Glorious

We have had a week of GLORIOUS weather in the UK.

Glorious. adj. having a striking beauty or splendour.

I wish you could see it. See the sun bring out the greens of late summer, see how it coaxes the fragrances from the late September flowers, see how it shines on gentle webs, creating a kaleidoscope of colours that shift up gossamer threads as the sturdy little arachnid home sways stubbornly in the wind. I wish you could smell the earth, it’s like the spring of winter. Everything is so fresh, idyllic. Things have bloomed past their prime, and they nod in the breeze with unwitting splendour.

And the sun is warm, caressing, in the cool, sometimes cold, breeze.

This is my favourite season, just before the trees deck themselves in the sunset colours for the evening of summer, just before the bare branches begin to peer over the haze of icy morning fog. The evenings are still lasting, the shadows still long at 6pm, the golden sunshine can still be called a late summer sun.

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Running on Empty

Why do people say that they are running on empty?

They aren’t running.

They are just empty.

The sun can suck your energy out.

Especially if you live in a country where the sun is consistently shrouded by cloud.

Clouds of shroud.

Covering its beaming face.

When the sun comes out all and sundry scuttle from their hidey holes.

And it drains energy.

So lobster arms and legs sprawl, blistering, in the heat, empty cans hanging loosely from fleshy claws.

And people are truly, then, running on empty.

And when the sun sets, and the ashen dregs of barbecues are ground into the floor under hardened soles, the cold night air surges again, and the stars pop out to twinkle, one by one.

We never run on empty.

We just run.

Tired Demon

You know those days when everything is a struggle?

I am having one of those days today.

I am ‘tuckered out’, as some would say. Shattered, as my parents would say. Burned out, done for, overtaxed, drained, fatigued and prostrated – as the thesaurus would say.

I had a lunchtime nap in my car, and woke up 20 minutes later than I ought to have, feeling groggy and jittery. I stumbled back into the office where the overpowering smell of onions smacked me in the face. Somebody was having an aromatic lunch. One that reeked, pungent and odoriferous, and added another irritated hindrance to the aching pulse in my head.

My head is now pounding, and there is a dull ache in my neck.

And my focus has been awful all through this long and toiling afternoon.

They say naps help when you’re tired! Well, mine certainly did not. It made me feel horrible!

What on earth has possessed me today?

A tired demon?

Well, begone, tired demon. I have work to do.

Calidity

Today is a real Monday of a day, folks.

Nobody in the office wants to talk. All conversation is terse and halted. Stumbling and awkward.

The air is heavy and thick, and breathing is difficult. The heat pounds outside on the glass, in that silent scheming way it has. Condensation forms a layer of sweat on the lips of windows, and the small puffs of air we get through the slim cracks, made so because this country is an infrastructure of Health and Safety, are few and far between.

Alex uses two screens, her hazel eyes scanning first one and then the other. Her long neck pulls her head sideways, almost like an inquisitive sparrow, but there is a look of tense determination on her face. I feel irritated every time I look in her direction, so I don’t.

She always has work to do, and when she doesn’t she actively seeks it. She is like a badger sniffing out of its set. A mouse tottering to and fro. A beaver stacking wood. A long neck waving here and there, alert and watching, snapping up a job the moment it comes through. Scavenging.  She is an honest working person but she drives me mental with her oblivious morality.

And the Woman Who Laughs is wearing jodhpurs today. Jodhpurs. And a waistcoat. And a cowboy hat. Indoors. She might as well have bells hanging from her hems.

The fields in the distance sizzle with heat. The sun shimmers on the green, a lazy haze over the slopes. Even the birds seem too tired to chirp. And minuscule cars on the distant hills glint brightly in the sun as they wind around the curling country roads. I contemplate drowsing in my car for half an hour, but the heat in there is ten times worse.

A yawn.

A clatter.

Keyboards clacking away.

A laugh, hushed.

A murmur.

A conversation in the far end of the office.

Hello. I have a query today.

