The Others

kelsey-park

The Others

I’d been given the bottom bunk. Rabinowicz is up top. He’s a shorn-haired, pallid kid from Poznan, somewhere that I’d never heard of. And just like mine had, his face contorted in puzzlement when I told him the town I was from, but he said that he’d heard of Syria.

Four other boys share the room – four, red-eyed, tall as palms, dark as coffee, boys. They speak no English at all. Mine is okay, I was learning it at school when it got hit. Rab’s though, is excellent, but that’s only on account of all the years he’s been here.

The rooms are sorted on account of our ages, so we would have all been eleven years old, and while none of us are alive, none are yet ready to be dead.

Rab says that some of us get to go back, but only the ones who’ve managed to forget the horrors, only the ones schooled in forgiveness. He then shakes his head, and bites his lip, more like become brainwashed, he says.

He then calls them something else – in Polish – which I do not understand, and yet I understand completely.

The Governess calls them Angels, but in her heart she knows that most will lose their purpose on the long and treacherous journey, that they will be dismissed and ridiculed, that soon they’ll be forgotten, and that they will return to this place with wings fractured and hearts desolate.

Rab says that on one special night of the year, we – ‘The Others’ – as we are called, get to visit the place we once called home, and for one night only we get to scream suffering upon the howling wind, to plant terror deep inside shadows, and to cry tears as torrents of rain – to show that a world where hatred is king will soon no longer be.

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I’ll Take The Aston

brothers

This Short Story of mine was shortlisted for the BBC’s ‘Opening Lines’ competition in 2015. It has since popped up on-line as an example of an editor’s critique. I have since re-worked it a little. And so here it is. Oh, and that’s me on the right in the photo – can you see the matching tie! Well, it was the 1970’s!

I’ll Take The Aston

Ronny wasn’t born this way, no sir. He considers those negative months as the most beatific forty weeks of all the twenty-one years what’ve followed.

He’s sat on a sun-bleached sofa worn down to the bones, pallid and bug riddled. I prefer to stand, reckoning it’s safer. Someone’s patched the hole in the roof with army-marked tarp, the window’s slatted with bust up bed, the air’s thick with stench. Once upon a time this was somebody’s home. Once.

Shiner’s wearing out the floorboards, his arse must be giving him jip cause he keeps scratching at himself, just like that foamy-mouthed mutt did one time we went out hunting and wound up lost in the rain.

Continue reading “I’ll Take The Aston”

Wood-smoke and Goat

Volos December 2013

Wood-smoke and Goat

Mr Ishelwood left before sun-up. That was three suns ago. Dr Usui said to forget him, she was sure he’d be long gone by now.

‘But he took the rifle,’ I say.

Dr Usui embraces me. Her furs smell of wood-smoke and goat. She spits into a callused hand and smooths my hair over my scalp. I close my eyes. She sings in a tongue I don’t understand, but it makes me feel less frightened.

I can’t sleep when nights are so cold. I lie staring into black, and shiver, wondering why the train tracks ended here – in the middle of nowhere – and why we can’t go back.

Mr Ishelwood told us of dangers back there far worse than freezing to death. To escape his thoughts he would set off alone in search of wood and food. He was a big strong man, but always his eyes were full of fear.

I heard the rifle shot twice, when five of us became three. I didn’t need to ask Dr Usui, and she didn’t need to tell. I preferred not to speak to Mr Ishelwood from then on.

Now we are two.

The days have grown shorter; the firewood damper, and soon there will be just berries to eat and melted snow to drink. We share a bed, Dr Usui and I; it’s not so cold this way.

On a day we think near our last, we hear a rifle shot; the same sound as before. Dr Usui wipes a window free of mist, and through a circle we search the horizon. The light is strong, blinding and painful. We blink it better.

They are coming, four of them – on horses – galloping through the snow, kicking up a veil of white.

I smell wood-smoke and goat, and hear a familiar song.

