Tag Archives: freshly pressed

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.

 

 

PUBLISHED ON KINDLE AND AT AMAZON

27 Aug

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HOORAY – It’s finally out. Now it just needs to be read and reviewed.

This is where you come in. Please take the time to read and leave your thoughts on the book web page at Amazon.

Enjoy.

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Alf-colin-r-james/dp/1480037443/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377615334&sr=8-1&keywords=Lord+ALF

 

 

 

 

COVER ART FOR LORD ALF

22 Aug

Busy putting the final touches to the cover before the book goes onto KINDLE and AMAZON.

The book should be available in the next couple of weeks — I know, where have you heard that before?

Let me know what you think. Personally I think it’s bloody  good!

 

BookCoverPreview

ART FOR ART’S SAKE

10 Aug

             

 

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“The first time I ever laid eyes on him was at the night school down the High Street. I was modeling for an art class and he was obviously there to improve or better whatever talent it was he supposedly had. I’d never done it before, the money was good and well, you only live once don’t you? They’ve got all sorts of people they use as models, funny when you think about it. When you see an advertisement in the paper for nude modeling you’d think that only the perfect bodies would apply but that simply isn’t the case. All kinds of shapes and sizes, people from all walks — makes you wonder what the attraction is? Personally I needed the cash — that was my excuse. Obviously exhibitionism springs to mind but when your way past you prime and your knickers would house a troop of boy scouts on a Dartmoor camping expedition that doesn’t seem likely does it? What did they have to gain by standing in a drafty old classroom with clanking radiators and poor central heating in their where-with-all, in the buff, in the nude.

I received a telephone call a couple of days after applying to the advertisement in the Press.

“Wanted.

Models for the School of Art.

Two nights a week, travel and time will be reimbursed.

Call Professor Pinkney. (York 55724)

 

 The telephone interview had been fine, all the usual questions. Did I realize that I would be posing for nude portraits and body imagery?

Yes I said.

Was I comfortable standing in front of strangers for a couple of hours?

Yes I said.

Could I be there tomorrow, a little before six to meet the professor?

Yes I said.

The office was small or rather it was full. The professor, John, sat behind a desk that burgeoned with the weight of untold amounts of paper and what appeared to be a libraries worth of books. Typical artist type. You know the sort — wild hair, glasses, bit disheveled. Nice enough though. He dug around the drawers looking for the release papers for me to sign and finally after a wild paper chase through all the books and folders came up with a coffee stained copy of what he’d been looking for. He was very nice. Put me right at ease.

The session generally lasts for a couple of hours.

No, you don’t have to sit still the whole time.

If you need a break, need to use the loo, then feel free to stand up.

Yes, yes, everybody is very respectful.

“You have to understand,” said John, Professor Pinkney, “that this is about art and nothing else. We’re simply creating an atmosphere that will fire their minds, get their creative juices flowing — capturing the moment as it were. These are fourth years, so they’re all pretty advanced and some of them really are quite talented!” He opened a folder on his desk and pulled out a couple of large pieces of paper. Beautiful penciled and inked pictures of not necessarily beautiful people. It seemed that the models ranged from people of my age in their early twenties to models who were way past retirement. Fat ones, thin one, skinny ones — all shapes and sizes. The professor smiled at me, not the way some bloke would down pub, but appreciatively as though he were seeing beyond the boobs and the blonde hair, seeing me for who I was, seeing me. He paid me up front — twenty quid for two hours! Where can you earn that kind of money for taking your clothes off? Well I can think of one, but this was legitimate, this was art.

The first time I’d been nervous. The professor had introduced me to the class, a mix of about twenty students most of whom I could barely see as they were stood behind their easels. It was a little like being in a darkened theatre where the actors don’t see the audience but rather feel them, the intensity in the shadows. That’s how it was, the feeling of their eyes upon me. Easier than I thought, and as I slipped out of the dressing gown there was a round of applause, not something I was expecting but there you are.  A woman assisted me into my pose — draped me as they say, just me, a bowl of grapes and nothing else.  The time flew by the only sounds the scrape of pencils and the scuffle of wood as the students adjusted and then a flurry of activity as they captured my likeness, my essence.

I saw his easel first, it was different from the others, painted bright yellow, as if he’d tried to add a little personality to what’s essentially just really three sticks held together with a couple of screws and a bit of wood. But it stood out and so I concentrated on that. The lad behind it was fairly ordinary – nice enough face and fairly well built but nothing special. He was so intent, so serious, and clearly very keen on what he was producing. I never did find out his name, it was all a little sterile. A big clock ticked away on the wall and along with the huff and puff of concentration there wasn’t much going on.

