Archive | October, 2012

TEA TIME

30 Oct

 

It was the 22nd of February 1942. It didn’t matter how long he stared at the calendar it was always the 22nd of February 1942. Time, if it could be called such, with no perceptible movement hung like a wet blanket. Einstein had his theories however, Bill could attest to the facts. Hours spent with a beautiful woman may evaporate in mere moments but time spent with his companion George had lasted an eternity.

Bill sat on an upturned crate, newspaper open with a cup of tea steaming on the table beside him. He didn’t know why he bothered, he’d read the same text a thousand times. He could recite the obituary column word for word, broadcast the shipping forecast to the entire room from memory, and could announce the complete sports section in either a Scottish or Irish accent. He’d perfected the subtle nuances so well that his intonation could resemble either northern or southern regional peculiarities at whim. Quite an accomplishment for a man who’d never travelled further than the coast, but there again he’d time enough to perfect his delivery.

”What’s the time,” asked George.

Bill sucked his teeth,” What does it bloody matter what the time is?”

“Course it matters. I want to know, “persisted George.

Bill glanced at his wrist. It was five o’clock in the evening.

“Soon be time then,” said George. The same thing he said every day.

“Soon be time to get it done,” mouthed Bill before George turned around to face him and said, ”Soon be time to get it done then!”

“Exasperating! Bloody exasperating is what it was. The man had no conversation, no hobbies, no game, no stories, nothing. This wasn’t purgatory, this was bloody hell. Stuck in limbo between this world and the next with a mindless moron would be the death of him, of that he was certain. At least cast the occasional aspersion, proffer an opinion – hell, pick a fight. Do something, anything to change the monotony.”

George turned back to the window, Bill to his newspaper.

Busy on their way to somewhere to do something, people bustled passed the window; as ever the planet continued to revolve, life went on. They’d seen it all. The changing fashions, hairstyles, the cars on the streets, the aircraft in the sky. With every passing, reintroduction of the very-same-day, they took no part in modernity and change.  Change wasn’t for everybody, at least not on their side of their glass. For Bill and George it was always 1942.

They could see humanity, but humanity couldn’t seem them. Energy transference was not transmutable and so having passed through the veil of death it was only possible to observe – interaction was physically impossible. A whole world had walked by without ever registering their none-existence.

 He’d stood where George stood now, watching the pretty girls and their ever decreasing hem lines. Things had certainly changed since they’d walked the earth in human form. Now as mere shadows or rather specters of the people they’d once been they could only listen and watch as regular people went about their hum-drum lives. Bill yearned for hum-drum, what they’d had to endure was beyond mundane. If it wasn’t for the fact they were already dead, the boredom would’ve bloody killed him.

George turned, opened his mouth and went to speak.

“If you ask me again, I’m going to punch you on the nose.”

George looked shocked, “What do you mean?”

“If you ask me what the time is, I’m going to kick your arse

“I was just going to ask you if you wanted another cuppa?” said George.

Tea was the only thing they had left, that and a couple of curly cheese sandwiches. Every day as much tea as they could drink was available, their only sustenance the brown paper wrapped sandwiches they’d brought with them all those years ago. What the hell, “Sure I’ll have another brew.” Wasn’t as though he was going anywhere.

“What’s the time?” asked George.

Bill screamed, clenched his fists and tried to control himself. “It’s five bloody minutes since the last time you asked me.”

“ Nearly time then,” said George.

“Yes, yes, it’s nearly bloody time. It’s always nearly bloody time. You know that as well as I do?”

With an audible demonstration of lost patience, Bill turned the pages of the newspaper.

Page six; Political commentary. The rising cost of living, or the dearth in your shilling by Michael Maverick

Bill read about an expanding war economy that instead of creating wealth, cheap beer and lucrative over-time was the cause of an overworked underpaid population. The fruits of their labors, instead of going to the British workers, went instead towards more advanced munitions with which to kill more Germans toiling under equally diabolical conditions. What was it all about anyway? The papers in the early years had been filled with ‘poor little Poland’ needing protection from the ‘big fascist bully’. Old John Bull had been just the man to put an end to the playground tyranny except, it hadn’t worked out that way, and mean old Adolph had sent England home with a split lip. Three years now they’d been pounding the shite out of each other, and for what?  Ration coupons, rickets, longer lines, blackouts, conscription and fake butter!

“Sugar?” asked George.

“Yes.”

“Milk?”

“Yes, the same as bloody always. How long have you been making me tea?” screamed Bill.

 “Touchy, touchy,” chided George,” I was only asking.”

