EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED -
TWENTY-THREE PROVOCATIVE SHORT STORIES -
You can read most of my short stories here, but please read the warnings - they are not everyone's cup of tea. Some people may be offended by certain themes, and bad language is commonplace in the dialogue.
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
went in easily. Into the soft pale tissue on his wrist. He worked it deeper to
make a firm incision through the thew or muscle or subcutaneous tissue or
whatever it was inside his arm that was impeding the compliant passage of the
cutting edge. Asher watched. Fascinated. The memory of his father carving away
at the breast on a Sunday turkey sprang to mind. Denzil looked at him in the
mirror and then down at his arm again. His fingers gripping tightly just above
the cut as he applied pressure to the handle and found pleasure in the pain.
take much to work out that some of what follows is about self-mutilation.
Sometimes called self-harm. It’s also going to touch on self-deception. And
because it’s about young men, sexual practices are sure to crop up sooner or
later. Also, because one boy goes off to war, it’s going to get violent. With bad
language in the dialogue. Especially when someone gets killed. So, if you don’t
like any of this kind of thing, ‘STOP!’ as a king once said to a White Rabbit.
Close your mind and go and lie down somewhere. Read Hello magazine if you can
find anything to read in it. Or Mills and Boone. Or something like that.
king also said ‘Start at the beginning and then go on to the end.’ So let’s
take that good advice and do just that.
Asher then, despite his strange name, he was just your regular everyday boy
next door. But as their young years drifted idly by, Denzil and Asher got to
know each other really, really, really well. This may sound salacious, but it’s
meant to show that their relationship was commonplace. Because there was nothing
much out of the ordinary with these boys. Other than cutting for fun, that is.
By their mid
teens they’d smoked and drunk and taken mild drugs together and regularly shown
each other their erections and demonstrated the same to several girls and once
been in bed in a ménage a trois
with the neighborhood bike who was called Janet who would take her knickers
down if you gave her half a crown. If anybody remembers what that is. And
whenever she felt like it she’d regularly get her clothes off for a lot less.
Sometimes with nothing changing hands. The exchange of certain body fluids
aside. Just for her own self-gratification, and as a result of the rhythmic
contractions resulting from the rubbing of certain body parts usually in close
contact with other people’s otherwise described as the stimulation of various
erogenous zones which invariably leads to orgasm. Also known as fucking
passing through puberty the boys had regular competitions to see who could spit
or piss or shoot the furthest and who could fart the loudest or the longest. In
other words, just everyday regular common or garden kids growing up together in
the same middle class milieu.
walked out of the bathroom that day he’d seen enough. So he left Denzil to get
on with his job. Which is exactly what he did. Cutting pleasure from his arm.
For a while,
nothing showed. Just creamy white unblemished skin. But with some evidence of a
few granulating scars. Healed former attacks always covered up with sleeves.
more pressure. Then tiny beads of red when he parted the skin like opening the
lips just above the perineum. As he’d succeeded in doing for the first time
yesterday. To discover a different kind of delicious ecstasy.
burning sensation. And a modicum of pain. Followed by outright bleeding
with blood pooling on the side of the basin. And running down the ceramic edge
into the warm clear liquid. Ready to run down the plug in due course. Into the
world of effluent, cigarette ends and human waste and female hygiene products
and used and unused condoms and ejaculate and sometimes even far far worse. But
now to make wonderful intricate patterns and effects as it mixed with water,
like cigarette smoke curling upwards in an old TV interview. Or like strands of
semen refusing to dissolve in tepid water and clinging instead to adolescent
pubic hair as evidence of the pleasure of playing with his penis when his
grandmother had flown in through the obligatory-to-prevent-temptation open door
when-boys-bathed to find him with exposed glans as proof that he would burn in
hell forever for this mortal sin. The gore then fusing and blending to become a
rich rose hue. The envy of any vigneron worth his salt. Or his wine.
So that’s how
it felt the every time he did it. Visually stimulating, physically engaging,
fascinating and a little bit exciting to boot.
it was quite gratifying as well. And he couldn’t wait to do it again.
But what more
grandmother, last seen storming in through the open door to catch Denzil red
handed with a right hand covered in creamy semen?
get back to her later, because she too had several worth-looking-at skeletal
frames hiding in her cupboards. Exempli gratia: she had full faith in what the
civilized choose to call mumbo jumbo when found amongst those it’s de rigueur
to look down upon.
It was Asher
who first suggested it. That harebrained idea where it all started.
along and listen to what they’ve go to say. If it’s bullshit, we’ll leave.
