Tag Archives: Comedy

Eli of the Woods

Eli scratched his nose, wincing at the half forgotten pain it awoke. Of course, the bear had broken his nose the night before. The ending highlight of a bad evening, only scattered images of which he could recall.

There had been him, the bear and an otter he didn’t know personally. The otter had been a dick, but the bear had brought him along so that was that, you didn’t have much choice about uninvited guests when they were introduced by a 400lbs apex predator. Although, as memories percolated through the hungover and beaten fug of his brain he did vaguely recall spending most of the evening taking the piss out of otters in general and that one in particular. A childish reaction but he had planned the evening out for two, a quick drink for him, some fishing down by the stream for the bear, and a few hours of talking bollocks with an old friend. Having to put up with the little semi-aquatic prick had ruined all of that as it had gleefully shown off, slipping into the water with barely a ripple and smugly emerging with a newly caught fish gripped in his nasty little claws. It knew Eli couldn’t swim, at least he’d assumed it did, although in hindsight that might have been his own paranoia and, after all, it had offered him up the best part of a salmon.

Still, he reassured himself, he’d been right to say that otters were just lazy beavers and challenge him to a fight. Even if the bear had, apparently, disagreed. These things happened though, in the forest, it was a dangerous place after all and no doubt the bear would forgive him. They went way back, right to the time Eli had rocked up in the middle of the vast expanse of nature and given the last of his ‘human food’ to the little cub, as it had been. The gift of a Kit Kat that had forged a friendship for life. Not to mention the fact that he himself had been forgiving back when his grizzly friend had eaten that rabbit, who had been a genuinely good guy with a suddenly grieving family of fifteen.

Shuddering as the pain in his nose abated Eli stood up and looked around. He was in the forest, which wasn’t much of a surprise really. He’d been in the forest for years now, although he had no idea how many, and waking up in some random part of it with a sore head from his homemade ‘Treesap Brew’ was part of the routine. It only took minutes for the memories of last night and the potential guilt they held to subside though, it was another beautiful day after all. Latticed sunlight was spilling down through the green canopy of trees, the birds were singing, nearby a stream whispered gently to itself and he was glad to be alive whatever social upsets he may have caused the night before.

After a few stretches to get the circulation going Eli chose a direction at random and started walking. He had no plans or obligations for the day, beyond foraging for food at some point of course. Even that was a minor concern though, failing all else he could make an impromptu social call on the squirrels, or maybe the deer, they always had a few nuts or berries going and didn’t object too loudly to one more mouth to feed.

As he walked he caught snippets of conversations from amongst the trees. Only the odd word, he wasn’t planning on eavesdropping and besides it was only the usual chatter of the forest. Grumbles about food, bad jokes about the predators, snide insults directed towards the birds, who were universally held to be bastards of the highest order. In a way it was just like being home in the city, only with less concrete and humans, plus he could walk around it naked of course. That wasn’t the main reason he’d chosen to come out here but on a day like this it was certainly an added bonus.

“Oi, you!”

Eli ignored the gruff voice as his mind drifted away from the background chatter of the woods.

“OI! HUMAN!”

Before he could connect the words to himself he saw who’d spoken them, it was a wolf. A big wolf, with two big wolf friends at either side of him. Bad news, even if your best friend was a bear.

Forcing a smile Eli came to a halt a few metres from them and tried to look defiant and harmless at the same time.

“You’re screwed mate, you know that?”

The two lesser wolves let their tongues loll out, looking effortlessly evil and giving Eli all the reason he needed to believe their leader. He didn’t let the smile slip though, playing dumb was always a safe plan of action.

“Am I? Why’s that then?”

The pack leader padded closer to him, a relaxed strut which all present knew could easily swtich into a tensed pounce.

“Otters mate, otters. Words got out, they’re after you, hear you weren’t very nice to one of their lot.”

“Ah-” Eli hurriedly raked through his mind for more memories of last night. He’d taken the piss a bit, maybe sworn at the party crasher too, but that was harmless enough wan’t it?

“We had a bit of a row, that’s all, no harm done. Sure it’s me you’re looking for?”

The alpha looked over his haunches at his two friends, the glint of disbelief in his predatory eyes.

“Certain, unless you know of any other humans walking around here in the nip who’re in the habit of drinking with otters and bears.”

It was unlikely to say the least.

“I didn’t do anything, honest, we just didn’t get along.”

The wolf cocked its heavy grey head.

“Doesn’t matter mate, they’re otters. Not been around their lot much have you?”

