Impression № 006: Interior 46

Illustrator Dan Madia was kind enough to share this fabulous noir-ish image with us.  He tells us that this image is part of a larger work that he created as an illustration for CNBC’s show American Greed.  This particular episode was about a family in Chicago that counterfeited money in their basement.  The complete illustration can be seen here.

We at Dr. Hurley’s enjoy the moodiness and stark contrast in this image.  It makes us want to cook up all manner of basement schemes.

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Leila


henever Leila falls into bed with a man, she gets a new tattoo. With Benjamin it was a rosebud on her hip; with Samuel, a mustang running across her shoulder blade. On the dock extending into the swamp-lake behind my apartment complex, she shows me the latest tattoo: a compass on her wrist. I notice that the axis is slightly off, but think she already knows this. She probably did it on purpose, to be different.

Leila helps me understand I am with men only by necessity: the bag boy at the store who walks to my car with me and loads my bags into the trunk because he is hoping for a tip, or the recent college graduate who shares a cubicle with me at the office and neglects to talk at a reasonable volume when he answers calls. These are the encounters I have, but they’re never the encounters Leila has. Leila came out of our mother first, as she likes to remind me. I am certain this is the reason I received fewer of the family’s genetic resources.

“He took me to the Waldorf,” she tells me. I stare at the tilted compass. “It was three in the morning. We looked a mess. The desk clerk was friendly, though.”

“How the hell did you manage that?” I ask.

“It was like a dream,” she says, rolling her wrist so the lines of the compass expand and condense.

Leila usually visits me three times a year. She says she likes to get away from the city, come back to her roots. My apartment is just outside Orlando, away from all the traffic. We usually walk across the street together and sit on the dock to talk about what we always talk about: her life. Her romps around the city, her run-ins with this famous photographer or that prominent music producer. Seeing the two of us sitting on the dock together—her leaning over the edge, staring into the green shallows, and me sitting in a beach chair picking at the mildew—you’d never guess we were related. Her hair is thick and curly, a rat’s nest as Mom always says.  Her eyes are the darkest brown, with a glowing ring around the edges. My hair is red and my eyes are blue. In biology they refer to mine as recessive traits; they say they’re unusual. I never bought it, because who would want to pair up with a lesser-evolved organism? My skin burns and blisters in the sun while Leila’s turns an oaky brown.

“I hope you slept with him,” I say. I wait for her to show her picket-fence teeth, that smile crafted over years of practice. It is warm and convivial, and says nothing about her.

“Of course I did,” she says, pulling her hand away from me.

I was kidding. She’s not.

“Kim?” She looks at me. Her body is skinny and compact, a dancer’s body. Mine is round and lumpy. I broke three ribs when I was eight and fell off the swing set trying to catch a frog. Scar tissue formed, and I’ve had a dent there ever since, an impression you can press your fingers into. We’re Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, except some would say Leila’s pretty.

“Yeah?” I say, examining the mildew on my fingertips.

“Don’t tell Mom.” She stands and reaches for the bag of old bread we brought for the ducks. She tears a hole in the side of the bag; the slices spill across the dock.

“Why would I—”

“—about the tattoo,” she says as she kicks the bread into the lake.


can guess she met the guy at some elegant soirée where the guests had to present their invitations at the door and follow a man in coattails to a table with their names on the place settings. Leila got invited to such events because they always needed someone to take photographs of the men and women with big names. That evening, she wore a second-hand dress, one she’d found buried in a pile of some dead woman’s clothes. And it was strapless, so the political wives could gawk at the ink on her body. She’d engaged with everyone at her table, she told me, including a young man in blue pinstripes who’d initially mocked her for the lotus flower at the base of her neck.

“Isn’t that a bit cliché?” he’d said. She’d picked up on his accent, a shade of French, and felt confident.

“He was Asian,” she told him, her eyebrows arching. Then she’d turned her cheek to the woman sipping her ice water to compliment her on her manicure.

The man in pinstripes, obviously curious, called back her attention by touching her shoulder, filling her ears with a story her tattoo reminded him of. He probably figured she would show him her others. Maybe he expected it with someone like her.

