Monday, 30 September 2013

Star Gazing

A dark night on a dark street, perfect for trying out his new star gazing app. Jordan opened the door to his balcony and stepped out into the wall of cold. The weather man had said a clear, moonless sky on an early October night would mean the first frost of the year in the morning, (or the umpteen frost if you counted all of those in February and March,) and it sure was cold out there.

 Jordan was wrapped up against the cold in an old hooded top, tracksuit bottoms and his lovely warm slippers, he pointed the phone to the sky and started identifying stars. Despite living nearly in the centre of town, the combination of the park opposite and the poor street lighting meant the stars seemed to shine through the city haze a little brighter here.

 The street below was deserted but for one solitary figure across the road, head down, battling the cold and the slight incline. Jordan was impressed by the bravery of the figure, the dark side of the road gave him the heebie-jeebies but this just a young woman. He turned his attention back to the sky but then almost immediately back to the woman. Had he seen something in the trees? A shadow? A movement? Or was he just imagining things? Projecting his own fears on to her?

The hand came out of the bushes like a frog's tongue catching a fly, it grabbed the girl and dragged her into the park with speed and agility. She didn’t have time to scream, she didn’t have time to fight, she was gone. Jordan dropped his tea and turned into his flat, he grabbed his keys and went. ‘Fight him, fight him, buy time, don’t let him touch you.’ He was silently willing the girl to be brave till he got there, not knowing if he’d have any effect when he did. He ran down the stairs, two, three at a time, out into the street, tea from his balcony dripped onto his head. He ran across the deserted street and into the park. It was only as his feet hit the wet grass he realised he was still wearing slippers. He found his voice. He was yelling, shouting, screaming, it was gobbledygook; just noise, surely noise was the best weapon. He looked around the empty park, where were they? It was dark and the trees casting shadows making detection all the more difficult. They couldn’t have gone far. He was suddenly scared and cold, what would he do if he found them? How would he fight him off? Who was he kidding? A kicking in slippers would not very effective and everyone said he punched like a one year old. He was a star-gazer not a fighter. Pull yourself together he thought, you can’t be as scared as she is.
‘Where are you you bastard? Show yourself?’
His eyes darted around the park, his ears strained to hear anything, rustling, whimpers, panting.
But it wasn’t whimpers he heard, it was a scream, a scream that nearly brought tears to Jordan’s eyes. The scream was so real he could almost feel the pain himself.

Jordan saw the figure hobbling off across the grass. His first instinct was to give chase, but there was a girl somewhere needing his help.
He moved towards the trees that the perv had come out of. He heard soft sobbing coming from the bushes.
‘It’s okay, he’s gone.’ Jordan was shivering now. He entered the bushes and saw her, curled in the foetal position, clothes still in tact but face scratched and bruised.
‘I kicked him, he tried to touch me, I kicked him.’
‘He’s gone.’ Jordan repeated putting his hand lightly on her shoulder.  
 ‘He’s gone,’ he said a third time not knowing what else to do or say. 

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Bribe.

The money sat in front of me like a paper Mata Hari; fluttering its lashes, tempting me, trying to make a bad boy of me. It was a nice trick I suppose, seeing the cash, looking it at made it so much more seductive; a cheque or a bank transfer would not have had quite the same effect. Not that I needed the money, okay professional cricketers are not paid as much as a footballer or even a rugby player these days, but we still do alright. But 10,000 quid, that's difficult to turn down in any walk of life, isn’t it?

Nah it wasn't the money that was making this tempting, it was a whole range of other factors. Had they come to me three months earlier, I’d have had no truck with them, I’d have told them where to go and reported them to the appropriate people, but three months is a long time in sport, and in those 3 months I had turned a promising career into a dead end. The national selectors had made it clear I'd not be considered by them again after the incident with the girls at the team hotel. A simple misunderstanding, in fact dereliction of duty on their behalf; no one had told us about the whores who try to get kiss and tell stories out of newbies. But there I was sent home from Australia 
in disgrace,  my international career in tatters before it had begun. And now my county were taking their time offering me a new contract, I was having a shocking season, I think I’d left my form in that hotel room in Perth. My coach had made it plainly clear that unless I pulled my socks up I'd be out. Then there was always that nagging suspicion in the back of every sportpersons mind, one twist the wrong way could end the career completely. 

