It’s been swallowed by a monster. Surrendered to commercialism. And it’s getting worse every year, Margaret. But you sign up to their mantra. Christmas this, Christmas that. ‘Can we buy a new tree? It’s beginning to look rather sparse Malcolm…like your hairline!’ Do you remember saying that ya cheeky little bissum! ‘Will we try beef instead of turkey for a change this year?’ Your passion for the festive season…question after question. Mind you, I still haven’t gotten over last year. You asked if we should do our bit for the environment by sending Christmas E-cards. In forty-eight years of marriage, that is undoubtedly, the silliest thing you’ve ever asked. Who filled your head with absurd new-fangled ideas like that? Asking a traditionalist, like me, such a question! Nobody does Christmas like you though. All those special little touches. The candles, just for me, cinnamon, cloves and ginger to transport me back to my childhood and mother’s baking. The pine scented one that returned me to shaking my presents for clues, under the tree. Uck, these blasted memories. C’mon pull yourself together, Malcolm. Stop being a silly old man. It’s all becoming too much. I can’t cope. How can I get through this? Tomorrow…my first Christmas day without you. I’m calling today Christmas grieve. Uck, what’s the point though, my lame attempts at humour fall on deaf ears now. I’m bereft without you. Look around you. Bricks and mortar can die too. Without you, this isn’t a home, it’s a departure lounge. I’m waiting impatiently, I want to join you now.
I’m purely, existing, until I’m back by your side. Oh, why do I even bother trying to speak to you?
Do you remember laughing at my feeble efforts at understanding that blasted interweb or whatever it’s called? You know the Christmas cards by the email thingummy to our friends and family that you asked me about? Well, I wish I could send myself to you. Just like that. One click. Instantaneously back in your arms. I miss you so much…it’s killing me. Soon…please god, make it soon.


Shifting Ever Nearer ( Published in Glove Magazine )

Shifting Ever Nearer

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

Get Set To Be Scared

Detective Inspector Flynn’s fingers tapped on the table like an under-pressure secretary typing an urgent letter for her demanding boss. She checked her watch. Her thoughts turned to what the protocol might be for such a situation. What was keeping him? He was five minutes late. This was precisely why she didn’t date. But he seems different, she thought. No man had ever been afforded the luxury of four dates. Or the numerous phone calls that had taken place between dates. She watched the bubbles of her over-priced Italian sparkling water race to the top of her glass. ‘Do you allow ten minutes or should… ‘Incredibly sorry, the parking was…’
She stopped him in his tracks. ‘Well, you’re here now. No need to bore me with the details.’
This was precisely what Marcus liked about her. No one else in his life spoke to him like she did. He found it refreshing. Leaning forward, he placed his hands on her shoulders planting a kiss on either cheek while she remained seated.
‘So, Marcus, I’ve had ample time to scan the menu. Walnut and pear salad followed by the venison ok? And a nice bottle of Claret to compliment the meat.’
‘I really do wish you would be more assertive Gillian,’ he jested. Her mask temporarily slipped as she smiled appreciatively.
‘So, how has work been Inspector?’
‘Please. I’ve told you before. My name is Gillian NOT inspector.’
He smiled. ‘How has work been Gillian?’
‘Oh, the usual. Demanding. Frustrating. Satisfying. Bit of a sticky situation on Wednesday. I was in court, waiting to be called to give evidence when a family member of the accused lunged at me. I shudder to think what damage those awful talons of hers could have done. She had to be restrained by a member of security.’
‘How awful. That must have been terrifying. Doesn’t that type of thing make you think twice about your chosen profession?’
‘Absolutely not.’
He studied her, then let out a grudging sigh. ‘You know, I’ve been doing some thinking… I look at you and wonder why on earth you haven’t married or ever been in a long-term relationship. You obviously put up barriers. I don’t know why. What I do know is that there will have been an abundance of men that have tried and failed to win your affection. Why are you scared of letting people in?’
She was playing around with her serviette, folding it this way and that, like a clown turning a balloon into an animal shape. ‘I’m not scared of anything. Let’s not spoil the evening with all this serious talk. I get enough of this at work.’
He thumped his fist on the table. ‘I’m sorry Gillian. I can’t help this. I must tell you how I feel. I appreciate that you are an incredibly strong woman who loves her career but it doesn’t have to be like that in your personal life. You don’t have to be this courageous fearless woman all the time. I suppose what I’m saying is.’ He raised both his hands, palms facing her, head tilted, eyebrows doing stretching exercises. ‘Get set to be scared Gillian, but I think I’m falling in love with you. I hope you…’
He was interrupted by her chair being thrust backwards as she rose to her feet grabbing her jacket and handbag as if the fire alarm had gone off almost knocking over the waiter who had appeared to take their order. ‘It’s over. Goodbye Marcus,’ was the last words he heard her speak.

