Focus – Focus III
Great album from my teenage years, includes the classic ‘Sylvia’.
Focus – Focus III
Great album from my teenage years, includes the classic ‘Sylvia’.
It’s hard work thinking of something to blog and all too easy to click the browser off. What with moving house and getting used to a new location there hasn’t been much time to think about writing. I was just getting back to editing a version of the ‘Bobby Olsen’ book when this week I decided it was time to find a new car. So that was the end of writing for most if not all of this week. The old car had lasted from 2002 so I can’t complain really. With my mileage being very low and the car paid off many years ago there seemed no reason to update it. But with several years of warnings from garages about ‘heavy corrosion’ on the suspension I bit the bullet on Wednesday and started looking around.
And here I am just two days later with a new car lined up and hopefully ready for collecting next Tuesday. Once I make up my mind on something I hate hanging around, I like to go out and get whatever it is done and dusted. Maybe I’ve been influenced by these rapid delivery companies, you order something in the morning and it’s on your doorstep in the evening. Anyway, after sorting out the insurance yesterday, a little complicated due to my annual insurance renewing three days after I get the new car, I hope by next Tuesday everything will calm down. After I’ve sorted out the switching of cars on the parking permit! Of course, with a new car I will no doubt want to get out and drive it around more so there goes the plans to get back to writing or editing…
On the book front I have decided to publish an e-book version of ‘Bobby Olsen’ which has the original hyphenated words in it, the version I wrote for the Writing Group and which was loved and hated in equal degrees because of the double-barrelled words. I’ll probably call it ‘The Original Bobby Olsen’ and make it clear in the blurb that the story line is the same as the earlier published version. A little complicated but I feel the original style deserves a chance out in the public domain.
I have managed to write several short pieces for my Writing Group over the last month so new writing has not stopped completely. With an August break from meetings I hope to have something new written for early September. I’m also reading part of a fantasy novel written by another of the group members, to give some feedback. It’ll be nice to one day go back to writing most of the day then go for a stroll along the seafront. One day…
(written recently in response to a Writers Group prompt)
Kurt shaded his eyes from the Miami sun, the noise of happy children and swishing waves washing around his ears. A teenager trudged by, feet surfing the shiny sand, ears wrapped with wires, face hypnotized by the tiny screen he clutched. A tinny voice escaped into the air. Kurt raised an eyebrow. Who was that high pitched boy called? Bieber? Yeah, Justin Bieber. Huh, not bad for an old guy.
The kid disappeared among crowds of families and youngsters. Kurt sighed. Guess he’d been no better at that age. A transistor glued to his hand, the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ USA’ driving his parents to distraction as they tried to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Ah, Sunny Isles Beach. In a way it hadn’t changed since he came here with his ma and pa back in ’63. ‘Cept the beachside condos which had sprung up, of course. But the sand and the sea, they were same. And they brought back memories.
Memories of her.
Kurt closed his eyes, felt the warmth of the sun, heard the swish-swash of the waves, and in his head saw long blond hair tied back in a ponytail, a skin smooth and light tanned, eyes blue and alive with life, and a giggle to churn any teenage boy’s stomach.
He’d first seen her by the ice cream truck as he eyed up a Bomb Pop being served to the kid in front. The cherry, lime and blue raspberry had suddenly lost interest to him. Instead he’d stared, mouth open, tongue hanging, at the something actually more deserving of his worship. The girl had been playing hide and seek with her younger brother, and had stepped out from behind the truck inches from Kurt.
That’d been his opening line.
He remembered going over that word all evening as ma and pa dozed deep at the restaurant table. What a dumb ass thing to say.
And bee-stung lips opposite him had replied.
What did that mean? He can remember worrying all night about it, tossing and rolling in that bone hard bed in the hotel. Did she mean ‘Go away’, or ‘Hey, let’s talk’, or what?
The man in the ice cream truck had cut in, demanded with his tired, irritable voice what Kurt wanted. By the time Kurt looked back the girl was gone. Forever?
No, he’d seen her again the next day, when he went to hire a bicycle. She was going round and round in circles on a green Schwinn American. He’d handed a dollar bill over to the hire shop assistant, his eyes fixed on the green bike, too shy to stare at the rider.
‘You wanna take a girl’s cycle, sonny?’
The lanky assistant smiled down at Kurt, a matchstick waving lazy from his lips and a knowing look in his glance.
Kurt had grabbed the first bicycle from the rack and hurtled off down the track. As he’d come to the sand he’d determined to go back and speak to the girl. But he’d jammed the brakes on too fast, spun in a sand cloud of panic and had ended up on his butt with the bike across his legs.
‘You never ridden a bicycle before?’
Kurt had looked up. That face, haloed by blond hair, had appeared to float in the blue perfect sky.
‘Heck, course, just, just practising a trick I been working on. Pretty dangerous one too.’
Kurt’s cheeks had matched the red color of his check shirt. He’d tried not to cough with the sand and dust coating his hair and neck.
The girl had adjusted her feet on the pedals.
‘Well, you gonna simply stay there on the ground or you wanna come for a ride? My mom says I can go as far as the pier.’
