Weekend Fiction: The Alphabet Soup of Life, Love, and Death
A is for “Alcohol”
The barmaid pushed me with all her might towards the doorway, but I was like a stone pillar, and wobbled from side to side as I was inched out.
“I had half a pint left,” I slurred, still protesting.
She finally got me over the threshold and I stumbled on the pavement over nothing.
“Finally!” she shouted with a slam.
I looked around in the murky darkness and a terrible confusion came over me.
“You evil cow!” I screamed at the closed door, now as solid as it were the entrance to an ancient tomb. “What’ve you done with sun?!”
B is for “Bigotry”
“…the candidate insisted that he was not an anti-semite, and that anyone who insisted that he was clearly was under the control of his Jewish opponent…”
C is for “Creep”
I was going to the university library when he pulled up at the side of me in his mini-van and announced that his dad was dying at the hospital. He was nearly out of petrol and desperately needed money for a full tank. All he had was a pile of loose change which he showed me. I looked at it and it was clear that there was enough for at least half a tank.
I said I couldn’t help him, and although he begged me I walked on. As I rounded the corner I could hear him cursing me.
D is for “Delivery”
Her book arrived in the mail three days after she had died.
I let the package sit on the table for nearly a week before I opened it. She was never going to do it herself.
It was one of those terrible "based on reality" crime novels. I tried to read the first chapter, but it was so bad I gave up.
When the funeral came I asked the director just to slip it into her coffin. It was hers after all. If there really were immortal souls she had all eternity to read it. God knows I never would.
E is for “Ethnic Stereotype”
When Max reached the top of the highest climbing wall he felt extreme satisfaction, but then he noticed the Irish mother waiting for him at the top.
“Oooo yer think yer so grand dontcha?” she sneered. “But where were yee on St Clabberts’ Day, when I was sat in a dark ruum with a broken lightbulb and a ‘alf a pot a cold stew?”
Despite not being his own mother, Max was filled with guilt, lost his footing, and fell.
Down below, Hamed the supervisor laughed. The old Irish mother routine, he thought. Never ceased to get a fall.
F is for “Flow”
As we walked along the street in the rain, she turned to me and asked: “Will you flow away with me?”
“No,” I replied.
She looked quite sorrowful, before she dissolved and flowed away, along the gutter, and down the drain at the end of the road.
I walked on.
G is for “Gap”
A burglar stuck his head through my bathroom window one morning as I was brushing my teeth. For a brief moment we locked eyes across the room.
"Good morning," I said.
"Morning," he replied.
Realising what was going on, and in a flash of inspiration, I walked over to him and rammed the end of my toothbrush into his left eye. He screamed and fell the fifteen foot drop into my garden. When I had finally got down there he had scarpered.
These days I keep my toothbrush close to me. The ladders he left also come in handy.
H is for “Holiday”
It was that time of year again, and there was a need to break up the boredom within the cycles of addiction. So Shirley and Daz, led by Smeg, got on the train and went to Wales for a holiday.
They spent their week there robbing the empty second homes of rich Englishmen, and made a right bundle.
On the way back Shirley asked Smeg: “What about somewhere different next year?”
Smeg thought about it for a moment and replied: “Cornwall perhaps?”
They all agreed it was ripe for the picking.
I is for “Invention”
“I told you it wouldn’t fly,” I said looking at him from between my two, solid, white, erect arms.
“Oh be quiet,” he replied from my bedside, studying the dog-eared instructions. “We just need a taller ladder. And maybe some duct tape.”
God, how I hated him.
J is for “Jump”
To take a life’s chance
Feel the way it means to feel
Jump before it ends
K is for “Kosher”
Peter took his Jewish wife Clarissa to an Italian for lunch on Christmas Day. The Italians were anxious to get them out as soon as possible, even though they had paid £85 for the privilege. Stringy holly garnished the sickly brown walls.
"We can have a Christmas meal you know," she said over her cannelloni.
"No point," he replied. "You're not a gentile, and I am no longer a child."
She accepted this and they finished eating. This was to be their "big meal" of the day.
Peter thought to himself he might have some noodles with turkey stock later.
L is for “Love”
She’d fallen on the floor and couldn’t get up.
“Help me!” she cried. “Help me Sam!”
Sam came in from the kitchen and stood over her.
“Oh, you’ve fallen over?” he asked in an unkind voice. “Remember when I was a young boy, and I fell over, and you stood over me and gave me a good kick for crying in the street?”
“Help me Sam…!” she whimpered, ignoring him.
He relented, and helped her back into her chair. He sat by her, stroked her hair and sang a little, until she stopped crying.
M is for “Martial Arts”
Margaret’s fan fell out of her hands and the others laughed at her. It wasn’t her fault she had arthritis. She struggled to pick it back up, until Peter came over and helped.
She liked Peter. He understood.
The Tai Chi instructor Sun Yin had been waiting patiently at the front, and when Margaret was ready, he carried on: “And one foot forward—and snap that fan!” They all snapped an almost uniform snap.
Afterwards, Margaret and Peter went for a cup of tea together in the café across the street. It turned out that their daughters knew each other.
N is for “Numbers”
What are numbers anyway?
