All the Mead-drink I Need is a Salt-wavy Tumult and an Ice-cold Wave

 

I stepped into the sea and its bosom was bitter and I didn’t care

about anything except for how cold the water was, how cold your hands are,

how waves rose like breasts, bitter waves, careless waves,

and as I drowned I remembered that Barack Obama is an anagram

of ‘I love Belarusian Commies’ or ‘I’m instrumenting bad politics’ or ‘Be My Only One’,

that was a song I couldn’t escape from, a woman’s voice, a woman I knew once,

singing ‘Be my only one’ over and over, no, not that,

singing ‘Be the jargon of a journey, be hardship oft endured

or ‘Hold me against your keel, let the sea surge over me’,

listen, some men believe the sea is all about rebirth, like Christ  

would drown me  if he had the chance, like if something is lost in water,

however flimsy, it will come out true, there’ll be beaches from Crosby

to Rhyl covered with truth, with nothing that could ever be jarg

like how everything we ever believed  about the 1970s was a lie,

how I was lucky to miss that decade,  how the girls shouldn’t have worn such short skirts

or danced or had legs,  I never danced, I only wandered, I only let age overcome me,

let my face go pale, listen, only last week I brushed a comb through my hair

and the grey ones, the dead ones, were reborn, jet strands, obsidian waves,

no, not waves just sorrow like the sorrow of drowning, of a grave strewn with water,

with fish, with goldfish, no, not goldfish, just gold,

and there comes no RNLI lifeboat, no brave men in golden armour,

no, there comes no sea trawling saviour like those gone,

just a wave buried body and a hoard sunk to the water’s depths

because all its treasure was jarg and all its self-song was flimsy.

Watching The Review Show With Kirsty Wark/Watching Newsnight Review With Mark Lawson

His voice and her voice – I like Scotland

better than Scotland on TV.  Everywhere.

And James Fox isn’t James Fox.

Since when was James Fox not James Fox.  Emilia Fox is Emilia Fox.

I heard her say she was working class once.

My wife’s grandfather was a Lord. I am a Lord.

I am draconian and extending wars.  Needlessly.

All wars are needed. I mean needless.  I mean

all men are saints.  Not heroes.  Or where is Bonnie Greer.

Sometimes I would listen to Bonnie Greer and only

after she’d finished talking would I realise she wasn’t Germaine Greer.

Masterchef Australia. I want to see Tom Paulin squirm.

I mean squirm in a good way. I didn’t even know he was a poet. I didn’t know poetry then.

I knew The Strokes and I knew late night soft core porn on Channel 4.

And Mark Kermode.  Not Lawson. Christ, I’ve just realised

Tom Paulin might be Scottish.  Christ, I’ve just googled Tom Paulin

and he’s an Ulsterman.  Once, years before they tore Newsnight

Review open, my friend told me that Gordon Burns was an Ulsterman.

Look, James Fox looks nothing like James Fox even though

Laurence Fox looks sort of like James Fox,

even though Emilia Fox has a student loan. She keeps getting

letters from the student loan company.

She couldn’t go away to university because her

brother was already away at university so she worked weekends

at Tesco and Sainsburys and Somerfields

where they gave her a grey coat. It’s within

the context of a film. Like American Beauty.

I definitely remember Mark Lawson

and Ekow Eshun and Tom Paulin

and Germaine/Bonnie Greer talking about American Beauty

Like I definitely remember Kirsty Wark

on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off.