No music, which would have been nice as John, Professor Pinkney, didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere.

Time flew by and before I knew it I was putting my dressing gown back on, smiling my thanks for their brief applause at the end of the session, and exiting the room. It was suggested that I didn’t mingle with the students as there should be no hint of impropriety and so I simply went to the ladies, put my clothes on and left. Money for old rope, easy as falling off a bicycle.

Well the money came in handy and before you knew it I was modeling three or four times a week, same place but not always the same class. You could tell by the standard of the art that there was broad mix. Some of them really did me justice and the sketches really were very nice. I was allowed to keep a couple. One of them’s hanging in the down stairs loo. The lad with the yellow easel would be there a couple of times a week. Never spoke to him, just noticed him. He  stuck out like a sore thumb!

Think I’d been at the college for the best part of a year when something funny happened. I remember it was raining; I was rushing so I wouldn’t miss the bus, grabbed my mac and brolly and ran for the shelter at the end of our road. It was a Wednesday — they collect the bins on a Thursday so most of the bins were already on the pavement. I think I saw it when I was halfway to the college – water running off the windows, smokers upstairs, non-smokers down – hard to miss really but there it was, sticking out of one of the bins, a yellow easel, the one that belonged to the lad. One of the legs was snapped off and it’d been stuffed in with all the other rubbish.

Never did see him again. Strange that.”

DIRTY DEEDS – THE CHIP ‘OLE – Prologue

9 Aug

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   Mick wrinkled his nose in disgust, grunts emanating from the shadows. He could smell the shit from where he crouched, heard the slap of faeces in what was otherwise stony black silence. “Come on you dirty bugger, she’s nearly off,” he whispered. He’d heard the rattle of belt and rustle of trousers, the sound of heavy boots crunching through gravel. Bloody Amos – he did this every time! 

When they’d broken into the newsagents down the road he’d dumped a load in one of the beer refrigerators. Time before that, in the local school when they’d smashed and grabbed a couple of computers, he’d squatted like a garden gnome at a horticultural show above a masters desk. Although an unintentional guerilla defecator, Amos was particular where he left his mark. It wasn’t that he was a shrinking coward. Amos was six foot, built like a brick privy. A good mate to have in a tight corner — reassurance on a night like tonight. Years of institutionalized rugby and soccer at Woldcroft — their former comprehensive — had instilled the beginnings of Amos’ giant physique. A set of weights and a running machine in his dad’s garage had done the rest. It was a universal truth that a man with muscles got birds easier than a regular bloke. That being said there were enough pseudos in town posing as real-men; it was just difficult to see a mountain of a man like Amos doing what he did. Of course he blamed it on the adrenaline, the excitement of the moment; the euphoric urge of misadventure coursing through his bowels – hence the not uncommon site of hairy legs and an even hairier arse at the most inopportune moments. 

“Wash your hands?” whispered Mick. 

“Funny bugger aren’t you?” came the disembodied reply. 

“Every bloody time we’re on a job you have to take a dump. If you’re not bleeding careful the coppers are going to put that shite in a bag and analyze you into Leeds jail.” 

“No chance. With all the bleeding curry I eat, there’s nothing left alive in that crap.” 

They chuckled in the blackness. Amos reached into his pockets for his cigarettes and went to light up. 

“Now you’re just being bloody stupid” said Mick . 

“Aye, spose your right.” said Amos, replacing the box in his jacket.

“Shut up, here she comes.” 

**** 

Beryl took one last look around the chip shop. Everything had been wiped down, the perishables put away. Mary was a good girl more than compensating for John’s chauvinism. Although happy to stand behind the fryer chatting to customers, he was unwilling to stay behind and clean — allergic as he was to both mop and broom. “Beneath me,” is what he’d told her. He was a chef not a bloody skivvy. A wry smile twitched at her lips — that’s if you can call a man that pours chipped potatoes into boiling grease a chef. She wouldn’t change him for the world; without John there wouldn’t be a business. He’d been a God-send, a real gem. 

Formica tables glistened under electric light, ketchup bottles gleaming blood red against plastic brilliance – condensing steam dripping from stainless fry ovens onto freshly mopped tiles. Didn’t matter how much they scrubbed and cleaned, the smell of grease hung ornamented on the walls alongside posters of fish and rural coastal vistas. An ichthyologist’s wet-dream where humped back whales and basking sharks, although not on the menu, hung side by side in National Geographic decadence above hungry eaters.

