Monday, 28 February 2011

Running out of time

Jonny watched his face fade in and out of the passenger window with the steady beat of passing street lamps.

“What you doing Jonny?” Rico already knew the answer, though expected none; he'd already observed this behaviour many-a-time over the past few months.

“What you call that effect when the light flashes on and off – like when you're blinking fast or the sun's peaking through the slats in a tall fence as you're running by and the images in your eye are all chopped up in slow motion?”


“Strobing, yeah strobing: you always were book smart Rico.”

“Were? Past tense? While I appreciate the compliment, you want to get your head back in the game.”

Jonny's head had never actually left the game; indeed, it was several plays ahead. He had already pictured - flashing - Rico's body draining life-blood through near-shot holes to the chest and abdomen and the frozen look of surprise before the facial muscles could contort themselves to the semblance of betrayal and then, finally, regret.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


Today there's a doggy following me about; his name is Frankie; of that, there is no doubt.


At the grocery store checkout, I wonder at the young till girl: why she bothers with the hair highlights; the obviously time-consuming make-up routine: foundation; blusher; lip gloss; mascara lashes; painted nails; and, shader lids. The weekend job, school exams, university fees, interviews, below inflation wage settlements, kids, index-linked mortgage, marriage, divorce and rising bills. In time - glancing round at the other blue-rinse checkouts - she'll be back at the till. And that's the optimistic prognosis in this town.

Loyalty Card?



You like porn my friend?

Wow, that preference hardly pulls me out the crowd. What you got?

Uh-huh, only the latest defence pre-emptive strike policy strategy paper from the premier Washington think tank.

How much?

Aw shucks now, you have to talk about money? Don't worry, this one's on the pork barrel.

The day the music died

The rain bounced off the brim of my hat forming fast flowing rivulets that drained off the rim, into the gutter below by my feet and onto the nearby bare head of the lifeless corpse. Encrusted remnants of emetic discharged still clung to its straggly beard and clotted hair extensions. The substance of discharge, presumable washed away already. After a spell of serial sunny days, the smell of earthy relief was palpable off the parched side-walks. The rest of the body was heaped, ungainly, against the alley wall. Can't tell if the victim was black or white - possibly skin bleaching or the fade of age, definitely old though, probably only a matter of time, save the head severance incident, before the clock ran out on this one - presuming that the victim wasn't already dead beforehand, in which case we were looking at corpse mutation. Back in the alley, I took a closer look at the sliver skull-ringed fingered hands, the nicotine brown-tipped stains and unkempt nails encrusted with a dark, neglect accumulated, residue. Rolling the frayed sleeves back, constellations of punctures marks covered paper thin skin - where there weren't blisters and sores - as if an army of dog-sized vampire bedbugs had gang-banged their way through the victim at a syringe-only party.

The deputy finally arrived in an unnecessary fanfare of sirens and giant flashing Christmas lights, followed by the ambulance. I think I made it clear - yeah, pretty sure - when I called it in earlier, that this wasn't one of those resuscitation deals.

So what do we have here detective?

Well, if I were to make an educated guess, I'd say it was the death of Rock and Roll.

It was a long time coming. Coffee? Got a flask back in the car. Hey, if it's any consolation, best that we weren't about to see it.

Thanks, but I've got another case to be getting on with, someone reported Hip-Hop's gone missing.

Really? Last time I heard that racket, it was operating all over town in the nineties.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Light fantastic

Near sundown the filaments spark up and emit their coloured flowers which deliquesce as brilliant, yet lurid, smudges against the encroaching dark.

It's funny how, as computer generated graphics advance with richly infinitesimal detail, the less real, real seems.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Grip of death

Canteen had run drop-dry some while back, still, the point of no return had been past way before that. In the meantime, I sucked on a smooth, crystalline pebble. Purpose packed. I heard it helped saliva before the sun's stroke wrung every last bit of wet out the body. I would need the power of speech up-until then. And now I was traversing the salt plains, mountain ranges had all but merged and morphed into the periphery. Hadn't notice the crossroads until I was upon them. Ground heat caused the air to flicker and swirl in a conduction fire vortex mirage.

And there he stood, rust bruised bronze skin knotted with wire junctions of thick black veins threading the swollen surfaces of a muscular exoskeleton. What hellish ferment coursed through them, God knows. It looked like he worked out though. On steroids. And too much. His eyes, non-refractive black holes that sucked in everything drawn into their path. His horns, antenna to the unspeakable broadcast. Congealed white powder clinging to the dual dilated rings of flared nostrils. Arrowed tail thrashing dirt in the manner of an untamed predator.

