Hung Words

(another oldie, from early last year)

There is something I need to remember.

There is something I need to remember, something that keeps slipping away from the cliff edge of my mind, toppling away into the depths below, crashing down among all the other lost forgotten words.

It is nudging me again, a letter here, a syllable there, never quite shape-shifting into a complete word. My mouth starts to form the sound, gags on the unemitted gasp, swallows the crumbling letters, and the word tumbles away again over the yawning fall.

Down there with all the broken neglected words are the broken neglected people, the ones who made mistakes, never learned their lessons, never considered they had done wrong, and a few who tried to find the word before it trailed away, the same one I am losing all the time.

Once, very long ago, so long ago there is no known segment of Time to describe it, I knew the word. That, I can recall. I did used to know it, could utter it, could give myself a second chance.

Never taken, of course.

Of course.

That would have changed everything, would it not? Maybe for the better, maybe not, strange as that may seem. Would He have survived so long, if I had remembered the word, or would He have gone the way of all the others, cast aside once His diatribes grated once too often in minds fast becoming equals to His.

It is in here somewhere, flitting around, hiding behind the longer words, the ones which have many meanings, unclear, confusing, misread and miscued, and easy, so easy, to deceive with. Many of those I have used throughout the ages of my time. To mystify, to trick, to ensnare. This elusive word is smaller, difficult to catch among the multitude of letters strung together into the many syllable definitions of deceptive ideas and motives.

For a moment there I thought I glimpsed it, trying to inch forward, to let its first sound sneak onto my tongue. Once there I am sure I could catch it, speak its name, before it slips away. Or is it being pulled back? Is that the problem? Is something tug of warring with me, pulling the word away, jerking on its long tail, flinging it over that precipice, down again into the pit of churning bones and burning vocabulary, from whence it starts the long struggle back up, fingernails scratching holds on blood-rinsed rocks, weak muscles hauling upwards over shredded tissue and deleted sounds, its eyes ever locked up high at the prospect of rebirth.

Time is short now. He will not wait much longer. This is the final time.

I know.

He knows.

He has won.

But he is waiting to see if the word can be remembered. If my blackened lips can form the two syllables they have never pronounced together. At least not since the Beginning, when I broke one way, and He broke the other. Will my mind still be able to format the two sounds into the one word? Or will it fry my being like sunlight on a mythical vampire?

Wait. Wait. I see it. Crouched behind a concept hidden in the very darkest of the dark quarters of my dark mind.

I have it! It is trapped there, a mistake made, left itself no way out but toward me.

That concept, lying never used, irrelevant to me, a false god to worship if ever there was one. Until now. Yes, I have the word. It cannot back away. It sits, naked, exposed, fearful now of rebirth, scared of its implications. But I have it. My tongue snakes around the concept named Truth, pincers the shivering syllables, swallows first that notion to ease the speaking of the word.

I gorge on the feeling, warmth streaming throughout me. The word follows it, up into my mouth, rolling around between my red-dripped teeth, and is spat forth with the conviction of one realising rebirth can be.

‘Sor-ry.’

 

 

 

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Decaf scribble

(again, long time no write here, too busy with life and trying to edit two short novels, but here’s something written today, encouraged only by a decaffeinated latte…)

THE COFFEE HOUSE

Friday morning early, a coffee house faking Italian charm in a fake seaside town, historical fame long lost with the rising tide and crumbling cliffs.

Three sit with eyes fixated on screens, fingers tapping messages to no-one and blogging viewpoints to a readership only clicked through for reciprocated likes.

A barista chatters nonsense to a line of young women, eager for quick takeaways and even quicker getaways from chat up patter outdated in an age of legal minefields.

Older gentlemen sit, beige-coated, staring at passersby, remembering themselves long gone, chances not chanced, decisions wrong decided; pretty women bring a resurgence of desires with no hope of satisfaction.