Beryl glanced into the gloom of the seating area, the extermination device crackling as another kamikaze insect impaled itself onto blue doom. Things had worked out for the best she thought, despite the upset of the past couple of years. Business was booming better than ever, battered fish and Yorkshire spuds turning greasy goodness into a printing press for ready cash. Another few months and the bank would be sorted, some money on the account and hopefully enough for the extension. She’d grown the business so why not expand the property? She had it all planned. A little bit of luxury for some of her more potentially exclusive clientele. Retirees and well healed travelers who’d no doubt love to sit in comfort amongst shone brass, draped plastic fishing nets and maritime ephemera. A couple of wooden tables, a bit of carpet and she could add a couple of extra quid to the yet to be deigned a la carte menu. 

Day trippers passing through the village on their way to Bridlington and the coast were begging to be relieved of their holiday spending money. StantonBridge was perfectly situated, the unique location of the chippy able to cater to the starving hoards travelling in either direction. They’d branched out over the past year to take care of the influx of city folk and now offered a wider selection. The Mermaids Tale no longer served just fish and chips. When her husband, Bill the Bastard, had still been around the only choices on the menu had been Cod or Haddock. Now alongside the perennials they served sausages, burgers, pies and half chickens, microwavable sauces and instant pasta. If it could be deep fried then it was on the menu. Nothing phased Beryl anymore. Requests for batter fried apples and chocolate bars an everyday experience. Now instead of charging pence for a portion of newspaper wrapped delight they were charging pounds. Inflation had pushed prices up however, there was still a livelihood to be earned. 

‘Where there’s muck there’s brass,” is what her father had told her. Despite his lack of education and the fact that he wasn’t right all the time, even when he was, there had been wisdom in his words. It wasn’t the life she dreamed of as a young girl however, she was playing the cards she’d been dealt. Circumstances and a failed marriage had made her a Goddess of Grease and she wasn’t about to throw it away, no matter the pressure of competition or the long hours. Although things had been strained of late what with the anonymous silent threats emanating from mute telephones and the disturbing regularity of unsigned hate-mail pushed through her letter box, all would be well. Besides she’d informed the local constabulary who’d promised they’d get to the bottom of it. Probably just kids or some idle wanker with nothing better to do. 

Her fingers danced briefly on the alarm pad before reaching for her handbag and walking towards the door. Flicking the light switch she stepped outside into the drizzle, turning the key in the lock. Putting her face to the glass she peered past the eat more spuds sticker, watching as the light on the alarm turned from green to red. Time to go to bed and get some kip, there was brass to be made; she’d have to be up early in the morning to prepare for the Saturday rush. Pulling her jacket tight to ward of the cold, she turned to leave, her sensible heels clip-clopping on wet pavement. The cold was starting to creep in, mist forming above the duck pond in the village square below; damp and the smell of burning coal drifting down to street level. It wasn’t much but Stanton-Bridge was home. She rounded the corner and disappeared from view. 

**** 

Mick pushed his finger against his lips. Amos thumped him in the chest.

“Shut up you stupid beggar, she’ll hear us.”

“Not a chance, she’s long gone. She won’t be back.”

They sat in cold-breathed silence for another ten minutes. Better to be safe than sorry. Past experience had taught them caution. 

They’d scouted the building earlier that evening, sitting in Amos’ old Ford Cortina down by the telephone box; shivering in darkness watching the comings and goings of hungry mouths. Cars filled with starving kids returning from seaside jaunts parked alongside them. The last stop before returning to Monday morning madness and the clarion call of factory whistles. It seemed that everybody and his dog was eating at the chippy, they must have seen a hundred people walk through the Mermaid’s door. Tim sucked on the gobstopper he‘d been sucking on for the last hour. A behemoth of boiled sugar which although morphed in color refused to reduce in size. Fish and chips was about  $2.50 ahead so for a family of four that was tenner. Mick did the math in his head as quickly as he could, resisting the impulse to pull off his shoes and socks.

Bloody hell no wonder Mr. Gilbertson wanted a number doing on the place. They were clearly raking it in, hand over fist. It was like Gilbertson said, “Aint nothing wrong with a bit of competition but that woman’s taking the piss.” 

They sat, listened to the radio, talked about football and discussed their conquests at the local Corn Mill disco. Friday night fumblings in the car park with farm lasses looking for a bit of rough. A local bus stopping at rural bus stops to pick up quaffed and perfumed girls dressed to kill and with enough mascara to sink a battleship before depositing them at the Friday night venue. A couple of rum-and-blacks and a quick whizz round the dance floor was more than enough to lubricate knicker elastic. However tonight wasn’t about pleasure, it was all business. 