I played my all-or-nothing opening gambit: “I'm here about a sub-prime mortgage.”

“In return for your soul?”

“Soul. It's a bit of an old fashioned notion. Anachronism. I guess a more current terminology would have it as “person-hood”, that which makes us a person, deriving from the Greek persona, “mask”; so you could say personality is the mask through which we speak, the medium of our manifestation – the word made solid in the world.”

“Semantics aside, have you any collateral?”

“Well, I've got my unemployment cheque?”

“Sign here, here and here.”

“I don't have a pen.”

“Blood will do.”

“Ah, you're one for tradition, I respect that. Okay. There, there and there. Done.”

“Remember, if you do not keep up repayments, your home is at risk. Rates can go up as well as down.”

“Keep that in mind. Can I have the deeds now?”

“Not until you've finished paying.”

“When's that?”

“Muahahahahaha. Heard of indebted servitude?”

"Hold on a minute Beelzebozo, I've just got a call to make ... "

" ... and?"

"If you look carefully at the triplicate signature on the contract, you'll see I'm applying for the mortgage on behalf of a public sector pension consortium - real-estate investment - which I have just sold back to them, plus commission, as part of a triple-A rated, junk bond, collateralised debt obligation. CDO for short. Hey, I'm just the middle-man."

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Travel by night, they say, to avoid detection. Fair enough, I see the logic in that, only the dark, unlike the daylight, has a habit of turning your eye inward toward those things less easy to escape from.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

So-long saloon


Hello boys, you won't mind telling me why I can't seem to keep tripping-up over you whenever there's trouble in town?


Coincidence is not a scientifically sound explanation for the simultaneous occurrence of two or more seemingly spontaneous and yet apparently unconnected repeated events.

No need to show us your piece. We're men of peace, as you'll know by lack of evidence to contrary. Is it getting too hot in here Dwayne?

Sure is Rufus, and I find the atmosphere in here a little too stifling too.

May be I just shoot some holes for aeration?

Considerate as they may be, and we thank you for your consideration, that won't be necessary Marshall. We'll prop open the door on our way out.

It seemed controversial at the time

Now I don't know how you all feel about rock n roll – gets some people's backs up: the raucous, musical ruckus, threatening to cleave us in two on its knife edge and spill us down into the chasm of social chaos; so I want you to keep an open mind and listen to the unique stylings of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. If you have any young'uns coming of age, you might want to ask them politely to leave the room. I expect it's past their bed time anyway.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Your call

I was walking back late past the market as the traders dismantled their temporary tent stalls, while my train of thought was distracted - interrupted - derailed - by the unnecessarily loud half of a conversation being shouted down a mobile phone. Such was the unvarying nature of his (for it was he) volume, it was hard to determine whether he was angry or this was his standard mode of communication. Then I thought about turning up the volume of my inner dialogue, when I realised you don't really hear your own thoughts, at least not as physics would understand it; it's not even like a neurosurgeon could tap into one of the brain's many junctions to eavesdrop on the conversational monologue - “listen in on the wire” so-to-speak. Though they might fantasise about it. And play it back in the private viewing room of their minds.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

To my financial advisor

I haven't been in touch for a while. Nothing both of us didn't know already. I guess I out lived your future investment advice, or else I wouldn't be here. Past being tense. Naturally. Started reading the news. Between the lines. I know this doesn't end well. There's not going to be a ticker-tape parade. You probably even suspect that the bull you've been feeding, has been feeding you too; has a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. BSE. If you're lucky, and you'll probably be beyond knowing it at the time, you'll be fortunate to reincarnate as hamburgers and be eaten by bears. Such is the way of the "free market" and the taste of being sandwiched between karma's baps.


There's never any easy way to broach the subject; however, after much soul searching and emotional anguish, I thought it best to write you this note. Now don't get me wrong, the early years were special; you were always so attentive, sensitive, warm and kind of touch. I will always hold the sunshine of those memories dear to my heart, no matter what the future brings. But it's clear, the future holds for us different things and, dare I say, in time you'll see also, new beginnings. It's the way of the world to keep turning. I don't blame you, entirely, I blame myself some too. I let things go too far, may be back then, it felt easier that way; now I realise I was wrong, it's only made things harder, for both of us. It's nature's way to mourn for things gone, I know I did and that, after reading this, you will. Nothing to be ashamed of. It's all part of coming to terms with life and moving on. "C'est la vie", as the French say. Speaking of which, as you may have already gathered now, I've moved on, to your neighbour: you see, he doesn't hold down a full time job, worry about promotion, securing the next big client, leave me alone with myself all day long; he's always there for me. And not just at meal times. Perhaps my first clue should have been your - now in the rear mirror of retrospect - eerily creepy androgynous pet name for me. I don't know. May be I'll - we'll - never know exactly. And at that I'll leave it. And, formally, you.


