grief, love, short fiction, Uncategorized, women

Customer Complaint

january_3rd_by_framedbynature-d70pwjn.jpg

https://framedbynature.deviantart.com/art/January-3rd-424471811

Ivor walked out of the mall, putting more weight on his cane as he adjusted his cap to alleviate the thin layer of perspiration. The canvas shopping bag was gripped in his left hand, swollen knuckles turned pale from the pressure of his grip. It swung with the weight of its contents as he looked up at the restaurant.

 

He ran his yellowing tongue over his cracked lips and said a name. The association raised the hairs on the back of his neck, gave him a boost which alleviated the pains which came from the simple act of motion, deepening as the years went on.

 

People milled around him as he made slow progress.

 

They had come for their anniversary. Katya, their eldest had warned against it, said the food was made like play-dough, preformed and packaged. She chided her mother, telling her she could make a better meal at home. Bettina’s eyes had narrowed, a flush of blood rising in her soft cheeks as she folded her arms.

 

‘Your father never takes me out. It has movie star pictures on the walls and impersonators.’

 

Ivor overheard from his position on the recliner, reading the scarred, leather bound book with his spectacles perched on the end of his nose, muttering words in a language thought lost to time and decided to make the reservation after all.

 

They played music at an ear splitting volume, served with a desperate theatrical quality which made his blood pressure go up and the food was late and cold.

 

She had cooed and pointed at the pictures and the staff, dressed as movie stars or characters. Ivor remembered their server had been the drunken pirate and how Bettina had mistaken his sloppy stoned attitude for attention to detail. Ivor sipped his cola and fought the rising indignation like a dose of indigestion, smiled at his Bettina and took her hand.

 

The server, Jay, had smoked a blunt on his break and it got him through his shifts in a warm, bubbling haze of intoxication. Sure, he missed details but most people wanted to eat or stop their kids from ruining the entire evening and he was convinced of his charms with people.

 

Sure, he missed details.

 

Bettina’s allergy.

 

Ivor told people his last memory of her was lifting the dripping burger, giggling as something warm broke across his chest with pleasure. All these years and he never loved her more.

 

He lied to people.

 

His last memory was watching her seize up with anaphylactic shock. Clawing at her throat as her eyes bulged in their sockets, disbelieving and watching how her brilliant, magical Ivor could not save her. When he lurched towards the idiot server, barking curses in a language which made people ill to hear aloud, it became an awful cartoon.

 

The lawyer explained it. They were a franchise with money and an army of lawyers. One stoned server doth not make a summer, he had quipped and regretted it for the rest of his life.

 

It was two weeks.

 

An embolism in the pool of the motel he had been living in since his divorce. Ivor had dropped a pebble into a bowl of water on a night his grief whipped his soul into action.

 

Jay, the stoned pirate threw himself into traffic after giving his deposition to the franchise legal team with something of a smile on his face. Ivor twisted the bandana he had snatched from the idiot when he had rushed at him.

 

It was not enough.

 

The items he needed were available in the mall, although his disdain for the commercial was mistaken for the simple awkwardness of an elderly man but he muttered something about standards as he left.

 

The restaurant had not closed. It bulged on the corner of the main street, and he felt offended by its existence. It was not open for business at this time of day though, which suited him and soothed the small voice, a perfect impersonation of his Bettina which asked him why he had gone back to practicing again.

 

Because you were my reason not to, he told her.

 

He stopped on the kerb opposite and set the bag down, reaching inside for the snowglobe and the hammer as he shifted his cane from one hand to another, gritting his teeth against the pains in his hips and knees.

 

‘FYN CUN PRXA DUHA GHUT WYM AS LOW’

 

His voice was low and rich, bristling with operatic power. It made people stop, turning towards the source with a bizarre curiosity, like they had seen something take wing from the ground.

 

The hammer took out the globe and Ivor watched the air twist and shimmer above the building before he raised his hand and scattered the spray of blood, water, glitter and glass onto the road. It had been a warm, sluggish day but people stared at the building, now encased in ice. Its garish, plastic logo was now lost behind thick opaque ice, razored chandeliers hanging from everywhere and all of it making people lose their minds with shock and disbelief.

 

Ivor felt the first twinge of pressure in the base of his spine, how it sent a million love letters imploring him to give up and as the pavement rushed up to meet him, he felt his Bettina’s breath at his cheek and smiled for the first time in months.

 

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beauty, masculinity, poetry, smoking

War, Tomorrow

a scream

A roar.       A plea.

In my lowest moments

When the weight

Throttles my worlds

Throat and I know

The face of my enemy

Each time I catch

My reflection

And what comfort there is

In knowing I can beat him

Make him work for me

Than against me

Friends and lovers

Turn away when he declares

Victory but I know my foe

As I know myself

So let me weep again

Raise a glass to him

‘War, tomorrow?’

