Prisoner

What is that noise?

“Get me out!”

Where am I? What’s that banging?

“Ya can’t keep me here, wake up!”

My head throbs. The night light cuts through my eyelids. I’m wet. I drag myself up onto one elbow. It almost slips off the shelf. A thin blue plastic mattress holds my weight. Its wet, too.

There’s a kid stood next to the door. “Who the fuck are you?” I say.

“Who the fuck do you think?” He turns and continues to assault the cell door. “This is your mess, get us fucking out of here.”

“My mess, how?” I scan the old familiar surroundings.

“You should have brayed the bitch.”

“Who?” I ask.

“Mary, who else?” He laughs.

Memory banks fire up as it floods back in. Fuck’s sake, not again!

I remember shouting through her letter box, wrestling with the new bloke. Out in the street, neighbours fully present, digging a key bumper to bumper along his paintwork.

Head still throbbing.

“And him, that goon with the motor, look what he’s done to your face.”

Stroking my cheekbone, yep, it’s sore alright.

A burst of energy. Depressed adrenaline. Quickly covering the nine feet as I hit the buzzer. A moment or two passes before the hatch drops.

A partial face, mainly lips, “Sleep well, did we?”

“What’s there a kid doing in here?”

He laughs, “It be pink elephants next sunshine, needing a little drink are we?” His wrist flicks back and forth in glass guzzling imitation. “No need to act the loon, the desk Sargent will see you soon enough.” He slams the hatch, “You be out before the pubs open.” His parting shot echoes through the steel door.

“Another fine mess,” I say out loud to nobody in particular.

“What about me?” Says the kid.

I look him up and down. Real enough. Look’s almost familiar. I head back to the bench and drop down hard onto my backside. And finally, it comes to me; after all this time, it makes perfect sense. The drink, the drugs, violence, sick sex, every conflict and disturbance. The separation and isolation. All him!

“I know who you are,” I say.

A tear carves a channel down his cheek, “Really?” He replies. “At last, so tell me where from?”

Furious, Im up pacing the confines. I hurl words that cut; reminded of every train crash disaster, I give him both barrels, sparing nothing.

Finished, I slump down to the cold floor, exhausted.

“I should never have listened to you,” I sob uncontrollably.

He stares impassively. A child. His turn; a wordless response, living pictures in my head. I see the laughter and the love, curiosity and innocence, a connection and direction.

“Where from?” He repeats.

“You’ve alway been here.”

He nods, “Right from the beginning, when God walked you out of the void.” He looks up at the ceiling and spins round a full circle, “Im the guide He assigned.”

“Then why all the fucking mess?” I shout.

The night light flickers, buzzing, before shrouding the room with darkness. I see two kids. Laughing. Playing. I sense something wrong. An evil. A temptation. One kid senses it too. He moves towards it, entranced. I want to scream at him to wait, stop, don’t follow it, something’s wrong. He won’t listen, can’t see the danger.

“You had to chase after them, didn’t you?”

“What! Who?” I shout.

He shrugs his shoulders and says, “All of them, every experience, every situation good and bad, you wanted it all.” He laughs out loud, “It was a buzz when they wanted you, but how’d it feel when they ditched you for something new?”

“You encouraged it,” I reply.

“Not so,” he laughs. Heading back towards the door, he knocks gently on the steel plate, “You made me their prisoner. I foretold the outcome.”

“What type of guide is that,” I ask, curling my knees up to my chest, burying my head.

“Mysterious ways type of guide that’s what. I don’t get to ask and neither do you. There was only one bite of the apple, but always two choices.” He sits down next to me and the night light buzzes its way back to life. The door unlocks. “Lets go Rocky,” says the cop. “Time to leave.”

Sunlight stings my eyes as I exit the police station. The kid reaches up and takes my hand.

“Pub then is it?” he says.

Shaking my head as I reply, “What with them crazy bastards, all that performing, no thanks.”

He smiles and squeezes my hand, “Hows about an ice cream?”

Yeah… that sounds good to me.

“And them, what about them?”

“I dunno, maybe its time we learned to love ourselves first and leave others to live their own lives.”

“Ah that type of knowledge is worth a fall,” he states, “Onwards, you lead the way.”

“Really?”

“Certainly,” he laughs, “You’ve earned it.”


“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery” ~ Bob Marley

“Take off the E and let it Go” ~ Unknown

“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you visited me” ~ Matt – 25:36

D&O in Fresno

Circadian Fall

I sit at the table, order a scotch and light a smoke. The barman knows me, “don’t be calling me son again, mister! Whiskey is it?” The room half full. Deadbeats and alkys line the walls. They search for anything to wake them from their shitkicking existence. A sudden surge of pleasure is all that’s needed to make them forget. As for me? I’m only here to see her. My need is for her to recognise me, to remember how it was, before it all went separate.

The light fades while the curtain goes back. A tree stands centre stage caught in the spotlight. Drums beat, and she makes her way out in front of the crowd; naked as the first time I laid eyes on her. This nest of losers stare silently spellbound. The dance enchants and seduces them. They drool as she rolls herself around the tree, the snake slides down; it stares into her eyes.

“Looking for anybody in particular?” A huge black guy leans on the chair to my left, “Bubba Pimp, I know everything there is to know about the whoring business.” He nods towards a dark corner of the room where some scantly clad twenty something fakes a smile and strokes her crotch. I turn my attention back to the stage, “how much for her?”

Im going to tell you a story; before I forget. You see, a Man can live a whole day in a story, a lifetime, many lives, to make one story, and then forget. Climb out of bed to a history he can’t remember. Thrown into a day he neither foretold nor requested. And that’s how my story goes. How it plays out, each and every day…

A room. It seems familiar…but the girl? I don’t recall. Naked. Skin soft and warm, her breath light. She rolls away, lost in some dream. Instinctively I grab the alarm clock with moments to spare.

Each morning the same struggle. I wonder how I ended up here, managing this hotel – ‘Paradise City’. its beautiful gardens buried deep in some stinking concrete jungle. I smile at the passing guests. My skull thick with whiskey; constantly they bark requests as the mind’s eye shows me things I was never meant to know. Eventually the darkness lands. With a flash I’m gone, out the door, pulse racing with an urge to see her.

I trudge uptown brandishing the stick at the swarm of oncoming human traffic. The city bursts skywards. Giant advertising screens flash baseball stars and sportswear.

“Fucks your problem?” screams some fat cunt in linen pants and a fedora.

“I come in peace, son.”

“Ain’t your son shitbag, watch where ya walking next time. Fucking cripple!”

Without breaking stride or looking back I wonder at how many times Ive heard this and smile. The night air warm and sticky; taxi cabs blare horns, the smell of hotdogs drift from the street vendors. I push on.

La temptation’ Gentleman’s club and Bubba Pimp is in full pitch, a girl on each arm. The crowd of losers holla at the show, throwing twenty bucks a pop. The snakes tongue flicks at her snatch as she writhes on the stage.

“You couldn’t afford that one,” he says.

“Oh, I’ve paid for it.” I laugh, “many times over.”

The snake rises to attention then dips back down flicking its tongue across her nipple. The audience goes wild. My heartbeat reaches critical as fingers tighten round the stick. Urge turns to rage. I’m up and out of the chair stick held high. The reptile turns it head. It taunts me. I see my reflection in its eyes. Teeth grind, my chest thuds and I swing heavy. The branch from an ancient tree shatters its skull. The bums go psycho.

“What the fuck is wrong with you,” pleads Eva “Why don’t you just leave us alone?”

“Axel, son of man, pleased to meet ya.”

“You’re not the son!”

“What ya talking about?”

“Don’t you remember? You didn’t want us.” She points at the snake, “you’re not the son… he is!”

The serpent disappears, a half-eaten apple takes its place.

A voice shouts across the room, “you’re not the fucking son!”

“Not the son, not the son, not the son…” Faces chant, charging towards me. Stale whiskey and body odour rise with the heat; a nightmare scenario.

“Bitch” I shout, raising the stick towards the oncoming human traffic.

“Not the son, not the son…”

Blows reign in. I’m on the floor. I feel the snake slide against my leg. It’s soft and warm. I hear my breath gently moving in and out. The taste of whiskey sour in my mouth. Instinctively I reach out, grabbing the alarm clock with moments to spare.

Guests at the hotel come and go, forever needing something. They are always asking for help. I tire of smiling at them and take a walk in the garden. My buckled legs ache and the damp shirt clings to my skin. It will be dark soon, almost dark enough to see her again. I sense an urge and it begins to rise…

“If I were to begin life again, I should want it as it was. I would only open my eyes a little more ” ~ Jules Renard.

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude” ~ Henry J.M Nouwen.

“You don’t know my mind, you don’t know my kind. Dark necessities are part of my design” ~ Red hot chili peppers.

D&O in Fresno

Road to Realisation

Sleep Diver Part 5 (Final)

Road to Realisation – Texas

Continued…

Outside the small town of Realisation, Texas – A gunfight takes place. Two cars stand on either side of the road, their occupants shoot frantically at each other.

On the backseat of one is a suitcase containing $100,000.

One of the shooters is hit in the chest…

“You care for a drink White Man?”

“As a matter of fact Chief,” I reply, “yes I do.”

“Sorry, looks like we’re all out.”

“Aint that a shame,” I splutter. “Tell me old man, you God?”

“Hell no, though I know of Him.”

“The Devil?”

“Acquainted, but again no.”

“Then who?” I ask.

“Isn’t that obvious?”

“Maybe to you.”

“I’m everything you cant let go of Eli.” He pauses. “I’m the weight around your neck.”

Blood trickles from my mouth; I cough and more of the stuff bursts forward. It feels like I’m choking.

“I had a strange dream Chief.” I struggle to breathe, “you were in it.”

“I know,” he says.

“The girl, the runner… the boss.” I gurgle, “all in this dream.”

“You only loose what you cling to.”

“There were others, some guy at a table.”

“Let me go Cryl.” He smiles.

I’ve never felt this cold before. “I’m dying?”

“Sleep Eli, dive into the sleep. Dive in deep.”


A phone call…

“The mark escaped Ma’am, I’m afraid we lost them.”

Silence.

“Theres one more thing… Cryl, he got hit. He’s gone!”

“The money?”

“Sorry Miss Lou.”

“Ok Stan, thats slightly unfortunate. Clean up then come home.”


El Paso – Mexican side

A car speeds towards a crossroads. Dust rises from its wheels. A black Sedan is parked at the junction, its heavily armed passengers lean back on the vehicle smoking cigarettes. The car pulls along side.

“Señor Dan.”

“Zorro.”

“I hope your journey was a pleasant one.”

“We made it.”

“You have my money?”

The suitcase sits on Marcie’s knee. She holds it tight. Dan takes it from her and passes it through the open window, “Its all there.”

“Well done my friend.” He opens the case, takes out a bunch of notes and drops them into Dan’s lap. “Buy your lady friend a sombrero.” He laughs. “Welcome to Mexico.”

A Diner. Upper West Side, Manhattan

“Hey handsome,” says the waitress. “You want more coffee?”

“No thank you.” He looks at the empty seat across the table, “I just take the check.”

“You been stood up again?”

The Kitchen Table Man gives her $20, “It happens.”

“You’re a regular finder of lost children ain’t ya!” she says.

“Somebody’s gotta do it.”

“Maybe they show up later.”

