3 Verse Free Verse: 1 life in 2 Worlds

They are not so different from each other, my awake and asleep worlds.

The reality and the dreams, are relatively consistent to themselves and with each other.

Definitely, with some overlap.

Conversations in dreams are as normal as it gets,

Handshakes, introductions and farewells.

Plus everything in between you’d expect,

From understandings to confusements.

It all seems pretty normal to me.

 

There, I have never found myself flying above buildings and trees

(unassisted by technology or otherwise),

Although, I drive a car, have ridden a bike and travelled by train.

The cities and countryside, are what I’d expect to find.

Green grass, brown-coloured bark on trees, grey pavements and red brick buildings.

I don’t ever recall writing in a dream, playing a guitar or reading a book.

Unless I can’t remember those dreams where I do.

Or, maybe I’m awake and back here, when I am doing those things, there?

I’m not sure…

 

I don’t hear loud dance music from the neighbours, on sunny afternoons,

In dreamland.

People aren’t knocking on the door trying to sell me things I have no need of nor desire,

In dreamland.

Sometimes I have no money on me there, but this is true here, too.

Occasionally, it’s a struggle to move physically, there.

Metaphor extraordinaire, for here.

And sometimes, I experience the sadness of loss.

 

Knife

I wish I could use a cutlery knife properly,

It’s a problem with roots in childhood.

A life-skill overlooked, one not taught.

Although, I see my mother reading this

And exclaiming, ‘Yes I jolly well did!’

“If you did Ma, I forgot how to,

Somewhere along the way.”

 

I think about this occasionally, when eating

And only then, do I move the knife

In a sawing motion.

But usually, I use the knife as a tool

To tear the food apart,

Employing a fork to pin down the toast

(For example),

Held in place on the plate.

 

I feel like a savage

Or an ill-educated poor kid,

When awareness strikes,

Which now and then, it does.

It’s a habit and a behaviour

Hard to re-programme,

Even when given a steak-knife.

a pantoum: Nothing to Talk About

We can’t talk about this or that

It’s getting close

Not knowing

What we can talk about

 

It’s getting close

And we both feel the same

What we can talk about

It’s becoming small

 

And we both feel the same

We both see how

It’s becoming so small

But we can’t stop

 

We both see how

We can’t talk about this or that

But we can’t stop

Not knowing

 

With thanks to Wikipedia for ever useful information. Image credit pedrov_dog  (^___^)

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Pothole Commando – short story, about 2000 words.

Rain fell in large splattering drops from vast clouds of greyness, as twilight edged in. Crouched beside the edge of a field with Dennis, an assessment was taking place, discussing exactly how we were going to get beyond the barbed wire fence.  Less than a week before, we’d been sat opposite each other in a crowded cafe, Dennis claiming he’d thought up the whole idea in response to an earlier conversation.

“As they say Danny-boy, if you’re not part of the problem, you’re part of the solution.”

“I think it’s the other way around, isn’t it?”

“No matter, same difference.” Dennis’ hands encircled a large-sized cup containing a cappuccino, his thumbs and index fingers met with each other around the rim. An air of relaxed confidence exuded from across the wooden table top as a wide grin spread across his face.

So?” he’d asked, “Are you up for joining me?”

“Joining you in what?”

“You’ve not been listening, have you?”

The honest truth was I’d only been half listening. It was an easy habit to get into when it came to the one-sided conversations experienced with Dennis. In an attempt to redeem myself, I plucked out a single sentence summary.

“You’ve formed a pothole commando unit?

Correct,” this was a close enough answer to what he’d wanted to hear, “aren’t you the one who’s been ranting on about the problem since I-don’t-know-when? So, I have formed the Vigilante Pothole Commando Unit, a.k.a. the VPCU.”

“Shouldn’t that be the VPHCU?”

“Ah, a common mistake amigo!” Dennis took great pleasure with corrections, “Pothole is often thought of as two words and there is no doubt that what we have here in this instance is the coming together of two separate words, originally existing in their own right: pot, and hole. However, let me assure you that in today’s common parlance of speaking, two have become one.”

“Ok Dennis, would I be correct in assuming you are the leader of this new, crack unit?”

“Indeed, you would.”

“Does that make you Captain Pothole?”

* * * *

A few days later, having largely forgotten the conversation, I received an excited phone call from Dennis.

“Mate, we’ve made a connection.”

“A connection?”

“Yes, timely, wouldn’t you say?”

“Dennis, what are you talking about?”

