Vine Eyes

There it is!
A twining leafy piece
of happy tenement.

Budding new growth,
baked by sun now battened
down in cool dark air;

a dozing reach of stem,
blooming closed flowers
frilly tips held in

tight gloss green,
the fierce sentry grip’s
bare brick’s disguise.

For me? no hopeful guardian
but masonry, no such slumbering
sweet smelling defence.

The ground needs working,
seeds bought and sown,
structure to grow around.

Chilly dark tumbles over:
I’ll wait it out, in hope
of sun and morning’s blossom.

Posted in Poetry | 12 Comments

Life Size (nsfw?)

‘Oi Kev, pass us the salt.’

‘You what?’

‘Pass us the salt.’

‘It’s pass us the salt please, you fucking animal.’

Gary Wilde laughed and his face seemed to inflate. He shook his head and it set his jowly features moving beneath the dark beard, grown in a vain attempt to conceal his surplus of face. He leaned forward in the creaking chair, his thin red t-shirt clinging to his fat back in damp angel wings. Gary didn’t do well in the heat, and while it wasn’t exactly summer yet it was warm enough that the broken air conditioner wasn’t doing him any favours.

‘Then pass us the salt please, you fucking animal.’ He tipped the shaker over his steak and chips. The white powder accumulated in tiny heaps.

‘You always put too much of that crap on. You’re a walking heart attack, you.’

‘Don’t be such a minge, Kev.’

‘Cheers,’

‘Well you are being one.’

‘You’ve got lettuce in your teeth.’

Gary slumped back into the chair and cast his gaze around the restaurant like a chubby searchlight. Kevin had noticed while they were talking that Gary’s attention was divided between him and one of the waitresses. He rolled his eyes.

‘Could we have the bill please my darling?’

‘You creep, you just don’t stop do you?’ She looked about nineteen, probably still at college, a few years younger than Kevin. He leaned across the table slightly to watch her as she walked to the bar area for the receipt. Gary caught the movement and chuckled again.
‘Takes one to know one, chump.’

The air outside the restaurant was fresh, despite the thundering traffic of the road. Cars and huge trucks whistled past at all hours of the day and night, making the too-narrow pavement a no-man’s land. Kevin Dorian was certain that for his 24 years of life in and around Dunning Way, the whipping wall of freight and commuters had been gaining ground, year upon year, getting closer and closer to breaching the lines and engulfing the little place completely. He started to whistle as the two young men walked up the tiny strip of raised road.

‘Leave it out Kev, it aint like you got much to whistle about anyway.’

‘I’m going to have to pucker up whatever happens. And I’d much rather whistle than kiss someone’s arse. Anyway, they didn’t even catch me, did they? No one can prove it was me, can they? Er- fucking -go, I don’t think I’ve got that much to worry about, do you? Gary shrugged his fat, cowed shoulders and Kevin carried on, smiting the night air with his open palm. ‘Besides, what about Banksy? What about fucking art man? Graffiti is the people’s art, always has been. There’s something of me in everything I do. Every spray of paint is a bit of my soul, see what I’m saying?’

They turned away from the busy A-road and headed down an unlit track. There was mud everywhere, but soon they were through and out into another, smaller road, thankfully lit. Up ahead was the quiet bend Kevin had raced around during the escape, when the old bastard with the torch had started shouting over at him and threatening to shoot, like he even had a gun. Smiling, he nudged Gary. ‘Almost there,’

‘We’d better be, it’s one o’clock in the morning, you bastard’

‘It’s on the outhouse of that old Catholic school, remember that? The back of it faces onto the road? There’s trees all around for cover, it’s perfect Gary.’

And there it was. All five-feet-high-three-feet-across of it. Kevin’s eyes brought into swimming focus the thing he‘d been planning for weeks. His self-chosen name. The thought brought a swell of pride. Gary wouldn‘t understand. He cast a look over to his friend, who was scrabbling for the Polaroid camera he carried on a strap around his neck.

‘Wow, that’s a pretty sweet job,’ Gary gathered himself and added ‘for a retard.’

‘Yeah I know. Cheers. Lets get this shot done before they get rid of it.’ Kevin raised the camera and flashed it once and the shot was clean and clear.

