My Scatterbrained Cycle Ride with Jazzy.


I don’t suppose you’re interested in the ridiculous, irresponsible tales of a first year University student somewhere in the west of England. But if you’re reading this now, that’s what you’re in store for. A little slice of stupidity.

This was back in October — a month into my first year of studying hard and doing my best to ruin my already mediocre physical state with alcohol and other such trifles. By this point I’d met many of the people I associate with daily and consider great friends. Jazzy Pete, who’s now my boss as a gardener, and also fulfilled the role of a dealer for a time, too. He has a penchant for well, jazz, but also whiskey, gin, foxy babes, marijuana, cocaine, mushrooms, good quality meats, vegetables, the piano and electric guitar, skateboarding, tightrope walking, mischief making and anything else of the weird or wonderful. Not forgetting Tara, Tash, Laura, Luke or Jimmy. They were all there too. And probably a couple of others. But this tale is all about Jazzy fucking Pete.

It was a bleak friday night, and nobody particularly wanted to do anything. Going out was definitely out of the question. Yep, you wouldn’t be seeing any of us on the town that night. Except when it got to 11pm, we all fancied a drink. By 1am we were fucked, and a taxi had been ordered to ferry us into town as soon as possible. The problem was, the taxi was for 6, and we were made of 8. Being something of adventurer and a bit of a fucking idiot, I suggested that myself and Jazzy would make the 25 minute cycle into town and catch up with the gang. In the pissing rain. With no lights. Fucked.

Everyone heartily agreed that this was an excellent idea, and Jazzy proceeded to roll a joint the size of a cricket bat. The others left, the cricket bat was smoked to its stingers, and the world seemed to revolve at a rate that would make years swing by in seconds. We both agreed that a brief yet gratifying tinkle on his Korg electric piano was in order before our pilgrimage into town. After ten minutes of fingers falling on duff keys, we figured it was time to make for the road. Pete chucked me a parker which was not built for my rotund frame and perhaps even a little tight on his boyish body, but it went on all the same.

I veered across the empty road as though tracing the peaks and troughs of a heartbeat monitor. It was, as Pete might put it, ‘fucking intense’. Pete however performed jumps, tricks, flicks and all the rest of it. I have no idea how. I think he may have been possessed by some BMX demon, that night. We’d made it into town without any major cause for concern. At least the outskirts. We hadn’t passed car, with it being half 1am, until, around the corner from the club, a deafening light comes up from behind us. Jazzy shouted: “Phil, come left,” to get out of its way, with us being in the middle of the road. And I, in quite a mind melted state, over compensate by thrusting the handlebars sharp to the left, so much so that it felt necessary to spin them immediately back to the right. Next thing I’ve crashed into a car that’s parked on the side of the road, in a heap, thinking I have no idea what, but probably something nothing to do with anything. I get to my feet, and to what should have been my horror, but at the time seemed nothing too concerning, the car behind had stopped, and two uniformed officers were making their way towards me. They got me onto the pavement, and Pete, being one of the most decent people I’ve ever come to meet, despite what aspersions you may have interpreted from my descriptions of the man, came and spoke to them with me, although I am certain he could have gotten away without any trouble.

“Been drinking tonight boys?” an officer said.

“A little, I’ve had, officer,” I said, trying my best to perfect the balance apology and sobriety in my response.

“We could take you in tonight if we wanted to. But that seems unnecessary. Stupid thing to do that….etc etc” I can’t really remember.

They let us go. I think it probably gave them a fucking good laugh. We locked up our bikes and went to the club, only to have no idea where we’d left them the next day.

Lesson learnt.

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Molly.


Molly.

I never wanted to start working for Gerry Broker. It was all sort of out of my control. The fucker used to pull at my hair when we were kids, and shower me in abuse of all shades of shite. Molly couldn’t stand him either. When we were together she used to say:

– He’s a bad bloke, Gerry Broker is, she said. – Stay clear of him. But I’d no choice. Broker basically seized his Dad’s double glazing business in Blackpool soon after he left school. He tried to sound like a flash fuck and describe himself as European Sales Manager when we all knew he was just a door-to-door salesman. So was I. And, him being a natural bully, he was very good at it. Me being a bit limp tongued, I was pretty bad. The thing is, I wasn’t actually working for Broker. Well I was…technically. But I was more just watching: documenting. We didn’t have a camera, no… nor me or Niall, we were too poor for that. But I took note of how Broker behaved. I wrote it all down. I suppose this is the story of where my findings took me. But not the whole thing. Not by a long shot. My notes on Broker came to over a thousand pages in the end. Of what Broker taught me. You might think it’s dumb really, to work for a man you hate, just to observe him for all his wrongs. But it made sense. Molly loved documentaries after all. It seemed like the only way I win her love back, in making one of my own. I thought I’d publish it all and illuminate to Mol my ingenuity and thoughtfulness and bring Brooks down in the process. The plan was sweeter than strawberries.

