Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Short Story

Just over 10 years ago I started studying Creative Writing and English Literature at Aberystwyth University. The place and people were wonderful, the course was pretty disappointing. Here's the story I submitted for my first marked assignment on 10th November 2003.

The Short Story

Abbott put his arm around me, he kissed me on the forehead and kept his hand on my shoulder looking out at the road ahead.  We'd been traveling for about five days now, I didn't know where we were going really, but Abbott seemed to.  I looked at him as he drove, all around us was deserted and the sun sat right behind.  I leant over and nestled my head on his side.
    At that moment I felt my father's hand on my shoulder, prodding me.  Daddy didn't like it when we got cosy together in the car, I just liked having time with Abbott and sometimes forgot that my Daddy was even there, he always made sure he reminded me about it though.

My father had raised me by himself for about nine years now, since I was six.  He was very protective of me, always lecturing me about being a good girl, coming home on time and he wasn't fond of Abbott to tell you all the truth.
    I met Abbott after school, he used to be sitting on the fence by the field with the long grass with his friends.  I'd smile at him as I walked by, and soon he was smiling back.  One day he jumped down off the fence and asked if he could walk with me.
    “I'm not sure if my Daddy would like that.”  I grinned.
    “Fine,” Abbott nodded respectfully, and then he winked and said, “I won't walk with ya' all the way then.”  He walked alongside me, and I could barely speak, couldn't do nothing but smile.  “What's your name then?”  He asked looking down at me with his blue eyes, I remember how blue they were so well.
    “Tess.” I said.
    “My name's Abbott.” He stopped and held his hand out to me, I'd never had a boy offer to shake hands with me before and I couldn't help but laugh.  “Well, are you gonna shake my hand or aren't ya'?”

The car pulled up to the side of the road, the dirty ground crunching under the wheels.  Abbott leant on the door and looked up and down the long empty strip.  Then off we went again, this time the car began out over the ground leaving the road behind us.  I looked at Abbott like he'd gone and lost his mind, but soon we came to this little secluded place with trees and large dusty rocks.
    “We're stopping here tonight.”  He said getting out of the car and pulling his leather jacket off the back seat, “You wanna help me?”
    “Do what?”  I asked.
    “Get a fire going or something.” He exclaimed as if it was perfectly obvious to everyone but me.  “I'm going for a piss, try and see if you can find some firewood or something.”
    I went over to one of the trees and began shaking at its trunk, but it barely made a move, though I'll be honest with you I'm not exactly the toughest person in the world.  I leant back on the bonnet of the car and looked up at the tree, a wind blew through the leaves and my hair, it span dust up as if it were alive.
    “You look pretty with your hair down.” My father said from the backseat of the car, “Your mother always said you'd grow up beautiful.  You're starting to look a lot more like her, everyday it seems.”

Daddy didn't like Abbott, and he made no bones about keeping it under his hat.  First time he met him was about a week after he started walking me home, Daddy was sat on the front porch smoking his pipe and he saw me talking down by the road.  Abbott was practically begging me to go to the old barn down by the lake that night, some friends of his were having some kinda party, said they were starting a band.
    “I'll think about it.” I grinned tugging my bag back up onto my shoulder, I started to walk up towards the house with Abbott nodding and smiling.
    “I'll think about you!” He laughed pointing playfully at me, and winking.
    I could tell my Daddy was mad the second I could see his face clearly, but to be honest with you I didn't know why.  He had his hands on his hips and the pipe drooping sadly from his mouth, I looked up at him and plain as day he swore,  “God damn you Tess, what are you playing at?  Get inside the house.”
    Our house was one of the nicest one's around for miles, I always loved that place despite whatever happened inside those four walls.  Though I would've changed a few things about it, that's for sure.  My father and his father were proud hunters, and they had heads of all kinds of animals up over the fireplace and the like, deers and boars, they went traveling for weeks finding stuff to kill.
    Daddy sat me down at the dinner table, he turned a lamp on as it was getting pretty dark early now in the Autumn.  Daddy told me to put my hands on the table, about shoulder width apart and he struck the backs of them hard with his hand, it hurt but I didn't say nothing.
    “What are you playing at?”  He asked again sitting so upright I thought he'd locked his back again, I didn't say anything because I had nothing to say.  He rolled his eyes and looked round the house, “If your mother could see you now?  Holy Jesus, I don't know what she'd say.  She'd set you straight, that's what she'd do.  Tell you how blind you're being, how foolish!”  He took my hands in his and stared me straight in the eyes, “Now you listen to me, cause I'm telling you now not to see that fella...”
    “But, Daddy...” I began.
    “Lord have mercy!”  My father interrupted, “Aren't you listening?  Don't you hear me?  I'm commanding you my girl, my daughter.  I didn't raise no commandment breaker now did I?  You love your Daddy now don't you?  Now, say your prayers and I'll start dinner tonight, but it's to bed early today, you hear?”  He paused, “Tell me now, do you hear?”
    “Yes Daddy.” I answered.

