Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thanksgiving and Stuff

I wanted to wish all my friends in America (and Canada for that matter) a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope you really enjoy the holiday.

So, on the drive home from work, I began thinking about that word, Thanksgiving, and being thankful in general. I asked myself if I had to point at one thing that I was truly thankful for, what would it be?

I started running through the list of stuff which might make the top ten list:

I am thankful for the roof over my head. Sure it could be bigger or newer, but I love it, and it's mostly mine.

I am thankful for the fact I have a good job, but sometimes I would love a wee holiday.

I am thankful for my health, its good, not great but I have all the bits I started out with.

I am thankful for my friends, the few I have are cool people, and I like them.

I am thankful for my writing, its fun and I have gained more satisfaction from it than most deserve.

I am thankful for my family, the best a man could ever have but I would imagine most would say that about theirs.

I am thankful for the few euro in my pocket, it's a few more than many have.

I am thankful for the food in my belly, and the stuff still in the fridge.

I am thankful for my dogs, the best four-legged little hunger machines you have ever encountered.

I am thankful for the loves I've had in my life, and that none of them has treated me too bad.

I am thankful for the peaceful time I live in, I know not everywhere, but in this place, at this time, things are cool.


I considered all of these, and yes, I am very very grateful for them all, but none of them stood out as the thing I would shake God's hand for giving me. Honestly, I might well be just as happy with less or still unhappy if I had more.

I changed the question and asked myself, what is the one thing, that one tiny thing, which would make it all useless if it were taken away?

I came up with only one answer for that one.

Tomorrow.

So, I would like to thank whatever great creator there exists for the fact there is going to be a tomorrow. A day where I can find a new love, make a new friend, tell my family I'd pick no other, remember the good times, make sense of the bad ones, help another find a roof, share a euro where it's needed, pass on a little knowledge, spread some peace and leave this place better than when I found it.

That would be a fantastic tomorrow.

Oh!! I nearly forgot. Holly and Lofty, my dogs, both get as many belly rubs as they want.


Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and to you all a wonderful tomorrow.

Squid

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Poison

She looked at me with those huge almond-shaped eyes, her face unreadable, and waves of pure innocence radiated off her. She moved closer, causing the leather seat to groan with pleasure as it flexed beneath her bare skin. Her iris' were deep brown, with tiny flecks and imperfections, and to me, they were bottomless pools of happiness. Our faces were only inches apart, I could feel her breath play across my skin as her lips parted and her lungs drew air which expanded her perfect chest, making the gold chain I'd given her earlier, twinkle in the reflected light of the dashboard. She rolled her bottom lip and bit down on it, making tiny indents on the cherry red skin.

How many time had I tasted those lips? She was a flavour I would die for. Love made my heart hammer in my chest but my mind was torn with doubt. I wanted to be in this moment forever, and at the same time, something screamed at me to run. The magnificence of her eyes held me in a wordless stupor, while her scent invaded my being and dulled my churning mind.

“I need you,” she whispered, her voice husky with sex and her words were all I had ever wanted to hear. I couldn’t respond, but I felt my pulps draw out to their maximum so they wouldn’t miss an ounce of her beauty.


“You are the only one I can trust,” she said, cupping my face with tender hands. Her long lashes fluttered as she closed in on me with aching slowness. Sparks of desire crackled through my mind threatening to send me insane and then, at last, our lips collided and I was hers.


All too soon she pulled away, her chest heaving in oxygen-starved passion. I was ravenous for her and tried to draw her toward me. I wanted to devour her, but she resisted. She leaned across me and opened the car door. Outside, the night was crisp and bright, illuminated by the light of a full moon. A rutted lane ran arrow straight up the hill and finished at the steps of a modern-day manor. I looked back at her. Something swam in the depths of those innocent eyes making her seem older for a second.

“I'll be yours forever,” she said and smiled. I looked down at the blade in my hand and knew I was powerless to resist. I had to have her and this was the only way. Afraid to look back, afraid to pause, I hurried into the unknown.

