Pulcinella – Part III


[Not read Part I or II yet? Why not?! Get your eyeballs round THIS]


The kitchen spat out Judy is a Punk as Mr Pulcinella entered, grabbing the pepper grinder from the table on his way to his wife.
“Oh, Pol, sei bellissima, my succulent one. Bit lower, eh?” moaned the baby in pleasure as Polly’s bulging breasts pressed against his chest and chin. They fell away as the amalgamation of baby and high chair hit the tiled floor with a thwack thanks to Mr Pulcinella’s efficient kick as he went past. On reaching his wife she turned from chiselling the sausage remains from the frying pan. “Ah, husband. You are looking spritely, and all dressed and ready. My joy is munifico! And what did the good Dottore prescribe, dear?”
“A good dose of the physic, my lover,” and the pepper grinder went about demonstrating this most excellent of cures across the body of Mrs Pulcinella.
His parents being otherwise indisposed, the baby, truly miffed by the sudden recumbent position of his being, let out a whaling cry which alerted all nearby wildlife to the hideous unfairness he felt from within. Although being a three hundred year old baby did have its up sides – not having to do much for one’s self – it also had its irritations, that of not really being able to do much for one’s self. He had invented many contraptions with which to manage the everyday adult built world, and his mother seemed to enjoy carrying out the tasks he set for her. But being stuck in a high chair, the current prison of his torso, and being wedged beneath a sturdy adult chair did require some help from which to escape.
“Pol! Pol!”
He continued to wail and sob, for being a baby held certain tropes no invention could assist. “Help your loved one from this death trap! I must be free! Free! Waaaa!”
Polly sprang to her lover’s aid, throwing the adult chair from his helpless body and lifting him to his towering position. He continued to scream with discontent until she enveloped his round head in her bosom.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re feeling better, husband.” Thwack. “I was worried about the show.” Thwack. “You are of course irreplaceable.” Thwack. “Truly unique.” Thwack. Thonk.
“I am! I am! And don’t you forget it! Irreplaceable! No me, no show!”
Mr Pulcinella continued to beat the robust body of his wife, the woman who he’d endured for all these years, who he could not disregard. The agreement said so.
“Without me there is no show, and that is surely the way to do it, my wench of discontent, my grassone trota.” Thwack. “But shhh, my dear. Worry not about it in your head.” Thwack. “For all you know about it we shall perform, and we shall dazzle, and we shall collect what is ours.” Thwack. “We shall pay our dues, and we shall live forever!” Thwack. “And thus your husband, padre to your children, will provide selflessly. The years of surrender has brought sustenance to our little family, and so it will forever be, my crepa of sorrow, my femminile noose, my weight of fleshy burden! Thwack. Thwonk. Crack.
Mrs Pulcinella gazed into her devoted husband’s wide eyes blurring and refocusing every blow of the pepper grinder. Everything he’d done had been only for love. Once, anyway. But still, if she directed her thoughts thusly, which with three hundred years’ practice wasn’t difficult, she believed in his unending loyalty to his duty. The show must go on.

Having regained himself thanks to the intermittent breaths from within his girlfriend’s chest, the baby grabbed his meat tenderiser from the tool belt attached to the leg of his high chair, and hurled himself as fast as his tiny gait could manage towards his father’s bony ankle. The piercing pain took Mr Pulcinella to the floor with an agonised screech, just as his son had intended. Mrs Pulcinella reached for the antibacterial wipes, a new-fangled invention she admired, and started to wipe the splotches of ankle and accompanying splatters from the cupboard door.
The baby, grinning manically, took advantage of this playtime opportunity with his favourite toy. He enjoyed the pattern it cut in the flesh of his father while he hopped around and over the grappling hands like a dance of the fleas. So caught up in the moment that he didn’t notice his mother had left her cupboard door debugging for the knock of the front door, until a pencil-like policeman stood over him with a quizzical look. The baby stopped instantly, looking at the policeman, and then at his father’s battered body which now revelled in the lucky cessation by grabbing him tightly round his own ankle and hoisting him into the air like a poached rabbit. The baby calculated for a moment, and then let out a huge cry, that of which could be heard in the Otherworlds.
“Now then you,” said the policeman, the passion of ridding scum from the world in these three words. “Let that baby alone and appropriate yourself for arresting.” He removed the handcuffs from his belt and dangled them before Mr Pulcinella. The withered figure dropped the baby on its head as he stood. The baby, still in character, screamed dramatically as it writhed about, unrestrained.
“We’ve had complaints about the noise emanating from this property, and rightly so it seems.”
“Oh, Constable, I wholeheartedly agree! These creatures who invade my nest could do with the force of the law about them,” said Mr Pulcinella, sweeping his hand across his family.
The policeman laughed in disbelief. “You seek further punishment than that which you have inflicted? How truly debauched you are!”
“Haha! Yes, yes, I do my best, but I’m sure your establishment is better equipped for such deserved debasements.”
“Right, that’s it. Put your hands to your back and turn around. Shackles are where you obviously belong.”
Noting the two immersed in conversation, the baby ceased its floor based writhing and crawled stealthily towards the cigarette packet with the ounce of Slugger’s finest secreted within. Having noted the policeman intended to incarcerate her husband, Mrs Pulcinella paused her antibacterial wiping to settle on the worrying thought of his absence at tonight’s show. Having settled upon the same thought, though with less worry and more determination, Mr Pulcinella set his mind to a scheme of escape.
“Ah, grazie, grazie, but I am sure I do not seek to procure your services after all, Governatore. I will settle this matter without need of your assistance.”
“Oh, but I am in need of you, Mr Pulcinella. There’s a cell with a drain problem that has your name on it!”
“Such a kind offer, Signor, but I am proficient enough to deal with these problems you so unselfishly seek to rectify for me. Thank you all the same.”
Growing increasingly frustrated at the lackadaisical attitude of the violent psychopath before him, the constable went for the wrists that he intended to cuff.
“Oh, yes please!” screeched Mr Pulcinella, and grabbed the truncheon hanging from his assailant’s belt. The first hit bent the constable’s body double, affording a satisfying second blow to the spine. Squeals of delight blended with oofs and ughs over the Ramones’ rhythmic ranting of Wart Hog, both ceasing simultaneously to leave the battered Constable groaning into his own stomach beside the fridge.
“Oh, a fine job, marito impotente,” praised Mrs Pulcinella before resuming her now more cumbersome cleaning frenzy. Mr Pulcinella beamed with satisfaction. “And don’t you forget it!” he snarled triumphantly, throwing the truncheon like a proficient bowler towards the baby’s head. Tobacco with green flecks scattered across the highchair table and surrounding floor tiles.
“You assoluto bastardo of a father! I’ve just got that! And on my meagre wages you think I can afford to just throw it about like spent ashes!”
“Oh, son, you need to learn some respect for your father,” said Mr Pulcinella in mock kindness as he edged through the sweet smelling floor scattering, “I am your provider, your protector, your educator, and…” he melded into a scowl as his face met his son’s, red nose to snotty nose, “I am your boss! I am in charge of you, and you will obey me, boy!”

