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Squatching

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Chelsea peered out from the tent and struggled to remain chipper. It had been her idea, after all, to come along with Ben as part of the ongoing negotiation that had been the last couple of months, after two and a half years of things being okay, comfortable. He was cocooned in the sleeping bag, snoring away despite the flurries of hail that had woken her. She looked back and wrestled with the sudden, petty urge to wake him up. His snoring had gained a damp rasp since he had put on weight and despite moving in together, she could at least go into another room when it kept her awake.

She could have gone outside, she told herself but the hail rattled with the intensity and volume that suggested that it would have stung as much as soaked her through to the skin.

So far, camping fucking sucked.

‘Honey.’ she said.

He grunted and rolled onto his side then responded with a fart muffled by the material of the sleeping bag.

‘If it rains like this, won’t the equipment get wet?’

He made a smacking, irritated sound with his lips and sat up. His black hair, thinning enough that Chelsea had started wondering if he was going to just leave it like that, stuck up in stumpy tufts and his beard was matted from where he had drooled in his sleep. He rubbed his eyes with his hands and blinked at her.

‘They’re outdoors, babes, can’t see a little hail ruining them.’

His tone of voice had gone from sleepy to patronising in a second and Chelsea pressed her teeth together, swallowed her irritation down. She had been working in a mental health clinic and one of the patients, Ursula, suffered from trichotillomania.

Compulsive hair pulling, and in her case, swallowing. One of the other nurses, Judd had told Chelsea about some of the side effects from the condition. Bezoars. Indigestible lumps of material that sat in the digestive system. They could be formed from gum, soil even unripe persimmons, Judd had volunteered. Chelsea had nodded and decided not to ask what a persimmon was, unripe or otherwise. Ursula’s mania-offspring were trichobezoars, composed of hair.

Chelsea imagined hers were made from resentment and a burgeoning sense of regret. She added to it more and more, and on this trip thus far, she imagined it beginning to boil with the pressure, until it was fused and compressed into diamond.

‘I’ll make coffee.’ she said.

The cameras and microphones had been set in a circle around the tent, streaming to Ben’s laptop and portable hard drive. He had shown more enthusiasm for the possibility of finding something out here than he had for them driving up to Montreal for Chelsea’s brother’s wedding.

No, Chelsea corrected herself, as she spooned instant coffee into the pan, he wasn’t looking to find something.

Someone.

Bigfoot.

Sasquatch.

It had been an obsession of his, the one affectation that he had not given up in the gradual, incomplete transition to adulthood that Chelsea had been dragging him through. He had left his dreams of rock stardom, cut back his weed consumption to Christmas and when his brother drove down up from Texas and even left the World of Warcraft league that had been his prevailing obsession for most of his teens and twenties.

The missing link. The slow upward climb from ape to homo sapiens took, according to Ben, some interesting detours and one of them was the proposed existence of Sasquatch. Chelsea used to allow him to go away with some of the guys that he spoke to online, but in a burst of misguided enthusiasm, had offered to go along with him.

It would bring them closer together, she had said. He had smiled and nodded, rubbing his hands on his thighs and trying to say that it wasn’t something he thought she would enjoy. His tone had the whine of a child trying to justify a soccer ball kicked through a window, but Chelsea was determined that she was a cool girlfriend and allowing him his interests was fine, but once in a while, she wanted to show that her interest was more than just anecdotal.

Eight hours into it, soaked and with her feet screaming at her to forget the whole thing, she had started to wonder if this might serve as one of those hobbies that would be ‘Ben’s Thing’. She had smoked pot with him, played in a raid with him on the player versus player server and politely rejected his brother’s advances without ever telling him, but this tested her more than she was prepared for. She had not whined, instead she swallowed it all down, adding to the tight ball of resentment which by the permanent ache in her stomach, had grown to the dimensions of a bowling ball.

She liked camping. The amount of time it took to do everything appealed to her, whilst Ben would have been happy to bring a few bags of chips and a six pack, Chelsea had insisted on cooking for them on the single camping stove. What had not been burned was raw, and she had slathered it in hot sauce to disguise the worst of it but Ben had said he was not hungry and kept checking the cameras and microphones. She had scraped it away and kicked dirt over it, grateful that it was dark enough to hide her tears.

Rain was a permanent feature out here, but hail offended her and it kept her confined to the tent. Ben was impatient to check the equipment and once he was fortified by coffee and burnt bacon, he threw on his waterproofs and went outside. He swore, loud enough to carry over the sound of the hail and she grimaced before struggling into her sodden waterproofs.

The hail had grown more forceful, and its military rhythm beat into her skull with enough impetus to make her hunch over as she crept out of the tent. Ben stood with his back to her, holding the ragged remains of a camera, wires trailing from it like tendrils as he uttered a litany of expletives.

‘What’s wrong?’

He did not speak, instead he shouldered past her, his face tight with concern and irritation as he slipped back inside the tent.

‘Ben, you’ll get the inside all wet.’ she said.

He huffed to acknowledge her and then came out, eyebrows raised as he pointed inside the tent.

