Chris Veasy, The Father

 
7/13
I looked at my friend holding his new daughter in the crook of his arm and told myself again what I was. Four days old, her thin brown hair sparse, almost countable. He held her like a man who had become accustomed to, but not jaded by, handling the world’s largest diamond. His girlfriend, the mother, in utter serenity, looked on as he placed her down in the little seat in front of the couch. The two looked at the girl. We all looked at the girl. My girlfriend said:
‘She’s so beautiful. She’s perfect’.
Minutes earlier she’d had her in her arms, staring at the baby’s closed eyes as the new parents told us about how it had been in the hospital. My girlfriend had looked up as my friend described the delivery room, the fear, the midwife’s manner. She looked at him in awe. I sipped my drink, looking at the floor in front of me, forcing a smile when the story demanded one. The mother looked at me, I saw her from the corner of my eye.
‘Do you want a hold?’
‘No, I don’t want to wake her up.’
‘Don’t be stupid, here, come on.’
My friend put his new life in my hands. I slowly got myself into some sort of comfortable position with the baby. She was absolutely beautiful and perfect. I looked at her eyelids hoping she would wake up so her mother or father would take her off me, but she didn’t. She was so light, practically nothing, but so much. Eventually my friend must have seen how uncomfortable I looked and took her off me. The real man scooped up his child and took care of the situation. When she was in her seat she woke up. My girlfriend leaned over and said:
‘Oh, look at her eyes! Beautiful blue eyes!’
Her parents beamed at her. She had beautiful blue eyes. She stretched both her arms out into the air, one tiny hand in a tight fist, the other’s fingers outstretched. Her mother looked at us, at me, I saw her out of the corner of my eye. My girlfriend looked at them, at the baby. She was so excited. We sat for a long time and the mother and my girlfriend talked as my friend shook the baby’s hands while she looked up at him, her mouth and eyes wide. The mother had acquired some sort of power and my girlfriend knew it and revered her. I sat, sickened, and drank my drink. Eventually my friend invited me to go and have a look at the room he’d painted for the baby. I stood after him and followed him out and upstairs like a dog. In the room everything was as it should have been. The walls were a calm pink and all the gifts they’d received, some still wrapped, covered every surface.
‘What do you think?’
‘Very nice.’
‘Have you spoken to her recently?’
‘Have you?’
Acting big in the pink room. Back downstairs I had another drink and my girlfriend had the baby again. The mother looked at me, I saw her from the corner of my eye. I realised that, in fact, she was sitting stiffly, uncomfortably, in pain. My friend sat back on his couch, in his home, in sweatpants and socks as we watched the television. I looked as my girlfriend cradled his new daughter in her arms and told myself again what we were.
I climbed the stairs again, this time alone, and thought about defining moments, and how they can go either way; and how a single failed test can cause more damage than all the passed examinations in a lifetime can repair. I looked in the bathroom mirror and thought that moments of self-realisation can be moments of death. I looked down at the washing basket by the sink. On top of the basket was a box of Natracare New Mother Maternity Pads. I looked down and realised I had pissed on my jeans. Fastening the buttons I pulled a towel from the rail on the wall and dabbed at the denim. The jeans were quite dark, so the damage wasn’t too noticeable.
Back downstairs the baby was in her seat and the room had a new atmosphere. The mother watched me as I entered the room, followed me to my seat and didn’t look away as I sat down. I looked at her and she looked back, malignant. My girlfriend looked at the floor in front of her. Our visit was obviously over.
*
©Chris Veasy
photo©Stratos Fountoulis, «Self Portrait», 2009
 
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Visit All «English Wednesdays»

j tyler blue, fucking alice

I got a gun. It ain’ t real but that don’t matter. Nobody really knows the difference anyways when I stick it up in their face. Like I did to this girl last night. All she did is scream. And yell and flop around and all this other crazy shit. She kept on saying her damn name to me like that would not make me want to fuck her. Or maybe she was trying to get me to fuck her. I ain’t never fucked no Alice before. But really all’s I wanted was some damn money.
See people like me we need what people like her got. Money. And nice shoes. And good clothes. And watches. Yeah, we need watches so we know what time these fools be getting off ov work so we can go rob they asses. I treat ’em like customers really. I say «Hey, welcome to my street. Now give me yur money bitch-ass!» And then I show ’em the gun. It’s a damn good gun. Until Alice, that crazed bitch, broke that shit.
I went up to her all gentlemen like ’cause I know how these bitches are. All playa hatin’ on anybody from the streets at first but after you gets to know ’em all they want is a little thug in ’em. So I goes up to her and say «Scuse me lady, you got a light?» Then I stood there all Clark Gable like but more modern, more P Diddy but a little more rugged. I had that smooth but hard look going. I had that shit down. I had it good cause as soon as I said it she damn near broke her leg trying to stop. She’s all «Oh, I don’t smoke.» and all that shit but I wasn’t gonna let this shit get away, you know what I’m sayin’?
So I start kicking my game and she was all eatin’ it up like she was starving. She was straight up starving for some gangsta shit up in her. Man she was straight diggin’ my shit. I was ’bout to just straight kick it with her, maybe go back to her place and hit it some but I had other shit to do that night. So I start walking her down this alley where I do my business you know. Not out where the po po can come and snatch me or some other damn fool and come try to be Superdude or whatever. I ain’t no fighter. I ain’t trying to get all up and sweaty and breakin’ bones and that shit. Man I could prolly kill somebody if I throw a punch with all my might. I seriously hurt ’em. Damn fools, running up on me.
Anyway, I took her back in that alley, gave her my line. My line that I done put a patent on it. «Hey, welcome to my street. Now give me yur money bitch-ass!» It’s all about delivery. It’s all about timing and shit. Right when I say money that’s when I break out the gun and I kind ov really give it to ’em on ‘bitch-ass’ for that added extra dimension ov effect. You know.
So I said that shit and she went up and started actin’ a fool. Screaming her name «Oh I’m Alice, I’m Alice, Oh, Oh my god.» And all that shit. Looking damn stupid. I was ’bout to shoot her ass but my gun didn’t have any bullets in it. It was fake. So I just yelled at her. «Shut the fuck up Alice! Before I shoot yur ass!»
She did. Then I thought damn. I got mad game. I could probably make her suck my dick right now. She probably wanted to. The way she was eyeing me up and shit. She probably wanted to lick my asshole or some other kind ov freaky shit. Fucking freak. I was about to let her go right then because I was just like «Damn, why don’t I just do what she wants me to do and then rob her ass.» But then she just went off again. She looked like Jackie Chan but like a more bitch version ov it. All this monkey jumping and shit acting all crazed. I was like damn these rich girls got crazy ways ov wanting to sex people up! But she kicked the shit out ov my hand and broke my damn gun.
«My name is Alice!»
That scared the shit out ov me. Who the fuck got to be yellin’ yur own name? I picked up the piece ov my gun and ran. I ain’t scared to tell you that. This bitch is crazed. I ain’t never fucking with no Alice again. Never.
Broke my damn gun. I really should ov punched her. But that ain’t my style.
But damn.
Fucking Alice broke my damn gun.

*
j. tyler blue ©2003 
Photo: Beercha – file licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Belica Kubareli, Do dogs commit suicide?

Mrs Donna had never left her dog, Bubu, alone. Kept in her handbag they’d go to relatives, the cinema, the theatre, cafeterias, everywhere. They even travelled together every summer to the remotest places of the globe. Once they’d arrived, Bubu would sniff and roam around, moving her curly bum and wagging her tail. When Bubu showed her teeth, Mrs Donna knew something wrong was going on and took care for both of them. When Bubu was playful, Mrs Donna felt relaxed. Bubu was her radar for everything, from the moment she lost her husband.

The old lady and the dog lived together for eight years. Bubu never had a collar because Mrs Donna wanted her to be free to stay or go. From the moment she set eyes on this five inch of puppy curled inside a glass tank, she fell in love with her, the same as she had fallen in love with her late husband because he reminded her of a lonely gigantic shar-pei, that strange bulldog with the deep wrinkles and the blue tongue – only her husband’s was pink. The bell jar brought me a companion, instead of madness, thought Mrs Donna and went into the shop and bought Bubu.

At the beginning she had her on her late husband’s pillow at nights, to keep an eye on her, as she used to do with him during his sickness. Now she could see the whole of this tiny creature; with her husband she could see either his face or the back of his neck curious of the way the roots of his hair sprouted from the skin.

During the next six months Mrs Donna trained Bubu. She could walk or run, smell and do whatever she wanted on the pavements but she had to be safely tucked in the old woman’s palm to cross the road.

People were amazed with this miniature and she looked back with her twinkling button sized eyes. She wasn’t one of those dogs that lick and kiss and bark hysterically. No. Bubu was a lady. She stayed cool, gentle and a little detached from people’s affection, as if she kept all her tenderness for Mrs Donna.

  At home things were different. Apart from the fact that she had to pee in a tray in the corner of their bathroom, Bubu shared everything with Mrs Donna: food, sleep, reading, knitting, eating, T.V. Her owner had sewed straps of cloth with a pocket where she had Bubu, like a mother kangaroo, for the baby to listen to her heart-beat.
  Mrs Donna was not the talkative type so she didn’t say much to Bubu. They were two quiet creatures enjoying each other’s company in silence. Bubu’s way of showing her love was to hide her head under Mrs Donna’s armpit and emerge from there with a sigh, as if telling her, ‘I love your perfume,’ to which Mrs Donna replied with a kiss on her black wet nose.
  At times they simply gazed into each other’s eyes. Mrs Donna felt the dog’s eyes carried the world’s wisdom. Then Mrs Donna would say: “Either I will bark, or you will talk,” and she could swear to God that the dog nodded.
  She often wondered what and if Bubu was thinking and asked the vet who insisted that “the only thing we can say about our animals is whether they have a good life, judging from their health and behaviour and I swear, Mrs Donna, this is a very happy baby”. This was enough for her.
  Eight years passed smoothly between the two. Bubu was the first to notice something strange was happening to Mrs Donna and barked in a lamenting way to alert her. Mrs Donna took her to the vet. He declared there was nothing wrong with the dog.
  Then Mrs Donna’s sister had her yearly check-up. The two women went to the clinic together, with Bubu in her owner’s handbag. One of the doctors was a dog-lover and was very intrigued by her lamenting barks. He asked Mrs Donna to have a check-up too. The results showed a serious heart disease in urgent need of operation.
  Mrs Donna entered the clinic and stayed there for almost a month. Bubu stayed with her sister who adored her. Mrs Donna complained because doctors wouldn’t allow her to see the dog. She was sure she’d have a faster recovery if she could be with Bubu. She claimed that when she dreamed of Bubu, she felt no pain. “My dog saved me, why I can’t see her?” she’d beg the dog loving doctor but he said: “even a hair could kill you now”.
  After the clinic, Mrs Donna moved into her sister’s flat. The moment she set foot inside she knew Bubu had changed. The dog didn’t react to seeing her. She just stayed put and stared, like a statue they had both seen (In which country? Mrs Donna wondered but couldn’t remember) an iron statue of a sad dog, which seemed as if he was trying to hold his tears back while waiting for his master to come back from the seas. Mrs Donna bent over Bubu, took her in her palm, murmured sweet words, caressed her, and kissed her. Nothing.
  “She is punishing you”, said her laughing sister.
  Mrs Donna couldn’t believe that; she thought Bubu had understood the reason for her absence. She kept on cuddling the dog, speaking softly into her ear, a secret habit which made Bubu sneeze and open her mouth as if laughing. Nothing. She put her under her armpit to smell her perfume. Nothing. She put her inside her favourite pouch and tied it on her heart. Nothing.
  They slept together in a single bed, on the same pillow. Woman and dog stayed up until dawn, gazing at each other. Mrs Donna’s tears were soaking the pillow, like the first years together when she was mourning her husband and Bubu licked her wet face. But now Bubu remained distant.
  Night after night Mrs Donna tried to persuade Bubu that she still loved her, that the clinic didn’t allow dogs. Night after night Bubu listened to the same whispers and accepted hugs in a distant manner.
  The time to return home had come and although Mrs Donna had seen the care her sister offered to Bubu, she took her to the vet.
  “She is depressed,” said the vet.
  “What can I do?” asked the old lady.
  “Nothing. As long as she eats, we are ok.”
  Soon Bubu stopped eating and Mrs Donna panicked.
  “Mrs Donna, you have to be brave,” said the vet as soon as he got her tests results. “You just had a heart operation. Bubu has cancer in the mouth. When you are ready we shall have to put her down.”
  Bubu was on the vet’s metal bed, moving her head from him to her owner and nodded. Mrs Donna was shattered. She left the vet with Bubu tucked in the curve of her neck, an old game of theirs where the dog was the parrot and she the pirate with the limping leg. In this game Bubu never fell off her shoulder no matter how awkward the limp. This time she did fall and Mrs Donna grabbed her in her palms, feeling shame for pressing her to perform a trick that needed a fitness Bubu didn’t possess anymore.
  She started feeding Bubu by injecting into her mouth milk mixed with egg yolk. Both woman and dog were emaciated in ten days. At nights they went to bed together but hardly slept. Mrs Donna started talking. She narrated to Bubu all she could remember from her childhood, her youth, her marriage, her good and bad times. Every night she ended her talk by telling the dog how happy she had made her.
  When she had no words left, they gazed at each other and Bubu at last showed her love. Only it was a tired, sorrowful love with the slightest of tail wags and the faintest of kisses. “I didn’t betray you,” Mrs Donna kept explaining and Bubu hid under her armpit emerging with a weak smile and a lick which made her owner smile too, despite the decaying smell of the dog’s saliva. “We have a good time together, why do you want to leave me?” asked Mrs Donna as if she was talking to her husband. Bubu didn’t answer. Her husband didn’t answer either.
  One day Bubu didn’t wake up. Mrs Donna and her sister buried her at the neighbour’s orchard where she loved to play with his Alsatian. The animal kept howling long after the people were gone.
  A tearless desiccated Mrs Donna asked her sister the question that had been eating her up from the moment she returned from the clinic.
*

© Belica Kubareli
Photo©Pinkshippo 

Panayotis Pakos, Les Innumerables (A Binary Tale)

In front of its old, grand round mirror, 2 wriggles its long, slim neck, preens the plumes at the end of its tail and gloats. You are 2, it smiles at its reflection; no other can be you.
A few blocks away, 8, also in front of its round mirror, loosens the belt around its waist, and indulges itself in the sight of its perfect, even curves.
Whoever set their eyes on you and think that you are 4+4 or 3+5, are talking nonsense. They have no eyes to see you as an individual, independent, complete being.
At the other end of the City, 1283 contemplates the consequences of being 1283. I am not an ordinary number. I am integer and prime. There is no other number that represents the concept of 1283; I alone express this singular and solitary concept – one that blesses an equally singular and solitary being.
Every night, countless numbers leave such thoughts and words at the feet of their mirrors – offerings to the round god who bears their figures. Then they go to bed, cross their pillows and brood their sphereal dreams: each of them unique, as is their dreamer.
Every night, when all the numbers fall asleep in the Eternal City, One visits each house and gently wipes the round mirrors clean; and they, wrapped in the thick shroud of darkness, lay off the burden of their reflections – for a few hours they become, once again, small, plain noughts…
©Panayotis Pakos
Unnknown photographer, Colorado lisence plate, 1922 
 

Sean Brijbasi, koto

 
To travel far as a child is fraught. Boats capsize. Airplanes crash. Bicycles fragment into unusable pieces of metal onto the ground.
   The ocean is not an ocean. It is a body of water that meets the land. But it is an ocean. The horses and dogs that run wild on the thin strip of sand before the rocks have permission from the earth. But we too have permission. We too have muscle. Not as strong or as sinewy as the nobler animals but with the same kinetic desires. And so we run, my sister and I, from the gate of our house to the beach while the youngest in our family sleeps within the mosquito net, beneath the fan, the hum of which synthesizes the sounds of chickens and goats coming from the yard outside our house so that this family’s youngest, this young boy we call brother, may sleep in good time.
   My sister and I run with new muscle that expand and stretch and push our bodies forward. We run in the air that comes from the ocean—that flows over the animals and bids us to carry on. We are as fast as they and soon move among them until I fall and hear the wind and the hammering of hooves against the earth. My uncle runs out and pulls my sister away as the horses run by. He covers her face and looks down the thin strip of sand to see a small explosion of dust where I have fallen. Inside this nebula I am mutilated and bleeding. This was my first death.

*

© Sean Brijbasi, excerpt from his latest book «the Dictionary of coincidences, Volume I (Hi)«
photo© Stratos Fountoulis, “Olive oil variety” Brussels, 2012 -p/o the original photo used for the cover

*
Sean Brijbasi
the dictionary of coincidences, Volume I (Hi)

You can buy the book 
– at Pretendgenius Book Store
– at Amazon
– at Barnes and Noble

Lakis Fourouklas, Freebird

She wanted to do something, something small but different, not too weird but a little bit out there, out of her widely known persona. What, though? There were so many things through which she could express herself and her innermost feelings and that could really talk about her well-hidden truths, that she felt at a loss. Confused, that’s what she was, confused and kind of happy. She’d been waiting for so long and in such agony for this day to come that now that’s finally arrived, she just couldn’t decide what to do; to make up her mind as to what the gift she’s supposed to give herself would look like.

 

Truth be told, choices there were aplenty, but for the time being she could do nothing more but stand there, as if in a trance, and just look at them, studying their every line and curve, marvel at their beauty. What was she to do? What? She was reluctant, felt almost scared, over choosing one thing rather than the other, and she hated herself for that. Whatever she did in her life thus far, she did after giving it serious thought, after obsessing about it, and always having to worry about what the others would have to say.
The others! That’s the two words that she was going to use if anyone ever asked her what the cause of her misery was. She wanted to make love when she was sixteen, she made it when nineteen; she wanted to travel the world, she travelled too little; she had big dreams, she dreamed of achieving great things, but she’s spent thirty years of her life living a slightly different version of the same day; a routine that reminded her of death. She used to be a dreamer, now she is, as a friend puts it, the ghost of her own being. She was not who she wanted to be. She did not become the woman of her teenage fantasies.
And now, on this special day, the cursed and the blessed one of her birthday, the day that she’s decided that it would mark a new beginning in her life, she feels all the old persistent fears rising as by themselves and for themselves, out of her tortured psyche. She was afraid that she could not swim into unchartered waters; that if she escaped her routine she’d be lost; that it would be impossible for her not to follow the established itineraries and allow herself to wonder the labyrinthine paths of the unknown; she was scared of taking the stairway to an unknown heaven; of finally trying hard to make her dreams come true.
She remained standing in front of a shop’s show case, admiring the objects and the delicate designs, with almost non-seeing eyes, drifting in and out the corridors of her mind and soul, and fighting with her demons, the ones that had never given her a chance to pave her own route in life. People kept coming and going, circling around and observing her with an ironic smile or a sense of sadness, but she could not feel or see any of them. A fierce battle was taking place inside of her, and it kept getting more and more violent by the minute, as if composing an ode to psychological violence.
Every now and then she would close her eyes, trying to picture within the image that she so desperately seemed to seek, but to no avail. However, she knew; she knew that today was the day that she needed to take that first step, the most decisive one, because if she didn’t then all would be lost, her last chance would burn to ashes. Her future, tomorrow’s life, seemed to be hanging for the treacherous thread of that given moment; a decision had to be made.
The solution to all her problems and her worries was there, right in front of her eyes, staring back at her, when she had them open, but yet she could not make up her mind about how that solution should be like. She’d look at one thing and say, No, that’s not me, that’s not my world, and then she’d look at another, and a spark would momentarily lit her eyes, before receding again into the shadows.
There was an image though that kept returning time and again into her mind’s eye that has finally managed to bend her resistance, which has made her believe that, “Yes, this really talks about who I am, or rather of who I want to become.”
She stepped into the shop. There was a customer there already, so she took a sit at a not so comfortable chair and waited her turn. Little by little, a smile started taking shape on her pale lips. And then she started laughing. I can’t wait to see their faces when I show them the gift I’ve got myself, she thought, and she laughed. And she laughed! They would think she was crazy, but so what? Enough was enough; the time has come to live her own life.
When her turn finally arrived she took her sit and allowed the expert work his magic on her. Three hours later, in physical pain but a psychological high, she came out into the real world again, and she was somebody else. Half her shoulder was covered by a big black and white tattoo of an ancient boat. Yes, she was at last ready to set sail into a new life, to let the breeze lead her to a new beginning.
©Lakis Fourouklas
Photo©Stratos Fountoulis, «Ancona 1», 2011
 

Christopher Veasey, Renovation

 

Ian followed Adam slowly around the room in sidesteps. First the steam, then the blade.

  The thick gloss bubbled and melted before their eyes. They talked and sometimes laughed and everything rebounded off the bare walls and floor. Occasionally they stopped for cigarettes, Adam rolling his own unless Ian offered one from his packet. Despite all the doors and windows having been open for weeks, despite the chemicals and cut wood, the offensive scent of other people’s bodies dominated the air.
  ‘So how much altogether?’
  Adam half-smiled, sidestepped and applied the head of the steamer to the wall. A black plastic tube trailed from beneath his hand down between his legs and to the bubbling box behind them.
  ‘Too much. Not as much as they’d wanted.’
  Ian laughed, too much probably, he thought. He sidestepped into the dusty footprints Adam had left and scraped at the wilting paint.
  ‘I knew a girl who lived her’ he said. ‘Years back now, fifteen maybe.’ The bubbling stopped. Adam lifted the head from the wall and looked at it’s face. ‘I’ll fill it.’
  He unplugged the plug and detached the hose as Ian looked down on him. He carried what was left out of the room and out of the front door to the tap on the garage wall, feeling Ian’s eyes on his back long after they weren’t. Ian scraped at the wall, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds. He heard the water hit the bottom of the reservoir and pictured it immersing the element. He wanted to finish his story. He scraped the wall too hard. Through the paint, through the next layer, then the next, gouging the plaster and shifting from one splattered trainer to the other, the ache in his arm numbed. He heard Adam close the door behind himself. Stop. He collapsed inwards. He wouldn’t finish the story for now. He would keep it to himself. He would talk about the game and the rigmarole of house-buying, how tradesmen are. He wouldn’t finish the story for now.
  Adam was crouched behind him, re-plugging and attaching. His thighs burned in the squat. ‘Feeling old’ he thought. ‘Not old, just fucked’. Weeks of this now, ripping out and scraping, sanding and skimming, taking hold of the bathroom carpet, feeling the decades of steam and sweat soaked into it leaking out into your hands and pulling it from the floor. He looked up from the steamer to the backs of Ian’s legs. The bunch of keys in one back pocket and the wallet in the other, underneath the fadings of the denim where they had been before. The fabric pulled to the contours of him as he shifted his weight. It was tiresome t work for hours on end in an empty house with this prick and a broken radio, but we don’t truly choose our friends. Besides, they were moving in that weekend. Adam stood unsteadily, feeling the joints and muscles working, looking at the back of Ian. They would probably go for a pint when they were finished, he thought, at the Tippings Arms at the end of the street. He was resigned to it. Ian would talk. He would never be funny, though he would try. After a couple of drinks he would start leering at the barmaids, talking too loudly about them, making Adam his accomplice in the embarrassment. Adam thought about ending the day there and then with a convoluted lie involving a falsified phone call and an elaborate story about Emma, his new, pregnant, wife in trouble. But the idea of having to actually go home, as he would have to, in Ian’s car, was worse than his current situation. The steamer began to bubble.
  ‘I went to school with her.’
  Ian stopped, staring into the wall, not scraping, not quite believing what he was doing.
  Silence, bubbling.
  Adam looked at the back of his head then down at the steamer. Silence. Long seconds go by. He could hear the tone of the voice. He hadn’t heard it from his friend before, but knew that it implied a dangerous desperation. Not quite believing what he was doing –
  ‘St Marks?’
  Ian pursed his lips and inhaled through his nose, a rush of blood roaring from his feet to his head. License.
  ‘Yeah, in my year. Fucking gorgeous. We all used to hang around here. A few of them lived in this street, all around here. Just kids though, bladdered off three tins. Funny though. You’d be at home getting ready not knowing what was going to happen. You’ve seen fuck all at that age, haven’t you? Birds who though they were shit-hot at school having a couple of drinks and getting their tits out. Fucking brilliant at that age, as a kid, like, as a young lad. Sat on the park usually, just boozing. Or if somebody’s mam and dad were away you were in there, fucked, seeing what happened. This house, you should have seen it. Her mam and dad were old, in their sixties, she was the youngest. She had this dickhead brother in his thirties who tried to have a go at us all once when she came home pissed. We just stood there laughing at him and he did fuck all. This house though, light brown leather couches and sad clown ornaments on the fireplace. Paintings of little girls with puppies. It stunk of old slippers and food that’s been on all day.’
  Adam hadn’t moved. He stood at Ian’s right shoulder before approaching the wall and applying the steamers head to a thick lump of paint. He held it there for a few seconds, then moved it. Ian began to scrape.
  ‘One night we ended up here. Her brother didn’t live here anymore. About ten of us, lads and girls. A Saturday night. Bladdered. Music on, loud. I was talking to her, this girl, the one that lived here. Everybody else was in the kitchen, we were in here. She was plastered. I started asking her all these questions, taking the piss like, about what she’d done with lads. She was just laughing and saying ‘Wouldn’t you like to know’ and all that shite. I carried on, trying more, seeing how far I could go with her. For a laugh, like.’
  Adam put the steamer down and walked over to his jacket. He pulled his tobacco from the pocket and began to roll a cigarette. Ian stayed at the wall, scraping harder.
  ‘Well, she stops laughing. I carry on. Now she starts giving me a load of shit. She slaps me in the fucking face and storms off, storms upstairs. And I’m just sitting there, on the fucking brown leather, holding a bottle. I couldn’t believe it. I was looking at the kitchen door hoping nobody heard. Then I was looking at the front door, thinking about going. I couldn’t believe it. Then I was looking at the stairs. The fucking bitch. Couldn’t have a laugh pissed up on a Saturday night. Couldn’t play along. Stuck-up bitch. She was laughing, she was playing along. I necked the bottle and put it on the rug. I didn’t know what to do but I stood up. I was going to kitchen but I stopped. I was going to the stairs.’
  Adams phone rang and he looked at Ian, standing motionless, silent, never taking his eyes from the wall.   Both men breathed heavily. The ringing stopped.
  ‘Hello?’
  Adam walked out of the room to the hallway. Ian couldn’t hear, he didn’t move. Then Adam said –
  ‘I have to go…now…it’s Emma.’
©Christopher Veasey
Photo©Stratos Fountoulis,2009
 
bio

Christopher Veasey lives and works in the North of England.

Eric Mwathi, In the Minority

 

«Have some more couscous, Andy. After all it is not sure what the cooking will be like in the concentration camp, we’ll be sent to” said Coco, with a mischievous smile, holding a ladle, full of couscous over Andy’s plate, which Andy had held away from her, in protest, from her hand, and had said, “You will not find that joke funny once we really get sent to one, Coco.” To that, Coco had served herself that couscous, as she had rolled her eyes and had said, “It won’t happen, Andy. That one, crazy, bigot, you met in the tram, is not enough to start a second Holocaust.” Then Adam had waived his right index finger at her and had said, “Huge war crimes always start with one maniac, with evil plans, before more angry people join them in deciding to gang up on racial minorities, to do something horrible to them.” Then Coco had grabbed her spoon and begun eating large portions of her couscous as she had said, “That man was only agitated over that other fat man, who was talking to himself, because the bigot noticed that you do tend to find crazy people more and more often in the public transport, these days. You cannot blame him for complaining about that. After all, those maniacs drive me crazy as well.” Then Adam had took a gulp of his Lambusco wine and had said, “Yes, and after that maniac had staggered out of the train, the bigot had talked about the so called good, old, days, when people, like that mad man, used to be locked up at Steinhof, during the slightest hint of a mental illness. What had then hurt me was when he had complained that you cannot lock people up as much today, when supposedly every second person has got some mental disorder or other.” Then Coco had gently put her hand on Adam’s shoulder and had said, “That was not a comment that was directed towards you, Adam. There is no way that a complete stranger could know that you are in psychiatric treatment.” Adam had brushed her hand away and had said, “For four years I have been living in this area, avoiding eye contact, and showed irritation at the slightest noise, that was only a bit louder than usual. In such a long time, people do tend to notice these things.” Then she had said, “You cannot keep assuming that everyone who says something insulting automatically knows your whole life story” Then Andy had said, “Those insults were different from the ones I usually hear from the sick people I often walk into. This bigot had blamed the Socialists for failing to fight unemployment, which he says is responsible for the mental deterioration in society, and can only be solved through forced labour, as was done under Hitler’s regime. Nobody even opposed that man in his outrageous views, after he had said those things inside of a crowded tram. In fact the old man next to him had agreed with all of his views.” Whilst cutting another slice of lamb on her plate, Coco had said, “You cannot blame passengers for not quarrelling with this man. He certainly sounds insane.” Then Adam had placed his right hand onto hers, so that she had stopped using her cutlery, and then had said, “Coco, I do not think that this was why nobody had opposed him.” She tore her hands from his and had kept eating as she had said, “Yes, I know where you are coming from, Andy, but I would not read too much into this. Even you were too afraid to tell that maniac to shut up, which does not make you a supporter of his views. By not quarrelling him you wisely felt that maniacs like he are best to be ignored. So, you cannot know what the other tram passengers thought about the views of that psycho, just because they did not oppose him.” Then Andy had poured another big glass of Lambusco for himself and had said, “Having watched all of my neighbours join my landlady in tormenting me, though I did not harm or even talk to either of them, I think I know what they were thinking. People here will only criticise an inhumane, dictatorial, bigot once he is not around, so people do not find out that they in fact supported him, and long for someone to replace him and who will be just as evil.” Then Coco had said, “There is no proof that most people prefer to be ruled or to be controlled by a dictatorial tyrant and a mean landlady, instead of to live in a liberal democracy, and to have a kind person in control of important aspects of their life” Then Adam had replied, “You cannot wait for people who want you dead, to tell you about their cruel intensions to your face. It might be too late by then.” Coco then finished the rest of her Lambusco and took a deep sigh, before she had said, “Neither can you take every insult from a mad man as an automatic death threat, or you will be running away from people for your whole life.” Then Andy had said, “That mad man was not like the mad people I usually meet in the tram. Those threatening words of his were loaded with the evil intention to one day act upon his wicked beliefs.” Then Coco had looked Andy strait in the eye and had said, “I repeat, Andy, one man cannot start a second Holocaust.” Andy had shrugged his shoulders and had said, “I’m afraid this man might not be alone in his evil intentions. As a matter of fact, it might be the people who oppose him, who are in the minority.”

 

©Eric Mwathi
photo©Stratos Fountoulis, «Zappeion» 2005