Their work at the local munitions factory had placed them in a protected occupation category and so call-up papers had never arrived. There was money to be made in a blitzed city and the shift work had enabled their moonlighting. Between the munitions, moving families out of bombed housing and the black market both he and George had done pretty well , in fact their war had been going rather well until February the 22nd 1942.

“Here you go, drink it while it’s hot.”

“Thanks,” said Bill.

George went back to the window raised the cup to his lips and sipped. Even in death the British had tea, a cruel irony that the afterlife consisted of hot brews and stale butties. What had happened to the paradise they’d learned about in Sunday school? Where were the blue skies, the wispy clouds, green pastures – where were the harps?

They’d been told by some celestial authority figure or other that they were on a waiting list. The war was causing a huge back log of transferees, the term used for the latest residents entering the kingdom of heaven. It was just a small matter of paperwork, a little patience if you please”, and they would soon be through the gates. Clearly the bearded, winged-figure’s estimation of a little time was worlds apart from their own. It seemed like an eternity since they’d last seen the official – who knew maybe it was?

 Surely they hadn’t been forgotten?

Bill drank his tea and considered George; he wasn’t a bad lad, just a boring bastard. There again, after being stuck in here for all this time he probably wasn’t the most brilliant conversationalist himself.

He looked at his watch, “Bollocks, it was ten-till, they’d have to get a wiggle on, it was nearly time.”

“George, get your arse in gear we have to get started.” With so much time on their hands they were running late. What kind of sick joke was that?

The men picked up the box and moved towards the staircase.

“Up up on your end, down on mine, to the left, no the right!”

It was the same dance they did every day as they fought to get the packing crate up the stairs. Once they’d made the first landing the stair case widened out a little making their task easier. Puffing and panting the two men placed the box on the floor – a quick breather before they proceeded up to the next level.

Suddenly a woman dressed in a night gown walked out of a bedroom and across the landing to the bathroom. Tall with blonde hair, she stopped and stared at the two men, rubbed her eyes and shut the door.

George looked at Bill. “Did she just see us?”

“You know they can’t,” said Bill.” She was probably dreaming.  She was half asleep, anybody could see that.”

The toilet flushed and the woman reappeared briefly before disappearing back into the bedroom.

“Bit of a looker,” said George.

“Not ‘arf,” smiled Bill. “Wouldn’t mind spending an afterlife with her.”

George chuckled. “Half an hour would do.”

With the box safely delivered to the top floor the two men took their prospective positions. Bill sat on the bed and George stood by the door, in exactly the same manner they always did.

“Any moment now then.”

“Yeah, any moment now.”

“See you in a bit then.”

“Aye, see you in a while.”

“Tea and sandwiches?” asked George.

Before Bill could reply the bomb dropped by the German aircraft crashed through the roof and exploded, eviscerating their bodies and turning the building into a ranging inferno.

*

Bill looked at the calendar, it was February the 22nd. It was always bloody February the 22nd.

 

 

 

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POE – ETRY

14 Oct

 

The stack of prepaid junk-mail had lain on his desk;  offers of credit cards, Caribbean holidays and a notification, courtesy of some no-named agency in the Philippines, informing him he was worth a million dollars in prizes. Buried beneath all the unsolicited correspondence he’d almost missed the letter.  He still didn’t know why he’d done it, why he’d stopped the shredder in mid-mangle and pulled the white envelope clear of the paper shards. It was personally addressed in a hand he didn’t recognize, franked from a sea-side town where he’d spent many happy hours. Maybe it was the recognition of the Florida state symbol foiled by the bright white of the envelope, or perhaps the shinning sun on the postage stamp, either way it had peaked his interest.

Slitting the envelope open, he read.

“Dear Bill.

Long time no see. I’m finally leaving the service and taking retirement.”

An old Navy buddy he hadn’t seen for years was hanging up his hat and heading for the beach. A great guy, and a good friend, but that’d been a million years ago.

I’ll be staying at the old house on the Cape and thought you might like to join me and maybe catch up on old times. Drinks are on me, so’s the vacation. Think about it. It would be good to get together after all these years.

The letter contained dates, addresses and a proposed time table. His old comrade wouldn’t be there for the first couple of days;

I’ve some pressing business to attend to, so if you’d like to come down and treat the place as your own for a couple of days  that would be great – in fact you’d be doing me a favor. Nothing worse than walking into an empty home!

Bill smiled, “Who wouldn’t want a fully paid vacation in a fancy beach-front house?”

