Saturday, 27 June 2009


My name is Jean Ohm and I’ve encountered major amplitudes of resistance in my time. In fact, I’m generating some right now, through this little social experiment I’m currently conducting. We’ve got FBI, DEA, ATF and all manner of sect-obssessed acronyms and cult-crazed triunes, pointing their telescopic, turned-up snouts, to tune in to our drop-out community. Jeepers peepers ! We haven’t a single firearm between us. Nor an umbrella, pointed or otherwise, since this is Florida, the sunshine state for heavens’ sakes ! And none of us are brave enough to travel on any subway, let alone release toxic gas into it. All cos they’re lazy investigators, who type ‘AUM’ on their internet search engines and like a poisonous chain letter, my name gets trawled up. A guileless dolphin snagged in a tunny net. Nevertheless, I must persist in blazing my presence through the network. Thread my electronic wake into the loom of light. Shine my homepage beacon back and forth across these treacherous straits. Homing. And paging.

There’s a lot of traffic out on the information superhighway and I’m only piloting a jalopy. More soup kitchen than souped up, afraid I’m just not racey enough to compete. My derisory bandwith having been hard shouldered out of touch, by my fellow nocturnal travellers. For in the dead of night, partisans of the second most popular leisure activity in the United States, emerge with their Geiger counters and infra red cameras to beat the firmament and shake it down. Yet they are not trailing after space dust. Deadbeats all, they sweep the void in the hope of a lucky strike. A click from zillions of clicks away, as they reconnoitre for ET gooks. To commune with the incommunicable, while other tongue-tied, would-be interstellar locutors sit at home, monitoring the airwaves for signs of alien telegraphy. Homespun travellers, the unidirectionality of their antennae fails to detect that the outsiders have already tuned in to our increased satellite activity and amplified radiowaves, and have chosen to pass us over. Maybe the quiz show prizes weren’t worth crossing the intergalactic road for. Or maybe the asinine patter of our talk show hosts failed to cause affront. Perhaps they just didn’t empathise enough with any of the reality show contestants to want to register their vote. An irreversible decision, unless maybe, just maybe, killing off the wrong soap character might incur their wrathful displeasure. For this is solely how we announce ourselves to the cosmos.

Me, I have also launched a probe out into the ether. But not into empty space. I charge it hard as a lancet into the buboes of our society. Yet I too have an infinitesimally small likelihood of establishing the contact that I seek. For even though I range with my counter of lachrymosity and flash my bloodshot lens, I’m fumbling to illuminate America’s topmost popular pastime, spouse beating. Wait, you don’t believe me ? What is the largest cause of death among pregnant women in America ? Preeclampsia ? Only if by dangerously high blood pressure, you mean the red stuff spurting out of a bullet or stab wound. Or that old juice pumping strenuously, as it’s stopped up behind a man’s strangulating arms. Homicide (sic) is that highest cause of death and this ain’t no stranger slayings. This is the full stop at the end of a life sentance of domestic duress. The period point to mark the cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle. An eternal men-o-pause. In permanent marker by a murderous partner. Indelible fink.

Despite the violence being sustained throughout a long exposure, any slap or punch is so fleeting, so lightning fast, that I cannot catch it red handed. So I am forced to commune with the inconsolable. Eavesdropping so as to educe the silent screams, the mute protestations, the stilled pleas. Sat here at my computer console. Virtually filing my nails, staring dumbly at an egg-timer bereft of grains of sand and a moribund click counter, which together form my virtual switchboard. Honey-combing the dead air.

Since I know full well, that each and every anemic response I receive, has already been bounced off pillar to post with the bruises to show. I can pluck so few of these dark stars, these collapsed novas, from the all-encompassing grip of male gravitational pull that holds them in thrall. I beg them, beseech them to up and leave, but I can hear it in their quelled voices; they can never break free of his noxious atmosphere. And I am left to stare dumbly at the winking eye of the cursor. A cyclopean sentinel jealously guarding his cowed flock, beadily mirroring my vigil. A fixing of me that is anything but cursory. It’s flickering relentlessness unnerves me. Upon each waning period, as the tiny portal of light patrols a half-revolution away, I imagine that the return swing is protracted a moment longer, where he has been waylaid by a paroxysm of activity beyond. That a larval flow of words intrudes upon him from the other side. That on his return, I will gain access through his casement to the enclosed world beyond. But no. His blinking round waxes regular and unimpeded.

I need to blind his gaze, so that somehow her weeping words will seep out from behind his spiteful aqueous humour and creep across my plasma screen. Prompting my callused fingers to spurt across the keys, as I strive to apply the trace oxygen of shared closeness. But when our hushed whisper of a conversation is suddenly snapped off, then I know Cyclops has knuckled his signet dolmen across the orbital breach and that yet another sister’s light has been extinguished in a universe far away from me.

Would that I could project my e-banner through their screen, to scoop and furl them up in it and whisk them magically away to my oasis of safety. Each time my honeyed mirage dissipates, leaving me poised empty-handed over the keyboard’s denuded honeycomb. A recurring wakeful dream tormenting me, that though I bore the pardon in my hand, I did not know which warden’s office, in which penitentiary, to deliver it. And now my mocking cursor has its own glimmering shadow.

Behind each ebbing oscillation, another would-be psychopomp lurks. A trace of a trace of a trace. So now I too abide in a state of siege in my own domicile. Intercepted and jammed. Just like those I would seek to salvage from their wrecked lives. But I shall not be cast as another dumb woman in peril. I too possess resources and I can tap back into their engorged cocksureity. Germ-Granny calling, Germ-Granny calling- (Worldwide-Wife-Wrecklamation) accessing www. (wee-willie-winkie) (Febrile Bugaboo Insanity) ... ... Ah, here we are, ‘A seditious cynosure’, are you sure ? Exactly what resolution is on your monitors ? Your vomitors. Can’t you see these bunions ? Here, let me kick off my slingbacks and see if I can overcome my debilitating sciatica and swivel my leg up on to my desk. There, just about managed it. Don’t get too hung up on the varicose veins, it’s not a secret map to any hidden arsenal out in the woods. Fair enough, you can’t see my family susceptibility to glaucoma, but there again, I can and such foresight does me no good at all. Plus I no longer have my own teeth. So, though I wear my threescore year and ten body with matronly precision, I’m too much of a wrinkled prune to play the sweet old grandma card. I’m not alluring to anybody. (Though I ain’t quibbling with the ‘seditious’ part). Now (three red chillis) off you god-damn spooks !

