Wednesday, December 12, 2012

So it’s summer, 1978.  I'm 16, but, partly because I’ve got a job with a road gang, I look at least 19.  Saturday night I’m in the disco [see, it was 1978] and doing nicely.  
As an already-accomplished liar, I mention to her that I work in an office and you can tell she’s impressed.  

Tuesday afternoon, I'm towing my rocks off with a bucketful of tar, down a side street near Hemsworth.  
Then, the situation starts to unravel like Bob Dylan’s Shelter From The Storm; 

“Suddenly, I turned around and she was standing there...,” but the scenario doesn't continue to unfold in the same way as the song.  Because the song goes; 

"..with silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair…"  Alas, here, she's got some two-bob Woolworth's jewellery on her wrists and the remains of badly-rinsed, Co-Op Wild Apple shampoo in her hair.  

And her screams, threats, fists, are everywhere.  Crazy, yet somehow careful.  She wants to kill me, but doesn’t want filthy grime transferring from my clothes onto hers. 

"You - lying - bastard - you- said - you - worked - in - an – OFFICE!"  

"I do; It’s my turn for the ink.”

Martin C

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Mystery

At first I thought I was just getting a bit forgetful, nowt to do with age...obviously. But it kept happening and I tried to work it out, eliminate possibilities.
Now, fair enough, I'm a ponsey, artsy-fartsy, wishy-washy, head-up mi'arse, luvvie, almost writer but I don't believe in bollocks or new-age nonsense, I'm more of a logic, science type of fella. I'm not going to fall for some daft elf and shoemaker or Pisney Dixar set up, I'll test the fucker, work it out, nail the scamp in the act.
As I quickly - second time it happened - realised that it wasn't me being senile, it had to be Mrs Mick, no other possible option....well, strictly speaking, the Pisney Dixar scenario was possible but I'm more likely to develop the ability to fly and fuck off to Barbados everyday for a bit of morning sun.
The most logical thing I’m left with is that I’m completely and utterly off mi trough, a couple of synapses short of a working brain. But I’m not, can’t be, there has to be some logic hanging around here somewhere. The last one like this was when I kept writing notes, phone numbers, dates on the calendar and yet I wasn’t. I would’ve missed the talk at Wortley Historical Society if they hadn’t phoned me the day before….and they were paying me, insisted on it no matter how much I protested. So as I’m taking the kitchen apart, looking for the telephone number I’d written down the previous day, mi youngest saunters in, ‘Ah, there it is mi’Spy Pen, bin looking fo’that.’ TWAT, invisible ink and he’d helpfully chewed off the labels so it just looked like a black pen, which I’d obviously grabbed in a flap.
Right, what do I know for sure? Just the one thing, ten pound notes keep turning up in the inside right pocket of mi leather jacket. No two things, I’m not doing it. Mrs Mick int doing it, the kids don’t have access to that kind of money, the house is locked and there’s no correlation with visitors.  So I don’t know one thing, I know shitloads and the one thing that’s really getting me is that something thoroughly illogical is happening in our kitchen. It’s worse than God, a belief in fate – they are at least possible – or shutting mi’eyes at Elland Road as a nipper when Leeds were just about to score… make sure they did…. it’s as bad as that.
It’s not huge amounts, we’re not going to retire and move to Hydra or owt, odd tenner here, thirty quid there, the most I’ve had in a seven day period is £140. But when you’re a bit skint, that’s a decent chunk of extra cash. Financially, we’d be alright if them selfish, bastard kids would stop wearing their shoes outside and eating food….they also wear their coats in wind and rain which I’m sure damages them, the coats that is.
With everything else it’s just enough to get by on; I can continue pretending to be a writer whilst sponging off Mrs Mick’s hard work and decent wage. I’d explained the constant small chunks of cash by telling her that I’d found and book shop in Garforth and a gift shop in the Corn Exchange who both insisted on paying in cash, she dint question it.
I realised I’d turned into Gollum when we went to set up a book launch, I hung up mi jacket on the coat stand…..bad move. I’d carried a few boxes up the spiral stairs, arranged some leaflets, hung some posters, got bombarded by people asking me questions, went to get a fag out of my jacket…..IT WAS GONE…. ‘THIEVING CUNTS…. WHERE’S MI JACKET? I’D HUNG IT UP THERE.’
‘What’s it look like?’
Well, ten people searched the room, it got a bit frantic, no-where to be seen, I was close to tears when John pointed at me and said, ‘What’s that?’
‘What’s what?’ 
 ‘That fucking jacket you’re wearing, that dark brown, soft leather fucking jacket that you’re wearing.’
I kissed him. He gave me a big hug and whispered, ‘Love you, y’dosey cunt.’ We laughed.

