Pourquoi, Pork-You?

Much to Mandy’s relief, the 4.47 PM sleeper train from Aberdeen to London, left exactly on time. The air inside the compartment felt cool, a man in unusual dress, had already made himself feel at home. With the emergency pandemic regulations in force, two people per sleeping compartment had become the new norm.

“‘Allo, may I ‘elp you with your suitcase?”

Continue reading “Pourquoi, Pork-You?”

Your Wife Need Never Know!

To a fashion, the United States government’s first ever experiment for time travel moving forward, had actually worked. “Exact precision, needs tweaking by the technicians.” The pilot had recorded later in his log. “Admittedly,” he’d reflected, “I could have ended up on an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, or inside a mountain of rock, or on a busy and fast moving freeway.” Such nightmarish scenarios avoided proved endless, when given proper consideration.

According to the read-out on the auto guidance i-device strapped to his wrist, providence had played him in with a lucky hand. Albeit cramped-up inside a small, walk-in maintenance cupboard with his foot wedged inside a plastic bucket, it transpired that Lieutenant Commander John Eagle, of the Florida-based US Special Secret Projects Unit, had rematerialised in a club named Iggy’s. The location: 1967 Fairview Avenue, Middletown, England. His mind and body, as far as he could tell, had survived the journey fully intact.

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Imaginary Friend

So, here I am, at the top of a raised gangway secured to a vintage paddle steamer, a bouquet of pink carnations in my hand and about to make the boldest statement of my life. The backstory as to how I come to be here, I will explain, briefly.

Despite growing up to realise Aditya is viewed by society as an ‘imaginary friend’, he has been in my life since before any other meaningful event I am able to recall. Today, he is no less real. He is the brother I never had and better known to me alone, as Adi.

I know. You are sceptical. You didn’t have an imaginary friend when growing up, nor have you ever known anyone who did. I’m sorry for you, I really am. Believe me when I tell you, you have missed out. Right from the beginning, Adi has been my sage, providing support, advice and guidance. He’s given comfort when needed, warmed me, warned me, saved and occasionally scolded me. But he has never, ever, abandoned me. Unconditionally, he has always been here, right by my side.

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By Lunch Time I Was Exhausted …

You might not imagine so, but creating an ice sculpture is very tiring work. Today, by lunch time I was exhausted. My name is Guðrún, I am an artist and during the winter months of the upper Northern Hemisphere, I busk my skills in towns and cities, creating ice sculptures in return for donations of appreciation from tourists and shoppers.

Continue reading “By Lunch Time I Was Exhausted …”

Now, I Only Have to Think.

I understand how social media,
auction sites and search engines,
interweave connections,
passing information amongst themselves,
without any direct,
sapien involvement.

Yet,
now,
I notice my own passing thoughts,
birthed in my brain,
appear soon afterwards as adverts on the computer screen.

Continue reading “Now, I Only Have to Think.”

Suddenly

Scientist:
"Listen Doctor Wong,
You've got it all wrong.
No benefits are gained from 'Chinese medicine' concoctions."
Doctor:
"Blue-eyes, I object.
Counter, in effect.
Our recipes are handed down through generations."
Scientist:
"Maybe as you say,
But Mao Zedong had his way,
in 1950 driving forward their popularisation."
Doctor:
"Young scientist, think you're hip?
Well, just you regain your grip!
To suggest political necessity and conniving motivation!"

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by picture)
With special thanks to the Covid-19 Lockdown

