photography, poetry

MY ANIMATION

Chris R-1-157 Image by Christine Renney

If I could
I would recreate
a day from my life
for the Big Screen

My ideal film
would be an animation
in carefully selected shades
in carefully chosen tones
all of the colours
muted and dull

It would have to be
an average day
an ordinary day
a non-descript day
a routine day
an almost any day day
a grey day

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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, photography

BOX

Chris R-1-117 Image by Christine Renney

Jim didn’t know why he had been put in here, in this box. It was ultra-modern, designed to endure, to not lose its shine and sparkle and it hadn’t but it remained a box nonetheless.
It was big, on two levels with a staircase at its centre. He had a bed, a sofa, armchairs and a dining table. There was a kitchen area and all of the appliances were hi-tech, State of the Art.
Everywhere was easy to keep clean, to maintain. Stainless steel surfaces and sturdy but soft vinyl, and hard plastic sheeting. There were pillars and posts, rails and screens. But it remained a box with compartments. It was not a house with rooms.
Jim often imagined that if he were to remove one of the walls and step outside, that if he could look back from afar, it would resemble a set on the stage of a theatre. But of course Jim couldn’t do this, there were no doors or windows, no way out. He didn’t know how he had been put in here, in this box, much less why.
Jim wondered had he been drugged and lain asleep in the bed whilst the box was built around him? Had he been compliant and simply sat in one of the armchairs or sprawled on the sofa watching? It wouldn’t have taken very long, most of the work would already have been done, the wiring and plumbing. It would have been just a matter of connecting everything up and pushing it all together. The last of the workmen lifted out in their harnesses and the same crane used to lower the lid.
The cameras were everywhere. No effort had been made to conceal them. They were big and bulky and noisy, whirring as they swivelled and rotated in order to capture his every movement. Jim performed for the cameras by not performing, by keeping to his routine of cleaning and cooking. By keeping to his exercise regime. By simply sitting quietly in contemplation.
Jim’s memories from before were uneven, scattershot. Mountains and the Internet, the night sky and music, television and the sea. He remembered shopping and the names of particular stores, wandering around a supermarket or a retail outlet, the infinite choice.

The storeroom was situated off the kitchen. There was a heavy steel shutter, sometimes it was locked and he was unable to lift it and sometimes it wasn’t. The storeroom was basically just another box, smaller and on one level.
Always full of everything he needed, food mostly of course. As everything ran out it was instantly replaced. If there was something on the shelves he didn’t want, that he decided he didn’t like, Jim would leave it and eventually it would be replaced with something else. There was another shutter at the far end of the storeroom. Jim had tried to force it but only once, huffing and heaving, but to no avail.

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fiction, photography

THE RULES

Chris R-1-115 Image by Christine Renney

Sy had changed things over the years. He had done this out of necessity, in order to continue. Sy was a tramp and constantly on the road. People didn’t expect him to stop and they tended to steer clear of tramps, giving them a wide berth, especially one who was pushing something awkward and unwieldy in front of himself.

Sy had adapted with the times, making the best of his surroundings and using whatever was available; discarded bicycles for instance. A tramp pushing along a bicycle didn’t draw a lot of attention. They were relatively easy to control, even after the tyres had disintegrated and the wheels started to buckle.
Whilst wheeling a bicycle, and Sy had wheeled an uncountable number of them over the years, he constantly found himself having to resist the urge to hop up onto the saddle and coast along for a spell. The temptation was excruciatingly painful and almost impossible to bear. And so, yes, bicycles worked but when his latest model eventually seized up and refused to move Sy was forced to carry it. But it was never too long before he was able to find something else, another bicycle perhaps or shopping cart.

