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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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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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Going home

Old and new

Play

Like friends who never liked each other

Standing here, I could be there

Laughing, lolling about Route 66

Your hair wax stained cowboy hat on the table

The clink of sweating beer bottles

I always did better striving than living

Being a pretend person, now . . don’t knock it

Has some draw

We laughed out of fear and the fear felt good

Like real life and grabbing things by beaded throat

We roared our mirth like tigers, at the absurdity and the sorrowful

It reminded me of my grandmother’s funeral

My dad and I weeping with hot besmerched giggles

She would have understood, she would have joined in

that Katherine Hepburn smile, and the outline of something sad

That’s just how this family rolls

We laugh when tragedy feels crushing and put reality on hold

A frozen picture on TV, static and unspoken

When the wake is over and everyone has left their condolences

In a nice row

Searching for your people

Coming up empty handed

Just as I thought I couldn’t give more away

You call me out of the blue

A stranger sharing my last name

Funny how life takes and takes

And then it gives

Like a hand on your shoulder

When you’re thinking of jumping

The both of you grew thin

I put on all your weight, inherited the space

Given away by years and wrinkles

You said; Now heed me young lady

You’re standing in for us now

Do a fine job and I saw in the line and curve of your jaw

The man you were, the man you were not anymore

Strangers and bloodlines, all running together

Now you’re both gone

I’m relieved and itchy under the skin with the lie

Pretended so long

I don’t know how to be, whatever I am

We were a tribe the three of us

Now I’m starting over

In my own land again

A stranger

Of familiar, unknown places wearing unreadable clothes

Sharing my bed with regrets and hope

Like nothing and everything has changed

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life, poetry

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (2)

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (1)

(2)

I will be reborn
several times in my life.
I will be many different people
and wear many different faces
and I will get a thousand chances
to be better:
I will even take some of them —
when I’m being brave, I will pick
my chances like cherries,
roll them between my fingers,
undertake inspection for any imperfections,
and then (once I know that
the chance is a goodun)
urgently devour the possibilities
that dwell within the skin
and try to be better —
better at this business of living.
But other times,
when I am feeling weak
and tired from the fight,
I will gorge on the ugly ones:
I’ll wear the juice of those cherry-chances
like lipstick, let all the wasted opportunities drip
down my chin, and spit
out the pips and, knowing that I’ve
missed a chance to be better,
just try my best
to not to get any worse.

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fiction, photography

THE LOOKALIKE

Chris R-0129 Image by Christine Renney

A man had moved into one of the ground floor flats at the far end of the cul-de-sac. He looked just like Richard Nixon and Thomas was fascinated, less by his uncanny resemblance to the disgraced former President, but the fact that the man seemed to have embraced it.
He always dressed as Nixon had; white shirt with a dark tie and with his jacket a little too tight across the shoulders. The jacket buttons seemed barely able to contain a man who somehow managed to be both coiled and slumped inside of it. Always hunched over, with his chin almost touching his chest, he appeared to have no neck.
Thomas was flummoxed as to why anyone would choose to emulate a man who historically had been so maligned, who to all intents and purposes, had failed in such a monumental and public way.
Thomas wondered if he was a professional ‘Look Alike’, although he couldn’t imagine there was much call for such a thing in 2017. But maybe over the years the man had become so locked into the part he was now unable to function as himself.