We’ve got nothing to loose. And nothing else to do anyway. Probably for the
rest of our lives if we can’t get jobs next year.’
recruiting officer looked like he was smiling. But there was no mirth. He’d
simply trained himself to do so by flexing the muscles at both ends of his
mouth. Perhaps he thought it took the edge off the core idea he was committed
to and doing his best to commit others to. Any unsuspecting young minds that
drifted into his orbit. Talking to kids about a career in killing people. As
quickly and efficiently as possible. And at great, in fact enormous cost, to
‘If it’s a
job you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. Because what we offer
in the army these days is careers, not jobs. High tech, state of the art
equipment used and maintained by efficient, well trained modern soldiers. If I
were you, I’d get my name down now. Get in while the going’s good. Because next
year it might be too late. And you may not be able to get anything then.’
He showed them
exciting boys own videos and gave them expensively printed brochures and
pamphlets. He spoke of courage and loyalty. Brawn and brains. Split second
decision making. Being in the thick of the action. Training that gives
qualifications for life.
‘Does any of this include the chance of getting your balls shot off in action
in someone else’s godforsaken country?’
recruiting officer was shocked but didn’t show it. This is not how things
worked in the army. Remarks like this were not on. Not in the hallowed halls of
the defense forces. But he’d heard it all before. One immature kid showing off
in front of another. He said to himself as he’d done many times before, we’ll
fix him. He won’t be so fucking cock sure of himself when we’ve got him in our
happens, the army never got hold of Asher. It was Denzil who signed up.
he went off to training and to war, they got drunk together for the last time.
They phoned Janet late and promised her lots. They didn’t all get into bed
together that night. Janet agreed to a special one-after-the-other deal. Asher
went first. Denzil watched. Then it was his turn and Asher sat on the end of
the bed playing with his already once satisfied but still half erect penis.
Moving the prepus across the glans in a gliding action just as he had done
inside Janet only moments before.
came and then he went off into the army and they never saw each other again.
grandmother was frightened. So she prayed for him. Just as she did to prevent
cancer. And for her daily survival. To the panoply of saints who had the
interventionist power to succor and protect her and hers. There are thousands
of them just hanging about waiting for prayers so that they can tune in and
then start their good work.
believed in the power of prayer. She absolutely knew that Denzil would come
back safely if she prayed to the saints to intervene. They would look after
him. And return him in due course like a prodigal son coming home in triumph
with ribbons and medals. She set in train a long and complicated and regular
and daily regime of beseeching supernatural powers to ensure the right outcome.
She knew it would work. It always had. She was never disappointed. Why should
things change now?
Darkness. Fear. Out on patrol Denzil found himself mimicking his grandmother.
Part remembered part improvised. Any port in a storm. Protect me against
trepidation. With rod and staff or helicopter gunship when necessary. Rid me of
idea of death and dying at the hands my enemies. Through the valley of Helmand.
Help me to fear no evil. For Christ’s sake do whatever is necessary to comfort
went in easily. Into the dark tissue. He worked it deeper, making a gaping
incision and revealing the muscle in the man's neck. He twisted the handle
forcing the cutting edge through the cartilage and tissue that was reluctant to
give way and expose the secrets of the life sustaining carmine fluid coursing
up through the artery and back down in the veins in the insurgent’s throat. He
applied more pressure to the handle and felt the pleasure of the gushing as the
blade went thought the carotid pipe and blood poured out of the gaping cut.
This time not at all like vaginal lips, but aping a wide-open gushing vulva.
Denzil held on tightly for moments that were hours in his life as the man’s
existence pumped away through his fingers, spilling and pooling and congealing
on the desert sand. Then the man stopped writhing. Denzil pushed the filthy
thing away. He stood up. He was surrounded by fucking bedlam. Firefight
skirmish mayhem. The aftermath of an ambush by militants, insurgents,
nationalists, Islamists or whatever the fuck they were. Screaming, shouting,
shooting. Cries of desperation. Calls for help. Cursing. Swearing. Blaspheming.
And prayer. Calling on Allah, God, Jesus, mother, friends and others.
And then it
was over. Except for the heat and dust and heat and dust and orders and
obscenities and the sound of organized chaos.
the wadi, Denzil saw soldiers shooting into bodies. Kicking the dying. Cursing
the dead. Crying. Searching for souvenirs. The micro thin veneer of
civilization abandoned. Atavistic traits in the ascendancy. And stopping just
short of eating the enemy dead.
He looked at
the body again. Dark hair, pale skin for these parts. Dirty. Bloody. Stone cold
dead. And little more than a boy.
