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AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

30 Aug

BookCoverPreview

The book LORD ALF is on KINDLE.

If you click the side-link or go to Kindle you can download the book.

 

 

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THE TRAVELLER

6 Aug

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 A LIFE LESS TRODDEN…

“There’s a code, not a lot of people know that, they just think that homelessness is about not having a roof over your head. There’s that of course, but there’s so much more to it than just that. It’s a little like thinking that fishing is about threading a worm onto a hook and casting a line into some murky pool in the hope of getting that Kodak comment with a slime covered fish and a grainy photo on the back page of the Evening Press. If that were the case then why would people do it — why do people do anything? Is it about pitting your wits, the thrill of the chase, the chance encounter with that which will enlarge the mundane and make for fireside-tellings and beer soaked half-truths all the more enduring? Nobody really wants to get out of bed at dark o’clock and sit in some stinking mud pit whilst chewing on cheese and onion sandwiches  —  filthy nails digging into pure white bread — and sipping on over sugared tepid tea. Bollocks is what it is, yet thousands, no I would think billions, head to the waterside every weekend to indulge in pseudo riparianism. So what are they running from — or too for that matter — all those silent, solitary, static figures? A chance to be alone, to think, to peruse and plumb the depths of ones psyche and weigh one’s soul against a pocket sized Feather of Maat — to see if one is wanting in the getting enough out of life stakes. A trip down memory lane, a troll through consciousness — simply being at one with oneself. You can’t tell me that the hordes of camouflaged enthusiasts waiting in the reeds, like Rourke’s Drift Zulus, are thinking about fishing? A chance at the big time perhaps, a reprieve from quotidian Colditz tunnel digging and the journey towards the light at the end of it? The smell of corruption and the ache of bone chilling cold in preference to domestic bliss-ter and heated conversation? Course not, they’re a million miles away on the other side of the universe traversing interstellar highways in personalized time-discontiuums. Hence it’s like homelessness, exactly like homelessness because one has nothing to do with the other, or itself, and that’s where you strike the parallel — the fact that both states have absolutely zero in common with their supposed activity. It’s all about escape, running away — social if not moral cowardice wrapped up in fuzzy weekend activity or a none participatory societal state. The anglers of the world are abject cowards; the fish can probably see their yellow spines through the murk of filth through which they submarine.

Likewise the homeless with that unwashed well-worn bravado who epitomize misguided declarations of what it is to be free — a slap in the face to paycheck wage slaves living the nightmare of two up two downs, thirty year mortgages and the unrequited love of their 1.7 children. We’ve all seen my colleagues, and I do use the term loosely, down on the corner banging their drums, waving the flags, playing their three string guitars and juggling as though their lives depended on it. Strange really that a folk so interested in shunning society are so eager to make their presence felt and engender contact with those whom they despise — as though rotting teeth, tussled hair and an urgent need of a bath is going to enjoin the right kinds of social intercourse! There we sit with our mangy dogs and our even mangier women, surrounded by brown bagged sausage-roll sustenance and empty cider bottles. Hardly an advertisement to those contemplating a similar lifestyle — not exactly a recruiting campaign to join the legion of the idle or the regiment of the damned.

But I digress.

There’s a code. Not one where we face the East on our knees or exchange bodily fluids in freshly slashed pressed flesh, but a code all the same. The code is to never take more than you need, never be a burden and never beg. If you choose to dismiss the first two then one must insure that the third statute is upheld. I’ve seen them myself and they disgust me, able bodied teens — sturdy beggars — sitting on the pavement, heads down with palms outstretched. Nothing wrong with the buggers, there just suffering from that malodorous affliction called self-induced idleness. What they really need to do is get off their arses and go and find something that would actually allow them to finance whatever addiction it is they are trying support via the misguided benevolence of the passing public. The freedom they were looking for, the Romany lifestyle all be it sans caravan, is probably more effort than they’d envisioned. Being homeless isn’t easy, there’s the constant hassle from the pigs, the queue at the soup kitchen, the inevitable Mary and Joseph moment where one discovers after five rain soaked hours that there really is no room at the inn.

