October 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
Hello, little electronical world pixie friends!
I thought it high time I did something more on my rather empty and neglected wordpress page, and although I missed National Poetry Day (was that only in Britain? Probably), I did write a small piece today on a theme that has been on my mind for some time now; forgetfulness. At least, when I remember to think about it, it’s on my mind (insert laughter here).
Rather aptly, I may have forgotten how to load up a poem into the required folder, so I’m going to write it here too. But be warned – this has not been polished. It is a first draft, written down as it came into my mind during my waking moments this morning. I eagerly await your bad ratings and vehement reviews. To paraphrase Bernard Black, “it’s terrible, but it’s short”. It is called, quite simply,
An entire life soaked into a few cells.
One by one, they fall away,
And time claims back that which it once owned.
Do we really own anything,
Even our memories?
Once they’re gone –
7 Oct 2012
July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
It’s been a while since I’ve put anything on this blog, but here I am again.
What’s that? You haven’t missed me?
What’s that? I’m talking to myself again?
Anywho, I have recently published a short collection of stories on Smashwords – Grey Mars and other Short Stories. It is a mere 99 American pennies, which I believe converts to about 77 British pennies. It’s supposed to be on Kindle too, but they are dragging their heals with it. Mind you, I can hardly complain about heel-dragging, can I?
Read and enjoy.
I said enjoy!
October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Marie, where are you?”
“Just walking down into town,” she said.
It started to rain as I came out of the library and I halted in the doorway.
“We need to talk. It’s important.”
“Tell me now then.”
The rain fell hard and I charged from my shelter straight into it, ducking my head like it helped. “I’ll catch you up. I can’t tell you over the phone. Where are you now?” Marie had left our group two minutes before, and I hadn’t had a chance to talk to her.
“Meeting a friend at Pollyanna’s. I’m already here. Can’t it wait, Lee?”
“If it could wait, I wouldn’t be getting myself and my phone drenched running after you. Two minutes, that’s all I’ll be. Wait at the door, I’m nearly there.”
I was already soaked as I ran across the street and leapt over a puddle. Water was running like a river. A car sped by and threw the puddle at my trousers.
I could see Marie’s red umbrella in the doorway of Pollyanna’s, and I put my mobile in my jacket pocket as I reached her.
She looked concerned and a little peeved.
I wiped back my wet hair to keep the drips from my eyes and joined her under her shelter.
“What is it, Lee? Amanda’s already here.”
“Sorry, but I had to catch you alone.”
“Come on, let’s go in.” She stepped inside and shook her umbrella out onto the step. I followed. At the back of the place, beyond the shop area, people were drinking coffee and eating cake in the small café where Amanda waited.
“I had a visit yesterday,” I said. “Private Detective. It was all very Sam Spade. Shaun thinks you’re having an affair.”
Marie’s face dropped.
“With me,” I added.
“Lee… what did you tell him?”
“Well, what do you think?”
We weren’t having an affair, although I wanted to. And, I think, so did Marie. But we were friends, and good friends too. She loved her husband. I loved her. She had a thing for me.
Aside from a kiss, nothing had happened. Nothing would be happening.
She pushed me back outside and came out herself, pulling the door shut behind her. She was angry.
“Ever since I met you Lee, you’ve been nothing but trouble. I was happy, we were happy, Shaun and I. And then you… ooh!” She shoved me and disappeared inside, slamming the door in my face. I stepped back into the river.
I took out my mobile and typed out a text message as rain ran down the screen and down my neck.
Cars drove by and their engines roared over the rushing of tyres on street water.
I sent her my message: Sorry.
Peering through the rain-streaked window, I saw Marie meet her friend and then look back at me, sadly.
My heart could have exploded.
She was right. She had been happy, she had it all. A job she loved, a husband who adored her and a fine house. I had been happy too, before we met three months ago.
Shaun was an old friend I’d not seen in years. We bumped into each other and he invited me round. We’d never been great friends, just drinking buddies, which I suppose is why we drifted apart so easily.
So I went to his house one night and I met Marie, his lovely wife. We got on like a blaze and I’m ashamed to say that Shaun was mostly left out of the conversation.
He went to bed early, up for work the next morning. So Marie and I finished the wine and chatted into the small hours.
I visited every week, and every week Shaun went to bed and his wife and I finished the wine. Really, I was only going so I could see Marie. I’d never had as much fun with anyone in my whole life. She was so easy to talk to.
Marie was charming, funny, smart and witty. She brought out the best in me. Around her, I was smart and witty too.
One night, things got more serious.
I’d consciously suppressed my feelings towards her because she was married.
I suppose, to save myself a lot of grief and heartache, I should have cut out of there from the beginning. But I didn’t want to lose Marie from my life, and if I couldn’t have her as a girlfriend, I could at least have her as a regular friend.
