Sunday, 19 September 2010

Lost Property

Item one, a mobile phone
used by Rebecca Collins
(had a hole in her pocket):
item slipped out
left on a bus seat
picked up by a boy named Mark
it impressed his friends
so his brother stole it
sold it on the street
Mark thought he'd lost it
(irony lost on him),
item then owned
by Darren Walsh, he dealt with drugs
liked to shout at the phone
and feel like a real business man
but eventually outgrew it
gave it to his nan
showed her how to use it
she tried to work it
thought she broke it
sits in her kitchen cupboard now.

Item two, a teddy
formerly of Joe Bowler,
this time the true story:
item on a table one morning
mother knocked it while cleaning
dog grabbed it
gutted it
fluff-flesh and ripped face on the floor
the mother devastated took it
but couldn’t fix it
tried to replace it
but no shops made it
so turning defeat into deceit
she said the boy had left it
lying out, carelessly
and the dog had taken it
far away
(and would you believe it!)
the boy believed her
learnt a lesson that day
he remembered forever
(mother learnt
that to lie is easier.)

Item three, a cat
owned by a Gertrude Willoughby
living lonely:
item a stray
bare skin and stinky
Gertrude nutured it
loved it
underfed it one day
stayed in bed
felt ill, she said
so item (so-called Migsy)
took to the streets in search of grub
was wooed and picked up
by a little girl named Rosy
she moved it to her room
her first pet! - called it Percy
fed it biscuit crumbs and milk
and hid it from her ma
and kept it overnight
and locked it in a box with holes when she went off to school
and on return she found the cat had made a mess
so took a cupboard draw
and made a toilet for the creature
let it have the room to wander
left a window open
Percy ran away
Rosy wailed
and asked her ma if she could have a pet
and after many tears she got one and police
found Gertrude's body
eight days after she had passed away
and lying on her belly
was her cat, starved to death.

Item four, a note
worth five pounds sterling,
from the wallet of Will Francis:
item put on kitchen sideboard
after Will had bought some breakfast
hour later
back he came
and note had gone.
All six housemates suspects
all plead no way! not guilty!
Alex (best friend) was the liar
saw five pounds just by his keys
he thought he must have left it
seized it
spent it on two Pot Noodles, bread and cheese
never told them it was him who (accidentally) nicked it
and after he'd dispensed it
money journeyed down the chain,
cashier gave the note in change
to a cute kid buying sweets
he passed it onto mother
not allowed to spend it all, you see
she gave it to the church that Sunday
reverend counted up
cashed in
the bank absorbed it
spat it into the hand of Barry Wellock
bet his best mate Tony
Hull would get promoted
lost and Tony laughed and lapped it up
then snorted some coke with the note
(stuck up Tony's, Nick's and Mickey's nostrils)
note unrolled
and bundled in the hand of a blond
put it down her thong
for the joy of the throng
she wanted them to die
but danced
then gave it to her boss
he bought some cigarettes
down the local cornershop
it got robbed (again)
assailant dropped the note
and on that street a minute later
Will Francis found five pounds
must be a sign, he said
lost it on a roulette table that night.

