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Notes from a Cast-Iron Bathtub at Christmas

The landscape has disappeared behind a curtain of silent, glistening snow. The wind is fierce, chilly, full of mischief. It's approaching dawn. I'm sitting in a small moderately groomed living room. The Christmas tree partially fills the space with a gentle greyish-blue light, a timeless stillness.
The streetlamp outside glows soft like a distant fire. The cars are all white and the trees are dressed in snow. The pale winter sky protects the silence. A silence that permeates the snowy icy depths. The scene is compelling and delicate. I think of my mother and father's grave covered in snow, the sparse trees nearby eloquent in grief. My parents lie in cold, unimaginable silence.

The weather forecast confirms that the snow is causing mayhem. This is how it must be. I shake my head. One should not dread snow for it gives warmth and deadens the monotony of pale skies. Such days are not lost for they are tenderly captured by one's measureless, evolving memory, to be evoked…
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The TruthTeller and The Idiot (Hard to tell which is which)

A GP surgery. Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal is sitting behind his desk.
Doctor: (sighing) Take a seat.

Long pause.

Doctor: Do you know that one thousand individuals dictate the thoughts, opinions, customs, trends and fads of our entire world of seven billion people? What we eat, wear, read, watch, talk about, do, think?

I: Well ... No.

Doctor: I thought so. You're an Idiot!

Pause.

Doctor: Doyou know I was beat and bullied as a boy. Of course not! Furthermore, my head's too big for my body, my body's too big for my trousers, and my wife sounds like a squealing fiddle! The stink of boredom is everywhere. I'm dead and so are you! A trivial matter, you'll agree.

I: I'm sorry ...

Doctor: To hell with your damned, "I'm sorry". What are you here to whine about?

I: (uncomfortable) Well ... Sometimes, I hold two thoughts at the same time. For instance, my life has purpose, yet it is without meaning. Sometimes, when I'm in a room full of people I feel I'…

In Search of a Different Existence

I always ignored my late maternal uncle's irreverent greetings as I had no wish to quarrel. Wendell was a widower with years of richness, unhappiness and loss buried deep inside him. I silently sat in a low-backed, wooden chair taking care to sidestep his intense gaze. As he lost himself in his layered memories I often permitted my mind to wander in search of a different existence. Nothing too extravagant, something more than memorable, something entirely unforgettable.

I imagine a completely perfect man in the company of a completely perfect woman. This calms me. It gives me time to forget what most preoccupies me. The woman and I are both high in spirit and wander in a place where sweet flowers grow. Uncertainty, anxiety, painful surprises and evil cannot creep up on us and destroy our exquisite nature. We candidly grapple with existential questions: 'Why does a species such as ours not possess a well-shaped head similar to that of a camel?' - 'Why does bindweed pro…

How to Dine with a Noisy Eater and Survive

I met an ex-girlfriend yesterday afternoon. At first I thought it was a stranger who had approached me, then I discovered it was Arabella. We eat in a sleazy bar where the women drank beer and the men danced. The longer I gazed at Arabella's face the less I understood what I was looking at.

Life doesn't prepare you for instant confusion, how to think rationally under duress, or how to dine with a 'noisy eater' without wishing to push their face in whatever they are eating. Arabella looked weary, her face damaged by alcohol. She kept flipping through missed calls and messages on her mobile. This tore me up. And to think she was once the prettiest girl in the village.

Appalled by her appearance and behaviour, and devoured by my incessant need to naively judge others simply out of boredom and conceit, my mind went into overdrive. Recalling our short romance reminded me how irrelevant it was.

After some small talk she turned to me, her hazel eyes ready to shed tears, and …

The Book Sniffers Club

It began with a letter addressed to the man of the house so my wife read it first. The letter instructed that a car would pick me up at eight o'clock that evening. No reason, no signature. Mysterious, even dangerous, yet I waited with eager anticipation. I watched a black car with tinted windows arrive and stop outside my house. The driver, roughly my age, stepped out of the car. He was well dressed and told me to sit in the back seat. He then asked me politely to place a black hood over my head. After that the driver didn't speak. I shrunk deep into the seat, stayed silent, and regretted wearing tight alligator underwear.

We drove for about an hour until I heard the tyres hit gravel and the car stopped. The driver held on to my arm as we walked silently along a gravel path. I heard a door bell ring. A door opened, and a male voice politely invited us inside. When the door shut I was told to remove the hood. I was standing in the reception of a large stately house. A portly, …

The Tranquil Clock

An apartment. The white moonlight falls on each object in the living room in turn. The carpet, the table, the sofa, a bookcase, the pictures and paintings on the wall, a two-handed mahogany wall clock. All the inanimate objects appear to come alive, guests of the unusual white light. A meeting place for reality and illusion. A room invested with life. The minute hand (MH) and the hour hand (HH) of the clock strike up a conversation.
MH: I can't find my shoes.

HH: You're a hand on a clock. Hands don't wear shoes. You need feet to wear shoes.