We are not a cult. Or a sect. Nor are we occult, for we have nothing to hide. We have no sacred symbols, for indeed we have no presiding religious beliefs. We bear no single core ideology at all, other than ‘men stink !’ We are a loose agglomeration of women from different backgrounds and class, who share only one particular type of experience. That of abuse at the hands of a male partner. No one is bound here, all are free to come and go as they please. We pursue a non-profit ethos, though we do not seek charitable status. Now quit bugging us !

You have no new messages ...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Two Anthropomorphic Tails


US Military courtroom. Two naval officers sit at the presiding
judges’ table. An empty chair between them. They rise and salute
as the Chief Brass comes in and takes his seat. One sits, the other
stands and reads from the charge sheet.

United States Military Court Martial, presiding
Naval Commander R. Roger Cofax

What are the charges ?

Breach of article 85 of the military code, that being
desertion. And/or article 86 that being absence
without leave. That on the 30th April of this year, the
accused abandoned his mission at Umm Qasr and
headed out for the open sea and was only
apprehended by naval forces following the signal
from a transponder that was supposed to have been set in place as
the purpose of the original mission


A huge jet of water lands on the floor in front of their table, causing
them to recoil.

Pan to DEFENCE ATTORNEY, also in military uniform, albeit with
shorts and flip flops. She stands in front of a large, indeterminate
(water) tank.

My client refuses to acknowledge the validity of this
kangaroo court !

He’s not your client. You aren't contracted to him. You are merely representing-

DEFENCE turns to pick something out of a bucket by her table
and throw it into the tank behind her, where it lands with a small

- And anymore of that behaviour and I will hold the
accused in contempt -

A dolphin chewing on a fish pops his head over the rim of the tank
and wafts its flipper in dismissive contempt

- ... He is a serving member of the US Navy and
therefore will recognise the authority of this court

Dolphin squeals its high pitch talk.

What’s that ? What did he say ?

He firstly is a she, which leads directly into the fact
that she never enlisted in Uncle Sam’s military

No, she was drafted ...

Dolphin flaps its flippers sending water out the tank, soaking
DEFENCE attorney.

DEFENCE (spluttering water)
Press-ganged you mean ! There was no consent in
this. As you said, no contract by dint of being a citizen

If I’m not mistaken, she formerly resided at Marine
World Florida, which when I last checked was part of
the United Sates. I also noticed that her father
rendered our country service in Vietnam, as part of
our Viet Cong swimmer nullification programme

Dolphin points flipper accusingly at judges and squeaks at such a
pitch, all the humans have to put their hands over their ears.

She says to leave her late, lamented father out of
this. You corrupted his and all their species’ goodwill
towards human beings, by teaching them how to
attack certain others of your species they used to hold in high

Hey, that’s war sister

Dolphin does a somersault.

War is a human conceit, not a cetacean one

Oh really ? And what of the brutal attacks by her mob on lone
porpoises ? We have them on film

Blackmail only reinforces our contention that military
service cannot be said to be voluntary

I don’t see any conscientous objection to those
military fish rations currently being provided for. In
fact that have been provided for since birth by the
generosity of the US Navy. All we were asking was
a little quid pro quo. Some service to offset her
upkeep. Lending us her sonar abil-

DOLPHIN does a jump and lands with a huge splash.

The only thing likely to be offset, was the explosion
of a mine on these suicidal missions

Listen Miss- what rank are you anyway ?

I’m only attached to the Navy as her trainer -

The judges confer.

I have to warn you that I won’t have insuburdination
within my courtroom. Nor within my Navy. That
creature obviously has too much a mind of its own to
be relied upon in combat conditions. I recommend
immediate dishonourable discharge with loss of
pension ... and for it to be returned to the wild, rather
than the comfort of an aquarium -

DOLPHIN claps its flippers together in applause.

You can’t ! She’s only ever known captivity -

COFAX rises from his seat. DEFENCE attorney tips whole
bucket of fish in tank. Large foam trail as dolphin goes on feeding

Dolphins are supposed to be so smart, she’ll figure
a way to adapt

DOLPHIN ‘whispers’ something in her DEFENCE attorney’s ear.

My client states that the same intelligence that led
you to train her into indentured service, came to the
self-evident conclusion not to go nosing around high
explosive. That is not insubordination, that’s self-
defence. She also would like to point out, if you
didn’t dump so much jetsam in your harbours, which
incidently take a high toll on her brothers and sisters
in the ocean, then you’d be able to scan these
bombs for yourselves

COFAX walks up to the tank and draws his ceremonial sword.

Save it for the Vets’ association ...

If you cashier her, she won’t be admitted will she ?

No, I was referring to the vetenarians. The bleeding
heart animal brigade ... Fish ?

Dolphin sheepishly hands back a half-eaten fish. Props the front
half of its body up on the rim of the tank. We clearly see now 2
cameras attached to each flipper.
COFAX takes his sword and severs each camera from the fin.
Dolphin bows its head and slips slowly back beneath the water.

* * * * *


Tail-end view of a (Terrier) DOG as it saunters merrily along
a suburban street. Following it as it sniffs scents in the air and on
the ground. As it chases momentarily after a butterfly. As it bounds
up to another larger dog and they engage in their mutual identifying
ritual. The tail wags in close up, the dog is happy.

The DOG arrives at the entrance to a park. There is a sign up with
a silhouette of a dog on a leash and another silhouetted dog
running free, with a big X through the picture. The DOG pauses,
wees on the mounting pole, then looks around and enters the park,
tail still wagging. More of the same sniffing and scenting in this
green setting.

DOG jounces over to flower bed and tree area. There is another
sign, silhouetting a dog’s rear ejecting excrement, with a pooper-
scopper shovel poised underneath. The DOG barks at the sign,
then looks around manically til he spots the bin for doggy-do. He
wafts his nose up into the air to test the bouquet. He excitedly
circles on the spot, his wagging tail thumping the stanchion of the
bin with each circle.Then he puts his paws on the bin, but can’t
reach inside. He holds this pose in silence for a period, before
meekly jumping back down and trotting off.

