fiction, photography

FESTER

Chris R-1-224 Image by Christine Renney

This story has been published previously in the journal ‘Yellow Mama’ – my thanks to Editor, Cindy Rosmus.

A chain link fence runs along the back of the terraced houses and the posts have been pulled across the path. Taking giant steps, the boy walks on the green plastic mesh. Avoiding garden refuse and a rusty bicycle frame, he reaches the gap between the garages on his right. He leaps clear of the web and stumbles onto the ground. Flies rise in his face but he stays down and, collecting himself, he crawls forward on all fours.
Keeping to the centre of the narrow cut, he pushes an old Coke can in front of him. A little of the drink spills onto the dirt. Flies buzz around the sweet and sticky droplets and he notices now the swarm, a little to his left, close to the wall. He stands and peers down but it is impossible to see through the flies. He unzips and urinates, clearing them with his stream. It is a finger. He steps back, splashing onto his trainers. A severed finger.
He sees how it was done. Where the hand was held against the wall and where the blade has scarred the bricks. He notices too the gouged area, where the flies are concentrated, and that the congealed blood tapers until it is just a stain on the wall where it has run.
He knows that he really should leave, get away. It seems like the sensible thing to do, the only thing to do. But he doesn’t move. He stays put. He is rooted to the spot. He looks down but the ground under his feet tells nothing of what has happened here. There are no footprints, no scuff marks and no trampled grass.
The flies are working on the blood, it won’t last long. It will soon be just a stain and then not even that. He glances again at the finger. It seems to him like something you could buy in a joke shop, like something he would buy.
Head down, he scans the rubbish gathered at the edges on either side of the cut but he doesn’t find what he is looking for. He needs a cigarette packet, an empty packet, a discarded packet and it seems to him unfeasible that there isn’t one.
He reaches the end but isn’t ready to step out into the open, not yet. And so he starts back, slowly now, kicking through the cans and the sweet wrappers. He must use something from here or try somewhere else.
He grasps a red and green shiny paper sheath and the stick from an ice lolly. He uses this to coax the finger into the bag, folds to seal and carefully tucks the package into his pocket.

He hasn’t looked at it yet, hasn’t even so much as taken a peek. It is still wrapped in the waxy paper and stowed in his pocket. Resisting the urge to run, he walks away from the cut and once clear wanders aimlessly. For hours he meanders back and forth, eventually making his way home where he slips unseen into the garage and then buries the package in the chest freezer under the pizzas and the pies.

He still hasn’t found the ideal container for the severed finger which is slightly shorter than a cigarette and certainly shorter than the brand his mum smokes and he scans the ground for empty king size packets, any of which will do. He will pull out the silver foil and it will easily slot into place, he is sure of this.

When he removed the finger from the freezer it had been almost perfect. He had been able to feel it through its tiny sheath, tracing with his own fingers, from the nail to the knuckle and a little lower where the knife had hacked its way through flesh and bone. Now he can feel it melting, the wet patch spreading and he can feel it pressing against his thigh. He doesn’t have much time – he needs to find a box, a container, something and make the transfer.

There is a bus stop ahead and he can see quite clearly that the bin beside the shelter is overstuffed. Reaching it he begins to rifle through it, the litter spilling over the sides. A woman who is waiting at the stop is about to say something but the boy glares at her and she changes her mind. Shaking her head she turns away. At last he has it, a king size packet and it is his mum’s brand. Chuckling, he kicks at the trash, spreading it all over the pavement. Head down he walks past the others standing in the shelter. He can hear them grumbling but he doesn’t look back. Thrusting his hand into his pocket he pokes at the finger and it feels weirdly soft and almost spongy. He now needs to find a place where, unhindered, he can peel away the paper and take a proper look at it.

Dragging his hand along the brick wall he studies the pavement but, at regular intervals, he jerks his head upward and glares at the sky. He sees some kids from his school up ahead and he hops up and over the wall on his right and slides down the bank. He runs on the level grass in front of the boarded windows to the ground floor flats and he wonders if the block is empty, uninhabited. He pulls at the entrance door but it doesn’t give. He tries the trade button but still no luck. Pressing his face against the wired glass he peers in – it is dark, a murky little scene. Someone has scrawled on the walls with a black marker but he can’t read it, not from where he is standing in the glaring sunlight.