I was telling her about my dreams before it all began. Quirky little fucked up ones they were, at the time. I told Mol what happened in ‘em. I said:

– I’m falling, hurtling, down to the floor from some tummy turning height. Then I’m in a room fulla tickin clocks and my teeth are all falling out on the floor. Molly’d shake us awake and she’d say I’d be like crying almost. I’d be alright though, once I could roll onto my side and trace the curves in her back with my hands, and rest my thumb in the delicate kidney dimples on the small of her back. I remember how the bow in her spine eased down and swept upwards at the bottom. It could have been formed in the design of a delicate swish of a composer’s baton. Those dreams plagued me in the odd hours for weeks on end. Until I took Mol over Blackpool tower one day. She was going on about how the glass at the top, the walk of faith she says it’s called, can take a weight of summit like fifty tonnes. She said it was on Louis Theroux or some other documentary the other week.

– I fuckin hate Louis Theroux. I said, trying to move the conversation away from documentaries. They’re all she ever spoke about.

– You don’t even know who he is, Jon. He’s an interesting man. I’d never been into documentaries. Looking at everything through a magnifying glass, you miss the bigger picture, I reckon.

– Jonny, she says. – I can’t be doing this no more. At first I thought she meant the height of it, what with us bein’ near 150 metres up in clouds.

– Let’s geddown then, shall we? I said, putting my arm round her flat shoulders, ushering her to the exit. She stepped back from me and says:

– That’s not what I mean, Jonny. I can’t deal with your hate for everything, she says. After two years together she pissed all over us. I didn’t know at the time what brought it on. I’d had thoughts of asking Mol to become Mrs. Jonny Hopping. Just as well I didn’t ask. Proper tit I’d have looked when she’d have said no. I looked down at my feet so she couldn’t see me weeping like an open wound, forgettin we’re on the glass floor, right at the top. My bowels slackened at the sight of all the lego-men below – the ittiness of everything. Nigh on shat my pants at the very top. That wouldn’t have been the ideal way to go about winning her love back. She nestled her precious head in my chest for a few seconds, then left. I can still feel that impression on my heart now. I rang Niall and he came down to the pier and we skittered skimming stones across the flat grey water for a while, supping at Special Brew and acting like neither of us had a care for anything in the whole shitey world. He’d just told us that his Dad’s window tinting company had gone under.

– We’re fucked, he said. – There’s no decent work for boys like us, Jonny. Dad says he’s sorted us somethin’ though. With Broker.

– Fuck that, I said. That’s not for me, Ni. Broker’s a fat bastard. And he’s always had it in for me.

– He’s not the same as when we were boys, Jon. He’s a grown bloke, he’s done us a good turn. And so that’s when I thought it. I had no option but to work for the fucker, I’d be out on the streets if not. And I wanted to stick with Niall. The lanky bastard would be lost without me, and I don’t mean that in a big-headed way. He’s as dumb as a dandelion. If I had to work for this cocky bastard then I’d at least be in it to fuck him up somehow. Even if all that meant was jotting down how much of a twat he was in a little notebook. I felt like a soldier that didn’t shoot his gun on the job. A real thrill. A conscientious objector to door-to-door sales techniques.

Broker’s techniques were quite something, too. When me and Niall went over for our first day with him, he showed us some real dark stuff. I’d forgotten how unpleasant time spent in his company was. He had a maddening way of describing any conversation as though it happened back-to-back. “Then he turned round to me and says” forming the beginning of almost all his anecdotes.

– Then he turned round to me and says ‘you’re the best salesman I ever dealt with Gerry.’ And he’s right, Broker said, choking on his laugh which crawled up his thick neck and barked out of his rotter. When I thought about it, I completely understood if most of his conversations did happen back-to-back. After all, Broker had a nose like a huge glowing red chili and an uneven peppering of stubble across his cheeks. Proper fiery fucker. And you could tell he was a flash cunt right away, even if you didn’t see him rock up in his soft-top Saab, it was from his Clooney-grey hair that must work its charms on his victims. You couldn’t help but think he’d be driving something shitey like a Rover if his locks were Jon Snow-white. He had a fancy-as-fuck watch shackled around his wrist as well. A white metal thing with a face almost as big as his own. He wore it like a second cock. I never asked him the time, even if I really needed to know, just so he couldn’t get the satisfaction of swishing it in front of my muzzle.

