masculinity, poetry

An appropriate manner of ending

Should the breath

In my lungs grow

Too clotted

If my blood grows torpid

Fetid to look upon

Too sick of life

To pretend empty

Isn’t better

And rather than pretend

The end isn’t inevitable

But my disdain is reserved for

The thought I won’t choose

Some stronger way to pass

anxiety, creative writing, emotion, experience, fiction, lust, masculinity, men, passion, short fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, writing

Out With A Bang


It took a lot more planning than Sergei anticipated. He could get large amounts of h, coke, mdma, weed with a phone call but this stuff necessitated a little more care than normal. The girls took less time to arrange, one phone call and a card payment that he was gently assured would be billed discreetly without any potential embarrassment.

He fought back a snort of laughter at that.

It took him the better part of a morning to collect enough to last him. He had paid for three women, the hotel suite and their company for the night. He had chosen from the pictures on their website, knowing that there was always a degree of artifice involved. The digital editing to smooth out stretchmarks, blur over tattoos and remove the marks of time was expected, but for what Sergei was paying, he wanted them to have a tangential resemblance to their photographs.

After all, why not be ushered into paradise by angels, if they were not of the highest quality?

He checked in, and with his reservation confirmed, suddenly experienced an elevation in the treatment that he was afforded. It had been a long time since anyone had called him sir without a sneer being intimated, and it took him a moment to accept it without that longheld tightening in his chest and stomach. He took a long bath, pouring in every lotion, shampoo and conditioner, shaved around his groin with an electric razor, faintly embarrassed and bemused by how the hair had retreated from his head but grew like kudzu everywhere else on his ageing body. Still, washed and trim, he found something left to admire about himself. The tattoos had been symbols of pride, now they marked him as easy prey.

The eight pointed stars on his shoulders. Symbols of his authority.

The cross on his chest.

The dove, with a twig in it’s beak.

All of them done with a primitive version of the shaver he had just trimmed his groin with, melted rubber and his own urine for ink, bearing it all whilst the older men watched with eyes that spoke to endless winters of hardship. Men, who were more like wolves but never needed the permission of the full moon to act according to their natures.

He dressed in his best suit, a Tom Ford in windsor check, tailored to accommodate his spreading midsection and as an affectation, he put a white carnation in the lapel. His fingers shook as he knotted his tie in the mirror. This room represented the last of his ready cash, after the pills, the girl and the hotel but it was worthwhile.

Better than the alternative.

The girls knocked at seven sharp. He had answered the door, already feeling the creeping warmth in his throat and cheeks and the rush of blood to his crotch that took him back to his younger years, when he would have fucked the crack of dawn if it had hair on it.

The sight of the women, sleek and knowing as they entered the room did the rest. He shut the door behind them. Blonde, brunette and redhead, he would have gone for a fourth so that he could watch but his running cash was getting spread out thin as it was.

They sent out for ice three times during the next twelve hours. When the redhead Katerina fell off the bed and began to cry, he gave her a wad of roubles and sent her on her way. She winced as she walked, but gave him a kiss on the forehead and spoke to the other girls in a language he did not understand.

When his bowels started to cramp, he excused himself. He shut the door and hoped that the door disguised the noises that he made, let alone the smell. Too much rich food, he told himself.

When he emerged, they had both gone. He looked around his room, breathed in the perfume of sex and sat on the edge of the bed. His vision began to swim, and a sharp pain shot down his left arm. He had enough time to pull himself so that his shoulders rested against the pillows before another bolt of agony ripped through him again.

He breathed in through his nose. He was sore, exhausted and sweating but he knew one last thing. The men he had betrayed would not get their hands on him.

He had gone out with a bang.

