Thursday, 28 February 2013

304: Great Expectations

It didn’t work, that miracle cream.  

I’ve smoothed 
it on my face morning and night for two weeks now but I still haven’t won the lottery, my butt is still too big and David Cameron is definitely still a twat.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

303: Spirited Away

Clark spoke beautifully, enunciating as a man of his position should, a considerable vocabulary peppered with French, Italian and Latin at his disposal.  Francis liked to snuggle up against him on the sofa and ask “Talk to me?” before they made love.

One day Clark struggled to remember a word, quite an uncommon word admittedly, but he found he could only describe a cacophony as ‘rather noisy.’  Later, his rare snowy white Khao Manee cat with her David Bowie eyes, became ‘light.’  

As he lost more language he no longer ate salami on rye with arugula and cream cheese, swapping them for ‘bacon sarnies’.  Instead of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Pouilly-Fumé he drank ‘lager top’ and once ‘snake bite.’  

Without his words, he couldn’t profess his love for Francis.  He had never seen the need for gestures of emotion and it was too late to learn how.  He managed to fuck for a while, then that stopped too.  When all of his words were gone, he disappeared.  His memory lived only on the tip of Francis’ tongue.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

302: Rear Window

Some people say that mothers have eyes in the back of their heads.  My mother has a window in the back of hers.  She parts her coarse red hair into two bunches that she secures, one just below each ear, with braids that look like curtain tie-backs.  And she watches.

I see her eyes swivel inside her head and she peers out at me through the glass.  Sometimes I think I might hear a clockwork click-click-click as she moves her eyes into the rear position.  If I did, I would have time to put back that biscuit, pick up that wet towel, hide that magazine.

My friend Joe thought she was staring at him once but I knew she was looking at me out of her window.  I saw the sun glint on the glazing and she squinted against its brightness.  I wondered if I could use that tactic against her so that I could do things in secret, but I could never work out quite how to do it.

She is one of those people who never closes the curtains, not even when she goes to bed at night.

Monday, 25 February 2013

301: Animal Farmville

Mr Jackson decided to build a pigpen on his farm.  He worked hard earning wood and materials and borrowing the extras that he needed from his neighbours.  Some gave him gifts of a brick or a board and soon enough he had enough to build his pigpen.  He finished it in record time and found a Little Green Boar inside.  He treated himself to a nice beer and a curry, as a reward for working so hard.

The next day Mr Jackson worked on his farm again.  He hunted for truffles and looked for materials to build an extension.  He saved up to buy a sow and he put her into the pigpen with the Little Green Boar.  He hoped they would breed and give him a piglet, and he rewarded his hard work with a nice beer and a pizza.

Over time, Mr Jackson bred lots of piglets and harvested lots of truffles from his pigpen.  But now he was bored of farming every day which turned out to be very hard work.  Sometimes he forgot to feed the piglets and plant his crops and milk the cows.  His flowers wilted and there wasn’t enough water for all his crops and livestock to drink.  He watched TV and drank nice beer to forget how hard farming was.

The Little Green Boar and his friend Pot Bellied Pig saw that the farm was failing and although some of the neighbours helped, the pigs realized they were on their own.  Little Green Boar and Pot Bellied Pig decided they would assume charge of the farm instead of Mr Jackson.  If a 2-legs could run a farm, surely two 4-legs could do it so much better.

They organized work rotas and gave all of the animals on the farm their own jobs to do.  Little Green Boar and Pot Bellied Pig did not have jobs of their own because running the farm was a very hard job.  They worked hard and before bed each night they each had a nice drink of beer, then slept well at night knowing their friends were cared for and nobody was starving or thirsty.  

One day Little Green Boar and his friend Pot Bellied Pig had an argument about running the farm.  Little Green Boar thought he should be leader because he had been on the farm the longest and Pot Bellied Pig thought he should be leader because he was stronger and wasn’t green.  Whoever heard of a green pig running a farm?  Each pig began sneaking about trying to cajole the other animals into supporting his own leadership bid and opposing his enemy’s.

Half of the animals supported Little Green Boar and half supported Pot Bellied Pig.  They did not trust each other to hold a fair vote so they decided they should fight for the leadership.  The cockerel would referee the fight and whoever knocked out his opponent would win.  He would be declared leader of the farm, which would be renamed after him.  The whole farm was buzzing with excitement at the thought of it.  It was the most 2-legs thing that had ever happened.

