of boys subjected to fresh air and exercise. He’d never slept so well as under the stars and no five star restaurant had ever come close to replicating the rabbit stew. A sense of adventure is what he’d yearned for, something more than the regular nine to five. It wasn’t about pensions and medical coverage; it was more than that. It was the white-hot flash of knowing you were alive, if only for the briefest of seconds, the nervous rush as the adrenalin dam burst and flooded the system – the euphoria of battle.

As with most good stories, his started in a pub. A chance encounter with a man who’d kick-started fate and forever changed the course of his life. When the path less travelled suddenly became more familiar than the road already followed. 

The job was easy enough. They were looking for a couple of likely-lads to do a bit of business. Apparently somebody was encroaching on what wasn’t theirs and needed to be taught a lesson. Fisty-cuffs and a possible torching. Nothing too heavy, and there was five hundred quid up front.

He’d taken to it very naturally, the violence coming easily, his conscience not affecting him in the least. In the beginning nobody really got hurt. Sure there were the broken limbs, smashed faces and smoldering properties, but nobody actually got killed. It was like raising puppies. If a dog shits on the carpet then it needs to have its nose rubbed in it. Same thing with people – if they got out of hand then they needed a quick reminder not to be so bloody cheeky!

The guns had been a turning point, a bit of a thrill. Never handled one until a few years ago, but with the attention and instruction of one of the senior faces he could handle a weapon the way most people handle a tooth brush – with ease and dexterity. He was a master. If he’d been a painter his work would hang in the Victoria and Albert, a sculptor the British. He was a surgeon removing that which hindered life. An arborist, chopping back dead wood to allow for new growth. Amputation to the benfit of the forest, surgery to the benefit of the body. A little detriment for the greater good.

He saw the man walk out of his front door, down the garden path and open the front gate. The man mouthed something to one of his neighbors,waved, smiled and turned into the road. It was an easy shot. He’d had harder. It was a hundred yards tops; back in the day he’d killed a man at nearly a mile.

He was prepared to take the rough with the smooth. The money was the same and why should it always be difficult? Although he’d studied his photograph and cased the place he lived, there were no hard feelings – he didn’t know the man. The last couple of weeks he’d become very familiar with the man’s comings and goings and to be honest had seen nothing that gave him cause for alarm. But that wasn’t really the point. The job was the job. The man now walking towards the corner shop wouldn’t know what hit him.

He was looking forward to the break. The money from this job, along with the money he’d already put aside, would allow him a couple of weeks in Italy with the wife.

Loved Italy – the weather, the food, the history. He prided himself on being a bit of a history buff – watched all the TV shows. In fact the book he was currently listening to was CALIGULA.

Now there was a randy Italian!

He raised the weapon to his shoulder, and squinted through the scope. The target was so close he could have thrown the bullets and probably hit him. He squeezed the trigger, saw the red mist spray through the air, and watched as the man fell to the ground between two parked cars. Nothing changed. Dads continued washing cars, mothers carried on chatting and the kids went on with ritual genocide.

He quickly disassembled the rifle and gathered up his things. It was time to go, the job was done. No point in hanging around. As he turned the latch on the back door he heard the first scream. It wouldn’t be long now before The Old Bill was poking their nose in, and he wanted to be long gone by the time they got there. He walked quickly down the garden and turned into the back lane running between the houses to where he’d parked the car. No point in rushing, no need to attract any attention. Clean precise and surgical, just the way he liked it. No fuss, no mess, and one fresh corpse to guarantee his wage packet.

His gear stowed, he turned the key in the ignition and turned up the radio.

 Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

 He loved this song.

“Late September 1963”

 He waited for a couple of seconds, enjoying the tune, singing along to the lyrics.

“What a lady, what a night.”

Amazing how a familiar tune could turn your day right around. He looked in his mirror, indicated and pulled out. They could probably leave for their holidays next week.

That should put a smile on the wife’s face.