(Your former cat.)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Typos and grammatical errors

Like piping the icing on your best friend's birthday cake. And then spelling - there, they're - their name wrong. Blow the candles and hope darkness takes care of the rest.


At the landing strip, at the ancient aerodrome, among the rusty-winged weeds of neglect sewn, I made preparation for my trip to destinations unknown.

Not generally a fan, but love this particular song. Hate the guitar bridge though.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Running on fumes

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, and I see the steering wheel; the lights refracted off rain drops; wipers metronomes to the impatience; the urgency to get somewhere; the rush; the jams; the delays; the late nights at the office; the broken promises – may be I think I had something to look forward to, and may be the frustration made it all that more sweeter. I don't know. But now the gas has gone; the sparks don't ignite; I wonder if the journey is finally over, and the daydreams become nightmares. Their horsepower fear.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The bill

Down town Florida. Café. Some fucker's playing maracas on the stereo. Sustained percussion. Ear concussion. I opt for the lobster dish. No point scrimping. Appetites aside, I'm keen to see who draws first. Fork, and then knife. You see I'm here on official business. Clean up safe after the state line was crossed. Jurisdiction. Nice spicy dip sauce. Beer's good too. Furtive fugitive. Mind turns to weight of holster. Waiting for a break in the conversation and the door of admission. I know it's coming soon. There's only one way this ends. But at what cost? Try not to make a meal of it. Wait waiter.


Now you are just beyond the physics.

I refer you to the law.


You know? you know?

I do, I do, let's end this argument here. Just calling how I see it.

Bar fly

Yeah, leave the lady alone, before I put a hole in your head bigger than my fist and the medics can shovel.

Did I hear you right. Is that a threat?

Deaf as well as retarded, I can see how diptera school was an extra special struggle for you. Stop rubbing your legs and draw back that loose, long corkscrew tongue of yours. Now swat.

Jesus, do you talk to all insects this way?

Only ones that bother.




I was rolling a cigarette, two fingers, supported by thumbs, at either end, and one nicotine ochre stained, when my hung-over squint saw an unmatched - unattached - third finger tip in the middle. Mix. Not sure of the lesson here. But real bad. Don't smoke. Lungs. Off-white angel white wings. Cancer. Breathing. Coughing. Unpleasant sputum. Avoid temptation. And addiction addiction. There, I said it.

Face it

So last night I went out, bought a bottle of vodka, had myself some Chinese spicy fried chicken wings and beef ribs, dry. I had to take out money at the cash point and now - morning after - I'm looking at the Queen's face on the crinkled, desk bound, ten pound note, which represents a portion of my change. (I took out more than I needed.) She's looking about fortyish, to be generous, in that particular depiction, though, in reality she's of the age when circling the grave. What the hell is that about?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Poster family

On the preamble to work this morning, past the many advertising hoardings made largely subliminal by contempt of familiarity, I caught sight of a new poster campaign; it was for an ever-popular brand of bland breakfast cereal, depicting a youngish dad with designer facial fungus and his two young children sat at the table, and this tableaux was framed and infused with the golden glow of the morning sun – solar flares glinting off silvery spoons as they tucked into their GM flakes before they turned to a milky pulp. But where's mom? Perhaps she's strung-out on the bathroom floor, injecting junk into one of the few remaining uncollapsed inner-thigh veins? Or out back, arms stretching to reach-around the trigger as she bites hard on the shotgun barrel? Or may be she's held up at some anonymous airport lounge, awaiting her flight home from the international business conference where she had unprotected sex in multiples? Who knows? The point is, nothing could distract from this freeze-frame moment of perfection.

