Friday, December 7, 2012

Breaking up at Christmas

4.30pm. Hit return. Done. Finished. Until Jan 2013. Dave thought about going home. But he didn't want to. Not yet. Cold out. Maybe a cuppa for the road. Dave made his way to the kitchen. "How about a Coffee Smithy?". It looked as if Jo Smith was just about to press send on her report as well. "Why not" replied Jo. Dave sauntered back in with two coffees and a Kit-Kat on a plate which he placed on Jo's desk whilst humming 'Silent Night' to himself. "Thats the last one Smithy, no one can ever say I'm not a considerate." Jo knew very well that this wasn't just a kind offering. It was one of the silly gestures that both of them were in the habit of doing toward each other. Especially over the last few months. "Did you end up sorting some cheap train tickets to get down to Paul’s parents then?" asked Dave. "I sorted those ages ago, I can't remember mentioning that to you." "Er, you didn't. I overheard you telling Sue about it when we were all on that course." stuttered Dave. "Ah, right. That was ages ago. Yes I did. God, get the memory on you. We travel down to Bristol tomorrow, If Paul isn't too hung over and isn’t pouting. Spend Christmas Eve there and then we just have to get up for lunch.". "What about you and Laura?" Jo hated to ask Dave about Laura because whenever she did she saw the happy-go-luckiness of Dave fold in on itself and wither away before her eyes, but she had to ask out of the polite contriteness of conversing with her favorite colleague. "Yeah. The plan is to go over to her Mum's again." "Jo felt a surge of directness and replied "Is that the fourth Christmas in a row now". "Yep" Dave confirmed with a slight slump in his shoulders. Jo hated herself for pointing out what really hadn't needed to be pointed out but she couldn't help it. It seemed Dave always had to dance to the tune of Laura’s family. Women know other women. And Jo had surmised, Even if it was through second-hand accounts from Dave and much in-between the lines, that it seemed that Dave’s missus totally took advantage of Dave’s good nature.

They both sat finishing their coffee. Jo wished this uninterrupted quiet time that they were sharing could last for a couple of hours more but the afternoon had given up the ghost and the sky was heralding in another long December night. “You walking out for the bus then?” “Might as well Dave, are you finishing up now?”. “Yeah, I’ll just get my jacket and walk out with you.” They walked passed the abandoned reception area and emerged into an empty car park and crossed to the other side of the street to wait for Jo’s bus. “Aren’t we the pair. It doesn’t seem like either of us are in a rush to start Christmas with our better halves.” Jo said and Dave laughed. “They don’t know how lucky they are to have us do they.” “If they did our lives would be a lot less hassle.”.”That they would Smithy. That they would.” There followed some stamping of feet to ward off the cold and some neck craning to see if they could spot a bus. “We should go for a drink in the new year Jo. What do you think? Put the world to rights and all that.” Jo stared at Dave and could see an earnestness in his expression that wouldn’t have been out of place on a kid asking his Mum if he could play out for just one more hour. “Deal.” Jo beamed. The bus slushed to a halt and the opening door hissed a warm blast on to both of them. “Well, see you in 2012 then” Dave said unblinkingly. Jo went to step up on to the bus, turned and said “I hope so Dave. I really hope so. Merry Christmas”. And with that the bus slouched away from the pavement and left a man stood on an empty street wishing away the last days of December 2012 so that he could get back to work and concentrate on what needed concentrating on.

Daniel M
Footsteps outside. I can hear them because it’s a nice day and the front door’s open. It’s also just been painted. Neither my voice nor motor skills engage, so there’s a knock knock. 
By the time I get there, some bloke with a clipboard and black gloss on the middle three knuckles of his right hand, is scanning a list. I tell him to come in and show him the laptop. 
“Do you think this is what they call blogging?” I ask him. He doesn’t know and he certainly doesn’t care. He wants to know if I’d like to switch from my current energy supplier to the one he works for and if I’ve got any white spirit in the house. 
I tell him I’m already "with" his energy company and that there’s some in a bottle on the back step. He checks his list again, shakes his head and walks through the house and out onto the back step. I carry on writing.


The buzzer sounded and he was off,  not so much like one of the greyhounds he frequently blew the small amount of money his wife handed back to him out of his wage each week, no not like one of those, more like a man with a purpose, even a mission, and this one wasn´t going to be secret for much longer.

