,

A man on the brink.

You’ve been banging your head against a brick wall and finally…at fuckin last…a person gets you. Doesn’t judge. Listens. Shows some empathy. Or is it sympathy? Sympathy is a big heartfelt hug and, ‘I’m so sorry ma man, ma deepest sympathy.’ Empathy is a titled head, fake, intense concentration, a gentle nodding of the aforementioned head, a wee patronising rub on the shoulder and ‘Yeah, I totally empathise, it’s been sooooo tough for you. You’re strong and courageous, you’ll get through this. I promise.’

Empathy can fuck right off. And don’t get me started on pity.

Tell you what though…the fact I’ve found understanding here of all places, is a sham of a mockery of a debacle of a fiasco of the farcical nature.

You spill yir guts to the General Pricktitioner…tell them how yir feeling. And you’re made to feel like yir sitting bollock naked. And for what? A telephone assessment to determine whether yir fucked-up enough to merit help? A bastardin’ wet behind the ears student with a second name for a first name…a series of questions from a script. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, here is our final verdict. Mr Boyd, I can confirm you’re most definitely of the fucked-up category, think child actor now dysfunctional adult, awfully bitter about a lost childhood. However, I’m afraid you simply aren’t at the level where we’d offer help. Take the tablets the Good Doctor offered. You may go in peace now the charade has ended. Go in peace to love and serve the lawrd/laird.”

A was fucked-up…but no as fucked-up as the system. Apologies. Am trying to curb the industrial language. Trying to stop speaking like a ned. Baby steps, know what a mean?

Things are a changing now though. They’ve told me to talk about it, tell ma story. Get it off your chest, Connor. They rattled on a bit about the healing process. About forgiving yourself. Explained the meaning of cathartic. Av time on my hands…so fuck it. Here goes.

Her words were the toxic seeds that polluted ma mind. If that makes me pathetic…so be it. It’s the truth. End of. Before you ridicule or tell me to get a grip, ask yourself this…What were you like as a 13-year-old? Me? A was fragile and confused.

Her spoken words weren’t meant for me. Various traits of my personality can be called into question. I understand that. You’ll feel the need to pass judgement. It’s wit we do. Labelling things or people. So many fuckin labels nowadays and I’m clueless about most of them. But this is simple. Good or bad. Mother or son. That’s it.

In ma defence, I offer one thing. I defy anyone to accuse me of dishonesty. You can trust ma version of events. Promise.

Apparently, there’s nothing stronger than a mother’s love. I wouldn’t know about that. What I do know is this – those words set a destructive chain of events in motion. The Damaged manifested as Damn Rage. I couldn’t shake free from it. I charged towards the inevitable conclusion.

My name is Connor Boyd. Her truth transformed me into a wandering preta with a rabid, insatiable appetite for self-destruction.

