Summer The Second

It was one of those lazy, horrible summer afternoons. Not one of those lovely, Kinks-style afternoons where you could just laze about in the garden, cold drink in hand, conversation drifting through the grass below your feet and barely disturbing the calmness of the air. No, this was one of those stifling, dead summer days. No-one dared go outside, no laughter of children playing or ice-cream vans (though she hated them anyway), the air seemed heavy, moisture laden and had flattened the grass outside with its weight, smothering the colour from it. No, this was not a garden day. This was an imprisoned-in-your-house day, looking out at the sun-bleached trees seemingly melting, the tarmac evaporating into the air and being afraid to move lest you generate any more heat and end up roasting alive. It was also, she thought, a day which left you with few other activities available but to lament the day itself. And still he played his game.
“I don’t know how you can even focus on that thing in this weather.” She says, thinking aloud. “I’m getting a headache just thinking about doing anything.”
“S’only ’cause you’re crap at video games. You’re getting a headache from how good I am, it’s blowing your tiny little mind.” He grins tauntingly. It’s not even worth the effort peeling herself off of the sofa to reach a cushion to throw. No, revenge will have to come later. she decides. And once again the conversation has choked, suffocated in the air between them. She watches him play, fiddling with the ring on her finger. It was swelling in the heat, her body trying to dissipate heat into the already saturated surroundings, and the ring was becoming painfully tight. Wouldn’t be surprised if it melted onto her finger, she thought.

The car screeches round a corner on the screen, almost making it, but smashing instead sideways into a bus stop. “There was a time you would have made that turn.” She prods him.
“The controller’s just old, that’s all!” He returns, slightly too quickly.
“Maybe you’re too old.”
“Why would you even say that?” Faux whimpering.
“You’ve gotten weak, soft, mentally and physically.” She’s giggling now.
“Yeah I get it, you’re referencing Battlestar, very funny.” Though he does emit the flash of a reciprocal chuckle. “Maybe if you said something original for once I wouldn’t have to play a game to fill in the gaps in our conversation.” Rolled over from his horizontal position on the floor to look at her, she decides to risk it. The cushion is thrown. The car swerves, and tumbles off of the road, cartwheeling before becoming to an uncomfortable rest in a ditch. The position obviously did not sit well within the game’s confines of reality, and the car began to jolt in and out of the ground, existing in a superposition, unable to decide which to choose.

He didn’t notice. There were no longer any observers to this quantum spectacle. Cushions were being hurled from corner to corner, reinforcements conscripted from other rooms, until the floor was covered, carpeted, blanketed, cushioned, with them. Lame description, she thought as they both collapsed onto the now-ready floor, sweating. Very cheesy.They both sat panting, and shared a laughing look that suggested they both had enough energy, despite the heat, for maybe one more activity. There was movement in that dead street once more, even as the cars began to sink into the road and the blackouts rolled in.

Revenge could wait a little bit longer. Cushion fights no longer counted.

Maybe she’d put ice down his back.

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Delays

Many apologies for the severe lack of postings lately, have been having a hell of a fortnight, with family crises, a new job, relocation, and accommodation related panics, but I do hope to resume posting shortly, within a week. For those of you still interested, my story featuring the Gentleman and the Cleaner should be finished in about two weeks, would’ve been done by now if it weren’t for the aforementioned busy week.

Anyway, thank you for your patience!


Spring the Second

“What about that one?” He inquires hopefully.
“That’s just wild garlic, I don’t think it’s for sale.”
“Oh. It smells nice though, I think. It smells strong anyway.”
“Yeah, but it’s growing through the fence, I doubt it’s available to buy.”

They wander lazily through the garden centre, mimicking the clouds as they coasted gently across the sky, shards of light piercing through where it was thinnest and casting a disco ball effect across the fields in the distance. It was warm, but pleasantly so, t-shirts were suitable and the gentle breeze softened the harshness of the sun whenever it hit skin. The centre was – quite naturally for a gorgeous spring day – bustling with people who, like them, were venturing out at the year’s first hint of nice weather, and seeking out flora to replenish their gardens.

