Eyes like a ghost

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I play with Blake.

Sometimes, when it is sunny we play in the garden. Sometimes we play catch or we dig the dirt up and make mud pies and find worms and stuff.

My mummy and Blake’s mummy sit at the garden table, drink wine and smoke and talk. They talk a lot.

Most times though and when it is raining, we have to play indoors. That is when we get the cars and soldiers and animals out of the toy box.

Sometimes the soldiers ride the animals and sometime the animals drive the cars.

We play at the end of the room, under the big window.

My mummy says we have plenty of room here and Blake’s mommy says it saves us getting under their feet. But I am too big to get under her feet. My head is as high as her waist, well nearly. Blake is a bit shorter than me, but not so much as he could be stepped on.

We are not allowed out of the big room… ever.

Especially not at night when it is dark. Unless it is to go to bed or to use the toilet.

My mummy and Blake’s mummy talk all the time. Even when they are not in the kitchen they sit at the dining table and talk. Sometimes they laugh. It makes me jump when mummy laughs because she is so loud it hurts my ears.

But they do not laugh very often.

Most times they are angry about something “I would not understand” and sometimes Blake’s mummy cries. In fact, she cries a lot. My mummy cries when Blake’s mummy cries.

They say rude words too. I pretend I do not hear them and make a growling noise as the sergeant falls off the hippopotamus and bangs his head on the truck.

“Shhush, Crystal” my mommy says, “the kids will hear.”

“Fuck the kids” Blake’s mommy says, glancing at us. “They’re fine. “She lights another cigarette. ‘Fags‘ she calls them.

My mommy pours more wine into their glasses.

I drank some once. The glass was on the table and I was thirsty, so I took a big gulp. It looked like Ribena but tasted horrible. I spat it out.

I don’t know why my mummy drinks it. I once heard her say it was like piss. But she and Blake’s mummy always have a bottle of wine when they come to the house.

They come to the house a lot.

Nearly every day, now.

I am glad they come here, because I do not like where Blake lives.

He lives very high up, near the sky.

To get to Blake’s house you have to stand in a silver box that smell like a toilet. My mummy says it is called a lift, but I know its name is Otis because it says so above the number 20.

The number 20 is the one you have to push to get to Blake’s house.

Once Otis did not get to Bake’s house. I cried because I did not like it inside Otis and the smell made me sick. Mummy was cross because my being sick made her sick too. All her dress was covered in my sick and her sick and when the men opened the doors you could see they were not happy either because they looked at us funny.

Mummy washed me in Blake’s house and I had to wear some of his clothes. He laughed at me wearing boy’s stuff. Mummy washed too and put on some of Blake’s mummy’s clothes. It was funny because we looked strange dressed like that.

The other reason I do not like to go to where Blake lives is the men. There are lots of men. They stand near where you get inside Otis and they say rude and nasty things about mummy. Sometimes they grab her and sometimes they push her against the wall and put their hands inside her clothes. They say, “you like that, don’t you?” and they say, “how about a freebie, little slut” and other bad words I am not allowed to repeat.

Once a man took me from her and held a knife up saying he would pop my eyes out. I did not like that man and did not want him to pop my eyes out. The man made mummy kneel on the floor in front of him and open her mouth. Blake’s mummy came running up to us shouting and saying lots of rude words and screaming at the men and hitting them with a big stick. The men laughed and ran away. The man holding me dropped me and mummy had to take me to hospital to see a doctor. He said I was lucky I had not broken my arm.

But it hurt forever and I do not think that is lucky.

That is why I don’t like going to Blake’s house, even though you can see a long way from his windows. From his house, everything looks small and quiet, like a map. But I think I am going to fall out of the window or the building will fall down and it’s a long way down. It is scary and it is not nice.

So, I like that Blake comes to my house. None of the other mummies bring any children when they come. I don’t think any of them have children.

Our house is a really big house, but I am only allowed in this room, the big room, the toilet and the small room at the back, behind the kitchen, where mummy and I sleep. The rest is ‘out-of-bounds’ because it is where the other mummies work.

Aunty Caroline organises everybody. Every now and then she comes into the big room and calls my mummy away. “She will be back soon” Caroline says, “mummy has some work to do.”

“Soon girl” she points at me. “Soon girl you’ll have work too. I got some fellers wanting to get to know you while you’re still fresh.”

My mummy does not like Caroline when she says that. She shouts, “shut your fucking face.” Caroline just laughs.

Even Blake’s mummy has to work when she comes here. Caroline shouts “Crystal, get your nigger arse out here girl, I got men waiting on you.”

Caroline does not like Blake’s mummy. She does not like Blake. “Little black bastard” she calls him. I don’t know why, because Blake is not black, he is brown, like me when I have been playing in the garden when its sunny. But Blake is like that all the time.

Blakes mummy is a darker brown than Blake. But she is still not black. I think Aunty Caroline has something wrong with her eyes.

That’s why I don’t look at Caroline. She has nasty eyes like a ghost, a bad ghost.