The Constable’s belly bubbled with thunderous rage. Even to his own detriment he was dedicated to crushing the evil from the world. Well, from his patch anyway. And this…this…animal… No! This creature! This devil in fancy dress! He wasn’t going to let him get away. Using small movements to test out where the hurt would radiate from most, he cajoled his body into rising.
“You will not get away, you evil incubus!”
Disabled as he was from his injuries the Constable swiftly rose to his feet ready to grab and contain his catch. But his catch was slippery and spry and dodged his outstretched arms, vaulted over his wife and out the back door. The Constable gave chase and found himself in a dusty high fenced back yard with an out of place patch of grass on which stood a cockerel, Mr Pulcinella, and a tiny grey and white speckled horse.
“You think you’re so strong, so clever,” said Mr Pulcinella mockingly, “You think, ‘oh, now I have him, he cannot escape’, and you think you of all this world’s inhabitants will win over myself. Ha! Bless you and your ignorant sort.”
Like a suburban cowboy Mr Pulcinella swung his leg wide, concluding in a rolling crouch with his feet firmly on the ground either side of the small horse.
“What is that thing?” enquired the incensed constable to the wife of the deranged man.
“Oh, that’s Hector, our cavallo,” said Mrs Pulcinella, “He’s a HORG.”
“Yes, a HORG breed. Horse of Restricted Growth.”
The policeman raised an eyebrow, unsure he’d ever heard of such a thing before, watching it being kicked in the rear end with its rider’s pointy shoe.
Mrs Pulcinella smiled warmly. “A fine breed. Bellissimo! Look at how strong he is, carrying such a load.” And the constable had to agree that the ridiculous view of a horse the size of a child’s tricycle carrying the relatively mountainous load over the six foot fence did remind him of the remarkable feat of the flight of a bumblebee.

Sitting round the gingham table, the Constable, the baby, and Mrs Pulcinella watched the clock meander its way towards show time. Fully abreast of the situation, the Constable still didn’t really understand Mrs Pulcinella’s overly anxious demeanour.
“I’m so worried, Constable. He’s never done this before. We will be late! Late! Oh, the thought is just…” Mrs Pulcinella broke under the weight of worry and sobbed into her apron.
“There, there, ma’am. I’m sure he’ll return shortly.”
“No, no, you don’t understand…”
The clock seemed to tick louder than usual.
“You may be a little late, but what does one show matter, eh?”
The shocked faces blinked at the Constable in time with the second hand of the clock, which caught the minute hand in an embrace that took them both to the hour. Eight o’clock. The ticking stopped.

The curtain twitched as Elsie Savant tried to catch a stealthy glimpse towards the ground shaking rumble emanating from next door, yet without musical accompaniment. She watched as the house began to vibrate violently. Lumps of plaster revealed abstract patterns of grey brick as it crashed to the pavement in puffs of white dust. A gap appeared between the foundations of the house and the ground on which it stood. The grimy door knocker banged furiously as the gap widened and the house lifted into the air, dangling roots of pipes and wires with tattered red and white stripped wallpaper floundering beneath. Many curtains twitched up and down the street as the residents watched the house fly off into the stratosphere, never to be seen again.

In a cobbled backstreet, the dusty boards of the Regency Theatre advertised an obscure show from long past. Layers of cobwebs seemed to hold the decaying wooden overhang in place above the small red doors at the foot of which a dune of black dirt had accumulated over the years of disuse. Yet from deep within this derelict aesthetic came the sound of a mistuned music hall piano, plinking and plonking a happy tune.

Inside the dark theatre the tatty blood coloured curtain rose to solitary applause. Upon the red and white stripped stage stood four figures, their gregarious faces captured within the grain of a tree. Their hinged joints instantly creaked into animation as they were revealed and danced in time to the twang of the piano. The sound of their wooden stumps on the boards echoed around the nearly empty theatre, their movements across the stage seemingly matching the flicking and gliding of fleshless fingers attached to the solitary dark figure sat in the dress circle, who, for the first time in three hundred years, felt a great sense of enjoyment in his new role of ‘Director’. Better to be in complete control than have to deal with the wants and wills of others, he thought. A shrill laugh emanated from the hook nosed character on stage, which was dressed in a ragged red and yellow suit intricately decorated with gold thread, as it bashed a long slapstick about the carved heads of a baby, a policeman, and a robust woman holding a frying pan full of sausages.
“That’s the way to do it!” it shrieked.



Come hear me!

Follow me on Facebook for updates

3rd OCTOBER – Wakefield, West Yorkshire at The Snooty Fox Club
Stonewall Fundraiser with The Bleeding Obvious
Time TBC

3rd NOVEMBER – Manchester, at Gulliver’s Lounge, 109 Oldham Street, M4 1LW
Supporting The Bleeding Obvious
7:30pm 18+
Tickets £4 from here

5th NOVEMBER – Leeds, at Wharf Chambers, 23-25 Wharf Street, LS2 7EQ
Supporting The Bleeding Obvious
7pm 18+
Tickets £4 from
[IMPORTANT: Wharf Chambers is a members’ club and you need to be a member, or guest of a member, in order to attend. To join, please visit here. Membership costs £1 and requires a minimum of 48 hours to take effect.
Wharf Chambers practices a Safer Space policy – to find out more, please see here]

16th NOVEMBER – Brighton, at Caroline of Brunswick, 39 Ditchling Road, BN1 4SB
Supporting The Bleeding Obvious
7pm 18+
Tickets £5 adv. (link to follow)

19th NOVEMBER – London, at Etcetera Theatre, above The Oxford Arms, 265 Camden High Street, NW1
Supporting The Bleeding Obvious
7pm 18+
Ticket info to follow

Pulcinella – Part II


[Not read Part I yet? Why not?! Get your eyeballs round THIS]


Dressed and ready for the show by his wife, Mr Pulcinella had been tucked up in bed, to which he offered only minimal resistance due to his now pulsating head. Irritated rather than unnerved by her husband’s denouncement of his duties, Mrs Pulcinella reasoned a visit from the Doctor should restore her husband’s melancholy in time for curtain up. The show would not be missed. Rather, the show wouldn’t let itself be missed.

