fiction, photography

SHRUNKEN

Chris R-1-172 Image by Christine Renney

I am stopping more often, and for longer, and I have places where I take cover and can hide. I have fallen into a routine of sorts and I know when it is most likely these places will be deserted and when it is least likely I will be noticed.
I shelter in the doorway of an abandoned shop and watch the rain. The storm is raging overhead and, looking up, I step out into it. In just a few seconds I am soaked through and my clothes are sodden and heavy.
The street is busy. I have misjudged this particular place at this time and shoppers caught in the downpour are rushing to and fro.
I turn back to the empty shop but someone brushes past me and a woman is now standing where moments before I had been. She is smiling, apologising, ‘sorry’, and moving to one side she motions for me to join her. ‘no’ I shake my head, ‘no’ but reaching she takes my arm and pulls me back and together we stand in the doorway watching the busy street.
Suddenly I am tired, exhausted and I feel overwhelmed. But it is more than the fatigue; I am also elated. I hadn’t realised I could still need this, that I could feel it again.
I move back and leaning against the glass I sit. The woman is looking down at me and delving into her bag she pulls out a ten pound note ‘here, go on, take it’.

I open my eyes. It is still raining. The street is busy and shoppers still rush this way and that. Have I been sleeping? If so, for how long? Has it been just minutes or hours? Is it possible I have slept right through, around the clock or thereabouts?
I glance at my wrist, pointlessly because I no longer have my watch but it is an old, old habit and remembering it now I feel odd.
The woman has gone but I still have the ten pound note she gave me balled in my fist. Standing, I thrust my hands deep into my pockets.
The jeans are too big and my t-shirt is too loose and ragged. I feel shrunken inside them and I sense that it has been more than minutes, that I have been in this dank doorway for too long and I should move on.
I step onto the street and walk calmly amongst the shoppers. Everything is wet out here and my clothes, the t-shirt and my heavy sodden jeans cling to my skin. At least until I can get dry they have taken on my shape again and carefully I make my way. Although I don’t know to where I keep walking.

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fiction, photography

CATHEDRAL

Chris R-1-166 Image by Christine Renney

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. I’m not quite there yet but this place has begun to grate a little, to nag and gnaw at me. Feels as if I have conjured it up from out of nowhere and I’m not sure why or how.
A tiny square in a sprawling city, a city that can’t be contained. It is spreading and thriving despite the degradation, all the empty and dilapidated buildings.
I have settled here and I stay until I have the cash, enough for what I need. And in order to get it, I walk elsewhere, a little farther each time. And yet still I keep making my way back.

I awake in the grounds of the Cathedral. Hands in the short and wiry grass, I push myself up and gaze down at the City. I try to pick out the place from which I set out, the one to which I keep on making my way back. But it is so vast, a dense and cubist scrawl. For months now I have been walking further and further from this particular part of the City in order to find an off-licence with an unfamiliar face across the counter. Someone who won’t recognise me as I purchase the bottles and the cans I need. And this time I didn’t turn myself around. I kept on walking for longer than was necessary and eventually I settled down.

Glancing up at the Cathedral I shudder to think that I have slept here in the grass; in this carefully tended, this perfectly and painstakingly manicured graveyard and, that as I did, someone tidied around me, removing the strewn cans, even prizing the almost empty bottle from my hand. Taking it and the last few drops I hadn’t quite managed to drain.

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fiction, photography

MORE

Chris R-1-135 Image by Christine Renney

I have money now, just a few coins, and gripping them tightly, I delve deep into the lining of my coat as I walk. I work a coin between my thumb and forefinger. I take them out and move them from hand to hand. I thrust the coins deep into the pocket of my jeans only to take them out again and again. I can’t stop doing this, looking at them, checking.
I drop one of the coins and it rolls out into the road. I run after it, suddenly worried that someone will take it. I stamp down on it with my boot and, crouching down at the kerbside, I quickly snatch it back. I have wandered away from the centre and there is no-one around.
Rising I place the coin with the others in my pocket. I have an odd feeling inside. It is something like purpose and yet I haven’t any idea what it is I intend to do.
I reach a parade of shops and, stopping in front of the plate glass windows of the off-licence, I peer in at the bottles, at the wine and the spirits. I don’t have enough but then I see cans of lager in the cooler at the back of the shop.
Although I am still unsure that this is what I want or what I need, I am already pushing through the doors and I know how it works; I spend what I have and then I get more.