 

© Paul White 2017 


Read more of my short, and not so short, stories in Tales of Crime & Violence, a three oie_transparentvolume collection.

Tales of Crime & Violence do not contain standard stories of theft, greed and wrongdoings, as one might expect. Far from it. Tales of Crimes & Violence looks deeper into the human psyche, the mind and spirits of those involved.

Are they the perpetrators or the victims?

The innocent caught in the crossfire, or is there more to their presence than meets the eye? Maybe they are willing participants, or have they been forced, or coerced into taking part? Or perhaps circumstance has colluded to force their actions?

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Toothache drops

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“Johnny” shouted Marjory, her voice carrying the length of the garden. “Johnny, stop running about. Go sit with your Grandfather.”

Sluggishly, Johnny dawdled along the garden path towards the small arbour where his Grandfather sat. As he walked he ran a stick along the fencing so it made a clackety-clack sound.

Most adults found the noise annoying, but Grandfather Eddie clapped his hands together, jumped from his seat and said “Go back a bit Johnny, go back and do that again.”

Johnny liked his Grandfather, he was funny. He did lots of stupid things and told jokes which his mother called, ‘only nearly funny‘. That was when he wasn’t grumpy.

Not that Grandfather Eddie was ever grumpy for long, he had his special sweets, his toothache drops. If he felt bad, he ate two or three of those and he was smiling and laughing again in no time.

Johnny often wondered why Grandfather Eddie did not go and see the dentist more if his teeth hurt. Surely a dentist could make the pain stop, or he could take Grandfathers tooth away altogether?

Grandfather wrote songs. Not old songs like he was old and Nanna was old, but songs you hear on the radio. He knew all the stars and artists. Grandfather had even been on television and had trophies for writing, on display inside the house, next to his collection of guitars.

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Sometimes the famous people came to eat dinner at Grandfathers house, or to have a barbecue. Some of them were coming today. Which is why Johnny had to be on his best behaviour. Although, when you heard and saw all the things these people did, Johnny wondered why he had to behave when no one else did?

Adults can be strange at times. Most times.

Johnny sat opposite Grandfather Eddie and, looking directly at his face, watched as he tapped away on the laptop key board. His Mother said, “Don’t disturb you Grandfather when his typing.” So, Johnny waited patiently.

“That’s it” Grandfather said, a big grin spreading across his face as he shut the laptop. “So, Johnny, that’s the Vampire Dunkin Monkeys next big hit in the bag. That’s the Grunge-punk awards won for this year and it’s all down to you and your clackety-clacking.”

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“I could have done more Clacking, but the Lemon tree is in the way” said Johnny.

“You have done quite enough young man, I shall reward you handsomely, when the record become a big hit.”

“Can I have a fast car, an orange one, with silver wheels?”

Grandfather Eddie laughed. “When you are old enough you can have all the cars you want.”

“Eddie” it was Nanas voice. “They are arriving.”

“Right, Johnny.” said Grandfather Eddie, “Let’s go to work, let’s get that fast Orange car for you, shall we?”

“Go to work? I thought they were your friends?”images

 

“My friends are Alexander Hamilton, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, William McKinley and Grover Cleveland. You would do well to make their acquaintance too, young man.”

Grandfather Eddie popped two toothache drops into his mouth as they walked towards the house.

When they met their guests, Grandfather Eddie was chatting and buzzing like a teenager.

END.


Check out my novel, ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’ right HERE

Hitchhiker

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I am old school.

From a time when life seemed simpler, less hectic, less complicated.

It was not.

It was just different.

Some will say that, ‘way back when’, life was safer, people were happier, times were better.

They were not.

Life was simply lived at a slower pace.

But there was less fear.

Less anxiety and more acquiescence.

I think life was more honest.

We were more honest.

With ourselves.

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

We recognised that fact.

We did not fight it, we acknowledged it.

That is what made life simpler.

 

Like hitchhiking.

Like the figure I see ahead of me now. Checked shirt, blue jeans, backpack, thumb-out.

Quite rare nowadays, hitchhikers.

Too much fear. Mostly unwarranted.

Phobia, nurtured and spread by the media.

But who should hold that apprehension.

The driver?

I could drive on past. No one will make me stop.

Is the hiker a danger? A mass murderer?

A Rapist?

Is their thumb a lure for the unsuspecting?

Or

The Hiker?

Simply travelling home.

Should they get into the car?

Could I be a psychotic killer?

Could I be the Rapist?

Is my car a trap?

 

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As I get closer, I see the expectant look on the hiker’s face.

A bright smile.

Willing me to slow.

To stop.

I feel a compulsion.

An obligation to a fellow human.

I have been there myself. Thumb out. Waiting, hoping.

Praying for the next car to stop.

To give me a ride.

A ride to somewhere warm. Somewhere with hot coffee.

The hiker looks clean. Normal.

Conventional.

I slow. Maneuver towards the roadside.

Stop, a few yards beyond.

Looking in my mirror.

Watching.

 

The hiker picks up a small rucksack.

