Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. ~Markus Zusak

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


“I would ask the birds to sing about your beauty if I could, because only in their sweet serenades could you be true. You are the sunrise, so full of hope that your soul glows, sparkling like a disco ball, through your eyes and through your words. But you will never get to hear me say these words to you, though your ears deserve nothing less than the truth of my prettiest syllables. I am leaving. Even before we have begun to blossom, my autumn has come. Two years they say, maybe more, before I can see your sweet face again, or touch your velvet skin. I can hear your heart beating in bed next to me. I can feel the pulse of your body on the sheets. My every fibre tells me to wake you, to say these words to your loving smile, but, my love, you should see you sleeping. I haven’t the heart to break you from your euphoric dreams.

I used to be afraid of going to war, but not anymore. Not now.

Always and forever, in this life or the next.”

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Sunset Strip

The Sunset Strip, just outside LA city limits, is home to some of the richest celebrities in the world, and as such, is also home to some of the most prestigious bars and nightclubs that money can walk into and get drunk within. Everyone knows this. What most people don’t know, or what the Strip tries its hardest to keep secret, is that just off the boardwalk, less than half a mile into its heart, lies the dirtiest, seediest, most Led Zeppelin-lovingest boozers on the entire West Coast. Teresa pulled up outside the dirtiest.

She had a plan. It was simple. Go inside. Hustle some pool. Make some money. Get drunk. Drive home. Five little steps, just like dealing with grief. But her steps were more fun. They involved JD.

Part of her plan was her uniform. This was, after all, her job, unofficially at least, and her uniform had been planned to meticulous detail. She couldn’t use her bike to sit outside on. No, hers was unique. Recognisable. Traceable. She needed something more run-of-the-mill, fade-into-the-crowd-never-to-be-thought-of-again. The 2006 Harley Fatboy with rusted wheel caps and a faded black paintjob that she’d ‘borrowed’ worked just fine. Same goes with the helmet. Her custom paintjob was no good her, and au naturale was no way to go. She had to buy a new one, plain, boring. You have to speculate to accumulate. Next was the clothing, and this was the easy part. Dress to attract and distract. Lips: red. Cleavage: to the max. Belly stud: on show. Jeans: cuddling ass. Thong: escaping jeans. Only her boots weren’t part of the get-up. Red cowboy boots: sexy as fuck.

She leaned against the Fatboy and eyed up the situation. ‘Antonio’s’ skulked away beneath an Italian restaurant, tunnelling it’s depravity into the foundations. Little more than darkened windows and the flashing neon sign, proudly displaying patronage, could be seen from ground level. The stairs downwards stank of last night’s piss, and the gutters overflowed with a brown liquid. It wasn’t alcohol.

A man leaned again the railings outside, his Stetson tilted down across his face. Promising start.

“Hey, sweet cheeks,” Teresa mused, for voice singing in well-rehearsed Texan. “Keep an eye on the prize there, hun, will ya?” She flicked him a dime and a wink, and sauntered right past him.

“It looks just like Cheers” the Stetson shouted enthusiastically.

Teresa had reached the bottom step and was opening the door handle before she replied, “What the fuck is Cheers?” She was inside without waiting for the answer.

Inside most certainly did not look like Cheers. There were no baseball mitts framed and walled, nor was Woody Harrelson working behind the bar. Instead, the bar looked like broken pool cues and fights in the alleyway, and smelled like Rock and Roll, and slightly of piss. It was quieter than Teresa had hoped. Less marks. First stop: jukebox.

It was a well known fact that certain music encouraged people to take risks. Something up-tempo, to get the blood flowing away from the brain and to anywhere else, would do. Guns and Roses? No. Iron Maiden? No. Judas Priest? No. She slipped her quarter into the machine, pressed G6, smiled to herself, and walked to the bar. Before she got there, the song kicked in. Never made it as a wise man, I couldn’t cut it as a poor man stealin’. All eyes were on her now.

Nickelback?” the barman asked, raising the obligatory eyebrow.

“Double JD. Neat.” Even for a woman used to the subtleties of the male stare, Teresa could feel the eyes on her. Their pupils scratched her calmness, saw straight through her cleavage, threatened to read that brain inside that pretty little head.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“You don’t say.”

A stand-off was forming. Barman on one side, Teresa on the other. Roughly twenty men, intoxicated to various degrees of ‘hammered’, watched like children in a playground, ready for a fight.

The door opened. The bell above jingled. Eyes turned.

Stetson stood in the doorway, his silhouette striding forward like a knight in shining armour. “Oh, I love this song,” he exclaimed, then started singing along.