Arrives in front of a kiddy playground, wire fenced off. DOG
begins to dig, but looks up to ‘see’ a sign with a circled silhouette
of a dog and the red line through it. The DOG gives a sighing
whimper, before bounding off.

DOG leaves the park via crawling through some bushes. Back on
a street. Night is falling. Walks pass a Korean restaurant without
reacting. Chases after a cat half-heartedly and soon gives up.
Stops for a scratch. Walking along the kerb of a deserted road.
There is a road sign with ‘Sharp Bend’ hazard (ie a dog leg). Dog
walks up to it, sniffs it and starts humping the pole mount. A car
passes and a beer can comes flying out of the window
accompanied by a gruff male voice.

Gerrouta it ya dirty mutt !

DOG runs off further into the night. He passes a sign reading ‘NO
FLY TIPPING’, with a swarm of flies buzzing around it. Soon
picking his way through cars parked on the verge, with their
headlights dimmed. Now he picks his way through a gaggle of
people who seem to be staring at a single car parked up ahead.
Voices mutter as DOG passes through them.

Blimey, there’s a dog here !

Yeah, who let the dogs out ?


DOG barks

(Subtitles scroll across screen with each bark) ‘Make Way’,
‘Coming through now’, ‘Watch yourself there’.

Eventually DOG arrives at the car that they seem to be focussing
on. The windows are steamed up. There is some slight vibration
of the car chassis, visible at the DOG’s ground level. DOG barks
once more.


Rear door of car swings open and DOG jumps up inside. Cheers
and wolf-whistles from spectators. Car door shuts.

MAN steps forward from crowd and advances to rear window and
peers in under his hand.

Window winds down electronically and beer can flies out and hits
man on forehead. He staggers back. Window shuts. Car resumes
gentle rocking.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Press Dupe

I read a fantastical little piece in today's "Metro" newspaper.

It purported to tell the story of a bride to be, who was alerted to her fiancé being a weekend porn star, when her bridesmaid was researching male strippers for the hen night.

Two quotes from the bride instantly made me jump to descrying the hand of a Max Clifford-like agency behind this tale:

'"I was unable to see beyond the dirty movie that had shattered my heart" she told a magazine'


"I don't know if I will ever be able to trust a man again - especially one who is that good in bed".

These read as classically, carefully sculpted lines to my mind. If she came up with them herself, then get that lady an anchor job in TV. But, if as I suspect she was fed them in order to give good copy head, then a 30 line piece that formed the only article squeezed in around 3 block adverts on that page, well in the inimitable words of Johnny Rotten, "Ever feel like you've been cheated?"

Us serious authors are wasting our time ...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


No more of reverence, love, affection, pity, hatred, regret or horror. All jettisoned a generation or two ago. Our former cocktail of emotions, graded hues somewhere along the happy-sad spectrum, now usurped by a single, solitary sensibility. An unvarying temper of constant agitation. Adolescents are no longer capable of being moved. To be moved is to be affected. By something external that acts back upon you and changes your feeling state. Implicit, is your relationship to what unfolds before you. But now there is no surrendering of one’s own mental state to external influences. To allow oneself to be moved is to compromise one’s sovereignty. While the resultant passivity is couched in an unblinking assimilation. A dearth of awareness. A renunciation of judgment. An abdication of receptivity. As with the phone camera images, vision is pooled, rather than genuinely shared. People’s ways of seeing, merely become adjacent to one another. If they are shared, it is only as an infected needle, or a sexually transmitted disease. A coincidence of space, a mutual dematerialization. A subterranean bundle of fibre optics.

Still, what of the last of these pricking sensations ? Which is to be this all-encompassing emotion, the one into which all the others are to be unified ? Why, they are full of empty rage of course. Aimless vexation. Theirs is no generational Oedipal spite. The “I blame the parents” castigation of rubbernecking social commentators. For in truth they have long since grown indifferent to their parents and any rancour towards them. They have left them not just floundering in their wakes, but trajected in a distant galaxy. Propelled by precipitant advances in technology, culture, information and their own neural hairtriggering. An entire cosmological redshift, as they hurtle away from the dribbling big bang that was their unidealised conception way back when. The non-existent premeditation for them being in the world. For constituting that world in its entireity. By the time the light from their progenitors’ warning beacon reaches them, the life of parents is already long extinguished. Such is the gulf of dead air between them.

No, this is an ire provoked and fomented by the chasm between expectation and actuality. Whatever they do in life, it can render no difference at all. A nebulous foreboding of having been conned, but not by any prestidigitous conjurer they could shake a stick at. A recondite disatisfaction. Directionless. They do not drink and fornicate to fill any yawning gap. Nor do they binge seeking to purge. For how can you relieve a void ? Fire cannot rage in a vaccum. They can burn nothing off of themselves. I see it in all its plangency out in town centres. How they elect to squander their leisure time at breakneck pace. A perpetual motion of restlessness. Such activity merely tamps down the conniption. To drain off the acidic lees. The contamination. The taint. A corking in both senses of the term. Debasement in order to decompress. It passes the time. Distracts them from their wrath. Obliterates reflexiveness. Devitalizes them. Like leech therapy of yore. Actually, it kills time. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes, or an hour, or a day they’ll never get back again. And that’s the point.

All stemming from having banished mortal thoughts (erected ironically on deicide). Keeping them at bay from daily calculation in life. And with it, some catenated notions of wellbeing, contentedness and purposefulness, are also consigned to insensibility. If any of these aspirations are roused, then stringy lickspittles that they are, they inevitably drag back into streaming consciousness the overwhelming dreads of death along with them. Such splintered minds, cannot afford the results of their elective self-leukotomies to be reversed. The deluge would be too annihilating. So they build the levees higher, shoring up the unidirectional flow of their thought processes. They cede more and more fallow mental ground.