(A writing group exercise. It amused me to write about a death like this, which reminds me of the Frankie Boyle joke – that anyone who says there’s no such thing as a good death has never heard the phrase ‘drug-fuelled sex heart attack. The russian mafia stuff came tangentially and it felt pretty good. Original story is


beauty, blogging, creative writing, dogs, emotion, fiction, grief, loneliness, man, masculinity, men, passion, process, psychology, separation, stoicism, strength, Uncategorized, writing

The Walk

He did not know he was the topic of disparate bursts of conversation. Walking his dog, shaved head swathed in headphones, eyes red with tears and smoking fiercely made him stand out. He made the effort to smile whenever he caught someone’s eye. Dogs made you gregarious by nature, and he understood, even welcomed the opportunity to stop and do that.

He would walk for hours, even after a day on his feet, resenting his name badge, being patronised by people whose eyes would shine with that malign cunning, returning items without a receipt and threatening to get the manager. He mostly gave into them, lacking the energy to fight a cause that treated him as meat in the aisles, invisible to anyone who didn’t need something from him. His time with the dog was where he went to breathe.

The latest blow had been the last two years, watching his grandfather transform from a kindly, vibrant patriarch into a twitching, disorientated nerve, speaking in the glossolalia of morphine. A year after that, keeping vigil on Saturday evenings, anaesthetising his pain with the determination not to let his grandfather down. Then her death, awkward and sudden as a surprise wake. He wondered how much more he could take, and each evening, rain or shine, the walk with the dog would find him weeping for what had been, and what had been lost.

He spoke less to his family, even though the grief and pain had brought them closer. It was a form of survivor’s guilt and it needed silent avoidance to maintain. He would watch movies of vocal family reconciliation and confrontation, bitter at the camp ease with which people expressed their anger and joy. It was not that he lacked the words, but the words he knew were fragile vessels for something truly gargantuan, a black monster that needed an ocean to hunt in. A dinosaur, long thought extinct, trampling through the forest of his heart, looking for meat to sustain it.

He learned to manage. On the walks, he found songs that helped crack the carapace of his insect heart, let the light in and the poison out. He would walk to the point of exhaustion, littering the streets and alleyways with his tears until there were none to be shed any longer.  He would never listen to Sometimes It Snows In April the same way, once it had slipped a blade of grief between his ribs, cut away the straps that kept him bound inside.

Someone suggested counselling to him once. He was not leaden or unsentimental, but he could not pass this over to a stranger, no matter how capable. This was, in the end, how he would honour his grandparents. His pain was nothing compared to theirs, but if he gave it, piece by piece, then he would someday wake up wistful rather than craven.

If he knew he were the topic of conversation, he would shrug and smile. A walk at a time, it came to him that it was better to drink of deep grief than shallow pleasure. His feet ached, the dog would scamper to the waterbowl and lick in gulping, breathy motions but both of them would be renewed in ways that only dogs and their owners could ever know.



beauty, character, creative writing, desire, flash fiction, loneliness, love, passion, short fiction, short stories, touch, Uncategorized, women

This Will All Work Out

John stood there, greeted every mourner with a clasp of both of his thick, gnarled hands and a short phrase or two. He looked smaller than she remembered, but there was still that measure of majesty to him. A divinity that he would reject at every turn. His blonde hair had gone white, then had been shaved down to stubble and he had cultivated a thin scrub of white beard. The skin at his throat sagged whenever he swallowed and there was a papery fragility to the skin around his eyes. His eyes met with hers and the corners of his mouth flickered upward.


His hands clasped hers and her breath caught in her throat at this, the first contact in forever.

‘John, I’m so sorry for your loss.’

He gave a short nod, and had she imagined that he clasped her hand a little harder than he had with anyone else? No, she had not and he smiled.

“We didn’t lose her. When you lose something you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.”

Sentiments like that fuelled the flame that she held within her breast for him. His decency, his certainty. All those years watching how he carried himself, and the looks, sips that fed her imagination. Iain was a good man, quiet but as the years had gone on, his gentility had curdled into a weakness that had been the death of their marriage. Tepid on every level, even his semen lacked the effort to impregnate her and yet he had the temerity to leave her.  Not like John and Miriam. Fifty years and even to the end, he had tended to her, having his sons take over the company that he had built up with sweat and determination.

