Butt Grinder Casserole

Attila stands on the steppes with his men. Blood seeps through arrow holes in their arms. Knife and stab wounds can be seen in their legs. There are sword cuts, blunt trauma, broken limbs, but they do not cry out, complain or even frown. They are dreaming of revenge because they know no other life. They want to fight. They are battle weary but fantasize about how they will stick it to their enemy. In the meantime, they use makeshift bandages and tourniquets, made out of rope, horse hair and old tough jerky.

Attila’s brother and right hand man, Bleda, by name and nature, is oozing blood from his upper arm. “We don’t need to nick our horses if we get thirsty, Attila. We have plenty of blood to drink.”

“You lose too much, plus we have yak milk to drink.” Attila took a slab of gruel, with the consistency of wet cement and plastered it onto Bleda’s arm.

“Your gruel is famous for being lumpy,” said Bleda, “and it makes a good blood stopper, but we should eat it. The men have groaning bellies.”

Attila shook his head. “No one can eat my gruel, no matter how hungry they are, so let’s put it to good use.” He plastered the porridge-like substance on the men’s wounds. It was cool on their skin and acted like a bandage to stop the bleeding.

“Maybe one day we will be able to eat our food instead of using it like this,” said Attila.

“I will eat it after the wound is clotted.” said Bleda. “Then it’s dual purpose.”

“No. We should eat something warm and nourishing.” said Attila.

“If we ride on, we will catch up.”

Attila shook his head again. “Our time will come for revenge. It is not now. Tonight, we eat and sleep.”

“What will we eat, if not this?” Bleda looked at the cement on his arm.

Attila spoke his horses name softly and it trotted over. He stroked its neck lovingly and peeled back the saddle to show a mares bladder of meat, onions and wild garlic that had been mashed and cooked there. A horse and rider could whip up a tasty stew this way, as a result of friction and warmth, on the long forays through the steppes.

“We have this.” he said, patting the bladder, “washed down with fermented yak milk.”

“It’s certainly a better dish than your gruel.” smiled his brother. “My stomach growls already.”

They made camp and shared the stew. “This would be good with bread.” said Attila.

“Those men we fought with yesterday,” said Attila, “their women make good bread.”

“We will have to make their women our women.”

“Or get their bread.”

“Or both.”

A few days later, the Huns, who hadn’t died of their wounds, set off again to conquer the neighbouring tribe with the decent bread. More ingredients for stew had been gathered and mashed under saddles in the long journey across the steppes. It was decided the gruel would be made only for medical purposes.

It was another bloody battle and both tribes had a stand off, lest they kill each other and cancel each other out. They camped again, a little away from each other, to think and plan their next move. A few more of Attila’s soldiers died that night.

Bleda lay awake, unable to sleep. “Hey, Atilla,” he whispered, in the dying light of the fire. “You awake?”

“I am now.” he grumbled.

“I can’t stop thinking about how those men smelled.”

“What?”

“The men we fought. You must have smelled spices and herbs about them, quite delicious smelling spices.”

“So, you’re thinking about condiments Bleda, rather than the three men we lost tonight?”

“Yes, but, look on the bright side, there’s more food without them.”

“That’s not a typical Hun response.” mumbled Atilla, from under his horsehair blanket. “Our life isn’t about food Bleda. It’s about feeling the brisk cutting wind through our hair, being one with our horses on the desolate and unforgiving steppes. It’s about blood lust, the ruthless conquering of other tribes, forcing them to submit through sheer terror and might, and finally, through sweet surrender to our dominance and seamless immersion and integration, to our way of life. Then they become one of us.”

“I know, but…I was wondering… imagine what a bit of seasoning would do with your stew?”

Attila fell silent.

“Well?” said Bleda.

Attila pulled the blanket over his head.

The next day, after a breakfast of yoghurt and noodles, and another long ride through the sparse countryside, the men faced the opposing tribe, yet again. A long and senseless battle ensued. This time, both groups, retreated a few hundred yards from each other, in view of each others camps.

“Look at them.” said Bleda, as he bled out. “So far and yet so close.”

Attila narrowed his eyes at the tribe, sitting, lying and dying, just a little way off. His visibility was poor. A strong wind storm was building as dusk fell. “They’re tough but one more round and we’ll have them. We’ve twice as many men.”

“I’ll have a word with them and see how they’re feeling.”

Atilla looked at Bleda incredulously. “Feeling?”

“I mean, I’ll just see how they’re doing.”

Bleda took medical supplies, which consisted of a bowl of porridge. With some of the more able bodied men, Atilla made basic tents, beds and fire for cooking. Bleda returned as night settled in. “We had a vote and we’ve decided to cancel the next battle.”

Atilla blinked at his brother. “The other tribe is weakening. One more push and we’ve got them. We could blow them over right now. Just one more day.”

“We took a walloping Atilla. We lost horses…and men.”

Attila went to his horse and stroked it lovingly, then glanced at the enemy tribe. “Liked the way you said horses first. But the men are also important.”

“I agree. We should take a rest, then back to base.”

“We’ve travelled too far to give up now. I can’t understand your thinking Bleda. Those men are child’s play.” He thumbed at the wounded tribe ahead. “It’ll be like taking candy from a baby. How are we supposed to conquer the Jurchen next month like we planned, if we can’t take on half a dozen dying men?”

“The 19th.” said Bleda. “We need to put that on hold for a bit while your leg heals.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my leg.”

“It’s falling off your torso.”

“I can still fire an arrow.”

“Your arm’s broken too.”

Attila lifted his right arm. “I can use this…and my teeth.”

“Come on Attila, admit it, you’re a mess. We’ve decided that we will ask the other tribe to join us for dinner in our tents.”

Attila looked at Bleda incredulously.

“We’re going to have a cooking competition instead.”

“I’m a warrior, not a cook!” said Attila. “I leave cooking to the women.”

“You don’t understand, it’s becoming really manly to cook. Everybody’s doing it. Surely you have some good recipes under your belt Attila. What about your maggoty cheese and yak milk pudding?”

“I don’t do that any more.”

“If we had a little chat with them, they might give us tips on how to make our gruel taste and look better.”

“And lose our valuable medical supplies?”

“But think about your stew Attila, it has heaps of potential, with some nice fresh bread on the side and some herbs and spices, to season. It would go down a storm.”

Atilla put his hand up. “Enough! I won’t hear any more about food. I’ll run you through myself!”

“You wouldn’t…”

“One of these days Bleda…”

Atilla walked away.

“Where are you going?”

“To bed.”

“How about a nice warm glass of mares blood for a nightcap?”

“Have you been bleeding my horses again?”

“I may have nicked a vein.”

Attila raised an eyebrow.

“It was ages ago, an old wound, the horse is fine. The blood however, is most refreshing.”

“I must admit, I am a little thirsty.”

“One glass of refreshing mares blood coming up!”

Bleda fetched the glass of blood and gave it to Atilla, but not before he’d laced it with a heavy dose of a natural plant sedative he’d found in the wilds. Attila drank it in one gulp. He was out like a light before the drinking songs had broken out. While he slept like a baby, Bleda invited the opposing tribe to their camp.

The tribe gathered around the welcoming fire and swapped recipes and cooking methods through the night. They got into heated debates and discussions about whose food was cooked better or prepared well. They let Attila’s men taste their bread and eat their gruel. “This bread is fresh,” said Bleda, “and such a springy soft texture.” They dipped the bread in the gruel. There were approving noises all round. “This is delicious.” said Bleda. “What’s in it?”

“Rice, wheat, lentils, chickpeas…and a balance of herbs and spices.” said the leader.

After eating the bread and the gruel, Bleda let him and his men taste Attila’s famous stew. They nodded approvingly and licked the wooden platters clean. “This is amazing.” said the leader. “I would recommend some of our herbs and spices, to go with it, perhaps a pinch of horse sweat, but not too much, you don’t want to spoil the delicate flavour.”

The two tribes decided they would stop fighting each other, for the time being, and tomorrow they would have a cooking competition. As they talked, the night grew old and Attila slept on.

The next day, Attila woke with a thunderous headache. He put his hand on his head and groaned. “That must have been some mares blood I drank last night.” He stumbled to his feet and folded up his blanket. He could hear a commotion outside his tent and wondered if they’d started battling with the opposing tribe without him. He may have had a hangover to end them all, but he was sure some of his men would have attempted to wake him. He didn’t like to miss the start of a fight.

The noise made him feel delicate but he pulled open the flap of the tent. Instead of seeing men running each other through, and blood spurting this way and that, there were people sitting cross- legged on the grass, nursing makeshift bowls. They were lovingly stirring the contents of various delicious smelling concoctions with large wooden spoons. In another area, men were pinching aromatic herbs and spices between their fingers and sprinkling them over bowls of soup. In another, a group of men were kneading bread. It smelled wonderful. Attila rubbed his eyes, perhaps he was still asleep. He rubbed them again. No, he was awake alright.

“Ah, you’re awake!” said Bleda. “For a moment, I thought I’d given you too much.” He slapped Attila on the back with a floury hand. “Good job you can take your drink…and your downers. Come here, wait ’til you see this.”

I am still dreaming, thought Attila, as he walked with Bleda to the various cooking stations.

“Look at this gruel Atilla!Taste it. It’ll get rid of your hangover.”

Before he could protest, someone was spooning the glorious soup into his mouth. “What is it?” asked Attila between mouthfuls.

Bleda clapped his hands together and paused for dramatic effect. “It’s gruel!”

“It’s not my gruel.” said Attila.

Bleda dragged Attila away, to another cooking stall. “Now, have a taste of this. It melts in the mouth.”

Atilla took a bite of bread while everyone waited with baited breath. He was pulled away to two horse riders side by side, surrounded by a small crowd of people. “What’s going on?” he demanded.

“Inspect the horses ass.” said Bleda.

Atilla did so.

“No, higher up.” said Bleda. “Under the saddle.”

