Sunday, 18 March 2018

Thresh - Flash Fiction

I wrap myself in the bathroom towel. Either it’s grown or I’ve shrunk. We’ve have, however, both gone saggy. If it’s expanded, it hasn’t increased its absorbent surface area any. The terry pile had long gone, but now even the frayed bobbling has been worn away to leave a thin fabric that cannot wick the water from the guttered wrinkles of my skin. But I can hardly fault the towel since it has rendered long years of faithful service. Though in that time it has rubbed out all colour from my body hair. Of course I know that not to be true. The hairs have blanched after years of shadowed eclipse beneath clothes. I know that not to be true either. I am not a plant requiring chlorophyl for photosynthesis. Though hair sprouts from my ears like vine tendrils. 

My fingers scrape the stubble on my face like a violin pizzicato. A symphonic rasp. Scratchy, like a recently threshed wheat field. Without the threshing. You always insisted I was clean shaven before any kiss. A reasonable request and an unconditional act of devoting myself to you. But now I can indulge my loathing of the razor. I have neglected to throw the can of foam away. I wonder if it’s solidified inside. Or evaporated for that matter. 

I have a different teeth cleaning regimen now. For a new set of dentures. But they pinch my receding gums, I don’t think they’re the right dimensions for my mouth. You could have helped sort that out for me. You always resolved life's ill-fittings. Dealing fearlessly with those in authority who always intimidated me. I leave them soaking in solution over night. My unstayed cheeks pucker inwards, as if in permanent anticipation of a kiss that will never issue. 

We used to turn the mattress every six months or so. Marked it on the calendar. A sort of anniversary. Flipping it was a two man job. For one man and one woman. I can’t do it on my own. Don’t even need a double any more of course. So I just sag further into its recess which dwarfs me whole. Nonetheless it’s hardly womblike. I shiver in its embrace. I was further confronted with the black spots on my side of the mattress, exposed every time I stripped the bed linen to wash it. So I have ceased laundering the sheets. They’re either dead bugs or their aborted eggs. Either way they are nightmarish. We were zealous about the mattress and the linen, but never the infestation. It always seemed to be on my side of the bed whichever way we turned the mattress. Yet it was you who died of a respiratory disease. Maybe I had become immune with them just under my head always turned to their side to sleep. Maybe I should have exposed you to them for some seasoning against their spores. Perhaps it was just the fetid breath from inside me, transfused to you through our kissing that did for you. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Base Ten - Flash Fiction

One man is the basic unit of control. One man is isolation. One man is segregated. One man is utterly atomised.

Two men are a dialogue, an exchange of ideas. We do not permit this particular currency of exchange. Two men within our house is an interrogation.

Three men is two men with an informer inserted. Therefore an obtuse triangle with our man representing an angle over ninety degrees.

Four men is a square and is suggestive of egalitarianism. Better to stretch this parallelogramic arrangement into a quadrilateral, with inequalities and distrust along the distended lengths and an inability to communicate across the elongation.

Five men is the whetted star of our national symbol. With our (ap-)pointed man at the top. Alternatively it is a five-barred gate, with our man striking through the other four.   

Six men superficially resembles two men cubed. Six men is, however, two competing tiers of men arrayed against one another, staring across a no-man's land divide.

Seven men is six men with an agent provocateur to do our bidding and render them nugatory. If no provocateur is available, then six will scapegoat the weakest there.

Eight men is two men cubed. And diced.

Nine men is three men squared, which means three of our agents are in play.

Ten men is an assembly, a mob and invokes the presence of the security forces to break them up (see 'one man')

Friday, 9 March 2018

Postmodernist Fiction - A Review

Here is my Booktube video talking about Postmodernist Fiction, looking at the work of Robert Coover, John Hawkes, William Gaddis, David Markson, Curtis White, Don Delillo...

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Pyrrhic Christmas - Flash Fiction

I was so looking forward to tomorrow’s first Christmas with my reconfigured family. To lapping up the sight of my new husband’s forearms ripple as he sliced the turkey. My son’s face lighting up brighter the the Christmas tree illuminations, when he claps eyes on his present. The two of them forging a lifelong bond over pulled Christmas crackers, bad jokes and lopsided Charades with only three players. My fervent Christmas wish, was that in time, step-father would legally adopt step-son as his own. 

