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Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Dead Time



There is a period of time when life’s too boring even to warrant boredom.  Boredom is a human feeling, a sense of ennui, minutes dragging by, nothing happening….


Susan looked at him.  She knew he was thinking again.  Thoughts were his worst enemy.


…Yes, boredom entailed nothing happening except a human being lounging around to warrant such a description.  My name is Neville.  I am bored. 


Susan smiled at Neville.  She knew where this might be leading.  Soon she would say something … to fill the silence.


But when there is nothing, not even boredom, that is when the dead time begins…


Neville stared at Susan daring her to intervene in his thoughts.  Thoughts once begun always threatened to continue forever.  Even through the dead time.  But thoughts weren’t allowed during the dead time, were they?  They ought to fizz away into the emptiness, as the natural chemical reaction of dead time meeting thoughts.


My name is Susan.  I am bored looking at Neville staring at the screen.  I can’t see from here whether it’s switched on, but there’s no light flashing on the surface of his face.  I am having thoughts about Neville.  He is my partner in this crime that some call life.  My thoughts are not characteristic of me.  I am not used to thinking.  I am merely used to being.  Shopping, cleaning, caring for Neville, wanting his children.  But his children don’t want me … somehow. They are part of the dead time.  How can you be born when you’ve already died?


Susan is staring at me.  She calls me Neville.  So I call myself Neville.  Names are allergic to the dead time.  Names melt away into a gas that then float at ceiling level like coloured steam.  Susan and Neville are up there together, making colour schemes, if not children.  Thoughts that are not grounded in reality are what some call dreams.


He calls me Susan.  So I call myself Susan.  I am pretty.  He is handsome.  In an ideal world we would be partners and live happily ever after, with loads of lovely children.  Children are necessary for the furtherance of the human species.  This is all very strange, since these thoughts, let alone the words used to make up the thoughts, are not characteristic of me.  And if I’m having someone else’s thoughts…


I am worried about Susan.  She is having terrible trouble with her identity.  She wavers in front of my eyes like a migraine.  The onset of the dead time will eventually be a happy release for her.  First in the sequence, one senses boredom creeping up, then the coloured gases vanish off the face towards the ceiling where they just creep away into the top corners of the room.  Then full-blooded boredom.  What a relief.  I can see it on her face, her face that is now crystal clear.  She is approaching nirvana.  Boredom is the first step towards the blissful dead time of the soul.  Meanwhile, Susan struggles with her identity, like David meeting Goliath…  But, oh no, boredom has escaped through the window.  She has inadvertently re-awakened the busy time.  She cannot sit still.  She simply needs to be doing.  A being must have doing. 


I walk over to Neville, and dust the top of his head.  He is staring into space.  I thought he was looking at the screen, but I guess he was simply staring at my reflection in its blankness.  Staring at Susan.  Once screens, in the old days, were black and white, but now they’re full of mixing colours, sprays of pixels forming the perfect colour to decorate our lives.  I touch his lips with mine.


Susan has walked over to me.  I am scared. And I just heard the letterbox go. There is too much happening.  The dead time is an impossible goal.  Too many thoughts.  Too many emotions. Too much air.  Too much of everything.  The world crammed with ambitions and duties.  Anxieties and fears.  Loves and hates.  The need to be … someone.  To leave oneself behind – through one’s children or one’s works.  I feel Susan near – nearer…


Neville has gone.  Neville never was.  It will be such a relief for him.  He hasn’t died, because he was never born.  No memories left behind.  Only the crushed cushions and the dropped remote control.  I pick it up from the floor.  His favourite channel is rubbed blank on the button. The down volume switch rubbed blanker still.  As if he didn’t want to know about the goal that put his team out of the cup.


I am in Heaven, looking down on Susan.  I never once existed.  It is such a clean break.  Death is merely just one more boredom to bear.  But never having existed at all that is the only true dead time.  When time itself is dead.  Never Neville.


Susan plumps up the cushions, switches on the screen.  Her thoughts have settled back down into her own thoughts at last. Even her memory disowns the colours she once saw.  She turns and looks through the window at the departing back of the postman.  Brought some junk mail no doubt, along with some emails.

Posted by augusthog at 7:58 AM EST
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Ten Seconds To Lift-Off


Mistral, Sirocco and Simoom were three of a kind, lately unsure of their proclivities to other genders, yet certain about their need for love.  At first, they tried living together menage à trois style, then – after several arguments concerning clothes-pegs – they resided in conjoined granny flats manufactured from old army billets, brought to one site like portakabins; and now, more recently, bivouacked betweeen the two Plateaux of Jullipbar where the serendipities of wind and breeze held sway.


