January 04, 2010

Beard

It's the famous beardy anti-narrative that isn't really anti-narrative, it just uses some anti-narrative techniques.

He grew a beard for No Shave November. This is not actually a fictional month-event. I visited the University of Edinburgh recently, where they all have beards at the moment, because it’s November. Well, most of them do anyway. For some, it’s an embarrassing reminder that they still can’t actually grow facial hair. Anyway, whoever breaks first, and shaves it off must buy everybody else a drink. Expensive.

It hasn’t worked for some. Poor Dave, ladies man, has had very little lady luck lately. Matt on the other hand is now dating my best friend, so good for him. But those are real people. I’d quite like to draw your attention to somebody who probably doesn’t exist in Edinburgh, but who will simply be placed there for the purposes of entertainment. With his beard. For the beard is quite important for the purposes of this story (although really, this story isn’t very important in real life. It’s not political, it won’t make you think deeply about the ways of life and social constraints, etc, unless you’re too clever for your own good).

This person in question (let’s call him Brian. Brian is a good name) had some pretty bad luck in relation to No Shave November. Nonetheless, he remained too proud to give up, shave off and pay up.

First of all, just over a week in, his girlfriend’s parents chose this time to drive up to meet this man who had been seeing their daughter for two months. A week isn’t very long, but Brian was already starting to look a little unkempt, which is a generous description. In all honesty, if I’d seen him sitting by the side of the road, I’d probably have tried to find him some loose change. And Julia’s parents were of a similar opinion. She made a valiant attempt to stand by him throughout lunch, to try to suggest that she didn’t mind, but the truth was that for the whole week, she had begged him, pleaded with him, even tried to trick him into shaving, into tidying up. The result was that her parents made comments, Brian became lairy and the whole lunch was a little unpleasant.

The next day, Julia had a fight with him, and insulted the concept of No Shave November. In a huff, Brian insulted her. Furiously, Julia threatened to break up with him unless his beard went. Brian still didn’t shave it off. It had become a symbol of his struggle against normality. He soon found himself very much single.

Another week later, Brian’s beard turned ginger. Normally, in our tolerant society, this wouldn’t be a problem. Many ginger people now have jobs. Except that Brian isn’t a ginger character. He is blond. Therefore, he looked ridiculous.

A week later, Brian was enjoying a social cigarette with a random pub goer to try and combat the month’s stress. It had been a long night and many pints had been consumed. Hazily, Brian misjudged the placing of his cigarette and his lighter and his beard, so somehow ended up on fire. Thankfully, the random pub goer Luke (who was taking a stand by ignoring the whole thing and refusing to grow a beard) managed to put it out by throwing a snake bite over his face. This meant that a) the ginger beard was tinged purple and b) it was somewhat ragged. He couldn’t even fix the raggedness as you’re not allowed to trim your beard during No Shave November. Another sad consequence of this event was that this was an example of a fictional character meeting a real person (for Luke is in fact a real person) which led to something very bizarre occurring. Neither of them, regardless of their alcoholic consumption, have any recollection of each other. Luke knows that someone caught fire and Brian knows that someone threw snake bite over him, thus extinguishing a beard-fire. It’s a shame, because Luke’s a nice guy, and very close friends with my best friend in Edinburgh, thus Brian is missing out on some excellent friend opportunities. Sadly, fictional people cannot meet non-fictional people. That’s that.

Finally, after a very, very rough month, Brian celebrated the end of it on the 30th of November by getting extremely, mind-blowingly drunk. A bottle of tequila down the line, he passed out in his bedroom without locking it, and one of his friends came into his bedroom and shaved his beard for a joke. Unfortunately, this occurred ten minutes before midnight, when it would have been officially the 1st of December. This is the first day that you are allowed to shave the November beard. So Brian did not do the full month. And had to buy everybody a drink. In all honesty, had he quite reasonably pointed out that he didn’t technically shave himself, nobody would really have minded. Unfortunately, Brian is a very proud man, and on the evening of the first of December, one could see him in the student pub buying a group of smirking students a pint each.