Special-published by Ellipsis Zine May 2019

I watch them from my chair by the window. Mummy has dressed me in brown, cord pedal pushers and a white blouse with navy-blue bow that dangles from the top button like a Christmas decoration. She tells me how pretty I look. How special I am.
I look like one of those creepy Victorian dolls with long curly blonde hair and blue eyes that Mummy decorates my bed with. She pretends I like them. Wastes an hour every day brushing my hair and tying ribbons. She needs me to look and feel pretty.
I wish she would leave me alone to watch the other kids.
Tommy is dragging a piece of white chalk along the road. He’s trying to draw a straight line, but he’s reminding me of my little brother’s plastic toy snake swaying from side to side as he holds it by the tail.
He draws another line then joins them together. Dropping the chalk, he skips over to the pavement. He bends down in front of a hedge and I can no longer see him. I sound like a seal as I emit my signature high-pitched bark. Sound is the only thing we have in common, cos seals can clap.
Tommy appears with two tennis rackets. ‘Right, who has the ball?’ he asks.
The other four in the group look at one another expectantly.
He uses the f-word and tells them how useless they are. ‘I make the court and bring the rackets, and nobody brings a tennis ball?’
‘I know where I can get one,’ Maggie shouts excitedly before shooting off in the direction of her house.
I wish I was Maggie. She is everything I want to be.
‘Right, it’s my stuff so I’m going first,’ warns Tommy.
The others nod.
‘I’m going, Sampras. Bulldog, you can play me first. Who are you going?’
Bulldog scratches his head.
I’ve no idea why they call him Bulldog. For a split second, I’m glad I’m not part of the clique. What nickname would they give me!? Clawhammer, cos of my buck teeth, maybe?
Bulldog’s face is always dirty. My Dad says he hides his money under the soap.
‘Eh, I’ll go Egberg,’ he shouts as he jumps up and down like he’s on a pogo stick.
They’re laughing and pointing at him. ‘It’s Edberg, stupid, not, Egberg.’
‘That’s what I said,’ the now stationary and frowning Bulldog claims.
The cry of, ‘Got one. Got one,’ rescues him. Maggie runs with her arm in the air clutching the ball. She is wearing white denim shorts, a Take That t-shirt and fancy Nike’s.
My footwear is always based on comfort and practicality.
She tosses the ball to Tommy.
‘What’s this? Where’d you get this? He twirls it in his hands, examines it like it’s a Rubik cube. There’s a wee valve thingwy in this ball.’
‘I cut it off my wee brother’s Swingball with my sister’s hairdressing scissors,’ Maggie beams.
Tommy puts his hand over his mouth. ‘Oh, Maggie, you’re in big trouble. That’s mental.’
Maggie looks like she’s been rejected for the part in the school play she’d set her heart on.
I let out an excitable screech.
Tommy turns his neck sharply in the direction of our house. The way he moves his neck reminds me of the time I cried at a programme when I saw a farmer break a chicken’s neck. He screams, ‘Edgy! There’s Davie!’
They run like they’re trying to catch the ice-cream van before it pulls away from the street on its last visit of the night.
Davie, who is our next-door neighbour, is sprinting down his garden path.
He runs like one of my dad’s heroes, Groucho Marx. Like he hates being noticed and is trying to make himself look smaller. When he catches them, he gives them a suffocating bear hug.
He presses his face against theirs and laughs at them trying to wrestle free. His laugh is like the one at the end of Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller.
I heard one of the other kids, Kyle Cameron, saying he thought Davie was going to crush his bones into sherbet.
I don’t like Davie. Everyone says he doesn’t know any better cos he is special.
I hate that word. Special. It makes me wish I could slam my pathetic little trotters on the armrests of my wheelchair. If only I could hide them in my pockets, but my arms are locked, like they’re strapped to my chest. If Davie is special, then I don’t want to be.
I want to be Maggie. I want to play in the streets with the boys. I want to cut the tennis ball off Swingball. I want my little brother to cry and scream at me for breaking his toy snake. I don’t want excuses made cos I’m special.
I don’t want to go on the special bus to the special school for special kids. I don’t want to be like a broken toy. I don’t want sympathetic looks or pity.
I don’t want to be me.
Did I do something wrong in Mummy’s tummy? Did Mummy or Dad do bad things before I arrived? Did they not pray enough?
Sometimes, Mummy places space dust popping candy on my tongue with a teaspoon as a special treat. She uses the spoon to flick my tongue under my front teeth back into its proper home. She sighs when it returns to its natural resting position on my right cheek.
When I watch the other kids play, feelings and desires explode inside me like space dust.
Space dust makes my tongue feel alive. I dream of bathing up to my neck in space dust letting it transform my broken, brittle body into a proper one that works and looks just like Maggie’s.
Maggie is special.

Bam to the Beat of the Drum-published by Speculative Books April 2019

 

Derek Weir is slouched over the bar of his local, his elbows resting on the 70 shilling beer towel. His 38 inch waist Wranglers are doing their utmost to hold his 42 inch waist in check. The spider-webs of cracked leather on his Adidas Samba are smeared in Cherry Blossom black shoe polish. His plain white cap sleeve style shows off his magnificent tattoo – a member of Dutch royalty hailing from the 17th century sat astride a white horse.

‘Big day the day, Ronnie,’ he says to the barman. ‘Biscuit-arse err there is 18 the day. An yae know wit that means eh?’

Ronnie shakes his head. ‘Aye, it means I’ll be leaving a bucket next tae the table.’

Derek laughs and puffs his chest. ‘Vwewy vwewy proud, as Sir Alex would say,’ he answers as he picks up the first legal pint he’s bought his son, Raymie.