With a D-Notice on mortality as a subject for introspection, then they would do well to mull over the occupation of life. Yet, if they rely on such wholesale walling off of their interiority, then they are thrown back on their corpreal bodies for interacting with each other. This leads not to a refraining abstinence, but a more desperate, grappling contingence. A buffeting clutch. Explicit, but incoherent. The exchange of language, such as it is deployed, is gruff and indistinct. Breath’s very modulations are compromised by having to constrict cathexis from hitching a lift. The vocal musculature atrophies, lips only part to snog, not to caress words. The glottis is to be tilted and plugged by adversarial lancing tongues, rather than shaping sentiment within its toning folds and spaces. They are ‘proper’ disarticulated. ‘Well’ speechless from their dried up springs of utterance. Devoid of expressive power, they languish in emotional illiteracy, ‘ya git me ?’

The knottily graded happy-sad pH scale of emotion is only thorny along one of its bifurcations. If neutral is zero, then the happy parade all range positively in one direction. A heliotropic embracing and blossoming. Contented-Pleased-Delighted-Gleeful-Thrilled-Jubilant-Ecstatic. But in the current day and age, this branch has been viciously pruned into fruitlessness anyway. Alas, not so for the sad shower. A phalanx, not tight-knit, but overlapping. Braced dyads of dark-shaded feelings. For every melancholic, there’s somebody jaundiced. Downcast/Discomfited - Sorrowful/Cut up - Morose/Bitter - Miserable/Stricken - Despairing/Repining - Anguished/Tormented - Suicidal/Baneful. The umbra resolutely wallowing, stewing in one’s own juices. While the penumbra, wrings its wagging and pointing fingers of blame at a gnawing external source. One which can be lanced in order to drain all suppurating feeling. The tenor of its march therefore, can only lead to a confluence with revenge. Revenge is not itself an emotion. But spliced with them, it becomes one in all respects. Genetically modified. It does, after all, itself impart motivation for swingeing action and deed. The impulse for revenge, if successfully discharged, can actually turn the emotional pH scale on its head. It will launch you into the happy alkalis, as you recast over in your mind the exquisite piquancy of how it played out. Pleased as punch.

Our emotional range has become truncated, yet not blunted. If anything, it has become rather more shrill at either end of the register. We accelerate up through the middling, pastel shades of feeling far more swiftly. In order to reach terminal velocity, which thereby craves a scratching post. It used to be solely the crooked and the villainous who applied the exponential of revenge. Pre-emptive strikes and deterrent theory. Logarithms of intimidation utilised to hasten things along and seal deals. But nowadays, we’re all at it. Getting one’s revenge in first. (Those “Prisoner’s Dilemma” Game Theorists back in College would scratch their goatees sagely). A furnace of irascibility, necessary to drive the daily engine of the combative business of existence. Road rage. Vivisection rage. Supermarket till and trolley rage. Hedgerow rage even. Finding fault with even the humble mundanities of life. Stoking up the fires so you are not caught cold and die of emotional exposure. Constantly on the brink of combustion at the drop of a hat. At the slightest slight, we are all rendered furious funambulists. To maintain our heightened equilibrium, we need to thrust our balancing pole so as to topple from their perch, the antagonist who dares cross our path. Every interaction becomes a trial by ordeal. Due to its evil siamese twin revenge, no longer serving as a shortcut, rage too has become a state of being. An undifferentiated calculus for negotiating non-negotiable daily life.

New York and Paris, yes we might expect nothing less. But Winchester and Lossiemouth ? Market Deeping and Market Drayton ? Rave on smiley culture, for you strip us of our self-expression.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


I’m sat in the public restaurant that dominates the first floor of the hospital. With its commanding panoramic views of the whole ground floor and admissions. An unforgiving modern glass and metal sort of affair. Totally at variance with the rest of the hospital. Whose latest cosmetic lick of paint, indicates that it has bought lock, stock and barrel into gimmicky notions of colour therapy by swatch. Aquamarine to soothe the savage, wounded breast or some such bilge. A quack pyschologist certainly had his eye on the main chance, if he managed to peddle that tommyrot to every NHS hospital in the land. Anyway, since the restaurant is a privately run concern, it does not have to abide by the same guidelines as the rest of the building. That must be why it is spotlessly clean.

I ought not to be here of course, as I’m supposed to use the staff refectory. This is intended for outside clientele only, but the idea that people want a hearty meal bookending a visit to sick relatives, strikes me a trifle misconceived. Must be why there are so few diners in here. Apart from the hospital trust stuffed shirts, whose pie in the sky I deduce this to be. Fortunately, they wouldn’t know me from Eve, seeing as I’m one of their humble flock whom they are supposed to minister to. Nor do they seem to have twigged that me being in here every day since it opened, might suggest I was resident here as a worker in some capacity. Rather than someone with the interminable burden of having to visit a long-stay patient. Though in truth, their faces in here seem to change from week to week. As I follow their heads tracking all over the restaurant, patently I am not conspicuous enough to merit their letching scrutiny. Though perhaps I do them a disservice and they are merely surveying for missing punter revenue.

The restaurant staff more actively turn a blind eye to me being here. So long as I don’t go blabbing to my colleagues or am flagrant about it in other ways. Camouflage, another utility for my cardy, as it covers up my flouting of the dress coded regulations. The NHS caste system. You’d think they’d be grateful for the extra business. Though since they always knock a few pounds off their exorbitant prices for me, maybe they’d feel obliged to give the whole nursing profession similar discount and that obviously would eat into their margins.

This is a curious sort of oasis really. Undoubtedly the food is top notch, certainly better than the swill back in the refectory. But I despise everything else about the place. Everything it stands for. Still, I just need a break from the freneticism of the ward. Some quiet time to myself. It’s either here or the chapel, though that’s just a mite too secluded deep in the hospital’s bowels. No hide nor hair of a holy man down there, stoking his faith before emerging to come convincingly console on the wards. Far too busy bartering with the Rabbis and the Imans to shoulder some of their workload in the course of their own tour of parochial duty. Besides, I’m not really the religious type. Never really fathomed the point of that chapel, other than it being a relic of the era when the original hospital was built. When a patient had little more than a wing and a prayer of leaving upright. Stuck down in the windowless basement, denied either any bounteous plays of light through grand rosettes, or binding streaks through narrow casements. None of God’s miraculous powers (or angels’ for that matter), evidenced there. Handy for the mortuary further along the floor I suppose. Indeed, there is a far more convenient family room for those recently bereaved within our walls. Slap bang next to the police post, that semi-permanent incident room. See if I were a hospital administrator and halfway decent at my job, I would as a highest priority, commission a time and space study or whatever they call it, into a better use for that room.

