21 July, 2008

No Ice (Night In The City and A Letter)

I sat in the mountain town with the ice on the windows until my nose froze up and my snot looked like emerald crystals. It took eighteen years, but that letter came like I knew it would. It took eighteen years for me to get over the mountain for one night in the city, but I got there like I knew I would.

There was ice in the city as well. A little. It was on the conifers planted at eighteen foot intervals along Central, and I used them as a speedometer in my rusted Plymouth. Not as much ice though. When I got into the centre, the ice was nowhere to be seen.

I waited on the street he told me about. I could see his reason for rapture; I could see that just going out for cigarettes held no sway over this street. A hundred tiny shreds of yesterday’s newspaper blustered like confetti as long white buses streaked around the streets, dripping oil and picking up huddled groups of passengers, battened down with fur and galoshes.

I sat outside the graveyard, and looked at the café where my mother used to work when he met her. He used to leave a chessboard on the pink linen tabletop with a game in play. When he came back the next morning, he’d carry on. When he lost, after six weeks of one move a day, he asked who had beaten him. Cappucinos and chess were what he loved her for.

The letter said to catch the last bus. He lived on every bus route. There was no ice on any of them. I found the wooden door in the red brick tenement house, and walked into the grey hallway as dawn began to peer through the eastern windowframe. I sat at the bottom of the stairs and waited for him to come back with cigarettes.

A letter and a city

“If I go any further I’m to shit myself,” I say very loud to my friends and strangers.
Behind a supermarket on a main street anyone could have seen me doing it. I forget to wipe when I start reading what I was going to wipe with.
“You need never fear your eyes are cold, they are full of a million things. You look like you have a hundred stories to…”
I’m scanning and I stumble to the next bar.
“I think about you and I dribble bits of pre-cum,” is my opening line to my gathered friends (and strangers). The enquiries are made and I read on.
“Even your nose has it’s own perfect details, a slight curve, little freckles,”
We’re laughing. The nose thing reminds me of Sal, the ex-girlfriend.
“Your breasts are firm and beautiful, your fingers are slender and strong,”
One of Sal’s things was about my hands.
“Christ, this is fucking shit,” I spit everywhere. Applause arrives after some lines.
I remember a vision of Sal when the line “after you kissed me the first time with your mum in the other room,” and with laughter I skip to the end.
Obviously it’s my fucking name right there.
I didn’t wipe my arse in the end. What happened to this letter?
And someone snatches it off me and everyone laughs again, so fucking hard.
“Fuck you, cunts,” I stand up, “you’re the shit of the earth,” and then I fuck off.

Light and Ash (Classical Monster)

All the houses are full of light and ash; it is there in equal abundance. Dust roils in the corners of the low-beamed dining room, and as I walk through it, I hear heartbeats. I smell vitality, and I fear knowledge. I was born out of wedlock, and my father deceived my mother. I know what it is to deceive innocence.

It is agony. I hear the rushes, I smell the sweat, and I feel the light on their forehead. I was born in darkness, and I was born again in darkness. My father deceived me.

I fall beneath the oaken table and clasp my ears. It is not a matter of hearing; more a matter of knowing, and that is an irreversible process. Outside the moonlight still whispers through conifers; the dark’s pets crawl and scrabble over stone and oak. Men drink in houses; they sit around tables as though I have never happened. In the light, I have not. By darkness, they know I will.

Innocence is easily devoured by the dark. Fear is harder to see when you see nothing at all. They see me, and they know fear. I know innocence; I was born in darkness.

Minotaur (classical monster point of view story)

Scientists are what wizards used to be. Shamans still have all the answers for some people. There are people who worship Gods they’ve invented. Magic is real, but only inside someone’s head.
My point is no one knows what I am, why I would exist. No one really knows why anyone exists I guess.
I mean, more immediately, I don’t want to tear men apart, storm villages and rape cows. But I could do that and no one would think less of me.
They think me low enough.
A lot of people tried to kill me all at once. Soldiers with cracking sticks, machine guns they say. Massive metal cannons that scream and chase.
They want it to be, but it’s not for me that stuff. Fuck it.
I just want some hills, sun and fields with cows.

Crab Meat (Greek Girl)

When I was living on rice and soy milk, I saw something in the mirror. When you live alone, and you see something in the mirror, you’re liable to worry.