– How’s the Mrs, Jonny? he said soon after we arrived and had suffered his crippling handshake. When he spoke his tongue slithered along his cheek before saying what he wanted to. He spoke too fast and huffed at the slightest of inconveniences. Asking this question seemed an inconvenience, and was followed by a long, wheezy huff.

– Fine, I said. Then he showed us his twisted mind. He knocked on a door and said – This is the shoes-off method. Me and Niall stood there behind him, a bit confused by that. You could already smell his bullshit blowing in the winter breeze. A bingo-winged lady answered, wearing a pinkish smock, with bulging electric blue varicose veins worming their way through her dimpled calves. Broker said:

– Good afternoon, lovey, how are you? before she could respond he started to unlace his shimmering black shoes and had them off pretty quick and offered himself in. In an instant I was drinking her cold tea and sat on her damp sofa with Niall beside me. Broker was performing his set from a clicky-combination type briefcase by the fireplace, and the lady sunk into her own swathes of yellow fat in the armchair by the front windows. I didn’t realise quite how large the lady was until we got in her living room. She needed a zimmerframe to get around. But despite asking us in for a drink and sounding very interested in Broker’s double glazing special offers, she soon backed away from any purchase.

– I’m sorry Mr. Broker, I’ve listened to what you’re offering but it just isn’t for me. I suppose I invited you in because I’m just lonely. My husband passed away a few months back, she said. I looked at Niall and he looked proper spaced out by the whole situation. It made the whole thing proper thorny. But Broker will never give up on a sale.

– What if I can offer you a third off our fitting fees? surely that’ll swing you, lovey? he said. I didn’t know there even was a fitting fee.

– No, no, Mr. Broker, she said, her swollen face dropping into a look of discomfort. – My husband wouldn’t be so happy at me spending money I don’t be needing to, she said. I was fascinated. Broker turned around and, almost hyperventilating, let out a sort of roar. You could tell he wanted to remind her that her husband is dead. Proper fucking psycho. Then he turned back all professional and said:

– May I ask how your husband died? I am very sorry for your loss, lovey.

– He fell and broke his neck… the C7, the bone at the bottom of your neck. The doc’s said it would have been almost instant, mind. So I can take something from that, she said, twisting her wedding ring around her oversized fingers.

– Goodness, Broker said. He was quiet for a sec, and then followed up with – What a jazzy way to go, the C7. Well, I’ll be blown. It’s been a pleasure, lovey. Now take a card. Broker threw one of his shitey business cards down on the brown carpet, snapped up his briefcase and left. Brash cunt. If I was the fly on the wall, she was the elephant in the room. Proper obese and having none of it and crying now. Made the rest of the day proper tetchy.

This sort of situation would be replicated around ten to fifteen times in an average day working with Broker. We must have covered half of Blackpool in a week or so, having shoes and abuse hurled at us often along the way. He bullied people with the power of his wrist-cock and silvering Ocean’s Thirteen hair. What I’m really here to tell you though, is about the one house we knocked on that really changed everything. I’d been a spending my days thinking too much, living inside my own head, I spose. It was just how it all ended so sudden. Like having my legs smashed out from beneath me, without a word of warning or chair to fall back on. Just fell right on my arse. My heart and stomach felt as though they’d plummeted through the walk of faith and thudded onto Blackpool beach. The house was in Staple Street, a shitey little road, straight from the set of Coronation Street. I pinged the broken doorbell and knocked a handful of times. Broker had been giving me shit all day about how shit I was at selling double glazing.

– Mediocrity is what it is Jonny boy, he said. – It’s as far as the eye can see. He also said it was ‘my day’, and that he wasn’t going to try and sell a thing to anyone until I’d made twenty seven sales. One for every mediocre year of my existence he said. He was more full of himself than a fucking Russian doll. Fucker, he is. Inflating his ego on the taste of my shortcomings. He was prodding me in the back I remember, at the doorstep of this house. And I remember how I noticed just before any answer came, that the skeletons of trees which lined the pot-holed road had ribbons of toilet roll coiled over and around them. It had taken over the trees themselves and infected them with its shitey contempt. I snapped my head back around to reprepare my pre-prepared bullshit Blue Peter speech. Broker called it the Blue Peter speech because it was ‘one he made earlier’. The prick. From behind the blue door a default faced lady answered, but I took nothing of her face in. My attentions fell to the blonde over her sharp shoulder, in the room behind her, almost supine, reclined way back in a special chair, plugged into a respirator, with tubes coming out of her like a web of poison ivy. It was Molly. I said nothing and just walked straight in. I could hear Broker yelp with awe at what he probably thought was some new, ballsy technique I’d invented to try to impress him. But I just had to speak to her. I knelt down by her side and pressed her fingers in my hands. She didn’t move and for a while I just knelt there and held her. The lady then said from the doorway:

– Jonnny, I suppose you are? I didn’t turn to her but nodded and she left us to it. Gerry didn’t come in either. The door clicked shut and I told Molly that I loved her, and I always would. I told her that if death ran off with me tomorrow, that I’d be more complete and not quite as cold and bitter as other men. It’s thanks to Molly’s compassion that I can say that. I said she’d always be welcome, in ten years or even fifty, to come and see me and spend an evening in each other’s company. Even though she couldn’t respond and nothing of it was said, we both knew that this could never happen. Mol wouldn’t make it. She looked grey. I found out at her funeral that it was her kidneys. I never found out why she did it.

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The Pont-Aven.


I don’t know why they want to lock me away, Will” said Taff to his son, while smoking a damp cigarette on the lower deck of the Pont-Aven. He sat upright on a fixed wooden chair, enveloped in a blue-and-white spread umbrella, to escape the April rain which sizzled on the metal floors of the ferry in the darkness. “I’m not much use, perhaps, but there’s no need for any of this… Wouldn’t you say?” Will’s eyes fell to the pallid boy, Robert, that sat on the floor beside him, propped up against the lichen-covered cabin. Robert retained an exhausted flush in his cheeks, with both hands anchored to the depths of his coat pockets.

There’s not much I can do, Dad. Especially after what happened at the hotel.”

The Pont-Aven had set sail from Bilbao for Portsmouth earlier that evening. It travelled with a sluggish immensity along the shelf break of the Bay of Biscay, in shallow, jagged waters, as the party it hosted bubbled along in its crushes. The ragged seas had caused several sea-drunk stumbles already, and everyone inside danced with reddened cheeks and raised hands. Only the three sat on the deck beneath the rain-beaten canopy, with their backs to the jollity, each equally alone. The people inside toppled about like marbles on an uneven surface, the bride reeling around, caught like a fish in a lace net, twirling and tumbling into folks in her ivory gown.

Fuck off. You could tell her you’re not shoving me in a bloody home to rot away for starters. She’s always wanted rid of me.” Taff said in bitter melody, aided by his seventy-years of Swansea twang. His already magnified eyes expanded yet wider through his large circular glasses, with each exclamation.

I don’t know why you insist on blaming Lisa for all of this. She’s had nothing much to do with any of it, Dad. She only wants what’s best for you.”

Oh yes, that old sod again. What’s best for you… Playing Sudoku with a bunch of half-cut vegetables? Drooling endlessly in my armchair? Watching countdown religiously? The highlight of my month being a lengthy sit in their brown-grassed garden? If that’s what’s best for me I’d have been doing it since I was his age.” Taff’s voice cracked as he gestured towards Robert.

I’m not going through this again, Dad. Not here… We just can’t manage you anymore, not on our own.”

But haven’t you heard? Incontinence and dementia are the numerator, and denominator, of the fraction known as… Bliss, Will. I’m happy as I am. It makes sense. I bet you’d love to piss yourself and forget it ever happened. It’s very liberating.”

A clean-shaven barman emerged from the cabin and handed Taff another whiskey from a black tray. Taff acknowledged his service and began to glug from the glass as a new-born babe would from a bottle of cold milk.

“Now where were we…?” Taff took another mouthful of his drink. “I remember my sea-sickness as a boy,” Taff said, seeming to have left his temper in the moments prior. “Wasn’t half as bad as you mind — and that was back in forty-seven, over the North Sea.” Robert offered little attention to Taff’s words. His hollow eyes of nine years scrutinised the waves and bore out towards the black horizon, catching a sharp glint in the moonlight. He clutched his sorry stomach with each rising wave. “I fell in that year I did — overboard! Not in the North Sea though, the chills would’ve gotten me there, an’ I’d not be sat before you now–”

“You said, Dad. It was just off the coast at Cowes, in spring.”

“Yes… fine spring it was too.” Taff had given up on his sodden smoke, tossing it into the blackness over the rails. “Terrible habit anyway.”

He sunk back into his chair, and as he did so, pearls formed in mist from his spent breath. “What is this thing, anyway?” He said, his cornflower blue irises spread wide.

“Do I have to explain again, Dad?” Will said. Taff remained silent for some minutes. Robert tucked his knees in to his chest, covering his ears with his knees to blot out the horror of the shouts and wails from the drunken flock indoors. Most of them were aged or ghastly, or both, and all of them trundling about the place in a drunken stupor. Groups of older women were perched in corners, devouring morsels of nuts and fish and more alcohol, some even managing to miss their own mouths with great handfuls of tidbits.

