I Should Have Learned to Drive – Short Story 

“You know what has started to worry me lately? That I never learnt to drive,” he told his wife, first inhaling then sipping his glass of red wine. Their daughter Kerry had brought them back a case of the stuff from Lake Garda and when he breathed in it was like he was there again himself, standing upon the banks as the water lapped against the dock.

“You?” his wife Sandra laughed, “learn to drive, after all this time, I thought you were wedded to the joys of the Greater London Transport system? Would they survive without you?”

“Now, now, there’s no need to take the mickey,” he said, laughing himself, then paused as he looked down at the the paper on the garden table, fluttering in the slight breeze of the summers evening, stained with black print which informed him that tonight he was less than he used to be. 

“Why now,” she asked, then pointed at the sheet of paper, “oh, is it that?”

“Well, a bit. Driving a cab seems to be the only option open to fat ex-management types – too young for the pension but too old for for anything new.”

“Dave, you’re not old,” she grinned, “well, not that old.”

“Thanks for the support.”

“You know you can always depend on me.”

He looked across at Sandra and knew it was true.

 They’d depended upon each other for nearly forty years, since they were both gawky teenagers standing in a squeaky floored sports hall which doubled as a youth centre, holding hands next to the ping pong table whilst his friends pointed at them both and giggled, making lewd remarks under their breath. 

Before he was even a man.

When had he not been able to look to her for support, or she to him? But that letter made him feel less able. Less of a man.

“We’ll be okay,” she said again, “I’ve got my job still, and well it might not pay quite as well as yours,” she reached across and touched his arm, “but I know you, we’ll be okay.”

He wondered if she was right.

“I’ve never been made redundant before.”

“Show off.”

“No, but I reckon that’s unusual these days. Lucky even,” he said, “almost everyone I know has been made redundant at least once. Jamie has an average of a year and a half between dismissals.”

“Jamie’s a pain though. I don’t think his ‘redundancies’ are entirely accidental.”

“True,” he laughed, “he does have a certain way with people.”

“He clears a room quicker than a fire alarm.”

“He makes me laugh,” Dave said, but Sandra pulled a face.

“You’re the only one.” 

Dave shook his head.

“I’ve watched so many people lose their jobs in the last ten years it’s unreal. People with families to support and mortgages to pay. At least for us the kids are grown up now, no need to worry about that.”

“It’s all the re-organisations dear, they’re doing it everywhere. At least we’re clear on the mortgage front.” 

Dave shook his head. 

“Reorganisation? Reorganisation is an illusion. If I reorganise my sock draw, I more or less end up with the same number of socks I started out with, but if I followed their model I’d most likely end up with nowhere enough socks to last me the week, along with new socks which looked like they were going to cost me £4.99 but which worked out treble once I’d added in consultancy fees.”

“Like you’d ever sort your own socks.”

He smiled, then Sandra poured them both another glass of wine and he picked the piece of paper up from the table. They may as well have painted a white cross on his office door since they announced it. He could see it in their eyes, the others in the office, like redundancy was contagious and they were keeping a safe distance. He. Couldn’t blame them really. He’d been on the other side of that equation often enough. 

He heard the phone ringing deep in the house, the dog Snowy barking at it,  in the hope someone would arrive to silence it’s bleating.

Three months notice. Three months of scrabbling around, pleading with what seemed twelve year olds in suits,  until they finally tell him the inevitable, that he’s definitely too old for them to reprieve this time.

He took another sip of wine. He quite fancied opening another bottle, but he had work in the morning…

Still, what did it matter, he thought, a rising passion, taking a large gulp. What would they do, sack him?

“That was Debbie, checking on us,” Sandra said returning with a fresh bottle of wine, “I reckon we need this tonight, a taste of Italy. What do you think?”

“Definitely, although your dinner was taste enough of Italy for me,” he said, watching her begin to clear away the remains of the dinner she’d made them both, “you couldn’t get better pasta on Lake Garda itself.”

“It’s in my blood my dear, or mum’s old cook books, at least.”

“Wherever it comes from you’re wasted in that canteen. Re-heating other people’s slop.”

She wrinkled her nose at the thought of it. 

“I hate serving that slop,” she said, “those kids deserve better, but the boss says it’s the best we can do for one sixty three a kid.”

He shook his head. 

“Do you remember the first time we went to Lake Garda, and saw that empty plot on the banks of the lake? We were going to open a restaurant,” he reminisced, “I’d have been front of house and books and you’d be the chef-extraordinaire. Where did we both go?”

“We’re still here – older and wiser, maybe, rounder,” she said, rubbing her stomach “but there’s still time, maybe.”

“Is there?” 

Dave noticed Sandra shiver slightly as the night drew in so he reached inside the hallway to grab a couple of fleeces and they moved across to the wrought iron park bench his Mum and Dad had bought them all those years ago as a wedding present, then stared up into an orange urban night sky, trying, but failing to pick out stars from the tangerine haze.

Maybe he’d skip work tomorrow. One day off sick in thirty years, that’s all he’d ever taken; he decided they owed him one more.

“I should have learnt to drive,” he said again.

“Why?” she laughed. 

“Cabbying, y’know, the middle-aged man’s career graveyard. I should have learned to drive. It would have been an option…”

She laughed again.

He loved she could still laugh on a night like this. His mum always said to him when they first married that “when money worries fly in the window then love flies out,” but he reckoned they were past that sort of nonsense. Still, tomorrow he was going to apply for a driving license.

He had something in mind.

***

There were a few cars passing from time to time, but otherwise he had the road to himself.

He’d made his pick-up from the the town centre, and then spent the next ten minutes stuck behind this enormous tractor which barely fitted on the tight country lane he was navigating. Still, he was in no hurry. 

He thought back to his days in the office, about how much it all changed, from everyday liquid lunches and smoking at your desk. When he used to go into his first bosses office, it was like walking into a London smog, the man had smoked so much. Although, he was still going strong though. Nearly 90 now and living off the sort of gilt edged pension that young people today could never dream of. 

They’d even phased it out by the time he signed up for the scheme, although his pension wasn’t too bad. 

“Friday,” he said to himself, “I would have been sat right now in the weekly finance huddle, catching up the latest woes about the economy and the impact for the firm.”

Instead, he thought, looking up at the skinny, olive skinned man in the tractor cab, he was here, driving for a living. 

“So this is what happens to us chaps on the scrapheap,” he said to himself, turning up a Beatles song on the stereo, “not too shabby, not too bad.”

At a fork in the road the tractor took the other turn, and he wound down the window and the scent of olive groves blew in through the crack, then wound it completely down and allowed the warm air to blast in as his pressed down on the accelerator, ruffling his thinning hair.

“I should have learnt to do this years ago,” he announced as fields and hedgerows hurtled past

He turned the corner and saw her, the wind of the lake buffeting her as she stared out at a couple of men in boats, sitting out on the porch, their porch, every bit as beautiful as she’d been all those years ago.

More even, for then she’d been a girl then, and now she was a woman.

“This is it, this is the life,” he called as he climbed the short flight of wooden steps, then grabbed her and swung her round in a circle, glad for a moment his back held out as she shrieked in a half refusal.

“Come on,” he said, pointing back at their new van, “give me a hand with these boxes, you can’t cook anything without ingredients.”

They piled them onto a sack trolley then he bumped it up the stairs and into their new restaurant, stopping yet again to look around in amazement at what they had done. 

“Opening night love,” he grinned, “after all this time.”

“I know, I’ve had locals coming in all afternoon – I’ve been handing out the freebies, they’re almost as excited as me.”

“As excited as us love, as us,” he said then he put an arm round her shoulder and they stopped for a moment to gaze out across Lake Garda, a million miles away from London, her doing the food, him front of house and books. 