Goddamnit these people never answer the phone!

I would like to go home now please.

The Last Day

It was the last day of summer.

The last day the frogs leapt in unison. The last day the Rooks flew into town, sailing on the wafts of music which floated up between the long fingers of flutists. The last day peach gowns were worn, gossamer and chiffon wafting gently in the breeze as though underwater.

It was the longest day of the year, the shortest night. Some reckoned the night didn’t come at all, because the sun was peeking blearily over the tip of the horizon, hiding her fiery hair, but not quite low enough so her rays didn’t escape and lighten the blackness of night.

Penny’s parents were preparing for the sunset, the sunset that would never come.They ran around the kitchen like headless chickens, and she smiled to herself.

She watched them from her corner in the kitchen, where the small window fit neatly into the little alcove, and was a porthole to the view of the sharp, steep landscape outside their house. She sat on a small red cushion, worn and faded from years of use, on the small wooden window seat.

When she turned back to the view outside, she saw the Rooks. An entire flock of them. A colossal black cloud, swirling over the mountainous city, like an ominous vortex. Their hoarse cries rising in the sky, a bellow of extortionate proportions. The very utensils shook on their hooks, the mugs rattled and the cupboard doors vibrated with the sound of over a thousand of them, and Penny slammed her hands over her ears.

The music from the city was drowned, and the sun sank lower in the horizon. She watched as they soared around the city once, twice, and a third, final time, before they swooped upward, covering the sky, and bringing darkness onto the world. Pitch blackness draped her window, and Penny found herself looking at the glass and seeing only her dim reflection, and the reflection of the wooden kitchen in it.

She turned to her parents, they had stopped what they were doing, and were standing, frozen, eyes on the window. The house began to hum with the screeching outside. It was beyond anything she could imagine, and even though they heard it every year, the sound was momentous. Time-stopping. Gut-wenching. She felt it in her bones, her heart was beating to the sound of it. Her breathing changed to match the shift in tune. The sound was increasing. Louder and louder, the vibrations more and more intense, until, as the clanging orchestra outside reached its peak, a sudden silence filled the room. The darkness outside surged, replaced by a dim twilight, and Penny stared up at an empty sky.

The Rooks had vanished.

The remaining twilight would hang over the world for a few weeks, before the black tendrils of winter edged their way across the sky, bringing frost and snow.

The last day of summer.

 

 

On the Introduction of a Lady

Lady Pinky-Moe was born on a cloudy day at the bottom of my grandmother’s garden. She was born amid a glass of delicious, satisfying berry juice and the chirping of birds, the screeching of crows, and the deliriously haunting sound of the leaves swaying in a ferocious wind that was significant of the sad departure of the last dregs of summer.

It was cold, the day Lady Pinky-Moe was born. Cold, windy, grey.. simply divine. You may be thinking that I am slightly off my head by saying that; how could it be ‘simply divine?’ you wonder, ‘if it is utterly cloudy and grey and cold?’

Well, quite simply, dull days have a magic of their own. The magic of this day was the leaf-shaped glass that held the satisfying berry juice, clouding up as the biting wind chilled the drink to a perfect temperature, sweet on the tongue and cold down the throat. The magic of this day was the sound of the swish of the bright pink skirt as the lady stepped out from behind the white rose bush that leant against the old ebony fence right at the back of the garden. The flash of bright orange as her scarf was blown about her face, her smooth black hair waving in the wind as she straightened up, looking about her in a confident manner. The magic was in the way the line of trees behind my grandmother’s back fence were whipped about by the wind, whispering to each other, creaking and groaning and then rising in a chorus of psithurism. When I turned my face to the sky the fresh breeze was accompanied by little flecks of rain.

When she saw me in my little blue checkered dress, the glass of berry juice loosening in surprise in my hand, she darted forward sharply and grabbed the glass from my fingers.

‘Well, now. You don’t want to spill this delicious drink, do you?’