Within the comfort of his undemanding bed Mr Pulcinella felt his head ease and his eyes become heavy as lead. He drifted away from his madding world, soothed by the promise of sleep. Almost at once he found himself quite awake, although unable to see through the darkness, aware only of the damp cold that clawed at his skin. He held himself, shivering and completely naked. Frozen breaths caught at his stinging nose. Breaths orphaned of architect.
“What is this? What is this?”
A vapour of mist boiled from the darkness, coiling and circling like supple arms through the void, up and around, through and out of Mr Pulcinella. The voluminous mass overwhelmed him, taking his breath before it began.
Spluttering for air, he coughed and wheezed and appealed to the dead skies above. “Master?”
A laugh from behind made him turn like a twisted spring. He faced only shadowy clouds. The bodiless laugh moved around him, sometimes loud, sometimes a soft giggle, but always fixed upon him.
“Please, please, what is this? What is this?” he begged.
“I’m behind you!” The voice laughed again as Mr Pulcinella turned again to face only the dark.
“Master, is that you?”
“You pathetic mule,” it laughed. “Poor Pulcinella with his poor little cold. Aw, does he want some nice soup and a punch in the guts?” Not given time to answer, Mr Pulcinella bent double with pain as a force without form crashed into his naked belly.
“You think that will help, Mr Punch? Huh? Mr Punch? Mr Punch? Mr Punch?” Every utterance of his altered name brought a potent blow to his body.
“Forgive me, sir!” he cried in a caught breath.
The voice laughed at the trembling fool. “Your ailments would have been far more severe had I not relieved you of your perilous mortal lives, is that not so, Mr Pulcinella?”
“Yes, yes, my Lord. You indeed saved us from an awful cruelty. My wife. My child. Myself. Thank you. Thank you.”
“Yet you seem to be willing to rebel on our deal for the price of a runny nose. You shall perform for me, you will do your work, and I will provide security for you and your family, forever. Was that not our deal?”
Each word slid its way through his body like pins of ice, but Mr Pulcinella gritted his teeth and was granted a breath, “My Lord, Chief of the Devils, the security you afford is at a price I struggle to pay.” Tears welled in Mr Pulcinella’s wide eyes, awash with the horrors which he had sought to escape with this unbearable deal. “I wished security in my work, yes, so that I may provide for my family. So desperate we were. So blind of the tragical tale my request would weave, I did not know of the endlessness of our toil, sir. I am desolate of desire for life, and my family hates me for the blessings I have provided them. I did not realise the price of my desires, my lord. I am a fool, The King of Fools, to have wished for such gifts of unimaginable sorrow!”
“Nevertheless, our agreement stands. The request you made has been granted. Claiming ignorance is no defence for your vain ambitions of relinquishment, and as such you mock me.” Anger surged through these last words sending Mr Pulcinella’s quaking body to the floor.

Silence stalked about him. Then he felt an icy cold tickling at his feet, crawling up his collapsed legs, and, as he struggled to stand, he saw that he was surrounded by glistening water.
“What is this? What is this? My Lord?”
In reply the waters thickened, gushing from white foam all around him, bubbling its way upwards with no abatement. It reached his knees, his waist, his chest, and the frigid chill prevented the screech from leaving his body.
“And so you’d rather choke your immortal life away would you?” said the voice from the emptiness.
The water rose, and Mr Pulcinella panicked. “No, no! I do not wish that, my King of the Wicked.”
The water gushed around him, the white noise of it drowning out Pulcinella’s screams for mercy. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, the water vanished, and he was left within the swirling mists once again, his numb body shaking violently.

The silence wrapped itself around the sobbing Pulcinella once more, making him jump in fright at the nothingness. Untrusting of his senses, he searched the darkness, and caught a timid movement before him. The glow flickered, and he could make out a flame of light. The small flame came closer, followed by more small flames, hopping gaily, clearing the mist as they came towards him.
“What is this? What is this? My lord?”
The flames sprang from all around, hundreds, thousands. They gathered at Pulcinella’s feet as if taking in his towering form. A single flame hopped, then jumped and landed upon his chest.
“Ow! Ow!”
He tried to sweep it off with his trembling hand, but the flame wouldn’t move. He tried to dampen it out with his still moist arm, but it wouldn’t extinguish. Another flame hopped from its grounded post and landed atop Pulcinella’s head.
“Ow! Ow! My flesh burns! Get off! Get off!”
He beat at himself as one by one the flames took hold of him, each hopping to an unburnt spot and setting it alight with white fire.
“And so you’d rather burn your immortal life away would you?” said the voice from the depths of infinity.
“No, no! I do not wish that, my Prince of Demons. Please, spare me!”
The flames grew, arching over Pulcinella and engulfing his screaming body fully. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, it vanished, and he was left within the swirling mists once again, his blistering body stinging with every slight movement.

The silence prickled at his crusty skin, disrupted only by Mr Pulcinella’s pitiful weeping. Every movement cracked and ripped, but he could not control his mournful shuddering. Between these horrifying sensations something beneath his skin crawled. In the palm of his hand he saw a wiggling mass below the surface of the fried crust. The small worm pushed at its covering, and forced its way out of Mr Pulcinella’s hand, writhing in the misty air. One by one the wriggling annelids beneath his skin burst forth. Then more. And more. Pulcinella squealed as a thin red worm punched its way through his eyeball. His nostrils filled with a yellow squirming mass of long stringy bodies. Worms of all shapes and sizes pushed their way out of his skin, undulating around the foggy air, not wishing to leave him but instead content half in, half out of their host’s body.
“And so you’d rather be eaten alive for time immortal?” said the voice from the blackness.
“No, no! I do not wish that, my Majesty of the Shadows.”
The worms continued to force their way out of his ears, his nose, his mouth, impeding his speech. “I can….blo…aggh…!” The worms invaded his throat, his stomach, his legs, his feet, breaking through the skin in between his toes. Then, as suddenly as they had arrived, they vanished, and he was left within the swirling mists once again, blank with terror.

The silence was broken with the steady, unsettling voice. “And so I think you have decided, Mr Pulcinella. Your souls for your lives, your services for your security, and that’s the way it will be done.”

