I select a single, little, white tube from its small, cardboard coffin. The spark, the flame, ignites its soul and the smoke carries its memory to the ashtray in the sky.
Fresh brugmansia sang from the windowsill. Floral trumpets spicing the air with the endless possilities of the world.
* * *
He watches his cereal forming their novice symmetry in the gritty, pale pink milk. He spears one of the soggy hoops with the end of his biro, flattens out the pad and begins the letter. Milky, cheesy ink forms smeared words as quick as scissors. The countries leaders would take notice of him now. His voice would be heard. His ideas for the perfect state needed to be absorbed by the heads of government; who flailed, he thought, like a severed, angry cable setting light to the wilting, morally dehydrated population. His name would be remembered by the common folks. The men and women who toiled without adequate compensation, for decades, to provide for their children, before being lowered into their plots.
Our ‘protagonist’ saw himself as a radical, in a time where radicals were desperately needed. To others, he was avoided. His family and friends had long ago severed contact.
His only companion was an old mare. Her name was Daisy.
He wrote about her once, after waking from a bout with the night terrors.
“Strumming the air, gutterscotch; girl ghost. Not the fairies that flitter around the bedside, all tit’s an’ ass. Homely souls, these bar barrel, fuller, meaner women. Bellies full of eggs. Goose fat ass, butterblind.
Echoes from the death of love. Who is this new aparition? Mother, I failed. The horse, dragging herself towards the barrels of my gun. Scotch in your purse. I lifted it, lowered the barrel, channelled the cartridges, kissed her brain with shot and walked away, the stable ringing with silence.
Dribbling tears, snot and whiskey, the stable stands stock still in the dead of night. Huddled in the corner, I curried some eggs I’d fetched from the squeaky coop. The recipie from the cookbook of Lucifer himself, whose smile doesn’t comfort me, nor leave me self-assured in my slaughterhouse hour.”
He rubbed the paper, finally with fresh prawns. Sealed the envelope and addressed it, big.
* * *
On his way back from the post box, he saw a water spout form above the channel. A whirling, vaporous proboscis. Certainly, he thought, to suck the sea into outer space.
My heart does not know what is happening to it, since it can’t speak the lingo. But, nevertheless, it jolts with greif as I, and it, speed out of London. That’s its language; the beat, the heavy thudding of the heels of reality, of death. Our death. And a good thing it can’t speak, or it would be screaming “Phone her, phone her, phone her!”; relentlessly, and with no regard for its own sense of finality. It doesn’t understand the space between the beats. All it knows is now, now, now!
And I wish I didn’t agree with it. Because all I want is to be laying down next to her as we pour smiles and love into one another.
They picked the wrong man. Definitely picked the wrong man. They all seemed down to earth and kind. If a little nervous, understandably. They even joked about the idea of being picked out. The silence that fell, like a maimed colossus, was sickening. The D.I. was a disgusting human being. As soon as he walked into the room a gust of something foul and alien followed him. A bogey was smeared around one nostril. Some of it was caked in the unnaturally straight, black hairs of his moustache. He strode past us, glaring and snorting. With each snort, a droplet of snot appeared, before disappearing quickly when he inhaled, wheezily. The hatred that poured from him was enough to make anyone physicality ill. And he made sure we knew exactly how he felt about us. My heart lurched as he passed me without so much as a glance and fixed his rotten, yolky eyes upon a squat, portly gentleman dressed in tweed and wearing an immaculate pair of Oxfords. My temples throbbed. The words queued themselves up on the tip of my tongue; ready to take the plunge, had their owner not been such a gutless coward.
The D.I. spun around on his heels and smiled at himself in the one way mirror behind which the victim stood, presumably. As he left, his two henchmen, both carrying powerful automatic weapons, growled at us.
You hear the words ‘deafening silence’ but until you’ve experienced it for real you can’t possibly know what they mean.
Each man’s fate started him coldly in his eyes. Death, with long teeth and deep, dark, empty cavities from which the promise of nothingness blares.
* * *
In a nauseating display of cruelty, they beat the portly gentleman in front of the citizens of his home town. Then they vaporised him, followed by a fireworks display and dancing girls.
* * *
I sat on the end of my bunk in a run down capsule hotel and listened to the crowd drowning out my tired copy of ‘Now 1561’. I’d been saving up my tablets for a number of months and was able to aquire some bootleg moonshine. The marriage of the two would get me through. Through this night and into a longer one. One where I hope to meet a man dressed in tweed. That I might beg him to forgive me. My tears splashing upon his mirror shine Oxfords. And I’ll thank him as he pulls the lever, opening up the bowels of Hades; in readiness to receive my corrupted, blackened soul.
8 minute countdown. Flames melting the draught excluder. A moth, dead-eyed, waiting for death. One wrong turn. It’s life snuffed out by a kitchen light. Potato and leek soup. Sleeping pills.
Late for work. Sacked. Walk the streets. Empty headed. Compose letter to landlord, ‘Due to unforeseen circumstances…’
The family will worry.
Pinch off a scab. Blow nose. Make a list of things to do. Know that something is missing. The moth stuck to the cheaply painted walls.
Open window. Conversations. Other, weird dinners. Presents from old lovers spill out of the cardboard box. One had a card tied with a red ribbon. Read the card. The card begins… ‘darling’.
It’s your eyes. You have such handsome eyes.
