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

DESCENT

Chris R-0315 Image by Christine Renney

I am attempting to forge a route that takes in all of my haunts, all the places where I have taken shelter after dark. The doorways where I have pushed back and stretched out and where I have slept. But there are too many and as I move between them, making my way back and forth, I feel disoriented and this sudden compulsion is now pulling me from the Centre or at least from the part of the City I have accepted as the Centre, a place where I have loitered and lingered. But my reluctance to leave seems to have deserted me and I am fleeing, but to where?
I am pushing against the City and it is dense and difficult to navigate. I look because I must but I can’t focus and I can’t see my way through. The idea of a Centre here, that it could exist, is inconceivable and yet I have conceived of it and somehow I have found my way. But how?
It must have been slow, my descent. So gradual that the progress I have made is all but impossible to detect.

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life, photography

Lost Into Darkness

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I was up early this morning, or maybe I never made it to bed – either way, I wrote a ‘thing’ for the first time in a month. It looked good, read well. It had a start, a middle and an end – you, know, all that jazz. I was ecstatic at the output. Maybe I will let you read it one day.

I left the house for work, walking a familiar path to the Underground. I was thinking of what I had written, smiling at how clever I had been with my twisting sentences, the slick characterisation, the clever call-back at the climax that referenced the beginning. In my mind I began to edit, adding fresh pieces – to refine the start, to plump the middle, to polish the end.

Then the happiness faded. I started to see the gaps, the cracks, the fractures; the long-winded wordiness, ridiculous choices of my protagonist, the clichéd fait accompli of the antagonist. The weaknesses within my prose emboldened ink-black against the pure-white canvass.

In an instant this familiar path, along which I had been skipping, came to the downhill slope section where you will find the ruts and bumps. I stumbled and fell heavy to my knees, pitching forward onto my hands and left skin from my palms and knuckles upon the bitumen. That is when it came loose and tumbled away from me towards the storm drain. I watched it slip between the thick metal fingers – confidence in my words lost into darkness, and it was gone

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fiction

the butterfly collector

It was a butterfly that drew Aisha’s gaze to the bus stop across the street, where her husband was leaning against a post with his back to her, facing a woman who was standing too close.

Aisha was invisible, on the other side of the road, inside a boutique shop, pondering a scarf.

She first saw the butterfly on a mannequin that wore a flowered dress. Later it was perched on a windowsill, staring outside. Aisha crept towards it, sat on her haunches, and watched its wings quiver in the air-conditioning. Then she found herself looking out the window too.

Aisha forgot all about the butterfly, and as she leaned in closer, her forehead slammed against the glass.

The sales person jerked her head in Aisha’s direction and Aisha waved her hand to say I’m sorry, I’m all right, please don’t fuss. The sales person turned away reluctantly, suspicious now that the woman in the head scarf would cause more trouble. She caught the eye of a fellow worker and shook her head.

Aisha continued staring out the window and watched her husband run a hand through his thick, black hair then lay it on the woman’s shoulder. He pulled her close and Aisha thought she saw him kiss the top of the woman’s bare head. Aisha felt a rage that was terrifying in its volume.

She reached inside her bag for her mobile phone, watched her husband pull his out of his back pocket, glance at the screen to see who was calling, raise a finger to the woman, then turn away to take the call. He was facing Aisha when he placed the mobile against his ear. He said hello, but Aisha could not respond.

He said hello, hello, Aisha, are you there? Then he hung up. She could see he was unnerved because he looked up and down the street and ran his hands through his hair again. Aisha’s own crept up her face and formed a cave over her mouth. ‘What were you thinking, bastard?’ she whispered. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let the air out slowly. When she was empty, she straightened her shoulders and walked to the cashier with the scarf in hand. She pulled out a credit card and laid it on the counter in front of the clerk. Aisha turned her head sideways and looked out the window.

The clerk, who had been watching Aisha, scrutinised her face as she rang up her purchase. When she was about to wrap the scarf in paper, Aisha placed a hand on the fabric and said, ‘No, I’ll be wearing this.’ The clerk nodded and handed her the scarf with the credit card and receipt.

Aisha thanked her in a low voice and exited the shop. Outside, Aisha looped the scarf around her neck and thought of nothing.

 

This story was inspired by Josephine R. Unglaub’s My Butterfly, My Axe.

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epistolary, life

Red Lights.

She knows he can not pay. Her door remains locked. A student with no cash, he is depositing the memory of her perfect curves within his wank-bank, so can splash out later. Yet she puts on a show.