Shopping carts were plentiful. At least, they could be found almost anywhere; alongside a busy road or at the bottom of a ditch out in the middle of nowhere. Or simply sitting and waiting on the pavement of a busy neighbourhood. But Sy could only search for so long. He needed to limit the time spent carrying rather than pushing. Often he hadn’t any choice other than to help himself to a cart from a supermarket car park. No-one seemed to mind or even to notice when he dumped an old and broken cart and helped himself to a shiny new one. But of course he was stealing and this troubled Sy as he pushed the cart, even one he had dragged from a deep and muddy ditch. He couldn’t help feeling that it was stolen and that he was breaking the law.
Shopping carts wheeled along okay, for a spell at least, especially if Sy was able to keep to the flat, on tarmac or concrete or the hardened earth during the summer. But when the weather was rough, when it was wet and windy, they were much more difficult to control. And when the wheels finally seized or fell off altogether, which is what did often happen, carrying them was hard. The carts were awkward and unwieldy and quite frankly dangerous. A tramp with an out of control shopping cart tended to draw a lot of attention.
Sy worried that he would be apprehended, that a Police car would pull alongside him and the officers would demand he stop. And when he didn’t that they would force him into the back of the car and whisk him away to the local Police Station where he would be held in a cell.
But this hadn’t happened yet and somehow Sy had always managed to find a way. Over the years he had pushed all manner of things – prams and trolleys, carts and pushchairs and bicycles, old tyres and children’s toys, scooters even skateboards and suitcases. Anything with wheels. And it hadn’t been easy but Sy was all too aware that it wasn’t supposed to be.

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fiction, photography

A CLOSE REBELLION

Chris R-1-104 Image by Christine Renney

The rebellion was close, although at first they didn’t realise this. The inmates had taken over the asylum, a cliche but apparently true. This really was happening and they were watching it live on TV. There were aerial shots of the hospital where patients had taken members of staff hostage, although the captors hadn’t, as yet, made any demands.
‘Isn’t that us?’ Melanie leant forward and scrutinised the screen. ‘Isn’t that us? Isn’t that here?’
‘No,’ Rachel replied uncertainly. ‘It can’t be. These places, they all look alike. Turn it up.’
Melanie reached for the remote but as she did so the picture switched to a view of the front of the building, the entrance doors with the hospital’s name emblazoned above. They gasped in unison and crossed to the window, staring across the inner courtyard at the main block. It was deserted.

In their stockinged feet they walked along the hospital’s central corridor, cautiously peering into the wards. Monitors hummed and the strip lighting glared but thankfully the rogue patients remained elusive. They reached the end of the corridor but didn’t step into the reception area. They could see the television cameras through the plate glass, the reporters and police gathered at the edge of the road just beyond the hospital grounds.
‘What should we do?’ Rachel asked.
‘Go out there I suppose,’ Melanie replied.
‘I guess you’re right but….’
‘But what?’
‘I don’t know. I just don’t feel ready to, not yet.’
‘What do you want to do then?’
‘I think we should go back to your room and find out what’s happening.’
‘On the TV you mean?’
‘Yes.’
‘But isn’t it dangerous here?’
‘I don’t think so. At least, not in this part of the hospital, not if we’re careful.’
‘How can you say that? You don’t know.’
‘You’re right, I don’t know but, okay then, let’s go out there.’
‘No!’ Melanie reached out and took Rachel’s hand in hers. ‘Come on, let’s go back.’

Melanie began flicking through the channels and there they were.
‘We’re the hostages,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ Rachel sat beside her on the sofa. ‘You don’t seem surprised.’
‘Neither do you.’
‘No, well I did wonder. I sort of hoped it might be us.’
‘But we’re not.’
‘Not what?’
‘Hostages.’
‘No, we’re not.’
‘Look, there’s my house,’ Melanie sounded distraught. ’My parents’ house I mean.’
‘We’re famous,’ Rachel laughed.
‘But we’re not.’
‘Not what, famous?’
‘Not hostages,’ Melanie hit the OFF button.
‘Why did you do that?’
‘We can’t just sit here, watching this. It’s not what’s happening. The TV won’t tell us what to do, how to react.’
‘Okay, okay,’ Rachel stood and started to pace.
Melanie watched her.
‘You’re enjoying this,’ she said.
‘No I’m not. I’m as confused as you. This is weird and I’m trying to make sense of it. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound flippant but we have to keep calm, Mel. I’ll run you a bath, it’ll help you relax.’
Melanie flopped back in her seat. ‘Okay,’ she said, resignedly.

Whilst Melanie soaked in the bath Rachel immersed herself once again in the news coverage. She didn’t have any trouble finding their story. It was unfolding or, rather, constantly repeating itself on most channels.
With the volume low and tightly gripping the remote she sat close to the set and there they were, up on the screen. Their lives in profile and the childhood photographs. Her mum and dad sat behind a desk beside some high ranking police officer in his uniform, her mum making an impassioned plea for her release. It was thrilling. Melanie had been right – she was enjoying it. It was a mistake, an outrageous mistake, but she needed to prolong it, to keep it going for just a little longer. For tonight at least, let it take root, give the tabloids a chance to get a hold on it. And in the morning, when they surfaced bleary eyed and bewildered but safe she could really enjoy her moment in the spotlight.

