You Go... We Go...

The Trouble With You and Me - Small Mercies
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The car in front, for no explicable reason, wandered across the road and then braked suddenly. To avoid ramming it at 70 mph I unthinkingly spun the wheel and tried to stop, realising all too late I was never going to halt before I hit the girders guarding the edge of the bridge. The car smashed through the boundary, spinning about 180° and ripping off the passenger door on the jagged metal. You screamed as you went out of the door, flung into space by momentum as the car jarred to a sudden halt, balanced precariously above the dreadful drop into the ravine below.

It was just luck and instinct that allowed me to catch hold of the buckle on your sleeve as moments before I’d been holding your hand, as with the force of stopping you, ripped me from my seat, the belt cracking at the socket to spin up and strike me hard in the temple. I slid forward, my free hand desperately scrabbling for something to grip until I managed to get it around the gear stick and everything stopped.

My head spun from the blow, my eyes were unfocused and I felt dizzy, but I held on for dear life. You had stopped struggling and just hung there looking up from about two feet below the tipping car. I was at full stretch, one hand gripping the gear stick, my body twisted at an awkward angle, my head by the foot of where the missing door should be and my other arm stretched painfully over the lip of the door, with terrible strain on my elbow as I held onto your coat.

I could see past where you gently swung, dangling from my iron grip, down into the ravine. Far below, between the narrowing rough walls, what remained of what had once been a mighty river flowed. The damn but a few miles further north held the majority of the water at bay allowing me to pick out the jagged rocks and stone visible even from this height.

Blood was beading down my face from my head wound, but I felt a little steadier. Unfortunately I could also feel my strength beginning to ebb. I tried to call out in vain hope the other car had stopped at the sight of our accident, but I was pretty sure I could rely on the brief memory of it speeding away from the scene. I took a deep breath and tried to pull you up; I was at full stretch with just no way to get any momentum or leverage, the pain in my arm and elbow was becoming extreme and my grip on the gear stick was beginning to feel tenuous. I simply couldn’t lift you, not even an inch or so.

You were completely calm, staring up at me with a dreadful intensity. I knew what you were thinking; don’t let go, don’t let me fall. I tried to smile a little encouragement, but the hopelessness of the situation was beginning to wash over me; I was not even sure you realised I had tried to pull you up.

I was sure of it now; my left hand was weakening. I didn’t care about being stretched and was ignoring the terrible pain spreading across my shoulders as muscles began to tear; your need was far stronger than the pain’s demands, but I could think of nothing to do to strengthen my hold of the stick.

I cast around my narrow perspective for some hope, but found nothing. I wondered if I let go I might have enough time to shift around and jam myself in the gap where the door had been before being ripped away, but really doubted I would have the time or the agility to accomplish this possibility.

I lost the little finger on my hold, but dared not try to return it for fear of losing the rest. You must have felt the small downward shift, for fear flashed through your eyes and you very quietly mouthed the words: I’m sorry, don’t let me go. I shook my head and this time managed as close to a reassuring smile as I could “You go…” I murmured “we go”

A tear appeared in your eye and my hand failed. I roared as I tried to jam myself into the gap as I slid, but I just bounced from the edge, feeling the torn metal rip into my side and shoulder and we were falling. I didn’t take my eyes off yours, but just brought my other hand towards where I still held you tight, gripping your hand to mine…

Almost Perfect - Small Mercies
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I could hear the shouting from outside the office. I had come to meet you for a supportive lunch knowing you were in for a difficult day and so far had been waiting for more than three hours. I had called my office to tell them I would not be in for the afternoon because of personal issues and while not happy they had accepted the fact.

I had an important case to prepare for and would be defending my client in court in just two days; the firm was counting on a win in the proceedings as the client would be able to recommend us to a great many other potential clients and the firm might well be able to drag itself from the mire it was slowly sinking into, but facing the decision between saving a company full of people I knew from unemployment and supporting you through some difficulty; well, there was no decision at all.

You on the other hand were certainly my better half, for you simply could not see an injustice and refuse to act, so there you were once more, from what I could tell you and your boss had stopped even pretending to civility and reason and had some time ago degenerated into just call each other awful names.

You’d been telling me for some time one of your co-workers had been complaining of sexual harassment and last night you’d come home with her in a rage. She’d been crying and I’d been sent away. She’d stayed with us for the night before leaving early in the morning and when you’d come to bed you’d explained to me the boss had given her an ultimatum; to provide him with sexual favours or be summarily dismissed. She’d blankly refused and he’d consequently fired her.

You’d driven off in the morning and even though you mentioned nothing of your intentions I knew full well you’d gone to have it out with the boss, so I slunk out for an early lunch, while I should have been preparing my staff for the case, and ridden my bike the nine miles to your office to see which way the wind was blowing.

When I’d arrived I’d heard strident voices busily interrupting each other, three hours later it was like a bear and a banshee vying for dominance. I knew it couldn’t last very much longer, and suspected what the end result would be. I was tempted to step in and try to draw a little of the attention away from you before you went too far, although I was pretty sure that moment had come and gone a long time ago.

Finally I heard the words I’d been expecting for some time and your short, curt and wholly to the point response and you came bowling out of the office, face set with pure fury. You marched to your desk and gathered up a few personal effects and set off out of the building with me following a few steps behind.

At your car you took a deep calming breath and turned to me, managing a little, obviously fake, smile for my sake and told me to go back as I had this important case to prepare for. I looked at you wanting to tell you how proud I was of you, how you inspired me, how much I loved you, more every day, but I just said “You go… we go”.

You dropped your things onto the floor and wrapped me up in a big delicious hug and I just savoured the moment for a while. You cried a little so I squeezed you tight until the tears had passed and then told you I would drive.

I put some nice music on and decided to take you out over the bridge where we could sit above the ravine and just talk while the sun turned the sky to fire as it set, and the vast shadows crept over the deep gulley. We used to go there quite often as the sight was really quite spectacular. It was one of the things we loved to do together, and we did pretty much everything together.

You didn’t say much while we drove, but I knew you were just boiling inside with frustration at the situation. There wasn’t much you could do about it really, so I didn’t try comforting you with any foolish platitudes, I just reached out and took hold of your hand. You smiled at me, but I only half noticed as the car, the only other traveller on the empty stretch of road began to drive a little erratically.

Save Me - Small Mercies
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I hugged you close and whispered good luck as you stood nervously at the door. It was your first day of work in a very long time, in a new city, living in our new house, so it was very natural to be a little unsure of yourself, but I knew you’d be just fine and told you so. You gave me one of your radiant smiles and left the house. I watched from the door and waved as you drove off and then returned to my study to continue with my own work.

As I sat at the desk nursing a nice cup of steaming coffee and felt really content for the first time in I couldn’t remember how long. It had been a very hard time for us, but I was more concerned with you than myself; I’d been worrying about you, though hadn’t make how seriously clear, for a good while now.

It had started with the death of our daughter about two years ago; she’d been such a lovely child, full of life and laughter, never a bother, but filled like a balloon about to burst with curiosity for anything and everything. You’d blamed yourself when she’d died, but I knew it had been an accident. Only for the briefest of moments had you taken your eyes from her; who would have imagined a car would be driving so fast down a residential cul-de-sac and that was that.

Well, that really wasn’t that at all. I’d been a mess for a while, but had slowly mended, but you had truly fallen apart. It was partially how close you’d come to the end which had forced me to pull myself together and try to support you as much as I were able.

First you’d refused to talk to anyone, even me, for weeks. Then the drinking had begun and I didn’t feel I had the right to demand you to stop; you just blamed yourself and could find no escape from the guilt. You soon started mixing the alcohol with the prescription drugs the doctor was giving you to calm you and alleviate some of your anxiety.

It had all come to a head when I’d returned from doing our weekly shopping. At first I couldn’t find you until I looked out into the back garden and seen you slumped in our girl’s little swing. You’d refused to allow me to have the thing removed and sometimes you just went and sat on the seat for a while crying gently to yourself. I used to try sitting with you sometimes, but you wouldn’t leave me.

