Archive for November, 2010

“I only asked you two questions… No, I don’t care… You have to earn trust. You can’t just do all of that and then expect me just to trust you.”

They’re arguing again upstairs. This happens a lot: the voices through the ceiling.

“Y’know, when I came into this marriage, I prayed… and I believe in God and I prayed to him that you would change…”

His words are clearest, always. That Deep South accent with the long, flat vowels. She’s sharper, more clipped. I can tell, this time she’s standing in the hall. He’s on the couch.

You can tell a lot by listening.

“You can’t tell me there are rules to this!”

That’s her. Not so Deep South, more northern, I think.

“You just walk in and ask me what I’ve done all day. Ask why I deleted the search history…”

Ah, the modern marriage. It’s all breaking up by Facebook and what have you been Googling while I was out working all day? He’s looking in the wrong place.

You can tell by the way he talks he really loves her. You can tell by the way she talks. You can tell a lot from the way people argue.

She’s on the defensive. Closed off. He’s all frustrated, over by the couch. One of them turns the TV on.

“Leave me alone,” she says. “I want to watch my show.”

“You can’t just leave this…”

It’s quiet now. They might be running out of steam. They’ve been like this for years, back and forth, the battleground of the living room above. They don’t know yet, that I can hear every word.

I wonder, what would they say? What would they do if they could hear themselves like I hear them? Would she understand?

It’s calmed down now. The TV is on. She’s watching her show, her favourite show. He’s gone quiet, like he’s run out of steam. No dramatic ending. He doesn’t know yet. It’s our secret.

Words: 330

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It took days for the crime scene to be discovered, by a passing cyclist. By then, leaves from the lime trees lining the bridge had half covered the rigid body, with only a peek of pink epidermis peeping out from under autumn’s scarlet and jessamy blanket.

Peeling back this burial shroud, the forensics officer revealed the body of a young woman. He made notes: position face down… naked upper torso… through-and-through gunshot wound… lower back. This was unusual – a killer’s signature; what they in the trade called a trademark.

Maybe even something to go on.

The investigator, himself gloved like a murderer, checked for ID, but none was present. Plastic evidence numbers were dropped; photographs snapped, a camera clicking away with a quick shutter and a momentary flash, paparazzo style. “Ready for your close-up, madam?”

He shrugged Jane Doe over to look for more clues. Her hair curled wildly about her pale features, but wilder still were the wide baby blue eyes which now stared blankly up at the sky. How long had she been gazing down at the ground? He swabbed her dirty face and scraped trace out of her painted nails. From her tight pink trousers, he plucked tiny fibres – possible transfer from the perpetrator – poking them with tweezers into mini Ziploc bags.

The medical examiner pulled her lids closed. Abrasions on her delicate knuckles indicated a struggle, but they would have to run more tests back at the lab; analyse tox results; hypothesise a legitimate motive. The doctor couldn’t establish a precise time of death; C.O.D., however, was obvious.

They swept the area for a weapon; found a bullet embedded in the wooden handrail. The ballistics expert studied the round; suggested that perhaps she could get a match to the firearm discharged, locate its registered owner. The prime suspect.

The CSI sighed deeply. He knew it was unlikely to be their man. He’d been here before – leads cold, literally a dead end.

This time he was beat.

Words: 330

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I don’t even like balloons. I loathe them. I am allergic to their powdery edge. I gag at the thought of the smell of them. My ears start to bleed when I hear that pitching squeak. But he likes balloons you see. And I like him.

Oh diary… If only he would notice me. My full red lips. My long legs. My half-sphere breasts. My realistic hair. If only he could see me as more than air and plastic.

I know they are all looking at me, laughing at me, these rubber merchants. I know they think that I am no better than their novelty items. I am a woman though. I know that. If you hold me, do I not shiver. If you ignore me, do I not mourn. If you cut me, will I not puncture and die.

The beat off, my heart, the beat off. The voice lingers behind the beat. The words stutter slowly to life. The music haunts the conference centre and my love haunts me.

I wait for him in hotel lobbies and wedding parlours. I am the product of a best man’s cruel comedy, brought out from under the top table, the pretend affair of a faithful man. I sit in a box with a pair of patent leather shoes and a once-worn bow tie.

One night he came home late from the balloon factory and took the box down from the wardrobe. She was out. I don’t know where. He filled me with his breath, his life, and looked at me sadly. Then he shook his head and let the air flow back out of me.

