I have a new Christmas short story: Pixie Ears. You can read it here - http://www.mystudentstyle.co.uk/pixie-ears-wonderful-life-comp/
The story is technically published but that's not the end of it. I'm still in a competition; one that operates on clicks and shares (initially at least). Basically the more times you view it, the more you vote me up.
If you fine readers could click on the webpage just once, maybe even share it if the feeling takes you, then that would help me out a great deal. The prize is £30, money which I will definitely channel into my work. It's admittedly a rather ballsy request but I trust your judgement (you continue to read this blog, after all).
Look out for more content throughout December.
Saturday, 29 November 2014
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Can it be called a domestic if both parties are outside and one of them is trying to mount a motorcycle? Dispute should cover it, I think.
I came across the back end of a dispute today. The man was wearing a leather jacket which didn't really cry out 'Bad Boy' so much as it did 'Slick but Safe Biker'. The woman was practically lunging at him with her bleary eyes and wrestler arms. My guess is that their fun was over.
The bike was a beautiful beast though I never heard it roar. The biker couldn't even raise his leg over it for the woman that was trying to drag him back indoors. They looked evenly matched in terms of upper body strength.
I was on the other side of the road from the conversation or rather the competitive wailing and hissing and I never once thought of crossing, discreetly or otherwise. The dog was taking an age to pee and I was trying hard not to look directly at either of them. He might have told me to eff right off and she would probably have thrown the shoe that was gradually slipping off her foot.
Funnily enough the bike was what my eyes kept gravitating towards. Not that I knew the make or was lusting after the sleek lines, it was the centrepiece of the whole tableau. Him almost on, her grabbing his shoulders: pause it and it all might as well have been the opposite case. Her pushing him down on the seat, him trying to get away. Strip off the engine, dull down the shape a bit, add safety wheels and you'd have my first bicycle.
The man's movements were exactly like mine and the woman's my mother's. I was scared but mother wasn't. The woman was scared but the man wasn't. At least it didn't appear that way, he seemed more frustrated like mother was with me. The key word used in both scenarios was 'go' and the answer was a desperate refusal.
It's amazing how memories join like that. Mum sat me on a bike and told me to just give it a try. Sitting me down was the only force she exerted. It went fine, all the wheels turned and it didn't capsize. A few weeks later the safety wheels came off and I didn't fall then either. I never really cycled again after that but I suppose I could do if the need arises.
There'll be a park somewhere, a woman to keep up with, an intimate struggle that goes on for goodness knows how long. A split second to end it. I might even end up going on ahead.
How selfish. I'm moving onto different tableaux without seeing the man and the woman off first. They started it, after all.
Well off he went, she couldn't hold him forever. She shrieked out her trauma, wearing holes into the pavement with her fists. I wasn't sure when but the tears would obviously come shortly and I knew that it would be impolite to stick around to watch. Also the dog was long since done with his business and her shoe was now fully off her foot and within decent lobbing distance.
I walked home. The first thing I did when I got back was ask mum about my old bike. She said we sold it a year back. Well, I suppose it had to go.
Friday, 21 November 2014
A woman couldn't sleep one night on account of a loud leaky faucet in her bathtub. She got it fixed the following day by a friend who was a plumber.
The following week she was downstairs working later than usual when she noticed that every time she paused between sentences, the cold tap in her kitchen sink let out a single clear drop. She called up her plumber friend again but she had to wait a couple of weeks before he could get round to the problem.
A month later she started a new job. She sat in the box-like lunchroom and was poured a cup of coffee by a colleague. When this colleague refilled the kettle, she noticed that there were in fact three taps. Apparently the bigger, plastic one was used for hot water. It didn't so much as drip as dribble for a while afterwards. She managed to ignore it for the rest of the day but, before she left, it was dribbling again. She went home with this knowledge and fretted.
She managed to forget about it before going to sleep but instead remembered the taps at her previous workplace, how rusted the handles were and how likely someone would accidentally pull them off someday. This led her to recalling the taps at her father's bungalow and how they groaned along with the pipes in the walls. Following this she remembered the burbling taps in the water fountains at her daughter's high school, the desperate downbursts of water from the taps in her ex-boyfriend's flat and even the faucet that wouldn't stop running at her childhood home.
She relayed all this to her friend who was a plumber and he shrugged his shoulders.
I can't fix all these taps: he said. Nobody can fix these taps unless there's call for it. Call from the owners, that is.
This did not comfort her at all so he changed tact. He asked her: Can you hear any of these taps? Can you actually, genuinely hear these taps dripping? Now? Leaking? Making funny noises?