My parents were in Hawaii when they heard the story. I couldn’t go; too much schoolwork to catch up on, they said. Elissa, the Greek girl from up on Winchester, came and took care of me. She liked aubergine, crab fishing and Monopoly. My parents asked her not to look at any personal information that might be posted, but to answer any social calls. Elissa taught me a lot of things. How to date a girl, how to drive a car. When my parents got back though, money was no object to her. Neither was free use of my parents’ car. She’d taught herself that. Her friends didn’t see her much afterwards.

I’d never heard the term, but I knew how to tell a good ghost story. I used to tell girls that I liked ghost stories, because I could always scare them. They used to bunch their knees to their chests and shiver.

Bob Krauss reported the story in the Honolulu Advertiser. I always started with this line. She was in the drive-in restroom, combing her hair. When the girl went over to her, she turned. What she saw caused the girl to have a nervous breakdown.

My parents told me the story when they found a copy of The Turn of the Screw in my bookshelf. I stole it from my school but kept finding it lying around my house. It usually happened after we’d eaten crab meat.

She called the station and they all took notice. She’d had a nervous breakdown after all. She supplied more details. Height, clothing. Her hair was red. They had to get her off the air after she repeated that the fourth time.

I’ve never finished that story. I’ve never needed to. They always want to get out of the car before they hear the ending. Noppera-bō. It sounds nothing like crab meat, but that’s all I can ever think of when I think of that word.

In August 1981, I heard that interview. My parents had just come back from the funeral. Most of Winchester Street turned out.

When she turned, she had no face. Noppera-bō. Whenever I smell crab meat, I know why I took that book back.

Greek Babysitter

"You're so full of shit Mike. Greener travel? You didn't even give a shit about the environment a year ago."
She doesn't break eye contact with him even as she pours her fifth glass of wine.
"I'm just saying, I don't think I can vote for a man, no, I don't think a man can viably stand today, without having a policy geared towards the environment."
"Topic of the year, I'll give him that."
"You'll give anyone anything. Do you even have an opinion?"
When she acts like this every time they talk, it's no wonder a man of Brian's character keeps his thoughts largely to himself.
Marcia is finally out of the kitchen, rolling her eyes for everyone's benefit.
Mike takes the bullet and humours her. Someone had to.
"She's complaining that Roy's awake. God forbid she actually has to do any babysitting whilst I pay her to babysit. Feta-munching freeloader."
"Thank God you don't vote, Marcia."
Brian's still smarting. Lucky for him she missed the last two glasses.

trying to work in the detail of "Greek Babysitter". I went hugely overboard.

I open the first door to my house and everything is fine. The second door opens and I meet with the smell of hummus.
Empty tubs crush against the wall being pushed by the door.
All kitchen appliances are on. My toaster has burnt out. The oven door is open child killingly wide.
It is the first level of hell.
Pots and pans with hummus smeared around the sides cover the work surfaces. Outside my three year old is surrounded by perhaps every neighbourhood cat. The child in my arms I open every window and every appliance I turn off. In three rooms there are televisions on. Underfoot on the stairs there is the crushing of olives. My bath is about to overflow.
Half full hummus tubs float on the water. Hummus is smeared on the walls in arches. At least sixty packets are in my house and more olives.
In my bedroom passed out wearing every item of clothing in the house is my babysitter, smeared with hummus.

20 July, 2008

Viewers (Horizons)

I sit with the coffee. This is my first meeting with it; my first glimpse of a ghost I see every day. The white iron mesh table has spots of rust on it. Some of them have been picked at, and now possess form and dimension. They look like other things, which is what we all wanted all along.

‘Morning Paulie.’
‘Morning Gianni.’
What’s you plan today then?’ He busies himself in the corner, wiping espresso cups with a damp blue cloth.
‘I don’t know, Gianni. I think’ – I pause, and look over my shoulder at it – ‘I think I might have to give it a rest.’ I finger the little round cup with yellow nails.
Gianni walks over with the cup. Flaring nostrils set the tone. I pull the cup towards me.
‘Cats. Restaurants. Your girlfriend’s parents. You have to give this a rest, Paulie. No boat can make it.’
What is so hard about knowing the truth?