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Warning. Contains spoilers.

“I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”

My daughter was telling me she’d decided to do an impossible thing.

No, she’s not some precocious wonder, climbing everest at the age of ten, or publishing her first novel to all-round acclaim. She’s just a normal, bubbly ten year old, who decided earlier this year that she wasn’t going to sit with us at the end of Wimbledon and watch a short video announcing the new Doctor Who.

“I don’t want to know,” she told us, “I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”

I had some sympathy with this.

“Why did they have to tell us beforehand?” I’d asked, agreeing it would be far better to have the reveal live on Christmas Day as part of the Christmas Day special.

The argument against this is that they are never able to keep the big secret a surprise, thanks to tabloid and Internet gossip, but since they had decided to tell us, I said, what could you do? They’d done some sort of reveal with all the recent doctors, most recently with an awkward looking encounter between Peter Capaldi and Zoe Ball on what looked like an old Top of the Pops set.

For months there was much discussion online and in the press about the rather worrying suggestion (to my mind – although I’m sure he’s a lovely guy) that Kris Marshal would be taking over the knobs and whistles of the TARDIS control panel, alongside occasional hints the new showrunner was looking to come up with a leftfield choice, if in the twenty first century you could call casting a woman or a black man leftfield.

“I’m not watching it,” she said, “I’m waiting until Christmas.”

I’d frowned at her.

Worried.

As a modern day parent we all want to protect our children from disappointment. Probably too much, and my immediate thought was, this was an impossible endeavour. Surely all the kids would be talking about it in school. Her big sisters would know. How could she avoid the news?

It turned out that (in her class at least) ten year old children are less interested in finding out the identity of the new owner of a slightly battered, nineteen fifties space and time machine, than a nearly fifty year old man who ought to know better but even then, I was certain she couldn’t make it.

Particularly since the reveal turned out of course, to be a biggie, I’d soon discover.

I knew, with my age and experience, that it was a bullet she wouldn’t be able to dodge. I also suspect a small part of me couldn’t believe, since it’s her favourite show, she would possess the willpower not to peek.

There has been no peeking.

There has been no reveal.

It hasn’t been easy though.

The news was everywhere and, of course, be found in all those places that ten-year-old children tend to hang out, these days.

Firstly, she’s stopped flicking around on YouTube, because if you’re the sort of person who likes watching old Doctor Who clips (she is), then there were ten different videos with pictures and clips of the new Doctor, along with multiple YouTube stars discussing the replacement.

Also, she subscribes to a weekly kids newspaper, The Week, which not only put the news on the cover in the first week, but which also likes to sneak in the occasional article about it. They’ve also helpfully include an advert each week for potential subscribers, which includes a picture of the new Doctor standing helpfully in front of the TARDIS.

As parents, we’ve been like prison guards monitoring correspondence, scouring the magazine to remove these unsuitable stories for her and, as I say, she’s had to self-censor by opting out of YouTube and the like.

“It’s just impossible,” I’d told her in July, “someone will tell you.”

Thinking, that if nothing else her equally interested, big sisters would accidentally (on purpose?) ruin it for her, but to be fair to them, they’d managed to keep the Father Christmas arrangements secret, so I supposed I could rely upon them for this.

Four months on, so far, my ten-year-old has turned out to be correct.

We have just over one month to go and so far she has managed to keep away from the news.

I did wonder if maybe she’d quietly found out and not said anything, but then one day recently she announced how excited she was to find out who he was, so I knew the game was still on.

Now, I feel she’s done very well to avoid this news although there have been some close shaves, including being at a summer barbecue where seven of the eight adults present, along with a couple of teenagers, all discovered they had a previously unrealised love of the Doctor and proceeded to discuss the programme for the next half an hour, whilst Sophie went to hide in the house until we stopped and got back onto Brexit or interest rates like normal grown-ups.

Even then, she avoided the spoiler and now, with December looming, she remains none the wiser.

Now, I’m not saying yet that I was wrong, because I’m fully expecting to see magazine covers galore of the new Doctor in the coming weeks trying to ruin it all, almost certainly including some sort of snazzy Radio Times cutout standing in the doorway to Tesco’s, but she’s certainly got the end within touching distance of the end.

The one question I’m now asking myself though, is that if my daughter can keep away from this secret, then why on earth couldn’t the shows producers let the rest of us do the same? Come on guys, wouldn’t it have been fun for all of us to enjoy the grand reveal without knowing the identity of the new Doctor?

For now she remains blissfully ignorant of the reveal, and if she does make it, I just hope that when the new Doctor regenerates it will have been worth the wait.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

I’m a bit hit and miss with the blogging stuff, but if you like this, I’ve plenty of stories and books (Sci Fi and horror, mostly) at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Edgarmillion to keep you going.

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Counting down to Bethlehem. 

Really thought this stuff was done with. All the end of the world nonsense. Mutually assured destruction. Truly bought into it, I mean, everybody knew it have to be mad to set off a nuclear bomb, because of course then they set off their nuclear bombs, and everyone would die.

It was clear as the acronym (MAD), that you’d have to be insane to detonate a nuclear bomb, so despite having them, no one would ever be MAD enough.

At least, it seemed that no one mad enough to use a nuclear bomb, would ever be put in charge of them.

In fact, the real clincher was that you’d need two people mad enough to set off the nuclear bombs, and how would you get two people that mad in charge of two different countries, who were also nuclear powers?

Nice failsafe. I was even in favour of Trident on that basis. Checks and balances. No world wars in my lifetime.

When I was growing up, we all thought the world was going to end in nuclear destruction; there were all these dramas TV telling you how bleak and had terrible it would be. The key was, if you survived you’d probably wish you hadn’t. No one wanted a nuclear war. We were safe.

We had this prolonged period of peace. Much of which seemed to be down to the fact that nobody wanted a nuclear war. It was all, a triumph for civilisation.

Then came along The Donald and Little Kim.

Now Little Kim, just wants to be taken seriously, and The Donald peers through a demented haze, probably thinking it’s just an extended episode of The Apprentice – The Movie.

The big budget version – Tag: This Time Everyone Gets Fired (in 3D – Pussy Grabbing Smellovision).

Now, the thing is this. We all had a good laugh about The Donald. And Little Kim’s haircut. Apparently he’s also got wonky ears, so they photoshop them to look normal. Thats funny right? They’re such a giggle, with their low IQ and bad hair.

The international, satirical reaction appears to be to keep on laughing at them. John Oliver and Trevor Noah keep telling us how funny they are. Meanwhile I’m starting to pile up can need goods.

I’m starting to wonder, if that’s the wrong reaction. Shouldn’t we be hiding under the mattress or something. Shouldn’t we be leaning doors against the walls and putting water in jars, singing “well all go together when we go”?

I’m a fairly optimistic chap.

But for the first time in 20 or 30 years I’m starting to lose faith in humanity. As always, a bit of social optimist. Not always in my personal life, but I always felt people, individually, were essentially good. When I lost my phone, somebody immediately phoned and gave it back to me; when my friend lost his wallet, the person who found it, found my number, and phoned me so he could give it straight back.

In my experience people are essentially good.

Except. Except. Except.

Except, are they? Whenever I make the mistake of looking in the comments section underneath the Facebook news story, and I know I shouldn’t do this, I feel gutted by the vitriolic, hateful, hate-filled, bile of so many of the commenters. Everyone got so horrible, so hateful, so judgemental. Not to mention racist, sexist, ageist, along with 1 million other extreme biases.

Even on a story like people being murdered in Charlottesvile or Paris, where you think sensible people would automatically find common ground, I struggle to find sensible people. It’s like all the sensible people stayed home. Because as the poem goes, ‘The centre cannot hold,’ and ‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst, Are full of passionate intensity.’