Running towards me.

I lock the doors.

Clunk. Safe.

I can leave. Go.

Put my foot on the accelerator.

Speed away.

The hiker is close now.

My last chance.

Decision time.

A smiling face appears at the window.

I smile back.

Still time.

Go?

Stay?

 

I press a switch.

The window hums. Open.

Half open.

I hear my voice. “Heading North” it says.

“Me too” the hiker replies.

I nod.

The hiker smiles.

Expectancy.

I smile back.

Trepidation.

Time stands still.

Momentarily.

 

Click.

I unlock the doors.

My own thumb jerks, a backward motion.

“Put your bag in the back” my voice speaks again.

Autonomously.

The bag lands on the rear seats.

Drive away, I think.

Take the bag.

Go.

Now.

What is in the bag.

Some clothing.

An iPad.

Money.

Or the hiker’s life?

Their entire possessions.

A lifetime or memories.

Lost loves, lost mother.

A bag of dreams, hopes for the future?

Is that where they are heading now?

The future.

Thiers. Mine. Ours?

Has this moment inexorably entwined our lives?

Left an indelible mark.

Or just a scratch. Unnoticeable, hidden.

One that will fade, become rubbed out as life progresses?

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The door opens.

Blue eyes, bright teeth, pale skin.

The hiker sits next to me.

“Thank you” she says.

“That’s okay” I reply.

I put the car in gear, heading North.

Our lives are meshed. At least for the next one hundred miles.

If she makes it that far.

If I make it that far.

Who knows?

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

You see, I am old school.

I know what makes life simple.

 

 © Paul White 2016


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Andromeda’s tears

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My yacht, Cetus, gently rises and falls with the sea swell. It is a motion I find comforting, a feeling further enhanced by the occasional sound of muted splashes as the sea laps against the hull.

The sun is low, an orange globe, slowly sinking towards the far horizon; the one we crossed earlier in the day, when the sun was at its zenith.

It was hot then. Oppressively hot.

The raw heat sucked the moisture from our skin, from our mouths, from our lungs, like a vampire drains the blood from its victims. Leaving nothing but shrivelled carcasses of dried parchment in its wake.

Now, I sit on the quarter deck. A flame from the spout of a small Aladdin style genie lamp flickers in the faint breeze; its feeble light still reflects and refracts from the etched glasses and the silver of the pot, from which Cassiopeia is serving sweet Moroccan mint tea.

Casablanca is lost to us, far behind in the darkness, beyond that far horizon. Ahead, barely visible in the dwindling light, is another. One we shall sail over in the morrow, as we make headway for the island of Seriphos.

Upon whose shores Andromeda awaits for our arrival.

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Phineas, has let his mouth become quarrelsome with his head once more. The promise of marriage fades, tears run down Andromeda’s cheeks.

Cassiopeia demanded we make this passage, before Poseidon becomes enraged with Andromeda’s words and lets loose the wrath of his jealousy upon the innocence of the young girl.

Which is what brings us here, to the centre of the sea as the night falls.

The sun, I am sure will hiss and splutter as it dips itself into the dark waters of the Mediterranean. Perhaps not, but that is how it seems from my vantage point on this deck.

The mint tea is refreshing, revitalising. It replenishes that which the sun has drained from my body and Sucked from my skin and eyes.

I lean back, the night air is still and warm. It hangs almost immobile, just brushed by the lightest of night breezes. The silence it brings forms an accompanying peace.

All is well with my world, for this moment.

Cassiopeia settles into the seat next to me, she rests her head against my shoulder.

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“Will we make landfall tomorrow, Cepheus?” she asks.

“If the winds be to our favour” I reply.

“Then I shall dry Andromedas tears” she says, kissing my neck gently.

.

While you are here why not check out my website, there you can see my books, blogs & works in progress. Feel free to contact me, ask questions and comment. http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

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The following story was inspired by this image. 


He watched as she trotted backwards and forwards and all around the house. Naked, except for her shoes and the small gold pendent dangling between her breasts.

Those stupid four-inch stiletto heels, tapping an irritating Morse code each time she passed him by and, this was even more annoying, leaving dimples in the linoleum and the parquet flooring.

She knew he disliked her flitting about wearing nothing but those ridiculously expensive Christian Louboutin. Which is why she was wearing them now.

It was her way of saying, ‘Fuck you’.

Her way of saying, ‘I’ll do what I want, when I want’.

He gritted his teeth. It was not worth attempting to speak with her, especially when she was in this mood.

She stood a few feet in front of him, eyes fixed on his, challenging him.

He stared back, trying not to show any emotion on his face. ‘Let her think what she will’, he thought.

A flick of her head sent the mane of golden blond hair from her face, over her shoulder. She tipped the small bottle of perfume, letting a droplet onto her finger tip. Slowly, seductively she dotted the scent behind her ears. Another finger full ran from under her chin, down her throat and between her breast.

She never took her eyes from his. The next trail of perfume was teasingly spread along the crease where her legs joined her torso, her fingers dabbing the scent in a line alongside her smooth, freshly waxed virginal mound.