*

‘Morning Reg,’

‘Morning Tom,’ Usually he hated speaking to the teachers, whom he considered snide and superior to a man, but for once Reg was glad of the interruption to his work and put down his bucket. Drawing a large, well-used handkerchief from his pocket, he felt for his tobacco.

‘Lovely day for it again,’

‘Isn’t it just. Tell you what though,’ Reg drew the handkerchief across his leathery brow ‘It’s tough old work. There’s 300 kids in this school and only one caretaker – I spend all day mopping and sweeping and clearing up and some little hoodlum comes along and tries it on.’

‘Tries it on?’ Tom’s brow furrowed and Reg knew he was going through the mental list of troublemakers that all teachers develop after long enough in the job.

‘Well yeah, look at this here.’ Reg drew his hand back in a sweeping motion intended to dramatically reveal the graffiti, as well as showcase his smug smile at getting one over on one of the condescending bastards. His thick features couldn’t easily accommodate such finesse, and instead he looked a little like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

‘It looks like you’ve made a start though,’ Tom tried to put a brave face on it, adding a shrug and a smile as the coarse-handed groundsman bristled. His eyes bulged slightly as he replied, and a vein in his neck rose to the surface like a blue-black worm.

‘A start? I’ve been scrubbing at this bastard all day so far and all I’ve got off is this corner. I’m going to need something stronger, I said so to the Head but you know how she is with money. So I sent my Terry out to pick up some of that acid, I can’t remember what they call it. It removes the top layer of brick.’ Tom nodded. Two minutes later the bell rang and he stubbed out his fag. Reg waved goodbye, picked up the brush and once more went at the wall, the cigarette in his mouth jiggling only slightly from the effort.

*

Thin tones of the alarm clock split the morning air. The curtained windows were bright and bold, illuminated by the beautiful day outside, but Kevin didn’t pause to part them as he rushed to the bathroom. Holding himself across the body and cursing, he slumped wetly onto the closed lavatory seat. The bedroom was visible directly across the hall through the still open doorway, and there were large pools of blood on the bed and sheets. The blood on the bathroom tiles caught the sun with a dull pearlescence. Here and there were smears and prints; he couldn’t believe how much had come out of him.

The first itches when he went to bed had evidently kept him scratching all night. It was difficult to believe he had scratched these raw, ragged holes into his flesh, but the evidence was there before him now, pulsing and crimson and wet. And growing. The wounds seemed to have grown in size, even as he sat sprawled on the toilet wondering what to do and sobbing with pain and confusion. Was this some kind of flesh eating disease, one of those super bugs?

Kevin felt for the pair of blue tracksuit trousers in the washing-basket next to the toilet and pulled them on gingerly. His skin itched all over. Soon the itches would become unbearable. Soon the scratching would start and what would happen then? A tatty pair of trainers stood at the bottom of the stairs. Kevin pulled them on and fell through the front door in one swooning motion. The sun beat into the large breaks and fissures in his skin but the pain registered only dimly now, and the warm air felt like home.

*

‘Here you go uncle Reg’

‘Aha I was just wondering where you got to, what kept you?’ Reg squinted in the late-afternoon sun at his brother’s boy. ‘Did you get it?’

’Course I did uncle Reg, it was like you said, they said you had to have a license to buy it or something, but I told them it was for you and they just relaxed and told me ok.’

‘Good lad Terry. Now, let’s try it on a patch over here.’

Bright now. Lots bright. Biggest bright. Road lines. Bright light. Now go. Fast go. Know where. A sudden flash of pain and gore brought Kevin to his knees in the parched alleyway. Mud caked in bloody dunes around him, evidence of an old quagmire and a hot day. This way. This was the right way. He found and grasped at the dim certainty of this fact, clutching it close to himself as though it might hold his mind together for a few moments more. Open, weeping sores scooped flabbily at the muddy ground as he flailed himself upright.

‘Oh, that’s coming off a treat, that!’ Reg forced his face to smile.

Terry could swear he’d heard his uncle’s face crackle as it settled into the expression, like an old man into a plump chair at the end of a hard day. Terry smiled too, not just at the idea but at the fact that he could see Reg was right. The graffiti was coming off easily now. No problem, they’d be done in an hour. Only the most stubborn sections remained. Terry began to whistle.

‘For god’s sake boy, what have I-’ Reg’s craggy face drooped, became a dull battleship grey and his mouth hung open.