A short illness, it was said. Miriam had been planning to compete in a half marathon. She had still sparkled with a febrile mature sexual energy that made younger men’s eyes mist over. A Mrs Robinson but married to a guy that you knew kept her in line. Then, suddenly, stomach pains, listlessness and finally the house, once open to all, closed up to allow them a last few days together.

Harriet looked at him, burning with need, fighting the urge to tell him all that she had carried within her.  All those years, filling their familial prescriptions, from the occasional vitamin supplement and course of antibiotics, painkillers for injuries then as the years bit deep the statins and the SSRIs. Part of their family, without credit but with an unearned intimacy that earned her a grand insight into the bureaucracy of desire within a familial setting.

Knowledge, in the right hands, that could make the simple act of a cup of coffee along the running trail on a Sunday morning, an act of devotion.


Harriet had time, John would not be the man that she fell in love with if he would not mourn for the woman he’d taken to prom all those years ago. Harriet thought of her father, his eyes blazing with contempt, knowing that Iain’s dad was going to invest in the drugstore and wanting her to toe the line, do the decent thing. She had waited all this time, what would a few weeks, a few months matter?

No one begrudges two lonely older people getting together at all, Harriet said to herself.

As she moved along the line, looking at the floral arrangements without seeing them, part of her still stood in the worn hallway of her teenage home, watching John walk away with his hands in his pockets, part of her heart going with him.

It would all work out, she told herself, it had so far.

flash fiction, men, mental illness, short fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, women

Gary Bear and Holly Boo IDSTL

Holly had gotten into the habit of hanging around after class had finished. She would have to politely shoo off the more earnest students, who would offer to help her clear up the classroom, but mostly she would find a small measure of peace when the cries and shouts of the children were at a remove. When her colleagues were either in their own classrooms or the staff room, and the shadows of the day had grown some length, then she would allow herself to weep.

Holly Mills had entered her sixties with elegance, letting the white hair and the papery texture of her skin accentuate the high cheekbones and regal carriage. She resembled a queen in exile, softly spoken with a smile that glowed like a summer evening. She was softer around the middle but otherwise she had maintained the lean elegance that she had held onto since adolescence.

Which was why she wept in relative privacy.

She had enjoyed forty five years with Gary.

Her husband. Her Bear.

A man not prone to impulse, who rolled rather than walked, never used a cross word even as he had made Mills and Porter into a solid accountancy firm. He read three books a week, had written poetry, earnest solid verse that he would transcribe into handwritten notes that he left for her around the house. One of the most delightful days had been when one of his pieces had made the local paper, and he had idly entertained the idea of putting a book. Their youngest daughter, Rebecca had tried to talk him into self publishing but he had shaken his head, blushing and passing it off as a silly affectation.  He was good with his hands, had built the cribs and most of the furniture around their house in the workshop that would be where he would go to find a measure of peace. She knew that his absences were simply part of his way. Three children, all of them conceived and raised with a love that made her blush to think of it. He spoke seldom but whenever he touched her, she would shiver with delight.

Holly had noticed how his silences had changed. Not secrets, but a vague disconnection. Once he had let the pan boil dry as he stared out at the window and she had sworn until he had turned and looked at her, asked her what the fuss was and then, staring past her at the ruined pan, sniffing the air and wrinkling his nose with embarrassed distaste.

‘I’m just tired, poppet.’

She had not said anything at the time. Not even to the children, instead she had made a joke about his cooking. Ordered take out instead and yet in bed that night, he had held her harder than normal, his thick hairy chest rising with each breath and his eyes squeezed shut. She had laid awake, willing the concerns away, shooing them with rationalisations that lacked any real substance.