Melanie had started whining again, was calling from the safety of her bath. She wanted to end it, was ready to go out there. Rachel stood in front of the bathroom door, not really listening but readying to talk to her from there.
‘Okay,’ she said, ‘but first I am going to have a look around.’
‘No!’ Melanie moved violently and Rachel could hear the water sloshing. ‘Please don’t.’
‘I have to Mel, I need to do this and then I’ll be ready.’
It was silent then apart from the bath water settling like a sigh.
‘Okay,’ Melanie said at last, ‘but promise me you’ll be careful.’
‘I will, I promise, and I’ll bring us back some drinks. I’ll grab a couple of cans from one of the machines.’
‘Okay.’
‘If you like I can lock you in. Do you want me to do that?’
‘Yes.’

Rachel’s plan had taken little effort to formulate. It was all about resolve. And as she turned the key she asked herself, could she do it? Would she be able to see it through? Leave Melanie alone in her room for five, six or possibly seven hours to fret and cower? Not return until after dark, until the dead of night to comfort and coax? When it would be far too late to contemplate going out there, not before morning, when things would seem so much brighter.
As she wandered the deserted hospital she realised that of course she could and would and, as she had suspected, there were no hostages and no hostage takers.

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fiction, photography

CODA

Chris R-1-101 Image by Christine Renney

Peter walked behind the shops, not a shortcut as such but it seemed to him a better prospect than the high road at rush hour. It was bitingly cold and, hunched in his jacket, he trudged with his head down.
He heard them first and, looking up, saw the girls, pole dancers, huddled in front of the door at the back of the club beneath a small oblong canopy of whitewashed concrete. They shivered, drawing hungrily on their cigarettes, teetering on stiletto heels, naked but for a little shimmer and sparkle.
It struck Peter that this would have made a great photograph and if only he had his camera how easily he could have captured it. But he hadn’t and as he stood watching the girls the irrefutable fact that he couldn’t change this caused him to feel nauseous.
Forcing himself he turned away and moved on. Walking toward home Peter re-played the moment in his head. He had watched the girls for a minute at most but this would have been long enough. He could have taken ten, fifteen, even twenty shots, each of them a masterpiece and all potential prize-winners.
Peter couldn’t accept that he had missed the opportunity to photograph the dancers. To contemplate the idea that the image didn’t exist and that he wasn’t responsible for its existence was simply too much for him.
Before he had reached his flat he had managed to convince himself that it wasn’t too late, that the girls would of course reappear the following evening and that all he needed to do was be there, armed with his camera.
The anticipation was almost unbearable and that night he rested fitfully. Over the course of the next week or so he revisited the back of the club. From late afternoon until the last of the light died he paced with his camera, a stone’s throw from the busy high road.
Each day his impatience lessened just a little and at last Peter raised his camera and started shooting but the girls failed to emerge and the door remained firmly in place.

