Monday, August 13, 2012

I Travel

The stars, that nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps with everlasting oil, give due light to the misled and lonely traveller. – John Milton

I am far from home.

At night, after a day of mindless work, I find a small corner in the hotel lobby lounge, and watch other travellers relax.

They are louder than me. They wear their travel well.

I long for home.

They flirt with the girl behind the bar. They ask her when she finishes work. She smiles but does not answer them.

They are trying to make the journey from alone to not alone. That is a journey I cannot make. They are trying to fill their emptiness. My emptiness is unfillable.

I watch them.

They drink. The noise they make drowns out the silence inside them.

They will end up alone tonight, but they will not feel alone. They will go back to a dark room that looks like other rooms they have slept in. They will lie on a bed that thousands of other people have lain on. Sleep will escape them. They will think about the future: the glorious future. They do not think about the past. They will get out of bed and drink strong liquor from a tiny bottle. They will watch infomercials on television. They will see the sun as it rises over the city’s tall buildings and they will not long to see the sunrise over the ocean.

They will shave. They will call their wives and not tell them that they love them.

They will iron a shirt and pack their bags. They will collect their cars and they will travel.

They will travel into the glorious future.

I watch them with envy . I am envious of their ability to put their loneliness in the future. For, while I am like them in many ways, my loneliness is not in the future. I cannot escape my emptiness, no matter how much I travel.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mr Stanthorpe and the High-Speed Newspaper Perforator

James swung himself down next to a wispy-haired old man and closed his eyes. He would have preferred to sit alone, but this was the last free seat on the bus.

“Good evening young man,” the old man said.

James pretended not to notice.

“Allow me to introduce myself: I am Mr Stanthorpe, inventor of the world’s only high-speed newspaper perforator.”

James looked up and nodded at the old man.

“James,” he said.

James was about to close his eyes again when Mr Stanthorpe picked up a newspaper and began waving it in the air.

“My invention allows its user to remove the main fold of any newspaper,” said Mr Stanthorpe.

“Individual pages are far easier to manage, don’t you agree?”

“Hmmm,” James replied.

“Thanks to my invention, people can read their newspaper on the bus without disturbing the person next to them,” said Mr Stanthorpe.

“I read the newspaper on the Internet,” replied James sardonically.

“Oh,” said Mr Stanthorpe.

Right at that moment there was a tremendous bang. A truck had smashed into the back of the bus. The passengers were thrown forward but luckily no one was badly hurt.

The bus began to fill with smoke. The driver tried to open the buses doors, but it was no use, nothing was working.

People began to panic.

“We’re trapped!” someone screamed.

Mr Stanthorpe reached into his bag and pulled out a black box that looked like an overgrown hole-punch. He pulled the base off the box and held it up to the window.

“Cover your eyes,” he warned James.

James heard the window smash and felt a rush of cool air.

“How did you do that?” he asked Mr Stanthorpe as they climbed out the window.

“I used my high-speed newspaper perforator,” said Mr Stanthorpe proudly. “It also breaks glass.”

The bus crash was headline news the following day. James decided to buy the morning paper as a memento.

“Would you like me to perforate the fold for you, sir?” the vendor offered.

“Yes thanks,” said James.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Leviathan Sea

A ragged cliff marks the place where Land concedes defeat to Ocean. The cliff stands stoically, a monument to the effects of time: crumbling; weather beaten; eroded. Overhead, iron clouds hang heavy and foreboding. The light that passes through them is pale and insipid. Nearby, a family of seagulls drifts on a strong breeze; beaks and beady eyes turned towards a grey and turgid sea.

There, on the rocky foreshore, a man stands alone.

The chill of the day, the movement of the sea, the keening cry of the seagulls, fills him, envelops him, wraps around him, and gives him peace. There, in the midst of the world at its work, he stands and meditates.

He feels his blood pumping through him; the warmth inside his gloves; the chill on the tips of his ears, his nose, his cheeks. He feels alive.

The sea is wild that day. It is a mighty leviathan beneath an enormous grey net. The man feels this, feels the movement of it hypnotising him, bending his will to its unyielding purpose. The man feels the sea’s anger. It is the kind that brings calm and focus. He feels its hunger. It is the kind that fills a man with force and purpose.

He feels the line of the sea extending beyond its natural boundary. It passes through him where his nose meets his forehead, permeating him and becoming one with his mind and thoughts.

He feels the wildness of it, the aliveness of it, the freedom of it. The force that keeps the sea moving is the same force that keeps the blood flowing in his veins.

The bracing breeze that comes from the ocean winds around him. It winds around his muscles, binding him and holding him. It makes him stronger, squeezes the miasma from his lungs and fills them with fresh air: cool, salty, and alive.

