Tuesday, 13 August 2019









Mother (whispering): Wake up wake up. Wake up.
In the dream she is in her garden, watching emerge from a child’s single shoe part-buried in the dirt the head of a wasp, un-naturally large, the width of it filling the whole available space so that it must writhe to extricate itself, the sound of it loud as a droning lawnmower.
Still watching, she removes one of her own shoes, aware how carefully she must gauge the moment of its killing, when it is manifest enough that the shoe will no longer afford its body a protective carapace, but too not so disengaged that it might fly away, evading her intent, and all the while still praying to wake, coming too slow to the realisation she is not actually asleep.




Thursday, 8 August 2019









Cause of waking, a loose marble embedded by his own weight into just above the knee where the flesh is pulled thin over the bone, a perfect unseen dark circle become diffuse by morning, the little bruise to change its colours across the coming days.
Skunk (wincing as the pain registers): Jesus Christ,
brushing the glass ball from out the bed and across the room
Skunk: Jesus.
With one hand he rubs at the tender contact point, with the other his face, aware she is now awake adjacent.
Skunk (yawning): What time is it?
She moves aside the hotel stationery covering the bright red digits of the bedside table clock, displacing the scatter of coloured wax crayons which roll away, spill softly to the carpet below.
ache1: Nearly four.
collecting then her fallen E.T. doll from off the floor, returning it back between them in the bed.
Skunk: Jesus Christ, seems like it’s always nearly four.




