Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Tricks

He looked down in astonishment at the coil of steam that rose from his hand. Extending his wrist to examine it, he blinked twice at the wisps of smoke rising from the place where his trigger finger used to be. The round had spun shrieking through the calm morning and neatly removed it at the first knuckle, the heat of ignition blazing still hot enough to cauterize the wound as neatly as a surgeon trained in the civil confines of an urban teaching hospital could.

Instead of looking down to where the separated digit might lie, perhaps flexing in the ochre dust, his minded folded in on itself like a decorative napkin, hiding the silver-plated thoughts he should have been thinking. He caught a glimpse of an ancient man, legs crooked by years of the saddle, hunched into his stool on a shady porch. By the old man’s side a glass glinted, droplets of condensation chasing each other down the sides to the hand-shaped oak boards beneath. The old man was squinting at a piece of wood, methodically shaping it with a pearl-handled blade. His eyes were rheumy and seemed to shed permanent tears; weeping for a life gone, or a limited future. Who knows.

And as he stared inward at this old vision-man, he felt… nothing. Not fear, not calm- but maybe the absence of calm. The absence of everything.

Even as time regained its usual haste around him, he knew the old man was himself, an ancient container holding the brittle memory-remnants of a life and lifestyle now as forgotten as the stars which slipped in to an orange pocket each day at sunrise. Stranger still, the old man would never exist, for as he looked at the space where his pointing finger, his beckoning finger, his gouger and router used to be, a second round cored his scalp behind his ear, whipping around the inside of his skull like a deranged baker riling cream, until it had thoroughly erased all thought, memory and future from him, and burst out of his eye-socket, to lodge in a sign across the road. The sign read WE WELCOME ALL VISITORS (AND THEIR CASH).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Of course it never works the way you plan it. If life followed some predictable road map into the future, with all of the distractions neatly set apart from the road so you could cruise past without stopping, you’d just not bother with it.

If you could tell what was coming up, and make sure that you had everything you need with which to master it, tame it, or overcome it, you’d never actually know what you could be capable of.

Perhaps it’s more like this: a haphazard scattering of crumbs in a darkened wood, a tantalizing trail which misleads you into thinking that you have your bearings. Abruptly, the trail ends: a flock of misshapen and random birds are pecking. Looking at you. Mocking you. Their gleaming red eyes challenging you- where to now, mister- where to now?

You have no choice but to take a rag, wrap it around your eyes, and reel blindly through the undergrowth. The security in doing this comes from having the knowledge, deep down, that somewhere in the lightless overgrown mass is a clearing. A couple of trees, felled by a forgotten storm, or a pond, circled by the tiny footprint signatures of those who come to drink in the night.

You may not know where you’re heading, but from the clearing, you can see a mountain in the distance. It won’t be easy to get there, with your head to the forest floor, but you know where it is now. Even if it takes the most circuitous route possible to get there, and you emerge at its foot with your shins barked by rogue roots, your skin alive with the light scarring of thorns, you’ll end up where you need to be, at that time, for that reason. It’s inevitable.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Insufficient Funds

It’s kinda weird the way people tell you not to panic. I can say that, because I do it myself. Sure, I get told it a lot, so maybe I’m more prone to it than others, but I think that panic is under-rated. If you’re doing a balancing act: sitting on a dodgy bicycle on top of a razor blade wired to explosives, it’s time to panic.

If you’re watching the shower scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho, then you don’t want to calmly encourage the woman to relax and meditate on her blessings, you want to scream at her. GET OUT! PANIC AND RUN!

If you happen, unluckily, to be tied down to a railroad sleeper with a runaway train heading for you, then it’s ok to feel more than slightly anxious.

I’m no stranger to the paralyzing effects of panic and anxiety, and of course you want your friends to keep dodging the bullets, but sometimes there just aren’t immediate options. You know you’re panicking when you are so muddled you can’t remember the words to the Serenity Prayer. Hmm. Serenity. I’m not sure I know what that is.

So today for me is a day to panic, a little like a startled furry creature in the headlights of an oncoming car. I’m hoping that some sensibility kicks in, and I dash to the freedom of the hedgerows lining the road, instead of running into the opposite.

I hear screaming can be therapeutic. Right?