My Mother’s House and My Father’s Cardigan

Half asleep
and gorged with tea,
Nambarrie of course,
submerged under
mounds of Paris buns
the floor alive
with escaping icing dots,
we catch up with
homespun
gossip and craic
before I headed
out the back
for a throat catching
smoke of amber leaf.

My dad dozed.
His tiny frame snug
in his favourite chair
as my mother fussed
and chatted about
all manners of
this and all manners
of that.

I fidgeted in the front room
a stranger in this house
watching the flames
in the open fire lick
curling rising soot
towards the
family photographs
hung above
the mantelpiece.
A salute to the past
and family memories
treasured and kept.

‘Another cup of tea son?’
my mother gently lilts.
This grey haired aproned
old lady flitting
from kettle to pot,
pouring weak amber tea
into best china cups.

‘Why not’ I say
‘Then we’ll have to go’
‘So soon? But you’re
only in through the door.’

I smiled at the old woman,
my darling mother
her face side-lit
by evening light
peering into the
gloomy room.
(Old people are like
vampires.
Afraid of the light
and the cost of electricity)

The chat ran to small talk
and who had died and
how my aunts
were bearing up
now they were alone.
My dad snored gently
his hands hugged
to his lifting chest
barely filing his
knitted cardigan.
He was tired
but not tired of life.
He would soldier on
until called home
by the God
he believed in.

Leaving is always hard.
The prolonged goodbyes,
the shuffle to the door,
my dad, now awake,
was talking two
to the dozen
as he opened the car door
for my wife.
His ‘favourite girl’
as he called her.
‘Boys a boys.
Lovely car big fella.’
I smiled and
started her up.
Keen to get away
from this uneasy
get together.

As we wound
down the drive
we looked back
at the house
and my parents waving
and I wondered if
we would be back again.
Back to hear
the same stories
in that same untouched room
back to drink tea
eat gingerbread and Paris buns
until fit to pee and
fit to burst.

It was good to be home.

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Coming Home aship

The
Sea.

Neptune’s trident churns
and turns
a
snarling
chastising
chastiser.

Hissing
boiling
white water
tips.

Punching
the decks
with salty
fists.

I.

Safe inside
the threadbare
snug bar
have a jar
or two
(purely medicinal
of course)
and
through
a porthole
eyeball
the sea
as it
eyeballs
me.

And
children.

Noisy
feral
snotty
wretches.

Ruddy faced urchins
and teens
with issues
and giggles
and angst.

Teenage angst.

Run wild
to a child.

And
mothers
soft with love
and hard with life
talk shit
aboard
the ship.

Then.

With
headphones on
and
volume set
to 21.

I
block
the
insipid
driviolic
chatter
with
Level 42
and
Sum 41.

Later.

As
we near

Dublin port,
the feral kids
their mums
and I,

Neptune’s sea.

A millpond of glass

Welcomes.

With
gentle ripples
and
salty kisses.

On land
we
lubber in cars
on feet

Engulfed
by
Irish
wind and rain.

Sleepy feral kids
blubbering
from a smack
around
the head.

God!

It’s good
to be home again.

#wedwo The Vampire who lost his Teeth

In a damp stone basement somewhere deep below Wisteria Drive West London, lives a family of vampires.

They sleep by day and then each night, as the sun disappears over the horizon, they awake from their slumber to roam and plunder the blood of the innocent and the not so innocent.

There are seven in total. They have all been bitten by Vlad the Incisor and transformed into blood sucking creatures of the night. They were all chosen. It is a common misconception amongst muggles that everyone who is bitten by a vampire becomes a vampire. This is not true. Most are merely sucked dry and left as skin envelopes full of bones and bits. Some are frightened to death and their bodies ignored (as vampires will usually only gorge on live victims) only a chosen few will be reborn into an eternity of night and an eternal fear of light.

Our group of blood suckers live in an abandoned subway station, not in coffins, as myth dictates but hanging like bats from the old entrance hall roof. They wear black. Vampires in black. Their skin, already dead, is deathly pale and their cracked lips are speckled with drops of blood from last night’s victims.

This is only their second home in seventeen centuries. Before, they had roosted contently in the rank cellar of an old castle until developers decided to build a motorway. They had to hastily retreat, at the dead of night of course, before men and bulldozers descended on their lair to pull down the teetering walls and entomb their nightly resting pace in quick drying cement.

And this is how, one August night in 1987 they arrived at the abandoned subway station. A cold desolate and dark lair abandoned after the Second World War. Until they could find another castle, this part of their myth is true, the old entrance hall erased from every underground map and service manual, would be home. From here, through a labyrinth of ducts and a myriad of hidden doors they could access the calm of the tube system to seek their victims and with razor fangs puncture their skin and drink their warm life preserving blood.

All, that is, except Gregor.

Gregor is the oldest of the group. He remembers things that even history doesn’t remember. He is almost as old as time itself. He’s like a little old wizened grandpa. A vampire grandpa.