But the years later, those long, dragging, alcoholic years; those are the years that take away the handsome.
The other day, let’s say last weekend, a young barmaid said “You look tired”. It got me. I left the bar. Don’t cry for me. You are me. There’s a hole waiting for all of us. And my two peepers, they have sunk deep into puffed cushions; crimson veins spread across those handsome eyes. But still, there is nothing to complain about. There is never anything to complain about. You don’t need to live in a council flat to feel pain and pressure. It’s not necessary to receive physical punishment, day after day, to be a prize fighter. All you need is a heart. Something in common.
You tell me all I need to hear with your eyes.
And I have composed letters to her; many, many letters. None have been sent. I’d have sent them if I wanted to feel the rush again. The shudder from the past. Temporary, at best.
In its original incarnation, we were good. Now, it would be war. War every second, every minute etc.
So I went out and spent money. The cashiers, I avoided eye contact. Still haunted by the ‘tired’ comment. Not because I hated the author, but because I hated the truth. I was tired. I am tired. But still, there is nothing to complain about. There are noisy neighbours. There is a cheap life. There is nothing but the foulness of goodbyes and hello’s. What is in these hello’s and goodbye’s can only be gauged by asking the askers. To me, it’s just noise. A rumble in the air. Like rain. But not thunder. No thunder. Oh, for thunder. Sometimes I pray for storms. Between punches, I jab away the demons with white burgundy.
Through a time of fantasy and dreams, an anti-cynicism, we loved each other. Then the time arrived when we had to face reality. Sadly, tragically, we failed reality. Not the other way around.
Shadow boxing in front of the mirror, I notice my eyes. Tired.
He drew himself back on his wobbly spine, fizzing brain; if not with intelligence, then beer, and threw the punch. His eyes did not follow the swing, though he felt the slight tap as the knuckles, his knuckles, lightly brushed the outer, leathery edge of the bag. It creaked backwards and clacked back into its mechanised housing…almost tiresomely. He recovered his balance and, with his brain spinning in confusion, humiliation, then a building, white hot self-hatred, he watched the clock add up his score.
215. A child would have hit more powerfully.
Within a few laps of the clock, the ‘pugilist’ drank away his sorrows surrounded by gaudy, dusty photos; drying his tears on memories he might as well have invented from scratch. From deep within this musty grave lined with bunting and fairy lights, worms reached out for a single swing at his jaw, confident they might be able to floor him. Perhaps they’d heard the news. Perhaps they just wanted to kiss him, then bore into his soft, dainty flesh and remove him from the gene pool for to provide valuable fertilizer.
Perhaps. But the grave, the worms and the photographs waving in the layers of muck in a whirlwind, were phenomena that existed in the mind, and the mind only, of the failed pugilist. The grey destroyer. The punk with the clip-on nose ring. The man of the world, as seen through the comfort of the first class cabin window.
He took his precious moleskin note-book from his blazer and wrote the following instruction:
“To do – Monday: Buy shovel”.
I was listening to a radio programme. On the internet. They were playing these old soundtracks from the 70’s and the 80’s. The sort of thing we would have heard when we were kids. The sort of thing you used to love. And I thought of you when I heard it. I though ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.
It’s like last night.
Saw this beautiful film. An animation; scratchy, heart-wrenchingly well observed. It was about a man and his dog. It was like they could read one another’s minds. And my heart ached with this distant, wayward kind of joy. Weird. Put me on the back foot. This joy that I’m on about, it carried a sadness with it. Like I’d dug up a grave and found two hearts, barely beating, lying side by side together at the bottom of a muddy grave. It had such a strange effect on me this film. The man reminded me of your Dad. The way he was. And the dog, an Alsatian, reminded me of your old dog. I remembered how me and you used to go out to the common and watch her jump into the long grass, biting the heads off the tulips. I remember how she would hurry back to us to check that we were still there. She seemed happy to find us there together. She seemed to smile.
And, yeah, as I watched this film I thought ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.
And I would have done. I would. But then I remembered that I hated you.
(Draws deep on the black cigarette. There are animals (unidentified) squawking, barking and moaning in the darkness. Wonders if he could join them. Complete the chorus, so to speak. The gold tip of the cig is designed to hint at great quality. Status. He kills himself in style. Yet, still, there is nothing to drink. And ornate bottles promise, goad and bully from the fragments of memory buried low in private, murky recesses. The night is still, aside from the chatter or prayer of the animals. Though an inexplicable and exotic tremor underlies the torpor; as though poised to burst from the tepid trunk of this mortal drudgery from an incomprehensibly preternatural dimension. The fantasy curls with the smoke out into the damp, forgettable evening and dies without a beat, interrupted only by the glow of dead stars.)
He – this man, whoever he is – drops the cigarette onto the grass. He can’t see the grass for the dark but he knows it’s there, humming with a thousand, ancient secrets. And he can’t see the cigarette either. Just its burning tip. He watches it fade; so slowly, as though it is his eyes that are failing. The glow fades until, finally, it disappears altogether. The cigarette, he knows, is still there, somewhere, where he knows the grass must be.
New. But mouldering and off. Sad skin. And flesh of powder. Run for the hills. Don’t look back. They will forget about you quicker than the changing of the seasons. It was not you they wanted anyway. And if they are reading this then they shouldn’t be. They should be getting on with their fucking life.