Sunday, July 31, 2011

I've Had a Facelift!



Well, not me (not yet), but the blog has. You try to resist. You say to yourself that this was the way it was made, the way it started out, and if it's starting to show its age or look a little rough around the edges, well...it just adds character. So what if there's a lot of younger, prettier, high-tech blogs out there, shamelessly batting their eyelashes out into cyberspace. Readers will see through them. They might have the odd dalliance, but they'll always come back to me in the end, because I'm what they know. I'm familiar and comforting. I make my readers a home-cooked meal every single night and always tell them how much I love them. Who wants Ke$ha when you have Peggy Lee?

But then you recall that wretched but true old adage about familiarity breeding...well, if not contempt, at least indifference. So under the knife I went.

It's still very much a WIP (work in progress, in case you're not hip to internet speak - which I most definitely am not and have to rely on my crossword puzzle solving skills or, more often than not, Google, to try and understand some forum thread abbreviation). So bear with me. If, for instance, you click on one of the above tabs you will find...absolutely nothing. But you will quite soon. And, being a WIP, anything you see right now is subject to change.

In the meantime, I'll still be here, administering hot cups of tea and soothing words to all who may need them (and pimping my work, of course).

So, in short, pardon my appearance.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Impressionists #6 - WYWH



Here's sixth and final extract from my new short story collection The Impressionists. In this one, Eileen, a reclusive, middle-aged divorcee still haunted by the loss of her son, discovers a new life in the virtual world.

WYWH

I have presence…can you tell? Can’t you feel it oozing out of my every pore?

No, probably not. That’s because I don’t – not in that sense, in the charismatic sense. Never did, really; not in 55 years. Just ordinary, I suppose. Always have been. No one you’d notice…in particular. But, I do have a presence. A web presence, that is. There’s another me floating around out there in the cosmos. It’s a new and improved me that no one can see, they can only sense. It’s another life and it’s ever so much fun.

My name’s “Misti”…with an “I.” That’s to say, that’s my alternative me’s name, not the real me’s name – my name. I wanted something with a bit of mystery to it, a bit of the unknown. And a touch of the poetic – a bit more poetic than “Eileen,” at any rate.

And all right, yes, if I were being honest, maybe just a hint of the young and sexy, too. Well, why shouldn’t I? It’s a new me, I made it up – I can make it whatever I want it to be. Who’s to know? No diets, no plastic surgeons, just re-label yourself and change a “Y” to an “I” and 30 years of your life can just disappear in an instant. It’s a modern-day miracle!

Sam’s the one who got me into all this. Sam’s my nephew. He’s a big whiz in the computer industry from what he tells me. Does all sorts of programming and coding and…whatever else it is they do. He’s one of the best, from all accounts. Anyway, he’s the one that pushed me online, as it were. He said I needed “modernizing,” which I had a good laugh over. “Sam,” I said, “I’m a woman on the threshold of old age, not a 1970s prefab kitchen – there’s not a lot you can do to change me at this stage in the game.” “You’d be surprised,” he said. And I was. Mind you, I will admit there were a few scenes and tantrums and one or two panic attacks along the way – not to mention the day I broke down in tears, sobbing that if I couldn’t even set the toaster right to do dark brown instead of burned, how on earth was I going to communicate with 4 billion people across the globe, most of whom didn’t speak English? But I got there…eventually.

I mastered this beast…this magic box.

He’s a very patient boy, our Sam. And persistent. “You never come and visit, you don’t show up at family get-togethers, and you never call us, so maybe this way we can all get to hear from you a bit more often.” “Yes, Sam,” I said, “You have my word. From now on I’ll let my fingers do the talking.”
I do love him. He reminds me of my Billy in some ways. Or at least…how I imagine Billy would be if he were still here.

I have a boyfriend now – did I mention that already? Hard to imagine, isn’t it, me at my age, after all these years, back on the dating scene again. But I am and I do. His name’s “Rocky”…with a “Y". We’ve been seeing each other for almost six months now. Six months. That’s quite a long time – or it seems like it. Though I should add, we’ve never actually used the words “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” in any formal sense. It’s more of an unspoken thing, really. But he makes his intentions clear enough. Once he sent me an instant message with an emoticon of a very stiff, expressionless couple holding hands, and underneath it he’d written: “This is us.”