Judi Came Around

Since waking two hours earlier than his alarm, Gregor remains in a state of tension. Four knocks on the front door cause his anxiety to rapidly climb. In the time taken to respond, he’s flattened his hair neatly, pulled at the sleeves and hem of his plaid shirt, wiped both hands on the back of his navy-coloured chinos and taken three deep breaths. The door opens to reveal a woman of senior years, dressed in a tight fitting knitted black top, a purplish paisley print shawl, dark blue jeans and tan leather ankle boots.
“Gregor Samson,” she says, holding aloft a piece of paper, “this is your advert?”
“Dame Judi Dench, ma’am,” Gregor bows his head respectfully, “indeed that is my advert. I am so pleased you decided to come.” Staring at the actor with widening eyes, he absorbs the vision before him.
“After our brief telephone call yesterday, there was never any doubt Mr Samson. Once I make up my mind, I rarely change it. Now if it suits you,” her voice pinched, “perhaps I may be permitted to enter?” The impatient tone shakes Gregor out of his stasis.
“Yes, yes please come in,” they pass through a small entrance hall, “mind you don’t trip over anything on the floor. As you can see, my apartment doubles-up as a studio.” Gregor shoves scattered boxes out of the way with the side of his foot, creating a pathway leading to a yellow-coloured, wingback armchair. Picking up two circular cushions, he smashes them together with an orchestral bravado. Returning them to the chair and gesturing with his out-stretched hand, Gregor invites his guest to be seated.
“Thank you. Now before we continue any further,” she says, perched undecidedly, “I understand that you are Mr Gregor Samson, a would-be artist and – obviously you understand – I am Dame Judi Dench.”
“Eminent actor, star of stage and screen – from Shakespearean tragedy to international espionage – and much more in between!” Gregor interjects, “Yes ma’am, I confirm, we are reading from the very same page.”
“R-right … well, Mr Samson, I propose we set to one side the titles and address each other by the names our loved ones know us by.” While Gregor processes this information, Judi takes the opportunity to scan the immediate environment. Books stacked on window sills compete for space with an array of mismatched ornaments. Pictures hang unevenly from the wall and the floor is scattered with different sized boxes containing coloured paper, magazines, postcards and photos. Her host sits opposite on a cheap sofa-bed, covered with a Liberty print throw.
Struggling with nerves, Gregor begins arranging pens and pencils in neat, colour-schemed rows on the coffee table situated between them. Judi observes, clasping her knee with both hands.
“Judi, can I offer you coffee,” Gregor blurts out, “tea, or something stronger already? I have vodka – although if I remember correctly,” he says, adopting a Scottish accent, “The Macallan is ye favourite tipple!” A black cat enters, freezing into a state of alert. She stares at Judi, before scampering away silently into another room.
“No Gregor, a character I am well known for playing displayed a liking for whisky. Not I, for in real life I lead a teetotal existence.”
“Oh!” Gregor is stunned, “If this is the case, then how can you take part in the project?”
“I assure you, this is the case and I can take part in this project.”
“You realise,” Gregor questions, “you have to get blind drunk?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Not acting drunk – and not a just bit tipsy.” Gregor’s hands animate to illustrate; an index and middle finger sway and stumble across the upturned palm of his other hand. “No, a falling-over, paralytic kind of drunk.”  Signalling the hour, a clockwork cuckoo on the wall behind Judi, extends outwards from a small wooden cabin and calls several times in a row. A look of surprise ripples across the actor’s stoic expression. The two sit in stillness, waiting for the bird to be done.
“I have your advert.” Judi unfolds the piece of paper she’s had gripped in her hand since entering the apartment. “The one I answered, prompting our telephone conversation yesterday and bringing me here today.” A pair of reading glasses open and slide onto the bridge of her nose; she clears her throat. “Volunteer famous actors wanted for ‘Blind Drunk’ photographic portrait series.” Her voice is strong and clear. “A short interview taken while inebriated, to be published alongside photo. Gallery exhibition and book to follow.” Judi re-folds the paper and reading glasses, slipping them back into her handbag. “Most succinct, may I say Gregor. Nothing at all ambiguous contained within those words.”
“You are prepared to give up your teetotal pledge, especially for this project?” Gregor is transfixed on Judi, elbows resting on knees, his fingers grooming the short goatee beard clinging to his chin.
“It is not a pledge Gregor, it has been a lifestyle choice – choice being the operative word.” Sinking back into the chair, her forearms effortlessly balanced on the supports, the actor adopts a dignified air.
“Look,” Gregor says, “I have a bunch of questions, but I want you drunk before I begin.”
“Blind drunk?”
“Pretty much.”
“Then without further ado Gregor, let the proceedings begin.”

