Beauty Spot

Posted: November 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

“Did you know young Sue who died on the steps over there?” She asked.

The question hung in the air like a cartoon speech bubble. I perched at the end of the bench beside the boy with lines shaved along his temple who slouched between me and the wizened lady.

“I told you before.” His breath drifted, crisp in the dawn half light.

“Darlin’ wee thing, all ringlets and pockets full of posies, a real Shirley Temple.”

She picked up a bag and rustled around in it, her silver tresses wispy around her face. She looked back up with bared dentures.

“Just like my great granddaughter she was. Here, I still have a picture.” She pushed a yellowed photo towards me. The boy looked up from his phone.

“Take it.” He grunted.

From the acne scars on the back of his neck I put him about fourteen.

“Right over there and they took her away in the ambulance for all the difference it made.” She said.

The moment was broken by the screech of rubber on tarmac. A family filled Fiat shimmied like a downhill skier as it careered to the bend at the scenic viewing point. Right there, the road looked like it taken flight into the yonder, like a scarf caught on a breeze, escaping the clutches of the granite cliff.  A hill walker stared past us toward the road before returning his attention to the morning view of the valley. He stood at the top of a set of stone steps tumbling down lush green terraces to create a giant’s staircase from the steep rock face to the green patchwork beneath. He lingered at a shrivelled shrine of flowers fastened to a pole atop the steps. A plastic spray throbbed colour like an infection among the dead blooms. The Fiat driver righted his vehicle, but thought better of pulling in for a photo op. A brown eyed mop topped boy waved out the rear window at me as they disappeared around the hairpin bend.

The three of us sat on the bench in the beauty spot car park, the scent of seared rubber wafting around us.

“Close one.” The boy said.

She shuffled around him shoving the photo into my chest. I eased past her, moving to the wall, a low stone construct reaching waist height. To my left, a tourist from a parked car clambered up onto it. He scanned the panorama with a tablet he held with outstretched arms, like a priest with the host. At a gap in the wall, loose rock and shards of concrete littered the ground. A serrated scar of crimson paint tainted the edge of a large boulder. As I neared the gap I could sense the acid of bile rising from my innards. A cold feverish sweat crept along my forehead and then the clouds began to carousel. The old lady grabbed my hand, her fingers bony, cold but comforting. The boy took hold of my elbow as I felt my knees buckle.

The scent of peppermint shot through my nostrils and into my brain. I blinked my eyes open to see her waving a white tube under my nose. “Works every time.” She chuckled.

The car park was now full and tourists milled around snapping pictures. A portly woman in clothes a size too small for her frame hoisted herself onto the wall using a wooden post as support. Her weight caused the sign, a stick figure tumbling down a mountain superimposed over the word “Danger”, to wobble. Her husband, a skinny man, his face hidden under a wide brimmed hat which made him look like a lollipop, waited for the perfect pose.

“That’s her right there” The old lady had thrust the photo into my hand, a sepia image of a tot in a floral dress bouncing a ball against a wall. My head throbbed.

“She’s lovely.”

“Johnny, you see he can talk, I told you so.”

“They all talk eventually Kay, she’s not really that like Sue.”

Evening brought bird song and an empty car park. Fewer cars wended the bends on the road, their lights picking them out in the gloom.

“So what do we call you then?” The boy leaned in so close I could smell his sweat.

“I’m Johnny and you know that’s Kay since she’s told you a million times already.”

“He’s a quiet one isn’t he?” Kay muttered, without raising her eyes from her line of knitting.

“Little Sue, cute as a button, you didn’t know her then?”

The boy shook his head.

“She must have died, her face was all blue she couldn’t breathe, awful it was, the first flower I planted in my garden was just for her you know, I couldn’t look when they were taking her away.”

“You never can Kay.”

She stood up and stroked his hair.

“When’s your turn boy?”

He turned to me.

“We’ll see.”

I felt drawn again to the wall and forced myself away from the bench. I walked slowly, fighting a rising tide of nausea with each step I took. I peeked over. I could barely make out the edge of the tree line below. As my eyes adjusted the underside of my brand new red Mini looked pristine.

I had been driving with the windows down and the breeze in my hair smelt like summer. The radio blared one of those songs that always made me think of holidays. Suzanne had one of her feet on the dashboard causing the hem of her dress to drift halfway up a bronzed thigh.  She was singing along, getting the words wrong on purpose, as always. She grinned because she knew that got my goat but I don’t think anything could have spoiled that very moment. My phone beeped with a text. Shit, I thought I had turned it off. A glance was enough. Looking back, I saw the shape on the road. A silhouette, perhaps a child, curled up like a bundle of rags on the blacktop. My legs went numb as we careered towards it. Lucky for me, Suzanne saw her too and jerked the steering wheel in my hands.  We spun around it. I felt the driver’s door tackle me like an All Black and heard the scuff of leather as my shoes jammed under the pedals.

A clanking noise woke me. Kay was slumped against me, a soft snore passing from her open lips. Johnny was watching a machine they had set up beside the gap in the wall. I eased Kay’s head onto her bag. In sleep, she had an angel’s smile which revealed the features of the young girl buried behind the wrinkles.  Workmen had set up a hut beside the source of the noise. Steel pulleys groaned as a necklace of heavy gauge chain filed link by link through them. A foreman in a white hard hat directed operations in the morning drizzle.

“What’s happening?”

“Salvage.” Johnny said.

“The council pay these guys to take the wrecks away.”

As he spoke, the rear end of my Mini inched over the wall, a giant metal hook looped to the chain around the back axle. It lurched upwards until gravity made it crash in slow, controlled, motion to the ground. The doors popped open and I winced as the designer bag she cherished tumbled and her belongings spilled out. I scrambled on the ground to shovel her things back into it. When my fingers touched the sticky crimson drops spattered on the fake crocodile skin I stopped. I raised my head until I came face to face with her. She was glowing, perfect teeth, sunglasses in her hair, rays glinting off the mountain behind her.

It was a perfect pose. I had taken the photo with an old Instamatic she found in a charity shop on our first trip together. It hung limply from the broken visor that still clung to the car frame. The man in the white helmet bent down and scooped her things back into the bag. He beckoned another worker.

“Make sure this gets to the hospital, right away eh.”

“Sure thing.”

The worker went to a car. I tried to follow him but something stopped me from getting in, so I challenged the man in the white helmet.

“Where is she? Is she ok?”

He walked past me.

“C’mon get a move on, time is money!” He bellowed.

I got in front of him again, so close I knew he had bad coffee and cigarettes for breakfast.

“I need to know what’s happening, what you’re doing with my car and what hospital she’s in.”

He stared right into my eyes.