In no time at all in was outside Hotton Courier, out of breath, a bit sweaty, but determined to see it through. He went into the pocket of his overalls pulled out the prepared paper and entered the newspaper office through the heavy old fashioned revolving door.

“Shit, fucking shit!” he muttered to himself, the lass on the desk was a bit younger than him, and smart, it was too late there was no turning back, his purposeful stride through the revolving door had thrust him into full view of her, and already she had smiled and asked him what she could do for him.

“Errrr” he faltered, “I want to put an advert in the paper please.”

“What section is it for?” she enquired.   

“Errrr, i´m not sure, Personal s I think” He was sure, he just knew what she would be thinking as soon as he said Personals, and sure enough she was.

“Lonely Hearts?”   He could feel his face going red, and he was starting to regret this, but it was too late now.

“No, not lonely hearts, just personals please” 

“Is that your advert there? Pass it here and I´ll type it in and then read it back to you. Our charges are on the display there if you´d like to read them.” He didn´t read them, he couldn’t, he had to study her face, he had to see her reaction to the advert, not that it would change anything,  it was as if he wanted the humiliation, perhaps he´d grown used to it in his marriage. 

The bitch he thought, as her typing slowed and he noticed her trying hard to suppress a laugh, there was the tell tale sign of slight convulsions, and her hand was raised to her mouth as if preparing to cough. 

Composing herself she finished, and prepared to read back the advert……..


Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Lieu of Donations Send Flowers

He was a good man Father. We’ll all miss him.
He was, he was, and so are you now Sean. I knew you’d be here today.
Arh, well, if you can’t pay your last respects, well…
Absolutely, Sean, excuse me while I have a word with the widow, will you?
No problem Father.

Sean moved to the side and let the priest by. He looked around the church. Not a bad turn out he thought. Kevin Slattery had been a truck driver, 35, two young kids. He’d lost control of his truck, on black ice, early last Tuesday morning. How was she going to cope, Grace, now he’d gone? Who’d help her take care of the kids? He hoped they’d be alright. Someone would run a dance for them but after that…

I’ll have a Guinness and a Jameson’s.

He liked a few did Sean. Nothing wrong with that he worked hard. Never missed a day’s work. Some old one was singing. The drink was taking effect. The pub was packed. Family. Friends. Workmates.  The tears were mixed with laughter. The stories were coming out now. The time Kevin came home so drunk he couldn’t get his key in the door. He didn’t want to wake Grace. He had one of those crappy key rings that some people like. The ones that go through a belt loop. Laura walked into the kitchen that Saturday morning to find the back door swinging open with a pair of jeans attached at the lock and nextdoor’s dog sat under the table. She’d gone mad but she was laughing now. Red eyed but laughing. Vodka and orange in one hand and a her daughter’s head pulled tight to her breast, held in the other.

There was a great sadness to a young man’s funeral. Life cut down in it’s prime. But, as far as Sean could see, you were almost guaranteed a big turn out. It made sense. As far as he could tell, the biggest draw was a man of around 25, still in touch with school friends, parents still around, aunts, uncles, grandparents, still going out fairly regularly, possibly still playing football, girlfriend or maybe married – that could double your circle if you got the right girl, one from a big family.

The older you got the more people went their own way.  Drifted apart. Settled down. Some even had the audacity to die themselves. Sean’s father had worked hard all his life. Everyday. He worked the farm back home. Cut turf.  Threshed.  Ploughed. Harvested. He never stopped. He had no time for socializing. He had no time. There was always something to do. His family had moved up the country to Meath from Kerry when he was young. They’d been given land in some government initiative. Divided Land it was called. Consequently, resentment came from the locals towards these west coast interlopers. After, often instead of, school Sean had worked the land beside his father and two brothers. The memory of his father’s death was constant. Sean had found him, in the top field. The plough horse braying and the terrier that was ever at his feet yapping frantically. Heart attack the doctor said.