So here it was 10,000 to play badly for 6 minutes in one match, to be honest I'd been playing so badly already that no one would think anything untoward. It was easy money, who would ever know? I stuck my little finger in between my teeth and nodded the slightest of nods signalling I'd do what they'd asked.
Except if course it wasn't easy money, oh the deed itself was easy enough, as I said my form was so bad I wasn’t even trying to cheat. But if my conscience kept me awake the next couple of nights, it was nothing to the bombardment of texts, tweets, email and calls that hit me that morning. I’d been set up, the whole thing had been a sting, they knew I was weak and vulnerable and they needed to sell their bastard papers. My street was lined with cars, and TV vans; the press camped on my lawn. Who would ever know, I'd asked myself rhetorically in that hotel room in Derby. The whole effing world came the non-rhetorical answer by way of the front pages that hit my mat that bright Sunday morning.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Scenes from a tram stop

There's a prize for anyone who can guess the tramstop. Leave your guesses in the comments or on my facebook page. 

His fly wide open and the back of his trousers ripped, the man looked like a tramp, but he wasn’t, he just didn’t have the energy to take care of himself anymore. He let his tram go by, there’d be another one along in a few minutes and, on balmy afternoons like this one it was better to stand and watch the world go by that sit and watch the same four walls he’d been staring at for the best and worst part of 40 years. He couldn’t stand and wait too long though, or little Betsy would be annoying the neighbours crying for food.

He watched the young lad help the woman off the tram with her pushchair. She had a smiling face but tired eyes. The boy was not much younger than the mother, his hair gelled forward, all going in one direction. He smiled at the woman as he put the wheels of the pram on the pavement. ‘a beautiful baby, takes after her mother.’  With that he was gone but those 7 words put the spring in the step of woman who thought her spring had sprung some months before.

The boy and girl were springing though, springing on to the tram the woman and pram had just got off. Not quite holding hands, not quite a couple but very close. Going home from school, laughing, joking, smiling like only 15 year-old soon-to-be couples could. Maybe they were discovering the thrills of falling in love for the first time, maybe it was their second whatever it was they were still young enough for everything to be fresh, new, adventurous. Something special for them, something to savour.

The woman with the ice cream watched them, her eyes misting over, thinking of when she was in their place? She’d decided to treat herself to one last ice cream of the summer. Since the divorce that was her outlook, she did things because she wanted, not because it was expected. The tattoo, the anklet, the skirt maybe a bit too short for a woman of her age, she didn’t care, it made her feel sexy, she got admiring glances from lads half her age and after the way he’d tried to destroy her she wanted to feel good about herself.

The old guy turned his attention to the kids on the bench, 16, 17, also on their way home from school. Laughing, joking, just a little too loud perhaps. They were smoking in the least rebellious way possible. Not a shared ciggie bummed off some passer-by, but an electronic cigarette. He thought of the trouble he got into when he’d first smoked, the hiding he took from his dad who’d smelt it on him as soon as he’d walked through the door . Now there was no smell, and nothing to hide. These kids were taking up a habit designed to help others lose theirs. The world's gone mad he thought to himself as he got on his tram and headed back to his cat. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Steve Rants - Phony Networks