The building seemed to fly toward me like a living thing. The doorknob turned silently in my hand, just as she’d promised it would. On weightless feet, I glided up the stairs and paused at the top. To the right was the half-open door which flooded the darkness with deep animal-like snores. The sound was fitting for the beast which nested within. I tightened my grip on the blade and felt my gut knot with hate. I didn’t have to look inside to witness the vast bloated body, floundering in a sea of silk sheets. She'd described the scene to me a hundred times, my mind endured what she endured and my soul was as tarnished as hers.

The sounds he made conveyed every slobbering twitch of his jowls while he grunted his way through debauched dreams. In the darkness, my ears had become my eyes, and I could see all. I could see the monster forcing himself on her, defiling her in unnatural ways, revelling in her shame.  How many times had she described her torment at his hands? How had she survived? Had she survived? I’d lost count of the times we'd made tender love, while tears still glistened on her perfect face. Once, as she lay collapsed on my naked chest, she'd said she’d always known I'd come to save her.


I watched the moonlight dance on the edge of the blade and imagined driving it deep into his gut. How I wanted to send that bastard straight to hell for what he’d done to her. I knew I’d be doing the world a favour, but she’d insisted that the weapon was not to be used. The knife was just a threat, should anything go wrong.  

The door on the left was her dressing room. A royal bounty of clothes to make a prisoner into a queen. I moved as quietly as a cat, but the door gave a tiny squeal. I froze on the spot, listening to the heavy snoring which still filled the air. The pig grunted once, then once again, before settling back into a deafening slumber. Inside, the walls were lined on all sides by rails which groaned under couture gowns. The deep rosewood drawers held a thousand treasures, but I sought only one. In the middle of the back wall, I knelt and eased open a door which looked like all the others.  The cold steel face of the safe looked out at me. The only thing this beast guarded more diligently than his queen was his gold.

When she'd left the house earlier, she'd told him her sister was ill in hospital. Unfortunately, she didn’t dare take her valuables because the animal which claimed dominion over her checked the safe contents every night before bed, and the same each morning. We need time to disappear, which is why I find myself sneaking into the house in the dead of night. A new life is not cheap, and these were her jewels, she'd paid for them in blood and tears.

As I readied myself to enter the code, I pulled some dresses from the rail. She’d said the safe would beep and that I was to use some clothes to deaden the noise.  I typed in the numbers and twisted the handle. The door opened easily. Inside were fist-sized bundles of money lying on a small mountain of black-satin bags.

“What the blazes are you doing?” snarled a whisky roughened voice behind me.

The beast was awake! I barrelled my way through the dark toward him and collided shoulder first with his flabby stomach. I heard the air whoosh up through his multiple chins and explode from his cavernous mouth.

Run Run Run!!! My mind screamed, and my leg’s obeyed.  

I was just at the top of the stairs when all the lights came on. My foot floated in mid-air when I saw her standing in the hall. Why had she followed me in? Had she come to save me? Run my love! I thought. In that instant, a colossal explosion filled the air and fire ripped through my back. I was hurled into the void and began to drop. Amazingly, time slowed down as I fell and I saw the edge of the step rise up to crash into my exposed neck. I counted the bones' as they snapped, and watched helplessly as the marble floor rushed up at me.

I lay twisted at an impossible angle as my sweetheart looked down on me. Her face was calm and radiant as I tried to extend an arm to her, but my body wouldn't respond.

“Careful, he’s got a knife!” cried the beast from the top of the stairs.

“I don’t think he is any danger, not anymore,” she said, her tone flat. She must be in shock, I thought. I tried to tell her I was alright but I only managed to cough up some blood.

“I’m calling the police,” said the beast from the landing above.

“I’ll do it,” she said. “You get some clothes on before they get here.”

That’s my girl, I thought. Give us time to get away. I tried to smile at her, and I think I managed it. She walked forward, hunkered down and reached for me.

“I’m just winded,” I managed to whisper. She smiled, but her hand didn’t take mine. Instead, she lifted the knife from my glove, stood, and walked into the kitchen. I heard the water running for a second, and when she appeared, she was drying her hands on a tea towel. Again she hunkered down, this time she pulled the leather gloves off my hands and placed them in the pocket of my jacket. Then she stood and lifted the cordless phone from the wall.