She thought about this a while and said: No.
So what does it matter? he said. Aside from the taps here in your home, they are all out of earshot.
Then what do you suggest I do?
Forget about it or take up plumbing.
The woman nodded slowly then enthusiastically.
A year passed in blissful contentment. By the end of it she had become a fully-qualified plumber.
I have never considered it a tragedy that none of you have ever heard me sing. I was a concert pianist then a lounge pianist and only now does it occur to me that I have a voice that mingles with the tune, carries it even.
I have only tried one tune so far, a little ditty, but the effects were wondrous. I sat down at the piano the other day, much like this, and sang Frère Jacques to myself. I was tired but I couldn't sleep and that song was the first I ever learnt to play.
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques...
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
I certainly haven't. Maybe singing it was a way of waking myself up from this limbo but, when I repeated it, I felt something better than alertness. Resonance. My voice was far louder than I've ever imagined it, it drowned out the piano so I just played harder, firmer presses on the keys. Eventually it was as if the words and tune were rising while the meaning behind them was sinking into the earth, creating overwhelming vibrations beneath my naked feet. At some point I believe I was making up words as they came to me, swapping lyrics for passing thoughts. By the time the dawn came I wasn't singing Frère Jacques anymore, I was calling my own name.
So tonight I decided to try something a little different. Rather than starting with a familiar tune and evolving it, I will let a tune just roll off the top of my head. I dedicate this song to you but let's just see how it goes.
Every word is like a summons, getting louder and more precise. I want to see how far it goes, to what distances. This song shall be a way of clearing things up, I think, a way of bringing you all back to me for one night.
Most of you aren't too far away, most of you probably still have me in your thoughts from time to time and it is precisely through those thoughts that I play to you now. I call to you as I play to you as I compose in your name. The whole song might not be for you but there's at the very least a line which contains your essence as I best remember it. It's hideously biased but then I haven't seen most of you in years.
I can only play to your memory, the memory I have of you up until the moment you left me. Sometimes you knew that you were leaving me, sometimes you didn't, sometimes it gave you the most pleasure just to get away. Now this tune and this voice will bring you pleasure, bring you back to me one last time to listen to one last thing.
I look out my window and notice a few headlights arriving from the distant dark and I know that it is you. The drivers among you at least, you've taken the car out for a night drive and you won't ever realise just how far you've come. I'm just glad that the first of you have turned up already, just hope that the rest aren't too far away because I feel the chorus coming. It's stirring within me.
I see you, Rosita. I hear you, Marcus. I can feel your presence, all you lovers of the past. It's like the merging of the piano and my voice have led to a gradual amplification and it's only through that amplification that I can feel your arrival. Perhaps I am going deaf and all my other senses are increasing in strength. Perhaps I have discovered a special key on the scale that has led me through a door to a higher awareness, a supreme state of both musical and magical control. I feel benevolent. Maybe this is my gift.
Come, Sasha. Come, Theresa. Come, Henry. Come Marguerite. I can see your shapes and figures forming through the shadows, crawling out like children from under a bed sheet. I hope you have brought your spouses, your loved ones; I want to give my blessing. The underlying message of this song is just as much for them as it is for you.
You're almost all here, my darlings. My ex-lovers, the moving images from the back of my tired little brain. Come forward, stand in the space around my house, some of you should even recognise it. Fill that space as best you can. I don't know how long this song can last before it is strained and not really a song anymore.
Nice to see you, Kimiko. You never called. Great to finally catch you, Dot. You didn't even tell me you were running away. It's so good of you all to be here. Are you all here? Standing? Swaying? It's all the same to me, do as you feel. The message is coming in the chorus.
It is this: I no longer love you. I haven't a reason to love you so I have done. I want you all to turn to the person beside you and completely forget about me if you haven't already. Just carry on. Spare no thought. I am done.
That's right, turn around in your cars, on your heels and just go home. The song is coming to an end now but the bells are finally ringing. Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong. There's really no point being here anymore now, it's nearly morning. My fingers are tired and my voice hoarse.
One last high note, one last chirp of a piano key and that is all. Are you sleeping? Not yet but nearly. It is time.
I close the lid over the piano keys. I drain my glass of brandy. I rise from the stool and off to bed.
As I ascend the stairs, a new song starts to form. I hum it. It will have to percolate in my head overnight. It's going to be a good one though.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Up until now there's been no good way to study stomach diseases in humans. So Lionel and I once tried it with a kaleidoscope.