Leila stops kicking the bread when only one piece remains. As she bends to retrieve it from the dock, I glimpse the hindquarters of a jaguar climbing her right thigh. I can’t remember which guy that was for; I can recall most of the others, though. Like her first: a box, on her left foot. Just four lines, clean and simple. When she got it, I’d asked her why she’d left the box empty. She was eighteen; it seemed like a statement.

“I can think of plenty of things to fill it with,” she said. “But none of them give me back my inexperience.”

I want to believe my sister is covering her body with tattoos because she likes their gritty defiance of our conservative suburban upbringing; because they are time capsules; because she thinks them artful. She must have twenty or so by now, and each one has become more elaborate. I wonder when she’ll be forced to settle on a final tattoo. Or perhaps she’ll cover her body with ink until she runs out of blank space.  I don’t mind all these signatures on her skin. I can still touch her on her arm, or her cheek, and feel her as she was, the original. When she’s completely covered, though, I don’t know if it’ll still be her at all.

The afternoon sun glides behind a mass of storm clouds. Leila holds the last piece of bread, deciding whether to keep it or toss it into the lake. She watches the minnows as they lay siege to the soggy loaf in the water. Its weight is dragging it down faster than the small fish can handle. I lean back in my chair; its metal legs slip into the cracks between the boards. The sound of splitting wood breaks our silence. It surprises Leila and she drops the bread.

“Old wood,” I say. I’m not worried; if the dock collapses, we’ll be in three feet of water.

She examines the boards beneath my chair, tests her weight on them. I see her shoulders scrunch towards her ears when the wood sighs. She’s never liked lakes or the life forms they contain. Leila holds out her wrist.

“I’m not sure it’s done right,” she says, gently rubbing the tattoo.

“Didn’t you have it planned out?”

“I never do that. I just tell the guy what I want and he draws.”

“I like it,” I say. “It’s crooked. Like the world is off balance.”

“That’s not what it’s supposed to mean,” she says, looking at me hard.

She traces a circle from the east, through the south and the west, then completes the rotation through north, stopping just before the arrow marked with an E.  When she takes her finger away, it seems the axis of the compass has shifted even further from the centerline.

“You can’t tell mom, she hates these things,” she says.

“She expects it by now,” I say.

“I’m having some removed.”

“Really?”

She doesn’t answer.

“Which ones?” I ask.

She points to the square on her foot. I don’t know what to say. Out of all of them, that’s the one that makes the most sense to me. She tries to squeeze my thigh. I let her tickle me, even though I hate it.


eila leaves the dock to return to my apartment. She wants to organize her things before her flight in the morning. I stay, to lose myself in the hum of the late afternoon. My thoughts wander into Leila’s terrain. I imagine following her to the Waldorf suite, trailing behind the man in pinstripes. She takes me into the bathroom and shows me the whirlpool tub.  I place the call to room service for her, because she claims she won’t sleep with him on an empty stomach. The man is very drunk—I watch him struggle with his shoelaces—and it’s five in the morning, and Leila is tired. She confesses to me that all she really wants to do is burrow into the mattress. I tell her I could take her place. Her eyes flutter at this suggestion, and she moves close to me. After we exchange bodies, the man takes me into the other bedroom and I attempt to recall how Leila would perform.

In the morning, he wants to get breakfast. I am no longer her, and she has never been me, so it’s really Leila he seeks when he awakes in bed next to me.

“I have to meet my boyfriend,” Leila says—I say. Her eyes close halfway, like a laughing Buddha. Then they grow dim.

He doesn’t find this funny.

That is where the scene stops. I can’t imagine the rest. What she does after, I have never been informed of. Her stories always end with “this is my new tattoo.”

The sky is gearing up for rain. The dock shudders when I get up from the beach chair and move across the boards to pick up the remains of the bread bag.  I toss the final slice into the lake. The minnows take tiny bites of it until it fills with water and sinks to the bottom of the lake. Through the green-brown water, I can see broken bits of bread still under attack. The clouds break, and electricity pops through the air. That’s the other thing about this lake: if I were to fall in, even in a lightning storm, the algae is so thick that I’d be completely concealed.

I see myself in my living room, sitting with Leila on the futon, both of us gazing off at nothing. There is a number for too much; it’s not five, or twenty, or a hundred. I don’t think it’s anything as specific as that. It’s whatever comes after one. If I were to get a tattoo, it would be inside my hand, where Leila has never thought to put anything, and it would be a single black dot, a drop of ink on an untouched surface.