***

The Impressionists is also available at Amazon UK here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Impressionists #5 - Organ Failure



This is an extract from the fifth story from The Impressionists. In this one, a woman in the viewing room of a funeral home addresses the body in the coffin before her. This is a very short one, hence the short extract. I hope you enjoy it.

Organ Failure

Well, well, just take a look at you…all scrubbed and polished and ready for inspection. I have to hand it to them, they really did a good job on you. Who could imagine seeing you now that such a short time ago you were lying in a pool of your own vomit, your organs finally having decided to give up on you…just like everyone else.

Except me.

What did they stuff in your cheeks? Cotton, is it? Or some synthetic stuff? No, I think it’s cotton…the look, the feel of cotton. Cotton mouth – how ironic. Well, whatever it is, it’s a good look for you. You were always so gaunt and drawn, but now you look…well, quite lively. What a shame. Still, it’ll make for a good send off. And like they say, you never get a second chance to make a last impression.

I will miss you, you know that, don’t you? Despite all those years of being second-best to…well, just about everything really: the wife; later, the ex-wife; the job; probably the dog…and oh, let’s not forget the all-consuming, never-ending, neurotic bouts of introspection. If you’d been any more self-absorbed you’d have turned into a black hole. Just a small one, though. And last but not least, of course…the bottle. Though under the circumstance, I suppose that goes without saying. Yes, I think it’s fair to say the only thing in your entire life you ever committed yourself to fully and unreservedly was the bottle. And look how it’s thanked you.

***

The Impressionists is also available at Amazon UK here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Impressionists #4 - One Night Only



Here's an extract from the fourth short story from The Impressionists. This one is entitled "One Night Only." In it, Denny, a prisoner on death row in an Alabama State Penitentiary spends his final moments reviewing his career as a serial killer in an interview with himself.

One Night Only

Hey!...Hey!...HEY!

I know you can hear me. You’re not so good at pretending, either…I saw ya flinch on the last one.

How thick d’ya figure that glass is then? Thick enough to stop me? Probably. Not so thick as to stop my voice gettin through, though, is it? Your little jump gave that away.

Come to think of it, this place is probably more miked and wired than a fuckin TV studio. Mike’s everywhere, right? I bet even your name’s Mike. No wonder you jumped. Bet my voice was really loud, eh? Mike?

How about if I whisper? Is this better? Can you hear me now?

How about that, eh? All this just for me. The lights, the microphones…my very own little stage on which to give the performance of a lifetime.

One night only, of course.

So, come on, ask me some questions. Go ahead, fire away...or should that be stab away? No...nothing? Cat got ya tongue? All right, I'll ask 'em for ya.

So, Denny, how exactly did you come to find yourself in your current circumstances?

Well, that’s a very good question and I’m very glad you asked it. You see, Mike…can I call you Mike?...thank you…the thing is, Mike, I killed some people, you see…quite a number of people, as a matter of fact, and, well, you see, these other people found it, uh…how shall I put it?...un-ac-cept-a-ble.

I see. That’s fascinating. And how many people did you kill, exactly?

Exactly? No one knows…except me. And I’m not telling.

Ten? Fifteen?

Sorry…that goes to the grave. Secret. We all have one or two we take with us, don’t we?

Yes, yes indeed. So tell me about the first time.

The first time, the first time, yes, yes, yes…well, well, well…the first time, yes, well, I’d been thinking about it, you see – about killing someone – for quite some time. Quite some time. Years, as a matter of fact. And then one day I just decided to do it, just because I could, and…because I wanted to know what it felt like, and because I had the ability and the intellectual curiosity, and because…well, I think it’s fairly safe to assume I was probably having a bad day.

But you knew it was wrong, Denny?

Wrong? What’s wrong? It’s only wrong if you choose to call it wrong. Same as right. Someone decides what’s called wrong and what’s called right. They just give it a name. They say that that’s wrong and that’s right, that’s yours and that’s mine. Doesn’t mean they’re right. It’s just a choice. Look at him in there – he’s about to kill me, and what’s more he’s being paid to do it by the same people who say what I did was wrong. So you tell me? And no one paid me. And I wouldn’t say he looks particularly bothered about it either, would you? Look at him, shuffling around in there like he had all day.