Eli shook his head, which meant nothing to his vulpine opposite, so he said ‘no’.

“They’re nutters, the lot of ‘em. An otter’ll take your eyes out as soon as look at you, sooner in fact if he gets lucky. Haven’t you heard the saying? ‘Never cross an otter, they’re wankers’? Woodland basics there mate. No idea why your bear friend even hangs out with one, mind you he does keep strange company eh?”

They could have been having him on, wolves could be like that, they got bored and spread rumours. That’s why half of the forest was still convinced that he’d been caught being unnatural with an elk, a completely unfair accusation. But then they might be telling the truth, savvy as he liked to think he was Eli knew he was still a novice in the law and lore of the woods.

“Look, I can see you’re not convinced son so I’ll come straight with you. I know we’ve got a bit of a reputation, givin’ it the big one and all, but I’m bein’ honest with you here. Not gonna help you out or nuffin’ but I fuckin’ hate those semi aquatic little wankers so fair warning, stay away from rivers for a bit and watch your tail. That one’s free.”

With a savage nobility that still impressed him even not that he knew what liars they were the wolves turned and trotted off into the trees, their last words drifting back to him.

“And stay away from the elks, you dirty bastard.”

Eli was starting to panic, muscles tensing from his twitching feet to his his unkempt thatch of hair. The wolf had seemed honest enough, for a wolf anyway and even if otters weren’t exactly what you’d call nature’s fiercest killers they were still capable of doing damage. He needed to find out if the rumour was true though, that was the thing to do, not just go running off in a frenzy.

And for truth you couldn’t beat an owl.

It didn’t take Eli much searching to find one, they were surprisingly easy to track once you’d gotten used to them. It was disappointing really, for an animal he’d always assumed to be wise and profound in its way they had a habit of being startlingly obvious. He’d learnt long ago though that owls were, for want of a better phrase, ‘thick as dirt’. If you needed to find one you pretty much just needed to follow the sound of forest animals sniggering and there you’d have it, an owl in the middle of a circle of mocking fauna doing something stupid. In this case it was waddling as fast as it could head first into a tree, for reasons best known to itself.

The circle of gawkers didn’t break up when he arrived, they were used to him for the most part and those who didn’t know him to look at probably assumed that, in the worst case scenario, they could mob him anyway. He watched over the top of the smaller animals as the owl repeated his thudding exercise, seemingly un-phased by the blows to the skull and determined to pursue whatever strange end it thought it was heading towards.

The bird was a Barred Owl and no one Eli knew, not that he hung around with owls, or birds in general for that matter, it gave him a sore neck to try having a proper conversation with them and even the smartest never seemed to have much to say beyond mildly offensive jokes about raccoons- a deeply rooted form of bigotry no one had ever been able to explain to him. Familiarity didn’t matter though, the one good thing you could say about the mystic looking flyers was that they were honest to a fault. Mostly because, it was said, they were too stupid to manage lying. He’d asked one for the real reason once, as it sat looking wise on a low level branch, it had just stared at him and, for no good reason, fallen out of the tree and landed on its head. It definitely hadn’t lied as it did it though.

Stepping over a giggling rabbit he broke up the entertainment by planting a foot in the owls path, bringing it skidding to a halt as it looked up at him in confusion, wondering where it’s tree had gone.

“Alright owl, quick question for you and then you can get on with your, uh, business here. I hear the otters are after me, true or false?”

The bird thought for a second, or more likely froze while the slow processes of it’s brain kicked into action, before replying.

“Yes, absolutely, definitely. Otters are going to kill you.”

Eli felt his shoulders slump at the same time as his mind sank to his feet. Owls didn’t lie, there was no arguing with it. And he didn’t fight, not if he could help it, besides half a dozen otters on a dark night, even if he struggled it wouldn’t matter.

“Are you absolutely sure? I mean, I know you wouldn’t lie, but could you be mistaken?”

The owl paused to process the question and turn slowly around in a circle a few times.

“No, definitely true, otters are going to kill you, any second now, lots of them, very angry.”

“What? How can you know that? You’re not allowed to exagerrate.”

“I’m not, they’re behind you.”

With a lazy sweep of his wings the owl took off and drifted off above the trees, leaving Eli to turn and face a line of more than two dozen otters with vicious looks on their faces. A rabbit brushed past his ankle as the circle of creatures which had been watching the self-destructive Barred Owl expanded for some new entertainment, otters eating a human. Something a mumbling badger happily admitted that you didn’t see every day.