It’s hard bloody work.

When ones wardrobe consists of a puke stained jacket from Dumpster and Sons and pair of third party, gently-used piss-stained jeans that barely button, one can hardly expect to excel at the interviews. Sure you may have your shit together, the lies may cascade from your tongue and your eloquence effervesce however, the fact that the prospective employer can’t stand to be in the same room as you because of the way you smell is hardly conducive to a symbiotic working relationship. Being homeless means acceptance of oneself and one’s own created reality. It’s a choice; it’s something you want to do. One chooses to travel, to peruse life from the other side and to experience a life less trodden. There’s no romance, you can leave that to the scribblers and the poets. A life on the road isn’t for the feint of heart, where every moment is an adventure, every day an accomplishment. To be at odds with human nature, an observer of the real world isn’t everybody’s luke warm cup of tea. Nobody asked or forced me, it was something I chose to do.

I may be a work shy cunt but I’ll never beg!”

AN ODE TO CURRY

24 May

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“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

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!”

 

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.

 

 

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE – RAPE 101

17 Mar

 

Picking up his jacket, the man reached out to her. “Thanks gorgeous, that was amazing.”

Anna smiled the smile she saved for her clients, kissed him on the cheek and gently coaxed him out of the apartment. What was it with these blokes? They were paying for sex, not love. Didn’t they know her time was valuable? Jesus! If she lingered and whispered sweet-nothings to every swinging dick that came through her door she’d never make any money. Did they really think she thought they were special, that they were the only ones? On a good day she’d see six of them, all of them the same -married, single, with jobs, careers, professions, titles and university accreditation. All of them looking for non-committal, illicit sex, but always yearning for something more – a heartfelt conversation, an emotional connection, the feeling they were wanted for more than just screwing shelves to mortgaged homes, weeding gardens, forty hours a week plus over time. Lawyers, bricklayers, school teachers and mechanics, even the occasional woman. Apparently there were females out there, who despite having the physical accoutrement to score in an convent, preferred the seclusion and security that went along with the services she provided. It made no difference. To Anna money was money; her moment of rehearsed ecstasy was brief but lucrative. As her clients lay gasping on her bed from their exertions, pinning her under their matted chests and heaving bellies, it wasn’t exactly l’amour she was contemplating.

The luxury apartment she’d acquired overlooked the river Ouse; an old bonded-warehouse that’d been turned into yuppie condos back in the eighties. It’d cost a packet and the brand new German automobile parked in the subterranean garage, purchased to accessorize her new found affluence, hadn’t just materialized out of thin air. When people talked about working-girls they didn’t know the half of it! Between escorting and scamming she’d done pretty well for herself. Not bad for a girl who’d left school with three o-levels and a set of double-dees.

As a lass she’d enjoyed plenty of male attention, never having to put her hand in her pocket. Realization quickly dawned upon Anna that her path, thanks to her looks, was paved in gold. Single pot culinary masterpieces in dingy shared accommodation had been exchanged for the fine dining and silk sheets. Sure she’d dated in her teens, but the gooey-eyed, sentimental love songs sung by her boyish lovers where nothing when compared to the overtures of the mature wealthy men prepared to treat her like a princess and pay for the privilege Escorting hadn’t been her first choice. She’d tried to fulfill parental expectation and do the college-thing however, the lure of easy cash in the clubs and bars around the city soon made her reconsider her profession of choice. Weekends stuck in bedsits with mountains of homework were not for her and the quotidian indecent proposals she received offered her the escape from the working class purgatory she so desired.

Anna kept up the pretense of college for a couple of years before committing to apprentice in the oldest profession. She’d told her parents she’d found a job as an air stewardess, allowing her to account for her time away and the money she was earning. She hadn’t found it hard, the life style she led more than made up for the sweaty half-hours she had to endure. Beautiful clothes, perfect make up, fun friends and wild destinations became the norm. It was from this pedestal of feminine invincibility that she’d ventured into black mail; an easy enough transition. Having stepped over one line it was simple enough to leap over another.

