Everything has Changed

 

Zoe sighed.  It had been a long day at work but now she could relax.  She could have a salad and a glass of wine in peace.  Mark would be over later, and they could watch a film before another romantic night.  She felt that her life was perfect.  She set the table in the dining room, lit one of her favourite candles and uncorked the wine.  There was a knock on the door.

“Hello, Zoe.” Ryan pushed past her.

Zoe couldn’t breathe.  She shut the door and leaned against it as she watched Ryan saunter up the stairs.  What could she do now?  For a short, awful moment she listened to Ryan moving around upstairs, then she forced herself upright, went into the dining room and poured herself a glass of wine.

“You know I don’t like you drinking.” Ryan said.  “And you’ve redecorated.” He looked around.  “In fact, this is the only room that’s still fit to see.  You never understood how to achieve elegance.”

“I cremated you.” Zoe drained her glass.

“Apparently there was a mix up at the morgue.  I was embalmed instead.” Ryan turned around mockingly, flexing his shoulders.  “And I’m not in bad shape.  I’ve no idea who I was swapped with.  Obviously they enjoyed golf.” Ryan threw a golf glove on top of Zoe’s salad.  “I told you again and again that salad isn’t a real meal.”

“And I told you again and again that you needed to eat less meat.  That’s why you died of a heart attack.” Zoe poured herself another glass of wine.

“And I warned you that I would come back from the grave.  When I was dying I was very clear.  The house was to remain exactly as it was.  You were to dress in black and remain faithful to my memory.  Not that bit of rubbish you’re wearing. You’re thirty-three, Zoe, not a teenager.”  Ryan smiled thinly.  “But here I am.  I don’t suppose you kept my clothes as I instructed.  Wearing another dead man’s suit isn’t my style.”

“I sold your clothes.” Zoe said quietly. “I sold your car, your record collection, your shoes and your power tools.  I don’t know if I can divorce a dead man, but I am not staying.”

Ryan grabbed her wrist, hard.  “The only place you are going tomorrow is work and then to buy new wallpaper.  What were you thinking?  You’ve painted everything, it’s just not good enough.  You should be glad I’m back.”

“You can’t make me.” Zoe said, tugging her hand away from the unexpectedly strong grasp.  There was a giddy rush.  She had never said that to Ryan before and he wasn’t expecting it.”  You can’t make me do anything.  After all, you can’t stop me having money for the bus fare to work as all the money is now in my name now, legally.”

“I never liked you working in that office.” Ryan muttered.  “There were too many divorcees.”

“You can’t hide my clothes.  I’ve got a suitcase stashed in my car for the weekend and the money to get new stuff.  I have friends that would worry if I didn’t get in touch after a few days and a very nice boyfriend who would definitely come to claim me.” Zoe defiantly poured another glass of wine and took a long drink.  “I’ve just got a promotion.  I’m an Area Manager now.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Ryan snapped.  “We both know you’re too stupid to get a decent job.  That’s why I wanted you at home, to protect you.” He looked away from her.  They both knew he was lying.  “And I told you, I don’t like you drinking wine.”

“You’re dead.” Zoe said. “You don’t have an opinion.”

“Pour the wine away, you stupid girl.” Ryan loomed over her.

“I could call the police and say that a strange man has forced himself in here and could he come and get you.” Zoe said recklessly, drunk on the sudden ability to disagree with her revenant husband.

“I would say I was your husband and point to our wedding photos.” Ryan paused and looked round.  “There are no photos of me.”

“I burned the lot.” Zoe took a deep breath.  She had to keep her head.  “This house is in my name only now.  You have no right to be here.  I want you to leave.”

“This is my house and you are my wife.” Ryan snapped and grabbed at Zoe.  She jumped back and ducked behind the table.

“I really loved you, really, really loved you.  When you died I cried for weeks.” Zoe made a grab for her car keys.  “But I’ve made a new life and I’m alive and you’re dead.”

“Come here!” Ryan lunged desperately at Zoe across the dining table, knocking into the candle.  It fell against his sleeve.  Zoe screamed as the flame caught hold of the fabric and raced up the sleeve.

“What’s happening.” She looked round for something to throw over him.

“I was embalmed, you stupid girl.  I’m flammable.” Ryan was panicking.

Zoe tried to remember her training.  “Lie down.” She pulled up one of the rugs.  “I can smother the flame.”

Ryan screamed.  The flames had caught hold of him now and he was burning up.  “Do something you stupid girl.” It was too late.  Ryan threw back his head and howled as flames gushed from his mouth.  The stench was unbearable.  Zoe tried to throw the rug over him but Ryan staggered away, stumbling into the wall and leaving scorch marks and ash.  Then he crumbled.