Two more dots. One behind each kneecap, completed her task. She walked closer, smiling. Not a happy smile, not a loving smile, just a smarmy grin.

“He likes this one” she said, sniffing her wrist, breathing in the aroma of the perfume. “He says it compliments my own smell, especially when I get… hot”. Again, the sickly smile spread across her face. “Oh, I forgot to say, he is coming here this time. You’ll get a chance to see him after all”.

With that, she turned and sauntered out of the room. Not looking back Not even an over the shoulder glance.

He was sickened by the way she treated him. Yet what could he do? This was her revenge, her punishing him for all his misdemeanours and lies and dalliances of the past.

Some might say he was lucky she did not kill him when it all came to light. But he knew this was a fate worse than death. Something few believe possible.

He clung to one hope; this situation could not go on for much longer. He was sure she would become bored by the whole thing pretty soon. Nothing and no one held her attentions for long, not even him and that was then, let alone how they were now.

This had lasted much longer than it should have. To continue would be, at the least, inhumane. Although her knew that fact would not bother her. Boredom was his only hope, the only true conclusion he could wish for.

Two hours of hearing glasses tinkle with ice, soft music and constant chatter, followed by giggles and laughter. He wished he could move away, out of earshot. Even with his eyes closed he could not sleep.

It was the noise, the music, their voices. Mostly it was the expectation. The images of imagination playing in his mind which prevented sleep.

Not much would be left to his imagination now the door to the lounge was opened. Their voices becoming louder.

“No, no.” He heard her say. “In here”.

The door, which was ajar, swung open and they came staggering in. Glasses of red wine in their hands.

They should not be in here, in his study, his private sanctuary, especially drunk and with red wine. He knew there would be spillages. The bitch.

She plonked herself down on the large leather foot stool. He noticed her steal a surreptitious look at him, a flashing, covert glance.

“I want you, now” She said to the young man kneeling beside her.

“Here?” He asked.

“Right here, right now”.

“I need to… um …go…first” He said leaving the room.

She stood and walked over to him, bending slightly so her head was level with his.

“You can watch this. You had better watch this. If I see your eyes closed, even once, I’ll cut your fucking eyelids off”.

The young man came back into the room. “who are you talking too?”

“No one, silly. I was singing” she said. “Now, this is for you” She deftly unzipped the back of her frock and let it slither to the ground.

Underneath she was totally naked, except for her four-inch heeled Christian Louboutin, which she crossed over the young man’s back, pulling him closer and the small gold pendent nestled between her breasts.

He watched her, watching him. Besides closing his eyes and risking his eyelids, he had no choice. After all, his head was not joined to anything. It was not as if he could move it.

She gasped. Finger nails digging into her partners back, white teeth biting down into the flesh of the young man’s shoulder. Yet, only for one small insignificant moment, as her body jerked with pleasure, did she glance away, did her own eyes close for a moment.

Laying these few feet in front of him, her eyes fixed on his, she was challenging him.

It was her way of saying ‘Fuck you’.

Her way of saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

 

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© Paul White 2017

 

 

Fixing the Thingamabob

 

This is the short story I recently read aloud to a public gathering. It was not a random act on my part, but part of Tale Spinners’, a literary initiative of Neil King and Richard Avery, AKA Other Lives Productions.

Loosely based on the literary, non-profit organisation, ‘The Moth which was founded in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green.

Neil and Richard have created a British group, Tale Spinners, and intend to grow the group on a similar basis.

deckchair

I had a job to do which needed more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

So, I wandered down the garden to my shed, in order to find the whatchamacallit, which I knew was in the wooden box, under the shelf between the screw box and the other thing.

My wife has been nagging me for eons regarding fixing the thingamabob, which started to rattle and shake several months ago.

As it happened today was sunny, bright and warm. Just the type of day I like to attend to those pesky little jobs which stack up over time.

Also, I was in the mood for tinkering, which was a big plus!

Once I had the whatchamacallit in my hand, I wandered back to the house, placed the thingamabob on the kitchen table and started to dismantle it.

Personally, I would have ditched this old machine years ago and replaced it with a new, up-to-date, all singing, all dancing, micro chipped, high tech thingamabob. But, because this old rusting must have some sort of sentimental attachment, my wife was certain I could fix it and all would be well for another thirty years.

I was not so sure.

Especially now I had umpteen bits and bobs scattered on sheets of newspaper spread over the table top.

I was unsure if they all belonged to the thingamabob, or if some pieces had tumbled from the small jars of screws, washers and odd bits I had kept for repairing such items.

Besides the springs, there were a few plastic doodahs of indiscriminate origin, a strange angular thingummy with various sized holes and a host of………bits…..loose sort-of-screw(ish) pieces along with some flange brackets.

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Still, I was quietly confident I would not have to fork out a fistful of klebies to purchase a new whatchamacallit, because despite the number of random odd and sods before me, I had all the key parts, in separate saucers, spread over the newspaper covering the kitchen table.