‘What?’ Terry realised that his uncle wasn’t looking at him anymore, but rather his gaze was directed slightly to the left, looking at something over his shoulder. Feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck and a chill creeping into him despite the heat of the day, he turned slowly at first.

‘Holy saintsholymotherofohgodwhatthefuck,’ Words and bladder control left him as he saw the shattered thing standing only ten paces away. It feebly raised a glistening stump and wrenched a sore gurgle from somewhere inside itself. Terry leapt back, knocking heavily into Reg, who was headed in the opposite direction. ‘What the fucking hell?’

‘Wait son, wait,’ Reg’s voice was hushed and his face pallid. ‘I’ve seen something like his before. It’s a one of those – what do you call them now? A leper. Has to be. And on a day like this? Poor sod must be cooking alive. We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to help!’

‘How the fuck,’ Terry’s body shook as he forced his face to move in the thing’s direction, ‘Can we help that?’ His words seemed to break the humid spell that had been cast. The figure fell heavily to the ground, and Reg immediately ran over to it. Terry noticed that he didn’t let his skin come near it, but instead used his handkerchief as a glove, putting his fingers to the leper’s neck to feel for a pulse. The fingers came back scarlet and Reg cursed loudly, throwing the handkerchief to the dusty ground and wiping his hand on his paint-splattered overalls.

‘Well, whatever he was, he’s dead now.’

‘What are-’ the voice was thin and reedy and Terry barely recognised it as his own. He cleared his throat and started again. ‘What are we going to do uncle?’

Reg’s ashen brow creaked into a frown. Suddenly he said, ‘That old tarpaulin from round the back of the classroom huts, go and get it boy, and hurry up for Christ’s sake.’ Terry ran gratefully from the outhouse and towards the school building, in search of something to wrap the body. Reg pulled a cigarette from the twenty box of Silk Cut, raising the lighter flame with unsteady hands. He sucked the nicotine down gratefully and noticed the bucket, still sat on the grass near the wall. The brush bobbed around in it like a drowning hedgehog. Reg raised his eyes to the wall, where only few swipes of spray paint were now evident.

He’d never been one to leave a job unfinished.

Posted in Prose fiction | 4 Comments

Perfidy

It’s always worse in the late afternoon.  I don’t know why, God knows I don’t.  I’ll be sitting in the old armchair – you know, the one with the wing-back I’m always going on about.  Anyway, I’ll be sitting looking out of the big bay window, through the old nets, and suddenly I can’t breathe.  It doesn’t stop me trying though – oh God, I’m trying now, trying to breathe around the wad of tightness and whatever-it-is in my chest.  Goes on for about two, three minutes usually before I can get my breath again.  Like something’s not working the way it should.  I’ve been broken somewhere.  I know what you’re thinking, ‘Claude, it’s a touch of angina, you’re old, you’ve had a good life,’ and all the rest of it.

But then, you don’t know me.

I can tell you, you can’t begin to understand.

There you are with your little blue tie and your nicely pressed (cheap polyester) slacks and your little degree in some kind of modern quackery and you don’t know me at all.  But I know you, Doctor Simmons. I can see right through you.

“Hello Claude, do you know why I’m here today?”

Because my daughter is paying you $600 an hour you little twerp.  I don’t care.

“I see you’re feeling a little better now?”

“Oh I’m sure I’ll survive.”

Have you ever killed a man Doctor?  Have you ever punched a woman – a woman! – in her face just because she had the nerve to touch your uniform with her filthy infected fingers?  Of course not.  You just sit there halfway across the dayroom and fiddle with your pen.  If I were a younger man I’d rise and smash the damn thing out of your hands and across the room.  If I still had the power your bastard face would be splashed over the wall along with most of your head.  I used to love seeing that.  The human body never ceases to amaze me.  But oh, you’re talking again Doctor!

“Have you ever heard of a man named Rupert Bahnhoff?”

Well well, this is a genuine surprise. Good for you!  But why, how did you hear that name, the name of a great man long since buried?