“I don’t know why you won’t just ignore her, William. She only wants me gone… Your own Dad, cast out from his family.” Taff continued in the same manner as he had all night.

“I don’t want to go inside.” Robert murmured. The waves rumbled beneath them as he spoke.

“I know. We don’t need to, Robert. We can stay here.”

“Tell ya what, boy-o, a drop of this whiskey here’d do you no end of good. Stomach settler, whiskey, they say. This stuff’s Scottish, best stuff I ever boug–” Taff swished the smoky liquid under Robert’s nose.

“–no, Dad. That’s the last thing he’d want.”

“That woman of yours wouldn’t fret so, like you. Mind, she’d probably be swiggin’ from the very bottle itself to–”

“–be quiet”

“She’s no good to any of us, her.”

Just then the blue-and-white umbrella caught in a gale — its metal innards fractured in the sweep, and turned out on themselves. Disfigured, the thing jolted from his arthritic grip, and glided away into the starless distance.

“Two-six heave!” Taff said, clutching at the salt-bitten air for the long gone handle.

“Go inside, Dad. The waves will soak you through being sat there.”

“Blasted thing… You know, I never liked her from the start, that woman…” Taff continued, wrapping his words around another gulp of whiskey, the top of his back and neck now damp from the spray. Will remained silent. Robert, buoyed slightly by the humour of Taff’s lost umbrella, strained to etch a smile across his face. Even with spirits brightened, he still had the greenish look of an apple that would never run ripe. The pallor rose up from his neck and took hold of his whole face. His heart raced, chasing his weary blood to the ends of its vessels, right to his blue fingertips. Scratching his young skin, Will had to draw his eyes away from the boy momentarily, as the turbulence of the waves began to worsen.

“There you are. What’s up with you?” A rounded, wrinkled lady with oily face and puckered mouth emerged from inside the cabin. Her eyes and cheeks were caked thick in bright make-up and her red dress revealed two scaly looking legs, which fell roughly from her hips to the sodden floor. Her affection, much like her painted face, was laid on with all the intricacy of a garden spade.

“He’s alright, Jenny, don’t worry. Just a little sea-sickness.” Will said.

The coughing motor choked as the ferry tacked into the ever climbing overfalls, combing the foamy whitecaps. Plaiting the surges, the Pont-Aven moved into waters which had sprung into a violent life, and with all the immediacy of Prospero’s tempest. Great swells of salted water cracked against the boat, causing the dangling lifeboats to rattle against the side of the white ship. More and more water flooded in over the rotten handrail, and a few of the tables rattled along the floor inside. From peak to trough the waves were almost twenty metres tall. People clung to the bar and curtains, and to each other. The water rose and fell with hostility, almost intent. Both Will and Robert slid away from the cabin, along the damp floor, towards the handrail at the edge of the deck. Will clung to it with Robert clasped beneath his other arm, as his eyes scoured the chaos indoors for his ash-blonde wife Lisa. Jenny’s clutch bag wormed its way out from beside her heavy hips, as she tried to haul Robert up from his berth. Hands still plummeted in his pockets; he was stiff, somehow asleep.

Robert? Why isn’t he moving?” Her words drifted away in the windstorm. In mistaken horror she shook him but he remained still. She reeled away alarmed, tottered about on her high-heeled shoes, wailing for help and screeching for anything. Her shrill tones were drowned out in the clatter and thrum of the large room, sinking amongst the shared panic. Glasses shattered freely against the waxen flooring inside the cabin, and when Will lugged his eyes away from the activity inside, his Father had gone. Several minutes later the breakers calmed to swells, and the wash settled into the wake. And then some way off, far away, in the distance, a tugboat whistled. Leaving the boy asleep in the same spot, Will picked himself up and began to wander the ship in an attempt to find his Father.

Have you seen him?” He shook Lisa’s shoulders inside. Her dark spring-green eyes rolled around in her head, showing their whites, unfeeling.

What? Who? Seen who? Have you tried the punch? Let’s get a drink.”

My Dad. He disappeared from the deck just now…”

I’m sure the old thing’ll be just fine. He loves the sea. Don’t worry. Let’s get a drink.”

I don’t want a drink.”

Is he kicking up a fuss again? You can’t let him ruin the reception, it isn’t fair on Kim.” Lisa stroked the two-day stubble on Will’s cheek.

He’s not ruining anything. I just want to know where he is. I’ll leave you to it.”

There’s no need to be so short.”

