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Sometimes

A Writer’s Dream

Is it wrong to wish to write for writing’s sake? Is it wrong to feel the need to write a disclaimer only I’ll ever see?

I sometimes think I was born to the wrong era, that before computers and watches knew your name, I might have been happy. I’d have sat in my room as others scampered about living their lives and smiled at the view beyond the window, written down what I saw without forethought or fear. The clouds would’ve drifted across cerulean fields like mythical beasts and birds would’ve tweeted the minutes. With a quill for a sword and a wooden chair for a colt, I’d have lived out my days as a warrior of words and others would’ve been happy I did. But it isn’t days of yore, and there’s no time for idealism in today’s world of exactitudes and uncompromising rapport. We are. We will. We do as we’re told.

I sometimes wish the curtains to close and never open. Here wrapped in my private night, I’ll live in peace with these hundreds of thousands of words scattered all around; most long forgotten and stashed away in burrows of rabbited nonsenses. The songs I love will play in endless loops through ears with no wish to hear the spouted obscenities and harsh realities — or so they claim — of this, that and the other. Darkness will fold around me like a lover’s kiss, all-encompassing, and I won’t even know if I’m dead, nor care. But then the words will come, white on black, and I’ll feel more alive than ever.

Sometimes a voice calls from deep within that I presume my own but still doubt. This — let’s call it soul — knows my name, my home, my life, wife and circumstance, but even this supposed virgin self is dubious to my needs. What are my needs?

I have absolutely no wish for anyone to read what I write. I have absolutely no desire to be famous. If people happen upon these reams of written words and enjoy them, feel them, I’ll smile and thank them, and expect no thanks in return. If a child picks up one of my books and their eyes light up with wonder, I shouldn’t care if their parent commands them to put it back — not if the spark’s already lit. If? Such a little word. Such a pertinent package. But the cold hard reality, is something has to pay for a coffin and good intentions won’t.

Sometimes I think I’m free. Sometimes, but not often.

Thank you for reading

Richard

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Cardinal Sin

It lay in the street like a puddle of blood. A soft liquid, downy, not right, I approached this small death with tentative steps. The blood shifted as if to pour away.

Startled, I recoiled.

Though detested by this fear of something so small, this unexpected disturbance, I regathered. My breaths steadied to a pulsing fog in the cold winter morning.

The scarlet pool appeared unbothered, too, resettling like an agitated baby rocked to sleep.

If the frost was finer, the dawn warmer, the effect would’ve lessened, but red on white like a Crusader’s bold announcement of the purging victory to come, gleamed. How dare it! How dare it ruin my morning?

I made to walk around the thing but life intervened. A city fox so alive as to dismiss extinction ran out of a hawthorn bush. The creature lowered its head as if to lap at the pool.

It was wrong, this I knew. Nothing could’ve turned my stomach more.

So what did I do this disenchanted morning when one of God’s creatures required my aid? What did I do when the devil in a fox fur coat came to finish what nature had started?

I let it.

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There are many kinds of sin but none so great as indifference. One might say it the cardinal sin, yet we bask in its crimson illumination gladly.

Swallowed

It was not her perfume, exquisite though it was
Neither was it her hair, the colour of a waking dream
Nor her lithe and slender body, mesmerising as a nymph
It was her eyes, always her eyes
Those light-consumptive orbs of splendour
Darker than the abyss and deeper than the pit
Blacker than black, as ink pooled in the night
In obsidian she saw me, and swallowed me whole

Nocturnal was her way, that of bat and fox
Ever cunning was she, crafty even
For their was no escaping her personal radar
Her wiles nor her will nor her want, if she wanted
In darkness she entrapped, constricted and constrained
Till my free will cried, Adieu
And my essence begged her for more
If it was mine, for doubt had manifested

Was I her plaything, her simple marionette
A puppet with its strings slashed, limping, lurching
Into a lightless, lifeless heap, gone unseen
Just a man in a mystery, though never his own
Staring into ebon midnights and praying for redemption
But never from the one he should have
Only ever from the one who willed it
Prepared to sacrifice his eyes, if still possessed

But when she came; what can I say
Those eyes shining through the aether
Like onyx moths to a heart once gold and gleaming
But not any more, never any more
And everything I’d ever thought or known
Everything I’d ever felt or imagined
Gave way in slack-jawed anticipation
Of being delivered, devoured, destroyed

And here it’s was, or is, or remains
The simple undiluted truth of her feasting
The reality she made, maintained and perfected
For me, just for me, or so she reminded
As there was a truth, my salient undoing
That demoness though she was, unruly child of Beelzebub
All she asked for was nothing, not a thing
The truth: I begged she take my soul

Barbed Wire Kiss

This jagged smile she plays for fun

An indelicate balance tilted in her favour

Such an exact science, applied and described

Crimson painted, plum or sea blue

It matters not

Styled for the moment, smudged with a wave

Exposed is an exposure kindly received

Works both ways she says

And I believe her because she’s grinning

It can only be glee, can’t it?

