Cindy oh Cindy

He had woken up with a fierce headache, breath that breached the Chemical Weapons Convention, and a nasty sense of foreboding. His brain hurt. He knew something was wrong. He knew he would have spent the better part of the previous evening trying to impress the new girl on the till at the local drugstore, and that he would have, probably, likely, definitely, have said something stupid, claimed a non-existing ability, promised something he was now committed to and would never in a month of Sundays be able to deliver. This wasn’t the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

The phone rang. It was her. “A great evening. Thanks for that. Hope you got home okay. And so you’re going to do that for me? Run the marathon? Raise money for the cancer fund? That’s really sweet of you. I’ll pop the entry forms through your letter box this evening.”

Thirty eight years old and not in his prime. Not that he had ever had  a prime or foresaw himself as having one. “Show me a minicab driver who has a prime, who can flex a muscle, who can even bloody locate a muscle,” he thought to himself. Too much time behind the wheel. Too many kebabs or hamburgers or parcels of fish and chips – snatched meals taken whenever there was a lull in the job. Not exactly healthy. Not exactly regular. Run a marathon? Could never happen.

But she was sweet. Cindy. That’s her name. Newly divorced, new in town, new at the job, new at the till. And she had treated him sweetly. Happy to go out with him, happy to sit and chat in an ordinary bar. Didn’t need to be taken to a swish club so she could spend all his money on overpriced champagne substitutes. Insisted on paying for a couple of the rounds of drinks. She knows what life is really like. She’s got a few miles under the bonnet herself and it’s made her generous, unselfish. He likes her. It seems he likes her a lot. He wants her to like him. He wants her to admire him. And so, a drink or two down the road and his head spinning with what might be, he says yes, yes to supporting the charity, yes to running the marathon, yes to doing it for her. How could he refuse her? Sweet Cindy.

He knew how many miles there are in a marathon. More than his normal minicab trips, more than he could run in a million years. But Cindy, oh Cindy, he wasn’t going to let her down, he wasn’t going to say no. The forms arrived, the forms went off, and he worked on his training strategy, his tactics, his battle plan. He would get the medal, get the respect and get the girl.

He pored over the route of the race, he studied the town map, he marked up all the rat runs, hidden alleyways, and illegal short cuts that he had learnt when he was doing the Knowledge and he reckoned that if he turned up at the start, he could cross the finish line in about four and a half hours with having run only five miles. He knew he could do it. The downside was the five miles, but for Cindy he could do it. And so for the next few weeks before his shift, he walked, then jogged, then cantered, then galloped until he knew that the five miles (and hopefully Cindy) were in the bag.

It all went smoothly. He crossed the line with hundreds of others with a time of just under four and a half hours.

“My best time ever,” he said to the official handing out the medals.

“Respect,” said one of the policemen helping with crowd control.

“Oh, thank you,” said Cindy, kissing him full on the mouth. “Let’s meet up later.”

By the time he had fought the crowds back to his home, washed and shaved and put on his second best casual gear (he would save the best for another time) the list of runners who hadn’t passed through all the check points and were consequently automatically disqualified, had been published and tweeted and retweeted and his name was third on the list.

No medal, no respect, and no girl.

Early morning. The phone rings. It’s her. “You owe me five miles of sponsorship and I like the way you kiss. Can we meet up again tonight?”

How can he refuse her? Sweet Cindy.

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Me. Them.

Eyes at my back. I feel them.

I wonder why I take this route. It’s a short cut, of course, saves about five minutes of an otherwise twenty five minute walk, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I always feel tense, alert, while I’m walking through the housing estate. It’s not that anything threatening has happened. Nobody has thrown a bottle at me or even said anything nasty to me; or about me, I assume. But nonetheless, I always feel tense, alert. The space between my shoulders tightens, I hunch up, I take my hands out of my pockets, I prepare for flight.