The problem with poetry

The problem with poetry is a lack of energy.  Don’t get me wrong, the problem with poetry isn’t a lack of poetry, Christ there’s enough poetry for us all.  Poetry right now is like snow. Snow is falling.  Poetry is falling.  But the problem with poetry stems from a lack of energy. Or maybe I mean the problem with poetry is its lack of diversity.  That’s it.  Snow lacks diversity.  Snow falls, that’s it, it never rises.  Poetry suffers from too much of the same.  Yes, we all write somehow differently but on the whole our ideas are similar, our points of reference stem from the same crap.  Politics. Culture. Art. History. Sex. The train/tube/bus.  Who I am and how I experience things.  And Christ, so many poets are living similar lives.  Yes, the problem with poetry is that the poets are so similar.  Forget names, names don’t count.  Forget sex and colour and creed and everything else, too many poets are coming to poetry from the same starting point.  Too many poets know each other, know of each other, have met each other, have liked/disliked each other.  But I bet their conversations were repeated from time to time.  From town to town. I mean I bet something was said from poet A to poet B that, later and in another place, poet C probably said to poet D.  With the same accent.  And all of them dreaming of being known for their poetry.  That’s it. The problem with poetry is that we all want to be the next big thing.  And if we’re too old to be called the next anything then we just want to be a thing.  Have someone ask us to structure a workshop. And we want to be heard.  You want to be heard.  We doesn’t count here.  If I’m saying we then the problem with we is that we doesn’t want to be a poet.  The problem with poetry is that poets love being heard.  Poets love it, love it too much, when someone else says their name. Even when they’re not there to hear that name being spoken.  That’s the problem with poetry. Every line, stanza, refrain and quatrain is an extension of the self.  And when it’s not that’s a lie.  The experimental poets lie.  They lie the most.  I’ve known experimental poets who pretended to be experimental poets but they were never experimental, they were just looking for a way in.  That’s it.  The problem with poetry is that there are too many poets looking for a way in.  And the door is closed.  For the most part.  Unless you know the key.  Or you pay for the key.  Or you went to school/college/university with the key.  The problem with poetry seems to get bigger. It’s a big problem. And inconsequential.  Let’s be honest, the problem with poetry is that no one wants to read poetry. Not really.  Not honestly.  Listen, I don’t even want to read poetry.  I really don’t.  I did.  I have been.  I read all the poets who were up for The Award and I didn’t like much of what they said. I didn’t dig in. I didn’t fill my gut. I didn’t belch contentedly.  I was bored.  The problem with poetry is that it’s boring. I was at a reading this week and I was bored.  I was bored and I’m a poet.  It was the poets who were boring me. None of them seemed to have thought too much about what/why/how they were performing.  That’s the problem with poetry, at its most basic level, I mean at its most widely appreciated level, it’s seen as a thing to be bashed out, thrown out there, expressed.  That’s the problem with poetry; even the poets aren’t thinking enough about what they’re reading. And on the other hand there are the poets, the ones who have names, who think too much.  Everything is drafted and chiselled and shaped like it has a perfect form. Like there is destination to all of this. Like it has a point. That’s the problem with poetry, it has no point. Or if it did then it lost it.  The problem with poetry is that it lacks urgency.  I know, I know, a few of the kids in their tshirts wrote some books that had urgency, everyone said they had urgency, but listen, I didn’t much like the kids.  I liked bits of the kids but they weren’t my type of kids.  They weren’t my type of poet. I didn’t recognise their accent. Their dialect.  Their language. Their beginnings.  I don’t know anyone with a name like theirs. That’s the problem with poetry, there are too many names.  I’m drowning in names. No, it’s an avalanche of names.  That’s why the poet who everyone hates now stole someone else’s words. He didn’t want their name; he just wanted their words to make his name stand out.  But then the words were just words we’d all read before. Let’s be honest, most of what is written is an echo.  I feel like I’m walking through familiar streets.  Listen, the problem with poetry is that it needs to get lost. I know, it is lost, it is hopeless, but if it just wandered off somewhere for a while then I’d be happy. I mean if it just disappeared down that alley into the snow then I’d forget about poetry and all its problems and think about something else. I’d think about something without words. And nothing would be a problem.  But poetry won’t get lost. Not all of it. Some of it will, some of the poets will wander away and find other wanderers and wander together but there won’t be any wine in the snow or handwritten letters from editors or someone saying their name in the snow. Just snow. That’s the problem with poetry, it doesn’t know how to fix itself. Look, I’m handing you a spanner and a drill and loads of screws to fix yourself.  But you won’t take them will you, poetry.  You won’t just take them. Because there’s no problem with poetry.  Not in your mind. Not in your town. Not in your lines. The old poets are great and the young poets are great and everyone is having a wonderful time.  But the problem with poetry…