The fight was set for the next day and both Little Green Boar and Pot Bellied Pig were getting ready for the fight.  The cockerel had sent a message to Mr Jackson, inviting him to come and watch.  Now Mr Jackson had completely forgotten about his farm because he had been so busy with TV and beer and food, but the cockerel's message reminded him what fun he had when he farmed.  He decided maybe he should try again and this time be more dedicated to his farm, so his livestock and his crops did not fail.

Mr Jackson had one more beer and realized he wasn’t very good at farming animals.  Flowers were much more his sort of thing, so he tore down the pigpen and sold the pigs to his neighbours, then he ploughed his land and planted funny little seeds that popped up as bottles and candy canes.  He kept just one pig, the Little Green Boar, and he set him to graze amongst the flowers.  

Sadly pigs cannot eat bottles or candy canes and so he faded away into a pile of green pixels which eventually blinked out altogether.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

300: The Conversation

“We need to talk.”  He sat down next to her and took her hand in his.  His was strong and large, hers smaller and pale, almost so delicate it might break if he held it too hard.  He stroked it with his thumb, the skin pulling slightly as he did so.

“I’m not sure I can keep coming to see you every day.  It’s not that I don’t want to of course, you know I do.  I love seeing you.  But Martha is starting to feel neglected.  She hasn’t said as much but I can tell.  Her eyes, they have this look.  It’s somewhere between hopeful and scared to be let down.  I see it whenever I arrive home and again whenever I leave the house.  It’s like she’s just expecting me to go and maybe never come back.”

His voice trailed off and he stared past her and at the garden outside.  Autumn was doing its worst to the plants and a sudden wind shook a flurry of leaves from the tree outside the window.  “Shame you didn’t see that.  A load of leaves just blew off the tree outside.  It went from green to almost all brown in one go.  I’m glad it’s not up to me to rake them all up.”  He looked at her again.  “I suppose I’ll need to check your garden and rake up for you.  I mean, if you want me to.  Martha will just have to put up with it if I’m not there.”  He smiled at her.

“The truth is I’m scared she’s going to find someone else.  I think she resents me seeing you so much and there are so many good looking lawyers at that place she works in.  Sooner or later one of them will try his luck with her and she’ll think ‘why not?’  I know they hit on her sometimes.  there was even one time I was there and that dick Marcus was smarming round her.

“Sorry, I don’t know why I’m bothering you with this.  Our time isn’t supposed to be about that, is it.  It’s supposed to be fun.  Special.  Time just for us.  I promise I won’t mention Martha again.  But I will need to get going soon.  It’s parents’ meeting night and I have to go.  You understand, don’t you.”

He held her hand a while longer, not saying anything more.  He always ran out of things to say before his time was up.  Sometimes he counted the beeps of the machines, promising himself he’d stay for at least 1000 more.  500 more.  OK, 100 more.

With his lips moving as he counted down five - four - three - two - one, he stood on zero and bent forward to kiss her forehead, smoothing down her cowslick before he did so.  “Bye then, Mum.  Love you lots.  I’ll be back tomorrow, normal time.  It’ll have to be the weekend when I look at the garden for you.”

Before he left he took one more look.  The nurses said she definitely knew he was there, even if there was no outward sign of it.  At least she looked peaceful and he hoped she knew the leaves would be raked up soon.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

299: I Walked with a Zombie

“So, you been here before?”  I looked across at the guy beside me.  He didn’t reply, possibly didn’t even hear me.  I tried again.  “I said, have you been here before?  It’s my first time.”  Still nothing from him.  His dedication to character was impressive.  He even managed a throaty moan and swivelled his head towards me a little.

I wondered if I shouldn’t be speaking at all, perhaps only moaning and groaning too.  That was what everyone else was doing.  Some were really loud and shrieking.  They didn’t sound very realistic to me.  This guy with his vague sounds were much more what I’d imagine one would be like.

Mostly people had come in groups and very few of us were alone.  That was what made me head for this guy really, sort of pairing up for the walk.  Johnny was coming with me but at the last minute he couldn’t make it.  Something got him on the way apparently and by then I was already at the startline.  So I thought, why not go on anyway.  Maybe I’d meet a sexy lady zombie or maybe just a sufficiently drunk lady zombie.  But all the lady zombies were with buff zombies and their mates zombies, so I got to attach myself to a method-acting zombie.

I thought I’d have one more go before I shuffled off in search of someone else.  “Good costume mate.”  And it was too.  Most people had just ripped their shirts and jeans, powdered up their faces and streaked ketchup liberally across all of it.  This guy had dried blood and dirty nails and even some of those fake wounds stuck on him.  The one across his neck looks like a deep bite, almost down to the bone.  He must have been before to be this good.