“Help me up,” I groaned, the words were agony to get out, and more coughing came.

This time I managed to raise my hand and was shocked to see it covered in blood. I could feel the heat rushing from my body as it was drained of life. She shuffled back a step, avoiding my fingers, but her eyes were still soft and innocent. She watched me, the phone dangling in her hand. First her head cocked left, then right and at last, she lifted the phone and punched in three numbers and waited in silence.

I heard a click on the line, and something inside her snapped. She bellowed and screamed, saying in between heaving sobs. “Please, please hurry. My husband has shot him! He’s dead! He’s dead!" There was more sobbing before she choked out the address and then started to scream again, this time she yelled at nobody in particular, “No, no, no, no! Don’t kill me! Don’t kill…” then she smashed the phone on the marble floor.

She became calm in an instant. I couldn’t feel my legs, my head was swimming with lightness, and I could hear my heart hammering a mile a minute in my chest. I tried to speak, but no words would come. In some ancient part of my brain realisation struck. She was like one of those beautiful forest mushrooms, the ones with fantastic colours that promised bliss, but delivered only poison.

As darkness crept into the corners of my vision, I saw her run her hands through the blood on my arms and chest before rubbing it on her face and clothes. She ripped open her blouse and bashed her head viscously three times against the edge of a hall table. With the last ounce of life in my body, I forced my eyes to stay open. Her beautiful face was already beginning to swell when she said, “I knew I could count on you.” Then she smiled, and my world was filled with those amazing lips, those poison lips.


“What the hell is going on?” roared the beast from above. She turned her face up with a scowl and flipped him the finger before calmly walking out the front door and into the night. 




If you liked this little tale, you would love the book. Click the link to take a look.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Why?

Wall Street. It's the centre of the universe, or at least it is to men like Andrew Bergen.

The day was over, the trades had all been made, and once that final bell sounded, the universe slept once more until Andrew, and his ilk prodded it into life anew.

He loved the thrill of the trade, the rush having millions of dollars pass through his fingers. A buy here, a sell there, dispensed with a flick of his pen. Whenever he was tossing in the maelstrom of the trading floor, he felt truly alive. His blood surged, his mind hummed with electrical current fizzing from his nerve endings as he calculated each possible outcome. A rush like that can only last for so long, and like every high, the accompanying low is devastating. It was the end of the day that killed him, the tumble from such a lofty realm sucked the marrow from his bones. Drained, deflated and dejected he filled out his returns, dotted his I's and crossed his t's, before joining the thousands of faceless drones leaving the city.

As he was spat out onto the street by the revolving door of his office, his end of day doom seemed even worse than usual. Was this all there was to it? Was this what life was? An endless series of days chasing wisps of greatness? Why did winning feel so hollow? He felt smothered and looked around for somewhere to catch his breath.

While Wall Street is synonymous with wealth and success, the actual street fails to impress. It is narrow, overcast, without a tree or a blade of grass to be seen. The real display of power sits at its confluence with the mighty Broadway. Trinity Church. Andrew looked at the spire rising high above him and felt in need of enlightenment. He trudged toward it, carrying his seven hundred dollar briefcase, and wearing a thousand dollar suit, but he was lost in a vast sea of similar men. He mounted the steps and paused just shy of the top. As his foot hovered over the threshold he felt like a fraud, it had been years since he'd been to a service and in the end, he contented himself with sitting on the top step.

City life is strange. Everyone always has someplace to go, always in a rush. Andrew became acutely aware he had abandoned the herd as soon as his keister touched the cold stone. In the city that never sleeps, he dared stop for no reason at all. He could sense others veer away as they passed this strange seated man in a suit, afraid whatever aliment afflicted him might jump their way.

"I'm Sophie, what's your name?" a high confident voice floated in the air. He looked around and standing behind him was a little girl dressed in dungarees, with ruby red shoes, and blond hair falling over her shoulder in a ponytail. She may have been five or even six, but her words were as well formed as any he'd heard while working. A lady stood beside the tiny girl having one of those New York phone conversations, loud and unabashed because she was as good as alone among a sea of strangers. The lady held the little girl's hand firmly, but that was where her attention finished.