When Chains Fall Off

When Chains Fall Off

Despite the things he had witnessed, he observed through partially closed eyes. A small opening, the size of a pound coin, gradually increased in size, like a balloon being filled with air. The crown of a head became visible, then, his first born appeared as if sliding down a shoot. Open-mouthed but silent for a nanosecond until lungs kicked into action. Images of a new-born lamb then a chick flashed through his mind. The similarity between that first needy cry for mother—human and animal fascinated him. A cry of relief from his wife transformed into one of happiness as the midwife announced that it was a girl. Years being brought up on a farm witnessing the constant cycle of life and death–yet still, he felt dazed and confused as he lumbered to the top of the bed. Pushing his wife’s matted hair from her forehead, he planted a kiss of gratitude. ‘Well done, well done, you were amazing hen. I’m so proud of yae.’ Checks completed, baby and mother finally bonded skin to skin. The early morning sun peered through the window like a nosy mother in law desperate to get the first peek He slumped to the chair that he’d rarely moved from for the past eighteen hours, a tired smile of contentment. Like the smile that his face bore every night when he merged with his armchair, basking in the job satisfaction that working the land of their farm never failed to produce. ‘Away up the road wi yae Gordon, you’d think it was you that’d just had the bairn,’ his wife laughed. ‘Go and tend to the farm and I’ll tend to this wee cracker,’ she said, as her sleep deprived eyes drifted downwards at the new arrival cradled to her chest.’
‘Only if you’re sure wife, I’ll be back tonight though.’ He kissed them both, ‘Daddy will be back later my wee princess, be good for mummy,’ he whispered at his daughter who nuzzled on her mother’s nipple.
Hours later, sat in his armchair, his daily chores completed, a glass of ‘the water of life’ in his large agricultural hand, the ringing of the telephone destroyed the silence. Rising from his armchair, glass still in hand, he traipsed barefoot over the grey gingham carpet. Picking up the receiver, he listened intently, then, as if in slow motion, he released it from his grip. The telephone spiralled downwards like a bungee jumper. Disgust washed over him at his first thought. A selfish thought, which transformed into a plea, ‘Why today? Please God, no… her father…how do I explain.’ His train of thought was hijacked by a phrase dear to his own father, one which had been relayed to him with monotonous regularity throughout his childhood, ‘When chains fall off, new chains are forged.’ A guttural sound like a gekkering fox reverberated through the cottage as he dropped to his haunches.

Last Orders

It was his eyes I noticed first. Mesmerising bottle green eyes. And talking about green, my friends were bright green with envy when we began courting. Apparently only 2% of the population have green eyes. Interesting little fact that, don’t you think? He wore his thick black hair swept back from his face. And what a face. The most handsome man I’d ever laid eyes on. Honestly, all the famous leading men of the silver screen at the time couldn’t compete with my man. That’s one of the things that made it all so painful.
We sat in the waiting room. He had handed in his sample in one of those clear plastic jars. Colour of cloudy whisky. Severe fluorescent lighting reminded me of our youngest grandson’s lightsabers, he had a whole series of them, the brightness was bringing on one of my migraines. And the smell of iodoform wasn’t helping. Hospitals aren’t what they used to be. Not a lot is mind you, if you ask me.
He was fidgeting, jiggling about with the coins in his pocket. It was his nerves, you see. He was shattered. I tried not to look at him. It was breaking my heart. The weight he’d lost. You could hardly see his back-side in his trousers. And he had such a great bottom. He wasn’t best pleased when one of those Indian looking Doctor’s called out his name. He could be a terrible man at times. So, this Doctor Shafique sits us down, I remember his name because he reminded me of the actor who played Doctor Zhivago, he was awfully handsome. Anyway, the Doctor told him in no uncertain terms. Really laid it on the line about the severity of the situation. “You are going to die!” He said, like he was saying “The floor is flat!”
I’d never seen my man shed a tear in his life. Not even when the children were born. Not that he was present at any of them. That wasn’t the done thing in our day. Anyway, to see him like that, completely breaking down in that room in front of the Doctor, crying his heart out, well, it got me bubbling as well. What a state the pair of us were in. When the waterworks stopped, I felt a real sense of relief. Things were going to change.
He obviously realised the enormity of the situation. We thanked the Doctor and left. I was parched, in dire need of a cup of tea, even if it was hospital tea. He said he didn’t want anything. We walked out in silence, I periodically stopped pretending to look in shop windows but taking a quick sip of my weak tea.
Then…I’ll never forget it. I remember it like it was yesterday. He was licking his lips like a dog, like he didn’t notice he was doing it. He was quiet, I thought he was contemplating, meditating on what the doctor said. He walked a bit faster, leaving me a step or two behind.
As we passed Quinn’s Bar a barman was clinking bottles, clearing an outside table. Campbell broke the silence. He asked for a drink of, well, whatever it was he drank. Vodka, Whisky, Brandy, Four Crown, he wasn’t fussy, anything he could his hands on. “Oh, come on darling, just one to settle the old nerves, it’s been an awful day”, he pleaded.
You see, his tears in that room, weren’t tears of contrition. Of how close he had come to losing everything. His tears were because the Doctor warned him that one more drink could potentially be his last. His tears were for the realisation that he couldn’t stop. His tears were for his liver, that like me, couldn’t cope with anymore of his drinking.
The tears that I shed, when he asked for a drink, were for the realisation, I knew in that moment, crystal clear, that he wouldn’t stop. I’d lost him. My Campbell was gone.