Digest

Sea XIII

Do you remember the story of the monk at the old church?  We took the bus on an icy evening and waited for hours until the moon was warm on our faces and our feet were wet with melted frost, tromping through long grass.  Don’t you remember?

That old church, where the chicken bones were trussed together into crosses, and that teenage lad fell from the tower and broke himself in half over the stone tomb of the priest who’d died in 1886.  We’d gone up there with torches and we heard a noise above, and you shone yours up at him, and he covered his eyes…

….and he came down screaming like a daemon.  And in the dark I thought he had sixteen arms and legs, and his mouth was wide open as though to consume me, and drag me to hell….

….but then he spun around midair as I dived out of the way.  Crack!  On his back, across the raised triangular stone.  Ribs bursting out, blossoming like flower petals opening.  You remember?  The boy gasping, his eyes wide, as we realised he was both alive and dead, until his two parts gently disconnected with a pop and slithered either side to the flagstone floor.

Anyway, I digress. The old monk.  We took that journey so many times.  We read all the books about the monk who flitted around the grounds.  Why do ghosts always flit?  Why don’t they mince or swagger?  That poor boy though.  That poor boy.

Drench

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She has a voice that shatters memory.  Every time I hear it, I forget another birthday.  Another past crush dies.  Relatives cease to be names or faces.  I cannot bring them back.  I can only focus on hips, knees and shoulders.  A tuft of hair above The Zone that I deliberately nibble on so I get a thread caught in my teeth.  It makes me feel like a teenager again.

I look for her car as I walk the streets; any time I see that model in that colour I push my chest out and lift my chin.  It might be her, and I don’t want to be slouching.  I have nightmares about tripping over my laces and falling at her feet, breaking my nose and bleeding all over her sandals.

She calls me Martin and she calls me a cunt.  I’m neither.  But I give up dignity and identity to cuddle her jacket when she gets too warm.  I rehearse conversations in my spare time, and then try to spring my ‘spontaneous’ one liners on her anecdotes.  They always fail.  I always stumble.

Perhaps I’m too weak to be adored.  Her on-off boyfriend, Taylor, is now off.  He was too weak to see a rival in the short grass when he focused all his attention in the trees.  That’s why he looked the other way when I lost control of my car, breaking his pelvis.

I see her, sitting in the park.  Chest out, chin up.  Hold that thought…

 

 

Merry

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I’m only comfortable when I’m sitting on the floor, pressed against a wall.  I stare into the blemishes of the concrete, my flesh airtight against the cold.  I push my forehead into the stone until it pains and then bleeds, and lukewarm red meanders down my cheeks.  Red rivulets run and saunter over my eyes until I cannot see beyond the scarlet.

I talk into the bricks, quietly but firmly, picking words that make my chest vibrate and my throat wobble.  Words like; melodious – intimidating – destruction – organ – obtuse – magnificent.  Nowhere to go, the vibrations bounce from the walls back into my chest cavity and suddenly I’m swimming with the words, arm-wrestling with them, pulling at their kicking legs and clamping around their waistlines.  I relish each syllable, running them through my cheeks and over my tongue like liquor mouthwash, until they burn my gums and I have to release them.

Meander.  Beautiful.  Uncontrollable.  I place my knee under the chin and allow my voicebox to tremble over my skin.  The vibrations dance over my bones, as though my tendons and ligaments are guitar strings.

Adam.  Brian.  Courtney.  When I leave the house, I threaten people.  Grabbing them by their lapels, I hold a cut-throat shaver to their eyes and ask them the usual.  Money.  Phone.  Unlock codes.  Never cards or pin numbers; it’s too easy to turn them into redundant plastic rectangles.  But I ask for their names.

Later, pressed against the wall, I give them a try.

Marmaduke.  Gary.

 

She Only Kisses On Thursdays

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She hides one eye behind a torrent of thick, globulous, dyed hair.  Teeth like an antique piano, I fantasise about their tune.  Lame, I know.  But then, I’m the guy who hovers around the beans, the peas and the tinned fish; with my squeaky trainers and leather trenchcoat; too big for my shoulders and too hot for a July afternoon.  All for a glimpse, or maybe for nothing.  The security guards follow me, pushing the products forward, making everything neat, making sure the labels match.  I put my hands in my pockets and pretend I am cocking a pistol.  I don’t know how; I just watch too many films, and I’ve practised the noise using the spit on my tongue.