The funeral was, as all funerals are, a sad affair. Sadder than most mind. Sean cried the whole service. His younger brother’s eyes glossed over but he held it in. Held his mother’s hand. His old
er brother, Cathal, never cried once. At 16 he was the head of the family now. It was his farm and his life was cast. Seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. A farm recognizes no holidays, only seasons. He was the eldest and it was expected.  To Sean, the saddest thing was how empty the church was. Family, the McKeon’s from the next farm over,the vet who had occasion to tend to a horse when Sean’s father was at a loss as to what had come over the animal, Sean’s school teacher. and a few people their father did business with when necessary. That was it.

So, while Sean was sad to see Kevin go he was pleased to see he’d had a good send off. As he looked at Grace  and the kids pitying them their bad luck, in his mind he couldn’t shake the memory of his father’s funeral and he renewed the vow he’d made to himself: He promised himself a good send off.

Jim Farrar.

Shoes And You Lose

Baz and Mark emerge from the budget hotel and step into the warm early evening streets of another European city in search of refreshment. To Baz all European cities are the same, existing only to host away matches for the football team he supports, the reason he’s here now, and to maintain his beer intake – best described as monumental. Culture and the like can go hang in Baz’s eyes. Entering a pretty plaza, he rubs his hands eagerly,
 ‘Where we opening our account then, I’m fucking gagging?’
 ‘Your choice squire’, says Mark. It’s always Baz’s choice anyway.
 ‘May I suggest a hostelry of some description. We’ve got four nights in this dungheap. Should be able to find one decent battle cruiser at least’
‘Dungheap? We’ve only been here an hour. Give it a chance for fuck’s sake’
The plaza is dotted with couples strolling, families and street traders. From nowhere a man jumps out at the two friends causing them both to recoil. He’s bedecked in flowing clothes, a fez and grinning wildly, ‘Shoe shine?!!!’ He sweeps his hand proudly towards his stall and  continues with the huge grin. Baz and Mark attempt to walk on.
‘Shoeshine sirs? Sir. Shoeshine?’
Sparkling footwear is pretty lowdown on their agenda as they attempt to side step the man who in turn blocks their path.
‘Sir. Very shiny, very nice. Clean shoes sir.’ He’s cottoned onto Baz, ‘very shiny. You want shoes clean and shiny?’
‘Fuck off you tit!’ retorts Baz. Mark raises an eyebrow in a ‘nice work Baz, classy’ kind of way.
‘Very shiny shoes sir. See face in shoes’ and Mr Shoeshine sweeps a hopeful hand again to his pristine workstation of brushes, waxes, polishes and cloths.
This does little to impress an irate Baz, ‘Look at my feet you fucking buffoon!’ and the three of them do so together, all eyes resting on a pair of slightly soiled but much loved white trainers. Baz starts to leave the scene, his head shaking at the incompetence of these foreign types but Mr Shoeshine isn’t giving up and his hopeful voice tracks them as they walk off,
‘Sir, sir!’ he offers.
They turn together and he’s holding up a tube between index finger and thumb, grinning even more wildly.
‘I have special trainer whiting. Make trainer very white!’
‘For fuck’s sake’ mumbles Baz and breaks into a gentle gait to escape the persistent salesman who’s still holding up the tube and beaming.
It’s the next night and the two lads are walking along the same route in the gentle dusk light. They’re chatting about the previous evening’s events and still suffering belated hangovers which are soon to be given a hair of the dog treatment.
‘Eh up, your mate’s here, keep walking’ mumbles Mark out of the corner of his mouth. Baz is behind, crouched against a slight breeze wrestling with a cigarette and poorly functioning lighter. ‘Mmm? Y’what...fucking foreign crap...light y’ it...what you on about?’
And here he is again, blocking Baz’s path.
‘Sir, special trainer polish. Very white. you take seat’
His hand sweep more majestic than ever is observed by a dismissive Baz. He blows cigarette smoke out of the corner of an unhappy mouth and pinches the bridges of his nose to think for a second.