“There’s a group who’ve banded together in an outlying village.”

“Another pothole group?” I said, quickly fiddling with the volume control to compensate for the forceful projection of Dennis’ voice.

More like an identification squad.”

“Identification squad? What do you mean?”

“Well, they’ve gotten so fed up with the potholes in their roads, they go around identifying targets by placing yellow rubber duckies in them.”

“Yellow rubber duckies, you mean, like bath time rubber ducks?”

“That’s right my man!” Dennis paused, allowing me adequate time to process the information. “Now, this Friday evening, you and me, we’re out on our first mission. Our objective, is to clear the whole village of potholes, so when they wake up on Saturday morning, they’ll not know what’s hit them.”

“Clear? As in fill?”

“You’re reading me.”

* * * *

Attempting to pass through a barbed wire fence as the light begins to fade, is not something I am accustomed to, nor something I’d recommend. Several failed tries had already hindered my progress, with the low tension of the highest strung wire making it impossible to maintain balance during a manoeuvre to climb over. A tear in the shoulder of my jacket acquired while trying to pass through the middle section, had forced a reversal in direction. The uncomfortably cold and wet sensation coming through the seat of my jeans, as a result of slipping onto my backside, added to my feelings of disharmony.

With Dennis’ assistance, I finally made it through and we set off together, our footsteps squelching in the wet grass. After walking a short distance, following the perimeter of the field and passing an overgrown outcrop of shrubs, a long wooden gate came into view.

“Dennis! There’s a gate here!” I hiss in exasperation, “We could have just hopped over!”

We continued to tramp through the sodden field, heading – as Dennis put it, to the drop-off rendezvous point. Soon, up ahead I could make out a number of white plastic tubs stacked on top of each other and next to them, several aerosol cans.

There we go!” said Dennis triumphantly, “Our pothole filler supplies.”

“Where the heck did you get these?” I asked.

“Brian at the builder’s merchants, he had a few going spare that wouldn’t be missed, said he’d drop them off after work. We owe him a few pints mind, but he said he was glad to be of assistance. He’s as sick of potholes as everyone else, wished us good luck!”

* * * *

By the time we had entered the village, darkness had settled in. I could see Dennis’ silhouette a short distance in front of me, as we walked in short steps at a quickened pace. With aerosol cans wedged up under our arms and a white tub held in each hand, it wasn’t long before we came upon our first yellow rubber duck.  Half filled with water, the dimensions of the pothole were similar to those of a family-sized frying pan.

Dropping the cans and tubs, Dennis swung the rucksack from off his back onto the road and unzipped the opening. Out of it, he retrieved a large scrubbing-brush and a metal rod, which when twisted extended, until it stood from the ground up to his waist. Squatting down with the rod resting across his knees, he rooted around in the rucksack, before lifting out a flat, square-shaped piece of iron with a fitting on one side, into which Dennis slid one end of the pole. A hard twist of his hand followed by a reassuring sound, confirmed construction of the implement was complete.

“Alright compadre? Let’s get this one cleaned out.” Dennis said, his voice spoken in an unfamiliar whisper. Often feeling inadequate with manual tasks, I was keen to take this encouragement as an instruction.  Grabbing hold of the brush, I began clearing out the water, dirt and grit from the pothole. The bright pink washing-up gloves I’d hesitated to pack, were now proving useful, providing a degree of both warmth and protection. Before long, Dennis rested his hand firmly upon my shoulder.

“Good work, now let the filling, begin.”

Standing back a little, I watched as he held a can in his hand and casually pressed his thumb into the top causing the cap to fly off in a filmic manner. After a good shake, he proceeded to coat the inside of the hole with the spray, finishing off with a thicker application around the edge of the cavity opening. With a tub open, Dennis then began transferring repair compound to the pothole with a garden trowel. Once he had created a small mound, he stopped and looked up at me.

“I think that’ll do her,” he said, winking, “I’ll let you do the honours then.”

The tool Dennis had put together earlier, was thrust into my hands and directions given to indicate the action required. Inspired by my companion, I firmly tamped down the repair compound, continuing until it laid level with the surrounding road surface.

Raising his hand, Dennis indicated for me to stop. He knelt down, brushed away some loose material and applied more spray, sealing between the new and old edges. When complete, we both stood back a little, to admire our handiwork.

“What time is it?” Dennis enquired.

“Nine.”

“Twenty one hundred hours?”

“If you like.”