Does that sound familiar?

So The Donald and Little Kim of the Big Ears, appear to be the tip of a very large iceberg. Totally representative of so much of humanity, you have to wonder, if there is much about us which is worth saving. It seems so often we are reaching for three stars, but really most of uses are why we deserve.

In the gutter.

Maybe, we’re done. Time for rats or the cockroaches to take charge.

Not certain we’ll be able to tell the difference.

At least they won’t have nukes,i suppose. 

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Laughing at Donald Trump supporters 

Schadenfreude is not a healthy human emotion.

I want to be a grown up.

Yet I have to admit that I have taken some pleasure in watching Trump voters taking to the media to express their surprise that The Donald was not turning out to be the ray of sunshine they’d been expecting. They’d been hoping for a breath of fresh air, but hit turns out there’s a body been left in the back room of their house and the stench is getting a little ripe.

Like the medical professional surprised that the Trump attack on health care might affect his surgery, or the sad looking woman surprised her illegal immigrant Mexican born husband has been rounded up to be deported.

These stories are set to be the first of many, and I’ve pressed that laughing face icon of Facebook for each, but like I say, schadenfreude is not a particularly healthy emotion, and since I’m just a liberal snowflake, there’s a bit of this which bothers me.

Trump won because he got all these people out to vote who’d never voted in his life before (that and the Russians). These people, and I’m generalising here a little, had been left behind by politics.

These people, in their basket with all the other deplorables, weren’t on the radar.

Donald Trump spoke to them.

He would be their saviour. Their champion. At last they would be heard.

I’m from a working class British family and I’d put money on more that 50 percent of my relatives voting for Brexit (Trump-Lite UK-style). Pretty much because of the same reasons miners in Nowhere, Illinois, voted for Trump. They’d been sidelined and ignored (definitely by me) and wanted their voices heard, their worries listened to.

The thing that bothers me is that Trump actually managed to engage these people and he’s not just letting them down, after all which voter doesn’t experience that emotion a little? My issue is that these people are in the position of being screwed so thoroughly be the Trump administration that merely being “grabbed by the pussy” would have been a let-off.

Why would these people ever vote again?

Part of me thinks, “bloody good job, look at the mess they made of it this time,” yet the other part of me thinks, we’re just losing all these basically good people, who just wanted their share in that mythical beast, The American Dream.

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The Witness 

The Witness (a new Sum inspired story).

After you die you begin a new life as a Witness.

Your new existence begins as you find yourself standing in the corner of a bland room which smells of cleaning fluids and coffee. It begins as you watch your own mother, younger than you ever remember her being, smaller that she could ever have been, in the throes of agony as she gives birth to you.

Your father, pale and anxious, holds your mother’s hand with a limp, weak grip, looking fearful, cornered; lacking the purposefulness which you’d forever associated with him.

At last the tiny version of you enters the world, wrinkled and bloody and howling with a primal rage which only infants can achieve convincingly.

Your mother and father look so happy in this moment, more in peace and joy than you can recall and you share their happiness. You can’t recall a time you ever felt so loved.

The days of your life begin and before you know it the infant version of yourself has grown into a robust child, fond of climbing trees and running. Unlike the adult you will grow into, he loves nothing more to be outside. Chasing a football, building a den, exploring imaginary worlds.

It’s fascinating to see this, because much of this experience and memory were long overwritten in your memory, in hard climb into adolescence.

Only a few good memories linger from this period, but now played over, you see there was so much happiness in this time.

You and mum doing a jigsaw together; the tender touch of her hand as she helps you slot a stubborn piece of a tiger’s eye into place.

You and your dad squashed onto the settee on a Saturday night, watching some movie, a warm easy affection which belied the cold, driven man who you recall.

You perch on the arm of the chair, warming yourself on the scene, a slight ache in your stomach, that you can’t do this yourself; squeeze in for one last hug with a parent you’d forgotten had ever had any tenderness in him.

At the start of this journey you thought that maybe at some point you would fast forward onto the key points of your life, but the pace never changes, life is slow and sometimes beautiful, and much as you wondered during your time on earth, you wonder what is the point of it all.

Child you is nearly a man now and you watch as he begins a series of adult firsts: love, drink, sex. You cringe a little to listen to the naive but confident young man you’ve become, filled with the brash, noisy inexperience of youth, overflowing with the certainty you are bound for glory. But part of you envies him, untarnished as he is by the seasons and the lessons of your life.

You stay with him as he grows, weep with him as he loses his first love to an older boy with his own car and facial hair, then watch apprehensively as he meets the woman he will eventually eventually marry. You are fully aware that this marriage is going to end badly, yet at the same time you find yourself falling a little bit in love again, with the beautiful young woman who in life you’d grown first distant from, then to despise.

You share the moment again when your twin sons were born, then watch, a bitter tang rising in the years which follow, as you wait for her to change, to grow hard and sharp and break his heart. Break your heart.

Yet as you watch, you realise, more clearly than in life, that there was shared blame on each part. From outside, you see the seeds being planted which would lead her away and into the arms of her best friend.

You curse him for his disregard for her, will him to be more tender, more alert, but he is condemned to repeat your mistakes. You are condemned to witness them.

The years pass.

You watch as other loves come and go, but know that you will never again let another woman inside, not completely, so most of the time his only company, for most of the rest of his life, is you. Yet he has no idea you are there.

The infant you has become an old man now, infrequently visited by his children. Visited even less often by his grandchildren, who look upon him as if already a dead thing.

You watch him, alone in a cold room. Waiting for a death which cannot come too soon, and recall the internal dialogues, the bitter, silent wail at your perceived abandonment.

But he is passing now and as he eventually leaves the world you wonder what happens next.

It was enough to live this life once, you want to go now. You’re very tired.

As you watch the final breath issue from ancient, paper-thin lips, you find yourself being addressed, directly, for the first time in over eighty years.

A small grey man with a clipboard has appeared and is talking to you, “okay, now you’ve had the chance to view it, did you make the most of that life? Are you satisfied it was enough?”

You think, of all the missed opportunities, and answer, “no, not really. But what difference does it make?”

“Okay,” he nods, in apparent agreement, “would you like to make another attempt? With the wisdom you have now gained, or move on, to the next place.”

You consider this. Move on, or try again. Could you put things right? Be kinder, be happier? You look at the man, his eyes downcast on his notes.

You give him your decision.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the inspiration of David Eagleman’s wonderful book Sum, which I highly recommend.

This is the second story which I have written with this, structure, the other being Possibility, in which a man dies and finds himself in a world populated by all the choices he’s ever made.

That story is available for free, here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/470121

And also as a podcast of it on the Edgar Million Podcast (search on i-Tunes, Pod Addict etc) or there’s a direct link below:

https://soundcloud.com/edgar-million/edgar-million-podcast-possibility

Finally, special thanks to Mike Lewinski for making the cover image of star trails available under a CC license:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ikewinski/8009695480/in/photolist-dcMMpW-jJAEA8-9HhWuD-rbUVCB-wrGqEW-x78NaL-x78HgY-xnWRFd-yxJvqM-cYAz6E-cKQD6Y-6tJMLD-9gP7FJ-7TCC33-pykWb-381n9T-cZfCT5-5UWC9j-dd5P7L-dWk57q-8mtkhQ-cYAST1-cYAHaA-73wYUn-5Q2r9A-fuDkQV-9d4wgA-fuDirB-d1E5WA-aBq49V-zzPvEg-zwCNF5-cYANVE-ia5Dfg-8TdE23-9XJZVX-eGmvbN-35cwvu-dcLVuw-dd5NMC-9wVoar-8J43cj-dvSzPC-cYArqd-cYACCh-o53ZMG-cYAvGj-8hh4QT-8hkmom-8Tbrka/

Thanks

Thanks for taking the time to read my story and I hope you’ll forgive the odd typo or grammatical error that slips through. Feel free to tell me about any you find via @edgarmillion . As much as I try to proofread everything, I know I miss errors here and there, and I’ll remove them if you tell me.