Atilla quickly peeled back the saddle of one of the horses.

“Here, side by side,” explained Bleda, “are the two competitors. Under that saddle is your famous stew and under the next one is the stew of the other contestant, the opposing tribe. We will get two riders to jump up and down on the horses to mash and cook the two stews. We will do this under clinical conditions. The cooking will take place over an allocated time, say an hour, for practical purposes, which will simulate the mix of friction and heat made on, say, an hours ride through the steppes. Then we will judge the stew and see which one is the best.”

Atilla looked up at the horse riders. “But I’m the only one who can make my stew!”

Bleda laughed. “Of course and if you feel up to it…”

Atilla didn’t need to be asked twice. His hangover was mostly gone, thanks to the delicious breakfast he’s just had. The horse rider got down and Attila took his rightful place on top of his beloved horse and stew cooker. “Let the games begin!” he yelled. Everyone cheered.

“Right, on your marks -get set-go!” said the adjudicator. The two warriors jumped up and down on their horses, mashing together meat and veg until it was reduced to a tasty stew.

The other tribes gruel won hands down, as did their bread. Atilla won in the stew section. A feast followed, with all the winning and even the losing dishes being consumed with great relish. Attila gave their awful gruel to the other tribe as medical supplies and also some of the wild garlic so they could make garlic bread for the first time. The other tribe allowed a choice selection of their finest herbs and spices to flavour Attila’s stew. They had a most delicious banquet. Mares blood and fermented yak milk was served and prizes were given to the winners at the end, entitled ‘The Best Of The Steppes’

Attila proudly stood, while the adjudicator placed a makeshift necklace round his neck. “This is to certify that Attila’s stew is the best in the land, certainly the best in the steppes.”

“Speech! Speech!” cried the men.

Attila cleared his throat. “Thank you. I would like to name my stew Butt Grinder Casserole.” Applause rang round the steppes. “I hope it’s a dish that is recognised for its cooking method, as much as its taste. And I would like people to think of me every time they eat Butt Grinder Casserole.”

The Whistler and The Inventor

The inventor had been commissioned to design and build a bridge, with some payment up front and the rest when he presented final blueprints. “Another commission to make another boring thing.” he said grumpily. As he worked away, a little girl entered his workshop. “Oh! It’s a toyshop!” she exclaimed excitedly.

He looked at her from over his glasses. “This most certainly is not a toyshop! What do you want?”

“I’m lost.”

“Where are your family?”

“If I knew that,” she said closing the door behind her and coming further into the room, “I wouldn’t be lost.”

He was about to tell her to leave him alone, when he realized it was actually quite refreshing that she wasn’t bowing and scraping, like most people, and most people knocked before they entered his workshop.

“I know where they went,” she said, “and if my assumptions are correct, they’ll be passing here to look for me.”

“Where did they go?” he asked, putting the blueprint on his desk. He knew he wasn’t going to get any work done for the moment.

“They went to market.”

“Can’t you go find them?” he snapped. He hated distractions and he didn’t like anyone coming into his workshop, unless they were learned men like himself and this was a very forward little girl.

“What I could do, is wait here until they pass by. Why expend energy chasing after them when I could sit here in this interesting room with you? Besides, my mother and father are the ones who should be frantically looking for me, not the other way round.”

The inventor peered at her again, then took off his glasses and rubbed at the space between his eyes. He decided he could add precocious to forward.

“You may stay, but please be quiet. I have work to do.”

“I’ll have to have the door open so that I can see my parents pass by.” The little girl opened the door and all the sounds of the street rushed in. He would never get any work done now. He sighed and leaned back in his chair.

“What are you working on?” she asked looking at the blueprint.

“A mobile bridge.”

“Whoever heard of a mobile bridge?”

“Exactly, which is why I’m inventing one.”

“That sounds fun. Can I look at the map?”

“It’s not a map. It’s a blueprint.”

“Blueprint, map, it’s all the same to me. What’s your name?”

“Leonardo.” He puffed out his chest. “Leonardo Da Vinci. You may have heard of me.”

“Oh, yes, I recognise you now. You’re the man who owns the donkey stall!”

“No, I do not! I’m known for my inventions and my painting.”

“Do you paint people’s houses?”

“No, I do not!”

“Leo Nerdo…that’s quite a long name to remember. May I call you Leo?” He nodded, exasperation rendering him mute. “I’m Caterina.” she said, looking around the workshop. She picked up something on his desk. “What’s this?”

“That’s a water powered gyroscopic compass. Please put it down, it’s a prototype.”

“And what’s this?” she cried excitedly, spinning a wooden contraption that hung from the ceiling. “That’s an aerial screw!” He got to his feet quickly and grabbed it to stop it rotating.

“And what’s this?” She picked up a drawing from the table. “A man with no clothes on and he’s got four arms and four legs?”

“That’s Vitruvian Man.” said the inventor. “Don’t smudge it!”

Caterina pointed to a painting on an easel. “And who is this lady?”

“That’s Mona Lisa.” He puffed himself out again. “Do you see her enigmatic smile?”

“Does she have wind? This place is messy Leo. Let me help you clean up.” Immediately, she began to recover a pile of scrolls from the floor.

“No, don’t do that!” he said in a panic. “I’ll never be able to find anything!”

She ignored him and put the scrolls behind the door. She found a brush and began to sweep the floor. As she swept, she whistled a tune. The inventor relaxed a little and found that he was able to work away as she whistled. He dipped his quill in the ink on his desk and began to write and draw. Eventually, Caterina stopped whistling and put the broom away.

“Why have you stopped whistling?” he asked.

“I thought I might be annoying you.”

“Not at all. Please continue. I can’t whistle and you do it very well. That’s a beautiful tune.”

“What? You can’t whistle?” she said. “I thought everyone could whistle.”

Leo returned his quill to the ink stand and looked at her. “But I can’t.”

She laughed. “It’s easy. I can teach you if you like.”

“Please do.”

She went to him. “Well, purse up your lips like this, no, like this, that’s better and push air out of them like this, no, you’re doing it wrong.”

For half an hour, the little girl tried to teach the inventor to whistle but it was no good. Presently, the little girls parents passed by the door. “My mother and father are here!” she cried out happily. “Goodbye Leo.” It was suddenly quiet and empty in the workshop. He tried to work but he was so distracted by the fact that he couldn’t whistle, that he stopped working on the blueprints for the bridge. He decided that if he couldn’t whistle, he would invent some kind of whistling aid, something that would enable him to whistle as tunefully as Caterina. Immediately, he began working on it.

Six weeks later, a man came with a final contract for Leonardo to sign, upon completion of the final plans for the bridge, but he’d been working on plans for something that would help him whistle. He’d modelled a head with eyes, nose and mouth that looked amazingly like him. When you pulled a lever at the side of the head, the lips pursed and a tuneful whistle came out. He sat looking at it now, while the man with the contract waited for him to sign. Leonardo picked up his quill, dipped it into the ink and paused. “I can’t sign this.” he said. “I haven’t finished the plans for the bridge.”

“Why not? You were meant to have them by the end of this week.”

“I’ve been working on something else instead.” he said. “It’s taken up all my time.”

The man looked at the whistling head. “Not that thing I hope.”

“And what’s wrong with that?” Leonardo asked defensively.

“Look, I need you to sign this contract, the builders are waiting for instructions to build the bridge.”

“I don’t have it. It’s not ready.”

“Well, when will it be?”

“Another two months perhaps.”

“I can wait another week, not one day more.” The man left, taking the unsigned contract with him.

Leonardo sat there for a few minutes dumbfounded. He should have been working on the plans for the bridge – not the whistle. He didn’t care about the bridge, he just wanted to be able to whistle. A little girl could whistle and he couldn’t. It got to him, why, he didn’t know.

Just to make things worse, his whistle invention had come to nothing.

Just then, as if to taunt him further, he heard a beautiful whistling pass by his workshop. He ran to the door and flung it open, and there she was, skipping by, whistling, the same little girl from over a month ago. “Hello,” she said brightly. “How are you?” Caterina was with her mother this time and when the woman saw who it was, she bowed, stuttered and blushed to meet such a celebrated figure. “Oh, Signor De Vinci…I do apologise for my daughter’s familiarity.”

“Not at all.” said Leo. He looked down at the girl. “Do you have a moment Caterina? I was wondering if you could help me with something.” She nodded, let go of her mothers hand and stepped inside. The mother froze, too surprised to follow. Leonardo showed her the mannequin head, demonstrated it proudly and told her how he’d spent all his time doing that, when he should have been working on the bridge. Caterina smiled. “This is clever but you don’t need to whistle.”

“But I am Leonardo De Vinci and I should be able to whistle or invent a contraption to make me whistle. Plus you said it was easy.”

“Not for everyone. Some people just can’t. Accept it and be happy with the things you can do.”

Leonardo sighed. “You’re right. I was being conceited and vain…and not very modest. The only trouble is, I don’t have time to work on the plans for the bridge now. I’ll have to do about six weeks work in one week. I will lose my commission.”

“If I helped you, perhaps we could get it done in time.”

“You? But you’re just a little girl!”

Caterina raised an eyebrow. “Not so little.”

Leonardo shook his head. “I’m sorry, that was a conceited thing to say.”

“I’m very good at drawing.” she said. “And I’m good with numbers, perhaps I could help you with your blueprints?”

“And you can also whistle.” he said. “Is there anything you can’t do?”

“I could say the same thing to you.” she said.

Caterina helped Leonardo with his plans for the bridge, much to the delight of her mother, who brought him cakes and presents and many blushes. Caterina and Leo managed to cram six weeks into one. When the man came with the contract, Leo was able to sign it. He realized he didn’t need to whistle after all. He was Leonardo De Vinci, a genius, and he was going to start work on plans for another flying machine tomorrow. He said goodbye to Caterina, and as she walked away, he could hear her whistling a happy tune. He pursed his lips, blew and a whistle came out. She heard him and ran back into the workshop. “See! You can do it Leo? All you needed was to loosen up a bit and be little less serious.” She pointed to the painting of Mona Lisa, on the easel. “Be a bit more like her, but less windy.”