“Tosser,” the barman whispered under his breath, then to Teresa, “What’ll it be?”

“Double JD. Neat. On the house.”

“I like you and your nerve, but you’re buying your own fucking drink. You’ve robbed my eardrums of peace with this shit, you’re not putting your hand in the till too.”

“I’ll get that,” said one of the mob, as he emerged from the crowd. His face was weasel-like; a long, thin nose enhanced by whiskers of a moustache, and rounded off by two protruding chompers at the forefront of his mouth.

“I can buy my own...”

“Nah, doll, I insist. Pretty little piece of ass like yourself, you shouldn’t be buying drinks. You should be drinking ‘em.”

“I’m buying my own...”

“Can’t you let a guy just buy a pretty girl a drink? Stop being a bitch and just...”

This time it was the weasel who was interrupted, but not by words. With what can best be describes as a well-practices swiftness, Teresa grabbed the back of his head and shoved downwards. Shards of glass flew everywhere as the nose, followed by the whiskers then the teeth then the rest of the face, smashed its way through a pint of Budweiser and dented the bar.

The mob formed again, furious. Only the pitchforks and the monster were missing.

They were on top of her within seconds. A few trying to calm things down, but most were too drunk to care. They smelled fresh meat, and, after all, a good bar brawl is a good bar brawl, regardless of even sides or genders. Teresa could feel hands on her. She kicked and screamed and clawed and flung her arms and her legs but it didn’t matter. A fist caught her in the stomach, winding her. She was on the ground now, helpless. An arm grabbed her leg tight, and pulled. She flailed like a caught fish, but still the net dragged her onwards. Another arm clenched on her, this time round her forearm, dragging her upwards, then way.

The door opened. The bell jingled. She was out.

Stetson winked at her, and threw back the dime. “Eyes on the prize, hun.”

They walked up the stairs and into the daylight. Places like ‘Antonio’s’ steal the light and hide it away. They exist only in night and darkness. L.A. was all about the sun.

“I... You... But what if...” The words failed her. She knew what she wanted to say, but her lips, her tongue, were out of practice. But maybe she didn’t need words.

She walked slowly up to him, then stopped. Her pause and breath were deliberate. She flicked the Stetson up. His face was pretty. Ocean eyes, desert skin, sunrise smile. She leaned in closer and breathed on his lips, drawing the blood to the surface. Those ruby lips, like long-forgotten jewels. Gently, she ran her lips along his, then went deeper. Her arms were round him now, and his quickly wrapped themselves around her waist. She ran her arms down his body, over his arms and down to his legs, then up to his crotch, where she, softly but with skill, drew her opened hand upwards.

“Whoa, whoa. Slowly, now,” he said, and drew himself away. For a second she looked hurt, but then she reached into her pocket and dragged out a small rectangular object. She twisted the base. Lipstick. Ruby red. She grabbed his hand. Teresa Lillian Jones she thought to herself.

He pulled his hand back and looked down. “Holly. Cute name.”

“Come find me,” she winked, tickling his pride and his heart. The helmet went back on, the Fatboy started up a treat, and then she was off. Stetson smiled to himself as he walked back downstairs. His pulse was racing. He needed a fight.

Teresa pulled over at the side of the road a few blocks down, when she was sure she’d put some distance between herself and today. She parked the bike up, and reluctantly, ditched it. As she set off on the walk back to her place, she pulled a man’s wallet out of her back pocket and counted the contents. At least a hundred, maybe even double. A quick once over was all that was needed now.

It’s a fact that physical contact makes the blood rush. It’s like a moth to a flame. A carefully caressed wrist, or a gently rubbed crotch can draw all the feeling to one part of the body, and steal it away from others. Just long enough to slip a wallet out of a back pocket, maybe.

Teresa swung the helmet in her hand up and down as she walked. It’d been a good day’s work, and as such, a reward was in store. She fingered her phone out of her pocket and went straight for her favourite number.

“My place. 20 minutes. I’m wearing the red cowboy boots.”


“Have faith,” you whisper, your eyes burning in my moonlight. “Soon...”

“Soon isn’t good enough,” I scream, but by then you are gone.

You have left me, again. Always it is the same. You are the Romeo to my Juliet, for star-cross'd lovers we most certainly are. I can only look down on our children and hope that one day we will be together.

I can see you in them, you know. In their shivers and in their sweat. They have your hope. Looking at them brightens my heart. I shine for them. I shine for you.

