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The Open Curtain

I’ve published a new short story on Medium.

It’s the story of Alison Walker, a good, strong, independent woman and her new home. Every new home comes with new neighbours and… Well, if you’re ever tempted to peek through somebody’s curtains, even accidentally, don’t.

Just… don’t.

The Open Curtain

The Downbeats

They make a fine day dull, a good day bad,

the downbeats,

the joysuckers, the miserable fuckers,

the ones who moan and groan all day,

who will not go away and bore the arse off others, pray,

than me.

These selfish shits get on my tits, the way they whinge

about the things they cannot change, the way they gripe

about their lives, the normal, everyday, the stuff that we do anyway,

the stuff that we all have to bear, the stuff that isn’t bloody fair.

They wake and curse the morning sun.

Too bright, it is, or not enough, they ask someone to turn it off.

Just think of that! The sun! The twats.

Don’t let them near, don’t hear their words,

don’t listen to these malformed turds.

The downbeat mind is not the kind you want to enter into.

The mind you want is good and bright and lets you know you can do.

This Is Modern Love

It begins with a barbecue. It often does.

Out on the front lawn, with fold-up chairs

and a puffed-up paddling pool,

on a manky stand that is never cleaned,

they cremate creatures and eat them.

The lighter fuel stink and the great swirls of smoke

they freely share with neighbours,

who stare and tut through laced-up or blinded

windows, from where they see but are not seen.

The food is lubricated with lager, cans in hands

all day, from early until too late.

Today there is some issue. You can see it in his walk.

He moves cocksure most days, straight back, pimp sway,

but today he is hunched, head low, arms just that bit akimbo.

His voice is raised beyond caring.

You can hear the fucks and twats and bastards

from two streets away. The children watch in silence.

She sits and smokes.

She has been here before.

Soon, after he begins to throw things, cans, food,

chairs, she stands and walks slowly into the house

and says goodbye to the father

and drives away, his voice enlarged by rage behind her.

Two days later the car is back.

The passenger door opens and he gets out.

He walks to the driver’s door and opens it to let her out.

The children emerge, skipping out of the car

and following them into the house.

There is no distance between them.

This love is a disease.

This is modern love.

Our Joyce

Walking into a city centre shop

a year or two back, or perhaps longer,

I did a double take and stopped in the doorway.

I turned and called out her name.

She turned and looked around.

It took a moment for her to see me

but no time at all to know me.

She saw me but said nothing.

She walked up and wrapped her arms around me

tight, like a bond,

squeezed with a strength I hadn’t expected

from this woman so much smaller

than the one in my memory.

She squeezed hard and then kissed me

harder, full face, on the lips,

in the doorway of a busy shop in the city centre.

I glowed. I burned, but not with embarrassment.

“Oh, love,” she said.

That was what burned me,

the heat of her love, pure, simple, and unashamed,

standing there in a stream of sniffy shoppers.

“Oh, love,” she said, again, “oh, it’s lovely to see you.”

That voice. Deep, broad, still powerful, still warm,

overflowing with feeling, her father’s voice,

loud and tuneless and wonderful,

speaking to me from when I was a child,

when I thought as a child.

The voice of Joyce, our Joyce.

We spoke and kissed again.

I can’t remember anything that she said.

That wave of love washed them out of my mind,

the words of Joyce who was born Kay.

My sister called the other day.

She told me Joyce has got that evil thing

that steals your marbles one by one.

More proof, as if we needed it,

that there is no God.

Nobody Came

Nobody came

Nobody saw

Nobody heard my mousey roar

Nobody laughed

Nobody cried

Nobody even bloody tried

Nobody looked

Nobody searched

Nobody found these petty works

Nobody cares

Nobody likes

Nobody, no one. Why do I try?

A Vignette

What have you been doing?

Oh nothing much.

What does that mean?

Nothing much. This and that. Pottering.

Pottering?

Yes. Feeding the plants. Weeding. Bit of pruning. Bits and bats. Pottering.

Is that all? It’s pathetic.

No, it’s not all, actually. The main thing I’ve been doing is avoiding you.

The New Normal

I’ve been thinking about what life will look like ‘afterwards’, the thing people are calling the New Normal. Wouldn’t it be good if this New way was better than the Old way?

What made me wonder about this was a lockdown re-reading of one of my all time favourite books. John Steinbeck wrote many wonderful things but, for me, Cannery Row is almost a parable on the glorious faults in all of us. Consider this small excerpt:

“The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.”

So from now on, let’s be kind. Let’s be nice. Let’s be honest and generous.

Let’s be failures.