He slams it on the table. ‘Get that doon yir pipe wee man.’ Raising his pint, he wishes his son a Happy Birthday.

Raymie chinks glasses, ‘First a many Da.’

Derek leans forward. ‘So, yae know how significant the day is? Av drilled it intae yae fir years wee man.’

‘Course, Da. Av been buzzing bout it fir years.’

The Weir family are notorious for many things but mostly their obsession with the team from the south side of the city. Derek runs a blog called Weir The People. A well-respected face and voice amongst his fellow fans. His online rants dripping with bile and bias go down a treat with like-minded fans. The Weir clan’s other obsession is bammin people up. Especially each other. When one of the son’s turn 18 an important family tradition kicks in. The son has a six-month window to successfully bam up their da. Triumphant bammification leads to the inclusion to a special club containing only four men. A dozen others have tried and failed. One of the many privileges reserved for the four legends is the annual George Bowie bonkers booze cruise to Amsterdam. Paid for by the dozen who’ve failed. The trip is stuff of legends. They call themselves, The Four Horsemen. Terrorising the young team for the entire weekend. Bammin wee guys up all over the shot.

Derek makes a dent in his pint and slams it down. ‘Everything av taught yae has led to this. Mind the time yIr Uncle Rab an me hid been oot fir a right session oan that cloudy Belgian muck. Easy a dozen pints ae it even though it tasted like a fuckin cough boattle. Mind the next morning Rab made the mistake ae phonin mae, rough as fuck, askin if a fancied gon fir a sauna?’

Raymie looks at his Da like he’s thinking, ‘No again. Many times is the auld dick gonnae tell me this story?’

Derek leans forward, a big daft proud grin on his red coupon. ‘So, a politely decline, tell him am too rough an…’

Raymie butts in, ‘Yae sneaked doon tae the sauna, filled up a Volvic boattle wi yer pish an threw it on the coals wen Uncle Rab wiz in the sauna an locked him in fir five minutes.’

Derek slaps him on the head. ‘Yae might be 18 wee man, but yir no too big tae cop wan ae ma haymakers. Don’t butt in like that again, awrite.’

Raymie rolls his eyes. ‘Aye Da.’

Derek finishes his pint and looks at his boy. ‘Drink that the noo in a wanner. Yir an embarrassment. As if you’re capable ae bammin me up,’ he says, stabbing his thumb against his chest.

Raymie tans the rest of his pint then slams his glass down like his Da. ‘We’ll see bout that Da.’

Raymie has thought about bammin up his Da for years. Something big. Something that’ll totally floor him. He can’t think what, but he knows it’ll need to be special and hit him right where it hurts.

Derek comes back from the bar with two pints and two haufs. He pulls a wee bank bag from his back pocket and places it on the table. ‘Twenty lady godiva’s fir yae tae spend in the titty bar. Joost don’t be actin like a dug eatin peanut butter. And mind it’s a marathon no a sprint.’

Raymie answers with a grin so big it pops a couple of his spots. ‘Legend Da, cheers.’

Derek downs his hauf in one and looks at his son. ‘Last thing al say wee man. Don’t hink cos am yir Da al go easy on yae. Oan the wan haun, ad love yae tae be oan that booze cruise wae The Four Horsemen, but see even mer than that, a don’t want a wee pie like you successfully bammin me up.’

He lifts his pint. ‘May the best man win.’

‘Al buy yae a pint a bitter when a bam yae up big style Da, cos efter am done wi yae, yil be bitter as fuck.’ Raymie’s laugh makes his Da cock his coupon back and raise an eyebrow.

 

Three months have passed since Raymie’s eighteenth. His Da gave him a belter of a night and he’d just got his first tattoo. Derek grabs his wrist. ‘Wit the fuck dae yae call that? Wits it even say?’

‘It’s Arabic, Da,’ he answers, pulling away quickly.

‘Yir a fuckin half-wit you. You know how skint av been since a got laid aff. And you go an waste yir birthday dough oan that pish. If a cannae get a joab soon al be pawning stuff, dae yi realise that?’

‘Aye, Da. But it wiz ma birthday money an al dae wit a want wae it.’

‘Oot ma sight stupit, I’ve got a blog tae post,’ Derek screams as he tosses a slipper at him.