She walks back towards the cash register as he says, “he’ll get another go; we all get another go.”


A little beach somewhere in California – The sky paints crimson again; this time its Sunrise. Exhausted, I wade through the water and crawl across the sand to the trailer.

Inside I find an old woman stood at the cooker, “Good morning Eli, how would you like your eggs?”

“Easy over, with some home fries,” I reply.

“Salt and Tabasco?”

“You know me too well,” I say, still not certain who she is.

“Indeed I do.” She laughs.

“Eva.” I begin to remember, “Lou.”

“That’s me sugar, sometimes ‘Shawn’.”

“Eva Lou –”

“Eat your breakfast Eli.” She puts the plate in front of me, it smells delicious. I feel a warm glow come over me. It feels good.

“Where next?” she asks.

“I get another go?”

“Sure do, still plenty left.”

“Home fries?”

“Experiences,” she says.

It all starts to come back. Different places; different times. The sensation washes over me like a Déjà vu.

“How many left?”

“A few…billion.” She cracks some more eggs into the frying pan. She looks a lot older than the Chief.

“Is there any reason for any of this?”

“What, you mean for living every life that ever lives?” She smiles, her eyes are so friendly, her skin so wrinkled.

“Gonna take a while.”

“You have a better idea on how to walk through eternity?” She scoops an egg from the pan and catapults it onto my plate.

“I get to choose?”

“Hmmm… you can suggest.”

“Somewhere warm.”

“Afghanistan?”

“A little too close I think, hows about Hawaii?” I’m starting to like the sound of this.

“Pearl Harbour 1941 looks interesting.” She begins to chuckle.

“Really.” I say, “I get to experience everything?”

She leans forward and runs her hand through my hair. “No Eli, I do.”

THE END

“One day your life will flash before your eyes; make sure its a show worth watching.” – Unknown.

“When we reach out to what is unknown to us, we let go of the notion that we can control what we experience.” – Ken McLeod

“We’re all just asleep, dreaming that we’re awake.” – Unknown.

The journey is the reward.

— Taoist proverb

D&O in Fresno

Down the Rabbit Hole

Sleep Diver part- 4  ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’.

Lou’s Place – NJ

I walk through the door into a darkly lit foyer. An old man sits at the counter.

“Didn’t I warn you to stay away from those Preachers!” he squawks.

“Grandpa??” Horror kicks in.

“I ain’t ya Grandpa Sonny.” His face changes.

“What is this place?”

“Members only,” he says. “You got an invite?”

I pull the card from my pocket, “just this.”

Without looking at it he says, “Ok go on in.”

A curtain pulls back… Lights flash; the music’s almost deafening. I step forward and into the Club. From behind I hear my grandfathers voice… “A lively bender is only a good mans fault Eli, don’t you ever forget that.” His laughter trails off as I make my way to the bar.

“Usual Sir?” Asks the Barman.

“And what would that be?”

“Wild Turkey of course Sir, what else!” He pulls a bottle straight from under the counter and pours me a drink.

I’m on the verge of freaking out. “Do we know each other?”

“You know everybody here Mr Cryl.” He begins to laugh. At first warm, friendly, then it starts to change. Quickly it turns to hysterics, followed by an evil cackle as tears stream down his face. I throw my head back and down the whiskey.

“Another one Sir?” He stands calm, composed, no sign of the laughing freak show.

He refills my glass. I take a 20 from my wallet. “On the house Sir,” he says.

“Why would that be?”

“Its your party Mr Cryl.”

“Really?” I reply. “And whats with the Tux and Dixie Bow? Bit over the top for for a place like this.”

Smiling as he polishes a champagne flute, “Its a special occasion.” He nods towards the podium.

I lean on the bar and turn my head; the place begins to fill up. The lights flash to the beat of the music. I glimpse faces in the crowd. They somehow seem familiar.

Briefly I spot old Mr Henderson my high school english teacher. It cant be, surely he’s dead by now! A couple of the boys from my old army battalion. A dancer on the floor reminds me of a photo grandpa kept of my mother.

I’m brought out of shear disbelief with a firm slap on the shoulder.

“Eli old buddy, how you been?”

I turn and face, cant believe what I’m seeing, “Stan?” Total shock. “What the fuck you doing in Jersey?” I have to raise my voice above the drumbeat of the music.

“You think I would miss this?”

“We agreed, once the deal was done, never to meet again.”

“Yeah yeah Eli.” He slaps my shoulder a second time, “its good to see ya man, tell me, what did ya spend the hundred grand on?”

I cant take this in. My head swims. I need another drink.

“Cumon Eli, what you spend the money on?”

I look for the bar tender. Nowhere in sight.

“Invested it.”

“Oh Yeah.” He looks puzzled, “what in?”

“Me.”

Just then an announcement is piped through the PA System, “Ladies and Gentlemen the management would like to thank you for joining us tonight in our special celebration.”

The room goes dark. A spotlight shines on the ceiling then begins to dance around the walls.

“Drumroll Maestro please…”

The sound effects end with the noise of corks popping. The spotlight finally lands on me. What the fuck is going on here.

“… can we all show our appreciation for tonight’s guest of honour – Mr Eli Cryl.”

The lights go on. All eyes are on me. Glasses are raised and a rendition of ‘He’s a jolly good fellow’ bursts out across the room. Something feels very wrong. I’m about to turn heels and sprint for the door when the room darkens and the spotlight stops at the podium.

The music now sleek and seductive. She steps out from the shadows and onto the stage. I’m frozen in time, glued to the spot unable to blink… Marcie.

She begins to dance. I’m captivated, almost hypnotised. It seems as if she’s floating towards me, above the crowd. My heart pounds, but there’s something else. I struggle to think what, but theres something…

“Enjoying the show my friend?”

My head spins to the left. Its the Kitchen Table Man, laughing in my face. He’s drunk.

“Where’s my money?” shouts Louise Wishbourne, stood at my right.

The crowd all turn to me.

And then I realise what that something is. I’m cold. Very cold. Deathly cold.

“Eli…”

The room goes silent. Again a second time, from behind… “Eli.” I turn to see Dan at the exit. Stood there with his arm around Marcie, “Where’s my rent?” He laughs. ”You’ll never catch me Buddy.” Its at this point the whole crowd dashes towards me… Screaming.

The terror is overwhelming and I begin to shoot. I fire rapidly as they snarl and grab at me. They just keep coming, I’m going under. And then…

…the glitch kicks in!


The buzzing fades. The sparks leave my eyes. I’m flat out on my back looking at the sky. The sun beats down on my skin. Its hot. The air is dry. I feel cold. Very cold. Gunfire echoes from either side…

A big old Indian stands above me. Looking down as he says, “care for a drink White Man?”

To be continued…

A Subway Train Named Sitting Bull

Sleep Diver‘ Part 3 – A Subway Train named Sitting Bull

The MTA is quiet; its late, the train almost empty. I sit back and remember how Afghan Dan first appeared on my radar. The call from New Jersey; an Afghan man skipping bail on a misdemeanour, did I want the mark?

I tracked him down to the Lone Star State. He put up one hell of a fight, then begged me to cut him loose, “no man you don’t know what’s going on! You gotta let me go man your killing me.”

We drove into an ambush on route to the Sheriffs Office. He took a gunshot wound to the chest. I got lucky; the slugs still in my shoulder. Two dead bad guys and a witness box. Some misdemeanour that was. We’ve been close ever since. Dan and the Kitchen Table Man, they’re all I’ve got.

The trains half full now. An old Indian sat opposite stares intently at me. He’s huge, a real chief sitting bull. Our eyes lock. The booze starts to ware off. I feel unnerved; possible situation brewing. Too big for a take down, but he’s old, real old, maybe wise to common sense…

“What’s up old man you loose ya squaw?” The Indian remains silent, “listen Chief this ain’t the cuckoos nest quit staring at me.”

Its as if he sees straight through me. Who knows, maybe he does.

“Jeez we got a live one here and it’s making me nervous!” I raise my voice while scanning either side of the train. His silence spooks me.

“I thought the L Train held the freak show at this hour.” None of the other passengers pay any attention.

The train stops at 116 & 8th. ‘Stand clear of the closing doors.

Using the interruption to save face; I look along the carriage. Its then that I see her, through the window, out on the platform… Marcie!

It can’t be, surely to God… how, where, what the fuck?

I’m up and on my feet, hearing myself shout her name ‘Marcie’ as I dash for the door.

Like a God damn limpet mine this fuckwit latches onto my wrist. His hand squeezes so tight it stops me dead in my tracks. He’s rooted solid; unmoving.

“Fork tongue White Man, speak slowly.” His eyes never leave mine.

“Let go Sitting Bull or I’ll unleash the fucking Cavalry!”

Again…‘Clear the closing doors!’ And he lets go. I burst forward, almost make it. The doors nip shut, my hand half a second behind.

She climbs the stairs as the train bolts off. “Marcie,” I scream.

Geronimo laughs as I bray on the glass.

My heart thuds through my chest, head spins, time seems to stop. His laughter pulls me back.

The train screeches into the next station.

“I be seeing you Cryl.”

“What did you just say mother fucker?”

He reaches inside his coat and pulls out a bottle: Mad Dog 20/20.

“I be seeing you Cryl,” he repeats, pushing the wine my way.

I walk the last nine blocks home and find the place a crime scene surrounded with yellow tape. A squad car parked up front; two cops on the sidewalk. Across the street in the shadows, leaning on the corner of a building… a figure. I recognise the shape.

“What happened?” I say as I get close.

He turns to walk away. I reach out and throw him back against the wall.

“What the fuck is going on Zorro?” My hands grab his collar, “don’t give me any of that ‘No Hablar Ingles’ bullshit.”

He smiles. Silver glints from his teeth as sparks fire up in my skull; the glitch in my consciousness – they flash behind my eyes; an electric buzz in my ears. My stomach turns, I begin to convulse then crash to the floor. His face hovers close above mine, “dulces sueños Señor Cryl.” He laughs as his fist slams into my jaw.


A trailer on the beach. I wake to sunlight and the sound of a radio. Eddie Grant jams away —“You left me with a problem. Now I know what its all about…

Expecting to see her cooking breakfast as I walk into the other room— “Do You feel my love..” and grab a beer from the fridge. She’s outside talking to someone. Her voice seems muffled, almost a whisper. I step out through the door and onto the sand. They pause, both look at me before scrambling into the car… her and Dan. The car speeds off —“Feel my love as I walk away.”

I turn to hear laughter coming from the sea. Louise Wishbourne wades through the water towards me. “Just me and you now Eli,” screaming as she dives at me, then the Glitch sparks up again.

My head pounds. I sit up. A half empty bottle on the nightstand. I grab the whiskey and take a swig. Last night comes flooding back. Downstairs is shot full of holes. This is fucked up.

The Cops found me out cold. I remember they ran a radio check, letting me in when my key fitted the lock. I grabbed a bottle on the way to the stairs… ‘That’s four now Dan’

The next night: a room behind the Beacon Theatre.

The Meeting ends…

‘Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here… please let it stay here!’

We grab a coffee from the street vendor. I drop a scotch in the mix as he turns to pay.

“What’s going on Eli?” he says, not trying to hide the concern.

“Not sure,” I reply. “Starting to wonder, maybe I’m loosing it.”

“Jails, Institutions and Death!” He swigs coffee.