Gregor gets busy. In front of the doorway to the living room, he pulls down a white screen fed from a roller attached to the ceiling. Pulled taught, he secures it to a hook screwed into the floor.
“May I?” he says, indicating the need to move the armchair next to the screen. Judi watches on, as Gregor completes the scene with a side table, onto which he places a lace doily and a plain bedside lamp.
“Cushions?”
“Cushions!” Gregor retrieves the two fluffy objects from where they lay on the floor. Bashing them together once more, he tosses them onto the armchair. As Judi moves to take her seat, the black cat reappears and runs between her legs.
“Margot Fonteyn!” Gregor calls out sharply. “Away!”
“Margot, Fonteyn?” Judi asks, as she lowers herself down into the yellow armchair.
“Well, she was pretty nimble on her feet as a kitten, at the time the name seemed appropriate. Two years on and she takes actual pleasure in up-ending ornaments, visitors and so forth.”
“Not quite a ballerina then. However, I imagine she is an excellent companion to you.”
Two double-sized shot glasses are produced from a cupboard, along with a bottle of whisky.
“I wasn’t teasing about The MacCallan.” Gregor turns the bottle around in his hands, casually scanning the label.
“You will be partaking with me Gregor?”
“Yes Judi. I’ll probably be imbibing more slowly and less – I guess. Getting drunk with someone is much more pleasurable than drinking when the other person remains stone cold sober.” Gregor hands a lead crystal glass to Judi.
“I agree, thank you for your consideration. Better fill this up, we had might as well get stuck in straight away.”

30 minutes later …

“… and so I said to Daniel … ‘Daniel, Daniel, we’d better just watch ourselves, yes we’d better … watch ourselves!’ Y-you know what people are like, Gregor, people talk. I mean, once the press get a hold of something …” Judi empties her glass, upending it, her head thrown backwards as Gregor’s camera triggers the flash. “More please!” the glass is hit hard onto the side table. “People will start saying it’s all a bit oedipally, oedippypally, no … oedipal, between him m-and me.”
“I know, but it’s true, there’s a real chemistry on screen between you and Craig.” Gregor empties the bottle, filling the glass to the top. “Don’t worry, I’ve got another one. It’s weird, because it is like an icy kind of chemistry, you know? Both of your characters are actually rather cold … like, they show very little outward emotion.”
“Y-es, I suppose that’s true. Of course he’s not got many close friends.” The actor sinks the contents of her glass in one gulp. “You’d better open that other bottley-bottle, young man.”
“But it works, it works Judi.” Gregor clicks the shutter of his camera several more times, before quickly opening the second bottle and refilling Judi’s glass.
“Well, thank you Gregor, thank you … thank you.” The actor empties her glass another time. “You know, I am way to old for you. Way too old even to be considered a cougar, nowadays, actually …”
“Well, I think you’re beautiful Judi. I think you are a very beautiful person in every aspect – you know that, don’t you Judi, you know that I think that … don’t you?” Gregor squints through the view-finder, feeling a little worse-for-wear. Drawing the image in and out of focus … he notices Judi has her eyes closed. “Judi? He waits a moment. Her eyes remain closed. “J-J-J-Judi?”.

Two and a half hours later …

Judi came around. “Oh … my, head.”
“I have some orange squash” Gregor says.
“Muh …?”
“It is fifty percent actual juice.”
“I don’t suppose you have some good old-fashioned tap water, do you Gregor Samson?”
Gregor fetches Judi a large glass of water, with ice cubes added for good measure. “I’m so pleased you’re not dead.” He said, placing the glass carefully in the actor’s hands.
“Muh …” She sips her water.
“I mean, you are knocking on Judi. I am so relieved you didn’t die here.”
“Thank you Gregor, me too. Have you got what you needed? I hope so, because I am not doing this again. At least not for a good long while.”
“Oh yes, all brilliant, fantastic, Judi you were wonderful. Look … I’ve got a taxi waiting for you outside.”
“Muh … thank you … thank you Gregor. Now, if I can just get out of here without tripping over that fucking cat … and breaking my neck, it will all have been worth it.”