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fiction, photography

IN A PARIS HOTEL ROOM

Chris R-1-93 Image by Christine Renney

When it happened they were away from home. The smell was so invasive that, for a moment or so, Harris was unsure of where he was. Lifting the thin sheet he looked down at himself and at Geraldine, sleeping soundly on her side. He remembered then that he was in a hotel room in Paris and although the smell didn’t lessen it did suddenly seem a little more bearable. He was abroad, in a foreign country and this was something alien.
Convincing himself that it was coming from outside he slipped from the bed, careful not to wake Geraldine, crossed to the glass doors and stepped out onto the tiny balcony. It had been raining, the air was still fresh and the street below was still wet. In the cars’ headlights the moist air glinted.
The smell didn’t dissipate and at first he couldn’t locate it. It remained exactly the same despite the open doors. Harris realised it was coming from him, that he was the cause of it and he started to claw at himself, to pull at his pyjamas, to sniff his underarms and his hands. Harris was sweating, despite the chill of the air, and suddenly he was aware that his awareness of anything other than the smell, of anything outside of it, was non-existent, that it was all he could taste.
He stepped back inside and, swiftly and quietly, made his way to the bathroom. He pulled the cord and in his bare feet he stumbled on the tiles. This was something at least, his fleeting blindness, his blinking, his needing to adjust but the smell, well it was still rife.
Standing in front of the mirror he lifted his pyjama top and let the bottoms drop. He looked but there was nothing.
Why?, he asked himself. Why here and why now, so far from home? How could he hide this, how could he conceal it from Geraldine?
He stepped into the shower and again it was something, the water hitting his face, stinging his eyes, burning his skin but he knew it wouldn’t last. And afterwards, wrapped in a towel, he dropped the toilet lid and sat. Had he ever felt as ashamed as he was about to? As embarrassed as he would be when Geraldine awoke and found him like this?
He seriously considered leaving, going home but how could he? He imagined himself trudging through the streets of Paris, hunched in his overcoat. How could he make use of public transport or take a taxi? And then there was the airport and the flight. No, it was impossible. He couldn’t leave, not like this. He had no choice but to stay and face Geraldine.
They were here for three days and Harris felt sure that it would pass. That if he could sit quietly in the hotel room he could conquer it.
At first Geraldine didn’t mention the smell, but although it was only a matter of minutes, to Harris it seemed like an eternity.
‘You’re not well, are you?’ she asked. Pulling her robe tighter around herself she stared at him. ‘You poor thing,’ she said moving closer to him and placing her hand on his forehead. ‘Well you don’t have a fever;
what do you think it is?’
Harris groaned. ‘I don’t know. Can you smell it?’
‘Yes I can smell it.’
‘Then why didn’t you say?’
‘I didn’t want to embarrass you.’
‘Oh.’ His heart swelled. ‘I’m sure it will pass, given time but I’ll have to stay in here I’m afraid.’

Harris insisted that Geraldine go out and explore, see Paris. He didn’t want her to miss out because of this, because of him. He realised as much as he needed her, that if he was going to beat this he needed to do it alone. But the idea he might lose her was something he couldn’t put out of his mind.
Geraldine had left the television on and, flicking back and forth, he eventually settled on one of the music channels. Turning the volume low, he lay back and tried to concentrate.
Although he wasn’t really interested in the constant stream of videos he found himself drawn to the screen and, despite himself, he watched the unceasing parade of forgettable pop stars until at last he recognised a piece of music.
Harris turned the volume higher and listened. It was Radiohead’s ‘The Pyramid Song’. When it was finished he hit the mute button and tried again to relax. But a pattern had been set and in this way he passed his day. Whenever the animated film accompanying the song appeared on the screen again he hit the button and listened intently.
When Geraldine returned that afternoon, nothing had changed. The smell was no worse and no better; it didn’t drift on the air and escape through the open window. It was bearable now perhaps only because she believed it would pass, that it would go, but when?
Harris was sitting stiffly on the side of the bed, waiting yet again for her to speak. She stood mute, trying to make some sense of it but struggling. It was like a block of ice that wouldn’t melt.
‘What have you been doing with yourself?’ she asked.
‘Trying to relax.’
‘Have you been reading?’
‘No.’
She glanced at the television.
‘Have you been watching this all day?’
‘Yes, well some.’
‘Does it help?’
‘No – maybe. I don’t know.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’ve been listening to the same song all day long; each time it comes around I turn it up and listen.’
‘Which song?’
‘Radiohead.’
‘Which song?’
‘The Pyramid Song.’
‘Ah.’
‘Do you know it?’
‘Yes – which album it is on?’
‘Amnesiac.’
‘And you have the album at home, right?’
‘Yes.’
‘Would it help if you could listen to it here?’
‘Yes, I suppose it might.’
‘Then I’ll go out and buy it and something to play it on.’
‘Yes,’ Harris stood and began to pace excitedly, ‘I think it might help. We’ll try it tomorrow.’
‘No, the shops are still open. I’ll go now.’
‘And the Messiaen ‘Quartet For The End of Time’ if you can find it.’
‘Okay,’ she said, ‘I’ll see what I can find. I know what you like.’
Geraldine lifted her handbag from the top of the bedside cabinet.
‘I’ll be back as soon as I have found them.’ Standing in the doorway she smiled at him.
‘I really do believe this is going to work. In fact, I think it’s working already. Just keep thinking about the music you want to hear and then perhaps tomorrow you’ll be able to see a little of Paris before we go home,’ and turning she pulled the door to and was gone.

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