Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mocking The Afflicted

First things first, obviously you have to sing the title to yourself to the tune of Elvis Costello’s Watching The Detectives. This has nothing whatsoever to do with what follows, it’s just that I’ve not been able to shake it since the title came to me and I’m saving you the trouble of thinking that you vaguely remember a song called Mocking The Afflicted but can’t recall the artist. It wasn’t, you can’t.

Back to the matter in hand. I’m a fairly ‘right on’ PC type but recently found myself questioning what is considered acceptable and whether I’d just crossed a line into bigoted, UKIP territory. Anyone who has had the good/misfortune of meeting me or happening upon my very occasional blog posts will know that I have MS and am registered blind. I am bona fide disabled, a proper spazmo as I've rather unkindly been told. However, during a conversation with a friend I began to wonder where the boundaries lay following his apparent horror at the description I gave my current state.

December was shit, fucking shit - that’s a medical term. First couple of days were brilliant, I was smashing it at the gym and then within forty eight hours I couldn’t do a thing for myself. The details are tedious to all but those closest to me and me especially. Anyway, back to the conversation with said mate, I’ll call him Gaz, because his name is Gaz. Gaz knew I wasn’t doing too well and asked how I was. Whilst making light of it, I was being honest and we both laughed about it - he is a bastard. This started me thinking whether it was ok for disabled people to mock other disabled people. Having arrived at a title and recovered from the obvious comedic and literary brilliance of it I thought maybe I should delve a little deeper.

Now, contrary to wild speculation, I am in fact caucasian and as such wouldn’t consider using the N word. Snoop can do it; I’d be a horrible racist if I gave it a try. Can Snoop use the N word amongst those with every different hue of brown though? This rather led me to wonder whether as a disabled person I can only legitimately mock someone with the exact same disability as me or is every one of them fair game. I should add that even prior to disablement, gentle, general mocking (not of the disabled or any other minority groups) has always been my stock in trade, the target of which was more often than not, myself.

Being a relatively new 'disabled' I don’t know the rules, is there some sort of sliding scale that determines mockability. Can I go for anyone who looks to be doing better than me rather than preying on the weak? Looks tend to mean little though, I look ace and have come to realise that others who look ace may similarly be hiding flaws. Where does this leave me? I’m at a post office trying to choose the quickest queue and we all know there’s no changing once you realise you’re in the wrong one. Right kids?

I’m hoping that I can mock the disabled with complete profligacy and impunity in much the same way as, I hope, Snoop uses the N word with his kith and kin. The reaches of my blog tends not to be that great (I'm not multi platinum), this is good in that I’ll not be trolled by those less able or aresholes looking for offence, but I’ll be no closer to determining where the lines are and which I’m safely able to cross. I’ll just have to muddle through and feign offence and indignation should anyone chastise me.

Tim McB

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


For hire -  professional dog shit locator, no turd too big or too small.
Thankfully not my actual job although it might as well be. Since multiple sclerosis reduced my eyesight to something Magooesque last year I can hardly set foot outside without plunging the highest quality footwear into a steaming stool. The flip flop days of summer do not auger well.
I'll happily concede that people face much greater difficulties than a soiled trainer but I find the regularity somewhat tedious.
Losing your sight is not a joyous thing, one eye and you can get by with little more than minor adjustments and inconveniences. Two and you're fucked. Having said that, in spite of my often acerbic persona I am in fact an eternal optimist, I would ordinarily have used the phrase 'blindly optimistic' but I thought it might be considered in poor taste.
As there must be some benefit I could derive from this, I tried to imagine positive situations not requiring sight. Bingo! Blindfolded sex. Not necessarily my bag but if E L James can amass such a fortune with the literary ability of a bonobo, there's obviously a place for it. Sadly I soon realised that walking into things, spilling drinks, falling over etc. did not benefit from a fifty shades type frisson just because I couldn't see. In retrospect I'd been rather naive; it's all about context and situation. You may find driving your car wildly exciting but should your lights fail in a tunnel, you'd be petrified. In a similar vein, an avid proponent of S&M may delight in having his nuts nailed to a dungeon wall by a consenting partner. Less so his boss stapling them to his work space during a weekly 'catch up'. One might say that I'd led myself down a blind alley.
Focus Timothy, focus, other positives will surface. And surface they did. I'm pumped full of steroids, or roided up to use the popular gym parlance. Not for me the steroids which sculpt the body into taught, rippling muscle and sinew. No no, I'm on the ones which create a ballon/moon face as favoured by ginger haired soul sensation Mick Hucknall. These have also resulted in the growth of two brand new tits – so far. I've mixed feelings about them as they're undoubtedly nice to have, it's just that they're located in my arm pits. Had they have been more centrally located on my torso I could have pulled off the feeding sow look quite well. Swings and roundabouts I suppose. On a separate note, the armpit tit is a huge evolutionary oversight. Should one be lactating, a swift birdie song style swing of the arm could dispense nutrition to hungry infants with ease.
In much the same way as we remember James Dean, River Phoenix and Jeff Buckley as the handsome young talents they were, I too can find comfort in the fact that, to me at least, I will always be the forty two year old adonis of 2015 as that was the last time I saw myself clearly in the mirror.
Oh and as an aside, my body has come to represent the Syrian crisis as my leg hair has migrated to the 'Western Europe' of my back. Not sure if this is related or just more 'luck'.

