Moving On

Another piece of flash fiction mined from an old notebook. I wrote this just after my relocation to the Far North of Scotland fifteen years ago.

Tuesday morning
Seagulls wail the sound of loss and loneliness as I make my way down the hill to the harbour. The road unfurls a paper scroll and the turquoise shimmer of the sea beckons. On the horizon I see a small red dot, faltering, almost lost in the haze; a warning, a sign, an anticipation of homecomings. Or unwelcome return. I stop on the bridge and watch the ochre discharge of peaty water cascading down the brae. The wind blows cold carrying the stink of diesel from below. I don’t want to go on. Nauseous, I lean against the railings while my stomach spasms, ejecting the loathsome bile of my fear into the river. I’m glad there’s no-one around, only a dog chasing ducks and barking.

Tuesday afternoon
A small red dot on the road behind me, shrinking, getting smaller and smaller until I have to pretend I can still see him in the rear view mirror. An imaginary dab of scarlet on the tarmac like the smudge of a blood stain on a clean white blouse, an embarrassment, something quickly washed away and forgotten. No longer real. Just a story I made up or a dream or the memory of a dream. Ahead lies a clear horizon and an open road. If I look carefully I can see a small yellow dot; a pale circle of gold, insignificant, like a wary hitch-hiker hovering and waiting but getting closer, swelling bigger and brighter and more beautiful. Until I can see nothing else, my vision obscured by glorious yellow light.

And the past is dissolved away, reduced to a pile of bleached old bones at the side of the road.

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Something Fishy

I was looking through some old notebooks today and came across this short story I wrote about twenty five years ago and had forgotten about. A simple tale of revenge written not long after my divorce...no coincidence!

The suitcase waited by the front door while Morven took one last look around the house. The bedroom had an abandoned air; the usual bric-a-brac missing from the dressing table and only her sequinned party frock hanging in the wardrobe. For a moment she paused at the foot of the double bed and memories both happy and sad raced through her mind.

When first married they spent entire weekends cocooned in this room, oblivious of the world outside. The passion and laughter of early times had soon faded into the silence of lonely nights when the bed felt like an expanse of lifeless desert. As she left the room Morven gave the duvet a final pat, smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle in the cover.

The lounge was polished, tidy and still. The gleaming fish tanks lining one wall were empty of the bright colours and flickers of usual inhabitants. Only silver bubbles gurgled through the water and reminded Morven of the way the fish pie was simmering in the oven. She laughed when she noticed Neil’s favourite collection of books:- The Secrets of a Healthy Aquarium, How to Look After Your Angel Fish, Discovering Shubunkins and The A to Z of Water Plants.

She gathered them up into a large casserole dish, added half a pint of milk, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice and placed it on the bottom shelf of the oven where the fish pie was doing nicely. Pulling on her coat, Morven checked the note on the hall table.

Dinner is in the oven. Just popped out for a new life.

She didn’t bother to lock the door and walked down the driveway without looking back.

photo by the author

Mouse

I

When it happens, it happens quickly
without fanfare or farewell.
One minute you’re crawling
around the kitchen in search
of crumbs, avoiding His Doc Martens
and dreaming of better things.
Jump cut
to floating face down with tail
between your legs, guts protruding
a sad bloody mess
into the cat’s water bowl. You repeat
your last words in nine different
languages but still no-one hears.
Que sera, sera, as Doris would say.
II

He watched smoke rise up to the winter
moon and realised they no longer
shared this same sky, this frosty air.
Her world was darkness now,
no more
falling stars to catch and hold.
When it happened, it happened quietly,
a whisper
like the tearing of soft tissue.
III

When it happened, the shock
was Hitchcockian without violins
or cutting away. A long shot
of detached suburbia zooming
into a shadowed interior.
Her pale face,
smokey eyes looking into a mirror
where no-one was looking back.