Later on, I sit in the boat. I just bob there, with men in rolled shirts and deck shoes sat on the fence made of logs. As sailing boats whisper by, I watch its hills. In any light, it’s only a hill. At dark it disappears, like all the other islands. When I get there, I’ll disappear too.


She sits next to me and puts down this old school camera.
“You just need to broaden your horizons,” she says.
This is a sentence I come back to often. I sit a floor and some rooms away from the place she said it to me every day. When I looked out the windows in that room I saw a different horizon to the one I see out of my current room.
I wonder if it’s a thing, but it probably isn’t.

By Moonlight (Deterioration)

My orphanage lay at the end of the coast, with only tufts of grass and shale skittering off onto the secret beach below. Gulls swooped around the eaves, sat on the red tile roof, sailed on brisk wind that rushed into the house with unfettered gaiety.

The beach was only visible in moonlight. During the day, the sea swallowed it whole, and crabs marched onto the bank with imperious duty, only to be left naked and furtive themselves as the sea withdrew by darkness. When I was a child, I would walk the winding rock steps down to that beach in periods of intense quiet. Starlight flittered over the wet sand with sensuous touch, lighting my way as I felt the rough edge and clawed at weeds and deserted birds’ nests.

When I can’t sleep, I look at the moon. Of course I do. The moon has seen that beach more than I, and I could never see that beach enough. Its power was unnatural, like a ghost walking through a television. Can you see that?

Only in moonlight.


I’m pulling my cheeks back to see as many teeth as possible and they’re all yellow as fuck.
One has a massive fucking crack in. I lean away from the mirror to cough.
Maybe you think I’m a smoker but I swear I never smoked in my life.
I cut out little paper squares I stick them on my teeth.
When they fall out in public people are like “man one of your teeth fell out.” Then they realize it’s just paper and they’re like “why did you have paper in your mouth.”

16 July, 2008

Darkroom (Secrets)

‘Four seventy.’
‘Here you go.’
The racks are crammed with the work of street artists, rife with angles and close-ups. Cellulite sags over the plastic rows. She scrunches her nose and picks a cigarette.

He sits with a card in his hand. Five or seven is what he wants, but he’s had queens all week. A man with a gold wristwatch glances at him sharply as he walks past the badly parked car. His car is a Cadillac. A pink Cadillac, loud and unique. He cruises through the city, and he pulls up next to the yellow army, next to tired skin, next to rusted round tables with yesterday’s coffee stains. A horn strains above the city’s crashing breakbeat. He watches her get back into the car with his skin’s grease all over the creased card. She checks behind her. Awkward smiles. She fumbles with something below seat level. He doesn’t duck. He never does.

She pulls away from the kerb. Square white shopping bags race past attached to long jeweled limbs and smart dark coats. A whispery rain starts to fall. She is at the lights. Red.

He flips the card. Red. He looks up. Amber. He looks back down. Seven.

Green. He pulls out.


At first, his secrets were just like everyone elses. He thought of them occasionally, and maybe felt embarrassed or wary, or perhaps they just brought back some old memories. But as he grew older, they started to accumulate, and he found it hard to avoid them. Like everyone, he felt the need to tell them. But he didn't want to cause the damage that telling them would create. So he bought a small plain notebook, and wrote them out, one a day, for catharsis. He enjoyed it. Just writing it out the way he wanted to tell it was enough for him, and he thought about each secret no longer, his clandestine mental stockpile dwindling with each day.

But whenever he had guests over, he couldn't relax. Every time one of them left the room, all he could think of was them stumbling across his book. He kept it in a locked drawer of his desk at first, then in a concealed safe. But that was not enough. Anyone going through his house would still definitely find it, and he couldn't bear to think of anyone reading his book. But he couldn't go without writing in it. He'd tried burning the pages, but it didn't work. He wanted to bury it far away, but then that would rob him of his release.

He keeps the book on his person at all times now. It's the only way to be sure no one else is reading it. But now he thinks of little else.