Tim McB

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Little Miss Kansas 1975

“Marie, pretty darlin’,” Hank snarled, “I will have another slice of that delicious blueberry pie.”

The oaf’s saliva dangled on his chin, thick and full just like the late afternoon sun heating the parched lawn outside. 4th of July and the last stragglers who’d visited the Chicopee Parade were on their way home. Two young boys by the entrance threw cake muck at each other and their mother sat there, with the silent sun silhouetting her. She was defeated and her eyes hinted at bored delirium.

Marie felt no pity as she bent to tie her shoes, yawning whilst she had the chance. Force of habit, even if the boss was out anyway. She didn’t want Mr. McCrory noticing her fly-catching; the old pervert needed no excuse to take her out back for a ‘little talk’. She hated the way he closed the diner door just so, to breathe the smell of tar and day old cheeseburger on her white neck. A shaky hand would make its way onto her shoulder whilst his daughters played out front. 

She tiptoed into the kitchen and didn’t know why, sliding the fridge door open to get to the two remaining slices of pie. That same old yellowish light spluttered into life, a failing engine at odds with the machine’s obvious baritone, Marie mused. Its monotonous hum was a comfort, hell sure it was, as dumb as that sounds. It sounded wise and constant and Marie wanted to stay listening to it, but knew better – she was the only one working right now after Jeanette ran off with the pastor’s son to her folks’ place in Oklahoma City, if Mrs. O’ Hare’s wicked tongue was to be believed. The place was a dump, but who was gonna whisk her away to Oklahoma City? 

Mr. McCrory wasn’t due back for another half hour. Marie patted her apron pocket for her mirror. Fuckwhere did I leave it?She sidled over to the worktop and bent over, the roundness of her breasts swelling against her blouse. She liked the way her body felt, still youthful at 32 against the crisp cotton. Sure, she’d been around. Three years here, two and a half in Mr. Delacour’s before that, five in Nashville with the band before it all broke down. Mr. Delacour had been a real gentleman and the memory of his ink-stained neckerchief with the Kansas State flag on it sure made her smile. But the cancer took him like the dark comes for the daytime and you can’t go back. 

She picked up the pie and scrunched her face theatrically, plucking a chestnut red hair from the crust which could only be her own. She’d squidged a dollop of ice cream on top and it made her sick to look at it, but she didn’t know why. Hank didn’t take time to look up from the toothpick he fumbled with in his hands, but she sure knew that as soon as her back was turned his hot stare would be on her, ice cream melting in the constant heat, up and down, up and down…

The door clanged its lullaby as another weary traveller stepped through the threshold, Marie was sure. She was examining her reflection in the back of an upturned spoon on the counter and was weirdly absorbed by its unnatural cleanness when he spoke. 

“Marie Burbank, unless my pretty blues do deceive me.” His eyes were pretty, just like they’d always been back in high school. Gosh, she hadn’t seen him in 15 years. The eyes were the same, the midriff a little wider, the boots and hat a little fancier. But it was him.

They spoke for what could have been five minutes or five hours. Time didn’t exist no more; even Hank left with three bucks slammed on the counter and without a word, for which she was grateful. He hardly said a word, staring at her lips as she talked. They didn’t tremble and she was relieved, but didn’t know how. And it felt like she hadn’t spoken in years, not really. Perhaps it was because she hadn’t been listened to in years, but she laughed, blushed, whispered and nodded with something that had been missing for too long and she was occasionally mindful of losing it. 

It began to get dark and no one came – not even McCrory – and she shocked herself with fantasies of the bastard having a heart attack. He sat across from her and laughed so hard just as she thought of it and was reminded of a line: ‘hell is empty and all the devils are here’, but she had no idea where it came from or why she thought it, either.

“Little Miss. Kansas, nine-teen seventy five” he boomed, jumping up and taking her hand. They danced in the near darkness, bumping into chairs and laughing all the while, knocking ketchup bottles to the floor. He whisked her back to that day when she’d stood on stage, just 16 and with rouge on her cheeks for the first time. The thorn in the roses they gave her had scratched her hand and she had to wipe it on the back of her burgundy dress when the judges weren’t looking. Even her daddy had made it to sit in the audience; they danced closer just at the moment she thought of this.