But Will had already made for the double doors at the back of the room before he could catch the last of her sentence. He paced along the bare corridors of the Pont-Aven. As he went, his black leather shoes squeaked with salted water, trapped in the grooves of his soles. Occasionally he passed various black and white photographs of Spanish sailors in wooden frames, which hung with the impression that they were half worth looking at.

Will skipped up the stairs to upper deck and poked his head around every open door, explored the Grand Pavois Bar, and the Fastnet Piano Bar, and even pottered around the swimming pool and kennels on the uppermost deck – but Taff was not there. After forty-five minutes without success, he returned to the empty balcony where they had been, stood still, and plucked his last Marlboro from his damp cardboard packet. He let his weight fall upon the handrail, allowing his eyes to wander away out to the edges of the hushed seas. A buoy with an emerald green light attached bobbed in the mid-distance, close enough that it felt as though he could almost reach out and grab it with his spare hand. At the end of a minute, he tossed away the burning stick, as his Father had earlier, and remained leant against the wet railing. Then a whistle started up. Not a harsh, piercing one, like that of the tugboat which sang out its harsh song an hour or so before — but a forgiving, melancholy tune, from lips, blue in its custom. Bemused, Will looked about him. He saw nothing — nobody but the crowd indoors, which now slow-danced in mismatched couplings. Then the whistling stopped, and, as though from the sea, a tumbler flew through the midnight air and shattered on the deck beside his foot. He craned his head over the ledge, and, to his astonishment, found his Father sitting in a fluorescent orange lifeboat, suspended four feet below the rail.

Dad…What the fuck are you doing down there? How did you manage that?” Taff rocked with the lullaby waves, hacked up a tickling cough and giggled at his son’s alarm.

Not a-lot boy-o! What the fuck are you doing up there?”

Come back up here, Dad. I get your point.”

What point? If I was making a point I wouldn’t climb into a bloody lifeboat. You get a better feel for it here, see… Come on, get in.”

With no thirst for words, Will looped a leg over the handrail, and dropped into a seat opposite his Dad. Taff prodded the butt-end of another cigarette into Will’s mouth and held an outstretched, prolonged flame in front of his face. Through the half-light Will noticed that his Father’s face had rearranged itself to produce a smile that he had only seen previously in timeworn photographs. Once Will had lit his cigarette, his Father clasped his black zippo shut, condemning them to a stark darkness once more, save for the watching moonlight. The music inside finally ceased, and as it did so; a flock of storm petrels dived in, parallel to the Pont-Aven. They chipped and twittered and lapped the vessel once or twice, before floating off back into the gloom. The pair watched and chugged their smokes in silence for a while.

What happened to the boy?” Taff exhaled a chestful of smooth smoke. Before Will could respond, a strong shouldered figure appeared above them, hugely, at the railings. He wore a dark blue double-breasted jacket, with a blue-and-white cap cocked slightly, boasting a proud golden anchor and rope stitched into its front panel.

Get out from there, now. You’re putting yourselves and the rest of the passengers in great danger by being in there.” He spoke in a tone which could reduce grown men to scorned schoolboys. But the Father and Son looked on at the Captain without a word, and continued to smoke their cigarettes, as they were to stay and talk for a while, yet. For now they offered their only attentions to the knife-breaks in the sea-water, from the bottle-nose dolphins that skittered along the black glass bay. A milky moonlight laid a path across the tides in shimmering saltwater pearls; from the Pont-Aven, stretching far out West, to the outermost limits of the world, the sea reflected this delicate, hopeful light. But above all, it offered a darkish brilliance to the pair, pendent above the ripples. The turbid-grey atmosphere was such that they could savour and forget the gathering moments, which slipped past them as they unfolded, away into the Atlantic trade-winds.

 

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The Red River’s Carcass.


There beneath the parapet, frail and graceful,

he fled, treading pale and raucous,

from the raw horned rasps of rifles and snares, wistful.

 

The paper-backed birches lined the red river’s carcass

till dusk, and setting in the blueberry breeze.

Bleeding out their bows and spreading like palms above the starkness.

 

His desertion becoming in the mountain’s chimneys

made him the one lost and wandering in brashness,

and they’d said he’d mend his broken back, hole in head, supine in the lilies.

 

And so with colt in hand, we chased him chinless,

to find, by way of the darkened trench-tops,

our own backs broken, trodden and helpless.

 

Whether he lived his blue days to their brightest and full,

Remains left , to be seen, trapped in thought, inside his skull.

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The Old Gabe House.


Before the old gabe house, standing
still the pillar rose up, skyward,
unrelenting. In silence on that shade-flecked
autumn afternoon. Between nearby fields waited
tamed and tethered ponies, as eddies of
golden leaves gathered
in the failing light. Foregone men
stepped up to place war-torn goodbyes.
Faces, worn and long, surrounded;
scattered amongst the church-goers,
six and twenty. And a hundred poppies more lay down
their blackened red heads, we said
prayers to that melancholy
tune, and the bugle spoke, and then –

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the wash and the wake.


