Roddy's Ramblings

Thoughts and tales; some of them may even be true.

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Location: Australia

Hopefully whatever there is to know about me will come through whatever is written below - whatever that may bring...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Really? Happening here? Couldn't possibly...

Sometimes, something happens that seems so bizarre that you believe that it cannot possible happen. Not here. But it is happening and it is happening here.

The Australian government is applying a mandatory filter to censor the internet. The same thing that China, Iran, North Korea and no-one else does. The very thing that our Australian Prime Minister asked China not to do during the Olympics. No-one is allowed to know what our government has deemed 'unwanted'; which is the latest term being used for blacklisted information.

It was a background thing at the time of the election that most people who knew anything about how the internet works just snorted at and ignored it as unworkable; the policy was something you could opt-out of, it was there purely to protect the children. Thank god someone is thinking of the children. Then about a month ago an employee at an ISP talked about the second filter that people who opted out the first one would go onto. The Australian government actually tried to have this ISP employee silenced by hassling his employer. Something you might expect of Putin's government or the Bush administraion, but not a newly elected Australian one.

Technology web sites and the technology sections in the media all ran the story, but not the mainstream media. No front page of The Age or the Herald Sun here in Victoria. The Courier Mail is Brisbane recently ran with it. The thing that bothers me the most is the tone of the articles, which always talk about the illegal material that the filter will be restricting. This filter can't be used on P2P or secure links – 60% of all the internet traffic in the world is from P2P traffic. So the only people being restricted by the filter will be any paedophile visiting or a terrorist going to If an illegal act is being performed using the internet, I doubt that it is being done (for very long) by someone using an unsecured web link.

The thing about the illegality aspect is anyone can use Google to avoid website blacklisting; if you translate a page from English-to-English then the pages you are looking at are no longer linked against their original address, but against Google; which is an unlikely web page to be blacklisted. You could also create a secure link to a proxy address in any other country (with the obvious exceptions of China, Iran, North Korea or Australia) and browse the web through that – the traffic coming to your PC will be encrypted on its final leg back to your PC from any old innocuous address. There are so many unsecured PCs in the world thanks to Microsoft Windows, the list of addresses you could look up and utilise is practically limitless.

So it's a waste of time if you want to stop anyone from accessing illegal material.

An example that the government have used repeatedly is Pro-Anorexia web sites. How will an automatic scan of a web page be able to determine if a web site if Pro-Anorexia or information about Anorexia? Especially when there may be links to a Pro-site within an Anti-site for direct examples of misinformation. Welcome to the world of false hits. Every piece of web filtering software has something called a false hit, it is where a site is blacklisted when it shouldn't have been; its an unavoidable fact that comes with the territory. The example the government keeps using is as likely to cause families faced with this problem to have no access to any assisting information or help groups.

The latest number of websites the government has deemed 'unwanted' is 10,000. We will not be told what the websites are, the target of the filtering or any aspect of the websites being banned. This list is secret within a department of the government that will decide what we can and cannot see. A department that is influenced by the Family First Senator, Steve Fielding. A veritable luddite who wants anything on the world wide web that has not been specifically given a rating by the Australian OFLC to be listed as 'unwanted'. This is a representative of a political party that has publicly stated their stand against homosexuality. If you want to spend half-an-hour shaking your head in disbelief, then check out their website. Then think about the future of the internet in Australia where an easy option exists for blacklisting any information with knee-jerk policies.

Its also worth mentioning that the filtering software that was trialled slowed down the internet connection between 30% to 75% (or 87% depending on the articles you read). That means at best, your internet connection will be a third slower.

The offshoot that hasn't been discussed yet is the measures to be taken against anyone who bypasses the government's internet filter. One has to go with the other. A mandatory internet filter cannot be introduced without a deterrent to stop people bypassing it. So is every geek and 12 year old who has learned how to get around their firewall and filter at school going to be looking at a life as a criminal?

Playing and losing

I heard yesterday that Fuel Watch is to be canned this week. From an layman's point of view, this is another round of political games where the populace has lost.

The prices around Melbourne were an absolute debacle last year before the fuel watch proposal was announced; there was no workable average to base your prices on, you just had to either drive past a lot of stations or take a chance depending on how many options you had. Things have settled down now to the point that generally prices are stable and, for reasons best known to the oil companies, they fluctuate the prices to make Tuesday the cheapest.

Apparently, we should all be grateful that the prices are cheaper on Tuesday, you can get 4c off a litre and fuel watch should be scrapped as it might interfere with how good the oil companies are to us. This was the basic message from the RACV spokesman speaking on the news. If you take a step back, you might wonder if the schedule from the oil companies point of view is to make it more expensive at the weekend and add 4c to the price, unless they have a receipt from one of their marketing partners.

In my own personal opinion, once the fuel watch has been scrapped for good, we can watch the prices spiraling out of any basis and the days where the petrol is 'reduced' starting to shift around. We may have just played a game with the oil companies that they were manipulating from the beginning to allow a grand-standing politician to say how we really don't need any laws to work with the petrol prices, they are self-regulating and the companies involved are a bunch of nice guys with our best interests at heart.

Back from the outback

Well – not really the outback, but the Grampians area of Victoria called Strathbogie (really). Its about 2 or so hours North of Melbourne through a multitude of signs saying 'No' to the North-South pipeline, which is currently being constructed next to the road.

The North-South pipeline is something that I only came across recently in the media, when a woman in her farm was arrested for obstructing the construction of it. From what I do know, it does seem that the pipeline is a fairly short-sighted measure that the farmers have every right to be upset about. It's a water pipe to bring extra water to the city, thereby reducing the amount available to the farms to do things like grow food and allow their animals to drink. You could never accuse the farmers of wasting water in Australia – but the same could not be said of those folks in the city. The water usage is now going up from my condensed dwelling companions as the campaign to get people to be more conservative is more losing ground the longer it runs. People are still wasting a shed load of water in the city; whether through their gardens or just not giving it much thought. It does seem peculiar that the water is physically taken from the people who desperately need it to be given to people who squander it while being hinted at from an advertising campaign. I guess there are more voters in the city.

Its always a pleasant surprise when it turns out that people really are more pleasant in the country; and even more surprising when people are helpful, courteous and friendly. From someone who has to take the train every day, its like the world has had an exorcism. The farm we were staying at was near a place called Ruffy (really). The surroundings were just what the doctor ordered after so much stress caused by endless, loud bass music and earthquake inducing car engine revving. As an extra bonus, one of the resident dogs had recently given birth to six of the cutest rough-and-tumble puppies; endearing doesn't even come close. The cottage we were staying in also had a rather nice pool table which was excellent; playing on it over the long weekend brought back memories of when I could actually pocket balls.

The area surrounding the farm has the most unusual rocks and boulders that really have to be seen (might be able to put a photo in this post); how they are 'placed' is really are quite intriguing and can bring one to consider and philosophical thoughts while drinking a nice, hot cup of tea. We were told of a market in Euroa, which we dawdled along to. As is the case in most of my life, there was someone there to tell us how much better is was the year before.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Kicking off the long weekend

It's Friday and the next four days beckon towards me like a sultry temptress. I have to admit, I'm quite looking forward to it; although at the moment I'm sitting on the train on the way to climbing wishing I hadn't downed a litre and a half of water such a short time ago.

The train is actually full of Ireland and Australian supporters for the final, of three, international rules game tonight; which I did enjoy a lot when I went a couple of years ago. The atmosphere is good natured as pretty much all Australian sporting events are; with loads of tops for both sides around the train with no thought given to the possibility of animosity.