‘Look at that!’ Steve threw his phone across the table in the direction of his mate who was just returning with two foaming pints of beer to replace the greedily drank first pints of the evening.
Johnny always enjoyed the second pint more, there was time to saviour it, sup it, appreciate it, rather than just guzzle at it like an empty petrol tank.
Johnny put the beers down and picked up the phone.
‘Yeah but read the message.’
Johnny read the seemingly innocent message that had wound his mate up.
‘Had a great meeting today with Steve. Coffee was great but the company even better. I´m so happy to have finally met you,’
‘That’s nice, you made a good impression.’
‘Nice! Nice?’ Steve’s voice was getting louder. Johnny was pleased that the Melting Pot was half empty this evening. 
‘Why do people do that? It’s so weird, why does the world need to know who I’m or not meeting for coffee?’
‘Okay I see that but...’ Steve was not gonna give Johnny time to finish. 
‘It’s such a ‘look at me’ mentality, this is all about her, it makes me feel cheap to be honest.’
‘Yeah cheap, like she wasn’t meeting me because she wanted to meet me, I was just a tool for her self-promotion, an accessory.’
‘Oh poor Steve, do you feel you’re being used?’
‘Fuck off Johnny, you know what I mean.’
‘Well you could see it as a positive, you both work in the same field, so she’s publicising you too.’
‘Nah, she just sees me as a stepping stone on her career path. I should message her and ask her to take it down.’
‘Go on then do it.’
‘I’ll do it later.’
Johnny smiled, he knew his mate wouldn’t contact her, he was all mouth but when push came to shove he always bottled it. Johnny looked at his pint, he couldn’t believe it was half gone already, so much for the savouring. 

The New Wife

There’s always something exciting about getting a red square on Facebook. It’s the modern day version of letters falling through the letterbox on your doormat. A square above the world is good, above the letter is better but outstripping them all is the red square by the two people that signalled a new friend request. Is there anything better than a new friend? Billy was always chuffed to see a new friend request. He clicked on it eagerly, hoping it was one of the girls from last night. But it wasn’t Louise or Sammy. In fact he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw who it was.

It was his dad! His 60-year-old dad, who had previously shown no interest in computers or smart phones or tablets let alone social networks, was suddenly popping up sending friend requests. Billy’s mum had been on for a couple of years but Facebook was the last place he ever thought he’d see his dad. Of course Billy clicked on accept and quickly sent a message.
‘Hi Dad, didn’t think I’d see you on here. Are you friends with Mum?’
With that Billy shut off his phone, got off the bus and got on with his day.

It was a couple of hours later that Billy got back on Facebook, he scrolled down his wall checking on Dave’s dinner and Lisa’s latest drunken snaps, he toyed with leaving a comment but decided against it. It was the post under Lisa’s photos that gave Billy the shock of his life.
A photo of his father with a very attractive young woman draped over him and the message that made the shock of seeing his dad on Facebook in the first place seem like a humdrum, run of the mill Tuesday afternoon.
‘Happy to announce me and Svetlana are getting married very soon.’
Billy read it and reread it. He illogically wanted to turn his computer upside down to check it was real. He blinked and blinked again to see if the message would disappear but it didn’t.
It’d only been a week since Billy had been at his mum and dad’s and there had been no word of separation, divorce, or Russian brides.
‘Aha!’ Billy had a realisation, this was his brother’s work. The little pipsqueak had set all this up and for a few moments he’d fallen for it.
He searched his brother’s number and gave him a call.
‘Very funny, Jake. Very clever.’
‘What you talking about Billy?’
‘You know very well, you had me for a minute.’
‘Billy what are you talking about?’
It was then Billy realised his brother was not the architect of the joke and maybe this wasn’t a joke. The brothers talked about it for a few minutes mostly deciding who was going to phone dad. Billy as the older one was given the job.

‘Dad? Really?’
‘Hi Billy, so you ‘ve seen the Facebook thingy then?’
Billy listened to his dad’s voice, it sounded genuine.
‘You think Facebook is the right way to tell us? I hope you’ve told mum to her face.’
‘I thought it was the best way to communicate with you youngsters.’
Billy heard it, it wasn’t his dad who gave it away, it was his mum, the smallest squeak, the smallest snigger.
‘You bastards.’ Billy said trigging howls of laughter from the other end. ‘You bastards’ Billy said again before ending the call and calling back his brother.