Can alcohol still take hold? Get inside and make its demands? Or am I too full of holes and will it seep through the scars?
I have separated the can from its companions, freed it from the plastic ring and set it down in front of where I am sitting. Leaning back I stretch my legs out across the pavement and I can’t reach the can between my feet.
The others, the passers by, are forced to step over me and many of them glare angrily and I am glad of it. I don’t want some good Samaritan crouching down beside me. But if I sit here for long enough and drink myself into a stupor I know, of course, that this will happen.
What I want is for one of them to knock the can over and I don’t care if it is intentional or not, as long as I can watch the lager pool onto the pavement, the damp patch spreading between my legs and soaking into my trousers.
But despite their impatience and the scowls, the passers by are graceful, balletic even, and they don’t touch me and they don’t knock the can.
If I were to draw in my legs and reach out, snatch the can and drink from it would I feel it? Can I still know it? Can a ghost carry that conflict and walk with it?

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fiction, life

NOT WRITING

Chris R-1-163 Image by Christine Renney

He rises early, keeping to his routine. It is still dark and in the lamp light he reads and he drinks copious mugs of scalding hot coffee. He makes his way back and forth, from the comfy sofa in the sitting room to the kitchen counter.
He re-fills his mug and he reads a little bit more but mostly he sits and he wrestles with his newest idea, with his latest piece of prose. He keeps a pen and pad close at hand and he works hard at stringing a few sentences together, at getting it down.
At least he did until a few months ago and yet here he is again, just before dawn not writing but struggling, still wrestling with something.

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fiction

SCUM*

They are cooking a roast dinner. She is rifling through the drawers, searching for her favourite knife, and he is behind her, smashing some meat with a mallet.

“Carrot,” she says, to no one in particular.
“What?” he shouts over the thuds of hammer on flesh.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking aloud,”
“About what?”
“About these carrots,”

He stops.

“What about them?”

She has been good today. No outbursts, no tears, no troubling comments, no injuries, no nastiness. She has washed her hair, and brushed it. She has been writing a lot. She has had a glass of wine. Hopeful of her good mood, he anticipates an observation about the carrots’ phallic nature; perhaps even a dick-size joke, a cheeky comparison, the carrots being tiny, himself being too big.

“Carrot,” she says again, picking one out of the bag and inspecting it.
“Yeah?”
“Carr-ot.”
“Why are you pronouncing it weird?”
“Car-rot.”
“Is that how they say it in France?”
Ca-rrot.”
“Why are you saying it like that?”

He stares blankly at the back of her head, mallet in hand.

As she turns to face him, her knife catches the light.

“Carrot,” she says, slowly, “sounds like a blend of ‘garrote’ and ‘carotid.’”

Potential For Violence enters the room and stands between them. The three of them share a long, tense twenty-seconds together in the tiny kitchen.

“Oh gosh,” she says, suddenly, “I think I’ve been watching too many true crime documentaries lately!”

She laughs, eyes down, embarrassed. She replaces the knife with a glass of wine and sips with a wide smile.

“Yep!” he says, relieved, remembering why he loves her, “sounds like you’re right, babe,” he quietly places the mallet down on the counter, “so let’s watch some comedy on the box tonight then, shall we?”

Potential For Violence leaves the room as quickly as he arrived.

“Sure,” she replies cheerfully, and goes back to skinning the bright orange cocks.


*Society for Cutting Up Men

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fiction, photography

THE SEA

Chris R-1-142 Image by Christine Renney

He hadn’t seen the sea, not in real life, not until now. He had seen it on the t.v. and he had seen photos in newspapers and magazines and such. He had seen it at the cinema, up on the big screen, but not like this.
Behind him the others were still talking, bickering and just moments before he had been a part of it, of the tomfoolery. It was a game they played, a drama that they performed amongst themselves, taking it in turns to pick on each other. But, staring out to sea watching as it roiled, he realised the game had changed and at some point he had stopped bothering to fight back.
He had become the butt of their jokes, he was the Fool, the Fall Guy, the Patsy. He took all that they threw at him and he took it in the face and in the gut and it hurt and he was almost thirty years of age. They were all almost thirty but he was the one that hadn’t seen the sea, not until now.
Although he wasn’t really listening he could hear them clamouring. They were getting restless and needed him to turn around. They needed a Punchbag but he stood with his back toward them, immobile and unflinching.

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fiction

PANIC

Chris R-1-138.jpg Image by Christine Renney

It happened suddenly and without fanfare. Ben looked down at his hands and they were invisible. There had been no warning signs yet he knew instantly he was not going to be able to control this. His invisibility was not something he wilfully conjured, he could not bend and shape it to suit his own needs. It was not something he could switch on and off. No, this was simply how it was going to be.
Ben began to panic and was very aware of this, of the fact that he was panicking and that he was flailing uncontrollably. Ben looked down at his feet, or more accurately his shoes. Reaching with his right hand he grabbed hold of his left wrist and there it was, there he was.
Ben heaved a very audible sigh and he began to panic just a little less and he managed to calm the flailing. But the others on the street had already noticed him and they had stopped. They were watching, staring at him, at his absence and at his clothes, the clothes that held his shape and form. Ben kicked off his trainers and then stripped away the rest of it; jeans and a t-shirt, socks and under-shorts. He threw them all down onto the pavement and he began to run.

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