The Young Poets – a very short Short Story

The Young Poets were going to London again. Or most of them were there already.  There was one of them, call him Cameron, who was coming down from the Hebrides.  “My father has a farm,” he told the editor. Cameron knew most everyone at the launch party anyway.  He had met them before at Oxford, at the awards ceremonies and at Leyton and Miriam’s wedding.  Leyton and Miriam were reading.  Leyton and Miriam always read. Leyton was wearing a tweed jacket.  The reviewer made a note of what a sharp dresser Leyton was. “It’s reflected in his poems,” he told Henry.  There were four Henrys there which was good because there were usually four Toms.  A few of the poets had accents but most of the other poets couldn’t quite identify where those accents were from.  The North, supposed Emily and Anna agreed.  There were two Annas. There should have been three but the third Anna was in Boston finishing her thesis.  And anyway that Anna would tell anyone who wanted to listen that anywhere north of Oxford was a mystery to her.  It kept coming back to Oxford. Or Cambridge. Or London.  One of the Bens was drunk.  He was a Welsh Ben and he was known for drinking.  All the poets got drunk but it was Ben who they remembered being drunk.  Most of the girls were pretty.  That was good, their pictures were in the book so it was better they were as beautiful as their poems.  “Her beauty is reflected in her poems,” said the reviewer about Caitlin.  Caitlin didn’t much care about her poetry.  It was her novel she really cared about.  When the lonely experimental poet, Jax he called himself, asked her who was publishing it she pretended to forget for a moment and when she said Faber she said it softly. So softly.  A painter in his sixties had come to the launch party. He was the brother of the dead artist whose work was used for the cover.  A kaleidoscope of images and colour.  That was how the reviewer described it. “The painting reflects their youth,” he told one of the Adams.  Somewhere amongst the throng of blazers, associate tutors, flowing skirts, publishing interns and the overdone casualty of beanie hats there was probably a Theo or two. There was certainly a Moses. Just one Moses.  And one Fatima.  It was good that Moses was there with his wild hair.  And the wildness of the words in his poems. Little bits of Yoruba and uncontrollable curls.  “His poems are so like his hair,” said the reviewer to Fatima, “there’s such a wild otherness to them.” In the pub afterwards one of the Hannahs read her poem, the one about the virgin becoming an otter, to the barman to see if she could get the round for free.  The barman, a Northerner named Seth, told her he was writing a novel. She asked, “Do you like my poem?  “Yes,” he said but he still made her pay for the round. “It’s rather unfair,” said one of the Kates. On the Tube home, Leyton and Miriam were kissing while one of the Henrys wrote a sestina on his iphone.  When the Henry got off at Brixton he had made up his mind that the poem would be called “Song for Youth” because everything and everyone felt so young.  The editor had hoped to feel someone young but no one would share his taxi with him. In the middle of the night the reviewer woke up.  He sat naked at his desk and typed This country is being born again through struggle and austerity.  He paused and stroked his stomach. But the New Youth are here, he typed, and their vibrancy, their need to rebuild poetry and create a New New Poetry, is reflected in the energy of this collection. Buy it now or risk missing out on life.  When Cameron got home to his father’s farm he walked up to the hill behind their farmhouse and watched dusk burn the light from the day. He listened to a calf crying for its mother and thought of what the agent had said to him. “Listen Cameron,” the agent had said, “I can call you Cameron can’t I?”  Cameron lied and told the agent that was fine. “You’re better suited to cows,” said the agent, “you’ll never have to worry about whether a cow scans or if a pail of milk has the right number of syllables.  Stick with cows, Cameron, stick with cows.”

Let’em ‘ave a bird i’th ‘and la’: a very short speculative Short Story

This is not about birds. And you are not my friend. And you have no hands. That’s what it’s about.  Hands.  And all the rest; feet, ribs, skin, hearts, spleens, soul.  All of it.  Well not the soul.  You decided long ago that souls were the same as morality.  A fantasy.  That’s it; you told me once that morality was as much a fantasy as the soul.  You proved it by sleeping with your sister.  Tripping up blind men. Laughing at the disabled.  Killing kittens.  Never birds.  I told you, this isn’t about birds.  Just hands. And all the rest. Your hands.  I should ask you for forgiveness. Don’t tell me I don’t need forgiveness just listen. It was winter, a real bastard snowy one, and I invited you for drinks. You said you had more to tell me about morality but I already knew what you’d done. I saw the reports.  Massacre at Orphanage.  Your picture was all over the news.  You came early.  You tapped your boots against the doorstep to shake off snow.  In the kitchen I told Morality to wait for my signal.  I said you should at least have one drink.  Morality laughed at me.  Morality said, “Fuck drink.” Morality burst through the kitchen door into the hall when you hadn’t even had time to take your coat off.  Morality tore you apart.  You put your hands up to defend yourself but he had them off with one swipe. Claws ripped through your flesh. Your feet went next.  Then the rest; ribs, skin, heart, spleen.  All of it.  When there was nothing left of you and the snow you’d brought in on your coat was red, Morality stood over you waiting for your soul to show up.  But it never did.

