Tick Tock V.39

I dropped orange paint on my jeans. The paint smeared by the right pocket. So now if I need to get my keys I end up with paint on my hand. And on my keys. Or my lighter. Or my snot tissue. And then I end up with tangy cadmium paint on my snot tissue, which ends up on my nose. I scratch my forehead in consternation and smear more paint on my face.

Sat in my comfy chair after work. After dinner. Eyelids heavy; thoughts of the past. Mental slideshow of fun times and a few horrors. Struggle to move in the chair. Blinking takes up the remaining energy I have left. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about expending too much on the painting, not having that great facility for declaring the world my own brushstroke. No, the world isn’t mine. When I sleep, the world will still be beautiful. And when I die, the view of Earth from the moon will be little changed. After people, the sky will busy with wildlife again. And paradise will return.

Then I remember the paint on my jeans and get really annoyed and burst onto the street all rage and hatred and fight and pull out a cigarette and smoke it because that’s what fucking writers do isn’t it?


She Sleeps, He Sleeps

You can walk down the same street and never see where it is you’re going. Trip on a kerb, fall into a wall at that eerie time of night when the only sound is the buzzing of yellow street lights. You might not even see the blind baby bat wriggling in a huge spider web hanging between facing walls of an alleyway. Might not ever notice the girl who see’s you stagger home that way, every Friday night. Her eyes, behind that window, wondering who you are. She wants your blood, to obliterate you so she won’t have to stand there waiting for you to come along. To make her feel like she wants you gone.  Or maybe she wants something else. To make you tea. To warm you up. And maybe that’s all. Just to keep you warm. And she’ll be happy to send you on your way as soon as some colour, some semblance of life has been restored to your carcass. She would like to tell you about your drinking but would never dare.

You look out into the middle of the road, keeping the rows of terraces either side. You imagine that the houses have no windows. No doors even. And you imagine her, inside bricks and alone and quiet. For no real reason, your feet tread more carefully upon the pavement. You blink, like an idiot.

Then there’s some sick.

You turn your head. There are windows. And in one is the face of an old man. Lit by red light, his face appears frozen in a scream. The light goes off and drab, faded green curtains replace the face.

A motorbike helmet lies upon its side in the middle of the road. A rat scampers from it. Out of the shadows, a large lizard darts after the rat.

Your mind, you realise, is too easily adept at scurrying away from even a daydream of twisted love.

Better to dig a hole deep into the dark places. Peer into the realm of creatures for whom death and murder are the only possibility. But, then, there is always the salvation of the bar at the end of the road. And who knows, maybe that other one will be in there. The one who you play at sensitive with. The one that plays at attracted to you.

But first, a pint.

And, behind another window…

She would cry but she can’t because she doesn’t feel sad. At least not in that way. She has seen him and he seemed okay and that makes her happy. She has seen him worse. At least, she thinks to herself, he’ll be safe. And as the another one climbs clumsily on top of his half-conscious body, giggling with white wine, she lays her head upon her pillow and sleeps. For the first time that week, she sleeps.

Old Fashioned

He passed ghosts in the street. Some leered at him whilst others glanced briefly, then grinned at themselves at some inside joke. The day was in full swing but he felt as though there were an enormous veil across the sky, blanketing the universe from influencing the comings and goings of misery, substance abuse and commerce. He saw spectres, like him, with shocked expressions, as though they knew what they were but would not, or could not, acknowledge it. There were abandoned prams outside pubs.
Someone had painted frowning eyes on the back window of their car. He thought, ‘everything wears an angry expression, unless it’s defeated, dead, or dying.’
It had been months since he’d, disbelieving, seen the further degradation of the animal he once loved. Now collapsed, its legs atrophied beyond recognition, wheezing its final breaths, it was on the threashold of devastating the world at the same time that it left it.
‘She’s been like that since you left,’ said his friend. ‘I thought you’d want to see her before…’ and his friend looked away. And he knew that his friend was crying.
As he shut the car door he heard the shot. For a second he imagined it was the car door. In the pit of his stomach, though, he knew that it wasn’t the car door.

*    *    *

The town reached up to the sky like a forest of dying hands. The stubbornness inspired him, in a sick way.


