Posted in Fiction, Poetry

High

 

When I was five

And not a meter high

I used to dream that I could fly.

My greatest wish

For all my life

Was but to bend

And snake

And whip

In the wind.

I dreamt of blue skies

Where I might roam

Where birds are free

And man is caged.

I made paper plane airships

And drove them through the air

Perfecting each one

With precision and care.

I cried the first time

I flew in a plane.

I  knew, I would never be so high again.

But then I discovered the drug at 16,

And I flew higher

And higher

Like the greatest wish

For all my life.

 

CRG

Posted in Fiction

The Strongest Bond

It had been the last straw, yet another message filled with venom and the most destructive constructs of words tapped gently onto a screen and delivered. Perhaps the sender felt that a WatsApp message had the same implications as spoken word. When words are spoken in hatred they fly into the ether, released yet etched in the mind of those which it effects. But this, this could not disappear. It was there, written in black and white. After an hour of back and forth, resentment after resentment, bringing to the fray every disgruntlement and every memory of wrong-doing – she had said it.
‘Clearly your anxiety has deluded your perception of reality.’

She lay on her sofa, reading those words again and again. Her partner gently pottered around their small flat not wanting to get in the away, aware that they were arguing again. Silently.

‘How dare you?’ She retorted. She threw the phone down into the pillows at the opposite end of the leather seat and felt it buzzing moments later. Not just a message but a call. Her partner stopped and looked, she could feel him watching. Waiting for her to pick up and for this fight to become real. But she didn’t. She sobbed. She put her pale hands to her face and bent her shaking head into them and cried. She cried for her childhood. For what she had hoped this relationship could be. She cried because she knew the author to her sadness would not be there to watch her marry. She cried because she was relived. She cried because she felt guilty and angry all at once.

But most of all, she cried because she was tired of it all.

The phone had stopped its demands for attention and laid silently. She breathed deeply into herself and chanted in her head; ‘you have the strength to do this’.  She picked it up and opened WatsApp, holding her fingers over the virtual keyboard as she debated how to phrase it.

‘Let’s just end this civilly and move on, separately’

The response came back almost instantly.

‘Fine’.

She knew in that moment that her relationship with her Mother had ended. Ungraciously and painfully. She knew that there would be fall out and crying pleas from her Step-Father to change her mind, to fix it if only for him. She knew that she would cry again but she also knew that it was right. She knew that it right. It had to be right.

C.R.G

Posted in Fiction

The Cyclist

On top of a hill stood a singular birch tree. The hilltop stood alone; surrounded by a cold, grey sea of mist that concealed the lush valley beneath.

The tree was crooked and bent as though it had been manipulated through torture, its white bark cracking and peeling at the strain of each twist of its trunk. Against its deformed base, leant a bicycle. It was old with small amounts of blood red rust around the joins, its black paint began to peel and bubble in places revealing the metal that lay underneath. The seat however, had clearly just been replaced, tightly sewn and still jet factory black. There was no bell on the handlebars but there was a small light brown wicker basket that had started to come away from the front of the frame under the weight of the load it carried for its Master. Unlike your average cycling enthusiast, there were no reflective disk catching the light on the wheel spokes, no whirring light generated from the energy of the cyclist.  No light glimmered anywhere from the frame.

The owner of the bike stood on the edge of the hillside looking down into the mist.

She cast quite a figure stood there on the edge of the world, legs apart and hand on her hips. For the owner of such a tattered bike, she was dressed head to toe in tight sports clothes. All in black. She wore black leggings, no markings or brand and a long-sleeved black top with a zip up the front and a hood at the back. She had on black gloves, leaving no section of her skin uncovered other than her pale, alabaster face. Her shoes were black cycling shoes, like those seen on professional cyclists, with three Velcro strips across the dorsal surface of her foot, but there was no reflective surface, no flash on the back of her heel like so many riders had to make them selves known.   Her thick red hair was tied up in a tightly wound bun that sat snugly on the crown of her head, not a hair out of place.  Across her front torso was a heavy duty material strap fastened with a metal grip that feel across her chest which led to a cylindrical shaped holder that ran diagonally across her back from her shoulder blades down to the base curve of her spine.