Her first mark had been a man who’d approached her in Betty’s Tea-Rooms on the High Street. Not an unusual occurrence- the sexuality she oozed attracted men like lemmings to cliffs. Nice enough fella and judging by the shoes and clothes he was wearing a man of substance. It was the little things she noticed, the expensive watch, the silk tie, the oversized wedding ring. They’d talked, he’d asked her out for drinks and she’d said yes.

Child’s play she’d thought to herself; they made themselves targets. For some reason men who cheat love to talk about their home, their kids, their jobs, and their wives. It was a wonder they cheated in the first place given the conversations that were always so up beat – how lucky, fortunate ,happy, (pick the adjective) they were, and yet here they were trying to get into her knickers as though she kept the crown jewels down there! They’d arranged a rendezvous, set up a time and place to do the deed. It had been easy enough. She’d left him asleep on the bed, rifled his pockets, taken his watch and pocketed the wedding band he’d judiciously laid on the night stand. With his credit card in hand and his driver’s license there was no fear of repercussion. He’d be stupid to call the police, especially with the photograph of his doting family nestled in her handbag.

*

Frank had been one of the first people she’d really got to know when she arrived in the city, always seemed to be working the doors of the hottest night spots in town. Nice guy, big as a brick-shithouse but always smartly dressed – handsome in a rugged, aggressive kind of way. He’d ushered her past red-ropes, jumped her through crowds and set her on the arms of several different wealthy men. Not being slow on the uptake he’d managed to coerce her into a little business proposition. Didn’t want to muscle in on the escort side of things, wasn’t looking to pimp her out, but there was something they could do together that could make them both a lot of money. Shed accepted an invite for coffee and it was then he’d discussed his plans.

Wiping the cappuccino foam from his top lip Frank leant across the table.“Married fellas, out-of-towners and race-go-ers with money, are always asking me for girls. Not just any girls but something a bit special like you. Offering big money as well. Fellas like that have a reputation to keep and nine times out of ten a family as well. The last thing they need is publicity of the wrong sort.”

The plan was to entice punters into hotels, get them naked and then photograph them in compromising positions. No sex required just a couple of snaps of the punter in his Jockies, Anna in her bra-and-panties and the job was a good-‘un – the money theirs. They’d never know what hit them and they’d pay up every time.  A couple of thousand quid was cheap compared to a divorce and their faces splashed all over the local papers. It almost sounded too good to be true!

The first one she met at the Ebor hotel, told her she was the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. Of course she played the virgin, fluttered her baby-blues and blushed in all the right places. Anna embelished the occasion with the panache of Garbot; with long lingering looks, furtive glances and brushed fingertips. The small felt box he’d slid across the dinner table with the necklace had been his first inducement. He’d later dropped her off, at what he though was her apartment, had his advances rebuked, and his cheek kissed.

Gorgeous in the console light of the parked car she’d taken his hand, “Never on a first date darling. I want you to respect me. I want this to be special.” Worked every time, the idiot would go home and fuck his wife like they were newlyweds in anticipation of their next meeting. The second meeting was always at a hotel, something posh and very public; somewhere there would be no fear of retaliation.

In the room he’d open the wine, while she’d make the excuse to slip into something more comfortable. The sound of a shower running softly and the soft silky inducement for him to take his clothes off would always get the punter down to his y-fronts and socks. Anna would walk in smelling delicious wearing a little something from Victoria’s Secret – classically beautiful but expensively slutty, and then join him on the bed. His arms would barely be around her before the intruder burst from the closet. Frank dressed all in black, with a balaclava on his head and waving a baseball bat was enough to scare the shit out of anybody

“Get off the fucking bed,” screamed Frank. “Now! Off the bed you fucking nonce!”  Standing at the foot of the bed with the club in his hand he was a hard man to refuse. “You too, you fucking slut. Both of you stand over there.” Screamed Frank, pointing his weapon towards the cowering couple. The camera would flash and the john would look for all the world like a naughty school boy caught peeking at dirty pictures rather than the captain of industry or doting husband that he supposedly was.