He laced on the gloves and examined his opponent. And he realised, had realised all along, like a bad ending (a bad ending) that the opponent was his unborn child. And that it, he, was in for a good, old-fashioned arse-kicking.

A Scrape

You can see my fag ends all over the car park. White tipped. Menthol. Little, dead things. Sort of cute, in a twisted sense.

The winds blow in off the Bristol channel but there is not much else in the way of action.

Apart, perhaps, for one of my little menthol fag ends blowing around the car park.

A swift darts through the air right in front of me. I watch it change direction in a heartbeat, mildly annoyed at its talents. It makes another pass. It gains in confidence and fly’s closer. I find myself smiling. And I’m annoyed that I’m smiling. It zips towards me in diagonal aerobatics and stops, hovering in mid flight, close to my shoulder, to have a better look at me. I hold my breath.

Finally, and in a supreme act of defiance, it settles close to my feet. It seems to be studying me, or playing.

I keep still, but the bird doesn’t appear to be that bothered about me. More, that is has its own reasons for being there and can be out of there, if needs be, in a split second.

I try to imagine what is going on in its little skull. Does this tiny thing consider anything other than survival? Is it possible, for instance, for it to agonise over passing the time? Might it not, in fact, be flying out of fun but due to of a screaming fit of boredom? Is it, just say, aware of the torture of 13:28 on a Tuesday afternoon, wondering how to fill the rest of the day without submitting to the safety and comfort of drink? Perhaps its twisting and turning in the air is a response to the withdrawal from fermented berries, or the result of the intoxication from them. That would explain its cockiness.

No, it’s more likely that they regard me as a curiosity; a thing requiring investigation to eliminate the possibility of whether or not it’s food. Better that than the maddening meanderings of the self-aware; dulling life, or the knowledge of its certain end, with booze. No, better, much better, to fly. It’s the booze that clips away the wings like dry, dead branches from a once glorious rose-bush.

I scrape my brogues into the gravel to stop myself thinking of drink and the swift fly’s away.

The Revenge of the Customer Service Attendants

The big woman yapped on at her colleague in the petrol station and reached out for my items. It was lunch. Then she burped and, under her breath, said sorry; not directly to me but to someone, or something else; perhaps as a force of habit. It was lunchtime. I had been hungry.
* * *
Have lunch in my car again. On the menu was reformed foam is the shape of crisps, sushi and apple juice. And it all tasted the same just looked different. And when it was eaten there was neither the feeling of contentment or satisfaction. Rather, that my body was part of a larger experiment. Maybe the experiment could be called, ‘What Can we Pass as Food?’
* * *
All the time we spend in queues at petrol stations is less time in nature, more in hell.
* * *
I’ve never seen anyone smile in these. Not, at least, the customers anyway.
In my mind the day has already arrived; we each of us have our heads clamped between to iron bars in long rows. We kneel on all fours and are grazed and our own shit stings, and infects, the gashes. And here they come; the customer services attendants, grinning, with slop buckets in hand. And they are burping and enormous, waddling towards us. They eat chocolate bars and dump a pinkish porridge on the floor in front of us.
And though we know the contents, we are hopelessly programmed to eat it anyway.
Our necks strain at the bars to finish every last morsel.

On Sundays

It was just a packet of crisps. And it didn’t even have the crisps in it any more. Its function served, it lay in the gutter after it had been thrown there by a careless creature. The crisps chewed and made into a sluggy pulp not yet in the stomach and here it was, in the gutter, now in the road, now whipped into the air. It was just a packet of crisps. In time to be jabbed by gull beak and eventually buried forever. Maybe uncovered by an alien race when the other creatures die out (which, it seemed, they were well overdue for) who would treat the packet of crisps like a precious thing. Perhaps found a religion on it. And it would be the image of the God Head. The new creatures, the aliens, would wear small versions of it around their necks and each eat a crisp on Sundays. But then, it was just a packet of crisps, without even the crisps.