Tough choice. Bad decision.
That night we were very drunk and things changed forever. I let it slip.
Our topic of conversation became serious for some reason, and we both revealed secrets about ourselves. Marie asked me why I wanted to stay single after my last disastrous relationship.
I told her I always fall for the wrong women.
She said, like who?
I didn’t say. All I did was look at her and raise an eyebrow quizzically. It was all very melodramatic. She got it straight away.
Then, unexpectedly, Marie, my darling Marie, told me that I was just her type of man, and that if she wasn’t married…
My heart leapt into my head.
I didn’t want to hear this. I wanted to hear nothing. More specifically, I wanted to hear that she would leave her husband for me. But I knew I wouldn’t be hearing that.
Wish I’d kept my mouth shut.
I found myself across the road outside another café, so I went in for a drink. I sat by the window and watched Pollyanna’s across the road through the running water on the glass and the running water in the air. People rushed in there away from the rain and hesitated before leaving.
This is so clichéd, I thought, sitting in a café watching the rain and being miserable. But it’s funny how the weather can accentuate your mood. And rain is the biggest swine of all for doing that.
It wasn’t that night that we kissed, it was the next time. Like an idiot, I went back the following week. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I should have gone somewhere else, but I didn’t.
We drank wine. Shaun went to bed. Marie and I drank more wine, and more after that.
All week my mind had been in turmoil, her words ringing through my head at full volume, refusing to leave me alone. Keeping me from thinking about anything except this unobtainable love.
If she wasn’t married…
I was just her type of man. If she wasn’t married.
But she was, wasn’t she?
And that night I told Marie I loved her. The wine made me do it. The wine gave me the courage to say what I was dying to say but daren’t. Being drunk makes you tell the truth. I told the truth, and I still stand by what I said, because it was true.
You don’t love me, she said.
Yes I do, I said. And I knew that she loved me. But she loved her husband more, and all I was doing was messing up her head. All I could give her would be destruction. Her marriage, her home, her self-esteem. Her life.
She needn’t tell me that I was being unfair.
When I left, we hugged each other tight, and she kissed me on the lips. Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t enter into the kiss with the enthusiasm that she probably expected. I suppose that was my way of saying goodbye.
Three weeks ago. I haven’t been back since, and I won’t be going back.
Though my insides feel like they’ve been kicked out by a horse, I can’t go back. Not because of the kiss, not because of the confession. But because right then, at the moment that she kissed me, I realised I was only bringing sadness and devastation to her heart. It was all I could offer. All I could ever give her.
“Lee?” It was a woman’s voice and it pierced through my daydreaming, making me jump a little. I turned from the window and looked up.
“Nicole!” I stood up, surprised. She hugged me and stepped back, smiling.
“You’re looking great,” she said. “Apart from the fact that you look like a drowned rat.”
“So do you. Look great, I mean. What you doing? Do you want a coffee?”
She sat down opposite me and laid her coat on the seat next to her, then linked her hands together on the table, looking at me, smiling. She was as gorgeous as ever.
Nicole, my old flame. Back in town.
For a moment I forgot Marie as I remembered the brief but fun time I had with Nicole before she went away to study.
Some years ago, we were both young, and life had yet to throw up its many curses and blessings. With the rain battering the pane beside me I was sent back to my early twenties when the world was waiting before me and losing my girlfriend didn’t seem like a calamity.
Listen to me, an old man at thirty-five. “Wow,” I said. “You look even better than you ever did.”
“You old charmer, you. Got one or two more wrinkles.” She laughed and I loved the faint lines around her eyes. Very sexy.
“Well, you know, we all get older. And besides, you’ve hardly got any.”
“I meant you, not me.” Same old Nicole. I walked straight into that one.
The assistant brought her a coffee. I tutted. “How come I never get that kind of service?”
“Well, if you need an answer to that…”
We sat grinning at each other and I felt like the top half of my head was going to fall off. For some reason I was aware that smiling this broadly would show all my crow’s feet. “So,” I said, “how’s stuff?”
“Articulate as ever, I see.” She took a sip of coffee. “I’m back here in town. New job and freshly divorced.”
“Oh, yes?” I smiled. “Looking for a new beau, then?”
“Well, you know. Broken heart and all that.”
God yes, I thought, I know. “Was it a bad split?”
“To be honest, Lee, it was all over a long time ago. It’s just the divorce that was recent. I’m fine.”
“I’ve missed you, Nic.”
This amused her. “No, you haven’t. You’ve been getting on with your life. We both have.”
“Yes, but I miss you now, in retrospect.”
“You berk. One day you’re gonna get serious.”