Putting his hands up placatingly as the snarling critters came closer Eli took a slow step backwards.

“Now lads, I’m sure we can sort this out. I’m very, very sorry if I caused offence.”

“Lazy beavers are we? Fuckin’ ‘ave it you twat!”

The furry mob surged forward and with in a panicked dash Eli took off in the opposite direction. Long legs versus short legs, he knew that was his advantage but they wouldn’t stop coming and, given how out of shape he was, he was willing to bet that otters would outdo him on stamina.

It made no difference though, forward was the way to go and there were no other choices even as branches snagged him and rocks chipped away at the skin of his usually leather like feet. Go far enough though and something had to change didn’t it? For once he wished he had more of a sense of direction. Strolling around randomly might have been fine for a gentle day around the forest but a destination would really have helped in a life or death dash. He recognised nothing though, the forest was as anonymous as ever, trees were trees, dirt was dirt and trucks were trucks.

Eli skidded to a halt and bowled over the orange jacket and camoflage wearing hunter who been idly taking a leak into the bushes. Ignoring him, the niceties of human society having faded a bit in his mind over the years, he made straight for the unexpected truck and didn’t turn to talk until he was firmly secure inside it.

“OTTERS! LOADS OF THEM! SHOOT ‘EM!”

The hunter didn’t look bemused for long before he saw the tide of semi-aquatic animals swarming towards him and, to his credit, he packed away his manhood in record time. Barely pausing to shake before starting to take pot shots into the crowd with his rifle and making a measured retreat to the truck before jumping in alongside Eli.

“DRIVE! OTTERS! KILLERS!”

Shaking a little the hunter turned the keys and, still too confused to ask any questions, gunned the pick up truck out of the clearing it had been in and off down the track.

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

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Dead Man Dying

It was dark and it was cold and it was a cemetery. Kay shook as he squinted into the night, looking for tell tale signs as to the quickest way to get out. No matter how many of these places he ended up in, no matter how certain he was that he was the scariest thing in them, it never got any easier.

Looking down he could see that his sign was gone, another idea to cross off of the list of potential solutions. ‘Not dead, do not bury’ – how much clearer could he have been? And why did people never listen? A bird made a noise in the distance and Kay let out a brief gasp of fear. Why did everything have to be so goddamn atmospheric? If he had to have his… condition, then why did they always have to take him to the most gothic, spooky, Hammer Horror place they could? Why was it never a nice clean morgue that he woke up in? Why was the graveyard never a brightly lit one overlooking the sea? Was it him? Well, of course it was. Things like this never happened to people who weren’t him after all. Normal people didn’t have to worry about falling asleep in case the coroner came to haul them off, but then normal people didn’t look like the walking dead. For the fiftieth time he reminded himself that whoever had interred him here had probably meant well, in their own way. No point being angry about it. And at least they hadn’t buried him, that was a definite plus, a crypt was infinitely preferable to another six hours spent scraping away at wood and dirt in a desperate bid for the surface.

His night vision was kicking in now, he could see the obligatory gothic gravestones all around him, the elaborate angels carved over the mausoleum he’d just exited, the desiccated trees which never seemed to grow any leaves. He suspected there was some janitor whose sole duty it was to hack off any sign of green shoots in places like this, an aging Goth probably, revelling in the aesthetic continuity of it all.

There was a crack. A loud one that sent Kay leaping a foot into the air, which played havoc on his barely hung together knees. That wasn’t a bird, not unless it was an ostrich anyway.

“Hello?”

With luck it would be a groundskeeper, or a late night mourner, even some Emo kids out playing at being vampires and having sex between the graves would do. Any of them might, after suitable persuading that he wasn’t a zombie, give him a lift back to civilisation, or at least a pointer in the right direction. Kay held his breath for a heartbeat as he strained to hear a reply, a bit of a pointless exercise given that he neither breathed nor had a beating heart – facts which had led him to his unfortunate funereal routine.

“Grrrrawwwwwl”

Knees giving way he did his best lurch back to the doorway of the crypt he’d just emerged from, cowering in the meagre security of only having the definitely dead behind him and the growling darkness in front.

There was shuffling and more low-pitched grunting, definitely not a bird although teenagers still weren’t out of the question. And then he saw her, shambling out of the night, skin tattered and rotting, eyes sunken into black pits, desiccated orbs glaring at him with an unnatural glow that he recognised from his own fleeting experiences with mirrors. And she smiled at him, as best she could through wasted cheeks and with blackened teeth.

“You alright there? Sorry about the growling.”