‘Listen you fucking quarter wit.I don’t want my fucking trainers cleaning. They’re clean enough you tit!’
They aren’t to be honest. They could be caked in three week old dog shit and he could have walked through a trough of hot tar but to Baz they were box fresh if it meant not giving this irksome little man his business.
‘Come on, the beer’s getting warm’, says Mark, laughing at his mate’s predicament. Maybe it’s payback for not giving a flying fuck for what the place may offer other than ale houses.
‘I would if this knob’ll let me past.’
Baz stares into Mr Shoeshine man’s face who in turn grins back and meekly mouths hopefully, ‘Very white?’ while his potential customer barges past.
‘Look, if he’s there again you just stride past ok?’
Mark’s drilling Baz on their third night. They’d choose a different route but their now regular bar is located on the other side of the square. To be honest they’ve never got as far as discovering another place. ‘It sells beer, it’s cheap, I like it’ is Baz’s Tripadvisor style review.
‘Don’t engage in conversation that’s the key.’
‘It’s alright for you, he’s fucking latched onto me hasn’t he. Why don’t you get your bastard shoes shined?
‘Because I’m wearing trainers’
‘Don’t fucking go there. Very white, very white’ says Baz in a non-specific foreign accent.
Like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn the shoeshine man appears and is off with his patter and his sweeping and his grinning and his little act...
‘You have dirty shoes sir. You need shiny shoe shine. Special trainer white. Very cheap. Come oooon, give me break.’
Baz puts his head in his hands, exasperated whilst Mark giggles uncontrollably. They’re both a little pissed from a bonus afternoon session of a couple that led to a few couples.
Mr Shoeshine continues to proudly sweep his hand to his stall. Pigeons peck nearby.
From his window seat at the pizza restaurant a few yards away an old man watches the scene unfold between bites of pepperoni and cheese. He sees one man with a red face shouting a lot and pointing at his feet, another with a fez is holding something up whilst doing exaggerated sweeping gestures and a little further on a third man is doubled up laughing at the other two. He swallows and sips on his wine.
‘Same bar then eh?’
No reply from Baz.
‘Same bar then yeh?’
No reply. He tries again.
‘Can we at least make an attempt to try somewhere else please, we’ve been to the same...’
Baz stops walking, faces his friend and bites his lip.
‘I can’t go through all that again. I’m off to get my trainers cleaned. Bollocks to it, where is that little fucker?’
He scans the square, squinting in the sun and strides off purposely to the shoe shine stall where his ‘mate’ is plonked behind a newspaper, fez peeking over the top.
‘ere mate. oi!’ and pulls down the paper, ‘it’s your lucky night squire’.
The stall holder dramatically flicks his paper back into a readable state and continues to scan it.
‘ere, come on Mr Shoeshine. Here’s my shoes’ and Baz plonks his size nine on the step, ‘Come on, clean the bastards with your special white stuff. You’ve worn me down. You win’
The shoeshine man makes an exaggerated gesture in turning the page whilst cocking his above average sized nose in the air. Mark watches from nearby and frowns as he sees Baz throw his hands in the air and turn away, turn back, shout something containing a fair smattering of fucks and walks back towards his mate.
‘Let’s get a fucking drink’
‘What’s going on? Thought you were getting your shiny shoes very nice?’ Mark jogs to keep up.
‘Don’t fucking ask’. Baz has his lips pursed and is shaking his head as if surveying bleach spilt on the shagpile, ‘you couldn’t make it up. You couldn’t fucking make it up’
‘Go on.’
Baz stops and turns to Mark. A good six inches taller, he looks down at his mate and clears his throat.
‘He said..…he said it’s his fucking day off!’
And while Mark is picking his self up off his knees some little time later and wiping away tears of laughter saved only for moments like this a shabby looking man appears and on his arm belts hang like snakes from a branch.
‘Belt sir? you want nice leather belt? Keep up trouser.’
And Baz smacks him somewhere near the right eye, not his hardest punch, but it’ll be sore in the morning.
By Harvest