When he came back from the doctors, he had sat her down in the living room, her pale, fragile hand in both of his. That he had been having gaps in his memory for a while now, and without discussing it, had made the appointment, gone into the MRI even though he had a man’s fear of hospitals and sat there as the specialist had laid out the diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s. Tangles of proteins, like the thorns that crept up around the castle of the sleeping princess. Tearing apart his memories, his capacities and in time, the life that they had built together. His big shoulders shaking with his sobs, scared and all Holly could do was stare at him, wait for someone to pop their head around the door and tell her that this was a practical joke.  With the admission, came a progression that soon had him discussing, in his lucid moments, arrangements for his care.

Holly had gone through the brochures with him, looking up reviews on line and dealing with the insurance policy that had been something of a rueful joke between them.

Golden Pines. She had entertained the idea of caring for him herself but he had refused. His eyes were damp as he calmly pointed out how he was beginning to slip away, that he could hurt her or himself without any recollection of it. His thumb spun the wedding band on her left hand as he looked into her eyes.

‘I wouldn’t hurt you for the world, Holly-boo. Don’t put me in that position.’

She had collapsed into his arms and they had cried together.

She did not tell him about where the bruises on her right shoulder had come from. Instead, they made plans. A last Christmas with the family together, too much sadness to truly seize the joy of saying if not goodbye then farewell. In February, he had moved into Golden Pines. She visited every day, endured the episodes where he had regressed to tearful confusion and enjoyed it when he would make wry asides about the other residents.

She cried just as hard in her car, no matter what.

What disturbed her the most was his reaction when one of the orderlies would pass by. A stocky, simian looking man who sneered when he thought no one cogent was watching. Dark blonde hair slicked back and the shadows of tattoos beneath his uniform. Benny.

It was when he was having a bad day that his stoicism receded, that his fear of the sullen young man with the eyes dead like pebbles came to the surface. When she noticed the small burn on his hand, the fingertip bruises on his right wrist. She reported it but Gary was a big man, and dementia had stripped him of the grace that had once charmed her out of her panties, made a more clinical and robust handling of him necessary.

Holly knew her husband though, and she watched him closely when she visited. He made himself scarce in her presence when he was on shift.

It was one of the last times with Gary that he put his hand on hers. Almost like old times, lying in bed, the endorphins of the good, hard love that they made fading and the quiet knot they would tie themselves into. How small she felt with her legs draped over his wide thighs. She wiped her eyes, such was the pain of the memory.

‘I don’t want to go out like this, Holly-Boo.’

She leaned forward, and he asked her. She could not refuse him.

She left the letter on the desk, went straight from school through and on the way, left bland messages for the kids. She loved her children, but she was not sure that she liked them all that much.

She signed in, and found her husband in her room with Benny stood there, his eyes wide with shock at seeing her. His hands were clenched into fists and Gary had the pillow against his chest, eyes screwed shut and a palm print against his cheek. She felt such a swell of love and anger, as she reached into her handbag.

The gun barked twice in her hand, Benny looked in disbelief as Gary’s head snapped back and the pillow exploded in a puff of foam and material.

‘Jesus, lady, what the fuck are you doing?’

She blinked away her tears as she aimed the gun at him. She used the memory of her husband’s tears, the burns and the slaps and all the little indignities that this boy had chosen to inflict on this man. A good father, a great husband, with a kind word for everyone and refusing to burden anyone with his dissolution.

‘No.’ she said.

She fired. He clutched at his throat, blood welling between his fingers as he staggered to his left and looked at her with a disbelief faster than his agony, and even that was not as quick as his passing.

She shut her eyes, brought the gun to her head and looked at her husband. The rest was easy.




I Cannot Pretend I am Without Fear

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Dr Oliver Sacks is a smart and capable, humane man and I am gutted, but happy that he says goodbye on his own terms. Those two paragraphs sum up how I feel about my life thus far, and I can only hope to live half as well with as much love.

Death itself doesn’t scare me, only that it’s potentially painful and that I leave too much unsaid, or die unmourned or in anonymity.


You Left Something Behind

In the rush to be right,

To trust the institution

That doesn’t even see you

So dead is it’s eyes

You left something behind,

Something important

You failed to honour a mother’s grief

That a son is mortician’s work

No longer mother’s