Hey!...Hey!...HEY! I DON”T HAVE ALL DAY!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Impressionists #3 - A Small Act of Vandalism



And here is the third extract of my new short story collection, The Impressionists. This one is the most recently written and I'll just let the sample speak for itself:

A Small Act of Vandalism

Malcolm, a gentle, middle-aged soul with a troubled mind, keeps his mother's remains sealed in a small porcelain box. What he keeps hidden among his memories, however, isn't so easily contained.


That’s Mother, that is. Hard to credit, really, but that's her – all squeezed into that tiny little porcelain box.

Well…not her in the strict sense, I suppose…just the bits and pieces of her left over from the cremation, you know. Sort of a dried and granulated version of her, if you will. A bit like instant coffee, you might say, only without the flavour. Not that I’ve…you know…I mean…good heavens.

That’s Wedgewood, by the way. Very expensive. Very expensive indeed. But worth it – worth every penny – ‘cause Mother was worth it. Weren’t you, Mother? She was. Worth every penny.

It’s glued shut, actually. The lid, that is. I glued it myself with superglue – I had to. Seems criminal, really, doing something like that to a beautiful piece of genuine Wedgewood bone china. I’m sure if the Wedgewood’s knew what I’d done they’d be all up in arms and fit to be tied. But it had to be done. Even so, I was riddled with guilt. As I squeezed the glue around the rim, I felt just like a vandal…like one of those yobs on the corner of Wentworth Street, with their saggy trousers and their big hoods with their nasty little eyes peering out…I felt just like one of them. But I had no choice. Not after the, um…well…the incident.

The thing is, I loved Mother, you see. I loved her ever so much. And when she passed on…well, I…it was, um…it was very hard. I missed her something terrible. Some days I’d…well, I won’t get into that now.

Anyway…some days…evenings…when I missed her most, I’d sit down and have a chat with her. Just me and her and a bottle of pale ale…having a chitchat. Well, I did most of the chatting. All of it, actually. But whatever I said, whatever I told her, I knew what she’d say in response, so it all made sense, you see. Anyway, I’d sit her down on the coffee table, take the lid off, open up a pale ale, light up a cigarette, and tell her all that was on my mind – just like before…before she…took her leave.

In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure why I took the lid off to begin with. I think I thought she could probably hear me better, if that makes sense. Which I don’t think it does. Perhaps it just made me feel a little closer to her. In any event, that’s what I would do.

But then, one evening…oh, about two or three months ago now, I suppose…I had…let’s just say, one of my “off days.” It had all become a little bit too much, you see. The images had returned. The final ones. You don’t forget those. I try very hard, you see, to…to banish them. But sometimes they come back. And that day…they’d come back.

At first I tried to hide it from her. I just chatted about this and that – general things, you know – like how I’d shrunk yet another cardigan in the wash, and that Mrs. Tottle at number twenty-three apparently had a new fancy man in her life, from what I could tell. But I knew. I knew that she knew. And I didn’t want to talk about it…think about it. So I’d keep talking, and pour another pale ale, and have another cigarette…and another pale ale, and another cigarette…and another, and another…and I suppose it all started to get a bit carried away, and all these feelings started bubbling up out of nowhere, and just as I was telling her how angry I was with her, I saw myself flick the ash from my cigarette into her little Wedgewood resting place instead of the ashtray!

I froze.

Even though the room was sort of spinning around me, I froze. I was horrified. Mortified. How could I have done such a thing? To my own Mother? It was the ultimate slap in the face. And what could I do? I couldn’t fish it out – it all looked the same. I could’ve scooped out the top part, I suppose…but some of that was Mother. I felt sick – sick to my stomach. But what could I do? What would you have done? I wanted to throw up. And then I went to the toilet and I did throw up. And I was glad I did, because afterwards I felt a bit better…a bit more…sensible. And I walked back into the living room, apologized to Mother very sincerely and without a scene, and vowed that the next morning I would seal the lid of her little Wedgewood tomb permanently and for all eternity – just like the ancient Pharaohs and Cleopatra, etcetera.

So yes, even though in most respects this is my Mother, I suppose that, strictly speaking, I would have to say that this is 99.8% my Mother…and a tiny little bit of Marlboro Light.