Mrs Pulcinella shut the kitchen door to drown out Teenage Lobotomy a little before answering the knock of Doctor Beggar, whom she promptly dispatched to her husband’s first bedroom on the left. The Doctor knocked gently on the door. “Mr Pulcinella.”
The lump within the duvet squirmed, then sat bolt upright and checked himself for remnants of the dream. The warning. Although he had no physical signs, the torture had awakened an inspiration. He could feel it, somewhere. His large head lolled and he slumped back into the soft pillow, his scattered mind pulling together the pieces of his troubles and sculpting them into a course of action. Mr Pulcinella grinned.
Knock, knock, said the door. “Mr Pulcinella? It’s Doctor Beggar. May I enter?”
Storing away his wry smile, Mr Pulcinella resumed his sickbed demeanour and replied feebly, “You may enter, Dottore.”
On entering the room the Doctor took in the stench of sulphur and sweat for only a moment before bringing a handkerchief to his mouth. Placing his Gladstone bag on the bare floorboards at his patient’s bedside he undid the clasp while he made his initial assessments.
“Now then, Mr Pulcinella, what seems to be troubling you?” said the Doctor while taking the temperature of his patient’s flushed forehead.
“I think I am dead, sir.”
“You’ll be pleased to hear I disagree.” The Doctor pulled away the covers revealing a ragged red and yellow suit intricately decorated with gold thread.
“I have been killed by that evil son of mine in conspiracy with life itself. Infected by humanity. Rabid with disease!” The doctor didn’t consider the ravings of his patient important, but let him continue as a poultice of purge. “My dealings do not afford the luxury of illness. Three hundred years of the same show, night after night, come injury or disembowelment, no matter if we are dying of the lurgy!”
“I think it unlikely you will die, Mr Pulcinella.”
“La vergogna! The disappointment!”
“People don’t tend to die from a cold.”
Mr Pulcinella scowled at Doctor Beggar, silently admonishing him for his misunderstandings.
“To live in perpetuity. To endure the never ending. Oh Dottore, what may I die of, if you please?” Mr Pulcinella wheezed into a long coughing session, dramatically emphasized at every fourth cough. When he’d finished, the Doctor pressed lightly on the temples of the man before him. “Does it hurt here?”
“Some. But also lower, I think.”
“Here?” The Doctor’s hands slid down the patient’s chest.
“Some too. But also lower.”
The patient jumped a little as Doctor Beggar prodded his kidney. “Here?”
“Oh, yes, yes. But lower still, Doctor.”
“So it is your legs that hurt?”
“Lean in, lean in, sir. To the side of this leg, I think. Avvicinati, Signor.”
The Doctor leaned over the bed to examine the outer edge of his patient’s left leg but instead received a knee squarely in his eye.
“My eye! My eye!” exclaimed the Doctor, hand held over his wounded eyeball which now blended many new colours together before him.
“Ahh haha haha haha!” wheezed the perpetrator. “That’s the way to do it! Don’t you agree, Doctor? Ahah haha ha ha hahaha!”
While his patient was still contorted in hysterics the Doctor rummaged in his bag with his free hand.
“Ahahaha haha ha ha! And what are you doing now, Doctor? Gonna give me some medication? Some drugs? Something for the dolore languido?”
“Some physic, sir” and the Doctor cracked his patient across the head with a thick wooden slapstick. “Some physic for your hurt.”
“The pain! The pain!” Backwards and forwards the stick continued its thwacking of its target.
“My throbbing head does not like your physic! Ahi! Dolore!”
“Ah, that means you need more!” The Doctor continued to crack Mr Pulcinella across the head.
“Stop! Stop! Ahia!”
“The more you take the more good it will do.” Legs thrashed, arms flailed, and the Doctor held still. “You think you feel better now, Mr Pulcinella?”
“Oh, I do, I do. I do feel very much better now. Grazie, Doctor,” groaned Mr Pulcinella. “Your physic is of the highest quality, one of an experienced and self-tested man.”
“Oh no, doctors don’t partake in physic themselves.”
“Really, sir? But you are so accurate with your practice, such excellent judgement, and with a finely crafted tool such as this!” Springing atop his bed, Mr Pulcinella grabbed the stick and promptly started beating the Doctor around the head and shoulders, occasionally issuing a lower blow when defences were occupied higher up.
“See how masterful you are in comparison? Ahah ahah haha! Vedi! Vedi!”
“Sir, no! Physic is for patients only!” But the Doctor’s pleas failed to placate the pounding stick.
“Oh, but you must take it, Doctor. Take your own medicine.”
“I think I’ve had sufficient dosage now, sir.”
“Oh, in my professional opinion, I don’t think so. If you take enough physic you might die! How exciting for you!” Mr Pulcinella gave a couple more hefty blows and then relaxed into a thoughtful pose. “I wonder, can you feel the physic in your insides?”
The Doctor spluttered for breath. “In…in your insides, sir?” He coughed out a breath and struggled to replace it.
“Yes. In your insides. Let’s see shall we?!” With a satisfying thrust the stick lodged itself into Doctor Beggar’s stomach. “Now, Dottore, can your physic cure that, hmm? Hmm? I can’t hear your answer, Doctor. Speak up!” The blood spread from the Doctor’s gaping mouth and he left this world as he’d arrived in it, curled and unbreathing.
Mr Pulcinella’s manic laughter broke just in time for him to hear the knock at the front door. He raced down the stairs, eager to beat his wife, and also to get to the door first.
Mr Savant heard a familiar tune wafting from the kitchen as the door opened. He’d worn his gloves this time, to keep off the chill.
“Ah, my neighbour. Amico mio. What is it I can do for you this fine, fine day?”
“Yes, sorry to bother you again, it’s just the…well, the…”
“Spit it out good neighbour!”
“Yes. It’s the music, you see. Still a bit loud. Lots of thumping. We’ve already broken three grandchildren from the vibration, you see.”
“Ah, a fine pastime. You must be congratulated!”
“Oh, no, no, I mean…” stuttered Mr Savant.
“Perhaps a celebratory tune for compagno mio!”
“Photographs…” managed the neighbour as Mr Pulcinella grabbed an impossibly large brass bell from his inside pocket and started ringing it to a tune of his own making, accompanying it with his own squeaky voice.
“A neighbourly neighbour is our neighbour, Savant. He really is such a massive…”
“Mr Pulcinella, I really must insist that you keep the noise down,” stuttered Mr Savant, now feeling the anger needed in order to get the words he meant out. “My wife and I will be forced to call the police if you do not.” The bell was shoved as close to Mr Savant’s pinched face as the door had been previously.
“What noise?” said Mr Pulcinella with exaggerated curiosity, and rang the bell forcefully at his neighbour’s nose.
“That music. That bell. You!”
“What bell?”
“That bell.” Mr Savant pushed at the bell with his finger, making it ding pathetically in front of him.
“That’s not a bell, Mr Savant. That’s a pipe.”
“I’m sorry?” The confusion made the anger burst forth. “That is a bell, Mr Pulcinella.”
“I say it’s a pipe. Bella musicale!” He rang the bell vigourously. “Tuneful, no?”
Brass is solid, and Mr Pulcinella was quite fond of the indent it made on his neighbour’s forehead. Mr Savant didn’t seem so fond of it, staggering back a couple of steps at the force of the blow. “What do you say it is now?”
Rubbing his forehead gently, the confusion and subsequent panic Mr Savant felt urged him to say something by way of mediation between him and the bell.
“A bell,” he managed.
“A bell? I say it’s a drum! Would you like to see it up closer?”
The sight of his neighbour charging at him with a brass bell, now a weapon, enlivened Mr Savant’s fight of flight instincts which directed him to defence and submissiveness. “I do, sir,” he wailed, “I do, it is. A bell. No, no, a pipe.” The blows rained down on his torso, his attempts to shield himself inadequate. “A drum! It is a drum!” He continued to scream this phrase as he frantically ran to his own house, slamming and locking the door behind him.