“Ten minutes we’re done, get her loaded up!” He waved his arm to the driver of a breakdown truck which had pulled up without my noticing.

That was when he walked right through me.

I stumbled back to the bench.

“Don’t you get it yet?”

I put my head in my hands. I pulled at my hair. I needed to feel pain, to feel something, anything, so I kept dragging away until a small clump came free.

“That’s not going to help, this is what it is and the sooner you get used to it the better it will be for you.”

Kay had just woken up.

“Oh dear, have they started already?”

“Yup, must be on a bonus or something.” Johnny said as the breakdown truck and the crane trundled from the car park. In their wake, they had left a diamond shaped metal sign saying “Keep Clear Men at Work”. They had wrapped ribbons of red and white plastic tape around it which stretched from one end of the gap in the wall, through the sign to the other.

“How many times have they fixed that wall?” Kay asked.

“Three this year, two the year before, don’t know how many before that.”

“Remember this one?” He passed his phone to her. She fumbled with the specs she kept dangling on a string around her neck and when she had them at the perfect angle on the end of her nose she peered at it.

“Oh my word, they were fun weren’t they, here have a look.” She passed the phone to me. In a photo she sat on the lap of one of three large men who occupied the very bench we sat on.

“When was this?” I asked.

“Last year, three lads from a local rugby team on a late night out, won some trophy or other. See it’s there.” She pointed. True enough, from one of the burly hands a battered silver cup dangled.

“Scroll on.” Johnny demanded.

“Not yet, wait a while son.” Kay had a pleading tone to her voice.

“He doesn’t have time Kay, you know as well as I do, once they fix that wall that’s it, so look at it man, you need to know.”

I passed my finger over the screen to see the wreck of a van jammed into the wall of the car park. In the foreground a burly forearm lay on the concrete, its jagged stump leaked a viscous black. One of the doors of the van was open and the owner of the arm hung out of it like a disused puppet. His face was immaculate. I flicked back to the previous picture. The rugby player’s smiling face beamed out as Kay sat on his lap.

“He doesn’t have to be the only one that goes, you know that boy, you’ve served your time” Kay’s voice now had steel to it.

“I want to give her another while.” He said.

“It’s been years.”

As I flicked back through his gallery an unending series of horrors unfurled. I saw crash after crash in a vista of mangled metal and torn up bodies interspersed with photos of people sitting on the bench.

“What the fuck is this?” I said.

Kay burst into sobs of tears, her body shook as she fumbled for a handkerchief in her sleeve.

Johnny jumped up and dragged me away from the bench. I was twice his size but the stones on the ground stung when he flung me to it.

“Mind your language in front of Kay, will you, she’s an old lady and the last thing she needs is some idiot upsetting her.”

He towered over me with clenched fists.

“I’m sorry, I just need to know what’s happening.” I stood up.

“You won’t need to wait much longer, once they fix that wall you’ll be gone, forgotten like all the others. So why can’t you shut up and play nice?”

“I remember swerving because of the child on the road. Then I wake up and I’m with you two. What do you expect me to think? The only person I care about in the world is in a hospital somewhere and I can’t get to her. You are the only people I can communicate with and I can’t leave this damned car park.”

He pulled me further away from the bench.

“Look, you know nearly as much as I do. This spot, this bend in the road is beautiful but it’s deadly. Every so often someone going too fast has a looky loo at the view, hits the bend hard and then the wall harder. A long time I woke up on that bench and Kay took care of me. So now we wait and sometimes we get company for a while. Like you, then you’re gone, poof and we’re left here waiting. So show her some respect”

“What are you waiting for?”

He walked away from me kicking stones in front of him.

A car pulled up in the car park. A man strode to the sign post and fastened a bunch of fresh flowers among the others. He stood, head bowed as the breeze rippled around him bringing the laden scents of the harvest from below.

“How long have you been here?” I called after Johnny.

I sat back on the bench with Kay as he brooded in a corner of the car park.

“He’s a good boy you know. He should have moved on a long time ago. Young Sue was his sister, inseparable they were, used to come up here on their bikes all the time until the day it happened”

“What?”

“He fell, under the wheels of an old tractor their daddy was driving. Last I saw of Sue, she was blue in the face when they took her away.”

“What about you?”

“This is my place son, there’s nowhere else for me, besides I like having company by times, at my age you know, keeps me young and sprightly.”

With that she rose and hummed a little tune to herself. She waltzed across the car park to the orchestra in her mind and linked arms with the mourning man. The wind picked up, blowing petals from the dead flower heads like a flurry of pastel snowflakes around them. She leaned up and placed a little peck on his cheek. When he sat back into the car he was smiling.

The next morning the workmen arrived at first light. The dawn chorus was strangled by the sound of a cement mixer churning. The ribbons around the gap were gone and the sign was shoved to the side. A pallet of stone was placed to the left and two stonemasons were sipping tea from a flask in the morning mist.

“I hate this part.” Kay turned to me and gave me a little hug. She took her bag and retreated to the back of the car park where she tended a little patch of wild flowers among the weeds as if it was a Chelsea garden.

I watched the workers lay the first row of rocks. They were meticulously proper craftsmen. Each rock seemed to fit as though cut for the function.

“She’s right, this is the hardest part.” Johnny was standing beside me when I noticed the tingling sensation along my left leg. I leant down to rub it but withdrew my hand in horror. It had begun to fade, I could still support myself but there as a transparency to my being. As they began the second layer of stone the feeling started to spread.

“Pity they were so quick I never got to know you.” Johnny said before walking away from me.

I was powerless, I felt as rooted as an ancient tree and my body began to disappear.  That was when the taxi pulled up beside me. The stonemasons stepped back from their work.

“Can I just have a few minutes on my own, please.”

I heard the lilt of a familiar voice I thought I would never hear again. The masons mumbled apologises and retreated to their shed. The back door of the taxi had opened and Suzanne stood there with two bunches of flowers in her arms. They were propped on top of her now pronounced bump.

She came to me.

I reached my arms for her embrace, she paused and went to the signpost. She bent down and fixed, first one, and then the second bunch of flowers to the pole. I stood beside her, by now I knew she could not see me.

“My poor love, I always hated this road.” She said looking down into the valley. I touched her pregnant stomach and felt a tremor within. Her hands passed over mine as she cupped herself.

“Sue?”

I turned and Johnny was standing there with Kay at his side.

Kay walked to her and held her face in her hands.

“After all these years my sweet child, you are made of strong stuff, I thought you were gone on that day. I was so sure. Look at you now.”

As if feeling a warm breeze on her face from the mountains Suzanne smiled at the setting sun.

“She came back, and look boy, you’re going to be an uncle.” Kay squeezed Johnny’s hand.