I groggily figured I wasn’t the one in the house most excited by the dawning of Christmas Day itself. Seeing as I hit only cold air on the mattress next to me. I could only speculate whether Charles had beaten Sam to the punch and could at least have prevented Sam tearing into his gifts before I was present to witness his joy. But when I went into the kitchen, there was only Charles there frying up something delicious for breakfast. What a man! But where was my little man?

Eventually he emerged and the presumed skein of sloth was immediately moulted from him as he charged past the kitchen doorway towards the living room and the tree. “Hold on a moment Sonny Jim! Come and say hello to your parents and have some breakfast first”.  My heart went ‘ping’ at hearing the word ‘parents’, but was soon sent into spasm as Charles surged forth out of the kitchen and returned dragging Sam by the scruff of his neck. 

“Breakfast first, as a family, then you can open your presents” he restated firmly. I was torn as assuredly as any wrapped gift would be imminently. Perfect sentiment presented in a gauntleted fist. Sam slumped down on his chair at the table. Charles laid an aqua blue cereal bowl down in front of him, with no percussive slam betraying any anger. “I’m not hungry” bleated Sam tonelessly. “No, you just want to go and attack your presents. But I’ve said we’re going to sit together and eat, like a civilised family. Here, Wheatabix, your favourite”. (Which you’re led to believe is his favourite, from the crib sheet I provided you, not your own explorations of his psyche). A cascade of milk, from such a height that some of the drops bounce off the wheat bricks, like a science experiment on heated atoms. “I’m not hungry”. Arms folded, petulant. Been here before, see how it goes this time with different adult geometry. Charles takes his seat, thankfully not diametrically opposite Sam. That alignment falls to me as Sam draws a bead pleading silently. No, not pleading, lasering insistently.

Taking a leaf out of his playbook, I don’t meet his gaze. I hear the vigorous relish with which Charles is demolishing his food. Modelling behaviour. Wordlessly hectoring his stepson. Oblivious to the inevitable stillbirth of a soundless strategy to bring someone out of their own muteness. My problem is I’ve got both parties in this fight. I mean Sam has always tended towards this cussed resistance, but with me he’s never had to maintain it for terribly long before I cave. Charles I suspect is made of sterner stuff. Stags butting antlers. A more fitting contender. He’s not surely going to keep this up all morning is he? Not with the pull of his presents under the tree. Famous last words. Mouthed dumbly inside my head of course… 

I stare forlornly at Sam's bowl. Like a shipwreck now, since the wheat block is so saturated that grains break off into the milky main and float away. Leaving a diminished wheaten life raft that carries us all away, not to safety, rather to be dashed on the rocks of unblended family. Charles has finished, but won’t indulge Sam’s power play as he rises from the table, his empty bowl emphatically swept up in hand. Score one to Sam, Charles broke first, even if it is within the permissible bounds of mannered tables. Charles leans over into him, “you’re not leaving this table until you’ve drained your bowl”. He pirouettes away to go wash up. Pretty poor show I think, not to show solidarity with me stuck in place, slowing my mastication up to inch towards Sam’s stasis. It strikes me that Sam is wearing his orange t-shirt, like a Guantanamo prisoner, or someone condemned to death row. Apposite for the siege situation we have here. But it must also hint that he was not so excited by the prospect of present unwrapping, that he didn’t first make time to dress. Has he planned for this showdown? This trial of strength? This prison break?

A further marker of ceramic chronometry. The wheat has now broken up entirely. All hands lost to the brine, but Sam’s countenance is set firm and sheds no salty tears. Oh for a plug in the bottom of his bowl, so that the bilge could leak away to bring about the desired outcome with no loss of face to either male of the house. Oh for a plug in the planet to pull out and have us all slip painlessly away and for the earth to empty of its lethal tidal flow. I have to break this impasse. I too rise from the table, without chancing to catch Sam’s eye. I make my way to the living room, where all our Christmas lives hung in the balance. As assuredly nailed to the mantlepiece with the stockings, foreshadowing the Saviour’s next anniversary in the calendar, his crucifixion. 

I remonstrate with Charles about his demonstration of authority. Our hushed tones climb the scale in irritation. "Do you honestly expect to keep this up and keep him from his presents, from his Christmas?” “I don’t know, he’s your son. Do you expect him to keep it up?” “But what about the turkey? What about all this effort I’ve put in to making us a special lunch? And for what? At best all you’ll achieve is a Pyrrhic victory”. “You’ve used one syllable too many there. A prick victory, for your little prick of a son”.

