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.

wrench-small

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.

*** 

deckchair

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

ff2015/1024

 

 

A Big red bus

SONY DSC

Three months.

That is what the doctors gave me, almost three months ago to the day.

Three months to live. That is not long, not long at all; a microsecond of the life I thought I had ahead of me.

I am uncertain if it is better knowing.

Maybe an unexpected death, an instant death; like getting mowed down by the proverbial bus is better. That way you can be happily going about your regular everyday business and BANG.

Nothing.

That is it. Finito.

This way is worse. This way everybody around me is living on tenterhooks. No one knows what to say, how to act or what to do.

There is nothing they can do.

I did not, still do not, have the time or the inclination, to do all those things I have never done in my life before. Like driving a Ferrari around a racetrack, base jumping into a canyon, or running naked through the snow in Finland.

I shall never get to empty my bucket list.

I could do them, some of them at least. I cannot afford to go to Australia, or for a space flight to feel weightlessness. I could do some of the other things; but truthfully, I cannot be bothered to make the effort.

You see, the whole point of doing such things is not so much for the ‘doing’ of them, however exhilarating they may be in the instant. It is what they leave you with after the events, what you carry away with you, the experience, the memories.

Memories which will last you a life time.

Yet a lifetime is something I no longer have.

So, to do all ‘that stuff’ seems a waste of the time I do have left. All those things I should have done before now, could have done when I was younger, fitter, stronger and of course, healthier.

The strange thing was I did not feel ill, not even in the slightest.

I have done. Two months ago I felt terrible, sick, dizzy, lethargic. You name it, I felt it. But now that has passed.

The doctors said it sometimes affects people in that way. It comes and goes in stages.

I had things to do. Make a new will. Organise my life, my ‘estate’ as the solicitors called it. My own thinking was more in line with Johnny Cash’s lyrics, “You can have it all, my entire empire of dirt”.

I know that is a slight misquote of the lyrics, but it is my version.

Hey, look on the bright side. I got to choose my own coffin! I was going out in a style I have chosen myself, not some pimped up piece of shit foisted on my dead corpse. Not many people get that opportunity.

Basically I was set. I had written letters to those I loved which they would receive after I had been interned. I have also made a video to be played at Christmas. In which I wish them all happiness and joy, explaining they should all do their ‘stuff’ now. Not put it off as I had, or else they too might never get the chance to do whatever wants they secretly harboured.

I have accepted my demise.

I am pensive, but only about the dying bit, not death itself. I do not want to suffer or be in pain. I do not think I could handle that well. But being dead, I am certain, is not painful at all.

At the time of writing, according to the doctors, l have three more days to go. I still feel good in myself and was wondering if it will just hit me. If it is to be like a countdown, a stopwatch, and at midday on Friday my lights will just go out.

Click… game over!

But I know timing is just an estimate, a guess. But that still cannot stop me wondering about so many things, like a miracle cure, or the discovery of a new procedure, or Martians landing on earth with a cure for all ills and the formula for everlasting life.

I suppose even though I have accepted death, I do not really want to die, not yet anyway.

I suppose these are the type of thoughts which run through everyone’s mind when considering one’s own death, imminent death.

ripwatch

 

These are the thoughts running through my mind when the doctor arrived at the house.

Usually, once a week, the nurse comes and checks me out, takes blood and writes a lot of notes on her charts. I do not think a single notation, a single word, scribble, line or mark on those charts and papers actually had anything to do with trying to making me better. My suspicions they are records for protecting the doctors own backsides in case of any litigation if the future. But maybe I am just being cynical?

Anyway, this morning the doctor came with the nurse. This is it, I thought, this is the bad news, this is when the doctor tells me I shall deteriorate fast from this point onwards. This is when the pain starts, where I become incontinent, where my dignity as a human disappears.

I am not ready for that.

Dignitas becomes an appealing option.

“Mr Harvey”. The Doctor started to speak in a slow and deliberate voice.

He was rubbing his little goatee beard with his hand. Nervous tension. Although why he would worry was beyond me, it was I who was dying, not he.

“I am not sure how to explain this to you”. The Doctor sighed. I noticed the nurse was concentrating on inspecting the toes of her shoes.

This was it I suspected. This was the worst news. If a professional was having trouble telling me, I was to steel myself as best as I could.

I stood in the centre of my lounge, clenching my jaw and trying not to shake. I felt cold sweat forming on my brow and palms.

I knew this was coming, was inevitable, but I still felt like vomiting.

“Mr Harvey, there has been a mistake”. Again, the doctor paused.