 

 

 

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beauty, grief, love, short fiction, women

Baby, It’s You

Tomorrow would have been a day of splendid heraldry. Five years to the day, and I’m here to talk to you. We had picked out every last detail, lost in the tremendous, anxious excitement of a day celebrating our love.

The start of everything.

That last evening was full of mundane details which tragedy lent a mythic resonance

I had undercooked the spaghetti.

You complained for forty minutes about your job then started work on a spreadsheet.

The headache was down to stress; you said. We kissed, your eyes were dull with fatigue but you whispered for me to wake you in an hour and cupped my crotch.

I still feel the squeeze of your fingers against me.

You did not wake up and the world ended. If the devil had come and asked me to trade places, I would have in a heartbeat.

The flat became unbearable. Selling it was like chewing a limb off to escape a trap, and it hurt as much.

I could recite the memories, large and small, but I need to say this without crying.

Let me have my stoicism. Just once.

A smaller apartment, but being sentimental, I carried things of yours with me. Your family became feral in their grief, but I asserted my primal, mourning authority and was the first to take the share of the treasures your passing made of simple things.

They are in the spare room. Boxed up with the lids unsealed so I can torture myself and mourn in one visit.

Lying there, last night, I had left a light on. Which I don’t do, do I?

It used to irritate you how I would turn off the lights when we were not in the room. My way of showing you I had your security in mind.  I figured you knew, but it got lost in translation.

The light came from the spare room. I had spent the evening reading the blizzard of post-it notes you left around the place. A possible oversight, but I got out of bed and check.

I opened the door, expecting to turn off the light, see all I had left of you and go back to bed, wounded and feverish.

Lights strung along the ceiling. Bunches of willow branches dusted with glitter hung on the walls. Throw pillows piled in the corner.

It brought me to my knees and I laid there, fetal and sobbing until my pills kicked in.

In the grey light of morning, it had all gone. Wiping my eyes did not make it any better.

The lights still coiled into a wreath. Pillows mummified into a vacuum sealed bag. Branches resting in a pool of glitter.

Madness would be a relief. I could discount it as my imagination. The gesture, though, baby it’s you.

I am seeing the doctor later. I wanted to run it by you first though before I say anything.

Are there rules over there? Are you twiddling the dials on a celestial radio, looking for a song you need to hear?

Sitting here talking to a lump of Italian marble with your name carved into it makes as much sense as anything else these days. It all boils down to a binary decision.

Pills or poltergeist?

I will leave the things where they are tonight.

I hope it’s you rather than me.

OK, got to go. I love you.

I will look for you, baby.

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beauty, grief, love, short fiction, women

Baby, It’s You

unnamed (4).png

Tomorrow would have been a day of splendid heraldry. Five years to the day, and I’m here to talk to you. We had picked out every last detail, lost in the tremendous, anxious excitement of a day celebrating our love.

The start of everything.

That last evening was full of mundane details which tragedy lent a mythic resonance

I had undercooked the spaghetti.

You complained for forty minutes about your job then started work on a spreadsheet.

The headache was down to stress; you said. We kissed, your eyes were dull with fatigue but you whispered for me to wake you in an hour and cupped my crotch.

I still feel the squeeze of your fingers against me.

You did not wake up and the world ended. If the devil had come and asked me to trade places, I would have in a heartbeat.

The flat became unbearable. Selling it was like chewing a limb off to escape a trap, and it hurt as much.

I could recite the memories, large and small, but I need to say this without crying.

Let me have my stoicism. Just once.

A smaller apartment, but being sentimental, I carried things of yours with me. Your family became feral in their grief, but I asserted my primal, mourning authority and was the first to take the share of the treasures your passing made of simple things.

They are in the spare room. Boxed up with the lids unsealed so I can torture myself and mourn in one visit.

Lying there, last night, I had left a light on. Which I don’t do, do I?

It used to irritate you how I would turn off the lights when we were not in the room. My way of showing you I had your security in mind. I figured you knew, but it got lost in translation.

The light came from the spare room. I had spent the evening reading the blizzard of post-it notes you left around the place. A possible oversight, but I got out of bed and check.

I opened the door, expecting to turn off the light, see all I had left of you and go back to bed, wounded and feverish.

Lights strung along the ceiling. Bunches of willow branches dusted with glitter hung on the walls. Throw pillows piled in the corner.

It brought me to my knees and I laid there, fetal and sobbing until my pills kicked in.

In the grey light of morning, it had all gone. Wiping my eyes did not make it any better.

The lights still coiled into a wreath. Pillows mummified into a vacuum sealed bag. Branches resting in a pool of glitter.

Madness would be a relief. I could discount it as my imagination. The gesture, though, baby it’s you.

I am seeing the doctor later. I wanted to run it by you first though before I say anything.

Are there rules over there? Are you twiddling the dials on a celestial radio, looking for a song you need to hear?