So I’m still left with the only option that I’m a mentalist, which is fine but due to some weird insecurity I need to get to the bottom of it and prove mi’heads innocence. Early on I watched the access to the kitchen, not directly but locked doors and stayed up in a place where anyone would need to pass me to get to the kitchen, nothing but two tenners in mi’pocket four hours later. There isn’t a certain time it happens; it was through the day a couple of times with no-one else in the house. Two other things, it seems to make no difference whether I remove the money when I find it or leave it there, just piles up and it’s always ten pound notes, sometimes tatty, sometimes crisp.
I would stake it out properly and watch it but I don’t want to hex it, the money’s useful and I don’t want to fuck with this process. I hated that, but had to admit I’m almost agreeing to a belief in magic, fate or faith or sommat bollocksy…..but at least I’m getting paid for it.
Of course this is all bollocks, it's a daft story, but if we ever meet, keep away from my fucking jacket….I’ll be watching you.

Mick – now y’know why I never flog any books – McCann

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wheel of Misfortune

Chris picked up the next card on the pile, and checked it.

Mrs Swindells; Ward One: Wheelchair; Chest X-Ray; 4:10

He collected one of the departmental wheelchairs, clearly marked as a result of a previous turf war, and trundled down the corridor. Visiting time was approaching. It made sense to pick her up early.
He turned onto the ward and asked the perpetually grumpy Staff Nurse Walsh where he could find the patient.
'She's down in the day room. She's already in a wheelchair so you can leave yours here.'
Chris worried about the potential red tape this was going to generate but couldn't be bothered arguing.
He saw Mrs Swindells in the wheelchair, eyes closed, hands resting on her lap.

'Just taking you off for an X-Ray, Mrs Swindells'.
She said nothing.

He wheeled her back past the Staff Nurse.
'She's not very lively'
'Well spotted. She's been sedated –it's a common hospital procedure!'.

All attempts at conversation with his passenger were fruitless, so Chris took her to X-Ray, left her in the waiting room and told Sister Costello. He went off to read the newspaper in one of the cubicles reserved for patients waiting for enemas, having checked first that it was unoccupied.
He had hardly opened the paper when he heard his name being called out. There was a definite sense of urgency in the voice which made him move quickly.

'You’ll have to take her back.'
'She’s dead.'
'You’ll have to take her back to the ward.'

By this time an incoming tide of visitors was streaming along the corridor to the wards. Chris waited for a gap and then proceeded down the corridor as fast as was prudent whilst pushing a corpse in a wheelchair.

As he was about to turn into the ward he heard the staff nurse's voice. 'She's just gone for an X-Ray, shell be back any minute.'

Shit! Why couldn't he have picked a less demanding holiday job! He didn't fancy a confrontation with angry family members, so he kept on going and pushed his expired charge down a side corridor to the sanctuary of the porter's room, where he decided to wait until all the visitors had departed.

After five minutes, he heard approaching footsteps. It was Polish George, a large amiable ex-miner. George stopped, looked at Chris's inert companion and exclaimed
' Chris, you can't bring patients into the porter's room!.'
'She's dead George!'
'Chris, you can't bring dead patients into the porter's room!'