A few words here and there seemed to be enough to settle Robert’s sickness. He had at this point stopped trembling so violently, and was now lulled into a gentle sway from side to side. He retained a jaded flush in his cheeks, and, with both hands anchored to the depths of his coat pockets, swayed rhythmically.

“I remember my sea-sickness as a boy,” Arthur said, smoking a dampened cigarette. He sat upright on the veranda, enveloped in a blue-and-white spread umbrella. “wasn’t half as bad as you mind – and that was back in ’47, over the North Sea.”

Robert’s eyes of nine winters scrutinized the waves and bore out towards the black horizon, catching a sharp glint in the lunar light. He clutched at his writhing stomach ever tighter, with each rising wave.

“I fell in that year I did – overboard! Not in the North Sea mind, the chills would’ve gotten me there, an’ I’d not be sat before you now-”

“-you said, Arthur. It was just off the coast at Cowes, in spring.”

“Yes, fine spring it was too.”

I noticed Robert first on the balcony, alone, lurching dangerously over the side of the boat to rid himself of his knotted guts. He arched over the side on the tips of his toes. I didn’t know his parents, he didn’t seem to want to either. Only one other had bothered to check on the boy. Another obligatory, tenuous relation of mine. He carried himself in a remarkably upright fashion, and dwarfed every other at a slightly forced 6”6. He spoke with a tone of genuine curiosity in the fruitless, commonplace details of a by-yearly compatriot such as myself, but I didn’t want him around. He was a fascinating dullard. Despite his concerns, the man soon left; he burbled an excuse about fondue and scuttled back inside to the rest of them.

The blare of drink and synthetic music split out from inside, and the ragged seas had caused several dissipated stumbles already. Everyone inside was full of chirp and cheer, and then we three, sat beneath the rain-beaten canopy, each equally as alone as the next. The people inside toppled about like marbles on an uneven surface, the bride reeling around in her dress still, a flamboyant trifle, whirling and tumbling into folks happily.

The old man eventually gave up on his wet smoke, tossing it into the blackness over the rails. “What is this thing, anyway?” He slurred, wide-eyed and lost.

“Do I have to explain again, Arthur?” I said, as my patience for his wearied mind buckled slightly. He remained silent for several minutes. Robert had been my second cousin, supposedly. I was unsure whether we were related at all. He seemed frightened by the horror of the shouts and wails from the drunken flock indoors, and I couldn’t blame him. Most of them were aged or ghastly, or both, and all of them trundling about the place in a drunken stupor. Groups of older women were perched in corners, hurriedly devouring tidbits of nuts and fish and more alcohol, some even managing to miss their own mouths with great handfuls of tidbits.

“I don’t know why you won’t just leave her, William. She’s no good to you… No man should be too proud to cut his losses… to write his marriage off.” The old man continued in the same vain as he had all night. I turned from his stern face, to look upon the young boy beside me, and avert my attentions.

“I don’t want to go inside.” Robert murmured. The waves were rumbling beneath us, more violently now, and tossing the boat in their crest.

“I know. We don’t need to, Robert. We can stay here.”

“Tell ya what, boy-o, a drop of this whiskey here’d do you no end of good. Stomach settler, whiskey, they say. This stuff’s Scottish, best stuff I ever boug-” The old man swished the lacquered liquid before the nose of Robert, the scent being enough to cause a bout of hacks and spits.

“-no, Arthur. That’s the last thing he’d want.”

“That woman of yours wouldn’t fret so, like you. Mind, she’d probably be swiggin’ from the very bottle itself to-”

“-be quiet”

“She’s no good to you, her.”

Just then, the old man’s blue-and-white umbrella caught in a strong gale – its metal innards fractured in the sweep, and turned out on themselves. Disfigured, the thing jolted handsomely from his arthritic grip, and went with a frisk – off in the winds, almost gliding away into the black distance.

“Two-six heave!” Arthur said, clutching at the salt-bitten air for the long gone handle.

“Go inside, Arthur. The waves will soak you through being sat there.”

“Blasted thing… You know, I never liked her from the outset, that woman…” Arthur continued, wrapping his words around another gulp of whiskey, the top of his back and neck now damp from the spray. I remained silent. The little boy, buoyed slightly by the humour of Arthur’s long lost umbrella, managed to etch a fleeting smile across his face. He had the greenish look of an apple that would never run ripe. The pallor rose up from his neck and took hold of his whole face. His heart raced, chasing his weary blood to the ends of its vessels, right to his blue fingertips. Scratching his skin, I had to draw my eyes away from him momentarily, as watching him made me want to scrape and scruff at my skin too.