“I think I’m gonna like gardening.”
“Even though you know next to nothing about plants?” She questions.
“Yes. I mean, I’ll figure something out. It’s just different colours, really.”
“Maybe, but you are aware that we can only really get house plants?”
“We can still have a garden.”
“We live in a flat.”
“An indoor garden. Like we had those indoor fireworks last year.”
“Wasn’t that when your Dad left garden fireworks on the stove? They weren’t indoor fireworks. They wrecked the kitchen.”
“But they do exist. So an indoor garden is a definite possibility.”
“They blew out a window.”
“But tulips don’t explode if you keep them inside, do they?”
“We should still probably stick to house plants.”

They cruise along the aisles once more in silence, enjoying the banquet of scents created by the various flowering displays.

“What about an olive tree?” He ponders. “I’d love an olive tree.”
“I don’t know, really. I wouldn’t mind a simple cactus or spider plant.”
They come to a stop by a café, suddenly aware of their thirst.
“Since when do they have cafés in garden centres?”
“When was the last time you went to a garden centre?”
“Probably about five years ago. With my Mum.”
“Then I would say since sometime between then and now.”
“What do you want?” Reaching for his wallet.
“Just a tea, please.”
Boooooring. I’ll have a mocha, thank you.”

The drinks arrive in due time, hot and steaming. It occurs to both that a hot drink on a day like this might not have been the best idea, though it is far too late for such epiphanies.
“Shit!”
“Oh crap! Are you OK?”
“I’m fine! Just in a lot of pain. A lot of burny pain.”
“What happened?” And then, in response to the dirty look he shot at her, “I mean, I saw what happened, how did it happen? It looked like your arm went crazy.”
“I dunno, my hand just kinda went numb for some reason. Can I have a tissue?”
“Here.” Then after a mopping up of remaining coffee, “Do you wanna head back now?”
“I wouldn’t mind. Getting a bit fed up of plants and hot weather.”
“Yeah, I thought you might be.”

“You know, as long as we never use that café again,” he propositions on leaving the centre, “we could just come here for the garden. We wouldn’t need one at home.”
They begin the forty minute trip back home.


Winter the Second

“We’re never, EVER, doing that again, I tell you.”
“I’m so sorry.”
You have nothing to be sorry about.” She is practically seething. “Your Dad, on the other hand, needs to give me more than just ‘sorry‘.”
“I had a worry he might have done something to, well…”
“To ruin the day completely and wrench the family in twain?”
“I was just going to say ‘fuck it all up’, you put it so much better.” He admits wryly. “Mine was more succinct though. And I didn’t use any fancy language, so mine would have greater reach.”
“What?”
“My description can reach a far larger demographic without alienating them.”
“You really think that anyone else is caring, or even listening to what you say?”
“They might do when I tweet it.”
“They won’t. No-one wants to read about our lives.”

They both look up and down the platform independently, it is still empty. Unsurprising really, the only people likely to be travelling this early on Boxing Day are those who have had an incredibly shit Christmas with the family, and can’t wait to get back home. At the moment, it would seem like they were the only ones. Mind, the train wasn’t for another half an hour – they left as early as possible to avoid the paternal one – so there was still hope that they would meet another poor couple to exchange horror stories. Both he and she were pretty much certain that theirs would outdo any challengers. It was cloudy, grey, cold and miserable, and fit quite well with the general mood. And, after twenty minutes, another couple trudge onto the platform, sit on the bench nearby, and share a sympathetic glance.

“Good Christmas?” He asks the new couple.
“Hardly. It was awful, can’t believe my Dad sometimes.” The man with blonde hair replies.
“What happened?” She asks, noticing that the woman with red hair was sitting tight-lipped and turning a couple of shades closer to her hair.
Blonde hair laughs awkwardly and abruptly. “I can’t really say everything, let’s just say he got too drunk. Far, far too drunk. Your Christmas not much better, then?”
“Well,” He begins, and she takes it on from there.
“His dad decided the best way to celebrate Christmas was to turn up halfway through dinner, completely pissed, and start to systematically insult and piss off everyone there.” She is starting to raise her voice, in pitch and volume. “Then he decided to calm down with a couple of joints in the garden, well, it is Christmas, isn’t it?” Words are now melding into each other, the pauses between end and start shrinking into nothing. “So he comes back in, and starts on the scotch, disappears for ten minutes before returning with the remnants of an entire trifle he has managed to cram down his mouth, before directing the conversation towards a distinctly racist slant against me, then vomits over the table and passes out.” She stops, and takes a huge breath, before relaxing back against the bench.