[Well, we’ve all lost it occasionally I’m sure, but will Mr Pulcinella ever regain himself? What Ramones based tune will The Baby play next? And where the hell is Mrs Pulcinella?? All will be revealed in next week’s #52Stories.]


Pulcinella – Part I


The cockerel crowed, even though the sun lay in its lazy afternoon position.
“Bloody cock!” came the sombre snarl wrapped up in its feather duvet and woollen blankets. The lump within sneezed dramatically, as only this particular lump could do.
The cockerel crowed again, and the lump burst forth towards the window, opened the old brass latch, and threw a vase containing a selection of limp daffodils towards the feathered enemy. “Basta! Shut up your whining you stupid bird!” The bits of vase and its sorrowful contents lay beside the bemused looking cockerel, who promptly resumed its important strut around the dusty back yard.
“Oh, joy! You are up, my love,” said Mrs Pulcinella as her ample frame surged through the flimsy door of the tiny double bedroom, suspiciously on cue.
“Up! Up! Up I am, my wife, la mia Joanina, my life’s blood!” squeaked Mr Pulcinella. “Thanks to that bloody cock cawing and balling out there! Stupido bird! We must arrange it into a Sunday meal as soon as possible!”
“Now, now, dear,” his wife mollified, shutting the window as she did so, “I know you’re not feeling well, but there’s no need to stir up your violent wills so close to waking, is there? Essere calmo, eh?” Mr Pulcinella stared at his apathetic wife, who he would have done for had he not felt so damn awful. A dewdrop dripped from his beaklike nose, which was blushed with rawness.
“Do you not see that I am dying, wife? I hurt everywhere. My poor head the most.”
“Yes, dear. Of course you do,” was the unsympathetic reply, as the duvet was rigorously plumped into submission.
“My eyes are broken! It is terrifying to see three of you, my love!”
“Ah, flattery. Flattery,” cooed Mrs Pulcinella. “Why don’t you come down for some lunch, amore mio? You must eat before the show tonight. I’m making your favourite!” With the forceful suggestion cheerfully imparted, the well-built woman bustled out of the room, leaving the fuming face of her husband behind her.

The door to the kitchen was closed as Mr Pulcinella approached, hampered somewhat by Toby nipping at his feet. “Get away, stupid animal!” He wavered with dizziness as his foot missed the ragged mongrel, then stood for a moment in the swirling red and white hallway, his yellowing flannelette union suit wilting around him with its back flap idly floundering where it lacked a button, giving an unfortunate draft from below, and an even less fortunate view of a languid bottom cheek from behind. Toby eyed this teasing morsel hungrily. While he attempted to gather himself his head throbbed in time with the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated blaring from the other side of the door. He sighed, as if it would help with motivation, and stumbled into the kitchen where the unforgiving sound hit him along with the smell of frying sausages.
“Ah, my love!” exclaimed his wife over the three chord din. “Look, I bought you sausages fresh from the market this morning, your favourite blend!” Mrs Pulcinella noted her husband’s sagging form which seemed all together unmoved at this surprise, and carried on regardless. “Here, sit down, tesoro mio,” she said, pulling out a small wooden chair from the round gingham encrusted table, “I’ll serve you up presently.”
“You may do so, my Joan, my matronly moglie, but I will not care for them due to my diseased existence and this riotous racket your son makes!” Mr Pulcinella sat heavily opposite the nearly naked baby squashed into a solid wooden highchair, his nappy bulging over the edges. It smirked at him.
“Aw, don’t be like that, Padre,” said Mrs Pulcinella, hurrying round the table to the well-fed baby. “Your son is expressing himself, like a proud Pulcinella, aren’t you my lovely?”
“Fuck off,” said the baby. “You don’t like my music, then get outta my play pen.”
Ignoring her son’s blasphemy, Mrs Pulcinella returned to the smoking sausages on the stove top which was slowly turning the white stripes on the walls to a fat stained yellow.
“You’re a baby. Act like one,” advised Mr Pulcinella, “or I’ll dock your pocket money henceforth. Marmocchio!”
“Huh!” exclaimed the child peevishly. “You think that’s a threat? You have paid me the same wage for the last three hundred years! Idiota!” His podgy fingers reached for the nearly empty packet of cigarettes on his highchair table. “Were it not for you and your snivelling dark arts deals I would not be enduring this endless hardship of life! You are a dismal father and a tight-fisted employer.” The baby’s face contorted into a sorrowful ponder, as if ready to deliver a Shakespearian line of great magnitude. “My music is the only thing makes this miserable life worth living. Il mio santuario.” He lit the cigarette and puffed out a perfect smoke ring which hung teasingly in front of his father’s nose.
The draft from the back door extinguished the ring of smoke along with the child’s attention from the steaming face of Mr Pulcinella. The breeze carried her scent across the room. “My darling Polly!” exclaimed the delighted baby. “You’re here at last. I have longed for you since you left hencely.”
“That’s not even a bloody word,” snarled Mr Pulcinella. Not a day passed when he didn’t loath his wretched family. Appreciation of the security he’d brought them was never forthcoming, and although his wife’s substantial figure afforded some rageful outlet, that of his son’s was frustratingly difficult to pin down. But lately even the once pleasurable outbursts of meaningless violence didn’t satisfy the rumbling anger at the terrifying trap he had made for himself.
“I have longed for you and your scent of paradise, your opulent body, your kisses from the heavens. La mia bella ragazza!” continued the baby.
Mrs Pulcinella directed a wistful smile at her sausages. Mr Pulcinella rolled his bloodshot eyes, sinking his hand into his sagging cheek and resting there, extinguished of care.
“Hey gorgeous,” said Polly, kissing the baby on his rosy lips, at which the baby grabbed the back of her head and held her tightly while his mouth probed hers.
“Bleah, disgustoso!” said his father, taking his hand from its supporting role and allowing his head to find rest on the chequered cloth.
Afresh with oxygen, Polly fished through her leather jacket and dumped a packet of Marlborough and a quart bottle of Jack Daniels on the highchair table. “Brought you these, like you asked.”
“You are attentive, my pretty Pol.”
“And saw Slugger down the offie, says he can get you an ounce before tonight. Sixty quid.”
“Did he now? Mammina!” The baby proffered a chubby arm towards his mother. “I need my mobile. Fetch it here.” Mrs Pulcinella did as she was asked, placing a plate of blackened sausages in front of her husband at the same time, slapping him across the head as she did so.
Mr Pulcinella rose sharply from his position, letting out a screeching groan sent directly from his throbbing head. “Come here and let me wallop you, wife! You urchin of existence! You traitor of compassion! You…!”
“Now, now, marito. Plenty of opportunity for that later. Get them pork guts into yours, and quickly, for we must start dressing for the show.”
“The show! The show! There will be no show, for I am dead!” shouted Mr Pulcinella in a statement of wishful fact, banging his fist on the table. He sighed at the lack of response. “At least pass me the pepper grinder so that I may throw it at your repugnant face.”
“Shurrup will ya!” yelled the baby, “I’m on the phone here! Dolce, Slugger, dolce.”
Mrs Pulcinella, eager to see her cooking digested, passed the substantial pepper grinder to her husband, giving a wink to her little cherub currently cutting a good deal with his mate. Mr Pulcinella grasped for the receptacle, but his internal weakness prevented him from throwing it more than a couple of checks of the tablecloth, and his arm collapsed beside it in assent.