He began to groan again and raised one hand to point at a group of girls ahead of us.  “Yeah mate, very nice,” I said.  Did he really think girls like that would go for guys like us?  As he started towards them with the most determination I’d seen in him all afternoon I decided I’d had enough.  “I’m going to shoot mate,” I said patting his shoulder, and cut out of the crowd across towards the station.

I looked back just before I turned the corner.  He’d caught those girls up and was starting to nuzzle into the neck of one of them.  “Good luck to him,” I thought and wiped my sticky red hand on the leg of my jeans as I left them all to it.

Friday, 22 February 2013

298: The Elephant Man

Kevin was under no illusions about his looks.  He knew he was an average teenager with bad hair, bad skin and a body that wasn’t quite under his control.  But he thought he was OK looking, that maybe he would grow into his looks as his mother often told him.  He certainly didn’t think of himself as Elephant Man.

Not until the day they ambushed him outside the toilets and stuck a brown paper bag over his head.

There were rough eye holes poked out for him to see through, but he could only see through one hole or the other at a time.  The paper was rough and scratched at his face, making the spots on his forehead sore.  Inside the bag he could hear his own breathing echoing back at himself.

The other kids were laughing at him, just like in the film.  He felt fingers jab at his ribs from all sides.  Hands pushed him back and forth until he stumbled onto the floor.  They just laughed more and nobody helped him up.

Kevin scrambled to his feet and ran along the corridors, heading for the front door.  His single-eye view gave the familiar walls and lockers and doors a faraway look.  He slammed into the wall each time he turned a corner and he reached out for the door well before he actually reached it.

Outside, the yard was quiet but still enough kids noticed the dork with a bag on his head rush out of the school.  Then he realized he could take the bag off, could have taken it off straight away.  He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t just done that, just ball it up and chuck it in the rubbish and go back to class.

“Am I really an animal?” he yelled to the yard.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

297: The Sound of Music

Music became his theme.  Every time there had to be something playing on the background.  At first it was an accident or maybe even just a coincidence.  He couldn’t really remember how it had started but he knew he would always carry it on.

It surprised him that there was so rarely any reports of the music playing.  He long ago realized it might be useful to cover up any other noises and sometimes it was really quite loud.  If he could he used their own music but he did had a small player and travel speaker that he took with him just in case.

His favourite were showtunes, the sort of thing that got your blood pumping and you could really sing along too.  He had a good, deep voice and often joined in, especially towards the end.  They also served to wrong-foot people too.  He considered playing ominous music like in horror or suspense films and he did try that once.  It wasn’t half as effective though when she ran and almost reached her front door.  A few more feet and she would have escaped.

No, something nice by Gene Kelly or Lesley Carroll or Julie Andrews was much more his style.  One day he might think about choosing the songs to fit the people he chose, but not today.  Today he was going with ‘My Favourite Things’ and he had a hunting knife, some stout rope and a stun gun with him.  And funnily enough, those probably are some of my favourite things, he thought to himself as he fell into step with the girl who had just called goodbye to her friends to walk home alone.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

296: Gone With The Wind

That weatherman still hasn’t lived it down, you know.  It’s been over 25 years and most people remember him for saying that hurricane wasn’t coming when it was.  Nice bloke and it must be hard to get the weather right all the time.

We weren’t expecting bad weather even because the winds were supposed to be somewhere else in the country we thought.  I suppose we got off lighter than a lot of places though, because nobody lost their roof or their shed and nobody died round here.  Gerald was very cross about the garden though.

He had spent every weekend digging and planting and raking and all the other garden things men do.  Well not just men I know, some women enjoy gardening too.  I enjoy the results of gardening, let me put it that way.  I can’t bear getting mud stuck under my nails and my knees creak far too much to get down on the ground for long.  They did even back then, as I recall.

So, Gerald.  He had pretty much finished remodeling the whole of the back garden.  There were just the last few fiddly bits to do and then we were to have a grand garden party to show it off to our friends.  I wouldn’t mind that and he did work so hard it would be churlish of me to deny him the chance to preen a bit.  It would just that his dreadful mother would be there, like always.  The garden revolved around her precious clematis and the party would revolve around her.

He would never hear a word against her and she could be such a handful.  When he was around she was simpering and hopeless, then as soon as he left she became the most hard-nosed so-and-so you could imagine.  And she hated me.  I was never good enough for her son, which didn’t worry me too much.  I can be a bit like that with my own boy Matthew.  But she didn’t even like the non-son-stealing parts of me.  My hair, my clothes, my driving, my choice of book to read.  She hated everything.