‘No -no.’ I said, completely awestruck. She was beautiful, and so elegant. My nine year old mind struggled to comprehend how she managed to be so commanding and kind at the same time. And she was talking to me. Never mind she stepped out of nowhere. To me she was real.

Her eyes were sharp, stark, large. Her hands were gloved, and she had a loud voice which she used to air her many opinions about all sorts of matters.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was Lady Pinky-Moe, named by the childish version of myself and the name had stuck against my whim, as names are wont to do.

Footprints in the Sand

This short piece of fiction is part of a challenge put together by fellow blogger Frank from AFrankAngle – Check his post out!

On Footprints in the Sand.

Here is mine.

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Footprints in the Sand

The sun rose slowly in the horizon, its rays gradually strengthening to the music of waves crashing on the shore. Loud, then soft, then loud again, as the tide pulled the frothy waters away from the ascending sand-dunes, only for it to come scrambling back up again, reaching foamy fingers higher up the dunes each time.

The beach was empty, save for a few gulls calling dismally as their soft bodies were buffeted by the winds high in the sky.

The remains of yesterday were completely wiped away by the tides. It was fresh and new as though someone had washed the world and removed all human traces from the sand. No sandcastles, no left-behind toys, and all conversations that wafted on the gentle sea breeze had long been snatched away, sailing far over the seas to distant lands.

No, the beach was fresh this morning. Ready for a new horde of laughter and life. Lively in anticipation, bringing rose-tinted blue skies and soft, pillowy clouds scudding across as though in a hurry to be gone before the sun had completely reclaimed her power.

The beach was empty, for now, in these blissful early morning hours. The beach was empty, and restful, yet oddly restless.

The beach was empty, and yet a set of footprints made their way solidly across the dry sand just inches away from the water, pattering, forming, collapsing in on themselves all along the beach line and into the brightness in the distance, and there was nobody there to make the mark.

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Love Letters #22

Dear Pip,

Penelope.

Penny.

Pip, I have known you for approximately six years. And forty seven days. And three and a half hours (at the time of writing this).

We met the day I met with my fate. My fate was you, of course. Didn’t you know?

We were both looking at the same teapot. It was yellow and had blue spots on and I remember thinking you had to be a certain kind of person with a certain kind of taste to like such a teapot because let me tell you, it was hideous.

But there was only one of them left and you said, ‘Oh, you have it.’

And I said, ‘Please, no, you have it.’ Because I didn’t even want it in the first place.

And you said, ‘Oh, no, I was only looking. You have it.’

And I said, ‘I wouldn’t be a gentleman if I took it when a young lady has her eye on it. It would be daylight robbery.’

And you snorted and said, ‘Well how about we halfsies it and then share it.’

‘What, like, monthly swaps?’ I asked, ‘or shall we cut it in half?’

‘Sure.’ You were nonchalant. Casual. You even shrugged and that is when I noticed the apple green jacket you are wearing. It was hideous also. (Please don’t hate me. We have discussed the ways colours are worn. And apple green blazers were out of the question. I even made a graph. Please see attached piece of paper for reference.)

‘Well,’ I said very carefully, ‘that then means, of course, that we shall have to swap details.’

‘Let’s buy this thing.’ You picked it up gently and as I reached into my pocket to take out my wallet my elbow jerked yours and it slipped out of your hands and fell down, down down onto the brightly polished John Lewis floors.

We both stared at it.

‘Ah well,’ you said, ‘I was only looking at it because I was curious about something so ugly. Good riddance, I say! I’m Pip. What’s your name?’

I stared at you in pleasant surprise and I felt my lips stretching out my face of their own accord.

‘James.’ I said, and then, ‘let us look for more ugly teapots.’

Of course we had to pay for that ugly yellow polka dot tea pot. It was atrocious. And then for your birthday present a year later I got you a similar teapot which you use for your indoor geraniums. It was from John Lewis and you killed yourself laughing at it and told me I was a money waster because there was no way you would use that for anybody. It could never grace your table.