Item five, a child
named Max Sanderson,
mother Maggie (single):
item aged three
soundly sleeping
Maggie downstairs
ironing her tops for work that week
she checked on Max
the bed was empty
nervous, looked around
and found the front door slightly open
(didn't close it properly, distracted with those groceries)
she rushed outside and screamed his name
the wide world had negated him
neighbours - no clue
now scared
informed police
they started searching
(a notice in the local paper,
a mention in the evening news)
Maggie sat alone and waited
the case filed through authorities
but with witnesses lacking
there were no leads
(Max had been picked up two blocks down
by a woman named Vona Fin
she'd coaxed him over to her car
took him
faked his papers
gave him (for a fee)
to an adoption agency
in Ohio
made a living from this business
'mothers make easy money' was her mantra)
a length of time slipped past
and Maggie found it hard to sleep
her dreams were always finding Max
so she hid the pictures of the boy
and took long walks through busy streets
she liked the way the crowd consumed her
(Vona meanwhile got knocked up
but couldn't kill the baby, strangely
stopped her business dead it did)
and two years passed
(Max named Scott
now five years old,
healthy and happy with new family)
the case was shelved
Maggie moved away
met a man
widowed, quite old
owned a charity shop
his wish
a hand to hold
and nothing more
she concurred
(a lie, she needed a child)
they worked together in the shop
and cared for things
thrown into the wind
one time a book was handed in
by a woman
was a gift from a friend
bought from a school stall
donated by a man
who'd read the stories to his son
named Scott, before that called Max,
so when Maggie opened the book
and read a short tale
she could have been reading to her lost child
but wasn't
the book was old
hadn't sold
she closed it
binned it
left it to rot
or be found by the cycle
and carried away.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

What Oscar Amor Left Behind

Off went the television and in the filthy screen was the face of Oscar Amor, dead. Three days dead, yet still he clutched tight the remote-control, oil-black but for the yellow masking-tape preventing two double A’s from falling out. The other hand was free and resting on his right leg. He had ruddy knuckles, thick and coarse with wiry hair on its verges born of an out-of-doors occupation, and anyone who ever cared to consider those hands might have supposed he ate his lunches out of plastic bags and sipped watery tea from a flask battered by the knocking of tools. But they would only be half right. His tough skin and clipper-proof nails were undermined by softer palms, the likes of which told of an early retirement. Those hands had dealt with soap, choice soap, premium soap, soap of waxy-paper and bought by someone who had a preference for soap of a certain lavender scent, saw to it that Oscar got plenty of it, used plenty of it and did appreciate it. That someone was Aggie Amor, his wife. She’d found him dirty, left him clean.  

So they’d done well for themselves, through her keeping stock: of soap, of money, of food, of good-sense. She’d brought out his better nature. But he died an old, stocky, bent man – leaning always from the pains in his chest and struggling with some secret weight. In years to come they might discover what it was by digging him up and finding there a few bars of soap lathering his damp remains. That said, Oscar didn’t die alone; at his feet was the old grey heap of his dog, Fibbs. Fibbs had remained ignorant of his owner’s death until now, preoccupied as he was with sleep and with watching television, walking about occasionally with nothing in it, like old dogs do, in that bored-with-domestic-life attitude, stolen perhaps from the bored-with-domestic-life attitude of dog owners. Fibbs was frightened by the sort of change death promised them both, he stayed out of the way and sat watching it happen to Oscar and thought to himself that perhaps he had a chance of outliving his man by some margin. They had lived together since before Aggie. The pet was something she’d tried her best to cast off but had failed and Fibbs had outlasted her too.

These days he’d taken to watching whatever Oscar was watching, he had no choice in the matter anyway. He enjoyed game-shows, and he knew that Oscar knew he enjoyed game-shows, and so he was outraged when suddenly the thing was off and Oscar’s corpse was reflected in the glass of the television set. The house was muted. The answer to that afternoon’s Countdown Conundrum ‘nosmtoowb’ was lost forever -  though he’d thought, ‘boomtowns’ and was fairly convinced he was right as he’d got it within three seconds. That’s how it worked for him - if it came to him it was fast like that or it wouldn’t come at all. Now he’d never know. Before this incident he’d been rather glad at Oscar’s silence lasting the past few days’ worth of game-shows, as the quiet was usually spoilt with ‘Don’t tell me, Fibbs! I’ll get it myself.’ This he knew not to be true.  