“Oh, just a little research.” You’re a terrible liar Doctor, fiddling with the little pen collection in your breast pocket. “He was, as you may be aware, a prominent member of the German army.  I was hoping you might be able to tell me a little about him, I believe you may have served together during the war.  I have colleagues,” But what’s that, your expression hardening a little, as if squirming in the grip of an unpleasant memory? “Colleagues of mine in Nuremburg who would be very interested to know of his whereabouts.”

A deep sigh.  I never took you for the theatrical type Doctor.  The silence lays heavy on the room, doesn’t it?  A membrane holding in the sounds.  A Zyklon balloon, with neither of us particularly keen to break it.  But I must, and here’s where the real chase begins.

“Perhaps, Herr Doktor, I should tell you a little of what I know of Rupert Bahnhoff.”

Like I said, it’s always worse in the afternoon.

Posted in Prose fiction | 8 Comments

Goodbye Shoes

Goodbye trainers, I say
to the bin
where they lay on top
of all the other rubbish.

The springy suede has worn
away to nothing,
and the once-fat laces
are frayed in places.

Crusted patch of vomit
on the toe
of the left, memento
of a long ago party.

Goodbye shoes, I say
again, remembering
the field. We all sat in
cider and sunshine-

later chewing gum, from freezing
on the steps
where we first held hands
and shared a red Marlboro.

Those fags nauseate me now
and I can’t drink
vodka again, I get so sick
at the thought of it.

Goodbye shoes, I close
the bin lid, blocking
the vegetable smell.
Where will these new shoes carry me?
What stories will they tell?

Posted in Poetry | 17 Comments

Weatherman (freewrite)

I thought they said the sun would shine today.

Why do they even bother? The sun didn’t shine, the crowds didn’t come to the park, and there are easter eggs going soggy in the bushes.

I’ve got a raincoat, but I left it in the park yesterday when it was sunny. I used it as a blanket while I stretched out on the grass. I could smell my skin in the heat, like new plasticine. There were little creatures in the grass, you could only see them if you stared for a while. They must have crawled over me, the tickling was awful.

The park was pretty much deserted, apart from me and the bugs and the sun. As I lay there, a cloud took shape overhead. It took a while, I don’t know how long, but eventually I decided that it looked like a small man, hunched and spindly. He was laying in the sky, stuck to the ceiling like I was pinned to the floor. I thought he might have stopped to brush a fly from his face, but the motion was a slow one. The movement deformed him, and I had to look away.

Far away, I saw children playing football–three-and-in was it–by a set of white goalposts. If I had to chance at guessing the distance now, i’d say they were probably 358 metres from me. I counted the seconds between seeing the punt and hearing the sound. I could be wrong. They were young, and one of them was fat. One of nature’s goalies, I remember thinking.

I leaned back, resting on my elbows and staring out across the park. Gradually, I noticed the birds singing all around me. Low hoots of pigeons mixed with high vacuous tweets from some other birds. One warbling, happy sound I remember in particular. It sounded like laughter. It sounded like the bird that made that sound was watching me there, covered in bugs, my back stained from a sweaty coat, my eyes watering a little against the sun.

I hoped that the cloud-man had repaired himself. I hoped that he had brought himself back together and regained his shape. I looked up; a giant purple disc of cloud occluded the blue sky and the man was being pushed farther, out of shape and edged towards the horizon. As the first drops hit my face, I heard the bird again, only this time it wasn’t laughing. This time I understood, and leaned back to rest my head. By the time the first peals of thunder echoed across the park, my eyes were closed.

Posted in Prose fiction | 11 Comments

What a Wonderful World

The rain kept falling..

Huge fat spheres of watery dirt that until recently had been streaking through the sky reached the climax of their journey with a muffled plop. Kevin yelped a little but his profanity was muffled by the thick material of his ski jacket.

He’d picked it up from a stall in the market, where the stallholder had informed him profusely that despite the price tag, these jackets were, in fact, every bit as good as the originals . He was right – they were virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Kevin shivered as the raindrops continued their frigid path down the back of his collar. Except, he considered, I bet the real ones don’t leak like a bastard. It had been raining for a long time, although no-one who ever saw it called it that. Water didn’t seem like the right word to describe the black, oily liquid dropping from the iron sky. The spreading wetness and acid burning sensation along his spine indicated that the cheap nylon was becoming saturated.