Kay saw the world rising around him before he noticed that his legs were buckling, just in time to grab onto the wings of a passing marble angel adorning the doorway. A grunt was all he could manage as the natural urge to either grab a pitchfork and get to stabbing or to run to the hills washed over him. A process of inertia which lasted just long enough for the woman to drag her clumsy form over to him and stick out a welcoming hand.

“I’m Lou-Anne, pleased to meet you.”

“Ugh”

Kay reached out tentatively and shook her hand, for once in his life as wary of someone elses fingers becoming detached in the process as he was of his own.

“So, got a name there?”

“Kay, I’m Kay, and you are?”

“Lou-Anne, like I just told you. Shit, don’t tell me you’re one of those ones whose brain has rotted away, if you are I’ll take a lighter to you myself now, save the angry mob the trouble.”

Rushing to martial what remained of his motor skills Kay pulled himself back into something resembling an upright position and grunted in what he hoped was an eloquently coherent way to buy himself a few more seconds to gather some words.

“No, my brain works good. I mean, no, it hasn’t rotted away. You’re… like me?”

“No flies on you there Kay. Well, obviously some flies, but that comes with the territory, yes, I’m dead, just like you. First time meeting one of your own eh?”

Kay took a second to consider the question, half aware that his jaw was hanging slack as he stared at her. Technically speaking he had known for a while that he was dead. The lack of a heartbeat, the lack of breathing, not needing food, being hit by that bus, they’d all been clues that a more willing mind might have picked up on. Then again, he’d also been successfully walking around, talking and even, occasionally, working for the last three years despite those minor disabilities so the idea had been an easy enough one to avoid. Barring the occasional good Samaritan hauling him off to the with grave ceremony when he fell asleep of course, something he did his best to avoid given that the ‘sleep of the dead’ seemed to be a genuine thing which could endure all sorts of autopsies, funerals and internments. Faced with one of ‘his own’ though he couldn’t do much to deny his somewhat unliving state.

“Yeah, erm, yes… I suppose I hadn’t really thought about there being others…”

Lou-Anne smiled again, a few flakes of skin falling away as she did so. Kay did his best not to register disgust, after all, he was no oil painting himself. Unless it was an oil painting of a cadaver of course.

“Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone and we all process it in our own way. Anyway, fall asleep did you? Gotta be careful about that, the more you do it the deeper you go, heck, it was only when they tried to cremate me that I got the message about doing that. Best to stay awake eh? Avoid all confusion.”

“I had a sign, it said I wasn’t dead.”

She nodded sympathetically.

“Nice idea, always hard to convince people though eh? Especially when you reach the point you’re at, I mean, you know your nose has fallen off right?”

Kay didn’t, although he had been feeling like something important was missing recently, but mirrors were always something to avoid if you could.

“No need to look so glum there Kay, it’s not the end of the world. If it makes you feel a bit better I’ve got a box of spares somewhere – prosthetics you know – we can sort a new one for you. Something nice, you’ll feel like a new man.”

“Are there a lot of… us?”

“Oh yeah, there’s a fair few. That’s why I come down here, never know when you’ll find a stray like you wandering around. Always in the spooky graveyards too, never been sure why that is. I like to pick ‘em up and get them back into society, you know? Doing something productive with themselves.”

Kay wondered to himself if ‘productive’ meant shambling around and growling but it felt rude to ask.

“Y’see, Kay, there’s all sorts of things you can do with yourself now you’re dead. I’m guessing that so far you’ve just drifted right? Lost your motivation? Lost that lust for life you used to have? Well it doesn’t have to be that way, sure society might see us as abominations but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for us. Just look at reality TV, there’s a place for everyone in this world.”

The situation was starting to sink into it’s own normality, as the shock wore off Kay started picking up the slighty manic tone in Lou-Anne’s voice. She sounded like an evangelical, a TV preacher, her words just that little bit too enthusiastic. He smiled politely, he hoped, and started scuffing his feet a bit, trying not to let the awkwardness in the air show.

“Oh yeah, it’s a whole new world Kay, there are all sorts of things you can do and I’m here to make sure you find your way. We have meetings you know, every week, kind of like a support group – which trust me some of us need when bits start falling off! You’ll have to come along, get involved in the community.”

Kay could feel his smile growing stiffer, becoming a rictus grin that he vaguely suspected would never fade. Taking a step or two sideways, out of the doorway and away from Lou-Anne, he started to trawl his dusty and decaying brain for excuses to make a move.

“Well, that sounds great and all, but I really need to go.”