The Poetry Night: a very short Short Story

Earlier he overheard a woman telling a stranger where she lived.  She reminded him of a young Miriam Margolyes. “I always have one whisky before I read,” he told his friend and then regretted it as he made his way clumsily through a valley of legs.  These were not the poems he meant to read but everyone else was keeping it brief.  Too brief.  And not brief enough for others.  I should recite more often, he thought, I should know my own words.  There was an invasion after the break.  The Poetry Group had come en masse with anger and anecdotes, amateur Marxism and all out sentimentality. They were all headliners.  Or told themselves that.  They talked so much between poems.  Disco balls dangled from the ceiling.  Different sizes.  Too much, too much, it was all so over the top.  All their exposition reminded him of the time he was with the other poets, The Cruel Poets, and their laughter at Andrew Motion’s stories.  Motion’s father in Normandy. Stories of the distance between generations. Forgotten stories. They played a recording of Motion reading but, crucially, only his talking between poems.  Never the actual poems. “They’re longer than any of his poems,” one of the Cruel Poets had said. “What’s the point then?” said another Cruel Poet.  He didn’t laugh with them but he got it now.  It was happening tonight because The Guardian were there.  Fame has come for us, that’s what they must have been all thinking. The boy shouting nob head over and over.  The woman going on about sex.  The girl overdoing her accent.  The mock theatrical fool.  The toilet offered refuge and later when he was too drunk he came home and remembered what he’d said to the famous writer.  “Say something that will make him raise his eyebrows,” the camera man had said. And when he told the famous writer that he hated his last book even though he’d never read any of his books he regretted it immediately. A second regret.  Or a third if you count the poems he didn’t read. The famous writer knew it was a joke, he must have.  But it was good to be home even if there was no milk to make tea.  He threw his blazer over the bannister, calmed the dog and opened the living room door.  The cat was there.  The floor was covered with shattered pieces of the green vase.

Do You Know Redfearn?: a very short Short Story

 “I have not had such lovely trout since Redfearn’s garden party,” said Hannah.  She was forty two and wanted to sleep with him. He crossed his legs and sipped his lemonade. This was the price of his work. “Do you know Redfearn?” she asked.  She was always asking who he knew. Did he know the Holloways?  Did he ever meet Charlotte Cooper?  Did he ever stay with the Penningtons when he was in Harrow?  After dinner he took a walk into the village.  There was an old pub there called The George and Dragon.  A man sat outside drinking a pint of local bitter. There was a Jack Russell sleeping beneath the man’s chair.  “Good evening,” the man said.  “Good evening,” he said back.  He walked to the church. The sun was setting and he sat on a bench in the graveyard and watched the sky darken. When he was a boy sunsets would frighten him.  The next day he sat outside the pub and waited for the man with the Jack Russell.  The man with the Jack Russell came and sat in the same chair as yesterday.  The Jack Russell slept.  “Excuse me,” he said to the man.  The man looked up and smiled. “I don’t suppose you know a Redfearn do you?” he asked the man.  The Jack Russell woke, its ears pricked up. It gave a sharp bark. The next day the man didn’t come to The George and Dragon.  At dinner Hannah put her hand across the table and took hold of his. “Oh, I don’t suppose you heard the terrible news,” she said, her fingers stroking his. “What news?” he asked.  She was wearing a low cut floral dress but there was no cleavage. The woman had no breasts. “It’s terrible really,” she said, “poor Redfearn has died.”

All the short Short Stories together because wordpress is eating new posts!