Justice at Space Museum

Looking back, it had all seemed so very simple: I understood my orders, I knew my target, his current appearance and exact whereabouts. Although decades had passed, it had been decided. Under no circumstances, I’d been informed, will a secret service operative turned double agent, slip away into a newly invented life and escape final retribution. Justice, must be served and due to my particular specialism, I had been selected as executioner.
Following my arrival in the city of Chürke on a fresh, sunny Sunday morning, I immediately set about preparations in my usual meticulous manner. Selecting a room in the Grande Belmondo Hotel facing directly opposite the Space Museum, had seen me off to an excellent start. From a balcony window, for much of the following week, I carefully studied the movements of Professor Dumbelassè with my handheld, twenty-five times magnification, naval captain’s telescope (a family heirloom). Fortunately, the professor turned out to be a creature of habit and by the Thursday, I had set my watch to emit a beep in synchronisation with each distinct, routine event.
Quicker than anticipated, there came no need to sit at the window for hours on end. Instead, I found distractions to help pass the time. Watching television featured strongly, as did brushing up on my phrasebook lingo – in case the need should arrive – and reading a novel, which back home I’d struggled to significantly break into.
Following an audio alert from my wristwatch, a quick glance through the window confirmed the professor’s arrival for work, or his ten minute coffee break combined with mid-morning stroll. And later, him scampering over to the town square sandwich stall, collecting his regular order of currywurst in a bap.
On my fold-out quarto tabletino screen, I scrutinised the digitised architectural blueprints for the museum. These had been stolen some eight years or so ago – before I’d even begun working for the service. I had to admire the astute cathedral-thinking of my employers, hacking the original architect’s archive, then sitting on the files for this long, guaranteeing concerns for the theft and security breach had long since disappeared.
Able to identify the trade entrance, I committed to memory a route through a network of corridors, leading to the main exhibition hall. An online virtual tour provided me with up-to-date information concerning the exact positioning of each exhibit. These, I carefully transposed onto the floor-plans. Actual-scale rockets, lunar modules, satellites and replica space probes were amongst the many space programme artefacts the professor had collected. At key locations within the main hall, video documentaries and sound-effects played on loop. Well-constructed dioramas recreated scenes from every-day life on the Moon and Martian colonies. I watched as figures clad in modern, light-weight spacesuits, populated common scenes. Space travelling families entertained friends, scientists were depicted in cut-away laboratories, geologists shown examining rocks. Motion sensors, when approached, activated movement and simple interactions between the characters, transporting the visitor into an immersive experience.
In the evenings, before sleep-time and in the mornings before hauling myself out from the comfort of the hotel bed, I imagined a museum walk-through, growing evermore familiar with the details necessary to help complete my task.
On day six, I received notification from command. The coded instructions were to eliminate the professor the very next day. This, I remember thinking to myself, will almost be too easy.