So this lustreless stained glass carbuncle necessarily remains my asylum. A shrine to inappropriate appetites, among this temple of the incontinent. Now compromised more than just morally. For I knew who they are from their bearing. They weren’t sporting flowers, or grapes, or any other ill-considered hasty purchase from the hospital shop. By their garb, clearly they weren’t medical staff. Nor were they administrators, since they were not danced attendance on by clipboard wielding PAs. I deduced their identity, by the manner in which they burst through the swing doors. Like toffees shucked from their wrappers. Those oversized plastic gumshields normally faze every visitor. Seeming denser than they actually are, the supplicants are either cowed with trepidation, or expect them to crash back on them like tumescent pinball flippers. This purposefully striding pair, had merely been accelerated headlong by them. They’d been this way before.

Plain clothes for a Plain Jane. I could tell they were the police by their louche insouciance. Oh well, one thing’s for sure, they won’t locate me up here. None of my colleagues would have an inkling this is where I disappear off to. I imagine they presume I bring my own sandwiches and head for an alfresco bench. Or maybe I scuttle off for a lunchtime liaison. Hah, how little do they know me ! So, what’s my next move to be ? I could just make my exit now, across the concourse beneath me and out into the world never to return. Shouldn’t be hard for a non-entity like me to vanish into thin air. Maybe go abroad, change my name and identity. After all, I seem to be whatever and whoever people want to make me out to be. Perhaps I should consult with a smattering of my former invalids for some pointers. Speaking of which, I wonder which one of my ex-charges, girded his backbone and plucked up sufficient ill-willed courage to lay a charge against me ?

Yet I am rather loath to pass up on my customarily scrumptious coq au vin. Moreover, I’m not really one for foreign climes. I’m certain my scars would rear up lividly in the heat. Will they hang around and wait for me at the ward station, cluttering it up and hindering my colleagues as they go about their work ? (They won’t thank me for that). Otherwise, they’ll just have to come back another day and arrest me. Had always imagined, that if things ever came to a head, I’d be facing the music in front of my peers. At a tribunal or medical hearing of some sort. Having the temerity to rule me unprofessional. When all I’m endeavouring to do, is establish some minimal standards of decency, which my profession ought to command as of right. I suppose what I’ve done could be deemed as GBH, or ABH. Laughable really, given what happens on a routine basis on the floor just below my feet. The stomping ground to top all stomping grounds. No, thinking about it, far better to have my day in Court. I’ll be able to put my case, without any smart aleck lawyers to blow smoke at the jury. I don’t want any of that diminished responsibility eyewash. I absolutely take full responsibility for my course of action. Remedial, a prescribed dose for a sick society. And in turn I’ll take my medicine. I’ll happily quaff the hemlock offered me in their chalice. The fodder in one institution is as much like it is in any other.

The waiter sets down my bone china plate in front of me, as if it was gliding smoothly in on a current of air. Not a ripple disturbed the serviette draped over his wrist. Still somewhat of a novelty for me to be served by someone else. For food to arrive not piled ten high on a trolley under dented pewter. Or having to be harvested from behind a little plastic door of arrayed counter-top incubators. Please note however, for all his attentive service upon me, I am not struck by any compunction to fondle or lick the man. Even though he stands poised with an assailing inrush of my senses.

I pick up my cutlery. Filagree whorls on the handles. I didn’t much care for their sensation against the pads of my fingers. (I have popped a missive in their suggestion box, but to date have received no courtesy of a reply). I grip them where the relief work sinks back down into the metal. This makes for more awkward wielding, but by now you must appreciate that I am possessed of no little acumen with all things asperous. I brace the body of the knife at the dorsal part of the meat and gingerly dab it to a more propitious slant on the plate. The sauce lubricates the slide, like it is bearing the chicken aloft on a sedan. Such is its sublime lightness, it bore no lasting evidence of any disturbance in its stilled current. My compliments to the Chef. A real professional. Fully au fait with his materials. The fork’s four tines are tightly packed, always making for a more compressed incision and the possibility of spatter. Forty-five degree angle, with a consistent, firm motion. Neither plunge nor stab. To a depth of about half an inch. Perfect, the skin is punctured, but no trickle of succulence absconds. A champagne cork eased off without the detonation. I bring the knife to bear on the flesh. Thirty degree inclination, I begin the abscission. The juice wells up, seemingly reluctant to forfeit its amniotic embrace. Until it can resist the piquant tension no more and cascades into the sauce. Whereupon the two joyously entwine in the manner of a long-fated reunion. A yin-yang interweave. I am so grateful to the chef for unfailingly recreating this experience afresh each day.

Entirely captivated in the moment, I didn’t sense the men advancing on me. It was only when one of them filled my entire vision above the level of the fork poised at my lips, that I became aware of their presence. One of them leaned down right into my chest, the sheer bloody effrontery ! Then I realised he was trying to peer at my laminated pass, half shrouded behind my cardy. I relaxed the grip on my fork and replaced it on the plate.

“Can I help you gentlemen ?”

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Eye For An Eye Through A Needle

I don’t expect folk to agree with my axiomatic system of justice. Two wrongs don’t make a right and other trite platitudes. But how can I condone the offender’s first strike by letting it go unanswered ? At best it would stand in legitimised splendid isolation. At worst, repeat prescription for endless regurgitation. My clinical intervention is to underscore that first transgression as unacceptable and to remove it from the possibility of ever being revived as a future misconduct. Two wrongs may not make a right, but they prevent a third and fourth wrong and thereby help to bolster beleagured RIGHTS.

Neither should my actions be regarded as principally retaliatory. A reflex lashing out on my part, when there is only one party here, who has demonstrated wholesale lack of self-control. My response is rather the outcome of a carefully considered retributive programme. One where the scourge is considerably scaled down from the original outrage, but nonetheless packs a powerful mental punch. A jab rather than a knockout blow. I am not some sordid GP despatching his defenceless geriatric patients into death. Nor am I some nurse compromising vulnerable newborns, so as to aggrandise the heroine within herself. The problem presenting itself here, is that my patients are too detached from their true feelings and somehow I have to reconnect them.

