words

The Interview

The-Interview.png

“And what’s your favourite colour?”

The question was a weird one, Mikey thought. But then the whole interview hadn’t been exactly normal up to now. The room was very…well, very vague. It seemed the more he tried to look at the details the less the details stood out. He thought there was a window, but every time he looked for one he couldn’t see it. He knew there were walls, but he couldn’t quite make out their colour. He felt that he was sat on a chair of some kind, his buttocks were telling him so, but he didn’t know how he’d sat on it when he didn’t remember actually seeing it.
“My favourite colour?” asked Mikey.
“Yes,” said the interviewer. “You know, red, green, purple, that sort of thing.”
“Um,” said Mikey, “Blue, I suppose.”
The interviewer wrote something on a brightly coloured pad in front of him, with an oversized pencil with a big fat pink rubber on top.
“And do you get angry easily?”
Mikey felt his eyebrows gave away the confusion he was feeling at these strange questions. The interviewer stared expectantly. Almost intimidating in his demeanour. At least he would have been if he wasn’t wearing lime green dungarees and sitting in what seemed to be a high chair, with wipe clean plastic table.
“I don’t think I do, no,” replied Mikey.
The questions continued, mostly about how he liked to play, places he liked to visit. Did he like zoos and slides, did he like ice cream and cola cubes. He answered. He felt somehow it was important.
“And Cheshire Cat grins. I hear this is an issue for you.”
The interviewer’s eyes bulged. Mikey felt this was a make or break question, the answer of utmost importance. He felt his heart rate rise. His palms starting to sweat. His eyes darted around the incoherent room, trying to make sense of the fuzz that surrounded him, this strange interviewer, this even stranger yet very important question. Cheshire Cat grins? What did that mean?
“Well, no. Not really. Not that I’ve ever noticed anyway.”
“Not a general aversion to Alice in Wonderland or any other made up fantasy world then.”
“No.
“Ah good. Good. Good.” The scribbling of big pencil filled his ears and the darkness took him once again.

***

She woke him with a cup of tea that only she could make. The first thing he felt that morning was love. He’d felt that every morning for the last year and a bit.
“We’re going for ice cream today, remember? At the zoo?”
“Oh yeah!” he said, and kissed her forehead as she lay on his shoulder. But there was something else. Something in that cheeky look, her eyes that shone slightly brighter than usual.
“What?” he laughed, holding her close.
She giggled back. She had that grin on her face. The one that she could sometimes keep for hours before she’d tell him why. She said she enjoyed the feeling and wanted it to last, the feeling of knowing something exciting and that she would be the first one to tell him. It wouldn’t feel as good if she didn’t love him as much as she did, she’d said. It was like the cat that got the cream. A Cheshire one maybe.
“Oh I can’t keep it in much longer,” she laughed, beaming a smile that exploded across her face like a supernova. Mikey couldn’t help but do the same.
“What? Tell me.”
“I’ve got something important to tell you,” she said, smiling with her big brown eyes. “It’s finally happened, what we’ve been waiting for.” Her soft hand cupped his cheek as she brought her glowing face to his.
“We’re going to have a baby.”

 

52-stories-logo

 

Advertisements

Days of Dreams

Days-of-Dreams

His crooked fingers curled around themselves like hundred year old twigs. He let out a breath that filled the air with rancid rotting mists and dust of decay.
“When will it begin?!” he cried.
He could only dream.

The brightness of Summer’s smile hurt his eyes. He squinted into her domain, still strong, still full with creation. The bees buzzed about him. The ladybirds sipped on aphids’ guts. The hover flies taunted the breeze, flitting and flirting to there and here. Sprouts of life shouted at the sun, announcing their presence with open faces. Their roots pushed into the bed he’d prepared in a time before now. His time.
Frustration rumbled beneath his cracked veins.
He could only dream.

Then he felt it. The cool waft of Death’s call. The ache of Mother Nature’s wish. Summer’s smile loosened as she watched her children fall limp. Her bees searched for a place of rest. The ladybirds sought cover within crevices and cracks. Preparations for the long sleep began.
Now she must dream.

He stretched away his enforced slumber and readied himself for his duty. The beginning of the end. He must prepare the world for its death.

 

52-stories-logo

Artisan Kaftan

Artisan-Kaftan.png

“Would you like to take your kaftan off, Mr Wallace?”
“No.”
“It is warm in here,” said the policeman.
“No, I’m fine,” insisted Mr Wallace. “It is part of my soul.”
DC Fleming ignored this comment. He’d read out the rights after making sure the tape was recording. He’d filled in the forms detailing the arrest, dated, timed, signed and authorised. He had three pens with him, all black, and he’d done his ‘I am capable and confident’ speech to himself in the station toilet mirror. All was under control. But dealing with kaftans being part of a person’s soul wasn’t something in which he’d been trained. Ignoring was best, he thought.