Trap set, locked and straining

The night vibrates with palpable anticipation

She closes. We close. They close

The next stage of a plan planted

Grown in a place where the sun don’t shine

Tended with steel wool and polish

Scrubbed to angelic perfection

Just awaiting the clack of horizontal gates closed

Where glinting blinds

So eyes are closed

The chink of twinned metal resonates through my spine

Pull away, but I can’t

Free yourself, but I won’t

And she has me, as she’s had those many others

Those tin soldiers, smelted and melted

Reduced to puddles of oozing goop

Sucked through barbed wire lips

With a straw for a tongue

I’ve lost. She’s won. All over

But the night is long and I own pliers

So perhaps I’ll try again tomorrow

Few Hairs and The Torteless

So that’s his game!

The old man sat there with a brick for a phone pressed to his hairy ear. He squinted, strained to hear whoever he talked with, mouthed spittle-infused words.

Oh, he was good. Really good. But it was an obvious ruse.

He turned and gave me that glassy-eyed look only the elderly could, his comb-over blowing in the speeding traffic’s wake.

He knew I was on to him.

Across the road, the last chocolate torte glistened in the bakery window like an Olympic medal.

He wanted it, but I wanted more.

Red: A wiggle and a shake.

Red and amber: I checked my trainers laced. Come to poppa.

Green: He was off.

Goddamn! He was already halfway across the road!

I swerved through the milling pedestrians like a serpent through grass. I’d show the old buzzard!

Bursting onto the pavement, I dodged an old woman with a mop for a dog and leapt through the open bakery door, chest thrust forward. Winner!

With no time to gloat, I got straight down to business. “Onechocolatetorteplease.”

“Pardon?”

“One chocolate torte, please.” This time slower.

“Sorry,” said the girl behind the counter, “we’ve just sold the last one.”

“The one in the window?”

“That’s the one.” She beamed an inoffensive smile.

I panicked, after all, she was pretty. “But I was here first,” I whimpered.

The girl shook her head and pointed over my shoulder, her bangs smacking a drum ‘n’ bass rhythm against her rosy cheeks.

I turned so slowly, my hips ground.

He sat there in his buggy smug as you like, his eyes watering and his few stray hairs a mess. His dentures were missing as though he’d rushed to beat me and hadn’t had time to put them in, his hitched-up slacks revealing the argyle socks beneath — beige, of course. But worst of all, worse than anything, he had something to say; his lips frothed with the effort.

“You’re fast,” he said. “Really fast, son.”

I glowered.

“Whilst I’m old and slow.”

I gave him one of my best sneers.

“But I have this.”

He held his black brick aloft, or as aloft as his ancient limbs could manage. This, he waggled.

“Same tomorrow?” asked the girl behind the counter.

The old man cupped his ear.

“Same tomorrow?” she bellowed.

He waggled his archaic phone one last time; it might as well have been a cup and string.

“I’ll ring ahead,” he replied, then reversed over my foot and sped off.

You’ve won this round, old man, but I’m off to buy a new charger.

Truth was, I’d rather have had the torte.

Three Paragraphs on the Art of Loving Ghosts

When loving ghosts, one must make allowances, for their intangible nature prohibits touch, physical warmth, passion. They mire in sadness regardless of kind words, a warming sun, a lover’s wistful look. To struggle is in their make-up, their very essence. Like drifters on a highway, they patrol the ley lines you may not tread. Not yet, anyway. Not until the blue fades from your lips, too.

This insipid cold, if you will, does not make them cruel, nor inconsiderate just unable to yield to the pleasures of flesh and blood. Though they would if they could. They remember them, distant though they may be. They recall them, as the echoes of memories lost. Like violin strings plucked in a dream, they would hear this music called life once more.

So, how should one treat them? How should one appreciate these gentle spirits of the night? How does one love a ghost? Simple, my friend. Remember them. Remember them all. But most of all, and here I beg, remember me.

The Babe Magnet (In Dialogue)

“Call me old-fashioned but I like my pants clean, pressed and swishing.”

“You’re old-fashioned.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re very welcome, gramps.”

“There’s nothing wrong with looking and feeling smart.”

“And there wasn’t in the seventies, either, eh?”

“Cheeky sod.”

“Look, I’m telling you this as your friend, purple velour pants and an orange crinoline shirt’s only gonna get you one thing.”

“A date?”

“A beating.”

“So you’re saying I should compromise.”

“I’m saying you should change, it’s different.”

“But this is me.”

“I refer you to my previous statement.”

“You said you liked them.”

“On a muppet.”

“Goddamn it!”

“No need for that. We can soon sort you out. I’ll lend you something fabulous. Something of mine. Top draw stuff.”

“But I don’t want to look like you. And stop winking.”

“Kid, you’ll never look like me.”

“I’m a year older than you.”

“Potato potahto. You leave it to me.”

Fifteen minutes later

“I love it.”

“Black leather never fails. The bright red Nikes set them off, the gold chain finishing the ensemble. You’re a babe magnet.”

“You think so?”

“Sure do. Where’re you going, anyway?”

“Seventies disco.”