Within Half Shadow of Red: a very short fantasy Short Story

The isle was heavy with death.  Blood stained the old cathedral lawns.  Kett couldn’t walk ten yards without coming upon another body.  All the Doctors were dead.  That didn’t bother Kett.  He hated the bastards with their utter faith in Knowledge.  They didn’t know they’d die like this.  It wasn’t just Doctors.  Every second body was a Half Shadow.  Poor bastards.  Mute, loveless, enslaved and now dead.  When he reached the library his boots were red.  “Is he ready?” Kett asked the boy. The boy was pale.  He had never seen death before.  The Half Shadow was drinking wine, his hand shaking.  Wine covered the mute’s chin.  Kett looked at him. The Doctors never say him, they say it. The Half Shadow looked the image of his brothers.  Kett wondered if the Half Shadow remembered who he had been.  When the wine had calmed him, the Half Shadow wrote a word on a piece of parchment.  His hand was still unsteady.  The boy didn’t recognise the word. “What’s a one of them?” the boy asked. Kett knew the answer but instead he ruffled the boy’s hair and on their ride back across the bridge he told the boy not to think of the dead anymore. “They’re dead, that’s all,” Kett told him, “don’t let them live in your dreams.”  But they were in Kett’s dreams that night. The dead bodies rose, Doctors and Half Shadows both.  Every one of them spoke the word as they closed in on him.

Atlas: a very short Short Story

He was dreaming of Harry Lime on a Ferris Wheel.  And cuckoo clocks. Wacky was in the kitchen drinking the cider he hadn’t finished the night before. “Happy birthday,” Wacky called.  He didn’t answer him. He went out and when he was done with selling books to no one he went to the pub to meet Jenny. An alligator was hanging from the ceiling surrounded by old radios. There were pictures on the wall of 1980s street parties. A man at the bar tried to talk to him about Sierra Leone. “Why do you go on about cuckoo clocks all the time?” she asked when the bell rang for last orders.  When he got home he found Wacky slumped on the kitchen table. The atlas was opened to Australia beneath Wacky’s head. A glass of cider had been knocked over.  The cider had soaked into the pages of the atlas.

Ok: a very short fantasy Short Story

Ok was fourteen. She was a woman now, no one could deny that. The tower rose above the valley. It was a thing of glass and secrets.  Just getting through the valley was dangerous enough but even when night fell and she could hear them crying and slithering she didn’t stop walking.  “Ok,” her father had asked, “why do you need to go to the tower?”  Ok didn’t tell him the real reason.  The stairs spiralled around the tower.  All the way up she could see the valley, the desert and the savage beasts through the glass.  The savage beasts were coming down from the mountains.  At the top of the tower she waited with the horn pressed to her lips.

The Candidates: a very short Short Story.

“We could get Will Self up,” said Siobhan.  Only Tony had a beer, the other four had cokes.  Gloria was waiting for an excuse to leave.  Alice was waiting for Gloria to leave and Harry was watching Siobhan. It didn’t matter that she had a boyfriend in Drogheda.  This wasn’t Drogheda.  Anyway, she had turned her phone off.  After half an hour and six more writers being suggested they had decided on Will.  Each of them was calling him that.  Will.  Siobhan couldn’t decide who had started with the Will.  Tony most likely.  When Gloria stood to leave, Alice followed.  “Another?” asked Tony, tilting his empty glass. Harry was sure that Siobhan would turn her phone on.  The bar was long and empty. Three barmaids talked while a fourth served Tony. Harry stretched his legs beneath the table until he felt his boots touch against Siobhan’s.

After the Festival: a very short Short Story

The American student liked to think of himself as the Watcher. If he held his camera up then no one would mind him watching them.  If they didn’t know he was watching then no one stopped him watching.  When he got to Edinburgh he realised that soon he would need to go home.  “Where is home?” asked the IT Consultant’s wife and he lied.  She was a teacher.  She had black hair like tar.  He would often watch her and imagine her hair falling over him, sticking to his body.  “You missed all the fun,” the IT Consultant said, meaning the festival.  Sometimes after breakfast he would watch them leaving for the day and sometimes he would follow them. Once he stayed in the bed and breakfast and slept.  He dreamed he was below the city and that no one believed he existed.  He would wait there for the lost to wander down and he would watch them as they stumbled blindly through the darkness searching for a way out.  He woke to the sound of the IT Consultant’s wife’s laughter.

summerdown: a very short Short Story

He saw the sun vanish as he walked down from the palm house. It blinked out.  Clouds raced in to cover its absence.  Instead of going home he sat in the bus shelter and watched her undressing.  She would always leave the curtains open for him.  Later, when he was still sat in the bus shelter and the snow was so heavy he couldn’t see across the street to her window, she sent out her husband to scare him off with fists and slaps. Morning didn’t come.