The Paper.

It was the bit of paper that did it.
Out through the door the land rolled away down the valley like some Friday-night drunk. It was a two-hour walk from that door to where the fields were interrupted by a small outcrop of plain wooden buildings. That’s where the Carsons live. Or used to. If you looked out from here then you’d have known about a visit for near half a morning as they made their way up that hill, past where Jim and Joshua’s bones lay in that good, rich soil.
It wasn’t none of them Carson’s today though. And they didn’t come up the hill. But we heard the car from a ways off anyhow. That sound carries on the wind like locust.
We knew what it was.
When the car pulled up he got out and saw us stood outside to greet him, the whole bunch of us that were left. No one said anything except he looked like he might like to start the talking after he’d lifted his hat, nice and nervous, and nodded once to my mother, who was holding my youngest kin close to her hip, like she needed something to steady herself.
He looked like the sort of man who was worn down by making excuses for what he had to do. But he went and did it anyway because what else could he do? He asked for my Daddy by his full name and reached into a bag pulling out that damn piece of paper.
Daddy stepped out of the house into the light holding the shotgun he’d been teaching me to shoot rabbits with.
“Mister, that piece of paper don’t say nothin’ ‘bout my boys that lay out under that dirt. Reckon that means somethin’. Gotta mean somethin’, don’t it?”
“I gotta give you this piece of paper, Mister Holt. Now, you know I gotta so it’s best we do this nice and polite and I can get back in my car.”
“That paper don’t say nothin’ ‘bout my kin at all, does it? ‘Bout how our blood is mixed in with this dirt like water in oatmeal. You take another step with that goddam paper it’ll be your last”.
He walked backwards to the car, maybe four inches shorter than when he got out. Mama cried a little but not so much as you’d care to notice.
You can only buy little bits of time from men with paper. They’ll get you in the end.

I've played football out Sharlston way and that's a real comedy.  You'd come off with stud marks on your calves, a boiled egg under your eye after the elbows had been flying and someone else's DNA in your hair where you'd failed to wipe all the spit out.  
Then there's the rugby crowd.  
We'd no game one Saturday, so Rico from work, who follows Sharlston, talks me into going to watch this match they've got against some outfit from east Leeds.  Tells me it's a BARLA cup game and it'll be a laugh.  The east Leeds lot aren't mining stock, but first glance at them tells you they won't be interested in coming second. 
It's one of those days I'm convinced you only get in northern England.  Steel grey November, and it never gets light.  There's no wind and it's not bitter but the cloud doesn't break and the dank cold eventually seeps into you and stays there.  Dour as it is, there's 300 plus round the pitch, including a fair few visitors.  
Neither side have any hulks, but there's some big rangy lads on view.  The match kicks off and straightaway Rico says to me "Watch this," and the first two occasions the east Leeds centre gets the ball, he punches holes in the Sharlston defence.  Under the sticks himself for a try, then offloading for a team mate to go in.  He looks about 19, raw boned and probably isn't slick enough with his hands to make it as a pro, but Sharlston finally learn and lay on a reception committee next time he gets the ball.  The game tightens up, low scoring, and the players steam in the cold.
By half time Sharlston are still within range, but they've read the script and it's only going to end one way.  Ten minutes into the second half, they opt for plan B.  Just after a play-the-ball there's a flurry of fists and World War III breaks out.  A couple of spectators get involved, but the ref and the liners, who've seen it coming, are on top of it quick and it calms down.  The away team's coach has been on the pitch and walks off, shaking his head.  He looks like an ex-player.  Crafty scrum half type.  Knows what he's doing.  Knows the local comedians won't be able to resist.  And don't.  
"What are you shaking your fucking head for, twat?"  Draws a few laughs from the crowd.  
The coach looks up.  "You're bloody animals round here.  Thatcher had the right idea about you lot, only she should have filled all the shafts with you lot, before she shut the pits."  
There's a gaggle of women to my left, who so far haven't said much.  Just been making small talk amongst themselves; potential nights out and the new Lidl in Featherstone.  One of their number, who can't have been more than 22, is displaying the classic 1-1-1 formation.  She's got a three year old by her side; a baby dozing in a pushchair, and a bellyful of arms and legs.  As the barrage of abuse towards the coach subsides, she leans forward on the pushchair and sinks its clogged up wheels even deeper into the cloying mud.  Then she shouts, 
"What the fuck would you know about it you fucking dwarf, you wouldn't last two minutes down a coalmine you fucking prick."  Laughter breaks out amongst the spectators and a middle aged woman behind her, taps her on the arm and says, 
"Well said Diane."  
"Thanks mum."

Martin C

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bus Boy

"Look out!"
"Oh my God!"
"Hey Mister, you just killed Eddie!"
"Oh God no, please God no, I didn't mean to I..."
"Get an ambulance quick."
"Eddie! Eddie! Don't die, not today please."
"He's just a kid. You killed him Mister."
"Hey, have you been drinking?"