“Your notes were mixed up I’m afraid”. The Doctor stopped speaking, he just sat there looking straight at me. The Nurse looked up too. She was chewing on her left cheek, just where her top and bottom lip met.

I watched as her tongue flicked out and licked a trickle of blood which was seeping from the biting.

I frowned and shock my head. “I don’t understand’.

“You are not going to die, Mr Harvey, at least not yet”.

My mind went blank. My head dizzy with confusion. I heard what the doctor said, but honestly did not comprehend a single word.

Again I said  “I don’t understand’.

The doctor spoke again. “Your notes, Mr Harvey were miss-filed, you ended up with another patience’s diagnosis in your file. You are well. You are fine. You are nowhere near deaths door”.

Slowly it began to sink in. I was not going to die at midday on Friday, or the next Friday, or the one after that. Not unless that bloody bus ran me down!

I was relieved. I was happy. I was angry.

In fact, I was bloody furious.

How dare these so called medical professionals put me through so much grief, so much mental torture for so long? How can they justify putting my wife, my kids, my family and friends in this position for three whole months?

I stood up. My mouth was running away with me. I cannot tell you what I said, because one half of it I do not remember and the other is unrepeatable and unprintable. Suffice to say I let go a tirade of verbal abuse for a good fifteen minutes, in which time I do not think I stopped to draw breath, even once.

To give the Doctor and nurse their due, they stood and took my entire sermonising diatribe on the chin without flinching. When I eventually ran out of words and expletives, I was panting like a hound after a long run. I collapsed back into my chair sitting silently and awaiting a response.

I would have said I was awaiting an answer, but I do not think I asked a single question during my ranting rage.

“We understand your frustration Mr Harvey, which is why I wanted to pass this news on to you personally” said the doctor quite calmly.

I could feel my hackles rising once more. How dare he be so controlled after the months of tourture he has put me through?

“I would like you to consider, if you will” the doctor continued, looking directly into my eyes, “that I have to speak to the patient whose notes were confused with you own”.

“What on earth has that to do with what you have put me and my family through for all these months?” I asked indignantly.

“Because, Mr Harvey, we have to give the other patient the news that he has only a matter of days to live. A man we told was only slightly ill, that would soon be better and back to his old self again. If you think you have been inconvenienced, how do you think he is going to feel when we tell him he is about to die?”

I must admit, I have not stopped thinking about that poor man.

I do not call him ‘poor man’ because he is about to die, but because he has so little time to come to terms with dying.

I had three months. Little time, but enough to accept the inevitable.

I wonder if the other man ever drove a Ferrari around a racetrack, or visited Australia?

I do not envy him. But I have concluded it is far better not to know your own future, especially when it involves your own demise.

From now on I shall live my life one day at a time.

When the reaper eventually comes for me, I hope he will be driving a big red bus.

01ab8

END

© Paul White 2017    

SSL&L2801171688

  Feel free to visit my website, take a look at my books and ‘stuff’!

 http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

My confession.

old-woman-praying11-930x300

I am guilty.

It is not your normal, regular, run-of-the-mill, kind of guilt.

This is far, far more…incomprehensible. One, which is as impossible to escape from, as it was to have been entrapped within.

You see, I loved him.

Once.

That once, now seems so long ago it never truly belonged to me; which in all reality I do not suppose it did.

All I had, as you may have now, is the belief life would keep its promise.

I never asked for anything more than was possible; I never asked for the fairy-tale ‘happily-ever-after’.

I was not so foolish to think such things exist.

But, I did want it to last longer.

Yet still he has been taken from me, inexorably, imperceptibly, little by little, piece by piece; until there is nothing left but a thin parchment of skin hanging onto a frame of crumbling bones.

My love is in mourning for this body’s previous tenant, the man who was part of me, of who I am, my husband, my lover, my best friend.

I fear each day that passes I should forget his voice, of how his hands once held me firm. I fear of losing the sound of his laughter, the remembrance of deeply breathing in his scent. These things are only with me now as past memory. 

I worry they too will be stolen from me, now someone else is living in his body.

I feel nothing for this interloper. I do not know him. I have never known him and have no wish to know him. That is why there is a distance between us, one which stretches much farther than the few inches apparent to the casual observer.

Yet there are social expectations which I must meet. So, I simply ‘go through the motions’, to satisfy the anticipations of others.

This is the guilt I carry, the burden which weighs heavily upon my soul, a guilt I have no way to assuage.

This is my confession.

.

© Paul White 2017

Ssff/050317/315L

Dawn. (a short story)

images

This morning two men walk with me into the courtyard.