A knock at the door threw Mrs Pulcinella’s legs into efficient overdrive. The door sucked at itself as she opened it, forcing Joey Ramone’s Beat on the Brat into the street, and Mr Savant from next door stood before her, his face replete with dogged annoyance on the brink of worry.
“Mrs Pulcinella,” he started, then lost his nerve, and smiled his best neighbourly smile. “How are you?” he submitted with weak expectance.
“Why, I am fine and dandy, thank you, Signor Savant. But we are in haste to ready ourselves for tonight’s show. Did you want something?”
“Why don’t you just shut your mouth you old, cantankerous failure of a man?!” came the voice of the baby from within the bowels of the house.
“I’ll beat your nappy off you, you bouncing ball of demonio puss!” came the reply from his father, followed by the scraping of chair legs on clay tiles.
Ignoring the scuffle, Mr Savant reset himself hastily to the matter in hand. “Er, well, it’s Elsie, y’see. She’s just wondering if you… Well, she was just saying… The thing is…”
“Signor Savant,” interrupted Mrs Pulcinella, “I would be most pleasured if you would, on account of our need for haste this afternoon, get to the point.” She smiled spuriously.
“Yes, well, it’s just the music. It’s a bit loud. Our grandchildren are falling off the wall, what with the vibration.” Mr Savant held his numb hands together, guarding himself, as he burbled his complaint. “The photos, that is, of the grandchildren,” he let out a nervous laugh into the silence. “And it’s disturbing Elsie.”
“Ah, poor Elsie. Poor, poor Elsie, dear,” said Mrs Pulcinella, with a disingenuous look about her. “And did you see our new door knocker, Signor Savant?”
“Oh, well, no, I don’t suppose I did actually.” Mr Savant stared at the once golden door knocker on the white plastic door, now blackened by the detritus of the streets in a not-at-all-new way.
“Ah, ci, ci,” said Mrs Pulcinella. “It is even better up close.” The door slammed leaving an eighth of a centimetre between it and Mr Savant’s pinched nose.

Mrs Pulcinella returned to the kitchen, within which was a fight of disproportional unfairness. However, although his father was at least six times his in height, the child was wider in heft, and was happily punching the bulbous red nose before him, even with his father’s fingers wrapped tightly around his chubby neck. Mrs Pulcinella climbed over the snot and spittle strewn mass, squeezed herself past a bored looking Polly pulling at her bubble-gum, and purposely took up the frying pan, still laden with sausage juice. The snarling bodies rolled about the kitchen floor, grasping for bones to break, flesh to rip, and eyes to spit in, giving the red stripes on the walls a deeper hue. She found her purchase in between her husband’s left leg and the dog attached to his buttonless flannelette flap and brought the frying pan down upon his temple, catching the child’s fat chin on the way back up. The thonking to and fro of the frying pan lasted a good few minutes until the two fighters lay on the cold tiles, one dribbling and one grappling for a cigarette.
“Now then,” said Mrs Pulcinella, “I’ll just clear away these sausages and we’ll get ready for the show.”
Mr Pulcinella snarled as he drew his heavy body from the slightly sticky cold tiles. “Stupid show,” he whispered. “Stupid show!” he bellowed. “I will not! I am telling you, I will not! No longer, my wife. No longer will I toil for a family who wishes me dead anyway.”
“But we must do the show, dear.”
“Must we? Must we? Oh, must we, dear? Shut up you stupid old carpa!” Mr Pulcinella dived into his wife’s indifferent face. “I will not do anything!”
Deftly, Mrs Pulcinella brought the bottom of the frying pan upon her husband’s skull with a deafening thud.


[Ah, poor Mr Pulcinella. Will the servitude in which he finds himself ever abate? Will Slugger make good on his deal with The Baby? Will Mrs Pulcinella ever get them all to the show on time? Find out in next week’s #52Stories!]




It was around about this time last week that her face had fallen off. Right into her lap, with a squelch. She remembered the squelch in particular. The soundtrack to the horrific picture before her eyeballs, which, now, stuck out on their stems like bubble gum flavoured Chupa Chups lollies. At least her face hadn’t landed on the floor. Even with the five second rule in force there was something stricter about infection control when it came to one’s own inner skin.