‘What? Yeah, hey, let me…’
But she was gone, pedalling off along the beach like a Hollywood movie star, t-shirt billowing in the breeze, hair floating like a scarf behind her. Kurt had jumped up, thrown himself onto a saddle twisted and bent and had set off on an adventure to who cared where.
And that’s how it had started.
For the next two weeks they’d done everything together: swum in the sea, buried each other’s brothers in the sand, eaten hot dogs with mustard slow dripping, listed top ten songs and singers, argued over the coolest TV shows, and smoked Luckies behind parked up ice cream trucks late into the evening.
Best of all had been the times just lying on the hot beach, side by side, being fritter fried by the sun for hours on end, talking about their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their secrets. Kurt had felt like he’d found the other half of himself.
Then, like any novel or movie, the end scene had arrived. Cases had been packed, shoes emptied of sand, souvenirs forced into groaning cars, handshakes and backslaps exchanged between grown-ups.
And Darlene had written her address on Kurt’s arm in green biro.
And he’d really meant to copy it into his diary, the little one he kept in secret with poetic scribblings and dark, depressive forebodings of a Cold War exploding hot. He really had meant to.
Kurt had slept solid all the way home to Boston, gone straight to the washroom and, well, you can guess what had happened. Shucks, he’d said to himself later in his bedroom, he thought he could remember the address, he hoped he could, at least part of it. He’d written down the words on an envelope, scribbled a note, his fingers trembling as he inked the letters of ‘Darlene’, and sent it off, promising silently to a God he didn’t believe in he’d go to church every Sunday if only the Lord would help the mailman deliver the letter safe.
Kurt stirred. It was time to wake up from his dream of decades past. His stomach rumbled hungry messages. Gee, he realized, he’d been sitting here on the beach for an hour, reliving that holiday, revisiting Darlene Geller.
A body shifted next to him.
‘Come on, Kurt, let’s get back, the grandkids are Skyping us at seven.’
‘Sure, leave the ice box to me, you take the towels, Darlene.’
(written from a prompt about being a famous person)
I was there.
I was there at Omaha as the Americans came in onto the beach so very early on that June morning. The strong winds were playing havoc with the navigating of the last couple of hundred yards and many of the guys to our left hit the sand in the wrong places. Before we floundered up to our necks through the water to get to the beach, I counted at least ten landing craft swamped by the rough seas and in others I could see the soldiers having to bail out with their helmets just to keep themselves afloat. Uncharted sandbars brought numerous LCAs to a shuddering halt, leaving the trapped men stationary targets. Everywhere I was aware of troops vomiting from seasickness as the craft bunched up and bobbed around, queuing for their appointment with the shoreline.
But still we went in regardless: me with the 29th Infantry Division, untested in battle, along with part of the US Army Rangers, and the battle-hardened 1st Infantry Division, all unflinching in the face of both nature and the enemy.
I was there at Easy Red, one of the ten codenamed destinations, stumbling forward in amongst the heavy fire from the German artillery and automatic weapons which wiped out many a line of struggling men, the gun emplacements above the beach remaining undamaged by the earlier naval and air bombardment as shells and bombs dropped too far inland. As we crashed onward with knees doubled up, hidden under the sand lay the mines, leaving us a single footstep away from oblivion, and if we were lucky enough to miss those, the wooden stakes, barbed wire and metal tripods formed a crazy obstacle wall to hold up progress, giving the snipers up on the cliffs easy shooting practice.
By the time we made it to the shingle, having crawled three hundred yards ahead of the incoming tide, I reckoned half the guys were down. There we were, safe from the small arms fire but still with shells and mortars popping all around, leaderless packs of virgin soldiers cowering together. I gazed around, watching men beat the ground with frustration as they were unable to even return fire, their weapons needing to be cleaned before they could employ them again, sea water and sand having rendered most temporarily out of use.
Looking back down the beach, I could see the lines of tanks which never made it any further than the tide line, with more floating around some ten metres offshore, like toys in a child’s bath, hopelessly drowned by misinterpreted deep water. Things became even more confused when soldiers aiming for Dog White landed on top of us, creating a bottleneck of uniformed ducks for the hunters up on the cliff tops to pick off.
I was there. John Lazarus Long. In the midst of the bullets, the shrapnel, the shells, the screaming, the obscenity-laden charges up the wet, sucking sand. I was there. I actually saw it.
Just how any of the men made it up towards those high rocks astonished me. I guess it was a choice of stay on the beach and be mown down or at least have a small chance of survival by flinging yourself on towards those natural rock fortresses. But there they were: the butcher, the baker, the schoolteacher, the hot dog seller, the clerk, the labourer, and no doubt somewhere, the candlestick maker, all launching themselves over that killing ground in the name of liberty, or more likely, their Mom, their sweetheart, their comrade.
Two hours after we first stumbled into the water I saw the troops start the assault of the cliffs, some inspired by a crazy courage, others more likely bullied by an inspirational leader. Heck, I was standing right next to Colonel George Taylor when he barked out the immortal words “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die – now let’s get the hell out of here.” Those words sent a shiver down my spine, heaven knows what they did to the soldiers.