‘Have you seen the old man across the street?’ Thomas asked his wife, ‘the one who looks like Richard Nixon?’
‘Nixon?’ his wife queried. ‘What do you mean, Nixon?’
‘Richard Nixon, the American President, Watergate and that.’
‘I know who Richard Nixon is but that isn’t who he is. He’s that other guy.’
‘Who are you talking about, what guy?’
‘The other one from back when. I can’t remember his name but he had that TV show. They’re always showing old clips of him introducing Elvis or the Beatles.’
‘Ed Sullivan?’
‘Yes, him, Ed Sullivan.’
‘He isn’t Ed Sullivan, why would he want to be Ed Sullivan?’
‘Why not? Why Nixon then?’
‘Point taken but he isn’t Ed Sullivan, He’s Nixon, he has to be.’
‘Why does he have to be?’
‘I don’t know but he does!’ Thomas shouted.
‘Ok, ok. Calm down. So, if he is Nixon what would you say to him? If he really were, what would you ask him now?’
‘I don’t know,’ Thomas pondered the question, ’Nixon wanted it all so badly and he really worked at it and, after all the disappointments, he finally made it. He had what he wanted. He was exactly where he wanted to be and he screwed it up. So, I supposed I’d ask him what it was like, living with that.’
‘Wow, ok, but what if it is Sullivan? Would you ask him anything?’
Thomas laughed
‘I don’t know. Probably what was it like meeting with the Beatles and to meet Elvis.’
‘Didn’t Nixon meet Elvis and The Beatles?’
‘You’re right, he did.’
‘Wow, that’s it!’ his wife jumped up. ‘That’s how we do it.’
‘Do what?’ He stared at her, a blank expression on his face.
‘That’s how we find out.’
‘Find out what?’
‘Who he is or who he is trying to be.’
‘How?’
‘We ask him. We ask the man across the street about Elvis and The Beatles and we deduce from what he has to say, work it out from his answers, whether he’s Nixon or Ed Sullivan.’

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prosetry

Other Girls

Once, during the summer of our confusion, you told me that you loved me because I wasn’t like other girls. I found that phrase to be repulsively hackneyed then, and still think it’s insultingly trite when men say it now, but because it was you I let you say so. I would’ve let you say anything.

I did ask you what made me different, though. And I remember you said, “You’re the kind of girl that would return to the scene of the crime.” I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t want you to know what kind of girl I actually was. Then you said in a cloud of smoke, “Through brazen curiosity, though, not stupidity,” and I still didn’t say anything and you didn’t expand on your thought any more, even though now I wish more than anything that you had, that you’d told me who I was, that you’d explained me to me.

That one thought that you almost certainly don’t remember now could have defined me. Perhaps it did, because here I am, standing at the scene of the crime and thinking about your thought while you don’t think of me at all anymore.

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art, life, screenplay

Notes from the Shrink’s Chair: Jimmy

 

IMG_5946.JPG

artwork by Francesca Strange

 

Notes from the Shrink’s Chair: Jimmy/Antonia

 

Dedicated to C.J., my heroine and a true bastion for bravery

 

OPEN SCENE: Right of frame, gloomy lighting. Dr. Strange sits at his oakwood desk, large and reclining, as he peruses his patients’ files. He furrows his brows, thick, under a mop of greying, greasy hair; he rubs his hands through it, a habit he has curated over the twenty years in his profession. A tell, if anything. He is clearly frustrated, stupefied, as to how he should proceed in his current state. A file, new, sits at the forefront of his desk; after a moment’s hesitation, he leafs through it.

 

[BEAT]

STRANGE – takes out a voice recorder from his suit pocket. Turns it on.

STRANGE:

Seventh of September, 2014. Patient James Connington, otherwise known as Jimmy to his family and friends. Fifteen years old. Heavily depressed, suffering from acute body dysmorphia. Tendencies towards self-inflicted bodily harm. Burns on forearms, bruising found on upper thoracic region and extending limbs. Heavily injured due to unreported reasons.

 

[BEAT]

STRANGE:

Latest diary entry, as follows.

 

CUT TO: A boy, sitting at a desk, on the opposite end of the frame. Scruffy-looking, wearing a football uniform scored with grass-stains and tussle. He kicks his football cleats off, spreading mud and dirt all over an otherwise clean, white carpet. He scribbles into an old exercise book, biting his lips as he struggles with his work. He hears his siblings playing behind him, and as a reflex, covers his notebook with his arm, protectively. Once he is sure that he is alone, he begins writing again.

 

JIMMY:

Momma caught her today, just as she was about to leave the house. She had that beautiful necklace I picked out for her, the one that matches her eyes at it catches the sun. And that soft, suede lipstick, the one she wears with that dress I like. The pink one. She looked so beautiful in it, as she always does. So light and airy, like one of those story-book elves as she danced around my room. Enchanting, how free she can be. As if none of life’s rules applied to her. Like gravity; she didn’t agree with it, so she never let it buckle her down.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (cont’d)