'What should I do with her then???'

'Take her to the fucking morgue. That's the norm with dead patients'

Chris could see his logic.

He wheeled Mrs Swindells out the porter's room, through the side door and looped back along one of the outside paths. It was dusk. The air was cold and clammy with a fine drizzle hanging in the air.

Chris approached the morgue, which was half way down a covered way between the two main hospital buildings. He tried the morgue door. Locked. Shit. There was no one around and little ambient light. He left the wheelchair and headed back to the porters lodge for the key.

Returning through the gloom, he peered at where the wheelchair should be. There was nothing. He looked down the covered way, and in the half light he spied some movement. Gingerly, he made his way towards it. There was the wheelchair, on it's left hand side, the right wheel spinning slowly. Mrs Swindells, thrown clear by an impact with the kerb, was sprawled, half on the path and half on the flower bed.

Further down the covered way he saw Dr Browning, the Chief Registrar, striding purposefully up the slope. He looked down at the damp and muddied cadaver, still clad in her beige NHS dressing gown and slippers, in front of him, and pondered possible courses of action.

Things were clearly going to get worse before they got better.

Still, at least the wheelchair seemed undamaged.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jerry From Yonkers

I used to work with this young guy, let's call him Jerry From Yonkers because, well, his name was Jerry and he was from... You know the sort, knew everything about everything, especially sport. His passion was The Yankees but, thankfully, we only worked together, or rather we worked in the same building, briefly, during the off-season. For the duration of our acquaintanceship  he had to make do with basketball. That wasn't a problem for him because he knew everything about The Knicks too. His talents seemed sadly wasted running the freight car in an apartment building. If it wasn't for the fact that Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing, John Starks and the rest of the New York Knicks had to settle for Pat Riley as a coach while Jerry From Yonkers was busy putting out the garbage who knows how many championships they might have won?

Jerry From Yonkers was a regular on sports radio phone-ins. I forget the show but, it's not important, they're all pretty much the same. At least three times a week the presenter would announce, 'And our old friend Jerry From Yonkers is on line two.' Jerry From Yonkers 'Coulda been a Contenda!' He had 'an arm.' He had two, like most of us but, apparently, according to Jerry From Yonkers, one of his could toss a mean curve ball. Somehow or other though he managed to slip through the scouting system of every major league, every minor league and every college baseball program in America. They really should fix those programs because talent like that of  Jerry From Yonkers, as described to me by Jerry From Yonkers himself, is something the American public should not be denied.

As well as 'an arm' Jerry From Yonkers also had 'a voice'. Jerry From Yonkers had a little girlie voice in fact, a little girlie voice that I just couldn't take seriously. No one could. For some reason, and I'm not sure why, I've started to listen to sports radio phone-ins on my drive to work of late and, 19 years removed from my time working alongside Jerry From Yonkers, I still hear his voice and find it hard to suppress a smile. It's not a smile born of affection rather it's born from the memory of a prank call made by another coworker. We'll call him John because, well, you get the picture... You see, John phoned up Jerry From Yonkers' favorite sports phone-in show and did a more than passable impression of Jerry From Yonkers while I was sat in the workshop with Jerry From Yonkers drinking coffee as we both listened to the same radio show...



