A Story For Sunday: SMUDGE

‘No one gets out of life without dirtying their hands,’ said Jeff ‘Smudge’ May, watching the steam rise from his muddy coffee. Fitz just nodded and started digging into his bacon and eggs with all the enthusiasm of an ex-con in a bordello.

The Star Coffee Bar was stiflingly hot and cluttered with the usual hodge podge of waifs and strays that seemed to congregate at greasy spoons during the early evening. Behind the counter, Madge, a midget with a withered arm, was serving tea in half pint glasses to a couple of ageing Teddy Boys with fading tattoos. A sound system that was twice as big as Madge, blasted out a Stone Roses song.

Fitz’s head was pounding and he was starting to wish he’d gone to Smudge’s office now, but he really couldn’t risk being seen going in. He wanted to keep his problem as secret as possible and Smudge had a…reputation.

‘I’ve gone arse over tit many a time, metaphorically and literally,’ continued Smudge. ‘Especially when I’ve been imbibing.’

He picked up a napkin and shined his pearl Yin and Yang cuff links. Sitting back in his chair, he flicked lint from his black Hugo Boss suit, surveyed the room disinterestedly and then looked at his potential client.

Trevor Fitzroy was an overweight man in his late forties, wearing a safari suit and with an expression so hangdog as to make a basset hound jealous. Smudge could imagine him collecting comics and talcum powdering his palms before shaking hands. He was right on both counts.

Fitz absently scratched his arm with a fork. Without looking up, he said. ‘So, do you believe me?’

‘I’m a…facilitator,’ said Smudge, squirming as Fitz pulled a string of bacon rind from his mouth. ‘I’m impartial. It matters not a jot if I believe you or not. My responsibility is to listen to your story. And to act.’

Fitz stared out of the window at the High Street, bustling with Christmas shoppers and glistening with fairy lights. A group of schoolkids raced past, chased by a wheezing Santa Claus.

‘So. Take it away. One more time,’ said Smudge with a grin.

‘Well, you see, I put it down to stress,’ said Fitz, shuffling in his seat. ‘Things went pear-shaped about a year ago. This recession. You know?’

Smudge nodded.

‘I lost my job. I’ve always had a bit of a weight problem and I’d tried my best to keep it under control but you know, as an insurance salesman…well, the company said I was bad for their image. I’d been with the firm all my life. I couldn’t face telling the wife and kids so I just continued leaving the house at the same time.’

He let out a wheezy sigh.

‘I returned home at the same time. I spent my days like a…a ghost. In the park. Library. Here. And, of course, I took out all sorts of loans to keep up the lifestyle. Rolling interest. You know?’

‘Unfortunately, I do,’ said Smudge.

‘And then I kept getting this urge. This compulsion. It came during the night. In the street. I’d never felt that way before. I’d always been a clean-living kinda guy.’

He downed his coffee in one.

‘I was in Harrods when the urge reached a…a crescendo. I was in the food hall. And I saw them. A massive bunch of Cumberland sausages. Juicy. Succulent. I just had to have them. Before I knew it, I’d whipped them off the shelf and stuffed them down the front of my trousers.’

‘Ahem,’ said Smudge.

‘And then I just wandered off, in some sort of a trance.’

‘And you ended up where?’ said Smudge.

‘In the lingerie section.’

‘Aha,’ said Smudge, licking his lips.

‘I don’t remember getting there. Like I say, I was in a…sort of…’

‘Trance. Yes, you did say.’

‘I came to when this vinegary-looking woman started screaming at me. Calling me a pervert.’

‘What had happened?’ said Smudge.

‘I looked down and realized that my fly was half open and one of the sausages was sticking out. The security guards came and then the police and then I was charged. With…with…’

‘With indecent exposure?’ said Smudge.

Fitz nodded. Madge plonked a plate of apple pie and custard in front of him. He started to breathe heavily.

‘But I’m not a perv. If this gets out, well… You believe me, don’t you? I need you to believe me, Mr. May.’

‘Strangely, I do,’ said Smudge. ’But the most important question, of course, is what I need to do to eradicate your problem and, more importantly for me, if you can afford to pay.’

‘I can, I can,’ said Fitz. ‘Are you sure you can help?’