This state of things incensed Fibbs; that the man had gone and died without at least topping up the electricity, and that he would die too never knowing the answer to the Countdown Conundrum. Because expecting something and not getting it - for a dog at least - is an abuse, and he hated that even more than the bitch next door or the torture of getting bathed. Though the latter crime had all but ceased to be a threat since Oscar had stopped going upstairs, in order to save his legs. Now he found himself thinking that a bath wouldn’t be such a bad idea, he certainly wouldn’t protest much at having one, if it was offered. When Oscar pulled back from stroking him with, ‘That’s you. I know it is. You’ve a bad smell on you, Fibbs. Now get gone.’ He found he quite consented, but felt a strange lack of conviction in the old man’s tone, and it was at these moments of hollow anger that he found himself missing her and missed seeing her in him.

Told that he smelled badly Fibbs took walks in the dark of the house. It struck him that most of the house remained in darkness most of the time. Whereas Oscar found solace in shutting himself off from certain rooms, Fibbs felt no such desire to avoid or hide. The closed doors frustrated the dog because for him these rooms held no special worth in themselves, even if they did still seem like her space and he’d become conscious of that if he wondered  by chance into thicker carpet that was particularly good and soft to walk on. When he thought Oscar had forgotten about him he would return to the space in front of the television where Oscar would then shake off his felt slippers and hold his toes out - wriggling them lose of each other like rusty chain links, and if only they were made of metal, a quick burst of WD40 might have sorted them out for good. But they were human toes: pale, stiff and hard. With these dull tools he’d rub Fibbs’ belly like it was a hot-water-bottle and then Fibbs had a time of it, he’d always been a ticklish dog. Oscar laughed too, bereft of any actual laugh; rather it was an involuntary gasping action. Fibbs felt close to Oscar at these times. He felt they were not too dissimilar after all.  

To his surprise the house did not remain silent for long in the absence of sound from the television. Fibbs soon began to perceive the irregular operations of the fridge, which seemed to be struggling now in desperate tones as it tried to carry on without any power and manage its empire on the food economy of crumb-regions and slick yellow rivers formed by accidents with the milk. Oscar never had any food in the house. He was quite content in his own way and to the acute annoyance of everyone else who happened to be around at dinner time - to eat a sliced tomato on a saucer with salt, ‘for taste’. Or fill up on a cup of boiled water with a broken Oxo cube inside and plenty of pepper, ‘for taste’. Into this soup he’d say, ‘I’ll make a meal of anything me, Fibbs,’ and then he’d give his loyal pet a wink - which made the old dog nervous for the meat on his own bones.

Fibbs went into the kitchen, his paws made little taps on the stonework until he reached two shallow porcelain bowls on a tray by the back door. These were patterned in fine blue paint depicting nursery rhymes in several stations. Fibbs much preferred them to be obscured with the soft biscuits and jellies of a meal and the water to be filled to the brim. He remembered how he used to splash the liquid about the stone as he lapped it up from these bowls, but he soon perfected a method of taking it carefully, and now he hardly ever spilt a drop. He wasn’t a greedy dog and like Oscar he ate very little anyway so that his food had lasted. But now there was no water left and the food had gone except for a sticky glisten, as though a passing snail had taken the last of it. He went back through the kitchen, ducking underneath the table when there at his feet he found ice-cold water and noticed then that the fridge had been leaking. It formed a great puddle stretching out from behind the fridge, under a wall-unit and now reached the table. This he drank, not caring whether or not he splashed it about.

In the living room he lay down. He looked hard at the deep set blue eyes of Oscar Amor, which he thought sad now and in retreat. He couldn’t remember if they’d always been like that or whether death had made him stranger. He saw the all but useless legs below the tartan blanket and a single fine line of black, petrified liquid working down to the floor. It struck Fibbs that perhaps it wouldn’t be too long before someone found them there. Oscar had family enough, from before Aggie, who paid visits to their father once in a while to check on his health and make certain measurements in certain rooms leaving carpet samples here and there by accident. Fibbs saw that the old man had lived life so completely that he’d really left nothing behind. And after all Fibbs was with him right until the end. And that’s how the dog saw it - if it came to him it was fast like that or it wouldn’t come at all.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Come Inside