“Oh Kay, where could you possibly need to go? You’re dead, remember? Come on, I’ll take you to meet the crew, we’ve got a meeting tonight and Stewie’s bringing his ukulele! We’re going to have a sing a-long. It helps keep the mind active you know, very important when you’re one of us. Of course he does struggle a bit, poor guy, always losing fingers in the strings but we’re there to keep him going.”

With a surprising turn of speed her hand shot out once again and clamped itself on his shoulder, pulling him in closer with the inevitability to of a black hole. Before he knew it she was steering him into the night, radiating an iron will that his atrophied muscles felt helpless to reject. She was still talking too, something about an annual summer camp and a mentoring programme. His limbs surrendering to her guiding hand Kay gave out a low growl of his own.

Why did it always have to be somewhere like this that they left him?

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

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Canis Lupus, Felis Catus and I

“Move faster you lazy bastard, I’m hungry and the wolves are coming”

I nod vaguely, the best I can do given the searing pain in my legs, the sweat dripping from every pore on my body and the worrying burning sensation in my lungs.

“Son of a bitch. Are you actually slowing down? Are you really that out of shape? I could walk faster than this”

I consider suggesting that he does it but there’s not enough air left in my lungs to pull the double duty of moving and talking, plus I know the answer, or at least the vague outline of it, something along the lines of “shut up fatty”. I used to take offence at that, but he has a point, I’m out of shape and sensitive about it.

“Come on, there’s the trailer, get your lard ass over there and then you can feed me”

Like syringes his claws dig into my neck, poor motivation but the only way he knows. I can feel small drops of blood start to mingle with the sweat, oddly enough the new pain does help surpress the old aches, which is something I suppose.

A wild howl goes up in the distance as I stagger through the door, kicking it shut in the same inelegant motion as falling over. With a padded thud he leaps off of me as I collapse and walks around to look down at my unhappy face, his disdain tangible but easily ignored through the exhaustion.

“If you worked harder we wouldn’t have to do this”

I grunt, all the reaction I can offer.

“We should have gone out earlier, moved faster, we could have been home and fed hours ago. Get up and feed me.”

“Ughh”

My muscles have gone limp now, defeated for the day but gradually the air is coming back into my lungs, heart slowing to it’s usual dull thud rather than the frenetic Irish jig it’s been doing for the last ten minutes. Still I don’t move, both because I can’t and because even I have my limits with him.

He watches me for a few seconds, eyes narrowing into snake like slits, disgust no less evident. A paw reaches out and taps my nose, a gentle touch, loving almost and completely false. Unlike the full rake of claws that comes next, scoring a line of fine read scratches across my slick and tender cheek.

“Ow”

“Don’t ‘ow’ me, get up and feed me, then you can die for all I care, in fact, hurry up and die now, I’ll just eat you where you lay. Although given the fat content I’ll probably end up with heart disease for my troubles.”

He’s exagerrating, I’m out of shape, not morbidly obese and I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t eat me. Well, not immediately anyway and he’d definetely rather I stayed alive, that’s why he’s here, that’s why he comes out with me, otherwise I’d have given up long ago.

With probing delicacy I pull myself back to my feet and let the overloaded backpack drop from my shoulders. It takes a second to be sure but I’m fairly confident I won’t fall over, although moving at anything more than a pained shuffle is out of the question. Excercise, or at least the sort of life or death fleeing I have to do these days, is a new one for me, like so much in this world.

“We found that can of tuna, I’ll have that. And the catnip, don’t tell me you don’t have any I can smell it even through the plastic and I’ve had a long day.”

I look down at him, still lecturing me even as I tower uncertainly above him. He’s small, even for a cat, his ragged black fur puffs up in a poor attempt to look bigger whenever I look at him but you can see he was the runt of the litter regardless. I mentioned it once, he nearly took my eye out, he has body confidence issues he said, before calling me fat for the fiftieth time that day. I don’t mind, I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t mind. After all a talking cat is worth the odd insult no matter who you are.

The backpack goes on to the stained and scratched formica worktop which dillineates the optimistically aspirant kitchen from the rest of the trailer and I start to rake through it. Tins of beans, bandages, a pitifully rare half bottle of vermouth, some sachets of cat food and, of course, the tin of tuna. There is no catnip, no matter what he thinks, but I know he’s fiending for a fix and I’ve gotten tired of explaining that to him. Besides, every time I try to he just turns the tables and points out the shakes I keep waking up with, we end up throwing addictions at each other until we’re both too defeated to do anything but sleep. Except tonight I have my half bottle, something to look forward to.

