Canto III

I wish my dad had drank himself to death. Instead, whenever he got mad, he’d grip his thumb inside his palm and his breathing would get weird and tight. After years of barely-suppressed anger, patches of his cheeks and nose went the purple-red of good beetroot – a whisky shine without the whisky. The coronary was the least surprising thing that ever happened to him: he’d been alone, sitting in his chair, watching the TV blare something about immigrant hordes. With nobody else to shout at – not me, not mum, not even old Ms Potts from next-door, who stayed far away from the fence – all his anger went inwards and popped his fucking heart. He insisted throughout his entire life that alcohol was[…]

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We Fight Monsters

Every day, Rose went out beyond the hawker stands –out beyond the torn-up fences and beat-up dock workers–  to the place where the water was clear. Every day, she went to the ocean to weep. The siyokoy took her son when he was out swimming: the niños ate her little niño. She would cry, and scream, and strike the water with her fists. Then, she would return home and cry, and scream, and strike her remaining sons while they cowered in the corner. If you’d asked her, she couldn’t tell you why. Patti saw, and didn’t know what to do. She watched and hid in trees, on rooftops, behind a jumble of TV aerials. She walked on her hands to keep a low profile, and[…]

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ND52

Some highways run for so long that they’ve gotta turn gradually to match the curvature of the earth; it’s a solid 200 miles along the I-94 from Bismarck to Fargo with barely a corner in sight, but the world turns quietly beneath your feet the whole way. In the early spring, the melting snow turns the dirt on either side into a sucking quagmire – your tire gets stuck in that and you could end up out there for days before you see another passing car. “I want to go home,” said Jan. “Take the 52, dad! Can’t be more’n an hour.” “52 don’t exist,” said Willem. It was true: North Dakota highway 52 existed on road signs and in memories, but nowhere else –[…]

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Patterns

The clouds were a problem. Hemi tried not to look at them, but they’d changed the whole shape and outlook of the sky. His hands shook. He took a drag on his cigarette, watched the smoke gyre skyward: the wind tore it apart, and it was lost. He shut his eyes for a moment. The insides of his eyelids were smashed tv screens – dark, showing only static, carved up by a dull network of red capillaries. He didn’t throw up. He stared down at the dry grass. It still hurt look at, but it wasn’t as monstrous. “You alright bro?” said Chris. “Tripping out?” Hemi nodded, then took another deep drag, and coughed at the burnt-plastic taste of filter. He spat it out, then[…]

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doors I don’t open

There’s memories where I don’t go no more. It’s like, uh – fractured. There’s a house where I lived, and the door is locked. In autumn, in years gone, I made a wending way down a bridge my father made. It creaked and swayed beneath my feet, but I never once got wet. You know what lakewater smells like? It’s a little smell –  so light in your nose you could mistake it for nothing. There’s thousand-dollar whiskey that works its ass off to bring you that smell, and it never quite feels like the real thing. I caught a frog once. Usually you just caught tadpoles and let ‘em grow in a fishtank, but I caught an honest-to-god frog. It had been raining all[…]

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the Dance, the Dancer

The rain came first in spears – fierce long streaks lit silver by moonlight. As the night was pulled further and further apart, the rain went soft, and the wind took it in all directions; fuzzy halos coalesced around the harsh glow of the streetlights. You stood in a hooded oil-coat and pretended not to mind; there was something perverse to electric light — a single light should not have stood against the rain; a single light surrounded on all sides by the sea, when its fire should’ve been quenched in moments. You remembered when there were feeble gas lights, and scurrying link-boys, and when there was only fire, and even before that when darkness squatted upon the face of the earth. In Vienna, a[…]

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The Turk

I was Nan’s favourite, apparently. That’s what people tell me. She was a blunted battleaxe – a mighty woman curled double by age. Her English was perfect, but she never lost the accent – two parts Greek, one part Italian, one part everything-else-in-between. She’d chew her words, then they’d fall out of her mouth with the emphasis in the wrong places. She always kept her hands under a blanket that she’d knitted herself. Her fingers were swollen and scarred – twisted in all the wrong directions. She told everybody she’d been a nurse in the war. When nobody was looking – when mum was busy fighting with her brother over who would get what – Nan would tell me stories from the old country; Eurydice,[…]

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Bricks

“Behold Hadrian’s dead old wall!” said Liam. He hopped up onto the ruined stone, then got out his cock. It was semi-turgid from his little liason with Nigel; Nigel who was lying in the bushes on the Scottish side, his hand on his fat, hairy belly. He smoked a Marlboro Red. His prick stood up and proud in the chilly autumn air. Liam jiggled his knee, a little, and stared up into the open sky. Tension, then release – a golden arc flying over Hadrian’s wall and splattering all over the frosty English soil. A little pagan pillar of steam rose up, coiled around itself, mingled with the fog and got lost. Nigel took his cigarette out of his mouth. “Fuck the English,” he mumbled.[…]

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ICU

“Coma is such an ugly word,” said Becca. “I prefer corporeally challenged.” She tried to curl her hair around her ring finger, but it passed clean through with a liquid little scccchig. Force of habit. Human body gets very accustomed to, you know — physicality. Heft. The human spirit may be divine etcetera etcetera but it has all the physical integrity of cotton candy in a hurricane. “That was a joke,” she said. “You can laugh now. Annie? You can laugh, okay?” Annie was crying. Not pretty TV-crying, but a makeup-ruining, throat-stinging burble. She was trying to talk, but the words kept getting stuck behind the tears. She was talking to the body. Becca’s body, of course, said nothing. She barely even recognised herself –[…]

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