They’d dressed for the occasion dark clothes and combat jackets, heavy boots and leather gloves. Although not expecting trouble they were prepared to deal with whatever came there way; woolen balaclavas and crow bars lay on the back seat. This was going to be a nice little earner. Half up front and half when the job was done, same as usual except this time the rewards more than matched the risk. This wasn’t some half filled potato barn on the far side of the village they were razing for insurance money this was serious jail time they were looking at if they fucked it up. The Mermaid was smack dab in the center of the village. Surrounded by what passed for the central business district – the village post office, two pubs, a news agents and the local super market. The chippy shut at ten however the bitch invariably staid longer, timing her exit with throwing out time at the Bay Horse next door. The earlier crowds of happy eaters were long gone, now driving down motorways dealings with the are-we-already-there-yets! 

They watched as the last drunk exited the pub, cap on head, fag in mouth. Saw the lights of the bar extinguish and watched as the man unzippered and peed into the planters at the top of the stone steps. 

“Dirty bastard,” said Amos. “No wonder those frigging plants are dead.” 

Choosing their moment they turned the key, the motor coughing and spluttering into life and drove around the corner. Parking behind the overgrown church yard to the rear of the Mermaid, they skulked in blackness making for all the world they were never there. 

They sat in silence. This was it, this is what they d come to do. 

The area behind the pub was used as an overspill for the limited parking in the square on the other side of the shadowed buildings — now devoid of drink drivers and bathed in moonlight. They stuck to the extremities skirting the dry stone wall, hiding in the shadows as they made their way towards the back of the chip shop. They could smell it, taste it, the warm inviting aroma of lard laden fish and soggy chips. It was a shame really although the money offered by Gilbertson assuaged all guilt. The Mermaid was a quality establishment. Fish cooked in real beef drippings – a true sign of Yorkshire quality. Late night meetings with Gilbertson had removed all doubt, his language concise and threatening, all uncertainty dispelled. The rewards for success were great, the penalty for failure ominous – they’d prepared accordingly. The smell of petrol betrayed their presence, the liquid sloshing in the jerry-can reminding them that theirs was a serious mission. 

They’d cased the place over the past couple of weeks in preparation of the inevitable. It was a done job. The bathroom window was no longer linked to the alarm system, not since they had snipped the wires, pared the bare ends and stuffed them behind the base board. Short circuited certainty they’d have any easy entrance come the ignominious day. 

Mick cursed as he hoisted Amos up to the small rear window. “Hurry up you fat bastard before anybody sees us.”  A boot in the face — the splinter of wood and crack of glass answered his urgency. 

“Keep your hair on lad. Aint nobody going to see us out ere, not at this hour”. 

Mick watched as Amos squeezed through the open space, passed up the jerry can and then supported by Amos’ gloved hand scrambled up the wall. 

**** 

The bathroom was quiet apart from the drip of the tap and the constant overflow from the cistern. A calming effect after the adrenalin infused excitement of their mad scramble. Bit like the whale music his sister had used when she had found herself up the duff with some sprog from an army lad she’d met at a disco. 

“God now I want to shit again,” cursed Amos.

“Not now, lets get this bloody done and get the fuck out of here.” 

 

 

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

PASTAWAY

23 Jan

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The machine gun barrel smoked, the restaurant echoed gunfire. It’d been over in a muzzle-flash, a full drum of thirty rounds pumped through the weapon in the general direction of the dead men who even now dripped scarlet on freshly laundered table cloths. Broken crystal reflected subdued lighting and a half shattered Champagne bottle leaked its last onto the polished wooden floor. A great neighborhood eatery, famous for its scaloppini and pasta, that after tonight  would be known for more than just its culinary excellence. The boss had warned them. There were no second chances. Capiche?

After the first few shots his killer instinct instinct kicked in – the screams and smoke culminating in a tableau of mayhem and death. He’d squeezed the trigger until the gun clicked – simple enough, nothing new. One clip had been sufficient, although ever the professional, he’d a spare magazine in his coat just in case. Lifting the muzzle Joey stared at the destruction he’d wrought.

He shouldered the weapon, drew his pistol and walked towards the shattered table. “No mistakes,” the boss had told him. “Dead men speak no tales.” Short and sharp the pistol cracked, a shot to the head of each of the dead men – a third eye blooming on their foreheads as the bullets found their mark. No screams this time, no pleas for mercy, just the report of the gun and the silence of the recently liquidated.

In this town you didn’t mess with the boss. There was no forgiveness. Sure you could buy a little time, but a little was never enough. The boss was right, “You have to command respect. No bastardo give you nothing.”