A Car Called Bastard

I can’t help thinking how nurses look so young these days, but that’s because I’m old. These girls are pretty but not as pretty as Moira. One of them reminds me of my daughter, the other belle of my life. She has the same baby blue eyes.

The nurses like this time of year when the garden turns to red and gold. They gather the falling fruit and put me by the window to watch the dancing leaves and the jack o lanterns.

Kids come to visit the other residents and remind me of my grandchildren, so full of life when they were alive. Everywhere I look there are memories, some of them happy, most of them painful beyond comprehension. I’m reminded, all the time, of everything that has happened. I have lost so much, so many loved ones, and all of them so young. And it’s all my fault. I don’t do much crying these days. They say you can be too sad to cry, but today, to my surprise, the tears are rolling.

These youngsters are all dressed up for Halloween and they tear round the garden playing tag and pretending to put curses on each other. I can’t wipe the tears that fall, the accident put a stop to that. Luckily, if a nurse comes by, she’ll think it’s just my rheumy eyes. I couldn’t bear for her to wipe them away. I still have some dignity left. I want to tell these kids that it’s not harmless fun, to put spells on people. I want to tell them to stop, it’s no fun at all, it’s anything but.

Witchcraft has run through my family right back to 1692, a number of my ancestors were burned as witches. My great grandmother taught me how to dowse and read palms and tarot. She had a whole shelf full of spell books. It kind of missed a generation with my grandmother but my mother was into it big time. She never owned a spell book in her life, never needed one, she’s always been a natural. If anyone upset her in some way, she would curse them in a blink of an eye. She was like Jesus cursing the fig tree. I saw her do it many times, people would become ill or suddenly have awful money or relationship troubles. Sometimes they would die unexpectedly. Sometimes it would be objects she would target, like buildings, and they would burn to the ground, become flooded, uninhabitable and eventually demolished. Sometimes it would take months, or even years to break a person or an object down, but when it happened, she would look at me proudly and say, ‘Do you see that son? I did that.’

There was one time when I was very young, she met a woman in authority, of a certain status. a doctor, lawyer, bank manager, something of that ilk. I don’t remember much of what went on but what impressed upon me, even at that young age, was how attractive, wealthy, sharply dressed and extremely competent the woman was. As we were walking out of the building, my mother was furious, her pride hurt over something or other. I couldn’t remember what had transpired back there but she said to me. ‘The next time you see that woman, she’ll be begging on the street, scrabbling in dustbins and having sex with strangers.’

Being so young, I didn’t comprehend the levity of what she said, but to my utter shock, five years later when I was walking down the street, there she was, that powerful confident woman, but now she was dazed, in dirty old clothes, her good looks and strong presence faded with the ravages of her ill fortune. She turned to my mother and begged for money. Mother turned to me, smiled and said, ‘Told you so. I cursed the bitch. I cursed her to hell.’ And with that, she gleefully tossed a coin to the woman, who scrambled for it hopelessly, before it rolled down a drain.

I had no doubt as to mother’s power. I never thought it was bad or good, it just was. I envied her, her weapon of revenge, a deadly weapon that need never be detected, a weapon for which there was no consequence, no reprimand. I experimented but I never seemed to have my mothers touch. I used to call it the Midas touch in reverse, everything she touched turned to shit.

I got into Hollywood easily with my mixture of rough charm and physical prowess. Moira was just the prettiest girl and she wasn’t even in the acting business. Well, she was in a sense, she was a make up artist. I wanted to get up at 4.30a.m so badly, if I knew it meant being in her chair, with her hands gently stroking my face.

It was ironic really, as a stuntman, I didn’t need much make up, but she would practice on me. Sometimes she dispensed with brushes, didn’t use them, and I would be in ecstasy as her fingers blended the foundation into my skin. When it came to Moira, I was as tongue tied as hell, and for some reason, I couldn’t even flirt half decently when it came to her, never mind asking for a date.

So many mornings she practised on me, when she was just starting out. And in return, I would let her onto the set to see the actors I was doing the stunts for. I was never going to be front of camera, I don’t have the face for it. But she should have been in front of it, with her face and her delicate touch, so feathery light and yet so purposeful, like she wanted to reach into my soul.

This is why I had to mess with him. If he’d have just left her alone, at that moment when I was about to ask her out, then everything would have been okay, because believe me, I was about to, at some point along the way. I had had enough make overs to last a lifetime. She thought she was practising her art but it was my heart she was practising on.

“So, how’s the stuntman business?” she asked as I slid into the make up chair one lunchtime to practice on me. She was like that. Half a sandwich would be sitting on the dressing table in front of me. I could see the bite taken out of it. I would see the imprint of her teeth, her mouth, and imagine those lips on mine.

“You’re very talkative today.” she said, pulling me out of my daydream. She wouldn’t have pulled me out of my night time ones quite so easily. “Sorry, I was just thinking.”

I felt her warm breath on my neck as she let out a little laugh. I shuddered slightly. The soft, sensual scent about her that day, hung like an elusive mist around us both.

“I like it when my actors keep still. They usually move around too much. It’s like they’ve got ants in their pants.”

Her emphasize on the word ‘actors’ was our little joke. I was her actor while I was in her chair and she was my actress when she came on set.

And I suppose that’s when it all started, on set. I would sneak her on sometimes, usually just within the boundaries, out of sight of the directors, who were strict about things like that, especially for wet-behind-the-ears make up apprentices. So I would sneak her on, way behind the cameras and the wooden partitions, and one time, I sneaked her on during one of his takes.

“Wow,” she said in awe. “He’s beautiful.”

I turned to her and she must have seen the anger in my eyes, for she said, quick as a flash, “Of course, he’s too much of a pretty boy for me.”

I grimaced. Oh, how sad, to be so pretty that she wouldn’t even consider him. How very unlucky for him. Just like the car crash that came after really. Unlucky. Isn’t bad luck sometimes called a curse? Am I, was I, the curse, and does the curse ever get to die?

Two weeks later, I went to sit in the chair and she was nowhere to be seen. Her make up, which was usually spread out on the counter, was gone. No brushes, no perfume, no her. It was much later that day, I finally saw her in the canteen. She was excited, different. She always had a twinkle in her eyes and a warm smile for me, but yeah, I couldn’t deny it, she was more sparkly than usual, bouncier.

“You’ll never guess what just happened?”

“What?”

“Well, the powers that be have seen how I always give up my lunchtime for my art.”

“Powers?”

“The Chief make up artist. She’s seen my work, been watching me, and apparently I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?”

She smiled and it lit up her whole face. “I’m going to do him!”

I stared at her. “Do him?”

“You know, pretty boy.”

“Oh.” Deflated wasn’t the word.

“Of course, he’s more than just that.” she said composing herself quickly. “He’s intelligent and such a good actor, deeply sensitive, plus, I’m not star struck. I’m professional now. It’s all about the make up, the make up comes first.”

She flounced off and I didn’t see her for several weeks, she had moved to a new dressing room.

After that, she was with him most of the time. I didn’t have to sneak her on set any more, she could come and go as she pleased, but she would always look at me, almost wistfully. Perhaps in some small way, she was missing our little get-togethers at the dressing room mirror. I certainly was but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Then a week or so later, she approached me. “He’s asked me out,” she said.

“Who?”

“You know who.”

“Pretty boy?”

She smiled a little but not much. “That’s right. What do you think I should do?”

“I thought you were already going out with him. You’re practically inseparable and drooling over him all the time.”

“We’re not going out…yet.”

“What?

She began to blush and twist her fingers nervously between her hands. “We’re not…an item.”

“Really?” I said, unable to keep the bitterness from my voice. “I thought he’d have well got his end away by now.”

I saw the hurt and shock reach her eyes, then just as quickly, I saw the anger flash in them. She turned on her heel and stormed off.

I first saw the car a couple of weeks after that and it took me over the edge. It was a Porsche 550 Spider. I wondered how many times he’d parked with her.

I began to realise that it simply wasn’t enough to flaunt it in my face, to take my girl, he had to dress up that Porsche a little bit more. He gave it tartan covered seats, got two red stripes daubed over the rear wheels. On the doors, hood and engine cover was the number 130. People used to come over and admire it. They would be in awe of it but to me, that car was a little bastard, just like its owner.

I started drinking in a local bar, nursing my hurts and chewing the cud. One night I went home and consulted the tarot, my mother had never needed stuff like that, but maybe I did. I discovered I was good at reading the cards. They told me unequivocally what I should do. If I didn’t do it, he would run away with the only girl I had ever loved. I had never followed in my mother’s footsteps, I wasn’t a serial curser like she was. The opportunity, or rather the drive had never come up before. I wasn’t like her, The Queen Of Curses, doing it to everything and everyone on a whim, but like her, my pride was hurt and my heart ached. Suddenly I had motivation.

When they were at the canteen one lunchtime, I went outside to take a look at it. I put my hand gently on the hood, just above a headlamp. I prayed to Lucifer that he would die in that car. I prayed for an accident. Then I went back to work.

The next day, I saw them together on set. She was touching up his make up. He had his arm around her waist. It was like I’d been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I made some excuse about feeling sick and ran outside into the parking lot. And that’s when I saw it. ‘Little Bastard’ had been painted onto the car. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, thinking it was some sort of wish fulfilment on my part, a crazy hallucination, so I ran my finger through the ‘B’.

It was still wet. What had possessed him? Was it me?

I stepped back from the car, shocked at the strength of my own curse.

I was to become a lot more surprised a few weeks later when I watching a ball game in my local bar and it was interrupted by a news bulletin. I nearly choked on my beer and one of the other bar flies had to thump me on the back to stop the coughing.