Indeed, the three of them today flourished and had their being amid the gusts of life that thrived at the interface of two separate and quite different configuations of Jullipbar geography, although both these flattened-out swirls of contour and geomancy were each called by the single name Plateau … in the way that ordnance mapmakers talked those days about their terrestrial discipline of direction and status quo.  Indeed, the esoteric art of cartography was easier, and the diagrammatic drawings relatively simple when the various terminologies of landname were kept to the minimum.


The very essence and personality of Mistral, Simoom and Sirocco – as well as their physique – were determined by the nature of the movement in the air they breathed and floated upon or, during their more human moments, walked through like stately society duchesses in a novel by Marcel Proust.  The valley betwn the two Plateaux (one Plateau hot and salty, the other Plateau cold, wet and sandy) was where they sported their social graces, sometimes six feet above the ground like tea-cutter balloons, at other times rooted firmly in the ground like cos lettuces, and, yet, rarely, but certainly on occasions, striding along dressed  in the expensive frills, embroidered fabrics and lace-trimmed veils of late 19th century France – albeit such finery was really sail-cloth disguised as high fashion.


One cold, yet intermittently hot, day in March, the endemic winds were literally damped into a neutral gear by the sodden down-draughts of air that could hardly be called wind at all.  Mistral was preening herself, ready to speak out against the other two, of whom she was jealous: mainly because they were canoodling amid the fast stagnating atmosphere.  The other two stared back at Mistral with scorn, as she was still able to float above the ground, whilst they, Sirocco and Simoom, felt their feet planting themselves like a late crop for mere peasants to reap.  They were all on their way, as it happened, to their triangular bivouac near the cusp of the Pan-handle of Jullipbar … where further canoodling was promised, if they could but reach such privacy, away from any damp swirls of disease and dead lung that threatened to prevail in Jullipbar.  Whatever the case, Mistral simply knew, in her frantic whirlwinds of heartache, that she was due to be ostracised.  She was not flavour of the month.  And whilst two’s company, three is definitely a cloud. She simply knew.


Smiling, and pulling her puff-tweed petticoats to knee-length, with the result of an exciting glimpse of her nicely turned ankle, Mistral strode on towards the welcome arms of the bivouac where she would pleasure herself for a while, to the sounds of regathering breezes threatening to turn the tornado of her emotions from taken-as-red to go-go-go-go-green.

Whilst two’s company, one’s certainly never far away from a perfect paradise of equilibrium and meditation, amid the purring perfumed wafts of balm and peace that managed to thread the portakabin’s costly Venetian blinds.


The crazy geographers looked on at Mistral – with the pungent contours of age wrinkling their strange, yet quirkily pleasant faces, their watchful expressions out-racing the very landscape by more than a head and a mere nose.


Sirocco and Simoom, back on the Pan-handle, became entwined like runner has-beens.  Ten seconds to lift off.




Posted by augusthog at 7:55 AM EST
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A Slimy Story



Alan was ankle deep in something he’d’ve preferred to have avoided.  But Alan, when he realised that -- to reach Rhona -- he needed to negotiate various spillages she’d left iin her wake, decided to remove his sock and shoe with the aim of hopping towards her known whereabouts. 


This wasn’t an alien land.  Nor was it home. It was a cross between two worlds: the first being the sane environment of Earth where he’d been brought up and become accustomed to its logical causes and effects, the world of his earliest memories and subsequent education by similar creatures to him; and a second world, one with unpredictable motives (the motives of  the environment itself, of its inhabitants, even of visitors to that world as they became gradually subsumed by the cultures infesting it).  These two environments had merged in Alan’s mind and he had ceased to be aware of exactly which world he now inhabited.  Was he at home or was he visiting?  Rhona was common to both worlds so her presence here proved nothing.


Common sense told him that he currently inhabited the second world, the alien one, but it had gradually and imperceptibly gathered to itself characteristics of his home world, a world which he loosely called Earth.  For example, he was treading over floorboards, listening to birdsong, and the wailing of wind in a chimney.  Yet the floorbards were covered with a colourless slime about two inches thick.  Even measurements were measured out by Alan in terrestrial terms.  The substance that held his footprints intact was a gooey one, more akin to glue than slime, but slime was the nearest he could reach it with his newly restricted vocabulary.  On Earth he had been a wordy soul, even been a writer of some literary note, but now, he found himself searching for the correct words for any situation.  Call it slime, then. Though, back home, or fully back home, he would have called it something else.  Carpet pile perhaps. Or dust. Or even rat droppings.  But here, in his present predicament of place, time and  perceived ownership of mind, it had to be slime.  He did not even question it.  The word was sacrosanct.