“I thought you’d forgotten about me.”

Suzanne plucked a bloom from each bouquet and threw them into the valley together.

“I will never ever forget you, either of you”

Johnny was now beginning to fade. Kay kissed Suzanne on the cheek as she was helped back into the taxi.

As the sun disappeared for the evening Kay sat on the bench alone. She took a ball of wool and knitting needles from her bag.

“Getting a bit chilly these evenings, think I’ll knit myself a nice warm scarf.” She said to nobody.

She was on the fifth line when the click clack of needles was interrupted rudely by the squeal of brakes, the scream of tyre thread on blacktop and the crunch of metal on stone. Kay shifted to the end of the bench, patted the space beside her and resumed her knitting.

“Perhaps I’ll knit two.”

NIGHTWATCHMAN

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

At the age of five Terence was sent to fetch milk and found himself tempted to steal a chocolate bar. He stood sweating and shaking, the milk in his hand. The impulse pushed him so hard and his inner sense of right struggled so much with it that a trickle of urine dribbled down from his short pants, forming a pool around his buckled sandals. He shook so much the bottle fell and shattered on the tiles. He could feel the heat on his leg and smell the stench. His mother was red faced as she changed his pants. As he grew he felt impulses as all boys do. His reaction was always to fight them, whether they were healthy or unhealthy. Eventually he couldn’t tell the difference. He went to school alone, ate lunch alone and came home alone. He didn’t read or watch movies or have an interest in sport. He never drank. When he was in his late teens his mother left home, leaving him alone. She said she needed to be free and to have some fun in her life.

He avoided women because of the temptation. He avoided children in case he felt a temptation, though truth be told he never did. He avoided men because of the things they said and did. He left school with average grades and a perfect attendance record. It was this single thing that allowed him to get the post of night watchman at the local light bulb factory. At night he walked around the silent factory as though it were his kingdom. He liked to do so in the darkness. During daylight hours the factory hummed with life. Three hundred women and girls filed in through the gates to start shift at eight-thirty am. They filed right back out again at five-thirty pm.

The night watchman, whose full name was Terence Birtles, started shift at six pm and finished at seven-thirty am. Mostly the girls on the factory floor did not even know he existed and to any who did he was known as Batty Birtles, probably because of the way he walked soundlessly, possibly because of stories of him flitting around the factory in the dark of night. Terence brought sandwiches and a flask to his hut at the gate, timing his arrival for just after the day workers had gone home. He made his rounds three times nightly like clockwork. He saw how each worker organised their little space, a personal touch here or there, a snapshot of a loved one. Terence had a key to every lock. He knew that the stationery store could be locked from the inside and sometimes was used for more than storage. He knew what had gone on in there that day when he stood for a little while in the dark room and sniffed the air. He never let himself spend too long in there.

One autumn night Terence walked into the security hut to be met by the HR manager and a woman.
“I’m Grace.” she said.
He shook her hand and as he did her expression changed, she withdrew hers and when he looked away she wiped it on her skirt. Terence could feel the sweat begin to gather in his armpit.
“Right, Terence, Grace is here to study how we do things. Time and motion studies, that kind of thing, I’ll leave you to chat.” the Manager said as he left.
Grace crossed her legs and even with his eyes glued to the floor Terence knew she had sheer nylon tights covering shapely legs
“I’m glad he’s gone.” Grace unbuttoned her suit jacket and slung it over the chair. “I know it seems intimidating but honest to God all I’m here to do is look at working methods and suggest efficiencies. I’m sure we’ll get on fine, you and me. Now, do you have a kettle here?”
Terence got up and put the kettle on. Her relaxed manner caught him off guard and he found himself unusually at ease.
He kept his back to her as he made the tea and couldn’t remember the last time he had been alone with a woman apart from his mother. He focused his mind on the task at hand and that seemed to help.
“You can stop stirring now.” Her voice had a hint of a laugh.
He turned back and for the first time looked at her as he handed her the steaming mug. She sat cross legged, her skirt an inch above her knee. She was small, brown haired and her face was the shape of a heart. She pulled her skirt over her knee.
“Thanks. Right, next Wednesday I’ll spend a few hours with you as you do your job, and we’ll see where we go from there. Is that all right?”
Terence nodded as she passed him back her mug.
“Ta ra. So see you next week. Relax we might even have fun. You never know.” And she was gone.
Terence sat alone and smelled the air. He sat where she had and the seat was still warm from her. He sat there for a long time. He didn’t go on any rounds that night. The next day he slept fitfully. When he walked in the park he walked past people without even noticing them.