The sudden slap of the unfamiliar

Like the unexpected back of stranger's hand.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Democracy Incorporated

Judge not

My neighbour, a woman whose seemingly innocuous visage belies a voice that could scrub pans from adjoining rooms. Her sewer-mouthed children, tangled to her, together with squeaking kittens, in a modern day retelling of Rat King folklore. The absent father. The overnight male companions, among whom, one in particular, announces his arrival at the front gate with the ridiculous ice-cream-van tooting of his moped horn. My neighbour. What joy. And what hope for the future.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Hill of beans

We sat huddled in semi-circular proximity to Alpha-Alpha as he casually decanted himself from the big chair and easily repositioned himself on top of his big old desk. No, it wasn't a big desk. It was huge. A compacted, condensed and hand-polished forest of the finest oak. And his legs all a-dangling above the big carpet. He began: "Now I'm guessing you're all wondering why I gathered you here in the - my - big office, and I don't mind saying, I appreciate that you all might have curious minds. I give that much credit, at least. Where to begin? Where to begin? Well, it's no secret that times are tough, tough all round, and we've all had to shed a few pounds - pull that belt buckle in a notch - but there's nothing wrong in a little hunger. Keeps one sharp. Alert. One eye always on the next meal. And you know the company policy: we don't pay overtime: it's a principle, a measure of commitment if you will, but I think you also know such loyalty doesn't go unrewarded, if not in this life, or the next, or thereafter that, but soon, and for the rest of your life. I hope someday you'll understand."

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The unwelcome Samaritan

Back in the day, when I was a student, resident in a room in some former old people's home – and fire-trap to boot (exits were all via wooden stairs) – I was on my way home one night from the philosophy debating club, when I passed one of those then popular restyled, re-furb, Irish bars. I'd dropped in on occasion. Fond of stout. Anyway, I saw a couple arguing outside. It must have been a pretty vociferous affair, because I stopped to observe closer. Turns out the man was hitting the woman and, apparently, he wasn't pulling his punches, at least not on account of, for whatever reason, the fact that he was striking a lady. It wasn't my sense of offence at the breaking of chivalric code, it just didn't look like a fair fight. It looked, for want of a better description, plain ugly. But I approached them – angry and a little frightened – crossed the road - and, in the steadiest voice I could muster at the time, suggested that, whatever their difficulties, surely there was a better way to sort out their troubles. She told me to, “fuck off” and, “mind my own business” and, at that, I did. Perhaps it was a combination of fear and self-preservation. The man dipped his oar in too, with a mix of half-articulate and grammatically ill-formed threats. So I turned and left. The cheek.

True story.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

At the assassins' table

You ever think bout those boys the government asked us kill?

Except for practicalities, I find reflection gets in way of reflex.

How come you ain't taken your shot at me already?

Got no beef with you, as yet.

But may be the Man has, huh? Nothin personal n'all that.

You expect me to tell you what the Man wants? I don't presume. And I don't tell. Leads to inefficiencies. Course you understand. I know you do.

You always were one cool customer.

And you hide your ice behind table talk.

Well, I guess that's how am gonna make you my bitch.

Really, is that all you got?

I see am gonna have to don the trousers in this here flirtatious situation and make me the order. What'll you be havin?

Stake. Side-order of fries. Root beer.

Waitress darlin: two orders of stake, two side-orders of fries and two roots. Ice and slice I presume?

You assume correctly.

Ice and slice twice. Now we both got beefs. And chips, thus sayest the Brits.

Let's not us forget our roots.

Going Dutch?


Tuning into the Crime Waves

"I think people are going to welcome the fact they can really see what's happening with crime in their area, not just on their street but in their neighbourhood. This is giving people a real tool, real power to see that something is being done about crime in their area. This doesn't make them frightened, it actually makes them feel a part of what is happening."

The first thing I do every morning is catch the latest from MyCrime - an app I've got which provides up to the minute crime footage from my area. I get it on the big screen; have it scrolling in the bottom left corner. It used to just be dots and colours (red, organge, green) but these days its all live feeds. I can get in there and see live footage of the crimes going off on my road, or I can get "best of" highlights.

When we moved, MyCrimes 3.0 (tm) had just kicked off. It's when Google Street Maps went LIVE! A great moment. Along with info about whether Samsung or CocaCola schools were performing best in the area (Samsung had a great deal which covered healthcare as well) we accessed this great 2 min vid showing the "bestof" for the previous 5 years. The best thing was a child from no.43 getting run over in slow motion from various angles, confirming that this was a good area and here we are.

I get the highlight reel in the morning so I can see the best of what's happened through the night - I like to see what's big now; what's good on my street; what's trending in the rest of the city. (today it's sex - sex is trending). As I pour myself a bowl of Retrios(tm), I peak through the blinds: all is quiet: like an old fashioned late winter morning: a piercing sun masking the icey chill. If June catches me looking she scolds me."Get away from there," she says.