Smudge nodded. ‘Give me the information, the name of the shop, the description of the woman and I’m sure I’ll be able to…renegotiate with her.’

Trembling, Fitz pushed a stuffed brown envelope over to Smudge.

‘It’s all there,’ he said. ‘Can you honestly do what you say?’

Smudge stood up, his suit impeccable, stretched his long arms and yawned.

‘I am – and have been – many things,’ said Smudge. ‘But I’m always honest. Hence the nickname.’

‘Eh?’ said Fitz.

‘Like in the Spandau Ballet song,’ said Smudge, picking up his briefcase.

‘I don’t follow,’ said Fitz.

‘True?’ said Smudge. ‘You must know it?’

Fitz looked bewildered.

‘Baa ba ba baa ba daa/I know this…’ sang Smudge as he walked out of the cafe, trying not to laugh.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

A Story For Sunday: The Friend Catcher

The morning after Sarah killed her father, the air tasted like lead and the sky was gun metal grey. She stared out of the window of her East London flat, barely focusing on the rows of concrete blocks being smudged by the Autumn rain.

The ensuing days of gloom collided with weeks and the weeks crashed into months.

And then it was Spring.

***

Sarah put on her make-up, rubbed talcum powder on her thighs and pulled on her XL pink shell suit before heading off to cash her mother’s pension at the post office. As per usual, she slammed the door of the flat behind her and, as loud as possible, shouted:

‘Won’t be long, mum!’

Then, she took a deep breath and headed down the emergency staircase.

Sarah had always been blessed – or maybe cursed – with an over ripe imagination and, as she rushed down the stairs, she imagined all sorts of spectres, smack-heads and psychos lurking in the stairwell’s darkened nooks and crannies. Still, it was preferable to using the rickety lift which broke down more often than not.

Sweating and wheezing, she reached the bottom floor and realised that she’d left her medication– her security blanket – at home. Not feeling able to climb the stairs to the twelfth floor, she reluctantly stepped into the lift. Just as the doors rattled to a close, The Friend Catcher pushed his way in.
***

Sarah was finding it almost impossible to tear her eyes away from the pulsating boil on the side of The Friend Catcher’s neck since, despite its size and repulsive condition, it was a far preferable sight to the one dangling like a gigantic dewdrop from the end of the old man’s crooked nose.

Given the choice, of course, she would more than happily have looked at something more edifying but, unfortunately for her, there wasn’t much else to gaze upon in the piss smelling, graffiti stained, syringe strewn lift where she and The Friend Catcher had found themselves trapped between floors.

The Friend Catcher didn’t seem perturbed at all . He just sighed and scrutinised the lewd and lurid graffiti that littered the wall.

***

The Friend Catcher had moved in to a flat on the same floor as Sarah’s parents in the 1980’s, at the time when all sorts of waifs and strays and odds and ends of society were being scattered across the capital as part of Mrs Thatcher’s misbegotten Care In The Community campaign.

The strange looking new neighbour – with his stoop, hawked nose, black fedora and greatcoat, looking like a long black shadow – quickly fed the imagination of the local children -Sarah in particular – a situation that was heightened by the fact that, in archetypal serial killer fashion, the man kept himself to himself.

According to some of the kids he was a vampire – although the fact that he was regularly seen in daylight pretty much scuppered that idea – while others speculated that he was, in fact, Jack The Ripper, although even if his advanced age wasn’t quite advanced enough to support that theory.

However, it was his resemblance to a scary character in the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ that earned him the nickname The Friend Catcher which, like most nicknames, stuck for years to come.

***

Eventually, he spoke.
‘Like flies in a web,’ he said, in what sounded like an Eastern European accent.

‘What?’ said, Sarah whose legs were starting to ache.
‘We’re trapped like flies in a spiderweb,’ said The Friend Catcher as he rooted in one of his Iceland shopping bags.

Sarah nodded. She was starting to sweat now and really wished she had the diazepam with her. She tried the deep breathing that the psychiatric nurse at the Maudsley Hospital had taught her.

‘Here,’ said The Friend Catcher and he held out a bottle of some clear liquid with a label that Sarah didn’t recognise.