Later that evening, it was about eight o'clock I reckon, I could hear this sound at my window and when I looked up there was Abbott stood outside, I didn't realise who it was at first and almost jumped out of my own skin.  Quietly I crept over to the window, slid open the pane and stuck my head outside.
    “What do you want?”  I asked in a whisper.
    “Come on, I came to take you to the barn, I figured that a lady shouldn't walk alone.”  Abbott said starting off into the dark almost immediately.
    “Well hold up!”  I called with bated breath, “I'm wearing my nightgown, I gotta get changed!”
    Abbott threw his hands up and stamped a foot, “I told you we was going to the barn!”
    “I'm sorry, b-but my Daddy, he - he said...” I could hardly speak now, and Abbott could see that he'd been a little rash so he came up and put a hand on my cheek.
    “Hey there, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at ya'.  I didn't realise.  Don't be upset now.”  Abbott's hand was so warm despite the cold Autumn air at night, and I practically nuzzled against it.  “Come on now,” he continued, “Get some clothes and shoes, stick a pillow under the bedsheets, you can wear my jacket if you want, it's real leather.”

“What are you thinking?”  My father asked me as I pulled a blanket up over me in the front seat of the car.
    “I was wondering why you used to hit me so much?”  I said bitterly trying to find some warmth, it was winter even in the desert!
    “You can be stubborn sometimes, you get that too from you mother.”
    I began to feel tears in my eyes on my skin thinking about her, “Why did she die, Daddy?”
    “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” My Daddy reasoned, but it never made any sense to me.

I was a little angry when nobody else showed up in the barn that night, later Abbott told me that they'd all gone out drinking and forgotten to tell him!  He didn't mind though he said, he told me that he was happy enough sitting here with me, and I was with him.  There wasn't anywhere to sit as such in the barn, barely anybody used it then, which is a pity because it was so beautiful there in the moonlight.  Abbott made us a bed of hay to lie on, it was all bailed up but Abbott tore through the cord holding it with his bare hands!  I'd never noticed how strong he was in all the time we'd known each other, and then how carefully he set the hay down on the ground, he was like an artist at work.
    That's the night I knew I was in love with Abbott.  It was getting late, we could see the sun rising up out in the distance across the lake.  My head was on Abbott's chest and I could hear his heart beating, and I felt so calm there with his arms wrapped around me.  I wriggled out of his embrace and looked him in the eyes, he looked down at me.
    “What?”  He smiled.  I quickly kissed him on the lips.  “What was that?” He asked.
    “A kiss.” I replied holding his gaze.
    “I know that, but why'd you do that?”
    “'Cause I wanted to kiss you, that's why.”
    Abbott raised his eyebrows and grinned, he looked around the barn as if he were surrounded by a thousand eyes and didn't care.  “Do you still want to kiss me now?”
    “I'm not so sure.” I teased.
    Abbott chuckled and put an arm round the back of my neck pulling me closer to him and he kissed me, his hands ran down my back and opening his hands his fingers practically wrapped round me.