The kitchen window in the old house looks down over the vale of Tralee to the steeple of St John's Church and beyond to the Slieve Mish mountains. It's only a small window and allows poor light; if the house were to be built today it would be twice the size so that the new money could appreciate the view that they'd bought into. But this house was built a decade before the famine when views were ten a penny but glass was expensive. Because it's a small window the kitchen's dark but it's still my favourite room in the house. I'm moving the last bit of fried egg around my plate and staring out of the window at the view. It's not as great today because sheets of rain are cutting down the visibility and the Slieve Mish are just a suggested brooding shadow rather than a clearly defined range. Jack's sat under the table eating a bit of bacon that I've slipped to him. He won't go out in the rain; he's got more sense this sheepdog. I look at the clock and it's five to nine. I get up and put the kettle on, take out two cups, put tea bags in them and wait for the kettle to boil. It's all done by a minute to nine. I put the two brews down on the table and sit back down, taking a sip. It burns my lips so I rest it down again. The old man comes in from working outside, picks up his cup and eases himself into the chair next to the stove. "Turn the radio up," he says and I do. We do this every day. Nine o'clock. "Radio Kerry has been informed of the following deaths: Thomas McKelligott, 79, of Castleisland..." the voice drones on; a list of names. I don't know any of them. "Padraig Moran, 68, of Killorglin; Mary Keane, 84, of Dunquin; Dennis Harty, 62, of Tralee..." The list ends and the presenter moves on to the local news. The old man stands up and drains his cup. "Feckin' bitch," he says and goes back outside.


I Think We Are Stuck

“I think we are stuck.” She says.

She’s right. We are. This lift has lodged between the 9th and 10th floors.

“That’s not ideal.” I say. “Should we press the alarm button?”

“Lets give it a second.” She says.

She’s pretty this girl. Really pretty. I was pleased when she got in the lift. In a way stuck in a lift, just the two of us should be some sort of dream scenario.

“I definitely think we are stuck.” She says.

She presses the alarm button. A shrill ding surrounds the lift and runs down the floors.

Silence. Should probably introduce myself.  Make her know I’m not a rapist or something.

“I’m Kevin.” I say.

“Oh…hi. I’m Lisa,” She says.

We awkwardly shake hands.

Lisa. Pretty Lisa.

“Been stuck in a lift before?” I say.

I’m as rubbish talking to girls in odd situations as much as I am in natural ones.

“No.” She says with a laugh. “You?”

“Once actually yeah. With my Nan in Brighton. Stuck for about 15 minutes. So don’t worry, you are with a pro.” I say.

She does a nervous laugh. Turns away from me for a second. Probably rolling her eyes.

I might as well keep up this elevator pitch for love.

“Do you work here?” I ask.

“Yeah. On 15th floor.” She says.

“At American Airlines?” I say.

“Yep…sadly.” She says.

“That bad ay?” I say.

“That bad.” She says “You?”

“Well I was. Last day today, at the bank on the ground floor. Was just going up here to hand in my security pass.” I say.

“Well, you are certainly having a last day to remember. “ She says.  “Why are you leaving? That’s too personal a question. Sorry. I’m really bad at that. My ex always told me I was too invasive.”

Ex? Invasive? This is interesting. Clever and single. Might as well use that line I always do when a girl mentions her ex boyfriend.

“Well, he sounds like a dickhead.” I say.

She laughs. Which is good. That line has been known to backfire.

“Yeah he was. A cheating bastard dickhead.” She says.

She looks at me for second. I think she just looked at me as a person for the first time. No longer just a background extra. Might as well answer her question.

“I’m moving back home. My mum is sick. Well she’s dying actually.” I say.

“Well that is just awful.” She says.

“It is. And I appreciate you not saying you are sorry. I’m sick of people saying that.” I say.

“Yeah, I hate that too.” She says.  “Are you moving far?”

“Yeah, back down south. Boscombe. One of the worst places in England. It’s essentially a worse version of Bournemouth. Imagine that?” I say.

She looks a bit sad.

The lift then jolts into action.

“Oh, here we go.” She says.

The lift is soon at the 15th floor. The doors open.

She turns to me. I look at her.

“Bye then… Well good luck with everything Kevin.” She says as she steps out.

I should ask her number. Or kiss her. Or something. I should definitely do something. Say something.

The doors begin to close.

“Yeah, thanks, bye.” I say.

The doors close. 

Tom Greaney.