The other route, the longer route, the scenic route, conjures up no threats for me. I don’t feel tense or alert on that path. I walk head up high, carefree. I greet others, they respond; others greet me, I respond. Always cheerful, friendly. Sometimes a comment about weather, petrol prices, the headlines. The newspapers they carry show no sign of red on the front pages. The shopping bags I see are reusable, organic. The dog walkers clear up after their dogs; round-eyed, soft-mouthed friendly dogs, dogs to be petted. Both dog walkers and non-dog walkers place their litter in the pavement bins. They are me, I am them. I am comfortable.

Today, as usual, the short cut offers different. Two women chatting. Smokers’ voices, smokers’ coughs. A pack’s worth of butts in the gutter. At eleven o’clock on a warm schoolday morning their dressing gowns jar. They pause briefly as I pass. Watching. I force a greeting. They say nothing. I feel their watching. Watching the enemy.

Pig-eyed dogs roam seemingly as strays. But the smoking piles on the pavement suggest they are well fed, owned. As do the muzzles. These are not soft mouthed friendly dogs, not dogs to be petted; not dogs to love, but dogs to respect. I avoid them, for fear of being bitten; they avoid me for fear of being kicked. They too are tense, alert. I know dogs, they know humans.

The litter in the gutters and unkempt gardens, the discarded mattresses, children’s bikes, and abandoned shopping trolleys in a wooded space adjoining the bus stop suggest a community out of love with itself. And everybody else. And as I walk I know I am part of everybody else.

I feel them watching. Out of the corners of my eyes, I study windows, doorways, alleyways, hoping to see them, hoping not to see them. They are not my enemy. I am theirs.

Tomorrow, I think, tomorrow I will take the longer route, the scenic route, the polite route. There will be no threats, no need to be alert. No cause to feel alive.

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Day 11: Coffee

Image: Wikimedia Commons

He shouldered through the swing doors, sauntered up to the bar, iron studs echoing on the polished hardwood floor, spurs jingling.
“Four Americanos, one macchiato, one latte, a cafe mocha, and two cappuccinos. To drink in. Pronto, signor.”
“No problemo,” said the barista, “You just back from a drive. How was it?”
Slim pushed back his battered Stetson, mopped his brow with his neckerchief, “Sure was long. Long ’n dusty.” He narrowed his eyes, stared into the distance, thoughts of days in the saddle, meals of bacon and beans, the taste of dust, all running through his mind. They hadn’t lost many this time – one or two to coyotes, half a dozen to rustlers. Not bad for a herd of several hundred. The boss would be pleased.
“Anything else?” said the barista.
Slim looked over his shoulder at his crew slouching at the window table, “Any pastries, boys? Or cookies? Chocolate, mayhaps?”
The men hadn’t had any luxury for weeks now and it took a bit of time to for them to make their decisions. The spell away from town had taken its toll and tongues were tripping over some of the pronounciations. French didn’t come easy to unschooled cowhands like these and they were far too proud to walk up to the displays of croissants, pan aux raisins, and mille-feuille and point.
Just as the barista was about to complete the order, the older of the hands, Ole Rusty, called out. “I’ll have me an Earl Grey, not a cappuccino.”
The room went quiet. Chair legs scraped on the hardwood. Slim tensed, adopted the position, legs akimbo, hands loose at his sides only inches from the butt of his Colt 45. He spat out his well chewed cigar. In the opposite corner a hard man dressed all in black and with a star pinned to his chest reached for the shotgun resting on his knees. The two saloon girls crept out through the back door.
“Sure, no problemo,” said the barista.
The relief was palpable. Slim tossed some coins into the tips saucer, the man in black went back to his Sudoku, and the saloon girls returned to drum up some business.
“Now, lads,” said Slim sipping on his coffee, “After this, it’s off to the Gents’ Emporium for showers and some grooming. Try and avoid hipster style. And your wages have been deposited in your accounts.”
“Yippee-Yi-Ay,” sang Rusty.
“Ghost riders in the sky,” chorused the others.

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Day six: No Place to Write

I’m here most days. It’s my regular spot. The others seem to accept that, although sometimes someone new has drifted in and throws down his (or, nowadays, her) cardboard, fishes out the dog’s water bowl from his backpack, and settles down, and I have to suggest he finds another pitch, maybe next to the war memorial or just beyond the chippy near the cash machine, and usually they move on possibly hoping that they’ve made a friend in me, not that there’s much chance of that; in this community you learn very fast not to trust. Homeless on homeless – that’s the new danger.