A saint had
obviously done his work. Responding to a prayer. Right was in the ascendancy.
Evil vanquished. Irrespective of the age of the kid.
More patrols. More mines. More deaths. Every day for months and
months and months. The daily routine.
Fear and bile and hate and then at last the bliss of being back
inside the perimeter. They sat
down in the sullen safety of high walls and barbed wire protection. Exhaustion.
Depression. Despondency. Most men took off their helmets. Then some of them
their battle dresses. Some even stripped down to their underwear. ‘Have any of
you worked out what the fuck we’re doing here?’
‘Shut up. Don’t start
that shit again. It’s bad for moral. And it’s against regulations.’
Those who had the energy, ordered drinks,
and one of the locals employed as a waiter sauntered off to get the order. When
he came back he was carrying a machine pistol instead of a tray. Denzil heard
the sound of shots being fired, but not the one that flung the lump of steel
tipped with brass towards him. Apparently no one in the vast cast of saints and
other hangers on up there was listening because the white hot projectile went through
his throat severing the silver chain he’d taken from Janet that night and ever
since then had hung around his neck. He was dead before his body hit the
Some show of gratitude from the man who
should have had a tray instead of a gun for introducing western democracy to
his fucking country.
When they’d shot the waiter, the medics
came in to clean up the mess. An officer who was writing notes in a book
frowned when he heard one say, ‘Jesus Christ, how many times does this need to
happen before we work out that they just don’t want us here. Not at fucking
But better here than on the local High Street, as the saying
goes, and we don’t cut and run
Asher had been in the pub long enough to
know he was in the wrong place. He’d attended, as they say, an interview.
Warehouse assistant manager. In a factory in a not very nice area. There had
been several dozen other applicants. He’d waited several hours. The personnel
officer took an instant dislike to his accent. ‘Not exactly a career for
someone with your kind of background.’
Hard to give a response to this kind of
remark. ‘Well, I’m a hard worker. Keen to learn. And to be honest there’s not
much around. Wherever you come from.’
‘That’s it. That’s exactly what I’m getting
at. You see us as a stopgap, don’t you? You’ll do the job until something
better comes along. Be honest with me Asher. That’s how you look at it, isn’t
‘No, no. Not at all. I hope I’ll be
promoted internally,’ he said thinking quickly. ‘It’s a highly respected company.
I’d like to make a career here. Near to where I was brought up.’
When he left he knew he didn’t have a
snowball’s hope in hell of getting the position. It was the tenth or eleventh
interview he’d been to in as many weeks. There was just nothing around.
‘Maybe Denzil was onto something when he
joined the army. I wonder how he’s doing? Probably a bloody general by now.
Making decisions. Giving orders. Defeating the enemy in close combat. If he’s
got the time in between fucking other officers’ girlfriends and wives.’
As he walked through the door, he knew it
was the wrong thing to do. Get out now, a voice in his psyche said to him. But
testosterone drove him on. He went up to the counter. The ambiance in the bar
was not that friendly. There were no women customers. He tried to avoid the
long stares. And some pointed remarks that he pretended he didn’t hear.
Assistant warehouse manager. Imagine
telling someone that’s what you did. They’d think you were mad.
They sent a kid over to him to ask for
money to buy fags. The kid was probably underage. He gave the boy a tenner.
They sent him back to say it wasn’t enough. He said he didn’t have any more.
The kid said, ’You’d better find something, if you know what’s good for you.’
The barman started to pull down the
shutters across the counter. It wasn’t anywhere near closing time. Several men
got up and left the bar.
He knew he should have too. Such a small
price to pay. But pride told him that he had the right to stay. He listened to
the message. He weighed it up. He tried to calculate the odds.
Then expediency helped him to decide to
leave. Before things deteriorated any further. He should have left earlier. He
would now anyway. Right now. He finished his drink. He got up and walked to the
door. Everyone in the room stared at him. A knot of them got up and followed
The kids found Asher lying on the grass
across the road from the pub. What grass there was, that is. He was on his back
amongst the pizza packs, burger boxes, broken bottles, crumpled beer cans and
One of the kids said, ‘Hey wake up, you
prick.’ When they didn’t respond, they went through his pockets. There was not
much of value.
‘Dead as a door nail, I’d say.’
‘But look. There’s a silver coin around his
neck. Nah, it’s a charm. You know, like plastic wristbands the ones that say
how you like to fuck. Something to bring you good luck.’
‘Well it didn’t help him much did it?’
One of then pulled the St Christopher free.
Then they left him in peace, with fixed
dilated pupils in pale blue irises staring up at the cerulean sky.