Sarah quickly remembered the stories that had circulated of how he was actually a psychotic taxidermist who would snatch children from the street, drag them back to his flat and stuff them. She had visions of being drugged, filled with formaldehyde and being stuffed.
‘Relax,’ said the old man. ‘Polish vodka.’

Sarah looked at the label and almost laughed with relief. She twisted off the cap and took a long gulp.

‘Your father used to drink it in the The Aversham Arms. I used to see your father in that pub a lot. Before his accident.’

***

Sarah had a flashback to the night that Walter Hill had come home drunk from The Aversham Arms and, as usual, had started an argument. An argument that had once again erupted into violence. Walter was an oak of a man who had no problems overpowering his sick, stumpy wife and indeed this would have been the case had Sarah not been there. She ran at her father, sobbing, and, with all of her weight, she slammed him against the wall. Falling on top of him she held him down until he stopped breathing. The police accepted that he’d had a heart attack while drunk and left her to take care of her mother.

***

‘Yes, I was a pilot in the 303 Squadron. I flew in your Battle of Britain.’ said The Friend Catcher pointing to a fading photograph on the wall of his musty smelling flat.
‘Amazing,’ said Sarah who was admiring a picture of the then handsome and young Tadeusz Koc as he stood beside a Spitfire Mk.Vb with Misia, the squadrons mascot. She was more than a little tipsy. Her mother had always said that she could get drunk on the sniff of a barmaid’s apron but she was so relieved to get out of the lift that she couldn’t resist the offer of a sit down and a drink in Tadeusz’s flat.
‘My wife and I lived near Borough market, on the High Street, for almost forty years until your government decided to gentrify the area and sell it off to yuppies.’ Said Tadeusz.

‘When they sent us the official letter the ….’

‘Compulsory Purchase Order?’ said Sarah.

‘Exactly! Well, my wife soon became depressed. She died on the night before we were to move out.’ Tadeusz swayed a little.

Sarah could feel herself becoming tearful and small red dots started to appear before her eyes and her head ached.

‘But ….that is the past and we have to be strong, eh? We Poles are strong people. And you are a strong woman taking care of your mother for so long.’

And then Sarah started to sob.

***

The words tumbled out of Sarah’s mouth like a gang of drunks staggering out of a pub at closing time; disorderly and unruly. She told of how her mother’s cancer had spread and she had become more and more ill. Again and again she had begged for Sarah to stop the pain and so, one cold dawn, as she saw the red splashes spreading in front of her eyes and the dull headache become a sharper pain in her forehead, she smothered her mother to death between her breast.
Tadeusz sighed and nodded.

‘An unhappy life is a vice with a powerful grip,’ he said.’ I am alone now. And each day I feel more and more pain .. emptiness. Just…just waiting for … release ‘

And then, breathing heavily, Sarah saw the red splashes spreading like a Rorschach test and she felt the sharp pain in her forehead, as if a stiletto heel had been slammed between her eyes and so she rose to her feet and hugged The Friend Catcher with all her strength. She hugged him until his life faded away, just like hot breath on a cold windowpane.

The Man From Esperanto BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

So, you’re in Warsaw’s Esperanto district hiding from an obscenely large, bullet-headed man wielding a baseball bat. In a pizza oven.

And, to paraphrase the singer David Byrne, you might ask yourself –how the fuck did I get here?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once described London as being a ‘great cesspool into which the flotsam and jetsam of life are inevitably drawn’ and the same might reasonably be said of the world of TEFL teaching. A Teacher Of English as a Foreign Language can usually be described as either flotsam – perhaps a fresh faced young thing taking a break from University – or jetsam – the middle aged man with the inevitable drinking problem and enough skeletons in his closet to keep a paleontologist happy for months.

And, I’ll make no bones about it, I fit rather snugly into the latter category.

Hence, me, three months earlier, hungover, in the back of a deodorant soaked taxi as it hurtled – like the Starship Enterprise on Warp Factor nine- down Warsaw’s John Paul 2nd Avenue, through the constellation of neon signs that marked out the sex shops, 24 hour pubs and kebab shops.

‘When the Pope died the whole street was lined with candles in tribute ,’ said the taxi driver, looking almost tearful.