Or at least, one would have, were he in fact a real person, not an imaginary character placed in a real universe for the purposes of entertainment.


November 12, 2009

The Vengeance Plums

This is just to say

That I stole your plums

That you were saving

For breakfast maybe.

The reason you ask?

Last night, 4 am,

I was awakened

By all that chanting

Merry fresher tunes;

The sound of Snake Bite

Hanging in the air.

If it reoccurs,

I’ll steal all your fucking apples too.


November 03, 2009

The Tree of Knowledge and The Apple who just wanted love…

Once upon a time, Thursday I think,
I met a very sociable snake.
He approached me with a friendly wink.
I’m an apple! I can’t tell a fake…


When I met the very friendly snake,
‘Trust me’, he said, flashing ruby eyes.
As an apple, I can’t tell fake:
Our friendship, all a cunning disguise.


‘Trust me’, he said. Such pretty eyes…
Though the two seemed such a nice pair,
I just went with the cunning disguise,
For I knew he wanted them elsewhere.


So we got rid of that nice pair.
They seem quite happy, despite the Fall.
I knew he wanted them elsewhere
In chains, they may or may not feel.


I haven’t seen him since their Fall,
When he approached me with the friendly wink,
And put us all in chains that I can feel,
  Once upon a time, a Thursday I think. 

Leavers

Everybody leaves so why haven’t you? 
To this fact I am no longer so blind. 
Pain has been etched on my heart like a tattoo. 

Together we made a stunning debut.
Nonetheless, I have got to bear in mind
That everybody leaves so why wouldn’t you. 

All this will take so little to undo. 
Our boundaries are not quite yet defined,
Unlike the pain on my heart. My tattoo. 

Heartbreak is what I long ago outgrew,
But to recall us two as one entwined…
Everybody leaves, but maybe not you?

Love I could review, my walls I’d subdue.
Maybe you will be the one to mend
The pain that would fade like a temp-tattoo…

Or maybe I’ll just enjoy this short view
For why should I be the one left behind?
Pain will remain etched on my heart. A tattoo.
Everybody leaves and soon, so will you. 

October 25, 2009

Locations

Where we are now is where we’re friends.
   “Turn round and close your eyes,
For fancy that wisdom transcends,
  That makes of us mayflies.”

Where we are now is where we’re fools
  Helped by a lot of wine
Drunkenly breaking all the rules
  With: “So. Your place or mine?”

Where we are now is we’re in love.
  The two of us melt as one,
Our voices rising by octave,
  Forgetting it’s just for fun.

Where we are now’s where time won’t go.
  Be still and hold me tight.
Enjoy this time we have although
  It won’t keep past tonight.

The walls I built come crumbling down,
  Although you don’t mean to.
They fell quickly, without a sound,
  And I really don’t blame you.

Where we are now is where you leave
  And I expect as much.
I don’t have time, or need to grieve,
  Already forgotten your touch.

Where I am now is writing out wrongs
  Choosing a ballad form.
While listening to Emo songs,
  To ‘Romance’ I conform. 

Where we are now: that story ends.
  The rest is not yet writ.
The awkwardness and sorrow mends.
  There was no true culprit.

Where we are now’s where I don’t learn.
  He’s not my first mistake. 
Our actions we cannot govern,
  And they’ll lead us to heartache… 

August 11, 2009

Hint fiction

Writing about web page http://www.robertswartwood.com/?page_id=8

I found a hint fiction competition while browsing. You have to try and write a 25-word story and make it... good I suppose. It's free to enter, so I figured that while I had nothing to do, I may as well try spend all afternoon writing 2 stories. This is what I came up with, in my usual cheerful way. Have a go, you may win $25. What would be fantastic would be if we as a creative writing course managed to take over the entire anthology that they're seeking to publish!

Spot Vacant

The cot remained obviously empty, no matter how she looked at it. If she closed her eyes tightly though, she could sometimes hear a gurgle.