Even now he could see himself sitting on the deck, toes in the sand, drink in hand, as he watched the liquid lucidity of an azure-blue ocean break and wash across golden sand. With the sound of gulls in the air, and a vision of sun-bronzed beauties wandering the beach, he’d quickly made his decision.

“Hell! After the year he’d had, he deserved it. What with the housing crash, the corporate restructuring and the latest unobtainable sales goals. Fuck yes! Work used to be fun, now it was just work. It’d been a tough couple of years, not just on the business side of things but his personal life had taken a hit as well. After the accident his wife had packed her bags and left, taking the maid and the dog with her. Married for over twenty years, she’d just got up and walked out. The bitch!”

It hadn’t been his fault, there’d been loads of people at the party that night. How could he possibly have been responsible for the death of the girl found floating in the hot tub. The police had been sympathetic but the media merciless. Descriptions of a drink, drug fuelled party, which although not entirely untrue, where exaggerated to the point where he’d been cast as a modern day Caesar overseeing weekend orgies and hosting untold debauchery behind the walls of his Malibu mansion. No blame could be attached to him, and there was absolutely no proof that he’d supplied the drugs. Sure, he had his connections and with the money generated by the housing boom at the time, it’d been too easy to get hold off. A quick phone call to the friend-of-a-friend of the loosely connected Cuban-exile contingent and the necessary had been provided.

Drugs, girls, whatever he wanted, and all just seven digits away.

He hadn’t known her. She’d had some foreign sounding eastern European name. Sure, she’d been a looker, judging by the newspaper photographs, but all he remembered was a water logged body tossed up on the pool deck with paramedics trying to pump her back to life. The moment had been surreal, the blue flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, the uniformed officials surrounded by half-naked party guests in little more than bikinis and shorts. A moment that had been far too serious for the light hearted party atmosphere that had prevailed. Of course the press had camped outside his door for weeks, bothered his family and accused him of God knows what. He was no plaster saint and he’d had his share of flings with girls so numerous he’d forgotten most of their names, but he wasn’t a murderer.

“Saborsky? Sikorsky?  What had the girls name been?” Didn’t really matter now, it was all so long ago.

Of course his fair-weather friends had deserted him, his phone calls going unanswered, his lifestyle of the rich-and-nearly-famous gone forever. After his wife had taken what little money wasn’t mortgaged into the house he’d moved into a regular neighborhood, with regular people, earning regular money. Guilty or no, the mark of Cain was upon him. Scarlet-lettered and treated like a social leper the invitation he held in his hand was a breath of fresh air.

He checked the calendar on his desk. There was nothing that couldn’t be reshuffled and decided he’d accept the offer. “Fuck it, what did he have to lose?”  He pressed the button on the intercom and spoke with the secretary outside. “Louise do me a favor and get a letter off to,” he dictated the address and the name. “In fact send a telegram,” that should get to his old buddy a little faster; hopefully he’d have an answer before the end of the day.

* 

Two weeks later Bill found himself waiting in the Florida sunshine on the side of a road. The telegram had come back in the affirmative.

…..Sounds good stop

Look forward to a few drinks stop

Relive some of those glory days stop.

Will send car stop

Details to follow stop……..

Planning on relaxing he’d packed a suitcase with a couple of tropical shirts, board shorts and some khaki slacks. Not required to dress-to-impress he’d judiciously left his ties and stiff collars in the closet where they belonged. He glanced at his watch; the car should have been there by now? The sun was starting to climb and Bill was beginning to perspire – a bead of sweat leaked from his brow.  Pushing his sunglasses up his nose he watched as a dark limousine indicated, moved out of traffic, and pulled up to the curb.

The door opened and a chauffeur liveried in black stepped out of the vehicle. “Mr. Brown? I’m here to collect you Sir.”

Brown climbed into the rear of the car – the suitcase was placed in the trunk. The interior of the vehicle was a gorgeous mix of richly stitched leather and Ebony carpentry replete with drinks cabinet, a television and a cassette player. Brown was impressed; clearly his friend had done well for himself. The glass slide partition between the front and the back slid down, and the chauffeur spoke over his shoulder. “Mr. Keagan instructed me to ask you, to make yourself at home. You’ll find drinks in the cupboard and there are some cigars, which you may appreciate, in the humidor. Anything else you need, just speak into the microphone and I’ll be more than happy to assist.” Brown thanked him, the partition slid up, and the vehicle glided back into traffic.

Bill couldn’t help but smile. It’d been a long time since he’d enjoyed any form of hedonism and he was about to indulge. Crystal-glass chinked and rattled as he decanted a generous helping of whisky. His fingers found the latch to the humidor, his eyes greedily selecting from the Cahaba’s and Monte-Cristos. Glass in hand and cigar in mouth, Bill watched the City disappear behind them as they headed for the coast. For the first time in months he was smiling. Life was good.

