Friday, 30 October 2015

Keeping it up

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There might need to be a red warning for this one.
“Ooo look at the size of that,” she said with a gleam in her eye.
I blushed and played with it a bit more; I must admit I was becoming quite proud of it.
“Let it go, let me see it,” she said. I obediently took my hands away and let it stand up on its own.
“Wow!” she licked her lips. “It’s so big. My ex’s was half the size of that,” she purred.
I smiled, she could lavish this praise on me all day.
“Can I touch it,” she didn’t wait for an answer. “So firm,” she said, drawing her hand away quickly, like a kid touching a burning candle. “The ladies must love you,” she added.
I grinned at her, it’d been years since I’d seen Elsa, she’d been the prettiest girl in my school, but like all the pretty ones, she was only interested in older boys. But now she was taking a very close interest in me and I wasn’t complaining.
“Can I take a photo,” She picked up her Samsung. I hesitated. I wasn’t sure I mean I was happy for her to have a photo but what if she circulated it to her friends, what if she put it on one of those sites where people give it a mark out of ten.
Eventually I nodded, and she got to work, she took three or four photos from different angles, occasionally touching it, checking its firmness, giggling like a schoolgirl.
“How do you keep it up so long?” she asked. “You must play with it a lot?”
She flicked through the pictures on her phone.
“Can I put this one on Facebook?” she said, showing me the screen.
She saw the look of the shock on my face. I was a shy boy at heart.
 “Go on,” she said, “I mean, if you are growing your ‘tache for Movember, you might as well publicise it.”
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Thursday, 29 October 2015

Auto Correct

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‘’S happin?’’ the man said, holding out his hand to be shaken.
I never really know how to reply to those alternative ways of saying hello, the alrights or the what’s ups or the what’s happenings. Do you reply in kind, just echo what they said? Or do you answer literally? What’s happening? Well, you are just about to sit down on a bus and I am desperately trying to ignore you.
I lightly shook his hand, smiled meekly and wished I’d never got eye-contact with him. I couldn’t help noticing his hand was blue, stained blue, like a child whose fountain pen had exploded in school. He swung into the seat behind me, but I wasn’t off the hook.
‘How’s it going man?’
‘Not bad, not bad.’ I said. His big, bushy beard was flecked with saliva.
‘Where you goin’ today man?’ he asked.
‘Down the Island get a bit of sea air.’ I said.
‘Me too and how’s the family?’ Did this guy think he knew me or was he just doing what he did?
‘Yeah good, how are you?’ I didn’t really want to have a conversation with this fella, but he looked like the kind of guy that if he spoke to you, you spoke back.
‘Man I was just with Sandra, fucking her,’ he said. A few fellow passengers turned round to look at us. It wasn’t the kind of conversation you usually got on the number 96 to Barry. I began to wonder if the moisture in his beard might be something other than saliva.
‘You wanna drink man?’ the geezer produced a bottle of vodka from his pocket and threaded it through the branches of his beard.
I put my hand up and shook my head.
‘I’m taking medication mate,’ I lied; thinking an excuse was better than a flat refusal.
‘Look at my hands man.’ He held up his fingers, the other hand was as stained as the one I'd shooked. ‘I robbed a security van earlier, with this.’ He opened up his coat to show me his weapon; a stubby looking sawn-off shotgun. ‘They gave me the money, but it’s covered my hands in ink.’ He looked at his own hands while I stared at the gun.  
‘I see,’ I said. I was desperately thinking how could I get out of this, I had 20 minutes before the bus got to Barry and I’d told him I was going to the seaside. I couldn’t exactly jump off in landlocked Wenvoe, could I?
I took my phone out and tried to send a message as surreptitiously as possible.
A minute or so later my phone bleeped. I left my phone where it was, but surely friend Paul had replied telling me the cavalry was on its way. 
The man with the shotgun took another slug of vodka and smiled at me.
‘and how’s the family man?’ he said. He’d asked me that just 3 minutes earlier, I really didn’t know what to say.
‘Um, all good, yeah.’
Still no sirens and blue lights.
What on earth was Paul up to?
‘Why are you going to Barry?’ I asked.
‘Just got out of prison man, desperate to see the sea.’
Having never been in prison, I didn’t know the etiquette; do you ask a guy what he’d been in for? I was hoping the impending police raid would spare me. Luckily he saved my blushes.
‘3 years for beating up a copper,’ he said, like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Still no sign of the police. I slipped my phone out and looked at the message from Paul.
                “What are you on?”
I looked at my own message.