Sophie extended her chubby little hand and smiled. She held it there, undaunted, as Andrew wondered what he should do. In the end, social compunction drove him forward. He gripped her tiny fingers softly and gave the hand two good shakes and said "Andrew." It was his boardroom handshake. Why had he given this little girl his boardroom hand shake?

"Why are you sitting down? Are you tired?" she asked simply and regarded him with incredibly old eyes.

"Yes, a bit. It's been a long day."

"Me too. I go to school, over there," she said pointing toward some point that made sense in her mind.

"Excellent," said Andrew hoping this kid would leave it at that.

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't, I work," said Andrew feeling compelled to answer.

"Where?"

"Down there," he said pointing along the winding length of Wall Street.

"What do you do?" she asked and tilted her head to one side.

"It's hard to explain," he said not wanting to try and dumb down his job for some kid he didn't even know.

"Do you make something?"

This kid wasn't going to give up. "I make money, sweetie."  As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew the answer was far too glib for a five-year-old, it had gotten him plenty of attention from tanked up twenty-five-year-olds, but for Sophie, the answer seemed too childish.

"Wow, you're the man who makes Dollars!" her tiny face exploding with excitement.

"I don't actually make them, I sell things and buy things."

Sophie’s smile slipped a bit, "You work in a store?"

"Not a store, it’s complicated."

"Why?" she asked her smile vanishing and her look becoming serious. Andrew turned slightly on his step to face the little girl.

"It's like this. People give people like me money. I take that money, and I buy stock, and when I think the time is right, I sell that stock to somebody else and I make money."

"Sounds easy."

"Sure does, but it’s hard to do right."

"What do people do with stock?"

"They don't do anything, they sell it to someone else."

"Everyone is buying and selling the same stuff all the time? Stuff you don't do anything with?"

"I guess."

"That's silly," she said smiling.

"It's not silly, it's called commerce, it's what keeps the world working. You will learn about it one day."

"But nobody makes anything, how do you get stuff?"

"I buy things with the money I make, lots of stuff."

"Like in a store?"

"Yea."

"It's making my head hurt," said Sophie with a sad smile.

"Mine too sometimes. Commerce is just math really."

"I'm good at math, but my teacher is terrible," said Sophie sticking out her bottom lip a little bit.

"Why do you think that?"

"Yesterday she asked me if I had three apples and I got two more at the store, how many apples would I have? I told her three, but she said I was wrong."

"The answer is five apples," said Andrew helpfully.

"No, the answer is, I don't like apples, so I'd buy oranges in the store. I'd still have three apples, but I'd eat the oranges because they are yummy!" said Sophie rubbing her belly and licking her lips.

Andrew's face cracked wide open with a laugh, and he slapped his knee. "You're one clever girl."

She leaned in conspiratorially and cupped her hand over her mouth as she whispered, "I know."

She looked at him seriously and said, "I have an idea."

"What is it?" he asked charmed an intrigued by this little creature.

"You should build a machine that makes hours. Mom says there's never enough hours. You could sell them to the stock people."

"That is a great idea, you could help me build it."

"I can't, silly," she giggled.

"Why?"

"I'm only five," she laughed and smiled her knowing smile.


At that moment Sophie's Mom finished her call and tugged on the girl's arm without even looking at who she was talking too. "Come on Sophie, we're late."

"See," called the little girl happily as she was hauled down the steps and into the flow of people, "told ya!"

Andrew watched the little blond head bob away into the distance, skipping by her mother's side and he realised that his cloud of doom was gone. He began the walk to the subway with a grin a mile wide. Step by step he replayed the conversation in his mind. The more he thought about what she had said, the more sense it made. Layer on layer of truth began to appear in such simple questions. Was this the reason for his unending conflict of emotions? He scratched his head in wonder and as insane as it seemed, he was sure he'd just bumped into one of the most incredible people on the planet.

With his whole life laid bare on a slab before him, there seemed to be only one question that needed answering.


Why?