He doesn’t venture out much. He finds the journeys tiring. He’s dying. Yes, even vampires die. Eventually. But unlike you and I, unless you are a vampire too, they take a long, long, long time to die. Gregor has been dying for centuries.

In 1683 or thereabouts, Gregor was flying into the open third floor window of a grand house in Bath when suddenly the window was slammed shut. Normally, vampire reactions are so quick, so reflexive that he would have simply overshot and looked for another opportunity. But this happened in the merest molecule of time and even with his magical powers he couldn’t avoid a collision.

He hit the closing window with a tremendous thud. He fell through the air before regaining his senses and landing softly with a feather like swoosh of his cape. Gregor did a check, then a double and a triple check and certain that only his pride was hurt, flew off into the night.

In a small, ramshackle village on the outskirts of town he spotted a mud daubed dwelling. Easy pickings. He went inside and chanced upon a young girl sleeping on a mound of perfumed hay. He sank his fangs into her neck. She screamed. Gregor sucked but there was no blood. He moved back and was horrified to see that his fangs remained firmly implanted in the maiden’s neck! His teeth must have been damaged and loosened in the collision with the window! She sat up and still screaming flayed her arms and kicked her legs. Gregor moved toward her intent on retrieving his teeth but she, like a possessed demon child, bit him. She bit him! Gregor shrank back and fled into the night. An empty stomach and an empty mouth.

From that time to this, Gregor relied on others to bring him his liquid food. Sometimes the group would raid hospital blood banks and bring him great bags of ripe, red goodness. But this was blood from the dead, not the living and though it was a little sustenance it was not the nutritious pumping vibrant blood from a live donor.

Once, one of the younger vampires had brought him a sports bottle full to the brim of what, at first glance, appeared to be blood. It was black currant juice! He wasn’t amused.

In the mid nineties, they kidnapped a bus load of Japanese tourists and strapped them to gurneys, attached drips and intravenously milked their blood for Gregor. But one night, after a fruitless sortie, the other vampires descended en masse on the hapless tourists and in a writhing fog of capes and fangs drank them dry.

Gregor is still hanging on. Just. He gets by on the occasional pint of barely lukewarm blood of unknown origin. He often finds it hard to sleep. He has barely the strength to roost and sometimes the others have to tie him to the girders with bungee rope.

Very, very occasionally he takes to the night sky around London. He still pops into people’s bedrooms to sit and watch them sleep while licking his toothless gums.

So if you suddenly wake up and there’s a strange wizened old creature in a black cape salivating at the bottom of your bed. Say Hi! He won’t bite!

A Greek Tragedy #wedwo

The minutes ticked relentlessly by as the air grew pale and thin and poisonous.

The children thought it would be fun to play in the empty shipping container until the door slammed shut behind them, leaving them in the cold, dank, steel darkness.

Outside, in the bright and cloudless afternoon light, a hunched old man, dressed top to toe in black, picked his way through the the gorse and bracken and emerged at the railway line. He stopped and from his backpack took out a tattered notebook. He turned to a fresh page and wrote ‘Six good children. Six innocent souls. Erebus will be pleased.’

The container sat semi buried where it lay. Clothed in undergrowth and rust. White and corrugated. Dented and useless. Isolated.

The sounds of frantic fists beating against the hard, firm panels slowed to an occasional weary, wretched thump. Then, the echoes from inside fell silent.

Night fell.

Night fell as a blanket as the children slept forever. Erebus had his prize.

Cybil and Jeffrey run out of Gin

The Duck Pond

It was a balmy May night in the sleepy little village of Fisting Gap on the Wye.

Swans slept at the side of the pond, necks curled under their wing. The sun played peek a boo with the fluffy, wispy clouds and red faced children hung over the bridge waiting for their pooh sticks to emerge. Flies fussed over the water as boatmen skimmed on its surface. Cybil and Jeffrey sat on their favourite bench and watched the evening draw to a close.

“Jeffrey?”

“Mmm?”

“Isn’t it beautiful tonight?”

“Isn’t what beautiful dear?”

“It, Jeffrey. All of it.”

“I suppose it is dear. I’ve never really thought about it that way.”

“You’re a Philistine Jeffrey. An utter Philistine.”

Jeffrey’s face twitched. His facial tics were a constant reminder that Cybil was most often right and that he was a mere man. And, therefore, most often wrong.

He sighed, opened his copy of The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western and flicked to his favourite chapter where Cameron and Greer met Magic Child in a brothel. Jeffrey loved this book as indeed he loved all Brautigan’s books.

Cybil thought they were a strange read. Certainly a strange read for a retired accountant. Perhaps it was Jeffrey’s love of the surreal which blinded him to the beauty of nature? Perhaps it was a gin induced neurosis? Jeffrey loved a tipple.

