Saturday serenity

I awaken, and set myself some goals for my day off and I have managed to do half of them before I’ve even thought about feeding myself. But it is time to have a coffee, a cold brew fermenting overnight with a hazelnuß creamer to take the edge off. Sitting in my chair, legs crossed gently rocking myself to the sounds of the squirrels running up, or maybe down, the tree outside my window, I can’t tell whether the sound is coming towards or away from me to make that distinction as I sip coffee, through a metallic straw. I feel the coffee trickle down my throat and refresh me after a night where I didn’t wake up during the middle of the night due to unpleasant night terrors. The coffee is a little bitter and I circle the straw around the small iceberg in the glass to see if that helps to mix it a wee bit more. It does not, and I sigh, getting up to add some more creamer to it, and return to my chair. I could have tried it while I was in the kitchen, but that would be far too sensible. The coffee is thankfully improved and I press the cold glass against my chest, causing a little chill to my breastbone. My plants are looking a little dry, and it would be unfair to sit here and hydrate myself ahead of my needy, green pets. I fill the spray bottle, and watch as the droplets fall from their leaves, onto the windowsill, some onto the soil. I never know how much to give them, the stickered label on the side of the pot has one raindrop icon. Since I do not arbitrarily measure things in raindrops, I am none the wiser as to this measurement scale and scoosh and spray until I feel like the soil is looking a little damp. The condensation from my coffee glass has collected, and I look down at the floor, coasters unoccupied, their corky purpose of collecting water going unfulfilled. The plants are looking a lot better and I sit back, picking up the glass and sipping from it, and now it is my turn to be refreshed, both from the coffee, and from the cold droplets falling onto my skin. 

Sistine age riot

“The point of art is to create. The point of protest, is to provoke. If they don’t listen to either, you must vandalise with both.” – Gianluigi Nencioli

She flicked open the lid with her left thumbnail and gave the tube a little squeeze, a white substance spiraling out and scooped it into her right thumb and fingers, circling them together and around until the white became clear and all that remained was a sheen, the dryness of the nail groove reinvigorated once more. The edge of her thigh was used to close the tube while she curled her fingers up like Louis Armstrong readying himself for the trumpet. But unlike Louis, she didn’t have all the time in the world, only tonight.

The sandstone was warm to the touch. It should be, the sun was in full bloom earlier, but is at a relative eye-level now. Not that she should look at the sun directly, she noticed the sunlight glinting off the lens of her glasses onto the wall, and gave the circular flare a ‘bounce’ off the grey cement line holding the blocks together. The powder was seeping a little and she fought the temptation to give it a little swipe. Let things crumble, and sometimes they need a push before they fall.

It was ambitious, dangerous, but mostly sacrilegious. Notoriety awaits. Or incarceration. She scraped the underside of her heel on the back of the wall, the boots had lasted a long-time. This was no time to break in new boots, they would creak too much. Not to mention the pinching. These old favourites would do the job, the rubber soul worn thinner at the outside, but black like the rest of the outfit. They were used to seeing black garbs on the women here. Perhaps not in jeans and a black denim jacket though. And unlikely to have seen a utility belt that would make Batman nod in approval. But, the trick is not to be seen in the first place. Stay in the shadows, move swiftly. A final patdown, a nervous habit, she had everything for the painting, most things for the climbing, but importantly the keycard. They trusted ‘him’ with the latter. A smile curled on her face, pushing the bridge of her glasses further up her nose, thinking about how she acquired it last week.

It was still August then. The cobbles were not as bad on her feet, the Oxford style brogues were not the right size, but three pairs of socks were enough to pad out a bit. Although in the heat, she feared what state her feet would be in later. Was the beard overkill for this meeting? Her face was slender, with subtle cheekbones, each the curve of a svelte moon, but filling and brightening when she smiled. She took a mental note to keep the smiling to a minimum. A moustache was an option, but the packet only had a selection of six, and one of those was a pencil-thin moustache. No-one who ever had a pencil-thin moustache was ever up to any good, she thought. The beard would have to do, a few alterations and snips of the scissors and it was passable. The hair was tucked up under the cap, the wig was actually good. As tempting as the ‘Hasselhoff’ was, she opted for the more demure ‘Shatner’ style. A lump formed in her throat and she gripped the briefcase tighter, the closer she got to the double-doors and went inside. A group of nuns looked in her direction, their faces turning to a frown. Oh shit, was she meant to bless herself before going in? What was it again? Up, down, left, right? Or was that the cheat code for Sonic the Hedgehog? Fuck fuck. Do it quickly, they might not notice. She waved her fingers in front of her like a baseball coach giving a signal to his batter. Or was it the throwing person they did that for? Fucking sports, all a bunch of bullshit anyway.