There is a gun I have which is the best thing I found with my metal detector.
Mostly I kept it close at all times, a secret extra part to me.
A wife found it. I thought it was my wife, but would my wife really do something such as that? Could my wife secretly be a finder?
So I kept it in the ground instead of what she asked. At night I would visit my gun and dig him up and clean him before putting him back.
But the earth smell would stay on me all night and the garden had these inverted patches. When she realised she just looked at me about it.
I realised that I wasn’t supposed to bring it back. It’s too much of a thing to have near my house. If you found a griffin you wouldn’t bring it back and put it in your shed.
I drove him up to the mountains and under the earth and a pile of rocks I buried him. It became a shrine I could go back to. Every week or month. Every whenever I needed it. I went back and he wasn’t there.
I think he was found by a secret finder and I don’t know what to do about it.

African Coast (Superstition)

The oily tagine slid sluggishly into the couscous like some slick. He roiled it around with his fork as his coffee cooled by the open porthole window. Next to him, a woman in a pink summer dress read an English newspaper, shaking her head. Her husband’s head lolled on his slumbering shoulders.

The boat sailed into Marrakech in red night, with silent sharks cruising through purple waves. White sides floated in the bay as the remaining passengers drifted to the surface in a dream. The captain looked at the huddled men with their balsa plates waiting fervently at the water’s edge with heads bowed and children leaning in laps.

He walked over to the bow with a cigarette. The thick air flooded with Turkish fug as he stood puffing in the early morning light. He heard steady footsteps approaching, and emphasis on the exhale. In Cairo, in Limassol, and in Istanbul, he heard footsteps and exhaling. He waited for a swarthy hand, for those deep ash eyes, with his bag in his bunk and clothes hanging out to sea. He waited, and the answer came out of the air.


Joe removes himself from the group, muttered excuse. He flicks five 10 pence pieces into the vending machine with equal force and listens to them make equal clinks. His left arm raises the flap as his right hand grabs the Skittles without touching the sides.

The packet's corner is torn off, five triangles from the edge. They spill onto the desk. Fast fingers and heavy breathing and soon all the green ones are in a line across the end of the desk. Joe lowers his head so that his chin is barely above the desk, and flicks the rightmost Skittle at the brown basket. Then the next one.

"What are you doing?"

It's his immediate superior, Bryan. Joe raises his left hand, one finger up, and Bryan just watched. Joe doesn't know what he is doing. But he's done it before every presentation he's done at the hospital. A Skittle bounces off the rim. Joe crunches his eyes shut. He opens them again after biting hard on his lip. It was the sixth one. He walks over to the bin and picks it up, and slides the rest of the Skittles in to it with his palm, leaving just the green miss on the floor as he places the bin back.

Bryan raises an eyebrow at him as he walks out the room.

"I've never even eaten a Skittle," Joe shrugs, as if it's a good explanation.


I am almost hit by a car and the driver in the future will watch his child die on television. A kind truck driver can win the lottery, a rude old woman gets her legs severed.
You cast a spell on someone and it will work if you want it. Science doesn’t have to be your thing. Magic exists all in the head, you might as well move in full time.
I am in a house and I see how a person sleeps. They have the kind of sprawl of a person who will go mad in five years time.
At home I find a door and go through it and I will never come out again.

Ugly Things

Carol was angry and righteous after a 9-hour shift.
'I don't want it in the house. It is disgusting on so many levels.'
Ramon taps his cigarette ash onto his own floor.
'It's my house too, and it's mine. So it's staying.'
'But what the fuck even is it?'
I move out of the kitchen now, whisk in hand and bare feet, joining in.
'My friend made it.'
This makes Carol even more incensed.
'Fucking Jimmy? Was he just trying to clear up his apartment? Don't tell me you paid for this.'
'Sixty pounds. I like it.
Ramon gets up and moves it, rotating it to face them even more obscenely.'
I head back for the kitchen. I don't know why I even came out. I keep watching over the counter anyway. Carol is wide-eyed and her body is rigid. She finds it impossible to argue with Ramon and this is part of why she hates him so much.
'At least put it in your room Ramon, I really fucking hate it.'
'The light in my room is all wrong. It wouldn't look any good.'

The light in my room is no good either. Carol pointedly looks at my golf clubs and Ramon stares at her, jaw clenched, as he stubs his cigarette out on the arm of the disgusting chair that was here before any of us moved in. I think I will move out soon.

Run, Cockroach (Ugliness)

He sat up straight in his striped pyjamas. The phone rang. It scuttled across the rug like some ravenous beast. Now he had no idea what to do.