“Marcie showed up yesterday.”

“What? How did that—”

“And Dans missing!”

Startled, he pauses, stares straight into me, “you better start at the beginning my friend. The truth Eli; the whole truth!”

I explain recent events: the booze, Miss Lou, Dan, the fucked up dreams and shocks to the skull, Marcie, Zorro, and the old native on the train.

When Im finished he just stands there quietly drinking coffee deep in thought.

“Tell me again, how you first meet Dan?”

“Old story.” I feel the hip flask in my pocket; that need for a drink, “why now?”

“Dunno, maybe I forgot, getting old, memory a bit fried.” He throws the coffee cup in a trash basket nearby. “Lets just say the booze blew a few amps,” He laughs, “whatever man just humour me.”

We walk west along 73rd Street towards Broadway.

“Ok.” I start, “I get to go play hide and seek with him down in Texas. Turns out he was in over his head; some dangerous characters, a heroin bust, nearly got us capped, he takes the stand, we live happily ever after.”

I pull out a pack of cigarettes offering him one as I light up.

“Yeah until the wicked witch shows up.” He takes the cigarette, “Whishbourne, what is it she wants?”

“Find a mark, what else!” I say.

“Exactly, what else, what about Dan?”

“Meaning what?” I snap.

“A drug bust brought you together. This ‘Miss Lou’ has him spooked, his place gets hit, he hails from the worlds largest exporter of heroin and—”

“Dans from the Bronx,” I interrupt. “His mother an Afghan, the old man a pipe hitting Negro doing 25 to life in Rykers Island.

“Yeah and he’s missing. Running scared by the sounds of it.” He stands on the cigarette.

“Right then my cell phone rings ‘ID withheld.’ I notice the tremor in my hand.

“Answer it,” he says.

“Mr Cryl?” Its Wishbourne.

“Yeah, listen lady I’ve been thinking, maybe I will pass on your offer of employment. The timing feels wrong.”

“Really Mr Cryl?” She sounds disinterested, “given your relationship to the mark, I would say the timing feels perfect.”

“Why you say that?” Sweat trickles down my brow.

“The man by the name of…” She pauses, “I believe you call him Afghan Dan!”

Brooklyn Bridge

By the time I make it to the centre of the bridge I’m soaked to the skin and a little pissed off. The flag above the brick arch barely noticeable, almost hidden under a cold mist. The Manhattan skyline burns bright as I power on towards Brooklyn. Cars zoom bellow. Its dark; midnight usually is.

I almost regret not taking the subway then remember why; I need to be sharp, its the only game in town. I cant risk the hustle of a late train over the river with some psycho playing for laughs.

Almost there now. I can see where the sidewalk slopes down into a stair case. The stone walls lead down onto Dock Street. “Meet me there Mr Cryl,” she had said, “and one other thing… Come alone.”

My hand goes to the right side pocket; I feel the gun through the trench mac. In the left pocket a hip flask. I stop, take a drink, go to return the flask then take another swig. Whiskey – the one constant through this shitstorm of life. I have a need to give it up, but not now. Now I need it more than ever.

I pause at the first step. Its dark. Silent. I head down slowly giving my eyes a moment to adjust, ‘Still scared of the dark Cryl’, the thought flashes through my mind.

0620858B-BAF7-49A2-A633-C3A7E877A30B

I make it to the bottom. Nothing. I look around. Still nothing. The sound of cars fading into the distance, but here just an arch leading to an empty street… a ghost town.

I light a smoke and draw hard. Leaning into the wall, my head pushes back into the cold stone.

“Eli Cryl,” I hear from up the stairs.

“Come out come out wherever you are!” A shiver breaks through my body. I know that voice, know it very well. I make my way to the bottom step and there stood on the level, silhouetted, hood up, but unmistakably her… Marcie.

“Hey sugar tits, how you been?”

“Seriously Marcie?”

This isn’t like anything I ever imagined. “What you doing here baby, what the fucks going on?”

Another figure appears at the top of the stairs. He places an arm around her waist and a gun to the head. I see the sparkle in his smile. “Señor Cryl,” laughs Zorro.

“Don’t move Eli, we don’t have much time.”

“We as in all three?”

Zorro laughs some more.

“She wants you dead,” says Marcie.

“Most people do.” I feel a tear leave my eye. ”Where did you get to? You broke my heart leaving like that.” An anger starts to rise; I feel for the gun. Light bounces back from the Mexicans smile.

“Its over Señor.” I knew that fucker spoke english.

He screams, “its time to die Eli Cryl.”

I hear the gunshot ricochet off the stone as a side force rams me into the wall. I free the gun from my pocket and scramble onto one knee. I squeeze off a shot as Zorro disappears out of sight.

I look behind, see the Chief walking off into the darkness, towards Brooklyn.

“I be seeing you Cryl,” he says.

That glitch again. My mind paints sparks that fire deep into my brain. An electric buzz bursts through my ears. The skin on my forehead heats like coal, then quick as it came… its gone!

I vomit violently. Unable to focus; I reach out to the wall, balance almost fails me.

“Marcie,” I wail, sprinting up the stairs.

I see Zorro running, at least a hundred yards ahead. I consider taking aim. Whats the point? Hard shot any day of the week, with the rain in my eyes… Impossible.

Frantically my eyes search for Marcie. Nowhere to be seen. On the ground a card. I pick it up, a strip joint: ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ – New Jersey. On the back, written by hand ‘Lou’s Place.

To be continued…

D&O in Fresno

Sleep Diver-Part 2. Afghan Dan and The Kitchen Table Man.

Afghan Dan and the Kitchen Table Man

Little beach California; somewhere on the coast – close to Los Angeles…

Moonlight strikes the trailer. Her arms drape loosely around my neck, her legs hug my lower back. She rocks me gently with the waves, her face close to mine, just above the surface… “Promise me Eli no matter what, we stay together. Don’t ever let me go!”

I look to the shore. There is a silhouette standing in the shadows smoking; some lady in a short skirt and fitted jacket. She turns to walk away then stops, looks back and begins to laugh. The laughter gets louder and louder until I can no longer hear myself scream!

 


The door slams. Footsteps on the stairs…

“Nice to meet you, maybe call again some other time!” Hard to miss the insincerity in Dan’s voice. 

I’m shivering! Heatings broke. I grab a gown; finish the whiskey, whats left of it, and decide to speak with Dan about the temperature.

What was it that just happened? ‘A gentleman by the name of…’ That lady, what was her name? Mind feels hazy, moving in and out of range, like some smart ass fighter down at the Garden, a flash of sparks, and shockwaves buzzing through my ears. Drink is killing me!

I head downstairs to the mini-mart. Dan is stood at the till. His arms dance like a puppet as Zorro keeps nodding. I struggle to catch a sentence before they spot me. 

‘Senor Cryl, Hola.’ Zorro smiles. The ceiling light reflects off his teeth. The neighbourhood christened him ‘Boca Plateada’: Silver Mouth!

I’ve never understood why Dan keeps him around. What use is he? A promising fighter in his day, so they say. Until he went berserk with a switch blade. Caught his old lady with some chancer. Zorro left him with the sign of the Ze… so the story goes!

He spent the next five years in the State Pen. Never boxed again!

“Yo Eli wassup?” 

“When you gonna get this heating fixed Dan? Guy could freeze to death round here.”

“When I see this months rent Eli! Guy could starve to death round here!”

“Bullshit my slimy little friend. You got enough to carry us through winter right here.” I grab a bottle from the liquor shelf.

“Thats three now Eli. How you gonna make rent digging deep on that juice?” 

I keep walking.

“Thats three bottles and a months rent. Don’t fuck with me man. I want my money Cryl.”

“What’s your problem… Goat hungry again?” I joke.

“I fucking kill you, you drunken piece of shit” I almost feel the blast wave.

“By the end of the day mother fucker” He’s screaming now.

“I told you not to marry that bitch.” I’m on a roll now, “Can’t say you weren’t warned.”

Zorro sniggers. I aim the middle finger high, hearing the cash till slam as I head back to the stairs.


Dark. Silent. I come round sat upright on the couch: watch says 7pm. 

Whiskey… I drank the bottle as I thought of Marcie and that Wishbourne lady. Thinking, thinking, and more thinking. It was light then, now dark. I had passed out in the chair.

I need to sober up. I get the importance; a fucking absolute necessity. The thought follows me into the shower. I let it keep me there; stood watching water drain away. I turn the heat up as I start to shake! He needs to fix this heating system. Maybe not top of the list in Kabul Dan, but this is NYC and its winter!

‘I assure you Mr Cryl, the pleasure is all mine!’ What the fuck did that mean? Why had she said that? It seemed distant now; like I was back in the dream, like Marcie was there. How could that be? And whats with the sparks and buzzing in my skull? I should speak with a doctor… Yeah maybe. Maybe later.

Take a break Eli, sober up, head on down to 96th Street and hit a meeting. The man will be there!

I kill the shower and get dressed. My mind races. I should straighten out and work this case. Thing is… Im not sure why Im taking it! Sure I need the money, who doesn’t? But this Wishbourne lady, she kinda gives me the creeps. And to be honest I’m having a hard time remembering what she said. I recall something about a phone call. Sober up she said, I need you sharp she said, those in my service she said. Fuck you Lady, I should have said, Just who do you think you are   I should have said! Then why didn’t I?

Something else stole my attention! A darkness, buzzing, those sparks, then she was gone. I need to get the fuck out… and fast!

The 7-11; stores empty… except for Dan, zoned out, cellphone in hand. 

No sign of Zorro; always a good sign.

“Hey Dan.” I say.

“Eli.”

“Listen bro I’m sorry about earlier.”

“The rent money; by the end of the day.” He leans on the counter and glances up, “Theres something about that woman, I don’t trust her!”

“I apply that rule to everyone, especially our little Mexican friend.”

“Keep her outa this place Cryl. She’s trouble!”

“You could always put a Fatwa on her ass.” I laugh.

“This ain’t funny Eli.” 

Im almost at the door when he says, “I’ve seen her before, sure of it!”


I board the 3 train on 125th. Dan’s words stick in my head. He’s right. I can’t pinpoint it but he’s right. Theres something about Louise Wishbourne thats almost familiar. 

I say fuck Dan, his rent and the Lady Wishbourne, whoever the fuck she is. 

I’m sat on this train watching people jump on and off; I wonder where it is they go in this fucking Metropolis? And I think to myself: All that other shit can wait!

“Stand clear of the closing doors.” The driver barks at every stop.

I’m filled with an urge to ride the subway all night. Just sit here. Many times I’ve done exactly that. Yeah sure, you get your share of freaks and the occasional lunatic, but theres a peace here, below ground, zipping stop to stop.

I exit the subway at 96th & Amsterdam. The scene is familiar. Manhattan Diner to the right, a bus stop to the left. The subway station separates two roads, crossed by a third. Traffic is light but the street is busy. A church sits on the corner. Outside are three guys, sharing a smoke and cutting the shit. I cross the street and head over.

“You looking for the meeting buddy?” Says one. 

“Sort of” I reply, “could use a word with the Kitchen Table Guy first.” 

Six foot and 200lbs of ’I know the way outa here’ steps forward, “Eli, you look like shit. Its good to see ya.” He grabs my shoulders pulling me into a bear hug. It feels good. “Where you been man? We been worried about ya!” Its warm, friendly and different from how I’m wired up. I know his struggles, stared me dead in the eye and shared them with me, first time we met. I also know he got his shit together. This works for him. Whatever this is.