Strike Twice

I wish in secret I could write
a cryptic code of language cunning
which you would read and wonder
were the words dancing on the page
for you
or for another?

I am exposed,
for not a liar,
but too true
too many wild beats
unruly in a melody
from some strange land
that in my eardrum clangs
and doesn’t groove with
any steady 4:4 beating
of the human heart.

I wish I were inscrutable
so I could send a message
to the universe tonight
and it would settle in your brain
a song
that later trips to life
repeating in your head
my words and distant thunder
that surely rumbles
and surely promises
a steady rain
but also
the magnificence of crashing light.

[affectation.]

Am I supposed to be not paying attention
to what’s going on beside me?
Thoroughbred race horses wear blinders for a reason.
I would like today to be dressed as a jockey—
so neat and bright and well-fitted.
But I can only change my outfit so many times
or put on so many bangle bracelets
before even Coco Chanel
is yelling,
yelling
into my twisted, canal-ed, smooth ear
that people are being slaughtered by natural disaster
and each other.
I read a guy say in a book
that a woman’s ear reminded him
of a woman between her thighs,
and now I just want to wear padded satin earmuffs
all
of the
time.
And I’m blushing because onceuponatime
I wore five earrings in each ear.
Don’t read so deeply into me.
I like to ride on trains.
I like the legend of train robbers.
I would not like to be on a train when it’s robbed.
I have to focus on these things
because thinking too much
about each vibrant human life
of smiling teeth, and expanding breathing ribcage, and hand strongly clenching another…
earthquaked, tsunamied, diseased, genocided, dismembered, disremembered;
swallowed by the Earth I’m also rotating on—
is too much for my silly, compounded words.
How am I reconciling this and continuing function?
Frivolity is the answer.
I’m a little frenetic today.
If I had on brighter clothes,
you’d notice my cerebral cortex humming.
I’m a little close to jumping off the page.
Ohmygolly you can just see me switch-leg-leaping
between the lines, can’t you?
Alright: you got me—I’ll just admit everything
like I’m three-minute-guest-starring on a courtroom drama:
It’s not that I want to
actually hurt you,
but I want the ability.
It’s not that I want to be able to
demolish you
if things don’t go well—
I want to mean
enough
that I could.
Is that asking too much?
I’m asking too much.
Sometimes it’s easier to stay single
than worry about what everyone needs
cradled to him.
I have mountains of delicate handwashing to be done.

Artifacts: Dr. Hurley’s Herbs

You can imagine our surprise and delight at receiving the following email late this afternoon from our Esteemed German Colleague.  She discovered several relics possibly connected to Dr. Hurley’s practice on display at a museum in London.  It seems Dr. Hurley’s secrets traversed the Irish Sea as well as hopping the Atlantic.

Figure 1. Snake Skins

Esteemed Colleagues,

I see that it is photography day on Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure. What better day is there than this one to report of the findings of my recent travels to the United Kingdom. On a study trip earlier this month, I came across some curious artifacts displayed at the British Museum. I believe they claim it’s something completely different, but I must be very mistaken if this is not one of the rare examples of Dr. Hurley’s herb cases.

When I saw them in the display in one of the front rooms, they immediately seemed familiar. Then I remembered: Before my departure I had just read one of the letters that I had found in the estate of my great-great-grandcousin Ankedine. In this letter, Antonia describes Dr. Hurley’s herbs and other remedies that she was not only given in order to cure her own illness but that she was later taught to prepare herself. It seems that Dr. Hurley initiated her to some of his cures the second summer she stayed in Skibbereen. I am not entirely sure how this came about but I am certain we will find out in one of the letters that are still unread in my drawer. I also hope to find more information as to what these herbs (and is that a snake skin?) really are. As soon as I have finished my recent project I will be sure to look at the remaining letters and send you as much information about Antonia’s stays at the Restorative Bath and Spa as I can.

I understand that I am very late in sending this in, photography day being almost over – at least in my time zone. I can understand if you’re unable to change your publication schedule this late. But as long as I can be of help in the research of Dr. Hurley’s life, I am more than happy to send you this rudimentary piece of information in form of my photographs, even if it shall not be published on photography day.