I was a doctor but Lionel wasn't. He suggested the idea and I was so drunk that it amused me. It was amazing that we even found our way to the morgue. We, of course, had to make a pit stop at Lionel's pad to pick up the essential tool.
I pulled out one of the recent bodies which, fortunately for us, had expired due to complications before surgery. I made a surprisingly neat incision and held the flaps open even better than I do whilst sober. Lionel peered inside, twisting the front of the kaleidoscope a few times.
'Observations?' I said to him.
He giggled. 'This man's innards are a psychedelic green.'
'No, no, no,' I snapped. 'You are looking at it all wrong. What does the shade of green tell you about the gastritis?'
Lionel looked up, still through the kaleidoscope. 'That the stomach acid burnt into the lining in a very particular way. It made grooves.'
'Groovy.' Lionel did a dance. I almost ripped one of the skin flaps off when I reached up to hit him.
'This is serious business, Lionel,' I said. 'Are there genuine grooves?'
He examined the stomach without the kaleidoscope and then with it again. 'Actually...yes, I think so.'
'Give it here,' I said. Lionel picked up the forceps gingerly.
The kaleidoscope showed many tiny diamonds in a bizarre formation. I took it away from my eye and saw that they matched the grooves in the stomach lining almost perfectly. I gasped. 'How is that even-?'
Lionel giggled. 'Possible?'
'Yes. It can't be.' I twisted the top of the kaleidoscope. The colours changed to a pale yellow emanating a bright orange ring. The tiny diamonds remained in the exact same places. I moved the kaleidoscope further down to the underside of the stomach where the largest hole was. The diamonds fell and matched the shape. A few of them even started to twinkle.
'This is mad,' I said.
'This is hilarious,' Lionel added. 'Now let me look again.'
I smacked his hand away. 'This must be the latest, maddest discovery in the history of medical science. Kaleidoscopes in the hospital.'
'No coroner should be without one.' Lionel winked. 'And think how drunk they'll need to get beforehand!'
I paused. We were drunk. This slowly sobered me up. I handed Lionel the kaleidoscope again, slapping my cheeks before pulling back the skin flaps again. I needed to drink something refreshing but tap water was the only thing down here. Harold stored his orange juice in one of the cupboards but I doubted that that would be quite as effective.
'Hang on a minute,' I said, closing the flaps and moving over to the sink. I cupped my hands around the water and let the tap run into them. I splashed my face a few times before drinking.
'Are you done?' Lionel said.
'Yes,' I returned to the slab. 'Let me see again.'
Lionel grumbled as I took the kaleidoscope away for the second time. The colours were all there but no diamonds. I turned the front a few times, ground it, but nothing even resembling them appeared. No unearthly shine, no bizarre sparkle. I stepped back.
'We've got to get out of here, Lionel,' I said, realising the situation. 'We're pissed beyond logic.'
'I don't know what you're talking about,' Lionel replied. 'I can see very well. Diamonds are quite logical if you think about it. They're beautiful.'
I managed to coax him out of the morgue eventually. The next day he couldn't even remember being drunk in the hospital.
I asked him about the diamonds in the stomach and he said, 'You mean the kind they smuggle in teddy bears?'
'Yes,' I said. 'Just like in cop shows.'
I was found out later that day. I had lost my license by the weekend. I still read the medical journals though, for the new discoveries.
Sunday, 9 November 2014
To the Dude in the Green Shades,
You were staring at my Halloween costume whilst eating an apple. Why not drop one on my head sometime? I have a theory I would like to discuss with you over drinks.
Isaac Newton Lookalike
To Isaac Newton Lookalike,
Do you like Pomeranians?
The Guy in the Green Shades
To the Guy in Green Shades,
Yes. My sister breeds them. Shall we say The Watchman's Arms next Tuesday? 6? I won't be in full costume but I will keep on the wig.
Former-Isaac Newton Lookalike
To Isaac Newton Lookalike,
Where is the best place to buy a pair of sandals in Cleethorpes?
I always go to Richmond's.
Watchman's Arms. Tuesday 6:15pm.
Why did you run off in such a hurry? You asked questions about 'the mark', I'm a Mark, I thought we were joking around. I would love a second chance. Watchman's Arms? Next Tuesday at 6pm again?
An Idiot in a Wig
I must have missed you. I hope I missed you. Come by next Tuesday and we'll talk all about 'your mission'.
An Idiot Still Wearing a Wig
I felt like there was a connection. Was I wrong?
An Idiot Without a Wig