Thursday, 25 July 2019









Skunk: One double Jack Daniel’s please, no ice no mixer, and ehm, what, one Coke? One orange juice?
the latter order offered as question to ache1 opposite at one of the hotel lounge’s little coffee tables, Brother Skunk and her both still fresh in the only days’ old revelation of her pregnancy.
ache1: Can you make that two double
Skunk (spluttering): I think not, not for you.
ache1: Wh-, I’m drinking for two.
Skunk: Not on my watch, lady.
ache1: Well then you’re not either,
and to the hotel cog
ache1: two orange juices please.
cog (smiling at Brother Skunk): An excellent choice, madam.
and exits.
Skunk: Jesus Christ orange juice? Orange juice?
ache1: Don’t blame me, partner.
Autumn occurs itself, each day just that gradual degree or so colder at its beginning and, as here, its end, even if mid-day and those hours immediately either side could still lay legitimate claim to summer, the hotel in its seasonal rhythm noticeably quieter in the absence of summer’s tourists.
Both excited, even if their excitement is muted and a little cautious, couched as it is in the sense of that initial preciousness between them to which they are surprised to find they have temporarily reverted.
ache1 (into the silence): Speaking of orange juice, I had a bully at primary school who ah
Skunk resists the urge to immediately interrupt with the myriad examples of his own unhappy schooldays,
Skunk (working): What eh, why were they, how come you
ache1: God I’ve no idea, I don’t think, I mean, I never knew. It could have been something to do with my mum being a teacher, she might have said something, or had to discipline an older brother or sister of theirs or something, who knows? But I was getting the brunt of something, that’s for damn sure.
Skunk begins again to form a response based on his own childhood, and again relents.
ache1: Mum would make us these little packed lunches every day, just sandwiches and a biscuit or something, and we each had a little flask she’d fill with Kool-Aid. Anyway-
Skunk: I’ve heard of Kool-Aid, that... whole... Jonestown thing?
ache1: Oh God, Skunk, this is worse, believe me, this is much worse.
Skunk: Proceed.
ache1: At some point I att-
checking to make sure the nearby tables are still unoccupied.
ache1: This kid, the bully, for whatever reason she decided she was going to take my Kool-Aid, every day, and, every single lunchtime she’d stop by and it just, really quickly it just became this accepted thing that I’d keep my flask for her and hand it over without-
sighs.
ache1: And once this thing started it wouldn’t have even... it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to drink it before she came round, which would have been the most obvious-, because...
shrugging
ache1: ..I I, I guess I thought she’d just beat me up.
Brother Skunk watches as the decision to continue or not plays out across her features.
ache1: Usually she’d drink it down in one go, and I’d just sort of stand there and kind of
now blushing,
ache1: Oh God it makes me just fucking die to admit this, Skunk, but I’d actually, I would praise her on her ability to do this, you know,
suddenly wide-eyed
ache1: “Wow, I just can’t believe you were able to drink that all down in one gulp...
with genuine anger
ache1: ..you fucking. greedy. bitch. pig.”
Skunk: Because you were scared.
That he does not phrase this as a question endears him to her all the more.
ache1: Sometimes she’d just pour it right out on the ground, you know, if she didn’t actually want to drink it.
Skunk: Right, because even if she didn’t want it, she still didn’t want you to have it, right?
ache1 (pointing at him with pistol fingers): Bingo.
smiling, though her face appears to have aged in these memories’ telling.
The waiter returns with a tray bearing two small bottles of orange juice, and two glasses weighted with ice. Setting the glasses down, he pours into each about half of each bottle, putting the now half-full bottles alongside. As he leaves, with no request for either room number or signature, ache1 makes a point of thanking him conspiratorially, to their joint and obvious amusement.
Skunk (watching him leave): I know, I know, why even bother?
as they both immediately empty the remnant juice into their glasses.
ache1: Maybe he thought we wouldn’t drink all of it.
Skunk: Christ it’s like a mouthful, if that.
ache1: Depending on the size of mouth, of course.
They drink, both wincing in the absence of what they’re not.
Skunk: Assuming you’re not still doing this, how did it pan out, how did it finish up?
ache1: Oh God, well, I only drank the orange flavour stuff, right, that’s, I mean...
sighs.
ache1: If the o-, I only drank orange Kool-Aid. I had ah, I had the... the stamina for that, drinking the same thing every day, but this kid really didn’t. And so as well as the... The bullying then became about me having to bring in different flavours, and when I asked my mum for, I don’t know, grape or blueberry or whatever, I think for my mum that set off an alarm, and, you know because she was a
catching herself
ache1: she is a teacher, she’s still a teacher, and I think you have an in-built... in- in-
tuts
ache1: instinct for that stuff, when something’s not right but you’re not sure why.
Laughing.
ache1: I broke down under interrogation.
Brother Skunk sits silent, allowing her whatever requisite space to collect together the denouement’s various elements.
ache1: My dad actually called the police. Mum must have told him, and next thing I knew the police showed up at school. When I think about it now, I’m guessing Dad probably knew a policeman and asked them a favour, rather than him actually going to the police as a concerned... parent.
taking another sip from her glass.
ache1: So he showed up at school and spoke to our class, and actually named this girl, in front of the whole class,
Skunk’s eyebrows arc in surprise and concern, all too capable of conceiving whatever pending retribution.
ache1: and I remember after that she was crying in the cloakroom, and I sort of thought, I hoped that would be the end of it, but when I got to the end of the day she was waiting for me with a a bunch of kids she’d obviously, sort of, threatened together, I guess. Jesus.
Empathy stipples the flesh of Skunk’s fore-arms; he rubs at each with its opposite hand.
ache1: So now I had to try and think of a different way to get home, and there was a chase of sorts, but you could tell the other kids were really half-assed about it, and when I think about it now they were probably in the same boat as I was, just playing along for fear of taking a beating.
Lifting her glass again to drink prompts Brother Skunk to do likewise, the sound of ice loose against glass.
ache1: At one point I found myself trapped in a fairly new housing development, and I ran up the driveway to the front door and I remember being horrified to realise the house was empty, the doorbell hadn’t even been fitted and there was just a bunch of wires sticking out, so I put my whole hand over the wires and I was shouting “I’LL RING THE BELL! I’LL RING THE BELL!” which seemed to work as the other kids maybe realised they could actually get into trouble, or maybe they saw this as their opportunity to abandon the whole thing, and I think the bully was probably thinking the same thing, you know, she’d done enough, she hadn’t just buckled when the police showed up.
For no reason other than to do something, ache1 scoops a piece of ice from out her glass and sets it melting on the table’s surface.
ache1: And that was that. The next day, or the Monday after if it was a weekend I can’t remember, it was game over.
Pause.
ache1: And then I was back to drinking all that fucking Kool-Aid myself.
Pause.
ache1: Every day.
Skunk laughs.
ache1: Jesus, you know she was probably ecstatic to finally have a reason to stop drinking that shit.
Their next swallow renders each glass damn near empty.
Skunk (tipping the weakly-coloured ice this way and that in the evening’s last light): We’ve had orange juice before now, though.
ache1: What’s that?
Skunk: We’ve had orange juice before, this isn’t the first time we’ve
ache1: And?
Skunk: No, it’s not, I’m not, I’m just wondering why you never mentioned this before.
ache1 (visibly thinking): I don’t know, maybe I didn’t want to
sighs
ache1: ..maybe I didn’t want you to think of me as
trailing off, remembering full well the context of their first encounter.
Brother Skunk wonders too at this, how during their picnic, on what they have since determined their first date, she had told him of her abortion, but he decides in present circumstance to avoid its mention, perhaps recognising her attempt to secrete those things she now affords importance within the very volume of words deemed less significant, but which her subconscious might well have otherwise, both with youth enough still that their mortality can remain invisibly distant.
Skunk: Oh hell with this.
grabbing at a passing porter with what is for him uncustomary brusqueness,
Skunk: Sir? Please? Two triple Jack Daniel’s no ice no mixer.
ache1: “Oh yeah!”