There was a desk behind her, she turned away from the harem of nuns to see another one sitting at the desk. At least, it looked like she was sitting. She could have been standing, such was the fragility of her. ‘Perfect’, she thought, ‘I won’t say that she’s old, but I would not be surprised if she cut the bread at the last supper.’ She put her briefcase on the desk, a power move, and turned back to glare back at the harem of nuns. She wanted them to come over and ask what she was doing so she could say “nun of your business”, but alas, they decided to shuffle off muttering some things in Italian. The old dear had stirred from her papers and was wobbling her head side-to-side to get her eyes to go upwards as slowly as a guilty dog.

“Good afternoon” she asserted “I’m here for my appointment.”

“Appointment, eh?” The old girl creaked out, her bony arms moving a pamphlet with great difficulty, chewing on her own lips with what teeth she had remaining. “What’s your name, eh?” Her eyes narrowed in on the paper.

“Dimanche, Victor.”

“Victor, eh? Ah!” Her translucent fingers tapped the paper twice. “Found you.” Her gums mumped once more. “Upstairs, room to be…”

“Room to be what?” Victor followed-up.

“Room two Bee.” She croaked, pointing a finger skywards.

She chuckled, then scolded herself for laughing. No more slip-ups, as she took the briefcase and went walking up the stairs. Don’t tilt the hips, keep your weight in the feet. A loud clomp echoed on the marble, but there was no-one with good hearing around. The door was closed, and she knocked with the underside of her wrist, firmly, which had the effect of loosening the bands around her wrist, revealing her tattoo of a triangle and lines. Her eyes widened while her heart pounded on the restrictive top under the shirt, the fabric stretching it further. The footsteps were getting closer there wasn’t enough time to tie it, she pocketed the band and tugged at her cuff, as a man opened the door, ushering her in.

“Pleased to mack your acquaintance, meester Dimanch-ay.” He offered his hand, with fingers the size of sausages. Victor thought about declining the handshake, but knew a refusal of this would risk having him in closer for a kiss on each cheek. Couldn’t risk him coming up this close to the beard. She couldn’t let him dominate the handshake, so had to go with her second power-move of the visit and shook his hand with vigour and let go even before he had a chance to grasp it. “This is father Constantine, and father Baresi, and I am father da Vinci. No ah relation, I am afraid ah ha ha.” She watched as the other two gave each other a glance at this well-worn joke.

Formalities aside, I knew from the enquiries that they wanted a “traditional” curator for the chapel. That was code for they wanted a man. It was the 21st century, and this annoyed her that the patriarchy was still… well… a thing. She answered their questions, opened her briefcase and showed them the portfolio, tucking her left hand behind her back, trying not to show off the tattoo, which would rule her out of this position. Not as much as being a woman would, of course. She pointed at the restoration work she had painstakingly completed and couldn’t wait to regrow her nails once more. They pored over them on the desk and told her to take a seat, which she was glad of, her feet were starting to hurt with the triple socks and new shoes. ‘Bring the foot up, just a little massage on the back of her heel’, she said to herself, ‘not too much, don’t bring the attention to you, put your palms back on your thigh and oh fuck why do you have your legs crossed over like that? Because that’s my natural state, you fucking idiot.’ Da Vinci had picked up her work in his bratwurst fingers, while Baresi and Constantine mulled the piece. ‘Be cool, just uncross it and put it on the ground’. Her foot didn’t get the memo as she uncrossed and her shoe fell clean off the woolen socks clattering onto the floor topside down. She stood up, her shoed and de-shoed foot hitting the cold floor unequally, causing her hips to drop making her tilt like the leaning tower of Pisa.

“English shoes. I should have bought Italian.” she said, straightening and kicking over the shoe and forcing her foot back into it. They gave a silent “ah” face before looking back. She sat down and did some ‘man-spreading’ with her legs.

“We are ah very impres-sed with your work here. We have a few more people to interview this afternoon, but we will telephone call you tomorrow with the decision from him upstairs.”

“God??”