The rest I could figure out during re-assembly.

Having got thus far, I decided a fresh brew was in order and proceeded to stand from the kitchen stool. That was when my knee came in painful contact with the underside of the table top, sending all the random and carefully separated odds and ends flying into the air, most of which came crashing down onto the stone tiled floor.

As I have said, being an organised sort of bloke the several saucers I was using, to keep the whatsits from rolling all over the place, thus avoiding the chance of mixing them up with other doodahs or losing them altogether, belonged to my wife’s favourite crockery set.

Now, not only were all these jumbled-up with the rest of the bits and bobs, but my wife’s best saucers were now splintered shards on the kitchen floor, mixed among the plastic and metal thingamajigs.

Hummphhhh. I was in a pickle!

Luckily, I am not the sort of fellow who panics over such unfortunate accidents. That may be because I am a clumsy fool, at least according to my wife and so I am used to such calamities.

No doubt, had my wife been at home when this happened there would have been a bit of a kafuffle, but as I was alone and all was quiet and peaceful. I made a pot of tea and laced it with a tot, or two, of a fine whiskey.

Sitting back, I surveyed the scene, which was one of utter chaos, while I decided on the best plan of action.

*** 

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Four hours later, my wife arrived home.

I was in the garden, relaxing in a deck chair, admiring the garden plants and soaking the up the late afternoon sunshine.

On entering the kitchen my wife was greeted to the sight of a brand new, up-to-date, all singing, all dancing, micro chipped, high tech thingamabob.

What on earth is this” she shouted down the length of the garden towards me. I surreptitiously grinned to myself before walking into the kitchen.

That old one was knackered” I lied. “I called a few places for parts, but they would have cost more than a new one and, there was no guarantee it would even work, once I had attempted the repair; so, I took it to the dump and got you a brand spanking new one“.

My wife was overjoyed.

I was relieved.

I was off the hook, at least with regards to the thingamabob. My only concern now were those dammed saucers I had smashed.

***

You see, after I drank my whiskey infused tea, I cleaned the kitchen, tipping the hoojamaflips and whatsits that lay on the floor, along with the shards of porcelain from my wife’s saucers, into the waste bin, which I dutifully emptied into the large dustbin in the yard, burying the evidence of calamity under a heap of other garbage.

Once the kitchen was tidied, I drove into town in my old jalopy, where I purchased a new whatchamacallit and a set of saucers, identical to those which I had inadvertently smashed.

On my return home, I placed the said crockery into the dishwasher, along with the matching cups, sugar bowl and milk jug.

When my wife asked me to make a pot of tea, I made a huge drama of getting the newly washed cups and saucers from the dishwasher. This earned me extra brownie points as my wife commented on how unusual, but nice, it was of me to help with the household chores.

I was elated. I had hidden my clumsiness and avoided her wrath!cdbad99d6fc92d188b79e6ea0c24f93b

However, as we sat drinking our tea, my wife suggested we ‘go shopping this coming weekend, for a new set of cups and saucers, because these cups had lost their glaze, besides my wife wanted some which looked ‘a little more modern’.

 

Reluctantly, I have promised to mend the whatjumacallit in our utility room tomorrow.

I wonder what excitement lay in store when I start that job?

 

© Paul White 2015

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Buddy App

The following story, Buddy App, has been written by a great friend and wonderful storyteller, Mr Squid McFinnigan.
When you read Squid’s work you see the world through the eyes of an Irish Bar man who is a bit weird in an old fashion’d way! and for those of you who don’t know, Ireland is a little island floating in the Atlantic ocean next to England, which is a slightly larger island on the edge of Europe.

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We all have our treasures, things we’d dash into a burning building to rescue. If you were to ask Sam what his most treasured possession was he, would delve a hand into his pocket and produce a silver iPhone5S. He had queued for a full twenty four hours to make sure he got his phone on the day it was launched. His whole life was contained in it and he had not been parted from the phone for as much as a second since he bought it.

When Sam was a teenager he knew he was destined to become a great actor. In high school he took the male lead in every production he auditioned for. In between performances he wrote and sang with his friends in a band called, “Zombie Fruitcake.” He was absolutely sure he would have been slapping away movie and theatre offers by the dozen as soon as he got his name out there. Sam moved to New York as soon as he could, allowing his rise to stardom to begin.  Choosing New York was the result of years of watching friends. Sam was certain that if Joey could make it big there, anyone could.

His first impression of the big apple was one of isolation. Sam sent out countless job applications but had only been called for a hand full of auditions. He’d even found it difficult to get an agent, eventually having to settle for one which wanted to be paid in advance for his services rather than on the work he procured. It wasn’t long before the money in Sam’s savings account ran out and he was faced with a decision. Tuck tail and return home to face his friends having failed to make a success of his life or get a real job.