I dream of being fondled inappropriately, because I’m too shy to make the first move, and too male to ever find the experience distressing.  Sweat runs down my arms and tickles my fingers.  The air fills with fresh bread and sweet donuts.  My high-necked roll collar itches against shaving rash.

She always smiles.  Looking down into the glass cabinet, then looking up.  Curling that clotted curtain of hair over one ear.  She’s always happy to see me.

Like today.

The Girl On The Bakery opens a gusher, without any warning.  I stand powerless.  The same smile, the same look, and then a plunge into her own arm with scissors from her pocket.  Two of the staff immediately rush to her aid.  The rest are sprinting to save the daily bread.

Sanctuary II

 

Sanctuary II is here.

As with Sanctuary, it is a combination of my pictures and my writing.  Please click here if you wish to purchase a copy.

Kneeling In Jumpers

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She told me; stop picking at my food.

Chomp, mutter, cough, clink, the exciting sounds of the restaurant.  Can’t relax next to the window.  Taxi cabs beaming across my face, the room flicking yellow as they indicate to go either or.  I drink too much wine, too quickly.  Not even at dessert and I’m glued to the chair.  I cannot move because that’ll give everything away.  I feel like the floor is rolling surf, and I am trying not to capsize.

She told me that God was like Apple, whilst flicking her phone.  Deliberately creating things that were inherently designed to be flawed and eventually fail, just so they can be replaced, and the users punished.  Hacking away at a piece of steak, a rhetorical question meanders over the candles; why create something just to be adored?

I tell her television careers have been built on less, and she doesn’t laugh.

*

It’s the black dress that does it.  Her little black dress drives me crazy.  When she is at work I remove it from the wardrobe and slash it to ribbons.  It’s a ritualistic execution, death by 1000 slices, just so the fucking thing knows how I feel.

*

One morning I can’t find her.  The bed is empty and colder than usual.  In a purple dawn I rush to the beach and find a trail of clothes – and a slashed dress – on the seawall, followed by her unique instep.  I follow.  The footprints end where the tide breaks on the sand.

Dance Dance Dance

(Originally published September 2016)

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The boy’s breath smelled like a shipwreck.  Despite this and many other handicaps, I found him to be engaging.  He told me, “you don’t know her like I do” and his nose began to bleed, a thin descending ribbon that ran slow and straight to his lip.

“When she sings, she sounds like Christ crucified.”  I wondered to myself – does the boy’s blood smell as badly as the rest of him?  Would I die if I shivved him, jarring a blade between his ribs and watching the foul red stuff blossom from his mouth?  It wasn’t tempting.

The boy began his conscious life as a gifted pianist, but his fingers were now rotten from knuckle to tip by fetid designs.  She’d broken one or more of them on six different occasions and he’d never bothered to trouble a doctor so now they jostled for space, swollen in his fists.

I looked at this boy of twenty six as the blood made a softly rhythmic pat pat pat on the toes of his trainer.  His eyes were deranged with lust and I felt sure I could hand him a toilet roll holder filled with diced beef and he’d fuck it.  To step back would be to show weakness, so I clenched the blade I had in my pocket and held my thumb over the release.  The boy’s eyes rolled into the top of his skull and he gently sank, folding his legs delicately underneath him so he ended up cross-legged on the floor at my feet.

“I want to hear her sing” he began to moan, mournfully, grabbing at stones in the dust.  He may have been crying; I was trying not to look.  When I finally did, the boy was staring up at me with a sewing needle pushed through the palm of his hand – the skin raised into a little tent on the exit point.  Tears were streaming down his face as he repeated the cry, I want to hear her SING.  

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She was dancing on the railway sleepers, playing hopscotch with the slimy, cracked planks.  I awoke to the sun throbbing on my face, drawing my skin tight.  I opened my eyes slowly, lifting the red curtain.  Everything is in black and white when I open my eyes, and I have to wait for the colour to drain back into everything.  The last object to fill was her red dress, as I blinked the dead cells drifting across my vision.  My pupils dilate and narrow.  Like a beating heart.

“Oh good.”  She looked over her shoulder mid-bounce, one leg cocked aloft.  “I was just deciding what to draw on your face.”  She reached inside her dress and pulled out my knife from the hip elastic of her knickers.  She was on me in an instant, pouncing like a Huntsman spider, straddling me.  I felt the scratch of her unshaven legs through my thin trousers.  She waved the blade over my eyes.  “I thought about a cat.  Or a labyrinth.  Or snakes and ladders.”  She kissed me and I kept one eye open to watch her wrists.  She stared one eye deep into mine and I saw it prickle with moisture.