The next evening when he got into work an email alert was flashing on his computer. He held his breath as he clicked open.
From: Human Resources
To: Employee number 297
Subject: Work Assessment
Work study postponed until Friday at 5pm
Yours
Ms. Grace Goodyear
He looked over the email and then he printed it. He made himself a cup of tea using the mug that she had used as he pondered the meaning of the message. He liked the use of the word “Yours”. He didn’t object to her use of his employee number rather than his name as he knew she was the ultimate professional and would always be professional in her business dealings even if both of them knew better. She had used the title Ms which he knew was a message to him that she was available and eager. In summary, he could not have been happier had the email been delivered by Cupid himself in a bouquet of roses.
At home he looked at himself in the mirror. He was surprised. He used to only glance at the mirror, afraid that what he saw would reveal something dark and dangerous. Now he saw a smiling face with a twinkle in his eye. He calculated there were 1800 minutes from then until he would see her again. 108,000 seconds. He sat in his armchair and counted.
By five-ten pm on Friday evening he was standing in the centre of his office. Then she breezed through the door. He looked at his watch.
“Hello,” he said.
“Right, let’s get started.” She sat at the desk without looking at him and opened a laptop.
“Would you like some tea?” he said.
“So what do you do first when you get in?” Her finger was tapping the desk as she looked at him over bifocals. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
“Mm.”
“Okay, okay, they said you were a bit… why not just show me? I’ll go around with you and make notes; you do what you always do.”
She clicked the stopwatch. Terence was frozen to the spot for a split second then shook himself out of it. He pulled on his tunic over his new shirt and began to button it up.
“That’s better,” she said.
He thought he heard a smile creep back into her voice. Maybe her hard-ass approach was all part of the act. After all, it wouldn’t do if she was seen to be fraternising with him during work hours. He remembered hearing that women could be wily in the ways of love, before he stopped listening to the things men said about women. She stood up and patted down her suit. He looked down as she did, noting the open top button and the triangle of milk-white skin it revealed.
“What are you waiting for?” She tapped the watch. “Time is money.”
He shrugged. If this was the game he would play along. He picked up his keys and they left the hut for the short walk to the factory. A short walk, but he wished it would never end. She walked across the car park just ahead of him and he couldn’t help but notice the sway of her hips. He was sure this was her hidden signal to him.
“I’m yours. I said we’d have some fun. I hope you’re enjoying our little game. You’ve just made it to level two. Congratulations.”
When they got to the factory door, the keys jiggled in his hand as he leant across her to unlock it. He caught the scent of her perfume. That confirmed his suspicions. The voice in his mind said, “Hey fool. You don’t think she puts that on every day for any old occasion.”
He managed to open the door and hold it for her, as she clicked her stopwatch and made a note on her palmtop.
“Okay the first round is the factory floor. I usually go this way.”
They walked in through the double doors to the factory. Moonlight trickled through the roof windows.
“So show me what you do, please.” she said.
He walked along the line checking each workspace. As he did she clicked the stopwatch repeatedly. After a few minutes he began to enjoy the noise of the clicking. It became the beat of their song. He even began to check things for real. When they reached the end of the factory, she said, “Forty seven minutes. Not bad.”
He stood in front of her.
“You could do it quicker though.”
He was sure she smiled as she said that, though he didn’t look.
“Next we check the stores. It won’t take as long,” he said.
They walked through to the stores. The hair on the back of his neck bristled. He detested this place. His face began to burn. Bare breasted beauties beckoned from the notice board over each desk. He turned away.
“I…I..I’m sorry about this.”
She clicked her watch.
“What are you talking about? Get on with it, will you? I’ve not got all night to fart about with you.”
He kept his eyes to the floor as he checked each space and the door. He glanced up to see a page three girl smiling at him. He felt a long forgotten feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hurried through the rest of the stores.
“Okay, much faster here, but I think you missed a couple of things.”
He was glad to breathe the air of the offices when they finally got out of the stores.
“This is the last round of the evening. I check all the offices to see the computers are off and doors are locked and everything is as it should be.”
“Sounds right, let’s do it.”
Something about the way she added “please” made him relax. More than that, it made him think she wanted him. She wanted him so much. Badly.
“What’s in here?”
“The stationery store. It’s usually okay,” he said.
“Let’s have a look.”
He took out the keys but paused.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s finish what we started.”
The door opened and she walked in ahead of him.
“Looks fine to me.”
When she turned around he was standing in the doorway. Sweat was pouring down his face, a patch of dampness spreading on his slacks.
She clicked her stopwatch.
“R-right..I think I’ve enough to work on.” She pushed past him. “I’ll make my own way out.”
He didn’t turn around. He heard the doors of the factory close behind her. He locked the room and stayed there in the blackness.

A wee bit of horror

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Zander

To clear the mind for this project it became necessary to know the enemy in order to prepare to fight it. Unflinching, Zander faced the indictment of the full length mirror on the back of the washroom door, naked from the waste up, no effort to straighten up, slouched, he looked from top to bottom surveying the middle aged spread, the generous unused love handles, the three day old varicose bruising around his left nipple, turned his back to the mirror craning his neck to see tonight’s damage. Five long welts snaked down his back diagonally from the bulb at the base of his neck to his arse which had in the last year begun to succumb to gravity. He swabbed the cuts with spittle damp toilet roll, his gnarly face flinching. His eyes stung from lack of sleep and three nights of oncoming headlights. He knew now what he had to do to beat this thing.

He picked his white bloody t-shirt from the tiled floor and ran the water into the sink washing it as best he could, a job not made easy by the pushbutton tap, wrung it dry as best he could and held it under the hand dryer. It was still damp and sticky when he put it back on, the red stripes coming through the white cotton. He covered this with his donkey jacket, swished cold water on his face and made his way back into the all night café. A drunken couple slobbered over each other in a booth, the only customers. Zander was sure they would never recognise him again. The single waitress though was a different proposition. He considered leaving until he caught her looking at him from the corner of his eye so he took a stool at the counter and ordered a coffee. Why did she have to look? He could feel the heavy wool of the jacket eating into the scrapes on his back through the light cotton shirt. The pain soothed him. He stretched his arms onto the counter flexing his shoulder blades to open out the gashes, the fibres of the jacket burrowing in so that the stings multiplied along his back. Easing back he grimaced as the infliction focussed his mind on the task to come. The waitress wandered over, chewing gum as if her life depended on it and, he thought, maybe it did.

It had taken him precisely three days earlier as dawn gloomed through his bedroom window. A fitful night ended when he sat bolt upright. Thirty two years of normality erased in a blink. Zander didn’t know why it took him then or why it delayed so long to do it and then he didn’t know how to fight it. When it had him he had only a single compulsion. As his wife wriggled under the pillow her hand had crept from under the covers clawing at his chest until he used his bulk to make her still so that the only movements were jiggling nerves. He got up from the bed and dressed while her muscles flickered. Across the landing his twin two year old daughters slept the sleep of angels in a room of little ponies. Zander and the enemy stood in the doorframe inhaling their shallow breaths. The pain in his left breast allowed him to turn away closing the door softly behind him before easing his car into the morning torrent. An inkling on how to fight it. Three days ago. Since then he drove until he had to stop.

Zander and the enemy stopped twice in three days. Souvenirs of the last stops filled the trunk of Zander’s Volvo. The ad said the trunk was large enough to take two sets of golf clubs. Yesterday’s town was somewhere north of the centre and he stopped because he had to eat and piss, even though he had no senses now the enemy had him he still had to fuel both himself and the Volvo, it would not allow him not to and now the pain around his nipple was gone it was savage in it’s compulsive demands. He knew he had to stop it in that town. It gave him no choice but Zander saw an opportunity. The car park beside the supermarket was dry as ashes in the August afternoon. A young mother bundled children and shopping into her SUV and reversed without looking, unable to see Zander on his knees beneath her rear wheels. Zander could see the end of this. But the enemy had not yet taught him the rules of the game. As the wheels reached his head a drill punctured his brain releasing a marching band inside his skull and he convulsed in the dust like a severed worm, the enemy towering over him. Flor jammed on the brakes catching a glimpse of the squirming epileptic on the ground. Her peach shaped face awash with concern peered down at him Zander who noticed a dimple in her chin pursing while he pushed the blade up until it hit her breastbone. Her blood puddinged in the dust when the enemy was silencing the souvenirs and stowing them in the trunk. Zander felt a pain in his ribs where Flor’s knee impacted as she collapsed but it wasn’t enough.