I thought to leave you to yourself as usual for a while and prepare something in the hopes you might try to eat something today, but had a strange feeling that something unusual was wrong as I looked at you. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; perhaps it was the way you were sitting, perhaps the half-drunk bottle fallen on its side at your feet; I really don’t know to this day why I went out, half expecting you to shout at me to leave you alone.

I was two steps out of the door when I saw the bottle of sedatives lying next to the vodka bottle and was running before I started to think. As I reached your side I knew you’d taken an overdose; there was drool coming from your mouth and while in the kitchen too far to see, now I was at your side I could see your body jerking epileptically.

I dashed back into the house and called an ambulance, then ran back to you. I had no idea what to do, but had seen enough movies to think to get you to your feet. You continued to jerk and spasm, unable to stand for yourself, although your eyes rolled around as if trying to focus so I maintained some modicum of hope. I desperately tried to walk you back to the house, but you were like a dead weight in my arms so once back in our home I propped you beside the kitchen sink and bereft of ideas doused you in freezing water.

The paramedics finally arrived and made you vomit. They examined you and while we were on the way to the hospital I remember you opening your eyes and looking at me. You seemed to be completely in control of your faculties, even if it was for the shortest of moment. Tears in your eyes you looked at me and my heart nearly broke when you said in a voice begging for help that you just wanted to die.

I looked you straight in the eye and told you “You go… we go” It was after this you began your slow road to recovery. We moved to a new city, I found a job while you slowly mended until today. I was so proud of you, so happy you’d found something you believed in.

Anyone's Ghost - The National
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We sat on the train as it sped from what had until an hour ago been our home city, where we’d grown up and finally met, holding tightly to each other’s hands. You looked at me and I returned the glance with what I hope was a steady reassuring gaze. You gripped my hand tighter for a moment and then smiled, still a little uncertainly, but a smile all the same.

We carried pretty much all our worldly belongings with us in three bulging suitcases and my old camping backpack and the future seemed very unsure indeed. We were on our way to a new city where I was hoping to get some work as a lawyer, but having just graduated and with next to no experience this I knew would prove to be a quite a challenge, and with a baby on the way we would certainly need an income and quickly.

I reached down and put my hand happily on your belly, although at only two months there was nothing yet to really feel, forgetting for a time our heavy concerns and grinned at you, telling you I hoped it would be a girl. You huffed a little and told me men know nothing and it would certainly be a boy; you’d already started selecting possible names. I just nodded and told you not to get exited in my most patronising voice which earned me a gentle slap and then you went back to watching the spring countryside fly past the window.

I began to go over the recent events leading up to our departure and wondering again at the foolishness of the situation. We’d met a couple of years ago while studying law together at university, taken an instant like to each other; both had similar interests, both passionate people and when together the conversation had just flowed. We’d quickly become inseparable, our friends both overjoyed and envious of our easy companionship.

The problems had really begun when I had taken her home to meet my parents; they are usually the most liberal of people, and had initially appeared to welcome her warmly. It was not until the last day of the holiday, when we were due to go back to college for the next term when my father, who’d apparently been waiting for this last day so as not to cause tension during the vacation, had taken me into his study and pointedly told me the relationship was impossible; lovely girl as she was I must let her down gently and try to find a girl from my own country.

I tried to point out to him that she was from this country, only her parents were not, but he dismissed my argument as semantics and I’d been quite unable to sway him in the decision. It also appeared my mother was completely against the match too and it was with great dismay I returned with her to our university.

I had tried to gently break the news of their disapprobation while stressing that I would not comply to their demands. She’d been surprisingly relieved when I told her the news and confided to me that her parents had also made similar arguments and demands against our continued relationship.

We’d discussed the matter at great length and in our conversation I believe we really became aware of how important the other had become. It was clear that we would not accept to their orders and we were left with the tricky problem of what we could do to solve the problem.

I must admit it was my remarkable stupid idea which we eventually followed; knowing there was no way we could get the two families to sit down and talk things through we contrived to arrange a meeting in a busy restaurant, foolishly believing the presence of others in a public place would coerce them into restraining from any untoward and impulsive action and they might actually try to get to know each other.

The dinner was a disaster; even standing at the table they started to castigate us and in short moments both sides of the family had said things to us which had incidentally insulted the other. After all too brief minutes of shouting and generally awful behaviour ultimatums had been issued and with no choice remaining we’d left the restaurant together and were now not speaking to either of our parents. They too had disowned us; although I had had hopes this was just anger at work, she didn’t believe this to be the case and knowing her parents far better than I, I had begun to worry she might be right.

 As time had passed and we had both graduated the situation had not resolved itself at all, rather it seemed to be getting worse. It was at this point she’d revealed to me she was expecting our baby and said she wanted to leave the city and try to make a life somewhere else where she would not constantly be anxious of some event occurring. I remember her looking at me with the closest thing to fear I have ever seen in her eyes. I knew this as a terrifying test for her; would I leave with her, uproot from my home and my family and set off unaided into the unknown with university debt, a baby on the way and no sign of a steady future. I’d simply smiled at her, as if she should ever doubt me and just said “You go… we go”.

Flight 042

 

Coming soon...

Malcolm Disco

 

Part 1

 

It was one of those nights; rain pounding the streets like a boxer’s bag, relentless, heavy, shattering into a million shards of water with every blow until the world looked stretched to explosion. The streets were mostly empty; not many would brave a night like this without being either paid a great deal of money, or suffering from hereditary stupidity, and as I think I comfortably fit into both those categories it well explained why I stood under the pink neon sign of a tattoo parlour, hunched into my trench coat, and wondering if a quick turn under the needle was worth half an hour out of the downpour.

The generous sprinkling of half smoked butts making a sodden pyre at my feet was testimony as to either exactly how much money I was being paid or how stupid I was, for suffering the abuses of this particularly miserable night, and as I tried to pull a few lungs from another before the rain extinguished it, despite all my leaning guard, I glanced up to the lights of a car cutting a distorted beam through the hurtling drops.

I didn’t need to see the plates to recognise the rumble and dimensions of a government wagon; stretched, sleek and jet, intimidating the night, bulletproof and equipped with all the necessities a ripe politician might need for an evening of debauchery and license.

As it purred to a stop opposite I slunk back into the shadows, more exposed to the rains trying to work their way into my skin, but deep in the shadows of the old brickwork making up this part of town.

Not many men from the hill made fell their way down here, and if they did it was usually without trying to draw such attention, but if I were right the man in that car was about as concerned with public opinion and reputation as the storm was paying attention to my self-wallowing.

Two of the doors opened and suits large enough to intimidate small countries rose into the night, oblivious to the rain they cast around the car for a moment, experienced eyes flowing over and through the night. I felt a tension rise in my chest which was only partly due to the three packs I’d hacked my through that day as they scanned the recess I was concealed within, but their eyes showed no sign of pause and in a moment they’d concluded their perfunctory if cautious rifle of the night.

Spitting open a generous umbrella one of the mutants opened the rear door to the stretch and solicitously covered the exit as another figure slowly emerged from the depths. He paused for a moment while the other brute lit his cigar, puffed out a veritable cloud and then the three moved over sidewalk towards a deserted featureless five storey building, climbed the few steps before the old heavy double wooden doors and disappeared into the lightless interior.

Although I felt just standing in this damn rain should earn my evening’s dough it wasn’t in the contract; hell, the contract wasn’t in the contract, but the retainers fee was paid, and spent, and I had a mind to collect on the rest of that promissory note and so padded across the street, lit by a couple of mellowed streetlamps and the neon into some 50’s rerun, while the rain seemed to be trying to warn me off as it soaked its way through my already chilled bones, and made cold feet all the heavier as the filled worn boots.

It didn’t seem prudent to enter through the front, so I cut down the alley running along the building, an obstacle course of dumpster and trash, puddle and oppression. The air thickened to stifling as I breathed in the wet summer humidity, and even with the dampening effect of the deluge the refuse stank worse than a French breakfast.