Sincerely,

WJH

Figure 2. Tree bark

Figure 3. Roots

Figure 4. Bones

As always, any information or documentary evidence you have pertaining to Dr. Hurley, his spa, his journey to the States, his cures, or his background is very welcome.  Please send your research results to snakeoilcure@gmail.com.

Exposure № 010: Limbs

Photos by Sébastien Chou

The Planet of Sound • Part 2 of 2


ounds of an argument wafted towards Claire
as she walked along the platform. Her legs felt a little unsteady, that mild approximation of seasickness occasioned by the slalom of the train as it pulled in. Nausea settled in the hollow of her stomach, and she hoped her father wouldn’t be late.

The argument grew louder, a fog of soundwaves clarifying into words, pauses, emphases, and then Claire was passing them, two men in official-looking blazers. The heavier of the two was jabbing a finger at the other’s chest, vein pulsing in his temple, the glint of precious metal in a tooth filling. He said, ‘This is your responsibility. Yours. Not someone else’s. Yours.’ The other man shifted back a few feet, eyes up towards an advertising placard. He muttered something about a speech he had to give at a social function that evening. The heavy man raised a hand flat before him, the semaphore of “Stop.” He shook his head violently and said, ‘No, Austin. It can’t get done tomorrow. I don’t give a flying shit about your golf dinner, and this must get sorted out today. Now. So do it.’ The thin man bit his lip, defeated and sullen, eventually nodding acquiescence. His superior turned on his heel, calling back, ‘And don’t think this is the end of it. I’ve had it up to here with your fucking attitude, union be damned. You’ll be hearing more about this.’ The thin man waited until the other was at a safe distance, then contorted his face into a childish moue and recited, ‘You’ll hear more about this. You’ll hear more about this.’ He noticed Claire, and stopped; Claire noticed that she was staring, and carried on.


amien finished his cigarette, sucking the hotness from the butt-end, that cloudy burn, and returned inside the station. The strap of the rucksack dug into his shoulder-blade. He wriggled his shoulders, grimacing, trying to shift the weight of the bag, but it made little difference. He glanced at his watch again: forty-five more minutes to wait. The watch hands pulsed softly under the glass casing, in tune with Damien’s heartbeat. He smiled in appreciation for a few seconds, despite his annoyance. An announcement squalled over the tannoy, but all Damien registered was the fuzzy “bing-bong” at the beginning and end – the rest was just noise.


ill Gates is so rich, apparently – get this now – he’s so rich that there’s not enough dollars in the world should he decide to cash in his wealth. Hah? Not enough actual paper money to give him what he’d be owed. Now there’s a man I could admire.’

Charles was riffing on another rant, this one about the inequities of the tax system and the masses of whining socialists who had, he believed, infiltrated the proper political parties. Major chewed three sticks of gum at once, stepping lightly from foot to foot, nodding metronomically as Charles held forth.

‘But there’s you, Major, with your soft spot for the “underclasses”, quote-unquote, and your benefits and education. With your understanding. ‘Tis all a load of rubbish. I blame the religious; they were always too soft. Do you think the likes of that eejit over there appreciates what bleeding hearts like you try to do for him? The state of him.’

Major glanced over at a young man smiling giddily at his fingers as he wriggled them before his eyes, slow ropes swimming through the air. He looked around at other travellers, grinning dumbly, vague entreaties to share in the spectacle. Major sighed heavily and pulled a cigarette from the packet. He seemed about to speak, but nodded at Charles instead. He put the cigarette in his mouth, sighed, removed it and said, ‘I might…pop outside for a smoke, will I?’

Charles harrumphed and said, ‘Go on, then. You might as well.’ He turned and peered at the departures board. ‘Christ almighty. How much longer have we to wait for that bloody train?’


he display board was changing, digital characters, numbers and letters, their constituent points of light rearranged. One train had arrived, been checked and cleaned and refuelled, and was now ready for its outward journey. A message rolled across the top of the departures section of the board: the next train to Galway would now leave from platform three, twenty-five minutes later than planned, and not platform seven. An accompanying verbal announcement explained that station personnel were currently experiencing some minor signalling difficulties, and thanked passengers for their co-operation.