Three hundred and two miles later the enemy stopped to pick up a hitchhiker, a blonde Aussie girl on her world tour the cheap way. She wore a healthy tan like a badge. Blue jeans faded from washing, a Jimmy Hendrix t shirt and well worn Converse runners. She bounded into the passenger seat flinging a rucksack in the back and flashing a smile of thanks to Zander. He nodded as he swung the car back on the road. She was instantly comfortable, flicking on the radio and tapping out a rhythm on the dashboard with her long nails. The road was busy for a stretch. They passed strip shopping malls, churches with neon signs, golden arches, and motels as the sun became a tangerine bow on the horizon. Zander relaxed into the rippling music and her nasal voice. She was filing her nails with her feet up on the dashboard when the enemy pulled over on a road which made a scar through miles of sunflowers. As he grabbed her throat Zander made sure her hands came around him, her freshly hewn claws digging through his t shirt raking down his back. The searing pain was a boon, he eased back releasing his hands from her neck. She gurgled as her eyes rolled in her head. The enemy pushed her into the trunk.

At the next lit up spot on the road Zander pulled into an all night café pushing his back against the seat until he could feel the throbbing of his heart against the worn leather. He walked into an unremarkable café. Adequate lighting and expressionless décor accompanied by low country music. He went directly to the washroom passing a gum chewing waitress.

The Tonic

Posted: June 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

EXT. FARM- DAY
JOSEPH, a farmer in his 70’s squints at a midday sun which
bathes his acres of fields in gold. A hen moseys over. He
rests his walking stick against a stone wall and chases it
for a minute before booting it away in a flurry a laughter.
Reaches into his pocket for a full bottle of whiskey. Is
about to take a swig when a loud shout from behind freezes
him.

NIECE
JOSEPH! What are you doing?

He sheaths his bottle instantly as his young dumpy NIECE
waddles towards him in a hideously ancient frock. Ruddy
faced and stern, her curly hair blows around her face
incessantly. He picks up the stick and immediately hunches
into a wizened version of his former self. Looks around
innocently. She softens when she sees him. Puts an arm
around his shoulders. Leads him gently to the house. The hen
eyes him warily as he limps away. His niece babbles a list
of rules which fade into the background.

INT. KITCHEN- DAY
The walls bleed nicotine tar. The local paper lies open on
the obituaries; Joseph reads them and puts a tick beside
names he knows. A single weak bulb with no shades dangles
from the ceiling. Dust clings to every surface. The niece
paces the lino floor wringing her hands. The doorbell rings.
She straighten herself up and tries to tidy Joseph, spits on
her hand to dampen his cowlick and sticks it to his
forehead, he swats her away.

JOSEPH
Leave me be!

She opens the back door with him a few steps behind.
The niece steps back. MARY enters; a voluptuous black middle
aged woman. Joseph recoils, eyes wide with surprise.

JOSEPH
Jesus!

MARY
Mary.

NIECE
Joseph.
(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 2.
Joseph’s eyes twinkle and he tentatively holds out a hand.
Mary shakes it vigorously as the niece slips out the back
door.

MARY
Now Mr Doyle, your niece tells me
you need a bit of help around here
so I’ll be here from 9 to 5
weekdays. I do everything a wife
does.She thinks about this then wags a finger.

MARY
Well not everything!

She brays a laugh tucking his grandad shirt into his baggy
trousers.

INT. BATHROOM
Mustard plastic bathroom suite, grimy; adorned with cobwebs
and mould. Joseph in the bath scrubbing vigorously, singing
to himself.
Joseph stands in front of the mirror, threadbare yellow
towel around his waist, wrenches open the cabinet, pushes
past years of faded labels to find a half full bottle of
aftershave, applies it liberally, face, underarms, under the
towel and winces with the sting.

JOSEPH
Good lord!

He hops on the spot. From a stool in the corner he takes his
Sunday best and dresses himself and pats his hair down.
Looks in the mirror, pauses and pulls the tail of his shirt
from his trousers.

INT. KITCHEN- DAY
Joseph stands at the door in fervent anticipation, repats
his hair and pulls at his shirt tail, walks sprightly over
to get his stick and goes back to the door. The key jangles
in the lock and he grins. Mary barrels through the doorway.
She grabs him and tucks his shirt in yanking his trousers up
brusquely. Joseph looks on bemused.

MARY
Now Mr Doyle, we’re going to be
making some changes around here.
(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 3.
Joseph gulps.
MARY
Smoking. Drinking.
Joseph visibly wilts.

MARY
They’re fine. But this hair is a
disaster. She touches a lock of his bedraggled hair and pushes it
back.
Joseph’s face lights up. Mary rummages through the presses and finds nothing worth
eating except a tin of spam and spaghetti hoops.
She tuttuts loudly. She’s muttering to herself and flings his coat
at him. He’s befuddled.

JOSEPH
Are we off out?
MARY
We’re going shopping.
Joseph makes for his stick. Mary throws the stick in the corner.

INT. PUB – DAY
Dusty floorboards, smoke marks on ceiling, flock wallpaper,
brass foot rail, wood panelling, brewery merchandise. An
elderly COUPLE ignore each other. The clock ticks. Mary and
Joseph enter. Suddenly the clock stops ticking. The couple
do a double take, looking Mary up and down. The man’s mouth
falls open. His wife abruptly pushes it closed. The BARMAN
hits the clock a whack. It begins to tick again.
Joseph approaches the bar smiling widely. He is suddenly
yanked back by Mary who nods to the other door that
proclaims “groceries” above it. His smile disappears
instantly. He chats to the barman as she enters the shop.
The elderly SHOPKEEPER sits on a stool behind the counter
reading the racing page, he peers over his glasses with
contempt as Mary approaches.

MARY
Good morning, can I have a loaf of
bread and a pint of milk please/
(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 4.
He sighs and dismisses her with a wave. Joseph enters.

SHOPKEEPER (SLOWLY)
/Look, I don’t understand a damn
word you’re saying.

JOSEPH
Seamus, have you lost your hearing?
I’ve only one good ear and I caught
everything.
He slaps a shopping list on the counter.

JOSEPH
You know where to find us.
Joseph takes Mary by the elbow and leads her into the bar.

INT. KITCHEN- DAY
Joseph loaded up with bags of groceries standing at the
presses standing behind Mary who is bent over putting things
away, Joseph looking on hypnotically. He takes a step
towards her but she stands up quickly almost bowling him
over.

JOSEPH
My god that’s a fine piece of
stuff.
Mary turns around, glancing down at her ass.

JOSEPH
That ham hock.
He takes a ham from the bag and holds it up. Mary puts it in
the fridge. She finishes packing away the things and puts on
her coat.

JOSEPH
You’ll stay for a cup of tea.
Mary sees the desperation in his face.
MARY
A quick one.
Mary sits down and waits, Joseph gets up to put on the
kettle, roots in the presses for teabags, stands for a
second to get his bearings. Mary smirks. He opens and closes
cupboards attempting to search discreetly for the teapot. He
gets a mug for himself and takes out a china cup for her.
They share a moment.