The street here was a long, broad avenue of mud, shattered tarmac and churned droppings. Kevin had passed several houses outside of which stood a tether post, and clearly some had moved their livestock indoors to protect them from rainburn. There were also some old plaques standing half-buried in the muck, but Kevin could not read them easily. Some of the smaller ones had worn away to blank, battered panels but others were just about legible. He’d recently hurled the last of these plaques a considerable distance, giving vent to the motoric fury he felt rising within him at every step. He stamped his rage out and into the cracked asphalt. The plaque had taken him by surprise – a flash of white in the mud and he’d been down on his knees in the filth, smearing it away but not yet weeping.

The sky hung heavy and seemed low enough to touch, smothered in a blanket of grey-black cloud, extending a dim veil of rain all the way to the ground. Kevin stood quickly and resumed his ferocious march, slithering every few paces on the slippery film of grease the rain had deposited on every rock. He could see his destination, a large intact old-brick spire jutting some 30 feet into the sky. Doubly unusual, as new buildings were never made from old-brick, only recycled found-stone from some of the larger ruins, maybe with Polyethylene roofing if you could get your hands on it. Of course, you couldn’t just take what you liked, and the local fiefs cracked down hard on looting unofficial sites, but it didn’t stop some people. You were supposed to have a permit and tithe for owning a cow, too. Judging by the churned earth the road had seen a lot of travel, yet there didn’t seem to be a single person living nearby.

Where are they? The question circled like a caged bird inside Kevin’s head. Panic took control of his legs and redoubled their effort. The feeling of being watched was always strong when you went outside the city walls, and it seemed to get stronger the further out you went. Weatherbeaten faces hiding behind every window, hooded gangs poised to emerge snarling and ruthless from this alley or that.

The sign, badly eroded by the filth inside the rain, had read “CHGWEL: ¼ m”

The rain kept falling.

Posted in Prose fiction | 3 Comments

The Rounds

You have no idea how much I fucking hate milk.  It’s filthy, tasteless and the wrong colour for starters.  God knows how many crates I load every week.  My work has me starting at 4am, loading the float for the morning rounds.  It keeps me fit though I suppose.  Of course, I don’t worry about that so much, not with my condition.  The batteries in the float get charged up overnight in these little sheds with blue doors.  They’re only wooden doors, padlocked from the outside.  I’m surprised no-one’s had those batteries away by now, but then you have to wonder how many people are likely to have a milk float in the driveway.

Once the float goes out, the day really starts.  I like to get the work over and finished ASAP, so I can beat the sun.  My condition means I burn easily, and to be honest I’ve never enjoyed it.  Too hot, too much.  Last time I worked in the sun I had to squint so hard I nearly crashed the float.  Sullivan gave me bollocking for that one, oh yes.  Of course, one mention of him using his supervisors badge to order in a load of office supplies, so he can flog them off down the pub, and he agreed to let it go.  But to be honest, that’s all a bit academic.

What really matters is Doris.

She lived in a house in Knut’s Lane with Ivy on the walls – proper trellis and everything.  A little bit of charm.  Not like the rest of this concrete zoo, filled with all kinds of creatures that’d just as soon kick your face in as look at you.  They don’t have a clue about people like me.  We’re the ones that put in the real graft.  I’m digressing yet again, sorry.  This isn’t about me.  Well, it is about me, but really it’s about what Doris did to me.

She ended my life.

No, not like that.  And not in that sappy, romantic way either, although I suppose you could call it reinvention.  Transformation is probably the best word.  Metempsychosis; she transformed me.  There I was, delivering the usual two pints of gold top to the house next door to hers.  I had no idea she even existed at the time.  That sounds ridiculous to me now, as if I hadn’t noticed my own legs or something.  But anyway, my pre-Doris life came to an end the moment I looked up from the milk I’d just placed on the neighbour’s doorstep and I looked right into her eyes.

She was sat on her step at 4am, licking her fingers.  It was so bizarre – she must’ve been at the milk or something, cos she was licking stuff off her fingers and watching her made me hard.  She was a good 20 yards from me but I remember her voice seemed to come from close by, and she didn’t need to raise it.  Not ever, not Doris.  She got into me. She infected me and made me what I am.  Since her, I’m afraid of the sun, angry at the moon and consumed by a hunger that refuses to be satisfied.  She taught me about power.

She taught me to love my job.

Posted in Prose fiction | 3 Comments