‘Uh huh,’ I replied, as I fought back the acrid bile that burned my throat.

Before I’d come to Warsaw, I’d heard stories about ‘The Night Drivers’-amphetamine pumped young men who, each midnight, tied fishing wire around their necks, and the cars brakes, and then raced from one end of the city to the next. When I saw the cut marks on the taxi driver’s neck and his red, red eyes. I didn’t exactly have the Colgate ring of confidence.

I was relieved, then, when, minutes later, we pulled up outside The Palace of Culture and Science, Joe Stalin’s unwanted Neoclassical gift to the people of Warsaw.

fished a handful of notes from my pocket and stuffed them into the driver’s hand before running to the toilets to puke.

‘Out with the old, in with the new,’ said a well-spoken, sandblasted voice from the next cubicle. ‘We are all in the gutter but some of us a looking at it through the bottom of a rather nice glass of gin and tonic, eh?’

‘The thing is, some people absolutely loath the place,’ said Sean Bradley, gesturing around The Palace’s Kafe Kulturalna. ‘The locals call it the Russian Wedding Cake. And, indeed, that’s what it looks like; a wedding cake plonked in the middle of the road.’ Sean was a drunk, dapper, nicotine stained example of jetsam who supplemented his teaching by chess hustling. He was one of the few expats who actually liked his chosen country of exile since most just complained about everything being so – foreign. Me? It was as good a place as any.

‘It’s an old song isn’t it?’ said Konrad AKA flotsam, a shiny, happy Canadian of Polish extraction, in Warsaw to find his roots. Aided and abetted by his family’s money, of course.

‘Maybe…’

‘I’m sure it is. Someone left a cake out in the road,’ he sang.

I really wasn’t too sure if he was joking or not. Konrad was either as bright as a two watt bulb or a major piss taker. I just ignored him and took in the Kafe’s interior before we invariably passed the pint of no return.

I met her on a Monday and although my heart didn’t exactly stand still it certainly skipped a beat or two. Tall and with long black hair she flew into the bar like a murder of crows, swathed in scarves and wearing a long black raincoat which flapped in the breeze behind her.

‘Ding dong,’ I said a la Leslie Phillips.

‘Oh.That’s Daria. Better watch out for her,’ said Sean. ‘She’s married to Bronek Malinowski. You know him?’

I shook my head.

‘The second-hand clothes Baron,’ said Konrad.

‘Who and what?’ I said.

‘He’s a low level gangster who has Poles collect donated clothes left outside charity shops overnight in, say, London or Dublin and ship them back to Poland to sell. You can get some damn good schmutter, actually,’ said Sean, pointing to the Hugo Boss label in his jacket.

‘The only crime is getting caught,’ I said, shrugging.

‘Yes, but if a butterfly beats it’s wings in the forest a one handed man claps and a tree falls down.’ said Konrad.

I ignored him and tried to catch Daria’s eye. ‘No, really, she’s trouble,’ said Sean.

I walked over. ‘Would you like a drink?’ I said.

She turned and tried to focus on me, as if she were looking at a magic eye painting. She shook her head. ‘Best not,’ she said, with a fake sounding transatlantic accent. ‘I should hit the sack. I’ve hit the bottle enough for one night.’ Standing close, she looked me up and down, like was deciding on whether or not to buy a second-hand car.‘You’ll do,’ she said dragging me out of the bar by my tie.

Someone or other once remarked that the reason that something became a cliche was because it was true. Certainly, getting caught in bed with a married woman by her musclebound husband was a cliche straight out of ‘Confessions Of A Plummer’s Mate.’ Unfortunately for me, however, it was also true.

The brainwave of escaping into to the kitchens of a nearby pizza restaurant and hiding in one of the ovens was, I would imagine, a one off. But in retrospect, originality, it probably wasn’t one of my better ideas.

So, the oven door slams and you’re sure you can smell gas and now you might reasonably ask yourself – how the fuck do I get out of here? And the probable answer is – you don’t.

A Story For Sunday: Sleeping It Off

The sound is a thump, thump, thump that goes on and on and on, over and over again and drags me by my lapels into consciousness.

