fiction

THE KNIGHT PERHAPS

chris r-1-56 Illustration by Christine Renney

Cocooned in my parka, head down, I walk. I keep to the edges of the pavement and I follow the cracks between the slabs and in this way I cover my patch. I tug at my hood just to be sure; a habit I can’t, or won’t, break, and I scan the ground at my feet. When I spot a cigarette butt, a good one, I reach down and snatch it and place it in my pocket along with the others.
I must appear erratic, resemble a chess piece, the rook, or the knight perhaps, my movements awkward and jerky. Any progress I make is difficult to determine as I trek the board, seeming to endlessly fail at making my way across.
But I don’t raise my head and I don’t know if anyone is watching. I suspect that when I am noticed it is fleetingly and that they steer clear. I am just somebody scuffling, a scavenger.
There are plenty of cigarette butts but I only collect the good ones. The best are those that have been pinched or stubbed out before being dropped and not stamped upon. But I’ll take any that might still contain a little tobacco rather than just dry dust and ash. And I have become adept at spotting these and I know when to reach down and which ones to gather. Throughout the day I fill my pockets and when they are full I leave, I abandon the board.
I never stray far from the Centre now and I settle behind the bins at the back of Pound Saver. I empty my pockets and set to work, rubbing with my thumb and forefinger I remove the burnt tips. Stripping the paper away, I pull out all the good tobacco and without wasting a single stringy strand I drop it, one pinch at a time, into the tin. When it is full and the tobacco is tightly packed, as I roll the first cigarette, just fleetingly I am content.

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fiction, life

THE SCARS

Chris R-1231 Image by Christine Renney

Trapped with insufficient light he tends to his wounds. Tracing with his finger tips, finding the hardened, healed and healing skin. The etchings on his arms are intricate, far too complex, and he can’t read them in the dark.
He clambers from the bed and sits on the edge and leans toward the window. Reaching out, he peels back the curtain and gazes at the road. It has been raining, in fact it is still raining. He can see it now, stalled just above the street lamps.
If he had something with which to write he would begin again, start afresh, but he doesn’t have a blade. Of course, there are other ways and he glances at the empty Coke can sitting on top of the nightstand. He could crush it and twist it and twist it until he had fashioned something, something pointed and sharp.
He stands and, turning, he moves alongside the bed. He stumbles in the confined space, steadies himself against the wall and feeling his way he grapples for the light switch.
He flicks it and in the harsh glare he sits on the floor. He looks down at his arms and studies the scars. He is trapped in a cube where it is too bright and he closes his eyes. And he won’t see the Coke can, not unless, not unless he decides.

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fiction, life

OBSTRUCTION

Chris R-1202 Image by Christine Renney

The widescreen TV is the only source of light. Across the threshold now I begin to gag a little. The floor is littered with rags and if I go in I’ll have to push through or step onto them.
The boy is behind me and waiting I turn back toward him and he stares up at me perplexed. I gaze across at the TV and the dad in “Little House on the Prairie” is explaining that germs can’t be seen with the human eye.
‘I used to watch this when I was a kid,’ I say.
‘Yeah,’ bored, he pushes past me and kicks through the carpet of mess.
The rags are clothes and there are also old newspapers, fast food wrappers, crushed cans and plastic bottles, most of which still contain a little of their once fizzy drink.
He sits with his mother on the sofa and they wrestle for the remote. Mum in charge the boy leaps up and stands in front of the screen. She points but he moves to block her again and again. Mum, writhing on the sofa, can’t win. The boy is much too quick and, the rubbish at his feet, he shuffles and spins until he notices me. I think he had forgotten me and now he stops.
The channel switches and mum raises her arms in triumph.

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poetry

Soon

I only despise the poor
Because I know one day
I’ll have to sit with them
And listen to them tell
The same stories
To justify their poverty
And I’ll be helpless against
The boorish unfortunates
Because I’ll have nothing to say
Since poverty has nothing to do
With positive thinking and hard work
But instead comes about
Like gooseflesh
Under the winter moons
Of a forgotten sky

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