Tomorrow morning we head off into the outer reaches of Victoria to find some peace, quiet, solitude, food and wine with a work detox. Its the time that you promise to yourself that you'll be in the frame of mind to start exercising again after you get back because everything will seem so much clearer and brighter after a change of pace and scenery. Here's hoping anyway...

I'm tempted to chronologue a fitness regime with the Wii Fit on the blog, to make it more of a scheduled series of events and list how things are going. Someone at work came up with an excellent solution to the cross trainer rubbing the skin off my hands which I'll try – using the towelling that you can stick to tennis racquets, etc. Its another constant battle against my need for order and my want of disorder to keep the boring man inside me just quietly complaining to get out under lock and key.

We'll see what happens after getting back.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


So, I'm back from climbing after a 2 week recovery period. My hands are looking like hands again; with skin and everything. It was a painful, distracted couple of weeks, especially at the start, but things have settled down and its not even keeping me awake at night now.

Its not really possible to wear gloves while climbing, at least covering the fingers and palm; so I just wear a cotton glove for the belaying; the previously white and non-torn glove now in my bag. Glad they're cheap.

So maybe things will work out okay – the climbing went better than expected tonight, with the highlight on getting up the corner wall on greens, over the lip and up without having to 'just bridge'.

The phrase of 'just bridging' came from when I was trying to get up that corner wall using only greens for the first time and ran out of holds to progress on. I asked one of the instructors on how to progress and he told me that I just had to bridge it. Which is climbing with a shoe gripping the wall on each side, doing the splits pretty much and stepping up. Just bridging. To be honest it wasn't too bad to get into the position, pushing a foot against the walls on each side of me. The trouble was what to do once I'd stepped up high enough to reach the hand hold. The thing about holding your weight on your legs against opposite walls is that you can't just move one of them and hang there. I was there for a wee while pondering this; then held onto the green rock with both hands and moved my foot to a nearby rock beneath. That was when my shoulder decided it wasn't going to simply hold my entire weight without a protesting, painful stretch. So I was there a wee while longer with a painful shoulder muscle before the following couple of steps to the top. It felt pretty good though to be honest; nothing better than confirming one's manliness than achieving something while in pain; like having a shower and having real dirt flowing down the drain.

Ah well, almost home.


So I finally start exercising; to try and lose a little weight, get something resembling a bicep on my arms, but mostly to give me more scope for wall climbing. My arms are the first things to go after a while of hauling my fat draped carcass up a wall. While you might say that this has more to do with technique and I should be using my legs more – if you are climbing up an overhang, good luck trying to hold on with your toes.

I am, much to my surprise, enjoying indoor rock wall climbing immensely; it can give you a real feeling of accomplishment to scale 15m of wall using only particularly coloured hand holds. I do believe that the initial deal I made with myself made a lot of the difference in how much I get out of it.

When in New Zealand, there are certain things you feel obliged to do. One of them is to throw yourself off a disturbingly high platform. After many brochures and leaflets, the Canyon Swing seemed that it would be more enjoyable than simply throwing oneself of a bridge. I really use the term enjoyable as the feeling while reading the leaflets of the safety within my hotel room. Standing on the platform 109m above the canyon river was the dose of high reality; as far as I was concerned I was throwing myself to my death regardless of the harnesses and cables attached to me.

I regale you with my tale of bravery (apparently, according to the Canyon Swing guide, I let out a manly roar while plummeting) as I realised after much thinking back that I had no trust in the equipment that would be hold me as carefully as the youngest child in a family of twelve and ensure that I would survive like the many thousands of people before me. So when I entered that indoor climbing centre for the first time, I made a conscious decision to believe that the harness and rope would indeed hold onto me – allowing me to not have to worry about anything except going up.

This also, by a welcome coincidence, allowed me to keep at peace while travelling in taxis in India; it was out of my control but many people had, apparently, lived through the journey before me. So it was no matter that I saw more of the front of buses than the back of them, I was relaxed and content to let the universe do its thing.

This all comes back to the title, as once again I seem to be getting in the way of myself. The exercise and climbing has really messed up the skin on my hands, eye lids and feet. It's itchy, painful and very distracting. So I hope to find a happy medium where I can keep going, unlike the squash which I used to enjoy very much but had to give up.

The Return...

This is being typed in on my new groovy, tiny and rather cool looking laptop; it is called a netbook, laptot or SCC (Small, Cheap Computer) – depending on the website you read. I've been waiting for these machines to appear for years and they took their damn time getting them out. Just enough of all that is needed to use a word processor, email and browse the web.

This is the Acer Aspire One – not the best battery life, nor the biggest screen; but it has a keyboard that is 95% full size. Having tried the eeePC701 and 901 in Office Works, and again in JB just to make sure, the keys were just too small to comfortably touch type. This version also runs Linux – which was specifically what I was after. Last thing I needed was XP wedged in. This one runs Linpus, which is Acer's own version and written specifically for the machine. It also makes it easier to add and remove features; this one has Compiz Fusion running on it, which is a 3d desktop. Unlike Vista, which I have the misfortune to have to use at work, which has a rather simplistic and particularly unuseful Flip3d as its claim to a 3d desktop, Compiz Fusion is a full 3d desktop. This entails, for example, that I am typing on one side of a cube that I can rotate round to different desktops. There is more functionality than you can shake a stick at – including my personal favourite – the wobbly windows option.

I am particularly fond of the screen, which is bright and clear – the resolution of 1024x600 is practical and suited to this machine's personal primary purpose, which is word processing. Can't say I was upset when I found a version of the C64 classic Paradriod in the package manager though.

The heart of the machine is the 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor. This is well groovy. The laptop that has been put into retirement as my portable is a 233MHz Pentium with 32MB of memory; it runs Windows 98 well enough and is smaller than the desktop replacement laptop I have at home – which sits beside the desktop. I still find it surprising, that no-one else is surprised by the fact that my old 233Mhz laptop takes about the same time to start MS Word as my dual-core 2GB memory PC at work. In comparison, even of the speeds that the motherboard can transfer data around within the two machines, the one at work should be on the cusp of going back in time. Instead I have to use Vista at work which doesn't respond to mouse clicks reliably and cannot even remove a folder correctly to the Recycle bin. A full list of bitching about Vista is likely to appear in the near future.

Having an interesting in techy things, I was a bit disappointed to find that I would need to take this laptop apart to add more memory – and I really mean apart. Remove keyboard, casing, motherboard, daughter board and all the rather fragile ribbon connectors in between. Maybe once the warranty has run out...

On the pleasant side though, it doesn't feel like the memory is really needed as the machine is running very smoothly. The sound from the internal speakers was also a pleasant surprise. So it's pleasant all round.

Now to get onto that novel; the real reason for the splashing out on this new piece of kit.

Monday, July 16, 2007

But believe it or not, there was better news...

Jeez - who could have thought that things could get any better; but they did. In what could qualify as one of the most perfect evenings of my life I won an entry into the semi finals of the RAW comedy competition. It was hosted (rather well) by the excellent and rather nice Corinne Grant.

Here is the entry:

And for the keen, a profile was also put up on their website. But I really don't want to mention the article in the Sunday Herald magazine. No really, I couldn't...

But before you may think I've disappeared too far up my own backside, Triple J did get my name wrong in the introduction...

But there is some good news...

While the remakes competition did not go as planned, sometime later I entered a video competition to make a 2 minute film on video games. It was a finalist and shown on TV which is definitely a first for me.