Stepping back he hears the kids from school again on the road above. He ducks down at the side of the communal waste bin and sitting he leans back against the hot metal. He could do it here but the boy can’t help but crave for the cool of the foyer where he could huddle under the stairs and take his time. At last he hears the main door open and as he leaps up an old woman appears. She pushes the door and, taking hold of it, he waits for her. She stands on the threshold, uncertain and seemingly unaware that he is there. He could step around her but doesn’t. He leans back against the heavy aluminium door and at last she slowly makes her way up the steps, toward the road.
He fishes the finger from his pocket, peels away the soggy paper, dropping the cigarette packet, and there it is, in the palm of his hand. Like a metal cylinder, it is corroding. Already, it is much the worse for wear.
The old woman is stalled again, at the pavement’s edge. He watches her as she manages not to topple and closes his hand, holding decay in the hollow of his fist.

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poetry, life

The Last Post

Dear Readers,

After 4 years and 150+ posts I’ve decided, with a heavy, tar-clogged heart, to end my run as a regular contributor for Hijacked Amygdala.

Recently I’ve had some big changes in my life and I’ve had to redirect my (already limited) energies, which sadly means giving up my Friday spot here at HA.

Thank you all so much for reading my work (the good, the bad, and the ugly) – whether you were here from the beginning or have recently discovered Hijacked Amygdala, I’m forever grateful for your time and support. You’re the best.

Thank you to the HA family, my amazing co-contributors, for allowing me to share this platform with you – you are all bloody brilliant and it’s been an honour to work alongside you. And last but not least, thank you to Babe for taking me on at the start and giving me the freedom to create and post my writing here.

I’ll still be posting at Treacle Heart, and I’m working on some new projects – if you’re interested in what I’m up to you can follow me on Twitter @treacleheartx

For my last post at HA, I’ve chosen a poem that wasn’t actually written by me, but by my late Dad (whom I’ve posted lots about over the years). Yes it’s a cop out, posting something I didn’t write, but he says it better than me.

Cheers, all. It’s been emotional!

HLR

♥♥♥


 

A Birthday Poem
by B K Rollason

There comes a time
for taking stock
of what one’s had
and what one’s got,

of where one’s going
and where one’s been,
of what one’s heard
and what one’s seen.

You know the games,
you’ve learnt the rules,
you can tell the wisemen
from the fools,

you’ve learned that all’s
not as it seems,
that life is both
reality and dreams,

and like the tides
that ebb and flow,
life’s sometimes fast
and oft’ times slow.

To survive the storm
a tree must bend,
and a new day starts
where this one ends.

(Treliske, Cornwall – February 1982)

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Uncategorized

Children of temptation & sticky fingers

woman playing piano

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

 

Relinquish

your proud ways

it behoves no one

to hang tall on faded principle

when last we considered ourselves

it was before life swallowed us whole

too busy for contemplation

we walked off cliffs and wondered

why our broken legs didn’t work

you are not a puppet

but you have grown docile in your strings

when splintered people stuff their suffering

in nameless boxes and march to the kink

we don’t ask why

are we here, what should we do? why do we feel

as we are feeling, what ache inside us?

how do we find, authenticity?

when everything surrounding us

propels toward docile determination

we forget we were once

children of temptation and sticky fingers

unable to resist

opening jam jars, letting flies

coat themselves in satiate bliss

touching with reddened fingers

clean walls in pleasure

where did our curiosity

our hunger

go?

did we really become

stalagmites on sugar

and forget to

make forts in trees

and dams in streams

to catch the next shoal

of silver fish?

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Unfolding

ccc9963b759d8bfec58b054edd59e343

Time unfolding, holds

emblems, signatures

as hair caught in

boar brush

smells still of her

the nape of her long neck

bearing sound

tugging through until end

before light has pushed itself

past dim cloud line

warming her hands a little

just enough

just enough.

Where she was

there are now white washed walls

clean and no longer redolent

of those hours, those years spent

would they know if they touched?

The plaster, holding some memory

or reverberating solace

how her wrists looked

playing piano in silent day

with open windows to bird call

hushed by her haunt.

Would they know, if turning

in sleep they saw through half opened eyes

a murmur of her, crossing the room

one black pearl resting against

her warm throbbing neck

how much of us remains

when we are gone? How to

evoke, conjur, return to

remain, stay just one moment more

by her side before

vanishing and eddying across

cold river with the sound only

of onyx oars spent into depths

her hair trailing, thick mist

veiling before long lost

only the sound occasional

a splash or dip into darkness

and then the ache sets in

like a hole unable to be covered up

or crime undone

everywhere she was

now absent in terrible

emptiness, we keen to recall

in desperate hour, when moon

is hidden behind glowering cloud

she walks the earth and is no longer

traces of ourselves built into effigies

I reach and I reach out and still

she is always further

the smell of her in my mouth and nose

the taste of her against my

broken arms

feeling like she were whole

even as she is ether and starlight

I sense her against me in gloaming dusk

moving with agitation, mocking life

forcing a cry

beseeching time and tall trees

hidden faces in darkness

their green heights impossible

as her return

she is gone and still

the clock ticks

orange cat whiskering through high grass

outside, watching with yellow

eyes, birds overhead, out of

reach

out of reach.