The face had been placed in a special machine next to her bed. Her laptop was plugged in next to it. Laptop on the left. Face on the right. The machine kept the cells in the face alive. Or something. The doctors had explained, but listening wasn’t her priority at that point. It lay there under the clinical light, looking cool and stable, but unreal. Unhuman.

As the week had gone by along with passing doctors and surgeons, all with the same baffled looks that said we-can’t-do-anything-but-we’re-not-going-to-tell-you-that-yet, she considered her loss. She’d lost her identity. The thing that people relied upon to tell her apart from the rest.

Yet, she’d never felt so identified.

Groups of people had brown eyes, blond hair, long noses, full lips. The surface by which other faces made their judgments. The evolutionary shallowness that meant the human brain, the inside, could process faster, decide quicker, and efficiently make choices that ultimately boiled down to death or life. Run or stay. Spend time, or not. The amount of effort she had made to affect their judgment. Cleansed and moisturised. Primed and painted. Buffed and polished. But there was no mascara for the soul. No lipstick for the heart. The unmade-up invisible inside needed a different kind of nourishment, and a different kind of reward. And it would change every day, renew itself, grow into a unique shade that no eyeshadow could conceive.

She was the only woman with no face. In the whole world. She smiled (she thought). Her face glowed. Then she pulled the plug on the right.



Aunt Celia



The text message said, “Hi Molly, I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you at work. I know you’re busy. The thing is, I don’t know if it’s night or day at the moment. I can’t see either way. It’s awfully dark in here, and getting quite smelly, if I’m honest. Dear, I think I’ve been buried in the ground, as if I’m dead! I woke up and found myself in what appears to be a silk lined box just big enough for my length, and no more. I can’t find an opening anywhere, and I can’t hear anything about, not even Ethel’s dog barking next door. My mobile phone is with me, of course, and what feels like a rose, I think. But nothing else. Is there any possibility you could shed some light on my predicament, literally?”

Molly, quite understandably, read this text more than a few times, possibly hoping the words would rearrange themselves, or disappear. But mostly she read it through again and again and again because she needed time to process the fact that her Aunt Celia had texted, apparently from her grave.

The funeral had been very dignified, but not too fussy. Aunt Celia didn’t like fussy. She didn’t like to feel a nuisance to anyone. Of course, she liked to keep up with her correspondence. A letter to her favourite chat show, at least once a week. Her fortnightly four page gossip to her Australian cousin. And she never missed a day without calling her friends or paying them a visit. And now there was text messaging. A marvellous way of keeping in touch with her favourite niece throughout the day. Molly had bought Aunt Celia the mobile phone to keep with her at all times since her husband, Frank, passed and she was living alone. Aunt Celia had no children of her own, and living only a street away Molly felt she needed to keep an eye on her. It turned out to be the other way round, however. Aunt Celia doted on Molly, whether from gratitude, validation, or boredom, she wasn’t sure. But, inconvenient as it sometimes was, Molly felt she was doing the right thing. It made her feel good that Aunt Celia felt good about making Molly feel good. Which was good.

But this, THIS…made her feel bad. Very bad. Was this a cruel trick, or had she actually buried her Aunt alive? She’d placed the phone in the casket, as she knew how attached Aunt Celia had become to it. Instant communication in writing! “A marvel,” Aunt Celia had called it. With comprehensive support from Molly, she had filled it with the numbers of her friends who had also been given mobile phones by their loved ones, just in case, and had also found it a most convenient way to communicate the smallest of observations to whoever they fancied, day and night. And now, it turned out, alive or dead!

Molly, managed to coerce her shaking hands into dialling her husband’s work number on her mobile phone, which connected and rang.
“Hello? Molly? What’s wrong?”
Her husband’s tone conveyed the type of worrisome curiosity that an unexpected and unusual phone call does from a spouse on a week day when such communication during the grey and grinding not-to-be-disturbed working day can only mean disaster. A text message was for orders of milk or toilet roll, which can be picked up during the walk from office to car park; a part of the transition from hard-work-head to soft-relaxed-at-home-head. But a phone call meant serious business. As did the muffled silence at the other end of the line.
“Molly?” he repeated.
Molly found out very quickly just how incomprehensible a shock she found herself in. The words would not form. How could they? In what order could they be arranged to convey such….such….terrible and…bizarre news?
“Er…” she managed. Then, “Dave…”
“What’s wrong, Molly, for god’s sake!”
“I think,” Molly quivered, “We’ve made a terrible mistake with Aunt Celia.”

Dave managed good time in the light and lazy afternoon traffic. Tea had been ceremoniously brewed, and the dining table took the weight of stoic elbows. A decision must be made. Firstly, was one of them losing it? Secondly, were both of them losing it? Thirdly, were both of them fine and this was actually happening? Fourthly, what the hell did they do now? Dave went through the various stages at which it should have been picked up that Aunt Celia was still alive. The paramedics when they examined her still in her bed on a Tuesday lunchtime. The pathologist when he opened her up to confirm she’d died of a ‘cerebrovascular accident’ in her sleep. The funeral home when they made her up before placing her in her silk lined casket and drove her to the church. All logical places encompassing qualified people who had all, seemingly, concluded it was a corpse they were dealing with, not just someone having a nap for a week. The facts were: Aunt Celia had died seven days ago; Aunt Celia had been buried with her mobile phone; Unless the grave had been robbed, Aunt Celia was indeed texting them from her very own mobile phone, from within her grave.

Molly and Dave pulled up in the unusually busy car park near the church, having not uttered a word to each other since they’d made the decision to check Aunt Celia’s grave for themselves – to check the reality of the situation as well as the state of the grave. They wanted to find the coffin exposed to the air with crowbar marks on the rim. They wanted to find poor DECEASED Aunt Celia lying there, bereft of her beloved mobile phone. This sick, sadistic world was capable of such horrors, they hoped.

The first thing they noticed were the people hovering about the vast graveyard, gathering in clusters. They seemed upset, which of course is not unusual in such a place, but they also seemed a bit sort of worried? Paranoid? Freaked out? Aunt Celia’s grave lay undisturbed. Molly and Dave stared at it, trying to hide the monster of fear creeping inside their heads. Then, in the distance someone shouted, “We have to get them out! Now!” A stick-like balding man with unruly side hair was running as fast as he could across the slippy grass. He lost the battle and fell just short of the gravel path, leaving a damp, greenish stain across the knee of his beige slacks. The clusters of people turned as one to the scene. He scrambled to the path and dashed into the church, yelling for some…any kind of assistance, divine or otherwise.