“Hurry up, I’m wasting away here, not all of us have layers of blubber to rely on when we feel hungry.”

“You want to eat sooner, go out and hunt.”

He hisses in a perfunctory sort of way and leaps up on to the counter, watching eagerly as I open the tin and then rushing in to gourge himself as I dump the fish out in front of him. I manage to make it over to the fold out bed before accepting my bodies final surrender for the day, although not before grabbing that precious bottle to see me off.

“We did well today.”

He doesn’t hear a thing while he’s eating so the words are said more for my own benefit than his. And we have done well, enough food to last a week by my reckoning, as long as neither of us indulges too much. Past experience, I admit, suggests that we will, neither one of us has the impulse control to stop but still it’s a nice thought that we might not have to brave the wilds again for a few more days.

“You’re right though, it was close and the wolves are coming nearer and nearer to this place. Might be time to move soon.”

“Move where? Wolves everywhere” he manages to mumble around a mouthful of fish.

We sit in near silence while he chomps down the last of his meal, barring the echoingly loud sound of my unscrewing the lid of my bottle and taking a swig. Outside another howl echoes around our canyon, it could be close enough to be terrifying but it’s hard to tell, the geological oddities of the place can play tricks on you like that. He doesn’t move though, just finishes eating and sets about licking away at the formica, rinsing the last traces of flavour from it. His hearing is better than mine, if he isn’t panicking then I won’t, not that I could do much if I did anyway.

“We’re better off here, you just need to learn to run faster, if we leave it’ll just be the same thing somewhere else.”

With another gulp from my bottle I lose the will to argue, the medicinal mix of fortified wine relaxing my body into wilfully tipsy apathy. I’m dimly aware that, as he’s a cat, his vote shouldn’t count for much but this is no democracy anyway and when he disagrees even the threat of walking away from him and going my own way would be seen as hollow. Besides, it’s an old conversation, a played out one. We should have left weeks back but we didn’t and now it was too late to worry about it, or at least we’d grown too lazy to bother trying.

“Maybe I can dig some traps tomorrow, sharpen some sticks or something.”

He leaps off of the counter and jumps onto the bed next to me, eyeing my bottle with the cynicism of a cat logging its rapid depletion for later use in an argument.

“Don’t be stupid, they’re giant, bastard wolves, not humans. They’re smart enough to walk around holes and use your sticks as tooth picks. They can’t open doors though, so you learn to move faster and we stay inside.”

Until we get caught and killed I think to myself, although as that’s the unspoken punctuation mark to almost everything we say about the future I don’t bother saying it out loud.

“Yeah, ok. I’ll start excercising tomorrow then.”

“Meow”

He always says that when he’s bored of talking to me, which happens at the end of most days. It balances out though, I’m bored of talking anyway and we both know that anything else we say now will be a false promise. By tomorrow we will, one way or another, have eaten everything we gathered today and then we’ll have to make another run into the ruins of the town. The same routine as we’ve followed for the last six months, everything else is just window dressing to our slow decline. For now though he’s slumped down next to me, his face buried in his fur and sleep rapidly slipping over him. He’s not even mentioned the catnip, he must be tired. I rest a hand on his back, ruffling his fur with casual affection, he doesn’t shake me off although neither of us mention the contact. As his eyes slide shut I hear one final mumble of ‘fat bastard’ before we both slump into sleep.

With a final tired gesture I drain the vermouth and fade away as the wolves shuffle and growl outside.

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. All ideal escapes from 2016 and, if you time the reading right, you can dodge a chunk of 2017 too just in case…

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My Marvin

“It’s the youth of today, no respect. We used to respect our elders y’know, we looked after them. If you saw an old lady crossing the road or an old gent struggling with his bags you helped. Didn’t you Doreen?”

Doreen nodded and sank her teeth into her slice of lemon drizzle cake, tongue flicking at stray crumbs as they sought to escape down her chin.

“Now though they’re all little vandals and thugs, they only look up from their phones to rob you or swear. Terrible how it is these days, just terrible. My Marvin tells me all about it, he’s a policeman you know” Doreen nodded again, she knew, Mable told her at least three times every time they met.

“He says that just last week he found a young man with all his bits cut out, oh terrible it was, they hadn’t just stabbed him, they’d done all sorts of horrible things to him. I blame the internet. And the fact that they don’t beat them at school any more, not like in our day.”

An eyebrow went up and more cake went in.

