short fiction, short story, writing

Malevich at midnight

There are low hanging clouds tonight. They look like steam. The city cooks us all, devours us and you wouldn’t know it but for the likes of me so I will do my bit for the illusion of progress and mimic the ritual of success. I will move without purpose. I will begin now, here, by standing. No one likes a reclining dude in the city, except if it’s lunchtime in a park and you have expensive shoes and unholy socks which display to everyone that this is a deliberate rest and not a stupour, not a cry for help or the decline of a once respected soul. Steam clouds, ice cream clouds, I scream at clouds. I feel like a hot turd meting out my miasma. People look for clouds during lunch break or smoke break but who notices clouds at night? Vagrants and poets thanking God for the cover of darkness, cursing him for the cold but grateful the noisy city workers with their high heels clakking, their cappucinos, their $500 suits and dresses have gone home to give the city dwellers some peace. Hope Malevich comes by tonight. I want to show him my black square of night, just behind you between the bank and the hotel, the road and the billboard.  If you look up from where I am now there’s a perfect square of sky. I only see it unblack for a short time before sunrise, before the arrival of the masses, the walking dead as my mate Jude and I call them, the one’s who think they are safeguarded by their suits and distance from the bitch of bad timing and one more for the road. We catch you sneaking glances like the buildings catch the sky between loathing and compassion depending on how your day has gone so far. See the disgust in your eyes, the same looks i avoid in shop windows. The streets are a hall of mirrors at night. We’re all passing through, but we pass variously.

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short fiction, short story

The executioner’s voice

It is said she burned with holy passion. I do not know. I know she burnt. It is said that flames purify the soul. Hell must be free of blemish. It is said she heard saints speak. I hear voices. Who speaks i do not know. She heard them before she burned to a crisper version of her former self. Voices. She scared us because we hear them too. But we fear fire more. We impure ones. She spoke too freely. Damn her. There are things we know to be true and there are reasons for the great silence. We all have voices, thoughts. The voices. If you knew what mine said. It is said she was loved. It is said they respected her. Still, they watched her burn. Is this what burning love is? They must have heard the wood crack and spit back her fat. Some were sickened as they salivated at the familiar smell of roasting flesh. I always notice the one who vomits first. I want to say to him: What did you expect?  A spiritual cleansing at the spectacle? A symbolic demise? No mess? The devil in a cloak to descend with her? No. He ascended an hour ago to take up his seat next to Beaufort and Cauchon. They who commanded I do my duty. With their mitres and gold they cross us. Their light. Let the games begin. I do not hate them. The heretics i burn. It is theatre. I am an entertainer, the hand of God. I am the distance between their thirst for blood and the blood. I am the interregnum. They demand satisfaction, protection, justice. But not one will step forward to do the work that delivers it. They are not bad people. They are spectators. They are mostly ordinary. Ordinary spectators hoping the warmth will pass on a degree of purity. She burns for hearing the voices of saints while dressed as a man. Heresy. Hear say, here see? It’s not her we kill but thinking. Thinking is a voice and now we fear it. Tonight we will all sleep speaking prayers to drown out the voices. They, I … I burn her. I release her soul and I lose mine. I have earned the right to say these things having despatched souls for twenty years.We are mostly all ordinary, the burners and the ones who burn. These are the two types of people in this world; those who burn and those burnt. The pure and the purified. Only gold holds back the flames. To hold gold others must burn. We must eat and they hold the gold. I think of today as an exchange. They are buying the security of purity and the soul is a weighty substance. None dare burn those who burn others. They are exempt from the fire, for they are the voice of  God and are jealous of other voices. Will it not always be so? 

We must be careful of voices, even our own.

 

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Geoffroy, Rouen,  30 May, 1431.

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Uncategorized

Long distance loss

Physical distance seems to amplify feelings of love and loss. In this world of instant everything we learn the hard way that live video chat does not substitute a relationship. It’s why books beat e-books, vinyl beats i-tunes and why a warm hug beats electromagnetic, pixelated internet talk. But, video chat is better than none. Sound waves beat no waves. Physical proximity may foster contempt. We take for granted who is closest to us, we expect them to be there always, like the stars and the moon. Then life happens and strips us clean of certainty. When you experience loss at close quarters it’s awful. Loss with the separation of oceans is numbing and with little to hold onto we clench our fists and breathe the hurt deep down into ourselves. There is nowhere else for it to go. This is the migrants lot. Three of us in our small circle of friends have each lost a parent. We have had to co-ordinate visits with relapses in health and where travel used to be about seeing new places it has become about saying goodbyes, seeing up close the people we love whom we know we shall never see again. When a mother or father we love dies, we are physically and emotionally stranded and loss is amplified by guilt and regret. We new it would be hard, and it is.