To the rescue…

As he watched her, dancing on the bar, Andy remembered Elisa running round his garden, dressed as a princess. And he was Batman, saving her.


May 09, 2009

The Online Photo Album

A couple of days to go, 1000 words to write, I pen this poem in a panic. Feedback please? It's a first draft, and I know it's well far from perfect.

It seems that someone’s put up some childhood photos,

And as I flick through, looking at the fancy dress parties,

I know, to remember who we were, they are our sole momentos.

The tragedy is not the growing up, for time cannot freeze.

It’s the often inexplicable change that I’m not ready for.

That little boy, dressed as Batman, playing among the trees?

His number is now one that many store.

He pushes weed mainly, due to the high demand

Among those young and old, but for a fair amount more,

Heroin, ecstasy, coke and the like can be on hand.

The girl in the princess costume, with tiara and pink dress

Is his willing slave, his heroin addict workhand.

I saw her last week, she was in pieces, a mess.

She didn’t know who I was. She ran off.

Another girl’s a Prozac dropout, due to university stress.

The sweet baby-faced boy is now a write-off

Who sits in his room, stoned, and waiting for… something.

His family have apparently chosen the approach of ‘hands-off’.

And that girl, the quiet one, is now in the process of finding

Herself, by surrounding herself with a veil of promiscuity.

There, she’s dressed as a gypsy, and is in the corner, reading.

It’s me; you know a lot changes at university?


May 06, 2009

Stories (I)

Feedback appreciated!

Every morning, I walk past an old hobo in fatigues who sits outside my apartment block. I usually try to find some change for him, even though I know we’re not supposed to. You know sometimes you can’t help but wonder where they’re from? Who they is? But I gotta be honest, I don’t think about it too long. Seriously though. If I weren’t in a rush, and I sat down next to him and asked him what he’s doing on the streets, what would he say?

I don’t think I was too upset when my number came up. We all knew about those Commies in Asia who were plotting with the Soviets to turn the whole world communist, and destroy our way of life. Course I was sad to leave my mom and pop but they were proud of me. I was going to go defend the great United States of America. I would come back a hero.

Of course it didn’t work that way.

I can’t defend stuff I did but… It was frustrating, you know? While it all started out fun, me and the boys all joking around in camp, it became pretty bad. We’d sit there, in the middle of a forest we didn’t know, surrounded by gooks who knew everything. They knew where they were, they could get us so much easier. Those booby traps for example. I’ll always be haunted by the image of one of my buddies impaled suddenly by a spear that just emerged from the earth. Try living with that. It’s not something you forget easy.

There was also a real build up for so long. We were just sat on our asses in camp, doing nothing. Waiting to be allowed to do something. And I guess we were also waiting for a chance to prove ourselves. So when the chance came, we tried to do just that. But we got carried away. No, more than carried away. It wasn’t right. I look back to that day, and I’m scared of myself. Of my buddies. Because we all just went beserk. I don’t wanna remember any of it, and helpfully, thanks to the booze, it’s a bit of a blur. But some things stand out. Like the old man who stepped up to me and greeted me. And I shot him. Point blank. The woman with the baby, who tried to run, but couldn’t outrun bullets. The kid, who tried to hide from me, behind a tree. Their faces, no matter how much of the Jack’s I get down me, are always there.

We all said we were following orders. I told them I thought the old guy had a gun. I still can’t believe we were let off! And we were proud of ourselves. We congratulated each other, remembered the best shots. We laughed at the three fags who’d tried to stop us. I can’t really remember when it hit us that we’d done something wrong. I pray to God that it was before we got home. When we got off the plane, all these hippies started yelling at us. I couldn’t believe it at first! We were defending America! We were defending the way of life they enjoyed! But then I saw the pictures they were holding up. I felt sick. You see, they look different when you’ve been chasing them. When you see a picture like that, it cuts you deep. Particularly when you know it’s your own handiwork.