One day I was gonna get serious. I hope not. Nicole, she was so beautiful with her long brown hair and dark brown eyes. She still had her figure too, all legs and slender sexiness. Is this all it takes to take my mind off Marie, I thought, to mend my broken heart? Well, no, not really. It was going to take a hell of a lot more than that.
I lost track of time, we might have been there hours, I don’t know. But we talked and we laughed and we caught up on old times and it was like we’d never parted. At one point during the afternoon I glanced across the road and spotted a red umbrella getting into a white Corsa outside Pollyanna’s. My heart leapt as I watched Marie lean over to kiss her husband. He drove her away through the downpour, away from me and my foolishness.
An emptiness ripped through me and I felt sick. I couldn’t breath for a while and the only thing that brought me back was a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Won’t be a minute.” Nicole got up to go to the ladies, and as I watched her I felt a calmness fighting its way through my horrible confusion. I remembered the sense of belonging I’d had ten years ago. A time when life was black and white.
I took a deep breath and let it go as the rain fell and fell and fell. I waited for Nicole to come back, as I knew she would, and I watched the rain.
I followed the happy little streams of water trickle down the glass and smiled. I don’t know why I smiled. I don’t know why I felt hopeful when my heart was lying in bloody pieces. But feel hopeful I did.
Funny how the weather can accentuate your mood.
In the window I saw Nicole’s reflection as she walked back towards the table and I had the vague feeling that something was about to change.
My mind and my heart were in turmoil, but I felt that there might at least be something solid beneath the quicksand.
I wanted to laugh and cry and scream all in the same moment.
And the rain fell down and watered the streets.
© Chris Young, October 2011
October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
I hate the seagull. He wakes me in the morning with his raucous screech and then flies off to the sea as if innocent. But he knows he is not. I will kill him one day. He destroys my dreams and I will kill him.
Four-thirty, I lie on my bed in my attic room. My rude alarm flies from his perch by the skylight squawking his satisfaction. The sun is not up but it is light. I hear the other gulls on the cliffs. At least they have the decency to keep their distance.
I lie for a while and plan my day. I will not sleep now. I think about the gun shop where I will buy the means to exact my vengeance.
It is the same every morning. After a while I get dressed to go for a walk and a paper.
I came here to write, after my divorce. I will not see the kids again, they are in Canada with their new father. I am in Scarborough, and I have my typewriter and a room in a boarding house, paid for with my royalties. I say typewriter, but that’s the romantic in me. It’s a computer. A laptop, ideal for the minimal lifestyle I now lead.
I always found the sea air inspiring but Melinda could never understand. She hated the seagulls so we never moved to the coast. I would say, “what’s wrong with the seagulls? It’s all part of the experience”. She would tell me it’s an experience she could do without.
Now I see what she means. But I don’t hate the gulls, only the one that keeps me awake.
I stroll along the cliff top seafront for a while, taking in the sights and the lonely sounds of early morning, and then I go to the café for breakfast. I read my Guardian as I wait and search for inspiration among the stories. You don’t get that with tabloids. You only get sensationalism that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Okay, I’m a snob, but I’m a writer so I like to read work by writers who are better than I am. I have to keep my brain active. I have to keep the dark thoughts at bay.
An idea comes to me for a story as I read the obituaries and I find I have no pen or pad. I call to the waitress, “can I borrow a pen?”
She looks at me strangely but brings me one.
Life for Melinda and me became hell. We argued constantly, I think. At least, it seemed that way. Every little thing was an annoyance and no mistake went uncriticised. I don’t need to go into details, I’m sure. We’ve all been there.
But really, when it came down to it, it was all about money, and the lack of it.
Not for me though. I thought we were doing fine. Bills paid for, our own house, a couple of holidays a year, comfort, what more could a family ask? But ask she did. I was useless and why didn’t I get a proper job so we could have all the things that everyone else had?
But I didn’t want all the things that everyone else had. And what’s more, I thought it would be a bad thing for the kids. Learning to do without, as my father’s generation would say, is “character building”.
And so, to cut a long and painful story short, we separated. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was her decision to move to another country and take our kids with her. What could I do? Okay, I could have done plenty, but I was too shocked and dumbstruck. And by the time I’d got myself together she’d gone. But the kids are settled in well and enjoying their lives there, though they miss their old man. I exaggerated when I said I would never see them again. I see them when they visit, I speak to them by telephone, I write e-mails. It just feels like I will never see them again, sometimes.
But life is generally better now. I live at my own pace, work in my own time and I can live by the sea.
By early afternoon I’ve written two thousand words and I decide to take a break. A stroll into town should do it, a walk in the harbour. Let the old grey cells rest a while.