I stormed out the parlour of the heated parley and marched back into the kitchen. I was about to seize up Sam’s bowl, when I saw that the top layer of milk had curdled. An atomic clock that had marked in just the course of half a morning, the curdling of all love. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Shipbilging - Flash Fiction

The shattered jeroboam’s frothy white squirt against the hull’s continental steel. A dwarfed, ignominious marker of diminished imperial puissance. An overdue premature ejaculation, since there aren’t yet engines fitted into the hulking hollow husk. The remaining shard of the cable-hung bottle, bobbing against the receding keel, as if fumbling to pinion the hasp of a broach.

The metallic monolith slithers down wooden logs into the river. Honouring the glacial pace of retooling, unionised fidelity to the ribs of the antediluvian steel womb it was pressed from. Larger scale male encomium to the frugality of the household mangle. Jagged, homespun industrial Victoriana, in an incipient age of laser torches and robot arms. 

As the vessel breasts the water, kissed not by the Asti-Spume-Mante, rather buffed with the stowaway blood of journeymen workers. Siemens’ seamen involuntarily press-ganged between the metal rollers. Riveters’ skin inadvertently welded into the plates of the ship. Caulked snug to seal seaworthiness with worthless toiling lives. Enfolded like ectopic embryos, immured behind birthing canal alloys. The figurehead prow of old, moving aft. Skeletons and calcified limbs disinterred when the ship is broken down for scrap years hence. Blood dried the same colour as rust. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow - Flash Fiction

I was of an age to remember horse-drawn transport. Carts in the countryside, buses and carriages in the towns. The well-off villager had two-horse power locomotion. Now it’s god knows how many horse power engines beneath the hood. Nought to sixty in increasingly diminishing intervals. The country lanes are too treacherously maintained, the city roads too clogged with congestion, to ever justify the top speeds possessed by modern cars. Souped up overkill threatening to turn anyone into roadkill.

All my old records play at 78RPM. I say play, but of course these days I have no gramophone that can accommodate their revolving tempo. The speeds got slower and slower, 45RPM singles, three minute ditties for milk bar jukeboxes. 33RPM albums, which got shorter and shorter in terms of duration as the inside grooves took up more and more of the ever thinner vinyl. Now it’s all digital and there are no  moving parts. Vaporous music in the void. I could flog my collection, put them on E-Bay. Sell them to some other duffer with no means of amplifying their breakneck revolutions. Like two museums, one loaning their collection to another. 

Though the camera obscura and daguerrotypes might have predated my existence, I do recollect indoor studio family portraits as a child, when we were required to stand as still as statues for the long exposure time to capture us. Light not moving at light speed apparently, though of course the lag was in the chemicals catching and fixing it to the film. Well now we have digital cameras operating at near light speed as the image is virtually instantaneously loaded up to the Cloud. And as Einstein showed us, approaching light speed and you lose dimensionality. Front, back and side begin to merge together into a singular plane. Which is apposite as I cease to have much in the dimension of time front and sideways of me; all is to my rear. I face only the event horizon of the black hole that is death. Once I cross it, I will cease to move, yet there will still flicker motion in the memories of those I leave behind me, until that dips to stasis in time as they move on and uneventfully cross their own event horizons. 

I’m no longer able to dance the slow-quick-quick of the foxtrot. My legs don’t have the elasticity of step they were once imbued with. They have swollen up with disuse, water retention. But they are also loathe to palpate the taccycardic ticker in case it bursts. The fitted pacemaker parcels out a regular ration of beats for me, because the old greedy muscle would otherwise splurge on them all at once and infarct like a supernova. The doctors won’t tell me how many heartbeats I have left. Yet my offspring worry themselves over my sedentary snail’s lifestyle and have obtained for me a wrists-borne Fit-Bit. To get me a bit more fit, but not so much as to detonate my heart. It counts my daily steps for me, swapping permutations with the pacemaker. I am worried if I go near a cellphone tower, I will either pick up Radio Unfree Europe, or it will triangulate with my two inner chronometers to fatally accelerate me. What does any of it matter anyway? I don't have my wife to dance the foxtrot with, since her speed settings had been even more accelerated than my own.  

Ageing’s relativistic distortion of time. As our bodies move slower through life, our being hurtles swifter towards death.