A rush retreats, the room sits quiet, each seat an island of discontented content, preferred loneliness here to sat alone in a home no longer homely. A loud voiced conversation begins, phone to ear, private exchanges made public with deliberate intent, a proof they live a life unlike the other lost souls adrift in this coffee ship. Machinery hisses and spurts, milk tops pop, dregs disappear drained, one shot, two shots, extra shots, sprinkles and caramel, a vocabulary voiced across a counter stacked with packaged snacks rated red and red and red, all sold unwarned and unwary.

Classical strings harmonise a background, ill-fitted to a clientele dressed for pubs and clubs, layering the atmosphere warm with the unseasoned heating system soft hummed.

The hour hand stretches up straight, feet shuffle from different corners, timings timed to reach platforms as trains slide home and doors slide open.

Outside hot hand held cups are carried across a precinct still quiet as offices buzz alive with phones and bright screens, elderly women drag two-wheeled trolleys to catch the market full fruited and full bloomed, children toddle coat-clung to cigarette smoking mothers, too young for schooling, too old for early morning sleeps. Retired singles wander life lost, companions lost too early or never found among the rush of chasing money and reputations, shops and malls the only workplaces for them now.

The loud-voiced barista conducts his audience, half appreciated, half detested, a last day employed doubling his volume of adrenaline. Queues ebb and flow, each wave wavered in decisions of beverage and seating, no desire to share a stranger’s life, no wish to change their routined day, for better or for worse; no risk of failure brings no risk of success.

The coffee house churns out another day, another latte, another mocha, another another.

 

A day of new beginnings

The story I’m writing at present, the one I’m working on predominately in local coffee shops, started after a brief conversation with a sales assistant. I used our chat as the first few lines of the story. Yesterday I had three incidents, in coffee shops by coincidence, all of which could be used, and might be used, as openings for new stories or novels.

The first was a silent one. I sat with my coffee around 8.45 in the morning, trying to get my tablet computer to start up and I looked up and saw a woman staring at me. She was seated at a table across the way,  mid thirties, coat still on, coffee steaming in front of her. I recognised her from a few days previous when she had been standing in front of me in the queue for coffees. The barista had seen me and said ‘Your usual?’ The woman looked at me as if surprised someone like me (as old as me?) bought their coffee so often in this place that the assistants knew my order by memory. And there she was, looking my way a few days later. I continued battling with my tablet (see yesterday’s post) and when I glanced her way again a few minutes later she was looking my way again. Now, I know I bear an uncanny resemblance to George Clooney…(that’s humour by the way). With further comings and goings she must have exited quite soon after as the next time I peered her way the seat was empty. But…what a story could develop from this…she comes over and says hello, asks me what I’m typing, or whatever. The beginning of a romance story? A murder mystery? Could be taken anywhere.

About fifteen minutes later I’m head down tapping away now that my tablet is working properly when suddenly a woman waves her hand in front of my face saying ‘Hi, how are you? I didn’t see you there!’ I looked up. I’d never seen the woman before in my life. Once she saw me face on she quickly said ‘Oh sorry, I thought you were someone else…’ etc. A very pleasant mid thirties lady, very apologetic. Now, where might that incident go? Mistaken identities? Her way of forcing an introduction with this handsome guy working mysteriously on his computer? Could be a good start of something.

Then, in the afternoon, in a different coffee shop, actually the cafe area of a local bookshop, I’m tapping away again on the tablet (I had a free coffee on my loyalty card at this establishment) and on the next table was a very attractive young woman in her mid to late twenties, no ring on her finger, computer open, books and folders all over her table. I heard her make a phone call, something about ’10 gigabytes’ I think. Ordering internet connection? It’s a very pleasant seat I’ve got, watching this woman, close to the counter so seeing all the new customers coming in, and next to a window overlooking the inside of the small shopping mall. Suddenly the young woman gets up, comes to my table and says ‘I need to pop to the toilet. Can you keep an eye on my things while I’m gone?’ Of course I say yes. She returns a few minutes later and says ‘thanks’. We go on working until I have to leave. So what might that have led to? Suppose she hadn’t returned? I would be left with a computer. What might I find on it? Or she might come back and offer to buy me a coffee to say thanks. Our conversation would start and ..? Could be another interesting opening.