About halfway down the alley I vaguely made out a fire escape zigzagging up the side of the building, so manhandling a dumpster as quietly as I could I managed to jump for the lowest rung of the ladder and eventually, with perhaps more under-breath cursing than Sister Mary would have approved of, managed to haul myself up to the first platform.

I moved to the nearest window and tried to make out anything through grime so layered with time it might have held the ancient secrets to enlightenment somewhere in its pages, but all I could see in the dark interior was dark interior, so I carefully stole up the slick metal steps to the next level, to be met with similar secrecy.

It wasn’t until I reached the fifth floor I received some return on my investment; here through the now familiar grime I could barely make out a pale yellow glow of illumination spilling out from a room sunk into the midst of this floor.

Miss Luck might not have been in a dry humour today, but she’s as fickle a mistress as any dame, as she had generously left the window unlatched, and while older than the car I constantly paid out on to allow it to keep breaking down, it slid up on runners still spritely enough to keep grumbling from the retirement home.

As quietly as one can while squelching in boots wet enough to water the Sudan I slipped into the building and up to the nearest wall, waiting for a moment to see if my entrance had attracted attention, but for the moment all was as silent as the grave, although I was painfully reminded of trying to creep back into the orphanage after hours and making it all the way back to my bunk before good Sister Mary decided to introduce her presence with her favourite slipper.

After a minute or so I was just gathering enough confidence to shuffle a little closer to the light when I heard a dull thumping sound, followed by a muffled grunt. This was a sound I had no great need to waste time deciphering, as I’d been the recipient and utterer myself upon more than one occasion, and knew some poor guy was taking a beating within that lonely room.

I pulled out my Beretta Px4 nine mm and cocked its regularly oiled muzzle silently, then eased myself around the edge of the door and rolled my way down the corridor towards the sounds coming now at regular intervals from the dimply lit room in front.

Passing several other pitch black orifices I had images of thugs jumping out from the midnight shadows, but nothing disturbed my careful approach until I lingered for a moment just outside the empty frame. Edging my way a fraction around the frame I glanced into the room and drew back again. I’d seen some poor chump tied to a chair with his back to me, one of the mutants poised to lay another heavy one on him, and perhaps a glimpse of another man standing deep in the shadows at the far end of the room.

The math was uncomfortably unbalanced, but after another quick glance around didn’t see anyone else out here with me and the shadows, so I guessed he’d be somewhere on this side of the room, but which side of the door?

Odds and I have a history of disagreements, so I was in no rush to play, but moneys had been exchanged, and the fee to come could clear a lot of debts, more urgent than a dog on the moon, for me, so taking a deep breath I spun into the room, pistol levelled and tried to cover the whole room in my turn.

I was happily surprised when I found the other Neanderthal standing to the left of the punisher, that was right until the crack of something heavy pounded into the back of my neck, and as the world went dark the last thought to cross my mind was Sister Mary shouting at me to include the one…

 

Part 2

 

First came some sound; more a throbbing in my temples than anything recognisable, then, more like the hangover after a week with the bottle, a pounding in the sides of my head. Finally, voices made it through the smithy’s frenzy, and I began to pick out separate words distinguishing themselves from the mass for a moment and then diving back into the seething ocean of pain.

I let myself hang heavy against the bonds I could feel strapping my chest to a chair, feigning unconsciousness as I tried to sort out words from the seven dwarfs trying to chip a bypass through my skull. The muttering spikes eventually resolved themselves into tangible lumps, but as the words became clear so did their suspicion of my wakefulness and my head was roughly hauled back by the hair and my eyes pulled wider than Sister Mary’s girth.

One of the gorillas stuffed into a man-suit was grinning in front, the other I supposed had his hands tangled in my hair, the senator and whoever had been watching their captive, and had got the drop on my stupidity, were standing a little to the side.

The fat senator Richard Climes approached, a fat Cuban nestled habitually in his pudgy hand, and mused down at me from the elevated position of four chins. “It’s Malcolm isn’t it, Malcolm Disco… a strange name. PI to the shabby and worthless, those without the means to employ someone with any actual ability…”

I was sorely tempted to point out the fact they didn’t have enough money for someone better because he raped them of all their hard-earned money, but thought in my certain circumstances this might not be the most advantageous of returns, so just stared back at him. To be honest I had little choice in the staring, unless I fancied a quick examination of the webbed dank ceiling, but it was nice to keep up at least a little pretence over free will.

After a moment of this he gestured to the heavy by his side who kindly introduced his fist to the side of my face. The meeting was electric and some of my hair was ripped out as my head tore free of the restraining hand. Shaking it a little and tonguing a tooth in curiosity I spat out a little salty blood and returned my gaze to the senator.

By now my hands were beginning to stretch the rope they’d tied them with, but I wasn’t quite sure what I’d actually do if I managed to get them free, However opportunities inevitably present themselves, and best be prepared when they do. Sister Mary had always beaten ‘God helps those who help themselves’ into us, so everything in the room seemed strangely familiar as another blow landed on the other side of my face, quickly followed by one to the gut which had me retching for breath and wondering if I vomited I could get a little on the senator expensive shoes.

At a word the thug stopped tenderising me and I managed to heave a couple of breaths and bring my vision back into something resembling focus, only to discover them hauling the other poor schmuck who looked unable to stand on his own, and incidentally the husband of my employer I’d been paid to track down and return after his disappearance from his laboratory workplace, to stand directly in front of me.

“You came here to help this man…” It wasn’t a question, and I had too much blood in my mouth to bother answering “Here is how you will set him free…”

I strained at my bonds as my own pistol was raised in the hands of one of the thugs, and then a whole clip was pumped into the chest of my paycheck. Well, of all the rotten no good things to do; to steal a man’s wages with his own damn gun!

“It appears his wife will have to suffer from your awful vengeance and wrath Mr Disco, you really are a quite notorious man; I don’t think many will disbelieve your depravity. Take him to her home, kill her, then splash him down in whiskey and drive him into a tree; oh, and break his neck before the impact.” I wouldn’t give him many points for imagination, but at ruthless immorality he must have been pride of his school (probably beating his way there with the use of large school boys and copious bribes).

The senator and his lackey left the room, while I was treated to a fairly thorough going over by the balloon twins. After quite a lot of punishment I feigned a, very little, more incapacity than was strictly true, and was then roughly dragged to my feet, down the five flights of stairs and thrown into the boot of a nondescript car that had miraculously appeared from on the street.

It didn’t take much more worming to get my hands free, and with a little help from a toolset rather foolishly left in the trunk I managed to open the boot (waste not want not; one of Sister Mary’s near infinite clichés), keeping it close as the car sped through the hammering rain towards its terminal journey.

The moment it pulled up before my newly widowed client, a rather large house set back behind a flat expanse of lawn dotted with the occasional strategically positioned conifer (strategic for what I couldn’t fathom, but it had probably cost a great deal in planning and execution – ‘those not to reason why’ once more echoed Sister Mary), I rolled out of the trunk and sprinted directly away from the car, ducked into some bushes as the two thugs emerged from the vehicle, and began to slowly circle around until I held myself crouched at the edge of the lawn about halfway to the dark house.

Raindrops dripped through the leaves, apparently each and every one deciding the back of my coat to be the most direct route to the muddy earth, and the constant drumming on the leaves and ground nearly muffled the curses and obscenities coming from the thugs as they discovered my absence.

They had no way of knowing where I had absconded and milled around for quite a while as their peanut brains tried to formulate some strategy without the direction of their boss.

Much as I expected they finally decided on the most natural course of action for their particular disposition and started to make their laborious way over the lawn to kill my client and sort out any small temporal anomalies to their plan after the fact. As they lumbered forward I hefted a nice rock from the edge of the lawn and with a lofty throw managed to land it right on the head of the leading thug.

Predictably, if not pleasantly, they immediately opened fire on the bushes and trees I was secreted beneath, which didn’t do their stealth factor any favours and in a moment lights from the house and another one or two beside and across the road were flickering on.

This finally had the desired effect as after a conversation which remarkably enough only lasted about two minutes, they slowly withdrew from the lawn, climbed back into the car and drove off to, hopefully, make their report and receive whatever chastisement they would incur from their employer.