The instructions for the hit had been in his pigeon-hole in the hotel lobby, the names and photographs of the soon to be exterminated. Nothing out of the ordinary, no major planning necessary, and he’d enjoyed his bagel and coffee at Lew’s on 35th street while casually contemplating the job. It was straight forward. The nearly deceased would be at Toni Fratennilies restaurant on 69th, same way they always was on a Thursday night, enjoying the food and dividing up territory or whatever it was bosses did.

What did he know? He was small time, a pawn in very large game of chess, where if you didn’t stay one step ahead you’d wind up dead as these fishes laid across the table.

He kicked the chair of one of the unfortunates and sat down; a corpse slumped to the ground. What a fucking mess, there was pasta and spaghetti sauce all over the place but miraculously some of the table had survived. His prowess with the Thompson was legendary. Holding the gun at waist height he’d simply scythed his way through the diners, his bullets cutting them down at chest height. It was the crashing bodies and their urgent attempts to avoid the unavoidable – hands reaching for weapons, smashing through piled plates, toppling wine glasses – that had caused the table top devastation.

Holstering his pistol he removed his black leather gloves. He’d time before the cops showed up – the amount of money donated to police headquarters meant there was always time. Half the frigging city was on the boss’s payroll. With cash, girls and booze you could buy anybodyand that’s just what he’d done. 

A pasta-splashed bottle miraculously still stood in the middle of the table, corked and as fresh as the day it had left Naples. Chianti that had been pressed and bottled in Italian sunshine, a land he still remembered from his youth. He reached for it and poured wine into a glass. He sniffed, then quaffed.

Darn good stuff. Apperritifo wine is what the fellas would call it. Better than nothing, that’s for sure.

He swirled the dark liquid, coated the walls of the glass, watched the tannins skin its crystal surface.

Not bad, he thought, and poured himself another.

He looked around greedily, there was still salvageable food on the table, not quite the banquet there’d been before but enough to satisfy. He moved one of his victim’s hands from a silver tureen, wiped blood from a spoon, and scooped pasta onto a plate.

Bellissimo.

He could smell the olive oil, the spaghetti falling apart in individual strands across the plate. Al dente, perfect – just the way he liked it. He’d heard about Toni’s before the contract. When this mess had blown over and they’d cleaned the place up he’d come again, maybe bring the old lady or one of the dancers from the cabaret – the red head perhaps?

Picking through the detritus he selected what appeared to be veal scaloppini. A flower from a vase that had obviously been on the table before being blown to smithereens sat in the middle of the dish giving it a festive look. He removed the greenery and poured the meat and sauce over the pasta. Fantastic smells emanated from his plate; basil, garlic, oregano – thick edible aromas that indused instant salivation.

He was back in his mother’s kitchen on Sicily, the lady standing before her range, hour after hour, creating plate sized pieces of heaven for her husband and eight children and whoever else might appear at the table. Memorable times when the house had been filled with laughter and music, happy days when the term family hadn’t referred to the outfit he was with, but rather the company he loved. He spooned food into his mouth and was immediately transferred to Tuscan hills and orange groves, warm Italian sunshine and mountain fresh air – a taste of the old country, the essence of Italia. He could hear them all – see their smiling faces, the checkered table cloth, the wisp of curtain in the afternoon breeze. Looking around the table at his brothers and sisters he felt a belonging, a oneness, a sense of famiglia. Village life and home town remembrance washed across his tongue. The voice of loved ones ringing in his ears, young girls in summer dresses, wrinkled older couples, who’d lived and laughed forever, dancing slowly on terracotta tile.

Delizioso

Finishing his bite, and finding himself back in a restaurant populated by death, his thoughts quickly returned to reality. He could hear police sirens somewhere in the distance, it was time to go. Grabbing his gun and pocketing his gloves he moved swiftly through the restaurant, through the kitchen, and into the back alley where a car was waiting for him. Splashing through puddles, his shoes clicking on cobbles, he opened the door and sank into the leather passenger seat.

The driver smiled nervously, hands clutching the wheel, “How did it go?”

Joey shrugged.

A look of panic crossed the driver’s face and he pointed at Joey’s shoulder. “You get hit? You ok?”

Joey looked at the driver and then his shirt – redness oozed through white cotton.

Joey smiled, swiped his finger through the wound and stuck his finger in his mouth. “Spaghetti sauce! Damn good as well.”

“Yeah I heard about that place,” said the driver putting his fingers to his lips and making a kissing sound. “Besta pasta on the east side.”

Joey looked up at the sign hanging above the door of the restaurant.

Fratennilies – he’d be back.

The car drove off into the night.

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.