In return I hated her too, but I did my best to bury it down deep for Gerald’s sake.  The party would be a trial but only yet another one of many.  It was set for Saturday 17th October, 2.00pm.  Most likely there would be a quick tour of the garden and the rest of the time would be spent inside the house, probably discussing that afternoon’s football.

Then the storm came.  I’ve never known anything like it and apparently in some places it was just like the wartime bombings all over again.  We stayed in hearing crashes and bumps all night then woke up the next day to see devastation outside.  I won’t go into all the details, but virtually all of Gerald’s hard work was gone.  Pots were smashed and plants and branches were strewn everywhere.  Nothing had all of its leaves or petals any more.

Even the clematis was destroyed.  I only thought I hated it but it was quite nice really.  It didn’t know its own provenance and maybe I projected too much on to it.  We did get to cancel the party, though.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

295: There Will Be Blood

Do not be afraid, my dear.  You are in the safest of hands.  My hands are guided by the spirits of my ancestors and want only to heal you.  They have helped many before you and they are certain they will provide the relief you seek.

Do not turn to Western medicine, my child.  It will poison you and rip you open like a vulture rips open a day-old carcass.  In the West they do not understand that sometimes the spirits are the only ones who can help you.  They will decry all that the spirits can do and anger them so to inflame them worse than ever.  Do you want these Western doctors, as they call themselves, to make you worse?

What we will do for you is simple.  You will lie on a bed of woven of grasses and leaves in my room, strong and cool and favoured by the spirits.  There will be spices and herbs burning and you will feel sleepy.  You will feel my hands on your skin and hear my chanting as I pray to the ancestors for their healing love to enter my body.  You will feel me touching and exploring until I locate the source of your pain.  Then you will feel me pluck it out.

You will feel my fingers moving deep into you, through your skin and flesh and sinew.  You will feel me catch at the vile lump and grasp it hard.  You may feel a sharp tugging if it resists my will to remove it.  You will feel me win and see me remove it from your body.  Your wound will close up so tightly there will be no sign of entry.  You will see me curse the lump and then burn it.  AS you see the smoke disappear into the air, so you will feel your pain similarly disappear.

There will be blood.  There will be pain.  There will be healing.

Monday, 18 February 2013

294: The Departed

Ellen stood on the platform waving long after the train pulled out and the steam cleared.  The platform was beginning to empty but she had started to feel alone even before they left their two up two down.  His hand hadn’t felt real in hers even though she gripped it tightly.  Not too tightly so she hurt him or worse, worried him.  She was determined to make him think this was perfectly normal and safe and temporary.

Peter had stopped three or four times to pull up his grey school socks.  Ellen really should have bought him a new pair or at least replaced the elastic but she had been too distracted about this day.  Peter was almost excited but the way he slipped his hand back into his mother’s each time told her he was nervous about it, but being brave for her sake.

Lots of the boys and girls from their street were going too.  Peter had listed those he would be happy to be billeted with - Timothy, Valerie, Matthew and his twin, Tom and Maggie - as well as those he would hate to spend even one night with - Paul, Christine, the other Tom and David.  The minister had told them all they would be placed according to what spaces were available and to the requests of the kind people accepting them into their homes.  Even if you did find yourself with someone you didn’t know or didn’t like, he said, you would not make any complaints and you would jolly well get on with it.

When they arrived at the station a tall lady in a severe hat checked Peter was off a list on a clipboard and he was given a sign showing ‘Carriage 6 - Hampshire’ to hang on a string round his neck.  Ellen was told the train would arrive in fifteen minutes and to make sure her son understood how very lucky he was to be escaping London and moving to the countryside.  More instructions would surely have followed but the line of boys and girls waiting for ticks and signs was growing, so they were dismissed with a flap of a severe hand.

Ellen and Peter passed the time until the train came wondering what sort of home he would be staying in.  Peter decided probably a farm and then they named as many farm animals as they could.  As Ellen argued that a carrot surely was a farm animal and Peter giggled that it couldn’t be because it came from Mr Eade’s grocery, the train chuffed into the station.