If you follow me at @edgarmillion you’ll get announcements of any upcoming stories or other news, along with occasional complaints about football.

Finally, if you liked this story, I’d love a review if you have a mo.

Also, if you like listening rather than reading I publish lots of my stories as podcasts/audiobooks for free here: https://soundcloud.com/edgar-million and on iTunes.

Other works

A Button to Save The World

The end of the world is nigh. Cities lay in ruins, almost everyone unemployed and global warming threatens to overwhelm us.

What if you could press a button to make everything alright?

The time had to come soon though; they had to stop it hitting the tipping point. The point when global temperatures would rise two degrees above the pre-industrial revolution levels, when the Greenland ice sheets would melt and we would begin to burn. Ever more chaotic weather patterns, famine, war and quite possibly end of the humanity. The earth would live on but humanity, our civilisation and history would die screaming.

What if you could press a button to stop it all? Reverse and even eliminate global warning? Would you?

Of course you would, but as Patrick K. Useful discovers, saving the Earth has a cost.

One man has a Button, which when pressed will save the world.

Patrick K Useful wants to stop him.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/387270

Stories

A growing number of entirely free stories about ghosts, aliens, vampires, Gods and various other sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and horror topics.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/EdgarMillion  

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Adele makes me cry 

What’s that about? I listen to live music with an open antenna and many singers, well some, you possess the a rawness and emotional availability move moto  the edge of tears, but I find find listening to Adele live rips me open. 

Randomly stuck Adele in NYC on the iplayer, just as background, listening to a tune, not even a favourite song and suddenly feel broken in two. Amazing where that comes from. Didn’t try to get live tickets, but probably good thing alas balling eyes out in public is even less manly than writing a log. 

The emotional rawness in her is amazing. But then I love how between the songs she sounds like one of my dopey cousins or my aunts getting ready to to tell someone to ‘Fuck right off’ for that thing they did. Amazing. 

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Happy

 

I keep on thinking, when I do this thing, make this change, or achieve this goal, I will be happy. I will find some degree of contentment.

I’m not so naive as to believe you can be happy all the time, at least not without the aid of chemical assistance, but sometimes I feel like the levels of day-to-day happiness I have access to are too low for someone who on the face of it has a pretty decent life.

Some people seem consistently happy, but like with an intelligent theist, I always wonder what lurks beneath, what tearful midnight misery they need to go through in the early hours of the morning to achieve this pretence of optimism and joy.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/magdalenaroeseler/14946578055/in/photolist-oLM7VD-9bVaKX-aidqQg-2GMqWE-5mbfoe-sj1F-8nFf3V-euG6VT-jRTxeX-58nn9a-5gr521-7sad16-fi5zas-fr7721-4kPBT1-6Jpr1F-mDSN3-2kzPrf-7z2gzm-fy2XiC-dGbgXi-hHbbJe-96aGQK-vZvL6-B1FV4-jidSJR-8jXCu-MJpTs-PARi-6uHz7S-jTX5At-6h1NjG-5tqLhe-byn4tA-cHUbjU

Aren’t they buried in the same hole as me. There’s dirt being shovelled onto their faces too; don’t pretend to me you can’t feel that, I want to say.

Sometimes stupid people seem super happy, but then I wonder if they’re just too unobservant to have noticed the hole, let alone to consider who is shovelling the earth or whether there is any point to trying to dodge the falling mud and occasional stray stones.

Not a new question, but is it sometimes good not to know any better?

I want to climb out of this damn hole and see what’s up there, maybe punch that git with the shovel, and a few times I’ve managed it.

I managed it with the first kiss with someone I truly thought I loved; in my first day at St Martins art school, a child of working class parents being told I was part of a new artistic elite, alongside a hundred posh kids; with the birth of my first child; in the completion of my first books or the creation of hundreds of perfect little works of art.

I was happy then, so I know it’s possible to experience rich chemical free joy, but it’s never sustained.

The natural highs punished with a storm of negative activity so sustained that I may as well have taken crack.

Every time I get out of the hole, I brush myself down, take in my surroundings, then notice the dirt and loose stones tumbling away, and I look again at the climb ahead.

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Filed under happiness, happy

Superloo

“The piano has been drinking

Not me, not me, not me…”

– Tom Waits

SuperLoo Cover Final

It was a trick of sorts.

Magic, but only in the modern sense of the word.

That is, it was an illusion, a conjurer’s flourish of the hand, yet it startled and confused us in a way no hidden coin or false bottomed hat could ever have done. Impressive enough to have been performed only by a top conjuror, it seemed to me, yet ridiculously mundane because of the audience for whom it was performed and because the odd subject of the ruse.

Yet Martin, the trickster behind it, my friend of many years, claims it wasn’t even a trick at all.

The magic was real he reckons.

Not real in the conjuring sense, with hidden compartments and misdirection, with levers and mirrors, but real as in the sort of nonsense Harry Potter could have done. Or, even, real in some scientific sense which has grown out of watching too much Star Trek and Doctor Who, something about wormholes and subspace; a dive down the rabbit hole.

“Look,” he told us, still tells us, “space is nothing right? Atoms filled with nothing? Well I accidentally found a way through the gaps. I didn’t try to, it just happened.”

Why he thinks we would listen to anything said by a library assistant with an overactive imagination and an underactive thyroid is beyond me; or it isn’t really, because although I know it’s another facet of the scam, a diversion from letting us see how he performed the trick, but the how of it bothers me immensely.

One day, when we’re a bunch of old farts scrunched into the backroom of The Bell in Romford for the fortieth year running, maybe he will let us know how he did it. Let us know that he did it. Admit it was a trick. I for one need him to admit it was an illusion.

Maybe when one of us finally kicks the bucket, he’ll reveal all to the others down the pub, but for the moment, when we go back to that night, when we plead and cajole for him to pull back the curtain and show us where he hid the mirrors, he just says, “it was real. I’m not that good.”

A good conjuror sticks to his story; makes you question the fabric of the world and realise the fragility, and malleability, of vision.

Don’t believe your eyes.

A dog’s eyes see two colours, a mix of blue and yellow, beamed from the two colour receptors in their brains; humans have three receptors which blend to produce all the colours of the rainbow; the mantis shrimp has twelve. You have to wonder how much there is in the world which can’t be seen by us.

For now Martin sticks to his story though, and is so convincing that Alan has started defending him, saying that it must be true, quoting that thing from Sherlock Holmes about eliminating the impossible to be left only with the improbable.

“So, it must be true,” says Alan who, in my opinion, is not the brightest member of our group.

What do I remember of the trick?

***

I recall a drunken Friday night.

Boys Night. Missus home with the kids. Saturday was family night, or sometimes it was get-rid-of-the-kids and night-club or restaurant night. We all settle into a routine eventually, or most of us do, and Friday: Boys Night was part of mine. The highlight of my week. Even now.

Three hours in The Bell, talking nonsense about the week and the footie.

It was ninety-seven and the Hammers were having a dismal year, which dominated much of our conversation, and Alan was mouthing off about some bird in his office who he was certain fancied him, before we all moved onto the Curry Kingdom for Chicken Tikkas, Lamb Baltis and Bombay Potatoes followed by an unsteady wobble on the last mile home.

Simple pleasures for simple men.

