Friday, September 23, 2016

Thursday Angel

Andrew didn’t like Thursdays. They reminded him of her.

He remembered the dappled light upon the plaster ceiling-decorations above her bed, the soft pillow cradling his head, the cool early-autumn air, the feeling of the back of her hand resting against his.

The memory of her consisted of fragments like these.

At other times, he remembered her as a fragrance that was, for him, indistinguishable from the ever-young scent of the ocean. Or, his memory of her could be encapsulated in the image of a grain of sand caught amongst strands of golden hair. She was sea-salt and sand, but soft, so soft.

On Thursdays, these images consumed his mind. Their timelessness held for him an unbearable beauty that filled him with a deep feeling of melancholy. He would stop in his tracks, transfixed by these lingering sensations, the ghost like simulacra that were all that remained of her.

An angel passes before the moon, he would whisper to himself, on Thursdays.

He had always thought they would stay together eternally. She would not leave him, but if she had to leave, she would leave him on a Sunday. It would be early evening; their hands would remain joined; neither would look at the other; eventually, their hands would part but their fingertips would linger in final communion; a single tear would stain the ground beneath his feet; and, when he looked up, she would be gone.

She left him on a Thursday

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Solution

Declan kept a notebook in his right hip pocket, and was forever flipping it out during meetings and scribbling in it. No one knew what he wrote, but we were pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with work.

“What are you writing,” Frank asked one day.

“That’s for me to know…” Declan didn’t bother finishing his sentence.

“Haughty, arrogant, git,” Frank muttered.

One Friday afternoon, as we stood around the sales office drinking the week’s profits, Declan started telling me about his notebook. He was three sheets to the wind.

“I’m studying self-consciousness,” he said. The pride in his voice was tangible despite his drunken slur.

I considered asking him a polite question, but there was no need: there was no stopping him.

“People are so messed up,” he said. “Not me, of course, but other people, you know?” This wasn’t a question.

“I’m observing people who feel like they’re being observed,” there was a gleam in his eyes as he said this, and he paused as if giving me time to come to terms with the import of his words.

“You know, like, when people get on the bus, and they’re up there paying their money, and they think everyone is looking at them, and they’re carrying ten bags, or whatever, and they fumble their change, and they get embarrassed. I record that stuff.”

“Oh,” I said.

Declan pulled the notebook out of his pocket, opened it, and waved it under my nose. The page blurred before my eyes, but even if he’d held it still, I’m not sure I could have deciphered his manic scrawl. The page was unlined, and his handwriting covered it in oppressive waves of black ink.

“Why?” I asked. I wanted to know.

“Because…” he started, and then leaned towards me unsteadily. He lowered his voice before continuing, “Because I’m going to work it out, I’m going to solve the problem that makes losers fumble their coins on the bus, or trip as they walk on stage, or say the wrong thing in their job interview.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I’m going to analyse all this,” he waved the notebook grandly, “and then I’ll write an essay, or a book, and people will read it, and something will click in their heads, and they’ll be cured. It’s sheer genius, don’t you think?”

Declan picked up a full bottle of beer, threw his head back, and downed it in one long draw. His Adams apple slid up and down as he swallowed.

Frank started laughing, then. He had been standing with his back to us, and listening into our conversation.

“God, Declan,” Frank said. “Everyone thinks about that stuff, and I can tell you now: you’ll be the last person to figure it out.”

Frank’s outburst silenced the room. Everyone strained to hear what Frank was saying, and all eyes were on Declan. Declan’s face took on a sober countenance.

“I…” he said, and then turned and fled the room.

Frank watched him go and then shrugged. “Pretentious git,” he said.

Friday, August 01, 2014


On rainy days, sadness seeps through me. It loosens dirt as it flows, and it makes hardened ground soft.

On rainy days, I am broken. Wounded, I burrow into a blanket of grey, encircle myself in my own arms, lower my head to my chest, and do not move. There I lie still, allowing my tears, those soft droplets, to accumulate within me, and huddle beneath the cumulonimbus covers.

On rainy days, I do not sleep. I listen, instead, to the sound of a million felted hammers upon the corrugations overhead. The rain congregates in small rivulets that drip from my gutterless roof onto the soft new leaves of deciduous trees. I hear a symphony of taps and trickles, and it is a sound so familiar to me - from a time in utero, perhaps - that it is as much feeling as sound. The many sounds of falling water resonate with me and within me.

On rainy days, I rise from my bed, healed, but not renewed. The world is bathed in pale light. A drop of rain slides down a blade of grass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Black Hat

“It would work like this,” says the man in the black hat.

“We would telephone this person you speak of.

“We tell her… we tell her that her son has been injured. We name a road far out of the city. She does not ask any questions.

“It is a dark night. There is no moon. This woman’s headlights do not work; they have been broken for a week.