That was 7 years ago. Hit by a bus, driven by a drunk, while playing on his skateboard in the street outside his house Eddie didn't die. No, the 10 year old was in a coma for 6 months, underwent multiple operations and made a complete recovery. The surgeons fixed him up, good as new. If it wasn't for the scars on his chest no one would even know he'd been run over by a Downtown bound bus driven, up the wrong street, a dead end street, the one that Eddie lived on all his life, by  Saul Katz, who was drinking at the wheel, himself a victim, driven to the bottle by his wife's infidelities. Eddie was good as new, well, almost. the surgeons had been unable to remove a shard of chromed steel, thought to be from the bus's grill, from the left ventricle of his heart. To remove it meant certain death. Katz had been sentenced to a total 10 years for vehicular assault, drink driving, improper operation of a San Francisco Bus Company automobile and a host of other crimes by an unsympathetic judge who just happened to have a mistress named Helen Katz...

Now 17, a standout running back on his high school football team and bound for college, Eddie had his whole life before him while Katz lay in a San Quentin prison cell a broken man. In the bleachers his high school sweetheart, Emily Mae, watched as Eddie and his team mates went through their paces in preparation for the weekend's big game, the State Final, naturally. Her best friend, Louise, who was dating the quarter back, Chad Emmerson, looked up from her i-pad," My God, there's a Tsunami and it's heading our way!"
"Tsunami! Tsunami!"
"Head to higher ground.'"
The cool, California sky turned grey and emergency sirens began to wail.

The school, fortunately, was on an evacuation route. The road filled instantly with cars, vans, buses and trucks. The evacuation of San Francisco was swift and orderly. Eddie sat in his family's weekend get away home, high up in the hills, a world away from the danger in the Bay, watching the news reports of the Tsunami's journey across the Pacific. His mom smiled lovingly at her boy, now almost a grown man, while his father smoked his pipe and provided a running commentary of his own on the Tsunami.

"They got everyone out son. This is America, you see, we're ready for these kind of things."
Suddenly the TV news cut a to a live view, shot from a helicopter, of around 20 inmates of San Quentin Prison running around the exercise yard seemingly stranded in the abandoned jail.
"Reports are coming in that San Quentin has been evacuated but it looks like there's still some inmates left behind. We're getting word from the Warden that there are no prison officers left at the jail and he's not prepared to risk sending anyone back to the jail with the Tsunami just 5 minutes away."

Eddie felt, simultaneously, a hand on his shoulder and his mother's gaze fall upon him.
"Son, this is it"
"This is what Pops."
"Son, when you were hit by that bus the surgeons, they did all they could but they had to leave a piece of steel in your heart..."
"Your left ventricle," his mother interjected.
"Son, you remember when you used to read those X-Men comics?"
"Er, yeah..."
"Well son, you're kind of an X-man too."
His mother spoke, "Eddie, you're not just my baby anymore, son you're Bus Boy..."
"And America needs you right now."
"I don't understand?"
"Son, people are going to die if you don't do something."
"What? What can I do?"
"Eddie you've never been able to sit by  and see people suffer, you just keep thinking about those prisoners left down there to die. I know you won't let that happen."
"Leave him Mother, we knew this day would come."

Eddie ran out the door, into the driveway. More screams followed. Nightmarish in tone, then Eddie screamed out.

Eddie had transformed into a single decker San Francisco City bus. His torso, arms, neck and head protruding from the front above the windscreen, he wore a navy blue spandex top with two interlocked B's emblazoned on his chest and his face hid behind a mask.

"Go save them son, it's what you were made to do."
"Why me Dad, why?"
"If he didn't think you could handle it God wouldn't have made you this way son. Now go save those prisoners. They might be criminals but they're still Americans."

Eddie cried, his wipers came on, his engine roared and he raced down the now deserted highways back towards San Fran, crashing through abandoned police barricades.

"We're all gonna die."
"They left us, they left us to die."
"Wait, what's that noise?"
"It sounds like a bus"

The gates to the prison flew open as Bus Boy crashed through them.

"It's a boy!"
"It's a bus!"
"It's Bus Boy!"