Pain is such a wonderful mechanism. It’s twin-tracked. First there is the local reaction, the ground zero if you will. A reflexive hyperbole to impel muscle contraction, so as to cajole the endangered area away from the source of pain. Forestalling any further damage. By the time the brain registers what has happened, the exposed area has been withdrawn. The local response signals hotwire the spinal cord, whereas the grey matter has to rely on the slower trunk route for the data to be couriered all the way up to it. ‘Feeling’ pain is the combined sensation, plus the making sense of it. This disparate forking, lends itself ideally to my purposes. And I drive a double decker bus through it.

Seemingly, they don’t feel the initial stimulus. A pinprick, hardly crosses the threshold of what they come to expect in a hospital. There is scant perturbation. The distress level scarcely flickers. The pain siren barely whimpers. Yet even if they were aware, they are unable to pull away because of the context in which it happens. They have offered up their hand or arm for a medical betrothal of some sort, just the best woman is fiddling around for the ring, or the presiding officer is stumbling over the rigmarole. Except that I’m not, I am in full command of what I’m doing. ‘Did the needle slip ?’ You shouldn’t be so nervous, quivering doesn’t help us one jot. ‘Is it ?’ Must have just missed the vein. It can be so hard to find in some patients, intravenous drug users, arteriosclerotics, (self-) abusers of whatever hue ... Raise your arm to me in entreaty and let’s go again. Only when they turn their heads, while idly flexing or even rubbing their sore arms, do they see it there as plain as the nose on the end of their face. Then their processing mind kicks in, yet is unable to interpret the immensity of this minor tribulation. They are bloodied as I am unbowed.

I say this, but in point of fact, I draw no blood other than any I am stipulated to draw. For I’ve always been a practitioner of holistic health. No matter how many rubs, squeezes, nips, pinches, prods, pokes, gropes, fondles, strokes, pats, slaps, stripes, mauls, cuffs, gouges, punches and bites I’ve been assailed by, while they don’t get easier to bear, neither do they crank up any internal ratchet of stress within me. Each one leaves its equanimous impression. Its depth charged mark. And so, in order to recover my homeostasis, I too deal out my retribution with equanimity. A proportionate refutation, of their chosen form of ugly self-expression. Commensurate with its degree of force and duration. A syringe plunger-based sliding scale.

Doctors possess an impressive array of technology to plumb the individual human body. No longer is it merely restricted to the shading of light and dark. Of presence against absence, drawn from a flat, flimsy X-ray. Now they can extrapolate contours, by bouncing sound waves. Or a stand up flurry towards precipitous magnetism. Even tracing the wakes of decaying radioactive trails provides a way in. Virtual needles rootling around in microscopic haystacks. My simple cusp does not have such a problem of scale. Is not undermined by ratio. For my pinpoint co-ordination, inexorably steers you to seek the pain source in its blatant black sea. Just below the surface of the swelling bruise. Again, I don’t anticipate you admiring what I do, but you would have to acknowledge the expertise and consistency. The impartiality and balance. Not exactly an eye for an eye. More a feel for a feel. Moving through the all-too tangible, through the intangible, back into tangibility. No one can touch me without my sanction and I never give it. But in my practice, I also invoke that other careworn moral guideline. Do unto others only as you would be done to.

How exactly is it I am such a dab hand with my unthreaded needle ? It’s not quite how we are taught in nursing college after all. Well, I admit to being fully versed in blemishing the body. My patients don’t receive any treatment that hasn’t been subjected to rigorous double blind trials. On myself. For long before I was enlisted on this campaign, I was engaged in another war of attrition. Against a debilitating foe, my own persecutor within. Metastasised by a lover I had in college. The love of my life in whatever way you care to characterise it. The man who elevated humble, little would-be nursey and made me feel special. Without pandering to any privately-borne cliches abounding around my uniform. The one who tended to my needs when I came home from work. And then one day he left. For another women he deigned to make feel uniquely cherished.

When I wasn’t trying to dissolve myself in a cataract of never-ending tears, I wanted to open myself up and let my own blood. To relieve the tumult pressing from within. Or at least I thought I did. But the blood kept bubbling, muddying the waters of self-examination. I could get no clear window into the slate black of despair within, smeared beneath the scarlet discharge. And when my scalloping dried out and began to heal, I was left with a lattice more suited to noughts and crosses, than any grid to size up and plot my shortcomings. Obviously I had to conceal the evidence of such unravelling while I was still training, after all that was the sole thing I had left of value in my life. Fortunately, treating drug abusers affords you a perfect blueprint of the body’s hard to spot venous points of entry. So my telltale scars lay unseen behind swaddling garments.

Gradually I learned to master my stroke. To bore rather than slash. I became sensitive to the different sensations along my anatomy, much like an acupuncturist and their pressure points. And I articulated the graphic language of bruising. Far more lasered definition than the dot-matrix of rent flesh. The submerged tissue had regular properties which could be reliably charted. My whole body became a dolorimeter. An analogue device with its own solicitous needle pointer. My fingertips formulated how to graduate its spectrum. They read the braille glyphs of my interior.

As I regained some vestige of control over my clotted life, the impulse to harm myself dwindled. I didn’t have to keep revisiting the bruises upon my body. Instead I followed the passing of the lush purple fruit, through crinkled yellows and olives and into shrivelled, overripe brown with the curative of time. Colour therapy. And there the whole rite of passage should have remained entombed, as I emerged into self-possessed maturity. I would never harm myself again. Partially underscored by a premature passing into a personal autumn. As newly qualified, I could content myself with more professional relationships and the satisfaction of devoting myself to other people, without ceding my being. How misguided I was. I was soon to pick up my palette knife for grinding pigment once again. Though this time the canvas was not my own. For I will not permit these invalid scum, to drive me away from nursing. Like I say, it’s the one thing of worth I retain.