If you have an urge to check it out...

The results of the Remakes competition...

I forgot to post the results that came out of the competition. Here is the postmortem from myself:

Here are the judges comments and its fair to say that they hated it with a passion. From a group of people that proclaim their support of all people interested in remakes I have to say I have not visited the site since... worth a read though just to see how much venom people can actually produce...

And for the finale, here is a podcast... its not as funny as the guy talking would like to think it is and I have to say that when I heard his thoughts on my entry I was more than a little incensed by the smarmy bucket of shit... but would hate for anyone to think I was bitter. This the perfect example of what a friend of mine would call an oxygen thief...

Okay, okay, ...

This is just an update so the first thing that people read would not be the last 'Tale' post. No idea where it came from (it was done on a whim) and it really doesn't represent anything else on the blog. Honest.

So feel free to jump down a couple before reading on...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Tale... Oh What a Night

I can still feel the giddiness of excitement in the morning air, still can't believe my luck- but then again patience is a virtue. I can barely wipe the grin off my face when I think back to it, the two of us finally alone. I had dreamt so much of this happening and then... the smoothness of your skin, smoother than I had thought possible, and everything that we did, the fantasies that we indulged, and you lay there for me taking it all, English past the very end.

Background... Oh What a Night

Not much I can say about this - apart from maybe that its short...

The tale is meant to be a bit darker than it reads and what is actually happening is not immediately clear - but it is there. Really...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The trouble with forums...

The principle that seems to run with forums is that because you cannot judge a person on their appearance you get the real person. but to judge a person purely on their words of anonymity is just the same as basing your judgements on how they look; you are still basing it on a single dimension.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Competition over..

Well, the Retro Remakes competition is now over and the entry is there. There has been a resounding silence over the entry on the forums; but I'm not going to let that bother me...

Who am I kidding - I'm really depressed about it. The screenshot on the right is the title screen - the logo was designed by a girl named Viv at work and it looks fab.

I'm quite happy with the game, given that it runs completely in software rendering with my own library controlling the camera, quads, pyramids, etc. While I did attempt OpenGL, it was too late in the day to start dealing with the different scaling and Allegro never seemed to work properly when going from OpenGL mode to Allegro mode...

Its available to download at the Retro Remakes site; its the second last entry out of 75 of them, which is possibly one reason why a lot of people have not tried it (yet?). Use the following link to find all the other entries - a lot which look depressingly impressive:

So real life is getting back together. The last few days have been spent redoing the Jukebox; inside and out. The box has been rebuilt with a CN1000G Mini-itx motherboard - which entails that it is now running out of a self-contained shoebox. The software has also been updated quite a bit, it now has the stats to follow the most played Songs, Artists and Albums and several less memory leaks.

The jukebox monitor still needs a decent window frame over the monitor and the sides completed (and then painted). One day soon...

So the next phase rolls in... but here's another few shots of the game for my own vanity (including one from the original ZX Spectrum)...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lots been happening - just not here...

Its been a while and the blog has turned into one of those festering away in the backlot of the internet.

'Fair enough.

But a lot has been happening since I last updated this near the end of April, which is one of the reasons I haven't sat down and written anything to enlighten the abyss of the unread. The main has been the entry into the Retro Remakes competition, getting a second hand XBox, decorating my room and the house in general and work has got a lot busier with a lot more responsibility which has not helped. Excersing has also taken a large portion of time in the last few weeks as I attempt to get into some form of fitness for the race in December.

So hopefully I can start adding more droplets to the bottom of the ocean that may, or may not, get noticed by someone walking past the tide line.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Learning Process... Dealing with illness

The Best Laid Plans O' Mice and Men Gang Aft Aglay... for the less educated amongst us (or for those who do not search google for an exact quote) - the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

The week of plans to shoot the film have been dogged by illness and the after affects of recovering from that self-same illness. Trying to look into the script was like looking into an abyss and, as we all know, look into the abyss and it looks also into you. This leaves it back with working things around the schedule at work; but at least being back at work might re-align my brain to functioning in some reasonable manner. This weekend was not a time for any starbust of revelations.

The only beacon left burning at the moment is Anzac Day approaching next Tuesday (for those outside of Australia, check out the film Gallipoli for any explanation - at the very least you'll get to see Mel Gibson when he still had an Australian accent) giving a day to work through the script...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Learning Process... Making a Film (4)

Day 3

The head cold is still unwilling to budge. Thanks to the pain-killers though I did get a good night's sleep which also helped to relax the muscles so they are not painful anymore, just stiff.

Though my eyes are like piss-holes in the snow, I'm hoping to make some progress on the shooting details.

First time off from work in a long time and I get ill - that sucks...

Learning Process... Making a Film (3)

Day 2

After a sleepless night with a nagging pain in my ankles and calf muscles I decided the best approach for 'Day 2' would be to get the house stuff I needed to do out of the way first to allow me to start working out the how, when and who of each shot in the screenplay.

So the washing up, then the hoovering and brushing of the stairs and floorboards led to the final task of clearing up the dead branches on the trees in the back garden. It was my first time of hacking down dead branches from a tree and it was a bit nerve wracking being on a ladder that swayed with the wind. I should have waited for a day when it wasn't as windy, but that could be like waiting for a day with no rain in Scotland. Once I'd sawed down the higher ones, I could use the step ladder for the others and with a lot of climbing, moving and stretching with a pruning saw and branch cutters, I could then collect them, break them up and store them in pile.

This, as you may have rightly guessed, has nothing to do with making a film. It does, however, have everything to do with why I spent the rest of the day being barely able to walk (literally) and with a fogged up head and clogged up nose and very painful muscles.

The learning process here should have been knowing when to quit.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Learning Process... Making a Film (2)

Day 1

Its the first day of my allocated holiday to allow some dedicated time to shoot the film. I unwrapped my tripod, spend quite a while working out how to turn the camera on, checking the settings and spend more time working out which knob, dial and switch did what on the tripod.

I had already spent some time working out a starting point. There seemed to be 3 main shots; one being the continuity shot that would be base for the film, one a POV change and the other being the dudey shot with camera movement.

So with this all marked on the screenplay (with the margins adjusted to allow for notes), I setup the tripod to capture the shot I wanted for the base continuity. I didn't have a dead body on hand, so I just shaped the quilt to give this impression for the draft.

The first plan was to read through the screenplay to get an idea of timings. I also wanted to show the shadows of the other 3 (well 2 actually, the 3rd never comes into the room) characters moving so I could fiddle with it in the video editor, when I got one. Regardless of being in an empty house, I still felt like a bit of an tw*t (use whichever vowel depicts your upbringing) reading and swearing from the script in different voices. I also realised that I would not be able to do the slight shifts with the camera, lie in the bed nor move myself around the room to give the placement of the shadows at the same time. It is starting to become probable, that I will not be able to do this on my own...

I realised I needed to work out the variety of shots required and how to get continuity between them. I was going to state beforehand on the video which scene I would be doing as I needed an indicator to state which shot was being taken. This, I realised, was what a clapper-board is for.

I then decided to clean those hard-to-reach windows in the house, remove that darned defunct smoke detector (using a bizarre triangulation with the ladder over a very high drop) and mow the lawn, which took in itself over two and a half hours. I then fixed the jukebox software to stop it hanging on a certain CD and fixed up the MP3 tags. For some bizarre reason, Dido's Life for Rent just fails to be read in properly... ah, well.

Tomorrow will be spent on working out how many individual shots are required for the shoot; the kitchen also needs cleaning... as well as my bathroom (the shower also needs some re-sealing) and a hoovering of the carpet is well overdue. Really need to brush the floorboards as well.