Claire looked away from the board, bored and tense. She bit her fingernail and sucked apple juice through a straw. Her father still hadn’t arrived.

(i see between the layers of these things i squeeze through like blood from cut skin this small event is a travesty a waste a fucking tragedy i want a fist through glass or a car-smash a little yellow-fever or a night standing naked in cold rain my hands glow a sandy colour they are flecked with alien matter as our happy drama cycles round again bare spontaneous and violently loud)


ou’re late. You were meant to be here twenty…’ Austin stopped, taking a second look at the man with the bag, properly noticing him only now. ‘You’re not the engineer. The engineer doesn’t wear overalls.’ The man stood there, stocky, a passive expression, clutching a canvas hold-all. He didn’t speak. Austin frowned and said, ‘Well – who are you, then? Come on, dummy. Speak. Did maintenance send you down here?’

The man nodded and placed the bag on the ground. He said, ‘That’s right. Boss’ orders. Asked me to check out the, ah, the generator down here.’

“The generator? What fucking generator? …That fucking Considine. He’s only doing this to annoy me. That’s it. Here – hold this.’ Austin handed the man a slim manual and a torch. ‘We’ll fucking see about a generator.’ He took off towards the inner station, talking over his shoulder. ‘If you see the engineer, tell him it’s this platform, alright? He knows what to do.’

The man smiled and saluted. He waited a few seconds, then walked briskly towards a small stand-alone hut, twenty yards down the platform. He checked nobody was watching and ducked behind the hut, bending and reaching into a thick undergrowth of weeds and rubbish. The man felt around, concentrating on touch-information, and finally smiled. He had found what he was searching for.


argaret locked her office door, giving the key an extra wriggle for insurance. It was unlikely that someone would break into an office in a train station, but in these dangerous, unpredictable times, one could never be sure. Her sister had agreed with her, talking on the phone five minutes before: the world was gone to hell. She passed the front desk, nodding in greeting to the girl working it today, and noticed how much she was perspiring already. Margaret was significantly overweight. She knew this, and pledged to rectify matters as soon as she had more time. Weightwatchers, maybe, or that other thing, like yoga, the thing Madonna was fond of.

But that could wait. She walked towards the snack kiosk in the centre of the station, a functional, plasticky-looking structure, reminiscent of a fast-food chain. Another signifier of the encroaching Americanisation of the country, she angrily noted. Margaret was fumbling for change in her pocket when a tall, crazy-looking man in a profane t-shirt stepped in front of her, a rapturous smile on his face, his eyes looking beyond her. (more…)

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Weeks six and seven


The last two weeks were chock full of goodness at Dr. Hurley’s.  If you’re trying to find a way to while away a couple of hours today, check out what you missed!

Most especially, if you missed it yesterday, read the first part ofThe Planet of Sound by the inimitable Darragh McManus.  Part two of two is appearing tomorrow!


Fiction


Poetry


Visual

Stay tuned for part two of “The Planet of Sound” tomorrow. And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, remember to consider submitting something! Dr. Hurley is always in.

The Planet of Sound • Part 1 of 2


his station had been gutted and rebuilt in recent years, and Margaret still wasn’t used to it. An award-winning architect with a large budget, desirous of glorification, ambitious for the work. The old building was hollowed out, cleaned, sterilised. Reformed in attenuated curves and a preponderance of light. The walls were a soft white, strangely not running to grubbiness yet. Long windows the length of one side, sunlight streaming through. A quadrangular play of brightness and shadow on the cool tiled floor. A high vaulted ceiling, the camber of antiquity, elegantly arched over the length of platforms one through seven. A triumph, they declared it; an almost perfect amalgam of classical themes and a funky post-modern sensibility.•

Margaret clicked on her computer’s internet icon at her desk in the back office, hidden away from the loudness and activity of the front desk. She held a mild contempt for the people who availed of the information service. Their stupid, repetitive questions, misshapen bags thrown up on the counter-top. Their sheepish smiles as her colleagues parroted, ‘Have a nice day.’ That phrase irritated her almost as much. ‘Have a nice day’: phony and American. The computer dialled into its external server, that horrible birth screech, and Margaret wondered why head office hadn’t equipped them with broadband yet. She leaned back, swivelling the chair gently. Light and information zapping across the globe like a laser in a comic book, unimaginably fast, cyclonic and glowing, this latticed membrane.