“How’s things going?” He asks. 

“Work, drink, same old me.” I look at the floor as he stares right through me. 

“How’s Dan?” He asks.

“Hasn’t poisoned me yet!”

 He starts to laugh, “You don’t need his help with that.” 

I just smile.

“Cmon, its about to start. Let’s take a seat.”

The meeting starts. A woman sat up front shares her take on experience, strength & hope. I feel a tremor start back up. Nervously I look around. Nobody seems to notice. My head spins, guts turn, the sickness starts. I need a drink. His eyes are on me and I know it. I glance over my shoulder. He gives me a smile and nods his head. I look back to the sharer. I remain focused best I can: Teenage years, first drink, first love, first DUI, first divorce, first rehab, first meeting, first relapse, first time coming back, first sponsor, first step, first sponsee…First chance I get I’m going to throw up!

Its over quick. Friendly faces remind me to ‘keep coming back, how great it is to see me and please stay this time.’ 

“You got time for a walk?” He asks.

 “Sure, lets head over to the park.”

“You carrying Eli?” 

“.357, it goes with the territory.”

“Good, its getting late; junkies, rent boys and muggers they all be doing the rounds soon.” He pauses to light a smoke, “Don’t shoot anybody though. That ain’t working a program.” He winks. “You don’t look too good.”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you,” he says “you’re shaking like a victim.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Obviously.” He starts to laugh.

We leave the park at Strawberry Fields and I throw up outside the Dakota Building. Im sure Lennon would of seen the funny side. Then again, maybe not.

I break the long silence as we head south on Central Park West, “How come I still struggle with this?”

“You carry some baggage Eli.” He lights another smoke and pockets the packet. “That and not a fifth step in sight. When you gonna do the work?”

“I mean to, can never find the time is all.” I hear the bullshit leave my mouth.

“Always find the time to get loaded though don’t we… is all.” He makes no attempt to hide the sarcasm. 

“Got me there.” I feel the need to vomit creep up again.

“You get drunk, turn up looking like shit, stick around long enough to feel better, then repeat. Sooner or later somethings gotta give; one way or the other.” A  look of concern crosses his face, a hint of pity. Quickly replaced with a stare; like a mirror.

He picks up the subway at Trump Tower. “That meeting off Broadway behind the Beacon Theatre, you remember it?”

“Of course man.”

“Be there at seven tomorrow.”

We shake and he’s gone. 

 


I head west on 59th Street and stop at Jakes Saloon. The grip of the grapes squeezes tight. A few beers will take the edge off. I sense thats just delaying the inevitable. Its also insane but what the fuck. My head spins and guts ache. That shit can wait one more day.

I throw a whiskey back while the barman pours a beer.

“Tough day?” He asks.

“Everyday.”

“I hear ya.” He places my beer on the mahogany bar and wipes the counter. “Hola if you need anything.” 

My mind races uncontrollably; something doesn’t sit right. I let the whiskey take effect while drinking the beer. Bits of the day rewind back. A news channel reports mass shootings between Mexican drug cartels and police. I think of Zorro…

“Hey Barkeep!”

“Another beer?” 

“No man, I wanna run something by ya.”

“What’s up bro?”

“A friend in need, you ever miss the signs?”

“In what way.” He feigns interest. 

“My buddy he wanted to tell me something today.”

“And?” 

“And I walked away with a wise crack.”

“Whats got ya thinking this?” 

“Look on his face, I’ve seen it before.” A memory flashes through my mind. 

“He often wear this look?” He runs the cloth over the counter again. 

“No” I reply “Only seen it once before, few years back” I chug at the beer. “During some fucked up circumstance.”

“What was that?” He’s interested now. 

“We were been shot at and he took one in the chest, nearly died.” I clean the glass and order more whiskey. He pours the dink and asks “How come?”

“We were newly acquainted down in Texas. He had upset the wrong people, real mean hombres. He was in my custody on route to see the Sheriff.” 

The bartender leans on the counter, “You a cop?”

“Collect Bail Bonds.” I take the glass from him, “Runners.”

“How did it end?”

“Shooting, lots of it. Everybody got shot. Bad guys died; we lived.”

“Jeez man that’s heavy shit. But what’s that got to do with his face today?”

I throw back the whiskey “He had that look earlier, just for a moment, same look he had lying on the floor puking blood and gasping for breath.” I lay 20 bucks on the bar, “A look of fear… and I missed it!”

Back out on the street my temperature drops. Again I feel the cold.

To be continued…

 

D&O in Fresno

Sleep Diver

A Noir thriller series; part 1 – Introducing Eli

Little beach California: somewhere on the coast – I’m laid down horizontal outside our trailer trash apartment; the waves lash against rocks nearby. I snap back the ring pull on a cold one and take a drink. Home from home. Face like a hot stone in the pale sand, my legs whiter than a Klansman’s hood. Its a long way from New York City. 

Crimson paints the horizon as the Sun begins another game of hide and seek. 

A picture perfect moment as the hole in my soul packs up and leaves. God damn she is so fucking beautiful; skin gleaming as the ocean drips from her body.

“Hey sugar tits, one of them for me?” She says, walking towards me. “Sure is darling.” I smile “Why don’t you sit your pretty ass next to mine, the sand’ still warm here.”

She stops mid track, “Eli, you hear that?” Her head turns sideways. “I thought you promised no telephone today! Jeez mister when ya gonna quit and give me due attention?” 

I hear nothing except waves crashing the rocks. “Not a phone or any other thing for miles baby. Come on over, lets fool around.”

“Fuck you Cryl.” She gives me the bird.

Then I hear it! The shrill of the telephone, louder, it rises louder inside my skull. 

The Sunset, the waves, sand and Marcie all dissolve…

My head screams! Sparks fire rapidly into my brain. My ears buzz and the skin on my face starts to boil.

Sweaty hands grab at the nightstand as I knock the phone sideways. The volume reaches critical. Fingers scramble the floor, clipping it, sending it further out of reach. In a semi-conscious stupor I half sit up. The couch bellies under my weight. “Christ sake already you better be fucking serious.” 

Surroundings become familiar; a shithole of an office, apartment, drunk tank, mortuary, rocking the high life up on 125th. Harlem. I’m home!

I get a grip on the instrument of torture and punch the accept button.

“Whats up Dan?” the words echo through my head.

“Cryl you gotta guest. Shall I send her up?” he replies a little too loud.

“Her?” surely not Marcie! “Give me a moment bro I’m not decent.”

“You’re the most indecent mother fucker I ever had the misfortune to be acquainted with.” I like Dan! “Hurry it up Eli this ones bad for business.”

I mull over that statement and struggle from the couch. Jim Beam, half empty bottle, stares across the room. I draw hard on the whiskey and open the blinds instantly wishing I hadn’t. Razor sharp daylight floods in. What time is it; what day is it? I haven’t the fucking slightest idea! 

A vortex of shit surrounds me. An ashtray in need of emptying sits on the old bureau desk and spills its guts. Yesterday’s shirt hangs over the computer screen. Beer cans, trousers, and socks cover the rug. Twenty square yards of me, my couch and I. No sign of shoes! 

I take another hit from the bottle and dial back down. The phone rings three times. I hang up. A door slams, stairs creak, footsteps approach. I pull on the pants, don the shirt and try to impersonate somebody not resembling a total fucking jerk!

“Mr Cryl I presume.” She stands silhouetted in the doorway, legs long, tits high, looks like a million. 

She lights a smoke “May I?” 

Don’t mind me lady I just live here. “Of course Miss, why don’t you come in Miss… Miss?” 

“Mrs actually! Mrs Louise Wishbourne.” She interrupts my stutterfuck!

“Those in my service call me Miss Lou.” She breathes hard from the cigarette. 

And I cant help but think they do: This stranger, this broad, leaning against the door jam, short skirt, fitted jacket, appearing every inch like Ingrid Bergman! Bad for business, wasn’t that what Afghan Dan said?

I reply “Eli Cryl at your service. Why don’t ya step inside Miss Lou.” I feel seriously underdressed, “Tell me, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Don’t see many of her type in this neighbourhood. Eyes on mine as she says “The pleasure Mr Cryl, I assure you, is all mine!” 

“Ok Ma’am, so how can we help?” My head thumps! “In what way can the EC Fugitive Recovery Service be of assistance?”

Cryl’s Story

It was a night that war fever ran high in the US Airforce Base ‘Incirlik.’ We sat restless on the Iraqi border with the battle for Kuwait over. Ole Saddam’s boys had scuttled off back to Bagdad while we all waited for something a little different to hit the menu. It turned out to be the Brits! A running pitch battle with those crazy fuckers. They took the base by storm just for the hell of it. We had drank together, went into war together, and on this night would batter each other, for no other reason than there was nobody else left to fight. The MP’s had other ideas – Dogs! One of the snarling bastards locked onto my face as a truncheon put my lights out. My war was over; the scar a permanent reminder!

Landing back Stateside I had dreams of leadership. Hadn’t the boys praised me as cool under fire, best section commander in the battalion? My talents would take me to the top. I was sure of it!

I took a law course and obtained employment as an Investigator for an insurance company. The drive to the top was on. I’d prove to the world I was important. An early warning showed up regarding drink. I almost failed the law exam; too drunk to write or think!

Somehow I scraped through and the firm sent me to Los Angeles. Big investigations equalled big bucks. For the next few years fortune threw money and applause my way. We parked the Winnebago on a small secluded beach; me and Marcie. We were happy…for a while!

Drink took an exciting, important centre stage. I found plenty bar buddies before it all got too serious. The morning drink continued right through the day and into the night. Remaining faithful to Marcie due to love or been too drunk to fuck, who knows! Plenty chances came my way with the ladies but many rows accompanied. They viewed me as a pest: A bomb and a barfly. Fuck em, who needs em! 

I became a lone wolf and for short periods drank less. Then I would explode with a bang. Violence would erupt on a shoestring. A fight with a taxi driver made the press. Let go in disgrace we headed home to Brooklyn and moved in with Marcie’s parents. I hardly drew a sober breath in the years that followed. Liquor became a necessity. Things got worse and I would kid myself; fantasising about control till I could take no more. I woke up. It had to stop. I made promises to Marcie. Surely I could do it for her? The girl who gave me the look; the one that was the one! And so I could for a while. The goose hung high and dry for a time till… 

An old army buddy sought me out. We met up over a few drinks. I listened to his proposal. It netted me 100,000 dollars on a drug deal. More importantly I was back on the sauce. It felt good for a while, til my brain again raced uncontrollably. The morning madness returned. Marcie prayed for my sanity as the DT’s put me in dark terror.

Admitted to Belmont Detox Facility off Central Park; I returned to find Marcie gone. She left without a note or goodbye. I’ve never seen or heard from her since!

Fear sobered me for a while. But I was back in Detox within a few short weeks. Chance introduced me to a good doctor. Shortly afterwards he sent a guy to my house; a real decent fella! 

Sat at the kitchen table drinking, I listened as he shared his story with me. He  knew his stuff about the liquor problem. What he said made sense. I still see him. We meet up regularly. Me, him and many others. Ive done ok in patches; some periods of sobriety. Still those periods of drunkenness, but I keep at it, maybe one day.