He could now discern Rhona at the far end of the hall.  Except it may not have been a hall at all, since there was a four poster bed somewhere along its length.  She was recognisable as Rhona, since he clung on to a snapshot of her from Earth.  He kept glancing at it and comparing the features of the beautiful woman there frozen with the more fluid version at the end of the hall.  However, this method of identification and attempted self-assurance on Alan’s part did not allow comparison of Rhona’s respective voices.  On Earth, he recalled it quite lilting and pleasant to hear, unlike some other women he had once known back home.  Yet, here, he heard only slimy gutturals emerging from her mouth.  Words formed in the throat or much lower and then set loose by the mouth, without any intervention of the mouth’s vocal implements.


“Alan, go away.  I can’t… I am not the person you once knew.  I am dangerous…”


Alan was not diverted by this perhaps autonomous disguise of her true personality.  He knew it was Rhona, despite the slimy vowels and, incredibly, even slimier hard consonants of her speech.


He decided to respond vocally himself.  He hadn’t attempted this before here in this hybrid world of known and unknown forces of nature.  Not only did he have to dig deep for the correct words, he needed also to dig even deeper for a voice that would carry them towards Rhona.  He noticed that she now lolled on the bed, beckoning him with the crook of a little finger.  Fear was the most natural emotion for Alan to feel in these circumstances.  But, unaccountably, he sensed a quite uncharacteristic courage building up in his loins, together with a passion and desire for the body he recalled to be Rhona’s.  But first the speech, the one he owed her, to fulfil their mutual pretensions towards dialogue or conversation.


“Rhona … I love you … I always loved you … nothing can come between us … nothing or nobody.”


There he’d said it.  He sighed with relief … except the sigh was more a phlegmy wheeze than a waft of expended air.  The toes of his hopping foot were now webbed with the consistency he’d once called slime.  Seemed ages ago now. He needed to use his other foot to prevent unbalancing.  An unblanced mind – as his surely was – needed at least the countervailing force of a firm physical stance.  He placed the other foot – still shod – to the floor or ground.  The sole of the shoe immediately dissolved into the same substance upon which it trod.  As did the sock.  But the flesh of his foot stood firm.  That gave him more courage of conviction.  He gave a sudden sideways look at the window in the hall.  Through it he could see trees similar to those he’d seen all his life growing on Earth.  And in Earth.  As if life was a twofold process, outer and inner, and this applied to everything, even stone and wood.


By now – amid a further turmoil of ungrounded thoughts – Alan had reached the side of the bed, where the curtains had been pulled fully round.  Rhona’s voice – still unpredictable and unrecognisable from his previous experience of hearing it – managed to thread its way through the curtains, but not without becoming tangled in further slimy appendages of tangible, visible quality.  A voice that Alan could see negotiating its acoustic path towards his ears.


“We are not here at all.  So go away, Alan, and nobody will know or see any difference. “


Alan scrratched his head – but felt only the slime that he assumed to be his own brain.


“Why not go away yourself, then?” Alan managed to say - despite the touch of his fingers to his own brain having managed adversely to affect the mind’s powers of thought as well as of speech.  “Nobody would notice any difference.”  These last words he managed to emit were more like birdsong than human vocalisation.   He smiled.  As he pulled the curtains of the bed aside.


And then one heard only slime gurgling, at the grinding interface of two worlds emerging through the deep throats and chimneys of untenable reality into the possibility of carnal, if not cranial, congress.


A single photograph floated to the floor.


Or through the floor.


Posted by augusthog at 7:51 AM EST
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The Inside of the Bottle-Opener



“Too many openers spoil the bottle,” claimed Charles.


Mag laughed, even though she really failed to understand the joke or the reference.  Its beauty was that she didn’t need to understand because Charles was funny whatever he said.  His face lent meaning or humour with every glance.  The trouble was he said very little.


“Still waters run deep,” thought Mag.


Marley was staring through the kitchen window from outside.  He was stood there after sweating in the sun – digging the potato patch or moving things about to clear the path for visitors.


“Hi, Marley,” said Mag.  “How’s the water butt today?  Mended?”


“Ok, I think,” said Marley, as ever speaking to Mag by looking straight at Charles, as if Charles were some sort of pivot that implied confidence.  Charles knew, for example, that Marley had once been inside.  Doing time.  On His Majesty’s pleasure.  As they say.


Charles had naturally never told Mag about the conversation he and Marley had once held in the early days, at that distant point of memory when Charles was willing actually to hold a conversation.


“You know how things are,” Marley had said.  A strange way to start an old conversation.  Years ago Charles knew exactly what he meant.  What mattered it if a gardener – factotum, odd-job man – had been a resident of the ‘Bottle Opener’?  The most notorious establishment of its kind, where inmates regularly populated the roofs – as if randomly demonstrating how free they really were.  Shouting at visitors as their negotiated the obstacle course of shrubs and sheds that represented the Bottle Opener’s immediate grounds.