The first thing I did, after nearly choking to death was to find out if she was in the car too. I was so relieved to find out she wasn’t, that I cried like a baby. People thought I was crying for him, maybe I was.

She was upset for a time but I was a good shoulder to cry on. Months later, she told me that she’d always wanted me to ask her out. So I did, finally. We married quickly. We had a son, a daughter and three grandchildren. And she never suspected. How could she?

“How are you today?” A nurse has come over to give me a drink with a straw in it. Then she feeds me. I never answered her question. And when she asks again, I only need to nod or shake my head and she’ll understand me, on a basic level. I see pity in her face as I nod. She wrinkles her nose slightly at the smell and says, as casually as she can. “Oh, I think you might need a new diaper.”

Then she pulls the screen over and brings it around me.

Later, when I’m all changed and smelling fresh, my one and only living relative comes to visit, my only surviving child from the crash. She’s not been the same since the accident, obviously. It’s been five years now. She still has nightmares, still sees her siblings bloodied faces, lying crushed beneath her maimed children.

There were seven people in the car, me, my son, my wife, my daughter and her children, my three grandchildren on laps, no-one belted in. My daughter was the only survivor, besides me. I can’t stand the pain in her eyes. It goes so deep. She is still going to counselling, still cries herself to sleep at night. She was so vibrant, now she’s a shell of a woman, and there’s nothing I can do…except confess.

But what would I tell her exactly? That I was jealous of her mothers boyfriend and decided to put a curse on his car. That he died in that car, but she lived and we went on to have a happy life together. Would she believe the second part of it, that five years ago, I had bought a Porsche 550 Spider steering wheel from an antique car fare and installed it in the family car, unaware that it came from ‘Little Bastard’. Unaware, until it was too late. I guess I thought I was being clever, a reminder of my powers and what I’d got away with. I never thought it could be the same one, until now.

The car had been a right off. After they got me out, the whole thing went up in flames, leaving just a husk, and yet, not a mark on that old steering wheel.

As I look into the sad deadened eyes of my daughter who was once so happy, I truly do feel like confessing, I can’t bear living with the pain I’ve caused, but instantly, I feel a pain in my chest and a shortness of breath. My daughter calls for the nurse, then gets a doctor and the screen goes round me once more.

There’s a bit of poking and prodding and I don’t feel very much of it, then they put me to bed. Looks like I won’t be seeing the Halloween celebrations after all. The doctor came round again a bit later. “You’re doing just fine.” His grin was like a terrible grimace, stretching from ear to ear. “You’ve a heart like an ox and you’re a very healthy man despite your years. So, don’t you worry,” he promised, as he pulled the covers back over my paralysed body. “You’re going to live for a long time yet, a good long time.”

Hell-raiser

Monday 9.00 p.m

“It’s your move.” said Tim.

The Hell-raiser rolled the dice. Double two. He moved pewter dog four paces onto Mayfair, where a big red hotel sat, but it wasn’t his. He took a sip of tea, then calmly returned the cup to its saucer. He looked at Tim, who was busy counting out his paper money. Could he get away with it?

“It’s your move.” said the Hell-raiser, without a quiver in his voice. Tim looked up from his money distractedly. “What?”

“It’s your move Tim.” Perhaps another distraction was in order. The Hell-raiser looked at the clock above the bar. Tim followed his gaze and glanced at the clock, instead of the gameboard. The Hell-raiser looked at Tim with penetrating blue eyes. “Roll.” he said.

Tim looked at the dice and not at the Hell-raiser’s silver coloured mutt on the land of one of his most expensive hotels.

“Come on Tim, there won’t be any time for Scrabble at this rate. For God’s sake man, roll!”

Tim, like a deer in headlights, knowing it has to move in order to live, was suddenly cajoled into picking up the dice and rolling.

“Ha!” cried the Hell-raiser pointing at Mayfair. “I was on your hotel!”

“Oh damn.” said Tim.

“Damn and blast.” corrected the Hell-raiser. “Get it right.”

The Hell-raiser took another sip of Earl Grey tea as Tim landed on the Water Works, which was part of The Hell-raisers monopoly. Perhaps he could scrape back a pound or two from his devastating loss on the May Fair rent.

“Ollie, roll the dice. It’s your turn.”

The Hell-raiser turned his penetrating gaze onto Tim and said in a menacing whisper. “You can’t kid a kidder.” He put out his hand, palm up. “That’ll be two fifty, if you don’t mind.”

“Aye up!” said Bill the barman, polishing a pint glass. “The Paps are in!”

“Bloody hell!” said Tim.

“Now, now Tim,” said the Hell-raiser, waving a finger at him. “Don’t use expletives, at least not until…”

A gaggle of photographers and tabloid journalists burst through the double doors of the public house. A stream of expletives poured from the Hell-raisers mouth, at the same time he poured the half-full teapot onto the floor. Tim slapped the Monopoly board shut. Little plastic houses, pewter counters and coloured paper money flew out with the back draft. The Hell-raiser snatched it from him and wore it as a hat.

Tim tried to hide the rest of the game contents under the pub seat. Bill got a glass and poured a large pint of whiskey. The rest of the photographers piled in and began to laugh as they saw Ollie dancing around with the board on his head. He found a five hundred pound monopoly note, licked it and stuck it on his chin, making a pink beard.

“Good old Ollie.” someone said, and the light bulbs flashed. Bill held out the pint of whiskey. “Here’s your seventh drink Ollie!” he said, emphasizing the ‘seventh’ so everyone could hear. “I think you’ll find it’s my eighth,” said Ollie, downing it in one go. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Call that a drink? Fill her up again, only this time, I’ll have a bit of that, a bit of that and a bit of that!” He pointed to every optic in the place and Bill filled it with gin, vodka, brandy, rum, crème de menthe, Cointreau, until all the colours blended into an unappetizing muddy looking mess in the glass. A photographer looked at Ollie’s game board hat and said, “Been playing Monopoly again Ollie?”

The Hell-raiser took the board from his head and ripped it in two. “This is what I think of your bourgeoisie capitalist stale soup and slippers game!” The men laughed and Ollie bought them all a drink. Tim looked at the broken board in regret. “And I was winning too.” he said.

Tuesday 9.00 p.m

The Hell-raiser found a nice spot in the park where he could have a peaceful picnic in the early evening sunshine. He had some beautiful flowers in his flower pressing book, from his many peaceful days in the park, woods, forests, valleys and dales, lakes and seashores, cliffs and the foothills of mountains. He looked at his book happily, and, remembering how countless flasks of tea had fortified him on his wild flower adventures, he took a flask from his rucksack and poured a cup. Then he had a sandwich and began to search for interesting flowers.

While minding his own business and fully immersed in his hobby, people strolled by. They recognised him and wanted his autograph. He picked a flower and pressed it into the place where his signature should go. “Here’s my autograph.” he said.

Soon, a crowd of people had gathered around the Hell-raiser. At first, some of them just wanted autographs but others became curious and wanted to know what he was doing.

“I’m looking for flowers,” he told them, “to go into my flower pressing book.” The Hell-raiser was up to his old tricks it seemed, making a joke, pulling their legs. A man with a newspaper under his arm decided to humour him and asked how it was done.

“Well now, you take a common garden daisy like this,” said the Hell-raiser, “make sure it’s fresh and dry, then put it between two pieces of absorbent paper, like so, some of your newspaper will do nicely for now, but you don’t want ink all over the petals do you? So keep it plain paper if you can. Then press it into a heavy book, like a telephone directory, then leave it for about seven days.”

Soon, a bigger and more fascinated audience had formed to watch and listen to the Hell-raiser’s knowledge on flower pressing. “After seven days, you remove the flower carefully with tweezers, being careful not to tear it, as it’s even more fragile when it’s been dry and pressed…and voila, you have one perfectly pressed flower to add to your flower book collection.”

Everyone wanted to see the Hell-raiser’s flower book. They gathered round, murmuring in awe. One woman who had been walking her dog and wouldn’t believe the Hell- raiser could possibly be interested in flowers, said “Can you make a daisy chain too?”

“Certainly madam.” The Hell-raiser made a daisy chain and put it around her dog’s neck. A man reached into his plastic supermarket bag and brought out a bottle of wine. “Would you like some wine?”

“No thanks. I don’t drink.”

The crowd gasped.

“It’s a little early in the day.”

“But you’re a hell-raiser.”

“I am, aren’t I?” The Hell-raiser shielded his eyes and looked at the sun setting over the park. “In that case, I’ll have a little glass.”

“But I’m giving you the whole bottle.”

The Hell-raiser looked at the bottle of wine, then at the flowers he was pressing, then at the crowd of people. They were suspicious. The tea, the sandwiches, the jam filled biscuits in his knapsack and the flower picking would just have to wait. He sighed inwardly. “The things I do for my public.” he said under his breath.

He bounded to his feet, grabbed the bottle of wine, opened the screw top and began to glug. The crowd cheered. The Hell-raiser stamped on the beautiful flowers, crushing them under his feet. The crowd cheered. He tore the daisy chain from the dog’s neck and started eating it, head back, dangling it into his mouth like one large noodle. The crowd went wild.

“Good old Ollie.” someone said. “He never lets us down.” A reporter took notes. The flower incident would be in one of the leading tabloids the next day with the headline. ‘Ollie Ate My Daisy Chain.’

Wednesday 9.00 p.m

It was Scrabble Final at the community centre and The Hell-raiser was winning.

“Why are you so good at this?” asked Tim.

Ollie sipped at his peppermint tea. “I went to public school.” he said.

Triple word score after triple word score later and the Hell-raiser was holding a trophy aloft. Tim was patting him on the back and there were cheers all round. The kettle was put on for more herbal tea, but then the Hell-raiser saw a paparazzi with his face pressed against the window of the community centre. He reached for the bottle of some spirit or other, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. He poured the bottle into the trophy and drank. He reached for the blonde girl in the bikini, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. The paparazzi snapped a shot. That would make a great photo for tomorrow, plus headline. “Trophy Floozy and Trophy Boozy! Good old Ollie!”