When I left the barn the next day I pretty much floated all the way home I was so happy, Abbott didn't walk with me he had to be in town, to check on his friends.  I remember that the world had never seemed so beautiful before, the barn was a luminous glowing grey sat against the Autumn sky.  The grass around it was browning and captured in sunlight, and it didn't matter about all the moss, lichen and rust, because somehow on that day it was all perfect.  And I'd seen sunrises before, me and Daddy would stay up and watch them sometimes, we'd eat lamb stew with crusty bread, but this one was special.

Abbott came back looking white as a sheet, he stumbled over a rock in the dim dusk light and cursed quietly to himself looking up at me.  “Where's the Goddamn fire?”
    “There's no stick or nothing, and I couldn't reach up into the tree there.”  I pointed.
    “Jesus fucking Christ.”  Abbott muttered, it shocked me when he swore, he didn't used to swear so much, but you get to know people more and more as time goes on, that's what love's all about I guess.  He proceeded to swipe at the tree, but he kept swinging too wide and missing the branches, and eventually he just began kicking at the trunk, bark splintering and denting.
    “Are you allright Abbott?  Look like you've seen a ghost.”  I said getting out of the car and going over to help him.
    “I'm fine!” He snapped.
    “Are you sure?  Do you want some water or something?” I raised a hand to his side and touched him.
    Next thing a fist came into my face, it knocked me to the ground and I scratched the underside of my hand as I fell onto the rough desert floor.
    “I'M FINE!” He yelled, and then turned placing his hands on the tree, “Jesus fucking Christ.”
    My face felt numb and the bridge of my nose buzzed and hummed, it stung like when you crack your elbow on the table.  My face felt wet, like I was crying, but I wasn't and when I drew my hand back it had red streaks across it, I dabbed the tears with my finger and saw that it was blood.
    Abbott had slumped himself against a rock and was lighting up a cigarette, he seemed to be talking to himself but I didn't care neither way.  I got back in the car and found a handkerchief and held it to my nose, the white cloth was quickly blackening red with blood, I looked back to my father but he had got out the car.  Looking round I saw that he'd gone over and was stood next to Abbott, smoking his pipe.  He looked over to me and nodded, mouthing the words 'Go to sleep', and so I did.

When I got back home in the morning my father wasn't in, so I busied myself by tidying up the kitchen and washing the dishes from dinner last night, then I hanged the clothes out on the line and made the beds.  My father's bed though looked like he'd had a rough night, the covers were flung over the floor and I was growing concerned due to his absence.  Nevertheless, Daddy often goes out for walks and stuff, and anyways, he didn't know that I was missing school today and I was glad he didn't otherwise he'd probably strangle me!  In some ways I began to think that if Daddy didn't come home then Abbott could move in, and he could tend to the fields and the cows, and I could cook for him and he'd stay up late reading to me at bedtime.  To some extent I began to dream that Daddy wouldn't come home, and it's practically at that moment when he did.
    I never heard a door open and close so loudly before in my life!  I looked up at the clock and it was about lunchtime, so I thought that Daddy had come back in for something to eat, but he came straight up to me with a horrific look on his face, beads of sweat dripping off his brow.  Suddenly he struck me with the back of his hand across the face, and when I fell to the floor he pulled me back up by my collar and shook me.
    “I told you!” My father barked into my face, “I told you again and again.  What do you want?  Huh!?  You want me to hurt you?  Is that what you want?  'Cause I'll do it, don't doubt that I will!  Heaven above, don't you understand that I love you Tess?  Don't you see that I don't want you to be hurt?”
    I couldn't stop crying, tears burning my eyes I cried till I could hardly cry no more, I tried to wipe them away but he held my arms down and rattled me, I thought that he'd break my neck he shook me so much.  When I could finally see again I noticed that his knuckles were a mucky brown red colour, I looked up at my father and I could see it in his eyes that he'd gone after Abbott before he came to me.
    “Daddy what did you do?”  I sobbed.
    My father looked down at his hands and withdrew them, trying to wipe the stains off onto his shirt, and the moment he did I tore out the side door with all my speed, practically screaming for air as I went.
    I could hear my father yelling behind me, but he didn't bother to follow.  I ran so fast, I ran past the old barn, down the road and past the fence by the field with the long grass, and then towards Abbott's house on the other side of town.  I could tell that something was wrong because the door was hanging off its hinges, and glass from a window was scattered on the floor, it cut into my feet as I walked over it, I'd forgotten to put any shoes on or nothing, but I didn't notice 'til later.
    Inside the gloomy, sparse house was Abbott, slumped in a corner a hand to his face and as I stepped towards the shadows where he sat I could hear him sniffing, holding back the tears too.  I reached out for him and took his hand from his face, he moved his head forward into the light and I saw what my father had done. 
    Abbott's eyes were swollen, dark purple and puffy, with blood trickling out of the eyebrow and he'd split an eye lid open, Abbott could barely blink the poor soul.  His lip too was gashed and red with blood ran over it, he was scuffed with all kinds of dirt and splinters, but that wasn't the worst of it.  I tried to help Abbott to his feet but taking his arm in my hands made him holler in pain, I tried to help him again but he protested so badly.  Carefully I looked at his arm and realised the elbow was all awash with blood, it was damp and sticky, so carefully I rolled up the sleeve and saw that the arm looked odd, and then realised that the bone jutted out through the skin where it'd been broken.  I clasped my hand over my mouth, I could barely comprehend how my father did this.
    “Abbott,” I said running my hand across his cheek, but he winced away in pain, “Abbott?  Are you going to be okay?  Abbott come on, talk to me now.”
    “I-It was y-your father.”  Abbott managed to utter, his words wet and gargled, he spat onto the floor and I could see that he was coughing up blood.  “He came in raging, like a man possessed he was, I could barely speak, he just didn't let me...”
    “That's alright Abbott, you don't have to say anything.  You want I should get a doctor?”
    “No.” Abbott started, “You go home, I don't want you to get into any more trouble than you are already.  I think...” He caught his breath, “I think you shouldn't see me no more, Tess.”
    I bit my lip as I let his words fall upon me, but I could tell that he was just trying to be generous to me, “Abbott, I'm not going to leave you, I love you, and I will do anything for you...” I thought about what I was saying, the first time I really paid any attention to what I said or how I said it, but I did so because I meant it and I remembered something my mother used to read to me, “'You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.'”