McCrory had a bottle of Jack out back she knew, the old goon taking it out for a tumbler whenever his wife rang through to crow at him for something stupid the girls had done. She whispered into his ear that she was going to get a couple of glasses, and a dull shockwave went through her as she let go of his hand, brushing her thigh against him as she walked to the left of the counter, to the cupboard under the till where they kept the glasses. She thought she heard a stirring and turned before she knelt down, but he wasn’t looking. He rested on the counter, moving the rings on his knuckles. A distant firework exploded and then fizzled out to nothingness.

Her eyes burned and the floor rocked as another firework, and another, and another went off in quick succession. In her skull. Head smashed into counter crunched into glass. The white light of the moon shone on her, black liquid snaking on the floor underneath her temple. In a moment of complete lucidity, she realised that he had stepped over her to the till. It rang a sickly sweet note and he slid it shut again a moment later. Her bones moaned but she couldn’t move a muscle. Just then, or was it before, or after, the faint rumble of an engine distanced, distanced itself from her outstretched hand that grabbed only cool evening air.

She looked to her left and saw it. Her pocket mirror she’d misplaced hours ago had cracked, the glass peppering the blood-smudged floor like snowflakes in a field of flowers. Tucked behind the glass was a Polaroid with cracks at the edges but a young woman clearly visible, the unmistakeable words ‘Little Miss. Kansas, 1975’ screaming from the banner overhead. 

The smashed glass had cut the picture down the middle. A firework went off. She finally began to sob.

George Young

Saturday, November 29, 2014


She rushed to the door. Her tiny feet like pitter patter on the wooden floor. The door swung open. She launched into the air. But landed in arms not of her father

It was Sara's day. She had the best surprise birthday breakfast. Long phone calls with favourite aunts made her day. Suddenly they were all leaving. Her worried expression was replaced with joy when a surprise was promised

The stern looking police man helped her stand on her shaking legs. She tried to listen to the whispers but only heard her baby sitter's sobs. 

She shook her mama but she did not open her eyes, she screamed at her brother but he did not shout back. She poked her baba but he did not laugh. 

The driver with cuts on his arms looked at her struggle and went away, failed in his quest of forgiveness not only from the little girl but himself

Tired she closed her eyes. Wishing foolishly it was just a nightmare. But who says nightmare can not be true.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Perimeter Fence

Sam looked on with resignation as the ball veered away from the makeshift goal of two piles of school bags.  In his haste to capitalise on the open goal due to Cavan’s slip, he’d rushed his shot, his standing foot too far away from the ball when he struck it.
Ignoring the catcalls and pisstakes, he ran to recover the ball.  Its resting place was the perimeter fence separating Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School and St Urbans Catholic Primary School.
He slowed as he approached the fence so as not to scare the Robin Redbreast he’d glimpsed through the fence.  A bystander observing what was unfolding on the Primary School side.
Just by the unadulterated shrieks of laughter, Sam sensed it was an altogether more carefree environment than the Cardinal Heenan playground.  The younger children yet to be weighed down by the combined burden of exams, puberty, social media and being in or out of the ‘in crowd’.
Sam picked up the ball tucking it under his arm pausing and breathing in the air from the other side of the fence seeing if it could infect him and take him back to times when he was free of spots and blackheads, when he had a bum fluff free top lip, his armpits didn’t exude an odour of old tea bags and his hair didn’t need washing daily.
A ruddy faced boy flushed with joyous excitement in hot pursuit of a smaller pig tailed girl giggling uncontrollably.  Neither likely to be subject to a Spanish inquisition from their friends at the end of play time of why they were playing together.  Not having to run the gauntlet of questions, feeling your acne pock marked cheeks colouring and the burn of your neck reddening – “what were you doing with her?  Are you seeing her or summat?”.  The minefield of teenage boys, an age when it wasn’t sick to have friends who were girls.
Sam’s bubble of innocent musing was punctured by Jordan’s bawling – “ere, there’s only 5 minutes of break time left, you fetching the ball back or gonna stay standing there staring into space with your gob open catching flies”.  “Shut up nobhead” responded Sam launching the ball at Jordan, re-joining the fray.