Olly felt the liquid from the trophy spill into his lap. He hugged the bikini girl closer.

“Get off! You’re tangling me up!”

It wasn’t the honeyed tones of a sex kitten. It was a gravelly, trembly voice, like shards of glass. Ollie opened bleary eyes and looked into the rheumy eyes of an elderly woman. “You fell asleep and spilled your tea!” she said. She mopped at his knee with a handkerchief. “And you need to keep your hands to yourself, grabbing me like that…” She shook her head with disapproval, “And you made me drop a stitch!”

The Hell-raiser sat up from his slouched position. “Oh Mabel, you know very well how to come back from a dropped stitch.”

“How’s your cushion cover coming along?” she asked.

The Hell-raiser held it up. “It’s coming on lovely.” she said admiringly. “You must teach me to crochet some day.”

“I certainly will Mabel, it’s so much easier and so much more relaxing than knitting.”

Mabel smiled toothlessly. “Where’s Agnes, is she making more tea?”

The Hell-raiser looked at the Craft Circle. There was no one there under seventy four. He counted eight heads of silver, one of cinnamon brown and another two with blue rinses. Agnes’ hair was dyed an unnatural orangey red and she wasn’t in the circle. “She’s making tea.” he said.

“I hope she brings out those marzipan squares.” said a blue rinse. “Those custard creams are too hard for me teeth.”

“Dip ’em in your tea.” said Mabel.

Ollie was happily crocheting when Agnes returned from the kitchen with a tea trolley. She let out a sharp cry and pointed at the window. “Oh my Gawd! It’s a peeping Tom!”

Everyone looked to where she was pointing. A paparazzi was peering in. De ja vu, thought the Hell -raiser. He reached for the bottle of spirits under his chair. It wasn’t there. He reached for the bikini blonde. Not there either. His nightmare was coming true. In a desperate panic, he grabbed Mabel again instead. “Oh, he’s at it again! They’re all sex maniacs Agnes!”

The paparazzi flashed away.

Thursday 9.00p.m

The Hell Raiser spread out the tabloid newspapers on the pub table in front of him. Tim and Bill were hunched over the front covers like war strategists. The headlines were not pretty. ‘Ollie Knits For Britain’ over a photograph of a surprised Hell-raiser caught red handed with crochet needle and wool. The next picture was on page 2, an equally shocked Hell-raiser sat between two elderly women. He was grasping one of them firmly round the waist.

“They’re not too bad.” said Bill.

“Yes, could be worse,” said Tim. “Very flattering I think.”

“It’s a nightmare.” said the Hell-raiser. “My reputation is shot.”

“Not necessarily.” said Tim.

“Very necessarily.” said the Hell-raiser sipping tea. “Look at this one, it has the tea trolley in it, with tea on it, in a teapot, and tea cups and tea things, not a bottle of plonk in sight.”

“For all they know, the tea has brandy in it.”

The Hell-raiser shook his head. ‘This isn’t good enough. he thought. I have to do something. I have to put my thinking cap on.

Bill began to collect the empty beer glasses around the rest of the pub. “More tea Ollie?”

He nodded and perused the newspapers. As he sipped his second cup of tea and the others drank their beer, a plan began to formulate. “ I have an idea,” he said. “I’m doing a red carpet thing at the weekend, some film premier. Perhaps I can mend some of the damage that’s been done to my reputation.”

“How?” asked Tim.

The Hell-raiser leaned forward and smiled. “Well, I could wrap myself up in the red carpet and floor anyone who gets in my way. The other famous people will scatter like skittles. They will have to cut me out or something. I’ll pay for it the next day, of course.”

“Not a bad plan, but where does the red carpet begin?” asked Tim.

“Or indeed end?” said Bill.

Ollie shrugged. “I don’t know. Just think, I’ll be like Cleopatra in that film.” He took out some coloured crayons and a colouring book from beneath the chair and began to colour in a picture.

“Nearly filled that book Ollie?”

“Almost. Just a daffodil scene and this teddy bears picnic to do.”

“Let’s have a look,” said Tim. The Hell-raiser held up a picture of two big bears and three baby ones sitting around a picnic table with lots of food and drink.

“Oh that’s very nice, you’ve used very pretty colours.” said Tim.

“I got the extended colour pack, three different shades in each colour.”

“No!”

“Yes! Take a look. Three different browns! These bears are going to look magnificent.”

As the Hell-raiser coloured in a bowl of apples on the teddy bears table, he was unaware of the man behind the newspaper, sat in the cosy booth next to him, who surreptitiously took another photo, then turned up his recording device. All he had to do now was to get that colouring book. It was finally the proof he’d been looking for, to prove once and for all, the suspicions he’d had all along, that Ollie wasn’t an inebriated, chaotic, rebellious Hell-raiser after all. All these years, he’d been pulling the wool over Fleet Street’s eyes, pretending to be something he wasn’t. In fact, quite the opposite. Well, the truth will out, mused the man. He believed in truth above sensationalism. The knitting incident helped but he knew that after hearing about Ollie’s plans, it would only be a matter of time before the papers were made to look foolish again. Besides, the truth was so much more interesting, and profitable. There might even be a promotion in it for him. Certainly, as a lesser known journalist, he needed it, as even the Hell-raiser didn’t recognise him, and that was an indignity he wouldn’t tolerate. A diversion was needed. He folded up his newspaper and went to the window. “Is that a journalist out there? I think there’s actually three or four of them and they’re headed this way.”

Ollie looked up from his colouring book.

Bill stopped collecting empty glasses and went behind the bar. He grabbed a pint glass and filled it with vodka. He was about to put some orange juice in it when The Hell-raiser came running up. “Hold the orange juice.” he said. Bill was about to give him the vodka filled glass but Ollie wasn’t there any more, well certainly not all of him. He could see his feet. He looked up. The Hell-raiser had climbed onto the bar but before he had taken a sip, the lesser known journalist had swiped the colouring book and legged it out of the pub with his bounty.

Friday 9.00 p.m

The Hell Raiser was in the green room of one of Channel Four’s T.V studios. He was about to appear on a programme called ‘The Word’ He perused the day’s newspapers, as usual. The headlines said things like ‘Ollie’s Big Softies’ and ‘If You Go Down To The Woods Today.’ There was a blown up photograph of the teddy bears picnic from the colouring book, which to his shame, was only half coloured in. If only they had given him a chance to complete it, then he could have held his head up, just a little. He smiled sadly at the half coloured daddy bear. It was a travesty. He put his head in his hands and sighed. It was only 9.00 p.m and the show didn’t go out until around 11.00p.m. There was a crate of beer and many bottles of wine at his feet. So, someone, somewhere still thought he was a drinker and perhaps a Hell-raiser to boot. Maybe it wasn’t too late. The nation thought he was a tea swilling, crochet making crayonist. He would have to turn this around somehow…

The Hell-raiser was extremely drunk when 11.00 p.m came along. He wasn’t used to the booze and there’d been a boat load back in the green room. He quaffed the lot. He came onto the stage, in white trousers and leather jacket, open, to reveal a robust bare chest and torso. When he unevenly got to his feet, and sang, ‘Wild Thang, I think I love you!” to an impassioned crowd, he knew he was driving the nail home. This would show the losers, putting paid to Earl Grey and herbal tea, board games, flower pressing, the Knit and Natter Club and the fervent colouring in. He could wipe it all away in this one moment. A moment that would define him for good or bad. A moment that people would remember, rather than his fine creative talents, natural charisma and generous nature. This may even make it onto that new-fangled thing called You Tube.

At long last he really did feel like a Hell-raiser.

Diamond Is A Girl’s Best Friend

What am I doing in the newspaper today? Did I just make a new movie? Did I tell the world about my journal, about Bobby and Jack, about Chile and the Bay Of Pigs? People would never believe that I could be interested in those things and write them down. I wrote a whole lot of other stuff that had nothing to do with politics. There was a method in my madness and I’m good at pillow talk. It’s surprising what people will divulge when their guard is down. Maybe you didn’t think I would know a word like divulge. You thought I was dumb. Well, there are a lot of things you don’t know about me. I’m a fast learner and it’s surprising what you can learn between the sheets and then use against someone when the chips are down. That sounds mean and I’m not a mean person but I’m just fed up of being treated like a piece of meat.

So, that photograph, in the New York Times, blowing along the wet street right now, that’s me with my blonde curls, in my white dress covering my generous curves. I remember my curves and so do all the men. I remember that photograph being taken as if it was yesterday. It’s the one where I’m not wearing any underwear. My dress billows up around my thighs but I manage to keep it down with both hands. It’s a good job there wasn’t anybody hiding in the grate underneath. They’d have got an eyeful for sure. I used to be her, that woman in the photograph. A Hollywood starlet who became a huge star. It’s difficult to remember, it seems so far away.

I’m confused. I see my photograph in the newspaper but I also see my reflection in a large store window in down town New York and they don’t match, not even a bit. I’m not the woman in the photo any more. In fact, I’m not a women at all. I remember that sexy, vital, alive person that I was. Men would say those things about me. Sexy. Vital. Alive. Funny that, because sometimes, I couldn’t be more dead inside.

Strange, how they saw me. They thought I was actually what it said on the tin. And maybe I was, sometimes. Or maybe that was an act. Or maybe that was just a part of me, or none at all.

Now I am getting confused, because as I walk forward to the big glass front of the New York store, I see that I am very small against the huge window, a scruffy little thing. I feel small and vulnerable, like a child. It reminds me of when I was a child. A man, a lodger in my home, lured me into his room, did things to me and told me not to tell anyone, because nobody would believe me if I did.

I could even scream if I wanted to but I wouldn’t be heard, I wouldn’t be believed or heard.

But, despite this, I told my mom and she slapped me across the face and said I was a liar.