*

Bill woke slumped in the back of the car, the vehicle motionless the engine off. There was a heavy smell of whiskey and his shirt was damp, the crystal glass lay smashed on the floor. Not understanding what had happened Bill tried to sit up but couldn’t. His head was pounding and there was enormous pressure behind his eyes. He attempted to focus but found it difficult, went to move but felt hampered by his leaden limbs. There was a face on the TV screen. He was sure that it hadn’t been there before? Was he drunk, surely not?  Just because his means had diminished didn’t mean his bad habits had, and he was still a regular imbiber. He stared at the face on the screen not recognizing the image. He held his hand to his throbbing brow and forced himself into an upright position. Where was the driver? He stared through the darkened glass, there was nobody there. What the hell was going on? Looking out of the window he could see the ocean. The vehicle was parked on a slip-way, slightly angled down toward the ocean. Where they there? He didn’t recognize anything, but there again it had been a while since his last visit. Sitting erect and doing his best not to slide back down the seat he stared at the image in front of him. It was young woman. Something fizzed and clicked in his brain and he began to trawl on a dim recollection.

“Surely not?” The female face stared at him from a past life. “It couldn’t be?”

“Shirovsky,that was the girl’s name, the girl who’d died at his party. Stupid cow what had she been doing? Ruined his life she had. Her death had taken everything from him and yet it wasn’t his fault. The girl on the screen was her, he was sure of it. What was she was doing on the TV? It didn’t make any sense.”

*

The driver’s door opened and Bill watched as the chauffeur leant in. The man released the hand break and the vehicle lurched forward. Slowly and deliberately, the glass partition slid down. Like a face in a dream he saw the man’s lips move disproportionately to his words. “Mr. Shirovsky wants you to know that it really isn’t his fault.”

Bill pulled on the handles but to no avail, everything was locked. He did his best to kick at the doors but he’d no strength. He felt as though he were struggling in quicksand – everything he did, useless and weighted. “Hey, what’s going on?” he demanded. “Let me the fuck out of here! Hey arsehole. What the hell does that mean?”The chauffeur smiled and the partition slid back into position.

With the image of the drowned woman still on the TV screen,  Bill watched helplessly as the driver walked to the rear of the vehicle. Putting his weight against the car the chauffeur pushed. The vehicle slowly edged forward. Inertia took hold, and the limousine began to roll down the ramp towards the sea.

Bill still dazed from the effects of whatever had been in the whiskey was now keenly aware of his situation. “Let me out,” he yelled.

The car bumped into the ocean, the water slapping against, and enveloping the windscreen. Bill could only stare. Trapped inside the car, and weaker than milk, there was nothing he could do. Fear was taking hold and Bill, unable to resist his fate, could only sit and watch as the vehicle slowly floated from the dock and gradually dipped beneath the water. He felt his bladder release, smelt the piss – the warm liquid pooling in his trousers, the dark stain spreading across his lap

The chauffeurs words rattled in his head, “Mr. Shirovsky says it isn’t his fault. What the hell did that mean?”

The ocean pored through the doors and windows, the front of the car submerged as it surged relentlessly upwards towards his chest. He watched the screen flicker, the image of the girl disappear. He screamed but it came out as a whisper. Cold water raced into the vehicle and he fought to shift his position as the pressure of  inundation forced the air up into the roof of the vehicle. Struggling to hold his head clear he thought on the girl – thought about holding his breath – thought about dying.

 It hadn’t been his fault.

*

The chauffeur watched as the vehicle disappeared beneath the water, the residual air exploding to the surface in a tsunami of bubbles. With the car gone his task was completed. He turned and walked back to the waiting vehicle.

AUX PRINTEMPS

9 Oct

 

Contemplating the vista below, Bill fished inside his jacket for his pipe, tapped it into his hand, and then stuck it between his teeth. Leaning on a shovel, he watched as dawn broke, the lights of the town gradually extinguishing to reveal blackened chimney stacks and dilapidated rooftops.  For the inhabitants, warm showers and corn-flakes would be the order of the hour before another day of toil and struggle demanded their presence on factory floors.  A city slowly coming back to life; a magical now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t moment. What just minutes before had been a sea of lights and flood-lit streets, returned to daytime normality.

He packed the pipe with tobacco and reached into his trousers for his matches.“Damn it,” he thought,” where were his bloody matches?” He turned around. “Hey Jim, you got a light? I can’t find me frigging matches.”