Paul Jobson

The Liquor Store

Hetty and Jake had to run an errand for their mom whilst she was at work.  They had to go to the store and get some groceries so mom could fix supper when she got home.  They set-off in great spirits, laughing and joking as they walked on the sidewalk to the store.  Their route took them past the Liquor Store.  As they passed it, Jake shot into the yard beside it.
“Hetty, Hetty, look at all of the empty beer bottles, these are the ones you get money for returning”
“Come on, we need to get the groceries and get home in time for mom”
“Take these”
“What are you doing?”
“We’re going to earn ourselves some money.  Mom will be pleased if we go back with all of the groceries and give all of her money back”
“It’s stealing”
“No, it’s not.  It’s a killer idea.  Anyhow, don’t be a square”
“Just hold these and follow me”
Hetty reluctantly held the bottles and followed Jake into the Store.  Jake confidently placed his empty bottles onto the counter then took the others from Hetty and put them alongside.  The Liquor Store owner ambled over, glancing quickly at Hetty and Jake over the top of his glasses.  He counted the bottles – six in total, opened the cash register, picked out 6 coins and handed them into Jake’s outstretched palm.
“Thank you sir”
“So long kids”
Jake could barely stifle his laughter as they were leaving the store.  As they stepped out onto the sidewalk, he squealed “again, let’s do it again”.  Hetty knew they shouldn’t but reasoned the owner had hardly looked at them, he probably wouldn’t recognise them.
In their haste to gather another set of empties, Hetty dropped one of them, it smashed on the floor.  Hetty and Jake didn’t have time to look at one another before the Liquor Store owner emerged into the yard from a door at the rear of the store.
Jake beat it, flat out up the sidewalk.  Hetty was caught by surprise and the Store owner had positioned himself between the Hetty and the yard entrance.
“I’ve called up the Cops, they’re on the way to throw you and your friend in jail for stealing”.
Hetty started to cry.  She didn’t want to go to jail.  Mom would go crazy.  Mom hated stealing.  Mom had never done anything wrong in her entire life.
The Store owner moved towards Hetty.  Without warning, an empty beer bottle whistled by his ear, smashing on the ground between him and Hetty.  Startled, the Store owner turned round to see where it had come from, this gave Hetty the split second she needed, Hetty darted past the distracted Owner, joining Jake on the sidewalk from where he’d launched the bottle.
“You cool?”
“Yeah.  C’mon.  Let’s cut out”
They took flight back up the sidewalk towards home.  They arrived back breathless at the tenement building where their apartment was, to see their mom crossing the road.
“Watcha.  What you been doing?  You look hot”
“We’ve been running mom”
“Be careful.  Have you got the groceries like I asked?”
Hetty and Jake exchanged a look.
“You’ve forgotten”
“Let me change out of my work clothes, then I’ll go.  You two carry on playing and enjoy the sunny weather.  But no moaning about having a late supper"

Paul Jobson

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Warning

“Si’down,” the security guard said, throwing me on to the plastic chair in the middle of an office. The chair sat opposite a desk. I stumbled a bit, and then stood up straight, defiant. The security guard raised an eyebrow and then peered through her glasses perched on her nose. 

“Hmm.”“What? I aint got nuffin on me.”
“Sit,” she said again.
Rolling my eyes, I plonked myself down onto the chair.
“Do you know where you are?” she asked, closing the door behind her and stepping behind the desk.
“Waitrose. For fucks sake I’m not thick.”
“Could’a fooled me.”
“Look can we just get on with this yeah,” I said, shifting in the chair. It was small and uncomfortable.
“Very well, then,” the security guard said, placing her hands on the desk and folding them. “Name?”
“John?” She scoffed.
“Yeah John,” I sniffed, “Why not?” I said, watching as she rolled her eyes. I grinned. “Or you could call me Johnny, John boy – I’m not fussed.”
“How about prat,” came a male voice from the door. I craned my neck to see who had just come in but all I could see was the profile of his face. The man was relatively short, white, with dark blonde curly hair. From what I could see, he looked like the prat to me.
 “Good one, Ron,” said the dickguard. I groaned. I had heard stories about this guy. Devon had said that he once had the shit beat out of him by a manager named Ron. Another mate, Kat, said he hunts down thieves himself. You don’t wanna get caught by that one, she had said.  “What did you steal?,” he said, stopping my thoughts dead. Back to business.
“Nothing,” I said, “I was already searched, I got nothing on me.” This time, I added in my head.
“Nah I’m not talking about today,” Ron said. He was still behind me – pacing, it was staring to freak me out. “I’m talking about the last time you were here.”
“What?” I said feigning ignorance.
“Don’t fucking play about. I’ve seen you here before, and people like you don’t come in here to shop, you come in here to steal –“
“Racial profiling,” I muttered under my breath.
The guard laughed. “You’re fucking white, you numpty.”
“Shut up,” Ron said, placing his hands on the back of the chair. I fought the urge to turn around. “I’m gonna ask you again. What did you nick?”
I rolled my eyes, fed up with the games, now. “Wines, obvs.”
“Which ones?” Ron asked, removing his hand from the back of the chair.
“Dunno, just wines.” I said, feeling more and more uneasy by the second.
“Well yeah,” I snorted.

He started to laugh, then. A big arrogant laugh as though he were laughing at what I just said. This man was such a tosser. I had had enough. I turned my head to the side to catch a glimpse of him. Suddenly I felt a blow to my cheek, swift and strong. It knocked me right out of my seat. I stumbled, dazed and ready to fight back, my fists drunkenly making circles in the air. Another punch, this time in my stomach, winded me. Another punch landed on the other side of my face. I dropped down to the floor. One more kick – right in the nuts – almost had me tearing up. I fought to breath right again, every breath feeling like another stab in all the places he hit me. Fucking hell the rumours were true. These people were crazy! A man couldn’t walk around suspiciously without ending up half dead on the street. My theory was confirmed when the guard got up and walked around the desk and chuckled.

