I (sometimes) call myself Mr. Pondersome. I'm a rather wordy, weirdy person. I say hullo a lot. I write a lot more. While you're here, why not give some of it a read?

Sunday, 31 December 2017

TWINS FROM THE TAKEAWAY (a.k.a. A New Year's Eve Vignette)

      I crossed twin men at a Chinese takeaway.
      They were well-dressed in slate grey jackets and open-necked white shirts.
      They were identical in every way from the stray grey hairs on top of  their thin heads to the scuffed black soles under their thick shoes. They even carried identical white plastic bags filled with the same tin foil containers poking out at the corner.
      Except there was one difference. While they both had well-groomed Van Dyke beards, the one on the left had a longer, whiter tip.
      Nevertheless they both seemed jovial. Their open-mouthed smiles lasted so long on their faces that it seemed to me a little suspicious. Then again they were brothers bringing home dinner on a  Sunday night.
      And it was a big night. Though I couldn't remember why.
      I watched them go. Another difference: the one on the left had a small but growing bald spot.
      While the white in the beard was explainable, I wondered how one twin could have such vastly different hair patterns to the other.
      Maybe they weren't twins, maybe one was simply dressed up as the other, an uncanny resemblance. Maybe they weren't even brothers.
      No, I thought. They were brothers. It just made sense.
      And the place they had come from, the takeaway, what was that? I had never seen it before. The name was lost in Chinese characters.
      For a moment I thought about going inside but something stopped me. It was a big night, for everyone, It would almost certainly be busy without a gormless browser dawdling in too.
      So I carried on home. With every step, I slowly convinced myself of how tired the one on the left had looked compared to the right.
      Yes, he was a little more bent over. Yes, he did seem to drag his feet.
      Yes, that smile was probably the first to fade.

Monday, 25 December 2017

CHRISTMAS MEASURES (a.k.a. Part Two of a Downbeat Though Hopefully Not Altogether Depressing Christmas)

A Christmas is measured
in the number of cards received
minus the ones sent out.

A Christmas is measured
in the time between buying gloves
and losing one or both.

A Christmas is measured
in the ratio of gift bags used
and wrapping paper rolls.

A Christmas is measured
in decibels of the living room
compared to outdoors.

A Christmas is measured mostly
by the New Year.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

LIFE OF THE CHRISTMAS DO (a.k.a. Part One of a Downbeat Though Hopefully Not Altogether Depressing Christmas)

I thought I said I'd buy you a drink, Sid!
    So how is that car of yours doing anyway? Got round to the MOT yet?
    I'm still learning. Stuck on parallel parking. I hate it.
    Always the last to finish, Jenna. If you poke that around any more, it'll crumble away entirely.
    Is anyone having dessert? Just Pepe?
    Nah, I'll do.
    I'll join you at the bar, Fearne. 
    Another red, is it?
    I'm not judging...

    How are you anyway?

    To be honest I'm just glad to be out of work. How's yours?
    I don't think I've ever been this tired.
    Well, Fearne, if you're buying.
    Three quid? I'm sure that went up since we first got here!
    Ah well. Thanks anyway.
    Back to the fray, I suppose.

    No party crown this year, Sid? I had no idea you were so vain about that haircut.

    I know. That was mean. I apologise, especially to you Fearne. You have to go home with the pretty boy.
    Sorry! Hey, I did bring you that drink!
    I did, in fact. I brought it all the way over from the bar!
    Blimey! Do you even have room for that sundae, Pepe? I wouldn't.
    Well, I'm pooped, Pepe.
    Sorry. It just slipped out.
    Look at that little brown trickle! It's gone right down his chin!
    Oh, shit. Was that loud? They just looked over.
    Table on the far right. Big window. Don't look.
    Right. Yes. I have been loud tonight. Louder than Noddy Holder. Lord...
    Sorry, Jenna. I'll shush. I'll be a good little boy.
    Maybe we should go. That was delicious but it's gotten really quiet in here. I hope we didn't chase them all out.
    Unless anyone else is thirsty? No?
    Well, all right then.

    Bitter. Absolutely bitter out here.

    I should probably have worn cords like you, Pepe. So stylish. 
    Anyway wanna go halfsies on a taxi?
    Oh right. A lift.
    Well, actually, Sid, I don't live that far from Pepe's.

    Fair enough. I fancy an early night myself. I'll grab a taxi.
    Thanks for organising tonight, Fearne. Sid.
    Did you leave your windows open, Jenna? Oh, hell. Go check. If you're lucky, the only thing that will have got in is the cold.
    All okay? Well, you best thaw out your bum before going! Daft mare!
    Merry Christmas, everyone! Catch you in the new year!


    Such a thankless bunch of sad sacks...