She turned back towards the bicycle, took out the contents of the basket and strapped them to the holder on her back.

She stood for a moment, looking towards the Eastern side of the world, the sun had begun to rise and was casting it’s burning light across the landscape. She had given herself an hour, more than enough time, before the mist had evaporated and the sun proclaimed that the day had begun to the inhabitants beneath it’s glare. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath into her lungs before holding it there, calmly, not breathing, not moving just listening. She heard the birds that had begun to sing in the trees and the gentle rustle of the leaves in the trees as a light morning breeze ran it’s fingers through their green branches. But no people. No cars. No more bikes. It was just her. She let the breath from her lungs steadily exhale through her nose and opened her eyes.

Time to move.

The mist was denser than it had appeared from the height of the peak. At that time of day  she struggled to see more than a few centimetres in front of her, looking down into the valley she could barely see her feet in the darkness and the swirling mist. She kept to the concrete path that wove itself in a curving stream down the contours of the valley, the ground was to damp with dew and could not be trusted not to give her away later.   She could envisage the path in her sleep, each descent, each distance in her natural step between each meander of concrete. The deeper she glided into the belly of the valley, the quieter it became. The only sound she could her was that of her footsteps which, even then, were delicate in her rubber-soled shoes.

She felt the slope begin to even out to a flatter surface; she was nearing the base of the valley now. The mist was starting to vanish from this dark park and as she continued to follow the path, she noticed that where lush, green grass should have grown either side of the concrete, there laid just brown mud. The odd patch of green attempting to sprout through its hardened core but failing to flourish. There were no flowers here, not even weeds attempted to cast their heads towards the sky. Everything around her was grey and brown.

The shadow of the house through the clearing mist came into view. It’s old pointed roof ripped into the air, a small circular portico window was framed at the front beneath the fascia. It was wide open, she could just make out two white lace curtains that flew out of the window, still attached to the inside like two souls desperately aching for the next life. There were three windows on the first floor, from her view of the house, each bordered up with closed brown wooden shutters that had clearly once been painted, but had been beaten by the weather over the years and never cared for. The main torso of the house followed a similar pattern, covered in wooden slats, which still had some of the original light blue paint in peeling patches. The exposed wood had begun to curl at the join of the slats; some were moments away from rotting off entirely. The smell of damp wood hit you before you had stepped foot through the door. It would have once been a beautiful country house, perhaps, the kind of house that fostered a family. But now, it was isolated and unkempt. This valley did not shelter its inhabitants from the wild winds; it funnelled and targeted them into a streamlined assault. The house had clearly taken the brunt of the beating.

Jutting from the main body of the house was a covered porch with the same pointed roof as it’s higher sibling. Seemingly holding the roof together were 7 wooden columns, which had a rotting wood balustrade running between each one. There were three steps that took her from the ground to the threshold of this decomposing welcome deck. She felt each damp step give slightly beneath her; so damp at least, it wouldn’t creak.   She came to the top of the steps and closed her eyes again as she had done at the top of the hill. Once she was through the door there would not be much time, she had to cover her bases now. Tick the boxes.  She inhaled deeply, almost silently, through her nose – taking in the stench of the dampening building around her – and held the breathe in her lungs once more. She listened; she could hear the gentle creaking of the house in the wind that had begun to breathe life into the valley and sweep it clear of it’s grey covering. She could hear her heart beat, calm and steady but hammering hard inside her chest, ready. She exhaled through her mouth and opened her cold blue eyes. She turned to look behind her, just mud and grey concrete.

She moved quickly across the porch, kneeling gracefully down to the doormat. She lifted it at the lower right edge, a woodlouse scurried out from underneath, and she picked up a brand new bright golden Yale key. She held the key in her hand and brought it up to her eye line for a moment. She studied it swiftly, the landings and projections were all just as she had memorised from his file. She held the key tightly in her gloved her and moved to the front door. The door was oak, out of mix with the rest of the house. The key hold was just beneath a round brass doorknob. She placed the key carefully into the lock and slowly turned it to the right, listening for every churn of the mechanism inside the door. She heard it click and felt the door slightly give to her and she turned the doorknob. Success.