“Really?” Red hair sounds genuinely surprised.
He nods.
“That’s actually a lot worse than ours. A lot worse. Are you ever going to see him again?” Blonde hair asks.
“Of course!”
“Maybe.” She adds quickly.
“He is still my Dad. Even if he is an aggravating arsehole.”
“I’ll go to the funeral.”
“Deal.”

The train screeches painfully into the station, and they stand up. The other couple remain seated. They clearly don’t wish to spend a train journey listening to any more horror stories.
“By the way,” She looks at him, “that Dad story would be something people might be interested in reading.”
“Already tweeting, sweetie.”


Autumn

“You sure you’re OK there?”
“I’m fine. Just…just trying to concentrate at the moment, is all.”
“You were right by the way.”
“What?”
“You don’t ride a bike very elegantly.”
“Shut up, let’s just get this over and done with.”
He accelerates into the turn, off the road, and onto the path through the park, splashing water up into a nice little arc as he does so. Sweeeet, he thinks. She turns a little more carefully, at the same corner, disturbing the puddle slightly. Sweeeet, she thinks, I didn’t fall off. It’s autumn, yes, and they have decided to take up cycling in an attempt to get some exercise in before the excesses of Christmas, and their inevitable New Year’s resolution to take up cycling, one they are well aware will remain unfulfilled. It was an unusually warm and humid October day, and showers were a regular occurrence, sweeping over them and their bikes every few minutes, before disappearing as rapidly as they appeared.
“I always assumed you’d be good at cycling from the off, you know.”
“What gave you that idea?”
“Because you’re really good at swimming.”
“And how exactly does that work?”
“Well, because swimming is just flapping your legs about in water, that’s really all it boils down to, and cycling in the rain is pretty much the same. Like swimming sitting down, just think of it that way!” She laughs, loses control of the bike briefly, and immediately returns to a serious, concentrating face.
“Maybe I can’t ride yet because you’re the one teaching me?”
“A bad workman always blames his tools.”
“You are a tool.”
“Whatever.”

The path was strewn with puddles, and yet the fallen leaves, the burnt oranges, fiery reds and crisp yellows that rose out of the puddles in piles – as if they were trying desperately to climb back into the tree – gave the impression they were riding past small fires and hot embers. The leaves that had been smothered by the water lay at the bottom, their colour now a dull brown, flame extinguished. And they noticed none of this. She was too busy staring at the handlebars, keeping her feet glued tightly to the pedals, ensuring the bike stayed in the upright, recommended position. He, on the other hand, was too busy trying to ride through every single one of the puddles, almost knocking into a rather disgruntled looking bloke in a slightly dusty-looking, slightly tatty, suit.
“Sorry!”
“You damn well better be! This is an expensive suit!”
It is at exactly this point that she rides into him. Fortunately for both parties, she was only travelling at about 3 miles an hour, and, as she tried to explain to the man as she pulled the bike back, it probably didn’t do anything to the suit as it looked a bit rubbish to begin with. Situation resolved, she rides off, deaf to the man’s insults, already too mentally involved with not falling off.

He is waiting further down the path, wide grin on his face (and he is getting less self-conscious now, she realises) and she screeches shakily to a stop beside him.
“Did you see me almost hit that suity-guy?”
“No.”
“Oh. Well, it, it was pretty funny.”
“No, I didn’t notice, because I was too busy actually hitting ‘suity-guy’.”
“Hahaha! Damnit, I wish I could have seen that.” She smiles, a little shaken but recovering now.
“Listen, my ankles are beginning to get soaked, so what do you think about starting to head back home?”
She pauses a moment in consideration, before standing up on the pedals of her bike and racing off down towards the wood path, letting the spray of water off the back wheel be her only response.
“Oh, you’re going to regret that!” He mutters under his breath, and pushes off after her.