She listened to the faint babble outside, enjoying the annoyance a little, feeding off it, then typed in the address of a news website.

(i see between the layers of these things i squeeze through like blood from cut skin)


hings were still moving. Damien fidgeted in his seat, moulded plastic uncomfortable against his back. He shut his eyes tight, squinted at the dancing orange spots, opened them. There was no change – things were still moving.

He had dropped acid two or three hours earlier – he couldn’t place the time exactly – but that wasn’t the bad idea. The bad idea was an embarrassingly public shouting match with his girlfriend outside the station, which resulted in her walking off into the traffic and the sunshine. Christ, what a dumb, ridiculous excuse for an argument. He had bought the tabs for both of them, but Marissa hadn’t wanted to do it so early in the day, and was not pleased to discover that Damien had. ‘The champion of breakfasts,’ he had declared, grinning extravagantly. It had sounded funny under the circumstances.

Now things were moving and he had to deal with it on his own. Two more hours to his train and a long wait in store. No hallucinations, really – a weak brew, he smiled, relieved and aggrieved simultaneously – but gentle oscillations everywhere. He glanced over at a random fellow traveller, a fat woman in a sweat-soaked blouse: she was moving. Her head blurred from side to side, focusing and dissolving, like the fluctuation of a tuning fork. Hummmmm… Damien looked down the nearest platform: that was moving, the stone and iron vibrating, the movement rising, calming, reviving.

Normally he would relish an experience like this, an insight right into the core of things, the subcutaneous, the heart of all matter. But not on his own. Marissa was his rock, the devil of sense and balance on his shoulder, and she wasn’t here. Damien tried to focus on his watch, and felt miserable; it was going to be a long afternoon.


o, no, no. I don’t care. Progress my hole. They should have left it.’

Charles Charles, being possessed of the same first and last name, was one of those people who, as the old saw has it, like to get in their retaliation first. His parents’ woeful decision to lump him with such an absurd appellation had condemned Charles to a life of mockery and constant, tiresome explanation, but with one advantage: it had forced him to become assertive. More than that: obnoxious. Wearied of the jibes and questions, and particularly the sympathy, Charles was a conversational bully, loud and forceful, an intruder on others’ personal space. He bellowed his point first and at length, and tried not to listen too much. He did not give pause for reply.

‘It’s the beauty of old buildings,’ he continued. ‘You can never replace that, or build it up again. This, this…renovation. This abomination, if you ask me. They should have left it.’

His business partner, a bird-like, quavering man whom Charles referred to as Major, attempted a half-hearted interjection. ‘Yes, but you see, you see, the thing…’

‘I don’t care, I tell you. It’s a national bloody disgrace. Like touching up the colours on the Mona Lisa. The station was perfect before. That ruination, the old crumbling walls, cracks in the ceiling, dust and cobwebs. And those stained-glass windows…ah, the windows. Beautiful. And now, look, look…’ He swept an imperial hand around the station. ‘Modern. Spotless. Coherent. It’s disgusting.’

Charles hefted his suitcase onto a seat, brushed grit off the one beside. His considerable weight slammed into the hard plastic. He grimaced, a scrunched-up little boy face. Major stood before him, nervous, braced for the next instalment.

‘That’s the real underhistory, don’t you see? Do you not understand that, Major?’

Charles shook his head softly, and thought of a place he had visited once in Berlin, a few years after the Wall came down. On the eastern side of the city, around the corner from an Irish pub. Fantastic, fantastical: a walled-in wasteland, a whole block that had been bombed to hell by the Allies and never rebuilt. He supposed the Communists hadn’t had the money for it. And it was fabulous. People lived up there, in the husks of old buildings. Artists, hippies, probably criminal types; youngsters with beads in their hair. This carpet of golden powder, ruined buildings on all sides. And an airplane, its tail sticking up at a sixty degree angle, scarcely believable. Half-buried in the ground – it must have crashed right down out of the sky, and they just left it. People would pay good money nowadays for something like that – some modern art monstrosity… But this was organic. This was living history; generations piled on generations. Graffiti, scorch-marks, a film of dust settled on everything…