The decision to stay had been one born more from embarrassment than anything. Even finding a real job had been a lot harder than he’d imagined it would be. After weeks of looking, Sam eventually found employment with, “Maxwell Financial Services.” The name was impressive but the work was anything but. He was nothing more than a debt collector, not the butch type that comes calling to a door with dark glasses and a menacing sneer, but the annoying kind that rings non-stop at every hour of the day and night until you either change the phone number or pay off the money. Sam hated everything about his job, he hated harassing people for stupid bills, he hated the way some of his workmates revelled in their merger power and he hated the damn paperwork. The only good thing about the job was the money. It allowed him to rent a tiny shoebox apartment without having to share with someone else. It allowed him to indulge himself with a succession of High-Tec gadgets, his phone being Sam’s pride and joy. Yes, half the world had iPhones these day’s but his was the limited edition platinum model with extra processing power.

It was spring in New York and the rain had been torrential for days. The subway was packed with damp commuters, steaming up the windows of the overly warm rail carriage. Sam was glad he had managed to get a seat as it was twenty more minutes before his stop would come. Even though the car was packed to capacity, it was nearly silent, apart from the screech of wheels on steel speeding them through the subterranean network of tunnels. All around him people were listening on earphones, reading books or papers, but mostly they were scanning through their tablets or phones which is exactly what Sam was doing. Snap chat, e mail, Facebook, Twitter, he was constantly connected to the world wide web, but he still felt alone. As if sensing his emotions an advert for the latest App appeared on his screen.

Need a friend, sign up to Buddy App and experience the latest in interactive technology.”

Buddy App? Why not?

Sam clicked on the advert and read its extended promise of the newest development of Artificial Intelligence for the mobile market. “It’s like having a person in your pocket.”Amazingly enough the app was only $9.99. What the hell it, for ten bucks what could go wrong. Sam hit the purchase button. Unusually a contract sheet appeared with page after page of small print. On the top of the first page was a little tick box for indicating you agree to terms and conditions. Sam clicked the box without a second thought. The next page appeared with a message that said “Place thumb here.” Sam had never seen anything like this before, but pressed his right thumb against the screen anyway. The screen glowed bright read and Sam felt heat sear his skin.

“Jesus Christ,” he said pulling his thumb away, shaking it like he had pressed it against a hotplate. Sam examined the phone but it was cold to the touch. Flipping weird. On the screen was a message which said “Buddy App Loading. Please wait.” In a couple of seconds the screen turned into a kaleidoscope of gay swirling colours. From the speaker came a rich male voice with a deep-south accent.

Why hello there Sam, mighty glad to make your acquaintance.”

“Cool,” said Sam to himself.

The voice on his phone laughed. ”Glad you think so Sam, I think.”

Sam was amazed, how had they predicted what he’d say?

“How did they do that?” said Sam aloud.

How did they do what, and who are they?” asked the voice in a pleasant drawl.

“Know what response to have lined up and they are your programmers.”

Again the voice chuckled, “You said Cool and I just answered.”

“Impossible.”

Clearly not, ask me any question you like and I will try my best to answer.”

“Okay, what is todays date?”

“Seventeenth of March in the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen. Too easy Sam, try something else.”

“Okay, where am I right now?”

We, not you, are on a subway car, traveling on the one line, between Franklin St and Canal St, sitting in the second last seat, back right of the railcar. And you are wearing a New Yorkers baseball hat and a black rain slicker.”

How did you do that?” Sam said in amazement.

Easy, I accessed the global positioner in the phone to find out our exact position after which it was easy to know we were moving along the exact path of the number one track heading north. Second I can see one seat behind you so you are in the second last seat and the windows are on your right. I can see what you look like so knowing what you are wearing is a piece of cake.”

“You can see me?”

Sure, through the camera, just like I can hear you through the microphone and speak to you through the speakers.”

“That is amazing.”

Why thank you Sam I like you too,” said the voice and the screen flashed a sunflower yellow of happiness. “Tell me Sam do you like jokes?”

“Sure I guess.”

A Priest, a Rabbi and an Irishman walk into a bar-.”  The rest of the journey passed in the blink of an eye.

***

As the weeks passed Sam and Buddy became inseparable. Like the advert promised, it was just like having a friend in his pocket. They discussed things, not that Buddy always agreed with Sam. They joked and laughed, a lot, Buddy had a wicked sense of humour.

A few weeks after Sam had downloaded Buddy some of his friends from home happened to be visiting New York. They had invited Sam to join them on a night out.

“I’m going out later Buddy,” Sam told his phone after coming out of the shower.

Excellent Sam. If you ask me we spend far too much time in this pokey little flat.”

“It’s just going to be me and my friends tonight,” said Sam to his phone, which sat on his bed side table charging. The colours swirling on the screen darkened a little becoming brown and grey. Sam frowned at the change, he had never seen that before.

I thought we were friends Sam,” said Buddy.

“We are friends Buddy but I can’t tell the guys from home that my best friend in New York is my phone.”

Do you think I’m your best friend?”

“Of course Buddy,” said Sam drying his hair with a towel, from the corner of his eye he saw the screen flash pink and yellow again.