The sun was really working its heart out that day – glancing off Marley’s face and dancing not only with the fairies that many believed populated the air but also among the speech bubbles of conversation.  Memories certainly gave a strange slant to the present, as well as changing themselves (the memories) in the process.  But Charles could not recall whether he had that thought then or now.  Days got mixed up as life itself seemed to lose its meaning with age.


Charles did remember Marley telling him that the Bottle Opener was called that because … well, that was a long drawn-out explanation.  There had been a legendary inmate called Rudge (once merely a visitor from outside) and Rudge’s term indeed overlapped with that of Marley at the very beginning, but most inmates had only heard talk of Rudge rather than met him.  On the outside, Rudge had been a wide-ranging tippler and womaniser, as sharp as a tinopener, too – but, whilst inside, apparently, he was Alcoholics Anonymous through and though – and as celibate as the bars ground into the lower and upper concrete of his cell window (as Rudge himself put it).  But that was afterwards.  Inside, he was bluntly a man of few words.  According to Marley.  And Charles reported it all differently somehow when talking to Mag about what Marley had said about Rudge to Charles.


Bottles were smuggled through the bars by befrienders who visited the establishment for forgiveness but Rudge had refused any share in such bottles.  But bars sure continued to represent a word that conjured up a whole world for Rudge – when, on the outside, there was never an opening time or a closing time but simply a snake of time sucking grog through its own tail like a straw.  Marley shrugged.  His own words crudely misrepresented his own time at the Bottle Opener – and Rudge’s poetic turn of phrase when reporting it after his stint of service at His Majesty’s Pleasure were far beyond Marley’s range of thought.  So Charles and Mag remained quite oblivious of the ‘snake of time’ phrase.  Perhaps it had never been used by even Rudge himself.  Only doing time would tell.


Marley eventually told Charles that Rudge had befriended him when they shared a cell together – during the conversation that they held through the night when they had also christened the place the Bottle Opener. Now it seemed the place had always been called the Bottle Opener.  Strange ways, strange times.


Each period of time held different conversations and overlapping events … and back, today, Mag and Charles seeing Marley through the kitchen window would become just one more undependable future memory for someone among them to toy with or merely fetch from the past and interpret or misinterpret accordingly.  Usually the latter.


The sun always seemed to shine, from inside the Bottle-Opener.  And, today, the sun was shining in the kitchen garden.  The path was freshly weeded.  The water butt fixed so that any leaks were yesterday’s leaks.  The shed had been moved on its moveable plinth towards a part of the garden to give shade for anyone wanting to use the deck-chair.  Marley shuffled his feet expecting a cup of tea to be passed through the window.


Mag, much later, that same day, or another day, stood by the kitchen window, alone, watching birds swooping in to feed off the pellets of food she’d left for them on various devices of bird-table or bird-house or bird-cage – except the bird-cage itself was where they nibbled at the food from outside, the food being inside the cylindrical hanging cage as a container.  She almost wept as she remembered that climate changes were afoot and probably had been since Victorian times if anyone had the nous to recognise this fact.  Human beings were at risk as well as birds.  She had a dream last night when she watched three men digging the garden, back-breaking stuff – three of them, three blokes, three geezers, rough diamonds, rogues, wasters, rather tongue-tied individuals who helped round the grounds of the house, just for a few scraps of food she could spare and the bottles of drink she had stockpiled for just these occasions.  Bottles were better than money, in these circumstances.  The food was relatively unimportant and they laboured in the hot sun purely for what the bottles contained, indeed raising their respective thirsts so as to enjoy the drink that much better.  The dream was not a dream at all but it didn’t matter.  It <I>seemed</I> like  a dream, that was what was imporatant – like most of Mag’s life had seemed like a dream, since her husband had gone way.  Charles, Marley and Rudge saluted as the sun reached such a certain pitch that they needed to shade their eyes when they looked towards the kitchen window.  They couldn’t see Mag because of the reflections.


Rudge looked through the bars of his cage.  He had dreamed of Mag dreaming of him, although he didn’t know her name was Mag nor that the other two men he worked with in the garden were known to each other, let alone to her … or to him.  Tears came to his eyes.  He was so far down the pecking-order of self-knowledge, he wondered if he existed at all.  Rudge rather envied Marley his strange ways and means of getting in and out of the cage as if it were a puzzle people had for Christmas, squeezing a shape through impossible gaps.  He envied Charles even more than he did Marley.  Charles had only tried to get <I>into</I> the cage from outside but had failed; failure and success having grey overlapping areas as most things did.  But Charles always gave confidence that he was there, that he knew what he was doing: telling the truth.


Marley had a dream, too.  He was in the shed surrounded by unopened bottles and he man-handled a hammer as if this were the only method to tackle their opening.  But shards of glass would be one mixer too far, he assumed.  The shed seemed to be moving under him – like a sedan chair – or like a feat of imagination that was beyond even the dream’s capacity to manage – and it soon ground to a halt.  Once Mag had visited him here in the shed.  Until the dream itself dissipated.