There was a blur of movement and snatched hugs and last kisses, of feet stamping along the platform and doors banging and too soon the shriek of a whistle ripping families in two.  Nobody knew when they would be reunited.  Everybody knew they might be the ones who weren’t.  Some hurried away as soon as the whistle blew, some stayed to wave and a few, like Ellen, stayed for a long time still waving all the while.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

293: Singing In The Rain

Yes, so we need to get the roof fixed and a lock put on the door but this is the Australian Outback.  It hardly ever rains here and who hasn’t sat on the john singing and whistling to let everyone else know it was already occupied?  It would all still be OK if it wasn’t for those damn Ant and Dec blokes.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

292: Psycho

I am psycho.  Not the psycho you know from the newspapers or from films.  I don’t scream at you like a headline or wear a freaky mask so you can spot me in a crowd.  I am a real psycho.

Are you scared of me?  Most people are scared of psychos and we’re dangerous people right?  I’m just like that.  I work in a cafe and I might make your coffee a bit too hot, so watch out for your lips.  I work in a shop and I might put all of your shopping into one bag instead of two.  Imagine the lop-sidedness I can cause.  I am at your school gate when you fetch your children and I sometimes park taking up two spaces.  My kid and me will be back in our car before you because you have to walk that little bit further.  Sorry.

See what a risk to society I am?  Me and my parking and my drink-making and my bag-packing.  And don't forget to add in all the other psycho stuff I do like reading books, watching tv, walking my dog, baking cakes for school fetes.  Once I spent two weeks in a small hotel by the seaside in Cornwall too.

True, there were voices, but they were never about you.  They were about me and how bad I was at life.  For a while there I looked weird and acted a bit weird too.  Maybe it might happen again one day, who knows.  But I have medicines to help me now and a plan to help me then, if there is a then.  

And don’t worry, you won’t be in danger.  Only I will be.  Because I am a real psycho.  We’re just like you.

Friday, 15 February 2013

291: Fatal Attraction

I know I shouldn’t do it but I can’t help it.  I’m not in control, that must be it.  A force outside my body is making me do it.  Something or someone else is controlling me.  Something or someone else is making pick up the screwdriver.  I don’t want to hold it.  I want to put it down but I can’t.  I know it will hurt her and I know I’m still going to do it anyway.  Nothing will be the same again.  Nothing and she will never forgive me.  I want her to not see me do it.  Please look away, please.  I wish she would stop me.  I wish she could stop me.  I’m going to stick the screwdriver in now.  The socket is too tempting and I have to stick it in there.  Because I don’t want to live with the hurt it will cause her.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

290: Big

There once was a man with big hands.  They weren’t ordinary big, like he might make a great pianist or an excellent goalie.  They were freakishly large hands.

When he was a little boy his hands had been normal size.  As he grew older, all of his body got bigger, like normal peoples’ do.  But when he was a full sized man and most of him stopped growing, his hands carried on.

At first they grew into goalie’s hands but they didn’t stop growing.  Then they grew to the size of dinner plates but they didn’t stop growing.  Then they grew to the size of a pair of Pugs but they didn’t stop growing.  When they grew to the size of elephants ears they did stop growing, which was just as well because the man was almost starting to trip over his fingers when he walked down the street.

You might expect this to be a tale of heroism with the man using his big hands to rescue children from burning buildings, but it’s not.  You might expect this to be a tale of adventure with the man travelling the world and using his big hands to discover new lands, but it’s not.  You might expect this to be a tale of intrigue with the man using his big hands to rescue foil international terror plots, but it’s not.  

The man didn’t do anything special with his big hands at all.  However he could swat away flies from ten feet, shelter himself in the rain so his clothes didn’t get wet and boy could he wave.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

289: Fight Club

Carl got the idea from the movie.  At first he didn’t even know if it would work but he figured nothing ventured, so he tried it.

There was a lot of her to get rid of.  Stupid fat bitch had really let herself go and she only got what she deserved.  He hadn’t wanted to do it but she left him no choice.  Always goading him and nagging him about money and a job and then complaining when he wanted to have sex with her.  Stupid cow.  He was glad he’d done it.

The barrel he chose for melting her down was huge.  Just as well really, he thought.  He’d decided to chunk her up and feed the flesh to local foxes and strays, but that still left a hefty pile of fat to get rid of.  She was never only a size 16, even if her clothes did say that in the labels.  Carl would have to burn them unless he chanced dropping them in all of the charity shops across the city.

Getting hold of enough stuff to melt her took longer than he thought.  Lots of her meant lots of powder to dissolve her.  He looked it up on Wikipedia and although it didn’t have full instructions he did find some useful stuff.  Saponification, it was called, and Carl realized that would be probably the longest word he actually understood.  He was supposed to use moulds to make it look nice instead of lumpy bits of soap, but he decided she’d just have to stay in the barrel and he’d find a way to cut it out of there.

