Year: 2024

Imagine

Imagine you were strong. Powerful. Majestic. You can wield your strength naturally, as if it is first nature. Your nature. Your muscles bulge under the thick, leathery skin, intimidating and threatening. Your skin is baked red, soft under the softest of touch, hard under pressure with a pattern of Savannah desert with cracks that move with you. You’re decorated with a leather mohawk down your spine from the top of your head to the tip of your tail. Each triangle spike represents all the times others preyed on you; each spike is a defense mechanism against anyone who dares do it again. The tail is heavy but easy to move. Imagine a snout with nostrils open to sniff out anything. Or deep green eyes beautifully surrounded by thick black lashes, eyes that should have been fiercely orange-red. Your breath is hot enough to burn enemies to a crisp. Imagine being part of a fantasy. A good, beloved fantasy. An admired myth. Imagine people believing you’re part of an old past. Fantasy novels in the middle …

Infected

Warmth from the previous shopper’s hands makes me shiver with repulsion as I clang a trolley loose from the line. How can the handle still be warm anyway; the shop is as good as empty this early on a Sunday morning. Although the virus was long gone I dig into my handbag for a Wettie and wipe the trolley handle and my hands clean. The vastness of B&Q swallows me up and I zig-zag past store front displays of special offers all clamouring for attention. A huge advertising photo of a paint-splashed couple decorating their bedroom as if it were the most joyous act in the world, contrasts starkly with my domestic life. Lisa and I had been a team like that. Once. The ballcock valve had been leaking in our en-suite toilet for days, but my partner, Lisa, refused to fix it claiming that Sunday is a day of rest. Lisa worked as a plumber so her inaction was galling. Earlier that morning, deciding to fix it myself with the help of a YouTube …

The Atlantean

I’m not exactly sure what to make of it, to be honest. Sprawled out in front of me lies some sort of “creature”, if I can even call it that. It has a face that might almost look human under a certain light, but just about everything else is foreign and otherworldly: the pondweed hair, the spiny protrusions on its back, the hummingbird-green scales covering most of its body. The most fascinating part of the specimen has to be the fishlike tail that lies where its legs should be, stained with saltwater and tinted a dark cerulean. “And you said you found it like this?” I ask Luca, but he stares at the ground and fidgets with the hem of his raincoat. In a different world, I probably would have told my younger brother some sort of excuse when he asked to explore the beach this late — something about the impending storm, something about how dangerous the ocean can be at night — just so I wouldn’t have gotten into this dreamlike mess. Unfortunately, …

Andy’s Alley

He reads—“New… Naïve… Art”—and snorts. “The hell?” Whenever my father inhabits his Andy Warhol mode, he detests the museum’s humble collections. There had been a Degas exhibit here last year and a Rembrandt one before that, but the local sculpture filling the spaces left by these normally un-gettable exhibits draws only sucks and blows. “It means artists who work outside the lines,” I answer. “Amateur hour with clay.” He strokes a phallic-looking vase. “Hope the divorcée who made this didn’t quit her day job.” “What makes you think a woman sculpted it?” He points to the placard below the clay stalk. “Says here first name’s Leslie.” “Could just as easily be a man. Leslie Nielsen?” “Doesn’t count.” Andy is my father’s favorite dead artist to play. He sounds like a sewer-mouthed Socrates sizing up everything that ever frustrated him: bills, bosses, women, daughters who didn’t know what they were until they weren’t anymore. “Can’t you just appreciate the time it took this person to create that?” I cannot bring my father to museums anymore without …

The Sandman Returns

One bright spring afternoon, my mother convinced my stubborn father to see the doctor. The insomnia, which had blighted much of his adolescence, had returned with a vengeance, and the sleep-deprivation was starting to give him throbbing headaches. Occasionally, the pain was so severe that he would retire to his bedroom and lie there in the absolute darkness. Something had to be done. Chaperoned by my mother, he returned from the appointment as the daylight was starting to fade. “It’s not good news,” he said, slumping down in his armchair. “I’ll just sit down for a moment.’ But, once he was down, we couldn’t lift him back up and we had to summon Dicken from next-door to help lug him upstairs, like hoisting a six-foot-tall bag of cement. After that, his legs were too weak, so in bed he stayed. Well-wishers came to the house in a relentless stream, bringing Tupperware filled with hearty, homecooked meals. But, despite their generous starchy offerings, my father’s strength declined, and his work-hardened hands lay atop the bedsheets, turning …

On My Shoulders

The angel sat on my left shoulder. The devil sat on my right. Both whispered and cooed and prodded and cajoled. Voices like harps and kettle drums appealed to my finer and baser instincts. Calls to action and pleas to turn aside. Would I take the easy path or the turbulent stream? Two roads diverged in my kitchen before I’d even had my first cup of coffee. Or herbal tea. I couldn’t take the constant bickering between the two of them or the demands and suggestions they were making of me. Finally, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I tilted my head to the left until I was eye to eye with the angel. She stood barely four inches tall and appeared just as anyone would expect her to, as if she’d stepped out of some religious painting, a living piece of bondieuserie. I asked her, “Isn’t that my sinister side?” The devil on my right cursed out loud. The angel shrank back and grew quiet. First, her face turned red with embarrassment. Then …

Deadlifting

Helicopters fly over Portland Harbor. It’s late. A warm summer night in July; and full of flies. The bugs attack the day’s catch and are swatted away by swollen hands. Two weathered Americans carry a body wrapped in blue tarp from cold storage. The first mate trips on his boots, slips his grip, and drops the torso. “Careful, Josh! Christ,” hisses the captain. “That’s my bad,” says Josh, wiping his hands on a pair of overalls. “Bend with your knees, not your back,” says the captain. Josh nods, mindful of his form, and drops into a squat. They count three seconds in silence then haul the corpse up again and carry it to the stern. It reminds Josh of deadlifting at the gym. “What d’you think this one did?” he says. “Same thing they all do,” says the captain. “Piss off the Company.” They chuck the body into the sea, and in the same motion, the captain falls against the gunwale, out of breath. He stares at the black water until his first mate comes …