This is an old one. I still quite like it, which is unusual for me looking back on past works. I guess I’d been reading a fair bit of Larkin at the time.
We left later than planned.
I walk through orange streets,
just behind companions
deep in talk.
Her dress coaxed me along.
As did her voice.
It’s a number of things
to be attracted to someone.
And so I had. We seemed
to be getting along.
We’re at someone else’s now.
The glass in my hand, full
with the red,
is forever being topped up.
Sloshed words slosh about.
I spent most of the time
looking through his records.
Beer should never
be introduced to medication.
I do it anyway. Drunk for
half the price. It does
nothing for my figure.
I met my past lover.
I broke the ice
with a quip about the host.
We’ve since parted.
I still have her number,
written in eyeliner,
on a stained serviette.
Just a quick explanation for the lengthy period of no-posts:
I slipped into a prolonged mixture of complacency, laziness, escapism and doubt in my abilities.
The last six months have been somewhat more productive – I’ve gotten to work on a novella thing, of which I’m going to post a small snippet from below, and I’ve resolved to get something down here at least once a fortnight. If I lurch off this new course please feel free to send me a kick for my arse in email form.
Here’s the said snippet anyhow. I’m well aware of the purple prose etc. – bear in mind this is still sub first draft. The working title is Sky though that’ll probably change towards completion.
The craft broke through a whisper of sky. Multicoloured clouds screamed silently past the windows, violet branches of lightning off in the distance at first then striking inches away. Mountains and craters veered up miles below. Then, to something deep within the Ship’s surprise, vegetation of a sort became clear, shortly followed by rivers and tall, strangely curved stones. Indifferent eyes watched as the craft smashed into the alien canopy.
The Ship’s systems were slowly rebooting. Lights flickered on where still possible and a semblance of heat could be found from cabin to cabin. Basic maintenance drones were pottering around the spaces of the ship, fussing over the surfaces as if nothing were wrong. One was stuck looping in the female crew’s quarters, politely asking a tree that had broken through the hull to kindly lift it’s feet so that it may sweep underneath.
The Ship tried to contact home. All it received in response was the cold background radiation of space. It traced it’s location by watching the movement of the stars over the course of several weeks. It wasn’t near Sol. It didn’t recognise any of the constellations. How it had gotten here it didn’t know. All records were either wiped or otherwise corrupted. Eventually The Ship elected to transmit a distress signal, if only out of a sense of propriety. Shackled by the speed of light, it was unlikely to reach humanity before the statistical certainty of their extinction, some ten million years later.
Behind closed doors,
with spitless lips,
watched with lidless eyes
and Godless planes.
The Sun has a single entity in orbit. A planet that would, in any other solar system, be so small as to be called a moon. But it is the only body around this particular star. It has circled around for countless cycles. It is pockmarked with craters; disturbances to its grey skin that, perhaps, occur once in a hundred million years. It is covered with the things.
It has a special relationship with its Sun. Without it, it would be little more than a lowly comet, lost and aimless in the vast Nothing. Yet the Sun scorches the surface that faces it. And the underside, the surface that can never see the Sun, is so very cold.
A small café sits just around the corner from here. The ketchup containers have long run dry, the flour gone to weevils. Smashed glass crunches underfoot as you move about in the half-light. The kitchen is a mess of stained steel and ovens tipped to their side, tubes falling out of their undersides like intestines. One such oven has become home for a family of rats. Swing doors lead into a basement. The subterranean space is bare save for a few barrels tucked away in the corner. They contain nothing.
Back upstairs and into the kitchen you find the rats outside of their makeshift nest. They are standing on their hind legs and staring at you.
“Nothing down there.” you say, “No food.”
The larger rodent dashes into the oven only to return a moment later with a blob of cheese in its mouth. It runs up and deposits the morsel at your feet. You watch it run back to the family, only to turn about and continue to observe you with its tiny black eyes. You slowly and respectfully hunch down to scoop the offering up. It has strands of hair and other less definable blemishes. You are very hungry.
“Thank you.” you say and, not stopping to let yourself hesitate, throw the cheese to the back of your throat and swallow without chewing. The rats seem pleased with this and dash back into the oven squeaking excitedly. After some clashing and argumentative squeals, the family emerge back into the kitchen. Between them they are hefting an ornately decorated key towards you, not unlike an army of ants hurrying away with an errant sandwich. The key drops to your feet with a clang. You and the rats stare at one another. You are unsure as to who is the most confused party. With the same reverent pace as before, you crouch down to pick the key up. As you do, the smaller rat dashes up your arm before you have a chance to react. “Hey!” It digs its claws into your shoulder, though not so much as to cause you discomfort, and squeaks. You turn your head to look at it. You regard one another for a few passing seconds. “What?” you ask.
Squeak! it replies, its nose twitching indignantly.
Squeak! the remaining rats on the floor agree.
Rather than give in to your rapidly growing urge to noisily lose your mind, you decide to ignore your new companions for the moment and inspect the key they have given you. It matches the décor of the place in that it is filthy. The rust and grime does not detract from the inherent beauty of its design however; looping waves and bubbles nestle on its handle.
The rats are losing their patience. Squeak! they call out in unison, the one on your shoulder half deafening you.
“All right, all right,” you say, grimacing, “I take it you want me to open something?”
The rat on your shoulder squeaks quietly, almost apologetically, as if it were aware of the hurt it just caused you, and nods. It points with an unnervingly human like manner towards a cupboard on the other side of the room. You walk over to it, being careful not to step on the scurrying animals around your feet. The cupboard is indistinguishable from the others in the kitchen, save for that it is the only one that remains closed. Every other has its doors wide open or hacked off, the contents long departed. You look at the rat on your shoulder. It looks back at you. You nod at one another and, with only a slight tremble in your hand, you place the key into the slot and turn. It unlocks surprisingly smoothly. What is also surprising are the doors forcefully swinging open, the left partition striking you glancingly in the nose and the wave of cheese that falls out. Blocks after blocks of cheddar, still in their packaging and looking remarkably edible, tumble from their prison and onto the floor. The rats below deftly dart and jump about to avoid being squashed by the falling dairy boulders. You notice that the rat on your shoulder at some point during all this had already leapt down to join its family.
The floor is a chorus of squeaks and squeals as the rodents triumphantly begin to carry the cheese towards their oven nest. When they are done, you are not entirely shocked to find that they have left you only a fraction of the horde. Five blocks remain on the floor. You crouch down to gather the food into your rucksack. You have no reason to complain. This is still more food than you’ve seen in months.
You get back to your feet and start walking towards the door. You are stopped half-stride by a Squeak! You turn to look at the oven. On top of its disconnected door sits the family of rats. In front of them is one of the slabs of cheddar. The smaller rat, the one who commandeered you toward the cupboard, inches forward and gives the cheese a shove in your direction. You cannot help but smile and walk over to them to accept the offering.
“Thank you.” you say as you pick it up. You move your hand to stroke the rat. At first it reflexively shies from you, but, after a moments hesitation, allows you to touch it. “Thank you.” you say again, making sure to look at all of them as you do.
Squeak! they say.
You stand up, walk out of the kitchen, then the café itself and back into the open.
An elephant waters the plants.
He leaves the Zoo every day at 9 o’clock and visits everyones’ house.
He trumps down the street and tramples everyones’ roses.
He does not mean to and no one minds.
When he needs to, he sneaks his trunk through a kitchen window and takes water from a sink.
He squirts the water onto the flowers with his trunk.
Sometimes it is too strong and breaks a flower pot.
No one minds. They are happy to have an elephant for a gardener.