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Later that afternoon we relaxed under the canopy of a thick oak tree.  I lay nestled between her legs, resting the back of my head on her breasts as she picked aphids from my hair.  I asked her why she was so intent on destroying the boy and she smiled her gappy grin, one front and one incisor missing from her last big fight in which she’d destroyed a woman half a foot taller and twenty pounds heavier.  The teeth were lost not in a strike but from a mistimed headbutt.  She’d spat the loose canines into the woman’s face, freckling her with blood and gums, and levelled her with an uppercut that simultaneously tore the clouds in half.  As she stood over her fallen opponent, a steady stream of rain fell and the vanquished began to sink into the waterlogged mud.

I can’t remember what her answer was.  I wasn’t listening.  Too busy looking at that smile.  At the scar that ran from the corner of her mouth to just below her jawline.  The girl terrified and thrilled me.  When we fucked, it was survival of the fittest.  You didn’t feel accomplished in making her arch her back and moan as she exploded.  You felt accomplished if you made it out of her bed alive.

She leaned in and bit my ear.  It was a gentle nip but I braced myself as best I could without alerting you to the tension in my muscles.  I knew that if you sensed my unease, you would rip the damn thing off.  So I waited.  I held my breath in check.  I even had the nerve to let out a little chuckle and a stroke of her stubbly knee.  She breathed in my ear and let go.  “You don’t need to worry about the boy” she told me.  “I’ve told him about us.  He’s weak and you… you are strong.”  Her hand ran down my forearm and the nails dragged back up my skin to my elbow.  In an instant, she clamped her thighs around my waist.  I felt my diaphragm struggling against the lack of pressure.  Her ankles clamped over my groin, and with the strength of a python she continued to squeeze.  I couldn’t remain relaxed any longer.  I began to struggle and then to panic as she started laughing.  “Be strong.  Be strong!”

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I found the boy on wasteland, strung up to a tree by his neck and barely moving in the breeze.  He’d obviously been gone a while so I sat on the abandoned washing machine he’d used to leap from and lit a cigarette.  He smelled clean for a change, but his lop-sided head glared down at me, so I didn’t look up.  Instead I brushed the ash onto the sole of his shoe, still with dried spots of blood from our last meeting a week or so ago.  I told the boy that it was too bad.  He should’ve stuck it out.  My ribs were still bruised and I struggled to get in and out of the bath.  Waking up every morning and lifting myself out of bed was an ordeal.  People told me I looked stoned but it was the burst bloodvessels in my eyes.  I noticed the boy had odd socks on, and his ankles looked like marble – pale with cracks of purple.

“Sometimes” I said, taking a deep drag and blowing the smoke away from him, “I think she’s more trouble than she’s worth.”

I glanced up briefly.  “Well, I suppose you’d know.”

Tapping ash onto his toe I looked across the wreckage.  Everywhere was debris.  Shit that wasn’t wanted anymore, just left to decay on no man’s land.  Even the overgrown shrubs, the trees and the long grass looked artificial.  I realised I may be the only thing alive here.

“I just wish I knew how to contain that spirit.  I wish she’d shave her bush.  I wish…”

My words tailed off.  I looked up at the boy and he looked back down at me.  He’d had another nose bleed either before or after strangulation.

“You’re a mess.”

I got out my phone and dialled for the emergency services.  I tried my best to sound distressed and alarmed.  The operator was very soothing and pleasant.  As soon as the call ended, I stubbed my cigarette out on the ankle of his jeans, throwing it inside the washing machine.

Thanking him for the chat, I waded out of the long grass.

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I asked her if I was a bad man. I kept being jumpy around distant sirens.  I couldn’t look at police on the street.  I woke up around dawn every day imagining my door being beaten down.

‘I mean bad.  Not just making mistakes or being a bastard.  I mean… am I beyond any kind of help or salvation?’

She laughed and wrapped her wrists around my neck.

“Baby, you are totally beyond salvation.  Of course you are…”  She bit her lip coquettishly but then clamped down harder, breaking the skin, staining her tooth red.

“…why else would I keep you around?”

“Why else?” I pretended to laugh, silently praying.  Please don’t see the lump in my throat.  Please don’t see the lump in my throat.