There were investigations and stuff, and I just kept saying I was just following orders, and besides, I were pretty sure they had guns, grenades, that sorta shit. They coulda brought me down easy if they’d wanted to though. I don’t think they wanted a fuss made.

This stuff sticks though. You get back from fighting guerrillas somewhere, but all anyone can think of are the pictures in the lefty news. People don’t wanna employ you. Your old buddies make excuses. And so there was nothing to take my mind off the memories. My parents couldn’t seem to look at me. I couldn’t get a job. Even if I could, they usually said that my behaviour was ‘odd’. They all wanted me to get some help.

So here I am. On the streets. And no, I really don’t wanna talk anymore. Can I have a buck? Haven’t eaten for a while.


May 05, 2009

So I have been meaning to ask…

To those who are concerned, I promise it's not autobiographical.  

So I have been meaning to ask. Are you well? How have you been doing? Get up to much lately? Did you ever get that promotion? You were anticipating it for so long, I swear it came into every conversation we had that fortnight. Well, certainly most. I don’t think you did. I know you’re good at what you do, you told me often enough, but I was never really sure that you were great. All mouth.

And did you redo the kitchen? You always wanted to. I preferred it yellow like that personally. Nice and sunny. Why you wanted orange was beyond me! But it’s your kitchen now. For you to do with as you please.

And did you really get with that girl in the end? Was she everything you wanted? Did she offer you the support you needed in your difficult time? Does she love you? And do you love her? Or is it that she does all the right things? You know what I mean. When she lies under you, on her back, does she make the right noises? You know. And does she grip you and pull the right faces? You know. Smiles, not the ‘aroused despair’ you used to see in my face. Does she rub you up the right way, so to speak? Is it all glorious? Did she go down on you better than me? Did she swallow, when I wouldn’t? Does she ever lie on her front, when I didn’t want to, because it hurt? Does she jump to attention and bring you a beer as soon as you walk in the door? Does she rub your feet when you watch TV? Does she cook all your favourite dishes, just perfectly? I’m so sorry, but I prefer my steak not sitting in a puddle of its own blood. Does she look in the mirror and agree to lose weight just because you say so? Because you’d prefer less to love?

Or is she like me? Does she listen to you, but has things to talk about as well? Does she try to have a say in what you subject her too? Does she try to stand up to you? Expect a ‘please’ before getting you a beer? Request to go on top sometimes? Contribute to the general bedroom experience? I mean, I was quite happy to do what you want but I’d really have appreciated you to return the favour at times. And does she cook what she wants, how she wants? Because if you want it done another way, you should learn to cook. Does she expect you to do some of the housework as well?

If she is, she needs to get out. Like I did. Because otherwise you will break her. Like you very nearly broke me. And you know that’s wrong. Or you don’t. Which is worse.

And I have been meaning to ask another thing. Did you ever get the brakes fixed on your sports car? Did I ever even tell you to?


April 30, 2009

Another Art?

I never really thought that Elizabeth Bishop would inspire me but there you go. This is a bit of a take on 'One Art', that sort of puns on her use of the word 'losing'. I'm posting it here in consideration for that good old Super Portfolio. Feedback appreciated!

Another Art?

The game we play is one I need to master,

But it seems I have losing down to an art.

And that you see my tears: that’s the disaster.

The strength to keep them in I shall muster.

My eyes will not be the window to my heart.

For the game we play is one I need to master.

Our battle together makes my heart beat faster,

For my life is flavourless when we are apart

But for you to see my tears would be a disaster.

The wounds you give can’t be fixed with a plaster…

And are you really worth these cuts sweetheart?
The game we play is one I want to master,

Though the thrill of the battle loses its lustre;

I now can’t be bothered with the lemon-sharp smart.

That you ever saw my tears was a disaster.

So no more anxiety, no more fluster:

From our messed-up sport I now depart.

The game we play is one I cannot master.

You’ll never more see my tears: no more disaster.


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