Archive | January, 2016

THE BLINKING EYE

21 Jan

What Tom couldn’t do was come to terms with the way his mind was working.
Once upon a time things had been perfectly clear to him and he could take them or leave them according to what he thought about them. Like women. Some women he found himself drawn to (even though he was married, happily his wife Brenda thought), and once drawn to them something twitched in his trousers and he had to take things too far.
He couldn’t help it. To him it seemed as though he had been designed for excess.
Like work, when he’d been younger. Not that he’d ever done excess of work, but he had done excess of skiving out of it, which had led to problems at home when his wages didn’t arrive. His troubled wife had taken up the slack, so to speak, and found work herself even though they had a couple of youngsters growing out of nappies and the round of chores their delightful offspring created never seemed to end. But that didn’t matter to Tom because he’d never learned to see beyond the end of his own penis. It was almost certainly just as well that Brenda wasn’t so short-sighted.
Now he was growing old. Too old, he told himself. Once upon a time, when he had been green in youth, he had thought fifty was too old, but upon reaching fifty he’d concluded that seventy must the terrible portal to old age rather than fifty.
Now he was seventy five and starting to wonder where he was going next. Eighty seem both next door and far away. He didn’t think he’d make it to eighty. Nobody in his family had, so why, he reasoned, should he? Wasn’t there a genetic component to it all, to life-expectancy, to death?
And so even he might die.
This year? Next year? The year after? Soon, anyway, a soon that described a tiny fraction of the life he’d already lived, a life that, when he looked back on it, didn’t seem to have been particularly long.
And what?
As a boy he’d had Heaven and Hell shoe-horned into his brain so convincingly and with so much forced that it had taken most of his adult life coming to terms with the reality of it.
There was, he finally concluded after struggling with logic, no Heaven and therefore no Hell.
So what might come next? And by next he was beginning to acknowledge that next was soon. Mighty soon. Maybe less than five years soon.
It made him shiver in the night when the thought spat across his mind. It made him angry. His life had been … he found himself pausing to ask himself what his life had been, but he knew the answer. It had been, among a few trivial things, mostly wasted.
Yes, that was it: wasted.
He found himself returning to his schoolboy dreams, of the things he needed to do, of the wonders he needed to see, of the thoughts he was sure he needed to have. And he’d done none of them.
He’d been going to write a book – a gigantic novel in which truth was encapsulated like truth had never been encapsulated before. More than a novel, it was going to be a masterpiece of comprehension with characters forged out of pure language for others to measure themselves against.
But the novel hadn’t even been started. Not even the words “Chapter One”
Then there was his schoolboy fascination with space, with the moon and the planets, with going to them one fine day. He hadn’t been able to do that and even he knew that now it was too late for him. He’d never get into space unless he arranged for his ashes to be sent there, and that would cost more than a lazy life had left him with. Not even his charred ashes could afford the fare to race into orbit.
And there was that other dream, the one that included the unexpected arrival of untold wealth, the dream that had him ridding himself of his ever-tolerant Brenda and finding the young blond he’d always wanted, the one who would admire him, hang onto his every skilfully crafted word. The one who would worship him no matter what he said or did. The one with long, long legs,
But she hadn’t come either. Which was odd seeing as he’d spent so long expecting her, knowing that the wealth and the woman were somehow bound up in the deepest mysteries of his own life, that it had become a “must happen”.
Then an unexpected day came out of the blue.
A day he’d feared since he’d first worked out that fifty was old.
It was a crescendo of a moment rather than a day. The long-suffering Brenda was with him, frail herself though strong enough to smile encouragement as his heart seemed to explode cataclysmically inside him, and his world went with unbelievably suddenness blacker than black.
“That’s it then, Tom,” she whispered as she went to the toilet up the stairs and very deliberately flushed all memories of him away along with the hopes and dreams she’d never been allowed to have into the town’s purifying sewerage system.

THE GOOD SHOT

13 Jan

“It’s got to be done,” growled a bishop as he and several others in their white and damask robes and ridiculous hats sat round the table, smoking fine cigars and sipping ecclesiastical port.
“You say we’ve been afraid of it for ever?” ased a dusky faced and pompously clad African cleric, nodding quietly to himself.
“We’ve been aware of the possibility for some time,” claimed the first bishop. “Ever since our founders conceived the present system we’ve known someone, some day, would see though it and get at the truth and then go beyond it.”
“But what is the truth?” demanded a wizened old archbishop. “I mean, I’ve been in orders all my life, made a damned good living from it, that’s true, but I’ve never been privy to what you call the truth.”
“It’s the preservation of our faith,” snapped the original bishop, glancing at the Pontiff who sat on a higher chair at the head of the table. “We’ve had to have a few tricks up or sleeves over the centuries,” he added.
“Tricks?” queried the ancient archbishop.
The Bishop clicked his teeth irritably. “Of course,” he said,”like sex.”
“We don’t … we’re celibate, have been for centuries,” pointed out one of the other clerics.
“That’s what we tell them,” rumbled the Pope. “Me, I’ve always had an eye for the ladies! And I believe, Bishop, that you have more housekeepers than is reasonable even for your palace…” he added.
The Bishop blushed. “It’s a know thy enemy policy,” he spluttered. “And a pleasing diversion when there seems every possibility that the next prayer might repeat the last one, so to speak”
“Well, then claiming celibacy is a little trick. Harmless in itself when we keep schtum, but when put together with a few other little bits and pieces it might lead a bright spark to think there’s something amiss in our order,” breathed the Pontiff.
“And a bright spark’s emerged from the shadows?” asked the dusky cleric.
“From another faith?” asked the Archbishop.
“Don’t be more senile than you have to be!” snapped the Pontiff, his voice suddenly rising above the rumbling hiss he preferred. “We all know that all faiths are as one with our little tricks. After all, all faiths sprang from the same spring in the first place, so to speak.”
“Then who…” wavered a fresh voice, a tiny figure lost in the crowd of clerical costumes.
“And Atheist?” asked the Bishop.
The Pontiff shook his wrinkled old head. “There are many atheists around and they don’t bother us,” he said, reverting to his rumbling style. “There always have been, little men with little ideas that can easily be confounded by specious questions and a charming lack of reason. No, this is more serious.”
“It is?” whimpered the little man, paling.
“Where does the danger come from, then?” asked the Archbishop, irritably.
“I know the answer to that,” murmured the original Bishop. “We have been waiting for it long enough! It has been forecast times many, and not occurred though centuries have passed. But now it is nigh, on our very doorstep, and one of us will have to deal with it, for it threatens to overturn our cosy little system and probably make most of us redundant in the bargain!”
The Pontiff cleared his throat, a lengthy and somewhat unpleasant series of hicks and hocks and spits and spats.
“I am the one who must stop the buck,” he announced, and stood up. It was no easy task because he was badly in need of a knee replacement but had long lacked the courage to agree to the surgery, preferring to turn to prayer instead. Prayer hadn’t worked and consequently he spent most of every day in pain.
“But what is the buck?” asked the dusky cleric.
The Pontiff majestically flowed towards the door. “It is the Second Coming,” he rumbled, “and we can’t have it wrecking our cosy plans! Now where is the wretch?”
“In the foyer….” ventured the Bishop. “I suggested he wait there…”
“Good.”
The Pontiff pushed his way out of the room and the door swished to behind him. The meeting of bishops and other ranks became deadly silent.
Moments later there came a deafening crack, and then the buck-stopper returned.
“That’s him sorted,” he grinned, blowing a wisp of smoke from the barrel of a jewelled pistol before retaking his place at the head of the table.
© Peter Rogerson 13.01.16