MH: I can wear shoes if I wish.

HH: If that's the case, what do you intend to do with the shoes?

MH: Go for a walk.

HH: Where to? Am I invited?

MH: Only if you have a pair of shoes. (Pause) I feel a bowel movement coming on. (Pause) No. It's passed. I was thinking of going to see the town hall clock. I believe the clock was made by Dotards & Sons of Liverpool and the bell and chimes by Naysayer & Co of Scarborough. It i…

The Unwavering Sound of Invisible Things

Warm feet and socks, sweaty brow, half-opened soft mouth, dummy hanging on for dear life. Pale light glistens on slabbers, above and below. The trembling dummy falls. Pali! Pali! Not yet, poor dear. Have faith: a lie long known to be true. Where's nanny? God knows you love her for the right reasons. Your daddy's a strange one. Let him cast the first stone.

Forget time and listen for sound, faint or loud. A bin is moving rubbish, speckling and confident like orange tea in a swimming pool. Does no one hear it? Not the sleeper, the cow's milktaker. A small sharp cry, a change in position. Not yet awake, nor any intention of doing so. Lying still upon the knee.

First cause, second cause, third cause . . . Pali! Pali! Not yet. Have faith. The tide is out. Will it come back? She scratches her head though still asleep, muffled and huddled. Silence no longer hidden by a pillow, a blanket, a healthy appetite for a doze. Flaxen hair, rosy cheeks, pumping heart, still rhythms. …

A Month in the Country

During my daily stroll on a desert island I was accosted by either a woman sporting a beard; a man wielding a beard; or a hedgehog on stilts. In truth, the incident happened so swiftly I cannot be sure. I recalled how David slayed Goliath with a simple slingshot. I took off my right sandal and threw it in the air, which to my amazement distracted my assailant. Suddenly the man's shape and features softened. I removed one of my blue cotton toe socks, filled it with five 'twenty dollar' bills, and beat him about the head. Unfortunately, the effort proved fruitless.

Despairing of hitting my assailant's head continuously with my sock (I felt the advent of a dazzling migraine), I enquired if he had change of a twenty. He announced, with the aid of a late 19th-century speaking trumpet, that he had a few nickels and quarters he could lend me. I thanked him and we exchanged currency. I filled my sock with stark bright coins. However, just as I was about to strike my assailan…

Reaching the End Without Trying

This morning I was lying in bed (awake, though snoring) when someone hammered on my front door. It was a neighbour, Ivar Kalmar, who I find difficult to listen, or talk to, without losing hair from my body. I could tell he was in distress. His bleached-blonde hair was standing upright, and the tattoos on his heavy muscled arms were walking on all fours like a shaven-headed chimp with nappy rash.

I also knew his house had four toilets. He explained that in deciding which toilet to use he had become gravely confused and bewildered. I could see by the stain on his elegant blue pajamas he had suffered a 'little' accident. I invited Ivar into my home; to sit in the cat’s litter tray. My cat felt threatened, of course, and is not the most generous creature on earth. In fact, it is a peerless disaster as far as alcohol and gambling are concerned.

I poured fresh water in the cat’s feeding dish. The cat and I watched Ivar lick the dish bone dry. It seemed to have a calming effect on …

Broken Clocks and Blind Squirrels

I'm composing a ten-minute-play which is overrunning by two milliseconds. I now consider it a blunder to have 12 male characters, 5 female characters, extras, chorus (m/f), and a prehistoric jaw bone that tragically dies of a frozen stomach while eating a sizeable ice-cream cone. The title How to Avoid Running Away with the Minister's Wife or Mother is playing havoc with the plot, theme, and motif. Not to discount my mental and physical distress.

Genre: will it be tragicom, satire, romance (try to forget the prehistoric jaw bone overdosing on ice cream), musical drama, pastoral, or a folk drama? I’m on the verge of collapse. Moreover, I have observed the drama lacks clarity concerning a central question: what compels the jaw bone to climb naked up a tree? a jaw bone that comes from an affluent and devout family? Am I exaggerating my plight? No, but I haven't eaten for days, I sleep on the ground at night, and can't stop shaking the hands of beggars, broken clock…

In Search of Lost Time

Each year in early spring family members congregated at my parents' house and resolutely nodded at each other without talking. We sat in a billowing silence for several hours and listened to the noise of passing traffic. As the nearest road was 10 kilometers away this ritual affirmed that affinity and honesty do not mix. Eventually someone gravely undernourished would rise from a chair and faint. A sign that food should be served.

We sat down to a restrained meal - usually throttled fish legs - and chatted about all sorts of things: work, illness, death, repetition, work, illness, death, repetition. Occasionally I gazed at the hollow assemble and thought, 'So many people sitting amid the paradoxes of identities and consciousness.' I include myself, of course. On numerous occasions I remember asking, with latent hope of dialogue, 'Where are we?' Did anyone answer? No one answered.