Film making is damned hard work.

Learning Process... Making a Film

Let me just say first up, that I know nothing about how one goes about making a short film. Given this fact, I thought it might be interesting to see what one finds out when one sits down and actually gives it a go.

The first thing I did, personally, was to come up with an idea that would be (or seem to be) easy to shoot; ie, not include 100 actors and more scenes than a drama queen on a first date. So gathering the 1% inspiration together, I thought about an idea I had and then thought about it some more. This took a few months...

Then after much reminding from a colleague at work who had made his own full-length feature film, I typed up the screenplay. It didn't take too long at all, a couple of lunch times and a train journey to work and it was in a usable state. So I re-read a few times over the following weeks and adjusted the margins...

Everything about this film was to take on the basis of a one-man project costing as next to nothing as possible. I already had a video camera I'd bought back in 1999 and used as much as most people use their video camera. One holiday and my wedding. The set is to be a bedroom, the only other character that can be seen is dead and barely recognisable. There is only one actor and thats me (the others are voices and shadows). What could possibly be hard about this?

So given all this criteria that I actually took some time off work to spend some 'quality time' on making a draft of my short film.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Tale... Epilogue (2)


The light sound echoes around me as I dive into the space below, watching the cascading colours stretching into the distance. My arms stretch out to encompass everything, every sound and every feeling around me then hug them to me. I feel a breath against my cheek then hear light laughter, her laughter, as a bright circle of luminescence passes close by. Chasing after it, it glides away from me, teasing me as it approaches then quickly disappearing behind me, the shape forming into her as I watch hearing her laughter mixing with mine. I have walked from within the wood to find her. She had been waiting.


The wind howls past me as I stand and stare out to the sea crashing far beneath me. My mind is blank and only a single emotion prevails causing a solitary tear to breach my eye and run down my cheek. Thoughts flood into my mind bringing a torrent of feelings causing me to flail and twist, confusion reigning behind my closing eyes. Then it happens so suddenly like the ending of a constant, the chaos leaving a solitary idea. I open my eyes and reach into my jacket taking out my wallet and removing the notes placing them into my trouser pocket. The wallet seems to hold momentarily before falling into the waves; my watch following and every marker of my identity disappearing into the grey mist below. The gold of my ring catches the earthy light before I almost pull my arm throwing it against the wind into the past. Turning away, the past at my back and forever buried.

“Here,” I motion my old clothes towards the man sitting on the step. He looks up and sees what I’m offering. I can see a question forming in his dark eyes, but he takes them from me.
“Thanks mate... I’ll see what I can do with them.” Then he starts looking through them before I’ve turned to go. I turn away and leave him with them and head towards the motorway junction. I look too old to be a student and I wonder if anyone will stop with my covered hand held out to the wind. The jacket is cheap and would allow me to freeze if it wasn’t for the jumpers underneath cutting down the amount of wind slicing into me on it’s way past. My new jeans are thick and I keep the leggings in my jacket pocket in case it gets any colder, especially during the night. The new love of my life is the woollen hat which keeps my ears warm. Much against my belief a car pulls up in front of me.


The suit feels so smooth. His fingers just seem to glide over it. His grubby fingers. Like holding the reed against the rose, he feels the lacking of his own beauty. Only a suit. The man giving them has gone leaving an empty suit. The shirt he can’t touch; so white against his dirt stained fingers. What can I do with a sodding suit? He thinks to himself. Carefully he puts it into a bag. Wanting to sink back into himself, his body resists, his mind starts to awaken as to what a suit may do within a material world.

“Sorry mate, would have a couple of quid?” The youths at the bus stop turned to him, still laughing.
“What’s that?” Turning to face him, the old, dark clothes dwarfing his body.
“Would you have a couple of quid?” He asks again.
“Here you go, here’s a quid and don’t go wasting it on a cup of coffee!” They start laughing again.
“Don’t worry mate. I won’t.”

He notices the tall man standing at a taxi rank wearing a dark suit with a leather briefcase in one hand and a lighter in the other which he constantly grasps and ungrasps.
“Would you have a cigarette at all?” He says as he approaches him.
“Sorry? Oh, right. Here you are.” A cigarette is offered to him which he takes into his fingers. After it has been lit for him he throws an unexpected question into the air.
“What’s the longest word in the English language with no vowels?” The tall man turns to stare at him.
“I’m sorry?” The question is repeated and the tall man stops, turning away from the road and blinks. The sudden stillness is broken with the reply. “I’ve no idea.”
“Rhythm.” They look at each other for a moment and the man gives the briefest of smiles. “Could you spare a couple of quid at all?”

Once again he finds himself at the library. Smiling at the librarian he stores his bags in the corner keeping one with him and starts browsing the aisles. He wonders how many times he has been in here over the last few weeks, reading, taking shelter from the rain. How he hated to leave to go back into the world outside, to try and keep himself warm against the cold, cold wind.

He gathers some of his bags and sits on them as a chair and opens the book the librarian was kind enough to let him have for the day. The doorway is large beside him and he gathers his strength to announce his voice to the open air. He begins, the goal passing him courage in his mind and after the longest time he hears himself finish.
“... DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. RAGE, RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!” His voice dies down as the few students that have gathered round him outside the refectory start to leave. He stands up from his bag and picks up the empty hat, looking around him at the departing people. A young girl approaches him and places a coin into his hand. He looks at her and finds himself looking into her deep, sad eyes. “It must be awful,” she says. He sees her flawless skin and the pretty face holding her haunting eyes.
“Sometimes, something happens which makes it worth it,” he replies quietly to her and he watches her receding figure into the distance. He opens his hand to see the coin and he knows that all he can do now is wait for the world to catch up with him.

He checks the newspaper advertisements in the library until he finds what he needs and feels an apprehensive smile on his lips after putting the payphone back in the receiver. After talking with the librarian, he leaves the bags behind and carries one with him. Walking through the automatic doors into the store taking in the stares of the staff he picks up the items and pays at the counter, placing a bundle of change in front of the disconcerted employee not catching his eyes. He strides out the store and makes his way to the train station. Paying the toll and passing the suspicious look from the guard he heads into the facilities. The shower feels like a baptism on his body as he scrubs and soaps himself from the past. Slowly, but slowly he feels his reddened skin ridding itself of a world inflicted history. He starts to see a face behind his beard in the mirror as he patiently clips with the scissors. His skin feels raw as he covers his face with soap for the third time and takes another new razor from the packet. Then he finally looks at himself in the mirror and sees himself, not as a stranger but a welcome guest. After rubbing the toothpaste into his teeth with his finger several times he opens the bag and dresses himself in the suit. His boots held together barely show under the trousers legs that he staples to the correct size. The jacket looks large but he sees only the whole and he breathes deep then heads outside into a future not given, but taken.

“Oh, yes. I’ve worked with real ale before and I helped with the cleaning out of the pipes and all that. Unfortunately, the pub’s closed now; you know what it’s like in the capital.”
“You would have no problem with terminating the rent on your current abode with such short notice? We really need somebody to start quickly.”
“No, it’s an easy going arrangement at the moment. I also wouldn’t have much to move in with as I’ve been travelling for quite a bit.”
“The pay rates are fine?”
“Excellent. There’s a couple of other people to see, but I think.. well, we’ll contact you tomorrow to let you know.”
“Thanks mate. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.” Their hands shake and he smiles. A smile that seems to take over his whole face.

