Friday, 14 March 2008

The weight

Several stars shimmered over Simon's left shoulder. Somewhere a world was coming to its end. His finger was sore. In the grass behind him a lizard bit a cricket in half. Simon picked up the stone again. How far could he throw it this time?
Today at school his friend Peter had thrown the stone almost a half a football pitch. He knew he could never match the throw, but he picked it up on its retrieval and did what he always did. He tried.
The stone felt smooth to the touch, but there were some sharp edges. It was quite slim and easy to grip. He strained his arm like he'd been taught and powered it forward in a sudden thrust combined with a sublime flick of the wrist.
After the initial elation of the projectile successfully leaving its human catapult, dismay bit hard as the stone began to shake hands with gravity. The grass began to beckon a distance short of the half way line.
As Peter raised his arms to celebrate his victory the stone landed, hard and spinning. It bounced up again, surprisingly high, and continued on over the victory margin. Once more it returned to the earthly arms of its mother and once more she rejected her son. The stone continued its journey, bouncing and spinning as if Ezekial were watching from the sidelines.
From a distance Simon saw the strange dance of people running to the fallen girl. The stone's trajectory had taken it into a collision with her temple. There's no way he could have thrown the stone that far. No-one would believe it was him.
And as people looked around for the culprit, it was true to say that nobody peered in his direction. The freezing blood in his veins made it difficult for him to move, but he did begin to walk towards the fast forming crime scene.
He couldn't see much of the girl behind the caring onlookers, but he wasn't looking for her. Feet were constantly shifting and from under a pair of brown boots appeared the stone. The same hand that had pushed events this far now reached eagerly and precisely between two legs. His hand clasped the prize as the boot slid onto his index finger. He waited in panicked seconds before he was able to retrieve the weapon. Thus pocketed, his clothing hung heavy on him and he shuffled off the field to the toilets to be sick.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Picnic - a poem

I took lunch alone today, upon the lakeside grass.
Remember the patch, it stays dry throughout the noon?

Whereupon, I unlatched my hamper's clasp,
Smelled and spied wonders to the spoon;
Roasted grebe, caught upon this very mere,
Salted meats that were animal until speared,
Washed straight down with thick black beer.

And in the water's reflection a face appeared:
A stranger to my eyes, the face afeared,
Warped by ripples and upon my vision, seared -
White froth clinging to the fronds of his own white beard.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Keeping out the cold

I nursed her there for three weeks.
The winter was starting to come in. A bold stand, by rags and papers at the window, was being fought. What little heat I could generate I gave to her. At night I lay so close to her I would awake in fear that I had crushed her frail limbs. But whatever energy spilled out of me, I didn’t waste.
Here lay a once proud and beautiful woman. At five feet and two inches she somehow managed to stand taller than many of the other women around. In her prime.
She lay in a once proud and beautiful home too. A place people liked to visit; a place that naturally created warmth.
Now the cabin creaked all night and the wind twisted at every piece of wood, every pane of glass, trying to turn the old house in on itself.
My wife lay, desperate. Some days she would call for me and ask to see the baby. Others she would just lie awake and look at the leaking roof, or the whistling window, or the rotting crib.
I kept the crib by the window, where the cold came in. She used to hold the baby and try and make it feed. She tried that for a number of days after she’d stopped bleeding, but the baby wasn’t hungry.
I told her: “He likes fish paste. Fish paste right off my finger. And honey too.” She would nod and pass the child back to me to feed. But the kid never really moved his lips and I’d just smother some jam or whatever I was eating on his lips and hope that it would kind of drip in or he‘d eat it while I wasn‘t looking.
The next time I would check in on him it would all be gone and I figured he must be eating it, he must like it. Then one day I saw the cat was up there on his chest, licking the food away from his face. The baby never moved. That was when I moved the crib over to the window.
One night in that third week, Debbie started bleeding again. I woke up with it stuck to my legs, and my legs stuck to the sheets. I was a little frantic. I threw the sheets back and woke Debbie up.
She asked me to bring her the baby. I wrapped it up pretty tight and put it on the pillow beside her. She rolled over to face it and just kept looking. I put on my pants and boots and stepped out into the storm.
I haven’t been back since.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Stephen's ward