My father walked back to the car and got in the driver's side, sitting on the front seat, he looked at me and blew jovially into my hair, it roused me from my sleep and I looked round, it was morning.  I turned my head all around and we were still in the desert, usually Abbott would drive off in the middle of the night and I'd wake up someplace else, but it was still that little secluded spot.  Clouds hung over us in patches, dark grey underneath but glowing fluffy white above, the sky was a baby blue and peeked through like pools in the air.
    “Morning.”  My Daddy beamed when I wearily blinked at him.

When I returned home my father was in the bathroom shaving, all was quiet in the house, strangely so, except for the sound of water being slapped around by his razor as he cleaned it off.  I crept quietly into my room and gathered up my clothes, placing them neatly into my schoolbag and throwing it over my shoulder.  I thought briefly about writing him a note, but thought that it'd be better for him to gradually understand as opposed to me trying to explain it myself, and where would I begin?
    As I moved through the front room, under the watchful gaze of the deers and boars, bears and other beasts I felt a sense of sadness for all the things I'd be leaving behind, but then again what were they but memories?  And now each happy memory lead to a sad one.
    I reached the door and then remembered that I wanted to take a book for Abbott to read to me, so crept back over towards the fireplace where my favourite books rested on the mantle.  As I dropped my bag to the ground I heard my father's voice behind me.
    “What are you doing?” He asked, yet he sounded different, sombre and remote.  “Where are you going?”
I turned and saw my father stood in the doorway opposite, his face hidden in shaving foam and the razor in his hand, he rested on the door frame and looked sorrowfully at me, his eyes large, blue, staring.
    “I'm going away Daddy.” I said, but then he began to shake his head slowly back and forth.
    My father looked up to the ceiling and sighed, smiling to himself and speaking up to the Heavens, “I tried, I'm sorry.”  He then looked at me and began walking over, and for some reason I was shaking uncontrollably I felt like my legs were going to give way I was so terrified, I just remember his hands, bloodied and dirty, I just remember Abbott's face as he cowered in the corner, and then I just remember the sound of gunfire.
    When I looked round again my father was lying on the floor back by the opposite door, his hand had dropped the razor and the other one was slumped across his chest.  He lay with his lungs breathing slowly in and out, getting further seperated by the second and as he breathed more blood pumped out of him, from a hole in his chest and a pool haloing his head.