There was no way to be sure they had left for good, or how long it would take the cops to turn up, if they’d even been alerted to the gunshots, so I was up and running across the lawn to the house in a trice. On arrival I banged on the door a few times, but there was no answer so I tried the handle as a formality and then kicked in the front door.

Dashing into the house under such circumstances was perhaps an error in judgement and the last thought I had before whatever heavy cudgel-like object clubbed me into familiar unconscious was Sister Mary shouting over and over again about knocking…

 

Part 3

 

Waking up this time was, if not pleasant, then at least far less uncomfortable than upon the previous occasion, and rising unsteadily from the expensive leather couch and fingering the latest knobble to my skull I idly wondered how the poor eternally suffering thing still managed to hold together without the aid of superglue and duck-tape.

A generous glass of whiskey was placed in my hand before my eyes were working again, but the perfume of the giver smelled of beautiful and rich so I knew my client was the charitable beneficiary. I shot the lot and optimistically offered the glass, which was immediately refilled, but before I had a chance to down the next the inquisition began.

I lit a smoke for each of us as I broke the news about the demise of her husband, but she seemed far from inconsolable at his death. She was however more than frightened when I informed her of their intentions concerning her and she nearly bolted there and then.

There was little for it but to get her away from the house so in a few minutes the two of us were once more driving through the pelting rain, only this time in her spanking new Mercedes SLS AMG, perhaps not the most discreet of vehicles for a getaway, but certainly the coolest.

She drove under my directions to a bar whose owner owed me a whole handful of favours and stashed the car in a street one block away reached down another alley. Obtaining entrance through the kitchens we were soon ensconced in Reggie’s office and I was soothing my multiple cuts and abrasions with a bag of ice and a bottle of scotch.

Reggie had excused himself and was off doing whatever proprietors do when they’re not in their office and I was wondering at our next move.

“I’ve told you; I have no idea why they would want my husband.” Claimed the lying bundle of slender legs, slim waist, generous bosom and strikingly beautiful bundle of sexy all rolled into a long skirt and lose silk blouse through pouting lips begging for a kiss. I still had some hopes for granting that wish so didn’t press her on her obvious deception, but tried to come at the thing from a different angle.

“I have no idea what he was working on in his laboratory; he never discussed his work at home.” Came a fresh untruth from her falsely quivering full lips, which had somewhere managed to make the time to apply a little lipstick pleading so invitingly to be smeared off I was forced to down another full glass before I could compose myself again.

“As far as I knew he had no relationship to the senator, and I’ve never met him.” Was the final straw and I leaned back with my bag of ice and whiskey for a moment’s reprieve from libido as the combination of lies and seduction working their way steadily into my drying underwear had my concentration right on the ragged edge.

There was a sudden commotion from outside the office, and wouldn’t you know it all my pessimism about Reggie’s sudden departure turned out to be right on the mark. Leaping to my feet I ran to his desk, and kicked open the locked draw I knew he kept his Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, and grabbing up a couple of spare clips I darted to the far side of the door just as it burst open and we were treated to the great pleasure of another visit from the ugly twins.

The screaming of my client was suitably distracting so while the thug lowered MY pistol at my employer I put a couple of slugs into the side of his head, swung into the open doorway and dropped his ‘brother’ with two taps to the chest and one to the forehead, only to discover at least five or six other members of homo bloody huge standing around outside among the fleeing patrons, hefting a whole arsenal of fully automatic weapons…

Thinking this might be a good time to depart the premises along with all the other sensible souls I put a shot into the head of the nearest gun toting aggressor and hurled myself back into the room before the hail of bullets filled me with enough holes to make Swiss cheese envious, and the rats did indeed come running.

Scrabbling along the expensive carpet on elbows and hip bones I finally managed to scoop up my faithful gun and make it back to my employer without any new holes decorating my precious body, who on her hands and knees behind the sofa didn’t seem to actually need to pause in her screaming to breath, managing to continue the banshee wail (possibly doing more damage to the local glass than the continuous hail of flying lumps of lead), at a fairly steady and constant pitch.

Occasionally firing randomly over the sofa top I scanned the room for possible escape routes; knowing Reggie there just had to be another concealed way out of his office, but couldn’t see any hopeful prospects. Shouts were coming from outside the room and I guessed the guys were gathering themselves for a rush, so swapped clips, I palmed Reggie’s gun in my left, my trusty Beretta in my right and reeled up as I heard pounding boots, firing both guns into the narrow doorway and its outer edges hoping a few shots might pass through the walls on either side.

That gave them reason to pause, and dropping back under the returning hail of shots my ears once more came under close barrage from the unending peal of terror escaping from my employee’s now not so gorgeous mouth. Sliding new clips into place I surveyed the room again as the guys outside began working themselves up to another charge. I think I had downed another, perhaps wounded a fifth, but having no idea of how many were out there meant that I could take no comfort in my superior aim, or gratefully accepted luck.

There was little more I could think of, I saw absolutely no recourse, so reeling up once more and emptying my Beretta into the next room I scooped up my employer at the waist, and despite her struggles managed to take the three steps to the window and hurl the two of us through before any of the aggressors could take advantage of our vulnerability.

Shattering glass and splinters of wood accompanied our fall, the doll’s screaming rising and falling as she spun closer and away again from my tender eardrums, lights and motion as the surrounding city swung a crazy dance about my head and the damned rain still pounding down turned everything into anarchy in a cold shower.

We crashed into the dumpster I had prayed would be in its usual location and while I tried to once again breath, pull what might have been a used nappy from my face, and drag my client to out of her headfirst 7.4, I heaved myself to my feet and trained Reggie’s Smith at the remains of the window above.

Tipping the dumpster with a shoulder charge we rolled out of the thing onto hard tarmac; a combination of hard street and soft posterior bringing a most delightful squeal from my client and in a moment we were up and running for the alley opposite. Through the rain I could vaguely make out shapes massing around the front of the club, but with the weight of the downpour and general confusion I think we made it into the alley unnoticed.

She’d finally finished screaming as I stood her up against the brick wall and returned to the alley mouth to check for pursuit, but there was apparently none. I was then introduced to my third shock of what was becoming a really long night as what I only hoped wasn’t something too nasty descended upon my head once more; all too familiar stars leapt into vision and then faded out to the harsh voice of Sister Mary repeating ‘look at me when I’m talking to you’.

 

Part 4

 

Perhaps it was the constant repetition of hard blows to the head, perhaps hammering adrenalin, or maybe just damn stubbornness in the end cinched it, but this time I didn’t black out fully. I shook off the fog as I heard my double crossing client’s heels tapping away into the rain and managed to drag my knees back under me, then with a little aid from the stalwart wall wobbling shakily back to my feet.

As soon as I could manage I began to weave my way in the direction she’d taken off in, determined to get to the bottom of tonight’s fiasco, and soon arrived at where we’d left her outrageously expensive automobile.

Caution thumped me in the head, or perhaps the residues of three sharp blows, a general pounding and fall from a building into a dumpster, but whatever it was I pulled up short before running out of the alley; just in time to see my client being rudely spun from where she was rooting through the trunk of her car by yet another leviathan, another identical thug (wondering if there was a factory line somewhere just hammering them out), standing to the side, and wouldn’t you just know it… our beloved Senator Dick and his lackey holding his umbrella standing nearby.

At this point I’d had just about as my relatively long, under normal circumstances, fuse could manage. I crept out from the alley, keeping low behind parked cars as I approached the group, trying to spot if there were any more unexpected gifts for the back of my head in the vicinity, and trying to blink the unending rivulets of rain from my tired eyes.

Somehow unnoticed, I managed to get behind the senator’s big sleek stretch and eased my way down the far side until I was only a metre or two from the corrupt politician. Quite unsure of what to do next I took the very first option to spring to mind and slipped up behind the fat man, slid one hand around his many necks and dug the gun hard into his ribs (a job not nearly so easy as you might thing considering it was a compact).