 

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Photo created by the author

Old Flame

so good to see you
smoke-eyed stranger in the night
with blood on your teeth

when you spark that talk
sly fruit bloom on sullen trees
starlings fall like snow

I remember you
burning sweet Ballachulish
heather by the loch

in a hotel room
shadowed by the Three Sisters
and scented orange

we hoped our extinct
volcano might come to life
in that flash of light

 

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The A to Z of Love

Absence is the heart of Love a brutal
Board game for two or more
Capricious players intent on self
Delusion a power struggle not
Enlightenment or hope for the spiritual
Frisson of two strangers touching skin
Gestures an attempt at unexpected soul
Happiness is a voidable experiment not
Intended to last more than ninety nine
Joyful but repetitive days when ruinous
Keepsakes fall like autumn rain before
Love breakfasts lessen to burnt toast
Marmite with cold coffee because
No-one notices cloud formations or
Opens their eyes to truly see another
Person is not the perfect answer to every
Question but more questions that require
Rumination and lead to rheumatism and
Slavery but do not give up hope bitter
Times do not last and love is not worthless
Undressing in the dark nor a virtuous
Virus causing fever flush and accelerated
Weeping at weekends instead
Xpect expectations to be compromised
You will not be satisfied unless you are a
Zealot intent on annihilation.

 

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Love and Hate

You are nothing but a clatter of bones in a dressing gown
coughing up phlegm over our breakfast table.
You are nothing but a slither of liver, lungs, kidneys, brain,
faithless heart pumping white crimson around and around.
You are nothing but a hundred billion neurons firing arrow
thoughts about yourself into a mist of grey.
You stab the butter knife in the marmalade.
I want to stab it in your eye, see your ego bleed out.

Suddenly you look at me and describe a dream
you had about building a house from Plasticine.
As you turn your face and smile, morning sunbeams
glow just below the curve of your cheek
bone, the place I kiss before we go to sleep
that tastes so deliciously of tangerine.

 

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Through the Cracks of Winter

we camped in the Black Mountains
and you thought you saw a wolf. I was a stain
in the shadow of a great cliff of sturdy construction
with a hinged lid. The shoe-box of Hiroshima,
can we forget that flash? How did God shine
the light in the passing space, not minding
as lemmings dived? She had Her own intentions.

I let night over my head like cling film
on a frozen turkey, smoothing the bitter lines.
Then you looked up and described a dream,
the sun scrambled on New Year’s Day. Your words
consumed another, one for every minute.
At midnight you stood beneath the pines singing
Jerusalem. I broke free and soared
in the middle of it all, crazy laughing
as the reservoir rotted red as sunset. I was the one
who once loved you, with your yes, yes, yes until
the world shouted no, do not drive or use machines.

You were the watchman of my panopticon.
I was a clock ticking.

 

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The Winter Break

The blizzard began, cherry blossom from a flame sky. The road home
vanished. Pink ice floes shape-shifted in the river, bumping
and grinding like clubbed seals. We tended the fire
and played strip poker. In bed you wore lipstick and a balaclava.

On the third day we tracked through the crystal forest. The valley
was a fandango of silence. I clawed at it with my bare hands.
You held your phone up high, immobile as the Statue of Liberty.
We returned to the cabin and played Scrabble with four letter words.

The windows became peepholes. I saw no footprints in the virgin drift,
only the farmer’s wife floating silver between the tree tops.
She was wearing a wolf jacket, her face upturned to the falling snow.
That night you thought you heard singing in the wind.

On your last day, you stopped speaking, stayed in bed, a tender huddle
of bones. I roasted meat on the log fire and drank Jack Daniels. I recited
the tale of our first New Year’s Eve, kissing in Times Square
while rockets fell. I could still remember the neon taste of your flesh.

 

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Photograph created by the author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts

The first spilled secrets in filthy school loos.
The second gave ginger cut to the chase.
The third made love, death and crime on Ward 5.
The fourth shared The Sound of Silence.
The fifth fell into a snow drift.
The sixth surrendered beautiful on the banks of the Tyne.
The seventh gave a wedding ring and split lip.
The eighth made excellent chicken soup.
The ninth gave gin massage on hot lawns.
The tenth offered midnight lifts to therapy and falling stars.
The eleventh staged punctures in motorway service stations.
The twelfth gave tarot card readings.
The thirteenth banned the Bomb and taught self-defense with a spanner, sickle and hammer.
He slept with his socks on.
The fifteenth performed impressions of Richard Gere.
The sixteenth gave empty, like Dire Straits.
The seventeenth cracked my zoom lens.
The nineteen rowed my boat to the island of woolly mammoths.
The twenty second shared Victoria Sandwich and arson.
The twenty eighth gave life drawing. He jumped off the High Level Bridge.
The thirty sixth sent crocodiles under my floor.
The one after him played a mean pianissimo and made the top forty.
The last one believed in the theory of reincarnation.

 

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Photograph by the author