You can see that February 7th was quite a day one way or another. Considering I’d been going to these coffee shops for near three months and nothing had happened, I’m wondering how much longer I have to go before I have more interesting incidents occurring! Now, do I go back to that book shop cafe this afternoon, at the same time? Will she be there? Would I dare sit near her..?

 

George Michael: literary giant?

Well, the title might have got you here anyway.

I was watching the video of ‘Last Christmas’ a few days ago and although I have seen it many times before and heard the song many times before for some reason the opening two lines stuck in my mind on this occasion.

‘Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away’

That first line, there’s a whole story waiting to be told to explain those simple words. Had the two people just met? Had they known each other for months, years? What happened to make one of them give the other their heart? Did the other appear to feel the same way on that day? Were they only pretending? There’s a novel there.

And the second line, what made the person give the heart/love away? Did they meet someone else and suddenly realise they had made a mistake? Had they been pretending all along to reciprocate the love offered to them? Again, a story waits to be written.

So in just two lines of writing the author has presented us with a myriad of alternatives.

George Michael: literary giant?

 

 

 

Opening gambit 3

(I’ve continued this tale but in an interesting way – just adding a few lines at a time when idling away time in a coffee shop. I’ve then emailed them to myself and edited it at home later on. It’s quite hard to remember where I was going with the tale because days can pass in between writing. You’re have to read the two earlier episodes for it to make sense. Even then…)

‘Yeah, and I just stuffed the wife up the chimney.’

‘I mean, he bled out all over the $20 fake Persian I got from Dirk down at the market on Lutton and 14th.’

‘Least you’ve not wasted bucks there.’

I smiled broad, liking the sharp mind of this girl. She was wasted smiling clothes at dollar-loaded prices to housewives and teenage brats.

‘I mean it, Robert. He came at me, bread knife, would you believe it? I stuck him with the screw driver.’

‘You tell a good story, maybe you should write, not sell coats and jeans.’

Lilly reached out, fingers grasped my jacket collar.

‘I mean it, I killed Steve. Know any good stain removers for carpets? Or any clever lawyers?’

I felt my life stick in my throat.

‘You’re not fooling, are you?

Lilly shook her head, pursed her lips.

‘He was high, been hitting the cocaine since Saturday, he wanted more.’

‘Call the cops? Paramedics? Stop the bleeding?’

‘Why? He might live.’

My hand froze inches from my drying lips. Lilly’s repartee was too good, too sharp. She sounded real. Which meant..?

‘You’re not playing around, are you?  Your husband’s dead. At home. Right now?’

Lilly nodded. My life teetered on the edge of an abyss. Walk away, Robert, walk away. But my legs didn’t move. Lilly leaned closer.

‘So, how’d I get rid of it?

‘Tell the cops. Say he attacked you. If he was into drugs you’ve an excuse. A lawyer can use it to dig you out of any hole you’ve excavated by delaying.

‘But I don’t want a shit time in my life, Robert. Get rid of him, and I tell everyone he split on me, my life goes on, with you, maybe?’

I swallowed my rye in one. I bought the girl a coat. She offers me a drink. I think I hit the jackpot. Now I’m a potential accessory to murder or similar.

What happened to the little shop assistant, the one I never dreamed in a million years would go for a drink with me? She’s killed her husband?

‘Yeah, well, no-one’s what they seem, are they?

‘Aren’t they?’

‘No, I bet you got secrets. Don’t you?’

‘Some.’

‘So there. You got five wives, or a jail sentence, or three children by different women. I got a dead husband on the carpet.’

‘Sorta different.’

‘Only in the breathing department…’

I sighed. All around life went on; smiles, touches, innuendo, love. Who knew what each had left behind in their houses and apartments? How many had a dead body on the carpet? Literally or figuratively. And each minute we sat here the body hardened, as did our options.

Our options? Had I made a decision?

‘Call the cops.’

