Archive for January, 2013

Lancaster and Morecambe 003

Imogen jumps off the bottom step, making zig-zag footprints with her wellies. The other footprints are snow-filled. She’s never seen the two together. Sand was summer and snow was winter before they came here and moved into the little room.

‘Don’t go too far.’
Dad always said that. Lots of ‘Be careful’s too.

The sea’s edge is a long way off but there are silver stripes of water running across the sand. Dad‘s on the prom and on his phone. ‘Trying to sort things’ probably. There’s snow on the hills the other side. Imogen thinks she’d like to go there. She wonders how long it would take.

This is a special day. Imogen’s crisps this morning had three extra-brown ones and not a single green piece. That meant something. And now they were having what Dad called a ‘bracing walk.’ Her iced ears tell her bracing means freezing. Running on dimpled sand is difficult but the sea air makes up for it. She spreads her arms out and thinks she could fly. Faster. Faster.

Great to get out of the little room where they’re crushed in with all the stuff from home. Her bedside cabinet’s on top of the dining table and she trips over the hoover whenever she goes to the toilet. Her clothes are folded in rubbish bags, all their coats on one hook and most of her toys hidden. Her bike was forgotten in the rush. The place smells odd. The upstairs people smoke and cook strange things. ‘They’re gently warming spam again,’ Dad keeps saying, with a funny laugh.

Dad’s a tiny figure in the distance, on the sand by the steps. Waving and waving. Imogen stares at the bird-prints on the softening sand. She shivers and her foot pulls free of one of her wellies. Perhaps she should go back now. Hot chocolate in the café before they return to the little room? Or should she just keep on walking, making footprints in the sand?

Words: 330

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Shakespeare was getting his ear pierced. He was feeling OK about it. Sometimes there were blood spots in the boiled eggs that Shakespeare ate for breakfast and Shakespeare would pick them out grimacing.

Shakespeare thought about chickens, how he thought about wheat and horses and blood spots in boiled eggs, as though they were something that had been around forever but wheat came from the Mesopotamians and horses from the Mongolian steppe and chickens were descended from fierce wild fowl once kidnapped from the jungle and only blood spots in boiled eggs had been around forever.

Which ear would you like pierced, Mr Shakespeare, asked the barber. Shakespeare said he wasn’t sure. That it didn’t matter. If Shakespeare had heard a modem dialling, he wouldn’t have known what it was.

Shakespeare wouldn’t have believed you if you had told him about x-rays or dishwashers or dinosaur bones. Sometimes Shakespeare watched sleet sprinkle on the Thames and he thought about how humiliating it would be to have to live underwater and he imagined breathing through gaps in his sides and reserving his mouth for food and drink and he reflected on how hateful and oppressive that would be.

Shakespeare’s ear stung a little. He tried not to show it. He said, oh, have you done it, is that it, I didn’t feel a thing and blood trickled down from his ear and onto his collar. If Shakespeare had invented getting up early to go to work, everybody would’ve hated him. There would be a film about how he invented getting up early to go to work and in the film everybody would hate him. I’m a lot smarter than Shakespeare and I’m more handsome and I could beat him in a fight too.

If I ever met Shakespeare I would hold his shoulders and step on his toes and I would tell him all these things. I would tell him now if it was possible.

Words: 325

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When you reach the street, look for the first passageway to your left. It’s a dark, untidy thing with towering walls and leaking pipes and easy to miss. So keep your peepers open.

Travel down the twisting cobbled streets and be brave, my love. Do not be afraid of the chattering crows lining their parliaments above you. You have nothing to fear from them, I promise. Remember, you’re seeking the shop with cracked green paint on its window ledges and a name no one can remember.

If you lose your bearings, a one-eyed tabby cat will lead your way, but don’t try and pet him; he’ll hiss and scratch if you make to stroke the matted fur on his back. Let him trot ahead of you and he will guide you to the peeling entrance of the shop.

As quietly as you can, push open the cracked wooden door and allow your eyes to grow wide in the darkness.