“There you are. What’s up with you?” A buxom middle aged lady with oily face and puckered mouth emerged from the hall. Her eyes and cheeks were caked thick in bright make-up and her red dress revealed two scaly looking legs, which fell roughly from her hips to the sodden floor. Her gratitude, much like her painted face, was laid on with the all the subtlety and intricacy of a shovel.

“He’s alright, don’t worry. Just a little sea-sickness.”

By now the turbulence of the waters had reached its crest. The coughing motor choked and spluttered as the thickset vessel tacked into the overfalls, like a sailboat, combing the foamy whitecaps. Plaiting the surges, disorientated, great swells of salted water cracked against the boat, causing the lifeboats to rattle against the side of the white ship. More and more water flooded in over the rotten handrail. A few of the tables rattled along the floor inside. People clung to the bar and to the curtains and to each other inside. The water rose and fell with a hostility, almost an intent. The lady’s maggot coloured clutch bag wormed its way out from beside her heavy hips, as she tried to tug and haul Robert up from his sodden berth. Hands still plummeted in his pockets, he was still and stiff, asleep. In mistaken horror she shook him but he remained still. She reeled away alarmed, tottered about on her high heeled shoes, wailing for help and screeching for anything. Her shrill tones were drowned out in the clatter and thrum of the large room, sinking amongst the shared panic. Glasses shattered freely against the waxen flooring, and then I watched, as my wife whispered wanting words into the ear of the other man. When I drew my eyes away, Arthur had gone. The breakers ceased as the wash settled into the wake, and then some way off, far away, in the distance, a tugboat whistled. It was drunken and sobering. My confidences were bottled, shattered and failing – in the morning the tides came in, creeping, still, still and still.

 

 

 

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The Truth About Joggers.


In recent weeks, I have developed something of a hunch. Sauntering about the town, pavements are ever populated by a strange, breathy sort of folk – a panting, scantily clad breed of human, that meanders about tirelessly…trudging onwards in a futile, sticky gloom. They are known commonly as ‘joggers’, here in the UK. You know the sorts – the short shorts, the luminous jackets… They’re everywhere. I feel I can hardly set foot outside the door without being swarmed and devoured by hoards of the things.

And yet, there is something quite exceptional about these people. They assume a natural sort of authority… a cardiovascular superiority over the usual pedestrian – they expect to be catered for; to have the right of way, to be left to their own aimless devices. It’s a similar story with the two-wheeled relative of the jogger, the cyclist. Both peculiar strains of the pedestrian family, I think you’d agree. But anyway, I’ve harangued the damned cyclists before, despite being one of them myself. You can read that just here if you cared enough or gave any semblance of a flying fuck.

Oh, I nearly forgot about the dog walkers. Jesus. A terrifying breed of pedestrian. Traipsing about after a four legged underling, on a drizzly November evening, encouraging the thing to defecate with bowel slackening hoots and whistles, before scooping it all up in jollity… Fuck. It’s not even like these people are paid for such horrors. If I were offered a job which entailed picking up shit, 7 days a week, I would almost certainly refuse it. Even for sort of, reasonable money. Yet… Folks gladly pay money to do that. Dogs cost a small fortune. Not only the dog, but you have to foot the bill for the food that is inevitably shat out in an ungrateful trifle at your own feet. Jesus.

People pay money to pick up shit?

But anyway. That’s not what this is about. It’s all about joggers (mainly). Except the last bit. I think we can all accept that the last bit was about the nonsensical nature of paying to pick up shit.

Anyway. You never stop a jogger. Never. There’s simply no reason to. This is why it’s so ingenious. They’ve all got stolen riches stuffed down their teeny shorts. Perhaps they’re not all making off with rubies, pearls and solid gold bars. But certainly your everyday groceries. Pints of milk, loaves of bread… Joggers are a lowly sort of human. Petty thieves. And the most sickening part of it all is not that these folks are pinching all sorts from right under our noses, it’s that their thoughtless robberies are performed in high visibility clothing! Green and yellow illumines, shouty, look-at-me jackets! Bastards. It makes it all too much to bear. It really does.

The theory also goes a fair way in explaining the marked increase in joggers around times of crippling economic crisis. Worldwide recession plunges thousands below the bread line. People are forced into it… A little like prostitution, or ebaying, folks are left with no alternative…but to jog. As a disguise, a deception… A means by which to thriftily ensure their day to day survival.

So consider this a warning – beware of the joggers.

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