The final dream was Charles.  Not a dream of Charles, not a dream by Charles.  The dream was Charles.  A dream that was a person, not a person dreaming a dream.  A dream that masqueraded as a real person with a real name carrying a body round with it as if it was his.  Like a vehicle or lift or big wheel.  Charles suddenly recalled those ships in a bottle: scrimshaw vessels that were too big for the bottle that they seemed to be voyaging within.  Sailors used to make them for their favourite nephews.  Prison-ships.  Charles used to live near the Essex marshes.  He once knew Magwitch, before he was famous.



Posted by augusthog at 7:49 AM EST
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Monday, 3 November 2008
Chloe's Elbow


CHLOE’S ELBOW by Dawn Andrews and DF Lewis


This scene runs over and over, luminous, although its edges have dissolved in time like a sugar cube in tepid water. There is a beach, sand glassy and brittle under a huge sun, a blazing supernova. How we met. She was drowning. I was there. "Look, don't struggle – I'll help you if you let me!" Her arms flailing, her elbow in my eye, the crack of bone on bone. Then she relaxed – the shiner she gave me. How come such a little squirt could bruise me so easily? After I finally managed to haul her out of the water we both lay on the sand, panting and exhausted, as if we had been having sex for ten hours. Straight.


They lingered, those tale-telling violet marks I had to constantly explain away. I claimed it was a riding accident that I had suffered from off the back of some godforsaken unbroken steed masquerading as a child’s near-pony of a pet. When I forgot the story and replaced it with another figment of my imagination (being lodged against a car by another car) I must have become the world's most accident-prone man overnight, my wife acidly commented. Yet I hated it when they faded. After she died, I'd even pinch myself to recreate them, then cry my eyes out.


How much can be reanimated, from the past? If I save another struggling girl, out of her depth, will it be the same? I keep wondering if I can make it happen again. Change the ending – all still passionate and very alive. I begin to see where Doc Frankenstein was coming from. And the freak with the living doll, Coppelia. Hey, doc. Cop a load of this! Cop? Dr Coppelius. That was his name. Swanilda – well, that was a different story. She played fast and loose with all puppet-masters, at the best of times, give or take the omniscience of Him who could only create her as a human, let alone a puppet. Give a man a break.


But she never did. Demanded perfection, always. The pure line of the jaw, not a bone out of place. Only her enigmatic sexuality saving her from the scrap heap of miscellaneous parts, piling up in the basement, awaiting incineration. Of course, her flirting ways were a constant threat, and maddening to her creator. She finally went too far. Lost the game. Snake eyes! Chloe had fractured her elbow. My wife, Swanilda, did die – I wasn’t sure, looking back at my notes, whether Chloe had died, or Swanilda had died: certainly one of them had done so. By composing fictions (like a latter day Borges), I have thrown up the luck charms and they’ve come down as dice. Chloe is the winner. Cube dice chipped off her old elbow.


She lies in the grass, trying to read a book that flickers on and off in the deepening twilight. Of how Mayans made dice and other gaming tools from the bones and skins of the sacrifice victims they tortured. Chloe knows she is a winner only in name. The stakes of love are high, and losing sometimes fatal. Poor Swanilda! Her pale blue eyes still radiate calm fire, cobwebs forming between her delicate brows. Chloe is an echo of someone else. Her elbow an echo of another elbow. Perhaps her own. Let me come clean. I compose music. The notes on the staves are like puppets. Crotchets and minims bouncing along the trampoline themes, heads butting, tails twining, keys turning, quaver waves surfing. This is the tale of one special composition. Chloe's Elbow, in four movements. A reanimation of soul from sound.