Walking along the harbour pier eating fish and chips I look down and notice my lace is undone. Putting my lunch on the wall I stoop to tie my shoes. There is a familiar screeching and a flap of feathers by my head that makes me jump out of my skin. I look up to see a seagull flying away with my fish and I yell after it, shaking a fist in impotent rage.
A group of schoolgirls start laughing and I go bright red. Damned seagull! It is the same one that wakes me every morning, I know it!
I march with determination to the other side of town to the gun shop. The bell tinkles as I enter and I smell the metal and powder within. The proprietor greets me and I study the rifles under the glass counter. Such a huge range, I wouldn’t know where to start. And I would certainly need to save up if I wasn’t going to skint myself.
Maybe I’ll try another way of disposing of my nemesis.
On my way back I experience an odd sensation, as if I am being watched. I stop walking and look around me. There, on the opposite side of the road, perched on a car park wall, is the seagull. Staring at me.
I glare back for a while, he does not move, just pierces me with those cold, black eyes. I decide to cross the road and get him. A sudden stream of traffic stops me crossing and when I finally make it he is gone. I stand alone, looking foolish.
I was with Melinda for nine years and I loved her with all my heart, as the old cliché goes. And here’s another one: I would have died for her. But really, I would have. We had some great times together, first as a couple and then as a family. But we also had some terrible times, and somewhere it all fell to bits. At some point we lost our love for each other, and I would never have believed that could happen. I wanted to love her forever.
God, how I hate her.
I should buy that gun and shoot Melinda.
At dusk I wait in the open skylight. Standing on the table, I am exposed to the sunset from my chest upwards, and I hold in my hands a fishing net attached to a cane. Several feet away is the chimney, where my enemy roosts each night.
I wait as the orange sky turns to a darkening blue and I hear the ships in the harbour and the still sounds of evening echoing over the rooftops. My net is sturdy, not a child’s net, and big enough to trap my prey.
My eyes get heavy as the sky darkens. I feel a chill and then I see a silhouette flapping down from above. The seagull lands behind the chimney and I steady myself. Maybe he’s noticed me but he seems unperturbed.
I move slowly, with a sure hand. Keeping the net only inches from the roof tiles I bring it slowly round to him, and then lunge.
I have him! In panic he flaps and squawks but I have him. I drag the net towards me and grab his body through the flurry of wings. All is noise and smell and a feathery blur. The next thing, he is away and I have blood on my hand. He has my blood on his beak.
I curse and bang the roof with my palm, then stumble off the table, crashing to the floor.
My breathing comes in gasps and I lie staring through the opening into the twilit sky, cloudless, pure. A small black shape circles high above and I smile. Then I laugh as someone knocks on my door.
She left me forever when she found someone else. We were already apart, but this was when it truly ended. She hurt me and then she escaped. I don’t like to think about it, I never talk about it. The one time love of my whole life in the arms of another man. It’s just like a country and western song. I hate country and western.
I have never decided how it affected me. I was torn apart and relieved. I still don’t know if it was good or bad that we separated. All I know is how much it hurt and how easy my life is now. I love to see her and I hate to see her.
In two weeks she will be over here again with the kids.
I must have fallen asleep on the floor with the skylight open because at four thirty I am rudely awoken by an infernal screeching that is much louder than normal. There is a dull ache in my back and I start to laugh again.
Over the next few days I consider different ways of disposing of the seagull. While I am doing this, on my way to the shop, I feel something warm and soft splash on my head. The gull seems to laugh as he swoops away towards the castle.
I go back to my room, wash my hair, then go to the gun shop.
Dusk again. I stand on my table with my head poking through the skylight. Once again, the sounds of night drift up from the bays and I watch the skies. Tiredness washes over me but I stay awake. My eyes begin to lose focus as twilight creeps in and the temperature drops.
Tonight my life will change for the better. Tonight my arch-enemy’s life will end for good. I have vowed to rid my life of my troubles, of my demons. There is only one way to achieve that.
I see him. Swooping in over the sea, heading for his perch, unaware of the fate that awaits him. I smile and I am awake again, adrenalin coursing through my veins.
Oh joy! I almost wet myself with anticipation and breathe deeply of the night air. It is cool and pure.
The seagull alights by the chimney and squawks at me. He thinks he is invincible.
I bring out my rifle and take careful aim. Giddiness almost snatches victory from my grasp, but I keep my head and the gull loses his. The sound of the shot echoes back across the bay as feathers fly. I cackle loudly.
With the skylight still open, I relax in the quiet of night, sitting on my bed with my rifle across my thighs. I polish the barrel and think of Melinda and her betrayal. Bloody feathers lie scattered where they have blown in. My head is clear and pain-free. I am liberated.
I think of Melinda, and I polish my gun.
© Chris Young, October 2011