Sometimes on these nights Martin would tell us about one of the customers in the library who he reckoned had a crush on him, but we always laughed him down.

Hardly a beacon of sexuality your average librarian, but he insisted that there were some out there who went for the weedy intellectual type; looking for love between the book shelves, and after walking for an age, batting insults back and forth, we’d reach Chadwell Heath and the High Street, ready to divert off onto the final segments of our journeys alone.

Usually at some point en-route we’d feel the press of Carlsberg against insides of our bladders and would take the opportunity to relieve ourselves down alleyways, or against fences, keeping back from the street, hiding in the limited privacy of the shadows.

Yes, I know it’s disgusting, but we’re men and we all did it.

We still do, our aging bladders even less resilient these days.

Martin didn’t do it.

Martin had what he described as a shy bladder.

Alan regularly asked if that was code for ‘small cock’ and we always laughed because after a night in the pub even the stupidest joke is genius, but Martin insisted he just couldn’t wee in front or alongside other men, and so his habit was to use the Superloo outside ‘Birdshit Park’, which I’m sure has a real name I’ve never taken the time to learn.

We all used the Superloo sometimes, mainly if you needed a number two, escaping the orange streetlamp glow to do your business enclosed by dappled, bleach cleaned aluminium walls, hoping the door wouldn’t malfunction and swing open whilst you were sat there.

Once, Fat Kev fell asleep in there and after fifteen minutes or so was awoken by us lot laughing at him as the door slid open, but I think it was the only time it happened, and it couldn’t honestly be called a malfunction, more of a failsafe.

Mostly, when someone’s in the Superloo we all wait for them, sitting or leaning about, the oldest gang in Romford, to wait for them to finish; on mild nights anyway, a short break on the long walk home.

I liked to sit across the road on the bench facing the bog, and if you’re waiting for Martin he’s generally prompt in his doings, so there’s no great hardship, and the company is pleasant and literate on the remainder of the journey.

For anyone reading this who is unclear on the whole Superloo concept, and they do seem to be less common these days, and I should probably describe the contraption.

They look like an escape pod from some hoary old sci-fi programme, but instead of offering space adventure, they provide a relatively clean facility for anyone not wanting to dodge desperate homosexuals in the public bog once you get back into town.

All this for only twenty pence, which you dropped into the angled slot to make the curved door slide open like something out of Star Trek. When you step inside one of these capsules you’ll discover the resemblance to a space-pod remains undiminished.

All gleaming metal and strip lights, the door slides closed behind you with a hiss to leave you to your needs. Then, at the end of your visit to Captain Kirk’s bathroom you click the handle down and the door eases back open.

To reveal: us.

Sitting, standing, staring, at you.

Some nights, shifting from foot to foot, urgently awaiting our turn.

From our perspective, viewing this scene, then as now, you can’t see the back of the facility, as it is squashed tightly into a solid brick alcove, against the semi-derelict remains of an old insurance firm behind.

The perfect locked room set-up.

No possible escape. Sure a person could detach panels and climbs through the mechanism, but how he could then re-tighten the screws and disguise his exit I have no idea. Plus we’d have seen him. The wall behind the Superloo stood and stands tall and solid. Both sides of the facility were clearly visible, so even if he had found a way out through the panels and the wires and the mechanisms before covering his traces, we would have seen him sneaking out.

We’d sat looking at the toilet the whole time, for a good twenty minutes at least, before the safety release automatically triggered the door to reveal the interior.

“Oy oy!” Alan shouted as the door eased open, “someones’s fallen asleep.”

Alan had been closest to it, and had hammered on the door at least three times for Martin to both wake and hurry, and had been giggling about the state of Martin to have fallen asleep like this.

“Teach him to bloody laugh at me,” Fat Kev mumbled as he half dozed on the bench, “show us ya cock, Martin!”

As the door swung open we ambled over to see if he needed help, and to cheer him awake, but as we discovered, he was no longer there.

Only the vacancy awaited us.

We took crowded in and took turns in banging at the walls and calling him, and all agreed it was some sort of a trick, bafflingly clever, especially when measured against his usual standards, usually things with coins or cards, but nothing like this.

He had completely disappeared and despite our pleas would not re-appear that night.

It was back before mobiles, or back before everyone had them, and we didn’t want to worry his missus, so we left it for the night and walked off down the long road home.

My doorbell tinkled at about five the next day, just after watching Arsenal snatch the league and I invited him in with a guffaw and a hug, before demanding to know where he’d been and how he’d done it. Devious bastard.

“Definitely beats card tricks or strings of handkerchiefs,” I laughed, “Come on, you git, I mean, sod the magic circle, you have to tell.”

He paused, gazing shakily around my front room at the missus’ fairy ornaments and my signed David Beckham photo on the telly and shuddered before speaking.

“I don’t know how I did it,” he told me, with a pleading look in his eyes, “but I had a right night of it.”

“What?”

“I – I just don’t know.”

“How do you do a magic trick and not know how to do it?” I asked, “come on, spill.”

“It wasn’t a trick. Not mine anyway.”

“What?”

“I – I’m, just not that good,” he said, “it’s like this.”

***

I was sitting there on the cold plastic rim of the bog and took a dump, or whatever, and then finished off. Washed my hands with a dribble of pink soap from the machine, then dried them with the warm blast which follows. My hands were still damp and I dried them on my jeans before tugging the door to step out.

At first I thought you lot had just buggered off and left me since there was no sign of you – fair enough you’ve all homes to go to – so it took a moment before I registered the change in location, the warm breeze and the scent of flowers. Yes, I know you don’t believe me, but every word is true.

I don’t care.

But this is the truth, and if you ignore it then you are ignoring one of the most miraculous things in the universe. True unexplainable magic. I know it seems unbelievable, but I have to explain.

Firstly, understand that my conjuring skills extend no further than a selection of well-rehearsed, ready-made, tricks and illusions,

Pulling out garish flowers to impress birds down at The Bell, not that it really works; more useful for pulling coins from behind the ears of gullible children; picking pockets of the absent minded or easily distracted. A strong sleight of hand, but nothing original or even pretending to be.

This was something different; for you I disappeared, but for me the world swayed and I stood on an unfamiliar street struggling for a sense of my bearings.

Gazing around I reckoned I was standing downstream from the Ministry of Sound, all the way over in Southwark, sound thumping in the distance.

It took a moment to regain my bearings. Most places look so similar now, and there was a second when I realised the Dixy Fried Chicken I was staring at was different to the franchise in Romford.

I walked into a toilet in one part of London and out in another part entirely, and as I tried to regain my bearings I noticed a young lady observing me fiercely, approaching rapidly, examining me, before slapping me with a sobering left hand.

“Where is he?” she screamed at me, as I stumbled backwards clutching my face, “where is he?!”

After maybe five minutes of this she began to calm down a little and explained how her boyfriend had gone into this Superloo around ten minutes ago, but instead of her beloved I had stepped out.

For a while we sat together on a low garden wall; me trying to focus, to tune in to my new surroundings, she silently glaring at the convenience. Waiting for a boyfriend who would never arrive.

After about ten minutes or so she announced she was going back in to find him, and despite my protestations about the quality of this idea, she was insistent and was gone. I wondered if she’d made it, followed his path, and after a few minutes the door swung open to reveal the empty cubicle, so I decide to see if it could work for me too.

I plunged back in, hoping to beam back to Romford, but instead of the return journey I found myself stepping out into the footprint of Saint Pauls Cathedral.

Did you know there’s a Superloo at Saint Pauls, in sight of the cathedral? Planning nightmare. Snuggled up against one of the walls like a toilet TARDIS.

I’ve been to Saint Pauls before, of course, but only during the the day and had no idea how beautiful it was at night all spot-lit and dramatic.