PLANE OF THOUGHT

25 Oct

 

…I have to go it’s her sixtieth birthday, I mean it’s not every day your mum turns sixty and besides, she’s expecting me to be there; wants to show me off apparently, number-one-son and all that. It’s just that she lives so far away. It’s not exactly a case of jumping on a bus and nipping around for a couple of hours, a cup of tea and piece of birthday cake. No, it’s a little more complicated than that. You see I’m over here in the states and mummy dearest is in England – bit of a jaunt by anybody’s yardstick and not only that, much as I love her, bless her aged heart, it’s the expense involved. Just checked out the pricing on one of the myriad cheap-deal web sites, but the only problem is there aren’t many cheap deals to be found! A round trip without the extras will set me back a cool grand – enough money to support a minor African nation for at least a month. But, it’s bite the bullet time; sometimes you just have to give, and this is one of those occasions. It’s not that I begrudge spending the money, it’s that I don’t have the money to spend. Sure I’ve got plastic- fantastic as evidenced by the smoke coming out of my wallet from where the molten card is frazzling the leather, so really there’s no excuse. It’s just that ever since they laid me off from the adult toy warehouse, finances have gone downhill. Life isn’t such a buzz, if you’ll forgive the pun, since they closed down the vibrator plant in Phoenix. Probably for the best though, as ever since I worked there I’ve had a constant ringing in my ears, and the cramp in my wrist, from the test apparatus, is only now slowly starting to improve. But it was a laugh while it lasted, not just a well paying job. Lots of good friends who I haven’t seen since they pulled the plug or rather removed the batteries. We promised to stay in touch, like you do, but even with social media and the omnipotence of the pocket telephones it hasn’t worked out that way. 

The layoff package was a bit of a joke, a week’s wages and a box of adult goodies and DVDs that we all pooled and sold down at the local farmers’ market. Now there was a day to remember! We pulled up at six in the morning and set up shop. A couple of the girls had put on some sexy outfits, naughty nurses or buxom barmaids or something, and there we were in the burning Arizona sun selling porn in ultra high definition to middle aged couples more used to getting a bargain on fruit and veg. It was surprising though how many people we had from the local retirement community handling the merchandise. We even had a couple of old ladies try to haggle us down on a couple of the latest Japanese models; clearly ladies of taste and a little bored with the extracurricular activities being offered at the senior citizen ranch. We cleaned up, made a fortune, and by the time we finished the only thing we had left was a couple of anal inserts that we ended up trading with one of the Mexican vendors for some cold beers. All in all a day’s work, and we were all grateful for the extra cash. 

Any way so to cut to the chase and shorten what’s turning out to be a longer story than I ever intended, I told the wife I was off to the homeland. Needless to say she was pleased as punch until I mentioned it would only be me that was going and then good will to all men and mother-in-laws was suddenly out the window! How I’d be enjoying myself without her, living the life and generally getting up to no good. The one thing she was forgetting was that we didn’t have any money, and so without the necessary cash flow there wasn’t going to be a lot of straying, more like staying at home enjoying quality time in front of the television with Mum; nothing like micro waved delicacies and no-name brand cheap lager to swill the taste of utter boredom out of your mouth. Mum never was much of a conversationalist or a cook, and to be honest kept her other talents extremely well hidden as well. This was more a crusade than it was pilgrimage, there were tough times ahead and they weren’t all going to be a barrel of laughs. Sure it would be nice to see the green grass of home, walk around the village and bump into a couple of half recognized faces, but what to do after that? There’s only one vehicle and you know I’ll be sharing; don’t see any driving privileges cascading down to yours truly. 

So, come the day of the off, I kiss the kids and hug the wife and judging by the look on her face I’m going to see more affection from the airport security guards at the check-in gate. A brief peck on the cheek, a perfunctory hug and watery eyes as oppose to; 

…“Would you mind spreading them sir? Why and where are you going? What’s your business? Can I get a supervisor over here? Would you mind stepping into this room for a couple of minutes Sir? We have to investigate the…” 

 I look back over my shoulder expecting her to already be gone, but she’s still stood there, tears streaming down her face. It’s not exactly a bed of roses for me either as I turn to see the face of the evil gate-guard ready to grab, among other things, my attention. 