Sitting here talking to a lump of Italian marble with your name carved into it makes as much sense as anything else these days. It all boils down to a binary decision.

Pills or poltergeist?

I will leave the things where they are tonight.

I hope it’s you rather than me.

OK, got to go. I love you.

I will look for you, baby.

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beauty, fiction, love, short fiction, women

Twenty Is China

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You disappeared on August 21st, 1997.

Our last conversation was about the job interview you had left and my reminding you we needed milk and toilet paper. I was painting the dining room, taking it back to a bland magnolia whilst Elton John’s Candle In The Wind played on the radio. My biggest concern was getting the paint out of my hair and whether I could hold in the bowel movement, I needed to take until you got home. I remember fantasising about a cup of tea and a good, hot bath.

Looking back, I see that woman with equal parts envy and pity.
Envy of her innocence.
Pity for what she had coming.

Such horrors are not immediate. The evening drew on and my gut resonated with an undefined panic. I left you messages, then like a pathogen, I spread my concerns to your family and friends.

Shadows laid over everything, feeding on my imagination without a care for my concerns or plans. When the police arrived, it held the slow, thick lurch of the inevitable. It resisted my will for you to turn up, flush with apologies. My anger would have been a blessing, better than the slow, grinding horror of what was happening.

That night shaped the rest of my life. Neil Evan Flaherty, you left me in purgatory, because hell signalled I deserved my fate and heaven would have absolved me of it.

You were last spotted at Norwich bus station because you could not afford train fare. You had a carrier bag with milk and toilet paper, stood there with your tie hanging loose around your neck, limp with defeat. Your hair, dark but fine, blew in the evening breeze as you looked at the timetable.

We would sell the house, move in with your parents until things picked up. All the ugly concessions made bearable by our going through them together.

All gone.

I grew sick of the reminders, the restaurant in Gorleston where I threw up outside. The cinema where we held hands and I smiled through the mild discomfort of how sweaty your hand was to hold. All the tight knots of us, they unravelled and I went along with them.

Moving away was necessary. A betrayal of your memory but I bore it all myself. Claiming on your life insurance drew snide comments from your family but it was only enough for me to escape the memories of you.

I dated but my intuition was off, too slow and thick from the scar tissue of perpetual grief to see what choices I made. Dave stole money from me, Chris wore me down with neediness and pathological immaturity. Lee fucked a checkout girl at the supermarket and she gave birth to a baby too soon not to make me feel like throwing myself off a bridge.

You were not perfect but your exile encased you in nostalgia. No one could compete with an unresolved memory and there were so many nights I cried myself to sleep, swollen from eating my feelings.

Suicide was part of the plan but the act of contemplating it was its own remedy. I regained some measure of myself in time but happiness, closure, love were colouring books for the blind. I wore a certain sadness like a favourite coat, believing it flattered me despite the evidence.

It has been five years since I wrote in this diary. It had survived moves, midnight arguments and all of it for a reason.

I saw you, two days ago.

You were at the Natural History Museum with a skinny, pensive woman and a young boy. You had gone bald and your tummy had blown out to a solid drum of a belly but I knew it was you.

The sight of you, your voice echoing over like a skittish predator sucked the breath out of me. You signed the guest book, kissed her on the cheek which made her stiffen with irritation and walked outside back to your life. The three of you, swathed in that perpetual fog of low-key irritation that would never be ours.

I hope you’ve read this far, Neil. Do you remember what day it is?

No, you wouldn’t, would you?

You leave your back door unlocked. I stood in your kitchen, staring at the photographs and the drawings like it was all some hideous practical joke. When they left to visit her mother, it had been three days since I had seen you.

In those two days, I did something you would be familiar with.

I disappeared. Quit my job, put the flat up for sale and left no trace of me.

Not that there was much left for anyone to miss.

I’ve come back to you, Neil.

Please keep reading. I’ve been through your laptop and your phone. It looks like I had a lucky escape.

You won’t.

See, I asked a little earlier if you remembered the date. Today, as it’s just past midnight but I know you stay up when she’s away. I bet you say you can’t sleep, but that’s not true at all.

You reappeared on August 21st, 2017.

Twenty years.

China.

Which is beautiful to look at, but shatters and can cut you if you are not careful.

Happy anniversary, Neil.

We have so much to catch up on.

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love, poetry, wildness, women

Hunting

kent_rogowski_bears_30

It is not

Hunters

With rifles precision sighted for accuracy

That kill the great wild beasts

Of the primal woods

It is circumstance

Comfort

Routine

Wielded by beautiful assassins

Who weep as they kill

Even then they do not die

They lumber into the deep

Woods where the

Silence is so thick

It absorbs their cries

Their wounds turn

Red then pink

Then white

But they never truly heal

But they breathe

Despite the pain

Would you call  them back

If you knew what hurts they carried?

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