Carl wasn’t prepared for the smell.  He thought it would be, well soapy.  Like washing your hands, maybe with some cheap stuff from a school toilet or something.  But it was a rancid stink that came off the barrel of dissolving fat cow ex-girlfriend.  By then it was too late to change his mind and it was too heavy to move the barrel anywhere else.  He was stuck with her still, even after he’d killed her.  Typical, stupid cow, never leaving him alone.

He decided she wouldn’t need any of her perfumy shit again, so Carl emptied all of the bottles he could find into the barrel and gave it a good stir.  She was dissolving nicely and the smell was odd, but not quite so bad now.  Only a few days and she’d harden up and he could start sticking her into bags to get rid of.  Carl wondered about making some nice shapes and giving them to her family as presents, but honestly, he couldn’t really be bothered.

There was a knock at the door and a voice.  “Police, open up.  We’re looking for Kayleigh Burrows.”  Carl ignored it but the banging carried on.  It sounded like the door might break down at any moment, so he went to answer it.

“Sorry, she’s in the bathroom,” said Carl.  “You can’t see her right now.  She’s all wet and soapy.”

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

288: City Lights

Derek was never sure whether the lights of the cities below the plane were going to dazzle him or bore him as they came in to land.  ‘Travelling frequently for work makes one so jaded’ he often told people, especially those who wanted to talk about how fabulous all that international travel must be.

Like most of the middle aged, bespoke-suited businessmen who travelled around the globe in search of deals and clients, Derek really only saw a limited amount of the world.  Inside of airports, taxis through dark streets and hotel rooms, even if they were plush.  The company at least paid for rooms at the top of the range, as they should after 19 years of loyal service thought Derek.  They couldn’t afford for one of their top guys to get tired on the job, could they.

Derek looked out of the window at the ground below.  The descent hadn’t yet started and in the night sky the power of the lights below didn’t reach the plane.  The sky was clear with minimal, wispy clouds, nothing to stop the glittering once they began to climb back down from the air and into the ordinary world.

A steward with slim hips and artificially flattened crow’s feet announced the plane was about to begin the descent into London Heathrow and although he knew that would still mean a good 20 minutes or more, Derek readied himself for landing.  He wiggled his shoulders and his toes, rotated his head left and right as far as it would go, sipped water and took a hard mint to suck on so his ears wouldn’t pop.  That was one thing he never could conquer however many thousands of miles he flew each year.

Looking out of the window again, Derek could see the lights of towns below him as the ground became clearer and sharper.  Streetlights showed the routes to peoples’ houses and flats.  Car headlights lit the way they travelled home, so much more slowly than Derek and the other travellers.  Chains of bulbs lit shops and gaseous brightness adorned restaurants and clubs.  Derek, tired from the flight, found them neither boring nor dazzling tonight.

The plane closed the rest of the way to the ground, touched down then went into reverse thrust to slow down.  As it taxied to a halt Derek could see dozens of other planes, some empty ready for cleaning, some landing like him and others preparing to take off and fly to places with their own glittering lights.

The plane came to a complete halt at the gate and Derek switched off the seatbelt light so the passengers could disembark.  Even with the cockpit door shut tight he could hear the thumping of feet as 200 economy fliers unfolded themselves and rushed for the exits.  They would now return to family and friends and colleagues with stories of how wonderful or dreary or busy or fruitful or exciting their trips had been.

Derek would head home to the flat he once shared with Cathy, drink expensive whisky in the dark and wonder whether the dazzle really did leave him at the same time she did.

Monday, 11 February 2013

287: The Graduate

Melanie never has to worry about what to wear when she gets up and prepares for the day.  She has her uniform to wear, corporate identifying clothes to make her feel like one of the team.  One big happy family and luckily, no morale-building song to learn and croon out at the whim of a manager.  She has to launder it herself but she has just discovered she could get a small tax rebate for doing so.  The oily smell does cling to the material and she hates putting greasy clothes on the next day.

Melanie hopes that soon she will earn enough to pay tax, so that she can get it back.

Kevin would have to worry about what to wear when he gets up and prepares for the day, but he only has one suit so it will be that.  He has three shirts so maybe some choice comes in there, but they were a pack of 3-for-£20 white easy-iron from M&S so the choice is at best left, right or centre.  He picks the one with the least fraying to the collar and wonders how long before he really does have to buy another pack.

Kevin wonders if aging shirts is what keeps him in the office junior role he has held for two years.

