Archive for November, 2013

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I’d moved in about 2 weeks ago. I settled in quite quickly and felt reasonably happy on my own. I had my laptop, plenty of films and it was a busy street. People were coming and going all the time. People watching was one of my favourite hobbies. Most evenings I would sit in the living room and escape through the lives of others on my big telly, or Google my life away. At the same time, I’d gaze through the window, the net curtain allowing me to stare without being openly creepy.

It didn’t take long until I saw her. The first time was unreal. She walked by my house, both morning and night.
Wondering what we might have in common, I dreamt up things from the shopping bags she carried or the outfit she had chosen to wear.
I started to finish work early so I could watch her walk by.
I became so obsessed that I took a week off work to see what she did each day. Where she worked and shopped. What her friends looked like. If she was ‘seeing’ anyone or had children. I justified this to myself as research and getting to know the area.

None of this really mattered though.

I’d convinced myself this was what I wanted.

Spending so much time studying her was not helping me.
I became confused and anxious. I wasn’t sure how to approach anything related to her. Not to mention approaching her.
Would she acknowledge me?
Did I exist in her version of the world?
I dreamt of days filled with infantile romance – her cutting my hair or singing to me. Picture book stuff.
A plausible reality?
I’m 32. She’s 58.
To me, at the moment, she’s a woman that lives on my street.
To her, I was still that boy, smiling back at her from the safety of her purse.
Mum left when I was nine.
Could I go through it all again?

Words: 326

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Sphinx at Thebes

For me, learning to walk was no problem – left, right, left, right. Some guys just can’t get it though.

They’re still crawling by the time they start nursery – yeah, I know – all fours.

For those of us that get it – we’re away – endlessly planning escape routes. I almost got out once – hmph! Mummy’s can run fast when they need to. Still, you can always race across the lounge floor while their watching TV. Ha! Make them sorry they ever decided to have you. That’s philosophy!

It’s not all about the ‘dash’ though. Through walking you learn to balance – and from there, it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from riding a bike.

***

So, here I am, pushing along my bicycle. Oh, I can balance, but one puncture later I’m the free-wheelin’ Bob Dylan, heading over to Khan’s Stop ‘n’ Shop to buy a Fast Wheelz tyre-fixit kit – a rubber seal, some glue, and I’ll be good to go.

Of course, there’s always the bus – but I believe in leg-power. I mean, if there were no more bicycles, or repair kits; if the scooters had become extinct; and if the petroleum reserves were finished, well – then I could still use these hairy legs right?

 

***

Yeah, these days my legs are still quite hairy but also very wiry. Now I have to wear long-johns and woollen trousers. My bones ache, and I shuffle along with a stick. The electric cars and scooters zoom past. You call that progress? They told us we’d be living on the moon by 2001 and we were supposed to have robot butlers and nurses for every household. But has that happened?

Hmmm, that old Sphinx-of-Thebes was right – four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three legs in the evening. That just about sums us up, right? Technology comes and goes, but in the end we all get achy legs.

Words: 326

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Mrs Otley sold posters, greetings cards, mugs, mouse mats and coasters with animals on from her market stall. The animals were all doing things that usually only human beings did. The bespectacled penguin reading Barbados on a Budget on the back seat of the bus was very popular. There was an elephant hoovering, while music – notes floating around its flapping ears – was obviously making it dance.

‘They’re clever, aren’t they, Simon?’
Simon gave his wife a look of derision ‘Computer generated.’
‘Good though. Shall we get this card for Lou’s birthday?’
Simon glanced at the bow-tied giraffe in front of the full-length mirror. It was stooping to pluck a bowler hat from a hat stand. Opening his wallet, Simon pulled out a fiver. Mrs. Otley didn’t have change so he was obliged to wave his hand and walk away.

A little girl picked up a paparazzi panda mug. She’d obviously made up her mind this was the one she wanted and looked doubtfully at her handful of coins.
‘It’s for my granddad. He always has his camera round his neck like this panda.’
At the word ‘granddad’, Mrs. Otley felt the familiar tightness in her cheeks and prickle behind the eyes. It had been forty-nine years.
‘All mugs half price today.’
The girl flashed Mrs.Otley a smile and handed her two-pounds-fifty.

Mrs. Otley closed the stall up and dashed off early. Her nephew was looking after things for a fortnight while she was away. Her suitcase was packed with suitable clothes and the old fashioned picnic set in the wicker basket stood beside it in the hallway. She checked her camera was in her handbag and waited by the door for the taxi.

Mrs. Otley relished this moment of calm before the journey. Africa! It was all very exciting. She hoped the hippos would behave themselves. She’d had such trouble with the hyenas last year. She’d been sure they were laughing at her from under their hand-knitted balaclavas.

Words: 330

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Aalok and Siraj sit on the church steps, admiring early evening’s deep amber glow.

‘They say the new light is that colour – that bright, even’, Siraj says.

‘They say a lot of things”, Aalok replies, taking four clear glass bottles from his bag.

‘Have you heard much about it?’

‘Talk of cables and wires, but no sign of anything. Try not to worry. What does the evening have in store for you?’,

‘Full moon tonight, I’ll be out for a while’, Siraj says, filling the bottles with moonlight from his barrel before handing them back.

‘Then I will say goodnight, let you get on, head back before this lot fades’.

The day’s final light sinks into the white walls of the church. ‘I’m sorry. There’ll be brighter stuff in the morning – it’s always duller at the bottom of the barrel’.

‘Maybe the cable light won’t be so bad, eh?. And at least you’ll be done pushing that barrel around.’

‘What if I like pushing this barrel around?’, Siraj says, shoving it into Aalok’s legs, spilling a bottle from the bag in his arms. The two old men watch as it clinks and tumbles, coming to rest in old red dust – a pool of light and broken glass.

Words: 207

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photoNo-one knows why, they just know that it’s true. There will be no more food. A world seduced by overindulgence means there’s a huge amount left; but there is a larger mass of people who will now go unfed.

And no-one could have predicted this reaction. The president stepped down immediately, but just as quickly they reached a consensus on how we should react: don’t eat. It was a simple plan for desperate times.

Theoretically the maxim only applied to those living in richer countries, those who had been drowning in their excess. It would ensure there was more left for those who really needed it to survive. It was sacrifice on a global scale, and people simply agreed to it. There was unanimous consent which placed the act of eating higher than murder on the scale of sin. For them eating was murder; not for the animals that campaigners used to fight to protect, but for the rest of the population.

Logically, it didn’t hold up. But people facing the biggest crisis of their time are not apt to act reasonably, and clinging to one rule that everyone could understand provided some comfort.

Food was policed with evangelical zeal, and those few who tried to get to it were publicly punished and shamed. It was the most selfish, unforgivable thing you could do, and that became our truth. There was no room for debate, for an alternative approach. We would not eat.

Nobody questioned the rhetoric, even as piles of leftover food began to go bad, waves of stench floating up and out as people continued to live, starving.

It might sound strange, but even though I was one of the renegades – one who saw only the pursuit of food, hiding from watchful eyes too large for their sockets, and snatching scraps when backs were turned – I cannot remember feeling hungry.

I must have done. It was the driving force of my existence, in a strange right angle to the accepted view.

Words: 330

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