Within me a glassed place of a place

cast in silver, in bronze, in clay

the shape of her

a flute, a goblet carrying fresh

spring water as benediction on

hot day, her voice stroking me

from the marbled abyss

she cannot stay, I pull on the

scarlet thread it comes loose

and unraveling her skirts, her

soft blouses, the perk of her breasts

against my mouth, urging, reddening

nipples swallowed by cries

our hands interlinked

blankets and sheets disarrayed

by motion, moisture, light and dark

her candle throat thrown back

devouring a sanctuary of

secrets and thirst

she opens for me again and again

my fingers breathing her need

we are leaves fallen from trees

made into earth and grown

against the cherry tree staining

our lips sweet and bitter

for love is found in mercy

and grace, her sinew and

hunger, baptizing memory

I hold her locket with a slice

of her dark hair growing old

in want, a touch no more

as if she never painted these

walls or grew round cheeked

beneath me, her laughter

caressing the corners with

silver, we sleep our hands

linked beneath thick covers to

keep out Winter and by

Spring I am watching

crocus urge upward

through northern dark

soil, their fragile mouths

opening to sun as once

she took me into her

one by one

til all of me

was found

and

now

without her weight

against me, shy

smile coming from

beneath long dresses unbuttoned

shining hair, falling on

wrinkled sheets

the smell of her still in

my center a thorn

as I stand by the

window its metal latch

open and cold

to my

skin.

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fiction, photography

THE LAST STATION

Chris R-1-206 Image by Christine Renney

The Station was small and tidy. This is what struck Carter as he stepped onto the platform; how incredibly neat and tidy it was. The Ticket Booth and Waiting Room were painted a muted purple that shone in the sunlight. There were window boxes and the flowers were unseasonably fresh and fragrant. Strangely, there were no signs and Carter had no idea where he was.
He realised that the train he had only just departed was already pulling away and he could so easily have jumped back on board and made his way back but he didn’t.
He moved toward the Ticket Booth and the middle-aged woman behind the glass smiled broadly. But as he drew closer Carter realised that it wasn’t a woman at all but a cardboard cut-out, faded and creased. And the smile he had found so welcoming at a distance was in fact a little grotesque.
Turning from the booth Carter looked around and he could see quite clearly that it was the end of the line. He was unsettled by this but he was unsure exactly why. He also noticed that the section of platform where he stood was separated from the rest of the Station by a chain link fence on his left. Carter walked across and moved close to it. He could see a concrete staircase at the far end that led up to the road above. Carter stepped back and studied the signs attached to the fence, instructing him to ‘KEEP OUT’ and warning him of the ‘DANGER OF DEATH‘. But it didn’t look so very different over there. It was dirtier, yes, grimier and dustier. Most of the floor tiles were cracked and an old rusty ticket machine lay on its back. But it seemed much more familiar over there and Carter realised that it was on the other side of the fence he longed to be.
The fence was split here, there and everywhere. Carter chose a gap close to one of the posts. He pulled and it came away easily. He clambered through and, once clear of the fence, he could hear the traffic from the road above. Carter looked up at the ceiling but it didn’t come down around his ears and although of course no-one was watching he moved stealthily across the station. He was less than halfway up the staircase and he could tell that the entrance had been blocked. He climbed to the top and pushed at the boards but he could see in the gaps around the edge how they had been bolted into the brickwork from outside and there was no way he was going to be able to shift it and break through, at least not without tools. Ideally, a drill and a saw but at the very least a hammer and a sharp chisel but even with tools he would make too much noise and draw attention to himself. No, he couldn’t break his way through.
Turning, Carter heard the train and rushing down he almost slipped more than once on the dusty concrete steps. But he hadn’t even reached the gap in the fence and the train was already pulling away. It couldn’t have stopped for more than a few seconds and Carter had missed it again, his chance to jump on and make his way back.

