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.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Hidden Hand

He was sleeping as she sat down next to him. His hands rested on the tray table in front of him. Next to them lay an uncapped pen and a page of neat handwriting – a letter perhaps. She could have read it, but she dared not.

She watched his hands instead. They weren’t the kind to fidget, she decided. She thought that there must be a calm mind controlling them, a mind at ease with itself and at ease with life. She looked down to her lap where her own hands lay trembling. She imagined lifting one of her hands and lacing her fingers through those of this stranger, but she dared not.

The engines roared. The plane surged forward. Gravity’s unseen hand pushed her into her seat. Fear overwhelmed her. She gripped her armrests. She could not breathe.

She did not relax until the fierce engines lowered their voices and the plane levelled out.

He slept as the plane lifted off the ground. His hands, those comforting hands, did not hold hers, did not give warmth to her, did not provide safe shelter for her.

She turned her head to look at his face and realised that she was already in love with him. She told him this as he slept. She told him that he was her safe place in a time of trouble. She spoke softly, her voice hidden beneath the sound of the aircraft.

His eyes opened then, and he smiled at her: the kind of non-smile one stranger offers another. She thought she would say hello, but she dared not.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Sound of the Sea

“Listen,” my father said. “Tell me three things you hear.”

“I hear the wind,” I said.


“And I hear the sea.”


“I can’t hear anything else,” I said


We sat at the end of the old seawall in the place where the ocean splashed against its wooden railway-sleeper slope. My father’s feet were close to the surface of the rippling water and his gaze was fixed on the distant horizon. I imagined that his ears could hear everything, even people talking on the other side of the world.

I strained to hear what he heard. The gentle breeze played its sibilant song around my head. The ocean rolled over and over, scrapped across the seabed and then leapt and lapped against the seawall.

“The sea is lots of sounds,” I told my father.

He smiled at me.

“Yes,” he said.

But that was not the answer he was looking for. “What else?” he asked.

The sea was so bright: a million mirrors in the mid-day sun. I closed my eyes to shield them from the glare and turned my face towards the sky. Red light, warm and rich, shone upon me.

I listened.

My eyes flashed open. I jumped up and pointed along the beach, beyond the seawall, to the place where a small group of children were building sandcastles at the ocean’s edge. How had I not heard them earlier?

My father laughed and bundled me up in his arms.

“Well done,” he said. And he carried me on his shoulders as he walked back to the car.