Summer

It was peaceful. It was far from quiet, but it was peaceful. There is a correlation between noise and peace, but it isn’t clear-cut. The right kinds of sounds can create the kind of peace silence could never hope to. And, equally, the wrong kinds can create unrest with very little effort.
These sounds were right. The faint echo of seagulls far down the other end of the beach,  the soft hushing sounds of the waves, even the immaterial rays from the sun seemed to hit him and the ground around with a faint static hiss. Either that or he was starting to burn, he wondered. Opening his eyes and instantly regretting it, the light easily overpowering the sunglasses, he sat up, and tried again with a hand shading his face.

“Do you want to go into the sea?”
“Not right now, no, I’m reading.”
“Yeah you do. You’ve got that look on your face, the I really want to go into the sea to keep my boyfriend company so he doesn’t look like a loser but I’m pretending instead to rather keep reading to maintain an intellectual and adult façade face. You can’t wait to feel the cold embrace of the sea.”
“Three things: That last bit just sounded like a metaphor for death; I don’t want to go into the sea, you do; and this face is an I want to keep reading, piss off or die face.”
He lies back down with a huff.
She enjoys the peace once more.
“Aren’t you hot?” Sitting up. “I’m hot.”
“No.”
“You look hot. Maybe we should cool down in the sea.”
She looks at him long and hard. He can’t help but smile, a tight-lipped smile.
“Fine, for ten minutes, but I’m coming back and reading this book when I’m finished, OK?”
“That’s fine!” He’s already heading for the sea. Won’t need to worry about their stuff – the beach is empty. The benefits of being in the middle of nowhere, he supposes.
“You know you act like a ten year old sometimes.” She yells across the sand. He knows he does, he’ll stop when he’s thirty, he’s decided. Maybe two more years after that.
“Yeah, and you act like a big arse dumb butt!” That’s it, she’s running after him now.

He sprints towards the sea, well aware of the fact that she is gaining close behind him. The water is a lot farther out than he had imagined, but, at last, he felt the first teases of cold water, splashing up to his ankles. She was now no more than ten metres behind, and he increases pace, now in to his knees, only to be slowed by the water. Five metres. Three. One. She is just about to tackle him when he reaches a sudden dip, conveniently coinciding with a wave. He falls through the water, and, before he has a chance to yell, the wave slaps into his face, sending him into a shocked daze. The cold of the water did not help matters, either. Briefly numbed, surprised and starting to feel the first few inklings of annoyance, he disappears from view momentarily beneath the water. She is unable to stop in time, instead diving into a swim as soon as her feet hit the edge. Looking round after him, slight panic sets in.

He reappears after a few seconds, spraying her in the face with salt-water, and they both engage in a splash war amongst the waves, giggling like ten year olds.


Spring

“Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to be going out any time soon.”
“Nah, it’s not looking likely is it?” She smiles an amazing smile. edges reaching out to both sides of her face, eyes lighting up and glistening slightly. Considering their involuntary imprisonment in their current location, such a smile seemed almost out of place.
You see, it was raining. And heavily. He could imagine the weight and size of the large, bloated drops (or would “balls” be a better word? Drops seemed to imply something far smaller) as they smacked into the outer tent, exploding on impact with a large crack. It was beginning to become a bit deafening.

“I’m sorry.” He speaks with a raised voice, as if he was in a very small concert. Or a long way away from a large one. It didn’t really matter. “I’m sorry I dragged you along on this, I thought it’d be more fun.”
“Don’t worry. It’s exactly what I was expecting. As soon as you said “Wales”, “camping” and “should be nice” I kind of figured what we were in for.”
Haha.
“It was so nice yesterday though, thought we’d be in for a good week.”
“Well. It only rained once, you mean.”
“Exactly.”
“From eleven in the morning to six in the evening.”
“Precisely. A good day.” He returns a belated smile, one which he fears could never approach the glory of hers. He hated his smile.
“What are we going to do?” He asks.
“Well, we could… you know?” She murmurs quietly, forcing him to lip read.
“We’re not spending our entire holiday just doing what we could do, and do do, at home.” This felt like the hardest decision he had ever made. “No matter how, tempting, it is.”

