Hot Neck, Cloud Man and Dog Poo

Poppy said her neck was hot. So I blew on it. She glared at me like I’d slapped her in the puss.

A man stood about fifty feet away. He was staring at the clouds. He was chanting too. Chanting that he wanted to make the clouds change shape. A rhino? A girl? A hypothalamus?

Poppy undid the top buttons of her blouse and laid down upon the picnic mat. I raised my eyebrows and blinked out towards the boats. They are going to rebuild the Titanic, I thought, in conversation with myself. I thought about telling Poppy. Decided it was best not.

The man was still there, his hands clapping together, silently somehow. An little, old woman was walking her tiny dog. The little, old woman stared at the cloud man. She stared and wore an intense frown on her little, wrinkled face. Rather like how a cat arches its back when it thinks its going to be attacked. She had nothing to worry about though, the man was light years away.

Just then I heard what sounded like a single, muffled note from a trumpet in a mouse orchestra. Poppy cleared her throat.

The little, old woman walked past and mouthed the words “Morning.” I ignored her. I felt like standing up and chanting, just to wind her up.

The man began shaking his head around. If he’s not careful he’ll go over the cliff, I remember thinking. No more clouds.

The tiny dog coiled out a turd into an otherwise pleasant afternoon. The little, old woman picked it up through an inside-out bag. Then she pulled the bag out the right way and tied it off. The tiny dog trotted ahead, not wanting to be downwind, presumably.

“What is that smell.”  said Poppy. “Have you farted?” .

Recipe for Soup II

The final hours, the complicated ones, those which corrode the sense of who we might be; who tell us who we are, for better or worse. Each tick of the clock sends shivers down the spine. And as they eyelids grow more and more heavy, the air thickens like a dense soup. One drop of which could knock a man out in seconds. Falling to the floor as though he were made of metal and the world was a tremendous magnet. Having the time to do what we want is a luxury. Having work to do, whether it’s sorting out paperwork, clearing a space for dinner or writing letters to people who have disappeared from view, is a necessity. The wine bottle was filled with dead flies. The clock counted the number of times he thought about her. Plans were made for the escape. The mind was set to the task. An open landscape, the sky a beautiful gradient of cerulean blue into salmon pink. An expansive desert with jagged rocks protruding in what look like deliberate patterns. And a swarm of spheres oscillating above them. The air resonates with a symphony dedicated to morning, noon and night. The sounds disappear when the mind is aware of them, then quickly they snap back once it treats them as a part of the great play. The sand is a brilliant white, made purple by the mixture of colours in the azure. The hours do not carve their certainty here. The mantle of knowledge has no place in the zone of emptiness. That it exists is uncertain. Though the mind is tired, it treads confidently upon the pulverized sand made of ancient sea shells. Small grains of sand, whipped up a faint breeze, a thought, a panic, fizz against the rough shafts of the rock. Tick, tock, tick, tock. The pan boils; as each bubble explodes, small droplets of the soup fall into the vortex. The pen nib snaps. Ink sprays across the page. The smell of old meat, fresh flowers and blind panic fill the nostrils. With the blunt end of the pen, pouring with oily, black liquid, he writes:

 

mouthwash – paracetamol – smoothie”

Tyres on Wings

Sitting indoors listening to my friend snoring while a video about war blares in the background. I have some drugs though, so the night should be okay. Bodies everywhere; frozen in violence across a snowy landscape and sunken into the sofa. Above the house, the stars burn and blink like a million small chips in a windscreen. The storm is silent. And then I remember her. She was the most beautiful woman I could remember seeing in a long time. And between there was this effortless intellectual compatibility. Her eyes shined so brightly that they could easily have been made of crystal and it seemed as though there was another world in them. One unlike the world outside. Her body was perfect. And she carried it unpretentiously; graceful as a snake and easy with her movements. I wondered whether I was falling in love. I wondered if I might, too, be going mad. Why not? The feelings coursing through my body (yes, body) were so light and alien that I might as well have been full of pills, like a jar of sweets on a shelf during an earthquake. And soon, with her looking at me like that, saying those words, angling her body in that way, the tremors would shake the jar off the shelf, spilling me all over the grubby floor.