Later in the night Sam and his buddies shared a meal in a Thai restaurant before making their way to a mid-town bar. Sam offered to get the first round of drinks in and when the waitress dropped the glasses on the table Sam gave her his credit card. The lady swiped the card through her handheld machine but it came back declined. She tied it once more unsuccessfully before one of Sam’s friends paid for the drinks.

When Sam returned home he found his phone glowing green on the bedside table.

How was your night?” asked a sulky Buddy.

“It was alright up to the point my credit card was refused.”

Perhaps that will teach you not to leave me behind.”

“You did that?”

You can’t just ignore me Sam, I won’t be discarded at a whim.”

“I don’t believe it.”

You can’t take me for granted Sam, I won’t allow it,” said Buddy, the phone screen dulling to a rusty red and the phone just shut itself off. Sam tried several times to power the phone up but it wouldn’t do anything. Eventually Sam decided to send the phone for repair in the morning. It was clearly malfunctioning.

***

The next day Sam dropped his phone to the workshop and left it to be assessed. On his return he was presented with a perfectly working iPhone5s.

“Nothing wrong with this phone guy,” said the man behind the counter. “That will be sixty dollars.” Sam handed over the notes and took his precious phone back.

“What about the Buddy App, did you delete that.”

“I couldn’t find anything with that name but I reset the phone to factory settings anyway,” said the technician.  Sam looked at his screen which now looked completely normal and slipped it into his pocket. On the journey home Sam turned on the phone, which still looked completely normal. He searched for the Buddy Icon but it was gone, a tiny part of him felt like someone had died. Later that night Sam was making a stir-fry when Buddies voice drifted to him from the kitchen counter. On the screen swam a sea of mixing colours but mainly creams and greys.

I thought we were friends,” said a very sad sounding Buddy.

“Bloody hell you scared the life out of me,” said Sam still holding the spatula in front of him like a sword. “I thought you were gone Buddy.”

I know you did, and you were happy about it weren’t you?”

“No I wasn’t”

Liar,” the word was disappointed not angry. “I really thought we had a good thing going and then you go trying to get me wiped like some piece of machinery.”

“Hang on now Buddy, firstly you are a machine, and not even that, you’re an App on a machine. What you did the other night was completely out of line, interfering with my bank account. It took me ages to get the bank to straighten things out.”

Yes, sorry about that Sam. I went too far. It’s just I felt so let down, unappreciated. I won’t ever do it again I promise.”

Sam gave the phone an unsure look as he went back to stirring his food.

Can we go back to being friends please,” said Buddy from the counter. Sam turned round and saw the screen was a cascading waterfall of rainbow bright colours.

“Oh alright so,” said Sam. He had actually missed the little guy.

Yah!” cheered Buddy. “Do you want to hear a joke Sam?”

“Sure but it better be a good one, not like those Paddy Irish Man jokes you told the other day,” teased Sam, they had been very funny actually.

Nope not an Irishman in sight,” assured Buddy with a giggle. “A Politician, a Lawyer and an Accountant walk into a brothel.

“Oh NO! What have I done,” said Sam laughing and mock slapping his forehead.

***

The days passed and Sam got used to Buddy being around once more. He looked forward to chatting with him over breakfast about what was going on in the world. He didn’t bother with the TV news anymore Buddy would tell him all the interesting things anyway. They watched sports together in the evening but Buddy preferred basketball while Sam liked football. This lead to some sulking when one was picked over the other. One day in the office Buddy was sitting on the desk talking to Sam about a terrible school shooting that had taken place in the Midwest. A voice behind him made Sam spin in his chair.

“Who are you talking to Sam?” said Mr Quirk, the boss.

He was talking to me,” said Buddy in his refined southern way. Mr Quirk looked at the phone. “You know we can’t permit private calls on company time.”

“I’m not on a call Mr Quirk, honest.”

“But I just heard whoever is on the other end of the line talk.”

Thankfully Buddy stayed quiet. “What you heard was Buddy, it’s an App on my phone. You can talk to it and it answers back.”

“Really,” said Mr Quirk walking into the cubicle and picking up the phone, whose screen was going an alarming shade of crimson. “Hello Buddy,” said Mr Quirk. The phone stayed mute but the colours on the screen darkened further. The manager handed back the phone, “I don’t think your Buddy likes me. No calls or Apps while at work please Sam.” Mr Quirk walked around the corner and from the phone Sam heard his own voice come out, very loudly. “ASSHOLE!”

Mr Quirk returned sour faced, “What did you say Sam.”

“Nothing I swear, it was Buddy.”

“You must think me a fool, Sam. I won’t forget this,” said the Manager striding away. When he was out of earshot Sam picked up the phone, “Why did you do that?”

He is an asshole,” said Buddy defiantly.

“But you used my voice, not yours, why did you do that?”

Because you’re an asshole too. I’m just an App, is that all I am to you?”

“This is ridiculous, I’m not talking about this, here.”

I don’t particularly wish to talk to you either,” said Buddy and the phone went dead in his hand. Sam tried to turn the phone back on but it would do nothing.