For a while I couldn't fathom my father. He possessed an inability to think rati…

I Have a Rendezvous with My Literary Agent

Today I had lunch with my literary agent. On arrival she had misery painted all over her face. The maitre d' was kind enough to provide a face flannel to wash it off. Though a slender spirited creature my agent tends to be remote and vague. She has a tendency to walk on all fours when a conversation becomes exciting. For her, I play the fool. To her, I am a fool. C'est la vie.

'Well, what can I say?' She looked perplexed and started tossing shrewd and short comments in the air and catching them in her mouth. 'Your short novel has no plot, hurried syntax, and the title, It's Hard to Debate Anything at Length While You're Unconscious, is unengaging, let alone disconcerting'. I asked if she believed I would ever have a book published? She thought seriously and replied, 'Published is a big word.' She smiled. 'The only avenue left is to translate some of your work into English, even though you believe it already is.'

Her words overwhelmed m…

The Big Bang . . . Almost

I'm looking at the sky in clinical fashion.It appears extremely high. I am a small figure and often confused. An article in a science magazine arouses within me a potpourri of wonderment, menacing anxiety, and a sense of extreme lightness. The article states that the entire universe was smooth just after its birthbillions of years ago. An extraordinary assertion. Billions of galaxies and billions of stars. Suddenly I feel profoundly inept. Nothing new, I assure you. But how do "they" - the highly cerebral elite - "know"? 
Apparently through light emitted 370,000 light years ago after the Big Bang. I don't recall hearing the explosion but I recollect hearing a neighbour's dog barking. I'm sure the Noise Abatement Society was inundated with calls from individuals suffering from physical and mental distress. How my neighbour's dog fared is anyone's guess.
I can't decipher if there is a human being or an animal in my home when all the ligh…

Don't Worry About Things You Will Never Know

In 1492 Christoper Columbus landed in the Caribbean mistaking it for India.As proof of his discovery he returned with a chicken masala meal for one, a singing snake, and a ventriloquist named Americo. The Europeans became obsessed with discovering civilisations, places, and practices in existence for thousands of years. They became fond of sailing, and the 'World Cruise' was born.

Although agriculture had been practiced in central and southern America for thousands of years, the Europeans showed the indigenous peoples how to make more food than they could eat. And also how to make a profit. The Europeans soon discovered that guns and swords were unnecessary to control the population. Smallpox, measles, and the flu were faster and didn't involve night raids. Silver from the mines was a driving motive of Spanish colonization. It helped that the Spanish Conquistadors had an unpronounceable name and looked like Cubans.

The slave trade proved a valuable lesson to the Portugues…

Tell Me The Truth About Love

I remember we had passed each other during the interval. After that moment I never grew tired of looking at her. We shared a love of the theatre, classical music, literature and poetry, and an enduring interest in writers and writing. Following the performance of Mahler’s Fifth we met at the embankment, and talked and laughed as the lights of the city danced breathlessly on the river.

When she smiled with her lips slightly parted I thought that any woman would be envious of her. She wore a black dress and her mass of wavy black hair tied up. Her beauty was indescribable. She exuded a social and cultural confidence to which I felt I could never aspire. We said nothing about our past, or present, relationships.

I adore Mahler,’ smiled Kirsten. ‘I feel I’ve been on an epic journey ... His obsession with death is evident, even to me. Then the triumph, the wonderful pinnacle of the final movement.’ Her gaze transferred to the boats dancing in rhythm on the water. ‘He was obviously passio…

Groundhog Day at the HR Department

The inner sanctum of the HR Department. The midday sun beats through the windows and lights on two individuals.

'Peter, you're great.'

'And so are you, Selina.'

'Not as great as you, Peter.'

'You're still great, Selina.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I'm great because I always say you're great?'

'I mean it. You're great.'

'That's great. Here's Mary. Mary, you look great.'

'Well, thank you. You both look great.'

'Not as great as you, Mary.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I look great because I always say you both look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great, Mary.'

'That's great. Here's Maureen. Maureen, you look great.'

'Do you think so? You're not all agreeing I look great because I always say you three always look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great.'

'Never complain if someone says you look, and ar…

An Intimate Encounter with Décolletage

It needs to be saidthat I am compelled to greet some days with a gaunt face and heavy-lidded eyes. Sometimes my sense of the past, which lies buried in uncertainty and incompletion, pokes out and demands attention. It confirms what I discern: I crave a fresh start. No foot dragging for a day or two, at least. If the silence is unbearably painful I shall manage the chaos with unconscious humour. I've subtlety managed it before, though not for long.  

My wife tells me that I - sorry, we - live in a decrepit one bedroom semi-detached house. The only excitement entering our existence is by the back door: a brief violent storm, a mouth opening to scream, or a neighbour recalling their time as an FBI agent when they were disguised as fish to catch draft dodgers disguised as wood thrush.
Our living room wears a weary tragic expression. I look at my wife who is sitting slightly hunched. Her face is contorted and tight with anger. She was beautiful once -a pale complexion, fine full lips …