The manager of the shop isn’t at all fussed about me being here. Sometimes he pops out, asks me what I’m writing about, maybe reads a little. He may even slip me the odd sheet of paper. He probably believes that having a writer as his homeless mascot will up the image of his discount store; adds a little je ne sais quoi. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I think I’ve become a fixture here as far as the local citizenry is concerned and they’d kick up a fuss if he tries to move me on. Even the local constabulary turn a blind eye.

I generally do quite well, nearly all coins, mostly small stuff, but some heavier pieces every now and then; occasionally a bank note. Once in a while a punter will ask to buy a story and we’ll discuss why and if I think it’s because they’re simply being charitable I’ll say no and try and negotiate a straight donation; mostly they’re happy with that. When I do get a serious buyer, we’ll talk literature and poetry and about their likes and dislikes and then I’ll show them some scribbles and if there’s something they fancy, we’ll talk money, paper money of course.

The high street is a gold mine, the place to be if you’re going to write about people, humanity. You see them all here (we all need to shop); the rich, the poor, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad. Sometimes you just want to shout with joy, other times you struggle to hold back the tears. I wouldn’t give up this patch for all the tea in China; well, maybe – it all depends on market prices.

Usually around five o’clock, when the stores are all closed and the shoppers are queuing for buses or trains, making their way to their homes in the suburbs, I pack up my gear, give the street a grateful goodbye and make my way up the car park stairs to where Rusty is waiting for me in the Jag – the old Mark 2, not the XE – far too conspicuous. I will slide into the back seat, sip at the freshly made gin and tonic (one of Rusty’s specialities), lie back in the expensive leather upholstery, and think of the hot bath and three course meal that awaits.

Margaret will have all my work typed up by morning ready for my agent to view.

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Day 7: World War III Tweets

@POTUS: Armada heading south to North Korea. Massive.
@VP: POTUS fools world media with fake news. Armada is heading north.
@POTUS: Armada now heads north to South Korea. Goodbye @Kim.
@PresXi: Love ya Donald. Knew you would join my team.
@VP: #PresXi not cool. North Korea, South Korea, who cares. #USA has the power.
@KIM: We will destroy convoy with powerful inter-ballistics. #USA to become redundant.
@POTUS: #USA standby. Massive deployment. Good. Hide in cellars. Under tables. Huge.
@Triggercarrier: #POTUS your nuclear button briefcase is at Mar-a-Lago.
@Vladimir: Heh heh. Sad.
@Kim: So many mad leaders in the club.
@PopeFrancis: We thank you Lord.

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Day 4: A proposal is rejected


Wikipedia Media

The church is booked, the caterers signed up, and the florist is standing by.
All I need now is someone to love me, someone to say, Oh aye.
I’ve been lonely a long, long time, for far too many a year,
And a lonely bachelor I’ll remain, it’s what me and my family fear.
But when I asked a sweet young lass to be my love, my bride
And to cook my meals and wash and iron and scrub and tup and tup and scrub
I got dark looks and frowns and tears and I sighed when she replied,
“Ah, Old Herbert, woo me not but keep tha nose in tha beer.”

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Day 3: Choice

Continue reading

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Day 2: The Essential List

Image: Wikipedia

This is day two of the Everyday project – Write a list of pre-WW3 personalities I would invite for dinner. Tricky so I googled and here’s what I got:

Famous personalities before the War
Mother Teresa – Mayor of India
Napoleon Bonaparte – a Frenchman
Lawrence of Arabia – an Englishman
William Shakespeare – inventor of old English
Queen Elizabeth – a monarch – named after a famous passenger liner
George Washington – inventor of America
Barack Obama – president of Kenya
Mahatma Gandi – fashion designer
Florence Nightingale – peacemaker
Pope Francis II – the last Christian
Spartacus – decorated war hero
Angela Merkel – world leader
Jane Austen – chick lit writer
Dr Who – the first human time traveller
Lady Hamilton – a sailor’s friend
Duke Ellington – a knight of the realm

Disclaimer: Google writes that so few pre-twenty first century archives survived the nuclear holocausts that it cannot guarantee the veracity of the given information.

