Archive for February, 2011

The wind is fighting with the olive tree on our balcony and across the Manchester rain I know that somewhere, you are there. I sit with the window a jar, too cold outside to let it in, too hot inside to hide. My pyjamas stick to me, my legs stretched out to cool down.

It’s been days since you left. Your things are still here; toothbrush, underwear, some books. Things I thought you couldn’t live without. Maybe I was wrong. Your dirty towel is on the back of the chair, damp, unwashed. I haven’t done any washing since you left. I reach my feet out to touch the cool wall, stroke my toes down it. My bedroom light’s turned off. The olive tree dances in front of me, asking for an escape.

The ice cubes have melted in my whiskey. I thought I wanted one but once it was in my hand that was enough. Before you left you said something. You said: ‘time will heal, but never repair.’ I wish you were wrong. I wish I could repair this.

I watch the flats opposite; the towering balconies. When we first moved in someone had built a family of snowmen; two large ones on chairs and a small one on the concrete. Piles of snow were left on the table where they had it gathered to build. It looked like a picnic, like the snowmen were real. We joked about competing but never did. Eventually we thought the olive tree was enough. No one else had one.

I wonder if you’re over there now, in a flat opposite, spying on me like I’m spying on you. We could be looking at each other and not realise. I squint; try to look deeper into the windows. I swirl the whiskey in my glass. Smell it. The smell of you, the smell of your favourite things.

I imagine your face in the dim light opposite, watching me, watching you.

Words: 327

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My dream girlfriend liked to travel.

Over the course of our relationship – three and a half nights – we went to see the Cirque Du Soleil, rambled across the slopes of Mount Fuji and watched the Northern Lights from the empty bow of a cruise liner.

Cheaper than I would have expected, too.

I don’t remember being introduced to her, although this would go some way to explaining why I never knew her name. I was in the middle of a game of poker when she sat down on the beanbag next to me. Elvis Costello, Charles the First and Dame Judi Dench didn’t look up from their cards, so I presumed this woman was a friend of theirs.

Still, I was a little surprised when she turned to me and whispered, ‘Do you want to get out of here?’

I looked down at my cards; three carrots and a tugboat. Not a winning hand.

Almost instantaneously, we were sat on a deserted beach. I watched the grains of sand flow in between my toes as she rested her head on my shoulder.

‘I’m glad I finally found you,’ she sighed.

On our first proper date, at the circus, we ran into an ex-girlfriend from 2001. She spotted us during the second half, just as the elephants had finished juggling the first editions of the King James’ Bible.

‘You slug,’ she shouted from the middle of the stage. I thought it was a bit unprofessional for the ringmaster to interrupt the show, but whatever. My date just smiled.

Three and a half nights later and I thought we were starting to get serious; I was going to propose to her on top of the Inca pyramids. My dream wife.

But, she never turned up. I wanted to call out for her across the silent jungle, but I didn’t know her name.

And I haven’t seen her since.

I’m hopeful though. It took twenty-seven years for my dream girlfriend to find me the first time. At least now, she knows where to look first.

Words: 328

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A man is sat having a coffee with his wife when suddenly he reaches forward in time and pulls a flower from her hair.

“What’s this? He’s giving you flowers? He knows we are married, right? Is he trying to be obvious? Are you? You must have known I’d find out about this one sooner or later.”

The anger in his face shakes her, punching through her defenses.

“I, I, I’ve never seen that before.”

“No, but you will. You fucking will.”

The woman relaxes slightly, understanding, and presses her cup to her lips. Something changes her mind and she lowers it slightly.

“You’re playing with Time again, aren’t you? That flower is from the future.”
A dozen counselling sessions, past, present and future, now blocks his way and the man, having lost the catalyst of an answer and the fuel of an argument, becames even angrier as he attempts to stoke the embers of his suspicion.

“Where I got it from isn’t the question. Where you will get it from, is.”

It seems lame, this turnaround, and he knows it. All of the flowers, the unanswered telephone calls, the bruises on her naked body, all of these clues from the future tease him but his wife never relents. Not once has she ever been shocked into confirming or denying his accusation.

The man lowers his head, hoping, perhaps, to find a man lying beneath it with a flower in his hand.

He finds only more evidence of the unreliability of the future.

“Let’s go.” he says, eventually.

The woman, his wife once more, places her coffee cup on the table; a rippling black period at the end of their conversation. She smiles.

“Yes, I’d like to go by the library on the way home.”

Later, waiting outside and reflecting upon his outburst, the man notices a flower seller. I’ll make it up to her, he thinks, reaching back for his wallet.

Words: 326

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We’re at the wall at the top of a steep incline that rises out of the earth in the shape of a sinking galleon, a mess of chipped rock and porridge like mud. At the top around fifty miles or so of uninterrupted horizons break out in every direction and the grainy consistency of the air makes reminds me of resorted World War Two footage.

He’s shouting at the top, dancing on the stone, screaming at the imaginary Caledonians to come pierce his chest with their spears. He beats on his white t-shirt with his fist and holds a loft a can of Dutch bitter as if it were a grail and screams again at the vast expanse before him. A walker around half a mile away near a small lake looks up quickly, startled and then carries on in a hurried fashion.

I walk up slowly, boots heavy in the think mud, carrying a plastic bag with three more cans in it and two packets of crisps. He sets off running towards an old guard tower where only the foundations remain. I languish behind, walking with my feet parallel to each other the way that my father had always taught me to walk on steep and uncertain ground.

The wind was raucous like a giant crowd taunting from every direction, as if we were just slaves in its amphitheater and it was baying for our blood. He’s gone over a slight ridge now and virtually out of sight, his head reappearing momentarily as he stops to assess the surrounding country then he’s gone again, drunk, screaming, engulfed by the mist.

I try to run but the mud is thick on my boots, clawing me down into the earth. Why we were up here I wasn’t sure, we’d followed signs and ancient roads in a daze and just turned into the car park. Now the light was fading quickly to a liquidly blue and I couldn’t see where he’d gone.

Words: 330

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“Yes, I strongly considered the kebab. But just look at that hue: pink chip juice, Gerald. How often do you have the chance to chow down on something like that?”

I knew Keith was right. There was no chilli sauce, no meat, not even a barm. But hell, the coloured liquid could be absolutely anything, and that was undoubtedly the most powerful attraction.

We all piled in and ate our fill, rasping away at the chips with our radulae like there was no tomorrow. The only care we took was to avoid any remaining undiluted salt, warning one another if we saw any sign of a crystal. Bernard still carried the scar from a nasty episode involving a heavily salted chip a few months back.

Afterwards we all agreed that the magenta fluid tasted of nothing at all, and was probably of no nutritional value whatsoever. But if you don’t treat each day like an adventure, what are you left with exactly? The whole affair was a thing of near-perfect beauty.

When you think about life on a day like this – beautifully damp and overcast, both crop and stomach stuffed full of a good meal, surrounded by so many decent gastropods – it’s easy to hold it all in perspective. Living is a damn fine thing, and no mistake.

On days when events are not so fortuitous, (I think, for instance, of the recent Song thrush attack that took the lives of several good friends) I am less inclined to view existence in such an unwaveringly positive light. But whatever the circumstances, every snail can hold fast to one immeasurable comfort: hermaphroditism.

I mean, can you imagine existing as only one gender? The ultimate unbalanced life, for sure! I’ll never forget the day my mother-father and father-mother first told me about species like that.

Quite how anyone would even begin to go about choosing which sex they’d be is completely beyond me.

Words: 322

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