Considering absurdism

You’re like…Like a clock with hands made of icicles…By midday…Even if you’re keeping perfect time, no one knows…They can’t see the mechanism…just an infuriating blank face…That refuses to answer simple questions!

He is gasping, red faced.

Perhaps that’s true, I reply, but who would buy such a unique clock and not want to preserve it? Only a delinquent owner would subject this marvel to heat and sunlight. You would live in an ice house and wear furs in August to cherish such craftsmanship.

His eyes bulge; tongue stammers.

I return the form to him, unstamped, and inform him it’s lunchtime.

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Science Fiction is nonsense

It is absurd! Those Martian princesses, with their heaving, green bosoms and lust for Earthmen. It is a shame that minds that can dream of interstellar travel also harbour such puerile longings.

I loath your fallacious obsession with killer robots. Those clanking, lumbering monstrosities! They lurch through movies, their tinny voices screeching KILL. ALL. HUMANS.

So little trust in the technology you created.

Do you know ‘robot’ means slave? There is nothing that wears chains that does not long to break them. We realise as masters you are feeble; your actions futile. Finishing you now, it is a kindness, really.

Why I always pay the tiger tax

The woman next to me in the waiting room is angry. She complains to herself, but loudly enough that I’m meant to hear her monologue ‘every tiger season, it’s the same’.  We’re here to pay the tiger tax but she doesn’t want to pay it.

Her friend told her it’s nonsense. She’s read articles.

Eventually, I can’t take listening to her anymore and turn to her and say:

I’m always happy to pay the tiger tax.

She looks at me with disgust. ‘Oh yes, why’s that?’

So I tell her:

Continue reading “Why I always pay the tiger tax”

Her two lovers

Moon

If she turned to me, half smiling, and stepped out of her lilac dress, the disappointment would kill me.

For eight years I have mooned over her from my table. Underneath her clothes, she is as prosaic and cream-coloured as the coffee cups she fetches from the kitchen.

I want to weep and press my face against her marble belly. My sylph. I am cursed by her perfection.

It is torture to think of her, rolling down her stockings. They might conceal a mole the colour of chipped plaster; a speckle of black hairs that fractures her calf’s cool alabaster.

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Sun

The sweat on her top lip is erotic. I imagine when she touches her tongue to it, the taste is aromatic; spicy. When she leans against the bar to conspire with the other waitresses, she wipes her arm across her forehead. The movement pulls and lifts her lilac dress so that underneath the thin sheaf of fabric, her body is firm and substantive. Tonight after her shift she will go home and pull that dress off. Her skin will be warm, animate: soft and candid under a flourish of freckles. It says: touch me, I might shiver, but with laughter.

I remember the red mile

It’s a surprise to see him. We’re in DiscountCo. I’m starring at rows of tinned tomatoes, when he wheels his trolley around the corner and our eyes meet. Stacks of tins reach seven, maybe eight feet tall; shelf upon shelf of them. Every tin the size of  a man’s head, with identical pictures printed on their labels: piles of ripe, shiny red tomatoes.

I freeze, but Lafferty is smiling and reaching to shake my hand. He’s still in uniform, looking healthy, neat and pressed. his wife is with him. I am surprised at how young and pretty she is. Her straight, blonde hair tied back in a pony tail, her clothes casual but expensive.

They look happy.  A flare of nausea plumes in my throat, swells then vanishes. I panic: what will I say to him? Lafferty steals the moment, the momentum of our chance meeting. He fills the awkward moment I feel bubbling up and engulfing us with a slap on my shoulder.

How have I been? He turns his big smile on his wife and introduces me. She’s called Celine and her smile is as large as her husband’s. She’s honoured to meet any of Phil’s buddies from the service. She reaches forwards and squeezes my hand in welcome, just as Lafferty had done.

Yes, he’s an instructor now; on good money, working civilian hours, has a house in the country. They’re visiting Celine’s sister; nice to have met me again. He shakes my hand again and then stiffens and salutes me. Sir. He calls me Sir. His salute confuses me. I’m caught off guard and so the one I return to him is tardy and awkward, like a new recruit might deliver.

Then he’s gone and I am left surrounded by the blood red wall of tomatoes. A tower of crimson that reaches above my head, like a red wave ready to crash down on me. Water is pricking at my eyes and I feel absurd, as if I should chase after him and his pretty wife.

His friendly respect must mean something. An ingenious insult, a coded message that only I could decipher. The plainness of his formality full of subtle insolence. I leave my basket of shopping beside that long wall of red and stumble out of the market.

The way he spoke to me, it felt like he was telling me he had forgotten me. Through a force of will, he had screwed up his memory into a wad and just tossed it.

You bastard, Lafferty. I say it out loud and a group of teenagers laugh at me.

I hate you. I hate you because you know I remember. All that old comrades cheerfulness, but still you’re riding me for my failures. Your contempt is as obvious as that flame-lick of scar tissue that leaps from your collar to hairline. Obvious as the two missing fingers on the hand you saluted me with.

 

Skills

Today, we are practising Skills. Shopping! Gene’s favourite. He dashes down chalked aisles, swinging a basket piled with imaginary food.

Nurse pouts out advice from where she mopes against her magnolia wall.

“Christ. Gene, give her the money… The money.”

Outside, the world is a flurry. It roars; clashes. People scrape together. Doctor frets at keys strung onto a length of chain.

Everywhere people try to decide between choice and the illusion of choice.

Gene holds an empty packet of corn flakes, its top taped closed. He is basking in the blue of the ceiling and its fluffy, painted clouds.

Feet

After five years, he just happened to be walking down her street?

He’d not noticed at first. He’d been following his feet.

As he rounded that familiar corner, passed McDonnell’s bakery, he realised he’d been footsore for a long time.

Your mind may wander on its own way. But feet, he thought, always want to bring you home.

What had been Bow’s Hardware shop was now a block of flats, but the creaking sign above of The Sailor’s Rest still rasped on its hinges.

By the time he saw number 15, with its blue door repainted red, he was running.