I am centre, they one on each side. We do not rush, we amble. We do not talk; but take in the freshness of a new day, each lost, deeply lost, in our own thoughts.

The sun lifting itself over the horizon. A lazy stretch of glowing amber soaking into the fading darker blue at the edge of night.

 The sun’s rays fall upon my face, the chill air recedes, letting the light gently warm my skin.

I hold my cigarette before me, one eye squeezed shut, matching the glowing end to the suns circumference.

I breath out, slowly watching the smoke. Momentarily it is there, almost solid, a thick clump of particles hanging in the air, moving oh so slightly, before twisting away on the light breeze, dissipating and…. gone.

getty_rf_photo_of_man_exhaling_cigarette_smoke_closeup

It is amazing how you see things when you only have the moment, how the commonplace, the everyday, the simplest of things become detailed, become special.

I would like to be gone from here, to fade into the ether like the smoke. There is much I should like to do, much I would to see and so many places I would rather be, than here.

But I have no choice. Circumstance dictates today, not I.

Far to my left the two men who walked with me into this courtyard lean against the wall, their heads turned, not looking my way, trying not to make eye contact.

Before me stand fourteen more men. One, the officer, standing at my shoulder, waiting for me to take the last drag from the cigarette.

I suck the filter, the acrid, bitter taste of tobacco flowing into my mouth. I breath in, pulling it down, down inside. A slight dizziness buzzes in my head, I purse my lips, let the smoke slowly out, a steady stream.

Flicking the butt away casually, watching as it bounces once and rolls across the compact dirt of the ground. It stops, the filter burning away. Soon it will be gone.

As shall I.

The officer offers me a black band, a blindfold. I shake my head.

Rifles levelled, pointing at the small white cotton square pinned over my heart.

I stare back, looking my executioners in the eyes.

The officer shouts his command, “Ready”

His voice echoes from the walls.

“Aim… Fire”

I hear a crackle, the discharge of those rifles.

I do hear not the echo reverberate from the walls of this courtyard.

publication1

SSCO140117/423Dth

© Paul White 2017

Lavinia

58elders1209a
My first sharing short for 2017
Enjoy x.

Lavinia

Her name was Lavinia. She was tall and slim, or dare I say thin?
I ask because I am no longer sure if that word is an acceptable term today.
Yesterday ‘thin’ was fine; you could say thin without heads snapping to look at you with sneers of derision plastered upon them.
Even ‘skinny’ was allowed if used in the right context, say when describing the ‘cut’ of a denim jean or milk in a café latte.
I am never sure which words are in fashion, in season, which have been cast aside or banished. I am not ‘with it’ any longer, or so it seems.

However, I wander far from the main thread of this tale; a tale about an elegant woman named Lavinia, who I saw frequently working out at my gymnasium.
Such an unusual presence was Lavinia, as she ran on the treadmill or pumped away on the cross-trainer, in comparison that is to all the other people there.

Long before I introduced myself, long before I knew her name, Lavinia fascinated me. Clearly, she was not a ‘spring-chicken’. I guessed she was aged late sixties, possible early seventies. Yet here she was, several times a week, working out and putting many of the younger folk to shame.

Then again that should be no surprise, because many of the regular visitors to this gym were not here to follow any physical fitness routine. Many, mostly the younger women and several young men, used the gym as a place of preening and for posing.
I found their pretentiousness posturing and outright displays of vanity rather entertaining. Watching them often helped while away the time when working up a good sweat during a training session.

Now, back to Lavinia.
One day she was on a treadmill next to my own. I could not help but occasionally glance at her. She always looked so neat, so prim and proper and she had a certain air, one of elegance and athleticism combined.

I asked “Are you a dancer?”

She replied with a question “Why do you ask?”

I thought I detected the slightest of blushes.
“The way you move your hands, the way you hold them when you bend”.

She smiled; bright, kindly, understanding and motherly all at the same time, but not with a slightest hint of patronisation.
“I have studied dance” she said, “a long time ago”.

I worried myself, afraid I had embarrassed her and tried not to watch her after that conversation. But she was so poised, so collected and unself-conscious it was impossible not to occasionally glance her way.
It sounds stupid for a mature man, a man of my age, but I never worked up the courage to speak to her again.

I think I was looking for an excuse to start a conversation, a reason to say something, something I thought would not sound pathetic.
Each time I found something I could say, another part of me said I was being foolish, that she would most probably dismiss me if not laugh at me.

Then Lavinia missed a few of her regular sessions.
I asked the staff if they knew the reason that she was not as regular. I was answered with shrugs and a shake of the head.
Even if they knew, they said, it was against company policy to divulge any information about any client.
Fair play I suppose.