In the end, there was no way for me to make a pass at this woman. I walked away after a handshake. A handshake. We both let go slower than normal.

And as I drove away, feeling my life curl up like a dead man’s toes, I shook my head. Then the laughter came. And I laughed so ecclesiastically that I barely kept the car on the road. That’s it, I thought, instead of choosing love, or even the possibility of love, the chance, I have chosen madness.

I watched a bird disappear underneath the tyres of a car, which spewed its feathers and insides all over the road.

My friends mouth gapes open. There is war everywhere. Though none, it seems, like the one inside.

Finder of the New Day Without Himself Gone

This old man pranced around the heavy bag and tried to look like a boxer. He was breathing for three lungs. The coaches were stood around imploring him on, “Last minute Russ; come on mate, last minute!” Then one of the coaches said, “You’ve got a right hand too Russ!” and that did it. Though his arms were ready to fall off, his legs begged to die and his lungs burned like fire, it was the heart that bit down, saw red and bludgeoned that heavy bag with everything he had. That he was old didn’t bother him. In truth, he would have been happy to die with his gloves on. So he mixed it up with slick combinations; putting sting on his shots; moving in and out, side to side. He lunged in, threw an overhand right and the bag made a sound like a humpback hitting the water. And the old man skipped back like a ballet dancer, catching the bag with a sweet left hook as it swung back at him. He heard the beeps for the last ten seconds and felt it rise again in him. He refused to be beaten by his old body. And his old body was a wimp and he told it so. It just wanted to lie down. So the old man gave it an ultimatum: he said it could either help him fight these next ten seconds and leave a part of itself in the gym, or it could pack up and die and he was happy with either outcome. The body, his body, wasn’t even given time to answer. Russ, the old man, popped and thumped the bag with rapid combinations; jabs, backhands, hooks, uppercuts; darting around the bag, letting it swing by him…a centimetre from his nose; snapping jabs out, bouncing on his feet as though he weighed nothing. The body was so overheated that steam rose off it, like a racehorse. “You can die if you need to.” The old man said to his weak body, “I can’t give up.”

“Time!” said the coach.

Russ answered his arms call to hang by his sides, his legs to keep still and straight…his lungs gulped down more air than they could manage.

This was the thing…

For Russ, he faced Death. It had been grinning at him all day. In the darkness of his studio, when he was supposed to work, Death showed him pictures of all the people he loved dead or dying. It broke him down, tried to make him vulnerable; drunk on its blackness. Death wanted Russ to lay down and cry, to call for him, to desire him. Death was a lonely individual. And although Russ was lonely, he wasn’t going to start entertaining this dark hooded fucker. But he decided, as Death had been showing him so much attention, to invite him along to the gym. Death followed him, like a stray dog on the promise of a feed. And so Death, tails wagging, takes Russ to the heavy bag and goads him. And Death thrives on the fact that people fear him; he finds it very attractive in a prospective corpse. So Russ is training. And the old man needs to go all the way to the end, if that’s the way it’s going to be. Only thing is, Death doesn’t believe that Russ has the gonads for it. So he teases Russ. Sings his body a lullaby of fear; it responds, demanding that Russ slow down or, preferably, stop. But Russ has gone beyond the point of packing it in willingly. He is in a groove and, at the coaches comments, decides that a physical death would be much preferable to the one he’d certainly suffer from stopping. And, as the ten second beeps count down, Death’s cock shrinks smaller and smaller. Though he manages to steal six months from Russ, he does not take his life. And Russ knows that Death has disappeared, for now. There is no longer that smell in the air; the smell of the river, the storm, the fresh morning the day after you die. It has disappeared.

“Good last round,” the coach says.

And Russ tells himself, ‘Boy, you’re still here.’