“My Marvin says it was a gangland killing, drugs or some such, that heroin or marijuana. They’re all doing it these days he says, barely even know where they are from dawn to dusk.”

Doreen had met ‘Her Marvin’. He worked at a desk filing reports about stolen cars and struggling to pass his annual physicals despite being a big fat fella with bad feet. He did read the Daily Mail a lot though and that was enough for incisive policing as far as his mother was concerned.

“So, do they know who did it then?”

“Did what dear?” Mable, rant completed, had already moved on to shovelling her own cake into her mouth, dribbling tea as she washed it down.

“Killed him, that poor young man, the gangland killing..?”

“Oh that, no, no idea. My Marvin says they should just go out and arrest one of them, bound to be one of them he says. All political correctness now though isn’t it? That’s why they treat him so badly you know, because he stands up to them he does, not like the rest of them, scared to lift a finger they are.”

Them’. Marvin was a big fan of ‘them’, a phrase he used with a perpetual nod and wink and which seldom seemed to mean anything much. ‘They’ could be black people, Muslims, foreigners, Gypsies, homosexuals, teenagers, Scots, anyone really as long as they didn’t argue back too much when he arrested them. Doreen nodded sympathetically nonetheless, quietly happy that she hadn’t had any children of her own just incase they’d turned out like young Marvin. Mable was her best friend though, there was no point undermining her pride in the idiot boy turned idiot man.

“Well, here’s hoping they get their man then, no way for a person to go is that, all cut up and dumped in a car park.”

Mable was back digging into her cake, barely registering Doreen’s words, which was fortunate as she’d said more than she meant to.

“And what about that young man you were telling me about last week? That poor chap who lost his liver by the alms houses?”

It took a while for Mable to circle her mind around to the question, she was good at following a thought when it was her own but lousy when it came to input from the outside world. Especially when there was cake.

“Oh I don’t know dear, I haven’t heard anything. Probably drugs though you know, terrible what they’ll do to you.”

And impressive, it wasn’t often that you heard about cannabis surgically removing someone’s liver.

“Yes, probably. It’s a terrible world.”

“Oh yes, a terrible world. Would you mind if I tried a bite of your cake Doreen?”

“Of course not dear, help yourself”

Smiling she slid the plate across the table, half of her slice still untouched.

“In fact I really must be off, I’ve an appointment with a doctor. Nothing serious but at our age you do need to keep an eye on things don’t you?”

Mable was too busy shifting onto her second dessert to pay much attention but she did manage a smile and a nod as Doreen helped herself to her feet and, with a grunt, lifted her overfull handbag from the back of her chair. Tactfully ignoring the sloshing sound of the jars inside.

She was out of the door and half way down the street before Mable, briefly satiated and thinking comparatively clearly paused to wonder to herself how her friend had known about the body being found in the car park. She didn’t recall mentioning that little detail, or even hearing it from her boy. It wasn’t a question that hung in the air for long though, her Marvin had left her half a key of uncut Cocaine that she had to package up before the bingo on Saturday. He was a good boy like that, he looked after his old mum, bit of a bastard otherwise mind.

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. All ideal escapes from 2016 and, if you time the reading right, you can dodge a chunk of 2017 too just in case…

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McCarrick Christmas Special

ET and Waco did mount up the sled
shaking off cold and giving out dread
in neon red camo they went out to ride
with drinks in their hands and guns at their sides

‘Farewell’ cried the kiddies, their Ma and the rest
‘don’t come back deaded, our pride and our best’
‘Don’t you go wailin’ came the reply
‘McCarricks might go down, but seldom do die,
it’s for all the bad guys that you ought to cry’

And so with a wave and a loving last kiss
the dynamic duo set off into the mist
through copses and and side roads they rode out of sight
out of the holler and into the night
led on by wolves and a misplaced beagle
not quite noble steeds
but burly and evil

‘Where do we go, oh brother of mine
and when we get there,
what might we find?’
‘to fetch Uncle Rango,
if he ain’t yet dead
and a shit load of bad guys
who should learn to dread’

And so they did fly
away from the bustle
of McCarrick land
and Hetsaw’s small hustle
off to the city
where the Fed’s did array
doing their business
the most corrupt way
and on their arrival
in dawn’s early light
locals did marvel
at the rural delight
of two grizzled outlaws
on one creaky sled
led by a dozen strong wolves
and a beagle, near dead

‘What business is here
for strangers like you’
said a bored local lawman
with little to do
‘If parking that wreck
is your sneaking intention
you’ll get a ticket,
I feel I should mention’
to such light weighted threats there was no reaction
though Waco did think to leave him in traction
but ET stepped in with a dark vulpine smile
which sent the bored officer running for miles