Soul from sound. Women can live their lives out as echoes of another presence. (We puppet masters rule the game, despite minor losses.) Did you know that Chloe and Swanilda were at school together? They were rivals, even then, the games they played – Chloe was the champion gymnastic dancer, Swanilda the vaulting princess – Watch her approach at a graceful run, pleated skirt wild above white thighs as she leaps high to reveal regulation navy-blue knickers, hands firm upon the leather horse, golden charm-bracelet jingling. As are the nerves of the gamesmaster who watches, breathless. Perfect landing, all smiles. Chloe takes to the floor, dances free-style, the music swells, the pattern of the music skips and misses a beat, as the heart yearns the dance progresses, even Chopin, he of the demonic hands, has a hard time keeping up! The girl spins like a dervish. Scriabin’s piano music next, more off-the-wall than Chopin, despite the obvious similarities, does sound from the tannoy. Has a strange metallic texture, as if broadcast direct from the ballroom of a submerged ocean liner. The epic tenderness of lost pleasures. Other girls clamber over a huge webwork of wall bars in tune to some internal rhythm not made obvious by the music, yet with so many sweaty show-offs crawling thus vertically towards their imputed Heaven, there was no dimunition in the attention span of the audience of proud parents towards the antics of Chloe and Swanilda in free-style abandon: a many-handed clapping building in time to the undercurrents that several sensed the music held, if not the dancing itself. The religious frenzy that sheaths the dance Spain and North Africa, the arabic delight in rippling flesh, the beating heart, open upon the dancefloor, that the dancer responds to, evermore in tune with the audience, wielding unveiled desires.  Gymnastic dancing was relative to both performer and watcher only inasmuch as it was quite separate from either. A sculpture. A single thing called dance. The puppet-master’s vision was one that sketched their shapes in grounded free-fall without any danger to life or limb – a skein of independent images overmapping the two girls’ real attempts at the choreography in their heads. Elbows clashing, heads butting, in the overenthusiasm of their finale as a duet.


They cling to each other as the music ends. Dazed azure stares into greyest smoke, a painful understanding. Chloe has cuts on her hands. Swanilda'sface is scratched. Wounded by the freedom gifted to them by the music. The leather horse does not even blink. It is sleek with sweat. It imagines the future: a sea scene within its equine skull that betokens both a near drowning and the shuttling lifeforce reconfigured as music – in an attempt to stave off that watery extinction. Chloe's horse desiring to swim out, one of those horses that love to swim, at the expense of the rider who clings for dear life to a seaweed-entwined saddle, the wetness and heat of the animal neck against her face. The night before she remembers as if in a dream, the music, La Mer, waves pulse forever within the notes as if held prisoner by the mind that can sit before this immensity, and turn it into wriggling creatures of pure sound. Her mouth filled with the acrid bitterness of death, her eyes stinging pearls, full fathom five.


Chloe and Swanilda finally faded or still fade from any overlapping. Chloe became an artist of fine distinction. The dice came down in her favour, all manner of many-sided geometricisms that were once popular in role-playing games of the late twentieth century. She often incorporates their bone configurations in her art. Dragons and dungeons in freeform abstractions. Marienbad nuggets in random ricochets off their own surfaces as well as the ground they brushed.


Swanilda married Dr Coppelius. Schools are only for a meagre portion of contemporaneity. She and Chloe couldn’t possibly have gone through the whole of their lives clipping their joints in accidents of dervish or dance. Heads were not made of rubber. Clips and slaps of the skull rind would inevitably bring brain damage. Their girlish love for each other could never have borne such comings together.


Dr Coppelius was a dollmaker. He made Looby Loo for Andy Pandy, then created for her a soft boy called Teddy as a companion, because Andy Pandy was too preoccupied with picnic hampers. Swanilda was model for most. Her dancing was a diversion, though, since puppets or dolls rarely moved of their own volition … except perhaps, at their optimum, in dreams. Gymnastic wastrels and waifs he often ragged out into human shapes from excess bedding. He made horses into shoes, and shoes into horses. Or, boots, perhaps, bearing in mind the mane and neck and laced up jaw-bits. Vaulting was a pleasure deeper than leapfrog.


Meanwhile, Chloe became a long-distance swimmer, as well as an artist. She felt her elbow ends and kneecaps were safer in the water. A slomo dance of the forward crawl. She saw the coral beds as an artform she yearned to paint for real. Crags and fucus standing up on the canvas with the soft geometry of exotic airfish weaving between their furrier, seaweedier bits.


Chloe and Swanilda finally faded or still fade from any overlapping. Salting their melancholies. Chloe became an artist of fine distinction. The dice came down in her favour, all manner of many-sided geometricisms that were once popular in role-playing games of the late twentieth century. She often incorporates their bone configurations in her art. Dragons and dungeons in freeform abstractions. Marienbad nuggets in random ricochets off their own surfaces as well as the ground they brushed. In this way she creates scenes that turn black white and white black, the wanton feathers around her throat clinging to the possibilities of change, yet a theme that in reality had one outcome. Last year. Whatever happened? Happened. She was inconsolable, wished to forget. But in creating, only remembered with agonising clarity. More games. Swanilda married Dr Coppelius. Schools are only for a meagre portion of contemporaneity, teaching girls how to please and simper and lie. She and Chloe couldn't possibly have gone through the whole of their lives clipping their joints in accidents of dervish delight. Heads were not made of rubber. (Not yet.) Clips and slaps of the skull rind would inevitably bring brain damage, and this they could ill-afford. Their girlish love for each other could never have borne such comings together. Dr Coppelius was a dollmaker. He made Looby Loo for Andy Pandy, then created for her a soft boy called Teddy as a companion, because Andy Pandy was too preoccupied with picnic hampers. The desire for picnics usually an excuse for rural coupling, yet Andy wore an abstracted air, always. Fiddling with the salt cellar he would lie under a giant horse-chestnut, lost in the blue while Teddy and Looby Loo messed around in the licentious rhodedendrons.


