The first order of business when arriving at the office is a hot cup of coffee — the fresh, earthy smell of roasted grounds greet my sleepy brain. Years past, often being the first one in, I'd pull out the filters, dump the Folgers, and brew an entire pot. Now, I stand in front of the Keurig, waiting for my single brew to finish. Decades before me, women were not only expected to make the coffee but to fix and hand-deliver to the men of the office. This morning, I stand here, coffee cup in hand, on their shoulders.
Last night I was just an ordinary man. I had only two hands and two legs. And like any other ordinary man I went to bed and fell asleep peacefully.
However, this morning something very strange happened. How I wish it was all a nightmare. I couldn’t believe what I saw with my own two eyes: my old legs ready to jump out of bed and run away but my newly grown legs didn't move!
Right now, I'm trying hard to type this SOS message with my old pair of hands while my new pair of hands are choking me!
Nancy’s tired of people demanding. Give, give. Give me an X-box. Give me a flat-screen TV.
On Black Friday, she goes to the mall to see the holiday fracas. For sociological understanding, she fights over X-boxes, TVs, even trivial cardigans, just to feel the motion of arms, the tug of war, the grunts, the bared teeth.
She is absorbed in these battles, over territory. Feels engulfed by entitlement.
Nancy walks home, all too fluent in the language of greed, sickened by new knowledge.
She cleans out her closet of the most ostentatious things that night. Weeps for greed and idiocy.
James sold his bicycle to Fred. Fred sold it to Charlie. In between Sharon and Georgina borrowed it.
By the time it got passed down to Robert it looked like it had been through World War Three.
Robert didn’t know what to do. He wanted a bicycle, but his parents couldn’t afford one.
He tried to fix it as best he could, but he was always too embarrassed to ride it.
When his friends suggested bike riding he said he had homework to do or some other excuse.
On Christmas morning he awoke and there it was – a new bicycle.
He had seen these creatures many times, romping in the surf. His favourite he called Diki: a young, playful male who always greeted him with little squeals of joy.
He looked out for Diki whenever he visited the beach that summer. And he could have sworn that Diki looked out for him too, zigzagging along the waves, jumping up and peering over them. So clever, so cute – he longed to keep Diki as a pet, but he knew the creature would never survive outside his natural habitat.
For Diki was a land animal, with arms and legs instead of flippers.
The grey-haired man was cutting the hedge in suburbia central when he spotted a figure walking up the hill. It became apparent that it was his long lost youngest son.
"Jack, come here now!"
His oldest son joined his father but stared at the figure with less than enthusiasm.
"He's back I see. What a state!"
The father embraced the figure who was attired in filthy clothes, face covered in bruises. The oldest son looked on with scorn.
"I thought you were dead my boy."
"I was," he replied.
The horde slowly shuffles forward, minds taken long ago, emptied without understanding. They moan, staring blankly at glowing slabs of metal and glass as they feed on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Oblivious, they amble. They are a wave of hijacked flesh taken over by their own volition. Screens wink out. They look at each other: shocked, dumbfounded. They tap their displays hoping for life in empty glass. Faces contort in panic. They scream in frustration and stare at each other in horror. They wail to an uncaring world. Glass comes to life. Their eyes glaze. The horde returns to endless trudging.
The sounds of Lego constructions stopped, her son appeared at her side.
“Where do things go when they go away?
A knotty problem that she had pondered herself... her favourite scarf...school friends.
“What sort of things Joseph?”
That red stuff on your mouth, before?”
A question for the cosmetics companies perhaps.
Pointing now, “Look, there.” He was right, a scarlet imprint on the rim of her tea cup told the story. “I’ll make one that won’t go away. With Lego.”
Who would tell him that it wouldn’t go on either?
Not his mother.
The casket is lowered into the pit and the mourners leave in small groups. Only my wife and my best friend remain. Standing close to each other and talking in a low tone. I had never suspected they were that intimate.