Have I ever told you about the first time I saw you? Everything was young back then. Before hope. Before love. There was just me. And then there was light, and then, before I could even dream about you, there you were. My shining star. All I could do was stare. At the brightness and at the heat and at the pure force of you.

“I am back, my love,” you sing, a melody of angels carrying your voice through the vacuum.

But I am gone, and our children are asleep. For another day we must wait, you and me. The stars shoot for my agony. The comets fall for your loss. We are but two star-cross'd lovers, my Sun, and your warmth beats my heart.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Adventures of Barnabas T. Trenchdigger: Speed Dating (draft 2)

Here are some interesting facts about moles:

  • There are no moles in Ireland
  • They have two thumbs

That’s about it. They’re not the most interesting creatures in the world, so you can imagine the trouble Barnabas T. Trenchdigger has in finding a girlfriend.

Speed Dating

Barnie sat at the bar and eyed up the talent. There wasn’t much on offer. A couple moths, handful of squirrels, dozen or so field mice, the odd rabbit. The usual slim pickings.

This wasn’t Barnie’s first time at an event like this. In fact, his attendances at these socially-questionable shindigs was scraping double figures. He knew the routine. Sit down, let her talk, sound interested, get rejected. Always it was the same. He didn’t mind much. Not really. It got him out the hole. Killed a few hours. Got him a bit tipsy.

A grey squirrel with over-eager eyebrows and an impatient tail jumped up onto the bar. She wore a scarlet top hat with hand-made ear holes, and a vermillion ribbon. A swanky stick swirled from one claw to the other.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she announced, ring-master-like, “Everyone to their seats!”

The first three dates went exactly the same.

“So, erm... What’s your name?”

“Suzie (then Brenda, then Margaret). Yours?”


“Oh, OK.”

Then came the same awkward pause while each participant thought of a subject to talk about. Rejected topics of conversation: the increased price of worms, hole tax, above-ground retirement homes, snakes, death, bigger snakes.

“What do you like to...” Bell! Next table.

The fourth date was slightly better. She was a skinny rabbit called Petra. She liked slow hops around the cabbage field and folk music, and disliked the taste of broccoli. They had what most people would call a conversation. Barnie thought of it as a connection.

“How about you and me go somewhere else?” he verbally prodded.

“Or, “ said the rabbit, whose ears were the colour of fallen leaves, “how about you stay here, and I go somewhere else with... erm... him!”

The fifth was much the same as the first three. Pleasant exchange of syllables. A jostling of inadequacies. Pendulums of awkwardness. A small break was called, before the final few meets. Barnie rushed towards the bar, gasping for inebriation.

He ordered a double vodka, straight. (Like human vodka, underground animal vodka is made by distilling and fermenting potatoes. Unlike human vodka, it’s mainly water). Downed it, and then downed another. His eyeballs contracted, and then erupted. His vision swam amongst the hoard of creatures, ethereal and with a life of its own. His bones shivered.

“You’ll want to slow down,” said a voice from his behind his ear. Barnie turned and stared. His advisor was either a small, green, flaming duck, a hedgehog with purple spines, or a blue ball of wool. Stab in the dark.

“Quack?” he replied. His voice rippled with pride and straightened with unsurety.

“Woof!” Dog wasn’t an option. Why wasn’t dog an option?

It couldn’t be a dog, his sober mind told him. Dogs were big and scary and chased moles and bit moles and ate moles and most certainly didn’t give moles advice at speed-dating conventions.

“You’re not a dog...”

“Hmmm. No, I suppose I’m not. But I could be a dog.”

“You could be a dog?”

“Oh, I could definitely be a dog. Listen. Woof!”

“No. No. That doesn’t mean you’re a dog.”

“Well I’m certainly not a cat. And I never said I was a dog. I said I could be a dog.”

“But you can’t be a dog.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re not a dog.”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t be a dog. Who are you to tell me I can’t be a dog?” And with that, the flaming green duck, or the hedgehog with purple spines, or the blue ball of wool stormed off.

“Wait,” Barnie called, his arm reaching out further than his voice. This only led to him falling from his stool and landing, snout-first, on the ground. His chances faded slightly slower than his consciousness.

Apparently, the universe decided that for highly hammered and mischievously malaised moles there would be no sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth. Instead, there would be a throbbing at the temples, a sickly uprising in the gullet and a stink of embarrassment.

Barnie didn’t find out about these gifts of fate until the next morning. He woke in the same bed he’d woken up in for the last twenty years, to the same view and the same life that always greeted his first flickers of vision. With one exception. A note, purple-spined to the wall.

‘The hawthorn bush. Sundown. A week today. Quack’