He sits beside the phone in the library, anxious and pensive. Praying for no-one to want to use it until he gets his call. As the hours pass he can feel himself sinking, but when the phone rings he still jumps and he picks it up, his hand shaking.
“May I speak with William Brown?”
“Hi. Speaking.”
“Hi, it’s the Book and Stamp here. I’m pleased to offer you the live-in barman position if you can start on Monday?”

His smile takes in the world around him and he closes his eyes as he replies.


She places the coin in his hand and looks at him. Then she feels she has to say something to give some reason for the gift she will not miss.
“It must be awful.” She realises the open ended statement and wonders if she’ll be burdened with someone else’s problems on top of her own. But the reply causes her to pause before turning away and heading away from the tramp with her memory in his hand.

She gets up from her table to the sound of her mother calling her. As she gets down the stairs she sees Michael at the door.
“Tina, are ye coming out?”
“No, I can’t. I really have to finish something.”
“Whit! Yer no da-in yer homework again?”
“Ah, go on hen. The fresh air’ll do ye good.” Her mother says staying at the door.
“Look, just fuck off... I need to, okay!” She wants to say so many things in her scattered thoughts; I need support, I need your help to get out of here, can’t you see that? I need to pass, I need to stay on, to get to college. But she runs back up the stairs, slamming the door of the room. Sitting back down at the table a tear rolls down her cheek as she feels so alone with everyone around her. Slowly she gets up and looks out of her window and sees him idling past street lights on the cold winter evening, his head looking down at the pavement.

Opening the door of the building she makes her way to her room. Entering her flat, she notices it is empty and sits down heavily on the end of her bed, looking into the kitchen then out the window to the rain starting outside leaving spots against the glass.

They are out of breath from running as they reach the bottom of the hill. Looking around then collapsing to the ground in a heap. Their young faces red with exertion.
“Should we keep going? Do ye think they’ll catch up,” her speech is ragged as she speaks through short, rapid breaths.
“Nah, they’re off somewhere else or they’re bored chasin’ us.”
“I’m scared I’ll run into them on my own.”
“When would that be? I’m always with ye.”
“Ah ken. Just worried, that’s all. What about when we get to secondary school, though?”
“Secondrey? That’s weeks away.”

“Sometimes, something happens which makes it worth it...”

“I.., I miss ye,” he looks deeply into his cup of tea, not meeting her eyes.
“Me too.” She reaches over and takes hold of his hand across the table, causing him to look up. He looks into her eyes and sees a reflection of his own feelings.
“Come on,” he says as he motions her to get ready to go. He leaves a coin on the table and they rush out into the cold holding hands, their breath leaving a brief trail of clouds as they see the alley behind the shop and turn into it, holding each other and finding their lips pushing together, his back against the wall. Then she lets go.
“I can’t,” she mutters quietly.
“I can’t get caught,” she says almost to herself as she backs away.
“From what? Who? What are ye on about?”
“From this,” she motions her arms around her, to the alley, to the buildings to life around her, but she knows he only sees his own confusion, that he cannot see the bars she sees when she walks around and sees empty people pushing prams, hears her parents arguing at night. “Please don’t ask me to be like them.” She turns and runs and he does not chase but stands with his back against the wall looking after her.

The boiling kettle interrupts her unwelcome memories and she sees the cloud of steam billowing out. Switching it off she pours the hot water into the cup and stirs in the milk. The chinking sound of the spoon against the china stirs in her.

“Thanks for coming,” she says to him. He is stirring his tea absently as she speaks.
“Nae problem. Ye can only look at so many jobs at the jobcentre before they all start lookin’ the same. My filofax is pretty much empty fer the rest of the day.”
She looks at him and it is like looking at his reflection in a warped mirror. He looks hollow, she thinks. He looks up and turns away from the look of pity in her eyes; starting to feel angry.
“My results came through. I wanted to tell you that I’m leaving for university.”
“Ye left a long time ago. Look, congratulations and all that. Great, terrific. Dinnae forget tae look down on me once in a while. Hope ye don’t mind, but I have tae go now. Glad ye had a chance tae gloat.”
“Michael! I’m not gloating... How could you think that?” He just looks away and takes out a coin to throw on the table. “Don’t worry, I’ll get it,” she says to him.
“Don’t worry, I can still afford a cup of tea.” He throws the coin on the table and walks out, never looking back, then the door quietly closes behind him. She looks at the coin and picks it up, taking a note out of her purse and leaving it on the table. When she gets outside there is no sign of him; putting on her gloves, she heads back to collect her things.


It feels like everything has just crashed around him. He had known since she’d ran away from their first and only kiss that he couldn’t have her, but it couldn’t stop him feeling like the rug had just been swept out from under him. His anger dissipated almost as soon as it had come as he threw the coin on the table and stood to go, turning his back before she could see his eyes redden as he blinked to hold back the tears carrying a heavy feeling of being cast away.

He swirled the beer at the bottom of the pint glass looking at it, before sighing and swallowing what was left. People had come and gone from the bar for most of the evening as he had sat there, groups of couples and single men hunting in packs. Most of them only stayed for few before heading off to the next field hoping the grass would be greener. He knew how green all the fields were around here and most of them were simply knee deep in mud. Slamming the glass on the table he then gets up to approach the bar.

He stands thinking as he waits at the bar. The music is started from the jukebox and he looks over to see a couple of hyenas standing there, laughing with each other.
“A pint and give me a couple of vodkas as well.” When the vodkas arrive, he tips one down his throat then awaits the lager to follow. Starting on the pint he notices the group to his left casting glances over at him. He feels their eyes trawling over him and concentrates on looking at his glass again. He can see them moving out of the side of his eye and starting to make their way towards him. He gets up and makes his way to the toilets, then suddenly bolts through the doors to the outside world. He knows they will be after him shortly and he runs as he has run for most of his life, glancing behind him.

Robert (2)

The driver talks away beside me as he has done since he picked me up. Where am I going, he asks me and I cannot tell him as I do not know myself. South, is all I can say without much certainty, to the coast. Shrugging, he tells me to get in. The car is warm and the man himself is large and heavily built, not someone to be afraid of anyone like myself. I don’t offer much conversation except politeness and it offers a distraction from my own thoughts. I feel bulky with my coat still on but manage to make myself comfortable as it is not a small car.

Night falls as we drive on. Pulling off the motorway we head past villages and into small towns with huge speed signs. I look into the night around me, at buildings passing quickly by, then I see a figure dart out and hear the driver swearing as he slams on his brakes and I realise that I am not wearing the seat belt. Swerving, there is a large thud as the car slams and I can feel pain, glass shattering and cold air; all I can see is red then I feel my whole body slam into something hard, things inside me broken and breaking and then I cannot feel anything against me for a time before hitting into hardness again. I am aware of my body, this broken thing that I am... I am being lifted and I can see images, all red surrounded by darkness; the car mangled against a lamppost, the driver being cut from the wreckage by firemen, a figure sitting on the pavement with policemen standing above him holding his head in his hands, the crowd gathering from the public house. The darkness begins to close in on the red images, enshrouding everything, dispersing the pain, the sorrow and finishing the torment.

I am aware of myself in darkness, can hear something making a noise like a snowball hitting a door. I can lift myself free and find the colours of earth and sunshine around me, I see faces above looking down towards me. They do not seem to hear my shouts and I lift myself further and see the gathering of my funeral. It is small, with only our parents present and other close kin from both sides. I apologise to everyone, but my place has not been with them since that funeral so recently where I wept and was the first to throw dirt on the coffin. I say goodbye now as I did not then and the scene begins to dissolve before me.

