The Bloody English

There’s a man stood behind me in the queue verbally abusing his wife. (What the fuck am I doing at Morrissons anyway?) I glance back. They’re both in their sixties, broken-down. He’s got a thicket of white hair, and looks he shaved with a lump of broken glass, she’s got a sadsack face that’s sucked right in from biting her lip too much. She’s carrying the basket, he’s carrying his stick. Then he’s dropping his stick. Then he’s abusing her for not picking it up. He says “I’m going to get rid of you, you’re useless.” Her face puckers up some more. He swears at her, then bites that they’re going to the pub after anyway, like that’s somehow connected. She makes a little choking noise, and I look around to see a dumpy old lady with a face like a dried-up pear and great round glasses about to cry. Then he growls that “she should stop that, don’t even start that.” And I can hear her trying to hold the tears in, blinking them back so they spatter on the glass.
After a bit, while I’m moving my shopping along, and placing the crappy Next Customer nameplate for them, she asks, hesitantly, if “we can go to get a cup of tea”. He roars at her, a belly-roar, and says “No! We’re going to Rosie’s pub.” Then she asks if he “wouldn’t mind carrying some of the shopping” and he gets really nasty. He says No! I can’t, I’m holding my stick, and if you don’t stop that, you’ll feel it around your neck soon.” He shakes the stick for effect. “You’re so damn lazy, I’ve got to get rid of you.” At the neck comment, I’ve turned around, as it’s obvious he really does use the stick on her and I want to intervene, want to stop him, and tell her to leave this filthy old monster, so she can be a lonely unabused old spinster but all I can come out with is “I think you should calm down mate.” He laughs at me and says”You don’t have to live with her, she’s lazy, she’s useless.” Another growl, at her. I turn away and pack my bags, and don’t look around again.

Hot Summer

What a way to spend a Saturday. My acrophobia agoraphobia caught up with me again this weekend, and I found it almost impossible to leave the house. I kind of reflect it when I dress, veering between completely black clothing and bright pink Hawaiian shirts twinned with green-grey combat shorts. The nearest I got to getting outside was climbing out of my window to sunbath on the scaffolding, which allows me to exit without having to see people. Even then, I get a hit of anthropomorphizing paranoia every time the curtains billow out of the window over my head, seeing a great muumuu-ed figure leaning over me… at least when you’re mad, you’re never alone.

Shallow Pool

Gower was the last of the Banteng. His mighty hooves ploughed up the fresh ground beneath trees, his proud horns shed their winter coating against the trees. He was immortal, he was invincible, he was unchallengeable.
A shot rang out. There were no more banteng.
The rangers’ systems registered the death, sent out a patrol. Gower’s headless body was already surrounded by carrion creatures, but the rangers drove them off and checked the corpse, saw that it was indeed Gower. They dug out the bullet for analysis, removed the tracker, took a back-up skin sample of Gower’s flesh and left him to be eaten.
The systems were already in operation though, deep in the savannah station. An frozen clone embryo was brought out of storage and gently warmed up, while an automatic process started the creation of another ten to provide a single replacement. A large immune-deficient cow was selected from the large isolated flock and implanted.
The foetus grew slowly. Elsewhere systems and men analysed the bullet, found the gun, found the owner, dealt with him. The head and the magnificent horns had already disappeared into the black market but for a short time the local chain of supply was removed. Demand would replace it soon enough.
After many months, the host was euthanised and opened up by a team half vets, half butchers. The over-large calf stood up on legs like spindles and wailed and butted. It was led to its Skinner doll for milk and suckled. It had found a mother.
After twelve months the calf, to all intents and purposes, was full grown. He was drugged and, in a great cradle in an all-terrain vehicle, taken out into the spring of the national park. He woke up, was observed for weeks, was terrified, was lost, but slowly adjusted to the nights. One day he woke and there were no more watchers.
Winter went, spring came. His mighty hooves ploughed up the fresh ground beneath trees, his proud horns shed their winter coating against the trees. He was immortal, he was invincible, he was unchallengeable. With only his genes remaining from the mighty Banteng, Gower was, as ever, alone.

Karma Chameleon

There are twenty million people in the old Imperial India currently displaced by floods. They’re without food, shelter or water, in dire straits. Yet I feel no human impulse to donate money to them. Why should I? Out of empathy? The imperative simply isn’t there, or I’d already be doing it. My brain occasionally says “karma”, drags up that Christian “give & thou shalt receive”, but without an overseeing God I don’t believe in any such ordered universe, nor do I believe gratefulness transmits across such numbers or distances. Even if it were true that the people of India were grateful to the people of Britain and we one day needed their help, it’s still easy to bandwagon. I could pour my paltry contribution into the million needy mouths of charity, without it making a dint, without hearing even the echo of it hitting the distant bottom. There is no end to man’s need, and a simple end to my own. Perhaps I should just pour my excess to a particular sponsor, somewhere I can see the effect, somewhere I can be the recipient of justified gratefulness. This thinking is the way that patronage works, I think, the way the romans did charity – cynical, sceptical, greedy.

Hmm. Anyone need a patron?

Dream of Sand

I remember my dream, for the first time in months. Now little is extant, but I remember a great chamber, so dark you can hardly see the walls, the floor strewn with rubble, half an ancient theatre or a great school hall, half a war zone, kipple everywhere. We’re all children (I sense my mother is involved somehow) and we’re running amidst the rubble against the opposition, trying to acquire something that’s half typewriter, half bomb, half radio, but is very valuable. I hang back in the struggle for the macguffin, but eventually, too late, I join in and almost grasp it as the opposition take it, following the captor as he takes inside a doorway in the chamber’s corner, on their side of the chamber and into a cluttered small room with a stairs blocked by a closed door, shelves beneath. I lie down beneath the stairs’ shelving as he places it in front of the door, thinking it secure, and he passes by me. I think I can grab it and sneak it out, think I’ve not been spotted, but a gentle, resigned hand shakes my shoulder and the illusion of stealth evaporates.
Later, I am outside, in a great sandy desert enclosed by high smooth slopes, like arena seating with no seats. A sandstorm whips up and I sink into it, losing sight of everyone, if there is anyone. The sand doesn’t hurt, doesn’t abrade, just smothers. I can’t breath through the whirling particles and am buried, managing, through flailing my hands, to keep my mouth of the sand as it settles. I am completely buried,save for my mouth and someone comes to help me out.