Suffice it to say the guys eventually got the work done although it was two further days before they linked up with the British at Gold Beach. It was wonderful to see them start to inch slowly inland but by then I’d achieved my objectives. It was time for me to move on back.
And what’s my part in all this? Why am I the famous person? Well, you see, John Lazarus Long is now a very famous person indeed. But my now is 2280. And I have just become the first man to successfully use the time travelling suit which took me back to those events so long ago. As I was the one risking everything, three earlier attempts having ended in fatal failure, I got to choose the time slot to aim for. There on that beach at Omaha I saw my distant direct relative fall in a hail of machine gun fire, at last no longer just another Missing In Action. And, strangely enough, I calculated around about the very same time, somewhere back in New York, his wife was about to go into labour.
As I stripped off the suit and everyone around me cheered and began downloading the memory streams I’d collected, I tasted the salt on my lips from the tears flowing down my cheeks. And I thought of the salt John Lincoln Long had probably tasted as he collapsed into that seawater on Omaha Beach.
Just discovered this duo (oh dear, where have I been..?). Heard this on the Jo Whiley BBc Radio 2 programme. Beautiful and catchy.
(written back in December 2015, this piece started me off on exploring the use of made-up hyphenated words after using ‘tire-roared’ here, and it’s also written with a woman as the narrator)
Your words made bad sound good.
First met in a bar of best repute, my heels bringing our eyes level, you toasted my rear and dared a response. Catching my hand mid-strike, reactions belying glazed pupils, you belched apologies through teasing lips. Your grip, tightly taut, eased with fingers sliding over my rings, lowering arms and barriers in one movement.
A jousting evening, words sharp as lances, ended in more than sex, less than love, frantic fumblings turning rhythmic repetitions. Dawn you smoked, I stared; we both understood unsaid commitments. Lifestyles ricocheted, mine surfing above the board you trod beneath. But there was something about you, differently dangerous, drawing me down. We parted, no promises proffered, yet knowing our unparallel paths would collide again.
You were there, days not weeks after that meet, waiting, time counting, finger flicking, stepping in front as I exited the theatre. I smiled with excitement, trembled with fear, icy heat sliding up my arm as hands touched. You offered a meal, I offered my time; you paid with a gold card, I paid with my future. Sex followed sex, but the in-between was greater, revelations by you, risking dislike and distance, but gambling excitement and enticement.
That dawn I was hooked, undesirous to leave, to taste delights outside my history, dangers never forewarned by mothers, highs that made all previous like the lowest of lows. You talked, I swallowed, a legend painted for creation. You showed me guns, cold metal warming my skin, as erotic as any lovemaking, and never flagging. You showed me plans, explained simplicity, like the teacher leading a pupil, an innocent and unfilled vacuum. I never left your side again.
The first was dim-lit basement cavern, high rollers high-rolled, barrels at temples, courage lapping their ankles. Money bundled in bags, more than six months my earnings, crumpled papers passing their dirt deep under fingernails. We laughed and tumbled on beds, counting lost after ten thousand, knowing we’d consummated something special.
The next lifted limits, precious jewels dropping dew-like into satchels, braceleted bangles imitating celestial rainbows sliding as they slid inside pockets, watches ticking out their worth as spilt unwound into boxes. You gun-butted an assistant, just because you could, I sneered at his powerlessness and kissed your barrel. We tire-roared away, Bonnie and Clyde updated.
Bank cashiers blanched and blasphemed, audacity admired, as just two dared the biggest deposits in town. I toted a double barrel, upgraded upstart you jeered, daring a movement, desiring to trigger. Pale-faced near-retiree sweated his age, fingers dropped from position, I pulled and oblivion welcomed him. Exhilaration ensured, yelling for the next, you pulled me out, millions left blowing in the wind.
We drove, motoring one step ahead, light cases lightly traveled, motels our mansions, gas stations our resorts. Criss-crossing county lines, states becoming states of mind, stopping to shoot up with shooters, sexing the evenings like animals at rut, nothing could stop us, until we stopped ourselves.
Sitting atop grass laden cliff, sunning our guns and baking our loot, you looked, and your eyes said ‘Hey, enough.’ I laughed, joking your party piece, but tiredness in pupils sold me your truth. We fired the car, our child in tow, looked over the edge, remembered Butch and Sundance, Thelma and Louise, hovered high jinksed then jumped. Back. Back into reality, cry-laughing to the next new town.
And our next new life.
(poem written a few years ago)
Chains suspend and swaying shine,
Lacy restraints lay bundled loose,
Creased leather corsets hang unthreaded,
Stilettoed patent boots glisten in rows,
Flayed riding crops parade erect,
Soft satin hoods disguise reality,
Candle wax frozen in cascading flows,
Water droplets echo forlorn hopes,
All awaiting cries of pleasure,
And desired pain.
She breathes in deeply and feels alive
as the mistress of her mind approaches slowly
and the darkly imagined world bursts forth.