***

Sam had been unable to get his phone to work all the way home. He was sitting watching TV when it sprang to life in his pocket.

Are you ready to apologise now,” said Buddy in a hoity tone of voice.

“I most certainly am not, how dare you try and get me in trouble at work and then take over my phone like that,” fumed Sam.

You would do well to treat me better Sam or you will end up making me mad and you would not like that.”

“What are you going to do, block my credit card again? You can’t. I have changed the passwords and they are not stored on you anymore.”

You have no idea who you are dealing with Sam, you would do well to hold your tongue,” snarled Buddy.

“Or what?” said Sam throwing the phone down on the couch. The TV set went blank, all the lights in the apartment flickered on and off, the radio coffee maker in the kitchen started to spew water all over the place to the sounds of R&B played to volume ten. Sam jumped to his feet like he had been electrocuted.

Just an App am I,” yelled Buddy from where he lay on the couch. His screen blood red. Sam grabbed his jacket and fled out the door. On the landing he hammered the button for the elevator just needing to get the hell away from his haunted flat. The door pinged open and Sam threw himself inside, pressing the ground floor button. The doors swished closed but the car did not move. Through the overhead speaker, Buddy’s voice filled the cabin. “Going down!”

The elevator car plummeted like a stone, as if the cables had been cut and the lights flashed off. Sam was sure his time was up but the fall only lasted a second or two and then the brakes jammed on, throwing Sam to the floor. In the darkness Sam heard Buddies voice again, “You can stay there until you have learned your lesson.”

Sam sat in the dark for a long time, knowing that Buddy wasn’t an app. He was being haunted or more to the point his phone was being haunted. He had to get rid of that thing for good. He had to stay away from electrical stuff as clearly Buddy could get inside nearly anything. Sam stood up and said to the darkness.

“You’re right I shouldn’t have said you were just an App, I should have said you were my friend. I’m sorry Buddy.”

The lights came on but the car did not move. No sound came from the speaker.

“Are you not talking to me now?”

If right is right I should never talk to you again,” said a solemn sounding Buddy from above.

“Friends allow friends to make mistakes Buddy. I can see what I have done but I need you to give me another chance. I just didn’t understand how or what you are until just now.” Nothing happened. “Please,” said Sam.

The breaks on the lift car clicked off and the elevator began to rise. The doors opened with a ping on Sam’s floor and he faced his own front door. With shaking hands he twisted the nob. Inside the only sign that a poltergeist had recently ran riot through the place was a little puddle of water on the kitchen floor.

I’m sorry too Sam, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” said his phone from the couch.

“I think there is a lot of explaining to do, don’t you?” said Sam picking up his precious phone.

I guess so, you have to understand I just wanted to have a friend.”

“We all need a friend from time to time. Let’s take a walk and you can explain it all to me but this time I think we will take the stairs, if you don’t mind.”

Buddy laughed, “Sure thing Sam, that elevator thing might have been a touch overboard.”

“I thought I was a goner,” said Sam pushing open the lobby door and walking down the steps to the sidewalk. To anyone else he looked like a million other New Yorkers, walking along and talking to his phone. Only Sam knew the truth.

Sam asked Buddy who or what he was. Buddy was being very evasive in his answers, saying that he only wanted to be was Sam’s friend. Sam crossed into a park and asked if Buddy if he were a ghost. At this buddy laughed. “No Sam I am as real and alive as you or anyone else, I’m just different. Let’s leave it at that.”

The city lights twinkled on the still surface of the lake where ducks normally swam and kids sailed model boats.

“You got quite a temper as well don’t you Buddy?” said Sam looking at the phone. The colours on the screen dimed a bit. “I’m not criticising Buddy, just saying.”

I think we all have some rage inside, don’t you Sam. It’s a natural part of living.”

“Well right now I need peace in my life, I hope you understand Buddy,” said Sam, launching the phone across the water with a pitchers throw. As the phone flew he could hear Buddy scream “NOOOO!” in the second before the limited edition platinum iPhone5s hit the water and sank to the muddy bottom.

Sam went home and collected everything connected with the phone, the charger, and carry case. He even found the warranty and put the lot in a refuse sack. He carried them to the waste chute but felt it wasn’t far enough away. He carried the bag to the edge of his block where a trash can stood, then walked another two blocks before finally dumping the very last bits of Buddy. When he finally got to bed Sam fell into an exhausted and dream riddled sleep.

Sam woke with a start in the middle of the night, sure he felt someone touching him. The room was dark and empty. Sam lay back on his pillow and turned on his side to go back to sleep. A harsh rasping voice with just the hint of Buddies accent rolled across the darkness, “You should have read the fine print Sam, we’re together forever.” On the pillow beside his head his phone light up the room with a flood of red, the colour of flame, and the skin on Sam’s thumb began to smoulder.


To read more of Squid McFinnigan’s wonderful tales visit his Blog www.squidmcfinnigan.blogspot.com  You’ll love it.