He picks up his laptop and begins to type…A huv it oan good othority fae a soarse ae mine…How good a soarse? A very good soarse that…

 

Raymie is lay on his bed going through social media on his mobile. The bedroom door swings open.

‘A don’t fuckin believe this! They’ve stoapped ma benefits. Says av no put enough effort intae findin a new joab an they’ve bin made aware ae ma social media an blog a run which must take a shitload a time tae update every week. Time a shud’ve spent joab-hunting.’

‘Sake Da. That’s bang oot ae order. Absolute scumbags.’

‘Am up shit creek noo, Raymie. Wit am a gony dae?’

Raymie sticks his hand down his shorts, has a quick scratch and a wee adjustment. ‘Well, mind how you were talkin bout pawning sumthin? A was thinkin yid be better aff puntin it oan Gumtree.’

Derek scratches one of his chins. ‘Aye. Aye! Yir right wee man. Al go an have a gander oan there and hink aboot wit a kin punt.’

Raymie puts his mobile down on his bedside cabinet. He shuts his eyes. Half an hour later his Da barges into his room and starts shaking him. ‘Raymie. Raymie.’

‘Jeeso Da. Wit is it?’

‘Av set that up oan Gumtree.’ He shoves his laptop in Raymie’s face. ‘See. Right there. Am selling ma drum.’

Raymie jumps up from his bed. ‘Yae canny sell yir drum Da, wit’ll yae dae in July fir the walk?’

‘Uck, you can take err wee man. A can joost go and enjoy the day noo, have a swally and watch you takin err the mantle. It isnae the clubs drum, it’s ma drum, mind a bought it aff that daft teuchter, Forbes…mind the guy, the wan fae that highland piping band.

‘Al put the feelers oot nearer the time aboot getting yae yer ane drum.’

‘Pure sad day Da, huvin tae sell yir drum.’

‘Aye, needs must. Desperate measures fir desperate times. A need to get this punted and pronto. Then, I’ll need tae get the benefits soarted.’

Raymie looks at his Da as he turns to leave the bedroom and shakes his head.

 

Father and son are in the living room watching the Royal Wedding. Derek has put on a sorry looking little buffet. Raymie turns to his Da. ‘Wee Harry’s the kind a guy yae could go fir a pint wi, eh Da?’

‘Aye, spot-on son. Dead doon tae earth. A credit tae his maw.’

Derek grabs a cocktail sausage. ‘When’s this American twat gonnae shut it. He’s tryin tae steal the show.’

His mobile phone rings. He lifts it from the armrest and stares at it like he doesn’t recognise the number. ‘Hello?…Hello?’

‘We are the billy boys,’ Raymie chips in.

‘Aye, av still got the drum pal.’ He gives Raymie a big thumbs-up.

He listens intently, then says, ‘Zat right….aye….aye….Only hing a know bout art is he had a curly barnet and he was tight wae that wee Paul Simon.’ He looks at Raymie and starts battering his fist off his forehead in a derogatory manner. ‘Na, don’t know where that is pal.’

Raymie whispers, ‘Where don’t yae know?’

Derek waves aggressively, warning him to back off. ‘Naw, course a want tae sell it pal. It’s joost am watchin the wedding the noo….Suppose so….Awrite. Haud oan a minute. Here Raymie, stick this in yer moby.’  He rolls his eyes at his son, ‘On yae go pal…Arty McFly…’

‘Cool name,’ Raymie says with a laugh.

’52 Candleriggs. Right…aye, al be there in an hour.’ He puts his mobile on the table.

‘Everything awrite, Da?’ Raymie asks.

‘Aye, joost sum dick wantin tae buy the drum. Wisnae takin naw fir an answer. Needs it the day. Poncey dick says he’s needin a drum for a paintin he’s daen. Cannae believe am gony miss the wedding.’

‘Al come wae yae Da,’ Raymie says, rising to his feet.

‘Naw. Naw,’ Derek presses down on his son’s shoulder pushing him back onto the settee. You watch the wedding an tell me aw bout it wen a get back.’

‘Only if yir sure, Da.’

Derek grabs the house keys from the glass coffee table. ‘See yae soon, wee man.’

 

An hour later, Derek returns. Sloping back into the living room, he slumps himself onto the settee. Raymie is sitting on his laptop. ‘How’d you get oan Da?’