A ward on the ground floor? What’s the point of it?
Stephen pondered this as he sat in a flimsy NHS dressing gown and looked out at the people filing past his window occasionally looking in at all the sick people.
There was little else to do. An old man snored in the bed across from him. An old man coughed and moaned in the bed next to him. Other old men made other low noises across the room. They were the sort of noises that stopped you from doing other things, things that required some concentration, things that actually passed the time.
The television was on all day. The nurses would use it to wake everyone up by putting on the breakfast news at 7am. But it seemed to only wake up Stephen. The nurses might have to shake some of the other men. They might tell the nurses to get off them. They might ask them to give them a kiss. Some nurses would laugh at this; tell them they’re a dirty old dog. One nurse got angry and took a man’s breakfast away.
At the moment it was 3pm. The television was dreadful. It seemed stuck on ITV1 and a presenter - perhaps it was Des O’Connor - flirted with a girl a third his age and seemed to wink at the watching audience, and smile like he was just a teenager.
Along with the main entrance doors to the ward, there was a room where the orderlies seemed to go and chat, perhaps sip tea. Perhaps they did some form of work in there, but Stephen had never been in to check, nor seen them working whenever the door was left open.
He had taken to standing at the window, mid-way between the two lines of beds on the ward and the rear door to the orderlies’ room. He did this in order to attempt to interest, entertain or otherwise amuse himself during the remainder of his stay on this ward.
He heard snatches of conversation. Football talk, thoughts on the different nurses, how bad they thought their jobs were, what they were getting up to later that evening. It was all quite dull, but less so than watching Des O’Connor.
While he was pretending to look out of the window (which he might pretend to do for stretches of about 20 minutes at a time), he had begun to notice that more wildlife than simply the families and friends of the sick and dying were scurrying past the window.
All manner of crows haunted the hospital grounds. Rooks, jackdaws, magpies - they lighted on fences, cars, earth mounds and huge waste bins. They scrabbled around for whatever would sustain them. He might see a few sparrows, maybe a blackbird or a robin (its red breast was fading at this time of year).
Some days he would see something that would actually get his full attention. He’d stop listening to the orderlies whining, he couldn’t hear the old men coughing and dying anymore. Even the sound of the dread TV would be blocked out. On those days, he would watch the ugly scampering of a huge brown rat.
The rat would use the shelter provided by the industrial-sized waste bins to plot his skirmishes into enemy territory. This open ground contained a wide range of debris, discarded food, paper, stones, small beetles. The rat would dart out to inspect and sniff at it before perhaps putting it into its mouth and then darting back into cover.
While Stephen was utterly fascinated by the exploits of the rat, he was also thoroughly disgusted by it. Today, as he watched the rat he noticed how close it was roaming to the hospital edge, how fearless it had become. He also noticed that one of the orderlies was going back and forth through the ward with sacks of refuse, passing through an open double door (probably a fire door) in the orderlies’ room and taking the sacks to the giant bin. The rat didn’t seem to have retreated to the safety of its bin lair and was instead waiting and watching underneath a Ford Fiesta that was parked near to the windows of the next ward along.
It would be easy for the rat now, easy to invade and spread disease through the shiny hospital. Stephen felt uneasy for the first time since hearing he was very ill. Sweat was beading on his spine and his legs were suddenly very weak. His white knuckles clamped onto the window sill. His head whirled as the rat flew from under the car and out of sight, close in to the hospital wall. Stephen collapsed and his vision thickened with cloud.
He awoke in his bed, he had been sedated. He tried to alert the nurses or the orderlies that a rat, that death carrying creature, might be here, in this very room, clambering up onto sterile equipment and urinating into the cups that hold the medicine.
But all he could do was drool. Drool and flop. Flop and drool, and watch Des O’Connor and his willing female wink and smile, smile and wink back at him.

Monday, 10 March 2008

How it happened...

Spent so much time waiting for it to happen.
I was grovelling in groping darkness for some salvation, some end to the decay of hope.
When you came your eyes offered me an escape from soil, from soggy undergrowth.
The connection was transcendent and I awoke atop beautiful spires of decadent confetti, lost in your freckles and lashes.
An arrow pointed me to the rocks where you were sleeping.
I found you there, sleeping in the dawn.
It was already warm.
The sea tingled my feet.
Your blood mingled with the tide and turned the foam pink.
It made me smile.
I kept kissing your hair; the bubbles were abundant.
Lots of little fishes, gathering all around you, kissing you, like me.
I congratulated myself on bringing you this far, on making you accept this fate, this closeness to me.
Several drops of rain applied tears to my cheek…
I realised what had been done; done to you; you were lost to everyone; everyone dies.
There, in the treeline, at the beach edge, slunk death: clawing at the dry sand, hissing deliriously, gnawing its own eyes.
I watched the ancient force of death shimmering in the shadows at the edge of reality.
At intervals, it seemed he would shiver and expand across the beach like a sheet of black plastic, wishing for me to flit into his net like a migratory bird.
Instead I kissed your hair some more and pulled your body further from death, further out into the lagoon.
Further out into the warm seas, far from evil ends, out to where the dolphin hurdles and the turtle plays.
And the shark - the shark, you called him to me!
You, dripping his invite like sweat on wet skin; me, floundering in thick waves.
“He was delicious,” thought the shark and you smiled. Your gleaming treachery was the last thing my eye punctured.
Then thrashing and more bubbles and more little fishes. And you kept smiling.