“It sounds like it might be slowing down.” She comments, with a dash of hope encompassing the whole sentence.

He begins to unzip the door of the porch, and opens it cautiously, peeking out of the small hole. And immediately he is glad to be opening it from the top. The tents around are barely visible, the mountains beyond are nothing more than a brownish, grey-green shadow – or was it just the rain? – and streams of water were running, racing down the sloped ground that made up their campsite. They were near the bottom, yes, probably not a wise decision, and water was ploughing into the side of their tent, like waves smashing into sea walls. Tiny waves into a tiny sea wall. It wasn’t really as impressive as such a simile warranted, he decided.
Yet they were not in the worst position. Some poor sod had obviously left a small crack in the improperly closed door before leaving, and the tent was now filling with water, guy ropes pulled out of the sodden ground, and sailing gently past our own. And so it continued until the veil of rain obscured it completely from sight. He zipped up the door once more.

“Yeah. That’s probably the highlight of our day. Should have had the camera ready, really.”
“It doesn’t have to be.” She whispers into his ear. “The highlight of the day, I mean.” And she begins unzipping the inner tent.
He doesn’t even bother to self-consciously hide his grin as he follows her into the sleeping compartment.


Winter

The snow crunches underneath his walking boots, and it feels almost as if the sound has cracked the bitter, frozen air itself.
“I love this, you know.” He sweeps his hand across a low brick wall as he says this, collecting a small pile of snow at its end. “The winter, I mean. I love how your breath struggles to warm the chill atmosphere, how every noise seems to be sharper somehow because of the polished metal quality in the wind, and the peace that falls over us following the snow down from the clouds. It’s great.”
She laughs loudly. “That’s bullshit and you know it!”
“No it isn’t! I love winter.”  Slight indignation can be heard in his voice, a light dusting of mock irritation.
“No, you do it all the time. You spout all this adulation for whatever season it currently is, and then, two or three days later you’re moaning again, saying the next can’t come quickly enough!”
“Come now, that’s not true at all. Lies and slander, I say!” He grins cheekily.
“Remember last May? We had that week of gorgeous sunshine, lovely, balmy weather? You spent two days outside, praising the sun, and by day three you were complaining that it was too warm, and lamenting the passing of winter.”
“But…”
“And then! After a week of perfectly amenable weather, it turns cold and we have that day of blizzards. So you bitched then that it was too cold and saying you couldn’t wait for summer to start proper.”

A brief pause.

“Well, I am a passionate, temperamental type, creative souls often are. And at least I don’t have the same attitude towards relationships, huh?” A sharp, but playful, punch in the side closes his sentence.
“You just love complaining.” She smiles a wide smile that still makes him warm inside. “And yes, I’m glad you don’t treat me like you treat the weather.”
“With disdain?”
“With disdain, yes.”

They both stop and turn around. Snow was still falling, and the lake was frozen in time, preserved for the spring. Another couple crunches by, and he wonders if they’ve entertained a similar conversation to theirs.
“Come on, let’s go.” He slips his hand around hers, and they both tighten their grip. “I’m cold. Winter isn’t much fun anymore.”

No response from her, save for a knowing, amused glance.


Update

My short story featuring the Gentleman and the Cleaner is now well under way, so you can expect to see it within the next two weeks. However, to keep you all entertained, I shall still be making regular updates with shorts of about 500 words a piece, posted at least once every two days.

Enjoy!


A Vacation in Death: Origin

This was a piece I wrote for no other reason that it was incredibly damn fun to write: the clichés; the bizarre and confusing descriptions; the difficulty in putting into words something that we have no words or even concepts for; and an experience that you want to share so badly, that you will do your darnedest to communicate every facet. In other words, yeah, just a really fun write.

In other news, I am planning on posting one chapter every two days of my story featuring the Gentleman and the Cleaner, as a first try of writing a moderately long story. I’m aiming for about 30 to 40 pages worth – I’m still pretty new to writing stories (academic essays and translations being what I am used to) and think I’m still finding my feet. Fingers crossed, hopefully it’ll turn out to be something worth reading!