Jim cursed; stopped work, fumbled in his pockets, and after a quick shuffle came up with a lighter. ”Are you going to help me out you lazy old bugger, or do I have to finish this all by my bleeding self?  He demanded.  

Bill smiled, told him to go fiddle with himself, and lit his pipe. Smoke billowed around him, the sweet scent of caramel filled the forest glade. “It was a beautiful spot alright,” thought Bill. “What was the word? Pristine, that’s what it was.”

 It was good to be out in the fresh air, at one with nature. He looked back at his son who was shoulders deep in the trench shoveling dirt for all he was worth. Father and boy, sons of the soil, unified in a common purpose – there was nothing like a bit of hard graft to unite and repair passed differences. It hadn’t been easy raising the lad – memories of a never satisfied wife who’d left them both in the lurch for what she thought was bigger meal ticket.

“Shame the meal ticket had left her for a younger pair of tits – life’s a bitch aint it?”

With record unemployment, miner’s strikes, and industrial austerity the effort it’d taken to put food on the table hadn’t always been easy. The list of cock-ups and myriad difficulties that’d gotten in the way of raising the boy right had often seemed insurmountable. He hadn’t done badly though, and the strapping man who was digging his way to Australia was a credit to him; all the fellas down the pub had told him so.

Ever since he and Jimmy had gone into business together, their fortunes had taken a dramatic turn for the better and life had suddenly become a lot more tolerable. No longer the two-up-two-down on Isambard Kingdom Brunel Terrace but a couple of semi-detacheds in leafy suburbia complete with P.V.C. windows and indoor plumbing. Finally they were moving up in the world.

The figure in the hole grunted and swore, the sound of a shovel flung high into the air thumped onto the ground. “For fuck’s sake dad, give me a hand will you? We’ll be here all bloody day.”

The sun climbed higher in the sky and the coastline along the south side of the town began to take shape; the boats in the harbor and the rock-ridden beaches all coming into view. Tilting his head to one side Bill imagined he could hear the voices of the men unloading freshly caught fish but it was more than likely just the tinnitus playing havoc with his eardrums. A brief spell with the artillery during national service, lobbing shells across desolate moorlands at imaginary communist hoards and practicing the defense of the indefensible, had put his piano playing days to bed for good, at least that would have been the case had he have ever played the instrument. Eighteen months of pure bull-shit, but at least he’d managed to wangle a trip to Germany. A smile spread across his craggy face as he remembered dirndl-dressed frauleins at the bier fests he and his mates would frequent on the weekends. It hadn’t been all bad.

Jimmy was starting to get angry. “Move your wrinkled arse you old git. I’m sweating my bollocks off over here.”

But that was a long time ago, a different epoch, life had moved on since then. Partnering with his son had probably been his best move; it was definitely his most lucrative. They should have done it years ago, but reconciliation is never on a time table, and after Jimmy’s release from nick it hadn’t been easy to pick up where they’d left off.

Bill watched as Jimmy climbed out of the hole and walked back to where they’d parked the car. He was a good lad. All it’d taken for him to realize it was a thirty year pain-in-the-arse and a short, sharp, injection of capital. He drew smoke into his lungs satisfied with his lot, happy with his circumstances. Turning his back on the view, he sauntered over to where Jimmy stood impatiently waiting.

The boot was open. “Give me a hand here, this bastard weighs a ton,”complained Jimmy.

Sucking on his pipe Bill looked into the boot,turned away, and then wretched, “Bloody hell boy, the bugger’s starting to stink!”

“No shit Sherlock, we need to get him out of there and then burn this bloody thing.”

Grabbing the corpse by the shoulders Bill and Jimmy heaved the body out of the car and dropped it onto the grass. Their latest post office extravaganza had gone slightly array and instead of making their usual clean getaway they ended up in a gun fight on the pavement outside. Bill was certain he’d taken out the guard; he’d watched him drop to the ground after unloading on him. He hadn’t seen the second man though, and as Jimmy jumped into the car the glass on the driver’s side had splintered, the bullets ripping through the interior and killing Danny their getaway driver. Luckily Jimmy had the sense to jump behind the wheel, and with a screech of rubber and a couple of backward shots for good measure, they’d headed for the hills. It would’ve been a little awkward to drop Danny at a hospital – too many bloody questions!

They dragged Danny by his legs and pushed him into the hole. Gasping from their exertions both men stared at the man in the woodland grave.

“Alright dad, you finish covering him over and I’ll do the car.”