I remember asking you all wounded, like, ‘What, not even for the reason that it was graced by my hands?’ I was also slightly flirting even though we were firm friends by then, but I could not resist. I can never resist you, Pip.

‘Nope.’ You were very firm.

I am writing to tell you that I want to marry you. I can’t say it to your face because you have beautiful eyes and I know exactly how they will look at me and I will not be able to help myself because I will kiss you and then I will be done for. I know you will be impatient with that and tell me that is nonsense and of course I can help myself but I will not want to. Help myself. At all.

Also I asked my aunt if she read those French books I gave her and she said yes, they were lovely books. You were right. She didn’t read them. Else she would have called me to lecture me horrendously about them. Lovely books indeed. She asks about you a lot and tells me I should marry you quicktimes before you grow too old to have kids.

So back to my fate. You are my fate either way. If you say yes then it will have been a good fate and if you say no I will be broken hearted forever and when I do eventually heal and marry somebody for realsies I will still remember you as the first ever woman who broke my heart.

You know love is a strange thing. So strange. I used to think I loved a woman before. I was seventeen. She wasn’t particularly beautiful but I was infatuated by her and loved her to pieces but she always treated me badly. And one day she went too far and I discovered she was sleeping with a right old tramp of a fellow, but I forgave her. Well I told her I did but I don’t think I really did. Something inside of me snapped that day. She walked on me one too many times. And three miserable months of forced smiles and fake kisses later I met you and the day afterwards she wanted to see me and I called her and I said, ‘I can’t. I can’t do this anymore.’

And when I was with her I thought there could never be anyone else because she was my first love. But it was meagre and ridiculous and pathetic and also desperate. Compared to what I feel about you. I am crazy about you. I look at you and I see my future. And I want to spend all my time with you and walk home from work with you and call you every single day but I stop myself because I don’t want you to get sick of me. I also want to kiss your forehead. It is so gentle and smooth and beautiful.

But see, if we were married I could call you everyday and it wouldn’t be weird, right? I could also kiss your forehead and it would be comfortable.

So, what do you say, Pip?

Yours sincerely and faithfully and truly (scrumptious),

Jim

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A lil Something

I wish

That one day

I can have peace

Of mind

and heart

Also,

A private room

to live in

and to do my washing

Without having to wake up at 5am to do it

And to kiss my husband

As passionately as I like

without worrying about a knock on the door

Cuz PDA is gross

Also

To sleep during the day

Without worrying

about in-laws

thinking I am lazy.

I am not.

I swear.

I am constantly working.

On the move.

That is why

I

am so

tired.

All the time.

 

4 hours sleep,

kind of tired.

 

Love Letters #23

All the odd things started to happen when Damon Ludwig moved in next door. Things at home had withered away into stagnancy. Nobody celebrated birthdays properly anymore, and Father was constantly in his study or making important phone calls. So when the Ludwigs moved in, and there was all that commotion outside, Laura darted out of her cold and empty house to investigate.

Everything was a façade. Their smiles were a façade, every time they opened the door to greet the outside world. Their speech was a façade, in its bizarre normality.

‘Pass the butter.’

‘Did you finish your homework, Tristan?’

‘Laura, let the cats out please. They’re doing my head in.’

‘Father says to please shut up, he’s trying to work.’

Such normal sentences, Laura thought to herself, in such an abnormal situation. Does life dissolve into normalcy after an integral piece of it has been painfully removed? And yet she carried on buttering her toast, and everybody else around the table carried on getting on with their days. What else would they do, though, really?

‘I don’t have a mother,’ was the first thing Laura said, the moment she clapped eyes on Damon. She sat calmly on the low stone wall that separated their front gardens. He stumbled up the front garden path to his front door, sweating under the weight of a massive crate, red-faced, only just noticing the small child with the wild chestnut curls and distinct little voice.

‘You what?’ he blew through his teeth, and dropped the crate onto the porch with a loud thump.

‘I don’t have a mother,’ she repeated, then offered to help him with the crate.