It's all peace and quiet when the reel boots, the music kicks in. Last night number 59 got burgled, 64, someone smoked inside, and next door homicide: my neighbour got strangled to death. I never heard a thing. There's a stream of accomanying text, tweets and updates from locals who think they heard or saw something.

I get an overview of my street and there's dots of crime everywhere. "Dog fowling", "youth loitering", "man stabbing". Nothing unusual. I look up, towards the window, masked by the beige screen, and switch it on so it's now projecting a mosaic of film screens - news, sport, email, etc. I bring up Streetlive (tm) and scan the street. Nothing to see, no one around, nothing to report. Someone's just tweeted an update on the MyCrimes feed that they saw something move up my road. I can't see anything. I wait, in anticipation. You wouldn't believe me if I told you I used to walk 20 mins home from the "rail station". I continue to watch, my fingertips starting to tingle with anticipation. I waste hours like this.

On the big screen, a commentary plays on the strangling. There's a trail of events leading directly from the victim's facebook profile, some illicit tweets and an inappropriate Tumblr. The perpetrator lost it. Wow! There's my house. Footage from StreetLive(tm). His car drives up, then we get footage from inside. It seems she never turns the cameras off (you're not supposed to afterall). An autotweet went out at 2.34am from the house's profile. "broken entry into rear quarters!" Friends tweet to say "you go for it girl!" and "WOOF!" She had recently taken a new lover.

It's pretty lo res but he goes through the gate, round the back into the kitchen door. Through and up the stairs. Cameras everywhere - but not the bedroom. Camera from the garden shows a man is thrown from the window. Then the culprit emerges from the bedroom - we hear the struggle - with soiled hands. He walks to the shed. We hear a certain but gently muffled gun shot that punctuates the end of the film.

I finish my Retrios and notice the time: time for work.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

At what price?

I was listening, as is my wont, to one of the podcasts from The UFO Paranormal Radio Network Website – a mixed bag of speculation, wild conjecture and the downright weird if ever there was one; however, there is the occasional interesting discussion (which usually requires the suspension of disbelief). This particular podcast was a compilation of interviews with so-called “alien abductees”; in which one contributor offered an insight – if not into some intergalactic conspiracy – how certain socio-technological developments might change the human race. The “abductee” in question iterated some of the aliens' concerns about certain cyclically destructive habits that manifest due, they claimed, to our limited life span. In slightly more prosaic terms: by the time we've got our “shit together”, no sooner is it time to unwind the mortal coil; hence much of that hard-won sagacity is squandered, save for the occasional nugget passed on to the next generation. There's some mileage in that contention; I'm not going to offer any conclusions, rather some observations regarding the possible consequences of extending human life. (NB. I have parallel comments on this blog elsewhere with respect to the idea of an eternal afterlife).

In no particular order and certainly overlapping:
  • Even if one could maintain the structural integrity and function of the body, does it follow that, over vastly extended periods of life, one would keep one's sanity?
  • Just as mathematicians are said to “burn out” in their thirties or their best work is produced while they are still relatively young, would we suffer a similar intellectual fatigue from sustained longevity?
  • Would apathy set in - seen it; done it all before (over and over again) – can't be bothered?
  • Isn't part of what makes life valuable its fragility? And that fragility informs our moral outlook?
  • Would we be in danger of an emotional flattening – from repeat exposure to the tide of experience; for example, “till death do us part” might take on a whole realm of commitment hitherto unimaginable?
  • Like the drug addict, would we build up a tolerance of life to the point were more actually becomes less?
  • Can one get tired of learning and adapting to the new: can we get tired of the new?
  • Instead of broadening our horizons, could it not lead to an entrenchment of ideals and views – a continuous of supplication to “old guard” at the expense of innovation?
The answers to these questions, and others, may depend on just how far it is technically possible to extended life, together with our ability to live – cope – with it over any given length. May be the dream of living “forever” - at least over vastly extended periods, could turn out to be a nightmare.

One further conjecture that is implicit in the abductee's story is that an extended lifespan would lead to rapid and sustained technological advancement and the mastering of space-time, i.e. not just the power to affect the the future, but the past as well. At what price would these God-like powers come? May be the aliens are not just nicknamed "the greys" for their appearance alone (of course other brands of ET are available). Hypothetically speaking.