My God Loves Jazz

To John Coltrane’s ‘Naima’

God said, “Eddie”.

            Eddie was asleep but he woke up as soon as heard his name being spoken.  He always woke up when God spoke.

            “What now?” asked Eddie groggily because it’d been like this all night, one thing after another, sleep and then talk and then sleep and then talk.

            “Do you think he’s dead, Eddie,” God said, “I mean I keep thinking he might not be.”

            “Don’t you know that?” asked Eddie, “can’t you check or something?”

            Eddie closed his eyes.  The grass was damp against his face and now he was awake he could feel the pain in his back that came with too many nights spent sleeping with grass for a bed.  Sometimes God was like this.  Sometimes God was like a child, God was unsure, God was nervous.  Mostly God would never have worried so much about what had happened at the cliffs with the stranger but this time God wouldn’t shut up and that meant Eddie had to listen.

            “I don’t know, Eddie,” God said, “couldn’t we just check?”

            Eddie groaned and gave in to sleep being over.  He stood up, arched his back until he felt his muscles stretch and release. 

            “Come on then,” said Eddie.

            “I just couldn’t picture him,” said God as Eddie walked back up to where it had all happened.  It was that morning when he’d met the stranger.  It took him a while but eventually he realised the man wasn’t a stranger, he knew him but that was from long ago and the man didn’t recognise him at first.  The man was a mess.  The man’s face was heavy, dead looking with its greyness and he was babbling.

            “Don’t I know you?” Eddie had said but the man shook his head.

            “You do know him,” God had said to Eddie but the man didn’t hear that, “you met him at the farm, remember, say his name.”

            Eddie had said the stranger’s name but the stranger only looked at him like the name was familiar, like it might be his name and kept on babbling.

            Eddie gave the stranger some water and when the stranger started to talk again it was still a mess of words like his face was a mess of exhaustion.  When the stranger finally calmed down he kept begging Eddie to help him.

            “Promise me you’ll do it,” the stranger had said, “promise me.”

            The stranger had grabbed Eddie’s hands and held them tight, pulled them to his face and kissed them.       

            “Please,” the stranger had said, “please promise me.”

            “You should do it,” God had said, “it’s what we need to do.”

            Eddie had pulled his hands away from the stranger’s kisses.  He said the stranger’s name and told him he’d do it for Christ sake, he’d do it if it shut him up.

 

Eddie was back at the exact spot where it had happened.  The grass was still flattened down from where Eddie had struggled with the stranger and there was blood on the grass.  Eddie went to the edge and looked over.  Far below the water was throwing itself at rocks. A reverse, thought Eddie, of what had happened. The strange had gone over the edge to the rocks, to the water, and now the water was throwing itself back. But there was nothing else down there apart from water.

            “He’s gone,” said Eddie, “I told you.”

            God started whistling one of his favourite songs.

            “Why don’t you give it a rest,” said Eddie.  He rubbed his face but you couldn’t just rub tiredness away like that, he knew that.  He’d been tired for years. It was all the talking and the music.  There was one precious lull once in all that when he was at the farm.  He remembered being at the farm and sitting in this bath that was far too small for him really and the water was so hot and the room was full of steam.  He’d sat in that bath for a whole day and God didn’t bother him.

            “That’s good,” said God, “you know what we should do next.”

            “We have something to do already,” said Eddie as he walked away from the edge, away from the sound of waves breaking themselves against rocks.

            “Forget that, I was wrong about that.  This is what we need to do” said God, “the water of the flood needs to go away, Eddie.  Do you hear me, Eddie? I keep telling you this but I’m not even sure you listen anymore…”

            God kept talking.  The sound of waves faded and God’s words drilled deep inside his head.  They were the same words he’d heard over and over but once God started off with them they sort of merged with other sounds that swam into Eddie’s head; the music his dad would play when he was hungover, the voice of the woman who came in with fresh bath water and told him to relax, someone humming, a dog barking for a stick to be thrown, the first boy’s questions, the second boy’s cough.

            “Are you listening, Eddie?” asked God and because he was angry there was thunder off to the north, way to the north. 