Background... Epilogue (2)

This is the second tale I've written with the purpose of beginning with the ending (the first will sit on my hard disk until such time as it ever gets rewritten enough to allow the possibility of being opened for public scrutiny). The whole tale came from the idea of walking from within the wood and took off from there.

It would appear that no-one has actually read this and understood what was going on. This is, of course, the fault of the author; but in this instance I think that while it is not immediately obvious, everything is there if you read carefully.

Would like to hear any feedback about this one. Go on, you might be rewarded in your next life...

A Tale... The Uninvited Guest

I found myself outside Billy’s house. After ringing the bell, I stood and waited; uncertainly.
“Hi,” I said as the door was opened, “is Billy in?”
“Yes, I’ll just call him,” she replied. “Billy, someone’s at the door for you,” she called lightly up the stairs.
I saw Billy arriving at the top of the stairs, “Oh, hi. Well; come in.”

“I’m Roddy, I used to be in primary with Billy,” I said to his mother as I passed in the hall.
“Oh, okay, just go on up.”

I walked up the stairs to Billy’s room. It was a fairly tidy room with model planes hung from the ceiling on threads. Various older toys I recognised lay around under his bed and in open cupboards. An unfinished plane sat on a desk with open glue and paint; work in progress.

“How have you been?” He asked me sitting at his desk; I took the other available seat on his bed.
“Fine,” I replied, sitting with my coat on, “How are you finding Liberton High? You’ve got to wear a uniform haven’t you?”
“Yes. It’s okay.”
“You don’t find it a bit stuffy?”
“No, it’s okay - everybody wears it.”

Billy and myself were close friends in primary seven. Both of us were quantified as the mad ones who were always laughing and getting pulled up for messing around in the classroom. Trying to outdo each other in the scores for story writing; trying desperately to make it the funniest. Drawing the most ridiculous things we could imagine in art lessons; in my case usually pretty badly. Often, after school I’d walk down the road with him to his house before setting back off to mine; for me, it was simply a way of delaying the inevitable, but on the walk there would always be something to laugh about in our enclosed world.

“What’s the plane you’re building?” I asked him.
“It’s a Hurricane,” he said as he turned to it and started examining the pieces. I nodded my head and watched him carefully lining up a plain green piece of plastic against what he’d already built. I’d never really been a fan of building models, except with the suitcase of Lego that hid under my bed; but that had been years ago. I sat and watched him scrutinising the piece. He picked up the glue, hesitated then put it back down.

“Don’t you have a home to go to!” He said as he turned to me.

Not knowing how to deal with this, not knowing what to do, I sat there dumbly. I felt pulled away from everything I knew. I could feel myself getting up, searching for words.
“B-bye, then” and left unable to look back, around or anywhere but in front of me. Reaching the door, I opened it into the evening and closed it on everything behind me.

Background... The Uninvited Guest

The is the last post from the writing course and the first, chronologically, that was written for the course. Its probably the most personal story I've ever written and was actually glad to get rid off when it got out into the open.

A Tale... A day at the office

“Good morning,” he smiled at the receptionist as he came through the sliding doors.
“Good morning.” She replied formally, presenting him with the signing in book. Placing his briefcase on the floor, he looked at the clock on the wall and in careful, meticulous script wrote down the time. He smiled again at the receptionist before typing in a code on a numeric pad embedded within the desktop. Taking the book from him she examined the page then the screen hidden from his view on her desk.
“Please continue on, Sir.”
A door opened silently against the far wall and picking up his briefcase, he walked briskly inside.

The large, white room was brightly lit with no furniture apart from a single metal trolley and an armless office chair in the centre. One of the walls was crammed with a mixture of colour and black and white photographs; giving a mosaic of dark gray, white and red. If the man sitting on the chair took any notice of his surroundings, he showed no indication of it.

On entering the room, he placed his briefcase on the floor, removed his overcoat and placed it on the case. His smile was no longer there. He stood straight and examined the man in the chair. He had some fading bruising around his face, but fortunately there was nothing serious which might have prepared him. It was always better if they were fresh. Visitors are like fish, his mother used to say to him; no matter how nice they are, after three days they start to leave a bad smell. He caught himself; it was unusual for his mind to wander; especially to his past. Pushing it aside, he approached the man in the chair. He showed no signs of panic, not even signs of worry. Some people whom he faced were almost wild animals, straining against the cable ties on their wrists to try and get out of the chair. Their fear carried on their sweat. Even those who tried to hide it had the distinct odour around them. They would thrash their body around, sometimes upsetting the chair; whereupon usually they would stop moving and the sobbing would start. The pleading; it was like a slab of meat pleading to the butcher. But the calmness of this man was something he rarely encountered. The photographs on the wall were visible to him. Stretching his hand out, he lifted the man’s chin to look into his eyes.
The sunlight was piercing, before his pupils shrank and he squinted his eyes against the rushing of the wind. The sky was a perfect blue around him as his hands held the wheel of the open top car, it’s small, sporty engine straining at maximum revs. The green countryside flew past him with the smell of Spring assaulting his senses. Blink; white room; his hand gently supporting the man’s chin. He took an involuntary step back, then turned his back to the man in the chair. He caught his breath, keeping it steady. What was happening to me, his thoughts quickly passing through his mind. First, my mother and now this. He’d never even owned an open topped mini. He had to steel himself, he was the one in charge; if that slipped, everything would be lost. His voice arrived, calm and hard as steel.
“You know why you are here, I assume. You’ve seen the montage of photos and you know what is to happen to you. I am not the interrogator, but merely the message carrier. My managers have to know that you are telling the truth and for that they rely on my judgement.” He paused, then turned to the man in the chair, “I will know.”
The man looked at him, impassively. But not for much longer I would imagine, he thought to himself. For this type of character, he would need to start strong to break whatever kind of mental displacement he had hidden himself in. Reaching to the table, he picked up a pair of pliers and squeezed them twice in front of the man’s face, which showed no notice of them even being there, then he went behind the man and took his hand in a strong grip before applying the edge of the pliers to the nail of his index finger. He tugged hard and the suddenness of the scream that erupted caused him to drop the pliers and fall back a step. It had been so unexpected; picking up the pliers, he then extracted the nail from his thumb. Another scream and the droplets of blood started to form a puddle on the floor. He took a deep breath; clearing his head as he could feel a headache starting. This was not going well, except the for the quickness of the breakthrough; but he had to make sure it was not a cover; standard procedure. He walked back to the trolley and faced the now impassive face of the man in the chair. Then he saw the corners of the man’s mouth were slightly uplifted as if holding back a smile. He replaced the pliers and picked up the butane torch, lighting it with a quick flick of a small switch. The languid yellow flame flew from the tip. His thoughts came back to the girl whom had sat in the same chair, her hair gone, only blackened, blistered skin in it’s place. He had known she wouldn’t have talked and her strength was deep within her; it was her vanity which had caused the final crack and she had been so very pretty. He chastised himself for drifting again. This was not how it should be. He slowly turned the handle watching the flame tighten into the small blue tear drop, tear drop, he briefly wondered, then looked at the man in the chair. Who suddenly looked up at him and spoke, his tones showing anger barely held in check.
“Did you enjoy it? Did you even know why she was here?”
“You are not here to ask questions,” he replied instictively, “and I would take care not to anger me.” But how did he know he had been thinking about the girl. He gave the man in the chair a look of contempt then crouched down to his knees and pointed the end of the flame upwards at the base of his kneecap. The scream erupted again. He could feel his hand shaking, but he held the torch in place watching the first the trousers burning away in a perfect circle and the skin blackening then splitting away. Suddenly he turned it off, but the scream lingered. He managed to place the torch back on the trolley and grabbed the hammer and chisel. He looked back at the face of the man in the chair and his face dropped in fright. The expression of anger was still there on the man in the chair’s face with a twisted grin in place on his lips. Then the grin broadened, he dropped the tools and the pain started; looking down at what he had done to his own hand, his own kneecap. Pain flooding his body, the screams his own his body writhing. The man in the chair stood up, his wrist pulled from straps never tightened. And his voice could be heard, though his lips never moved.
“It was difficult to hunt you down, but you had to know who you maimed, before they threw her into an incinerator with a snooker ball in her mouth to stop her screaming. You will know now that it was her eyes that you saw through driving through the countryside and you will know now that you will suffer like no other has beneath your knife for what you have done.” Their faces were almost touching as the man leaned over the bloodied figure lying on the floor.
“Her only crime was to live in the wrong apartment and to look through the window and see what she didn’t even understand.”