Delighted that this piece was placed third by judge Jan Kaneen in Zero Flash’s May competition. 

It’s a good job we’re not a competitive household, as Bibi, (Mrs H) was the winner!

 

Eve

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Eve

She walks at dawn, the first to scar sand smoothed by the ocean, the first to mark the canvas with scalloped toe-prints, the first to see the sky dissolve, and the first to hear the songs of the wind.

She is tired, and so very close now. Her hand smooths over the dome of her unborn’s refuge, whispering to him love in its purest form, from the purest of places. She feels a kick of anger from within, and asks him why.

Come now, she says, stroking her belly again, this world was made for all men, in all of their forms, she tells him. He kicks again, harder this time, and a tiny fracture bejewels her heart.

She lies upon the magic stone, burnished and cooled by the waves of the moon. The cave is dark beyond black, quiet beyond silence.

And here she sleeps, and here she dreams, and here she will wait.

 

Awakened by the howling of wolves, she knows it is time. Through the portal of the cave’s entrance, she sees the moon; milky and full and bathed in the diaphanous silk of clouds.

The wolves’ cries dance on the wind; the wind dances with the sea. Waves, rising and falling: waves of rage, of calm, of life, and of death.

And so he is born.

He emerges from the cave to take his place in this world, to kick, to fight and to struggle, and to carry with him forever a part of his mother.

 

This piece first appeared with Zero Flash; placed third in the March 2016 competition.

The photograph is of a winter sunrise in Alonnisos

 

The blackstart

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This popped out one afternoon on a day I’d just about resigned to being a blank page day. I read it to my audience of one, and it made her chuckle – which is always good enough for me.

The Blackstart

The Blackstart comes when she’s in town,

to peck at crumbs put on the ground

for sparrows, who come in fours and fives –

plus one to watch, plus one to cry, a warning

if Mrs B is by, or Maggie the magpie with the evil eye.

And sometimes doves will coo on down,

then button their lips to make no sound –

a couple: a wife, a husband, (or lover)

and help themselves to what’s left over.

But if they’re seen, they’re shooed away,

I’m not sure why. I couldn’t say.

The Blackstart always comes alone,

she takes her fill and then is gone

on flittered wing, for she’s made some plans,

to the beach perhaps to kick some sand,

or dip her feet,

or catch the sun,

to take a tea,

to meet someone…

Or does she always dine alone?

I’ll ask her… When she comes again.

There’s a starman…

I, like millions of my, and next generations, was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of David Bowie. I heard the news in an email from my big sister, fitting really, as it was she who loved him first, back in the 70’s. A love I inherited.

I was travelling on that Monday, and not connected to social media most of the day, but in my own way wanted to write something. So I did, whilst on a ferry. On the same morning I’d seen my writing prompt for this week, which seemed oddly connected.

When I did get to see the outpouring on twitter etc., it was testament to the creative genius of the man how everyone seemed to have chosen a different track to remember him by. Music spanning genres and decades, electric and acoustic, but all crafted from the beautiful mind of David Bowie.

And to think, just two days before, my wife and I were marvelling as we listened to the Blackstar album, remarking on its utter brilliance.

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…Waiting in the sky (A short fiction)

Our protagonist sits alone in his dressing room, staring into himself. With one finger he delicately lowers an eyelid and holds it still. With the other hand he applies the black pencil. He is the best man for the job. He is the best woman for the job. Whereas other men would be clueless and afraid of such a task, he is confident, skilled, and comfortable. And he is fearless.

There are still a few minutes until show time. He picks up his twelve-string and strums a few chords that sound lifeless, their resonance swallowed up by dressing room walls swathed in old, brown carpet. He takes a snatched drag on a cigarette left to wither in an ashtray two hours full of largely un-smoked butts, and mirror watches the whispered smoke snake and coil and fade. There are twenty-seven light bulbs framing the mirror, but it is he who burns brightest. Today is July the third, a diary date that he had noted many months ago.