For a few seconds I could taste the drink on his breath. I could feel the electricity of his touch as he ran a finger up my thigh searching for the nozzle.

Words: 305

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In that moment before the toe of her shoe made contact with the edge of the
brick, she knew that there had been a choice, and that at that moment billions
of atoms were rearranging themselves into the shape of the universe that she
believed she lived in.

She went down hard onto the stones and as she fell her ankle curled
underneath her. The pain was tearing muscle and stretching skin. She felt sick
immediately and then a noise of the sea and in her ears. She staggered towards the bench and sat down hard, gripping her head inbetween her hands.

A woman came towards her out of the darkness.

‘Are you okay?’
‘I think I’m going to pass out.’
‘Hold on to me, I’ll take you indoors.’
They reached the kitchen table and the noise in her ears grew louder.

She tried, by keeping herself close and tight, not to let it happen; but she couldn’t stop the blackness coming down and closing over her. She fell to the ground again, this time on smooth parquet, and not the sharp but yielding gravel. Whenshe came to she could see shoes at eye level. Voices came through the crackleof white noise still occupying her head.

Someone said, ‘What happened?’
‘She just collapsed when I got her in here.’
She felt a warm flood of urine soak through her jeans.
She began to cry, ‘I’ve wet myself.’

She felt hands lifting her up, a blanket was wrapped around her waist. She
was laid on the sofa. She turned on her side and continued to cry. Her tears
ran from her with the uncontained force of a waterfall. Her skin below the waist
was beginning to grow cold and the heavy sodden material clung to her legs.

Her hand lay within another hand, and fingers stroked her with a kind rhythm. And then the words fell from her in a chaos, like the fractured Images in a bad dream.

Words: 327

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Never one for obeying rules, Gregory couldn’t help but challenge anything he perceived as an attempt to control a particular aspect of his life. Many called him a conspiracy theorist or just plain mad, but he was convinced that The System had devious ways and means, and that most other folk were completely in its grip.

Almost everything he saw that didn’t comply with his own stance was, he firmly maintained, put there by governments and their institutions. The purpose was to make people’s lives ever more powerless and insipid.

“Danger! Keep Out!” for instance, translated as: “Something Important we do not want you to see is in here!” He would relentlessly try to get inside if it was physically possible. Frequent arrests reinforced his paranoid outlook.

Upon spotting “Keep off the grass” Gregory would immediately walk (and sometimes run, cartwheel or somersault) on the turf in question. He would do so in the concrete belief that not only was it his right, but that his life would almost certainly be enhanced by disobeying such an order. It was clearly designed to keep him restrained.

In the past, upon spotting a “No Right Turn” sign, Gregory would habitually swing his car across the road, regardless of any inherent danger to himself or other motorists. Nowadays, with the intense plethora of road signage on display, he generally found it safer to take the bus. They’d taken his license anyway.

It was not only official notices that Gregory took issue with. Even the unlikeliest piece of public writing could be intended by The Man to stealthily exert control. So Gregory tried his level best to disobey anything he deemed even slightly suspicious.

Large black letters sprayed onto some wooden hoardings commanded: “Never eat anything bigger than your head!” It really rubbed him up the wrong way. An unmistakable governmental effort to prevent the common man from enjoying larger, more exotic foodstuffs.

So it was that Gregory choked to death on an aardvark.

Words 329

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The wind and rain are passionate tonight. So much so that Sebastian dances in my hand as I parade across the greasy streets. He jives in the evening gale of Market Street, switching to a tango as I stride down Oxford Road before honouring the Royal Northern College of Music, on our right, with a brief waltz.

While Sebastian has his fun, I keep an eye on the competition. It is lacklustre tonight; battered and worn commuters desperately cling to their untamed beasts, struggling to control the excitable mustangs and their passion for freedom.

Later, a sharp gust spooks Sebastian and he tries to bolt away in the direction of the Student’s Union. I am prepared though and, with a delicate flick of my wrist, snap him back into place. Not a single raindrop touches my head.

But taming Sebastian was not always this easy. In his youth, he would bark at the storms; throwing his body with wild abandon into the winter gusts. But we’ve come to know each other since those teething days.

I have since learned about his tenacious streak. Now, I know how to reign him in all manner of gales; the angles, the wrist position. It’s all in the wrist.

But, it’s not just about Sebastian. A master knows how to read the wind. Knows how to predict its whims and learn its preferred paths through the city streets. It has taken me twenty years.

