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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…