Whatever Works for Ewan

First time I saw him do this, we musta been 6 or 7 years old. I’d pop over to his after school, we’d play some video games, maybe kick a ball around, that sorta jazz. Then I’d head home for dinner. I only lived a couple streets down from him so it was not like it was much of a journey – Derek’s Odyssey woulda been a seriously short story, let’s put it that way.

We were beatin’ the crap outta eachother on Street Fighter II anyway, nothing special. We weren’t exactly bein’ church-mice – kids that age are noisy, what do you expect? – but even so, when all this shoutin’ an’ roarin’ suddenly kicks off in the next room, we just freeze. We realise pretty much immediately that his parents are basically actin’ out a real-life version of what we were just doin’. What do ya do in those moments? What do ya say?

That’s when Ewan jus’ calmly puts down his controller, closes his eyes, and starts singin’ to himself. Later, many years later, I found out the name of the song – it was You Woke Up My Neighbourhood by some cat called Billy Bragg. When I finally heard the original record as an adult, I could only listen for a few seconds before turning it off – it didn’t do justice to Ewan.

All Ewan sang was the chorus, over and over. Even as a lil kid, I found it actually beautiful, I mean just stunning. I’d never heard him sing, and this fella was a natural. Ya never forget a moment like that. Time just stops, the racket next door fades away, and…you’re at peace, or somethin’.

One of the last times I saw Ewan, that was. His mom left his pop not long after, an’ took the kid with her. Sensible broad. The pop came over to our house several times, interrogatin’ us, demandin’ to know where they’d gone. We didn’t know shit, and if we did we wouldna told him.

Hope things worked out for Ewan an’ his old lady. Hope he’s still singin’, only for happier reasons.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…ストリートファイタ

Posted in Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inexplicably Irate

“Joe was the last person on Earth I expected to do that…”

She was bawling, tears flowing down her pretty face like a waterfall. Detective Graham McCaffrey remained impassive. He had witnessed a lot of crying over his three decades in the force. Nothing fazed him any more. Holding out his handkerchief for the grieving widow, he wondered if this desensitization was a positive or a negative.

“Well, ma’am, maybe you didn’t know him that well.”

At this she glared, clearly insulted.

“I knew Joseph O’Shaughnessy better than anyone alive! We lived together for four years. We knew everything about eachother…”

McCaffrey cut the babbling lady short.

“Nevertheless, there are people coming forward even at this early stage whose interactions with the…man in question-” He had almost said ‘deceased’ “-go back further, and they paint a picture of an individual who could quite easily…lose the rag.”

Her shoulders slumped, her features sagged. The detective knew she felt defeated, and he softened his tone.

“I’m sure he was a good man to you, Ms. Treacy. A kind man. A loving and affectionate partner…but we have to face facts. There is no disputing what transpired here. Confronting reality is the first step to…healing.”

Caroline Treacy nodded weakly, and sobbed into the handkerchief provided. McCaffrey’s partner approached, so Graham gently ushered the disconsolate woman away before liaising with his colleague.

“What have we got, Karl?”

Karl V.T. Whigham winked. He loved the grisly ones. Maybe he was disturbed, but something about the gore and viscera of a scene like this…made him feel more alive.

“Aha! It seems poor unfortunate Mrs Gwendoline Samuels-” He gestured at the nearest body bag, thirty feet away “-began berating Mr. O’Shaughnessy about…well…we’re not quite sure at this juncture…but he responded in kind and the disturbance became quite heated, whereupon at approximately 5:15pm the gentleman grabbed a fire axe from the lobby wall and stove her head in with the blunt end.”

Whigham chuckled ostentatiously, evidently deriving humour from the sequence of events.

“He then hacked at her skull for a few minutes – or merely a few seconds, witnesses differ – before several bystanders attempted to disarm him.” The detective tutted. “This…was a mistake. He took down 4 people – 3 men, 1 more woman – before the Emergency Response Unit took him down.”

McCaffrey sighed. It mattered little now, but he couldn’t help but wonder; what could possibly have triggered this unspeakably violent rampage?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

Posted in Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reader’s Indigestion

My eyes snapped open. Discomfort, pain, trouble breathing… I first thought that it was my body position giving me grief, so I shifted a little – not too much, as my partner was lying against my side – and tried to resume the slumber I’d be suddenly roused from. This movement only made the pain worse, and I suddenly realised that I could barely breathe at all. Panic attack? Anxiety attack? Episode caused by psychological strain? The pain was coming in waves, a throbbing, stabbing, cramping torment.

