Taking advantage of the extra day off in Japan this week to work on something a little longer, so here are a couple of my short stories from writers’ site ABC Tales, What passes for romance and Let’s Start Again. I hope you enjoy them.
Tag Archives: fiction
How happy these lads must have been when they were really miserable; they said to themselves: ‘What a bit of luck! A good line will be born!’
Jean-Paul Satre, Words
Writers are lucky because there is almost nothing that can’t be turned into a good story. Very little remains unexamined, it all provides grist to the mill.
In that vein, I have written a short story for the ABC Tales competition, Let’s Start Again.
While my good friend, the 3 eyed boy, recounts:
One really great day; a day filled with the anxious thrill and aching
And there is a more scientific discussion of the whole phenomenon here, which concludes:
No doubt, trapeze artists must have complicated and compelling love lives
I would add writers too, even if the only trapeze ropes they swing from are metaphorical. I hope you enjoy the results of our falling and leaping.
This sorry tale was posted on twitter earlier, after I had been talking to @the3eyedboy about tweeting very short stories, although he managed to keep his to just one tweet per tale.
Still, I am happy with the way it came out, and looking forward to using twitter again to see what I can create. If you have any thoughts on stories, twitter or zombie escape plans, let me know in the comments!
All day long I hear people speaking a language that isn’t my own. I know I should be picking more of it up, like my peers I should be attending classes and using books and podcasts to brush up on my knowledge. I have been here for six months and am yet to get beyond the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ stage. It is typical English laziness to expect people to speak your language wherever you go. Not to mention a real shame to be missing out on all the possible interactions. Yet, I confess to sometimes liking the lack of having a clue. Enjoying the floating along in a river of sounds that I can neither decipher nor respond to, so do not have to tune into. I can bathe in them, lost in my own thoughts, without risk of overhearing something that might jolt me out of the reverie.
So I was walking out of the toilets in the shopping centre, heading back to work and musing on something and nothing, when a tiny old lady grabbed my arm and said something in rapid Japanese that I didn’t catch a word of. She had intruded so completely into my daydream that I wondered how much shock was etched across my face. We were passing the outer room of the toilet, a place of brown tiles and endless mirrors reflecting back at themselves. Other women were walking through, washing their hands or touching up their make-up, while trying in a very Japanese way not to look at the possible scene that the old lady and I were about to create.
I took all this in within a second then glanced back at her. I almost had to bend double to get my face close to hers, she was so little. Her face was a web of lines, crinkling up from the eyes and curving all around her mouth. Looking at her I felt reassured in my determination to be not as afraid of the ravages of old age as the skin care adverts want me to be. It was clear the lines had been worn by the laughter of a lifetime’s good experiences rather than by its cares. It was a comforting thought, knowing that one day I will be the older lady in this scene, speaking to a younger girl who will maybe understand, maybe won’t. The young are always too self-absorbed to hear the wisdom of the old, even when there is the benefit of a shared language.
Perhaps that is as it should be.
She clutched my arm again, with a firm but warm grip. Her eyes as they met mine gleamed and sparkled so much that it almost made the years melt away so that I could see the cheeky young girl she must have been once, back when the Showa Emperor was young. Japanese people’s ages are impossible to guess with any accuracy, I am always at least 10 or 20 years out when I try. So when I say that she looked like she could be anywhere between 80 and 90, you know that she was of a good age. As her hand touched me I got a sense of all the years and events that had passed between her time and mine. Then it dawned on me.
Given that her head was about level with my waist, the only thing she could have been saying was something along the lines of ‘look at how tall you are and how little I am, what on earth have they been feeding you in your country to let you grow so big!’ She grinned and I smiled down at her from my great – if only for Japan – height, before we nodded and went our separate ways.
The Level will always be Brighton in its purest form to me.
This is it I think, not the beach, the piers, the lanes, but this roughly set out park. Maybe because I used to live near it and walked through or round it on many moon and street-lit evenings. The way the light shifted as I walked under the floodlights gave it a mystical quality that survives in my mind. Maybe I liked it so much because it was a world apart. The crowded roads enclosing it, with their narrow, jam-packed houses and streets full of parked cars, then the huge flat space, the trees that lined it cutting you off from reality.
