Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Pytheas and the Midnight Sun

The day after Pytheas was dismissed from his job, and while the feeling of humiliation was still with him, he sat alone in his garden, in the shade of a lemon scented gum, and consoled himself with a pot of lapsang souchong tea; he had been saving the leaves for some time. He took a biscuit from a small sunny-yellow plate, moistened it in the smoky infusion, and ate it.

The warmth of the tea permeated his body; the tender afternoon air spread over him like angels’ wings; and the sweet song of small birds worked upon him like a lullaby.

Pytheas feel into a light slumber in which he dreamt he was standing upon a circular dais, a turbid sea of people swirling around him. To his left, the towering figure of his father, his booming voice: “Pytheas: you are dismissed.” The hysterically laughter of the crowd; hands tearing at him, pulling him down and drawing him amongst the tumultuous convolutions of their movements. He was badly handled, wounded, and ejected into a place of total darkness.

Pytheas awoke with a gasp. Night had fallen. All was quiet except for the chirping of crickets and the occasional croak of a frog. The tea was cold in its pot.

He picked up the yellow plate, and, for no reason at all, moved it in his hand until he was holding it like a discus. A paroxysm of anger coursed through his body, and he launched the plate through the air, feeling at first strong and godlike, but then, as the plate turned towards his neighbours house, horrified at the recklessness of his own actions.

The plate hit aa wall with a thunderous crash before bouncing off and landing undamaged on his side of the fence.

A light turned on within the house, and he heard rushed footsteps.

Pytheas hid himself within the shadows as he made his way silently back indoors.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


This did not happen.

One Friday night, a man sat alone reading in a public library. He had gone to that place in the hope that the nearness of strangers would help stave off the lonely feeling that sometimes stole over him when he was on his own.

As he read, he became more and more frustrated by his novel – the characters were too shallow for his taste – and, with a snort of disgust, he put the book down on the table in front of him.

Unfortunately for the man, the noise of his snort, and the percussive sound that accompanied the putting down of the book, were above the level of a whisper, which was the normal threshold for noise in this library – even on Friday afternoons – and the librarian and several readers shushed him in unison.

But a woman – gentle, but with a twinkle in her eye – looked across the room, saw the book and the man, and understood instantly what had happened.

She stood silently and glided towards him like a swan upon a lake.

She motioned with her large eyes for the man to follow her; and follow her he did. Noiselessly they escaped the cloistered confines of that soulless place. Then, under a moonlit sky, they walked, laughing and twirling as they went; freedom and creation flowing through them.

Later, as a fair spring breeze caressed their cheeks, he lent her his coat, and they sat and talked until the early hours of the following day.

They parted feeling reborn, complete and free. And they vowed to meet again, which they did the next day, and every day forever after.

This happened.

A man in a library put down his senseless book with a bang and a snort. Those gathered near him, including some who were browsing through the open stack, expressed their wrath through loud tut-tuts and shushes. But one woman was not shushing or tutting; and, as his eyes lit upon hers, he felt a pang of love pierce him through. He left the library rather hurriedly, then, but returned the next day, and for many days thereafter, always in the hope that he would see her again. But he never did, and the feeling of not meeting her weighed upon him and added to his loneliness.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


A foot pressing into my left eye socket wakes me. It is your foot, little girl. You are waking, too, stretching and yawning, smiling and babbling. The morning is cold and grey but your small body is full of warmth and joy.

I lift you out of bed and let you play on the floor. You stand for a moment, but your legs soon collapse beneath you, and you sink to your knees.

“Doooo,” you exclaim.

“Doooo,” I agree.

You bob up and down upon your knees and I congratulate you on your dancing. Your excitement causes you to fall backwards, and I reach out of bed and catch the back of your head in my palm.

You smile at me, then, little girl.

Little girl.

“Can you say ‘Daddy’?” I ask.

“Dooo,” you say.

“Daddy,” I say.

“Dooo,” you say.

I laugh, and you clap your hands, happy with your game.

I get out of bed and lift you up.

“Let’s find Mummy,” I say.

“Mum-me,” you say.

I laugh.

“I am not all you need, am I little girl?”

But you do not answer me. Your face is turned towards the door.

“I will always be here for you,” I whisper.

“Mum-me,” you demand.

I carry you to the kitchen where your mother is waiting.

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.