‘Now city folk all, come hear our words,
we ain’t out for trouble,
though that may have been heard
In this festive season,
all that we want
is our dear Uncle Rango
and some Christmas eggnog’

Bemused by the strangers
and startled by wolves
the locals did back off
dashing like fools
which left Waco and ET
on government land
to reach for their pistols
and prepare their first stand

‘Bring out our Uncle
and no one gets shot
do it too slowly
and we’ll shoot a lot’

Moments did pass,
quiet and tense
as the urban folk wondered
what would come next
but their questions were answered
shortly thereafter
when three pitch black HumVees
came rolling like thunder

And from there there spewed out
a swarm of black suits
men in dark glasses
and highly trained youths

The McCarricks did snigger
at all the furor
for all of this drama
they had seen before
and when a tall stranger stepped up to them
chewing on gum and leading his men
it was all they could do
not to laugh in his face
for the vodka they’d finished
hadn’t been their first taste

‘Get out of town, you out-country bumpkins,
your Uncle ain’t comin’, he’s stuck in our dungeons,
there to answer for crimes he has done
to man, God and country
his hanging’ll come
And as it stands you’re walkin’ in our yard
and if you’ve only those pistols
you’ll find it mighty hard.’

Waco did giggle and ET did frown,
they both now knew the CIA were in town
A terrible sight as Christmas approaches
Black-Ops trained Seals
on vicious, cruel motives
but seldom is a seen a McCarrick in flight
especially when there’s the chance of a fight

Plus the boys Uncle Rango,
a terror for sure,
was only just guilty
and others were more
so here they would stand,
and here they would fight
against all these comers
and all Federal might

‘We know where he is’ ET intoned
‘down in the basement of your Black-Ops home
and deep in my satchel I’ve brought you a treat
a big block of Cemtex
wrapped nice and neat
but if you insist on your foolish denial,
I’ll shoot you right here and we’ll square off a while’

No idle meant threats
or hollow bravado
as ET shot first
his brow barely furrowed

The Agent went down
red in the face
as blood sprang up quickly
all over the place
‘Well now I see’ Waco did marvel
dodging debris
from the would be Marshall

Bullets went flying,
soldiers did fall
the Agencies finest
come to the call
but all unprepared
for McCarrick invasion
and all not yet trained
for Waco’s frustration
and so it became
and so it went on
Montgomery town
became a gory throng
as all through the streets
with rifles still blaring
grenades going off
and wolves all a’tearing
the brothers did fight
the forces of order
all for their Uncle
who’d not made the border

After a while things got all quiet
a bunker was reached
the baddies gone silent

‘Is he down there
brother of mine?’
‘I reckon so Waco,
I’ll go plant this mine,
just a bit of C4
a trace of the Nitro
we’ll soon be in
and home by tonight-o’

Waco did shrug,
for his brother had rhymed
but it being Christmas
he didn’t mind
but ducking quite quickly
explosions to dodge
he saw half the building
tumble and drop
a terrible sight
for those who had built it
to see their dark tower
broken and stilted

To their surprise
and strange felt delight, the building seemed empty
nobody in sight
‘Where do you think
our Uncle has gone,
in our attack
do you think we were wrong?’

‘All things can happen’ ET decreed
‘dogs can look up
dinos can breed
but as for the question
of what we’ve done wrong
I have to admit my info was strong’

And in this moment of self-doubting anguish
a friendly voice cried
‘Hey up, an escape bid!’
And Rango walked over
but not from inside
for he’d been in Arby’s
awaiting his ride

‘Oh Uncle, our Uncle,
what have we done
we blew up the Federals,
we’re off on the run!’

‘Never mind
nephews of mine,
head back to Hetsaw
where you’re hard to find,
it doesn’t matter that I just made bail
and walked my way from that terrible jail
because I’m not the first
nor am I the last
to find himself trapped on that terrible path
and with your explosion you’ve done them a favour
you should be pleased with your mighty labour
and the CIA, should they remember,
have learnt a lesson
this humid December
Never take a McCarrick in walking
because if we’re not down
there’s just no use talking.

For more from Waco, ET, the rest of the McCarrick clan and plenty of others check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. It’s the ideal Christmas present for adults of all ages, children of some ages and also the undead. Even better, buy it for someone who’ll hate it and you can be sure to get it back next Christmas so you’ve got your own copy!

Happy Christmas (in advance), one and all.

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