“Good that’s what you get.” She walked out of the room. Ron rolled up his sleeves.
“Don’t fucking come back,” he said, as he dragged me up by my shirt. 

One more punch and I was out.

 Shayanne Campbell

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Start Of Something New

He came crashing up the stairs, wrecking havoc along his path. His bulky body thumped against the wall and the staircase railing back and forth with every uneven step he took.

In the room at the top of the staircase, my eyelids flew open. I would recognize those muffled, clumsy footsteps anywhere, even in my sleep. That was the sound I dreaded the most. That was the sound I spent my waking hours worrying about. That was the sound of the footsteps of a man whom I could not bear to call my father.

As silently as I could, I got up from my position at the foot of my mother’s queen-sized bed. A bed too large for one person to sleep in. My mother looked so small sleeping on her side of the bed, always leaving the other side empty, in the hopes that that despicable man would one day climb back into bed and lay by her side forever.

Oh, he comes back, all right. He comes back after he has drunk himself into oblivion and pounds on my mother’s bedroom door, demanding for money. I have begged her countless times never to hand him any of her savings. I told her that he would only spend it all on drugs and alcohol and come back for more, but she wouldn’t listen to me. That poor old soul, she was so blinded by a non-existent love that she would even give her life to him if she had to.

I never worried much about my mother as she always had ample money for that man. I always thought that he would just take the money and leave, so I never bothered to include myself in her twisted little affair.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until late last month that I realized something was amiss. Fresh bruises and cuts started appearing on my mother’s skin every time that man visited. It was as if blue roses were blooming on her skin, blotching its smooth surface with angry spots and cuts. I questioned her about the bruises and cuts, but she would always brush it aside and cook up a feeble excuse. Well, she did not fool me. I knew what was going on and I was going to make it stop.

I decided to take matters into my own hands by sneaking into my mother’s room after she has fallen asleep and sleeping at the foot of her bed so that if that man comes for her, he would have to get past me first. We had a few peaceful nights... until tonight.

I locked my mother’s bedroom door from the inside as I left the room to face that monster, to protect her. Immediately, my gaze landed on a man with a bloated stomach and messy hair who had just landed on the top of the staircase, swaying about , trying to balance himself against the railing. He smelled like vomit and cigarettes. The sheer sight and smell of him filled me with hatred and disgust. I wanted to push him down the flight of stairs so badly.

Repressing those feelings, I walked towards him and said as calmly as I could, “leave.” With his eyes half-closed in a drunken stupor, he looked me over. “Don’t you dare challenge me, son,” he said, his voice deep and his words slurred. I glared at him, this ugly, resentful creature in front of me. “I. Am. Not. Your. Son,” I spat each word at him as if they were poison, “and leave my mother alone.”

Before I knew it, his fist came flying towards me and landed squarely on my nose. Instantly, I felt a sharp pain and blood came gushing out of my nostrils in an angry stream. Enraged, I lifted my right fist, ready to throw a punch at him. But before I could do it, his eyes widened in shock as he fell backwards, tumbling down the flight of staircase.

“No one treats my son with violence and gets away with it,” a voice said from my side.

Surprised, I turned to my left only to find my mother standing there with a grim expression on her face. She pulled me into an embrace before kneeling down to inspect my nose from various angles, concern woven into the creases on her forehead. “Are you okay? Gosh, I can’t believe I’ve been so blinded all this time,” she muttered as she wiped my blood with her sleeve.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was as if a switch in her had flipped and suddenly, she had snapped out of her fantasy world. The pain in my nose was nothing compared to the joy I felt for my mother. I hugged her so tight that she laughed and said, “okay now, you’re crushing my ribcage.”

We called the police and the ambulance who whisked that sick man away in a stretcher. We even got a reward from the police for turning in a wanted felon. Then, my mother drove me to a nearby clinic to get my nose fixed. A smile was plastered on my face the entire journey even though my nose hurt, because I knew that from this point onwards in life, the future will be much brighter for my mother and I. Just the both of us, with no one else tying us down.

My mother glanced at me, caught my eye, and smiled. It’s the start of something new.

Samantha Sim

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


“I don’t love you.”


I waited in the darkness for the words to find their target. Hopeful. My heart beat against my chest in anticipation of the fallout to come. Fear and excitement pumped through my veins.

A soft snore reverberated across the still room, the arm clutching my waist moved higher, tightening around my chest, his face nuzzled into the back of my head as he settled himself. He murmured slightly, I couldn’t discern the words. He slept on oblivious to the disappointment and frustration cursing through me. I’m a coward. I should have spoken sooner. At dinner when he proposed would have been the preferable occasion. He asked if I want to spend the rest of my life with him. And I lied. I even managed to shed a tear over it all. But it was not a tear of joy. I was panicked. 