Security in the museum struck me as surprisingly lapse. I picked the lock on the back door within a matter of seconds. Although well-versed in overcoming security systems, none existed within the service areas and I easily found my way to a props, scenery and costume storage room. Inside, I located a complete spacesuit outfit. Stripping down to my underwear, I gently eased myself into the suit, clamped down the helmet and slipped on a pair of gloves and boots. Back in the corridor, I navigated to the main exhibition hall. The time on my watch read eight-forty-five, meaning fifteen minutes before the professor’s arrival and another thirty minutes before the museum opened its doors to the public.
My first problem: I wished I’d left the boots off, at least until I’d reached my goal position. I hadn’t anticipated how much they weighed and found myself taking long, slow strides, each one requiring considerable effort to complete. Luckily, I had time to play with and took my place on an exhibit at a dining table amongst a family of space colonists, several minutes ahead of Professor Dumbelassè’s arrival and daily inspection rounds.
I’d not long settled into my seat, clear lines of vision established, when the echo of a heavy fire door opening and closing, reverberated around the hall. This, signalled my quarry’s entrance. The professor appeared, dressed in a white lab coat and carrying a mug of coffee. In his other hand, he held a newspaper picked up from the subway, which he read while walking. Upon reaching a display, his gaze briefly scanned, then he continued on, taking a sip from his mug at each interval. He appeared much older closer up and in comparison to the images contained on file. Ambling around the museum, I observed a stout man with a florid complexion and a weary, resigned expression, suggesting acceptance of this as his life now. Whilst watching him ascend the steps to a section of a shuttlecraft, I wondered if he missed the high stakes adventure and excitement of his former profession.
The lighting inside the flight deck flickered on, as the professor disappeared inside. With this as my cue to move, I left the diorama and plodded in my heavy boots the short distance to the stairway. Checking the time on the large, digital clock situated above the main entrance to the museum, I proceeded to take my first two steps up the stairs. To my unpleasant surprise, lifting either of my feet for a second step proved impossible. The boots – I concluded – were magnetised. As I stood there frozen to the spot, the gentle rise-and-fall whirr of a vacuum cleaner emanating from inside the shuttlecraft, reached me at the bottom of the stairway. At least for the moment, the professor appeared occupied.
Working quickly, I resolved that whilst my legs refused to lift directly upwards, if I twisted and leant heavily with great effort over onto one side of my ankle, the soles of the boots gradually peeled free from the metal steps. My progress slowed significantly.
Half-way up, I paused for breath. Condensation had formed on the inside of the helmet and perspiration clad my body. By my assessment, if I didn’t do something soon, I might pass out from heat exhaustion. Left with no alternative, I knelt down, released several catches and stepped barefoot out of the boots. Simultaneously, the sound from the vacuum cleaner died, followed by indistinct rummaging noises, suggesting completion of the cleaning task inside the shuttlecraft. Instinctively, I tried to lift both empty boots with my hands – but they remained stuck fast. Then … I heard a voice.
What on God’s Earth … ?” Looking up, I saw Professor Dumbelassè standing at the top of the stairway, hands on hips. “You are struggling with the anti-gravitational boots. You see there,” he pointed his finger, “there is a red-coloured release button on the back of the heel section, press it twice, firmly now.” I followed his instructions and each boot came away freely. “What are you doing in one of the museum’s spacesuits? You know they are not replicas, they are the real thing. You shouldn’t even be in here, we are not yet open to the public and you need to purchase a valid visitor’s ticket. Please, explain yourself to me!”
I remained silent, peering through misted glass. The far easier barefoot ascension of the stairs came as a relief. Momentarily, the professor appeared distracted. “Your … your toenails, you have them painted green!” A truth, the outcome of becoming super-bored twelve hours earlier. “You – you – you, you’re a woman!” He shouted, stuttering at me. I had to lose the helmet, it had become a rotisserie for my head. A firm twist released the headgear and allowed cool air to rush inside. With the helmet removed, we stood stock still, staring at each other in silence.
“What … what do you want from me?” The professor finally asked, his question prompted by an involuntary twitch, which see-sawed several times back and forth across two bushy eyebrows. “Why don’t you talk?”
Honestly, I am an efficient, highly economical operative. I don’t waste time, I don’t waste words, I don’t engage in philosophical debate with a target. I am here for a singular reason. It served no purpose to elaborate on this with the professor. Although, with his knowledge gained in his previous employment, I sensed a dawning realisation taking place.
“You’re here for me, aren’t you?” His voice quavered, instilled with fear. “The fact you appear unarmed, this informs me of your physical attributes in the way of the martial arts.” Crestfallen, he drew in a deep sigh. “It also tells me, it is pointless to resist in any.” I drew level with him on the stairway. “You know,” he said turning to face me, “here, with what I have been instrumental in creating, I thought I had finally found happiness in my life. It seems such a shame for this to all end now. But I know, you were perhaps just about to tell me, there is no fairness to life.”
Removing my gloves and wiping sweat from my forehead, I broke my rule. Looking into his tired eyes I imagined the possibility of living more than one kind of life. Where, during a lifetime, we balanced the actions taken in one half, with better actions in the second. I felt an unfamiliar and dormant emotion of sympathy, for the old man stood before me.
“I am a specialist in pressure points Professor,” I told him, “you will barely feel any discomfort as you slip away.”
“But you must understand – I have not made any preparations! I have my wife, Grethe to think of.”
A brief expression of surprise crossed his face, as my fingers applied specific force to critical areas of his skull. His eyes rolled, several times he gulped for breath, staggered, then collapsed unconscious into my arms. Death followed, as he tumbled down the stairway. Uppermost vertebrae snapped apart, as one might expect. In doing so, the professor’s elimination defied suspicion and would be regarded later, as nothing more than a tragic accident.
I’d completed my mission several minutes before the museum opened to the public, enough time to get changed and leave unnoticed. I returned to my hotel room to freshen up. An element of rumination usually follows the completion of an assignment. I wondered about the professor’s wife, if she knew of his double identity and I questioned how he had imagined it possible to get away with espionage betrayal. Naivety, arrogance? Or, maybe he hadn’t really expected to?
Ultimately, it is important I let go of these kinds of thoughts and standing underneath a cool shower, usually fulfils this need. What may seem important today, becomes ever increasingly irrelevant, with the passing of time.