Well, all I can say is, that man was right. I wasn’t believed. He didn’t know her at all, yet, he was able to paint everyone with the same brush like that, and come up smiling. He was completely on the nail there, very sure of himself. But how did he know I wouldn’t be believed? How do men like that know?

After that, I developed a stutter. It never really went away but it was bad for a few years after that and particularly in my early teenage years. I was able to control more as I got older. I could make it go away most times, if I tried hard enough. I am an actress you know.

But when I get nervous or anxious, it comes back. I don’t have a voice now. I can’t seem to speak.

I’m right up to the glass and staring inside. A little girl is staring right back at me. She comes out of the store, stands and stares. She doesn’t look quite so little any more, she’s about eleven, twelve and has a calmness about her that I never had. That’s a comforting trait in another person, if you’ve never had it yourself.

Something tells me she’s a good person, not like Bobby or…Jack, or the others, not like all the other John’s who used me and left.

When I say John’s, I make it sound like I’m a prostitute or something. Ha. Why is that funny? I guess it’s not.

Well, I sort of…when I’ve been with men, I’ve always meant it, somehow, even when I didn’t.

The casting couches don’t count. I needed to get something back because there was no way out.

It was kinda weird, ‘cos I knew men. After all, a man had wanted me that way when I was eight. I was always wanted in that way, even when I didn’t want to be wanted. I was desirable to men from the onset, so, like I said, there was no way out, had never been a way out, no respite.

Wait! I remember now! I’m an icon. That’s what they call me. It was nice being an icon, sometimes. I needed the world to love me but I also wanted to love back. I wanted to be a mother so badly. A mother to a girl like that one standing outside the store. She’s looking at me in such a peculiar way. There’s a woman with her now and they’re talking and still looking at me. Now the woman walks towards a car, but the girl is still standing there, staring, for the longest time.

I think I’d have been a good mother. I wouldn’t have slapped my daughter if she’d have told me some man had done something to her. Children don’t tend to lie about stuff like that. I understand the shock and horror at first, but at some point, I’d have pulled myself together and sorted it somehow, to protect my daughter and make her feel safe. I’d try to make sure it never happened again. At the least, I’d know what not to do.

Looking back, I guess my mum couldn’t handle it. Unlike some moms I’ve heard of, who might enjoy the whole thing. My mom at least had the decency to go insane. In my mind, that gives her an out. Her insanity, her guilt, shows me she cares on some basic level. So that excuses her, and yes, I’d like to think I’d be a good mother. Or at least, know what not to do.

I also think I was a good friend. People said, I was just a dumb blonde. I hated playing all those dumb blonde parts. I could say you were dumb, or the person next to me is dumb but you don’t know what’s cooking inside. How dare people make assumptions about me. I’m a little hot headed. I might be a little crazy. I might be a little insecure now and again, but who isn’t?

I’m a quiet thoughtful kind of gal these days and empty vessels make the most sound. Isn’t that what they say? My last husband taught me how to hold still with myself, how to have a little healthy introspection. Playwrights know about things. But maybe I was a dumb blonde on occasion. Who doesn’t make mistakes?

I wasn’t stupid enough to know I wasn’t being used. And I was clever enough to know, my bust could get me places, straight on the road to Hollywood. I am also smart enough to know that my biggest mistake was to confide in my own mother. I guess you could say ‘she’ and ‘him’ helped make me who I am today…among others. There’s only two ways to go when you’ve been introduced to sex too early. You either go the closed legs way or the wide open legs way. No prizes for guessing which way I went.

Some people make a mockery of nature, they twist it and eat unripe fruit, but despite everything, I always thought sex was a beautiful thing. Early experience opens you up whether you want it to or not and whether you keep it to yourself or not. A door is opened, somewhere, never to be closed again.

The skull of a new born baby is soft, malleable. You can be modelled into any shape when the clay is still soft, then the shape stays.

I shiver now. I got wet when it rained earlier. That girl is coming over. She kneels beside me and talks in a soothing voice. Then she feel around my neck. “Thought so,” she says, “I’ve seen you around here for a day or two now. You don’t belong to anyone, do you?”

I tried to talk back but some kind of strangled something came out. She laughed and a hand came out to stroke my damp fur. “We need to get you dry.” she said. Then she turned and shouted to the woman standing by the car. “Mum, you were right! She doesn’t have a collar. Can you bring the blanket?” The woman immediately went round to open the trunk, took out a pink blanket and came towards us. I was gently rubbed down with the blanket, then the girl wrapped me up in it and carried me to the car.

I may smell of wet dog right now but I feel very special. Perhaps it was my birthday today and that’s why I was splashed on the centre page of the newspaper. Some sort of anniversary, but not of my life…of my death.

I wonder, who was it I talked to about reincarnation all those years ago? Was it Joe? Or Henry? Or Frank? Or maybe one of my girlfriends? It doesn’t matter who it was, but, if they could see me now…

Once we were in the car, the girl stroked me behind my ear and said thoughtfully, “I think I’ll call you Diamond. Would you like that?” Some strangulated sound came out again, but it’s okay, I’ll work on it, like I worked on my stutter.

Her eyes widened in delight and she cuddled me close. “I love you!” she said. Oh God. Why did I never hear that before? If a puppy could cry, I would right now. I seem unable to contain my joy any longer. My tongue comes out and licks the girls face.

One animal is much like another. We’re all slaves to the flesh. Dogs hump other dogs. Hollywood stars hump other Hollywood stars. I sure as hell ain’t blonde any more. I don’t have that white dress that blew up as I stood on that vent. I didn’t think that would go off in history and be one of those, what was I talking about before? Oh yes, icons. An iconic moment in history. That world that I needed to love me, a million people, could never give me what this person is giving me now. She is giving me hope…and something else. I’m surrounded, suddenly and finally, by love. I don’t care too much how I got here. I’m just glad I did.

Grandad Elvis

My Grandad’s name is Elvis Presley. He’s alive and well and living in a remote cottage in the Outer Hebrides. I know what you’re thinking, I’m either deluded, lying or both, but if you read on, you might just change your mind. I first found out about this life changing information one innocuous Tuesday evening while I was staying at my Nan’s.

I go to see if she needs any shopping done or a prescription from the pharmacy. Not that she can’t look after herself. She may be in her late seventies but she still runs around like a teenager and is as sharp as a pin. Well, it was on this Tuesday afternoon that I did all the little chores around the house and Nan went on Facebook. I went shopping to pad out her food cupboard, bought the evening paper and got fish and chips for tea.

I first noticed a change in my normally happy-go-lucky, upbeat grandmother, just before the daily dose of her favourite soap. She was multi-tasking as usual, reading the paper and watching telly. The opening credits of the soap started when she took off her glasses and began to stare at the wall. Tears were streaming down her wrinkled cheeks. “Nan?” I asked gently. “What’s wrong?” She broke out of her trance and wiped her eyes. “I’m fine,” she said scrambling out of her chair. “I wonder if I’ve still got that whiskey left over from Christmas?” I watched as my tea-total grandmother hurried over to the cabinet in the far corner and sank to her knees. I heard the clink of bottle on glass as she frantically searched for the booze. When she finally got her hands on it, she wasted no time, and swigged straight from the bottle. Something was very wrong.

“Isn’t someone getting married on that soap you love?” I said. “You always love a wedding.” She took another slug from the whiskey and fixed me with a hard stare. “How come you’re not married yet?”I felt like I’d been slapped. “W-what do you mean?” I stammered. “I haven’t found the right man yet.”

“Bollocks.” she said.

Again, I felt a bit slapped. “There’s never a right man to marry.” she continued. “Your grandad for instance. I never loved him. Well, not like that gut wrenching kind of love, the kind of love that tears you apart, that pulls your intestines out on the floor and tramples all over them.” I stared at her, as if I was looking at her for the first time, but then, I’d never seen her polish off a quart of fine Scotch whiskey either. It was the drink talking, surely, and what was all this about her not loving Grandad?

“Read that.” she said pointing to the newspaper. A large photograph of Elvis Presley took up the centre spread. A classic black and white picture of him in uniform, complete with peaked cap, fresh out of the army. The headline screamed, ‘Elvis Lives’ – The Hot Tub King! The King Of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, has been seen partying hard with a gaggle of bikini clad babes in a Swedish Hot Tub. A coach load of tourists spotted the Jacuzzi Hound Dog cavorting with the bevy of beauties in Gothenburg, a popular holiday destination in Sweden.’

Underneath the report was another picture, a blurry one this time, of a eighty something man, a silver fox in a hot tub, surrounded by young women. There was steam obscuring his face, but yes, it could have been just an old man in a hot tub, and with his aquiline nose, the characteristic little snarl on the upper lip and the cheeky dimpled smile, it could well have been an elderly Elvis, but the man was dead and had been since 1977, allegedly expiring on the loo from a heart attack. He wouldn’t be the first person to die from constipation and wouldn’t be the last. I sympathised. I had had some nasty bouts myself. Me and Elvis had a lot in common. In fact, I’d always been quite a fan.

After having finished the bottle of whiskey, Nan came over to the sofa and sat down. She stabbed the newspaper viciously with her index finger. “This is a pack of lies!” she said. “It can’t be him. He’s never been to Sweden in his life.” I nodded. “You could be right there. I mean he wasn’t allowed to tour was he? He never left America, so even if he is alive, why should he leave now?”

“Exactly !” said Nan folding her arms.

“I know it sounds stupid but I always thought Elvis could have been my brother in a past life.” I laughed at my own words, but Nana wasn’t laughing. In fact, she looked at me, almost in contempt, like I was imbecilic. “Well, he would be too old to be your brother now, wouldn’t he ?”

I laughed again. “I know. That’s why I said past life.”

She looked at me again, this time curiously. “Why would you think he could even be related to you?”

“I don’t know. Elvis was my nickname in college cos of my black floppy fringe and the way I can curl my upper lip.”