5.
EXT. FARM – EARLY EVENING
Bedding plants in boxes, hanging baskets ready and a freshly
dug flower bed. Mary plants flowers and Joseph waters
liberally. He looks younger and more energised and sports a
new haircut. Mary sticks her hand in the ground gashing it
deeply on a piece of glass. She gasps and tries to hide the
fact she’s hurt. Joseph rushes over. He grabs her hand, she
pulls it back. He takes out a handkerchief and dabs the
blood gently. She is touched by his concern. Their eyes
meet. He is about to speak when her mobile rings.

MARY
Ah, sorry, I have to take this.

Joseph picks up the watering can again. Mary hangs up and
comes over to Joseph

JOSEPH
Mary, I…

MARY
I have to go away for a while.
He scuffs a stone with his shoe.

JOSEPH
You’ll be back?
Mary doesn’t look up.

MARY
I have to go.
Joseph nods and Mary walks away.

INT. KITCHEN – NIGHT
Joseph is hunched in the twilight sitting beside the unlit
range looking out.
He gets up and lights the fire.
Goes to the sink to do the washing up, his hands are covered
in suds, he drops the china cup and it shatters.
He tries to pick up the pieces dropping to his hands and
knees, he stays there holding a piece of the cup.

6.
EXT. FARM- DAY
A dishevelled Joseph stands in the yard looking down the
lane into the distance. The hanging baskets and flower bed
are neglected; the hen pecks their remains. He pulls a still
full whiskey from his pocket.

NIECE [O.C]
Joseph! Will you come in out of the
cold.
He stuffs the bottle back in his pocket. He sighs loudly and
slowly, rubs his eyes, turns back towards the house and
shuffles to it using his stick.

INT. KITCHEN- DAY
Joseph nods off in his armchair; jumps with a start as the
hoover growls into life under his feet wielded by the niece
who buzzes around the room.
JOSEPH
Would you ever just leave me alone!
She stamps her foot on the hoover turning it off.
NIECE
Don’t you take that tone with me
Joseph Doyle and all I do for you.
Do you think I enjoy coming over
here being a skivvy for you?
JOSEPH
I never asked you to come over
here; I’m perfectly capable of
looking after myself.
NIECE
You never complained when you had
that woman here, and she wasn’t
worth tuppence. Look at the cut of
the place.
Joseph stands up to his full height.
JOSEPH
That woman has a name. Mary. and
she was more to me than…
He turn his back on her. She storms out. He steadies
himself, takes the bottle from his pocket, is about to open
it then growls and throws it on the sofa. He puts his head
in his hands.

7.
EXT. FARM- DAY
Joseph is bent down pulling at weeds in the flower patch,
mumbling obscenities. A nettle stings his hands and he pulls
it back. He shakes it and it is gently enfolded in a pair of
woman’s hands. He looks up to see Mary smiling broadly.
JOSEPH
Mary.
MARY
What happened to our garden?
Mary wipes the dirt off his slacks, then tries to kiss him
on the cheek. He sticks out his hand for an awkward
handshake, looking at his feet.
JOSEPH
Are you staying around?
MARY
If you need me I can stay.
Joseph hesitates and kicks at the nettles. He doesn’t look
up.
JOSEPH
I do. I do need you.

INT. KITCHEN – NIGHT
The room is bright and tidy. Joseph is neatly dressed, hair
combed, dapper. He is ticking off the deaths. Starts
laughing.

JOSEPH
Higgins hung on to the bitter end.
I thought he’d never go. Sure they
had the hole dug weeks ago.
Mary howls a laugh. She comes up behind him and pours a good
helping of whiskey into a glass, then one for herself. She
sits down next to him. They are both comfortable in each
other’s company.
JOSEPH
Removal’s at seven. If we get down
early the good stuff will still be
there.
Joseph drains his glass and stands up in a flap. He grabs
her coat and helps her into it. Mary rolls her eyes and
buttons up, she tucks in the flap of his shirt.
(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 8.
MARY
Just an hour then.
Joseph rubs his hands in glee. He opens the door and offers
the crook of his arm, she links him down the path.

END

A short script

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Screenplays, Uncategorized

COWBOY JAKE

INT. NURSING HOME – NIGHT
JAKE, seventies, lies in bed, he smiles as he watches a
Western in his bedroom. MAURICE, a male nurse in his early
twenties enters. Without even asking he turns off the TV, the light and
leaves. Jake waits a moment then gets up stiffly from the
bed. He goes to the window, opens the curtains. In a field
yonder he stares at a horse in the moonlight.

INT. NURSING HOME – DAY
Jake opens his eyes as Maurice barges in, draws the
curtains, the room floods with light. He slaps a breakfast
tray on the bedside table, spilling the tea

MAURICE
Rise and shine old timer.
Maurice exits. Jake opens his wardrobe. Beside his slippers
a pair of cowboy boots poke out.

INT. NURSING HOME DAY
Jake stands at a double door on a corridor. He punches a
number into a keypad, pulls the door. Nothing gives.
Footsteps. Maurice grabs him by the arm to lead him away. A
pretty woman approaches the door. Jake stumbles and knocks a
jug from a nearby trolley, spilling it.
MAURICE
Christ Jake, not again, stay there,
Maurice rushes off. The woman pats him on the arm, Jake
gives her a little wink. Maurice returns with a cloth.
MAURICE (TO WOMAN)
Sorry about that, i’ll let you out.
He punches a number on the keypad. Jake cups his hand over
his mouth, coughs as he peers up.

INT. NURSING HOME – NIGHT
Jake lies in bed. The door opens. Maurice peeps in. The
light is already out. He waits a second, hears a low snore.
The door closes, a pair of cowboy boots peep out from under
the duvet.

EXT. FIELD – NIGHT
Jake in a dressing gown pats a horse under the stars.
Across the road at the nursing home a door opens, light
streams out. Maurice is standing in the doorway.
MAURICE
JAKE!
Jake strips off the dressing gown to reveal a full cowboy
outfit. He dons a stetson. He mounts the horse, tips his hat
and rides into the moonlight.

Afterthought

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Sit still we’ve something to tell ye” they said. “Ye’ll have a brother or sister”

The three of us wondered what it would mean for our bell bottomed teens till Thursday night Top of the Pops chased it out of minds.

Then she exploded and nothing was ever the same.

Allowed out for the first time, the disco was a haze of hormonal headbangers dandruff and sideways slow set glances to the huddle of giggly girls in a place where everyone knew more than I did. Awkwardly gormless and happily clueless I walked home. The car was pulling away with the Mam waving from the back.