She opened the door just enough for her to be able to enter and stepped through, closing it carefully behind her. Ahead of her lay a staircase with wooden bannisters. The steps had been covered in a blood red carpet that had been worn down in the centre to a dirty white. She approached them quickly; she only climbed by walking on the outer sides of the steps, less chances of creaks.

Once at the top she came to a long corridor, lined again with the carpet from the stairs. On the left side there were four doors and on the side that had faced out to the Valley there were three. There were no paintings on the walls, no family photos, no sign that any person lived there at all apart from the shiny new the key under the mat. She moved with feline agility, along the corridor and into the third room on the left hand side. She held, just outside the door, and listened. The sound of heavy snoring came from within. She pulled the shotgun that she had been carrying from the holder on her back and stretched out. Even with the sleeper’s heavy-handed breathing, she entered the room slowly and silently.

The smell was the first thing to hit her, the smell of a filthy man. She could smell faeces and piss, the undisguisable stench of clothes stained with body odour. The only item of furniture in the room was the bed. The rest of the space was filled with dirty clothes and moulding plates of food. As she looked around she noticed mugs littering the ground, filled with a bubbling oozing mould that looked as though it belonged in a laboratory.   The bed had no sheets, she could see from the vacant spaces on the  mattress clear stains and soiled patches of fabric, she didn’t want to think about what those stains might be. She looked across to the inhabitant of the bed and the source of what had now become almost deafening snoring. He lay flat on his back, covered only in a light patchwork blanket, his stomach was so rotund that from her view from the door she couldn’t see his face, so eclipsed was he by his own gluttony. She walked around the side of the bed. His face was older than she had seen before, but definitely still him, just fatter and with more age lines around his disgusting face. She didn’t like to dwell on them, that wasn’t really a healthy way to do the job.

She took the shotgun and snuggled it cosily into her shoulder, she took a step back. Clicked off the safety and with a quick deliberate movement, pulled her delicate index finger back towards her body.

Bang.

The few birds that graced the valley flew from their homely perches at the earth shattering sound.

Within moments she was back at the front door, taking the key out of her pocket and the zip lock bag. She locks the door behind her and carefully returns the key to beneath the doormat, meticulously yet swiftly place in the exact same manner from which she had taken it but minutes before. She strides across the porch past the rotting columns holding the decaying house together. She glides down the dampened stairs and onto the concrete path. There is something in her face that wasn’t there before. A smirk. A satisfaction in her face. She moves up towards the top of the hill at pace, strong and willed. The mist has cleared for all but a light haze that gently coats the ground, it swirls around her feet as she moves like water, gliding around her and bending to her command.

She reaches the birch tree in little time and barely out of breath. She swings the shotgun from her back to her front and removes the strap from around her neck. She balances the weapon in the wicker basket which heaves under the weight of metal and wood. Placing her hand from within her pocket, she pulls out the cartridge, she can still feel the warmth of it through her glove. Gently tossing it in her right hand, playfully her smirk grows to a smile and she throws it into the wicker basket.

She raises herself back onto the rusting bicycle and prepares to push away.  In these moments she is often tempted to look back, to dwell on the power that encompasses her whole body and ride on the adrenalin.  She knows, she knows that to dwell on that blood lust would mean that she couldn’t carry on and she could never stop.  She pushes away against the tree into the morning.