For a long time I believed in atomism: that you could break down the universe into constituent parts called “atoms”, which I believed to be numbers, represented as amountsof things.
But then I realised: is the universe one or many things? If it is one, then there is only one thing. If it is many, then there is no universe. A set cannot be in a set of itself.
O is for “Opinion”
The old saying goes that opinions are like arseholes: everybody has them.
But I’d say that arseholes are more like opinions: they tend to stink if improperly kept and when paraded around in public usually cause widespread discontent.
P is for “Pleura”
It was too late: I’d blown out my right lung for the second time and they were going to take my pleura out to make sure it didn’t happen again.
I was fully awake, albeit doped up with morphine, as they pulled it out through the incision in one big saggy satchel like a used condom.
The attending surgeon stretched the pleura across his face and made animal noises as the junior doctors around my bed laughed and laughed.
I wasn’t laughing. I lay there in agony.
To this day a deep breath still hurts almost too much to bear.
Q is for “Question”
A: “Can I ask you a question?”
B: “You just did.”
A: “No, a real question.”
B: “How was that not a real question?”
A: “How was what not a real question?”
B: “Where were we again?”
A: “I don’t know…oh yeah…can I ask you a question?”
R is for “Rosa Maria”
Me and the Hispanic girl left the bar and went onto the next one. On the way there I danced around her like some limping imp, chanting: “Chica, chica, chica….”
“Racist limey asshole…” she said through a dirty smile. By now we were both pretty drunk.
“Chica, chica, chica, chica…”
I danced around behind her and took a good look. I knew that there was a big brown arse in that tight orange dress. I was so close to it. It was waiting for me.
We reached the next bar and went in.
S is for “Salvation”
“I’m sorry Mr Hill,” said the surgeon. “There’s nothing more we can do.”
I thanked him for his honesty. He left the room as I opened the single letter on my bedside table.
It was a letter from the agency, saying that I had been ruled ‘fit for work’, and that I had to come in for a ‘job-intensive’ interview on Monday.
I phoned them up and told them I’d be there on Monday at 9 am sharp.
Jokes on them, I thought, I’ll be dead by then.
And so I was.
T is for “Toffee”
The child collapsed on the floor in the middle of the shop. Her mother, a foreign woman with a shrill voice, screamed and grabbed at the shop assistant, while the manager made to call for an ambulance.
As the child started to pass out, I leaned over her and realised exactly what the problem was. I made a flat palm and struck her firmly on the back. The toffee fired out of her gullet and out between her teeth, tinging amongst the wine glasses on display.
I stood up and walked straight out of the shop door, saying nothing.
U is for “Unredeemable”
The cell door opened and the guard called to him: “Grisham, your time’s up, you’re free to go.”
The ancient convict stood up and could barely make it to the door. He had lived 197 years, 170 of those in prison. It was a sheer fluke that he had lived out his entire sentence.
“Where will I go?” he asked creakingly. “Everyone I know is dead.”
“That’s not my concern,” the guard said as he dissolved back into the prison wall. An exit to the outside morphed into existence, exposing Grisham to a world he could never possibly understand.
V is for “Vagrancy”
I came across the kid outside the corner shop, just lying there on the pavement in the rotting leaves, next to his two standing friends.
“What’s he doing?” I asked them. “Is he hurt? Is he stoned?”
They looked at me incredulously, and one of them replied: “He’s just looking.”
Indeed he was: straight up.
I looked up myself, and saw nothing. Just greying clouds against a purple sky.
I realised I didn’t have time for this, and made my way into the shop.
W is for “Waitress”
The waitress came and popped a little cup of mayonnaise on the table between us. We both looked up at her as she asked: “You wanted mayo right?”
We both affirmed that we did, and she replied: “Okay then, hope you enjoy your meal.” She then briskly walked off.
We looked at each other and laughed.
“Could you imagine if this was the entire meal?” I asked my date.
“Oh god, could you…?” she giggled.
I smiled at her. She was a girl I could really fall in love with. Thanks to “Sauce-Girl” I realised that.
X is for “Xulos”
At a certain point when Andy was chopping the wood and a piece got stuck to the axe and gave the perfect THRACK as it hit the stone he was using as a chopping plate. I’m a noise freak; always have been.
“Yes!” I shouted. “That’s the sound! Keep making it.
“Oh god, yes that’s good!”
“Mate, you’ve gotta shut up,” he said in his characteristically dry manner. I did as he asked, but I still savoured the few remaining THRACKS before the wood lump finally split.
Y is for “Yellow”
The park’s great red pyramid was a web of ropes, ten metres across at the base, and thirty metres high. I decided I could no longer merely piss about on the lower reaches; I had to reach the top.
I worked piecemeal over the weeks, getting higher inch by inch—a little more on each visit to the park, until finally—yes, yes, success! Eyes open! The apex of the pyramid! The whole park and the old cotton mill before me! I was the king of this domain! Lord of the fiefdom! The problem now was getting down…oh boy…
Z is for “Zzzzzz…”
When you sleep without dreams you do not exist.
When you sleep without dreams you are experiencing death within life.
If existence is only ascertainable by the perception of the subject, this conclusion is unavoidable.
This is also why I cannot attend your sister’s kid’s birthday party.
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