In agony, I crawled out of bed and immediately collapsed to the floor. What is happening to me? Definitely not psycho-somatic. On all fours, I desperately tried to catch my breath, but I could only manage mere gasps – all the muscles in my abdomen were clenched tight, as if by an invisible fist. As I struggled to get air into my lungs, I pulled myself into the bathroom. Maybe I could throw up? Maybe there’s something in my tummy that needs to get out?

Dry-heaving over the toilet, it became clear that I just couldn’t manage to vomit – I could neither get enough air nor perform the stomach contortions necessary, not while my whole lower half was completely contracted. Spasms wracked my body, without let-up. Sweat pouring from every pore, I lay down on the tiles and croaked for help, to no avail. What the fuck is wrong with my digestive system? Somebody call for an ambulance, please! My lover was dead to the world, and dead was what I was pretty sure I would soon be.

As I huddled, the waves gradually ebbed…so I gratefully used the intermission to climb into bed, praying that this was a permanent cessation of the pain. Please, please, please let the worst be over. Sadly, the terrible aches returned with a vengeance, and I was soon moaning, clenching my hair in my fist and locking my jaws together. My pillow was soon drenched with the sheer amount of sweat flowing out of me. The pain was truly intense. Noises you would be hard pressed to recognise as human emerged from my mouth, muffled screeches and terrified groans, with every plunge of daggers into my gut.

Eventually, these anguished cries brought the love of my life out of her comatose condition, and she immediately told me to sit up. Easy for her to say, I can barely breathe! Nonetheless, I followed her instruction – at this stage, I would have tried anything to ease the pain. While not ending the agony, this served to lessen the literally breath-taking effects of the cramps, making it easier to deal with everything going wrong in my belly. After another few rounds of gut-wrenching endurance, I felt able to lie down and, soon enough, fell back asleep.

In the morning, I was relieved to find upon waking that the mysterious affliction had all but disappeared. Given how much sweat had run off my body, it was no surprise that I was dehydrated, and considering the trauma dished out it was hardly a shock to find that there was still residual tenderness. Light-headed and leggy, for sure, but delighted to be rid of whatever-it-was that had caused the crisis. Even so, I was certainly worse for wear.

What on earth had it been?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

Posted in Autobiographical | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Points of View

A big, raucous house party of drunken high-school students. We examine the scene from the perspective of three individuals concerning the incident; one of the teens attending the party, a police officer called to the scene, and a parent of one of the teens.

“We were just chillin’, ya know? Felt so good to be done with school for the summer, nothin’ to do but party, so everyone was jus’ lettin’ their hair down… I remember Todd and Makenzi were makin’ out near that weird pool ornament that looked like like a…like a…like a troll crossed with an elephant or somethin’. Anyway,  it was so funny, and everybody was just howling at them… We never even heard the cops bust into the place and then – like, WHOOMPF – everything went to shit. They were everywhere, hollerin’ and yellin’… Todd was face-down on the ground, Makenzi was flailin’ around in the pool, and all the howls had turned to screams…”
– Jason ‘Jace’ Delancey, 11th Grader, San Miguel High School, Trumpton, CA

“Let me make one thing crystal clear; we rang, knocked and shouted our presence for almost 15 minutes prior to entering the property. They couldn’t hear us over the din they were making. Probable cause? There could have been drugs, gambling, under-age sex – hell, it turned out there was under-age drinking – so we were well within our purview to act in the manner in which we did… When I saw that kid – Todd Carlton – sexually assaulting my lil sister , well, I just kicked into overdrive. I have no problem admitting it – my training just took over. My fellow officers followed my lead and we shut the whole thing down in less than 90 seconds. How’s that for professional conduct? I’m proud of the contribution we made to peace and justice that night.”
– Andrew McAuliffe, Sergeant, Trumpton Police Department, CA

“Look, I’m still waiting on legal counsel but…the whole thing was a shitstorm. Total mess. You get me? The only junkies around that evening were the fist-pumping ‘roid-ragers in uniform – running around, smashing everything up, behaving like wild gorillas. Don’t quote me on that. You can bet I will be looking for the City of Trumpton to pay Todd’s medical bills, I can tell you that… Since when has kissing between teens been illegal, huh? That’s a new one on me. Yeah, the kids were drinking – and we’ll be talkin’ to our boy about that, you rest assured – but isn’t it safer in the house? Seriously, I’m asking you; do you honestly expect under-21’s not to let off a little steam?”
– Alexander G. Carlton, Senior Accountant, Mitchell Merchandising, Trumpton, CA

Solidarity, brothers & sisters… 

Posted in Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ode to a Tomato

Is it a vegetable, is it a fruit?
Fried and green it fits for our film shoot!
It sure ain’t sweet, that much is clear;
If you had it for dessert, others would sneer.
You can eat it with burgers, salads and stews,
Don’t eat it with ice-cream – it’ll give you the blues.