Despite protestations the camera flashed again. “Shut up and listen you twat! In a few days you’ll receive a call with an amount and a drop-off. Don’t fuck me around or these photos will go around the world. Don’t try and screw me ‘cos I’ve already given instructions to release these should something happen to me. Understand, comprende, capiche?”

The john nodded.

“It’s simple see. You pay the money, shut the fuck up, and these go away.” Frank brandished the camera stared down the client, who would invariably cower behind Anna, and then leave. Left with the client to clean up the pieces Anna would quickly get dressed, promise she’d never see ,or mention him to anybody, and urge him to pay the money.

The money was invariably delivered. The photos and negatives would end up with the John and Anna and Frank would share the rewards. Not a bad line of business, and something they were able to pull off fairly regularly.

Anna looked at the clock on the wall – it was a quarter to ten. She had to get a wiggle on as she was supposed to interview with their latest target, a man called John who was the owner-operator of the Slug and Cabbage, one of the most popular venues in York. According to Frank the man was minted and needed to be relieved of some of his ill-gotten wealth. An easy target; married with a couple of kids he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. Anna would interview for the position of barmaid, something she’d done in the past, and within a couple of weeks worm her way into John’s good graces –although according to Frank it probably wouldn’t take that long. Then using their perfected modus operandi they’d take him down. Frank reckoned he was good for a thousand or five, not the sort of money you could earn on your back or for selling muscle for money on a nightclub door.

She needed to jump in the shower and wash the client of her. She could stillfeel his breath on her neck and his sticky cum was still in her hair. God he was disgusting! It wasn’t as though she was doing it for the money. The man who liked to be tied up, spanked and occasionally pissed on was none other than Inspector Pinkney of the East Yorkshire Constabulary .

She’d first met Pinkney a couple of years ago when he’d busted her on a prostitution scam. She’d been expecting some well-heeled client but instead when she’d answered the door Pinkney had been there. He knew everything and had threatened to take her down the station and bust her. A couple of years in Leeds wasn’t exactly what she’d had planned. Given the crackdown on vice that was going on in the city, especially the clean up around the railway station and Lendel Bridge, there was little chance of leniency. Anna was afraid she’d end up in jail cell with a couple of dykes that would fuck her to within an inch of her life and so the invitation to suck Pinkney’s dick and to make the matter go away seemed preferable.. Of course she’d got on her knees but the inspector hadn’t disappeared and she’d been forced to endure his increasing list of perversions on a regular basis. Pinkney, good to his promise, kept her out of Jail, and on a couple of occasions had managed to get her out of scrapes. Although a literal pain in the arse, he was a good card to have up her sleeve.  If the shit really hit the fan she could always rely on the inspector.

 Anna walked towards the bathroom, picked up her clothes as she went and tossed them on the destroyed bed. Handcuffs and a strap on dildo still lay were she’d left them. She’d tidy up later, she had to get in the shower and get out of there.

*

Smelling clean and expensive she looked herself up and down in the mirror. The black skirt over sheer stockings and high heels would take his breath away; her bosom threatened to explode through the laced shirt she wore, a hint of pink bra peeked from beneath pristine white. Anna was a vision. John the man she was going to interview with didn’t know it yet, but was already dead meat. He’d be putty in her hands, and in in a couple of weeks she’d be counting his cash. Grabbing her bag and keys she walked toward the door.

The telephone started to ring. Anna was late, she had to get going, she had to be there at twelve and the Slug and Cabbage was on the other side of town. She closed the door to her apartment. The answering machine would pick up, shed get it later, probably just a booking.

The answering machine kicked in. The honey chocolate tones of the gorgeous Helen, Anna’s working name filled the void. “Hi sorry you missed me. Not here right now but if you leave a name and number I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can.”

“Beep.”

“Hey Anna, Anna, it’s me Dmitry – pick up the bloody phone!” The sound of a man with an eastern European accent echoed through the room

“Anna it’s Dmitry. I’ll be in town tonight, maybe we can get together baby. Dmitry’s going to make you rich baby. Call me back, I missed you so bad.”

The machine clicked off. The red light on the answering machine pulsed.

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