‘Fuck it,’ Charles said. ‘You wouldn’t understand. You’re like the rest of this mob. With your…’ The same regal sweep. ‘…modernising. Progress. Tsch. Progress my hole.’


cat flicked its eyes from side to side. It blinked, licked its pale-pink lips and yawned, its eyes rolling wildly towards the back of its head. The animal was marmalade in colour, white tufts under the chin and on the paws. It was a stray, but looked well-fed and healthy. The charity of a soft-hearted retiree with too much food in the house, or a child living in a fourth storey flat. The cat carried the natural wariness of the stray in its aspect, a sort of pre-tensed readiness, but was calm and unafraid. It slinked through a gap and hopped onto a low wall in the station yard, balancing there, settling itself into gravity and measurement, the languid Zen movement of its species.

It yawned again and gazed indifferently on a small man in worker’s overalls. He was hunched over, pulling on the heavy zip of a canvas hold-all, working it through a catch, grunting quietly with the effort. Finally the zip closed. The man stood and looked around, slowed his breathing. He met the cat’s gaze – patient, ancient. He smiled and threw a loose stone at the animal, calling, ‘Go home, cat. Go on. Home, home.’ The cat watched the stone sail past. It waited a few moments, establishing its dignity, then hissed and leaped away into oil-stained undergrowth.

(i see between the layers of these things i squeeze through like blood from cut skin this small event is a travesty a waste a fucking tragedy)


histles sounded, brakes squealed, the wheels and track slowed the tempo of their circular duet, but it still didn’t feel like a proper train journey for Claire. She clutched her bag tightly, checking again that the drawstrings were tied. She flicked a piece of food off the side, then untied the bag, making sure that her purse was safely ensconced inside, retying it, clutching the drawstrings once more. Claire glanced at her watch: her father would be late, he had called to tell her. Wait in the station for half an hour. Buy a magazine. Get a cup of coffee. She didn’t drink coffee, and wished she wasn’t on her own.

The train lurched towards journey’s end, jerky and uncomfortable, brakes applied and eased, that huge momentum grinding to a halt. They passed a grimy council estate, barricaded away behind high walls, and it looked the same as every other council estate Claire had ever seen. They always looked the same, with those peeling, stubby gates out front, black dust collecting in the pebbledash finish, rugged grass shooting out from cracks in the pavements.

A heavy middle-aged woman leaned across with a practised, reassuring smile and said, ‘Those estates probably looked nice once.’ Claire remembered her manners, replying, ‘I beg your pardon?’ The woman leaned closer, a cloud of perfume surrounding her, softly glowing pearls around her neck. ‘Those council estates. They probably looked quite nice once upon a time. You know, when they were built. Everything looks nice when it’s just been built, doesn’t it?’ She smiled again, conspiratorial, somehow ingratiating, and Claire couldn’t think of a reply.

She looked out the window, as the outer reaches of the station slid past her vision, looked down at her bag, at the pulled drawstrings. She could feel the mild burn of embarrassment rise through her face, like dyed-red thermometer mercury. Massive square transit crates, stacks of iron and wood, discarded pallets, a tiny administrative hut, overhead wires, the loose flotsam of a railway yard. Claire gathered her courage and looked back up, but the woman was gone. She had stood in a line between the seats with the other impatient passengers, waiting for the slow halt to finally end, their bodies swaying erratically like saplings in the breeze.


id you see this? The thing in Limerick. Weird.’

Margaret leaned back from the computer screen, rubbed her neck, glanced at Austin. (more…)

Werner Herzog walks from Munich to Paris in an attempt to save his friend’s life.

She is sleeping,
her bed dipped in the slow light
of an underwater green.

The moon is sickly pale, malnourished thin.
In the pin drop quiet
patients swallow down their mouths of air.

In the night a tall man walks.
Yes there is ice,
yes the road is long.

Stars prickle, doubt,
(this won’t save her)

But blood is something.
It collects in his boots,
soaks through the tip of his socks from the skin.
Currency.
Heat in the thick snow congealing.

Energy cannot be destroyed-
So here in the line of sweat along his lip and tongue
drips energy, pure as star birth.
Who is to stop it making time,
and hope, balanced against his chest like nearly spilling water,
reaching its resting place.

The river is deep and wide.
Her breath rises in Paris-
white and small, impossible.

He goes on.