‘Nah, you’re alright.’  He waved her off, then bent to push it forward over the wooden floorboards of the porch until it was just inside the front door.

‘So what this about your mum then?’ he said, seating himself next to Lemara outside, as they both watched the moving men carrying in a grandfather clock between them.

‘She’s dead.’ Laura said, matter of factly.

‘Do you always introduce yourself by talking about your dead mother?’ Damon asked bluntly. Then he held out a brown paw, his fingers were dirty and dotted with tiny scabs and scratches.

‘Damon Ludwig.’ He said. She shook his hand.

‘Laura,’ said Laura, ‘I’m ten.’

‘Well hullo Laura who’s ten.’ Damon laughed, jumping off the wall and walking down to the lorry, where a man who looked very like him was emerging with a cardboard box.

‘Sorry about your mother,’ he threw over his shoulder. The sun threw dappled rays over Damon’s shock of black hair; he was wild and brown, an exclamation mark of a human. Laura watched him darting in and out of the lorry, lugging things to and fro, leaping down the porch steps and cartwheeling back to the lorry to get more things. She wanted to get up and dance around too. But she sat quietly and watched them slowly turn the empty house next door into a home. Men came in and out, carrying chests and mattresses and rugs. Curtains went up in the empty windows as the sun sunk lower and lower in the horizon, a great big orange orb, its edges wavy as it hung between the hills in the distance. Warm golden lights lit up the house next door one by one, a golden palace next to the drab darkness looming up behind Laura’s back. A cold breeze made the roses Mother planted in their front garden nod at her, as though they were telling her to go indoors. She wasn’t ready yet, to go indoors.

         Everybody cried at the funeral. Alex with her black dress that was too tight around her blooming chest, her arms halfway out of the full length sleeves. Laura secretly thought she looked stupid, but so pathetically stupid with her puffed up face and tear stained cheeks that she felt sorry for her. Tristan blond curls had been attacked with a wet comb, by Aunty Nora no doubt, and he sat demurely in a corner in his little black suit, sniffling over a sausage roll, his fat cheeks soaked with tears. George stood with Father by the door, almost as tall as Father now, hugging people and nodding sadly at their quiet condolences, his eyes wet and desperate. He was looking into their faces as though they would resurrect her with their sympathy. Laura knew better. What did they know, any of them? What did they know about the gaping hole in her chest that she tried to fill with pastries and devilled eggs. They hugged her and told her she was a poor thing to lose her mother at only eight years old. She ate and ate and ate until she felt quite ill, then fell asleep in a corner, her hole still as wide as before, a gaping abyss in her chest. And not once did she cry.

The first odd thing that happened, of course, was that Laura stopped growing. It didn’t happen right away, though. The Ludwigs settled in first. Damon and Mr Ludwig built a shed at the bottom of the back garden for Damon’s workshop. He made the beautiful wooden patio rocking chair that Mrs Ludwig put outside her back garden French windows. Mrs Ludwig called it her ‘forty winks chair’, and brought it inside when it rained. It sat in her warm and cosy kitchen throughout winter, and Laura spent many an evening in it as she watched Mrs Ludwig potter about her kitchen preparing dinner for her family. She never stayed for dinner when they asked her, though. She always said,

‘No thank you, Mrs Ludwig. George will be looking out for me.’

That was a lie, though. George stopped looking out for her a long time ago. Sometimes Alex would look out for her and give her a scolding for staying at the Ludwigs’ for too long. She would shove her down at the table and dump a cold plate of something congealed on the table in front of her. George, however, was generally nowhere to be seen. Mind you, he was working double shifts at the shoelace factory in the next town. He had to catch early buses, and generally left the house while it was still dark and everybody was fast asleep. He returned home long after sunset, and quite often missed his bus and had to catch a cab home. He started smelling of cigarettes and sweat, and on his late-missed-the-last-bus days Laura steered well clear of him because his mood was appallingly sour.

Extract from the book I am writing. 

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