“Lazy little bastard,” thought Bill, he always got the shitty-end of the stick. He stabbed the shovel into the heaped earth and scooped it over the body. The exploding car and ensuing fireball illuminated the corpse, giving Danny a final, if slightly macabre vitality before his face disappeared under the dirt.

Burning upholstery crackled as dense, acrid smoke from smoldering tires blotted out the town below and filled the clearing. Bill took one last look, stuck his pipe back into his pocket, and concentrated on the job at hand.

SON OF A GUN

4 Oct

 

He’d bought the weapon for self-protection, for home defense as the clerk at the gun store had advised him. Gulled by the martial terminology and the shinning chrome of the new made-in-Czechoslovakia nine millimeter weapon, he’d been an easy sell. The clerk had been more than helpful and given him all the information necessary even down to the telephone number of a local pistol range where he could become proficient in the art of piercing paper at thirty yards. The gun had felt good in his hand the weight of it falling easily into his palm, his finger curling very naturally around the trigger. The clerk had taken his VISA and pushed the necessary paperwork across the counter for him to complete. While the man made the necessary phone calls, George filled the five minute wait shooting-the-shit with a fellow gunslinger.

The clerk came back smiling – George had been background-checked, verified, profiled and approved by the federal government. It was worth the trouble. After all, as the attendant had pointed out, you couldn’t just sell a weapon to anybody, even if they did live in the land of the free.

Not licensed to kill, George did feel a little bit gangster as he walked out to his car. The knowledge of the responsibility he carried in the plastic bag gave his step a substantial spring, the cold-steel bolstering his confidence and gun-oiling his ego.

His purchase was premeditated; it wasn’t something he’d done lightly. George had spent hours poring over the computer checking out websites and balancing the pros and cons, had joined the N.R.A. and was staunchly in favor of the second amendment by the time his lifetime membership arrived in the post. He’d the jargon down, the litany of the pro-gun advocate; how the police where always five minutes late, that it wasn’t guns that killed people, it was people that killed people. If guns were to blame for the innumerable shooting deaths in the United States then similarly pencils were responsible for every spelling mistake. That a gun was just a tool, just like a hammer or a cooking pot, it served a purpose, it was there if necessary – better to have than not. Convinced he was doing the right thing he was legally armed and dangerous. One man under god, equipped and deadly, fulfilling his constitutional obligation and prepared to fire in the direction of tyranny and civil unrest – a one man militia, a force to be reckoned with, a flag waving, gun toting, card carrying, tea partying patriot.

George had taken the clerk’s advice, called the gun club and signed up for the requisite causes. Having parked the car he walked up to a building that some enthusiastic architect had taken great pains to design as a military bunker. With a low roof line and black reflective glass and a lot of stainless steel he felt as though he were entering a top secret military establishment rather than a public shooting range. Once again his details were taken. Gun ownership, he was discovering, was all about paper work and he was enrolled in a training class with six other individuals, some of whom had clearly dressed for the occasion there being an all pervasive look of camouflage and military surplus. Taking the old adage of dressing to impress, some of his contemporaries had overstepped the mark with rubber knee protectors, knife proof vests and black fingerless leather gloves. It looked more like a meeting of old contemptibles rather than a group of like-minded armed-to-the-teeth citizens. This season’s color of choice was clearly olive-drab.

Listed as group Eagle-Talon they were assembled in a class room. Sitting anxiously waiting for the instructor George felt the thrill of pending battle as adrenalin coursed through his veins. He’d told his son a thousand times that you could achieve anything if you set your mind to it and George  was determined to put the hardware pressing into the small of his back through its paces. Born into the wrong time period but with but with a duelist’s heart he would master the gun on his side.

The quick and the dead, gun fight at the OK corral, storming Normandy beaches; all George wanted was a chance to prove himself.

The door swung open and a man with a crew cut and a thousand mile stare took his place at the front of the class. He cleared his voice and pushed up his sleeves, revealing deaths-head tattoos and crossed daggers. This veteran had clearly seen the edge of eternity and was about to impart some of his war- won-wisdom to the assembled.

Gun school had gone well and after three weeks of two hours on a Thursday afternoon George felt he was more than capable of handling the pistol. Stripping and assembling had become second nature and he could recite muzzle velocities and speak with authority regarding the differences between hollow- points and steel jacketed munitions. They’d graduated with perfectly grouped pistol shots and a state accredited concealed carry permit. Leaving the building he knew life would never be the same, now he was self-reliant, now no matter what life threw at him he would be ready.  Proud of his achievement the pistol had been placed in his bed side drawer, next to the massage oil his wife enjoyed, just in case there ever came a time when the police arrived five minutes too late.