“Ha ha, heavens no. Il Papa.” Da Vinci grinned, revealing a thin row of endless teeth. “Although it could be said that he is the voice of God. The spo-kess man.” She left and walked by the nun at the front who was giving Methusala a run for his money, and walked towards the metro station. It was only a couple of stops, but the heat and these clothing were unbearable. A bead of sweat ran down from her wigged hair, the side of her head and into the beard, then that’s where she felt it unstick from her face. The passengers on the other side weren’t engrossed in phones, they were just looking. ‘What was wrong with these people? Don’t they have social media to get angry at?’ Victor poked at her cheek, trying to affix the beard back on. Even with the rattle of the metro train, she could hear a squelch of more of the beard coming off. ‘Fuuuuuuuuck’ she thought and looked up, not in prayer, but wishing gravity to take its course and fall back onto her face. ‘Maybe I can walk with my head held at this angle?’ she pondered as the subway doors opened and the cold air of the underground cooled a few beads of sweat, and got on the steps going up to the street level. Eye-contact was made with a couple of men and she nodded. Another sound and the beard loosened further. It was time to stride, make it to the hotel room, it’s just around the corner. ‘What was that tickling my ear? Oh fuck, I’m down a sideburn.’ The left sideburn was now flapping about like an angry goose getting ready to fuck some unfortunate Canadian’s day up. She swapped the briefcase into her right hand and pulled her phone out of the pocket and slapped it on the side of her face. ‘Perfectly normal’, the revolving doors to the hotel had allowed her to slip in in one smooth motion and she got into the elevator. As did three other men. Her throat gulped as she pushed the phone firmer against her and made a silent vow to murder anyone who was going to choose this moment to call her. The elevator was silent, aside from the whirr of the belt. They’d know she wasn’t on the phone to anyone, she’d have to talk, even if it was in English. But about what? “Yeah” she uttered “just arrived in Rome… Dan. Good old, Dan… how are things at home Dan? Wait, don’t answer, because why would you want to answer my questions ha ha, I’m the one calling you, I should.. I should be the one doing the talking” She pointed at the phone with her other hand while crumpling her face as two of the three men looked at her, unperturbed. The third was probably also looking at her, but he was out of her field of vision. “The hotel is good… a little crowded, I’m just about to get off here on the fourth floor, yep, sure do enjoy the fourth floor as much as I enjoy talking to you, Dan.” ‘Why the fuck were these doors slower than the old girl at the chapel?’ They juddered open and before they had fully retracted she was on the carpet and around the corner. Room 417. She put the briefcase down, and forced the keycard into the lock, kicking her leather case inside once it was open. She peeled off what remained on of the beard and dropped it onto the desk. The rest of the clothes were to follow, pulled over her head, and the trousers forming a figure-of-eight on the floor, with six socks joining them. Disregarding the normal rule of turning the water on before getting into the shower, the ice cold water, while a relief, still conjured up a shocked gasp to escape from her lips. She punched the handle with the edge of her palm and the water turned to a more tolerable temperature. She was used to peeling off glue from her fingers, but scrubbing it from her face was a new one. The clip was released and the final restraint allowed her to drop and be her own self once more. The mirror had fogged up and she swiped at it and looked at the face she was familiar with. Back to being Victoria Dimanche. The water gargled its last and the towel was thrown back over the railing to dry. The minibar was a disappointment and she closed the fridge with a thud. At least there was a glass tumbler, which she tipped the paper cover off, and reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of tequila, pouring a generous measure into and sipped at it, curling the glass back to rest betwixt and below her collarbones. They weren’t going to interview anyone else. She’d seen to that by finding out the names of the other candidates through the gullibility of the administration department. A few searches on social media, and a couple of legitimate looking emails saying that their interview was postponed to the following month but with the promise of restitution to soften the blow of rescheduling. Have to hire the only candidate that shows for the interview, she tapped her temple with her non-glass holding hand. So far, so good.

Up on the sixth floor, a trio of men were still wearing their suit jackets. One of them was a medium size, the others were each squeezed into a large, their shirt collars pressed tight against their neck, resulting in a permanent vein showing on their temple. The man in the medium jacket finished his call and gave his underlings a nod, prompting them to stand up. He sighed and joined them in standing. “Mr Moretti says there’s a problem.” He rubbed his lips. “We have to solve this problem.”

They walked towards the elevator and the large man with grey hair pushed the button. Stepping inside, he pressed again for the lobby, and they waited for the doors to shudder close. “Benny, call the restaurant. Tell them we’re coming in in half an hour.” Benny and his jet black hair pulled out a phone which his hand engulfed. “No bars, boss.”

“What about you, Vito?” He asked the other who pulled out his phone to the same result.

The boss gave a huh, as the lift carried its descent. Much like the lift gears, the ones in his head were running, and he clicked his fingers, “that bearded guy, he was on the phone here. He must’ve had a signal.” He scratched under his chin. “Not something you’d lie about, is it? Not unless…” there was a ding and elevator doors opened to the lobby, where they closed with none of the men getting off.