Wednesday, 19 June 2019









It is smell as provides his conduit between the two; every hospital he’d ever visited dulled with that exact same odour, a disinfected and sterile antiseptic registering more keenly in the senses than either room’s muted palette, or those fixtures common to both.
Today, he perceives the distance between that building from which he has just arrived to this as nothing more than a simple time-travel fingerclick, no matter the actual hours of train journey endured, enduring here again that time permitted as visitor in his habitual silence, prepared to acknowledge as reductive his ascribing to the chair in either room his any sense of discomfort retaining as he actually does no concrete memory of the chair in that other, as too he will forget this one upon which he currently sits the moment he leaves the room.
Skunk: She’s... well
suddenly surprised to hear that unbroken quiet broken now by a voice, his own no less, prompted by nothing more than the sight of his thumb wrapped in its grubby bandage, excited at last to relate these recent happenings out loud.
Skunk: I mean, ehm, just, just physically, she’s shorter than me, she’s slight, she has a sort of ehm... she has dyed red hair, like that henna stuff, and short, she has short hair. I think she might be a student at the university although she eh, her feat-, ehm, she has a young face, maybe too young to be a student, and I think she’s American. She sounded American. 
prompting him now to dig again from out the watch-pocket of his 501s the Canadian 25 cent silver coin, full minutes passing in its contemplation.
Skunk (as if considering this for the first time): I mean, I suppose it’s also entirely possible she’s Canadian.
Contrary to the nurses’ assertion, he knows her to be beyond his hearing, or suspects as much anyway, but even in such refuses to abandon the narrative.
Skunk: And she had a, an, it’s a sort of doll thing that, like E.T., but it had, it was... it was broken.
all his telling consciously edited of its every upsetting detail.
Skunk: That’s what happened to my thumb,
holding it up to pick at a loose thread on the bandage and, finding it tight attached, trying subsequently to bite it free,
Skunk: when I was looking for the doll’s arms I accidentally put my thumb through an old bottle and cut it, the glass had a
looking at the swell of fabric, trying to recall the wound he hoped healing underneath.
Skunk: It was, eh... Remember when I was a kid and I had that, ehm... It was a balloon kit, a sort of green... gel that you attached to the end of a, a straw, and you could blow it up to be a sort of balloon? A kind of, if you left them, if they actually stayed inflated, they’d get really... brittle, a...
his mind wandering across the past
Skunk: ..a membrane, that’s what the bottle was like, like a skinny membrane, that’s exactly how easily my thumb went through it, it was so old. Brittle glass.
a sympathetic pulse erupting fast now within his thumb.
Skunk: The little arms had come right off, it was all a bit... Anyway, I collected the various bits together and had it repaired for her, took it to the shoe repair place and they did it for me, and it looked pretty good, to be honest. Not... It didn’t look like new, but it was, it was pretty good, better than it had been anyway.
with something to this of an inverted glass underwater holding air.
Skunk (quoting): “Red-haired women are bad luck.”
in the speaking of which he notices the thinning out of his mother’s own, as if the scalp had simply relinquished it, had come to understand it as something of which there was no further want, and how this lessening in particular changed her appearance more than the madness itself.
Removing the new and still pristine pewter hipflask from the inner pocket of his denim jacket, he taps at it with the same hand’s fingers to ascertain its charge.
Skunk: I just got this,
unscrewing the squeaky cap
Skunk: Jesus, who needs that?
swallows
Skunk: and I ehm, I went to a, it was a play based on the life of the Elephant Man.
chuckles to himself, sighs
Skunk: I had, I, basically what happened was I’d had way too much to drink
tapping again at the hipflask, then drinking
Skunk: but that itself wouldn’t have been a problem, it was the play, it was, God a’mighty... They threw me out, anyway, like actually practically lifted me up physically from out my seat and took me to the street. For ehm, I was... misbehaving is about the kindest way of phrasing it.
Sighs.
Skunk: Jesus.
his eyes suddenly wettening,
Skunk: I’m sorry. Mum I’m so sorry.
And here now with both of them gone, with the three of them gone, his first attempt at clearing out seems much less that than a burrowing further in, discovering as he does lying in her bureau in an inverted box lid, and beneath a variety of pamphlets such as might be collected from a doctor’s waiting room, her hairbrush, from out the still matted bristles of which he succeeds in disnetangling, intact, a single brittle hair he then, subject to no recognisable or comprehensible impulse, tongues on into his mouth, before dragging toward him the nearest whiskey bottle, the house at this time being littered with multiples of same in their varying degrees of emptiness.
It has no taste, the hair, a texture too of so near nothing as to initially confound his every repeated attempt at its swallowing, applying himself alongside the liquor’s consumption to the methodical separation of each, of such colour variance as to suggest its having been brushed from off two individual scalps, at least, and to the swallowing of each subsequent, long drunk enough not to gag upon this engaging with the sacrament.
Exalted to some grotesque ecstasy he buries his fingers in the black mass of his own hair and begins to pull, his eyes watering with the pain, the skin of his scalp stretched to the absolute extent of its finite elasticity before each individual hair in his grip is ripped from out its own follicle, the torn flesh colouring now with its myriad risen dots of blood.
Skunk: “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father."
and in such accomplishment creates for himself an itch that even if he could never scratch he might yet still over and again entirely remove, over and again.
Skunk’s eyes roll up inside their sockets as if in such he might access and thus subvert the workings of his mind, himself so very clearly lost in the increasing and accumulant dust of himself.