©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by picture)
With special thanks to the Covid-19 Lockdown

I Can Explain

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

“I’m not accustomed to being referred to as ‘Love’, thank you very much.” Samuel Shepherd, sheep-herder ancestral, turned away from the headstrong young man. “And, despite your good luck with herding the flock this afternoon, I’m sorry Henning, but I do not see the future of sheep farming being assisted by rotary wind aircraft.”

Frustration simmered inside the rookie pilot’s guts, but he knew if there was any chance to win the old man over, gentle diplomacy was key.
“Okay, but please – at least let me try to explain. What say we go back to the farmhouse, have a discussion and if after ten minutes of chatter there’s no change of heart, I promise not to raise the subject again.”

Samuel’s whistle contained a precise rise and fall in pitch. Laid prone on a patch of lush grass, his dog cocked her head anticipating a new instruction from the farmer.
“Cybill, time for your teatime. Good-girl!”
A second whistle and she tore-off ahead of the two men, following the muddy path leading back to Ovis Farm.

“You need to understand that life is different here in the countryside. The people are different. What might work in the city-“
“Oh, your daughter has told me so, many times Mr Shepherd.” Henning shook his head, feeling the weight of his task begin to sink in.
Watched over by a pairing of red kites mapping circles above the field, the farmer came to a stop and proceeded to button-up his coat.
“A slower rhythm, patience, time taken, these characteristics don’t mean we’re backward. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Of course I do, but if work can be accomplished more quickly, more efficiently – utilising technology, what have you got to lose?”
“Look around you. You can’t see I have anything to lose?”

The farm cottage came into view, pale wisps of smoke drifting from the chimney stack. Henning felt a sudden desire to be inside, for a strong coffee and for a piece of the shortbread Mrs Shepherd had been preparing earlier, before they’d left.
“The temperature has really dropped, hasn’t it?” He said, hunching his shoulders together and thrusting his hands deep into his trouser pockets. Up ahead, he could make out the form of the farmer’s wife, framed by the kitchen window. “How long have you and Mrs Shepherd been married?”
“Dolly and me? Thirty-seven years next spring. Darling buds of May we were – and still are to this very day. How long have you and Mary known each other for?”
“Um, well let’s think. It must be reaching something like… six months now?” Looking skyward into the grey, Henning wondered if it might rain again. He pulled out his phone, tapping in the digits for his date of birth to unlock the screen. “We worked for the same PR company, you might know that?” No signal. A weather report would have to wait.
“No, I did not.”
“Right, okay, well, same company, different offices. I was based on the South Bank, Mary – West Hampstead. We first met at a launch event for an environmental group about to announce a new manifesto – or something. Mary had been involved, although to be honest, I’d just gone along for the champagne.”
“I see.” said Samuel Shepherd, sheep-herder ancestral, “I see.”