Swanilda was a model wife. Her dancing a playful diversion, using the four-poster as a vaulting horse…. though, since puppets or dolls rarely moved of their own volition…. except perhaps, at their optimum, in dreams. Gymnastic wastrels and waifs she often ragged out into human shapes for excess bedding, although never going to De Sadean extremes. He made horses into shoes, and shoes into horses. Or, boots, perhaps, bearing in mind the mane and neck and laced up jaw-bone. Vaulting was a pleasure deeper than leapfrog. (And good for the complexion.)


Meanwhile, Chloe became a long-distance swimmer, as well as an artist. She dreamed of making it to the island; she knew it existed, that place where magic taints the air and the dream-capped towers, where sweet sounds drive the beasts to distraction. She felt her elbow ends, kneecaps and other sea-changed bits were better off in the water, away from civilisation, the temptations of excess. She scoured old junks shops, looking for a map. A slomo dance of the forward crawl. Even on land, now, she had the elegance of a mermaid. Like Esther Williams she kept her make-up immaculate, nobody knew how. She saw the coral beds as an artform she yearned to paint for real. Rich and Strange, as the voyages existing in the barnacled mind of Peter Grimes. Crags and fucus standing up on the canvas with the soft geometry of exotic airfish weaving between their furrier, seaweedier bits. She started to use collage, satins, laces and even the skins of rabbit and mink, to create the depth of thought she needed, then objects that only she and those closest to her could ever understand. She became 'obscure'. Moribund art dealers with care-worn moustaches would frown at her lack of monetary ambition. And she would watch her name, etched upon the sand, erased by each new tide. Then she would dance, and laugh. The freedom of being nameless!


Yet our names are violet marks. Not tattoos, not even everlasting bruises … from the fight or the fight against rescue from drowning. Only puppets can be tugged clear by the strings – or by the hands up their nethers.


The horses vaulted through the waves. Those exercising waves, stretching their meniscus curves. Allegro, Adagio, Scherzo, Allegro. Two halves of one woman tugging back at the strings that a Doctor had once pulled free. Edge to edge they re-healed their well-heeled pizzicato souls. The only cop out was not knowing where the strings ended. Brass and percussion, too. Yet the egg-timer allowed the sand free rein through the middle joint. Time to go home, Andy is waving goodbye, goodbye. Chloe’s Echo. The shiner she gave me.












Posted by augusthog at 6:43 AM EST
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Brunch At The Charnel Cafe


Posted by augusthog at 6:40 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 21 April 2012 3:36 AM EDT
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Locker Room


Posted by augusthog at 6:37 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 21 April 2012 3:35 AM EDT
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Sunday, 2 November 2008
'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL's comments)

Chapter 18 – Transitions


A chapter of events: low-key but all events are significant and powerful in one’s destiny however low-key they seem: getting pox, but allowed to continue for whip-making purposes at the Laughing Phallus by (pragmatic but essentially, we feel, soft-hearted) Madame Scurf:  i.e. retained for whip making. A delightful chapter, where we feel Tuerqui is fulfilling the stoical philosophy of this novel and making people (otherwise bad) better than they would otherwise be.  By the power of the Goddess as well as by the omniscient tri-partite author?


Choice snippets from among many:


We could gauge the passage of time, each night, from the sand trickling through a large glass by the door.  The timepiece was invisible from the cubicles, but I looked at it each time an attendant released me from my straps.  The device was, of course, placed there for the attendants – not for the whores.  It was to ensure that customers were not allowed more time than that for which they had paid.




Our injections done, Madame Scurf led us through the twisting corridors, with which the Laughing Phallus was threaded like worm holes in a several months overripe cheese.  The passages brought us at last to a large dusty room which was obviously long disused.  Sunshine spilt dimly through filthy windows.  The only furniture was a collection of packing cases – all of which proved to be empty – and a small clutter of cleaning equipment.


and the memorable Leather Mistress monument:


On the far side of the market were the dark outlines of mansions and a great temple with many domes.  Dominating all was a colossal goddess, at least sixty feet high.  Although I’d never been here before, I recognised the image from a book I had thumbed in the Belle House library.  She was the Leather Mistress and we were in Leatherhead.


I love the following sentence but did not fully understand it (no bad thing):


The purple faced man – or, rather, purple with discoloured streaks – sputtered in rage whilst the street rang with laughter.





or whom otherwise earned the attendants’ disfavour


I think that ‘whom’ should be ‘who’.



relcalcitent = recalcitrant ?