Lilly stared me straight. I could almost read the letters spelling disappointment in her pupils. She gathered up the jacket she had removed in the humid atmosphere.

‘Guess I got you wrong, Robert.’

‘Guess I got you wrong too, Lilly. I thought you sold coats.’

Lilly looked at me, turned and disappeared among the crowd of happy drinkers who didn’t have a dead body at home deterring would-be burglars.

I caught up with her on the sidewalk outside the Four Feathers. My hand touched her shoulder. Our second contact.

She spun, alarm for a moment etched on the prettiest face I’d seen in many a month. Perhaps she’d thought I was a cop offering a clean-up service for blood-stained floor coverings.

‘Okay, Lilly. Let us go see the damage. Then decide.’

‘Robert, I knew you would, just knew it.’

Her head buried itself against my biker jacket. Our third contact.

 

Lilly had an apartment close to her work, a fourth floor four-room basic layout. It must’ve been crowded with a husband. Maybe that’s why she killed him, to get more space.

Noises echoed from closed doors in a corridor cleaned once a year when the cockroaches threatened legal action against the landlord. Televisions coughed up Kojak loving you. Radios sang sweet dreams from ruby red lips as wide as the Mississippi. Was a life decomposing yards away?

Lilly stopped outside number seven. She looked at me, drew a deep breath, slipped a key into a scratched lock. She said nothing; her eyes spoke a noir novel as black as the depths of the Styx.

Air wafted, perfume and takeaways mixed with a side aroma of alcohol.

Lilly glanced left.

‘Over there.’

I hoped I’d see a carpet laying lonely. It wasn’t. It was embraced by six feet of thickset cowboy. Red check shirt, faded blue jeans greased irregular, and shiny brown boots wrapping ankles up warm. Shame an artist had thrown blood red liquid over the shirt and jeans. Real blood too.

‘Jesus. You weren’t kidding.’

‘Heck of a way to get you back to my place if I was.’

‘Yeah. Now what?’

‘That’s my question, you’re meant to answer it.

‘I forgot, I’m playing the pa-knows-all role here.’

‘What’d we do?’

‘We?’

 

Opening Gambit part 2

(Just continuing this opening, and giving you three alternative endings which would lead on to three quite different stories/novels.)

What to wear to a bar named the Pink Feathers? Did the name hint at the clientele to be encountered? I went biker jacket and black jeans. Good call. The three foot wide guy guarding the door would have bounced me off the sidewalk in anything else; the ‘four feathers’ were painted on the club’s logo atop a dancing girl with curves Monroe defined decades past.

Inside masses mingled. By the time I made the counter I’d rubbed shoulders, literally, with more people than I would in a month of Christmas sales throngs. Ages varied; breaking teens to broken fifties. Encouraging. I hadn’t wanted to seem cradle-snatching if Lilly the shop assistant turned up.

8.20 p.m., I’d got here late, lost myself on a freeway to anywhere out of town. Now I searched with eyes wide. Ten minutes, or Lilly might do a glass slipper thing on me. And I wasn’t a prince, I couldn’t spend Sundays putting shoes on every female this side of the Hudson.

‘Robert.’

A voice connected over the hubbub of nonsense deafening my ears.

‘You came?’

‘Just in time, Lilly. Got lost. Story of my life.’

‘Getting lost or nearly getting lost?’

‘Still trying to work that out.’

‘Drink?’

‘Sure, that’s why I came. Claim the free offer.’

‘Not because of me then?’

Lilly looked blank. She wasn’t acting it, she seemed surprised I hadn’t said she was the reason. Her hair hung straight now, fresh washed and smelling sweet among the stale breaths and alcohol. She matched me in a leather jacket and dark jeans. Discounted from the store? Little make-up hid her face; she looked even younger than in the blazing lights of her workplace.

‘And you. I’ll take a rye and soda.’

‘Biker jacket and rye? Reliving your teenage years?’

‘Ouch, below the belt, Lilly.’

She smiled lazy.

‘Looks good on you, the jacket, hope the drink does too, paying for a taxi home isn’t part of the offer.’