Anyway, we were about to go to church. Momma saw her sneaking out of my window, as she always does when she stays the night. She hates going to church, (it makes her feel like a phoney), so she never goes with the family. Anyway, Momma. Momma screamed hellfire when she saw her. She looked possessed, almost demonic with rage. I never heard her use words like that. Especially not on a Sunday. Next thing, Momma pushes her out the window. Just like that. It didn’t take much of a shove, she’s so light. There’s nothing to her. And from my room, you could see her lying on the grass. Strewn all over it, all of her spread across the lawn. Like a china doll. Pieces everywhere. The necklace crushed by the fall.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (cont’d):

I didn’t linger. I had to go back upstairs, brush myself down, get ready for church, and pack my things for football. There’s a big game next weekend, and coach has been riding my ass about it for weeks. Saying things like: ‘Boys, it takes one to dismantle a team. Just one. And it is only men, men who can play this game. Because men know better than to pussy out when it hurts. Men know better than to stop, because men keep on going. When no one expects them to, when all odds are against them, only true men will cross that final line and take home the gold’. Coach never knows when to stop, when enough is enough. Never with her.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (cont’d)

They were in the locker rooms, both of them. Coach and her. After football practice. I usually get changed there, on Sundays after practice. There’s this bar on the other side of town that only opens on Sundays. It’s called Antonia’s, by the way. The bar. Poppa drives past it when he goes to work, and sneers at it every day: ‘That fag bar, always full of goddamn fruitcakes. Goddamn scum, what fucking animals’. She doesn’t care about what Poppa says, she loves them all. It’s her favourite bar, because everyone there is just as outrageous as she is. And she’s friends with all the busboys, the kings and queens – And she dances with everyone: complete strangers, both men and women. She doesn’t care who they are, what they’ve done to get them there, at that bar. Because to her, it’s home. Antonia’s.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (voice faltering)

She was slipping on her stilettos, as coach brushed himself up behind her. I saw him in the mirror behind me. I was packing up her things, her makeup, her kit. She was roaring to go, fired up as she always is. But I turned cold.

 

[BEAT]

JIMMY (hysterical, sobbing as he recounts the rest)

His hands were wrapped around her throat, I couldn’t breathe. He pushed me to the ground, and pressed my cheek to the tiled floor with his muddy cleats. ‘This is what you were made for’, he hissed, as he stroked my back, ‘men like me take, women like you give. Make your choice, boy. What would you rather do? Would you rather give or, would you rather take?’. I lay there, silently. It wasn’t the first time, I thought, and it wouldn’t be the last. Unless I did something about it.

 

[BEAT]

 

CUT TO: Dr. Strange, sitting emotionless. He pauses the recorder, sighs, and takes a sip out a hip flask. He continues:

 

STRANGE

Seventh of September, 2014. Coroner’s report – patient James Connington. Adolescent Male, Caucasian, mid-teens. Cause of death: asphyxia, constricting force applied to the ligature on the upper occipital region. Compressive narrowing of laryngeal and tracheal lumina observed. Ligature mark on neck is deeply impressed; it’s composition: superficial abrasions across the front and nape of neck, indicates the implementation of a thickly textured material. Most likely a rope. Will compare fibres to those found in the Connington family’s workshop. Severe Internal haemorrhaging in lower torso and abdominal area indicate heavy assault. Lipstick stains across his cheeks, across his face. Prominent bruising on face and forehead under thick cosmetic foundation. Also indicating a struggle. No fingerprints or biological fibres, or any forensic clues found on subject. Perpetrator, still at large.

 

CUT TO: Black.

 

END. Continue reading

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fiction, life

Niksa

WP-Niksa

I met Niksa when I rented a room in his house, an old fisherman’s cottage he had renovated for tourists who visit the old town of Dubrovnik. He liked to talk; fuck me, did he like to talk. He cornered me in the kitchen as I made a cappuccino, and we had a conversation of sorts – the kind of one-way interaction where I was given the role of Listener. He spoke at length about himself and his life, never asking anything of me, never giving me pause to respond. I listened in a polite manner, but as time passed I became aware from his tone and words that this interaction was for his benefit, that I was a pair of ears, no more, and that he was tolerating me being in his home as a paying irritant. He did not want to be “running a fucking guest-house in Croatia”, he explained – a fact I had already surmised.