Gary has three suits and shirts in a myriad of pastel colours.  He is not interested in choice so selects whichever shirt is at the front of the wardrobe, to wear with this week’s suit.  He has a cappuccino maker and a dishwasher and a bit of a view.  His flat is new and still smells of paint in the back of the airing cupboard.  Gary spends his days reading old cases and making tea for clients, none of which are billable to him.  Sometimes he goes to court with a senior partner but only if someone is ill.  He carries things around a lot.

Gary hopes his father won’t want to sell before he learns some practical law and moves up a grade.

Sadie wears silk and spends all day trying not to crush it too badly.  Jewel colours bring out the blue in her eyes and sometimes it is she that says so to others.  Although her timekeeping is loose at best, she attends client meetings and presents pitches and has first pick of samples.  Her ideas are not the most original but she shows some promise, definitely.  And her rise through the company hierarchy is assured anyway.  When did someone like her need to understand everything that went on to make it to Head of Client Liaison.  Or whichever division she decides on.

Sadie is glad Daddy owns the company and finishes early so she can get waxed.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

286: Total Recall

There were lots of people, far more than you’d think the room would hold.  They were all gowned up and protected, although I suppose it was me they were protecting, not themselves.  There were two colours of surgical gloves, purple and dark aqua  Most people had the purple and just two had the aqua.  Funny what you notice at times like that, isn’t it.  I wondered if they had run out part the way through scrubbing up or if the colours designated jobs maybe.

I heard the beeping and the clatter of instruments on kidney trays.  Voices raised and instructions shouted one by one, never across each other.  He wore purple gloves, I remember that.  Swabs bright with my blood dabbed in and out of my body and were discarded into a pile growing at an alarming rate.  That must be why the beeps and the shouting.

I couldn’t feel anything, not even as the blade sliced and the fingers felt inside me.  I could see an aqua hand inside my open belly holding closed a wound that pumped blood out, covering the gloves in slick red.  More swabbing out and aqua tightened the grip, although I still felt nothing.  Not cold or hot or pain or fear or excitement.

Then I started to rise up to the ceiling, like I was floating round in the air.  I don’t know how it could be so, but I was.  I looked down and watched the whole scene playing out below me like it was on television and I was sat on my sofa.  And I could see things from up here you would never expect to see too.  I could see deep into the ventilation system although I couldn’t feel the air on my face.  I could see what the ceiling was made of.  Just ceiling, really.  And I could see these two shapes up on the top of the shelves, on white card.  One was a red square, the other a blue triangle.

And next I started to drift back into my body.  The beeping sounds became less frantic.  The shouting stopped and became speaking.  Traces of red were mopped up instead of soaking the material.  I could sense calm returning and then it all started to go dark, like I was falling asleep.  I was happy, not scared.  Not at any point.  Oh yes, and the last thing I remember was hearing music, classical music.  Vivaldi I think it was but I’m not sure which season.

I suppose you’re going to tell me I dreamt it all, aren’t you.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

285: Some Like It Hot

I don’t.  I always blow on it or leave it until it’s close to tepid.  I used to.  Until I dropped some and scalded all the skin off my boyfriend’s penis. 

I’m single now, too.

Friday, 8 February 2013

284: Taxi Driver

He parks up and toots his arrival.  After a minute a woman appears, pulling the outer door behind her.  Not slamming it or letting it swing closed, but deliberately holding the handle until the door fills the frame.  He thinks it would have made no noise, had he been standing close enough to hear.  She has two suitcases so he gets out to open the boot for her.  More likely to tip that way he finds.

He sees her knuckles are white from the tightness of her grip on the suitcase handles and she is reluctant to let go.  He takes them from her, a blue battered case with a broken wheel and a smaller one that rattles and things move round inside as he lifts it.  One contains her clothes, the other her things, he thinks.  He has seen this too many times.

She perches on the edge of the rear seat and as he gets in he says, “You’ll have to sit back love, and put your belt on.”  She doesn’t move.  “Your seatbelt?  I can’t go until you put it on.  It’d be my licence see.”  He watches her as she shuffles back and to the side and clunks her belt into place.  He sees the missing buttons on her coat, the old shoes.

“Cheers love,” he says as he turns and grabs his own seat belt.  “Now, where to?”  He glances into the mirror and looks at her.  She is staring out of the window and whispers, “Station” and adds nothing else.

“Going away somewhere?” the driver asks.  He doesn’t expect a reply but persists anyway.  “Holiday maybe or visiting family?”  The mirror shows him she is still looking out of the window or perhaps she is sleeping.  He can’t tell for sure because she wears big sunglasses that cover her eyes and all around them.  “I’m going on holiday soon,” he says and tells her about his plans.