A speck of brightness in a dark night. A magical palace; austere hangout of the gods. I laid on a bench and examined the Portland stone walls as they followed the vanishing point up into darkness and nothing.

It was warm last night, even that late, and the air in the city, free of breeze in the centre, hung about me like a blanket and I dozed a while, listening dreamily to drunks arguing about something in the distance, only beginning to re-awaken as a crowd of Japanese tourists massed about me and started taking pictures of me on my bench. There I lay, forming part of the rich tapestry of their holiday in London, and I watched them walk off chattering and laughing in a high pitched language I didn’t understand.

I lay back down. The beer and the warmness of the night turning the hard wood of the bench into the softest, most comfortable mattress beneath my tired bones. Maybe, I thought, I could just stay here…

Two rough hands grabbed me and began shaking.

I half expected the police, ready to drag me off to a night in the cells for being drunk, or at the very least to move me on for vagrancy, but it was the girl again, still minus her boyfriend, and she told me the Superloo had beamed her right across London, but that somehow she’d found herself back here where she had spotted me and wanted to tell me it was possible to use the Superloo to get back home, if I wanted.

“I could end up anywhere, from what you’re saying.”

“True, but it’s either that or the night-bus.”

I asked her what she planned to do.

“Keep looking I suppose,” she responded, “and if he doesn’t show, then I’ll night-bus it home myself to wait for him. Maybe a Superloo will drop me nearer home. I just want to know he’s okay.”

“It might be better if you just head home yourself now, on the bus, wait for him there,” I suggested, “a woman out on your own, late at night. Not so safe.”

“I’ll be okay,” she said, popping twenty pence into the slot and heading off to her next random, or seemingly random, destination.

Recalling the sharp smack she’d administered on our first encounter, I figured she probably would.

The night-bus. Squashed in with all the other Friday night drunks. Dodging fights and vomit. It didn’t much appeal. But I wish I had taken that route home. Unfortunately, in my foggy state of mind I decided to take the magic door. Without the slightest idea where it would deliver me.

To be fair, I only had about forty pence left from my night out and didn’t fancy trying to persuade a bus driver ‘to help a fella out’. I had no more twenty pees though, so no way of opening up the cubicle. I could go looking for change, but I worried there was a risk the magic might wear off.

No chance of that in hindsight. Not last night.

Wherever you were in London that night, whatever Superloo you entered, it was primed to play this metaphysical gag on you.

Why? Who knows?

Maybe God and Einstein got drunk up in heaven and decided to chop up space-time as a prank.

It should be huge news, this prank, yet because of when it happened, late Friday night, when the cities drunks would be the only witnesses to the event, the strangeness will go largely unregarded, for who wants to listen to the outlandish ramblings of drunks? I’ve looked in the newspaper. Not even the hint anything strange occurred.

Rather than risk losing the magic I stayed put, hoping to catch a passing stranger and swap some of my change for the correct coinage, but whilst I sat waiting the Superloo hissed and the door swung open and a young couple piled out, giggly and laughing, amused, then bemused as they tried to comprehend their surroundings.

I had no time to explain. No desire to try to explain the strange metaphysical connectivity of the Superloo network. Even as I say that phrase it sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.

So I pushed past them before the door could close and pressed the button to shut the exit behind me.

The meaty odour of sex and Dettol hung in the air.

From talking to the Girlfriend I knew that it was possible for me to travel anywhere across London, somewhat erratically, by simply opening and closing the door, and following this exposed a slide show of the city, resolving that if I didn’t end up near home soon I would exit at the first busy looking area to beg change for the night bus.

I pulled open the door onto maybe 30 locations, but mostly had little or no idea where I was, and at no point recognised anywhere near home.

Then I opened the door find someone waiting to use the loo, a tourist, backpacker, Nordic type, and even though I knew this slideshow method might land me right in the end, I stepped out and allowed him to make use of the facility.

I was tempted to just pull the door shut rather than risk a hunt for loose change, but felt vaguely embarrassed in front of the stranger, clearly desperate for the toilet, even though I’d probably never re-encounter him again; I had no desire to appear strange before him.

One day I’ll be a grown up and unconcerned about the judgement of strangers, but I’m not there yet.

I politely stepped out, and allowed him to move into his own journey, then again glanced about my new surroundings.

Just down the road a policeman leant against some railings, and although I might have been able to solicit change from him, in exchange for the coins in my pocket, I am, like most people, slightly agitated in the presence of police uniforms and I knew, surrounded by a fog of alcohol as I was, he was rendered unapproachable.

Someone once said the ones who feel no guilt in the presence of the law are the unlawful, but I’m guessing even they would be feeling a little vulnerable if they were drunk and being space warped around London. So I decided to walk past him and find a new Superloo and spare change elsewhere.

This policeman was of the appropriately tall variety.

I know they reduced the height restrictions for very proper multicultural and political reasons, but I quite liked the days when the Police loomed over you like giants. I recall an image of my Dad, not a tall man, if you recall, but not tiny, when I was a little boy; he was massive to me then, as all fathers are to their young children, but he looked up at a Policemen he’d asked for directions in the manner of a hobbit questioning an orc.

The policeman studied me as I approached and passed, and I nodded nervously to him as I shuffled by. I didn’t recognise my surroundings, but I guessed correctly I was somewhere off Soho, and set off in search of change with which to continue my journey.

I passed night vendors and bars which seemed too sleazy to venture into, and settled instead upon a nice Greek woman in a little all night newsagents off of Frith Street to exchange a ten and two fives for a twenty, then ten minutes later I stepped into the Superloo outside ‘Les Mis’.

Again after I stepped inside and pulled the door closed, opening and closing the door as if I were playing a slide show of the seedy side of London; but still got no nearer home, until, after about twenty different scenes I opened the door onto the very Soho street I had so recently vacated. Not only this, but the policeman who had stood tall nearby was now directly in front of the door waiting to make use of the facility himself.

Much to his surprise and obvious irritation I slammed the door back closed, and when I reopened it I looked at out onto Watford, onto yet another Dixy Fried Chicken Shop and a dodgy looking nightclub closing up for the night.

Ridiculous, I thought, and resolved that if or when I found myself in a busy part of town I would beg my bus fare home, and then begin a routine journey back home on the drunk-bus and for about twenty minutes I danced eclectically back and forth across London. But not once did I step back into my part of suburbia or even anywhere close.

Then it all went wrong. I opened the door on to a busy street at last, one which I now knew only too well, gawking up into the face of a now extremely indignant policeman giant, who had already forced his boot into the doorway before I could slam it shut for a second time.

“Fucking little shit,” he shouted poking me hard in the chest, “playing silly buggers with me are you? You little prick. Did you think this might be a nice place to sleep? Cosy little hole to curl up in rest your drunken pisshead skull? Well don’t worry you’ve got somewhere now you little sod. It’s more spacious than this, but funnily enough smells even more strongly of piss and vomit.”

I did consider giving my odd version of events, but figured that with this ammunition he would probably have me committed.

There are worse places than a drunk tank I decided, knowing with my creeping exhaustion I would certainly sleep regardless of surroundings.

I soon discovered then there were indeed far worse places than the drunk tank and that one of these was being handcuffed to a railing outside a Soho toilet waiting for an arresting officer who even now was probably wandering around Croydon, dazed and confused, and wondering how to explain his situation to his Duty Officer.

I had tried to persuade him that it’d be safer to lock me in custody up first, but he told me to “belt up” since he’s been waiting for too long outside this ‘fucking toilet already’, to not now relieve himself.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he told me.

And that was that me. Locked to a wrought iron railing at two in the morning in the middle of London.