Finally I’m on the aeroplane, buckled in, and the trolley-dolleys are doing their vapid ritual whilst nobody pays them any attention. Buckle goes into slot, and with a Colgate brilliant smile the lady-in-blue releases the catch with perfectly manicured nails. Not exactly a glamorous profession being a waitress in the mile-high-club but at least it’s a job. I think back to happier times when ready cash could be expected every other Friday with accompanying barbecue at Thanksgiving and enough health care to take care of the kid’s braces. Now there’s nothing left and I mourn the passing of that which I used to detest getting out of bed for. The hostess scoots by, elbowing me as she walks past, smiling an apology and feigning care. 

“Hello dear,” says an older women. Sitting next to me is a blue-haired transatlantic-terror who I know is going to make my nine hours of flying time last a month. Big smiles and proffered gum, as she prepares to wean herself into my good graces. I know what to expect; along with the life stories and accordions style photograph albums there won’t be a moment’s peace. I hum and hah and make all the right noises. Then out-of-nowhere she offers me a way out. “What do you for a living young man?” Inwardly I squirm but accept the challenge and do what I have to do. I give her my brightest smile my best puppy dog look and inform her that I’m a vibrator tester! 

 What the heck, she doesn’t know that I was just laid off, or that I’m a stay at home, look-for-work dad! I see disgust shadow her eyes; no explanation is required and she turns away from me to bother the woman sitting on her other side. Seems to me that I just can’t please anybody these days! Oh well headphones on, sit back and enjoy the flight …

AN ODE TO CURRY

23 Oct

 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Englishman in possession of a couple of quid and a belly full of beer must be in want of a curry…”

Jane Austen; Pride and Prejudice.

 

“Oh, sweet elixir of life, the meaning of reason, and the object of my desire. What it is to be bereft of thy company, only to rekindle joyous acquaintance in my unhappy hour of want? Words cannot quantify nor does allusion describe the bitter sweet of fond empty-plated remembrance. Clothed in plastic-bagged-fantastic and foiled in silver, thou art a joy to behold; a breath of fresh, pungent air, a tangible tingle to the nostrils, a veritable mistress of saucy delight. A jewel to the eye, a sear to the soul and a burning rush of requited love. Solitary confined moments shared and savored where one can reflect and revisit the intimacy of oral delight. Never was there a less selfish lover – never were the clinging moments more cherished – never was one left so bereaved by flushed adieu. Until we ‘eat again, I bid thee a flatulent farewell!”

*

“Last orders ladies and gentleman, please!” screams the potbellied publican from behind faux teak and poor dentistry. Standing amidst an island of factory-produced nostalgia he checks his watch and rings the bell one last time. “Come on now move your arses! Ain’t you got homes to go to?”

I finish the suds in my glass, choking back the stagnant liquid that just moments before browsed golden as it bubbled and foamed, and place it on the counter top with the other dead soldiers. Pint and shot glasses stand together in blissful union, unaware their usefulness has passed and that closing time has robbed them of employment. I look around at my fellow imbibers and through alcohol-addled eyes, spy the lonely and the loved as they file through the exit and into to the icy embrace of life. Their moments of communal pain-dulling congenial inebriation now forgotten as they check wallets, grab jackets and fondle newly-found soul mates. The weekend is over and the morning brings another day at the foundry, office or other unworthy place of forced employment. Wage slaved to the boss, the credit card, and the mortgage they scuttle to grab precious hours of sleep before the onslaught of fresh corporate demands engulf them.

I consider making a move on the last female at the bar however realize before I engage in optimistic social intercourse that either from want or neglect there’s probably a reason she’s still there. I rethink my strategy, drag myself from my wooden throne, and trudge into the night.