And now here I am again, lying awake in the dark, him sleeping peacefully beside me, unaware. I am going to break his heart. And it frightens me because I don’t think I will be upset about it. I think I will be relieved. I know I will be relived. I feel guilty right now but more than that, more than anything else, I feel smothered. My hand is trapped under me, but if I move it I will only disturb his sleep again and if he wakes this time then at this ridiculous point I’m going to have to come clean about my feelings, or lack there of, and it’s 3am and all I really want to do is sleep. But I can’t because I feel trapped and uncomfortable and overwhelmingly hot with his body curled up around me. The body I no longer want anywhere near me.

I think I loved him, once, briefly perhaps. I don’t know when I stopped. I just know that that feeling, that strange buzz I once got when I so much as looked in his direction, the annoying red that filled my cheeks when he smiled at me, or said something even slightly flirtatious, is gone. And I can’t get it back. But I can get the courage to end it. I think.

Alice Elliot

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Paris, Paris

Earlier it rained more and warmer than usual.

A double rainbow scissored the sky and the city stood stained with colour as stale as a water-damaged nursery rhyme. Later, the sun spun fierce and piercing. Half-naked hipsters flooded the parks and every drop soaked back up to the blue like so many ascending souls.

An elderly man, yellow raincoat, crosses the boulevard on his way to the bookshop. A blind woman of no fixed address plays the recorder badly for money.

The old man stops and turns back to his dog, to convince him of the safety of crossing the street. The damp and dizzy terrier steps carefully down and skips to the heel of his owner’s right boot.

The boy’s death is not news yet.

It’s a bank holiday and the bookshop is closed. Instead of discount shelves and browsing customers, prostitutes the wrong side of forty display in each staggered doorway: each one made up like a stolen car.

Their supervisors line the railings of the boarded up church next door. They smoke and talk, one eye on the women, and never let go of their phones.

The elderly man shouts for help.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Project Eternal Love

He crept sneakily into the room, careful not to make any sound. He watched as the lights flickered on, wary of the lady sleeping on the mahogany bed. As he scuttled about the room, he brought in a tray into the room, careful not to drop it. He smiled as he tiptoed past the sleeping beauty. Even as she slept, the lady looked ever so elegant.
He placed the tray on the table by her bed. He could not help himself but reach out and gently touch the lady's chestnut brown hair, soft as silk. He pulled the duvet up; afraid the frail lady would catch a cold. After making the final arrangements, touching up on what he would like to call his master plan, he waltzed out of the room, looking back only to blow the lady one last kiss.
Later, as the bright Sun rose up to greet him, he wondered if the lady had woken up yet. Being an early eagle, she bet she would have. Did she like it? Would she scream and hop around with joy? He did not know. He hoped so. The lady was known for her terrible moods in the mornings, adding to the unpredictability of her personality. That was what he loved about her though. He stared into the orange sky, pondering whether this would be the last time he admire the sky alone. He chided himself, for acting like a teenage girl.
I woke up, a terrible hangover in my head. I glanced around the bedroom floor. This would be the last time I sleep here, I guess. The once-littered floor, with all kinds of beer, vodka and wine bottles disappeared, becoming cleaner than it had ever been. Never had my apartment been so clean! Had the cleaning fairy popped in? Of course not, I thought to myself, trying to remember how wasted I got at last night's party. I remembered that the next day was my wedding, so my girlfriends and I squandered my ever-lasting inheritance from the Daddy I never met, buying any pair of high heels that attracted me and spending the rest on my high need of alcohol.
I remember shouting into my phone, "Ten bottles of Jacks, three bottles of vodka, five bottles of red and white wine each and seven bottles of brilliant Scotch." My, my. It had been quite a while since my satisfaction for alcohol had been fulfilled. How long was it since I last drank so merrily, till I experienced the lingering bitterness of beer in my mouth?
I shook my head to clear it, and then my nose finally picked up on it. The sweet smell of freshly cooked scrambled eggs, pancakes stacked to resemble the Marina Bay Sands and bacon. Oh, the best bacon I've ever tasted. Countless bacon littered the plate, just the way I loved it. Digging in, I mercilessly attacked paradise breakfast, shoving and savoring each delicious mouthful. My dear Riley, how thoughtful of him.