“So, Mr Wallace, can you explain how you came to be in the Autumn View Retirement Home this afternoon?”
“I was invited,” said the perfectly calm interviewee in the cream and brown kaftan, with tassels.
“By whom?”
“The universe”
“Right.” DC Fleming made a diligent note of the answer.
“And your intention in being there was?”
“To visit Mr Reginald Carter.” The grey eyes of Mr Wallace almost sparkled at some thought that seemed to have jolted his expression into one of calm delight, but whether that thought was remembered one or a new creation, DC Fleming was unsure.
“Why were you visiting Mr Carter, Mr Wallace?”
“He needed to give me something.”
DC Fleming’s recollection of the something which Mr Carter had given didn’t fit with any kind of need on his part whatsoever. “And did Mr Carter specifically ask you to take what you think he needed to give you?”
“In a way, yes.”
“What does that mean?”
“Look, Mr Policeman,” said Mr Wallace…
“Er, it’s Detective Constable actually.” DC Fleming even managed to pronounce the capital letters of his title, in a bold and somewhat italicised way.
“I don’t abide titles,” said Wallace. “They are a social construct designed to exhort control over human beings.”
“Nevertheless, Mr Wallace…”
“Nevertheless, Detective, yes, Mr Carter did request my presence through his communications with the universe. He wished to supply me with some materials.”
“Materials for what?”
“My art.”
DC Fleming sighed at his neatly written notes, wishing that answers would come as straight as his Ts. “Your art being?”
“Tequila.”
“Tequila?”
“Yes. Tequila.”
“Right.” Couldn’t get much straighter than that, thought DC Fleming, even if the sense was yet to settle in. “I wasn’t aware that such materials were required for the making of Te-qui-la.” The pronunciation of this pivotal word was said as read from DC Fleming’s extremely neat handwritten statement.
“It is, if you want to have a real experience with one of the most culturally historical drinks the world has ever produced, Mr…” Mr Wallace lent forward slightly, furtively looking into the policeman’s face with much heart felt sincerity (well, some). “Sorry. I mean, Detective Constable Flem-ing.” DC Fleming noted the plagiarism of his previous inflection and chewed on the inside of his bottom lip just enough to satiate the craving he had to flare his nostrils aggressively. The kaftanned artist grinned, and continued. “You see, to make such tequila that can change a person’s state of mind requires a special additive that can only be given by a life-filled participant willing to sacrifice by his own wish.” There was a pause. It was somewhat dramatic. “No…. Desire,” said Mr Wallace, thoughtfully placing his stick-like fingers about his face. “A desire. That’s what it is. They must desire it. It affects the taste.”
DC Fleming, unable to bring himself to write these flowery words into his neatly written statement, placed his pen in line with the straight lines of the straight lined police issue notepad and folded his fingers.
“And this is why you felt able to take Mr Carters left toe from him is it, Mr Wallace? ”
“Yes. In exchange for the knowledge that a part of him will live on in others.”
“Hmm.”
The dramatic pause reappeared. Then ran away. The pen was retrieved, and hovered above the paper, shaking only once when Mr Wallace spoke…
“It’s quite beautiful really, if you think about it, Detective Constable. Don’t you think?”

DC Fleming studied his notes.

Mr Wallace studied his kaftan tassels, and wondered about the state of DC Fleming’s right toe.

 

52-stories-logo

 

A Good Bun

a-good-bun.png

“So, Maureen, how do you feel about this morning’s events?”
“Well,” said Maureen thoughtfully, “I suppose I feel quite excited really.”
“Excited?” said Sandra, trying not to look too puzzled so as not to crease her thickly applied-for-television makeup.
“Yes,” said Maureen. “Things like this don’t happen every day, especially in Pontefract town centre. I mean, I only came out for half a pound of liver and a couple of onions. I never expected all this. And it’s only Tuesday!”
“Yes,” said Sandra, wondering how she’d found herself in a half backward town interviewing half backward people about a half backward story that nobody would remember.
The naked man still lay in the middle of the precinct. The police were still waiting for the gazebo to turn up. The ‘Death Tent’ they called it, Sandra knew.
“And did you witness the event, Mrs Johnson?”
“Well, sort of. I was looking at one of those nice cakes in the baker’s window, the ones with lots of cream and a lovely red cherry on top. I do like a good bun. Not too many mind,” said Maureen. “Got to look after the waistline after all,” she said with a toothless cheeky grin and wide watery eyes, “But I do like a treat occasionally. One must never feel deprived you know, and…”
“Hahahah,” laughed Sandra, breaking the old lady’s flow of irrelevant nonsense. “So can you describe what you saw, for the viewers?” Sandra nodded at the camera in an attempt to remind Maureen that she was live on the national TV news.
“Oh yes,” chirped the woman, “He just fell from the sky.”
“From the sky?”
“Yes.” Maureen did a long drawn out whistle, as much as she could manage with a lack of teeth, and then… “Smack! Right in the middle of the precinct. Made a big splat noise he did. Even I heard it! And my ears aren’t what they used to be you know. I’ve tried those hearing aids but they don’t work properly. Get a lot of feedback. I went to the doctor about it but…”
“So the naked man fell from the sky,” interrupted Sharon.
“Oooh yes.”
“But the police said he just collapsed after running through the market, towards the town hall,” said Sharon informatively, to camera.
“Oh no,” said Maureen, nodding knowingly at the nice young lady with too much mascara. “He definitely fell out of the sky. Just like that horse did last week, the one with the horn on its nose.”
Sharon handed back to the studio and quickly took herself and her cameraman away from this obviously senile old woman. Maureen watched the tightly dressed young lady with excessively shiny hair waddle away on her tremendous heels, and let out a little giggle.
“Stupid media types,” she said to herself, and made her way towards the bakery.