I looked at my father sat in the driver's seat of the car, as I turned round I saw that Abbott had gone again, when I looked back my father had gone too and I saw the wind blow through the trees, it released some leaves that clung to the branches, and spun dust up into the air as if it were alive.

Friday, 4 October 2013


 Not quite from the archives, but I wrote this back in June 2013 and completely forgot about it...


Wearily I rub my eyes, my colleague is sat on the seat opposite me, our train heading towards the office.
    "Feels like Thursday," she pines, it's only Tuesday.
    I nod in agreement.

At work I head upstairs immediately, flick the kettle on, grab my preferred mug and am about to spoon in a miniature mountain of coffee, when I realise the jar is empty.
    I try to cast my mind back to yesterday, remember that last cup of coffee I had, and I'm certain - adamant - that there was definitely enough coffee in the jar for at least three more cups.  I can't imagine who else might have had a coffee, it's a small office, my boss is away on business, and everybody else prefers tea.  Could I have been wrong?
    I pop to the corner shop to buy some more coffee, hesitating at the display comprised almost exclusively of Nescafe brands and one cheap alternative that, experience suggests, will taste distractingly acrid.  I could walk further down the road to a supermarket, but I feel bad for not being at work, I want to conserve my free-time for more important opportunities, so I nab the smallest jar of Nescafe - reasoning that I can get a more ethical alternative quite quickly - and head back to the office.

I text my girlfriend, just something inconsequential, but, after half an hour, I still haven't received a reply.  I try to imagine all the things she might be doing that would prevent her from checking her phone, wonder why she doesn't realise that I just want a little bit of validation, just something to remind me that she still cares about me.  I guess that's pretty desperate.
    Perhaps I was being too optimistic, I reason, even going so far as to call her my girlfriend is a bold gesture.  I mean, we've been seeing each other for a while, but I guess I'm more emotionally invested than she is.  She says it's all quite new to her, I think she's treating it as a bit of fun, a little bit of experimentation, but for me it's serious, I mean, for her it's a choice, but for me it's not a choice, I was born this way, it's who I am.
    Maybe I'm being naive to think that I can get her to change her mind, see me the way I see her, I guess?  But, at the same time, I don't want to force someone's hand, we've always been very honest with one another, but I can't help how I feel, or, at least, how I think I'm going to feel and when it comes down to it; to that decision between seeing her and not seeing her, I'm always going to go for the former.  I guess I'm selfish like that.
    Because that's what it will be ultimately, me forcing someone, who has told me from the start that this is just a bit of fun for them, to sit there whilst I parade my emotions in front of them, a little song and dance, tell them how much they mean to me, but, at the very same time, feel overwhelmingly cruel and guilty that I'm essentially trying to blackmail them into one of two things.
    Either they go back on themselves, cave in, try and take things seriously - against their wishes.  Or, they're the executioner, and they tell me in plain terms that it'll never happen and we probably shouldn't see one another anymore.  I know these are the only two conclusions, but I'm too cowardly to accept that.
    It's hypocritical of me, the amount of times I've told people that my lifestyle is not a choice.  It's one of those questions you wind up tolerating; "Oh, so, when did you choose to be..." You try not to let the eye-roll show.

I struggle to sleep tonight, I wake up, feeling like I've been in bed for hours, though the clock says it's only 2am, yet the sky is a blue-black, like the sun's feeling impatient this morning.  I nod off again, molding the pillow into a makeshift body for me to hold, and then, in what feels like seconds, I wake up again to a  blazing, bright day and the clock tells me it's 7am.
    However, there's something unnatural about the morning, the feel of the streets, the manner of my fellow commuters, it's calm and orderly, like it would be after the rush hour.  But each clock I check just reiterates the time, it's ok, I'm not running late.