Everything froze, except the damn rain… one of the thugs pulled the girl closer and put his gun under her neck, the other trained his generally in my vicinity, but I doubted he would risk a shot with the senator literally filling his line of fire, the secretary leapt away and stood off somewhere in between, nervous eyes twitching back and forth between the two groups.

“Now, now my boy; let’s not be hasty about things now. I’m sure we can find a peaceful solution to all this upset.” Came the oily voice far too close to my ear for comfort.

I just wanted a bottle, a packet and a bed by now and was in far too much pain and suffering from exhaustion to be very bothered with negotiations; telling them to drop the guns and depart and then I’d let the senator go.

I was truly shocked, as too apparently was the senator, when the guys slowly lowered their guns to the floor and took a couple of steps back. The secretary also eased away further from the conflict and I was left feeling rather pleased with my bold audacity. This was of course when the bullet went through the top of my right shoulder, spinning me off balance and releasing the senator to stumble to his knees (Sister Mary screaming ‘arrogance will be your downfall’ in my tortured ears)…

Of course the car had a damned driver I cursed my stupidity as I tried to raise my arm and return fire in the general direction the shot had come from. All I managed was to trigger up a few spits of tarmac, but it had the same effect anyway as the driver ducked back down behind the bonnet of the stretch.

Dropping into a sitting position behind the trunk I managed to wing one of the thugs as he gather up his gun, but before I could manage much else of anything the broad I was working for had somehow managed to procure the other heavy’s gun and proceeded to blast them both from existence, emptying the full clip into the two off them with while wildly inaccurate aim, close enough proximity to get the job nicely done.

The senator was cowering on his knees, flabby hands trying to engulf his head. His secretary had somehow taken one in the belly and was hunched over trying to hold his insides together, I thought that one might have come from the driver, and blood was soaking its way down the front of my filthy shirt and through the battered material of my trench coat.

Darkness and shock were creeping in from the edges now, but I couldn’t let the lethargy take me, so manfully staggering up to my feet I sent a bullet down the left side of the car as I turned to crouch my way down the left. As hoped for the driver had swung to face the direction of the first shot so I promptly let him have it twice in the back.

He wasn’t finished yet though and stumbling away into the street and waving his gun around in haphazard fashion he began to fire shots all over the place. I finished him with a head shot, and cradling my injured arm cautiously checked to see if he was really dead, then keeping a wide birth of the stretch (a little late, but Sister Mary and all that), made my slow way back to the sight of the most recent massacre.

It was then I saw my client leaning heavily against the floor. I hurried past the now either dead or unconscious secretary and the cowering senator to her side and tried to support her. She was bleeding out rapidly from a shot to her upper chest and even at a glance I could see it would end her.

I tried to hold her close, but all I received for my generosity was yet another clout about the head, this time quite feeble, but the butt of her gun landed right on a recent bruise and the shock shivered through my frame.

“What fucking use were you?” Were her last words as she tottered over to the other thug, gathered up his gun and finally slumped to her knees before the senator. He raised his head at the sound of her arrival and through hair matted to his head, and a mixture of tears and rain running down quivering jowls tried to utter a word, but she had no patience and just shot him in the mouth before slumping down over his corpse.

The rain stopped…

I thumbed a butt from a sodden packet, lit the end after a few attempts with a trembling zippo and looked at the street. I decided not to wait to explain all this to the authorities and as my client wouldn’t be objecting decided to appropriate her car.

Sitting behind the wheel, cigarette slowly drying as the hot ash burned closer to my battered cut lips, and a little Marley’s Three Birds playing from a stereo system that probably cost more than my apartment I was too tired to even wonder what it was all about (Sister Mary muttering something about ‘no rest for the wicked’)…

Cats and Kittens

 

Lounging beside the lights at the busy junction he pulled on his smoke and watched the cars jerking forwards with the heartbeat of city gridlock. The sun was stealing its way through the towering buildings of the commercial district, shattered into a million shards by the crystalline constructions, within which time and fortune rushed by oblivious to the covetous hands clutching at their dust.

As the gleaming automobiles competed to drown each other in a cacophony of desperation he allowed the babble of the city to cascade over him like some secure rock amidst the chaotic confusion of some mountain torrent.

The people streamed about him as their merciless master played with the fast forward and pause, stilling them in brutal contrast to the heaving traffic. Raised voices, desperate for their meaningless inanities to be acknowledged, roared in competition to the wasted horsepower, adding a strident pleading background to the groaning resurrection; the daily struggle for the metropolis to drag itself from its nightly coma.

He flicked the butt out into the road, watched as the cinders burst to life as the bounced from the passenger window of some people’s car, and flash away to ash; swirling into the vacuum caused by the car’s ferocious increment.

Drawing his soft pack he patted another smoke, while savouring that steady pitch as his zippo flipped open, and drew a lungful of the rich combination of chemicals and heady tobacco into his lungs.

Oblivious to the condemnation of the recently conditioned anti-smoking social slaves, he loosely exhaled a vast cloud of smoke, which in the still morning air, clung about him as if loathe to do battle with the lemmings; another soon joined and the two of them gained a little confidence, beginning to invade the holy territory of the new dogmas.

It wasn’t long before he sighted something to incite his activity, and with a transition from immobility to action which seemed to have no intermediary he stepped into the street. The traffic was gaining momentum now, as the jammed roads began to relax from their morning labours, causing invective and the accompanying squeal of protesting rubber as the automatons vented their well-rehearsed outrage; halted as they were from their crucial relocation of repetitive misery, but he paid them as little heed as some stalking panther attaches note to the complaints of scuttling ants as it disrupts their lines of industry.

Loose grey combats and fitted jacket stepped directly into the path of a British racing green C8 Spyder SWB as he brought the supercar to an abrupt cessation. The driver, some urgent young victim of the rat race had to wait a few moments as the electric windows of his hooded convertible lowered before he could launch into his outraged rant; an action which would have been a little more noticeably furious in the old days, when enraged hands would tear at window handles in their haste to hurl abuse at offending obstructions.

Pulling a SIG SAUER P228 from its concealed shoulder holster he put a shot past the guy’s ear and gestured him with laconic ease a simple choice. A moment later the guy, in a moment of profound sagacity often found even in the incurably stupid, even at that age, when offered such an old fashion TV alternative, accepted the less painful option, scuttling away through the stalled traffic, tail securely tucked between his legs.

He climbed into the beautiful cockpit-like interior, lowered the passenger window and called in a gravelly voice “Kitten…”

A beautiful long haired feline emerged from the coffee shop on the corner, lapping at a creamy teaspoon before flipping it away. Tight jeans and pristine white pumps flowed over the happy tarmac, crop top and tattoo slid into the supercar, and pursed lips blew a kiss at all the hanging jaws following the scene from every portion of the stilled tableau.

She snuggled herself into the luxurious upholstery as he gunned the engine and flagrantly ignoring traffic laws started to slide through the trams, living their delusions of grand free will while ensconced on their programed psychic rails.

In a few moments they arrived outside the church of modernity, and slipping the car into a disabled space the two of them sauntered through the efficiently rotating impersonal entrance. She pulled a 1911 Poly from… somewhere, while smiling sweetly as the security guard redirected his attention from her figure to the dark void reminding him of his mortality and slovenly teenage dependents; although it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

His pistol once more flowed into his hand in perfect synchronization with his zippo igniting another smoke. Directing the multipurpose key towards one of the cashiers he found his mind was adroitly read and a bag miraculously began to fill with cash. Swinging his gaze down the isle of identical uniforms, with indistinguishable buns, duplicate makeup and matching terror he was unsurprised to find they had equally developed in moments telepathic abilities far beyond the ken of scientist and spiritualist, and were homogenously repeating the actions of the first obedient mannequin.

Enjoying his smoke for a moment he idled down the row collecting his gifts with a winning grin before and returning to join her where she stood covering the room “After you, Kitten…” He’d willing follow her anywhere, for the view was… alluring, so it was only with half an eye he pounded the security guard unconscious with the butt of his pistol.

Alarms were screaming their petulance as the couple departed the onerous scene, and while the car leapt from the starting gate he set the roof to slide and released them from the restrictions of confinement, allowing the open air and sunlight to hang for a while.