            “Do you have to do that?” asked Eddie and there was a flash of lightning.   

            “It’s not all me,” said God, “I just want you to listen to me for a minute.”   

            When God had said what needed to be said and Eddie had agreed that God was right, that it was a good idea, that it was necessary, Eddie walked back to where he’d hidden his boat.  He sat in the boat watching the lightning dance over the north, suddenly lighting up mountains. 

            “Right there,” said God and Eddie looked to where the mountains fell down to the water.  He counted as God counted and then there was a flash that lit up the world.  There was so much water.

            “That’s it, Eddie,” said God, “there’s too much water and someone needs to do something about it.”

 

To Thelonius Monk’s ‘Blue Monk’

The farm and the bath were so long ago.  Eddie had stood in front of the man and intended to kill him. There was a woman there too and he would kill her.  He would kill everyone in the world just to shut God up.

            How long ago was this?  He couldn’t measure time any more.  The only thing he could measure was the silence of God not talking and that was only because there was so little of that silence.

            The man had put out a hand as if Eddie would just give him the rifle.

            “It’s okay,” the man had said.

            That was it. There was nothing else the man needed to say, it was that simple.  God’s whistling stopped.  It was like someone had knocked the needle aside, snatched the record and thrown it against the wall so all the music it ever held smashed into tiny vinyl pieces.

            Eddie had fallen down then, dropped the rifle, and just fell to the ground. The man and woman had lifted him up together and took him inside their house.

            “When did you last eat?” the woman asked.

            She had given him a whole pie.  He had no idea what was in the pie, some kind of root vegetable and eggs, but it was the most delicious pie he had ever eaten.

            “I don’t really need food,” Eddie had said.

            “That’s why you’re ill,” she had said softly.

            The man and woman’s son sat at the table looking at Eddie.

            “What’s your name?” Eddie had asked him.

            The boy had shaken his head.

            “He thinks you’re eating all his pie,” the woman had said and she ruffled the boy’s hair, “don’t be rude, Milesy.”

            Milesy scowled at Eddie and then scowled at the pie.  The pie had betrayed the boy.  Milesy got up and ran out to where his brother was throwing a stick for a little terrier.  

Later that day the man shaved Eddie and cut his hair very short.  The man had sat while Eddie was naked in the bath and patiently cut the thickest, twisted strands of beard away before slowly shaving him.  Eddie had sat there not saying a word while the man talked.

            “We could do with some more help here,” the man had said, “things are getting bad again.  There are stories; you’ve heard them probably, about these Wavers.  They don’t sound much good to me.  They sound like trouble and I don’t want trouble here.  You’ve seen my family, you’ve seen it’s only me and the big lad who could even try to defend this place.  Oh, we have neighbours but it’s not like what it was is it, you can’t just ring them up and ask them to drive right over.  I’d have to light a bloody beacon or something to get anyone’s attention.  Maybe that’s it; maybe if you didn’t want to hang around you could just help me out building a beacon or something, like for warning the neighbours.  What do you reckon, do you fancy staying around for a bit? My wife makes good pies, they’re about the best thing we have these days, her pies.  I’m, not selling this am I…”

            In a way the man and God were the same.  They both wouldn’t stop talking.  But as Eddie had sat in the bath and let the man clean him he realised that the man’s voice was the only sound.  There was no other voice competing for attention.  There was a hole in his head again and when the man left him alone Eddie slid as low down into the bath as he could and felt water fill his nostrils, held his breath for as long as he could and when he came up for air it was silent air.

            “Are you gone?” he had asked the air.  The bathroom didn’t answer.  No one had answered.

 

The next day a man came over from one of the neighbouring islands and the three men sat in the kitchen drinking whisky that the neighbour had brought.  They were drunk.  They were three men who were just drinking and laughing.

            “Do you ever miss her?” Eddie had asked the neighbour. The neighbour had been telling them about when he first met his wife.  It was at a party in university and she was a friend of a girl he was hoping to sleep with.  When the girl he was hoping to sleep with slept with someone else the neighbour had got pissed off and sat next to the other girl, his future wife, and told her she had strange ears.  Things can start like that, Eddie had thought, not everything has to be perfect.

            “Every day,” the neighbour had said and he poured them all another shot, “sometimes I wish I could just find her, you know, just fucking find her and have things how they were.  God, I was a shit husband sometimes.”