In, Out and Back In

In the light of the early afternoon we watched the birds. They fluttered in the trees, eating nuts and appearing to exist in another dimension. My friend took a perfect kind of delight in their tiny creation. There was mist everywhere. The trees appeared to be tombs under which elaborate, eccentric prophets might have been buried. And where his disciples, these feathered freaks, paid their daily respects. I ran the tap and a jet of water bashed the sink, bouncing back out of my cup and spraying all over the front of my trousers. A few drops hit my face. One rolled down my nose, tickling it then dropping from the tip. I held out my tongue to catch it. The drop missed and landed on my shoe with a ‘tap’. One of the birds let go of a bird turd; white, like a dart and looked around itself as though embarrassed. Of course, it was not.

The television was on. My blood boiled in my veins. At that moment, I wanted to fight. Anyone. Everyone. The flickering contraption was actually dismantling my optimism, piece by piece. Displaying every vapid, facile swatch of humanity possible; cramming it into its narrow frame without pause for air. Imagining the number of people watching this at the same moment was terrifying. It’s a wonder that the world doesn’t split wide open with misery…

So instead, I dipped into my head and found a beautiful Spanish door, slightly ajar. Slender feet appeared beneath a neon mist. A scarlet petal fell to the floor, splashing like blood upon what appeared to be marble. Trapped in a cell, the mind of a man writhes and conjours. Wild images and fantasies are played out like war game scenarios. There is no such thing as reality. Love is waiting in the realm of the mind. Expect change.

Washing Instructions for Delicates

Mummified works in the back of the car. A head not bothered with the whys anymore. It was sunny. Blowing blue smoke at the windscreen for fun. Seeing shapes in it. Watching the road being devoured by the hungry machine. Sun stomp on the tarmac, on the grass, through the trees. So, heaven issued a new album. Makes it difficult to listen to anything else. Flowers spring and glide; mid-air, as though they have minds of their own. Smiles, pain, dying summer. Good, old heartbeat. Still ticking over, you son of a gun. Blinking at road signs. At passengers. At that face that looks back. But look, doesn’t it seem as though the warm season is waking up again? Summer insomnia? Just can’t get back to bed. Down with the tangy, brown leaves and dead birds. Dewy mornings. Paper rounds. Inky fingers. Cups of tea. Sealed eyelids.

New sun. Fresh gaze. Hundreds of toffee apples dangling from the ceiling. Classical music in the mind. The figure at the door. And open basket containing fresh rolls, butter and jam. The berries bursting in the pinch of love.

A dogs splashes into the river. Hard though it is to tell, it seems to me like it’s smiling.

 

One Shoe

This person said that the outside was a madhouse with rules so flimsy that it was staggering that it didn’t fall into chaos. Another person felt differently; that it already way chaos, that the world we perceive is merely all we know and that, if thought about for long enough, we were all of engaged in billions of private wars. The conversation was being watched by a third person, but he could only see the mouths moving. He guessed that they had been friends a long time now and now the relationship had grown strained. It was as though they would throttle each other if either had the energy or nerve. He put on his glasses and pretended not to look at the beautiful legs of a woman sat waiting on a seat on the platform.
She saw him look at her. What she really liked was when they were coupled and she could bury her nails into his back.
He guessed that she was a timid creature and walked further along the platform.
Up on the roof of the station, one pigeon pecked at the dead eye of another.
Across the planet, bullets fizzed through the air at £1.25 a pop, slowing suddenly as it hits flesh and bone.
Another waited for the train to work. One shoe, it appeared, was letting in water.
And it was cold.

Storm

Fumes part as her body cuts air currents, stares, conversations.
He sat in a small room waiting for the letters to arrive.
Twelve scratches. Wet sheets. The stomp.
Change of address.
Syncopated. Cyanide.
Simple sunset sweetness sugar.
And, for pudding, a note. From him, to her.
‘My Darling,
I can’t. Yes I see you everywhere and even on the television and yes, radio and, yes, even the newspapers and this, that and the other. But, darling…darling. When can we meet again? What, did you say, was your name?
‘Do you know the bandstand in Chinatown? 6 p.m.? I’ll be wearing tan brogues.’