If he, who had the means to help me, had not made himself incommunicado when the market crashed, I would not have locked myself in my room and swallowed those sleeping pills.
From high above I look at my final resting place again. Was all that reckless chasing of money and power to end there? In a six-foot-long pit?
As his parents reached out with hugs, Jeffrey stiffened, pulling Teddy close.
Could children see the shadows behind Mommy and Daddy’s eyes? Would his birthday guests remain safe?
Sometimes, the shadows offered loving embraces. Sometimes, Jeffrey knew, they exploded, stinging and bruising, reveling in the pain.
Scared for their playmates, boy and bear kept watch.
Then Jeffrey and his best friend disappeared.
It was the trail of popped balloons that led police to them lying on the lawn. Jeffrey, motionless, was cradling his now ripped and scissored Teddy.
The sun was setting. No one noticed the shadows.
I watched a man of note in our area climbing to where I stood on a hill. Up halfway, his hand sprung to his chest. He collapsed. His face in the mud.
His passing was mourned in the local paper. Took up the front page. We knew him for his work in the primary school, and later the elderly hospice.
His whole life was in Leamington. His north was Cubbington; his east Radford Semele. South meant Tachbrook Mallory, west was bound by the River Avon.
A small life. But we all knew his name here, and spoke well of him.
"Why do the stars go when the sun comes out?" three year old Johnny wanted to know. "Where do they go?"
Not wanting to go into details and already running late for work, his father's answer was both basic and a little terse.
"When something brighter comes along, less shiny things just fade into the background."
Johnny wandered off considering this. He watched his new stepmother as she got ready for work, makeup, jewelry, red shiny shoes and he wondered what a background was and which one his mummy had faded into.
Thaddeus lived alone. Who would live with him? Only someone else who also chose to see things dimly, who also shunned the light.
Thaddeus hadn’t always lived this way. Growing up, he was happy to greet the new day. He played outside and was sad to see the sun go down.
But then he began to hear things and imagine he was surrounded by demons, and he chose to live in darkness rather than risk glimpsing some awful specter.
So he pulled down his blinds and shut himself off from the world, fearing demons he imagined but never really saw.
Larry gripped the steering wheel and the gearshift of his new Lamborghini. He floored the gas.
Traffic shot by. He was flying! Exhilarating. He could get used to this.
Then he saw flashing blue lights. Swearing, he pulled over.
“Any idea how fast you were going?”
“Too fast,” Larry admitted. “Got lost in the moment.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” the cop proposed. “Give me a ride, and I tear up the ticket.”
Larry blinked. “Seriously?”
The cop sat in the passenger seat. “Don’t wait for me to change my mind.”
Larry grinned. “OK. Hold on!”
Then he woke up.
‘Put the kettle on, dear,’ I call at the sound of the front door closing.
In answer I hear the kettle being filled, the click of its switch, the water bubbling angrily as it boils then the click as it switches itself off.
I smile at the sound of cupboards being searched; ever since we’ve had the kitchen replaced and reorganised my husband can’t find anything. He’s obviously found whatever he was looking for as there’s the clink of the spoon against china and footsteps on the stairs.
‘Milk, two sugars,’ the stranger says handing me a cup of tea.
I smile recalling your embrace, keeping me safe and warm over the past months. Best of all long nights under a moonlit sky as waves lapped the shores, staying until the sun peeped over the horizon. You’re beautiful in that golden first light.
I’ll never forget that rainy day we got soaked splashing through the puddles on the way home but we were soon dry again by a cosy fire.
I love you. I really do, but although I long to keep you close, I have to put you away until next winter. You’ll always be my favourite woolly jumper.
I am not feeling well, and I need to see the doctor as soon as possible. Please show me your health card. Any changes in your address or telephone number. No? Ok. You will have to join the queue. I will call you as soon as it is your turn. Please take a seat in the waiting room.
There seems to be a problem.
What is it?
There is only one empty seat in the waiting room. It is situated between a rooster and a peacock, and I am allergic to feathers.