Bus Boy came to a halt in the yard as the roar of the waves grew louder and louder in the blackening sky.
"No time to explain, climb aboard."
The stunned prisoners climbed aboard the bus, Eddie's behind now transformed complete with seats and adorned with advertisments for local restaurants and the latest hit movies.
"Katz? Katz, is that you?"
"I,I, I,I'm sorry Eddie I, please don't leave me Eddie, I'm sorry..."
"Climb aboard Katz. I forgive you. You were going through some tough times and sought refuge in the bottle."
"I swear I'll never drink again if you get us out of here."
"None of us will if you don't climb aboard right now."



Everybody knows a nutter, the village I lived in seemed to have one in every area. Mental Mick from Ponty road, wind him up and hope he doesn't catch you. Carl Geller from Churchfields, tried to strangle his mum with the outside bog chain. Trev Miles from Grimey, shoved a broomstick up some poor bastard's arse, and rode him round the back yard while punching him in the back of the neck.

Mostly tales regaled to younger, naive school mates.

One of the best was the properly 'tapped' older brother of a pair of mad arsed twins.

He used to work on reclaimed muck stacks, called a fitter out on an emergency call out on a bit of heavy machinery. Just so he could keep him pinned down with his Webley Vulcan; for three hours. He claimed he was bored.

The work experience lad ran off after Barmy Barry got annoyed with a noisy crow, while eating his snap in his Cortina Estate, and after winging it with a gat gun (which just made it rowdier), casually produced a home made machete and hacked it up.

Bi Polarity exemplified?

Plane Stupid

Training wasn't going well. It was two weeks to go to the race and I was nowhere near fit. I decided to give the new running shoes a try out and see if they made me go any faster.

It was a cold, dank morning. There was a slight covering of snow and a fog as thick as anything I'd seen since living in Leeds.

I turned right up the road and then left onto the old airbase. It was a scary place at the best of times. The transmitter and receiver aerials stood like huge metal skeletons looking down on the remains of the barracks, still haunted by the ghosts of a thousand servicemen.
Only the old control tower was still used, by a few dozen remarkably laid back GIs, there to monitor signals from far off hostile nations. Other than them, and several hundred sheep, I was alone.

I followed my usual route round the perimeter runway, past the blast bays where fighter planes once stood tethered, ready for war.
After almost a complete circuit, I turned back up a runway towards the control tower. I waved at the guys in the control tower and turned back at an acute angle along the main runway towards the gate.

Behind me, I heard the low throb of an engine – maybe a passing helicopter. The base had long since ceased to be active. The throb got louder and closer – a light plane looking for somewhere to make an emergency landing?

Almost unconsciously, and pointlessly, I increased my pace. The noise got louder – it was directly behind me and heading towards me. I recognised it not as the high pitched drone of a light aircraft, but the deep throb of powerful propeller engines.

The noise turned to a deafening roar. I sprinted to the edge of the runway and threw myself on the grass, rolling over and covering my head. As I looked up I saw the belly of a huge cargo plane with its wheels down, close enough to feel the downdraft of the propellers.

I waited for the impact.

There was none. The roar turned to a growl, and gradually grew fainter as the plane disappeared into the distance.

I was covered in mud and sheep shit. I picked myself up, jogged home and had a shower.

I told the wife and kids what happened. I told my mates what happened. They all laughed at me. I scoured the TV channels and the internet for anything I could find to back up my story.

Nothing. Still wonder about it to this day.


In The Frame.

The mobile went at exactly the same time as the knock at the door.
The phone was nearer so that got priority.
Brother. Just had the police round. Why? They’re asking about your car. Why? I don’t know.
I’ll ring you back.
Car still registered at his address. Why are they ringing?
Downstairs. Answer door. Two police officers. Where is your car? See gap in front of hosue where car was. Not where I left it I say.
It’s about 3am so I’m not really with it.
In they come. Where have I been? Working in London. Have I been drinking? Why I ask. I’m a lawyer, I’m suspicious and a touch defensive by nature.
Your car has been in an accident. They’re watching me. Closely. Too closely. But they’re not accusing me. They’re not even suggesting.
Who else lives here? The fiancĂ©. Where is she? I’m not sure. I know, I know. Not good.
I think she may be in bed. It was her Hen Night. I’d said sleep in the attic so you don’t wake me, you’ll be really, really drunk.
I didn’t look on my way down.
She was there.
And no, she couldn’t remember whether the car was there when the taxi dropped her off.
And she really, really loves me.
Ok love. Have to go, two traffic officers in the kitchen.
They’re off. We’ll have to look into it.
They didn’t breathalyse. Good. Wouldn’t have mattered if they did. I’d not had much and, more importantly, hadn’t driven that day (train and taxis).