‘Fine. How wiz the wedding?’

‘Aye, good.’

Derek places his mobile on the armrest. He lets out a big sigh. ‘Gonnae stop typing so fast and rattling the keys oan that, yil break it,’ he snaps. He frowns at his mobile. It sounds like the end of Space Invaders when they start going tonto. He snatches it from the armrest. Keys in his number to unlock it. ‘Fucccccckkkkkkkkk. Nawwwwwww.’

‘Sup Da?’

Derek doesn’t take his eyes off the mobile. He covers his eyes with his left-hand.

‘Wit is it Da? Tell mae.’

Derek drops his hand and looks at Raymie. ‘Av done sumthin stupit. Went intae the rang place at the rang time. It wiz aw flowers an clouds an that kinda pish wen a went in. The guy clocks the drum an tells mae the guy I’m looking fir is doon thru the back ae the gallery. Am fucked. Done fir. This cannae be happenin. Check the blog page.’

Raymie pretends to press a few keys but the blog page is already on his laptop screen. A crystal-clear picture of a bewildered looking Derek in Arty McFly’s, his drum on the floor between him and his ‘buyer’ who’s wearing a Republic of Ireland top. The two of them locked in a hand-shake. Surrounding them are portraits of all the greats Derek and his mates despise. Larsson. Broony. Lennon. Brother Walfrid. Stein. Wee Jinky.

The headline reads: WEIR THE PEOPLE BLOG GUY CAUGHT IN A BEADRATTLERS ART GALLERY THE SEFTERNOON DURING THE ROYAL WEDDING…PUNTING THE BAND DRUM!!!!!!

Raymie hits a button on the keyboard then looks at his Da. ‘Ooft. It’s worse noo, Da.’

Derek looks at his mobile. A photo of Raymie showing his tattoo pops up. A chuffed looking Raymie is giving it the big thumbs-up. The tattoo says, Lak Yawm Ya Zalem-Your Day Will Come.

Under the picture it reads: Today’s special guest on the Weir The People blog was Raymie Weir. Raymie would like to offer his thanks to his Art & Photography student pal from college, Sean Fitzpatrick for making the call and taking the above photo of the auld pie.

DA, YOU’VE BEEN PURE BAMMED!!

AmsterBAM here a come!!!

 

 

The Pusher-published by The Common Breath September 2020

Am the heartbeat ae this city. The main artery. The holdin cell.

Yae wir probly preoccupied wi mer important matters wen wae met. A wiz watchin yae. Digestin yir ivry thought. We’ve shared an efternoon walk. Yae mibbe passed as yae hurried aff sumwher. An a remained still, mindin ma aen business. Observin.

Urr wiz it a cycle? An al fresco lunch? Or wan ae yir many recce missions. Nae matter. Stories huv a habit ae careyin in the wind an findin thir way tae mae wan wiy urr anotha.

It’s easy tae get sucked intae gossip an hearsay wen idle. Av mer leisure time noo, yae see. Business isny wit it wance wiz. Progress, they call it. Disrespectful, a call it. Neglect. Aye, thiv tried tae make up fur the maltreatment. Cerried oot poncey campaigns. Tried tae appease mae wae throwin dough at it. It’s aw superficial. Ma heart an theirs nae longer in it. A marriage deid in the watter.

Don’t get mae wrang, a select few still protect an respect me. Ma wee helpers. Fine human beings. People wi respect fir history an heritage. Am high maintenance, a suppose. Av history oan ma side tho.

Thir really is nae escapin. North, south, east an west…a kin pinpoint wer they rest.

But that’s enough o me, for noo. Am here tae tell a story. Aboot us. Aboot yir furst time. An it’s aboot tae start.

Piy attention. It’s feedin time.

Directly above, in a location sum regard as the centre ae ma being, is the Portland Street suspension bridge. It’s the maste troublesome ae hours. Four bells. Drunks urr tryin tae make thir wiy hame. Invadin ma personal space in the process. Throwin stuff it mae.

The dark sky is stiflin the moon like a widow’s veil coverin her auld coupon.

The stars urr partyin elsewhere the night.

The December wind stabs at the lungs ae sober men daft enough tae bae oot oan a night like this. Stingin their dials, yet, skeleton drunks in impractical, ill-fittin clobber urr ravenous fir the usual stuff.