I’ve drawn you a map; a route through the maze of ancient books stacked high before you. Be sure to tread lightly as the shop owner does not look upon visitors kindly. He prowls the labyrinth, a white-haired Minotaur with a gas-lamp arm, guarding his treasures from the outside world. Be still if you see an orange glow creep around a corner in the distance.

Be safe, my love.

Follow my route through the corridors of peeling spines for a day and a night until you come to a clearing. You’ll know it when you see it; a pulped glade of once-proud oak and pine. Walk to the middle of the clearance, to the light from the stained glass window above, to the space where particles of punctuation float lazily in the air. You’ll find it there, my love.

Words: 299

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PHOTO_Look at the moon

We’re supposed to believe the moon is real? The fucking moon?

She blinks. Oh dear.

“Well, yeah. It is.”

I may as well continue.

The moon? That one?

I point. It may not be helpful but it feels necessary. Y’know?

Look at it. How do you know it’s not just some special effect?

She doesn’t leave. She could, I’m not a crazy.

“Are you serious?”

I like pauses. Let’s have a pause.

“Ok. So the men who’ve been there are lying. And the men who sent them.”

I’d throw in a line about all men being liars but I’ve tried that before and failed. It was supposed to diffuse things and make me seem charming.

Do you know them?

“What? No.”

So you don’t know who said shit?

Patronising. Nice.

“I don’t need to. If it wasn’t real, word would spread.”

So in this communication daisy-chain, the truth would have been passed on to land, ultimately, in your shell-like? Because you’re that fucking important?

I shouldn’t swear. I tried stopping for Lent but it felt too good during arguments about religion with my Dad. There’s nothing like choice swears in a clever-ass rant.

She perseveres. Maybe I’ve met her before.

“There’d be programmes about it.”

There are programmes about it.

I love throwing that one in. I know what’s coming too.

“On the Internet, I suppose?”

She says it like they all say it. Like the greatest ever tool for democratising information isn’t as trustworthy as media controlled by seven rich guys. Like the perfect place for truth is alongside Skating on Ice and Jimmy Saville’s Newsround, or whatever they’re called.

I sigh. And to make sure she hears, I type *sigh*.

Yes, the Internet. Along with Wikipedia and—

She cuts me off. Ok, so I knew I wasn’t going to be marrying her but to not finish an intelligent fucking discussion? WTAF?

I mean, why do they get lovey-dovey and talk about the fucking moon?

Words: 326

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He was only driving to town for a quick errand; some last-minute groceries for Thanksgiving – pecans for the pie, and green beans. Parking hastily, he dashed into the nearest corner store to pick them up. On his way out, glancing nervously at his watch, a scream rang out.

Looking around wildly, Nigel tried to spot the cause of the disturbance. It sounded serious – a life or death kind of scream, not just the normal whooping generally related to the holiday season. The scream sounded again, more keenly this time, and Nigel turned to face the small park behind the shops. Racing over, he saw a child struggling for air in the lake.

Without hesitating to store the ingredients that had brought him out there, Nigel dove straight in and swam over with sure, bold strokes. On the way back to land, he slowly became aware of a small crowd of people cheering and praising his bravery. The child was shivering and could hardly speak, but was soon swept up in the arms of nervous parents, who repeated their gratitude in a staccato of thanks.

Food forgotten, Nigel was distracted by a number of people trying to help, offering him jackets for warmth and admiration from all sides. It was impossible not to feel fairly heroic, with so many reiterating his daring deed. The parents promptly invited him over for a holiday feast and there even happened to be a reporter in the park, who had called the local TV station over to do a good news story on the event.

With superlative compliments ringing in his ears, Nigel ended up on the news that night, and many of his friends who saw rang him up to offer their awe. It was only on the way home from the studio that Nigel remembered his car, and returned to the side street to find a parking ticket waiting for him on the dashboard. Even heroes must pay attention to the mundane.

Words: 329

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