Bringing all my training and expertise to bear, I consult my own customised appendix. I calculate precisely in terms of applied pressure, longevity and dermal disfiguration. I calibrate as finely as the pharmacist does on his electronic weighing scales. Or are they digital these days ? Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it, I wilfully contuse. The tissue beneath their skin is chastised, by the wrinkling performed at the tip of my devious needle. Ah, there she blows ! As she resurfaces for air, the aggrieved dermis churns in her wake. An oil slick that cannot be battened down. The polluting bruise spreads its meshwork. I determine its continental drift. Some people like to imagine the outlines of countries or beasts in the clouds. Well I etch teratology in sinewy silhouette. I know how to circumnavigate the muscles and skin, the tissue and the weft, in order to delineate fault lines. I make the tools of my trade implement my correction. Surpassing even the tattooists. Their ink penetrates more cutaneous layers, but mine is more indelible.

While the Docs sow you back together and re-confer you bodily integrity, I unpick a couple of vessels just below the surface. The odd frayed seam here or there, just gets disordered a tad. I have become more than an orderly of pain. I have become a philosopher of hurt. My violence is minuscule, but it is four times as powerful as your transgression, since it is so unforeseeable. So far removed from the comfortable, complacent, conventional archetype. I will prick whichever your particular bubble-headed vision of me. Your original sin rebuffs any angelic aspect, as I burst menacingly from my pre-packaged imago. Do you still feel any ill-judged pangs now, as you contemplate my uniform ? Have you ever seen a less beatific angel ? Would a matronly mother inflict such suffering on you ? Do you see me rush afterwards, to lovingly caress the scarification ? Of course you don’t. I am the perfunctory, antiseptic bandage, not any perfumed balm. No you fool, it is not the discolouration of iodine glazed on the wound, it is the purple disfigurement of trauma itself ! For I shall resensitise you to the living. Pain is a dead end. You will not persist in causing it in others. You can only discharge it through your own corporeal self.

What lies beneath your skin ? I will fashion you a lancet window to look down into the black heart beneath. I will turn your embrasures inside out, so your envenomed arrows rebound on you. Your peccancy will be picked out in your very fibre. Engraved in large, black relief on your rind. Written in limpid prose. You will only have to glance at the crook of your arm, or the motorway pileup that is the dorsal venous arch on the back of your hand, to be reminded of your immorality. And for the clear lines of demarcation to be re-established. The seemly formalities to be reimposed. Between the sick and the healthy. The impaired and the unimpaired. Of reason. Ink blotted copybook results for all to see. A matter of public record.

You will return home healed by the doctors, disinfected by me. You remark to all and sundry, upon the expertise of the life-giving surgeons, even though you were unconscious at the time. Then a mealy-mouthed pause, deliberating on whether to lambast the shoddy nurse who couldn’t take blood or administer an injection properly. You stare not at the elective scar the supreme surgical handiwork has left, demurely contained behind white lint. Instead you cannot tear your eyes from the livid contusion that seems to be stamped upon your very flesh. And you keep shaking your head as to whether that nurse, that I a professional carer, could have cold bloodedly intended this.

Or, whether perhaps you were after all, to blame in some way. That you invited it to a large degree. Not because you jerked your arm at the salient moment of the hypo’s penetration, but because ... Because ...? No, you carry on the rehabilitation work. Don’t overlook changing the dressing and keeping the wound clean. You have no evidence. My expression was entirely neutral. The unbounded fear of your incomprehension, buffers and bounces memory. All you have are the consequences. Even now, your arm is sending out millions of SOS calls to your overcooked brain, pleading for relief from its own eyesore. A causal chain. But it’s getting short shrift. You’ve got to go beyond that. To confront your own gall.

The throb has long since ceased, but the visual prompt unerringly flushes you. A phantom pain, you won’t ever decoct. A referred ache in your head, far removed from the blighted skin. Jolting you directly back to the deep-lying ground zero. The pain that pilots you. The indicator on your flesh which ushers you. Pain might not be an emotion, but it informs emotion. Enhances and exacerbates it. Tears the wool from your eyes. It’s an excellent browbeater, bringing you to attention. It’s insistence drags you from out of your numbness. And that’s what I require. I don’t want you to continue to inhabit the palsied realm of unfeeling. The realm from which you first assaulted me. Those brute, animal sensations you blithely wrought upon me. Now is occasion to discover their true implication. I refer you back in kind, how that meaning is magnified as it fans out over your bruised gist. Can you read the runes of your own body as I have just inscribed them ?

The prickling might have receded, but the psyche still has to evaluate the lasting extent of the damage. The fallout imprinted on the arm. That gnawing feeling which just won’t dissipate. Concentrate, stare at it hard. Focus on it as towards a mantra. Apply yourself obsessively to its inroad, in order to allow enlightenment to enter. The enormity of my inversion, should empty your head sufficiently of everything you hold to be true. Regress you to that childlike state of searing epiphany, that putting your hand in the fire burns, a lesson never to be repeated.

As you raise your arm or hand and catch sight of it, a further measure of your operable animus seeps out from the inky, black pool. Some of your pus is drained by each airborne action. Each shadow memory of that arm or hand being raised against another person. Then and only then will the chastened flesh regain its former hue. Overlaying the blackened cuticle and consigning it to the toxic wilderness. To be purged as dust parings. I am after a complete, cell by cell, internal unstitching of you. I leave it to your solemn, meditative convalescence to put yourself back together again.

In rare cases, it does dawn on them, then and there at the sharp end. That my act is purposeful. And the look of shock in their eyes. The look I must have had that first time as their victim, but which very soon I reclaimed for myself. The nerve of it ! The sheer bloody nerve. Ah indeed ! There lies the rub. For I have decorticated myself all the way to the exposed nerves and looked deep inside. I am entirely familiar with all there is to know about me. And I believe they espy this self-assurance in the countenance that confronts them. So they never develop beyond shock into full blown imprecation. To date, nobody has ever ventured a complaint, since they know what lies behind. I don’t know if word has got round, or is somehow transmitted within the fabric of these wards, but since my culling programme, I’ve had a fall off in incidents of being manhandled. It could always be attributed to me just getting older and less appealing, even to the depraved I suppose. But I don’t think so, do you ?

from the novel available on Amazon kindle

Monday, 1 June 2009

Eye Sore

There are other less explosive trespasses, with less percussion, but still prompting a ringing in the ears of pulsing blood. Ones that leave no scratches or welts, but no less violent an infraction for all that. There can be a confusion, all too readily arising, from some of the workaday duties of our job. We may wash our occupants or even help them with their evacuations. We tuck them up in their incubated cribs. We probably find ourselves towering over their shrunken, prone form in bed. Equally, we may lean down close to their faces, to spoon feed a thermometer or mop their brow. Well might we utter reassuring words to them, so that they can surrender to a safe embrace of sleep. Notwithstanding that we are no longer allowed an adult plumping of their pillow, lest we spore infection. So it can appear that we do anything and everything, short of singing them a lullaby and rocking them into the land of medicated nod. Brought about by our fistful of coloured sweeties.