I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I ring. They ‘have a look’. There’s ‘more to this’. They’ll be in touch.

I wait.

And worry.

They come and take a statement. They tell me the car was in an accident just up the road. Bad accident. Whoever was driving got away.
Good, I think. I’ve no injuries. I make him make a note of that.

They go away (I’d changed the statement significantly from his ‘draft’, he didn’t write what I’d actually said).

And we wait. And they ask for DNA. Why say I? I’m not a suspect am I?

They want the name of cab firm the other half used. Why say I? She’s not a suspect is she?
I worry.

A lot.

They ring again. More questions. Matters to ‘clarify’.

I worry.

A lot.

I ring. I’m not happy. I want them to say what I know they’re thinking. They won’t. I push. They dodge. I push some more. They duck. I really push. They dive.

They ring back.
They have someone in custody. His DNA is all over the airbag in the car. He has injuries. Around his nose and eyes.
He has form.


Am I okay? Do I need victim support? Would I like to be kept informed of progress?
Will I please not make a formal complaint?

In the frame. However brief. Not pleasant. 


He took the fork in the road marked Internal Departures and I paused a moment then said to him "Did you see that sign?  International departures is the other way." 

He said "Reluctant Trevor explained to me a while ago that whichever road you take, it brings you out at the same place."  I just smiled. 

Five minutes later I clipped him playfully on the jaw, because we don't do the new lads hugging stuff very much, certainly not when we're parting for what would be, I'd reckon, the fifth from last time ever.  I haven't seen him since. 

When I got home there was an email waiting, which read - Remember when we were driving through Sydney and I turned the tape down and gave you that story about the original Campos coffee place and how it's grown since and we passed that theatre where I told you about the time me and Alison and Trevor and his missus once went?  After you'd got out of the car, I turned the tape back up, just as Ian Curtis sang 'Abandoned too soon.  Set down with due care'  And I thought about how you had indeed left too soon and been set down with due care. –

So I sent him an email back saying – Yeah well Australia’s very fucking expensive and you being a careful driver doesn’t make it any cheaper -

Martin C.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How I Met your Father

That lad over there, the one drinking on his own.
I've seen him round, he's good looking alright but he's a quiet one.
Maybe he's just shy?
Maybe. I see him with that crowd all the time, you know, the lads who go into town but he doesn't seem to much.
He used to walk past the shop every Saturday, I'd see him same time every week. He always looked lovely. 
I never seen you like this before. Another drink?
Yeah, thanks.
You should go talk to him.
I'd die.
You're too used to lads chasing you that's your problem.
You're a good looking girl, like myself. Hahahaha...
You're mad.
I'm right though. Lads have fallen over you since we were in middle school and you never cared.
Stop it.
Now you've got one who doesn't even notice you. Maybe he's gay?
He is not!
How do you know?
I just do.
Is he with anyone? 
No, I don't think so.
Don't you think that's odd, on a Friday? How old do you think he is?
He's 20.
How do you know?
I asked Clare, she went to school with his sister.
I'm going to talk to him.
No don't! Please don't.... You bitch.

Hiya, buy us a drink?
I'm Sarah, me and my friend we just saw you standing here and thought you shouldn't be drinking alone. No one else is. You meeting someone?
Erm, no, no. I just like a pint on my own once in a while. Where's your friend then?
I'll bring her over. You gonna buy us a drink then?
Sure, why not?

What'd you do that for? What'd you say?
Come on. He's buying us a drink. 

Alright ladies, Drinks?

She wants to ask you why you always drink alone.
I do not. I'm sorry, I don't... It's her, she's mad.
Aha, I er, I really don't just sometimes but erm, I guess my mates are all in town and...
I see you with that gang sometimes,
Pauline. My name's Pauline.
Alright. Nice to meet you Pauline.
You too. I see you around sometimes. You walk past the shop I work in most Saturdays around five. All the women in there think you're adorable.
They do? Have you got any numbers?
She thinks you're adorable too.
I do...
Well thanks, thanks a lot. She's very beautiful herself. You both are.
See, I knew he'd like you.

Pauline J