Roll for initiative

One of the wildest things about having an attack of anxiety is it happening for the simplest reasons. Like being in the supermarket and picking up a packet of toilet roll. It should be fairly straight-forward, but sometimes it turns into an ordeal. It’s already too big for the hand basket, so you have to carry it under your arm while you go around the aisles. Then you have to decide whether you’re going to put the basket on the floor, or balance the toilet paper on the refrigeration vents, making it look like you’re showing it off to the cheese or yoghurts or whatever.

Then on top of that, you’ll have people looking at you, they’ll spot the toilet roll under your arm and give you that judgmental up-and-down look of disdain; “oh, look at him, he wipes his bum!” And then it’s like everyone else is telepathic, and they know what this person is thinking, so they all turn around to see this infamous bum-wiper that’s carrying a basket of cheese, tomatoes, bread and ah hah, toilet paper! Under his arm of course because he needs to be close to it, and not because it won’t fit in the basket.

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Luna

“The moon is very pretty tonight.” I whisper out loud, to no-one but myself, watching my breath go upwards then disappear into the cold spring evening sky.

I have always loved the moon. As a child, I read books about the solar system and space travel and wished that I would one day get to visit the moon. I would grow older and realise that I lived in Scotland and there wasn’t much of a space exploration program available. But a boy could dream!

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For feta or worse

The intercom light blinked and I flicked it on. “Mr Sharp is here to see you.”

I heard a sharp voice behind her own.

There was a moment of hesitation. “He says.. he says it’s urgent.”

I pressed the intercom button and looked around, pulling my thumb and forefingers across each of my eyebrows, before coming down to my tear ducts, massaging a little. Were they more prominent than before? I sighed, cleared my desk of the sandwich crumbs into the palm of my hand, pouring most of them into the bin with the others landing on the floor. I turned over a blank page in my notebook and moved my head back and to the left, reminiscent of the motion Jack Kennedy made in Dallas. At least a pang of heat to my spinal discs was all I was going to suffer.

“Send him in.”

Continue reading For feta or worse

The telephone

It had been years since you rang on it last. Every month the bill for connection would arrive, and every month I would pull my chequebook out and mail a cheque to pay for it. Not out of necessity, you were the only one that called on the telephone, but out of wonder if you would call once again, one last time.

With every month that passed, I would start to forget the way your voice sounded when we spoke. I started to forget how you would greet me on the phone. Did you say “hello”, was it “hey” or even “it’s me”, as if I wouldn’t know that it was you that was calling?

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Everything but the kitchen sink

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Sundays for as long as I can remember. When I was eighteen, I would work weekends while studying during the week. Waking up at six on a Saturday, getting home at five, meeting the boys at half-past seven, staggering back home at four in the morning before waking up at nine for another shift. But when you’re that age, you don’t need sleep. It was only in my twenties that my insomniac thoughts and depressive episodes took away sleep during the midweek working pattern leaving Sunday as a free day for catching up on all that missed sleep. How nice it was to wake up when the clock display showed a pm.

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The rash

He stood at the sink, looking into the cupboard above for a glass and took one down, tilting it backwards and glancing inside, inspecting the thin residue of powder. This kitchen appeared rarely used but dust was the least of his worries right now. The pitcher plant had bitten him and the rash was spreading down his arm in a sea of red pustules. Pressing the blue button, he could hear the rumble of water as it shook the pipes and spurted into the concave bowl, the splashes allowing the true colour of the sink to show. Mati rinsed out the glass, throwing more of the water into the sink, before filling it up and drinking from it. His mouth was starting to dry up, through nerves rather than as a side-effect. Or so hoped. The water stopped and he turned around and squatted with his back against the panel under the sink.

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Benched

The park is cold and the only sound is the rustle of trees and the distant rumble of cars from Great Western Road on the other side of the park.

I’ve taken pictures of the glass palace, and I’ve pressed my feet into the frosted blades of grass, slowly crunching them into a shape of my soles, leaving a temporary mark on the earth.

Walking to the benches beside the herb garden, I take pictures of the trees and bushes. Nearly every tree is empty of leaves yet some of the bushes stubbornly retain their foliage. Several bushes remain green throughout their life, and others age, wither, and die but resurrect themselves the following year. Some of the beautiful red plumage that was on display just weeks previously have turned into crispy brown shells of their former selves, showing to the world the decay and emptiness of existence.

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