When you walked across it late at night, from the diagonal corners between Viaduct Road and Southover Street, it seemed huge and the walk took forever. The noise of the traffic faded and the city seemed still. Even though you knew it was unlikely, it felt like everyone was asleep. You could have been walking on the moon. I loved everything about that walk. The moment always felt private, a fleeting secret pleasure in the busy town.
One of the paths used to have these words painted in bold white paint on the grey tarmac: ‘how could you do this to me?’ It was brutal. It never failed to set off a long train of thought, essentially boiling down to who had done what to whom? When I first saw it I assumed it was new, raw, an open wound for all to walk over, treading their disregard into the pain. It started to fade, then was covered up and it was only after it had gone that I realised it could have been written at any time in the past thirty years. Unchanging, the things we are capable of doing to each other.
Then there are the things I did there. Chatting with a group of now-scattered friends as night fell. Throwing up on the waltzers at the fair after one too many. Watching a new boyfriend play football in the rain, as I spoke to a friend I hadn’t seen for too long on my mobile, getting steadily drenched. Mostly it is the solitary, past-midnight walks I remember, with the Level to myself and only the moon and Elm Grove keeping watch over me, as I crossed the park to home.
Photograph by very kind permission of the wonderful Scarlet Traces (@scarlettraces on Twitter)
Probably not a good idea. But here goes anyway…
You think you’ll break my heart
but you’re not capable of it
I’m too strong for you
I’ll outlast you every time.
Good luck to you:
All’s fair in love and war,
but you can not win
if your object is to break me
It can’t be done
I will prevail
Everything I want
I will get with you or without
You can’t damage me
Or drag me off this path.
You can come along for the ride,
and it will be the ride of your life,
that I promise you
nothing but adventure
but if you can’t handle it
and I don’t think you can
then, hard as it is,
I’ll say goodbye
and leave you to regret
letting me slip through your hands.
They met on a crowded dance floor, swapped greetings, pretend-clinked their plastic pints.
“What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I heard someone was playing. Name of Dando?”
“Yeah, it’s Evan Dando!”
“I know.” He laughed. “It was a joke.”
She walked off.
“And all my friends hate you, because they think you’re going to break my heart.”
“I am going to!” he laughs.
“No, I’ll break yours,” she tells him. “Want to know how?”
“Because one day, ten or twenty or thirty years from now, you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming. And you’ll not be able to get back to sleep through that night, or maybe not even for the next one, or the next one too.” She props herself up on one elbow, lightly kisses him, warming to her theme. “And the thought that will have you howling into the dawn will be that deep down, past the black rock that is your heart…” He makes an attempt to interrupt but she puts up a long finger to his lips, the red of her nail looking black in the half-light.
“Deeper than that, right down in your guts, you will know that you threw me away when I was the only woman in the world that could have made you happy. Good night, angel.”
She leans up to kiss him again, rolls over and is lost in sleep.
On the way to work I see two people sitting in the park, looking into each other’s eyes. A tender moment, I think, aaah. Then as the bus moves on, I notice a can of Special Brew in her hand, one arm resting behind his back along the bench. I wonder what we must look like to them, the business woman walking past with firm stride and hand clasped on her laptop bag, me on the bus reluctantly off to sit at a desk for eight hours.
Who are the daft ones? Which the most wasted?
People are funny as they go to work; some walk like they are on a mission, purposefully. Others grudgingly, music on, lost to their surroundings but hating every step that takes them closer to the office.
You hate old friends; they remind you of where you have come from. New friends don’t possess the background knowledge to justify and excuse you for the way you have behaved, so with them there is no need to bear the burden of being forgiven. People who are useful to you or who make you look good get your unswerving allegiance while those who are merely loyal receive only your disdain.
You cracked up and came back, so even a hint of irrationality scares you, lest it lead to the asylum gates. You are running away so hard from that suburb you used to call home that you do not notice when you recreate it daily. You wear unconventionality like a brand label while everything from your rare-trainer-clad feet to your artfully dishevelled hair screams trend.
You disparage others for their lightness of touch while your own profundity vanishes up a sphincter. Nothing pleases you, not ‘boozing or puffing, or your first taste of fucking’. Instead, you retreat into a cesspit of your own making, denying that you notice the stench. You will never stand behind what you create, claiming exacting standards for yourself that you will never attempt to reach; for that allows you the freedom to critique all comers, while avoiding such censure yourself.