The telephone rang again. It had stopped moving and seemed to be facing the telephone. Jack put his hand on the receiver and pulled his feet up to his chest. Across from him, three men in thick square suits high-fived as a guy in costume got nailed on a green plastic park. Everybody stood around watching the referee.

Halfway through the third ring, he picks up. The cockroach raced across the rug to the coffee table and began ascending at a ferocious speed. This fucker was out to kill, Jack realised. He had no idea why, but he saw stories on the news all the time. Men were shot for no reason. Why couldn’t a cockroach think the same way? The high-fiving had gone. A huge car raced out of the screen towards his empty orange plate.

‘Baby hold on. I…’
It’s running. Straight over the ashtray, but now… Relief washes through his racked body. It’s stuck in the ashtray. Gum has stuck its back leg together and it’s crawling feebly.
‘Sorry baby, the roach is in the ashtray.’
‘Never mind. How did it all go? I meant to call. I got sidetracked at work. A guy fell out of his chair.’
‘It was okay.’
‘Okay? Did you get his name?’
‘He’s called Mario Hardwood.’
‘Mario Hardwood? That’s his real name?’
‘That’s not his real name. Nobody uses their real names Jack. He…’
That roach is wrenching his spindly body over the side, and now the square suits are back.
‘Where are you? Is that a tannoy?’
‘I’m at the hospital Jack. It didn’t work out.’

theme: ugly things

Someone hands me a vodka, lemonade and lime and I blow a kiss. Everyone here has a kind of sub H&M look. I am strictly Top Shop. Maybe above Top Shop, but I don’t really think about it.
At first this was fine, H&M or no. Now by myself I’m just sitting. Soon this little thing comes up to me her face is like a fucking clown.
“You’re that gorgeous guy!” she says
I don’t know what I’m doing when I say “You’re incredibly ugly” and then I throw my drink at her and wipe her face.
The bouncers are on me but I send them reeling back clutching throats and balls. I still don’t know what I’m doing when I’m outside and after a ten-minute sprint. How did I do this? Back there what I did was beautiful. I should be the fucking king.

The Escape

The day has come. Marko wakes early and sits in the kitchen. Today he will make his move and if, by the time the roundpiece has made three equal slices of pie, he has not been fed, he will get up and go.

Marko waits. He sits and watches the city from the rusted rail, brushing up the acacias and begonias, and watches other owners hug and shake hands. In the shop, the man with the flannel and moustache said he would be going to eat salmon forever. No man is an ocean, and Marko didn’t want salmon forever.

Cats like Hemingway. Marko discovered this on another shut-in day when he found the story with the matador lying under the aquamarine sofa. He wondered what Hemingway was doing in a place like this. Then he saw Maria.

Maria was a Hemingway reader. She hated James, Fitzgerald; all that East Coast savant crowd. She lived across the corridor, and her door had a rosary outside of it. Her owner owned the café downstairs, so she was never too far away. His owner sat in the city and ate chowder and played with American Express. He came back late smelling of late blossoming red and Dunhills. No packets in the trash though.

She invited him to dinner. They’d set a date on a fence overlooking a man hunting through restaurant bins. Marko knew how that felt. He’d been looking at trash all his life.

Cats going to dinner happens way more than you think. They hate the city too.


“ I am really going to miss the chocolate when that goes,” Jack says.
All of both of our pockets are full of chocolate bars. We are wearing jackets with about ten zip pockets. We have a lot of chocolate.
Jack is covered in the blood of the third guy who should still be with us.

Our car is full of the smell of blood. Behind us those assholes are already on the body.
It doesn’t take a lot to spook those guys, and it doesn’t take a lot to make them berserk.
One of them bit our friend’s face and knocked him down. When Jack had stabbed it in the back of the neck he cut the throat of our friend. I was sick.
I am going for the friend’s dropped bag but Jack grabs me. This is when I start smelling blood and even half a mile and three chocolate bars later I can still smell it.


Everyone wants to be an astronaut when they are a child. Not literally everybody of course, but a lot of people, and it is the quintessential reply. Not me, though. I didn't know what I wanted to be. What I most wanted to be was an ant or a bee, but I didn't want to say that out loud. A lot of people in my school class did say astronaut though. And none of them are astronauts now. I only keep in touch with a few of them, but I'm pretty sure I'd know if one of them became an astronaut. None of them are even close. As a related note, I never became a bee or an ant either.