                “Photo the Poland there’s a Manchester on my bust with a guy. Not 96 to Berry.”

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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

What Now?

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Vic could tell the immigration official didn’t like the look of him; there was something in his eyes that told Vic this was not going to be straightforward. Vic handed over his passport and waited while the official flicked through the pages.
“Where have you travelled from today, sir?” The officer didn’t look up from the passport. Vic read his nametag. John Watson - could there be a more passport control name?
“Prague,” Vic said before he realised his mistake, “no Warsaw, sorry. Yeah, I’ve come from Warsaw today.”  Vic sounded a little too desperate, a little too Lady Macbeth. If this guy hadn’t liked the look of him before, he certainly had his suspicions confirmed now. He looked at Vic, at his screen and then at Vic’s little burgundy book. Then he beckoned a colleague over to relieve him.
“Let’s go and have a little chat shall we?” He signalled that Vic should follow him to one of the empty desks to his right. He fiddled around with the computer - ctrl, alt, delete - password, remember too late that the fourth letter is capitalised, password again, in.
“So tell me again, where have you travelled from today?”
“Warsaw. I was working there.”
“ I see,” he flicked through the pages, “Istanbul, New York, Kiev. You travel a lot don’t you?”
“Yep, it’s my job.”
“And you were in Prague this time?”
Vic rolled his eyes; did the immigration officer really think he was so stupid?
“No Warsaw.” Vic said trying but failing to mask the sarcasm in his voice.
“So why did you say Prague?”
That was a really good question, to which he had no answer. But the official wasn’t going to settle for the answer.
“Oh you know, one European capital is much like another,” he said. It was probably the lamest thing he could say, but it seemed to work.
“Okay sir, thank you for your time.”  The man half-smiled as he gave back Vic’s passport.
Vic breathed a sigh of relief. He was a fool, why had he said Prague? Talk about drawing unwanted attention to yourself. He put the passport back in his pocket and continued on to baggage reclaim. Just a case of getting through customs and he was in the clear. He shook his head berating himself again for the slip of the tongue.
Behind him, John Watson turned in his chair and nodded to his two colleagues who immediately turned and followed Vic through to the baggage reclaim. Watson then slipped out of his seat and went through a door marked private. He liked this part of the job, the look on their faces when they saw him standing there in the ‘Nothing to Declare’ channel.
Vic didn’t like the smell of the man who had stood next to him. He shuffled a step to his left to get away from the sickly sweet fragrance but the man seemed to echo his movements.
One day his bag would come out first, but not today. He watched the bags circle and then saw his small case. Just minutes now and he’d be away.
Vic wheeled his case through the green channel whistling a vague tune as he did so. The smell seemed to be following him. A man stepped into his path.
“Careful,” Vic said before recognising the face and the uniform.
“Would you like to come with me,” Watson said, noting the look of surprise.
“What now?” Vic said, but he knew very well what now.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Barber