Zoe methodically dampened down the scorch marks and opened all the window.  She looked at the ash covered, burned carpet, the marks on the wall, the soot on the ceiling and sighed with a sort of relief.  Even Ryan would admit that she had to redecorate now.

 

Originally posted April 29th 2016

There Should be Storms

 

There should be storms, not the calm, still sky.

There should be storms, and dark castle walls.

This faded coffee shop, half empty, in the shade,

Is not the place to watch your life crash down.

 

I wait for you, and you are late again.

In the corner, reading a cheap magazine,

A woman droops and, trying not to yawn,

Turns the page to new adulteries.

 

I check my phone, there’s nothing new from you,

Just half an hour wait and waiting still.

I wonder if you know what waits here, crouching,

In this faded, shaded, tired coffee shop

 

Two girls behind the counter, talking low

Of boys and school and last week’s hair.

They bend the paper clip from next week’s hours

To try and free the block in the machine

 

They sound so young and earnest, taking care

Warning each other about the burning pipes

Promising to be there at the club

And one will lend the other their new dress

 

The woman yawns again and leaves the place

Out into the bright and shining mall

Past the old rabbi playing careful chess

Facetiming with his friend in Tel Aviv

 

The two old men talk with kindness, they are kind

And measure the words they use across the miles

What words can I use to you so close

When I stare across the table at your face.

 

The old rabbi taps his hearing aid and shouts

A gentle, kind goodbye across the miles.

Packs up his chess and leaves into the mall.

I am reading the left magazine

 

The coffee shop is shutting with the mall,

The sun is draining down the peaceful sky

There should be storms.  I text you, ‘It is over

Do not contact me again.  Goodbye.’

Originally published April 23rd 2016

Harbour

Image from WikiCommons, taken by Rev Dave and used under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

I have a dream where the dusk is falling

And I can hear the sound of the sea birds calling.

The wind is soft and the air is warm,

The storm has passed and the sea is calm.

The fishers are home on the turning tide,

Their boats tied tight to the harbour side.

The steps lead down to the quay below,

Clean and safe in the lamp’s soft glow.

Just step, I know, on the wide, stone stair.

Just step, in the soft and dreamy air.

A gentle path to a solid quay.

And a harbour safe waits there for me.

Originally posted December 2nd 2015

Burning up

“Are you sure you’re okay, ma’am?” The policeman was trying to be kind.

“It’s the shock.” His colleague said quietly.

“Would you like a tea or a coffee?  We’ve called a neighbour over to sit with you if you need it.”

“I’m fine.” I said, trying to breathe normally.

“There’ll be a lot of press speculation.” The first policeman said.  “We’ve had a lot of calls.  I suggest you get a legal representative and get a statement drafted.  Don’t feel you have to answer any calls.”

“I think my husband has a solicitor.” I said, then corrected myself.  “He had a solicitor.”

“He was in a hotel with his secretary, I believe some sort of business trip.  She may want to talk to you but perhaps it’s best if you don’t speak straight away.” The second policeman was trying to judge if I knew about my husband’s affair.

“There will have to be an inquest, of course.” The first policeman was watching me carefully.  “Perhaps you should sit down.”

I looked at him blankly.  This was all so unexpected.  “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” I asked the police.  “I’ve got some biscuits in.”

The police exchanged glances.  “I’ll put the kettle on.” The second policeman said calmly.  “I’m sure I’ll be able to find everything.”

“You need to aware that the internet have taken this up as a case of spontaneous combustion.  Someone filmed it on their phone.  I wouldn’t look at it, if I were you, ma’am, it’s distressing.” The first policemen gently eased me into a chair.  “We are going to have to take some samples, the people are on their way, we’ll be as discreet as possible.  It will all be returned to you.”

“Whatever you need, officer.” I murmured.  A cup of over sweetened tea was pushed into my hand.  “Take whatever you need.”

Because they would find nothing.  I kept my diaries on my laptop which was currently at work.  I kept my tools in my friend’s garage.  And no-one believed that ‘How to Cast Spells and Influence People’ was a book that actually worked.

Originally published November 27 2015

Displacement

 

The cupboards need cleaning, I’ll turn them all out,

 I can check all the contents and move stuff about.

I’ll rotate the cans of the sweetcorn and beans

And won’t have to think what a eulogy means.

 

This floor is disgusting, I’ll get it scrubbed clean.

I can move out the chairs and sweep in between.

I can polish the legs of the table and sink.

I can scour and rinse and I won’t have to think.

 

The table needs moving, it’s in the wrong place

And tablecloth’s edged with the wrong kind of lace.

It all needs renewing or at least turning out,

Which means no time to think what tomorrow’s about.

 

I’ve dusted the top of the doorway and door,

I’ve counted the candles and twice mopped the floor,

Tomorrow’s the funeral, but I’ve no time to think,

As it’s far too important to scour out the sink.

