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the ink dries in the well

‘When I’m with you,’ she told me, ‘everything outside disappears,’ she rolled over to face me, stroked my cheek with her fingertips. ‘All my cares and worries melt away.’ She kissed me on the mouth, ‘you make it right.’
‘I’m not here to rescue you,’ I said.
‘I know, silly; I know why you’re here, now. But we get on, don’t we?’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘We get on. Really well.’

We did get on, I thought. Maybe we got on too well. How do you play this, I thought, without becoming a player?

The bedroom door creaked open and I pushed myself up on one elbow to see Starlight, velvety grey in the half light, padding across the floor. She sprang up onto the bed and I sat up and stroked her and let her purr for a few minutes, before I picked her up and dropped her back on the floor with a soft thump.
She gave a small plaintive cry and walked back out of the room.
‘She’s jealous.’
I got out of bed.
‘Where are you going?’
I went to the window; ‘It’s raining.’
‘Let me see,’ she said.
I drew open the curtains and then climbed back in beside her and she backed into my arms and we lay together watching the rain.

The twilight and the sound of the rain on the glass and the glow of the streetlights seemed to focus on us. On this moment.

She shuddered.
‘Alright?’ I asked.
‘Just thinking.’
‘You think too much,’ I told her.
‘Mmm,’ she said. I stroked her thigh and felt the goosebumps rise when I kissed the back of her neck.
‘Will you write about me?’ she whispered.
‘Probably,’ I murmured, my lips brushing the fine hairs at the nape of her neck.
‘But you won’t mention…?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I won’t mention that.’

35 Rhums

Went to the cinema on Friday with Michael to watch 35 Rums, or as the subtitles had it, 35 Shots. Almost every scene was pregnant with meaning, but every time a narrative began to emerge (and I counted about fifteen possible stories gestating in the background) it was smothered at birth.

Just what was the significance of the second rice boiler? Or the dead cat? Or the mad german woman? And why did the cafe close, then open again?

Fuck do I know. Watching it was like listening to Free Jazz. You know it’s supposed to be good for you, on some intellectual level, but you can’t quite identify when or where the benefits are occuring.

Nevertheless, I found myself wanting to know more about the characters.

and jumped in the river holding hands

Rapunzel has posted a couple of new stories for me. They’re just essays, calisthenics, I guess, to get me warmed up for my summer of writing. I’m going to try and finish the gods. I want to know what happens with Astel, a character who hasn’t even appeared yet, though she’s featured in the short story Aphrodite. When I think of Astel, how she looks, how she dances, the shape of her hips against her skirts, her caramel skin, I just smile and go, yeah, she’ll do.

People who don’t get my stories say they lack plot, or they don’t really get the point, or the conclusion is missing or something. What they want is an answer. They want a punchline. A moral. They want fucking adverbs. But I like feelings; I like moments; I enjoy those clouded insights; the economy of fragments.

I love how we try to connect and usually we get it wrong and then sometimes we get it right. So that’s what I write about.

All my stories can be summed up in one word – wha?

the rain falls down on a humdrum town

Back in secondary school Ernie once clambered up onto the flat school roof, forty feet above the ground, carrying a large cardboard box onto which he’d painted wheels at each corner and rockets that spouted red flames.

He parked his cardboard vehicle near the edge of the roof, giving him a clear view of his field of play, and next to a pallet of bricks left behind after some building renovation work on the old bell tower. Then he started to rain bricks down onto the yard below where the quickly gathering audience of teenagers and teachers scattered to the safety of the bike sheds.

‘I can’t achieve lift-off,’ he shouted. ‘I must get rid of the ballast!’

The bricks fell intermittently for an hour or two, until there were no more, at whch point two burly firemen climbed up and persuaded him that this particular cardboard rocket was never going to achieve orbit.

To the cheers and applause of the student body he came down quietly, and was taken away. Everyone else was quickly ushered back into lessons, no-one having bothered to go to class before then.

There was a certain randomness in his madness; it was a benign sort of lunacy. Like the time, some years later, when he ate 42 chillis after a night out, and then was as sick as a dog for three days. It was a small, personal, craziness.

But despite this he was excessively neat and fastidious, wearing smart suits when he started work and carrying a soft leather briefcase, and he had the most fabulous memory for facts and trivia, especially about pop culture and the nuances of 1970’s electro-Kraut rock. I asked him about it once, how he was so neat and organised; ‘I have to be,’ he said, ‘I have to have structure and order and routine because, if I don’t, everything quickly descends into chaos and anarchy.’

‘And then I break down,’ he said with a smile and patted me on the shoulder as though to say it wasn’t a thing anyone should concern themselves about.

But it was.

It’s eight years since he last broke down, since the chaos took control, took permanent control, and I still miss him. I miss his wacky conversations and his deep knowledge of music and art and 1960’s TV programmes. I miss being able to call him up and ask a random question, knowing I’d get an answer and an hour’s conversation out of him.

I wish you’d called me, Ernie. I wish you’d called me and said you needed help.

You were beautiful, and I miss you.

waiter


Spending a lot of time drinking Earl Grey in cafes, as I do, I have this question: what the fuck is a barista maestro?

nadia

Probably my favourite album of all time is one that I borrowed from Johnno, by a guy I’d never heard of called Mike Nock. It’s called Ondas. It’s purely instrumental; piano, bass and drums, and it’s uplifting, melancholy, strange and rather beautiful.