I have this little business of my own up in Harlem. Only white guy in the Neighbourhood. Me and Afghan Dan. One up one down. The work focuses my mind. One sickness replaces another. Still, I think I will keep meeting up with the Kitchen Table Guy, see how it plays out.

And just how is that working out today? 

Well just for today she is stood in the doorway, her legs long, tits high, looking a million.

She holds my gaze and lights a smoke.

Don’t mind me lady I just live here. 

I notice her head turn as she scans the room. “Lets get down to business shall we?” 

Im not sure I like the look of disdain on her face. “What is it you need Lady?”

“I need you to find somebody.” I thought she would say that, educated guess!

“This somebody have a name?” I reach for the cigarette packet next to the whiskey, pausing a second, I decide to wait till she leaves.

“Yes indeed he does. A gentleman by the name of…”

To be continued…

Disclaimer: Its obvious a certain section of this ongoing story has took inspiration from another (as in writing, recovery, and life).

Reminder: This is a ‘Just for Fun’ & ‘Not for Profit’ creative exercise (as is writing, recovery, and life).

Till next time… 

D&O in Fresno 

Apocalypse Fresno (NOW)


A Short Story

“Just for today; a bit of the future”  

Sci-fi reframing over on Fresno!

Apocalypse Fresno (NOW)

You may ask yourself how I got caught up in a shit storm of this magnitude 5148 miles from home? Good question!
Better question – Which Bozo gave the order to break every Meth Lab in Fresno on the same night?
More importantly – Why in the name of insanity am I stepping out into the street??

It all started a long time ago when God created the Heavens and the Earth, and Hell followed! 

Fresno CA – 2040 AD

Less than 24 hours have passed since my flight from Louis Armstrong Airport. Its funny how quickly things escalate when the right amount of excrement hits the fan. Yesterday I sat on the banks of the Mississippi, today I march face forward into the Apocalypse. If you really want to know why I chose to trudge through this Hell state then maybe you should ask “What the actual fuck is going on”? 

By the way; this all happened…

In a slightly different way, somewhere in another time!!

Rising tension continued during our short trip. “Those fuckas” he screams, responding to the radio update. I sense his keenness to get the taxi off shift. I feel it too. It was the same leaving New Orleans. Passengers preparing to board flights stopped to stare at wall screens as they projected news channel footage into the departure lounge. The broadcast showed unrest. Reports claimed large scale police operations involving Federal Agents and Drug Enforcement Teams. Announcements alleged resistance, many shots fired, and casualties. But this was beginning to look like a whole different ball game. 

Im vaguely aware of my grip on the coin as it indents the palm of my hand. We’re above the main drag heading downtown from the airport. Dead streets – no traffic in sight! Gunfire brakes the City’s silence. With time that becomes familiar and so will many other things before this tale is told.

The driver half turns to me and bellows “What the fuck you doing here man? I mean we are nowhere”.

“It seems to me like you’re everywhere tonight my friend” I reply. “Now here” Flashes through my mind.

A sense of unease and discomfort worms its way towards a dark crevice deep in my soul. Im guessing the driver feels it too. If not, maybe he should. The noise of a Hoverbike rises from behind. It lifts up and quickly moves alongside. The bike cruises a moment and the rider locks horns. The passenger flashes a firearm, more a canon than a gun. “Motha Fucka” shouts my man at the wheel. Instinctively throwing the cab down and to the left knocking the bike sideways out of the sky. Theres no mistaking things now… this town is chaos. Law and order is on vacation.

While sat at the far end of Bourbon Street, alongside the Mississippi River, I began noticing strange vibes creeping in. My mind had projected bad luck at being one of the last ever passengers on a commercial flight. I sensed something. It disturbed me! Thoughts turned to Fresno. The town with a bad reputation. A populous of half a million citizens in the Meth Amphetamine Capital of the Planet. I’d been told its a tough place, but compared to what? I grew up on a diet of football violence and brutality during the miners strike, not to mention lunatics for friends. Whats that place got to show that I haven’t already seen? Another town another girl. Same old story! Nevertheless I felt a disturbance in the force before leaving New Orleans. Sat in this Hovertaxi playing Grand Theft Auto for real I begin to get a sense why. 

“I need to park this heap of junk bro; shit got real”.

“Yeah man, how far to go? Remember Im a stranger in this town and the locals don’t seem too friendly”.

“Almost there” he replies. “You still haven’t answered my question! What brings you to a dump like Fresno”?

Laughing I say “Heard it was an exciting party town on the rise”. 

Fear shoots across his face “Theres a fucking uprising going down tonight white boy! You made it just in time to party”.

As the sun dips to the horizon I see the shape of an electronic advertising board. Its lights are out. Hanging below, I recognise the silhouette of a human body.  

Stood paused in the doorway I survey the apartment. It looks spacious and uncluttered. The last trace of natural light filters through open curtains. All quiet, nobody around, just as expected! Turning to close the door I see a shadow flash across the lawn and movement in my side vision. With the door shut I bolt the deadlock and apply the chain. I step into the living room, drop my bag and collapse on the couch. Staring at the ceiling my eyes slowly acclimatise as darkness creeps into the room. Laying there lost in the breath, feeling my lungs expand and contract until finally grounded I decide to look around. I find my a light switch. Up and down it flicks. Nothing! My vision rests at the staircase and I decide to check out the upper floor. Viewing outside becomes priority. The bedroom looking out over the lawn is the obvious choice. I pull the drapes within a couple of inches, almost to the point of closing. Hunched down at the window ledge I can see the street and the road crossing the junction. Its empty, silent and dark. The street lights are out. A sense of doom washes over me. Quickly it retreats to a shudder. I experience an undercurrent only described as awareness. 

Suddenly an explosion lights up the sky. I make a guess it wasn’t the neighbourhood barbecue gone wrong. The disturbance is huge. Small arms fire sounding close by is quickly met with a loud thump. A terrific bang echoes throughout the darkness. The blast feels close. It has a deliberate edge to it. The tremor flowing through my arm becomes noticeable and the curtain shakes in my hand. I let go and step backwards. Moving into the centre of the room, a thought flashes across my mind- “What the hell is going on”? And then it starts; the voice, my voice but not my words! The Beast wakes! Half of me expected him. This is fucked up. Of all the Godforsaken times and places why now? Never once have I consciously made that fucker welcome. Ive learned the hard way that resistance means persistence. Now was a very fucking bad time indeed. I need to find my way around this house and see whats what. Just then, appearing out of nowhere, a Sky Cruiser hovers outside the window. A voice hails from its tannoy. “Put down your weapons or we will open fire”. The words have barely registered when the vehicle blows apart mid air. Flying debris shatters the bedroom window – flames burst into the room! The blast knocks me sideways into the wall. My face reflects red heat. I hear the Beast laugh and feel consciousness slipping away. Passing out as I recall the taxi driver shrieking “Good luck Motha Fucka”.

In the dream I see a coin. Silver and… 

With my back against the wall, collar pulled high and hat down low, I sit trembling. The room is full. The meeting started moments ago.

“Anybody want to announce any length of sobriety”?

Im thinking ‘not really’ but thats not How It Works. They know anyways so I’m thinking what the hell.

“I got 24 hours… again!” 

The room bursts into applause but I don’t see the need to make a big deal of it. I fucked up, but guess I’m lucky to have made it back. It feels torturous. I almost convulse. Nervous energy pulsates through my bones.

A friend comes forward and shakes my hand. He plants a silver coin in my open palm.

Struggling to stay still I remain seated for the hour. Eventually the meeting ends.

As I start to leave I’m approached by somebody who knows me well enough…

“What happened Man”?

“I don’t know, looks like I took my eye of the ball, something like that”.

He frowns “Bullshit and you know it! Relapse starts weeks before the drink. Even the planning and preparation stage kicks in with days to spare”.

I feel on the spot “Hard to say, things got difficult. I knew it was coming for a while but felt powerless to stop it. You know how it goes”.

He pushes a cigarette my way “Yeah it sucks but you can come back from this. Stick around buddy you’re one of the good guys”.

We shake hands and I head back to the cruiser. Everything he said makes perfect sense. But my mind is heading in a different direction and trying to pull me with it. How can ya be honest when you’re still surveying the damage? I know one thing for sure, it was an experience I don’t want to repeat again. 

It all started with a minor confrontation. Some people seem to have a natural talent for pissing me off. My aptitude for polishing resentment outgrows the other guys efforts very quickly. Increasing a dislike to the level of blind hatred is my super power. I took it to another level within a week. Fear always shows up for the fun and games. That subtle little pest rapidly turned into a snarling monster. My mind projected impossible outcomes into a dead cert in record time. All of this I kept to myself. Lets face it I’m good at hiding shit. 

Then the Beast began to whisper. I tried the old fashioned Jedi mind trick hoping this Clusterfuck would disappear. As for prayer and meditation, who cares to enlist the help of a Higher Power when you’re in the middle of some self serving battle zone. Only somebody with a decent grip on sanity, thats who! Thinking I know better! Well how did that work out…

Leaving the apartment early that morning my eyes focused on an empty beer can. Just sitting there in the gutter, cast side, it meant no harm. But the Beast did. That intrusive voice, impersonating my own, whispering sweet nothings of self harm and personal destruction. That fuck face certainly meant plenty harm and brought a shit load. I was quickly tuned in at full volume listening with intent. Gripped in a vice like dream state I found myself re-entering the flat fully charged up with enough juice to guarantee oblivion. All varieties of my choosing from hard liquor to dry cider plus enough cigarettes to bring about an embolism.

The days turned into weeks. Vaguely I recall phoning in sick at work. Sordid bars and  street fights flashed through my memory. A fleeting recollection of been in a house with some woman and no idea how I ended up there. As for how long I stuck around? It beats me!
I came out of a blackout screaming, hoping it was a nightmare, unsure if I’d lived it or dreamt it. I was sitting in my own piss so that put paid to that query. The cruiser was laying on its side in the alleyway. Local kids had covered it in graffiti. I was a mess!

 I got 24 hours… again! I feel the coin in my pocket. Im holding on to this one, nothing to add or take away. Anything and everything, no matter how difficult it gets, this one stays! 24 hours to thine own self be true. Just for today. Every fucking day!


Sat aboard the Mayflower Torpedo as it hurtles across the Atlantic just above the sea bed and Im thinking “What an incredible feet of shipbuilding and engineering”. I feel privileged to be on board so soon after her maiden voyage and aim to explore from Steerage to Captains table. Nuclear powered engines firing her across the pond in under two hours and the feeling of motionlessness is sublime. Never since the Titanic’s fateful journey had a launch attracted so much attention. I guess they were expecting a similar outcome. You never can tell with these things. However, that never stopped the rich and shameless spending a small countries deficit on a first crossing boarding pass. This is her third trip today. I almost taste the Florida sunshine as I strut my stuff through the Casino and Bar, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of high society. All expenses paid. My Job is to visit with political and non profit community leaders working on solutions to the smog. International air travel, banned now for almost 2 years, internal flights wrapping up, except for the police and military, sky flight will soon belong to the past. Big money has been invested in Nuclear Monorail to catapult large numbers coast to coast. Cruisers have replaced the good old automobile. Their magnetic downdraft finally waved goodbye to stinking diesel along with oil’s lust for war. Still the smog increases.