I felt unsafe to say the least. Rather worried for my health. As much as I could I lowered my coat sleeve over the cuffs to try and conceal my obvious vulnerability, quickly losing any hope my policeman had just beamed round the corner.

After about an hour of avoiding the glances of passing crowds, trying to look nonchalant, I spotted a girl staring at me from the corner. Sixteen or seventeen maybe. Dressed for clubbing by the look of it. Sober looking though, and watching me hawkishly.

I returned her gaze she approached me.

“Blow job, Thirty, full sex, Fifty. Anything else negotiable.”

I decided to take the trusting approach and ask for help, showing her the cuffs and offering an invented explanation. I told her I was getting married in a couple of weeks and that my idiot best man thought this was funny. Play the sympathy vote. My hooker with a heart of gold. “Please help me.”

Like Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places.

“I’ll get my boyfriend,” my tart with a heart told me suspiciously, and thirty seconds later he’d appeared.

A small but solidly built man with pinkish skin and bottle blond hair wearing a flamboyant green check suit appeared from the shadows of a doorway, and made his way along the street. He appeared to have styled himself after the stereotypical nineteen seventies American pimps and made his way along the street with an ambling flamboyant gait which could have been lifted directly from a scorsese film, and he examined my trapped wrist carefully, tugging at the cuffs, before withdrawing a massive machete from inside his suit.

“What’s that for?” I asked in a panic, desperately assuring the man that there were numerous preferable ways to assist my escape from my predicament, none of which involved the removal of a hand.

“Nah,” he said, “what yaa got?”

“Eh?”

Sensing I was confused at the question he then ordered me to first remove my rather expensive watch and then directed his girlfriend to empty the credit cards from my wallet.

“You’re not helping me them?”

“Heh, and spoil the fun?”

He turned to walk away and had made it a few feet when a new thought clearly occurred to him, and he rolled back round, peering at me, seeing me anew. Pinning my free arm with one hand and he forcibly removed my shoes, trousers and, to my utmost terror, my underwear with the other.

Leaving me half naked in Soho; the most embarrassing half as well, exposed to the night’s warm air, which now felt far less warm.

While he’d helped me out of my clothing he became very insistent I seriously chastise my friends next time I see them, and that the next time they chain a groom to a railing they “need to do it properly, blood.”

Then he wandered off with the girl, cackling, in search of more dodgy dealings no doubt, or maybe to see how much they could spend on my Barclaycard before I cancelled it.

I prayed for death, a quick and painless death, rather than this humiliation.

Mostly the passing strangers just laughed at me, although on one occasion a woman in her early twenties pulled a Polaroid out and started taking photographs of the amusing scene. Certainly no one thought to help. I was part of the night’s entertainment.

I figured this was too public for even the most brazen rapist to molest me, but these sorts of fears also lingered, however, those passing who seemed they would might have been inclined to this sort of thing mostly just made lewd comments about my predicament, as the cooling air grew even colder with embarrassment.

I’d grown extremely sober by this point and decided there was no option but to begin pleading with the passers by for assistance, but the only effect of this was to make the general levels of amusement even more raucous, or did until, one kind woman peeled off of a group, and wrapped up my embarrassment in a kind of shawl, which when draped round my waist made me look as though I was wearing a skirt.

This being Soho; I could cope with skirt wearing.

If it’s good enough for Beckham, I thought, then I suppose I can live with it.

However, it didn’t help that I was still attached to the railing and I asked the Samaritan with the shawl if she could call the police for me.

There was a hiss, and the Superloo re-opened.

I prayed it would be the Policeman, but instead an Italian man stepped out and started exclaimed rapidly in his mother tongue, presumably expounding his confusion, then with a shrug which suggested he had made the mistake, easier to accept than magic toilets, I suppose, and he made his way into the still bustling night.

I decided to try and outline a version of the truth and explained to my Samaritan I had been arrested then abandoned by a policeman, and she agreed to call the police from a nearby phone box and was about to leave when the door whooshed open again and this time the Policeman stepped out looking startled.

He sidled over to me. Looking shifty.

“Er,” the ‘Er’ was long and cautious, “why didn’t you say it did, that?

“You’d have listened to me, then? or assumed I was even drunker than you’d thought?”

“Fair point,” he answered, pulling his keys and undoing my bonds, then noticing my current state, “where did your trousers go? And your pants? And – everything? Where’d you get that skirt? What the bloody hell have you been up to.”

“The night attacked me,” I explained, shooting the policeman an exasperated look, “a not so friendly pimp took them and my watch, after you abandoned me here. I wasn’t in much of a position to argue.”

The officer pulled a face which expressed a mix of guilt and embarrassment.

“Anyway, on your way,” adding as an afterthought, a reluctant, “Sir.”

“Looking like this?” I gestured to my skirt.

“I’m afraid so, Sir. Want money for the bus?”

He rummaged in his pocket and handed over enough for the bus, along with a couple of more twenties pees, in case I wanted to “risk the bloody TARDIS again,” then he strode away, clearly pretending he’d never seen me or my condition.

I was left with the Samaritan who wrote her address on the back of an envelope, “send me the scarf after you get home – wash it first though,” she instructed, and then I was left alone, as she and her friends wobbled off down the road.

I looked at the money and decide to ride the Superloo one last time, after all the hassle I actually did need to go again, so I entered, lifted my skirt to do my business, then turned to re-open the door, finally stepping out of our Superloo, just a mile from home.

You lot were long gone, of course, so you didn’t get to see me in a dress, and no sign of police or trouble lurked outside. The pavement felt cold and hard against my bare feet and from time to time I had to stop to pick fragments of glass out of them, but eventually I made it home, opening the door with the spare key I keep above my door.

“And that is the end of my story,” holding up a soft looking parcel, addressed to a Samantha Lane, “I’m off to post this back now. I can’t explain it, but it definitely happened, and it wasn’t a magic trick, it was a magic reality. Or maybe a science experiment, aliens playing games with the mice. Maybe God does play dice with the universe, and thought it would be enormous fun to link up every Superloo in London. Whatever it was, I’m never going into another Superloo again.”

***

He’s remained true to his word to this day, and from that night on as we pass the Superloo on the way home, he waves a hand and refuse to wait, hurrying his shy bladder home.

Now, I’m certain, this was a trick, but like all the best magic I don’t know how it was done.

What I do know, after I’ve emptied four or five pints of Bulmers into the metal toilet bowl and turn to put my hand on the lever to pull open the door, I momentarily wonder if it is true, and if adventure lurks on the other side of the door.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to http://www.1001freefonts.com/from_cartoon_blocks.font for the cover font and AnthonyGibbons for the sea of holes cover image and https://openclipart.org/detail/25156/aiga_toilets_bg-by-jean_victor_balin for the toilet image.

Thanks

Thanks for taking the time to read my story and I hope you will forgive the odd typo or grammatical error that slips through. Feel free to tell me about any you find via @edgarmillion . As much as I try to proofread everything, I know I miss errors here and there, and I’ll remove them if you tell me.