*

Feeling a nudge in his side George returned to consciousness. He’d dreamt he was running on a tree lined beach, the sound of waves crashing on pristine white sand, whilst being chased by topless beauties wearing skateboard helmets

“George, did you hear that?” His wife was sat up in bed, her heavy breathing betraying her anxiety. “George,” she gasped pinching his skin and making him wince,” there’s somebody outside in the back yard, the security lights are on.”

 As if doused in ice water George sprang into action. Dressed in his birthday suit and slippers he opened the drawer and removed the gun. He pulled back the action, made sure the weapon was loaded, and stealthily made his way into the kitchen. Insuring he remained in the shadows, as the Vietnam vet had taught him, he cautiously slid open the back door. Cold white light bathed the yard, shadows danced around miniature date palms and made-in-Mexico ceramics. George could see a figure attempting to slither down the back wall. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and he felt his palms sweat as he gripped his pistol.

*

“Whatever you do remain calm,” the instructor had said, “the element of surprise is everything. Just pointing a gun in the general direction of a person will scare the shit out of them. You don’t have to fire the weapon to intimidate but remember this; if you do pull the trigger it will change your life forever. Good or bad, justified or not, you will be held responsible for your actions. In a life or death situation it’s you or him. Is it better to ask for forgiveness and be alive rather than lying in a pool of your own blood? That will be something that only you can determine. Remember when it comes down to it the choice is yours. It’s up to you, nobody can decide for you.”

*

The would-be burglar was now down off the wall and making his way slowly to the side of the house. The safety was already off and in one swift movement George had adopted the firing stance and was cradling the weapon in both hands, a text book image of the position he’d been taught. The weapon had come up and George’s eye was focused down the barrel, the foresight nestled in the center of the intruder’s chest. It was a righteous shot, nobody would think the worst of him. It was do or die – his family against the rabble.

Pulling the trigger was easy, the pulse of the weapon in his hand electric, the recoil absorbed and counteracted by his flexed arms. The blinding flash illuminated the yard. Time slowed down everything went into slow motion. The bullet caught the intruder in mid-stride and George watched as the force of the bullet swung the killer around and pushed him to the ground. The report of the weapon bounced around the garden, the thunder crashing off the cinder brick walls. Taking one step forward as he’d been instructed, he fired again.

#Rule number two – Double Tap.  The terrorist lay on the ground.

Energized and alert his senses at full elevation George flicked on the safety and made his way cautiously to where the enemy combatant lay prostrated. George felt cool calm and collected, the shooting was justified, nobody would doubt him, he’d done the right thing. The psychopathic kiddy-fiddler on the ground was moaning in pain, there was a bubbling, hissing sound coming from an obvious chest wound, bright, pink, blood bubbled and frothed. At such close range, the bullet had ripped open the chest cavity and turned the murderer’s organs to goo. The hollow point round as expected had mushroomed and caused the maximum physical damage without harming any innocent bystanders.

*

The instructor had been very specific, “Use hollow points in your weapons. Maximum stopping power with maximum consideration for innocent bystanders. You don’t want your rounds to travel down-range, through brick walls and into your neighbor’s living rooms.”

*

The serial killer lay face down. Reaching out George put his hand on his victims shoulder, turned the body over, and looked straight into the eyes of his son! George froze unable to comprehend what he had done.

“Dad, dad…what?” whispered the boy.

George was shaking now, the pistol in his hand falling and clattering to the ground, realizing that the person who’d slipped over his back wall had been his son, Tommy. What had he done? Where had the boy been, what the hell had been doing – a romantic rendezvous perhaps, an illicit meet up with some of his friends?

A shadow expanded across the garden and he turned to see his wife standing in the kitchen doorway. “George what’s wrong? What’s going on? His son gurgled.

*

In the distance George could hear the sound of sirens. Uniformed officers were racing to the scene to investigate the shooting probably reported by an anxious neighbor.

“Right on time,” thought George. “Right on bloody time!”

 

ARRIVING THIS MONTH

3 Oct

Finally LORD ALF is here.

 The novel will be ready by the end of October and will be published through CREATE SPACE . It  will be available in book form and on KINDLE.

THE SECRET GARDEN

1 Oct

 

YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1960.

Made impassable by netted brambles and choking weeds, a forgotten wheel barrow stands half buried, rusted, and abandoned amidst once cultivated flower beds.  Moss shrouds the dripping stone walls that enclose this suburban Eden, whilst rot and mildew slowly digest what’s left of fond remembrance. Tumbled-down and overgrown, the garden drowns in December drizzle.