‘We missed something last night, Chelsea.’

She folded her arms, sodden and miserable.

‘Well, that’s not my fault. I thought you set it up, so that there was an alert.’

He grimaced and gestured inside.

‘Which would have gone off but someone couldn’t sleep with the laptop screen on, could they?’

He had raised his voice, and she recoiled.

‘You said it was okay.’ she said.

He guffawed and waved her off.

‘Yeah because otherwise you would have been whining about how you couldn’t sleep. Honestly, you’ve been nothing but a bitch this whole trip.’

Her eyes welled up with tears and her upper lip wavered. The ball of frustration started to make its way up and she held her stomach.

‘Oh fuck you, Ben. I’ve been trying to get you to behave like a fucking adult, and when I try to show that I am cool with you being into stuff, you make me feel like shit about it.’

‘This is not about that.’ he said.

Chelsea had not heard him shout like this before. She turned away from him and wept as much from the headache that the beating hail was giving as much as the sheer futility of the overgrown boy she had wasted the last three years on.

‘Oh great, now you’re crying. I’ve wasted time and equipment but you’re the one who’s crying.’

She turned around, ready to vomit up the bezoar when a sound shook the surrounding air.

A roar.

Chelsea brought her hands to her mouth and Ben stood there, his face white with shock. They heard the heavy percussive thump of something coming through the trees. Chelsea’s anger had gone, traded for a perfect, paralysing fear as she turned towards the direction of the sound.

‘Ben?’

He stood there and then as the grass moved, indicating the passage of something moving towards them at great and terrible velocity, he pushed her in front of him. She felt his hands shove into the small of her back and a small, ugly observation came to her that it had been the first time he had touched her with any degree of passion in a long time.

She looked up, saw something tall and covered with brown fur, large white teeth, flaring nostrils and golden eyes that regarded her with a compassion that made her look away before it rushed past her towards Ben. She pressed her face to the earth and heard the wet, wrenching sounds and choked sounds that reminded her of Ursula when they caught her shoving hanks of her own hair into her mouth. A coppery scent filled the air, wet pennies and salt, before she felt a hand at her shoulder.

It made a careful, hooting sound and pulled the hood from her head with a gentle tugging motion. She squeezed her eyes shut, and it brushed a finger against her auburn hair. The hand smelt musty and organic, damp moss and bark and she turned her head. She got onto her knees and found that the bezoar had gone.

It rested a palm the size of a dinner plate against her face and with an absurd gratitude, she pressed her cheek against it.

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Snow

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Beneath An Open Sky, We Dance

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Skies open

Brilliant with light

True as anything

You’ve known

Dancing beneath as we

Grace one another 

With

Feelings

Rushing through

Pores and veins

Magical in it’s intensity

Huge in it’s intention

Mutual kindness continuing

Unwavering

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A Storm That Frightens The Animal

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The unspoken heat 

Between us seethes

Peering between the bars

Of it’s cage

Yet so often, it’s lust

Is mistaken for anger

But here, we pass one another

The means to set it free.

Wrestling against one another

Mouths blooming where they meet

Hands finding something worthy

To touch, the fragile strength

That grows and swells

Like a stormcloud

Soak me with your rain

Deafen me with your thunder

Burn me with your lightning

This beast,

It has your eyes

And my voice

Come here

Set

It

Free

 

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Storm

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Autumn Cycle

orange-and-red-autumn-forest

They emerge from

hiding during

the summer months,

eyes shining with light

the way ripe fruit

teems with juice

in the heat

they frolic and cavort

with a courage that borders

upon madness

but look oh look

how high they leap

Then they sense

the waning evenings

the longer nights

decay tattooing it’s sigil

on everything

but by then

they tire

and make beds again

beneath rich loam and piles

of leaves

waiting for the season to turn

when they will find play

once

again.

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Barefoot, in white

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I dream of summer afternoons,

Under hanging branches

On a blanket somewhere

Electrified with nervous excitement

My hands crossing into

Intimate territories

Animal host

Given entry

A cunning tongue

As you glance

Kisses flowing like breath

Here I am rough

With passion

But skilful in the interplay

Between want and need

The substance

Of you bears attention and affirmation

Delivered in thrusts of loving affections

A quaking, restless passion

As we cling to one another,

Shuddering beneath warm skin

These thoughts keep me warm

Supple and primal

As the world goes on

Around us

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Possession

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To make you thrash

As you have never known

To feed from you

As a bee feeds from a flower

My rough, strong hands

Turned to gentle exploration

A form of surgery

A laying on of hands

Whispering my name

As your eyes roll back in your head

How you would ache with wonder

To sail across the sea of your darkness

To the paradise island

Where you show your quality

Truest self unleashed

As I take

Possession. 