“You’ll never amount to anything,” he once screamed at me, whisky dribbling from his chin. He stormed across the room, snatching up my drawing from the floor.

“What’s this?” he demanded.

“It’s my lion, daddy,” I replied.

“Lions?” he bellowed.

“I want to train lions.”

He snorted Bells across the floor in disgust before screwing up my lion and throwing it into a corner.

“You couldn’t even train an umbrella,” he shouted as he left the room.

In. Your. Face.

Words: 330

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D.S. Richard Rainey checked his text.

m8, wouldn’t normally ask but can u do my shift 2night? Ellie really poorly.

No hesitation. Gav was his best mate. And he’d do anything for his Goddaughter, Ellie.

Seven hours later, Rich was asked to sit in on the interview.

“Spanish, see. Nothing dodgy. Kinda film I rent when the missus is out with mates. Not your Hollywood shitflicks… all lipstick, explosions and half-arsed remakes. Bitta substance. Koreans are knocking out some decent stuff right now. Argentineans too.

“Thing is… the missus stayed in. Meant to be out, she was. Last-minute cancellation. Anyhow, some culture wouldn’t hurt her.

“Got the movie in good bloody faith. Decent director. Good synopsis. Bloke travelling round old Spain; picking up coded messages from people. Hit-man. All a bit Hitchcock… Almodovar… y’know.

“Beautiful it was.

“Shoulda bloody known though. Every review banged on about stunning cinematography.

“Weren’t wrong. Ida had every frame up in my ‘ouse. Hundred and eighty-seven thousand odd works of fuckin’ art.

“But that’s it.


“Nuffin’ else.

“Need a story, me. “

“But kept at it… got hooked y’know… Expected this huge twist at the end…rewarding time spent… smack-bang in me solar plexus…

“But no… just sodding ended. No twist. No lightening bolt. Nuffin’.

“Felt fuckin’ cheated.

“Then fuck me if my missus doesn’t do her usual: nod off minutes from the end, wake up at the credits and ask what happened.

“I just lost it.

“The glass was closest.

“Smashed it into Julie’s throat. Couldn’t stop myself. Until her windpipe finally came away.”

Rich flinched. “Sorry? Julie?”

“Yeah, Julie Reynolds… the wife I did actually love.”

Rich couldn’t escape fast enough.

WPC Flowers jolted, “Interview suspended, three-thirty am.”

He’d just met ‘Mad Bastard.’

Bile, coffee and half-digested pizza splashed across tiles, along with his Nokia, still displaying the last text through a smashed screen:

Don’t worry about cancelling Rich. Last night with MadBad anyway. Leaving him tomorrow. Then we’re together forever!


Words: 330

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The words danced on the page.

Hah! What a cufking cliché. Despite the profanity, obviously inherited from the older ones in his class, it was quite a smart emotion for a seven year old.

But dance they did. No miskate. Disco here. Cheeky little rumba there. Often, words would turn up, hear music and jsut do their own flippin’ thing.

Tom knew it depended on what notes tripped through his head that night; where dreams blissfully took him. Music was Tom’s thing. No question. He was gifted they’d all siad.

‘Gifted!’ Another cufking cliché Tom thought, cursing the shadow his keyboard etched against moonlit Ben 10, Tramnere Rovers and Jools Holland posters.

He closed his eyes, tugging on his planets duvet so Pluto sat deflated, catching sniffles.

How he wished a dream would kidnap him now. One night last week, it was The Proms. Not just Albert Hall, but right in the pit. Okay, he was in his Rovers kit – not the get-up for codnucting an orchestra. But somehow a deal with the codnuctor gave Tom the baton and Trussed-up Penguin got Clive the Action Man.

And the music was sublime.

That’s what did it. Always. The music. Whenever dreams immersed Tom in concertos and rock ‘n’ roll, those wrods had a ball.

Last Tuesday night, Tom formed Stuffed Little Fish Fingers, a four piece punk band that performed to a pakced audeince by the confectienory, Mum’s current aisle of solace at Sainsbury’s.

The wrods next day, in Stargazing, were all over the plaec. They must have bene moshing in the margins all nihgt long.

That was when Mum decided to act. It was the doctor’s this time or no new acoustic Yamaha for Tom’s birthday.

‘Prefectly simple,’ Doctor Doom remarked.

Hand-in-hand, Mum walked out happier with a rational explanation, Tom tearful that his dreams no longer maent anything.

But of course they did. Tom’s dyslexia would be treated.

And the world wuold, one day, be treated to his music.

Words: 330

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