The man didn’t look behind him as he left the room, leaving behind a prostrate figure lying on the floor in a mosaic of blood. The receptionist jerked slightly and looked to see something over her shoulder as he passed; not even knowing he had been there. He pushed open the door and stepped into the night.

Background... A day at the office

An office chair, a mini and a rubber duck.

'Fair enough. These were given as three items that we had to write a story around; and if you have already read it, you'll realise there is no rubber duck. Hard to figure a rubber duck into a torture scene and in any way it was presented it would have ruined any kind of dangerous atmosphere.

This was, chronologically, the last story written on the course and contains some darker stuff than the others. Its not my favourite, but others seemed to like it... for those wondering what the whole story is about I'll give a bit of an overview. The guy in the chair is a psychic and what the torturer thinks he is doing to the figure tied to the chair he is actually doing to himself. Good clean family fun.

Reminder of dreams...

What happens to dreams?

The ones that happen by default tend to disappear by morning; but the ones you make for yourself, they tend to stay. Are they just the product of unrealistic youthful naivete? Do they just reappear to haunt you when the red wine begins to settle in?

If these dreams are so important to us, why do we let so many things get in the way? Is the chain of work, bills, rent, mortgage and pension specifically designed to kill them off? Is the fear of dropping out of the social loop the crux that pushes them aside and drives us towards the safety of monotony?

What of those that succeed in reaching their dreams? What do they look to when they are already at the top of the mountain? The unatainable sky or the safety of the earth?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Tale... Glass Heart

He sat on the window sill with his room dark behind him. He felt tired and drained; staring out of the window, taking refuge in the silence when a light coming on caught his attention. As he looked he saw the girl entering the room. She moved slowly, almost dragging herself. It was late enough to be early morning, but it looked like her husband had not come back yet; she looked so thin and fragile in the stark light of the bare bulb; when she looked up, directly at him. He felt himself straighten with shock and caught a look of surprise on her face as he fell backwards and landed on the bed post below, slapping his hand against the wall catching himself before his head hit something. He sat there in a heap, not breathing; waiting for his mother’s recrimination for making a such a racket, for anything. Nothing. He couldn’t look back, what if she was looking for him; she could be calling the police. Slowly, on his hands and knees he crawled beneath the window onto his bed; his body tired, but his mind refusing to let him sleep.

He hung his head low as he walked along the corridor between classes. They would all know, he could sense it. Whispering about him; “... he was looking right into her bedroom,...”, “do you think he,...” He could feel everything pushing in on him avoiding peoples' stares as he carried himself forward. He closed eyes, just for a second to take a deep breath to steady himself and collapsed to the floor.

“Can you hear me?” Came the voice above him. He opened his eyes to an empty corridor with just the nurse leaning over him. He took a deep sigh and nodded his head.
“I’m sorry, I just came over dizzy... I didn’t sleep well last night.” He brushed him arm across his face then clambered to stand up.
“Don’t move until you feel well enough.”
“I’m fine. Thanks - I have a class...”
“I think you’d better go on home - I’ll fill in the form for you. Try to get some rest,” she said to him, nodding her head slowly with a mock frown for emphasis.
“Yes, I want to.” He said quietly.

The air outside did feel fresher and his head was clearing as he walked across the grass towards the flats. He was passing the shop when he saw the girl come out holding her toddler in her arm with a small bag of shopping. He stopped. It seemed long ago when he had found out that the right thing to do is always the hardest. I can’t stand here all day staring at her, he thought then strode forward.
“Excuse me. Sorry, can I...”
She turned round to see him without any kind of recognition on her face and took at step back.
“This may seem; well look,” swallowing hard he continued, “I’m sorry for, surprising you last night. I was just... well, I wasn’t - “
“Did you hurt yourself? Maybe it should be me doing the apologising.” Her voice surprised him as did her weak smile when she looked at him. Then it faded and he could see her looking briefly to each side. “Thanks for mentioning it; but I have to go.”
He responded without thinking, “Can I help you? With your things - it all seems a bit heavy.”
“No,” she shook her head, “thanks and everything but... it wouldn’t be a good idea. Look, sorry, but I really better go.”
They both stood there for a few seconds, before she turned and headed back to the flats opposite his. He stood there watching after her. His thoughts crowded around inside his head, but none of them came to the fore. He should run after her, but do what? Something, he thought, I have to do something. She was entering the building as he found himself out of breath standing behind her. She turned around when she heard him taking the deep breath behind her, her eyes wide. Then it turned briefly to amusement when she saw him standing there.
“I’m sorry, but I was just thinking; I have nothing else going on today, until this evening anyway, and if you’re at a loose end as well, perhaps, I was thinking of maybe heading into town and...”
“Would you like a coffee?” He waited.
“He’s getting very heavy,” she said inclining her head towards the toddler in her arm, “You’d better go. But,” she said quickly as he turned away, “it was the nicest offer I’ve had for quite a while. Thanks.” She found herself actually smiling at him as he tried to hide his dejection, then she glanced around herself and headed off. He didn’t move for a short time before heading back to his flat.

He changed quickly in his room and had decided to make the best of the time he had free and head into town before he had to start work. He might not even opt for the cleanup shift tonight so he could head home early and catch up on some badly needed sleep. So much had happened so quickly from relief to disappointment.

He glanced out of the window as he got ready for bed that night, but it was dark and he found himself smiling as he climbed into bed.

“I don’t feel that well, I’m not going in.”
“And what if they cut the bursary, what am I going to do then?” Came the sharp reply.
He just stood there facing his mother. She broke the silence.
“If you weren’t out ‘til all hours with your friends, you might find a bit more energy to go to school.”
“I came back early yesterday, so they probably won’t expect me in today.”
He sighed and turned away.
“Yesterday as well?”
“Look!” He turned back to face her, “I felt faint and was asked to go home. It won’t stop the bursary.”
She stared at him, then sniffed and headed into the kitchen. He waited until she was out of sight before heading back up to his room. And waited.

He had seen her husband head out, his bulk carried ungainly with an old rucksack slung over his shoulder. He saw her tentatively approach her window and look out making sure to stay out of his sight, until she was sure he was gone. She then looked up and he waved at her casually and his hand stopped mid-air when he saw the livid red markings around the left side of her face. He stayed stock still as she covered the side of her face with her hand and withdrew from the window; he could still see her as she sat on her bed with her head in her hands. He turned and headed for the door. He saw his mother was readying to get to work when she saw him.
“That ill are you?” She said quietly and shook her head. “You’d better think about your priorities.”