A wave

Crashing against

The shore

Close your eyes

Listen

To

Me

Roar

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Funeral for a chalk painting

On the stretch 

Of even, worn pavement

You drew looping, nonsensical

Loops of colours

Fingers tattooed with chalk dust

I liked how the hair

Hung in your face

A curtain rising

On the beautiful theatre 

Of your violet eyes

The picture drew me in

Then out

And I trusted that you were 

Gentle with me

Some deep wounds beneath

This armour

But the sketch grew

From present to past

To future

But we forgot about

The rain, didn’t we?

You needed shelter 

More than the need to

Preserve something as beautiful

As it was fragile

You washed your hands

The picture trickled away

Whispers

Smears, memories ingrained

In the treads of my shoes

The dust stayed

On my fingers

I keep it to remember you by

A mourner at a funeral

My name chiselled 

Into the headstone

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Sigil

Shepherd strode towards the car, the brim of his hat hid his eyes, but his lips were set in a tight line, and he pumped his arms to lengthen his stride.

‘Ma’am, you know you can’t be here.’

She cocked her head to one side, blinked heavily and grinned with all her teeth.

‘Hey Jeff, how’s Molly?’

His cheeks turned red, and he looked at his feet, folded his hands at his hip.

‘She’s good, ma’am. Look, I don’t want to do this Paula…’

Paula’s smile faltered and she sighed.

‘I’m not in the park, Jeff, I just want to look at it.’

Jeff leaned forward, hands on his belt. He fought the smile, tried to make it look like the indigestion that he would get when he ate chili. He had been mortified to read about it in the memo that came down. Banned for life from all 58 of them. Acadia to Yellowstone.

Graffitti, which pissed Molly off more than him. He loved his wife, feared her a little too, which made him love her even more, and so he would allow her to carry the weight of some of his feelings on any given subject.  

‘We have a lovely gallery of photos on our Facebook page.’

He spoke mechanically, a conceit to hide his dismayed confusion.

‘Jeff, please let me be here for this.’

Her tone took him by the throat. A cracking of her voice, unable to bear the weight of her emotion.

‘It’s not even there, we had to get a specialist out to clean it off. Taxpayers money when it’s a time that people aren’t really keen on dipping into their pockets to do that.”

She ran her tongue over her lips and gazed with an earnest depth into his eyes.

‘I understand, but there were reasons, Jeff. I know I’m banned, but I need to be here.’

He took off his hat, plucked at the brim with his fingers and puckered his lips in confusion.

‘Paula. You have to go.’

She leaned forward, lifted her chin. He had never been a man that people pleaded with. He lumbered around the park, going about his work with a quiet, gruff economy that afforded him no respect but allowed him to save his energy for his times with Molly and the kids.

‘Jeff, let me stay for five minutes. I won’t even get out of the car, I can see it through the windshield just fine.’

Jeff wanted to pluck his shirt from where the perspiration stuck it to the small of his back. He could have ignored her, but one of the volunteers, anal-retentive and someone who read every memo that came through, had spotted her and so he had to act.

‘I nearly lost my job because of you’.

She put her hands forward, clasped so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

‘Please, I’ve paid a price for it. But let me explain’.

He sighed. Molly would give him holy hell for it, but he was a fair man.

‘Go on.’

She smiled and moved her hand over the door handle.

‘Can I at least get out of the car?’

He sighed and nodded his head.  He had liked her, and the wattage of her smile made him weaken.  She opened the door. She was compact, bright blonde hair and he noticed that she had cut it to blunt spikes and had lost enough weight to make her skin lose it’s elasticity at her jawline and her throat.  Her eyes blazed like precious stones and her hands shook as she bounced on the balls of her feet.

‘Do you believe in magic, Jeff?’

He grunted and shook his head. His disappointment made him take a step back.

‘Paula, come on, that’s ridiculous.’

She gesticulated around her with her hands.

‘No, come on, you work here. There’s places that you can feel it, right?’

She had a point. He would go out, oftentimes with Holly before her hip got bad, and they would hike through, legs pumping and breathing hard, feeling every inch of his body alive and tingling. The air sang in certain places, he had known that but she was soiling it with her madness. Using an ugly colour in a painting.

‘Paula, think you should stop this. It’s a goddamn insult when you try to claim that this was -‘

‘You’re not answering my question. It’s okay, I know how it sounds but listen, there’s all sorts of energy out there.’

He grimaced and turned his hat in his hands even faster.

‘Then why scrawl all over it? I mean, it’s narcissism, Paula. I thought you were better than that. You don’t get to decide that your bullshit fucks up the park for everyone else’

His voice had risen in pitch and volume. His vocabulary was spare, like a savings account that he had forgotten the account number on, but there was money there. Swearwords were large withdrawals for him. He worried about what his mother would say and she had been dead for eight years.

‘It’s supposed to look like narcissism.’

There was a high, chiming sound. Too loud and clear for the public address system. It hurt his ears and he looked around, saw children with their parents hands over their ears and the air started to shimmer.

Paula was grinning so hard it was almost ugly and there were tears in her eyes.

‘They’re coming,’ she said.

He went to ask her who was coming but the chiming grew louder, and he fell to his knees. He watched her point upwards and saw where she pointed.

The column of light shot upwards, he took Paula’s hand and began to pray.