Nana give me the once over. “Yes,” she said. “You have his physique, before he put all that weight on.” She looked off into the middle distance. “Of course, he’s lost all that weight now, since he went on that new diet.”

There was a strange silence and I contemplated her use of Elvis in the present tense, but only briefly, then she said, “You lose your temper like he does.”

“I hope I can stop short of shooting out a television set,” I said. “But that’s because I don’t have a gun.” I laughed at my own joke but Nan wasn’t amused. She was anxious despite the alcohol in her system. She turned to me and gave me a crumpled tenner. “Will you get me some more drink from the off licence ?”

I looked at her in surprise. “But Nan, you don’t drink.”

“Well, I’m drinking tonight,” she said. I stood up and put on my coat. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yes, and you should join me if you know what’s good for you.” I didn’t ask any more questions, instead I went to the off licence and brought back wine and beer. I poured out two glasses of wine and handed one to Nana.

I noticed the newspaper was still open and a handsome young Elvis smiled up at me in his smart uniform.“I definitely have his lip.” I said and snarled to show her.

She smiled slyly. “That doesn’t surprise me. He still has it himself.” She looked at the paper again and took a sip of wine. She was starting to relax. “I should phone up those journalists and give them a piece of my mind.” she pointed to the Hot Tub picture. “He wasn’t in Sweden.”

“I don’t think so either.” I said humouring her. “I bet he doesn’t even have a passport.”

Nana gave me another contemptuous look, like I should know better. “I’m saying I know he wasn’t in Sweden, ” she said quietly, “because that day, he was with me.” I looked at her, saw the sincerity in her eyes and realised that she wasn’t joking. My heart sank. Alzheimer’s was the first thought in my head, but, she went to the doctors all the time, wouldn’t it have been spotted before now? Was this how it started? Damn, she’d been so lucid up until now. I felt tears prick my eyes and took a large gulp of wine.

So that was how it felt when you were losing someone you loved to dementia. It was devastating. Where had my Nan gone?

“On that day, last Tuesday, he was with me, in Scotland.”

“Last Tuesday, really?” I shouldn’t be humouring her but felt I had to. I was scared not to. “We didn’t do anything really. Just talked.” she said. I took another gulp of wine. She was ill, deluded, but at the same time, calm and almost credible.

She sighed. “I hope he doesn’t see it.”

“Who?”

“Elvy. If he sees this story he’ll go ballistic.” She continued staring down at the newspaper for a moment and then sat bolt upright and sprang up from the couch. “I’ll phone him.” Nan ran to the phone and began to dial.

“Nan, who are you calling?” She couldn’t possibly be calling Elvis. He was a figment of her lost mind. The phone rang out a couple of times. Oh, let me guess, I thought, he’s out. Elvis is not at home today. I heard a click on the other end and held my breath. I wondered how she was going to get out of this one. ”Hello?” she asked. “Is that Elvy?”

I heard a faint voice over the phone, a deep Memphis drawl with a Scottish twang.

“Oh, so you’ve seen it?” said Nan. “It’s all a pack of lies. I don’t know who that man is in the tub, I mean he’s got grey hair and I knew it wasn’t you ‘cos I was with you last Tuesday. Yes Elvy, I know you didn’t need your Viagra.”

I’d had enough. I snatched the phone from her. “Who is this?” I demanded. I was met with silence down the line. “Who are you and how do you know my Nan?” Suddenly the phone went dead. Nan grabbed it from me.“Hello?” she said down the phone. “Oh, you frightened him off.”

“Frightened him off? What kind of fruitcake is he? If you’re playing a joke on me Nan, it’s not funny.” When she saw how disturbed I was, she softened, sat me down and said gently. “It’s not a joke. Elvis is alive.”

I sighed and put my head in my hands. I didn’t want to hear any more but Nan just kept going. “I know I should have told you about him, but I couldn’t. All these silly stories in the press are deliberate misinformation, to deflect from what’s really going on. And when I saw all that stuff in the newspaper…”

I went to get my coat. “Nan, I have to go.” I could hear the weariness in my own voice. “I’ll get a doctor to come and see you. He’ll sort…”

“No, wait ! I have pictures to prove it!”

“Nan, don’t do this. It’s not funny any more.”

But she was already running to the bedroom and before I could button up my coat, she’d brought out a shoebox full of photographs and had got me to sit down and look at the pictures. I recognised most of them, I’d seen them before. There were pictures of Nan when she was younger. There were even some of me as a baby. Underneath the photographs, at the bottom of the box was a brown paper package. She opened it carefully and took out a dozen black and white photo’s.

These were pictures of my Nan I’d never seen before. A young, slim, vivacious woman, dressed immaculately in fifties fashions, her hair piled high on her head in a beehive. In other pictures, she was dressed more casually, in checked shirts and cut off jeans. Next to her in each one, their bodies pressed together, was a young man, who looked so much like Elvis, it couldn’t really have been anyone else. A young and sexy Elvis, next to a young and sexy Nan, but it couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be.

“Look,” she said. “There we are outside some casino in Vegas. It’s still there. You can check it out on google Earth and this, this one was taken outside Graceland gates. Can you see them?” She pointed to herself and Elvis with their arms around each other and then at the golden gates with ‘Graceland’ embedded in the middle.

“We had a fling,” she said, putting the photographs back in the brown paper wrapper. “It lasted a couple of months, best time of my life, until I found out I was pregnant. I met your Grandad and married him quickly. I never meant to trap him or trick him. I was a lucky sod. No-one ever knew whose child I was carrying. I did love your Grandad and we had a very happy marriage, as you know.”

I shook my head. “What were you doing in America in the first place ?”

“I was on one of those exchange trips. I made friends with a girl over there, who had two tickets to go and see him at a local venue. We went backstage to meet him,” she smiled coyly, “and the rest, as they say, is history. We’ve secretly kept in touch for over 50 years.”

I shook my head again. I found it all so it hard to believe, but bit by bit, it was making sense. Last Tuesday Nan said she was going to stay with a friend, so I wasn’t to come round. She had also seemed strangely happy the day Elvis had died and I wondered why at the time. I thought she’d at least be sad. She was always watching his awful films, the ones he loathed himself.

I followed Nan into the bedroom and watched her put the box of photographs under the bed. “Elvis was blonde, just like your mother.” She looked at my black hair.

“I dye mine.” I said running my fingers through it.

“Just like your Grandad.” she said.

We drank and talked into the night and I learned about Grandad Elvis. “Don’t tell anyone.” said Nan. “Not even your mum. She doesn’t know.”

“How am I supposed to keep something like this under wraps?”

“I shouldn’t have told you, but I know you well enough, to know you can keep a secret. He doesn’t want anyone to know he’s alive. He loves just being Mr. Aaron Jones. And he has the best cover. He’s an Elvis tribute act. A critic last week said that he was nothing like the real thing and that suits him just fine.”

I stayed the night and we fell asleep talking. The next day, I had a lot to think about. “I mean it.” said Nan as she walked me to the door. “You tell anyone about Elvis and they’ll have to scrape you off the floor by the time I’ve finished with you.”

“Nan, that’s a terrible thing to say.”

“Well okay, I’ll just box your ears then.”

“Don’t worry. You can count on me.”

On the doorstep, we hugged goodbye. “Do you think maybe I might see him sometime?”

“We’ll see, but remember, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. Maybe I’ll get him to send you a lock of his hair.”

A month later, I got a package. The post mark was Scotland, the Outer Hebrides. Inside the parcel was a lock of black hair and a photo of a man with a mountain behind him. He looked like he could be Elvis and my Grandad at the same time. He signed the photo ‘Jonesy.’ I still have it, along with the lock of hair. Nan’s right, I can keep a secret. Maybe they’ll find it when I’m dead and it will end up in a tabloid newspaper. Whatever happens, it all goes some way towards proving that my grandad is Elvis Presley and he’s alive and well and living in the Outer Hebrides.