After filling my stomach, I drained the hazelnut coffee as I wanted for the phone to get through. He did not pick up, that Riley. Nevertheless, I slid back under the covers, and into the safety of my soul mate. How similar, my soul mate was to Riley, warmly embracing me in his strong arms. Soon, I fell into the dreamy coma and hoped for the sweetest dream to meet me.
Spending the whole day in bed, I got up only the next morning. This was it, the final day of my freedom, gone like the wind, along with the wines down the drain. Would I regret it, the binds of marriage? Only the Lord knows. I slipped a glanced at the grandfather clock ticking in my room. 6 a.m., it said. Five hours to dawdle, one hour to prepare and half an hour to get to the place. I grabbed the vintage wine I saved up for the special occasion, sipping it and switching the television on.
“Five dead bodies found dead in the canal near Jurong West, by eyewitness, John Tan.” The Barbie doll behind the screen chattered on, but the five dead bodies captured my attention. Ten years, since a good number of people had been murdered like that since my parents’ murder. The peaceful, bustling serenity the Singapore had seen flew out the window just like that.
I laughed as the usual statement flashed above the news anchor’s head. ‘Should the public have any information about the murders, please contact the police immediately at this hotline.’ They did not even bother with my parents, declaring it a suicide. Well, now we have got a murderer on the loose, what more on my wedding day. I took a long drag of the sweet wine. It would always calm me down no matter what.
That moment, my phone buzzed. I picked it up, squinting to make out the small font of the text. “Sherlock, we need you on the case.” Damn the police. I scrolled down and scanned through the messages. Many flooded my inbox, saying, “Great party last night” or “Congrats”. Finding the correct message, it read, “Coming over to the penthouse, hope you liked the breakfast. Love Riley.”
Love Riley, it brought up many memories of the past. We met back in Secondary School, where I was still foolish, and he was dense. Smart but dense. Many girls liked him, but he never noticed. He floats around, goofy smiles plastered on his face. The boys didn’t take to him that much. In fact, he was subjected to bullying by them, yet that blockhead did not sense anything. They teased and made fun of him, but he never lets it get to him.

I always stayed away from most people, never ever trusting them so easily. But he hopped through my barrier, breaking my guard down, convincing me that people weren’t always that bad. We got along well, and somewhere along the way, he blurted out his feelings for me. I did not know if he told the truth then, being so unromantic and all, but I liked seeing his beet red face, hiding his embarrassment. We were happy. I still remember when we leaned against each other, reading the stars.
“I love you” He said. I ignored that, my face flushing just a tinge. “Don’t you dare change. Idiots make the world a better place to live in after all. I will come after you. I will kill you.” I said, but he’d already fallen asleep. Things progressed smoothly as time passed by, with our love growing sweeter as days went by.
The doorbell rang, and back to reality, I was dragged. It chanted its usual chorus around the house. I pressed the intercom, unlocking the door and letting him in. We hugged and kissed; the soon-to-be married couple.
“I did what you asked.” He whispered into my ear as we cuddled up to watch the movie screening on the television. I simply nodded my head, carefree and happy I was. A surgeon he was, so skillful and precise. “I killed and dumped five bodies into the canal.”
Now that I expected. I held my hand out. His eyes lit up when he saw the ring I wore and he placed the murder weapon in my palm. A scalpel, the perfect torture equipment.
I stood up, ready to reward my masochistic dog. His hands clasped in mine, I led him into my guest room. He lay on the bed, as I glided the scalpel along his shirt, tearing to reveal strong taut muscles. I dragged the thin blade along his bicep; a thin trail of blood followed the knife. He winced in pain.
Slashing the knife across his body, I outlined and drew passionate red roses on his body. I was careful not to cut into any major veins or arteries. The beauty of art, such a meticulous and miraculous thing. I always signed off my works. I bend down, closer to his face, feeling the hot breath he huffed. On his face, decorated a red rose on his left cheek, I saw the crave for death in his eyes.
I reached for the liquid in the drawer by the bed. Feeding him through mouth to mouth, he swallowed the potion. I slit his wrist, before leaving him to die. I looked for my phone. Looking for “Chief Police” under my list of contacts, I texted him. Mark off the target as Murdered.

The deep passionate red wedding gown was placed in front of me, and I stared into the mirror. “What a beauty! Forever, I will stay like this.” I peered at the body on the bed, still and lifeless. It began to pale, as blood slowed down. His heart should have stopped and restarted, signaling his rebirth. His fingers twitched. He marked the 225th Experiment. Undercover, Project Eternal Love.

S Empress

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Third time this month on foreign TV

House interior.  Somewhere in Europe. 1965. A man in his mid-thirties is sitting, smoking, on a cheap sofa.  He's professionally lit.  A film camera is running.  He begins to speak.

"It was 20 years ago now and so you cannot expect me to remember too much. [Small laugh] But I can remember being hungry most of the time and as well, cold sometimes.  There was constant talk of the Russians arriving.  All the time.  Everywhere.  Fear of the Russians.  You could hear distant guns firing, but I never saw a Russian at that time.  Not at first.

So.  We were all lined up like some pretend army korps?  About a dozen of us, maybe more and I remember we didn't have long to wait.  The first thing I noticed was how short he was and the way he held his arm and his hand behind his back, with the other arm.  Like this.  We later found out that at times it used to shake without any control.  I imagine that could have been quite comical…is that the word?  Yes?  Thank you.  Comical for such a serious man.  And later my friend Karl made a joke about him and Axmann having one good set of arms if you added them all together. 