She squeezed through to the bar, bought the drinks, a gin and something for herself, I think. I rescued the glasses on her return trip as two floppy-haired twenty-something guys fell across her path.

‘It’s quieter by that alcove.’

She nodded left. I held the glasses high to get through, found stools and perched the drinks on a shelf showing football stars with toothy grins and muscles to measure.

‘You’re not wearing the coat?’

‘Too warm in here, but I’ll put it on to go to work tomorrow. Thanks again.’

‘My pleasure.’

‘Something you do every day? You a millionaire?’

‘Ah no, so if you’re looking for a sugar daddy, try the best suited guy in here instead.’

‘I don’t want to be kept by any man.’

‘But you accepted my offer?’

‘It didn’t seem like something you usually did.’

‘How could you tell?’

‘I guess if you’d come in and thrown a pile of cash on the desk, or bought up the whole rail of coats.’

‘Maybe I didn’t want to overwhelm you?’

‘I don’t think you’ve ever done that sort of thing before.’

‘You sure?’

‘Pretty.’

‘Why?’

‘Your eyes. They were too alive. A wealthy guy used to throwing money around would have had a tired look there, or a regular ‘just another little person to help’ and make me feel good.’

‘So why’d you think I did it?’

‘Either you hoped it’d lead to something more. Like this. Or your tongue was ahead of your brain. You write?’

‘Ouch, shot me down in one, straight between the eyes!’

‘You’re a writer?’

‘Ha, no, not really. I don’t earn money from it, I tap keyboards, make up tales now and then.’

‘You sure? I’m not gonna appear in some sordid novel? I’m not a kind of experiment?’

‘Hell no, I’d never do that to you.’

‘Why not? You don’t know me? Do you? We’ve never met before?’

‘Never. I’ve been in the store a couple of times, never seen you in there.’

‘You tried this on the other girls there?’

‘No.’

‘So why me?’

‘As you guessed, just went with the moment. None of the others ever said ‘It’s cold today, isn’t it?’’

Lilly drank long from her glass, her eyes fixed on mine. There was noise and movement all around yet it seemed we existed in isolation, unhearing, unaffected by everything else.

‘And I’m enjoying the free drink you offered, so all’s well.’

‘A $99 drink?’

‘I hope that’s not how you see it.’

‘And how does this end?’

‘A polite thank you maybe. A shake of the hands. Or…’

‘Or what?’

Lilly’s voice dropped low, her guard came high.

‘Or…we live happily ever after.’

I smiled, and couldn’t help breaking into a laugh as Lilly’s eyebrows shot skyward and she snorted liquid.

‘You serious?’

‘Being silly, I guess. Make a great tale to tell our grandkids though.’

‘Lol, we got grandkids now.’

We both laughed. Her face blushed, her eyes sparked. I noticed for the first time the slight gap between her front teeth. She flicked a loose strand of hair away, waved her glass side to side.

‘Another?’

‘Still free?’

‘No, you’re paying for this one, Robert.’

She took the glass from my hand. Our fingers grazed. The first time we’d touched. She took a step away then turned back.

‘While I’m getting these…I think you’re an intelligent man…see if you can think how I can dispose of my husband’s dead body. It’s lying on the carpet back in the apartment.’

ALTERNATIVE ENDING

‘While I’m getting these…I think you’re an intelligent man…see if you can work out how I divorce my husband…without him putting me in the morgue first.’

ALTERNATIVE ENDING

‘While I’m getting these…I think you’re an intelligent man…see if you can write the next chapter of our relationship…I want to know if the book’s worth buying.’

 

 

 

Opening gambit

(Long time no write here. Been busy with life, no time or desire to write. Here’s something anyway, just a start, based on a real moment. Well, the opening four lines…)

‘It’s cold today, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah, forgot my gloves too.’

‘Remembered mine, but I was still freezing.’

‘If you get cold, at least you got a choice of clothes to wear here.’

I nodded towards the racks of women’s coats strung like dead turkeys along a metal bar.