“She drives recklessly - too fast - she speeds through the night to save her son. She races down a narrow country road, the one we told her of. There are no street lights. She sees only shadows. Still, she has no caution. She drives like a demon, as if she is possessed by the devil.

“She does not know that there is another car coming towards her. In this other car, there is a man. He also drives very fast. He is the husband of a client of ours.

“There is a big collision.

“They are in the country. There is no one there to help.

“You will not be there. I will not be there. No one will be able to connect us to this… this - shall we call it an accident?”

The man with the black hat waits for a response but does not get one.

He squints at his potential client.

A minute passes. Finally, the man in the black hat says, “Perhaps you will be there, no?

“You will have seen this woman leaving the house in a rush. You will follow behind her and arrive soon after the crash.

“You will save this woman who is no longer the woman you married. You will be her white knight.

“She would be grateful, no?”

The man with the black hat stops speaking. There is a long pause. The man in the black hat is calm and relaxed. The client is nervous and anxious.

“How much,” asks the client.

Friday, February 07, 2014


I will be there for you, my father, though you were seldom there for me. I will fly through the night to stand beside you, your broken body, your bruised and battered face. I will be strong for you my father, though you were seldom strong for me. I will be a tower of strength beside you. I will be a pillar of light before you.

As a parent, you confused correction for encouragement, anger for strength, and distance for latitude. But I will forgive you, my voice low and steady. I will remind you of your failings and I will tell you they no longer matter. I will forgive you for your anger and your aloofness; I will forgive you now, now, right now, before it is too late. You will leave me soon, my father.

My father.

I will stand beside you as you go. I will hold your arm, your wrist, your hand. I will hold that hand as I did when I was a child. And I will remember, then, a sky so blue and wide-open. The sun golden - as it was then - shining through your hair. I will remember you towing me over shallow surf, laughing, waves rolling, sand and splashing.

And I will remember the fear of growing up and of being nothing and you, a pen in that hand, in this hand, looking up from your work and saying I would always have a place with you.

And I will remember the bad news I gave you, and your hand on the back of my hand as I stared at my feet. I was the devil then, my father, but not to you.

You were there for me, my father.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Bridal Trail

The dark of night renders the bridal trail unsafe for a lone walker like me. There are things - dangerous, malevolent beasts - hiding in the grassy verges, watching, waiting, ready to pounce.

I am not making this up.

There are creatures here that can slither half way up a man’s leg before he realises what has happened. They can wrap around a man’s throat before he has a chance to scream.

The full moon, gravid mother of light that she is, only makes things worse. The teaspoon of warm milk she stirs into the black-coffee night deepens shadows and gives life to inanimate objects. By her light I see a snake in a nearby tree, its tail wound in voluptuous coils around a horizontal branch, its mouth bent to the ear of Eve. That snake is woman masquerading as man; its sibilant whisper tells Eve of life without Adam, sex without sex, power without machismo.

The snake turns her cold eyes upon me, and, with a flick of her forked tongue, steals my strength. I try to run but my enervated legs fail me. I am in a nightmare: I am all action and no motion. The sweat rolling down the bony riverbed of my spine is like the touch of a dead man’s finger.

I beg my legs to take me away from that vile place - away from the snake and her sandpaper syllables. I move, slowly at first, but gather momentum as I go. I run as if pursued. I dare not look back until the lights of my home are before me. Then, when I do look back, there is nothing there but the bridal trail and the macchiato night.

I run panting through the back-door, dazzled by the artificial light, glad to be safe within my own home.

My wife enters the room and asks, “How was your walk?” I keep her in the corner of my eye and make my way towards the shower.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Meeting

The meeting was innocuous enough; seven men who spent most of their work days surfing the internet, had gathered around a table to tell their manager how hard they had been working, and to reassure him that they were focused members of the project team.

Six of the men sat with straight backs and poised pens, but one of them, Mark, did not. Mark sat slouched back in his chair, his right foot resting on his left knee, and his arms crossed over his chest.

He despised his colleague’s pretence, the false way they accounted for their time, but he had already decided that he would join in their fiction. He would lie about the quantity of work he had completed in the past week, and he would build on his workmates stories of diligence and professionalism.

As Mark’s turn to speak drew near, his right foot, the one suspended by his left knee, began to jiggle. He wasn’t aware of it at first, but, when he looked down and saw it, he perceived his discomfort was the phantom controlling it.

His foot moved rapidly but he did not try to stop it. He thought someone might remark on it, might ask him if he knew that it signalled a desire to run. If they asked him this, he would say “Yes,” and he would demonstrate his desire by running out the door, out of the building, down the busy city streets, on and on, faster and faster, until, at last, he would reach the ocean’s edge and he would plunge himself into its cleansing waters.

But the foot went unremarked.