At noon I stand in the supermarket staring at the range of microwave meals that often comprises my lunch.  There's a nice looking mushroom risotto for £4, but another in the cheap section.  Out of both boredom and curiosity, I inspect the labels of each.
    Whilst the list of ingriedients blurs into insignificance it's the place of manufacturer that ultimately grabs my attention, with both risottos having been produced and packaged in the very same factory in Chertsey.  Ultimately, I realise, the only thing different about these two items is the packaging, one designed to look decadent and delicious, the other functional and basic.
    But I still buy the more expensive one.

I sent a text to Iwona again, even though she hasn't replied to me since yesterday.  It's been a few days since I saw her and I miss her, though I'm loath to mention this as it might seem a bit too clingy.
    Are we the unstoppable force and the immovable object?  Should one of us bow out gracefully before somebody gets hurt?  I can't help but daydream that there must be some reason, some unconscious something, that is why we haven't done this yet.  Though I suspect that we're both too selfish, we both want to get all we can from the other and only relinquish our hold when we absolutely have to.  In that respect, how is this unlike any other relationship?
    She told me she thought I was open minded, I think that's another stereotype people assume, that because they think it's a choice they imagine that all people are hard-wired to want the same relationships as everyone else, so anyone who chooses otherwise can flip-flop between the two.  If you're a guy who likes guys then there's nothing stopping you from liking girls, if you're a girl who likes girls then there's nothing stopping you from liking guys, but if you're a girl or guy who likes the opposite sex then getting with someone of the same sex just isn't the done thing.

My mum re-married shortly after my father died.  I wasn't shocked, I'd known for years that they weren't happy together, in fact, she'd been sleeping on a sofa in the lounge for the last year or so of their relationship.  I think, if he hadn't had that heart attack, they would have got divorced around about the same time.  At least I hope they would have.
    They didn't want to be married, that was obvious to me and my sister, but they stayed together until we both left home.  I was there last, saw the strained conversations most clearly, in that final Summer, after I'd finished University, earning some money before I moved up to the city.
    I know that they only stayed together because of us, to make sure that we came from what they considered to be a stable family.  It wasn't a stable family, whatever mask of domestic happiness they thought they had created barely covered their lies, eyes the most telltale feature, and stern mouths held fast as inappropriate comments passed idly over awkward dinnertimes.  The farce of my mother carrying duvets and pillows downstairs every night, making her little nest, and then waking up first - or so she often believed - and re-creating the illusion of their normality.
    My sister doesn't trust marriage now, but it once felt like the only way for people to move forward in life.  These ceremonies, she argued, represented the illusion of progression.  We had, as a society, created a series of events designed to act as milestones, deceiving us into thinking that we had achieved something, that we had accomplished a goal as a person, distracted us from the fact that we were, in actuality, unchanging, still fraught with the despair of our youth.
    Nobody chooses to be born.
    My mother once said, though she was half-asleep when she told me this, that I was an unwanted pregnancy.  That her and my father had been fighting, she'd gone out and had some drinks, came home to find him crying, and she took pity on him.  She didn't even think about the fact that she might have gotten pregnant, I guess she had deluded herself to think a child could only be conceived in love.  When she started showing, when the doctor could confirm that she was going to have a daughter, she thought it was too late to abort me, though she wanted to, she wanted to say to the doctor there and then, Please, make it go away.  But, the look in the doctor's eyes had frightened her, made her feel guilty, she couldn't bring herself to do what was in her heart and months later, I was born.
    Both my parents remained quite distant from me, I was raised more by my sister, only a handful of years my elder, but still, as an eager five year old, she'd help change my nappies as best she could.
    I was an anchor though, holding my mother to that relationship.  If I had never been born she could have been free.