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

A Disgusting Tryst

gothMany years hence or was it yesterday
I dreamed of giving fellatio which is
never a good dream
and wondered why in the dream
a woman had a penis and I was
hoping by opening my mouth I would
be loved by that woman
there are myths and signs and wonders
even in nightmares
totems to the soul
speaking to our inner darkness
I thought of my chess pieces
how strategizing was never my thing
the mother who hated and was indifferent
the brain damaged father who struck out
in endless anger
and my own yearning for more
more, more, more, more
but when you have no more and that is it
you keep returning to the same place
hoping the outcome has changed
surely the definition of madness
resides very closely in that repetition
no release, release found often
under the pulse of music and movement
dancing away the scathing hurt
or beneath someone I pretended cared
fucking away never worked
it only hurt
more
never good at sharing
gods aren’t male, they’re
created by men for stroking
and controlling like canes can
be weapons or lovers
language shifts like time in grief
now as a grown ass woman
I dream of fellatio as a lesbian
women with penises torturing with
confusing potential
I carry the fetus who didn’t make it
like a scar across my withering chest
and my hormones shout
you haven’t got long left!
Get out there and strut your stuff
before you are truly as invisible
as a ghost
my grandmother if she were living
would tell me to bow to Jesus
because The Old God of the Jews
let us down
and was too angry
and it worked for her
she chain smoked on her way
to saving souls
and chucked the fag butts
out the window
at 80mph
because she knew
her Mormon friends would never
smell the scent of tobacco on her lips
because they didn’t get that close
nor the perfume of vodka
just an essence
I learned to like too much and recognize
drunk women and distant woman
the black and the white queens
chess pieces ravaged by their tendency to torment
as a way to even the odds
cultures eaten by death
I didn’t complete the act
it disgusted me then
as it does in my sleep
step out into a full moon
my other grandmother said
her hands are holding
red books of communism
and when she puts them down
her hands remain red
because she, like the girl in Brothers Grimm
her crime cannot be rinsed
it is found in the pigment of her abetting
the shape of a key burnt into flesh
guilty, guilty, guilty!
I loved her until I knew that
more than you should ever
love anyone
wanting to tell someone how
the ache approximates a bomb
in your heart when it grows large
but the Shrink left her post
abandoned our discussion
she didn’t have the teeth for it anymore
so many people broken
her dance card was full
mine was empty
what a fool I made of myself
for the fiftieth time
lighting candles with my rage
causing shadows to catch with flame
I still burn beans because
I forget I’m cooking when I’m thinking
of all the people who have come and left
now you’re getting married
and I wish you horror
because my bitterness isn’t all used up
the potential for regret is endless
here we waltz to the music of time
made of stars, wrought of cigarettes
and dark bars
I wore black since then because
the shape of knives can be hidden
better in velvet and if you try
to sink it in
I will have the last laugh
one more card to play
violence
dress yourself carefully
pay attention
just so, just so
here we go
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fiction, photography

THE THICKET

Chris R-1-201 Image by Christine Renney

There was a wood directly behind the house and although Joseph had been living on the outskirts for almost a month he still had not ventured into this small but dense thicket. When he needed to make his way down into the village for supplies he would walk around it. There was a beaten track that began just beyond his garden and led straight into the trees but each time Joseph reached the edge and peered in he would find himself stalled and unable to take the next couple of steps. He could see that the path was very narrow and overgrown with bramble and gorse encroaching on either side and it seemed to him that it became even narrower as it disappeared into the darkness.

The others living on the outskirts were making use of the path. Joseph often noticed one of them pushing through the tangled branches and disappearing into them, or someone emerging head down and hunched over, laden with supplies. But once clear they would stretch and yawn, readjusting to the light and reacquainting themselves with the sky.
Just a few days ago one of these men had spotted Joseph watching from the window and, putting down his heavy bags, he had glared back. Looking down Joseph pretended to busy himself at the sink and when he raised his head again, the man was gone.

Following this incident Joseph began to imagine that the others were talking about him, that he was a topic of their discussion. He was sure they were perplexed as to why he continued to walk around, trudging in the wet grass of the meadow, rather than making use of the more direct path leading through the wood. Joseph was convinced they considered him a fool and were laughing at him. He began to keep his distance even more, as far as it was possible. But he continued with his chores, working in the gardens and chopping firewood and hauling supplies from the village. It took him a little longer but Joseph was working hard and doing his share and the others had no reason to complain.

Joseph has hardly slept in days. He creeps from the house and moves stealthily across the garden in the moonlight. Reaching the trees, he stands at the edge of the footpath. The others don’t use it after dark and certainly not at this late hour. Joseph is determined that tonight he will be able to do it, and steeling himself, he takes first one step and then another and suddenly he is walking through the wood. In fact, he is moving quite quickly, almost running and he can’t see but he can feel the brambles and the gorse brushing against his legs and pulling at his coat. And just as suddenly Joseph stumbles and he is down, flat on the ground. There are scratches on his hands and blood on his face and dirt in his mouth. But he isn’t hurt, not really, a little bruised maybe but no more than that and yet he can’t move. Joseph is now frozen to this spot and he wonders how far has he managed to come? Half way perhaps? But he suspects that it is considerably less than that.

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