I know Tuerqui is purported not to be a semi-colon girl so would not the following:


Each booth contained a bed, each bed was occupied by a whore, some male some female, each whore was bound to her or his bed by leather wrist and ankle straps.


be better as:


Each booth contained a bed, each bed occupied by a whore, some male some female, each whore bound to her or his bed by leather wrist and ankle straps.



Does ‘tanner’ need a footnote?




neither glanced my direction




Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.


 On this site, if you want to leave comments all you need do is type 'nospam' in confirm box and your name.


The links to all Chapter comments by me are here:



Posted by: newdfl on 8/9/2008 8:07:51 AM , 3 comments

Submitted by Pet at 8/10/2008 5:28:17 AM

Thank you for that, Des.

The paragraph beginning "Our injections done," was one with which I had quite a struggle on the final revision. In previous versions, it was rather clumsily expressed -- but it now seems to read rather well. I'm glad that you seem to agree.

I've never been to Leatherhead, but would be disappointed to find no temple with many domes or colossal statue of the Leather Mistress.

Perhaps it is better not to understand fully the man's face -- purple with discoloured streaks.

I've looked at the sentence with "whom" and, for such a short sentence, it seems to have rather complex grammar with (I think) two subsidiary clauses. Hacking through its strange complexity, I think that you may be right -- and yet "whom" seems to read better. I haven't changed it.

By contrast, I have changed the sentence beginning "Each booth". During the final revision, it seemed to me that the book contained the word "was" at many points where it was unnecessary. In this instance, I seem to have skipped two unnecessary occurances in the same sentence. I can only ascribe this to a lack of attention on my part. Corrected now!

"Recalitrant" was the word I wanted, and I've made the change. I wonder what "relcalcitent" means? The word "relcalcitent" found its way in via the Microsoft spellcheck. It failed to suggest the correct spelling as a substitution for my mistaken sequence of letters. I think that my false spelling was "recalcitrent".

Now working on "Jane" which will have no footnotes, I'm not in the space to add more of them to "Odalisque". Actually, I'm content for "tanner" to lack a footnote. The footnotes are for the benefit of Jennifer Petrie's readers, over 800 years after Tuerqui's death. Sometimes, the notes explain things that would give a present day reader little trouble, sometimes they omit to explain possibly puzzling things. The footnotes are also a bit erratic -- "slaffilius" isn't explained until long after its first use. Perhaps a sense of delicacy held Jennifer Petrie from explaining the coarse allusion when it first occurs, perhaps she was merely inattentive.

Typo (which really was a typo) now corrected.


Submitted by des at 8/10/2008 5:57:26 AM

I disagree strongly with your decision on who/whom above.

"relcalcitent" only had one google hit: your blog of BONDLINGS.

Glad my comments seem generally useful to you (and others?).

Submitted by Pet at 8/10/2008 6:57:33 AM

I've taken another look at "whom", and think that my disinclination here was to make "who" the subject of two subsidiary clauses in the same sentence. I have now simply deleted the word "whom" -- the sentence seems to work well enough without it.

Perhaps "relcalcitent" is the invention of the Microsoft spellcheck.

Your comments are useful even when I disagree with them.



Posted by augusthog at 7:58 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 November 2008 8:01 AM EDT
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Monday, 6 October 2008
Cern Zoo

The enclosure was empty. The nearby cage, too.  No longer any loud meat.


I stared up at the invisible giraffe, gasping with astonishment. At last I believed it existed.

Posted by augusthog at 8:05 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 2 September 2008



Published 'Aabye' 1998


“Stop faffing about!” Flossie said.

            “What’s the problem, eh?” I managed to muster through loose teeth and porridge.

            “Go to the dentist and get your gums sorted out.  I’m fed up to the back...”  She suddenly stopped, realising what she was about to stay would have been a very bad pun, albeit an unintentional one.  The worst sort.

            “There’s more in the scheme of things, God, the cosmos, coincidences, creation, ley-lines, geomancy than worrying about nitty gritty things such as bleeding gums,” I said, grinning widely.  I hadn’t eaten real solids for quite a well.  Bread in hot milk.  Cup-a-soups.  Yoghourt.  And, yes, porridge was the most chunky stuff I could possibly manage.  But it didn’t stop my performance in other quarters.  Battering-rams and  mediæval catapults at dawn.  Nuff said?  Faff off!  But euphemisms are worse than puns.

            At that moment, Radio 3 put on Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum (if I’ve got the title right) by Olivier Messiaen (if I’ve got his name spelt properly) .  A pretty solid piece, at the worst of times.  At least, it put paid to Flossie’s nagging, because she liked it, too, if the truth were told.  Neither of us are that picky where music is concerned.  Though we do draw a line at Rameau.  No black hole intended.



Posted by augusthog at 8:34 AM EDT
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