It’s Alive

She stood before the children. She wrung her hands continually. Her heart fluttered with fear, not of the children but of God. She was afraid of God. Her children never knew what it was she wrung her hands about so much. Sometimes it was as though she’d been crying for hours, her glasses seemed to be made of tears. We watched her and were afraid ourselves. Afraid of what would terrorise us as adults, of what was waiting for us. At least, that’s how it seems looking back.
And of those that are still around the old town, those that did not escape, are postmen, butchers, builders, grocers, single mothers, check out girls, convicts.
And of those who shone like supernovae, there was a terror. A terror big enough to put out the brightness. And it come in the form of television, newspapers, alcohol, women, men, the ‘real’ world, stepfathers, operations, accidents, medication, breakdowns, muddy scars in the front lawn where the daughters boyfriend parks his saxo, a ‘quick’ bottle of wine before breakfast and the doctor who couldn’t; save you, save me, save anyone, the damp walls, the cold shoulder, the clattering fencepost, the dead grey days, the season of murder garnished with tinsel.
What we saw in her eyes was perhaps a fear of the truth. The realisation of deception. An uncaring, all powerful being.
Looking back now it’s easy. It’s easy to see what was going on. Back then we were just children. They made us sing their funny songs about God and how great He was and how lucky we are that He loved us.
We were too fragile to be told the truth. But we would, all of us, find out sooner than we expected.
None of us were astronauts, firemen, prime ministers, doctors.
And none of us had a chance in the beginning anyway.


He has this funny way about him. I don’t know. And what is going on between them anyway? You always see them together. I mean, there must be something going on between them, you know? I don’t know.

He ‘d been having problems with the phone for  three weeks now. He knew all about the neighbours vaginal discharge, that the husband stayed out too late and always came home drunk, that the neighbour, that was me, had funny ways and must have been having an affair with this woman she kept seeing him, or me, with.

His tee-shirt had ridden over his belly and he pulled at one of the hairs there while he listened to the neighbours. Better the devil you know, he thought.

Fried  up some eggs and took his tablets and looked out at the street, the garage, road signs, men, women, dogs and thought ‘fuck this’. He was desperate for a piece but feared that it might fall off. Some people have irrational fears about tsunamis, his was about spontaneously detaching genitals. The thought horrified him enough not to pursue the urge.

*    *    *

“What do you do without a teevee?” Someone at work once asked him and he felt the need to scream. It was as though the world had really turned into the hell feared by some it might become. Somehow, he thought, the ad men have convinced us – by using sinister techniques – to buy things we don’t need, in order to convince us that the world had not died. We were all mourning, alcoholic widows clutching the ad men’s bottle of gin; popping pills and wearing strained, awful smiles.

He imagined these men as a little mournful themselves. But it was their job to lie and make-believe everything was fine. What was the alternative?

The war of despair…a return to street massacre for no other reason than boredom and frustration…anarchy on a level to turn the stomachs of the anarchists…lawlessness…disease…malice…

So, instead, we gaze a our dream-boxes and pray to a god with fake tan and tippex white teeth for a fresh trinket to distract the brain from setting the sky alight with madness, sheer ‘I know that one day I shall die’ madness…

*    *    *

He checked his watch; two hours later; he popped another pill, sighed and went back to bed.

Little Finger

He sat in his fathers car and the words wouldn’t come. He sat there in the car that he could never afford and he thought about the life he was leading and where it was leading. He played with ideas about leaving the town. The idea of staying made him feel both sick and alone. Yet he already was sick. He was already alone. After a million disappointments he knew it was naive to believe that anywhere else would be different. But he thought that a different landscape; different face, would make the difference. Without worrying about what those who knew him wanted or expected.

Are you still painting?

Still writing?

So, where you working these days?

Living the dream yet?

Are you coming over Christmas day?

Without these distractions, he thought maybe he’d have a chance. Might be able to make a life that was, at the very least, tolerable.

He felt the back of his neck and winced with pain. There were knots within knots. Ancient knots. Scrunched up muscle caused by this, that and the other. And he knew that there would always be this, that and the other. But in his mind there was, if not a better place, somewhere he could lay down his head and know that, if it were going to be his last night of life, he could die with dignity.

A bus pulled up outside in the street. He heard the brakes screeching. Then he picked his nose with his little finger and wondered how to finish.