She pulls at her nipples, teasing them hard. Running her hands over her firm breasts and down over her flat stomach. She gives a wiggle, then turns. He can see thin black material circling her waist then disappearing between the cheeks of her petite ass.

Why? Maybe she hopes that in a few years this boy will return to her, a man with disposable income and energy to burn. He will come back to this very window, remembering her as she is now – perfection. Not the Amsterdam relic she will soon become, ignored for not being young enough, or beautiful enough. With her wider hips, and softer breasts. Too old for this job at the age of twenty-eight.

Or perhaps she is performing this routine for the benefit of the man with the camera. He stands across the street, staring, as he has done for the last hour. He is too old to be acknowledged by someone as young and beautiful as she, not without payment. But how much will she cost? Two hundred Euros, and a lifetime of regret and shame.

She unlocks her door. He steps inside, pocketing his camera as she takes his hand.

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epistolary, fiction, photography

230V 20W (Part 1)

I still remember Uncle Charlie. He is dead now, just over ten years. He was not our real uncle, which always confused me. I guess sometimes people use family labels to simplify relationships for the sake of the children. Charlie did that.

He lived across the road from our house. He would make an effort to come over and play with my sister Lizzy and I whenever our parents went out. He would bring cans of fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate. He would not stay long, maybe half an hour, but he said that was time enough for fun, and that as an adult he had responsibilities.

He always made us play “musical chairs”, but with just the one seat occupied by uncle Charlie. The music would play and me and my sister circle him like predators. He would stop the music and we would fight over who got to mount his lap. First to five was the winner. My sister always won.

Her prize was to go upstairs with him and play a special game, a game only winners were allowed to enter. As the loser, I would be shut in the garage where I would stare at the solitary bare bulb in the ceiling, until I went blind to my surroundings.

CLASSIC ECO 230V 20W Made in France . h328

Their game did not last long. He would soon return downstairs and let me out. He would ruffle my hair and say goodbye, promising I would win next time. I never did. After he had gone my sister would stay in her room until Mum and Dad got back, while I watched cartoons on the television.

I remember the police cars outside his house. My dad broke the news to us that he had died. I was sad. Also angry at my sister for not being as upset.

Last week something strange happened, but I am certain, I saw Uncle Charlie in the supermarket.I must remember to tell Lizzy.

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art, fiction, photography

25 Staples

WP-HA-25Staples

25 Staples – by Ashley Lily Scarlett

A collaboration …

Image by Ashley Lily Scarlett who posts here on Hijacked Amygdala, and also blogs at Syncopated Eyeball, Between Scarlett and Guest, and strata of the self.

Words by me. Oh, and my photographs can be found at One Possible Reflection if you’re interested.

Enjoy.


 

When I was twelve, Dad’s work took me from our small town home in Nevada, to the city of Detroit. We rented a rundown house just off 8 Mile Road, neglected and dirty, but Dad said it was cheap. The backyard was huge with a big oak tree in one corner, off of which hung a double-width swing suspended on thick ropes. I sat on that swing, alone, most days.

When I was thirteen, as a gawky boy from the dust of Mojave, I found it impossible to make friends. Kids used to either beat on me or ignore me. Then Macie moved in next door with her Mom and Dad. She was even more weird than me. Our parents got on well, so she and I spent the summer together in shared silence. We soon became girlfriend and boyfriend, but I never told her that we were. We sat on that swing together, most days.

It was around my fourteenth birthday when Macie disappeared. Her parents were still at the house, but Macie was no longer around. My Mom and Dad would speak about her in hushed tones. When I asked after her all I got told was that she had gone away for a while. Macie came back three months later with hair shaved and metal in her head.

As we sat on the swing, I stared at the side of her head. Then I asked her what happened:

She told me, “I got myself a summer job in the zipper factory. I fell into the biggest machine in the place, and when I came out I looked like a jacket.”

I laugh-snorted. She looked at me, sad.

“You are teasing me. Tell me the truth,” I begged.

“OK. You got me. I am an Alien in a human skin-suit, and this zip is how I get in and out.”

This time she smiled. I could tell it hurt her to smile, and not a physical pain.

“That’s silly,” I exclaimed. “Tell me the truth.”

She stopped the swing and climbed off.

“I don’t remember. They told me I stepped out in front of a bus.”

I stared at the side of Macie’s head. The ladder of staples glinted in the sun, a shallow arc from just behind her temple to the top of her ear.

“Stepped out? By accident or did you do it on purpose?”

She turned to face me.

“I don’t remember.”

 


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