This is definitely the way forward. Welcome to the future and God bless all who sail in her. A smile broad and… Boom!!! The Subs rear end overturns as Im thrown at speed over the backgammon tables. My last thoughts before certain death are “collision, disaster – Im fucked!”  Shrieking sirens cut through the darkness and a voice from a loud hailer repeats over and over… “This is the voice of the City of Fresno Police Department. Armed Police are patrolling the streets. Rioters and looters will be shot on sight. The City is under curfew please remain indoors till further notice. This is the City of Fresno…”

Woke by the voice of a drone issuing its stark warning as it heads off into the night. I recon dawn prepares to break. Lying there stunned and disorientated I wait for the Sun to put his hat on and smile down on this madness.

In the daylight I search the house. Electricity is still cut and the TV is dead. I rummage through my bag and check my tablet. It suggests no internet connections are available. It seems the web is also under curfew. Theres food in the fridge left by the host. I see a note on the kitchen table “Welcome to Fresno make yourself at home we hope you have pleasant stay. Call if any problems”. I fucking would if the phones worked. Finding a door to the basement I shake the lock loose and head down the stairs.

Its a Jumble Sale; mountains of shit! I spend the next few hours rummaging through it. I mean what else is there to do – take a walk in the park on a day like this? Its almost 100 degrees and a battle zone outside. I find a sandalwood box. A handgun inside almost antique, looks like something from a turn of the century action movie. What was that dude called? Schwarzenegger I think! A box of ammo, enough to fill the clip, without guarantee to fire, sits alongside the piece. A baseball bat and skateboard pads are amongst the bounty. It turns out to be more like a treasure trove than a trash dump. 

Then the voice. It sounds like me but uses phrases I wouldn’t choose to think. It chatters negatively away… “Imagine if we found whiskey here? A psychotic party for one while this goon show burns itself out. What could be better”? I feel sick. “If not, then we could always branch out to the liquor store. Maybe a little break & enter, how difficult could that be? Like who’s gonna notice? Common it’ll be fun”.
I now know I’m in a much worse situation than whatever the fuck is going on in this desert oasis! I need help and its not available here at the Fresno Funshack. I hear a scream from above. It sounds like outside. I reach into my pocket and take out the coin. Ive got to get out.


The sun burns my eyes as I step out through the door. Blinking hard I raise a hand to shade my sight. I notice the shake. Still holding the coin, I immediately pocket it, feeling the stock of the pistol buried in my waistband. Automatically I scan the street, theres no sign of the screamer. One foot goes in front of the other without a plan. I have to find someone or something. A city war zone lies ahead, but to what level? Anybody’s guess! One thing for sure is I need help. It wont just show up with a knock at the door. I need to take action.

Experience has taught me some painful lessons. Its not all about the drinking. Initially I thought so. Eventually it dawned on me its about the Beast. That other side of me, the one that wants to fuck me up! The snake and the apple. Obsession. An obsession so subtle and so powerful, it sneaks up, usually at five to midnight at 3000 leagues below with nowhere to go. Left to its own devices, a crescendo of barbaric torture leaves me powerless to resist. Just one drink! When the fuck did I ever have just one drink? Once fish takes the bait, trap is sprung, the mayhem merry-go round spins faster and faster. Only one destination. I must stay ahead of it and acknowledge the primed timer ready to blow. This Beast of obsession awake inside scares the shit out of me!

TurnLeftAt the junction I decide to take a left. No other reason than to the right stretches out to the distance an endless road. Thoughtless steps lead me down a street lined with wire fenced houses. I hear a blast echo nearby. I find cover behind a parked cruiser. Between two houses runs a woman. Her blouse is torn. She looks stricken with panic. Some guy wearing jeans, t-shirt and a red baseball cap appears in slow pursuit. He carries a bottle in one hand and a laser blaster in the other! Hunched down behind the vehicle I can see the pistol charger flash its low battery warning. I hear myself think “Tackle the bastard now before its charged. Get that whiskey”. Quickly I shake my head searching for some sanity but I know thats temporary. Somethings got to give! 

I had took my eye off the girl long enough to watch the whiskey. Big mistake. It didn’t take more than a second or two for her to spot me. She makes a dash in my direction. Fuck! Think quick! Whatever’s pissing him off is none of my business. 

The blast strikes the cruiser melting its front wing. A miss but close enough. He had saw what she saw and took the shot. Watching him stumbling in my direction I can’t help but think that this fella may, on a different day, be quite handy with that thing. He’s obviously steaming, still that shot was way too close for comfort. I’m involved whether I like it or not. One of us must yield. This won’t be painless! 

He takes a moment to steady himself. Our eyes lock and he takes aim. My heart pounds and my feet are frozen in time. He squeezes the trigger. Nothing! Checking the charge display he is rooted to the spot. I get my chance. Forgetting the old fashioned blunder buster in my waistband I burst out of the blocks full speed straight at him. He’s too drunk to step aside as I launch a tackle. We crash down together landing hard on the tarmac. Wrestling for a better hold this piece of shit is stronger than I estimated. The palm of his hand is up under my chin and digs into my throat. With a gust of force I send him spinning. He manages to clamp his legs around my lower back. I hear the bottle bounce on the ground and the Beast whispers again. Frenzied as I rain blows into his face I feel hands grip my collar. Unexpectedly I’m propelled up and over, somersaulting, landing heavily on my back. Momentarily I’m dazed and he’s up staring down at me over the barrel. He smiles. Tiny veins, crimson in colour, streak the whites of his eyes. The battery gives up a high pitched noise… ready to fire! Laughter cut short as the sabreblade burns through his chest. First surprise then horror shoots across his face. He slips forward and lands face down. 

Releasing the igniter button the flame evaporates and she pockets the knife. We face each other and look down at the body. “Say hi to Earl.” Her voice trails off to a nervous laugh. 

“Im Hennessy Griffith, friends call me Griff”. She reaches out a hand. I shake it.

“Deano, pleased to meet you”.

She looks pretty, even with the psycho stare. The torn blouse reveals a packed tight cleavage barely hidden under a vest. Adidas sneakers standing her up in tight faded jeans. They sit well on her. Shoulder length blonde hair, mild complexion, I’m guessing mid 30’s.

“You not from these parts then”?

“Clues in the accent” I reply.

“Howe come”?

“Long story. What happens next is what I want to know”  

“Where you heading?” She takes a quick look side to side.

“Dunno”. I replay her scan of the area. “I thought it best to take a chance on the street. I need to find someone”.

“Who”? A puzzled look crosses her face.

“Again its hard to say”.

“You’re taking a big risk mister! You don’t know where your going and not sure who you’re looking for. Appears you don’t know shit! You got any idea what the fucks going on here”?

“I’m a little sketchy why don’t you fill in the gaps”? She picks up on the sarcasm and I notice a shift in her expression.

“Ok Dorothy or whatever the fuck your name is you’re a long way from Kansas so I will bring you up to speed on the state of play. You’re standing in a minefield and I just saved your ass from certain death. My ex husband had you licked good and proper”. She looks down at Earl.

“Listen lady” I interrupt. “It didn’t look like you were doing too well either till you blew my cover. If thats how you guys treat each other then I’m not surprised the marriage didn’t last”.

“Yeah well hell, sorry about that! He always was a rattlesnake. I knew it was a mistake showing up at his place. It wasn’t my first choice but his place was nearest after running into that sniper”. 

“Sniper, what sniper”? 

“I couldn’t say. A blast shot through the air and some lone wolf took the hit. I didn’t wait around for an introduction”. She gives the scenery another quick glance. “Guess it was the police, taking the other guy out first, since he was armed and all. It sure felt like I was next. Made a break and took off, hurtled over a fence then realised I was just a block from the house we had shared. So I headed on over to his place, should have known he’d be drunk. And now here we are, all three of us”.

“So how come you’re wandering alone through all this”? I study her face.

“My place got swamped. I was holed up just waiting for some normality to return to this town. Then it started to resemble an invasion. Police sky cruisers attacked. Search and destroy squads on the street moving house to house. The dealers fought back. Turns out there was a hive of them and they were packing some military style hardware. I had a close call. Felt the blast almost part my locks. I made it onto the street just before the house took a direct hit. Something heavy duty by all intents and purpose, it went up with a bang, only recently lost sight of the smoke. You not hear any of this”?

“I was sleeping” The sarcasm returned.

“Listen wise guy I aint got time for your shit! You have any useful qualities or shall we just part company here and now”?

“I’ve got a place nearby but I need something in return”.

 A smirk passes over her face as she looks me up and down. “We only just met sugar, but shit, if you’re the last man on the block”. 

“Not that! I need your help to find something. A meeting”.

“What kinda meeting”?

“12 Step”.

“What!” Her voice takes on a high tone. “Why didn’t you just say so instead of standing here cutting the shit? I’m heading to my brothers place. Under different circumstances it wouldn’t take long even on foot. It could be risky right now incase you hadn’t noticed. Hows about we hide out at this place of yours? We can move on after the light fades”.

“What good will that do”? I start to feel impatient.

“He’s friends with one of them 12 Step fellas. Dude often drops by after one of those meetings you so keen to get to. I believe its in the neighbourhood”. She waits for a response. None comes. “Why the big deal anyway? sounds a fucked up priority to me”.

“Another long story”. I look at the whiskey bottle, just sitting there, not meaning any harm to anyone.

“We got about 7 hours till sundown. I hope its interesting”. She walks away from Earl, heading back the way I’d came . “Wheres this place you been telling me about”?


Sat at the kitchen table she fires off questions I don’t mind answering. That and talking about Earl, how they met and the way it started off like most relationships do. There’d been some happiness. Earl been the considerate lover, before the farm had to let him go. Laid off he turned to drink. She let that slide for a while hoping things would turn a corner. But with every dead end job came more bitterness. HennessyCoffeeShe took the beatings and hid the bruises. Finding him with the neighbours daughter was the final straw. Little more than a child, sweet sixteen, she looked every inch the woman as Griff walked in on them. I listened intently joining in only where it seamed appropriate. I caught her looking at me in a way I recognised; curious about what was going through my mind as I tripped out listening to the Beast. Obsession chattered away reminding me of the whiskey bottle sat next to Earl. Patiently awaiting my return. Could I just leave it there? I might share it with her at this table. Then who knows? Maybe spark up some passion. Or I could end up like Earl! Sobering thought.

I interrupt as she starts on about her sister “Exactly how far is it to your brothers place”?

“Maybe three miles give or take a yard”.

“So what we looking at – an hour on foot”?

For a moment she just stares “We cant just ramble over there like a Sunday stroll. Its a war zone out there! You forgot about the heavily armed meth heads? What about that sniper”? She pauses expecting a response. I cant think of one. 

The Beast starts to whistle and I find myself saying “So apart from slaying ex husbands and dodging snipers, what does a nice girl like you do in a place like this”?

“School teacher, nursery kids, 4-6 year olds. They call me Miss Griff”. 

“Ok miss Griff, Im going to need you to teach me a lesson. Geography! What we looking at between here and your good brothers humble abode”?

“Oh it gets interesting”. I see a flash of dread cross her face.

“After we cut through a few rows of suburbs things thin out a bit”.
 Picking up the drama in her tone. “What does that mean”?

“You’ll see soon enough! The lights beginning to fade. Maybe we should make a move”.

The Beast shows me the whiskey bottle. Shaken by the flashback I walk over to the  baseball bat. I pick it up and look back at her. “Im ready lets go”. 