The Da came in his face alight “A little girl, all perfect” . “Jaysis” said the brother. He didn’t even get a cross look. Right then the three of us knew things had changed.

A parcel arrived. From Canada, no less, and we stood around with open gobs as the Da cut the tape, his hands ashake. When she was kitted out in the lemon furry suit and tucked in the sleeping bag she rolled around like a day old chick. Mams’ laughter shook her so much she had to sit down.

Lovely small happy twinkly eyes pulling my eyelids open by the lashes on Christmas morning, knees on my chest. At speed she bursted doors, didn’t stop, landed on us in a rainbow flurry only to collapse and recharge her batteries to start all over again.

She gave us all ten years more and when the house had gone quiet she burst on the scene and made it bright with girlie madness of little ponies. There were tears in the hall because we were all big. I talked her down and we wandered the meadows by the river where the bream shoal.

The joy of their lives, she gave them ten more years of youth, stopped him smoking but it wasn’t enough. So sorry for her at the grave but she was a stronger fourteen than I was twenty eight. She minded us all but it grew her up. I call her kid still and carried her from Salthill to Shantalla when she was dead weight asleep.

She walked down the aisle with a teary Mam who handed her over trusting him to be worthy of care for the bundle which had Catherine-wheeled through our house when we were all older.

She pours quiet coffee now; the girlie glint still speckles her eyes. The calm oasis dissolves when her two boys bound in to bowl us over and pull us back to the childhood muppet madness where the only austerity is a time out and a walk in the meadows is a jungle safari.

The Curious Carp

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

The deep dark water of the secret lake did not ripple despite a sharp cool breeze from the surrounding mountains. This was due to the densely packed high trees of the aged forest surrounding the lakes horseshoe shape. The lake took its black brown colour from the boggy earth it nestled in and the countless layers of decomposing leaves and branches accumulated around its banks. The strong scent of pine mingled with the abundant fragrant wild honeysuckle flourishing in the rich margin between the trees and the waterline.

At first light a heavy mist rose to blur the boundaries between soil and water and trees and sky. To a human glance the place would appear lifeless but no human eye had ever spied this deep. The stilly silence was broken by the harsh cackle of a waterhen protecting her nest from the clumsy meanderings of a young vole.

Beneath the black glassy surface the curious carp had just rejoined his group. As normal at this time of the day they were patrolling the centre of the lake from end to end. It was a duty the shoal shared between those responsible enough and the carp and his three friends had just been adjudged worthy of such trust. Their solemn role was to patrol the centre of the lake end to end three times between dawn and dusk to ensure the maintenance of order for all inhabitants.

The carp spotted the large mirror scales and solid yellow underbellies of his group as he rose toward them. He was proud of the three large mirror scales which identified him as a mirror carp and made him different from his common carp neighbours. Deeper down he had passed a tench family snuffling through the rich silt for their morning feast of larvae. Much darker than himself with furiously orange eyes they sent thousands of tiny bubbles fizzing all the way to the surface as they dined. They were a solitary but harmless lot and preferred not to mix with others of the lake community. The curious carp always made it his business to bid them good morning anyway and in return got a flick of a powerful black tail from the largest of the diners.

Further along their route they came across the teeming roach family who loved to rush through the weeds in the shallows chasing each other and plucking tasty waterboatmen from the lily pads on the surface. Much smaller than the carp they were a shimmering silver and sported scarlet red fins and gills. Among them he noticed their close cousins the rudd who had a golden tinge and carried themselves with a more regal air. The curious carp thought they were friendly if a little dim. They spent a lot of time flitting around aimlessly having fun and sometimes attracted the wrong sort of attention.

Close to a long sunken tree they passed the ancient pike. The oldest inhabitant of the lake, fish lore had it that she had been here even before the lake. She was almost indistinguishable from the tree she rested under, barely moving, her yellow mottled spots on dark green scales making it easy to mistake him for another branch. The carp knew he could pass in safety due to his size but his smaller siblings might not be so lucky and no sane roach ever came this way.

Back in the centre of the lake about mid depth between surface and bottom the huge family of bream were flicking their fins without moving anywhere and as the curious carp passed he wondered what they did all day only to conclude they must be contemplative sorts. Occasionally he noticed a puff of mud from below as a sleepy eel poked his pointed nose out to see if anything tasty was passing. The only fish to take holidays he had heard stories of a fantastic resort leagues away. No one else ever left the lake and no one came but the eels were famously tight lipped about their travels. Just where the water deepened they met the perch crew, a crazy green crowd with striped flanks, much too small to bother carp but notorious for silly stunts. The carp patrol passed through them flicking them aside with disdain when they became bothersome.

This was the way of things in the lake community, everyone got along and food was plain but plentiful. The pike contented themselves with eating the old, the sick and the silly having learned the hard way that gorging themselves in a feeding frenzy led to slow starvation not long therafter. The perch mainly fought among themselves and sometimes ate small roach who were so numerous their shoal did not notice. Of course they ate their own sometimes, fish having no compunction about cannibalism. The rest of the lake families were content with the abundant menu the lake provided.

As the days blended into one another the small but curious carp became a large but curious carp. On occasion, as carp are wont to do, he would venture to the surface and skim along feeling the cool mountain air stream past his long dorsal fin. In mating season he would frolick in the shallows and shake the surrounding trees with his tremendous playful splashing. Now, as all fish know, fish don’t have ears. They might not have ears but they can feel sound or rather the vibrations that sounds make through the tiny tremors passing through the water. The curious carp noticed this mostly when forest mammals came to partake of the lakes sweet water, their hooves and snouts making little waves that all of the underwater families understood. One day a large old tree fell in the forest close to the lake and, while nobody heard, fish just knew.

One starry night just after sunset the carp crew were making their last patrol of the day before settling down to a muddy slumber when they felt a series of unusual tremors. There were large and heavy mammals moving in the forest close to the lakeside but their weight was not distributed as normal. The curious carp ventured to the surface taking refuge beneath an overhanging willow and spotted flashes of day among the trees. The tremors and flashes stopped suddenly and having waited for a time more the carp patrol rejoined the shoal. They reported this phenomenon to the elder carp who were incredulous and disbelieving.

At dawn the next morning the carp sensed something untoward as they began their patrol. A pungent sweet aroma pervaded the water and as they approached the lake centre it grew in strength. At this part the bed of the lake was coated with colours never before seen and there was a cloud of tasty smelling particles floating down from above. The tench and bream were mingling and milled around this banquet some of them sucking up pieces of food and blowing them out again testing the taste and texture. There seemed to be a general agreement that this was a wonderful tasty windfall from above and although the curious carp was also cautious by nature the temptation was strong. The bream were less cautious and began sucking up the food particles at random. Suddenly an adolescent bream began to struggle violently and thrash around among the shoal, a type of behaviour hitherto unknown in the lake. The others scattered and watched fearfully as the stricken bream disappeared slowly towards the surface.