‘Come inside, you must. You must.’
I let Natasha walk into the kitchen as I undo my boots by the front door. Her house is broad and, I think, grand for my liking, so I let her pass into the body of the building whilst I untie my laces and tremble slightly from my knees. Something has happened, and, for a moment, I remember why I am here, but nothing lasts for me. There is now not a little bit that I remember of my journey here, but I feel Natasha knows more than I can, and her invitation inside is dominating my present state.
My boots are off, and I gain the kitchen and there is her mother. I struggle out a hello, but try also to appear calmer than I think I am. The mother is arranging some bottles on a shelf above a wooded cupboard. I follow the trends of her fingers as she slides a glass about, trying to find its position. Natasha has told me her mother is drastically neat always, and this one statement is sitting like a leadweight in my head so I’m doing my best to stand very straight and nod carefully, like a learned antiques dealer deliberating something only he would know. She hands me a wide brown bottle. It says Peroni on its label, in white writing on a red background. I do not know if it’s new or old, but the mother tells me it is the Italian style of bottle and she likes very much to collect these things. My smile has cracked before I realise it, and she is currently smiling back. Despite her neatness, I don’t think she yet minds me being here. I don’t think I’m being untidy.
The room glows yellow and I notice that the kitchen has a door, and beyond the door is a green garden. There is grass and I am now outside to watch Natasha as she lies down. I caught a glimpse of her while I was still in the kitchen, and I saw a boy with her which made me upset. I suddenly felt overwhelmingly homesick, but now I’m outside I can see that the boy is actually a girl, but she has thick legs that push out at her dark, thin jeans and I don’t really notice her face although her hair is most likely a dark brown. She is not attractive at all, she even looks like an unkempt, greasy boy but Natasha’s hair is blonde and she is skinny like me. Not skinny because underfed, but rather, she must be built that way.
Natasha is on the grass which is raised above me. No, not above me, but about waist-height; so it’s only above half of me. I don’t know why they are doing this, but the boyish girl is being held by Natasha. Perhaps they are in love. But I will not stay here because the mother has just called for me. Back inside, the kitchen I notice has a tall ceiling and the walls are half bottle-green and half cream coloured, but they are well-suited I think and everything seems much better and tidier than me. But I am not expensive, at all.
‘Come here, and see,’ the mother says to (hopefully) me.
Now she is not holding any bottles or glasses. Now she is holding a can and outwards she is pouring the beer and – this must be – it is falling into a glass, a pint glass, and I am holding it.
‘Drink up!’ she glitters a smile at me ‘its such a pleasure to drink a cold beer when outside it is so hot,’ she is whispering to me and her lips fold in the middle downwards and yes, again I watch her smile. I almost throw the glass to the floor because she is being so lovely, and her heart must be so warm because there are broad veins in her arms and I breathe in the scent of her skin and she smells like hot Monday lunchtimes at school. I look to check the glass is in my hand and not broken in pieces everywhere on the floor, or worst even, cutting her feet, or any bit of her. Or even me. But I never get cut, really. I am trying to keep in order for her.
‘And will you take anything to eat?’ The mother asked. Natasha was inside now also. I had watched her bury her face between the boyish-girl’s thick legs that shuddered like wet rubber. But now she was inside, now she was quite next to me.
‘Just buttered bread,’ I replied. Still, I cannot believe really that butter comes from a cow. I can’t grasp that at all. But it appeals to me in a sensuous way and anyway Natasha’s hair is butter-coloured and I do, in my own single way, want to bring scoops of it up into my mouth because she let me come inside and despite the boyish-girl, I really do want to fuck her. But do I really? No. I want to melt inside her, so I ask for buttery bread please and think about Natasha as I bite it. As the butter melts on my tongue I think I know how beautifully she tastes.