            Eddie had listened for God then.  He listened in case the man had somehow called God back but God didn’t come. 

            “I don’t think you’d find her,” Eddie had said and the neighbour sighed and downed his whisky.

            “I know that,” the neighbour had said, “but I don’t always have to remember that do I.”

            Eddie had agreed with the man.  You didn’t always have to remember how things had ended up.  Occasionally it was fine to fantasise that everything was another way. 

 

 

It was a whole week before God spoke.

            Eddie had told the man and woman he would stay with them if they let him sleep in the barn like where the big lad slept.  It was when he woke up in the barn that God came back. Eddie had come out of the barn and watched the man and woman’s sons playing football.  They were kicking the ball at a wall and when one of them missed the wall they would add a letter.  The loser would spell DONKEY.  The older boy was at DON and the younger was at DONKE.  And then Eddie saw the neighbour’s son.  He was standing by the boats close to the water.

            “The water of the flood needs to go,” said God as the boy walked towards Eddie, “someone needs to make it go.”

 

To Billie Holiday’s ‘All of Me’

God was crying as Billie Holiday sang.   Billie Holiday’s voice filled the air and swept past Eddie to the water where it settled and lessened until there was only God’s sad whistling.  Eddie had walked for miles with God whistling along to Billie Holiday and as they walked God had told him all about the boy.  He told him the boy’s name, where the boy would be, who the boy would be with, what would happen before the boy reached the cliffs.

            “Do you know Billie Holiday died because of drink?  Why do you all drink?” God asked.

            “Why do you make us drink?” asked Eddie and God laughed.          

            “Why do you think I make you drink?  Why do you all blame me for everything?  I’ve told you Eddie, that’s why we need to do this.  Mankind, you specifically, need to take responsibility for all of this.  If you want things to change you need to step up.  Sometimes Eddie, I don’t think mankind can step up; sometimes I think mankind likes things how they are.  Should I go, Eddie?  Should I leave you all to it?”

            “No, I can do it,” said Eddie and he sat against the upturned boat and drank some water.

            “But you’re unsure,” said God and Eddie nodded.

            “I’m always unsure,” said Eddie, “it’s just I don’t understand something.”

            God sighed.  It was a sigh of disappointment and the grass swayed with it like it was dancing to Billie Holiday’s All of Me.

            “Come on then,” said God, “tell me all about your doubts.”

            Eddie knew God didn’t want to hear it but it needed to be said.  If this was going to happen again then he needed to know it was right.

            “I just don’t get why we keep having to do the same thing,” said Eddie, “you say that we have to do it because of the water of the flood but you said that last time didn’t you.”

            “I did,” said God and his voice reminded Eddie of when his dad was in a mood. If Eddie would disturb his dad when he was listening to his music then that was the voice that his dad would use, flat and impatient, ready to snap.

            “So what makes this time different?” asked Eddie, “I mean, will this really work.  Tell me why I should do this if I’m just going to have to do it all over again tomorrow.”

            God whistled.  God, Eddie thought, must understand he wasn’t just being awkward, he must see that they couldn’t just go on doing the same thing time and again without anything changing.

            “Listen, child,” said God and his voice had changed, infinite patience replacing impatience, “this time the water of the flood will go away.  I know this.  I know this like you could never know it.  I know this like I know you, Eddie.  The water of the flood will be gone soon because of your actions.  Do you not see that Eddie, the water will go because you have made it go?  Not just this single action but every step we have taken together has brought us to this point.  We are here because of the water of the flood, we are doing this because of the water of the flood and tomorrow there will be no water.  There will be the world as it was and Eddie, you must know this because it can’t be any other way; no one will know that it was your actions that made the water go.  I’ll know, Eddie. I’ll know just like I know everything you’ve had to do, how hard what I’ve made you do has been but I know it all had to be done, Eddie.  This is what all of your actions have been leading to, Eddie.  Listen, can you hear them thrashing about the water.  Load your gun now, Eddie, load it and stand up and do my work.”

            “Will you play something?” asked Eddie.

            “Of course,” said God.

`           Eddie heard God lift the needle, place a new record down.  There was a click then a stuttering of sound and Art Tatum’s Willow Weep For Me started floating down from heaven or wherever God’s music began.