 

C.R.G

Posted in Fiction

The Fisherman

A grey mist rolls towards the bay, slowly enveloping each swell of the bobbing sea. The harbour is quiet, the only sounds are the gentle clanging of sails and untied equipment on moored boats rolling against one another in motion with the deep blue ocean beneath. The water lapped around the legs of the pier and kissed the hull of each of the vessels. The harbour was forged by nature, surrounded to the east and west by looming grassy hills. To the South of bay, lay the small village of Boraow, one of the smallest fishing villages on the northern coast. Small stone built houses descended the steep verge that joined the sea to the sky. The village and the sea were divided by a road that skirted the base of the village and around the perimeter of the bay. There was a sheer drop into the freezing Atlantic waters. The roads were silent at that time in the morning; there was no sign of any other vehicle other than his.

He gently pulled up at the far end of the town, the heavy 4×4’s gears pushed to action as he parked at the end of the long stone wall that extended from the road and out into the sea. Stretching across his side, he unbuckled his seat belt. As it clicked and released, he let the tattered material pass across his body; he sat in silence, looking out over the bay, watching the darkness beginning to lift on the horizon. A part of him wanted to stay, to sit and watch the sun come up before driving home and crawling back into bed. That wasn’t an option, not this time. Looking around the cab of his car, the passenger seats material had completely come away in patches having been pawed over the years, yellow stuffing poked out through rips in the headrest. At the foot of the seat lay an unbranded blue plastic bags filled with tins of baked beans and biscuits. The radio was gone. He hadn’t listened to music in years, not if he could help it at least. It had been one of the largest complaints from his last crew –

‘Please Skip, something other than the shippin’!” They’d moaned at him over dinner one night in the boats small galley. He’d said nothing but kept his head down as though he hadn’t heard. The crew knew him better than to push. Every now and again, he’d have to take on a new crew man or deckhand and they’d push the issue until one of the more seasoned lads would give them a sharp kick under the small dining table, they all got used to him eventually.

He sighed heavily as the bay became brighter, soon the tip of the sun would rise above the Eastern hills. He pulled the handle from the driver’s side of the cab and felt it stick. Pulling at it again he felt the handle jar in position; he let go and the handle stuck out at a right angle from the door.

‘Bally thing’ he grumbled. He twisted his body to face the stuck door and leaned his hands behind him onto the empty passenger seat, pivoting his whole body and placing all his weight through his arms. He rested his hips at the edge of the driver’s seat and propped his feet against the driver’s door, beneath the window. Now, wedging between the gear stick and the door, he gave one short, sharp, strong push from his legs, forcing the door open with a steely groan. It swung open, as though it were about to swing off of its hinges, as it swung back towards him, he quickly sat up and stopped it with his hands. He’d been meaning to get the hinges and lock fixed but it just hadn’t been a priority for him, what with everything else.

He sat at the on the edge of the driver’s seat with his feet dangling out of the cab. He propped the door open with one foot as he contorted his body around to the back of the car. He pulled out his yellow safety boots from the floor behind the drivers seat. He lifted them over his head and pulled himself back up to sitting. He groaned. He could feel the muscles in his lower back twist as he moved.   He had been amazed that it had taken his body this long to start aching, he first felt the searing pain through his spine about six months ago and he hadn’t been surprised. He almost felt relived by the pain, a reminder of his own mortality. He sat for a moment, his chin resting on his chest. He took long deep breaths through the pain and felt his chest moving up and down with the controlled air flow. He could feel his heart pounding against his rib cage as it compensated for the agony rippling through his back. Within a minute, it was over. Lifting his head, he looked out to the houses in the village behind him. A few windows now glowed with a dim light behind heavy curtains. The others were waking. Heaving their bodies out from under warm blankets and heaving on layer after layer of thermal clothing, blearily searching their rooms on tip toes for socks and shoes, trying not to wake sleeping partners on creaking wooden cottage floorboards.