Death is only one of the difficulties of migration, forging new identities is the other. We embrace the new country that has opened itself to us while mourning the one on whose soil we were born. We should be accustomed to death when it comes. We have practiced loss. But losing people is not a rehearsal and proximity does not ease the pain. Near or far the distance death cleaves between us is interminable. Maybe the pain of it for us trans-continental mourners is that we mix into our grief the echo of the migrants chorus ” you ran away”, ” you took the easy way out”. However, I remember it was a slow walk. The slowest of walks, almost a shuffle. We all run, it’s only the direction that differs. Some run forward despite the cost, some run backwards, despite the cost.

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bread, philosophy, Self help

The ideology of bread

To pacify the people of Rome the Caesars promised them bread and circuses. The French Revolution was ignited by bread. Lenin promised “Peace, Bread and Land” to the Russian people and orchestrated a worker’s revolution. For the past 30 years I have been working on my own domestic revolution, and it involves bread.

I was raised properly  (there are certain things-all evidence to the contrary-which one is honour bound to insist upon) to understand what constitutes a sandwich. It is formed by placing the food of your choice between two slices or pieces of bread. If I were, as is customary, to slice a sandwich in two I would have a sandwich, halved. Simple? I thought so too. At this point the domestic ritual becomes rather complicated. One of the first debates with my wife was about whether two slices of bread (sandwiched) remained a sandwhich when cut in half. If I offered you a sandwich I would use two slices of bread, sandwiched, cut in half and I would then present to you both slices as a sandwhich. I maintain that no matter how many times one slices the sandwich, it remains a sandwich.

Three decades of often heated kitchen debates have ensued, evolving into a philosophical debate of ontological proportions. When is a sandwhich not a sandwhich? When we apply deconstructionist thinking to this noble victual, regarding it rather as a cultural item shared, signifying a yielding of hostility.  An edgy stalemate currently exists in our household. Thirty years later I still ask “one slice or two” when I construct the bread thing. It has become a matter of principle. I forget which principle, but that is besides the point. I ask the question to remind my much loved wife that my opinion, indeed, my character, on this issue stands. I have conceded much in my time for the sake of peaceful coexistence but on this point I intend to stand. Bread has become an ideological touchstone.

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Some give thanks for their daily bread, I offer heartfelt gratitude to the bread roll. Not for its nutritional blessings but for its honesty, its lack of ambiguity. A bread roll halved or quartered remains a bread roll. They are culinary diplomats: easily bending to the demands of others whilst simultaneously original.

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The sliced loaf is unpredictable. Seemingly innocent and ordinary, it belies the domestic anarchy lurking beneath its seedy crust.

First this:                                                                          

wp-1491385428473.jpg  Then this:

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Upon one slice of bread spread soft butter so as not to shred the texture of the bread. Onto one slice carefully place one’s desired filling (mature cheddar cheese is my default preference).

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Place one slice neatly above the first and press down slightly. Cut in two, usually from corner to corner, creating two triangles or straight down the centre thus creating two rectangles.

The final product: sandwich plated for one, halved and yet reataining it’s original identity of sandwich. We can learn from the sandwich.

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The language game with bread extends to our perception of being. Bread is bread whether you are talking about a slice, a loaf or all of the loaves of bread in the world. Whether you are here or there, it remains you who is somewhere. Geography does not alter the state of the soul.  The paradox of language manifests in the sandwhich. If there is no common agreement on what constitutes a half or a whole sandwich what chance is there for peace between warring nations? Our suburban ideological stalemate over bread tranlates to politics and religion. We assume our differences are immense when in fact we have always been talking about the same thing. There are no ideological conflicts, only conflicts over language.

Since life is so short, I’m leaving now to make my wife a sandwich. A single sliced one at that.

After all, it’s only bread.

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