My confession.

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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.

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© Paul White 2017

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Mr Harrington. (A short tail)

 

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Something astounding happened yesterday I must tell you about.

I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes from lunch and gazing out of the window as I did so. In the corner of the kitchen little Jack was playing with his favourite toy, a fabric clown. I could see Jack’s delight each time he made the clown squeak.

Outside, a flock of sparrows were devouring some crusts I tossed on the lawn earlier and I could see Mr Harrington pottering about in his garden, which adjoined the end of ours.

It was pretty much an ordinary and uneventful day, until Mr Harrington looked my way.

In fact, I am sure he looked directly at me. A strange type of challenging stare. It was most unusual for him to look at me in that way and most disconcerting too.

Mr Harrington then stood, stretched his back and began running towards me. With one flying leap, he hurdled the back fence, continuing to run at full speed the entire length of our garden, scattering the sparrows as he neared the house.

Mr Harrington did not stop running, he came dashing through the kitchen door, ran straight up to little Jack and hit him on the side of his head with a vicious, swinging swipe, before turning around and dashing off.

Jack spun across the floor and slammed into the cupboard doors. Jacks toy clown flew into the air, bounced on the floor with a pathetic little squeak before coming to rest under the kitchen table.

The entire act happened so quickly, I only had time to pull my hands from the suds and pick up a towel ready to dry them, by which time Mr Harrington was half way back down the garden and heading home.

Jack was far quicker than I. He scrambled to his feet and was after Mr Harrington like a flash, jumping on him and raking his claws along his back. The two cats tumbled and twisted, matted clumps of fur flying into the air and letting loose a series of those blood curdling, high pitched, ear shattering screeches and meows that resonating throughout the entire estate during the early hours.

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Catching up with them I clapped my hands, stamped my feet and shooed at them. Mr Harrington giving up the fight and running home, while Jack came and rubbed himself around my ankles like a furry slinky, purring away as if nothing untoward had occurred.

Looking up, I saw Mr Harrington sitting on the fence between the two gardens. He was looking back at me, head slightly tilted and wearing an expression that said “This ain’t over yet”.

I know this to-do it is mostly my responsibility.

You see, until I brought Jack back from the sanctuary we welcomed Mr Harrington into our house and garden, fed him on occasion and spoilt him with tid-bits of ham and the odd prawn or two.

Now Jack is here, Mr Harrington feels pushed out. He is understandably displeased and disgruntled!

© Paul White 2016

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Dawn. (a short story)

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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.

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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.

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© Paul White 2017

Lavinia

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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?

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© Paul White 2017