It's the end of the month, payday, and for a few fleeting hours my bank account will bob up to the surface, out of debt, draw a deep breath and then sink back under the waves.  I have never really understood it, I try and budget, I don't go out as much as I used to, I home cook as much as possible, don't drink as regularly.  But still, the money goes.
    I scour through my statements trying to find the anomaly, the leak, an unknown standing order perhaps.  But there's nothing out of the ordinary, and when I add it all up, it's exactly right, somehow - despite my best efforts, despite getting a raise again recently - that money still goes and I'm left pawing at the dappled sunshine seen through water, caught in the undertow.
    I want to move out, move on, get a place to myself, start to make what little effigy of happiness I can, but I don't think I can do this on my own.
    That's when I think I'm putting too many of my hopes and dreams in Iwona, too much responsibility unknowingly hoisted upon her shoulders.  But surely, she wants these things too?  And I'll wait, I don't want them now.  But is it naive to keep scratching at the door, like some optimistic puppy, hoping to be taken in?
    I feel guilty for feeling the way I do, as if I've allowed Pandora's Box to be opened.  But I don't feel like I was complicit in the decision, this emotion was lumbered upon me as much as I am lumbering it upon Iwona.  I feel like my mother, pregnant with something unwanted, desperate to get rid of it, but incapable - perhaps afraid - of doing so.  For me, it's because I never want to be alone.  What did my mother want?  Once I was born the slow wait for me to leave began, was it so she could move on with her life, regain what was long lost?  It wasn't her fault that she and my father fell out of love?  I have to wonder if they were ever really in love to begin with?  But, how do we know?
    Love is subjective, which is maybe why it's easy for some and difficult for others.  I wish I could care less, I wish spending time with Iwona wasn't so wonderful.  I feel like a slave to unconscious decisions, but at the same time I am the only one who has the power to do anything about them, but it's only really the power to stubbornly battle on or to walk away.  What kind of choice is that?  There is no fork in the road, just one path, and we can either continue or turn around and retreat.  Perhaps cowardice is just a derogatory term for wisdom?  I know that I'm going to get hurt, but I keep moving forwards.

I had an important meeting this morning, but my train was delayed due to signalling problems and I missed my connecting service.  I wound up getting into work 90 minutes late, having missed the meeting.  A colleague had stepped into my absent place and done, so my boss told me, a brilliant job filling in.  I began to feel my tenuous grasp on my job slipping a little from my fingers, and all I could do was say I'm sorry, it wasn't my fault the train was delayed.  Feebly adding, It won't happen again, but it's not like I can control that.
    For the rest of the day I'm shaking, my emotions are heightened, I'm perhaps a little too curt on the telephone to clients.  I don't know why I feel this way, this is a job I've never enjoyed, yet I've stuck it out, never really looking for another role somewhere else, because I can get by doing this, I'm making a decent wage, I don't want to set myself back.  But I'm not making any progress either.  Sure, they up my salary every now and then, but where does it go from here?  What am I trying to achieve?
    Two weeks later they give me my notice, I have a month left at the office and I should start seriously hunting for a new career, but I give in to procrastination just as I have done for these past three years.  Expecting someone else to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.

I've been standing still, too afraid to walk forwards, too proud to walk back.  I've let others find me, try and urge me to walk on, or at the very least, go back, see what it was I was heading towards, and try again.  But we don't know, the path began without our permission, it just appeared, one day nothing and the next day expectation.  Except, you can't see the end of the path, you don't get to dictate that either, and maybe you'll walk for a hundred years or maybe you'll walk for a day.  Me, I shrink into myself, someone will come along soon, someone will put their arm in mine, they'll want to walk side by side, keeping me company, making sure I'm smiling, and they'll give me hope that there is something to look forward to.  All paths have to lead somewhere.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

All Your Birthdays

"Is someone going to address the elephant in the room?"
    My housemate couldn't resist saying it, though the reaction was muted due to the hyper-ventilating and panicked thoughts racing through our minds. But, regardless of its humour, it was the right thing to say, because thus far, none of us had addressed the elephant in the room.
    To be precise, in case it's unclear, the elephant in the room was an elephant in the room.
    Nobody knew where the elephant came from or how it had gained entry to our lounge, but, we all knew that one moment there wasn't an elephant in the room and the next second there was.
    As we huddled outside in the hallway, a tentative hand keeping the door closed - as if that would stop an elephant - we were all rather thankful that the elephant, for the most part, seemed to be pretty placid.
    "Should we call the RSPCA?" Molly wondered.
    "I guess so," Supraj nodded retrieving his mobile.
    "It's funny," Evie smiled, "On my ninth birthday, when I blew out the candles, I wished that I had a pet elephant."
    "Do you want to go and befriend it?!" Molly exclaimed.
    Supraj spluttered a laugh, then asked; "What was your pet elephant's name?"
    "Bobo," Evie sheepishly grinned, and suddenly the elephant trumpeted.