It was only a moment or two before the lonely law-enforcement vehicles began to plead in their high pitched entreaty for them to hold up and keep them company, but they were too straitlaced for the hip to hang so he began to tease them with glimpses of a little tango.

She lit a cigarette for him as he slipped between the commuters, dancing their stallion through the obstacles with ease and abandon, while the lumbering workhorses bleated their jealousy, and the military mounts pounded doggedly along in their wake.

Spanking his mount he rode the pavement to avoid a roadblock as in perfect harmony she turned and spat a couple of bullets into the front tire of the leading police vehicle. Its wheel hiccupped in shock, twisted in rebellion and the unhappy thing spun into the gap with grinding metal and the frustrated yapping, halting the chase for a moment as the rule books had to rearrange their itinerary.

They were approaching the city limits now, but more of their adoring fans stumbled and skidded into pursuit, avid for an autograph and perhaps a snapshot or two. The bascule bridge separating them from the desert plains was already rising in salute to their longed for arrival as he flashed the Spyder up its sloping sleeve.

The supercar, rejoicing to be abused as its designers had awoken aroused and erotic from sweating dreams had only imagined, leapt from the tip or the ramp… she howled her delight; the wind wrapped itself through her long dark hair and slid its fingers through the silken strands, sunlight glinted from chrome and polished deep green set upon a context of perfect blue, his chuckle offset her piping joy in perfect concert; time froze…

Bouncing and jouncing the Spyder roared its triumph over the ungainly impediment, guttural and masculine it coughed disdain at the pathetic hurdle; dropping a few gears it thundered its derision, exulting at finally getting the chance to stretch a little muscle.

Lighting him another smoke she brought his day to perfection with a brush of lipstick to his stubble as the left they city far behind…

 

Bob and the Blowfish

 

Bob had recently made close friends with a Tetraodontidae (something you and I might call a blowfish, and for the sake of the rest of this story I shall call it exactly that, for I just can’t manage to force myself to write Titty, which was the cute little nickname Bob finally decided most apt for the rather obnoxious little thing). This blowfish had, what I would describe as, a questionable character; something of a pilferer, I the realm of idea and concept as well as the personals or its poor unfortunate victims, and while he floated about all the other little marine varieties would take great care with their valuables.

To be perfectly honest I was at quite a loss as to why the enigmatic Bob would ally his albeit a little on the odd side genius with this turgid fellow, but ‘ours is not to reason why’ so for the sake of an uneventful life (a true contradiction in terms for Bob’s most faithful companion to claim to desire), I put up with the pompous little twit. Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, Bob found the affected, ponderous chap delightful and took him almost everywhere (until, much to both my disgust and relief, he ate him).

So one very fine morning, as the sun sprung into the dazzling blue sky, eager for new sights and experience in its avid observation of man and all his follies, the three of us wandered the orchid gardens of Singapore chatting about this and that. Well, they did most of the chatting while I just revelled in Bob’s company; as always feeling just a little closer to understanding something just out of reach when in his presence.

Today, as we meandered through the labyrinthine ways of that landscaped, fragrant refuge, stopping to gaze in awe at the complex and various blooming rarities, the conversation turned, as was the usual tendency, toward something a little… philosophical. The two of them began to discuss personal identity and what might give a person a feeling of actuality in this complicated world of little lost, bleating sheep.

 

Our pretentious blowfish companion churlishly, in the face of what I believed to be the far more compelling argument, maintained that the items with which we surround ourselves are marks of the nature of the person to whom they belong and evinced his argument along these lines…

All things which are created within our realm are finite and partake of this universe for such a brief time (for even the eons of magnificent conflagration belonging to the stars themselves are like the flutter of a new-born butterfly’s wings in the face or eternity). We appear and struggle to survive against all the raging elements of tumultuous nature, flickering as the candle battling the gale, so easily extinguished never to be rekindled. We exist within the echoing halls of our mind or consciousness and never truly know the touch of another mind upon our innermost self.

There appears to be no progress but to make our lives just a little more comfortable in the sudden wind, gusting and momentarily disturbing the autumn leaves adorning some mighty oak, which are our lives, enjoying ourselves for just a few moments before we fade once more into obscurity and merge again with the unthinking universe, which in its own way is already treading the inevitable path towards its own extinction.

In this time, with nothing behind us and a gaping empty void approaching rapidly before, we may only ground ourselves, in the face of dread and terror, with the things which make our lives a little more tolerable; the tangible, material items to reassure us of our abilities and confirm us in our small successes.

He tried with all his eloquence to demonstrate the fragile, incommensurability of human communication and understanding, the self-motivated drives for companionship and sharing, the insubstantiality of love and friendship, the lack of ultimate purpose in the machinations of the universe, and the absurd irony of possession of a conscious mind in the face of Death’s looming rictus…

Although loathe to admit capitulation in the face of such a soulless predilection, spouted from the flapping, bulbous lips of this self-satisfied bag of wind and water, until I was blessed by Bod’s emotive response, I was heavily swayed by such a rationally compulsive argument. Though cold and indifferent to all that whispers of a soul and meaning beyond physical gratification, the point was brutally powerful in light of the lack of material evidence, which might be held up against such compelling reasoning.

I turned, more than a little distraught, to Bob, eager, desperate in point of fact, for his response and was utterly dismayed to find him weeping. Tears running silently down his face in a flood, brimming from overflowing eyes, beneath brows so lowered in sorrow a frozen moment of this sight might have been the epitome for all compassionate empathy (I believe it was at this moment Bob decided to devour the plump fellow, more to put him out of his misery than due to any seafood craving).

For long awful moments I was terrified that Bob might have been defeated in his essential maintenance of the possibility of devising and discovering in union of meaning beyond that of the day to day survival of man, and justification of all things beautiful for the sake of beauty; ends in themselves, if you like.

Then, shaking himself from his forlorn reverie and dashing the tears from his ears with an aggressive determination, he cast his head back, long flowing hair scattering the butterflies attempting to descend upon his shoulders and laughed. The sound was so full of mirth and joy I couldn’t help but be infected by its gaiety, joining in and adding my own piping tones to his deep baritone. Our self-important eminent colleague found no concordant strings within the depths of his soul to be plucked with the vigorous strength of Bob’s good clean humour, and discarding even his pretentiously amicable mask appeared angry and threatened, as if his [self-appointed] intelligence were being mocked.

Bob finally tired of his glee and abruptly stepped close to the two of us, spreading his hands wide and then enclosing them around us, gripping us tight in an embrace both powerful and gentle simultaneously. Light flared, harmonies exploded in my ears, a thousand fragrances delighted my sense of aroma, sumptuous tastes, both sweet and savoury, flooded my mouth, sending my taste buds into ecstasy and my entire skin felt caressed by the most intimate lover. The world disappeared.

 

In a moment, after long eternities had fled by in instants of encompassing clarity, we re-materialised, coalesced if you like, in the delivery room of a maternity ward of some hospital, I knew not where. Lying on the table, face contorted in pain due to rigorous contractions during the latter stages of giving birth, a woman and at her side, clinging on to her shaking hand of her lover.

Around and about them were doctors and nurses, variously comforting and encouraging her as her face flickered between searing agony and determination. Her concerned and apprehensive partner’s head darted back and forth from her countenance to where the new life was at very this instant exiting its nurturing haven into the very realm our cynical companion claimed to be so bereft of meaning and significance (to be honest, and although I bend the artistic taste for cliché and truism near to breaking point, I did believe the poor man would crumple to the floor in a swoon, so pale and agitated his visage).

In moments the fresh new person had leapt into our world of desire and began a lusty bawl at encountering this unexpected and foreign environment. I considered the bloody ball of shock and distress for a moment, wondering at the miracle which had just occurred; from some detonation long ages passed, where vast amounts of gases and energies had been flung about the vacuum, so very many events must have needs taken place… The meetings of substances in specific places, the attraction of materials and their exact merging and growth, their metamorphosis and mutation through time unimaginable, until at the very end, two miracles themselves, for products of the same processes had entwined in nature’s union to produce this new bundle of potentials.