Monday, 13 November 2017

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY by Leslie Nneka Arimah - A Short Story Collection Review (a.k.a. Something A Bit Different)

     I discovered this collection through Levar Burton Reads, an excellent podcast.
     The title story, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, proved itself to be a fascinating sociopolitical sci-fi tale featuring a subject that always gives me pause: grief.
     Indeed a few stories in Arimah's collection also deal with some kind of grief though I'll admit I wasn't drawn to the presentation of most of them.
    While it is eye-opening to explore the present state of African culture, the spectacle eventually wore off for me and something more unique was desired.
    Fortunately there were a few fantastical tales speckled throughout the collection which I cherished between the straightforward spouts of human conflict.
    I also loved the cheekiness of Arimah's omniscient third person narrator: without that, the 'reality' of her fictions would have just been crushing.
    A strong debut.

Notable Stories

  • ·         Windfalls - that last fall will haunt me every time I think of this collection: pure tragic irony.

  • ·         Who Will Greet You at Home - a hungry hair baby is not as horrifying as you might think...

  • ·         What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky - my entry point with strong world-building.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

HERE LIES VERNON COSSETT (a.k.a. A Halloween Return)

Yes! The beast has risen!

I haven't posted on here since the end of last year and feel an urgent need to resurrect this blog with a graveyard tale.

So, if you're housebound this Halloween, hiding from those pesky short door-to-door sugar fiends, then why not settle in with this unconventional ghost story?

Come one, come all. Gather round, gather round...

            The headstone read:



            Born a day before April Fool's Day and the day after Halloween. This made sense.
            Vernon Cossett had run a small but successful joke shop called Just Cossett Is which his son had since inherited.
            Patrick Cossett was now stood at his father's graveside, a squat man with a prominent bottom row of teeth and a ginger widow's peak. I gave him my ticket.
            "You're the first," he told me, "Usually there are a few Goth types that get in early but maybe the wind blew their big black jackets away."
            He laughed. I didn't.
            He looked me up and down. "I didn't see you last year."
`          He wouldn't have. Though I was aware of the spectacles surrounding Vernon Cossett's grave I was among those who had found them tacky and a deliberate ploy to pull in tourists.
            Patrick's eyes squinted as he gave a toothy grin. "You've heard the stories though, eh? Everyone's heard them." And yet he went on anyway.
            "Dad loved his pranks and japes. It became an integral part of my rearing, our household. He liked to make people laugh well enough but there was something far more worthwhile to him than that.
            "You know that short, sharp intake of breath you get when someone startles you? Dad was addicted to hearing that. The way he saw it, a laugh could be faked but not that, not a breath. And if everyone was smiling by the end of it then why should it be a bad thing?"      Patrick's laugh had a wet crackle to it, the kind that comes straight from the back of the throat. He saw how I was looking at him, suddenly seemed hurt.
            "He didn't want to be forgotten. No-one does. He was the only one to visit granddad's grave after he died. Sad but common enough. Dad didn't want that for himself." A glint came to Patrick's big wet eyes. "So he used his unique position as a 'purveyor of merriment' to prepare for his death. He made sure that no-one would forget about him, that he would still have visitors long after he passed."
            Patrick patted the headstone. It was indeed worn with age.
            "I didn't know about it at first. When this thing started bleeding in 2000, I was as shocked as everyone. I was overseas but the news coverage brought me back home soon enough.
            "No bugger would get close other than me. Blood is blood, after all. Still I had a hunch: the old man always had a love of fake blood. And fake it was: tiny capsules implanted in the deepest indentation at the top here. I reached inside and found a device; a timed trap, I suppose, rigged to crush the capsules around this time on the first Halloween of the 21st Century.
            "I admired his ingenuity. I knew of it but never realised how far he would actually go for this." Patrick grinned again. "It inspired me. I dug through his records and found a letter addressed to me with implicit instructions which I followed though not without some slight improvements.
            "The 'spectacles', as he called them, had to be done every three years. Dad knew that three would set off the supernaturally-minded folks and make it like a proper haunting. It gave me plenty of time to get the resources ready. My favourites were the light pads beneath the top soil, the sound deterrents set between here and the entrance, even the worm charming if it hadn't been a bitch trying to get them into a half-decent circle."
            Patrick stared down at the soil which he had so often disturbed.
            "Seventeen years now," he muttered, "And I'm still at it. I must be crazy. To be honest I'm thinking of capping it off in 2020, sort of a foresight joke, eh? Nah. It's a lot of work."
            I asked him what it would be this year. He looked the most amused that I'd seen him all night.
            "I can't tell you that, mate. That comes after. Then again," he said, looking behind me, "I don't know where everyone else is. The media tend to come in all-weather if no-one else."
            I told him they wouldn't be coming yet.
            "Why not?"
            I had stopped them from coming. All of them.
            I told him that I couldn't tell him that. I didn't mention anything about there being an 'after'.
            I heard it then, what his father had been talking about. That short, sharp intake of breath.
            Patrick forced a smile. "So it's come to this, eh? The last prank is that there is no last prank? There won't be anyone around to see it."
            I said that depends. Does anyone know that he is here?
            "Of course."
            Then there would always be someone to put on a show for.
            After that I checked for the latest graveside deception. Noise boxes in each of the surrounding trees. They made ghostly groans. He had been running out of ideas, after all.
            I took them all down, knowing they would be too much.
            The son half-buried in his father's grave would be surprise enough.