Turns out that Mike Nock is a top jazz musician, from Australia, and he’s got a website: http://www.mikenock.com/

I don’t always get jazz, but some albums really stand our for me, Ondas, like I said, and The Shape of Jazz To Come by Ornette Coleman (why do jazz musicians have such cool names?) and I love Steve Lacy’s take on Thelonious Monk compositions.

Of the more contemporary jazz music, I’m still obsessed with Nico by Acoustic Ladyland, which is about three years old now, from the excellent Last Chance Disco album. And I’m a bit keen on Nitin Sawhney’s work too.

movies and things

Just discovered that a guy called Arthur Zwidzinski has made a film of Zippo. This is the second filmed version that I’ve seen, and I enjoyed the twist he’s put at the end, which supplies an answer not in the original story, and isn’t that far from what I envisaged.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8kdnyNuFE8

It’s a totally different take on the story from the version made by Norwegian Faisal Osman, which was shown recently at some European film festival and is mooted to appear at some others. See the still from Faisal’s version (right).
There must be something about that story that people like, because it’s gone viral. I sometimes google my story titles and I’ve found it dotted around on sites all over the world.

Weird.

There’s an American film maker called Linzi Knight (or is she Canadian?) who was thinking of filming one of my stories, and I’m hoping she still will. I’ve seen some of her stuff, and it’s excellent. Her background is in TV commercials, but then so was Ridley Scott’s, before he made Alien, the Duellists and Blade Runner.

I don’t mind someone filming or reprinting my stories, so long as I get 1% of gross, or a blueberry muffin, whichever is of greater value.

It’s all good, I reckon.

 

from 2009

Picasso

Ralphy wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his sweatshirt and threw the rest of the coffee into the mixer, whch was churning the next load of muck. ‘Give it a bit of colour,’ he muttered, grinning up at me from between bushy eyebrows.

I took the empty mug from him, surveying the worksite, where a week ago a stolen People Carrier had demolished a large section of the front wall. ‘We should be finished by Monday,’ he said.

Moose

He told me he’d happily use every drug going. Every one. ‘Life’s too fucking short to worry ’bout it,’ he’d say. He was a drug consumer by conviction as well as lifestyle; ‘I’ve seen some shit,’ he’d tell me, ‘and I’m not betting my shirt on a positive outcome.’

Most drugs he was using regularly, or had been using, or intended to use at some time in the near future. He didn’t go berserk, it was a long-term commitment; he paced it. Weekends was usually speed. Weekdays was dope. He worked as a mental nurse, ‘psychiatric nurse’ he’d tell me, in a serious tone, and he used his position of authority to filch the necessaries for the occasional temazi parties. He excelled in anti-psychotics. He supplied particularly potent viagra to all and sundry amongst his friendship group.

He even used crack cocaine a few times, which he described as like getting mugged by a particularly brutal orgasm.

But not heroin.

He’d tried it a couple of times. ‘Man, it was sooo nice. I tried it once and it was better than heaven, better than sex.’ He smiled at the memory of it, shivered, took a long drag on his blifter. ‘Then I tried it again and it was just as good.’
‘You didn’t try it a third time?’ I asked.
‘Naww,’ he replied, slurring a little now, ‘First time, your turning a key. Second time, you’re opening the door. Third time you’re stepping over the threshold.’

He sat back, one arm draped across the arm of the old settee, the velour covered in smoke burns, the fingers of his other hand reaching down to rake across the wiry, knobbed spine of May, the ancient lurcher who lay between his bare feet, ‘Third time is for keeps, baby. Third time is for keeps.’

Merrydown

I drank every night.

For years I’d brew a witches cocktail of cider and cheap white wine in a two litre jug. No fruit. No ice. Just skip the food and down to the serious business of getting hammered.

I’d get to work totally wiped-out and bloodshot with terrible hangovers. Never shaved much before 6pm on a Saturday. Lunchtime I favoured something with garlic in it, figuring it’d give me a few per cent extra in the health stakes.

Booze and unwashed and garlic. My sex life was shit.

Pulled a tooth out one night; a healthy tooth. I was drunk and found no use for it so I worked it loose. Took hours. Used to run every evening, before the booze, three or four miles, just to work up a thirst. Twice a week I’d turn up for my kickboxing club, blood pumping round my head as I warmed up and stretched, thoughts clearing by the time I got in the ring to spar. Usually.

From around one in the afternoon I’d be planning my drinking. I woke early every morning fresh and with a crunching headache but it got so that I ignored the pain.

But I didn’t drink at lunchtime – apart from my devotion to alcohol, that was my only discipline. That was what kept me holding on, just, above the precipice.

Three nights in three years I was sober. I got flu. Couldn’t get out of bed to pour a drink. Then I felt a bit better and got drunk. Then sometime later, I stopped. My drunk time was over. Whatever was that wounded me, whatever pain I hid from had diminished. My glass shield was no longer needed.

But I never felt the same, sober. Things were never as clear. No exhilaration like that first drink of the night.

Life was duller around the edges. Diminished.

I started writing.