I transferred my astounded gaze to the mother who, just moments ago writhing in awful pain, was now glowing with radiant joy and, exhaustion forgotten, was reaching eagerly for her new daughter. Beside her, her lover, but moments before reeling at the bewildering series of anxieties, was now just standing, staring at his new child with the most alluring look of wonderment.

After a few more minutes, while he remained by his love’s side and she clutched this part of herself to her breast as if she would never release the little thing, he kissed them both and went dashing off out of the room, though I’m not sure his newly enlarged family even noticed him leaving.

On impulse I followed at his heels and found he’d charged into the arms of who I assumed to be his mother. Outside the delivery room a large group of anxious friends and family had gathered and had apparently been waiting for some duration. As he stuttered out a few confused and barely comprehensible words a great cheer went up from the mob, accompanied by much laughter, back slapping and the distribution of what appeared very excellent cigars (I confess to sighing with great longing for a moment, regretting my, for the moment, ethereal presence and not simply for the lack of a good smoke).

Bob and the blowfish exited the room and approached me. Bob was grinning like a boy after stealing his first kiss from a sweetheart, and the blowfish was looking puzzled and a little nauseous. He turned to Bob and enquired as to why we’d appeared here to witness this rather disgusting spectacle of mammalian reproduction to which Bob had just shaken his head and winked at me as if sharing some private moment. He then stepped forward once more and wrapped us tight in his paradoxical embrace. The strange multi-sensual feeling overwhelmed me once more and the world disappeared.

 

When next I found all the molecules of my body reassembling in a dizzying feeling of unaccustomed gravity I discovered we were standing on high cliffs overlooking some unknown ocean. We had appeared at dusk, beside a young couple who were standing hand in hand to watch as the sun gently sunk beneath the waves.

As our beneficent star descended into the depths of the underworld, that unattainable location where sea and sky caressed, appeared to catch fire, spreading sparkling scarlet and amber gems glittering out over the crest of every wave. The sky effortlessly blended out a cloak of rainbow hues; deep orange into pale pinks, and further through a myriad of blues until it fell into the depths of a night in which the first stars could be seen flaring into life.

The young man turned to his companion and with a hand shaking fractionally, the only indication of his trepidation, stroked the side of her face. Then cupping her chin so very tenderly brought his lips to hers in a gentle kiss. They embraced there, set before the majesty of falling night, passionate and devoted.

As I stood, awestruck and marvelling at the flawless sight, something about the image struck me as archetypical; here was a moment, idealised yes, but from which echoed a near infinite number of reflected moments. Here, standing in the presence of nature at her very finest, and I recalled with force that, for all our technology, our disassociation from her subtle call, we were creatures of the same star stuff as she, and our essential affinity complete. While at the same time, our ability to reason and choose, to direct the course of our lives as we should so desire, allowed us the one luxury impossible for all other creations; we could decide who to share the harmonised beating heart of union with, who to forge forward with into the abysmal unknown, who to share the trials and tribulations of this endlessly creative future with, and who we would walk upon cliffs, kiss and share nature’s charitable beauty with (I was reminded of an old saying and decided there and then to alter it just a little to service my need: If the sun sets in grandiose splendour and one has no one to share the joy with… what then is the point… Is not our very first reaction at such a time to turn to a soul-mate, standing beside us, and gasp in perfect communion?).

I looked to Bob and realised he was violently panting, deep passionate breaths sucking and blowing through his lips and nostrils and an almost ghostly light glowed from his eyes as they drilled into the wondrous sight set before us. The blowfish on the other hand looked a little bored, although he did spare a pining glance at the ocean, and eventually asked why we were here. Bob spun on his heel and slapped him in the face, causing the annoying little twerp to expand like a gloating bully. To which Bob appeared instantly contrite and once more wrapped the two of us in his mystical embrace and the now familiar sensation of obliteration engulfed and ripped me apart once more.

 

Returning to my corporeal/wraithlike sentient self once more I eagerly searched around to discover what stupendous snapshot of existence Bob had introduced us to this time, but was slightly taken aback by the singularly uninspiring sight of an ancient looking man lying in a bed in what appeared to be a rather normal looking room. There were a few others in the room, either sitting beside the man or talking quietly together, but little else of note.

I edged a little closer to the decrepit old chap and upon closer examination realised he was quite literally ‘on Death’s door’. His breathing was laboured as he struggled with every intake, his skin dry as old parchment and littered with liver spots, his joints swollen and riddled with arthritis, his eyes misted with some milky fluid and at his neck I could clearly make out his pulse fluttering like some poor caged fledgling.

Then before my very eyes the old man passed away, visibly decreasing into himself as his last breath expelled to merge and blend with the greater atmosphere. A silence fell upon the room, stretching for long moments before one of the women, sitting gently holding his hand began to weep quietly, as if afraid to intrude upon this inevitable finality, the only constant truly joining us together.

I was unsure of why Bob had brought us here to observe or what I should do, standing in perplexed bewilderment amidst these grieving people I felt an intruder, some unwanted voyeur peeking into a sacred moment. It was then the strangest thing began to happen, I imagine at the behest of something Bob had done; I began to see the old man once more. However, now he was no longer lying feeble and useless in his last moments, prostrate upon his deathbed, now he hovered, both above and within each of the people gathered here, in what I imagined were various ages throughout his life.

Permeating the quietly weeping woman he appeared a little shy of middle age, still fit and vigorous, and helping her to mount her first bicycle. With limitless patience he taught her to ride; encouraging her timid first attempts, supporting her when she failed and nearly fell, stretching his aching, knotted back surreptitiously when he thought himself unobserved, laughing with her with great joy as she managed her first few rotations and finally regaling a pretty woman, who I surmised to be his wife, with a greatly embellished tale of the little girls heroic triumph.

In the same fashion a bizarre collection of images saturated one of the men standing beside the door. I saw the man weeping at the loss of his wife, and the old man, not greatly younger than he must have been when he died but moments ago, tirelessly consoling his grief. He stayed at his side through the irrational anger, the uncontrolled anguish, the drinking and the despair, not simply for a day or week, but through the long months it had taken the man to regain some semblance of himself after such a woeful tragedy.

There were other images, other visions, changing, altering, leaping from year to year, moment to moment, in the others assembled there, and in each and every one I saw the old man aiding in some manner one or other of these people gathered here. He would support their efforts, commiserate their upsets, teach them to develop their own skills and so much more until I found myself weeping with pride that such a man could have existed; he seemed the very embodiment of compassion. In each of these souls, and I could even sense further echoes reverberating through the walls of the room apparently from others, not present here, who he had also aided in likewise manner, so very many, a multitude my mind was incapable of properly encompassing, I knew I was seeing the positive effects of man’s caring, giving personality. I was a witness to the final testament of true goodness, spreading from one soul and infecting others with its virtue, spreading out into the world and down through the years, like rippling waves washing away from a stone dropped into some pool of still, receptive water.

Bob silently gathered us to him once more and for the final time we roared through time and space to return to the orchid garden from which we had so recently, long eternities ago, begun our insightful journey. I was so filled with what I had seen, so struck by the beauty of each scene I had been so fortunate as to observe, I could do nothing but humbly mutter my gratitude, dashing the confusing tears from my visage. The blowfish on the other hand seemed unmoved by anything we had seen and experienced, wondering aloud what we would have for our supper.

At this point Bob materialised a cricket bat from somewhere, I know not where he might have concealed the thing, but by now I had all but ceased my wondering how he managed any of the impossible things which came to him so effortlessly. He turned to the blowfish and calmly clubbed the thing to death, deposited it in a plastic bag and asked if I would be joining him for a spot of fish and chips, some baked beans on the side. I politely refused having abruptly lost my appetite.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

 

       I sat with three other men in the clothing boutique of the popular department store and waited. I’d been waiting all day, give or take, and although a little bored I didn’t really mind. She didn’t ask me to go shopping with her very often as she usually preferred the company of her female friends so if she asked me it meant she either wanted to spend some time just with me, or she was choosing something she was planning to wear to some occasion or event with me. This of course was a delight so I could survive the interminable rounds of similar shops and almost identical garments as I luxuriated in her company without having to feel guilty she might not be enjoying what I had chosen to do, but was putting up with it because of a similar desire to spend some time with me.