 

52-stories-logo

 

 

The Train

The-Train.png

Unqualified expectation of a relaxing journey, engulfed in book and flying scenery.

I get on my false pretence of a booked coach, bundle through the heaving crowd, find my false pretence of a booked seat. Seat taken by large old bloke, whom it would be rude of me to ask to move – and rather cumbersome for everyone else. So I make my way to the carriage joint and place myself in an awkward comfortable standing position.

I look through an art teacher’s wet dream of perspective example into first class, as does the other bloke who stands rigidly in starched suit. We abstractly create standing class, which we believe we should get a discount for. The seats should be clad in gold for the price we’ve paid not to sit in them! Amused smirk bloke joins our joint and eats his chips in his iPod world. Standing starch gets more and more agitated, checking the carriage for seats every 4.2 minutes, and then checking if the scenery is still passing by, then repeating his ritual in my awkward, now uncomfortable presence. A timid conductor hurries through the whooshy door and doesn’t bother to ask for our tickets, already verbally berated in coach B probably and realising fully that we deserve better, but he is a mere employee, enchained by bureaucracy.

The first stop approaches as I unpin my foot from its numb needle ready to pounce on the first available seat. Standing starch gets excited and exclaims joy at the amount of people departing and the many bum resting spaces soon to be made available. He lets me go first, which is nice, and I find a seat next to the luggage. Musty Murray Mints engulfs my nose hairs, along with the breath of last night’s vodka, with her Sony Walkman phone and imitation plastic bag. The ‘innit’ girl asks ‘Can I sit there?’ I refrain from consulting her as to whether she has a problem with her knee or hip joints that may prevent her from carrying out her wish, and I affirm her poor, held up with cheap scaffolding and bubble-gum, question with ‘Yes, of course.’

I am absorbed by my book, enclosed by hair. Innit girl gets on her phone; probably feels alone, but not for long. ‘About 15 minutes, innit’, she says, twice, then once more to her ‘innit’ companion from the same school of Like, Innit dot Com (LOL).

A dog whimpers in the carriage joint; we’re all able to empathise as he expresses the emotional and physical pain we’re all feeling, like the folded up bike in the luggage rack.

I need the loo, but I’ll definitely wait.

I like the way you can watch people through the reflection in the window.

I decide to call myself a nutritionist. Apparently anyone can. And anyone does, it would seem.

I think councils waste money on the latest fads in ‘health care’, or ‘alternative care’, and should concentrate on communication skills in schools.

It’s time to change as we all pile out of the metal tube – design inspired by the gas chamber at Auschwitz. The train oozes its people flatulence out onto the platform and up the stairs. We walk for miles to find the screen with the appropriate information, only to have to go back to where we nearly came from. I hear ‘Excuse me, madam’ – a very outdated label for a female – ‘You’ve come in through the exit. This is the exit. The entrance is there’, as he points to the space on the other side of the 4×4 wooden pole that marks the not very well made point at which exit ends and entrance begins. How dare I, I think, as I flash my ticket, say sorry, and continue through the exit to enter the landing strip of abused commuters trying to find hope of their destination through the maze of platform numbers, WH Smithses, and pigeons.

Awaiting the train on the dark, resounding, underground platform of 4B. I don’t know which way to look expectantly. Neither does anyone else. So we all look expectantly both ways, avoiding eye contact but trying to catch if someone knows something we don’t as the mass of heads waggle from side to side like we’re at Wimbledon after dark. But the smiling metal tube arrives, from the right, and we ingress and are spoilt for choice as far as bum cushioning.

The safety announcement cackles at us to please notice the many ways in which you may die in the next 30 minutes and the ways in which you may further exasperate your panic by pressing various buttons that probably don’t work. I note all the unattended luggage, some bigger than the train door; a mystery in itself.