It’s cold outside and I spy my reflection in the puddles of monsoon-ravaged Middle England. Despite the chill there’s prospective inner warmth, the knowledge that only mere yards away lays a harbor of tranquility – a safe haven in an otherwise harsh, unforgiving world. I smell it before I see it; my feet splashing through water, my heels clicking on the pavement as unseen, aromatic hands grab me by the shirt collar, slap me about the face and drag me towards their irresistible event horizon. The choice isn’t my own. It’s a necessity, survival instinct; an innate sense of following one’s nose and complying with one’s inner hunter-gatherer. I stand before the plate glass window, the light from the restaurant transfixing me with its hypnotic tractor beam. There’s no escape, no use running – the dinner bell has sounded, and like a Pavlovian puppy I salivate into my jacket.

 The House of Bombay; it might as well be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the final resting place of the Holy Grail, or the gates of Valhalla. I grin moronically, my eyes wide with anticipation, my tongue thickening in my mouth at the prospect of what I am about to receive. I am truly grateful and I push open the door and enter paradise on earth. It isn’t a religious revelation however the Buddhists and Taoists would recognize the spiritual transformation I am experiencing. Truly one of the converted, my faith unshakeable, I accept the dogma completely and throw myself before my altar of expectation.

The restaurant is full of excited voices and exotic smells, its tables occupied by like-minded individuals who’ve escaped the pub and stopped for a bite on their way home; a perfect ending to a perfect night. Ten pints of lager, a bag of crisps, a game of grab ass on the dance floor, all washed down with lashings of the hot and spicy.

“…These are the things. These are the things. The things that dreams are made of…”

The Human League

What to choose, what to choose? The delicacies of the great Indian sub-continent are catalogued before me in a cornucopia of delectation and gastronomic delight. A temptation to the weak, a fix to the addicted but a delight to the enlightened. The crash of pots and pans and the mantra of cursed Urdu transport me to a place far from windswept, rain-soaked, Yorkshire. No longer the last man at the bar but a willing supplicant at the place of pilgrimage. An acolyte shoves a much fingered menu into my hands and demands to know what I’m drinking. Being the connoisseur that I am, I choose an Indian beer that claims to have been brewed on the banks of the river Ganges. National Geographic images waft through my mind as I briefly swim through the corpses and crocodiles to the sari-ed beauty that holds a bottle outstretched in her henna-ed  hand.

 I grasp, I sip, I swallow.

 Reacting to the broken English of the waiter, I flick through the curled pages of the stained menu and peruse the delights of the Punjab, the Kashmir, the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas, and the golden sands of the Southern Keralan coast line.

 Lamb or beef, chicken or shrimp, veggies or not?

The aromas are intense, the Bollywood music blaring, the Indian chatter emanating from the kitchen incessant. Having made my choice I shut the menu. Poised with pen in hand, the sauce-splattered waiter prepares to notate my desire.

“Vindaloo, so bloody hot that it’ll burn my arse. Don’t forget the Nan or the poppadums, and jump to it Gupta! I’m bloody starving.”

The waiter smiles, he’s heard it all before, the well-meant racial slurs roll off his back like a rice-paddied buffalo flicking flies. He beams his gold-toothed smile and moves quickly behind the counter and disappears through the hanging colored beads into the kitchen, The bastard will make me pay for my flippant comments and no doubt there will be more than just chili powder in my tinfoil take-away box – a huge dose of scotch bonnet pepper, a little liquid napalm perhaps. It will be Gupta’s name that I scream in abject agony the morning after the night before.

Cold hard cash clinks from my sweaty palm and the mutually beneficial exchange is made. A silver container, already oozing brown joy, exchanged for  a couple of dirty notes – the pleasure is all mine, although judging by the grin on my newfound friend’s face the pleasure is all his. I walk to the door and make my exit.

As I trudge through the rain I reflect on the wisdom of ignoring the femme-fatale at the bar. The last girl in the world, at least on this particular Friday night, shunned for the illicit pleasure of liquid love –I hate to share and besides Gupta only gave me one plastic fork.

C’est la vie baby, maybe next time.

“…Club Tropicana’s drinks are free. Fun and sunshine – there’s enough for everyone…”

Wham