Earlier that day, in the Birthdays department, on the 17th floor of WishCorp, the office manager lazily clicked the final card into place on a round of Spider Solitaire. He smiled contentedly at the pixelated fireworks display congratulating him on his achievement, even though he'd already witnessed the same ceremony seventeen times that morning.
    A notification appeared, informing him that he had received an approved Birthday Wish from Steph in Approvals.
    Clicking on the link another window popped up, the wish had been wished by Leigh aged 5, she'd blown out the candles on her chocolate ladybug cake and had wished, with all her little heart, for her teddys to come to life and play with her. He forwarded it to Boris in Granting.
    He cosied back into his chair and started up his nineteenth game of Spider Solitaire.
    Moments later the telephone rang, it took him a while to realise this is what was happening because the telephone had never rung before. Cautiously, as if it were a trick, he picked up the receiver.
    "Is that Colin?"
    "Colin, this is Jeanie Esteban, I'm the -"
    "The President of WishCorp, yes."
    Colin shifted his posture, straightening his back and adjusting his tie, hair and tone.
    "Colin, we've been looking at our qualitative and quantative reports from the last decade and noticed some troubling consistencies."
    "Whilst the other departments, Stars, Wells, Bones have a reasonably consistent wish to actualisation ratio, it seems Birthdays are, well, you're good at processing people's wishes, phenomenally efficient, you just haven't granted any in the last... well... forever..."
    Colin was speechless.
    "I'm speechless," said Colin.
    "I was too, we all were," she was referring to the board and Colin hoped they weren't listening in. "What we want to know," she changed her tone as well, from stern/casual to stern/stern, "is what you're going to do about this?"
    "What I'm...?"
    "We want solutions, not problems. End of play today, Colin."
    And with that she hung up.

Jimmy Pickle's face lit up, and not just because of the sudden arrival of seven candles illuminating the darkened room. His giddy smile grew even bigger once the glowing object was lowered and the cake, made by his mum, was revealed in all its wonder. In fact, Mark Gretton audibly gasped in amazement at the design. It was Sir Wildtooth, everyone's favourite Medieval Skateboarding Battlecat, and his claws had slashed three rich, red streaks down the cake.
    Beaming, Jimmy leant forward and blew out the candles.

Filing a police report, a clearly shocked Mrs. Pickles tried to explain that a gigantic animal, perhaps a lynx or panther, had suddenly burst into the party riding - what she was nervous to describe as - a skateboard, shouted, in booming R.P., "To the Battlements!" and then taken her son, and his friends, upon its back before galloping out into the high street.

Her parents ran round in a panic, unsure of how to maintain control, the birthday party had been chaotic when it was just Leigh and all her friends, but now 37 teddy bears were romping around the garden, playfully at least, but causing twice as much mess as the assembled children. They'd all begun by skipping about, the boys and girls singing teddy bear's picnic, whilst the teddys made muffled noises due to having no actual mouths, and rapidly things had descended into screaming giggles as the picnic became a food fight.

Gary can't remember the last time he'd been this stoned, but it quickly transpired that the fire-breathing unicorn standing in his kitchen was generating flames of an all-too-real quality, and he had to run - bleary eyed - out into the street, trying, through his drug addled mind, to remember the number for the emergency services; he knew it had a 9 in it.

Stuart Dandridge was horrified to step into his garden to find himself plummeting into a swimming pool that hadn't been there the night before.

Harriet Lipsy was trying to recover from a hangover whilst her former favourite boyband Hi-Five performed their greatest hits in her bedsit.

Gita Virk was trying to find her car keys but kept pulling an infinite amount of cupcakes from her pockets instead.

At 5.30pm Colin carried a dull beige box down from the 17th floor to the parking level, where he loaded the salvaged Newton's Cradle and a five-fingered pack of highlighters into the boot of his car.