 

Scran.

Screw.

Scrap.

Sleep.

Oor person ae interest watches fae nearby. Navy-blue parka jaycket zipt tae his neck. Hood up.

Patience is a virtue.

Fir an hour urr so he’s paroled the streets. Remarkably calm fir a furst timer.

Fae the opposite direction, a nondescript, shaven-heid boay, much like any utha in the city,

zigzags

tiwards

the

bridge

hawdin

a

polystyrene

boax

ae

chips

an

cheese.

Hiz trail leads back tae St Enoch Square.

A puddle ae vomit.

Chips.

A five-quid note.

An unused johnny still in the foil.

A sizeable pool ae pish.

An empty Coke can.

As he approaches the arched sandstone towers markin the entrance tae the footbridge, his early morning snack iz hiz world.

Hiz heid lolls inches fae the chips like heez searchin fir an accompaniment. He’s talkin tae hizself an singin sum shite aboot sumdy huvin a light.

Oor person ae interest hiz quickened hiz stride. He slips hiz hauns intae black leather gloves an clenches hiz fists.

Hiz lungs demand sum respite. He closes hiz mooth an breathes through hiz nose.

Watches an worries as the drunk uses ivry wan ae the 13 feet thatz the width ae the deck. Staggerin fae wan siderail tae the opposite wan while shovellin chips intae hiz mooth.

An a joost wait.

Wan last sweepin scan ae the othha side ae the bridge…then behind, an hae swoops.

Two black gloves push at the back ae the drunk.

Like a wrestler gettin slammed err the top ae the ropes. Heid-first. Soles ae hiz trainies pointin tae the sky.

A embrace im intae ma boady.

It’s the shock. Oan a night like this, a act like a nerve-agent. Brain an boadily functions become strangers.

Sleep wul take im afore hae reaches the temporary restin place that iz ma bed.

How long wul a keep im? Many factors wul determine that.

Height

Weight

Gas formation

Temperature

Chance

Experience tells mae it wul bae two tae three weeks afore ma newest lodger iz released fae ma clutches.

The rumour mill wul swing intae full flow. The keyboard warriors wul gie him a neat, catchy hashtag.

#The Pusher.

Searching For Answers-published in Razur Cuts IV )

Posing questions like an inquisitive child, searching for answers,
Dread and fear that we are fixed, no scope for change,
A habitual sense of unease orbits the solar plexus,
Demonic conspiracies arm in arm with this elaborate nexus,

Shining a torchlight on the mechanics of mind, searching for answers,
The fragility of optimism, exposed, lay bare,
Kleshas force entry, a stubborn demand for squatter’s rights,
Nausea and agitation, the qualified providers, of sleep deprived nights

Blindfold in a labyrinth of esoteric conundrums, searching for answers
Energy depleted, diminished returns, hopes spurned,
‘There’s no such thing as depression!’ so the keyboard warrior rants,
A modern fable, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to bants

The cessation of analysis, no more searching for answers,
Uncomfortable friends, relationship dead-ends, a brain that won’t mend,
Letters of rejection, feelings of neglection oozing from every pore,
Knife meets skin, the endgame? blood and gore.

Shifting Ever Nearer-published in Glove Magazine

The sky appears to be closing in, shifting ever nearer
Pockets of clouds like bones on an x-ray, floating aimlessly
Mind entwined in barbed wire, a network of loops like the number eight
Girls with skipping ropes and ribbons, pretty dresses as bait

The unwelcome guest, an imminent arrival, shifting ever nearer
No prying eyes, bundled to the dirt, a struggle for safety
Wants, longings, games played, desires become sated
Prayers and offerings, candles lit, in honour of the ill-fated

Questions that won’t be answered, the blame game, shifting ever nearer
Forever different, rearranging then toppling of chess-board pieces
A red dust storm of grief coating every fibre of her being
Fists clenched, a cry for help directed at HIM, the omnipotent, the all-seeing

Sympathetic glances, awkward stances, shifting ever nearer
The snuffing of a flame, a life, blacked-out curtains firmly drawn
Resorting to a form of hide and not seek, shell-like from the torture of grief
No respite from the pain of injustice, as life goes on for the heartless thief