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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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.

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A Big red bus

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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.

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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.

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END

© Paul White 2017    

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I don’t love you.

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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.

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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.

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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

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