Can you fall in love over such a banal conversation?

The shop assistant checked her screen. Blue eyes flicked left, right, up, down, wavy light brown hair braided at the sides, purple tipped fingers stabbing. She looked up, saw the coats I’d indicated.

‘Oh, they’re too expensive for me.’

A light chuckle crept nervous up her throat. Her eyes glanced mine. I waved a hand at the racks of clothes.

‘Choose one, I’ll buy it for you.’

Her chuckle broke surface into a quiet laugh. Saturday 9.10 a.m. it wasn’t ready for head back raucous.

‘I mean it, choose one.’

She folded her arms, looked more direct at me. Movement to her right suggested a junior had found my click and collect order in a backroom.

‘Sure, choose one and you’ll pay for it?’

‘Yes, then I’ll give it to you. Be quick, the offer expires in about one minute.’

My heart was calm. Strange, it should have been stretching the fabric of my jacket to its limit. Half asleep still on a weekend morning? Still daydreaming the reckless character I’d read about the last two days in a hard boiled crime paperback?

The young woman stepped out from behind the desk, half halted, low heeled loafers scuffing the vinyl tiled floor. She moved on, more determined, fumbled coat hangers, found the size she wanted, slipped off the fake fur collar coat from the hanger, put it on.

I held out both hands like a seasoned salesman.

‘Perfect fit. Would madam like it gift-wrapped, or in a bag, only 20 cents extra?’

That gravel chuckle coughed up again. She stuck her hands into the pockets of the suede coat, pouted in doubt. At the coat choice or my offer, I wasn’t sure.

‘Here’s your order. Perhaps we should deal with that.’

She walked back behind her screen, took a bright yellow bag from a colleague who eyed up the coat with a quizzical look, and typed fast as she studied details on the package’s label.

‘Here you are. Robert?’

It was a curious routine of this store that they checked you were the right collector of a delivery by querying your first name not your surname or email address or card number.

‘That’s me. You are?’

I screwed up my eyes at the woman’s badge which hung on her chest. She probably thought it was part of my feeble act of chat up, but truth was I needed to, to make out the small print on the white shiny piece of card.

‘Lilly, is that?’

‘Might be.’

‘So, you want that coat? The offer’s close to expiry…’

‘If you’re serious, that’ll be $99, please.’

‘Of course.’

I took out my wallet, thumbed a credit card, passed it over. I’d felt Lilly’s eyes on me as I did this. She was still looking at me as her small fingers accepted the card.

‘You absolutely certain?’

I nodded.

She passed the card machine across. I placed it on the desk, tapped in my numbers.

‘You can change it for another colour, or another style if you want?’

‘And you can cancel your card payment too.’

‘No, the coat’s yours. It’s my good deed for the day.’

‘Oh, I’m a charity case now, am I?’

I gave a half-laugh.

‘No. It makes me feel good. And, you’re pretty and charming and, and, just nice. I, I, just felt it was the right thing to do.’

Lilly slipped off the coat, folded it into a bag and hung it on a peg behind her. She turned back, her face more serious.

‘That’s it? No follow up, no, ‘well, let’s have a drink later’ or ‘what time do you finish today?’

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘Coat’s yours. No catch.’

She crossed her arms again. It seemed to be her standard stance; maybe at work, maybe in life.

‘You bought me a coat. I’ll buy you a drink. Okay?’

‘You don’t have to.’

Lilly’s eyes moved to the right, she nodded to acknowledge someone’s words or gesture.

‘I got to go. I’ll be in the Pink Feathers, Cambridge and 222 Loxx, tonight, around 8.’

‘Right.’

‘If you want a drink, that’s where I’ll be.’

‘Sure. I can, can probably make that.’

I had an image of me standing like a fool, holding a glass of iced orange, alone in a crowded bar of couples, waiting for the no-show sales assistant.

‘Have to check with the wife first?’

‘No wife.’

‘Don’t be late. Offer expires at 8.30.’

Her eyes flashed. She scooted around the desk and disappeared among the hanging jeans and jackets.