Anyway, he came down the line and there were these truly amazing looking medals.  I have since found out that at least one was an Iron Cross.  Whatever lies we had heard in the past, it was true that these…medals were impressive.  The sun had just about begun shining when he reached me, but still the whole area had a sad and cold feeling around it. 

Axmann looked at the boy next to me and he shouted ‘Yesterday, this soldier destroyed two enemy tanks on his own.'  I knew some of the older boys had gone out looking for Russian tanks on their bicycles, but I didn't really believe that they'd knocked out any. 

He looked at this boy, pushed his hair and touched his face, here, with his fingertips.  Then he said 'I wish my generals were as brave as you.'  The medal was pinned to his coat, in a hurry and they moved down the line.  A few days later we heard he was dead and the war was over.  I heard the other boy threw the medal in the dustbin.  The Russians had arrived by now and I don't think he wanted them to find him with it.

Is that alright?  I think that's everything."

Martin C

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

True Story

The day after it was reported that someone had stolen a Mark Chagall painting from Manhattan’s Jewish Museum I was asked by the housekeeper of one of the tenants in the Upper Eastside apartment building I was working in as a handyman if I could hang a painting in the tenant’s study.

The guy was a good tipper and as a consequence he rarely heard the words, ‘Sorry I can’t.’ Hell, he never heard it from me. I told the housekeeper I was a little busy but that I’d be up as soon as I was done. When The Jerry Springer Show finished I grabbed a few tools and asked the elevator operator (yep, one of those kinds of buildings) to take me to the 17th floor. I rang the back doorbell and let myself in. The housekeeper and the cook were having a bite to eat and a coffee. I was offered and accepted some food and a coffee. We sat and chatted for a while, the tenants were out and the chat was the usual gossip, mostly about the tenants and their family and a bit about the new nanny in 12D who had, the housekeeper informed me, a tattoo on her ankle!

In the study was an envelope addressed to me that contained a note detailing instructions on where to hang the picture and a $50 bill. On the floor, leaning against the wall behind the tenant’s desk wrapped in brown paper and tied with cord was the painting in question. I knelt down and undid the packaging. That was the first time I’d ever seen a Chagall in the flesh.

Jon L

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Barber Of Soldau

Towards the end of the war he'd earned the nickname “The Barber Of Soldau”, due to the practice of hair removal at the Soldau concentration camp.

Throughout his trial in Nuremburg, the newspaper headlines would make great creative use of this moniker, of which even he took a twisted enjoyment in reading.  If the truth be told, he’d grown quite fond of his new name - The Barber - as he felt it alluded to some of his better qualities – namely his precise nature and adherence to personal hygiene.  And with the benefit of hindsight, he knew his reputation could have spawned a name much uglier.    For if his son were to live the rest of his life to only be known as the son of The Barber Of Soldau in hushed tones – well, it really wouldn't be so bad, all things considered.

With an irony not lost on him, he'd once considered this line of profession as a youth in Wolfsberg, Austria.  But as was the case with so many like him, the outbreak of war put stop to these and any other aspirations.  For the war would bestow it's own ambition on him – one for exacting death.

Contrary to his prosecution, he never saw himself as having much of a proactive involvement in the Nazi party during his tenure at Soldau.  As his defense would put it – his role was one of administrative duties.  Guilty of being a good soldier, it was often said.  Or as he himself would put it – “I was a numbers man”, a suitably detached response which - albeit not without an element of truth - did not fair well with his own defense.

And with this, he found himself back in the Polish town of DziaƂdowo on an unseasonably hot September day.   Stood beneath the shadow of an acacia tree,  to his left a dusty road leading to village of Rybno and to his right, the iron gates of the Soldau that he'd grown to know so well.  Beneath his shackled ankles a wooden stool and in front of him; 5 guards busying themselves in the formalities of what was to be his own execution.

The noose around his neck hung limply as it awaited the afternoons main event, the noose no less an instrument of death than the men before him, or the tree above.  His death was simply the full stop in a chain of events he could not control, this much he knew.  As the stool got kicked away from beneath him, this thought would stay with him as he hung rigid.  His body absorbing the energy of a lifetimes misfortune.  For the short while he was still able to see, he saw the branches of the acacia tree.  Such a beautiful tree, he thought.

Tobias Prior

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Food Encounter

"Have you got any steak and onion baguettes?"

"No.  Sorry.  Sold out pal."

"Ok, what about the chicken strips one?"

"No, all gone.  Only hot food I got is jacket tatties.  Hot fillings are chilli or baked beans.  Cold is tuna or cheese."

"What sort of chilli is it?"

"What sort! It's normal chilli."

"But what sort of chilli?  There's different types."

"Is there?  This is the same chilli I make every day and have been doing for 6 years."

"Ok.  Please can I have a tuna mayo baguette."

"Yeah, sure.  Anything else?"

"No thanks."

"That's £2.50 please."

"Ok, there you go.  Cheers.  See you later."

"Bye.  Take care."

Paul Jobson