At the back of yard runs a lane, beyond that a football field where young lads relive future glories. Yells of triumph and cries of derision as a fat lad, too heavy to play striker, misses yet another easy shot on goal. Wasn’t his fault he didn’t want to play goalie anyway! With the score now standing at fifteen to zero, the boy regrets having answered the earlier knock at the door and his easy acceptance of a quick kick around.

“Move your arse fatso! Come on tubby hurry up,” jeer the players.

Chubby lumbers across the field to retrieve the ball, gasping and wheezing he can see his breath as he exhales. He watches as a car driving slowly alongside the football field stops outside the abandoned terraces.

* 

The car shudders, comes to a halt and backfires, the engine pinks as rainwater finds the hot metal. A door opens and a man in an anorak and bright blue football scarf climbs out of the driver’s side. Ducking his head under his jacket to protect himself from the drizzle, he lights a cigarette. Puffs of grey and a satisfied grunt indicate his success.

 “What were they bloody doing here? How had it come to this?” he thought. Moments later the passenger door opens and a young woman with a tear stained face wearing a flowered headscarf appears; a fragile creature, slight of build, barely in her twenties.

“A slip of a girl. Isn’t that what his grandmother would call her?”

Attempting to shield herself from the weather the woman tugs at her collar and struggles with the car door. Standing stock still she stares into nothing. Third eyed vision focused on a matter of the mind.

Splashing to the rear of the vehicle the man opens the boot and retrieves a shovel and a small box.

“Margaret,” he calls. “Margret, pull yourself together lass.”

Margaret turns and walks to the back of the car, takes the box in her hand and starts to cry. The man returns the shovel to the boot, throws his cigarette hissing into a puddle, and puts his arms around his inconsolable woman. “There, there lass, can’t be helped. Best we just get it done and over with.”

* 

They’d met each other on the number forty seven, the bus that ran the route between the city center and the outlying villages. It’d started with a friendly good morning and as time progressed, became a flirtation and a dinner invitation. Sitting at the back of the pub they’d enjoyed the seclusion of a private table, the candle light softening his years and honeying his words. They’d spoken of the future, perhaps a little house in the village, a backyard, maybe even a dog. A couple of dinner dates were followed by a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast on the coast, true love blossoming amongst post Victorian neglect.

The morning sickness had come as a shock, the stomach wrenching ache, the acid taste of vomit accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of tiredness and panic. Of course being God fearing church-going folk they’d married quickly and kept their baby. They’d made the right decision; abortion in the eyes of the church was an abomination.

They’d met with their priest Father O’leary, discussed their situation and followed his sage advice. After all, in a society that was quickly forgetting an unfashionable God and vacating drafty churches there had to be method in His madness, a sense to His great plan. Thankfully their church was there for them, a necessary crutch through those difficult early days. Together they’d bring their child up the right way, the Christian way – communion and christenings, prayer and devotion. Under the guiding hand of the church there child would be fulfilled, placed on a righteous path, protected by the hand of God.

Her screams and blood soaked sheets were a far cry from the knitting patterns and wallpaper samples they’d spent hours poring over. Indifferent to gender they’d opted for a mix of pink and blue. It hadn’t mattered to them, so long as the baby was healthy they’d love it just the same.

At eight months the fetus was virtually formed, the small hand that dangled pathetically from the blood soaked towel, handed to her by the nurse, did nothing to assuage their loss. Heartbroken they consoled each other, forging from their grief an anchor with which to ride out the storm ripping at the foundation of their marriage – a necessary hand fast that would see them through multiple anniversaries.

She’d watched the frenzied shadows through the frosted glass, heard the angry shouts, her husband’s cries, his expletives crashing around the delivery room. With the priest gone her man reentered the room. According to the Holy Roman Church the baby she’d carried for the last eight months was a none entity, a nothing. Unbaptized and unwanted they were left to deal with the dark side of religion by themselves. No christening meant no access to consecrated ground and so, despite the pleadings of her husband, there’d be no place for their still born son in the local churchyard. Ostracized, a congregation of two, they were suddenly on their own.

*

With shovel in hand the man shuts the car boot and wraps his arm around his wife. Clutching the small box in her hands, the couple step over fallen masonry and disappear from view.

*

The boy watches as the strangers walk into the derelict buildings. Ignoring the insults from the others, he bends down and picks up the ball.

“Bugger this for a game of soldiers,” he thinks.  Next time he wouldn’t answer the door, next time he’d stay indoors in the warm and watch Saturday morning television.