An emergency summit of the elders of each family was hastily convened to discuss the disappearance. An immediate cordon was placed around the area in which the unfortunate bream had last been seen, at each corner a jack pike with instructions to prevent any incursions by whatever means necessary. Nonetheless the exotic scents still wafted through the lake and the fish could sense from the vibrations on the surface that further bounty was arriving regularly. After an interminable wait the curious carp and two comrades were summoned. Their instructions were to follow the food scents to their source and surreptitiously ascertain to where the bream had disappeared. They were to conceal themselves as much as possible and preferably carry out their duty after nightfall.

The curious carp had, since his promotion to patrol duty, been eager for an opportunity to prove his worth to the shoal and it was common knowledge, particularly in carp circles, that mirror carp possessed an ability to approach problems intellectually which some other species did not share. He believed it was for this reason that his group had been selected to solve the mystery and so set about his task with gusto. The sun was still high in the sky and the bright rays penetrated about halfway down to the muddy bed so there was still time to assess the situation with his friends and plan a course of action. They adjourned to their usual resting place deep below a dense thicket of lily pads in a corner of the lake which was less popular with others due to its unusually gravelly bed. This ensured the privacy they required to begin their deliberations.

Their approach was firstly to eliminate the usual reasons as to why a fish could go missing from the lake. It was not entirely unknown for fish, particularly smaller fish, to disappear without explanation. Of course, the pike and perch accounted for their fair share but this had long since been accepted as an necessary, if distasteful and uncomfortable, reality of lake life. The eels also would sometimes take a smaller sick or injured fish and again this was felt to be a small, if grim, price to pay for the services all three families rendered to the lake community. Their value in clearing the lake of the elderly at the end of their life was widely recognised as maintaining a healthy environment for all inhabitants. In fact, an elder carp on reaching the realisation that his time was imminent, would often make a graceful exit toward the sunken oak and find a dignified end in the razored jaws of the thankful pike. Another, less likely but not unheard of, cause of disappearance was to be taken by predatory birds if one stayed too long near the surface. The fish were aware of these creatures because, from time to time, one died and landed in the lake, making for a welcome alternative in the pikes diet. Attacks by such birds however were unusual and invariably resulted in the disappearance of either smaller roach, rudd or perch. The missing bream was much larger than any fish which had ever previously been lost to either fish or fowl.

Having eliminated all of the known reasons for the disappearance the carp began to analyse its circumstances. Firstly, there had been the large quantity of exotic sweet tasting foodstuffs and the accompanying succulent scents in the immediate vicinity. Secondly, the breams behaviour immediately prior to the incident had been to writhe and struggle in a violent rapture as if desperately trying to rid himself of some terrifying pain. It was as if some invisible force had taken hold of his very being and forced him upwards. None of the onlookers had thought to follow him as they had fled in all directions during the violent disruption. Thirdly, there had been the curious events of the previous moonlit night when strange vibrations had moved through the lake and daylight had appeared between the trees.

After due consideration the carp concluded that all of these events must be linked and that the only way to make sense of them was to spend the night watching the surface and activity around the banks. It was reasoned that the best place to start was close to where the light had been spotted the previous night. Fortunately the branches of the large overhanging willow almost touched the water and this provided sufficient cover to allow him quite close to the bank. His companions took up similar positions nearby.

While waiting the scent of the food harvest in the centre of the lake was almost overpowering as the immediate edict from the elders had been to abstain from all food until the disappearance was solved. This was logical given that the bream had been eating at the time but it was proving difficult for all especially those with the appetite of the carp. His natural sense and memory of skirmishes with jackpike in his younger days combined to keep the hunger at bay. He channelled his concentration to the current problem.

After a short time a hulking upright shadow appeared from between the trees carrying a shaft of light and approached three straight branches by the water. It stayed a short time and then moved back beyond the tree line. The carp felt vibrations as it left and settled in place until he was sure the creature had gone. Carp combine intellect with patience in equal measure so it was just before dawn when he decided to approach closer.

As he moved in he spotted the bream seemingly enclosed in a web of very fine weed. The bream appeared unharmed apart from being a little dazed. The carp nudged at the weed but was unable to dislodge it finding indeed that it was not weed but something much stronger and that the bream was entirely imprisoned in a long tube of the substance. The bream informed him that he had been sucking in a juicy morsel when suddenly he had felt a dull pain and sharp pressure in his mouth and he was dragged to the edge of the lake. He had struggled as much as possible by his own account, the carp was sceptical of this part of the story as bream were known in the lake for their lack of sustained fighting spirit. However despite the exaggeration of prowess the story rang true. The bream had been unceremoniously removed from the water by the giant creature and thought he would suffocate. Fortunately this ordeal was short and he had been quickly placed back in the lake but confined to this area by the impenetrable barrier.

Having failed to free the bream the carp reassured him he would return and decided to make his way back to the centre. Just then he noticed three almost invisible fibres coming from the ends of the straight branches. He nudged one of these gently and immediately felt a loud beeping, pounding vibrations and the giant arrived at the lakes edge quickly lifting one of the branches. A whizzing sensation followed and a large piece of food flew through the water and out to the waiting shadow.

The carp followed one of the other fibres to the centre of the lake, explaining his mission to the suspicious sentry jackpike on passing and on close inspection found it led straight to a particularly attractive looking and sweet smelling portion. This was among several other food particles so he flicked his tail violently in the area. The untethered food rose in the water before gently settling back down but the suspect piece did not move. To confirm his suspicions he nuzzled the piece of food along the bottom. In an instant he felt the same beeping and the food exploded to reveal a bright sharp thing which almost snagged his dorsal fin as it sped upwards.

The carp gathered his thoughts, consulted his companions and reported his findings to the elders. They agreed that as the new food source contained the risk that any fish could be subjected to the breams ordeal or worse then all fish would avoid these foods on pain of death.

It had been two days since the breams disappearance. The lakes inhabitants were confining themselves to their own diets despite the temptation.

Having caught only one small bream for forty eight hour fishing expedition the three anglers concluded this lake was barren. They released the bream unharmed and began the seven mile trek through the forest to their cars agreeing unanimously that they would stick to more charted waters in future.

After a short time the mystery foodstuffs disappeared into the mud and the story of the disappearing bream and the intrepid curious carp become part of the lakes legend. The curious carp himself continued to grow in length, breadth and girth and soon joined the large contingent of fish in the lake who were larger than any fish which had ever put a bend in an anglers rod.