I am an astronaut. I don't know if I'm a good one or not, but compared to my fellow astronauts, I definitely fit in. None of them wanted to be astronauts when they were younger either. Now obviously, not everyone said they wanted to be an astronaut as a child, but presumably, a few times it would have matched up. But I've never seen it. Maybe the recruitment policy for astronauts is really off.

15 July, 2008

Ezekiel and the Astronaut

‘Easy, this is the set. I’m Casting, this here is Cherie, wardrobe, and that’s Jock. He does lighting. There are more of us, but we’ll be your eyes and ears for now. So why should you play Bambekbatov?’
‘I like his character. I’ve done a bit of research on the guy, and… his father was an obsessive gambler wasn’t he? That doesn’t get mentioned in the book.’
Glances all round. ‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘Well.’ Ezekiel looks at the floor and sees a cockroach ambling past wardrobe’s boot.
‘I admire that in a man. That disregard for weakness. I mean, he pretended the guy didn’t exist until he got help for his problem. That takes some nerve. To ignore your own father, I mean. What if he takes it personally?’
‘My name is Ezekiel.’
‘Ezekiel.’ Casting clears his throat. ‘We’ve made some developments to Bembekbatov.’
Raised eyebrows and a shifting right foot. ‘Such as?’
‘Well…’ Casting looks desolate.
‘He’s blind.’
‘He’s what?’
‘And a nymphomaniac.’
‘What?! This is the first man in space!’
‘Wait. There’s an angle for this.’
Lighting kills the cockroach.


Stars are very beautiful.
Even a few years ago I would have been an astronaut. I didn’t know how a star worked. I would have collected them and brought them home. They would have been worth a fortune and I would give them away.
Where we are, this girl and me, there aren’t enough stars. Instead there’s lamposts.
You never get to know a star because each one is a dead thing already.
And a star is a fire. I don’t tell her this but as I’m searching for a good spot I’m giving her a star. I pour this fluid in a corner of the room and climb out. A few seconds later she has a star. The biggest star ever, right here instead of a cricket club.
Then later I’ll get to know her better.

Jars (Routine)

I am cool at the bottom, and my hands make patterns as my mind skims stones.
Slate hums and smiles silently. Outside the sky spreads its silent slate. At the end of my vision my shed frames midnight watering cans and wet flowers and bare feet.

Thick warmth roams the air and slowly rubs alongside gently cooking bread. I swivel and spoon granules of coffee, watching the bottom disappear and filling up inside.

My hand grips the jar comfortably and I inhale sweetness, a light red smell that sees summer all year round through chilled artificial light.

Watch the knife do the work. I cover the areas and slice the middle, all the time breathing of earth and licking strawberry from my fingers. I lean into a corner and watch my jar of elements with hot fingers.

theme: about some routine that gives you comfort

My legs are hollow and broken.
Each one burnt wood, smoke and glowing embers. My stomach is a sheet on a line. It is lined with ash. I haven’t eaten for 12 hours.
From the hob there are three clicks and then blue flame. It is the first sign of the end of this problem.
A frying pan into which goes chicken, black pepper, vinegar, maybe five spices.
There is heat on my tongue, around my teeth into my belly.
The smoke is cleared, the embers explode. My stomach is at full roar.
It is now 5am. The sun is almost risen; it’s fire reflecting my own.
I don’t need to be awake to feel filled.

Orange Dusk (Redemption)

As he sits, birds begin to flock over. First in ones, as they hop over to the spilt ground they peck and caw in the orange dusk. More small black shapes flit through the skyscape as he reclines with his head in his calloused hands. Finally a flock, arrowing and angling through the defeated light sink to the darkened ground with uncommon certainty; a oneness that is sleek and beautiful.

He sits, and they sing. They sing to the darkness, and the gasping trees; to the long swaying grass and the supple breeze which seems to flow over their number like a quiet hymn to their chattering inconsistencies.