There. That’s my silly poem. Begone!

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

Posted in Gibberish | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost & Found

A bullet on a chain. It had belonged to my brother, and shortly after switching schools I began wearing it as a talisman. I fancied that it could ward off evil spirits and provide me with confidence into the bargain. Drawing strength from the surprisingly-heavy nine millimetre round hanging from my neck, I enjoyed many firsts; first house party, first kiss, first girlfriend, first break-up, first day in college, first unbeaten league season… Ok, so that last one was more a first for the Arsenal than for me personally, but it still felt incredibly momentous, alright?

Having such an unusual totem also led to my being interviewed, live on-air, by the now-defunct Spin 103.8 radio station. They had been asking people to get in touch regarding weird and wonderful lucky charms, so I texted in. They found it sufficiently bizarre to ring me up and quiz me all about it. Suffice it to say that I made a total tit of myself during the ensuing conversation, but thankfully no record seems to exist of that broadcast. Phew!

The item was eventually lost during a late-night drinking session in a pub. Funny how often losing something occurs when you are inebriated in public, innit? It might have been in Doyle’s…or Doran’s…or somewhere else beginning with ‘D’…a dungeon, maybe? Anyhow, It had outlived its usefulness, and I was getting sick of the strange looks I’d get whenever I tried explaining why I wore such an object on an almost-constant basis.

Goodnight, ugly prince…

That’s when the purple & white bracelet made its appearance. I’m reasonably sure that I spotted the accessory on Bachelor’s Walk, presumably upon exiting the flat I was living in at the time. Dunno why I was so drawn to it…or why I decided to immediately begin wearing it, but the little band became a permanent fixture around my left wrist.

Symbolically, it was there to remind me of Amy – a girl in my original secondary school, the King’s Hospital, who took her own life at the beginning of Fifth Year, the year I had actually left for Ashfield College. We had no real connection – though she was a lovely person – beyond the unspoken, unrealised bond of suicidal depression. However, for the years I wore the bracelet before wear & tear tore it asunder, her memory served to keep me strong and to keep in mind, no matter how bad things got, that I had opportunities that she would now never have.

It was trite and self-aggrandising, cheap and thoughtless. To make a whole other person’s life and death into a motivational footnote, summed up in a tiny garment, is insulting and disrespectful. In my defence, I was a stupid young man – in my late teens and early twenties – and I was clinging to any sort of sentimental superstition that could get me through the day. The reality of Amy’s existence was powerful and poignant for me, in spite of the crude way I chose to use it.

Sorry, Amy.

Couldn’t find anything that looked exactly like it, but the above is close enough…I spose.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another proud moment of yours truly

So there we were; brother Enda & I, queuing up to get our terrible coffees from the Arts Café (aka Hilpers, aka Finnegan’s Break) in the time-honoured fashion. Just an average weekday morning, the start of another tedious day of lectures, tutorials and cigarettes. Can’t remember what we were talking about as we paid an exorbitant price for our cups of sludge and moved towards the condiments stand, but it was sufficient distraction whatever it was. See, I ain’t so good at the old ‘multi-tasking’.

Anyhow. I’m speechifying, saying some bullshit about something or other, and Enda is to my left waiting for me to be done doing the whole ‘milk-&-sugar’ process. As I continue my ballsology, without pause or ceremony, I clasp a sachet of sugar, tear off the top, and dump the contents straight into the bin nearby.

What followed was a split second’s stupified silence, during which I glanced anxiously at Enda, Enda stared dumbfoundedly at the now-empty sachet in my hand, and we both absorbed what had transpired. Then my jovial comrade erupted into hysterical laughter and pointed, disbelieving, in the direction of my hand or the bin (I can’t remember which – it was in the same vicinity anyway). I merely smiled wrly at my own faux pas, and tried to remember never to attempt to do two things at once ever again.

I probably require a training course for this

Even so, it’s a warm memory that brings a grin to my lips.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

Posted in Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment