Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« May 2008 »
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Friday, 9 May 2008
Scales and Balances
Through the mists of time and the relatively clearer gaps between them, there swooped the Beasts upon detachable wings of silver and steel scales. The rhythmic clanking and clanging could be heard from one universe to the next, even permeating the otherwise dead silence of those untenable realities which lay endlessly beyond the edge of the tenable ones. Each Beast was itself larger than a good-sized star and their wing-spans spread like heavenly shafts of white light through the depleted blacknesses of deepest space. Suddenly (and in the time-scale of which I speak, ‘suddenly’ lasted longer than a tandem of eternities in your own scale), the biggest Beast with by far the biggest wings with an ego bigger than the rest put together collided head-on with an even bigger Black Hole. Gradually, the eventual consequences of such a shunt became clear, but even God (whom I once was) wasn’t around to weigh the repercussions in His own silver and steel balances.

Published 'Crossings' 1993

Posted by augusthog at 4:38 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Sun, Sea & Sorrow
Arthur felt inhibited. He decided to take a holiday by the seaside where, he was told, Bridget, his sister, had once lost all her sexual inhibitions …

Arthur frowned. That child was now his. His cold-hearted sister had abandoned the baby. And Arthur was too kind to refuse responsibility to become Bridget’s lifebuoy for her drowning waifs and strays...

The child knew that Arthur wasn’t his real Dad … being Arthur's nephew conceived one unseasonably snow-driven night on a closed pier – to the sound of gurgling.


Arthur found it difficult to shed his own sexual inhibitions … with a brat in tow. Most of the women wanted clean-cut flings without such appurtenances as a sister’s off-load.

Arthur used a bench to sit on the promenade – between two showers – watching the sun set over the sea. Or was it rising? He had lost all sense of timing. Bridget’s boy sat beside him pretending to cast imaginary fishing-lines towards the distant horizon.

“Trying to catch the sun, son?” Arthur asked.

The boy nodded. He had Bridget’s nose.

Unknown to both – an electric ice-cream van had drawn up beside the kerb. Raspberry rippling ... and Magnums making melted chocolate sculptures between the two cones of the gurgling lady with the wafers.

Eventually … “Want an ice or a lolly?” she called to the large silhouette that was Arthur and to the small silhouette that was his sister’s child - from both of which silhouettes upon the promenade bench the sinking sun retreated with timely abandon.

One silhouette turned towards the voice – whilst the other silhouette merged into the darkness that gradually subsumed them together, sucking both like scooped cocoa ice-cream towards its single heart. Towards the sucking, dragging, flesh-grinding shingle...

“I’ll have a Melon Mivvi,” said the voice that emerged as a cross between a deep filling and a frozen sculpture … as if two throats (one dark choc ice, one lemon sorbet) spoke with a single tongue-like ladle.

The ice-cream lady only had sorrow to keep her company; and, with no customers, she took a Lyon’s Maid from the deepest fridge of all … from the frozen core that knew no love …



Posted by augusthog at 4:37 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Peter Jeffery II

(published 'Overspace' 1990)

I knew him when he was a shopkeeper.

I was, I am sure, his most regular paying customer, going in of an evening for an ounce of baccy and a pot noodle.

It was a grocery/off licence in the better end of Leicester, but his trade in penny chews and the custom coming off the likes of me, did not keep him in the luxury he would have wished. So you would have thought that a customer such as I needed to be looked after, treated with some people, but let me tell you...

One day, he invited me into the back room of the shop. He crooked his finger and said: “Would you care to partake of your pot noodle with the hot water I’ve already got a-bubbling in my kettle for a cup of tea?”

“That’s very kind of you, mister Peter, but my wife always shares it with me, and she’ll be likely sitting at home right now, eager with anticipation, hungry as a...”

As a gutted pig was the only thing that came to mind, but I did not say it.

“I’ll give you two for the price of one..

Well, I was a good customer, after all. He went to the shelf and lifted down another pot and handed it to me with a smile.

“Now come back here, for I see you are a gent to whom I can tell things...”

I shrugged, walked behind the counter and followed him into the back room, where a television,with its screen missing, sat on top of a humming freezer. I wrinkled up my nose, but at that time I couldn’t be certain...

The kettle was already steaming so hard that it was not difficult to imagine an engine around it. a genius once thought of that - but, today, this can occur to even one such as me.

He poured my share of the spluttering water on to the noodles and, I think this was the first time I’d noticed it, they seemed to whine in pain, much like unto what I would imagine scalded worms give off...

As I tucked in with a rusty spoon, he told me his tale. Said it would be true. And if I didn’t believe it, I needn’t bother to get my pot noodles there again. Perhaps I wasn’t such a valuable customer after all.

It was none too easy to follow his thread, for every five minutes or so, he would raise his finger, indicating that another customer or suchlike was in danger of being within hearing distance. And, on occasions, he even got up to slap an ear or two of the ragamuffins who had come in off the downtrodden catchment areas of Leicester, evidently in the hope of scrounging provender well beyond the ‘sell-by’ date.

He even got up, if rarely, actually to take money from genuine customers such as me. But they were an ill-breed to my way of thinking. I would not have done business with them at all. But Jeffery had to make a living, didn’t he? And even customers well beyond their own ‘die-by’ dates were treated even-handed...

But I race ahead of myself. I’ll tell you how Jeffery told it to me, as far as I can remember (and you know what my memory is like), but also keep in mind that he lost track of his own tale what with the so-called customers and the snuffling noises I made as I ploughed through the noodles. I had a pretty bad stomach, anyway, that day. But I owed him a listening at least. I didn’t get a free pot noodle every day...


Did I ever tell you what was on this spot afore the shop was built? No? Well, that doesn’t surprise me, because we never exchange words other than about the weather or the cricket, do we?

I think that’s a real shame. There’s more to a man than that, I hope. If weather was all there was, we’d be a pretty dull race. God didn’t give us life, just so that weather could have people to annoy.

“Oh, the cold’s eatin’ into me very bones this mornin’, mister Jeffery,” they say.

“Oh yes, missus, it’s a shameful day, shameful...”

I could recount a thousand more conversations like that, but that would be more boring than the conversations themselves, wouldn’t it, mister... What’s your name? Well, nevermind. I’ll call you Noodle, for short.

I mentioned God a while back, if I remember correctly. Well, I tell you, I don’t rightly believe He exists. I don’t know, I’ve had no proper proof, but I reckon He didn’t ever happen to become, if you see my meaning, Noodle. That’s all there is to it - I’ve got no proof, but He still don’t exist, no way. But it’s useful to bring Him into the tale, as so many people do believe in Him, proof or not. And then they can latch on to what I’m saying more easily.

You’re one of the very few I’ve told all this to. I’ve not even breathed a word to the various bed-fellows I’ve had over the years. No time, you see.

Well, Noodle, gather closer, for what I’m about to tell you is not for every spare pair of ears. Let me whisper it...

This shop stands on the site of a church. And when it was a church, it was so ancient, it looked as if it had been built even before they’d invented God himself. And inventions come in two sorts, as I expect you know. There’s the ones that are so obvious, it’s a wonder they had to be invented at all. And the others are those you can’t imagine anyone having enough brains to invent because they’re so damn clever. Take your pot noodle as an example...

Where was I? God? Oh yes, He founded the church that was here on this very site. He sat up in that there Heaven, called an apprentice angel to His knee and said all deep and hollow, as you would expect:

“Go to Earth to a place which will one day be called Leicester and build a church in My Memory.”

And the angel, fresh from doing out the public loos (yep, they did have them up in Heaven - stands to reason, don’t it?) replied:

“In Your Memory, Sir? Alleluia!”

“What? What did you say, young angel?”

“Build a church in Your Memory. Alleluia!”

“Did I? Did I really? Christ, that’s strange! Well, if I said that, you’d better go straightaway, for if I’m not obeyed, I can become a very cross God indeed…”


And off the apprentice angel went. He flew across space and came to this very place, Leicester. They do say it was named after that very angel, who, it turned out, was called Eric Steel.

He stood as tall as a mighty oak, wings furled around him like a winter coat - it was a snappish day he’d chosen. Gets right to you, the winter wind in these parts, don’t it, Noodle? I’ve got an Albanian flap-jacket. Needed it last winter, not half. But it’s the summer I like best - most of my customers follow the cricket, and I like to see them happy. Oils their purses. And cricket seems to do that okay, especially when Leicestershire is on the up.

Where was I? Yes, last winter, the winds whistled round here like an express train. Took the trees up by the roots, burying them in the parked cars which ended up like the squashed tomatoes in the greengrocer’s next door.

He keeps a good potato, I admit. But I don’t go much on his spinach. And the fellow himself, there’s a lot to be desired there. I reckon he got an onion for a brain. Makes me want to weep out loud, to think the way he rips off old ladies with his mouldy stalk of celery...and his wrinkled parsnip...and his, what do you call it? Brassica? More fit for manure than an honest-to-goodness dining table... Stinks a lot round these parts, you know. I reckon its his goods next door. Expect, you’ve noticed it even in here. it gets everywhere.

Used to be a public loo on this site. The building’s much the same, in fact...


I swiftly finished off the pot noodle and, making polite noises, I went to leave the shop.I

I didn’t know whether he had actually finished what he wanted to tell me, and I didn’t really care. He had evidently not reached the punch-line, for he turned frantic on me:

“Wait! The most important bit’s to come out...”

“Thank you, mister Jeffery, but I’d better be off now to settle my wife’s stomach...”

“Why such a hurry, Noodle? It looks as if a lousy lump of weather is about to land on our doorstep. And the flying ants... it be not at all healthy out there... Let me offer you some natural yoghurt, only six months beyond the ‘dung-by’ date…”

My own belly turned over and I felt the end of it, to which my intestines were joined, creeping up into my gullet...

I couldn’t get home fast enough.

I’ll never go back. And I left the free pot noodle on his counter. It may still be there, if you’re feeling hungry. Just go down Overdale Road, round the corner...

But whatever you do, don’t let Jeffery entice you into his back room.

I’m sure he keeps bits of angel in the freezer. It stinks to High Heaven...

Posted by augusthog at 10:02 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Down By The Fast Canal


 (published 'Vollmond' 1990)

He ached all over, whined a good part of the night and then decided he was not at all committed to life. and he might as well fling it off like a stripper on the stage.

But he wanted the biggest audience. More than just himself, anyway. So he rose from his sick bed, wandered over to the devil-top chest of drawers and pulled out suitable apparel for his grand exit.

He poised a needle upon the inlet groove of an operatic record he'd liked since childhood - one with grand chords and buxom sopranos - and its heroic tale wove the bed-sit into something akin to wondrous myth and legend.

Pulling on long, striped socks to above his knees, he suddenly knew that he would find it difficult to carry out that to which he'd so far dedicated his life: death. And he decided he didn't much care for an audience, anyway.

He shivered in the morning air that was given off by the frozen butter of the sun decking the street in premature wakefulness. The other early-goers were evidently firing on all cylinders from some internal white heat engendered by the promise of this particular day.

And now he did not know exactly what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. But if he did it. he knew there would be no going back.

To one looking at him (and I was), he did not act confused. He did not see me lurking behind the unemptied dustbins outside the tower flats and, God forbid that I will ever need to use that as my reconaissance spot again, even in my dreams, the smells come on me.

I lost track of him down by the Fast Canal, where the Bell-House sits like an abandoned primadonna (which has always given me the impression that some architect or other once played a blinder, for it makes the surrounding urban sprawl seem even more sprawling).

Whether he I followed dropped his nose into the scummy waters of the. Fast Canal (which at that time of the morning, believe it or not, still bore a veneer of ice) or he just gave his amnesia more rein and wandered off to lose himself in the outer inner city where nobody went if they could help it - no man's land for the rich and poor alike.

But, as he would have been the first to admit, he was indeed a no-man and that's perhaps why he decided to live up to such a label.

I've returned to his bed-sit where ghosts of his aches still linger. I've decided to take on the role that showed so much promise. And I dedicate the rest of my life to his memory.

Even in here you can smell the dustbins outside.

The opera record is still turning - it has been scratching for a living all day.

Within the Bell-House, the bloated hammer-rats do skimp and scamper. But when a new corpse drops in, it becomes their lucky day.

They crack its nut and suck the software out.


Posted by augusthog at 9:54 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 4 May 2008
Dead Eyes


(published 'Dementia 13' 1993)

Wednesday was her day for muddling out the week. It would be washtub, hoover-out, dust-off, polishrub, bedamake, stew-and-bake, from the head of the morning to the bottom of the evening. To her mind, she topped and tailed the whole world.

The flanks of the week, she merely sat back upon the laurels of her handiwork, gently sipping upon fine bone-china and mindlessly tearing strips from celery-sticks with her long fingernails.

I approached the front door, wondering about her reaction, for I was convinced she was used to meeting next to nobody. I was hoping that they’d be at least a half chance she’d a room to lodge out. The holding looked big enough, literally bulging all over with bay windows. The various extraneous lumps in the roof indicated a healthy supply of assorted attics. I would be willing to shake down literally anywhere. I knew she lived alone, because the milkman told me he only left one half pint per day. The postman, whom I had consulted earlier, said the letters were far and few between (none of them bills), mostly written in a feminine hand postmarked Kidderminster.

I gave the front door a modest knocking. Slowly, it opened almost immediately upon a chain-lock.


I could just see a face of designed darkness, speaking with a hole laddering up and down in its knitted flesh.

‘Have you a room to spare for a poor unfortunate?’

I’d had my speech prepared, but she’d phased me somehow.

‘Come in, Mr Cobb, do.’

I was taken by surprise, as she unzipped the lock.

My name was not Mr Cobb, but something far more unusual.

She showed me a room without an outside window, where a bed was already made up, its lip of sheet mathematically straight.

As I limped behind, I seemed to echo her own gait.

The oil paintings on the walls were pretty pointless, as the light from the meagre fittings did not seep that far.

I suppose it was tantamount to an interview. Me following like a shadow. Her leading. Talking about the room, as I did, she could see I was not blind. Resorting to the parlour, she offered me tea and celery. Telling me about her empty life. By nodding at the appropriate points in her monologue, I proved I was no deaf man either. She gave me the job. I was to be the corpse that would decorate the room I’d just been shown round. Apparently, she gathered corpses to her, much like other old maids collected ornaments for their marble mantelpieces. I pictured to myself all the rooms in the holding: dead eyes gleaming in the darkness as they sat propped up in the armchairs, antimacassars liberally peppered over to prevent green stains forming on the expensive fitted covers below.

I heard the letterbox rattle down the hall. The dull clink of a milk bottle from the porch. I tried to cry out, as she tore strips from my manhood. Indeed, I could not disprove my dumbness.

Nor my immortality.

Come Wednesdays, I feel the tickle of her duster behind the ears.

Posted by augusthog at 4:44 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 2 May 2008
The Bullace Tree


 --published 'Peace & Freedom' 1988--

The little girl had spent years looking from her bedroom window towards the bottom of the garden where the bullace tree had stood and grown since many years before.

It had been a lifetime to her, as long as it takes from the first memory to the last, and it always seemed to be early evening, to such an extent that mornings and afternoons were forgotten completely under the growing shades of dusk; and night, for her, did not exist at all, dreamful sleep being the natural outcome of twilight.


The stars shone bright over the garden, awaiting the moon's arrival with the expectation of excited children early on Christmas day. The tree caught these silver fruit in its branches, and shapes crept up the trunk in yearning quest for their juice.

The compost - formless heap behind the water butt - bore its own fruit: blooming with each heave of its new found life. And more shapes of rapes, turnips and other rooters on route for the tree, lingered at the manure's edge, like unto cars at a petrol station, and moved on, silently, steadfastly...


I am a tree. You can only see the rough bark but, when I place my hands to my body, I feel the sown cruelties and chasms that woman can only bear and, higher, the unripe breasts that need nipples as well as soft flesh.

Up my only leg creep and crawl the rapes and rooters, with whips as long as their arms; and, between the hard strands of my wild head, others munch, mumble, come close to teasing my ears open with foulness.

I have the girl's soul with me, someone's posthumous gift to an ex-lover, an embossed trinket with etched words that mean less than nothing, especially as the affair had slipped into an unattainable past. The words? I LOVE YOU. But useless saying them for my ears are clogged up with grunting brassica.


As dawn enters its first phase, which many mistake for darkest night, I know that Christmas will never come. The gift of soul is rudely snatched from beneath my sagging, blackening dugs: and I can think to speak no longer...


The end was final, until the next; and of root and branch nothing more can be said. The girl, if one she be, did not wake with the dawn, could not wake until her soul grew again and nourished out its containing vessels. If, as one will say, a soul a day keeps the nicker-nacker away: then, the bullace tree will fast agree.

I look up at the bedroom window and her dear little face, like a bill poster, is ever there, day or night, unblinking, unflinching. She looks at me, I look at her, but it is only at certain rare times that we truly see; and then we yearn desperately, for each other's arms to ease the cruelties. But by that time the rooters swarm between us, not very understanding of our plight. And not understanding, there we must leave it.

Posted by augusthog at 4:42 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
a collaboration with Margaret B Simon

There were too many houses in Matilda's road.

The line of terraced two-up-two downs curved out of sight as her eyes negotiated the parlour's net-choked window for what she had determined would be the final count. One extra today. One less yesterday. Who knows how many extra tomorrow?

She was a maidenly creature who wished she had been given the chance to audition God before allowing herself to be born. The nearest she'd been to sex was surprisingly in the recent Autumn of her years when a Peeping Tom had watched her through the net curtains - without Matilda's least inkling. But even this most vicariously tenuous experience had its subliminal effect, since she had spent the rest of that day preening her face in the mirror and pampering her scrawny body with strange lotions, much to her own retrospective disgust.

She received weekly visits from a brother called Tom who had even more reason than Matilda to bear a grudge against God for palming off a willy-nilly existence on him. Yet he humiliated himself in worship of that very God each Sunday.

Bill often fetched a small pet thing in a ventilated hatbox, one that scratched amid the purse-lipped conversations and the tinkly teacups. And squeeked. And snorted. With gentle noises-in-waiting. In the meantime, Bill and Matilda were in staccato communion with trivialities and useless truths, pointedly ignoring the tell-tale shuffly gurgly sounds from this box and the even more tell-tale silences...

And then, of course, beyond the reach of Tom's fraternal prying, there were portions of Matilda's life which were, for her, tantalising insertions of time for letting down her hair. An extra whole day now and again, was filleted forth from between say, Thursday and Friday: a period during which any experience could be as easily forgotten as something that had never been a memory in the first place.

So went Matilda's rather uneventful life, neither active nor entirely passive, for she did withhold a few secrets from her brother. One involved a nightly dose of cream sherry. Exactly one fourth liter, not an ounce more nor less. She would sip it slowly, looking out through the net curtains until the lights of the houses dimmed and blinked out, one by one.

Matilda's other secret involved what was in Tom's hatbox. She knew what it was. She had one of her own upstairs but she never took it shopping or to visit a neighbor. At some point during Thursdays and Fridays, she would take it out and talk to it. And it would sing to her in its strange way while she lay prone upon the coverlet, eyes half-closed - as if drugged.

Only during those hours did Matilda lift outwards from her mortal body, soaring into fantasies of other worlds and times, of romance and passion. There were many handsome men, all with black hair and hairy chests, who would press her tender body to their sweaty loins and croon loving things into her delicate ears. But when Friday evening came, she would awake and place the creature back in its vented shoebox. Before so doing, of course, she would make sure it was well fed. This task, in fact, was at last what caused her prying brother to discover her secret. Yet secrets were in hierarchies of secrecy, each secret being a gin-trap or, at least, decoy for the unwary Peeping Tom.

Secrets between siblings, even secrets surreptitiously discovered, were merely secret diversions. Truth and lie were not even considerations. Indeed, some secrets lived a secret autonomous life and were at such a deep level they kept secrets from eath other in a variety of conspiratorial games...

Bill was unaware of these clandestine undercurrents. Today was Thursday and he breathed the frosty air as he trudged past row upon row of terraced housing en route to his sister's...clutching the faintly throbbing hatbox to his chest. He was plying a different path, owing to the underground station where he usually alighted being subject to a security alert. His walk seemed so interminable, he almost believed he met himself several times coming in the opposite direction. Almost...until he did. He could only think to wave. The other one was equally unimaginative. And each walked on. What would Matilda think? Bill's conduit into some sort of reality as a bachelor was often via this question. What would Matilda say about it?

"Just because you were dressed alike, Bill, doesn't mean you were alike, other than the normal limbs and so forth we all have to bear..." She looked towards the hatbox which he was trying to balance on his lap amid various manoeuvres with a tea-cup and a plateful of cucumber sandwiches. "...and don't forget, many men are nondescript. By the way, Bill, they're knocking down No. 17 - you know the one, nearly opposite here - next week, because they say it's infested from floor to roof. The way some people live!"

At these last words, the hatbox began a most unusually agitated activity, as if its guest within had a definite inkling of what she was talking about. Its usual squeeks and snorts grew in volume to match the shaking of the hatbox until it fell from Bill's lap and rolled across Matilda's Persian rug, coming to a halt at the doorstop.

Matilda gave it a cursory frown of disapproval. While Bill was hastening to retrieve the box before the lid was jarred open, she continued. "We are fortunate, Bill. Decent law abiding people who were raised with proper family values - why, I don't understand what the world is coming to! Much less, this neighborhood--"

Here, she cut short her sentence as Bill was obviously having problems with the contents of the hatbox. He was attempting to solace the thing within, without much success. It continued to clamor and squeel, its sounds drowning out any possibility of further conversation.

At last, Matilda rose, giving an exasperated snort of her own. She went into the kitchen, shutting the door behind her. To her surprise, her hands were trembling uncontrollably. Underneath the sink, the bottle of cream sherry - half full, yes. Just the ticket. She poured herself a full snifter and downed it all, stifling a choking sensation. Turning then, arms braced against the sink, her eyes lifted upward to the ceiling where, above, her bedroom floor was beginning to shake. She could hear a keening noise coming from the cracks in the plaster.

Partly because of her abrupt and most unseemly response to the problem Bill was having with his hatbox companion, and partly because of the effects of the alcohol so rapidly consumed, Matilda's confused mind centered on one thought: possibly she had forgotten to feed it! Surely, it had never called to her in this manner before ... surely she might have forgotten, for last week's dreams were the very best enchantments she had known to date.

How had the secrets escaped? She had heard, yet shrugged off, Bill's statement that there was a security alert at the underground station he customarily used when visiting her. Now, it returned to her with a force quite inconsistent with its relative importance. She looked back down toward the sink, where she had decided to remain in case of an onset of being sick ... and saw an old potato she had earlier been scrubbing, in preparation for cooking something vis a vis Bill's tea. Even that assumed a significance quite beyond its intrinsic ability merely to waste space. Everything in her vicinity closed in ... sharpening corners, widening cracks, swollen windows, engorged plumbing, as if there were no longer any triviality in life. No relativities.


She heard Bill's shout from another room, but it sounded further away than being in the same house should permit. Perhaps, the days of the week were only part of the answer. She shrugged, not to shrug off as she had done before, but to remind herself that she was the only trivial thing left in the whole universe. The only unsecret obviousness.

The noise of dozers broke her dazed ruminations. Bulldozers? Yes, they must've started work on the demolishment of number 17. So it must be next week already. She knew her stairs to the bedrooms would soon be too steep to climb - all terraced houses thought that their working-class inhabitants would always be fit enough to climb their foot hierarchies, howsoever old age encroached the limbs.

Perhaps Matilta was too late. She rushed, sick or not, toward the stairwell ... fearing that her bedroom floor might be smothered in all those secret secrets secreting in and out of the skirting-boards. Worse than bugs. Worse than humpbacked slugs. All trying to reach her shoebox.

"Matilda!!!" Bill's voice resounded more urgently than the first time, yet more distant, as if feather-pillowed and further distant.

She forced her disagreeing legs into haste, whacking the sides of her hips sharply on corners she'd forgotton existed. Into the living room, half tripping over a mound of something on the floor which grappled with the toe of her shoe, late afternoon shadows kissing the curtained windows, windows now leaning at dangerous slants toward one another. Fully panicked now, she shook off the shoe with thing now firmly attached and without a backward glance, lumbered even less gracefully on in the direction of the stairwell.


Heart pumping, body grieving with every exertion, she fell to her knees halfway up the stairs when everything suddenly tilted sideways. The dozers thrummparation for snoring herself into an unforgiving slumber...or into the only child who needed more than Snakes & Ladders...and Stairwells...and Spuds...and Siblings...and Secrets to expunge the Solitude.

Posted by augusthog at 4:38 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Shaving The Dream

published 'Drift' 1998

I dreamed of dropping into sleep whence it was impossible to wake. However, a boy, whom for a split second I recognised, demonstrated the path back through the wood, but not without warning me about the sheep that nibbled grass in the clearing at the wood’s heart. Their coats of wool were morling-, not shorling-, shaved.

I took my ancient life upon my shoulders and, after shaking hands with the stranger who had sought to assist me, I entered upon the various darknesses that embraced the trees. When I awoke, I was just as disappointed as relieved.

Once I must have been a boy, I suppose, being a young man now, but the boy I had been I never really knew as myself. So, I was delighted, several benighted dreams later, to become the same old man from the previous dream who then met a boy halfway into that same wood. I recognised him from my waking album of dream photographs, those images decked in sepia memory. He squatted in the crook of a Bend-Over.

“Hi!” he said as if he had been waiting more than one generation for this meeting. I approached and pinched his arm to see if he was real. “Ouch!” he squawled.

“Are you really me as I once was?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that, old man, but I sure know I’m the tender of baa-lambs round this neck of the woods.”

I awoke before the dream was complete. This time I tried to force myself back to sleep, eager for its ending. But daytime worries interposed, as they often did, along with the new array of mounted memories.

In the future, probably sooner than I then thought, I shall be an old man in real life, being a young one now. So, when I paid my last visit to that dream (or vice versa, it to me), I began to feel no longer a protagonist within such dream...

The old man has become quite autonomous of myself and accompanies the shepherd boy in the heartwood, both counting the number of times a white ball of wool is thrown back and forth, without either of them dropping it. The boy’s so intent on the game, I wonder what can have happened to his bo-peepery.

Middle-aged eyes squint from behind some Sting-Backs, intrigued to see which of them falters first. Indeed, there’s no way to pull the wool over my eyes nor tug my optic fuse from its bed of sinew, although the curve of sight is skewed by the filtering lens of dream, as well as by the tangled morling¬wool on the nettly Sting-Backs’ stickiness.

Beyond waking’s shore, I eternally count asleep sheep, until the old man drops the ball.

Posted by augusthog at 3:49 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Cross Vertigo


 (published 'Peace & Freedom' 1989)

It was cool on the front. The sluggish tides of the weed-choked sea slid greyly to and fro upon the litter strewn beach. The morning had dawned brightly enough but now, by mid-afternoon, threatening clouds had built up and the Big Wheel, turning slowly at the end of the f ore-shortened pier, was almost lost to the encroaching mist.

A few late departures of the deckchair brigade, their silly hats and striped canvas windbreaks, now looking decidedly lacklustre with fish and chip grease smarming their bodies like sun oil and kiss me quick sandcastle flags in their beehive hairstyles, clambered up the shingle to the promenade, with only a few words between them.

Suddenly, there was a loud ?Halloo!? from one of the beach huts. A shaven yob splattered out, limbs flailing like a wild pair of tenantless stocking suspenders. He slobbered at those who had just evacuated the beach, pointed out at the sea and shouted so loudly his half-kraken croaks seemed to comee in off the waves like a series of echoes.

He ranted on of an enemy fleet that even now was slipping through the mist, its looming dark hulks of landing craft creeping in...

Those on the big wheel could no doubt see them already, hence the screams. The yob ran off towards the town, where he would try to spread further panic and ....... but nobody would pay any attention, if he did not look sensible.

Altin was one of those on the big wheel. He did not know why he had decided to have a ride upon the baskets, for great heights to him were like great depths to Flat-Earthers. Every time someone got on or off at the bottom of the Wheel, it seemed that it was Altin who was left exposed, right at the top, to the soaking underdrag of the towering clouds.

And, then, during one of those inexplicably long stationary periods when he was thus aloft, he spotted the school of whales coming in, with jaws opening and shutting in rhythm to the waves. One was suddenly snorting as it beached itself on the shingle. Another beached itself upon the first one. The pier shook, as yet another lodged itself between the corroded pillars. Altin closed his eyes in disbelief.

Altin was one of those whales, by several reincarnations removed. Except they weren?t whales at all. They were the sea-bed come to life, chunks of it separating from Mother Earth as in some caricature of evolution.

The comedy came to a close, as the pier collapsed with all upon it. It was a happy ending, for the slobbering yobs and deckchair dickheads had at last been pre-empted by, although a much deeper entropy, a far finer evolution.

The whale-like creatures roamed the thinning, flattening, drying, big wheel discus of Earth Comestible... The version that was Altin smiled with jaws that were not meant to smile, for he was as low as junkies get high.

Posted by augusthog at 3:48 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 25 April 2008
The Welcome Mat
with Chris Pelletiere

Having failed to make contact with the co-author, Weirdmonger has also failed to gain formal permission from him to re-publish this story. However, he feels happy that the co-author would approve - but if he should object at some stage in the future, it will immediately be removed from this website.

First published 'Freudian Variant' 1998

When Alan arrived at the big house he was welcomed by a mat.

A doormat. One with stiff scrubbing-brush bristles for the feet to scrape themselves off on. However, it had patchy sprigs, too - what, on closer scrutiny, looked like synthetic hair amid the bristles (or he certainly hoped they were synthetic), sprigs that spelt out a word that was not even remotely welcome. In fact he had to will his wobbly legs to hold himself up. He looked down at the doormat again. The few beers he’d had before coming hadn’t helped. His mouth had gone dry. A memory was coming up at him as if from the mat. The mouth?...

When he was a baby, his Mother had washed him in his Grandmother’s sink. Two witches washing. Something about his feet coming into contact with the hole in the sink, of his bare toes going into the drain itself made him sick.

Surely they must have washed up the dishes first. They wouldn’t have sat him down near the dirty sink-hole, would they? That’s what these synthetic strands in the otherwise bristly mat strangely became to resemble ... bamboo-shoots, roughage and spaghetti spoiled and leftover in a sewer-mouth.

The old memory (perhaps the oldest) ended and, today, his toes curled and clawed within the airless shoe-leather. Cringing was not even a starter. Squirming came in last place. There was no possible word to describe his growing disgust at the “welcome” mat. Except perhaps the word itself that the sprigs spelt out, a word that was a potential toe-nail sketch of the emotion the word’s actual medium of communication induced.

Alan shook his head. He wasn’t mad enough to dwell on such madness for long. The door that gave the doormat part of its name had by now opened in response to the banging which he had forgotten - in his momentary disgust at the hairy word - ever having made by swinging the knocker.


There stood a woman on the doorstep, noticeably beautiful despite the half-undone curlers in her auburn hair. She was untidily made up. And she had a voice like the one Alan thought her Pekinese dog would make if it could speak. The latter had indeed crawled between the woman’s legs and stared blankly at the visitor.

“I’m a purveyor of tantalising brushes and mops, dear lady,” Alan answered.

His mother (many years before she died from food poisoning) had given him his original supply of such goods from her own under-stairs broom-cupboard. His door-to-door business had progressed from that small beginning.

NOMICON BRIGHT-EASIES was the sign on his suit-case, a suit-case which he had by now positioned on the mat to hide the sight as well as the meaning of the word ill-planted amid the healthier bristles. Words, after all, had shape as well as innuendo.

The woman seemed to swing inside the house with one smooth motion, the little dog still between her legs, as if they both were attached to the door. He was reminded of a little wooden German house that hung on the wall in his Grandmother’s ancient abode, one that forecast the weather. The children would swing out through one door with the sun or the witch through the door alongside with the rain.

Well, the woman had entered and so must he. And, taking a step inside, he felt as if his feet were pushing through jungle growth, so thick was the doormat. As his eyes became adjusted to the darkness, he actually believed that the jungle existed around him. The hallway was humid. The carpet seemed an extension of the mat outside and, upon gazing down upon it, the pattern seemed to twine in tangled vines. He felt that, with simply one more step, he would drop into it and need to cut swathes through new-grown straw with a machete.

His eyes quickly plucked themselves from the carpet as a bird’s cry sounded somewhere in the hallway accompanied by smell of spicy fruit gums. Indeed, there was a bowl of such gums - which he firstly took to be tropical fish - on a circular table in the centre of a living-space, the latter being a room which he was gradually discerning around himself.

At least he’d managed to inveigle entry into this house but, as normal, it was always hard at first for him to pitch his product - and he sought reassurance in his case of bright-easies at his feet ... but the woman (and her yappy dog) had vanished.

He surveyed the room and decided to station himself on the long sofa. But where was the prospect? He was beginning to feel himself to be a stick of furniture, the longer he waited. Or a piece in some strange game that had just kicked in - and, whatever the next move, he felt he was in place for it.

What he assumed was the sound of tinkling wind chimes in air began to settle like the rattle of chains or ring of keys upon the sofa’s territorial share of carpet. His clammy hand in his lap reminded him that he was fighting down panic. The crackling noise of dried-out vines betokened the prospect’s re-approach, clutching, as she did, a cup of tea and a plate of one biscuit, items which she fetched as a reminder that the mat outside was not the only welcomer hereabouts. The slit-eyed pup was nowhere to be seen.

“It’s got its own saucer,” the woman said (with an inaudible slimy aside to the floating fruit gums). She evidently had read Alan’s mind.

He heard a squeaky slurping from the nearby kitchenette.

“As I said, before, Madam,” he said, as he simultaneously thumbed open the suitcase’s catch and balanced the provender she had offered him on his knee, “I am the proud purveyor of these Nomicons of Newness. Just with one touch of this feather-duster the whatever-it-is becomes not only clean but as good as new...”

He brandished a stick that he had extracted with some care from an elastic holder within the lid of the suitcase. There were at least two stiff quills as one end.

“That’ll scratch more than it’ll burnish,” she complained, taking the implement from Alan’s outstretched arm-signal of welcome-and-try.

Ignoring her comment, he tugged from his item of soft luggage a steel rod which had what looked like a jaw of teeth at one end.

“This plunger’ll eat germs as good as any sink can incubate...”

The woman pointed at the ceiling to where the darkness had settled and asked: “Have you got anything that can hoover that away?”

Alan smiled. At last! A bite of his best available cherry. Surely, if nothing else, Nomicon Bright-Easies were suckers for God’s darknesses and for gloomy corners that any amount of unnatural light couldn’t budge.

Squinting up at the dark ceiling, he tried to judge which attachment to use and how long an extension needed to suck down whatever was up there. To impress the woman he decided to deploy the Nomicon Bright-Easy Power Head. Meanwhile, all the plastic attachments were now out of his case and spread all over the carpet.

He felt like an artist choosing the right brush. Now that he was in the pitch, actually demonstratinf what he’d come to do, he was no longer anxious. He was in control. Should he part her window drapes himself or ask her to do it? It certainly would be easier to see where to aim that way. She seemed to guess what he was thinking because she crossed the room, took hold of the drapes and pulled them aside. There was a brittle breaking sound as she did this. There would be something to clean up now, by God he thought, a little uneasily but, instead of thinking too long what this might be, he thought instead of what attachment would do the trick.

“What?” Alan said to the woman who was trying to tell him something over the noise the vacuum was making. “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me,” he thought, turning off the machine and facing towards the woman. Why did he think that? She wasn’t calling him names... She was telling him that it was dark outside now and, even with the drapes pulled aside, the one lamp in the room couldn’t illuminate the ceiling.

It was true. There was no use squinting up into the darkening ceiling which seemed to mirror the shadowy current in the carpet below. The pattern in the carpet appeared to move as if in a stream. Whether Alan looked up at the ceiling or down at the carpet, the whole room began to flow together. He felt he were standing on a horizon line of sea and sky and that line had suddenly vanished leaving him merged and teetering in between.

He felt dizzy and backed up for the safety of the sofa. The carpet was on the move again and out to trip him up. It wasn’t the vines this time but the wires of the Nomicon Bright-Easy machine that made him stumble.

The woman’s arm shot out in one quick darting movement like the tongue of a lizard to catch a lazy fly, drunk in the hot sun. The hand that held him from falling was hard, like bound sticks and missing, it seemed, some of its fingers. Was this the hand that drew the drapes aside with a snapping sound? He felt her other hand grip him and heard the dry rustling sound of Easter palms as she lowered him to the sofa. She smiled down at him and said “Welcome” with the voice of a mother soothing a son. Then she smoothed his brow and stroked his hands leaving behind a stigmata of tiny splinters.

“What is your name, Madam?” Words he managed to slide out through his chapped lips. Names will never hurt me.

“My name is Mrs Poppy. Zena Poppy.” Except these words did.

The one embedded in the doormat came flooding back to him. But he did not remember the word itself, not its shape, not its form, not its sculptural phonemes, but merely its essential meaning, a sense and tone that hung about like druggy, vine-like fish-creatures. Indeed, the flooding back was constituted of dry waves, like upon the surface of a sea on the moon. And this creature was an inhabitant of such a sea, scraping its parchment scales along a scabrous bed.

All mixed in with other names. His mother’s, his grandmother’s, and the German heritage in his family: the paintings of murderers that lined the walls of his childhood home. The tiny weather house. Mingling in with the doormat word that could not be shaken off...

But he did shake it off.

“You must have fainted,” said the woman.

Alan sat with his head in his head.

“It’s Ok, Mrs Poppy. I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s the weather, I’d say. So unseasonable.”

Unreasonable, too, thought Alan. Would the drought never end? It was as if global warming had taken the earth in a grip so tight, all the water was being squeezed down some cosmic sinkhole, never to be seen again.

Wormholes, black holes, wormcasts...

He still felt faint. He’d forgotten, till now, how hot the day had been. No wonder he was getting hallucinations. Tramping around town with his case. Too dry even to sweat properly. He was stirred into permanent recovery from malaise by the yapping of the slit-eyed pug, who was snaffling around with the Power Head’s wires, as if it thought it were fighting a monster of some kind. Alan couldn’t help laughing.

“Wilbur! Wilbur! Leave the gentleman’s things alone!”
“Don’t worry, Mrs Poppy. There’s nothing he can really harm.”

The single lamp was now struggling with the full-bodied onset of night and Alan decided to switch on the full-beam of his Power Head vacuum, a facility he had actually forgotten, till now, it possessed. Taking an apologetic glance at Zena Poppy’s face - and she now looked decidedly attractive despite the dis-spiriting gloom (or perhaps because of it) - he threw the large trigger and a shaft of light, constituted of several intertwining beams, cannoned through the darkness towards the ceiling proper. He could now discern several cobwebs and thicker clusters of fibres amid the porphyry of the upper surface’s ornamentation, wherein, as the shaft cut deeper swathes into the various consistencies, were seen flickers and shadowy shifting things that actually must have lived and breathed up there. Darkness made dust. No other way to describe it.

“Oops!” said Mrs Poppy, with evident embarrassment at the hidden corners where her house-pride hadn’t reached.

“Don’t worry, Mrs Poppy. Some of the best housewives in the world have been shocked at what my Power Head can find!”


Things are looking up thought Alan as he swept the darkened room with the Power Head illuminating orange slices of it in strobes ... and things are looking down, too, he noted, watching slit-eyed Wilbur's frantic attempts to catch whatever was dropping from the ceiling. Indeed, the mutt's eyes were opened now to the size of saucers -flying ones, it would seem, judging from the way he was running around and barking berserkly. Alan, of course, could see nothing. Wasn't this always the way with animals?

The beam of light from the Power Head was like that from a movie projector and Alan imagined a World War Two documentary unreeling before his eyes. The powerful searchlight scanned the night sky as the Power Head gave the signal, with air raid sirens beginning to wail. Wilbur was beside himself on the floor, now scuttling in foaming circles. The fine line between land and sky was once again vanishing for Alan, as he saw, in his mind's eye, Luftwaffe Condor legions overhead.
His mission - to look up and Hoover down Hitler's huge Henkel bombers. His dilemma - that he himself (with his German blood, scars and decorations) was looking down from one of the cockpits.

He was abruptly brought down to earth by Wilbur who, having caught something from the ceiling, was busy worrying it to death in the carpet's tangled pile.

"Wilbur! Wilbur!" screeched Mrs Poppy, in wild remonstration.

The word in the Welcome Mat came back, with its full force of meaning, if not its actual configuration as a word, while Alan became faced with the goriest, yet most cosmically nirvanic, scene to which it had ever been mankind's misfortune to bear witness. Even the wisest writers of literature and philosophy would have been at a loss for words, real words, words that possessed textual substance as well as semantic evocation. The few beers Alan had supped before coming hadn't helped. Memories mixed with meanings, two witches at the sink, a suitcase that contained more than its size, a Pekinese mongrel with abject carpet-manners, fruit congealed like gum mastic, frog-throated alcoves masquerading as empty ceiling-corners, Nomicons of Nothingness where age was older even than the need to clean things (primeval sludge being a devil to budge from prehistoric drains), amphibious aircraft threading the cobweb-runners (how else could they fly when heavier than air?), murky monsters with extraneous tentacles, feeler-fairies in dark-skinned tights, opiate blooms enlacing the hardened tendrils extruded by spider-gaunts ...

Opiate brooms. Alan was confused slightly by the misspelling. He quickly fastened his suitcase, after re-stowing the Power Head therein. Took one last glimpse at the grue-strutter that called itself Zena Poppy. Gave an irritable kick towards the miniature manky man-chewer called Wilbur. And dashed from the house into the welcome freshness of a cloud-burst.

Either the cheeks were rain-strewn or they were real tears, as Alan dwelled upon the memories which he hoped were the only real memories: his Mother's hands as she bathed him and his Grandmother's affectionate liking for clean plumbing. But then he looked. This time, he looked not up nor down. He looked back. No, not back, but black. On the Welcome Mat stood a likeness of Alan himself, evidently stuck - through his own shoe-leather - to the bristly word he couldn't ever forget amongst even the stickiest sicknesses that could possibly be conveyed by mere meaning: the blade-straight lines, deadly slope and enticingly deceptive scimitar-curve which Wilbur's jaws had been tussling into shape.

Posted by augusthog at 4:01 AM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older