He needed to get moving. He wanted to be clear of the bay before the first man was in the harbour. Before anyone noticed. He heaved himself out of the cab and stretched. It wasn’t a long drive from his cottage on the hill to the harbour, but he instinctively stretched once he was out of a confined space as though he had been cooped up inside for hours. He moved round to the rear of the 4×4 and opened the doors to the storage at the back. On a normal trip, it would be packed to the roof with supplies. Toilet roll, tins of fruit, beans, pasta, packs of butter and cartons of long-life milk. His holdall would be bursting at the seams with spare clothes and warm layers for a long trip. But not this time, there was one box of supplies that he lifted out and placed on the concrete, the floor was damp from the approaching mist and the spray from the water beneath. He took the holdall and threw it limply into the box. He closed up the doors and locked them with the keys. He went back to the front of the car and pulled out the plastic bag and added it to the cardboard box. Leaning back into the cab, he clicked open the glove box and pulled out a white jiffy bag envelope, already addressed and stamped and clicked the glove box back. He pulled himself out of the cab and looked inside. Taking the driver door with his right hand, he slammed it shut and turned the key to lock it. He withdrew the keys and held them in his hand. There were three keys on the circular chain, one was for the car. The only was a long dark golden Yale key. The third was small and shiny and stood out against the other duller well worn keys. He put them in the envelope and sealed it. He walked to the end of the stonewall road where there was a bright red post box; the only one in the village. Taking a breath, he put the envelope in through it’s darkened mouth. He looked up at the village. There were 5, maybe 6 more lights glowing from the houses.

He picked up his box of supplies and few worldly belongings and moved down the stone steps that were built into the wall that thrust into the ocean. The steps led to a wooden walkway that connected a number of jetties together. Each jetty moored 10 – 12 fishing boats, all gently bumping against one another with the swaying tide. His was on the third jetty from the stone steps, he always placed his girl in the most coveted spot – right at the end of the jetty, first boat out and last one back.

The wooden slats creaked under his feet as he walked towards his tin home. The jetty was older than he was, seaweed covered the legs from their deep setting within the seabed to the visible inches above the lapping water. Their wood was beginning to rot beneath its deep green façade, giving the jetty an uneven movement under with the weight of every step. A committee had been formed. Fundraising has been discussed. He was on the peripheral, uninvolved and never asked.

He approached his small boat, its hull originally a deep royal blue, but it had been battered by rough seas over the years that left scars on her hull, exposing her metallic framework. He had often thought to repaint it but had mainly let it rust, just keeping it coated enough to keep the barnacles away from the equipment. The name however, the name on the side looked as fresh as the first day he painted it on her bow – In brilliant gold – Amber Rising. He remembered that day; he had paid for the boat in cash that he had been saving for over two years. He had been on some of the toughest boats, in some of the roughest seas that he had seen just to scrimp and save every penny to buy her. He’s stored his pay in an old biscuit tin that he hid under his mattress when he was home and stuffed inside his holdall bag when he was away. He was so worried of some stealing it, of someone taking his dream away. The same day that he had the keys in his hand he went straight to the small fishing supplies shop on the harbour road and bought a small pot of gold paint and a brush. He sat on the jetty in just his shorts and a t-shirt, letting his bare legs hang over the side. It was one of the warmest days he could recall now. The hot Cornish sun slowly browning his exposed arms, bringing out the freckles across his nose, his bright red hair glistening in the golden light as though it were ablaze. It was one of his fondest memories now. As he stood on the jetty in cold morning at first light, the looked at the gold glistening writing and smiled, feeling the warmth of that day flow over him. He smiled a half-smile and looked up towards the village. Nearly of the houses now had that dim glow from within. He heard the slam of a car door echo from the top of the hill. Time to go.

He put the box with all of his remaining belongings inside the boat and carried them up to the wheel house. `He went back down to the deck and released the heavy rope that tied him to the land. He felt the small boat begin to drift away from the jetty. He look one last look at the village. He climbed his way up the small ladder into the wheel house once more and closed the rusted door behind him. Spurring the boat to life he could feel the vibrations of the motors beneath his feet. As he steered the boat out of the bay and towards the wide expanse of ocean, he looked East, towards his little cottage that stood alone. He took a deep breath and looked ahead once more. He navigated his way through the rolling hills to the harbour mouth and out into the mist. He took a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a box of matches out of the pocket of his overalls and lit one. He took a long drag on the cigarette and blew the smoke out of his smiling mouth. He was free.

 

C.R.G