Cybil threw chunks of crusty bread to a motley crew of passing gangsta mallards. It was the height of the mating season and unattached mallards would have a pop at just about anything. They were the geezers of the duck pond. As the bread hit the water it was hoovered up and met with anxious quacks for more.

A passing cyclist stopped beside Cybil.

“Bread’s bad for ducks” he said. “Full of empty calories. You should feed them frozen peas.”

Cybil looked at the young man quizzically.

“Frozen peas? But that can’t be right.”

The cyclist thought for a moment.

“It must be. I read it in the Gruniad.”

“But what sort of peas? Mushy? Marrowfat? Garden?”

Cybil’s tone became more and more high pitched as she become more and more exasperated with this intruder.

“Is everything all right dear?” said Jeffrey.

“No it’s not Jeffrey!” Exclaimed Cybil. “That frightful young man told me off for feeding the ducks bread!”

“Now listen here you Cycling thug!” Said Jeffrey with the authority and weight of an elder. “Push off and annoy someone else or I’ll set my dog on you!”

“But you haven’t got a dog” said the cyclist.

“I’ll go and get one if you don’t go away! You two wheeled hooligan!”

The cyclist left, mumbling under his breath about old loonies and who cares about ducks anyway.

Jeffrey put his arm around Cybil’s shoulder and kissed her gently on the cheek.

“There, there dear. The rude young man has gone.”

“Oh Jeffrey! You’re my hero! I think you deserve a nice large Gin!’

Jeffrey blushed.

“I’d love a Gin Cybil, but we’re completely dry.”

“Dry?”

“Not a sausage.”

“No sausages either!?”

“That was a euphemism Cybil.”

“Ah.”

A Sloe Gin Comedy of Errors

Back at home, Cybil had regained her composure and was manically rooting though every cupboard and drawer of their tiny cottage.

‘There must be a bottle of Bombay Sapphire here somewhere’ she thought.

“CYBIL?”

“MMMM?”

“HAVE WE STILL GOT THAT BUCKET OF SLOES WE GATHERED?”

“YES I THINK SO. THEY’RE BEHIND THE BARRY MANILOW CUSHIONS ON THE CHEZ LONGUE.”

“GOT THEM! WHY DID YOU PUT THEM THERE?”

“IT’S AS GOOD A PLACE AS ANY DEAR.”

Jeffrey inspected the sloe plums. They were still firm and purple and decidedly sloe like.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT THE SLOES FOR JEFFREY?”

“SLOE GIN DEAR.”

“YOU ARE CLEVER JEFFREY.” Said Cybil. “WHAT ELSE DO WE NEED?”

“SHALL I COME INTO THE KITCHEN INSTEAD OF SHOUTING FROM THE LOUNGE DEAR?”

“GOOD IDEA JEFFREY!”

They sat on either side of a small, sturdy wooden kitchen table and Jeffrey powered up his laptop.

“It’s not Friday is it Jeffrey?”

“Friday?”

“Friday phrases dear!”

“No Cybil. It’s Monday but Friday phrases will be a bit of a damp squib without Gin!”

“Good point Jeffrey. Are you looking up the recipe?”

Jeffrey googled Sloe Gin.

Sugar. Check.
Sloes. Check.
Gin. Ah.

“Cybil, I think we may have a teensy weensy problem.”

“What is it Jeffrey? You don’t sound very happy.”

Jeffrey took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“I’ve been reading the recipe and even ignoring the fact that sloe gin takes at least three months to mature, and Friday Phrases is just four days away, the recipe also calls for….you’re not going to believe this….Gin!!”

“We need gin to make sloe gin? What nonsense!”

“Apparently we do dear.”

“Off licence Jeffrey?”

“Can we stop for pizza on the way back?”

“Why not! Shall I drive?”

“I’d rather you didn’t dear.”

Later that evening Cybil and Jeffrey were relaxing in their favourite recliners. The sun had long since dipped below the horizon. The ducks had fallen silent. And there was a report on TV that a cyclist had crashed into the back of a slurry spreader and was stuck in the outlet pipe.

Cybil and Jeffrey were happily smashed.

“Another Gin Jeffrey?”

“Yes please!”

#FP Psychadelic canoe

I was
skydiving
with
grannies
and
colourful
trannies
who
were
fresh
off
the game

I
listened
intently,
non
judgementally
as they
compared
notes
about
clients
they’d met
on
the train

I was
dead set
on
jumping
but
their
sexual
galumphing
made me
assess
my
position
and my
mental
condition

so I
bade
bon adieu
and
caught
a passing
gnu
and went
for a
paddle
in my
psychedelic
canoe.

A very kitchen affair

She
seduced me
with marzipan
and
vanilla icing
her
strawberry jam
tartlets
a foil
as we
coiled
and
jousted
on mounds
of semolina

But
when her
topping split
she
melted into
my arms
and
we
made love
as ovens
hummed
and
my lungs
collapsed
of
pulmonary oedema.