I open my eyes and shards of sunlight slice through the blinds. Squinting, I focus on the worn Francoise Hardy poster on the wall and the familiar red flock wallpaper. Once again I’ve fallen asleep fully clothed on my sofa, tangled up in a tartan blanket which has seen better days, and nights. The coffee table and the floor near the sofa are littered with the usual debris of beer cans and whisky and gin bottles.

I pick up a half full can of Stella, lay back and steadily sip.

Memories of the previous night trample over my thoughts with dirty feet and eventually, I turn on my side and look around the room.

As well as the usual alcohol, the table is covered in a fair amount of Colombian marching powder and in the corner of the room, next to the CD player, holding a glass of what looks like gin and tonic, face down in a pool of puke, is a man.
And he’s dead.


*

The evening was melting into night and dark, malignant clouds were spreading themselves across the sky. I pulled down the metal shutters and locked up Las Vegas Amusements as a battered yellow taxi cab spluttered to a halt in front of the arcade.

I shuffled into the back seat of the cab as the driver struck a match on the NO SMOKING sign and lit his cigar.

’Astros?’ said the driver.

‘Aye’, I replied, nodding, ‘Same shit, different day.’

‘Didn’t you say that yesterday?’ he smirked.

The taxi snaked its way along the sea front, past pubs, greasy spoons, gift shops and amusement arcades, as the rain fell down in sheets. We pulled up outside Astros as a leathery bottle blond struggled to control a black umbrella which fluttered and flapped like a big black bat trying to escape from her grip.

‘Eyes down,’ said the taxi driver when he gave me my change. Being a bingo caller, I got that sort of thing all the time and it never failed to amuse the person who said it
*

I was trying to catch the pasty faced barmaid’s eye when, dressed in a white linen suit and a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, a blast from the past that was positively seismic burst into the bar. Jim Lawson, a man with a face like a blackcurrant crumble, a liver like the Great Barrier Reef and the smell of a soggy mongrel, sidled up to me, shuffling and sniffling, moving in close and conspiratorially like a double-agent in a Harry Palmer film.

’Jesus Christ,’ I said.

‘Close but no cigar,’ said Jim, wiping the happy-talc from his nose. ‘Thought, I’d find you here.’

‘Long time no see,’ I said.

’Sounds like a Chinese take-away,’ smirked Jim.

‘Aye, you could make that into a joke. Albeit not a particularly funny one,’ I said, slowly tearing up a beer mat.

‘It’s been donkey’s years,’ I said. ‘Still doing the sleazy hack thing in Bucharest?’

‘Oh, aye,’ said Jim. ‘Still dishing out the spare change and bingo calling for pensioners at Las Vegas, eh? Clickety–click, two fat ladies and that?’

I nodded, suddenly draped in a drab cloak of gloom.

‘I imagine you’ve a few tawdry tales to tell, eh?’ I said. ‘Louche bars and lithium dens, that sort of thing?’

‘More than a few,’ said Jim.

We sat at a rickety table in the corner, with two pints of Stella and whisky chasers, near what must have been the Xmas tree version of mutton done up as lamb – emaciated and overdressed in as much yuletide tat as possible.

‘How’s the great unfinished novel?’ said Jim.

‘Not so great. Still unfinished,’ I said.

‘Well, have a butcher’s at this. Eyes down,’ he said, grinning as he dumped a massive manuscript on the table. On the front was the title: ‘Destination Lurid’ by James G. Lawson.’ I was uncharacteristically speechless.

‘It won’t bite,’ said Jim, wiping a bead of sweat from his top lip. ’Get stuck in there. ’

And so, I looked. And, of course, as luck would have it, it was good. Very good. A potboiler, for sure, but what a potboiler! I was hooked from the first page. Line and friggin’ sinker!

‘I’m off down the smoke to see an agent on Monday,’ said Jim, looking more than a little pleased with himself. ‘I sent a sample chapter off to a few friends of friends and Bob’s your Uncle and Fanny’s your Aunt.’

And me? I just started pulling so hard on the threads of my life that the whole thing was starting to unravel. I took another gulp of whisky and headed toward oblivion, like dirty dishwater down a plughole.
*

In the early hours of the morning, when I awoke back at my flat, The Walker Brother’s ‘The Electrician’ was playing at a low volume and Jim was laying on the floor foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. And then he went into convulsions.