The trolley makes its way down the slender isle pulling a neatly turned out woman behind it, every hair straight as a Conservative party leader. Would you like to be ripped off further from the trolley? She exclaims something like this with much corporate pride. I dramatically ignore her.

The musical sound of muffled live and tinned voices, the rhythmic wheels beneath, against the dead metal tracks mingles together like milk and sherry. The quickness of change of scenery from extensive fields of creative green and munching cattle to the dereliction of disused buildings with untold and forgotten history covered in dirt and buddleia plants, where the death of human ingenuity gives birth to a more natural, plodding paced life with a whole different set of worries and deadly stressful strife.

Visual tastes of undiscovered territory passes by; some that intrigue, some that repulse; some that make me want to pull the big red handle to stop the train now so I may explore, some that make me want to contact the driver via the little red button to tell him to hurry through this irascible landscape.

The boiled sweets crunch and the over-flavoured crisps are munched. The boys sit there with their Stella, scratching their bits, talking tits, void of wit.

An exclusive crossroads of organic (mostly) human life contained in a manufactured metal tube for a relative second in the time of their lives. A shared experience we create together that’s relatively inconsequential and briefly noted as ‘train journey’ going to or from somewhere, to new opportunities, away from past lives. Significantly insignificant.

The winter sun occasionally blinding through the fast paced landscape makes me wish I’d sat on the other side.

I feel relief as the door pishes open like air-locked Tupperware and I am released, intact.

I watch as they leave while I arrive.

I don’t wave.

52-stories-logo

 

 

Yellow Brick Road

Yellow-Brick-Road

He drowned in the relentless rain. Streams trickled from his inadequate hat, down his unshaven face, into his ears. He felt the drip, drip, drip from the top of his nose. About right, he thought. If he wanted cake, he’d get broccoli. If he needed a holiday, more work piled in. If he fell in love, she’d be already taken. If he thought it would be sunny, it would rain. Typical. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. He watched the people eating cake in the cosy cafe he couldn’t afford. He saw the sun blessed pictures in the travel agent window proclaiming cheap holidays full of laughter, love-filled couples, and blissful half board happiness. He was hit in the head several times by passing umbrellas remembered by those who knew it would rain. Why did he never get what he wanted? Why was he the one who always got it wrong? Why was he the one destined to be alone in this world?

The streams turned to trickles, and the trickles to drops. The skies changed from dark grey to white, and as the sun ventured a peek he saw it right in front of him. The once dull concrete that had been running like a murky river suddenly reflected a bright yellow path. He peered through his straggly hair, following the light that drew his feet, and walked.

The path didn’t lead to anywhere, so it seemed. It went on and on into nowhere. But he still followed. Then, just when his feet started to complain, there she was. In the middle of the yellow path, the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, holding a large piece of chocolate cake and a train ticket.
“Where does that go to?” he asked.
“To the rest of your life,” she said.

 

52-stories-logo

Playtime

Playtime

She watched the other children playing on the swings. Their laughter seemed so easy to them. How did they do it? She sat on one end of the seesaw, the end nearest the floor. The end that would stay nearest the floor because there was no one on the other end. She didn’t have anyone else. Her mother, who wasn’t really, sat on a bench a few feet away, engrossed in her online social life. She wondered if her mother would even notice her disappearance. The seesaw sprang back to its balanced resting place as she made her way towards the slide. She started climbing the steps and noticed a boy was already at the top. On the edge. He stared at her as she approached the top step. Then sniggered.
“You’ll never fit down there,” he laughed. “Fatty!”
He carried on laughing as he slid down to the bottom, immediately getting up and making his way to the steps again shouting “Fatty, fatty, fatty on the slide,” as he skipped along. She sat at the top, the warm metal on her legs, the beating of her heart as it broke one more time. She could hear his footsteps approaching. The clang, clang, clang of his shoes on the hollow steps.
“Fatty! Fatty! Fatty! You’ll never got down there!” he shouted.
Other kids started to turn and watch thanks to his commotion. Once she’d felt it so hard that it overwhelmed her whole body, making her shake with despair. A burning embarrassment about herself, instilled from a lifetime of being told the same thing. Now the unhappiness had turned to numbness. Her heart didn’t beat like it would explode any longer. She felt his shoes kicking her bottom.
“Fatty, fatty, fatty! Can’t fit down the slide! Hahaha!”

When she grabbed his ankles she didn’t feel a thing. When she shoved him from the top of the slide she felt it effortless. When his cries filled the playground she still didn’t feel any sense of care. To prove him even more wrong, she slid down the slide with ease. His crumpled body lay to her side, surrounded by adults. Adults who cared.

 

52-stories-logo