       I looked around the shop, which I thought not to be of the usual high standard I expected from her choices, but as we had almost exhausted all the other possibilities we were left with few alternatives. She was busy off somewhere trying on a couple of dresses she’d selected and I had no real idea how long she would be. It was a real effort in will-power not to draw a small book from my day backpack and dive into the mysteries awaiting me within its covers, but I knew although it was unlikely to incite comment, it would probably cause her to think I was uninterested in what we were doing, so [barely] managed to refrain from this leap into stupidity, which would not only cut short our excursion, but most likely put an end to the good mood she was now experiencing and put a serious pall over any remaining happenings.

 

I looked at the other girls and women inspecting the available clothing and delighted in the sure knowledge that my girl was certainly the most beautiful maiden in the shop. I also cast surreptitious glances at what they were considering purchasing or what they were wearing and even though I make no claims to be an expert on women’s fashion decided them to be severely lacking in anything resembling a good eye. I watched as one approached the man sitting next to me and asked his opinion on the garment adorning her plump figure and listened as he uttered the usual clichés as to the beauty of the dress, obviously hoping she would buy something as quickly as possible so he could be off and meet his friends for some dinner and a few beers, or whatever other interesting activity he was wistfully contemplating while he wiled away the hours anticipating real entertainments he could actually participate in.

       I hid my smile as I noted him convince her not at all, and as the eyebrows began to rise, and the incredulity creep across her previously happy countenance he began to stutter a little and soon I could feel there would be the rumble and crackle of lightning and thunder. It seemed very doubtful now he would escape for an evening of debauchery, rather he would most likely spend the evening making up for mistakes he’d made, but she would never admit to.

       Then my lass appeared, sporting a ghastly mini-dress. I couldn’t believe it; there she was wearing something it would have never occurred to me she would don. It hardly reached her bottom, was almost luminous and was displaying the most atrocious flowers (which looked more like aliens attacking from some distant and vicious world). My mouth just dropped open and I stared. Worse than this, she seemed to take my reaction as one of compliment and began to beam a look of radiant joy.

       She enquired, quite politely and with a fake coy attitude if I liked the item. What could I say… she looked so happy, flaunting the thing now in front of me, twirling around and then actually doing a little serious model walk away, turned… held the pose, and returned.

       The pain I felt at the physical difficulty caused by not telling her the truth was almost palpable. I could feel them, just hovering there, behind my now tightly clenched teeth. The absolute truth… are you kidding, you look like you’re trying to sell your body and are not expecting a good return; I’ve seen better dressed tramps and I mean that in every sense of the word; I couldn’t walk on the same side of the street as you in that let alone by your side; when did the eye operation fail and should we sue, and so much more.

       Ah, but love is hard sometimes; so I controlled my demonic honesty and nurtured my natural sense of self-presentation; I reigned in the friskiness of my young truthful stallions and allowed them not their head to gallop and plunge into pain and misery, instead encouraged my cunning to come to play, sliding around the truth like a viper avoiding rocks in the desert. I slapped on a face of awe and felt my Shakespearian ability bloom as I told her how magnificent she looked, and even managed a sexy adage to inspire her even further.

       Oh, but she was thrilled and to my utter horror elected there and then to wear it from the shop and proudly exhibit this latest favourite addition to her wardrobe for the rest of the day. I stood for a moment my mind squirming and humming at great speed, examining and discarding possibilities as to how to prevent this disaster, but finally came up at a complete loss, and was forced to admit defeat. Rather, I congratulated her on her taste, and the ingenuity of her plan. You know what the absolutely worst part was (or so I thought as we were yet to leave the shop)… I had to pay for it! I had told her I would treat her to something nice while we were out and she just but had to choose and I’d make the buy. Of course, the gods of irony and mockery had probably hatched this little plot when the fateful words escaped my lips and had set in motion this chain of events leading to my having to fork out my hard earned money on an item of clothing I quite simply loathed.

       We left the shop and the very first man we passed ogled her; the very first. I clearly watched as his eyes slid up her legs and beyond and had to fight of the urge not to thump him there and then. The next guy had a little more taste, which made matters no better at all, as he cast a glance in her direction, double took, and started to chuckle while nudging the girl at his side, who actually covered her mouth in a vain attempt to be polite; I put a brave face on it all while inside I was literally cringing.

       I lost count of how many times I had to stare at a guy to stop him ravishing her with his eyes, even forced to turn now and then to prevent him following her along the street with his hungry gaze. My torment just didn’t end; so happy she was with her new outfit we had to remain out and about for hours to come. We ate in a really nice restaurant, which she treated me to as a thank you for buying her this outrage of material. In the restaurant the waiter kept bloody winking at me as if he were my confidant in some sordid little secret; the couples sitting around us either obviously considered other things or giggled to each other in the nature of malicious gossip.

       I hoped the ordeal was over then, but oh no, she knew I’d been invited that evening to a party by one of my customers, and demanded we attend. I procrastinated, saying it wouldn’t be something special, that it wasn’t important I should present myself, that it was such a long way, but all to no avail. So we ended up at a soiree surrounded by women in long shimmering evening dresses and men formally attired. While I might have just escaped remark in a simple white shirt and dark blue trousers there was simply no way hide the announcement she made when she entered the room. It was like one of those old westerns when the protagonist made his way through the double swinging doors into a strange saloon and everyone turns as the music silences.

       We mingled for a while. I tried to disappear, melt into the background and maintain an inconspicuous presence, hardly speaking a word, but no, she was glorying in what she perceived to be admiring attention. She’d strike up conversation, convincingly advance compelling arguments, respond knowledgably to remarks and generally be her usual sophisticated self, but with the added edge of assurance that her clothing was as stunning as her small talk, her confidence had never seemed so evident before.

       Unfortunately no one paid any attention to her conversation, rather they just stared at that bloody dress. I was almost beside myself, torn between running from the place as fast as my feet could carry me and simply deserting her to her fate, and supporting her to the very end, as I was at least partly responsible for the pickle I found myself in, as she remained unaware of what people were really thinking as they considered her.

       When the test came it was form an unexpected direction. She had finally begun to flag and we were about to depart so I told her I would just have a few words with the host before we left. She went off to powder her nose before the journey home and I went to thank the guy and enquire when we would be meeting to discuss some new needs he’d mentioned to me on the phone when he’d called to invite me to the party. He was talking to a few of what I supposed to be his closer acquaintances as they were laughing in a relaxed and jovial fashion, and while I caught his attention for a few short sentences she returned.

       He asked me why I had brought a trollop to his party! Right there and then, right in front of her, without thought or regard to manners or decorum. Having known him for some time, and always regarding him as quite the gentleman, I was astonished. Taken aback so, I was momentarily at a loss for words, but at the shock and then crestfallen look on my beloved I threw caution to the winds and let lose. Now I’m a writer by profession and when you touch wick to my loquacious nature you might find I can wax prolific and verbose to the extreme. So for the next several minutes the metaphor and cliché regarding the beauty of my companion daunted the fool and went a long way to convincing the feeble minded surrounding us of the true ideal nature of the clothing she proudly flaunted, then I turned my articulation to the pity evoking flaws riddling his own female companion who was within easy hearing.

       My little tirade went on for quite some time, and by the end most of the guests were openly laughing at his partner’s many imperfections, many were looking now with open admiration at my girl, whose head was once more proudly adorning her slender neck and the host was on the verge of bodily throwing me from the establishment as I derided and ridiculed him in a wonderfully droll and laconic manner.

       We left arm in arm with a bounce in our step and although I knew I had just destroyed any chance of further business with the chap, and in all likelihood crushed my chances with anyone who floated within his sphere of influence, I felt not the slightest regret. That was until she lovingly informed me that as I adored the dress as much as she did she’s make a habit of wearing it as often as possible, just for me…

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