There’s a tapping at the door and a familiar voice announces five-minutes until show time.

In the auditorium, we are waiting, all three thousand of us. We have manoeuvred and jostled ourselves into positions that give us a chance of catching a closer glimpse, a moment, his eye, him falling into our hearts.

The theatre is church dim, smoke hazy, throbbing with nervous anticipation, and anxious with excitement. Then the hum of chatter and laughter ebbs away from a collective sense of imminence. We have waited six months. We would have waited six more.

The players take to the stage. And then he appears; one hand gives a humble salute. We all holler and scream. They’re awaiting a lull, a quiet, and once we comply, they begin.

Three thousand minds become one. Together we sing and we dance. We will never forget this night.

After the final song our protagonist announces that tonight is the last time, that this was the final performance, that this is the end. We all think literally, we all think inside the box. We cry sadness all the way home, and then we cry joy, grateful for having had this night.

But it is not the end. Only for these particular flamboyant characters is it the end. They were a cast created by the mind of a grand designer, and only for them is the pageant over, darlings killed off in their pomp. It is now time for the new. It would be all too easy to continue wearing the same guise. But that’s not his style. He will discard advice from businessmen and bosses, all of those feeding from his flesh: from his melody, his craft, and his voice.

Our protagonist is a genius, he is an artist, and he is an innovator. He is shape-shifter, poet and creator. He is without fear, and will never rest on what has been, I suspect, not even as the final curtain falls.

I am…

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Lauren can put her leg behind her head. She can only do this because she does it many times a week – many times a month – many times a year. And she has done this for many years. She does not truly know why she does this; it has never become an easy thing to do. She followed her guru’s instructions, though he spoke no English. She followed his directions, though at times he seems disinterested in her. She follows him still, though he is no longer of flesh. She still hears him in her head.

Some days her body is simple – her mind is complex. Some days her body is complex – her mind is simple. This is her journey. Every day she swims, sometimes with the tide, sometimes against the tide. This is her life. Her practice has become her gauge.

Lauren does not like the dark. She cannot see in the dark as those big-eyed fish in the deep oceans do. Sometimes Lauren is in the dark. She does not like the dark. Lauren can put her leg behind her head. It helps her escape the dark. Her Guru says life is simple – said; life is simple. Lauren had, has her doubts. Guru laughs, freely, like a child. Life was never simple, life is never simple, but she heads towards the light, and on some days she too laughs, though not as freely as her Guru.

Lauren can hold her breath, her breath in, and her breath out. Holding her breath in, or her breath out, brings stillness into her mind, calming the waves. It brings stillness to every single cell of her body. Life can be simple, and sometimes, even beautiful.

Lauren has been learning Greek. Her favourite verb is εἰμαι. Εἰμαι translates as ‘I am.’ Her favourite Sanskrit mantra is ‘So ham.’ It can be said to mean ‘I am that.’ She breathes out with the sound of ‘soooo’ in her mind, and she breathes in with the sound ‘hummm,’ also in her mind. These are also the natural sounds of the breath. When reversed, the mantra becomes ‘Ham sa,’ it is said to mean, ‘that I am.’ This is a helpful mantra for Lauren.

Even when she is in the darkest ocean, where only the fish with big eyes can see, she knows that light is sure to follow. She just has to be patient, put her leg behind her head, and breathe.

I originally posted this on the ‘Visual Verse’ website. I have edited it slightly from that version.

Giving Thanks

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This is the practice. Sitting quietly with my breath, alone, with my thoughts. Having a special moment to give thanks – to my guides, gurus, parents, and teachers. To thank those who have helped me reach this day. Today (December 4 2015) as I practiced, I thought of some of those people, who, maybe unknowingly, have made such an impression, and helped shape my path in some small way. And I was thinking particularly of those who I encountered earlier in my life, musicians and songwriters, those creative, fearless people, brave enough to cast their souls into this, at times, unforgiving world. So, I decided to write a piece on this theme, and to give me some kind of structure, I’ve decided to work alphabetically. Otherwise, I may veer off into no mans land. I may anyway, so I apologise in advance. And to help limit me, I will include only people whom I have physically encountered and worked with, however tenuous that link may have been. I may have known them for six months, a year, or fifteen minutes, or just witnessed them from a distance, but with all, an impression of some sort was left behind. This will be a memoir of sorts, with a few anecdotes, and hopefully musical interludes inserted along the way. I’m sure that a few yogis and teachers of some form will pop into the list as well. Thank you if you’re still with me. And if it becomes a little too much for you, you can always close the window and move on. You have a choice, you know.

History: Lets start in 1982. I am 16 years of age. I have left school, (well, I kind of left 2 years before, but that’s another story) and have absolutely no idea what I want to do with the life ahead of me. My brother-in-law has told me of a job opportunity in a recording studio. Currently his own brother does the job, but he wants to leave to train as a chef. I like music. (punk & reggae) I don’t like cleaning. But that, (cleaning) and tea making are the two main requirements of the post, in fact, that’s basically it. Clean, and make tea – big stainless steel urns of tea, enough to satiate a full 90-piece orchestra on a 15-minute break. I go for an interview. They offer me the job. I take it. The hours are early morning until early afternoon. I have to take the train before six in the morning and had to have cleaned control rooms, and studios, and toilets, and corridors – all long before the first session of the day. I am part of a team of two, me and a grey-haired Irish lady, Monica, who is a very kind lady, but woe betide anyone stepping on her freshly waxed floor in dirty shoes! This is Olympic Studios, once graced by such musical heavyweights as Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie, just a few amongst numerous others to have recorded there. But now it’s a little weary, trading on memories, and catering mainly for recording film and TV scores, or jingles for adverts, (it has a couple of 35mm film projectors.)

This is where it began.

Continue reading “Giving Thanks”

Just

Tate Modern

Here is my not so short, but not so long, story Just that appeared on the Tethered By Letters on line journal earlier this year. (click on the title to read)

“Moving and well-written. I could have never guessed the end, not in a million years. Thanks for an enjoyable read.”

 

Whatever Happened To The Laughing Gnome?

Here’s a very short piece of prompted Flash Fiction that first appeared here: Zero Flash

It never won, but if you are of a certain age and musical persuasion it may appeal.

By the way, the visual prompt was of a stone dragon gorging on a gnome, and here’s the musical reference: The Laughing Gnome

Whatever Happened To The Laughing Gnome?

We had a whale of a time living in Bromley. It was Mrs Jones that took me in, but her boy David that took a shine to me. He thought me an oddity cool enough to duet with him on one of his songs – he didn’t even know we gnomes could sing!

And laugh! I nearly cracked my side when we recorded our song for real. ‘We’re going to be stars!’ he said.

David let me invite my family over to stay. Fred, my brother was a bit suspicious of him, ‘something in the eyes,’ he said. But I ignored him. He’d given me my big break after all, and it was such a thrill when our song came on the radio.

But the tune never hit.

In fact it bombed.

In fact, it was universally mocked!

It seemed we were not going to be famous after all.

Fred said he’d met this dragon in Soho who said I was the best thing about the record, and a huge star in the making. He said that if I formed my own group he’d launch our careers. I didn’t much like to let David down, although he’d embarked on a direction I sensed would not include me. Then the day all these longhaired spiders from Mars arrived at the house, I knew we were through, so packed my bags and left.

Fred phoned the dragon, and arranged a meeting. I know I should have been a bit suspicious he wanted to meet in some alley behind Berwick Street, even more so of the powdery tasting champagne he greeted us with. But hey, hindsight and all that.

So alas, within seconds we’re as stiff as boards, our bodies can’t move, but our eyes continue to work, and poor old Fred is first on the menu.