Given over to such complete dependence on us for care, they are returned to a childlike dependence. This is not the healthy exaltation of the bus stop constituency. For here, the drip line has replaced the natal umbilical, tugging their awareness towards mortality. Suddenly they are confronted with the other end of life’s tether. So they reach out to reclaim and rescind. They want to suckle at my life-affirming breast. To re-enter my life-bearing womb (if only they knew !) Of course you can flail at a mother too. And dismally they do so. I represent the wake up call for them just as they appear to be going under. Accordingly, as the closest to hand, it’s me who gets punished for the presumption of trying to do my job. So I’m just as likely to get punched and mauled, as much as nuzzled or stroked. They yank the ligature which has me attached to the other end and they try and throttle me with it. Striking an asphyxiating cord. If they are to be reborn, then I must be offered up in their place. So says the law of the blood sacrifice.

Tenderness. It’s in my nurse’s remit to understand all about tenderness. And I do apprehend it, in every facet. It’s fundamentally double-edged, since you take it to mean a warm and loving touch, as might be exhibited by a nurturer. Yet I know it to be the coiled agony of a wound, where the application of the slightest pressure springs that potential and calls forth the pain. You might do well to view my body, my being, as the threshold across which you pass from your interpretation over into my defintion. You shan’t receive anything less than dedicated care from me, but not a mother’s love. (Avoid mistaking human warmth for the baking humidity of the irradiated ward for example). But don’t confuse the issue and at least you’ll be spared its flip side.

Incredibly, even this does not represent the end of the degredation spectrum. Don’t think we can quite pin this tawdry aspect on the sainted Florence. How her inheritors have since allowed themselves to be fashioned by those of rank imaginations. Myself, I am buttoned up to the throat and buttoned down to the wrist. My worsted stockings are as shapeless and bobbled as I can skirt past Sister’s inspections. Stockings, who even dreamt up that little primped enhancement ? (Musing further on it, since the police are possessed of their own stockinged uniformed mates, maybe this is why they form the sole male members of the species who are completely indifferent to us angels).

At least the Union actually managed to accomplish one thing, in forcing the abandonment of those pygmy wimples we used to have to perch on our heads. Under the guise of antisepsis, what more overt, craven male fantasy could those caps frame ? Our hair supposedly gathered up for sanitary reasons, exposing a virgin nape and the tantalising ribboned caption of any escapeé strand. However, now that this has been dispensed with, I have had to give a great amount of thought to the display of my own hair. Since I am determined to offer up nothing at all of myself. There is to be no bounce or tidal motion to my mop. Nothing that could possibly evoke a shimmering, lush sea in which someone might want to immerse themselves. Therefore my first calculation on obtaining each duty rota, is for the optimal time to shampoo, in order to render it lank and lifeless for the greatest number of shifts. Now you know the kind of thought processes we are reduced to.

For you see, I am talking about those cases fully cognizant with the driving force of their own body even when it is ailing. The ones who override pain by channelling their whole being into one self-affirming goal. The ones with an altogether different nagging complaint from that which it specifies in their notes. That possibility of diminished vigour. These are the really heinous brutes, the gropers not the caressers. The pinchers not the kneaders. The fisters not the punchers. Theirs are not the rash, ill-conceived suits of the Mills and Boon bedbound war heroes. This is them projecting on to me whatever their animal need is. No longer am I viewed as idealised womanhood. Something, anything XX chromosomal will suffice to salve this most attenuating of XY anxiety. They do not desire me, I could be any dog’s dinner done up in a nurse’s uniform. Back out in the real world, since I am nothing to look at, I can pass unseen. Below even the radar of muggers and sex fiends. And the rare occasions when I divest down to my superheroine’s uniform in public, it elicits no more than a soothing bradycardia. Yet in here, instantly I am fit to meet their pulsing carnality. My features can be bent, folded and manipulated as per their whim. They are not after a genuine conjoining of our bodies. There is no longing or ache underpinning it. Just chronic urgency. The drive to reassert their own intactness. As they cannot rasp their own mutinous skin without tearing at it, so they claw at mine instead. I am a scratching sisal. A cuttlefish. Pain is their catnip.

Everything I undertake in the course of my professional duties is coated in sterility. Tending sick bodies is hardly what I’d term sensual. What makes you conceive you experience it as such? You sullenly note me piercing your skin and harvesting any number of your emanations. You hanker after reinstating the normal order of things. You yearn for such supposedly vital essences to be reconsigned to the dark interiors of the body. For the geysered emissions to be struck, only when you summon them. In such a manner is your fear elided with desire. Consequently I am to pay for my licensed quarrying. And to assist you in bringing about this reversal of ill-fortune, handed to you on a platter, the obtuse vision that is me in a nurse’s uniform. Irrespective of my sandpapering the edges in order to sharpen up the focus. My fraying the trimmings of fantasy.

Whether they regard me pure and maternal, or dirty and slatternly, ultimately it makes no odds to their behaviour. I am to be at their complete disposal, to be defiled by their touch. The thought never enters their head that I too might be a corporeality chock full of pain receptors. A person in my own right. With someone waiting for me back at home. Even then, such knowledge would only entail they run me more ragged. So that I would be left with no option but to retire home abed, simply to recuperate my energy. Solely to attend upon their wants again in the morning.

Turning it all on its head therefore, you leave me no choice but to innoculate you against all your appetites.