There are e-reader friendly versions on smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/488562

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A selection of tweets by @IAmANArtistInTheMaking directed @RandomLondonCleb:

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Wow. You’re so cool. That was really funny. Happy New Years.
31/12/2015

I know you’ll never have the time to respond to this, but as a fellow artist, I admire your work so much. #DontHumbleBragThis
01/01/2016

I agree. He’s such an arsehole.
16/01/2016

That’s very clever.
17/01/2016

Your art moves me so much. I feel such a connection. Follow me and pm me if you feel it to.
24/01/2016

Only joking. Late night tweets make me sound like a stalker. #NotCrazy
24/01/2016

I love you.
24/01/2016

I meant to say I love your work. #EpicFail
26/01/2016

I wish I could get just one RT or response from you but I get how you must be dead busy.
27/01/2016

Hi. This is for a good cause. Charidy. My sister is doing run for cancer. Please RT.
01/02/2016

Sorry to keep asking you for RTs. Aware you’re far too special to engage with us proles. #We’reJustTheFuckingAudience
01/02/2016

#WePayYourWages Ignore us at your peril.
02/02/2016

Only kidding. Seriously, is thing working [Taps Mike]. Can you hear me?
02/02/2016

Hey man, if you don’t stop whining on about politics I’m going to be forced to unfollow you. #SeriousThreat
02/02/2016

Dude. You used to be so cool.
05/02/2016

I put a new thing on YouTube about your work. Please RT.
06/02/2016

Please RT.
07/02/2016

Please RT.
07/02/2016

I bet you think you’re shit don’t stink.
08/02/2016

Wow. @RandomLondonCleb has blocked me. What a fucking bitch. He don’t like to hear it like it is!
08/02/2016

I love you.
08/02/2016

Please RT.
09/02/2016

Bitch.
09/02/2016

Hey, @RandomLondonCleb, turns out twitter let’s me create new twitter accounts so even if you block me I can remind you what a #BellEnd you are.
11/02/2016

Block away bitch, I’ve got all night. I’ve got all day.
12/02/2016

BLOCK ME AGAIN. I’LL KILL YOU.
14/02/2016

Do you like the photo I took of your front door.
14/02/2016

RT that. Bitch.
14/02/2016

Your son looks cute on his school uniform, BTW. Kudos on not going private.
14/02/2016

@RandomLondonCleb, you’ve so forgotten you’re roots. You’re front door is super bourgeois by the way.
17/02/2016

Hey, don’t take me too serious. I suppose it comes with the territory. Being famous. But don’t forget you routes dude.
17/02/2016

Your new stuff sucks. Just kidding. Still, liked your early stuff better.
19/02/2016

Please RT the attached. Forward good cause.
20/02/2016

I wrote a poem. The Darkness of whimsy. It’s my best work. Please RT.
21/02/2016

You must hate your fans. You’re so, distant. Here’s a a photo of your Bitch asked son to make you aware how ‘close’ some of us are.
21/02/2016

Hey @RandomLondonCleb. Didn’t mean to make you feel freaked. Won’t RT door again. You’re garden looks the bollix tho. Wife a sort.
24/02/2016

Or the boy.
24/02/2016

I read that article you wrote. #Moved #PleaseRetweet
28/02/2016

Call the cops. See if I care.
29/02/2016

Do you like my cat? She’s cute. #PleaseRetweet
29/02/2016

Bastard.
29/02/2016

Poor darling. Did I use WiFi hotspots and Internet Cafés? How dare you send the police after me.
02/03/2016

Catch me if you can.
03/03/2016

Botch.

03/03/2016
Secret: you can’t (catch me).
04/03/2016

In return here’s a new picture of your son going to school. Would you like to see one where he has a broken nose.
06/03/2016

Please RT.
10/03/2016

I’m not enough of a artist for you to speak to me? I’m working in a new medium now.
11/03/2016

Bitch.
11/03/2016

Does your son need all his limbs?
12/03/2016

Please RT.
13/03/2016

Sorry, I’ve been a bit arsey lately. I wrote a new poem. I’ll play nice if you give me a retreat though.
13/02/2016

Fuck you. We can’t all be special (overrated) like you. You just got lucky then pulled up the ladder behind you #WePayYourWages
21/02/2016

#WePayYourWages
24/02/2016

Hey look, you’re front door again. But it’s open now.
30/03/2016

Who could have don’t that.?
30/03/2016

Please RT if you can.
30/03/2016

You’re look so peaceful when you sleep. I really love you and you’re work.
30/03/2016

I want to wake you. You’ll understand what I’m about once we speak.
30/03/2016

Connect.
30/03/2016

I wanted to connect. Why are you on Twitter if you won’t speak to you’re fans.
30/03/2016

Why did you shout like that? Why did you have to make all that noise?
30/03/2016

Last tweet (forever?). Whenever anyone says your name they will also remember mine.
30/03/2016

I can hear sirens and the coppery taste of blood makes my tongue feel numb.
30/03/2016

You’re should have talked to me.
30/03/2016

Guess what though.
30/03/2016

I’m famous now.
30/03/2016

Consider yourself unfollweded.
30/03/2016

Thanks for reading. Please note: all typo’s are intentional (for once).

Please check out my work on Amazon and Smashwords if you like this.

Thanks to Chrstian Stock for the cc image of a random door from here

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Possibility (a Sum inspired story)

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Photo above used on a cc license from:https://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeacid/2511865067

 

When you die you discover that there is an afterlife after all, but that instead of containing God’s or angels or long lost love ones in a much awaited reunion there are instead all the you’s who have ever lived, a quantum mass of every choice you ever taken.

An entire planet filled with the lives you lived, with every type of you imaginable.

Most of the you’s are quite old, the modern world encouraging us to make it into our sixties, seventies and eighties before we die, but some of the you’s are children, the  ones who didn’t escape the broken neck from that fall on the bombsite at the end of your road. The young man who stepped in front of the speeding car which didn’t stop. The baby with the temperature which went unchecked.

They’ve been here so very long these children and young men and they look at the eighty year old you with both jealousy, at the life you lived, and pity at the ramshackle body you now occupy, although in the afterlife you no longer suffer from the aches and pains of existence.

Bad knees feel strong again. Backs which had been curved and twisted are healed. You are still visibly older than many of your counterparts, but lacking the frailty you’d grown used to.

The young ones came into the world when it was empty, and as they waited, unaging, others began to appear, all the bad choices which the eighty year old you had side-stepped.

By the time you arrive in the afterlife the world which had stood empty when the first you arrived, is getting very full.

All the choices you’ve ever made have filled the world with bankers and Pri-Ministers, doctors and lawyers, painter’s and decorators, administrators and clerks.

You discover a complete society borne out of yourself, and that the world imitates the hierarchies of the old world, with the previously successful you’s once again taking charge, almost out of habit, whilst the versions of you who never made the leap to success, or who had grown used to following, we’re manning the coffee bars, shops and tilling the fields.

Comparing notes with your other selves you discover you are the father to untold children and lived a million different lives.

You receive a certain grudging imagination for having lived this long, an admiration you bestow upon the you’s who continue to appear from time to time.

A number of years pass during which you take up a job as an administrator for a small textiles company, and older versions of you appear, eventually reaching the age of one hundred and you wonder how many more there will be before the well of yourself dries up.

A few years pass then a frail man of a 105 stands before you and asks you to explain it all to him.

You don’t know it yet, but there is one more you left. Still living in The World, as it is known here, and at a sprightly 109, he passes peacefully in his sleep and finds himself here.

The you’s stare at him and instinctively know this is it, the last piece of the puzzle, and they contemplate the eternity which now stretches out ahead of you no new you’s and for a second you fear this will go on forever, except, no, you see it now; you are all becoming one, filled by all those lives, seeing and experiencing all possible lives, and for one moment becoming a god, one perfect content moment where you finally understand everything

You see the universe before you and grasp how it all connects, before it slips away, and you are born again, a baby in a mothers arm’s, weeping at the beginning of the universe.

I love Sum, the book of many and varied afterlives by the neuroscientist David Eagleman. It remains easily the best book I have read in the last five years and I have remained much taken by the perfectly balanced tales of the different fates which could await us on our passing.

The story above is my homage to this wonderful book.

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Filed under afterlife, angels, belief, fiction, god, heaven, loss, multiple possibilities, particle physics, quantum, short story