How To Kick Your Incubus Out Of Bed

Nat texted me one night with a wink smiley. “Joe is keeping me awake. He won’t let me sleep.”
I winked back. I didn’t know who Joe was but I guessed he wouldn’t last long with Natalie. She reeled them in, then let them go. Sometimes they didn’t want to go, and sometimes she didn’t want them to go, but I had my own nocturnal problems to worry about.
I was woken at 3 a.m, by a bald headed creature on top of me. It was naked with pasty skin that looked as if it had never seen the light of day. It had a untamed mono eyebrow, but on the upside, its little pot belly hid any trace of the genitals…if it had any. Thankfully, and for reasons unknown, the main man of this hideous creature was blessedly absent.
This thing had been in my nightmares for several years now. I had never caught it in the act, until now, when I’d woken up and there it was, sitting high up on my stomach, its little legs and feet splayed out, like the way a toddler might sit on the floor, as he played with his toys.
Now that I was awake, I could see that it was clawing at my chest, yes there. It was exactly as a cat kneads away at a human lap, with yellow claws at the end of huge hairy paddle like paws, way out of proportion to the rest of its body. It’s lips bled out of the lines slightly, like the red lipstick daubed senior citizen on Bingo Night. That mouth sucked the very life energy from mine leaving me feeling breathless, drained, weak and assaulted every time. While I’d been unconscious and helpless, I’d never known what that feeling of suffocation was, until now. I always thought the duvet was wrapped around my throat, choking me somehow, but every time I woke up, I was never caught up in anything.
Now I was looking into its eyes and I couldn’t look away. It looked like the creature had been deprived of sleep for years, judging by the dark blue shadows under its eyes. All the while, it was doing the kneading thing that cats do, it absolutely transfixed me with its feral yet intelligent stare. I realised I couldn’t move. I was paralysed under its primitive but powerful gaze.Then, I began to fight, I fought with my mind and my body and with every fibre in my being, I fought against that creature but I was pinned to the pillow by a great weight.
Then all of a sudden it was gone. I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I lay there, for what seemed like hours, in the darkness, trying to get my breath back. Even though I was no longer under its disgusting little frame, I couldn’t move a muscle. I tried. It was as if I’d been injected with a immobilising poison that took its time to wear off.
Eventually, it did wear off and the next day, I walked into a church. To my embarrassment, my hand was clammy as the deacon shook it. “I need help.” I whispered. We went somewhere quiet to talk. Afterwards, he scribbled a prayer on some paper and gave it to me. “You’re being visited by a type of demonic entity called an incubus.” he said. “They appear for all sorts of reasons. They can also be sent by your enemies as a form of attack. The only way to get rid of it is to pray it away in the Name of Jesus Christ.”
Will it work?” I asked.
He smiled as if I’d said something funny. “If you do it in His Name, yes.”
Before I went to bed, I read the prayer out loud.
I woke up at 3 a.m, as usual but this time I wasn’t suffocating, or paralysed. Instead there was a knocking from inside my wardrobe. I switched on the light and looked inside. Cowering in the corner was my incubus. He didn’t look quite so frightening any more, more like a little old man and without the paralysis and the terror that went with it, I was emboldened. “What are you doing here?” I was surprised to find that for once, I was angry rather than afraid, and I could talk. I was normally unable to when under attack. “I prayed you away today. I was told it would definitely work.” I began to say the prayer again out loud.
The creature flinched. “No, don’t. Don’t!” It put its large paddled paws to its head as if it had a headache and closed its eyes. “The prayer did work.” rasped the demon. “I was returned to the one who sent me, but I got lost on the way back. It happens sometimes when I have to learn a new route. I’ve never been very good at directions and I’m not going to ask the others.”
I didn’t ask who the others were.
It’s embarrassing.” continued the incubus. “I have my pride to think about.”
I bet you do. Did someone send you?”
Humans are so petty.” said the demon.
I asked again but it just stared at me with those half ferocious, half thoughtful piercing eyes and before I could fall into the hypnotic blue, I recited the prayer again. The incubus winced as if in pain and disappeared.
A few weeks later, I was at Nat’s house. Until then, I’d never really paid much attention to her black candles and voodoo doll all stuck with pins. I picked the doll up. It looked a bit like me. “I hope you’re not cursing me.” I said half jokingly. She reddened, snatched the doll out of my hand and changed the subject quickly. “Hey guess what, I finally dumped Joe.”
Joe.” I said, vaguely remembering the text. “Oh yes, that new guy who won’t let you sleep. ”
He serviced my car and don’t you remember him smiling at you?”
I shook my head. “You smiled back.” she said. “I thought you were both having a moment there in the garage…but…well, it’s official, it was me he fancied after all.” she said smugly. “I think I only went out with him because…well…I’m competitive, as you know.”
The man who serviced your car?” I couldn’t even remember what he looked like under all that motor oil, but Nat did and had thought I liked him. I remembered the demons words. ‘Humans can be so petty.’
Yes and jealous too and complete bitches to boot. Who needs friends when…
Well, it’s over now.” she said with a sigh. “We’re not as compatible as I thought we were. He spent far too much time under those cars of his.” It was then I noticed that Natalie was looking very tired and drawn lately, absolutely exhausted, a shadow of the girl she used to be. It’s as though, I thought, she’s been up all night, as if she hasn’t had a decent kip for weeks, as if someone, or something, just won’t let her sleep….

© Sue Young

Evil Twin

I had known my evil twin had been around for a while. Strangers had been staring at me and whispering for years, looking terrified and disgusted at the same time, as if I’d done some unspeakable act.

Then one day, while buying some milk at my local store, I ran into the bitch. I was trembling and sweating as I hurried home. She was already sitting there, with her hand on my husbands knee. He looked happier than I’d ever seen him and somehow younger than usual. She was smiling in that confident, self assured way, that I’d never known when I looked into the mirror.

My husband stood up quickly.He was suddenly in a panic to see the two of us. If I’d have been gone any longer, maybe the unthinkable would have happened. It wasn’t a long haul to the bedroom. After he had calmed down a little and was up to speed on the situation, he went into the kitchen. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. (He’s British) We’ll sort this out when I get back.”

My twin approached me. Even though we were wearing the same clothes, hers somehow looked better.She walked like a model, shoulders back, head held high.

She read my mind. “I’m surprised he hasn’t seen the differences already. I love my life but you’re afraid of it. You’re weighed down with the cares of the world and closed off from the joys of it. You are always trying to squeeze into the smallest darkest space, like a mouse, in a hole.”

I ran to my defence, with a shrug. “I always thought I was okay.”

She chuckled. “Okay, yes. Nice, yes. If you had more balls like me, you’d be a Cinderella that actually went to the ball, instead of sitting at home, poking the coals.”

“Poking the coals is underrated.” I said. My husband returned from the kitchen. He downed his steaming hot tea in one go. (I don’t know how he does that).”Okay, which one of you is my wife?”

There was a silence. She looked at me as if to say, ‘He’ll never believe you. I’ve already done the ground work.” The only sound at that moment was my heart breaking as I looked at his kind and beautiful face.

If, by some supernatural event, I’d been forced to swap places and was now the evil twin, anything was possible. I did not have the confines of my other moral self to worry about. So now, I had only one decision to make. What unspeakable act should I commit first?

It was time to kill myself.

I moved towards her, staring at her lily white neck and flexing my bare hands. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. My husband jumped up and ran into my arms. I saw my evil twin visibly wither, until, with a contorted, twisted and bitter look on her face, she disappeared into thin air.

“She won’t be bothering us again.” he said.

I looked at him in surprise. “How did you know?”

“It was just one thing, one physical difference to show the true nature, the true condition of the soul, something that couldn’t be disguised, one thing she was unable to hide or deceive me by. It was the eyes.”

 

© Sue Young

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Demands

As a top celebrity, I don’t have to explain my dressing room demands to you. I just tell you what I want and you give it to me, okay?

Do I make myself clear? Am I being too much of a diva? What did you say? I can read lips you know. You just called me a spoilt bitch. Oh yes you did. What? I misheard? There’s been a hitch? Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. What’s the hitch?

No crates of beer? Now you listen to me, get me that beer or your name will be history in this town. Do you hear me – history! What was that? Oh, you’ll get me what I want. Now that’s more like it. That makes sense. Smart move.

Well now. Let’s see. I’d like champagne, a crate of beer for the crew. I love my crew. I love them like children. I want a four poster bed with red silk sheets scattered with rose petals, orchids in each corner of the room, a bag of toiletries…

(She went on and on, and eventually..)

Ah, I see you brought everything, the bed, the sheets, the orchids. Now get out. I vant to be alone. Did you hear what I said? I said it with a ‘V’, that’s serious. We’re not kidding around here.

My, my, you are a cheeky one.Well, normally, I’d have security take you by the scruff of the neck and haul you out of here for such talk but I do like gophers with spirit, preferably whiskey and coke. Ha ha. I said ha ha! I made a joke, you idiot – laugh!

There, that’s more like it. I can see your tonsils. Well done.

Okay, I’ll tell you why I demanded all these things for my dressing room. First of all, I need the alcohol because I’m an alcoholic. I’m a famous artist and most of us are alcohol fuelled because we’re tortured, tortured I tell you! The grape and the grain keep us going.

Now, I need the flowers because I like nature. Nothing beats the sight and smell of fresh flowers. The red bed is there to stimulate me enough so I won’t fall asleep before or after a show. It’s a lounging bed people. Plus, red is hot. My superstar friends will also be suitably stimulated by my red bed. It’ll get them in the party mood for my after show soiree.

Lastly, is the bag of toiletries, toiletry products are a must. Cleanliness is next to Godliness and I want you to think I’m clean but I’m a dirty little thing really. Anyway, I need to be fresh at least before and after my show.

There. I’ve told you now, satisfied? I’ll give you the rest of the dawn off because I’m such a generous person. What? Wait! What did you just call me? Oh, a cult!

Awww, that’s very sweet of you. I do believe I’m one of the biggest cults in the business.

 

© Sue Young

 

 

Odd Socks & Autographs

Once again, I’d taken the socks out of the dryer and found an odd one. I told myself, this time, I wouldn’t get frustrated or annoyed. This time I would know where the odd sock had gone.

I put a micro camera in each of the socks. I would be able to track where any missing sock had gone. I played back the footage from my computer…

Red Sock was astounded. “But I don’t think I’ve got what it takes to be a star.”

“Nonsense” said Rough Wool Khaki Sock. “We’ll train you up. Besides, that bright red colour of yours, is just what we’re looking for.”

Red Sock gulped. “But…I had a partner.”

“Oh yes.” said Rough Wool Khaki Sock. “That’s true. We come in pairs, but you’re in the real world now. You’re not a pair any more.”

“But we belong together!” wailed Red Sock in a panic.

Rough Wool Khaki Sock sighed and put his ribbed cuff around Red’s shoulders. His voice became a soothing whisper. “Look, that other red sock of yours isn’t as good as you. He is faded, was left out on the window sill on a summers day. He can’t hack it. There’s nothing we can do for him now. He’ll probably end up in an old socks home. Now, do you want to be a star or not?”

“Of course I want to be a star.”

“Well then, follow me into the Academy. It’s this way.”

As Rough Wool Khaki Sock hopped away, Red Sock escaped and fled into the dryer, where he found one damp, depressed and slightly faded red sock right at the back of it. He smiled happily and snuggled close. “I’m back!” he said. “I’m so glad we’re together again!”

“So am I.” said Faded Red Sock.

Well, this was puzzling. If the two socks were together, then how come I was sitting there still looking at one red sock. I checked the back of the dryer. there was nothing there. Then I noticed there was still some footage left on the camera…

Slinky Silk Sock wrapped her instep around Faded Red Sock. “You’re just what I’m looking for to be in my new musical ‘Almost Pink’. I’m going to make you a star!”

© Sue Young