Originally posted September 5th 2015

Frost on the Moon

There’s a frost on the Moon

The cold, shivery light is tumbling down and the frost comes with it

It gleams as it slides over the twiggy trees

There’s a frost on the Moon

I rest my hot, hot face against the cold, cold bedroom window glass

The heat of the argument ebbs out into the cool, clear night

There’s a frost on the Moon

The street is silent and pools left from this morning’s rain

Reflect back at the empty sky and the falling frost edges them

There’s a frost on the Moon

The silence is scattered by a strolling cat

As the knocked can rattles into the empty street

There’s a frost on the Moon

The frost is falling and slipping down the street

My hot heart’s pain fades and drains as I watch

There’s a frost on the Moon

Originally published July 1st 2015

I Kept My Word

Tell them I came, and no one answered,

That I kept my word,” he said.

– Walter de la Mare, The Listeners

 

‘Tell them I kept my word,’ he said

As the storm clouds gathered overhead

With the setting sun tainting them red

 

‘Tell them I came, as was my right

But the locked Great Hall was shuttered tight

And the echoes mocked in the fading light

 

He rested his head on the deep grained wood

The sunset glowed on his travel stained hood

‘Tell them I came as I said I would.’

 

‘Tell them I travelled over the seas

Across the great rivers and under the trees

But I kept my word and I held the keys’

 

A raven cawed in a twiggy nest

The wind was rising in the west

‘Tell them, say that I did my best.’

 

‘I saw strange stars and stranger skies.’

But he listened in vain for the listeners sighs

‘I kept my word, all else is lies.’

 

At the edge of the sky the thunder growled

And the rising wind wept soft then howled

At the dead Great Hall the traveller prowled

 

‘I kept my oath and now am free

I no longer approach on bended knee.’

He opened his hand and dropped the key

 

It seemed like no stroke of luck or chance

That the heavens threw down their fiery lance

As he rode away with no backward glance.

 

He felt the heat hard on his back

The Great Hall flamed from the lightning’s crack

But he still rode on down the weedy track.

 

I seriously recommend the original, and you can read it here

Originally published July 1st 2014

Impish

Image Thomas Marlowe (c)

“Don’t worry about a thing.” Trevor smiled with deep reassurance at the nervous store owner.  “The restoration will be completely sympathetic and we will be using authentic materials and techniques throughout.  It will look just like it was first built all those centuries ago.”

“I was warned about the little imp figure.” Mr Oliver had only recently bought the shop and was beginning to get unnerved by some of the unexplained happenings.  “Apparently if he isn’t painted red bad things happen.”

“Red is the authentic colour for a figure of that type.” Trevor mentally added another £100 to the eventual bill.  “And we will, of course, be using the type of paint authentic to the period.  You would not believe some of the shoddy attempts we’ve seen.  People think it’s find to go slapping modern gloss paint over medieval plasterwork.  It’s a shame really.”

“I’m not really bothered about the paint type.”  Mr Oliver said faintly.  “As long as it looks a bit better.  Of course as it’s in a conservation area I have to be a bit careful.”

Internally Trevor sighed and took £100 back off the bill.  “We are craftsmen, aren’t we Ryan?  We like to live up to the skills of the old masters who painstakingly put together these amazing works of art.  We think it’s important to keep the old traditions going.  It would be tragic if the old skills were lost.”

“Tragic.” Ryan agreed from up the ladder next to the imp.  “I mean, who puts an early twentieth century piece of chain on a medieval carved figure?  It would make you cry.  I’d say this chain was about 1932.”

Trevor made a mental note to warn Ryan about overdoing it and all three followed the chain with their eyes as Ryan threw it down on the floor.  As one they froze as a wicked chuckle came from out of nowhere.  Then they all slowly looked up at the red imp.  It wasn’t there.  Trevor swallowed.  “Of course I do know someone who does a very good rate in absolutely authentic carved wooden figures.”

Mr Oliver sighed a little with relief.  Looking into the shop it already seemed a bit emptier.  “I think that’s a splendid idea.”

 

Originally published June 14th 2014

Slot A

That is one of those instructions that are so much easier to write than to carry out. ‘Just pop the pill down the cat’s throat’ is another one.

The Housewife’s Handbook, 

Rachel Simhon

“Insert Tab A into Slot B.”

“Where’s Slot B?”

“Is that it?”

“That’s the housing for fixing G.”

“How about that?”

“That’s where you put in the backing, I think.”

“What’s this?”

“I think it’s Panel D.”

“What do we need Panel D for?”

“I think it’s to rest Housing M on.”

“I think we have too many screws.”

“I think you’ve counted them wrong.  See, this size is Screw R and this size is Screw S.”

“Why do we need different sized screws?”

“Because this was designed in Hell.  Next time we need furniture we are getting ready assembled.”

 

Originally published June 7th 2014