Some of you will know what prompted this. The joke's been 'borrowed' slightly, but I'm sure you'll not mind.
Struck by a passing car in a hit-and-run accident, the cyclist lay in the street with both legs and his right arm broken. In great pain, he managed to call 999.
"Hello," said the operator. Noting the cyclist's whereabouts and mobile number, she finally asked which service was required.
"Ambulance... and police," he gasped. "Hurry, please, I'm in agony here!"
"I can get an ambulance to you in about an hour," said the operator. "Police in half a hour."
The cyclist groaned. "That long? It's an emergency?"
"I could do a pizza in ten minutes maximum, sir," the operator suggested.
Simon was enthusiastic, made eye contact, and asked all the right questions during the interview. He was sweating profusely, but his body language said that he wanted to work for our department store. He seemed to be the perfect candidate.
Once he began, however, he was not very cooperative or energetic. He became snarky and disrespectful to the customers, failed to keep the shelves neat and racks of clothing organized. It reached a point where his presence triggered animosity. And when he killed our top regional manager with a coat hanger, we knew that we had to let him go.
Where were you when I needed your love, your comfort, your help?
Aah! You were nestled in the arms of another woman.
Were you with her that night shortly before the assailant's bullet pierced your chest and left you gasping your final breaths?
That night, I had chosen to be nestled in the arms of another man. Did you have to deny me the satisfaction of revenge?
Sent from my Galaxy Tab A (2016)
Today is a special occasion. Happy Birthdays ring out like exploding confetti. By default, I have become a snack platter, my top high enough to stymie an obese cat, but low enough for serving food. Party guests idle to consume the buffet---savoury fare replacing the framed photographs of every day.
How I miss the sound of metal against string, the skilled touch of a musician.
With muted hope, I note the aging woman sitting on the bench as she turns around to face me. Her hands linger above my keys.
“I’m a little bit rusty, but here goes.
'Think about it, we do not know how long our life will be but its not how long you live, it is what you do with it' Sabrina said.
'Is this one of your deep observations or something you have heard? because you seem constantly to be coming out with really deep shit', replied Raj.
'I think I once heard something similar and it really got me thinking, like what have I done with my life- should I do more? Sabrina looked lost in thought.
'Oh' said Raj, 'whatever'.
But Sabrina wasn't listening anymore.
‘Where’re you driving us to, André?’ the shovel demanded.
‘The recycling centre,’ I replied. ‘I don’t need you and the other garden tools anymore.’
‘Is this because you’ve laid artificial grass?’ the fork enquired.
‘But that “grass” is plastic,’ the lawnmower said. ‘Take us back to our garden and remove it.’
The shovel spoke again. ‘Do as the lawnmower asks, André. Otherwise, I’ll tell someone at the recycling centre about our visit to the woods last month.’
‘Don’t,’ I said.
‘We dug a hole there, didn’t we? Wasn’t it the night your partner disappeared?’
I turned back home.
My car is a pocket rocket, capable of 218mph but to drive at that speed is insane. Others drivers don’t agree. They hammer down the outside lane at break neck speed just to get in front of the little red car. Part of me wants to hit the gas and show them what she’s capable of, but no I let them whizz by.
‘Go ahead and kill yourself!’ I think.
A mile ahead, brake lights, everyone slows to a crawl.
As I slowly pass the mangled remains of the car that raced by me, I wonder, was it worth it?
Peacock throne has a new princess. Commoners wave, cheer, the prince smiles, his bride blushes.
The carriage passes by Dr. Graham's humble home. She has a secret: only the rag-picker who rummaged through the bin across the road twenty years ago knows it.
"Trashed her, Doctor! A split-lip too!" the rag-picker had said, "The girl's heartless mother was unable, or unwilling, to own up."
The doctor had taken the newborn in, seen her through infancy, performed a minor surgery, guided her through school and college – she'd been more than a mother.
The princess rises and, teary-eyed, bows to her.