The media arrived within minutes of an army of diggers, ordered by, firstly, the rich, eager to prove having money is worth it in a crisis, and then the local council, who, bombarded by such horrific pleads, tears, insults and threats, felt it wise to help their voting citizens by enabling them to dig up their dead. Designated individuals within each cluster were frantically texting on their mobile phones, informing their interred loved ones of the latest of news from above, reassuring and smiley-faced. Molly had already sent hers. Aunt Celia was busy texting Margaret, who had died within a day of Celia and now found herself in a similar situation. Margaret, however, had a news app on her mobile phone and had become quite the hub of undead interaction within the subterranean network. She’d set up a Facebook page too, which was thriving! But her closest friends hadn’t entered that social media world yet and required the more intimate yet slightly formal text message. Burying loved ones with their mobile phones was a relatively new fad, but it seemed to be turning into quite popular tradition. The modern equivalent to the Victorian grave bell to some (who were now quite smugly correct in their thinking), but mostly for sentimental reasons, or so they could continue to grow their small holding on FarmVille in the afterlife.

That evening, Tesco One Stop shops reported a rise in tea bag sales. The clusters had moved to their respective dining tables, bringing in the occasional chair from the hallway to accommodate the extra ‘body’ at the table, just like at Christmas, and the healing process began. Aunt Celia was still a bit shaken by events. The pink wafer finger was helping though, and the second round of tea in her familiar porcelain flowered cup was definitely hitting the spot.
“Hundreds of loved ones presumed dead have risen from their graves in an unexplained phenomenon sweeping the globe,” the Six O’clock News reported. “Thanks only to modern technology via mobile phones buried with them did these ‘undead’ manage to alert their family and friends.”
“It was lucky I could get a signal,” squawked Maureen from Telford, gaunt yet perky, “It’s usually terrible round my way. I mean, HEAVEN KNOWS what would have happened! You know. Mm.”
Cut to shot of Maureen surrounded by wide eyed, brave faced, stiff upper lipped family, the father of which staunchly declared it to be an awful shock all round. The twitch in his usually solid left eyelid confirmed this to be true. A contrived image filled the screen, the family, all together again, tea in hand, squashed into an inadequate cream leather settee, watching Pointless. Aunt Celia beeped in an early noughties Nokia way. “Ooh, a text message from Sylvia,” she peeped, and got on to it straight away. Molly was in a self-sustaining cycle of tea making, drinking, and expelling. Dave was asleep, in his fantasies. He drank the tea, stared at the TV, and avoided thinking.

As the weeks trundled by Aunt Celia was living life to the full. Fuller than ever before, in fact. She’d bought herself a smartphone, on Maureen’s recommendation, and had downloaded the Facebook app. She had 24 friends, and was now an admin on the ‘Buried Alive and Survived!’ page. They began to meet on Thursday mornings at Clayton’s Cafe on Shriver Street for tea and iced buns. The younger ones met elsewhere, but cordially communicated online via the page. They were unequivocally connected now, young and old, rich and poor, male and female. A commonality between generations, genres, and gender. The undead dead consoled those who had been nearly dead. Those who wanted to be dead whinged about their inability to be dead to those who wished they were dead. Death was extinct. The earth mourned its ally.

Experiences were shared and recognised, stories were told and printed, books were written, gimmicky chat-shows made a comeback with double the amount of mailbags. Various officials were conveyed across the news broadcasts speaking in solemn tones regarding their inability to fathom this event. Politicians squirmed within their grim suits giving contrived statements, being probed by media trained journalists. Medical professionals postulated unsubstantiated theories and carried out tests, and tests on the tests. Philosophers wrote papers, then had breakdowns realising that they couldn’t even end the pointlessness of existence with suicide. Mental health services cried out for more funding to meet the demand. Social workers begged for more houses to be built and for hotels to open themselves up to accommodate the growing undead.

Then, on Thursday 27th of June, two months, three days, sixteen hours, and thirty three minutes after that first text message from the grave had been sent, nine million, seven hundred and ninety-two thousand, four hundred and fifty-three people died, all at once, across the globe. This, sadly, included Aunt Celia. Happily, she was at her Thursday morning gathering in Clayton’s when it happened, so she wasn’t alone. This, of course, meant a logistical nightmare for the funeral industry. Thankful for something vote-winningly heroic to do requiring ‘large scale coordination’ and ‘mobilisation of various government resources’, UK politicians charged to the nearest news bulletin to make clear their plans to aid the electorate at this difficult time, and that therefore there was no need for families to take matters into their own hands and fill that space between beloved Jake the Jack Russell and the buddleia bush.

The diggers were deployed, funeral parlours were put on 24 hour duty, as were priests, registrars, and florists. Employers were subsidised for authorised absences as the whole world took bereavement days within the space of a fortnight. Mass mourning gripped those who lived, iced in sickly-sweet melancholy by the media. The Facebook page was closed, but preserved. The last chapter of the book was written. The uncanny incident was over.

Molly and Dave sat watching Pointless with a cup of tea and an iced bun. The funeral had been nice. Not too fussy. There was a queue after all. Aunt Celia would have approved. She looked peaceful as she lay there, smartphone next to her right hand. Molly picked up her phone and checked for any red bubbles loitering around her messages app. Dave put his arm round his wife and held her safe.
Funnily enough, everyone from then on requested they be buried with their mobile phone. Coffin makers were offering wind up phone chargers and signal boosters as added extras. And all those still living, especially those recently bereaved, checked their mobile phones a little more often.

Death brushed a biscuit crumb from his infinitely dark robe and stared at the empty in-trays, the shelves full of completed paperwork. He sipped his cup of tea with satisfaction.
“Holidays,” he said, “Are all very good, but the backlog it creates just isn’t worth it.”




Jelly II


As soon as the door opened the air went frigid. The walls became darker, not just from the shadow of the door, like parchment paper drowning in a sticky swamp. The heavy clods across the floorboards portrayed the sturdy mass of the body of her mother. The superior breath seethed around the room, taking in the faults, huffing out the disgust of the surroundings. The smallest of sounds escaped her mother’s throat. That most familiar of sounds that meant she did not approve. The sound that always rippled through her numb legs, like a stormy sea crashing on jagged dead nerves. Her teeth bore into themselves. Her hands grasped each other, looking for comfort. Her nails pressed into her skin giving another point of pain to hold onto. A better pain than reality. A pain she could control.

Then her mother’s bulk was behind her, blocking the frigid air. A presence that she couldn’t escape.

She felt those gripping fists on the handles of her wheelchair and the firm push full of barely hidden violence.

There was nothing she could do.

It was time.