Any Lengths 

Griff was right. No description would do it justice. I imagined better. A sign said Jefferson! I suppose the place was named after a long dead President. Its in desperate need of some TLC. Either that or a bulldozer. Rundown is an understatement. This neighbourhood could pass for a war zone in peacetime. Total fucking shambles!

A howl cries out in the night! Sounds like a wolf, probably the local lunatic. I hope its a one man show! We crouch down low taking turns to dash between burnt out cruisers. I sense we’re been watched and feel unease creep over my skin. Quickly my eyes scan upfront. An old school block sits in the foreground its walls awash with graffiti. Darkness oozes through broken windows. UnderFenceBehind the school lies an underpass lit with burning oil drums. A scene from a not too distant past looking slightly out of place. A drum beat breaks the silence! That howl again and this time close behind. I see shadows! The tunnel is alive with marching silhouettes. At first I see only human form but quickly notice something more. Dogs straining at the leash! I can see the outline of their snarling teeth. 

“Griff we need to move and quick”. I see fear in her eyes as she looks back at me.

Bolting forward towards the school fence she swiftly crawls under loose footing. Hot on her tail I roll underneath the wire as a blast hits the fence pole to my right. It ruptures a slot two foot wide and I feel the heat as metal catches fire. I’m up and off the mark instantaneously! Seeing Hennessy dash through an open doorway I make up the ground quick time.

Hunched down waiting, a look of alarm on her face! 

“What the fuck was that”? I scream at her.

 I almost feel the drool on the back of my neck as she leaps up and at me. 

“Dog!” She screams plunging the sabre between its monstrous eyes. Heat from the blade scrapes my cheek. What looks half dog half wolf snarls. It writhes on the floor as Griff leans heavily over the knife.
“Action… take it fucker!”

I put everything into the swing as the bat comes down hard on the animals neck. Twice for luck! Lying still and silent the dogs tongue flops alongside massive teeth. We glance at each other. That howl again. Getting closer. We head down a corridor marching as fast as the darkness will allow, growing more confident every step, underfoot seaming clear as we pick up the pace. Straight ahead I can see light finding its way in.

It looks like somebody made a half arsed attempt to board up a gaping hole in the wall. A couple of planks lie on the floor. Griff starts to yank one from the window. Gunmetal prods my temple. I freeze to the spot!

A scruffy looking man charges past me and grabs my companion by the scalp! He pulls her backwards onto her knees.
“Wurdup”. Off to the side – a latino, six foot, heavily tattooed face.Laphroag2

 

“Allow me to introduce you to my brethren. The gentlemen with the Pistola at your skull. “Names Jonny Walker” Whisper in my ear. 

“And this here brother with your lady friend is Tequila.” The latino points at a short, fat looking Mexican. Fatso waves with one hand, gripping Hennessy’s hair with the other. 

“Let me guess, you guys are responsible for cleaning the windows in this institution.” I reply before feeling a sudden blow to the kidneys. The baseball bat clatters on the bottom, the ground sounds like rock! All fight leaves me!! 

Tattooed face reaches his arm back pointing to the gang gathered behind “As for these beauties here, they are the Demons”.

His fist swings forward – “And my name is Laphroaig”. 

I feel my jaw shatter as the lights go out.

I’m dreaming, I think! 

Somehow it feels real enough! 

I’m walking along an isle in the liquor store. In front on the counter sits a bottle of Hennessy Brandy. Alongside it a pint of Jonny Walker and a fifth of an Irish Single Malt by the name of Laphroaig. LiquorStore

Griff smiles “Not today Deano… you have an important appointment that must be met”.

“Who let the school teacher in? Its no place for kids” I sulk!

She turns to walk away and I follow her out the back of the store. The dull overhead lights are replaced by a flash as she pushes a bar and the exit door swings open.

“Where we going”? I ask.

“You’ll see”. 

The underpass looms straight ahead. The old oil drums still burn. More faintly now giving off a gentle glow. The dogs sit. From behind I can see their tails wag. They appear alert and interested. But in what? As we get closer I see an old man. Heavily tanned face with deep wrinkles, he looks aged. Decked out in double denim and a baseball cap he sits on the floor. He’s talking to the dogs. They appear fascinated and totally unaware of our approach. 

“Griff, Deano, come on over, we just chilling”.

How does he now our names? 

And at the same time Im sure I’ve seen this old fella somewhere before.

“Do I know you”?

“Sure do! And how you keeping Miss Hennessy”?

“Im good” she purrs. I never realised how beautiful she is till now.

“Deeeenoe! How come you showed up here my man? In this time, this Now”.

“I don’t get the question. And who are you, how come you know my name, we met before”?

“Many times son” he reaches out to pat the dog closest then sharply claps his hands. Flames burst high from the barrels. The dogs are up and begin to chase their tales. 

The old man rises to his feet.

“What the fuck is going on here”? I feel panic in my voice!

“Take a look son, you’re a long way from home”.

“Go ahead Deano”. She gazes at the fire.
Walking towards the flame I get the feeling I’m been guided in… 

A horse. It rears up. The rider slumps forward, its a policeman. His bloodied face buried into the animals mane. The brick lands inches from my feet as Im carried along with the rush. Punching out and kicking anything that falls. I give not two fucks for sides in this skirmish. Its early 80’s and hot as hate! Theres nothing but violence in my veins. A television screen flickers. Its shows Goals on Sunday as I come out of blackout. 3 days lost. Whiskey and Guinness. A dark room and the thoughts are intrusive. I scream in my head, the Beast laughs just that bit louder. My mind poised to snap! Shaking and crying in the shower. Broken promises and strongbow cider. Dallas and Bloody Marys with a twenty dollar cleavage. Canadian girl by the stroke of midnight, New Years Eve sex in a Manhattan nightclub toilet. Puerto Ricans pushing and shoving, coiled and ready to ram a glass. Leprechaun hats IRA bar. Blood streaked elevator wall. One leg over the side while surfing the Bay of Bisque through the night, bouncing across the sea on a flat bottomed landing ship with half cans of Heineken! Little Ian with the ball. Running. Laughing. Not so little Ian. Bald. Dying. Bouncer and a broken ashtray. Bouncer with a broken face. Cigarette burned hands and pass the parcel. Sniffing glue and sick relationships. Broken homes and tornadoes. Liver damage and Neuropathy.  Smoking Heroin and breathing Temgezic. Prison walls. Magaluf dance floors. Ecstasy in a teaspoon. Fear, Resentment… Forgiveness! 

“Whats this about Old Man”? Speaking to myself. “This all happened years ago. In another place another time”.

“The time is Now. It is always Now”. The Old Man’s voice appears deep down inside myself.“Lots of personalities mixed up in there” – merely a whisper.

“Really fucking mixed up if you ask me”. I bite.

“What about the role I assign”?

“I work this programme. Growing in understanding and effectiveness” – I snap out!

“What is the point”? – Questioning!

“The point is we are…” – Cut short.

“The ego, it can even use spirituality against you! Manifesting self into Bigshotism! Cunning, baffling powerful” His face appears in the flames.

“But there is One who has All Power and its not me!” I start to laugh. 

He smiles.

“I can never be humble enough, forgiving enough, courageous enough. But that resentment, fear, self-centred shit, I can do that to full volume”.

“Progress not perfection” His turn to laugh. “Step into the flame. It will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not”.

StepFlames

I look back at Griff. She’s gone. So have the dogs. The tunnel is darkness!

“Take the first Step” I hear Him say.

Eyes closed one foot slowly moves forward then the other one. I expect to touch something, hit something… nothing! 

I open my eyes and see a door. A sign hangs from the handle. I walk in. Somebody is reading aloud. Stops. They all turn to look at me. Somebody points to an empty seat and I sit down. The reader carries on… “If you want what we have and are ready to go to any lengths to get it then you are ready to take certain Steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier softer way but we could not. With all the earnestness at our command we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start”.


“You Only loose what you cling to” – Buddhist Proverb.

“Wherever you are, be there totally” – Eckhart Tolle.

“Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations” – Chapter 5.

D&O in Fresno

Darkness and the Ragamuffin

“Fear – it was an evil and corroding thread, the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It brought about trains of circumstances we felt we didn’t deserve but did not we ourselves set the ball rolling…“

Recently I was invited to give a talk on anxiety. I had been asked to do so by a group of people who had identified themselves as suffering from it and were becoming aware of the negative and destructive impact it was having on their lives. Speaking on topics of that type will always fall on deaf ears unless you can share some experience of your own. It helps the listener tune in rather than mugging you off as just another bozo on the bus. Gaining some identification from the small crowd wasn’t what started this prose. That bit went well. Short and sweet that it was it was still a fucking horror story. People gripped by fear love horror, it alerts them to the fact they’re not quite as bad as they first thought… not yet!

It was more my identification with them as the conversation moved to a solution. Thats what got me scripting this. That look of trepidation, the doubt and disbelief that normally precedes the search for an easier softer way. In an instant I could almost taste the warm nighttime air of the desert as it gripped me, lost in that surreal Californian city as I headed off in search of an easier softer way looking very disheveled – like the Ragamuffin Man. 

Fear has a hundred forms. Anxiety is one of them. Its at the bottom of the list just above worry and sitting precariously below panic and its big brother terror. All fears are born out of the overpowering desire to control imaginary outcomes. Sweeping away the wreckage of the future. An interesting proposition until you give it some thought. Like a drug it would be thrilling and empowering for a short time and then life would become mechanical and boring. Most fun is in the hunt with its surprise twists and turns. A sense of power arises from overcoming challenges when the odds were against us.

No amount of worry or anxiety can alter whatever is going to happen. I had to learn to alter my attitude regarding the need to control. I know this to be true as experience has taught me this. But some things slip through. Some things are just too damn important. Thats the way it had been for months leading up to Fresno. I had felt the darkness begin to rise up in me with a whisper that got louder and louder. Until with nowhere to go but to face myself it began to scream. I had to change my attitude, alter the sails, learn to trust if I was going to recover from the wreckage. Trust means nothing without faith. Trust is a belief that tomorrow will be ok. Faith shows thats possible because so was all our yesterdays. Ok is a very long way from perfect. Some yesterdays were pretty shitty, but we survived them. I have survived everyday of my life so far even the good ones. Faith tells me that will remain the same for everyday but one. Im not planning on caring too much when that day shows up.

Since I got sober many things have happened that I’m unable to explain. The situation leading up to that, and many other experiences I can’t find the words for. Whatever it is I continue to seek the experience. The hunt with its surprise twists and turns that make life really interesting is always accompanied every Step of the way by that old darkness. Its whispers get louder and louder, little by slowly, trying to grip me and send me off looking for an easier softer way. Until theres nowhere to go but face myself. I follow the process to that regularly and something new always comes up. When I say new I mean new angles. Its the same shit with all of us. Just different people, places and things.