I drained a glass of gin, turned over and went back to sleep.
*

I take the drink from Jim’s hand, and slowly sip it until I start to feel warm and glowing, like one of the kids in the old Ready Brek advert. Then, I drag the body into the kitchen and, struggling, dump it into the freezer, covering it with packets of frozen peas and fish fingers.

James G. Lawson is as good a pen name as any, I think, as I switch on the computer to check the Monday train times to London, before polishing off the gin. I look around, see that I’m out of booze and take a wad of cash from Jim’s wallet. No worries, it’s nearly opening time.

THE END.

A Story For Sunday: Silver Lady

There was a storm building inside Ray’s skull. Waiting to break. And it was all because Ray hadn’t seen her for over a week now. Twenty-seven days and seventeen hours, to be precise. And he was starting to wonder if he’d imagined her. Created some kind of wish fulfilment figure. His stomach cramped.

It wouldn’t have been the first time that his imagination had set him off on a wild goose chase, after all. Sent him racing and stumbling headfirst into a collision with cold, cruel reality. Made him look a fool.

But just after midnight, at the exact moment he turned on the car’s ignition, the night sky was gutted with crack of thunder, a flash of lighting and a cleansing rain.

He looked up and there she was. Shimmering in the silver glow of the street light that was in front of the sex shop on the corner of Langdon Street and Spender Grove.

And she was … resplendent. Yes. That was the word. That really was what she was.

As she had been the first time he’d gazed upon her.

*

It was late October when Ray had decided to stop going to his night class. It was the dark evenings that had put him off at first, there were too many animals crawling the streets at night these days. Filth everywhere.

Although he knew deep down that wasn’t the only reason he’d stopped attending the course. He hadn’t been making a great deal of progress – French never felt as natural to him as German or Latin -and he knew that he’d never actually go to France, anyway, so there was no real point continuing.

At the end of the month he’d called into the College of Further Education and paid for the rest of the course, it was the decent thing to do after all, and money wasn’t a problem for him. He shook hands with the tutor and headed off home, once again feeling that something was missing in his life.

The winter night bit like a beast as he headed off to the bus stop, avoiding the begging trick-or-treaters in their identical Halloween costumes. Ray loathed this time of year.

His doctor had once said that he suffered from SAD: Seasonal Adjustment Disorder and that he should go away to somewhere sunny, since he had lots of free time these days. But even the thought of travel was an abomination to Ray, who had only left Seatown once in all of his thirty- five years. That was a trip to London to visit St Paul’s Cathedral. And that was an unpleasant experience that he certainly didn’t want to repeat.

They say bad luck comes in threes and Ray certainly had his share that night, and he really couldn’t count how many things went wrong. The 94 bus at Warden Green left early and, despite racing after it, it didn’t stop. But it did splash through a puddle as it drove past him, soaking his brown corduroy trousers . And then it started to rain. Pour. He leaned against a kebab shop doorway catching his breath. His chest burning. The smell of sizzling animal flesh making him heave.

He decided to take a short cut through a nearby alleyway and was soaked through by the time he got to the end, which came out directly on Barclay Common. A couple of cars, their headlamps dipped, cruised past, the drivers examining the girls –and boys- that worked there. Ray kept his head down, ignoring their beckoning calls. Whenever he walked past the common it produced the usual cocktail of feelings -disgust, guilt, shame, embarrassment, resentment. And desire.

He gave a cursive glance at the prostitutes, seeing the usual shaking anorexics or overweight grannies. But then there was a sort of fizzing, popping sound, and a lamp post came to life. And there, underneath that flickering streetlamp was a vision.

Tall, blonde. Wearing a shining silver dress and boots. Looking completely alien to her grimy surroundings. More than human. An angel. And she smiled at him.

*

After that, his days, and nights were haunted by the Silver Lady. His dreams more so. And even during his waking hours, little pin pricks at the back of his mind made him turn sharply, expecting to see her.

At times he did see her, too. Just out of reach, At the edge of his vision. If he squinted, she was at the end of the street. Or a mannequin in a shop window. Sometimes, when he blinked, he saw her in the darkness.