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Day 1: Why I Write

This is for Day 1 of the WordPress “Everyday Inspiration” thingy so not the usual stuff. It’s really only the last two stanzas that appeal to me and may be worth working up at some point. Here goes:

I write:
Because I am
Because I want to be
Because I wouldn’t be
Because I have to be

I write:
To express
To impress
To teach
To preach

I write:
To pretend
To offend
To undermine
To wear ermine

I write:
To chastise
To disguise
To invent
To circumvent

I write because:
My heavenly mission is
The world to enchant
I sometimes can
But I sometimes can’t

I write:
The gods to appease
My anger to freeze
My enemies to tease
My ego to please

Ah, ego! There’s the thing.
Let’s dance, let’s sing
Life’s a carnival

(The angel appeared to me one morning bright,
Said to me, “Sonny boy, it’s time to write”.
From his robe he produced a soft lead sharpened pencil
A virgin Moleskine, cream, ready to receive my piffle
And a heartless alarm clock to ring at 7am each night.)

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The True Path




“To what do we owe this visit, my son?”

“Father. It’s these oranges. Produce of Israel.”

“Ah, and you seek, what? Guidance, prayers?”

“I do, Father.”

“And you come to me even though we’ve not seen you at communion for the past five years or so?”

“Yes, Father. It was my wedding. To Mary. And it’s four years although it feels like forty.”

“Well my son, I can only hope you consider the words of Titimus 5: 11 in which he ponders the concept of loyalty to the holy spirit.”

“Father. I will.”

“Bless you my son, etc, but back to the oranges?”

“They were packed under the supervision of a rabbi.”

“Yet you bought them?”

“It’s the small print, Father, a busy supermarket, baby Patricia screaming her head off, young Michael pulling packs of condoms from the shelves. Too stressed to read the labels. It’s just a pack of oranges, for god’s sake.”

“Ah, but what about Semolina 10: 3?”

“The oranges, Father. Can we eat them?”

“Is it exorcism you’ll be wanting, my son?”

“Maybe just a blessing?”

“It’s certainly cheaper.”

“And you’ll write to the supermarket.”

“I will my son. And I’ll pray for them. And for you.”

“Thank you, Father.”

“And for Mary. And Patricia. And Michael.”

“Is all that extra?”

“Fifteen percent? Is that okay?”

“Credit card okay?”


“Love thy neighbour, eh?”

“Peace to all mankind, not so?”

“Blessed are the meek.”

“And the money lenders.”

“Is the Pope…?”

“Do bears…?”

“Amandicus 3:4-7.”

“Eye for an eye.”

“Do unto others…”

“Blowing in the wind…”

“All you need is love…”

“The bells of St Clement’s…”

“St Martin’s…”


“Can’t afford Shoreditch. Gone all gentrified.”

“Blessed are the developers…”

“And interior designers…”

“Money lenders, again…”

“That’s enough, son. Go home to your family now, they need you.”

“Thank you, Father.”

“Bless you my son, and don’t leave it so long again. Classifucus 2:4, eh?” Continue reading

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No More Honey, Honey

Delighted that the Oxford comma rules: read about it here. I’ll list my reasons some other time.

Image copyright: Jennifer Pendergast

“So how come they can fit into a coffee cup?”

“There’re small, small. That’s all.”

“Yes, but they weren’t yesterday, were they?”

“Well, memory plays tricks; maybe yesterday they were small, we can’t tell.”

Expletive deleted.

“Okay, so they’re less big. I dunno, something they ate, something they read – that bloody Alice book? Something genetic – look at your mother; she’s pretty weird.”

“What? You shrunk the kids and now you’re blaming my mother. She always said I shouldn’t take up with you. I should’ve listened. I’m leaving.”

“Go then, and take those kids with you. ”

Expletive deleted.

“You too!”


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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