After a while Lavinia stopped coming to the gym altogether.
I asked around, speaking with some of the other women I had seen her associating with.

It seems she was a widow and the gym was her way of coping with grief. She wanted to meet people, to make new friends.

Could I have been one of those friends if I had not been so shy?

I shall never know, because I was informed that Lavinia died alone and lonely in her small flat.

It seems few people spoke more than the obligatory, almost necessary, ‘passing words’.

Or maybe they, like myself, are just as lonely as Lavinia, yet too afraid to venture beyond the fear of rejection?

Perhaps we shall never know, until it is too late?

SS010117/701Per?
© Paul White 2017

I don’t love you.

fd562452324659afb5f4feb0e79584d3

I poured another whisky.

Amber liquid flowing smoothly, small waves licking the side of the tumbler. The aroma rose, oak-wood, peat and alcohol.

Twisting the glass, looking through it, into it, my words came back, like an echo, a haunting.

“I don’t love you”.

I lied.

But that is what anger does, frustration. Temper.

It makes you a liar.

I twisted the phone in my hands.

I was not sure if I was going to make the call, or if I was waiting, hoping, willing for her to call me.

Of course she wouldn’t. Not after what I had said. Not after those words.

I did not blame her.

I would not call. Not if that was said to me. Not by someone I loved. 

Which is where she was at now. Crying. Huddled, cuddling her pillow. Teardrops and mascara soaking into the crisp fresh white linen.

I drank the whisky. All of it. One gulp.

It burnt. All the way down.

I poured another. A large one. Larger than the last.

My heart was heavy for her. But why, oh why…and how can a woman, a woman you love more than life itself, make you so angry, so easily?

Was it me?

Am I an angry man? Do I have a short temper? An uncontrollable rage?

No.

No, I do not.

I am mister average. John Doe. Fred Bloggs. A.N. Other.

I am angry now. Frustrated now. Or am I?

I have so many emotions, questions, feelings spinning around my head, my mind, I do not know what I feel.

I know how I feel.

Lost.

Sick.

Bewildered.

These sensations are not just in my head; they are flowing through my whole body. I feel sick, hungry, anxious, wild, sad, tearful, from the pit of my stomach to my fingertips and toes.

guilt_by_mare_of_night-d3a5szp

 

 

 

The whisky should help. It should deaden the senses.

But it doesn’t.

Still, I tip the glass, letting the smoothness of single malt drizzle onto my tongue. I savour it this time, taste it.

It still burns, but a pleasant pleasing burn, warming. Comforting.

I pick up the phone again. My fingers dance over the screen. I am shaking. Scared.

Scared of what I ask myself?

I have lost her already. I have nothing more to lose.

Except myself.

Myself. I chuckle at that. I hold no value of me.

I am worthless. So again I have nothing to lose.

Nothing.

This time, I fill the glass, almost to the rim.

I drink a third. Three quick sips.

There is no burn anymore, just the warmth, a silky warmth tinged with a hint of sadness. A lingering aftertaste of longing.

I slide a cigarette from the pack, resting the filter against my lips as I breath in, pulling the flame closer. The cigarettes end glows red.

I exhale, softly, slowly. Letting the smoke twist its way upwards, towards the ceiling. Here and gone.

Dissipated.

As I wish my words had.

The table holds a few items. Whisky bottle, glass, lighter, cigarettes, phone, Colt 45.

I have used four items.

Just the phone and gun to go.

Call her?

Or not?

If she says she hates me. No loss.

Nothing of value to lose, except a single shell.

If she does not answer. No loss either.

I will still get the message.

Or not to phone.

Not to chance her wrath.

Just pick up the 45.

Get it over with.

Why do I want to call her? I wonder.

To say sorry?

To say I was wrong?

That I made a mistake?

Feeble.

“I don’t love you” is not a mistake. It is a clear, precise sentence.

A sentence I uttered.

Foolishly. Unmeant. Stupidly. Without thought.

laughing-woman

I stroke the black glass of the screen once more, a little to firmly. It lights up and there she is; smiling at me, laughing.

I should delete her picture. I think.

I don’t want to press call.

I am scared, frightened. Yet my finger squeezes down.

Dialing…

I want to stop it.

Connecting…

I cannot move. I cannot function.

Her voice.

“I love you” she says, “I am sorry. I’m missing you”.

I still can’t move.

“Can I come over…like now, right now. Because I need you. I want you to hold me, tight, forever”.

I lift the phone and say…

.

 © Paul White 2016

ssco190116/L&L

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white