He has come to this place in search of these things. It was these things, the essence of life that he is here to fill up on. He will lock these memories away, ready for the joyless days ahead of him. He will store these feelings in his heart, and, one day, he will close his eyes and return to this foreshore, to this land, and he will remember. He will remember.

Monday, April 23, 2012

If Love is a Drug

Ron Reynolds was a has-been and he knew it. He lived off the royalties of his one hit song, ‘If Love is a Drug’. He spent his days watching televangelists and talking to Iggy, his pet iguana.

Ron was painfully aware of the smallness of his life. In his heyday he had been a king amongst men: now he was nobody.

He missed the fans most of all. He missed the electric feeling of forty thousand voices screaming his name. Nothing in Ron’s life compared to that feeling. Ron’s life, his heart, was an unfillable void.

Ron longed to have that feeling one last time, but no one was interested in him anymore.

One day, as Ron sat watching television, a televangelist announced that he would be visiting Ron’s home town of Chicago in two weeks.

“What do you think, Iggy?” Ron asked the iguana.

Iggy turned his reptilian eyes towards Ron.

“You’re right,” Ron said, “I should go.”

Two weeks later, Ron found himself sitting in the third row of a massive stadium that was packed to the rafters. The televangelist was telling the crowd that he had a cure for broken hearts. Ron hoped he was right.

When the alter call came Ron raced down the aisle and joined the queue of people waiting to be healed.

It wasn’t long before an usher came and led Ron towards the televangelist.

“Hello Ron,” the televangelist said. “Tell the good people of Chicago what brought you here tonight.”

Ron felt a wave of goodwill from the crowd. He felt alive; his heart was full; he felt the best he had felt in a long, long time.

He snatched the microphone form the televangelist and yelled: “If love is a drug then you’re my cure tonight – Chicago!”

And with that, Ron walked from the stage, his right fist held high in the air.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Billy Gently and the Annoyance Pandemic of 2012

The Annoyance Pandemic of 2012 started with the blast of a car horn, on the 28th of September at precisely 1.34PM. The horn was sounded by New York City taxi driver, Don Smith. Mr Smith was expressing his annoyance at how slowly traffic was moving through Times Square that afternoon.

Eva Mendel, who was holidaying in New York at the time, heard the car horn and exclaimed: “Damn, all this noise! I wish I was back home.”

New York local, Barry Jackson, yelled back, “Hey lady, if you don’t like it, why don’t you go back to wherever you came from?”

A group of passers-by heard both Ms Mendel’s exclamation and Mr Jackson’s reply. They quickly polarised into two groups: those who were annoyed by Ms Mendel, and those who found Mr Johnson the more annoying. Both sides were annoyed at the annoyance of the other.

Soon a third group started to form. These were people annoyed by the two groups arguing and blocking the street.

“Move on people!” the third group chanted.

Things really went downhill when a fourth group, a group who believed in the right to free speech, started to yell their annoyance at the third groups annoyance.

Soon there were groups of people arguing everywhere. By night fall New York City was in chaos.

‘The Annoyance Epidemic’ led the evening news and people around the country watched in annoyance. “Is this really news worthy?” they asked.

For those already annoyed by the poor quality of television journalism, this was the last straw. People left their homes and took to the street to express their dissatisfaction at the state of the media, and anything else they could think of.

International news picked up on the story and renamed the situation ‘The Annoyance Pandemic’. People around the world were annoyed: “Is this all those Americans have to worry about?”

And so a wave of annoyance spread around the world.

Everywhere you looked there were people getting annoyed at other people who were getting annoyed right back. Streets were filled with people having loud and heated arguments and other people who were telling them, equally loudly, to be quiet.

People who refused to get annoyed were forced indoors. There was nowhere else to go.

After a week of heavy arguing, governments started to get annoyed. They ordered riot police to step in, but the use of rubber bullets and water cannons just made people more annoyed.

Global annoyance levels peaked on the 23rd October, 2012. On that day, eight year old Billy Gently of Glasgow was running home thinking about dinner, when he found his way blocked by a wall of angry arguers.

“What’s all this about?” Billy asked one of the group members.

The woman looked at Billy and scratched her head. “To be honest son,” the woman answered, “I don’t really know.”

The woman turned to the rest of the group, “Hey!” she yelled, “Can one of you please remind me what we’re arguing about here?”

No one could.

The group wandered off and found another group of arguers. This second group didn’t know what they were arguing about either. And so it continued.

Around the globe the tide of annoyance began to recede.

Everywhere you looked you would see: people apologising to each other for being so grumpy; people smiling again; people shaking hands and making-up.

Well, everywhere except New York City. People there were still quite cranky.