“My wife wanted to go to Spain and I wanted Greece so we tossed a coin for it.  If we can’t decide on anything we take turns or toss a coin or draw straws.  My life would be hell if I made her do something she didn’t want to.  Not that I’d ever want to,” he adds as he senses her shiver behind him.  In the mirror he can see her gather her coat and scarf further up round her neck.

“Rough night love?” he says.

“No worse than usual.”

“Too much red wine was it?”  He chuckles at his own joke.

“No, he never drinks wine.  Stella, I think.  Something strong.”

“We’re nearly there love,” he says.  And as he draws up at the kerb outside the station, softly “Are you OK?”

She undoes her seatbelt, opens the door and gets out.  He does the same and joins her at the boot.  He pops it open and they both reach for a suitcase.  Her head is down and her glasses fall off, so he sees black bruises around one eye.  There are yellowing bruises around the other and a split in her eyebrow.  She picks up her glasses and before replacing them, turns to face him.

“No, but I will be.”

She puts her glasses on, pays him the fair and joins the crowd in the station.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

283: The Thin Man

Once upon a time there was a man who was very, very thin.  His head looked like it had been clapped really hard until his face had hardly any width to it at all.  In fact, he was so thin that he was little more than a person in profile.

There were other people who were very thin, but they were thin from front-to-back.  It was unheard of to find someone so very thin from side to side like Malcolm was.  The front-to-back thin people made fun of Malcolm because he wasn’t like them.  They could never have an eye-to-eye conversation with him so thought he seemed shifty.  The ordinary depth people made fun of Malcolm because he wasn’t like them either.  They found when looking at him front-on they could barely see him and they didn’t like him appearing and taking them by surprise, like he often did.

One day the local school caught fire and all of the children from the village were stuck inside.  A wall collapsed just behind the door so it would only open a very small amount.  The ordinary depth people tried to get in to save the children but they were too big all over to fit through the small gap.  The front-to-back thin people tried to get in to save the children but although they were thin enough to get through the gap, their eyes faced the wrong way and all they could see was the collapsed wall.

The people of the village called to Malcolm and begged him to help rescue their children.  “Malcolm, only you are thin enough to fit through the gap and rescue the boys and girls.  Will you help us?”  Malcolm worked in the heat and the smoke going back and forth through the thin gap of the door, helping the children to escape, comforting them and passing messages from their worried parents, until every last child had come safe out of the burning school.

Malcolm was the talk of the town and everyone called him a hero for saving all of the children in the village.  People began to realize that being different doesn’t mean someone isn’t as good as you.  Sometimes being different might be better than being the same as everyone else.

And Malcolm?  He realized he could use his uniqueness after all.  He started a career as a master jewel thief, sneaking into houses through the tiniest gaps and repaying the years the people of the town made his life so miserable felt really good.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

282: 12 Angry Men

The first deliberately kicked the second, a sharp side-swipe to the back of the shin on a bit with no protective guard.  The second, in pain but not that much, rolled round hollering but mostly unheard over the yells of the crowd.

The third ran up, waving his red.  He’d seen exactly what happened, even from 50 yards away, with a perfect line of sight.  Besides, he knew there was a history between the first and second, had been keeping an eye on them.

The fourth was livid, jumping up and down on the sidelines, gesturing and demanding the first be removed.  He knew better than to move any closer, even though the strain of holding back was evident in his face.  The tension began to drain as three took out a pencil and began to write down the names of one and two. 

Then he gestured that one was to go.  Despite protestations and swearing he did so.

Fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth were gathered around two, variously supporting and chiding him.  He was a victim of a vicious bully and overacting an innocent accident.  The shagger of one’s wife, therefore a dirty cheat and the subject of a miserable smear campaign by several national papers.

The ninth took a penalty and wasn’t angry at first.  Not until the tenth moved a fraction too soon and got his fingertips to it.  Tenth was a bit angry about the sending off, momentarily cheered by the saved, then much more angry when they had to do it again.

The eleventh owned half of the field and all of the ground.  From the plush box he couldn’t see quite what happened, but the large screen, instant playback showed him what he’d missed.  He calculated how many weeks’ wages the fine should be.

There were hundred, thousands even, of irate, irritated and fed up people watching.  But the twelfth was angrier than any of them because he was the only one who dropped the sausage out of his hot dog when he jumped to protest with the rest of the crowd.