He was a retired merchant seaman, and while his physical home was between these exposed stone walls, his nervous twitch belied his unsteady land-legs. He told of how he earned his sailing stripes in the Seventies, running “concrete” from Colombia to the Caribbean Islands, shipping apples the other direction for great profit. He had crossed the Panama Canal more times than he could remember, then spent the Eighties traversing Suez to complete the matching pair. He told tales of happier times in what are now the more war-torn cities of our World. He described how he would walk down the broad avenues of Mogadishu, arms thrown around the shoulders of “buxom Negresses”. In Beirut, he had been felated by a “towel head’s bitch” won in a poker game, after a night in the clandestine bars of the old town. He bought a “handful of Wogs” for the night in Calcutta, and “Chinks for his entire crew” in Shanghai. He ticked a bucket-list item in Bangkok when he was “banged by a cock”, which I thought was nice of him to share. There were other ports and cities dropped into the tale, so many I cannot recall. He stopped short of suggesting Sea Shanties be written in his stead, but casual racism aside, it was clear he had great affection for the World at large.

But things change, and we are only as arrogant of life as we are right now, in this moment.

As I sucked the froth from my cold coffee, he moved on to explain how he was in New Orleans when Katrina struck. He was evacuated to Houston a shredded man, becoming disabled by anxiety and sleep apnoea.  Banned on health grounds from crewing container ships at the age of forty-five, his life ended. He struggled with living on land, but the “shit little sailboats” didn’t come close to satisfying his considerable sea-itch. As a means to kill time (and not himself), he invested the profits from his apple-smuggling to renovate and rent holiday homes in his homeland.

He fell silent and stared at the flagstone floor. I looked into my pale coffee and wished I was somewhere else. Then he smiled, looked all around the room to make sure we were alone, then moved closer. I backed away a little, but he followed. He whispered that for the coming Winter he has found illegal passage, working a frigate running the Indian Ocean. Shh… He tells me this voyage will be his last, and that he has no plans to return to land. I can see in his eyes that this Winter will be his last. He asks me what I think of that – but my mouth fails to fashion a response. He stares at me, face falling, disappointed I am not rubber stamping his plan. He turns and leaves me alone, the silence buzzing in my ears.

I make a fresh coffee.

A man of contradiction, that within an hour came across as insufferable and vulnerable in equal measure. I did not know if I felt nauseated by him, sympathetic, or couldn’t have given a shit. What I do know, is that there is a renovated fisherman’s house in Croatia that will be up for sale in January – a fantastic business opportunity. Anyone want to invest with me?

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life

Distilled

WP-Distill

There was not a single time when I was wrong,

only those moments where I was told as much,

so it became fact.

When they would crush my confidence so small

it could be squeezed

into a miniature Vodka bottle.

At night I would suck down that harsh liquid,

so they could compress dreams afresh tomorrow;

distilled once again into that tiny space.

Over the years the nights became longer,

that vessel became larger,

and I grew accustomed to the taste.

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epistolary, life

Biting the Bullet

WP_Bridge

Once on the bridge, she climbed the barriers that society-erected for her own safety. To pitch forward now would mean she be devoured by the shit-brown Thames, yet at this moment she is content to remain chewed, but not digested. She stands upon her own precipice, and observes all that orbits around and within.

SHE had emailed HIM to meet. To ’bite the bullet’, she said. Spontaneity was a precondition as, “nothing she did was ever planned more than minutes in advance”. He fired back a message, traversing that tightrope betwixt appetence and indifference. Then he waited.

The answering email entered his Inbox a week shy of two years later.

He sent his own, prompt counter. He asked, with genuine concern and hoping to not sound creepy, where had she been? Drinking, came the reply. He suggested a Social Media connection to be more efficient, given the “minutes” they would have to arrange something physical. In a surprise move she expedited a phone number where he could make contact in her Shadow World. A request to remain old-skool, and use text messaging. He did so.

Two more years passed.

He called her phone, but the number she had provided was now disconnected. No matter, for he somehow knew where she was to be discovered. And there he was, also upon the bridge that spanned their Worlds. He edged towards her, and she grinned at him in recognition. He asked, with genuine concern and hoping not to sound besotted, where had she been – drinking? Worse, came the reply. He stepped forward. Panic drenched her as he got too close, so he froze in time.

They drank each other in for two, additional years.

Now he plans to terminate this standoff, but he is confused. He knows not if he holds out his hand to pull her into his Artificial World – or whether he desires help to pull him onto her precipice.

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