The sun hangs. The trees see blackness once more, and the wind howls and vanishes. Darkness is here again. Now no one will see him until the morning.

theme was redemption

I am by all cats hated. The motivation comes from an incident in my early youth, before right and wrong really. When the word thing is always preceded by the word play.
A fluffy white cat was a cat that I loved. A kitten. And one day it scratched me and I threw it across a room.
The four support planks between the legs of my dining table that I rest my feet on when I eat are the same ones I crawled onto to hide from the neighbours whose cat it was.
A week later it died. Maybe from some disease, maybe from some throwing I did.
And the cats know I did this. I am shunned, hissed at and ran from.
This is how myths are constructed. One time something happens. Spells are real, and they work, so long as you accept it works only in people’s heads.
And now I stroke my friend’s cat and she purrs and purrs and rolls over on her stomach for more stroking. As much as a cat can love this cat loves me. I have more or less stolen her ownership from my friend.
I fall asleep on the sofa and wake up with the black shape on my stomach. She stretches, purrs. I stroke her and think about white kittens. This cat must know too. Maybe I’m forgiven.
I push her off and roll over.

Spaghetti at the Beach (Joy)

‘How’s Jack?’
‘He’s well.’ I get a curious glance here. The orange juice does a jig around the plastic table.
‘How are things with you? How’s your work going?’
‘I quit. I’m just on vacation now.’
Yeah, that’s a definite jig.
‘Are you going back?’
‘I’m not really sure. When I have to, I guess. When the money runs out. When I get sick of surfing and spaghetti.’
‘I remember you liked surfing at school. You and… what was his name?’
‘Yukio.’ I shovel more spaghetti in. The sun beams as it passes a solitary racy cloud.
‘Yeah, Yukio. Do you see much of him?’
What is it with strangers and their fingers?
‘No, not these days.’ I swallow and look at my plate. Nearly empty. Better order some more. ‘He’s married now I think. He works as a furniture designer.’
She nods, completely uninterested. I have a sudden image of clingfilm covering a cat, and I shudder.
‘When do you think you’ll be made editor then?’

I’m not really sure how it works. I never saw spaghetti as that interesting. Turns out I can see fingers and eyes a lot more clearly when I eat it. Clouds are suddenly apples. Do you know what I mean?

Of course not. I mean, how much spaghetti do you eat?

Theme: Joy

Once a girl painted my nails black. But now, at the sort of time even a milkman would be ashamed to be awake at, I’m painting my face completely white.
On facebook there is a message that reads “meh. I’m in London that day. Sorry Pete.”
I read the message over and over. It’s from a girl I used to know. I click her picture. It spreads from 2cm square to maybe 4. Her face is a mask of paint and it is a big sad clown face.
I do 50 pushups and she tells me I did a good job. I do a drawing and she tells me it a good likeness.
Then, stuck for things to do, I head out. I come back and I kneel in front of the mirror. A once black t-shirt now has a white collar. I draw the biggest red smile I am capable of drawing but the make up is rolling off in streaks.

Ouest du Nord (Punishment)

‘Chips, sir?’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘I’m sorry. Chips?’
‘Oh. No thankyou.’


I don’t know why I never said this earlier. There was a fruitfulness I could not place my trust in.

French chicks. What can you say? Poetry is in the cracks of the arrondissements.

Emilie is angry with me and worried for you. She has an aunt who is psychic and thinks I have made a terrible decision.

‘Can I get you anything else?’
‘No, thankyou. If I could have a bottle of still water, that would be fine.’
‘It’s beautiful isn’t it?’
What’s that?’
‘This range. I have often wondered if I would not be better employed in another job, earning more money and supporting my children in a more concrete way. But I can’t get away from this range.’

I don’t have the money to come and see you, so all I can say is I hope you see the error of my ways, and have a change of heart. I know you have an anchor. But now you have seen the ocean.

I am not Pascal. I don’t believe in psychic aunts. But I want to see the ocean one more time.

Theme: Self inflicted punishment

Snow folds over the back of my hand. It is something electrical down the side of my fingers, a reverse glove making my hand colder. With my teeth I pull my other glove off and scrape more snow onto my buried hand.
I figure the other boy’s tears were warmer than the ice and snow on his face. The mix of tears and ice and a little blood had rolled into his shirt. I’d hit him right in the eye with this rock packed in ice. I told him not to tell but he didn’t even listen. The wrinkles in his face it was like they blocked up his ears.
So I’ll sit here with my throwing bad hand buried. I’ll make like I was going to snap it off and leave it. I guess I know that won’t really happen. But will they know when they come find me?