Once Upon Too Many (A Dark Fairytale)

There once was a boy who lived in a hole. There in the warm, musty darkness where roots embraced him, he hid from the bright world outside. He hid from the loud, the violent and crude. He hid from the harm they’d done.

They found him cringing that meekest of creatures, pushed in a corner like old fruit in a shopping bag. He mouldered. It was their duty to save him. Everyone wanted saving, didn’t they?

The men with their silver badges glittering, their colleagues in white all wide smiles and soft words, tore the boy from the roots he clung to; he screamed for them to stop. They carted him away like a stray dog to a pound and placed him in the knowledgable care of strangers. But they had no knowledge of him, this child from deeper regions.

He woke to crimson, some his, most theirs. Its stickiness reminded him of tree sap back when there were trees to weep. And he remembered. And he wept. The memory of those lost forests stung like the syringes thrown in his hole. His nice safe hole. He ran. They ran, too, those who still could.

Out in the savage daylight, he made a decision. The little lost boy with pain in his eyes made a promise. He’d dig deeper. He’d burrow like a mole. No one would find him again. Once upon a time was one once too many, his mother used to say. Before they took her and all that was green and blue, too.

This Scream Called Us (Rated 15)

They say a scream is a scream is a scream. Hurt is hurt. Pain is pain. That both subside with every unfulfilled second. They say many things. But what do they know? What do they really know?

The mind is a curious container, delicate even. If the mind were glass, one might shatter it with a scream, which I suppose you did.

Wordless moments, memories birth from open mouths. Memories! Too loud. Too raw. Reflections of moments past until wiped clean by sound. Until…

My everything you were and ever shall remain. My heart cannot beat without you. These romanticised lines of obvious affection. This sentimental twaddle. I wish to silence this scream called us. I wish to close these lips and sleep.

After tonight, maybe I will. Once I tear the secret you’ve kept from your overworked larynx.


I still have the key I copied. I have many such copies. You can never be too careful where safety’s concerned.

The latch lifts with a click like a match struck on once love. We did love, I think.

I’m in. Nothing’s changed. The same lavender stink to cover the cat litter. It assails my olfactory senses and I almost gag. Almost. Ginger, said cat, stops purring the moment I enter. He always hated me. I lurch forward but the cat’s quicker. He leaves without a handful of hair, whilst I’m left with a sergeant’s stripes across my skin. If only I’d closed the door! So, I do.

I let the light rest. I know the way. Darkness is good, it hides a multitude of sins. The mirror in the hallway remains empty. The photo on the telephone desk goes unseen. And I wonder, is it still there?

A sudden urge to sit on the sofa, turn on the tv and watch football, open the fridge and steal a beer. It’s fleeting but there.

I shake my head so hard my eyes rattle.

The first step creaks so I seek the second. Silence. I want to shout COME ON! I don’t, but I want to.

Stopping halfway, I take a seat. One last memory I think. A sigh. An aimless three-sixty. The darkness deprives as the lavender stink prods. I’m back on my feet and climbing before I realise I’ve sat.

Everest climbed, I have a desire to pee. The bathroom door stands open, so I do.

I take a certain devilish pleasure in peeing on the toilet seat, in the sink, bath. Small victories and all that. She’ll never see it but her mother might.

Once relieved, I’m back on the case. First door, second, third… I stop.

There’s a lump in this once-home made a prison. There’s a someone, a certain someone I know. Not for long.

The rage rises.

Her former rebukes, my dismissal, return like a needle shoved into my eyes. And I strike. And I strike. And I strike.

Everything she made me leave behind, the untold secret and more besides, stick like a lump in my throat. But I’ve got her. At last, I’ve got her.

“What have you done!”

A voice.

Her voice?

Her voice!

The landing light flicks on behind me.

I see my crimson creation and turn away retching out my innards.

She comes at me like Ginger on a bad day. She screams and screams and screams. But this is my dream and she can’t hurt me.

Only when she stops do I hear her. Only when she stops and crumples in a heap whispering the same words over and over again, do I understand what I’ve done.

“Our daughter. She was our daughter.”

And the cold steel I’ve spent seven years polishing finds a nice warm home in my chest. I smile.

My ex-wife screams again. This time, it’s not for us.

The End.

50 Word Stories: The Game

Celeste radiated something akin to love, a certain lukewarm appreciation.

Mama called this cunning — Celeste prickled behind her eyes.

Papa said it smarts — Celeste upset his oversensitive gut.

Me?

Celeste melted my heart.

Was I suspicious?

Never! Celeste could have bought and sold us. Our secret, until after the wedding.

Pain-Less

If this hurt of teeth and talons renders numb

Or slashing words and blunt-nosed answers

Tied up with twine, perhaps a handcuff, too

Fails to bring a stinging stimulus

Then what’s the point in pain, my love

If ever there was one, yes, if ever

Has it vanished, upped and left, retracted

Fluttered away on cold breaths and steam

Impaled itself upon a willow strip

Just gone. All gone. Run away forever

Left a soul in need of something suddenly pain-less