In the midst of all this the story of Job (Jobe) sort of showed up without an explanation. I knew nothing of it and don’t suppose most people do. Its an interesting one. Briefly, he had been a righteous and good man all his life and the devil didn’t care too much for that (I guess I’m safe there). Ole Nick decided to see if he could break him and reigned down all sorts of naughty shit in Jobs direction. Cut a long story short Job held firm. But it was with his attitude to his friends’s negativity that ties in with what I’m getting at. They turned up at his wilderness apartment wanting to analyse, deconstruct, blame and find the faults that had lead to his recent misfortune. Job been as seriously pissed off as he so rightly was still had enough about him to realise he was still in the game and no amount of fear created by overthinking the future was going to change anything. Sounds like it was touch and go for a while but he made it in the end. Trust is nothing without faith. Faith without works is dead, there is action and more action. The things that bother me and sneak in to steal peace of mind won’t magically fix themselves. I’ve still got to show up for life, but keeping things right sized as they are in the here and now makes sense. Whats the alternative? Arrive in a different time zone with a brush and shovel making sure everything is neat and tidy for when I eventually land there for real? Insanity! Yet the world over people are attempting to do just that. Along with searching for some easier softer way to escape the intense psychotic pain they experience through doing so. Good luck with that.

“When life takes the wind out of your sails, it is to test you at the oars.” – Robert Brault

“I am open to the guidance of synchronicity and do not let expectations hinder my path.” – Dalai Lama X1V

“Life is like improvised jazz. We cannot regulate the variables. We must play it with panache and flair the best we can.” – Haemin Sunim

D&O in Fresno

Zenphoric Recall

Im vaguely aware that I’m staring at a television set. I can hear voices coming from the TV but I have absolutely no motivation to process the information they are relaying. There is movement in my peripheral vision but again it means nothing. I feel numb! As the cerebral cortex begins to fire back up I hear an excitable commentator describing a goal… its football! It quickly flashes to another team, the centre forward picks up on a beautiful 20 yard pass right onto the toe end and with one deft touch  strikes it sweetly into the top corner as a stranded keeper looks helplessly on. I know how he feels. I look down at the table Im sitting at. A nearly empty half pint glass of Guinness and a slither of Whiskey sit in front of me, I look around the room. It takes a couple of seconds but I recognise the place, I’ve been here many times. Its a fucking plastic shithole, one that barely passes as a bar and has even less credentials as an eatery. Its got zero character and is populated by part time drinkers and a couple of regular losers. All congratulating themselves on getting a good price for beer thats 3 month out of date and tastes like piss. Hence the Guinness… even in blackout Im adverse to these cunts spanking my arse whilst singing nursery rhymes.

The TV shows the Premier League Table, the games are from Saturday. I remember leaving a bar not too far from here late Friday afternoon and picking up drink from the shop downstairs to where I live. Its fucking happened again! My phone says 2pm and its Sunday. It shows messages, one from my Mother asking how I am, and a couple from last night that I’d sent to one acquaintance and a lust interest. Mostly garbled Codshit, but I can make out the words ‘Fuck’ and ‘Me’. Neither message had received a reply. At 9pm last night it shows a call to a drug dealer, I be fucked before I phone that for any info, the crust in my nose says I owe him money. The Whiskey chases the dregs of the blackstuff and I make my way to the door. Its pissing down with rain, and half an inch of it lyes on the pavement. My clothes are bone dry. My knuckles are still covered with skin and I see no blood, not mine or anybody else’s. Still that feeling of dread… how, when, what the fuck. I’ve gotta stop drinking. I can physically feel my mind, its caught in a game of ‘tug of war’. Im frightened its going to snap and the intensity of the mental pain has been a constant for months now. I doubt I can take it much longer. As I feel the water lashing onto the back of my neck I see it spiralling down the plughole of my shower. I have no idea what I’m doing here!The ‘tug of war’ happened ages ago before I got sober, before I moved somewhere else, before the blackouts ended!! Feeling my face scrunched into the tiles and knowing that I’m crying Im also aware that I’ve lived this moment before. I know what happens next. Very shortly Im going to promise myself that no matter what happens I won’t take a drink today. But before I finish getting dry I will get a can of cider from the fridge and start the whole insane cycle over again. As I do everyday! I step out through the bathroom door… Into that night club in Bleaker Street Manhattan. I know behind me is the Women’s toilets and that Canadian girl who dragged me in there on the stroke of 12 bells New Years eve, God knows how many years ago. I’d came here with Jimmy ‘the can’ and he’d done one after I had been led off by that sweet filthy little slut. He’d said nothing to her friend so I toured the 3 floors looking for him before getting severely pissed off after been pushed around by some fuckwitt Puerto Rican. I’d have glassed the bastard if it hadn’t been for his friends eyeballing me from behind his back. His turf I suppose! I know where I’ll find Jimmy. He’ll be outside that IRA Bar on East 30th Street falling about wearing a Leprechaun hat. A limo will pull up full of rich girls. When they get out one of them will walk up and kiss me full on the lips. My cock will twitch at the thought of the Canadian chicks pussy still on my mouth! I step out of the club through the door but it aint Manhattan! Feeling the heavy glass ashtray smash into his face and my shoulder ligaments tear, I see his monkey suit mate leg it. I can still feel my fingers round the rim and the clean cut sharp face points forward. I’m gonna do the cunt, ram it straight into his throat, he deserves to die! Look at him lying there snivelling, 20 stone of pure pussy! Big shot eh tough guy? Wasn’t that half an hour ago was it! My 7 year old son’s face flashes through my mind, just a split second, but it buys this ugly sack of shit another day on the planet. Im screaming as I pelt the leftover glass across the street and into a wall. I can see party goers running for cover… I’ve left my car round here somewhere! The Wig is staring at me. He looks terrified as I stub a half smoked cigarette into the back of my hand. Its his turn and he doesn’t look too enthusiastic. I can see Magoo and Sick Mick running from different ends of the bar, tops off, meeting in the middle to jump mid air, timed to perfection, belly bouncing each other. The Wig is going a funny colour as I smell his burning flesh. Im getting out of my mangled car and jumping into my alcoholic girlfriends motor, we are laughing as she passes me a tin of beer, I give the finger to a gentlemen standing at the bus stop over the road. He takes out his phone as we speed off in her car, mines a right off!

Things start to get a bit fuzzy, feels like time is speeding up. Flashbacks rain down on me at an alarming rate. Im a teenager sniffing glue in decrepit abandoned public toilets. I’m fucking the fat chick from the bedsit next door up the arse, smoking heroin in a prison cell. Bizarrely I’m on that beach in the Caribbean standing in front of a wedding photographer who looks like Sonny Liston… way to go Champ, its early morning at the Nissan Motor Manufacturing Plant and I’m snorting cocaine in the Gents. Time is speeding up but its going backwards now… I have one leg over the handrail and one leg on deck. I’m Starboard Side at the Stern of Sir Percival and we are cutting through the Bay of Bisque. One hand grips the rail, the other squeezes a half tin of Heineken. The Ship is flat bottomed, built to run right up the beach and the 30 foot waves are chucking her about like Dorothy leaving Kansas. She sits temporarily in mid air as the wave rolls under, then crashes into the sea before been lifted again. One split second, wrong move or turn and I’m gone forever… I’ve never felt more alive than I did at that moment!  We are crossing the street from the Painted Wagon moving in on the Beehive. 20 plus Skinheads who I can’t remember ever looking this young. We have no clue who is in the bar over the road but they are going to know we have landed. The door swings open and we pile in. I feel the crunch of violence and the invigoration it brings. Instantly its a Saturday afternoon somewhere mid 80’s. Hot as hate is we are bringing a little extra to the miners strike before heading off to the match. I feel a sharp bump to the shoulder as an angry stranger burst forward past me and flings half a house brick at the mounted policeman. His face explodes as he slumps forward into the horse’s mane, It rears up as both the pickets and the riot squad charge each other. I get swept into the crowd and begin throwing punches at either side, I don’t care its all milk and honey to me… I see Ian… little Ian, wearing that blue away top, stretched over his chubby little belly. Not the Ian I last saw, that skin and bones, bald headed, jaundiced Ian sometime back in ‘85. We are in the old street and he is chasing a ball and laughing. I can feel the knot in my throat somewhere in a different time and place. The miners are taking a beating and I feel blood splatter my face as a truncheon opens up the head of one next to me. I throw full force into my boot swing as he hits the floor… “Get the fuck away from me shitbag” I do not give two fucks for this, I want Ian back, not this boring crock of shite. “Ian!!” Damn it I want him back… I need to tell him, I should of said it that day but how the fuck was I supposed to know we would never see each other again. ‘Iaaaaaan’

“What John… What do you need to tell him????”

Who said that??

You…!

The Wall??

“You need anything Darl’n, can I get you another drink?”

… It’s that waitress in the bar at Dallas Airport, the one with the push-up tits and the black blouse half unbuttoned. She has been fetching me Bloody Mary’s for half a dozen rounds now. Every time I feed her cleavage a $20 bill!

“Can I get the same again, maybe a little something extra this time?” I float a $50 above her chest

“Wadda ya have in mind Sugar?”

“My cock could use sucking”

She winks and turns to the bar, as she approaches it she looks back at me and tips her head in the direction of the staff area behind the counter. I feel a surge of excitement as I get up from my stool. I’m aware I’m very sick at the moment. The illness has been rising in me for months, strangling my soul, I just got so sick of fighting it. It rose to a peak in Fresno, the fear turned into terror! I had done the best I could with what I had at that point in time but it had progressed at an alarming rate. Faster than ever before and I found myself drunk long before leaving for Texas! I remember it was a pretty awesome blowjob, but don’t remember much else. I come out of a blackout just in time to order a whiskey before they announce we will soon be making a descent into Heathrow. Descent makes me laugh…Recalling lost days and nights in Tenerife stoned on Jack Dannie’s and Ecstasy. Then I’m bouncing in a bar in Magaluf, the squad is all there, sweating and laughing. Example is blasting through the sound system… “Never been afraid of the highest heights not afraid of flying, never been afraid of the wildest fights not afraid of dying” Is that right you stupid looking fucker? Hang around a while I will introduce you to a fear that shows you heights and death not be worth worrying about, in the meantime it’s your round!
I know I won’t be able to talk to this lot in the morning before sneaking off somewhere on my own and drowning the self-pity with a few quick sharp lagers.

I can see eyes, faint at first but definitely a pair of eyes. Then a nose, a chin and also a forehead. My vision is sharpening on the image! The unblinking eyes are staring at me, boring into my very existence and examining my consciousness. I can taste every drink I ever took, every drink I ever needed and I needed every drink I ever took. I quickly feel every sensation of every drug I used and as this feeling rapidly passes I sense everything is in reverse. I’m staring at myself! Me – sitting perfectly still on a cushion on the floor, eyes fixed on the wall, unblinking and undisturbed! Then I see the wall… White, smooth and featureless. My mind begins to settle down, the storm begins to pass. I can feel my heart beating gently and my breath moving through the chest in a natural rhythm. The Basu bell on my phone rings signalling the 10 minute warm-up has ended and I settle into a period of Meditation. A quick thought goes through my mind and I smile… It tricked me with the Past this time! Very unusual, it always tries to throw a spanner in the works as I settle down on the Zafu. Projection into the Future is what it usually tries to get me to grasp and attach to it. Sneaky fucker!!

The smile eases from my face as I become conscious of an overflowing sense of peace. Fear leaves and failure is no longer an option, not for these 24 hours. I will get through them sober and enjoy living in every moment. But first… I settle into thinking the thought of no thought.

 

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

 

Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists or doesn’t exist.” ~ Bodhidharma

 

You don’t know my mind you don’t know my kind.” ~ Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Dark Necessities)

 

D&O in Fresno