This works as a stand alone story but is also the backstory for this one.
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Alexi lathered the cream onto the man’s face and then lit a cigarette. With the filter clamped between his lips, he stropped his blade on the leather belt and then turned towards his customer. He was ready.
‘Been a long time sir,’ Alexi said. He put a thumb just below the man’s eye socket and scraped the blade down his cheek.
‘Sorry,’ the customer replied through gritted teeth, he didn’t like talking with a knife-edge so close to his face; it wasn’t called a cut-throat razor for nothing.
‘Since you were last here, sir. It’s been a long time.’ Alexi repeated
The man remained quiet, he was thinking. Had he been to this barber’s shop before?
‘I never forget a chin, sir.’ Alexi said.
The customer looked at the barber while he worked, could he really remember him from 6 years ago?
‘I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been here,’ he said.
Alexi still hadn’t taken the cigarette out of his mouth; the ash grew longer until it fell on the floor amongst the clippings. He wiped the soapy blade on the towel and continued his job.
‘What was it you said you did?’ Alexi said to the man.
‘I’m an acrobat,’ the man said and then winced as Alexi nicked his skin with the blade.
‘I’m sorry,’ Alexi said and took a tissue and held it over the cut.
In 35 years of barbering, Alexi had never once drawn blood, but his hand had tensed as soon as the man had told him his profession. His normally steady hands shook with rage and the cigarette burnt his lips. Alexi tried to control his anger and get on with the job. He put his thumb on the man’s chin but it was no good, there was no way Alexi could shave this vile man.
Like he'd dreamt about doing so many times before, Alexi drew the blade across the man’s neck. Blood squirted from various veins, the colour ran from the man's cheeks as life slipped away.
What had he done? More to the point, what on earth was he going to do?
Alexi turned the open sign over so no customers would come in. He took a deep breath, he had to clean up, get rid of the mess.But where to start?
The bell tinkled and someone came into the shop. Alexi had turned the card over but forgotten to lock the door. He froze to the spot.
‘Hello,’ the man said in Russian, ‘what has Alexi been up to?’
Alexi turned around to see his old friend Dimi.
'Oh Dimi, thank god.' He'd never been so pleased to see someone in his whole life. 
Dimi took charge, within minutes he had the whole thing under control. Cleaners, decorators and removal men descended on the little barber’s shop in Shepherd Market. The workers busied themselves while Alexi chain-smoked nervously and Dimi watched on, an amused look on his face.
‘How can I ever thank you?’ Alexi said when all the men had gone.
Dimi looked around the sparkling shop and smiled.
‘Well my friend, there is something you could do for us.’

Monday, 26 October 2015

Seaside Scenes

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Outside the amusement arcade, a plastic parrot in a pathetic cage asked us if we would like a present, much like a dirty old man might offer a child a chance to stroke his puppies. Various video games beeped, buzzed and blasted out jingles trying to attract customers to part with their precious pennies. But the beach provided stiff competition; potential gamblers preferring to soak up the last of the sun before the winter rains sent them scurrying for the shelter of the slot machines.

The beach looked like a Lowry painting; with matchstick men, women and dogs placed randomly on the canvas of sand. Matchstick seagulls were set against the blue sky; coasting on the chill breeze that reminded us this was autumn, not summer.  Soon the tide would turn, and the canvas would be swept clean. But for now, the sun shone down on those enjoying their Sunday morning stroll, and the sea stood back, allowing the townsfolk to walk on its estate like a benevolent landowner.

The fairground wilted like a flower in the snow; colours faded, sounds muted, a shadow of its former self.  It tried to hide in the background, embarrassed by its ramshackle state. The people were polite, not staring, not pointing; instead they looked from the corner of their eyes, and wondered how a once proud specimen could let itself go so. But was there also guilt on their faces, a share of the blame? When an elderly neighbour dies in a cold, lonely flat, and the body lays undiscovered for weeks, we know we could have done more, but we were too busy watching Game of Thrones.

The café did brisk business. It was a haven for walkers wanting to warm their cockles after a bracing stroll along the prom. The coffee machine hissed and frothed, making hot chocolates and lattes that would hit the spot of the cold and weary. No one was a stranger here; the breezy barista greeted everyone with a smile and cheery hello. Customers slurped, and chatted enjoying their milky treat while ignoring the people discussing religion on a silent TV screen.

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