As he approached her door he felt himself hesitating, then heard himself tapping the letterbox. There was no answer and he waited. After tapping again, he heard her voice quietly through the door. “Who is it?”
“It’s me,” he said, “sorry, we spoke yesterday outside the shop.”
“What do you want?”
“I want to,” he stopped, “to help you out.”
“Please go away, I don’t want to wake Michael.”
“I can’t just walk away.”
“You don’t even know me. You know nothing about me.”
He looked around.
“Could we at least talk face to face and not through the door.”
He stood there and turned to go away when the door opened. He could see the unmarked side of her face through the crack.
“Please,” she said quietly, “I just want to be alone.”
“Maybe you’ve been alone too long.” He said with more emotion than he had intended. And he stood there facing her. The door opened further.

The house was simple, neat and well ordered. He hadn’t known what to expect and was unsure how to react. He had just run on pure instinct and he was starting to wonder if he’d just made things difficult for both of them.
“I could call the police.” He said to break the silence.
“It’s not that simple,” she said back to him. They both sat in silence until she spoke quietly to him, almost a whisper, “If you really want to help, talk about something else. Talk about anything else. Why don’t you just tell me about yourself?”
“There’s a story that could fill a thousand pages, as long as nine hundred and ninety nine and a half of them had pictures. Large pictures.” He thought he saw the glimmer of smile as she rubbed her eye with her fingers seeming to hold back more tears. “Can I make you a coffee or anything?”
“You seem to have an obsession with coffee. I don’t have any, but I’ll get you a glass of water.”
“No,” he said quickly, “let me. Do you want one?”
“Yes, why not?”
He talked to her from the kitchen as he poured the water into two cups he found on the drainer. “I’m studying at the moment. It’s my last year.”
He held the cup out for her. “Are you hoping for University, then?”
“No, I don’t think so. I was only allowed to stay on at school because I was given a bursary; so the chances of Uni look very slim.”
“Would you like to?”
“No, I don’t think it’s for me. I think I’ll, well, to tell you the truth I have no idea.” He thought for a second. “I don’t usually tell anyone this, but,” he looked over both his shoulders before replying, “I work in a fast food restaurant.”
“Really?” She answered in mocked undertones, then blinked as she heard crying from the next room. “It’s Michael,...” she said to him.
“Look, I used to baby sit for my mother's friends, it doesn’t bother me.”
She looked at him, regarding him seriously, she started to speak, then halted and seemed to almost fall into herself. “Could you help me with him, one of my arms is not so good today.”

They were out shopping, him pushing the buggy and her walking beside him. Lost in the crowds forever around in the town centre. In the one of the shops he watched her bending over to reach an ornament and thought back to him padding the cut on her face with cotton wool. The tear rolling down her face to her quivering lip. He touched the teardrop with the tip of his finger and she covered his hand with hers her face filled with sadness and need. He trailed his finger around her lips then he felt her hand in his hair as she pulled him forward, the kiss filled almost desperate against his responsive mouth. He lay against her afterwards, silent as she clung against him. He couldn’t talk to her about her injuries and neither of them ever mentioned her husband. It felt untouchable, keeping the world out of arms reach; knowing that once it was mentioned it would be out and uncontainable.

He had left them at the entrance to their flat and headed back to his. He unlocked the door and entered.
“You stupid bastard.” He stopped short, his mother standing in the hallway. He stared at her, caught completely unprepared.
“I’m sorry; what?”
“She’s got a kid! You’re only bloody seventeen. She’s married!”
He stood in front of her, but did not say anything.
“And what about your exams? How many days have you taken off school so you could see that, slut? You just don’t think! If you’re not galavanting around with your friends you’re off with her-“ She stopped as he approached her.
“I have no friends,” he said to her, “I never had. I’ve spent almost every night for the past two years working to get out of this hole. I spend my breaks studying. She’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me and this time you’re not going to stand in my way.”
“You can’t go back, Billy...” She almost whispered it. He stood and looked at her, realisation dawning on him. She took a step away from him as she saw his eyes staring at her. He brushed past her, rushing to his room to see the window. His eyes widened with fear. “No...”
He rushed back to the door.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He quickly turned to her. “You might want to think about calling the police.” Then headed out.

Billy rapped on her door with his fist, adrenaline pumping through him. He had heard something through the door, but it slid right past him. As it opened to see the towering form of her husband standing there, his eyes wild, “What the fuck do you want?”
Involuntarily he took a step back from him. Then he saw her behind him, there was blood trickling from the side of her eye and her jaw seemed swollen. He could see her expression of panic as she saw him. He tore his gaze away to see the husband glancing back to see what Billy was looking at. Her husband started to say something before he felt himself snap inside. His fist hit the side of the husbands head, then the other one, before he felt the back swing of the husbands hand. Everything seemed to explode inside his head as he stumbled back, falling to the ground.
”It’s you,” the husband started towards him, “you’re the little bastard.”
“No, please don’t touch him. I don’t even know him, please.”
He could hear everything; her cries and the babies cries constantly in the background. Then he felt something thumping into his side and saw the husband pulling his foot back again, before another thud into his side.
He looked up at the husband, “You’re a piece of shit,” he managed to spit out. The husband stared at him before reaching down and pulling him close to his face.
“I’m going to-“
Billy’s head pulled quickly back then forward and a loud crack came from the husband’s nose. He bellowed as he dropped Billy back to the ground and grabbed his nose. Billy stayed shakily on his feet, but he could only stare at the fist before it sent him spinning around. The husband grabbed the body and ran it head first into the metal railings of the stair. There was a scream from the flat and the sound of running feet. The husband held onto Billy’s limp body before slamming it again into the railings. The police trying to grab him to pull him off. He let go and the body slumped to the ground; the police holding onto the husband, forcing him against the wall. Another calling for an ambulance on the radio. She ran forward to the body.
“Don’t move him ma’am.”
Reaching down to touch it, she looked around. Several neighbours on the landing had come out; all staring down at the scene.
“You couldn’t come out to help him! Why couldn’t you have helped him?” Tears were rolling down her already reddened face.

She faced her husband across the table.
“I brought him, but he didn’t want to come in here, so I left him in the crêche.” He said nothing, but stared at her. “You know it’s funny, you get involved in all sorts of support groups of women who have been through the same thing; husbands in jail for GBH, assault, armed robbery; and it would seem that the one thing that many of their husbands can’t bear is a man who beats up on children.” His hands tightly gripped the sides of the table. “This is the last time you’ll ever see me, the divorce is final and if you try to find me or come anywhere near me, I’ll have you arrested.” A mocking semblance of a smile played on her face as she stood up. “So I’d be careful in here.”

She approached the slightly battered blue car in the lot with her child in her arms, opening the door to start strapping him into the safety chair.
“I take it from that look that it was worth it?” Came the voice from the drivers seat.
“Oh, yes.” She said to him smiling. She climbed into the passenger seat and they both kissed. She leaned back and traced the scars on his face with her finger. “Thanks, Billy, for this; for taking the day off from the office to take me.”
“Anytime,” he replied.

Background... Glass Heart

This was written for one particular reason. It had to have a happy ending. Wifie (name changed to protect her identity) had tried to read a couple of the stories for the course and was a little upset at how dark they were. It’s not a happy story and nobody in the class liked the ending - I leave it up whoever reads it to decide and comment on.

Having read it for the first time in a long time, I'm actually quite happy with the feeling, even if the start is a little rushed.