Her voice, though he had never heard it, called to him. Sang along with the sound his alarm made as it dragged him by his greasy hair from his fitful sleep.

So, tonight he’d plucked up his courage and borrowed his Uncle Ricky’s car and headed off to cruise Barclay Common.

The night hadn’t started well. Uncle Ricky’s car had been specially adapted to suit his disabilities- Ray wasn’t completely sure what they were – and it was a pain to manoeuvre. And Ray wasn’t exactly the most experienced driver, although he’d passed his test some fifteen years before.

So, he’d stalled about a hundred times and panicked that he might be spotted in Barclay Common by someone he knew. He drove around until darkness fell.

And he waited. He waited all night, and, as he was about to head off home at last, she appeared. There she was. As clear as day. He squinted to see her more clearly. She was mouthing something. The red lips so clear against her alabaster skin. It was hard to work out exactly what she’d said at first but later he was he was sure it was: save me. Of course it was. And Ray knew he would.

*

That night he’d had the thickest, most vivid dream of all. She’d crept into his bed and she’d begged him to save her. To set her free. She’d called him My Ray Of Hope. My Ray Of Light.

And he had made love to her. But this time was nothing like that horrible night in London. This time had been something so special that he had awoken with tears. Tears of bliss.

He knew then that he was a caterpillar waiting for the right moment to transform into a butterfly for his Silver Lady.

*

And then she was gone again. As winter bled into spring. there was no sign of her. He drove to Barclay Common so many times that the prostitutes had started to recognise him. A couple of the pimps had even approached him one night, to say or do Lord knows what, but seeing his dog collar they had stepped back.

After that, some of them called out ‘Hello Preacher,’ when they saw him, though most of them ignored him. And he them. But there was still no sign of the Silver Lady. They had taken her. These animals. And he knew, as the storm clouds gathered, that he must take their lives in revenge.

*

The glow from the burning car was warm. Comforting. The screams of the burning prostitutes and pimps calming. The storm had broken. Was over. He felt sated, wet at his crotch.

Ray had filled the car with as much flammable material as possible and sent it into the pack of vermin that lined Barclay Common. He’d thrown a Molotov cocktail and the blast had ripped the sky open.

With an aching heart, he walked toward the streetlight where his Silver Lady had stood. As he got closer, he felt a stomach cramp as saw the sex shop’s demolished facade. He rushed forward and burnt his hands as he gripped the metal shutters that had been ripped open by the blast. He smashed at the glass that was already shattered to reveal the twisted, torn form of an alabaster mannequin, its silver mini skirt ripped to reveal her burning flesh. The blood red lips. The blank, dead eyes.

And Ray laughed. He laughed so much that it melded into the sound of the police cars and ambulances that drew close. And the storm that had returned.

A Song For Saturday: Hold Me by Peter Hall

Peter Hall may not be a familiar name to most of you but hopefully that will soon change, as he is an incredibly talented musician, that is just waiting to be discovered. Some may recognize the name as the person  behind the wonderful band Play People who first recorded two EP’s on the brilliant This Almighty Pop! label run by a person with impeccable taste, Stephen Maughan (of Bulldozer Crash, Kosmonaut and The Memory Fades) and a 7” single on another highly regarded label Cloudberry Records (run by Roque Ruiz, who is one of the most knowledgeable people in the indie pop world). So already with a pedigree like that, you know it is going to be excellent and we are immensely proud to have it as a Beautiful Music release.

This EP combines beautiful melodies with intelligent lyrics, and will bring to mind bands like Aztec Camera, The Lilac Time, Elliot Smith, Delta, Captain Soul, January, Paul Weller, and Nick Heyward’s recent release “Woodland Echoes” and probably several other Scottish Pop bands and maybe even with a hint of mod thrown in as an influence.

A Story For Sunday: Never One To Do Things By Half by Beau Johnson

 

SNAPSHOTS AT THE FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE‘He knows he’s fucked the moment I ask if it should be Agent Brand I call him now, or would it be better if we still went with Hank.  I tell him I can’t do Ryan though, a name I just couldn’t comprehend when I looked at his face.’

Read the rest here at The Flash Fiction Offensive.