“That took about… 14 minutes from start to finish?” Dennis’ brain was processing a series of different calculations. “From a satellite image sweep of the village I carried out earlier, we have about another thirty to go, by my reckoning – give or take a few.”

Thirty?”

“That’s about seven hours work, meaning we’ll be finished somewhere around o-four hundred hours, unless we pick up some pace – which we may well do.”

“Yes, but we also have to find each one of them, you need to factor in the time required to actually locate the rubber ducks.”

“I know,” said Dennis, “I wasn’t going to mention that. Unfortunately, due to expense, night vision goggles aren’t an option so this torch will have to do.”

“And what about breaks?” I continued, “I’ve made sandwiches for us both and brought along a flask of coffee, we’ll need breaks – won’t we?”

“We’ll have two breaks each, which we’ll stagger time-wise so that the work can continue without stopping. What’s in the sandwiches?”

“Corned beef, cucumber and mayonnaise.”

“Perfect, come on, this way!”

Without further discussion, having picked up his rucksack, tool, tubs and cans, Dennis jogged off ahead.

* * * *

By day break, we were done. The village was modest in size and had been built around one long snaking road, from which four minor roads branched off. Working together with military precision and efficiency, we’d made good progress, with the repetitious nature of the operation aiding an increase in our productivity.

The empty tubs of repair compound had now found second lives, as containers for carrying all the displaced yellow rubber ducks. It was imperative we collected them up, Dennis had advised, or we might lose track, becoming confused with what we had done and with what was left to do. I couldn’t argue with the logic and in a way the completion of filling in a pothole was enhanced, by the collection a small trophy each time.

“Dennis, what are we going to do with all these ducks?

“Well d’Artagnan, the final operational stage will involve giving them all a good clean in my dishwasher at home, bagging them up and dropping them off to a charity shop of your choice.”

“You don’t think we should return them to the villagers? In effect, aren’t we stealing them, by taking them away?”

“It’s a fair trade, more than a fair trade.”

“Well, yes, I guess you’re right.”

We headed west out of the village, with the morning sun warming our backs and our elongated shadows stretched out in front of us. Wisps of water vapour rose from the dew covering the field we’d walked through, yesterday evening.

“Are those bullocks over there?” I said, pointing towards a cloud of mist above a herd of cattle in a corner of the field.

“I believe you are correct.” Dennis came to a stop and squinted his eyes in the direction I’d indicated, “Lucky we didn’t stumble on top of one of those in the dark.”

* * * *

In the two days following, I hadn’t given the escapade all that much thought. Only an occasional twinge and a gently fading ache of the muscle groups employed during the event, had evoked any kind of recall. During the evening of the second day, Dennis called me up on the phone, calm and collected as always.

“I’ve just come in halfway through the local TV news and an elected representative of the county council has just been interviewed, standing over one of our accomplishments.”

“Oh really?”

“Saying something about the high level of workmanship and how he expects the people of the village are very pleased with the repairs carried out by the mysterious duo.”

“Oh, we must have been seen by someone then?” I replied, adjusting the volume control down on the handset, as was customary when Dennis rang.

“Dog-walker probably. Even so, they don’t have a description.”

“That’s good then.”

“Mind, an investigative reporter has tied the event in with a donation made to a charity shop in town. They’ve shown a few fuzzy black and white CCTV images in the report, but don’t worry, I wore clothes I’ll never wear again and had a baseball cap on, pulled down low.”

“So where next, Dennis?”

“Well, you know what? I feel we’ve done our bit with potholes. Others will follow  precariously in our footsteps I imagine, in time to come. We have planted the seeds of inspiration and I don’t want to get tied down with any specific project. We’ll only end getting caught at some point and I’m not keen on the idea of public interest – to be honest.”

“Sure, I agree Dennis.”

“Yes, upwards and onwards is what I say, we have to keep moving. Are you ready for the next venture, Sundance?”

“Sure Dennis, count me in. What have you got in mind?”

 

(photo credit: Andy Omvik)

Sideways Face, short story 869 words

“So?” I’d asked, “You have a sideways face. I couldn’t care if your face was upside down, or on the other way around, I would still like to buy you a coffee.”

“Thank you, I’ll need a straw.” she replied graciously.

“Yes, I understand.”

Returning to the table and taking my place in a chair opposite her, we chatted about the weather and a recent election result for the presidency of a fledgling democracy.  With the conversation flowing, I began asking questions from an orderly list I’d compiled inside my head.

Question: Had she been born this way or was it due to an accident, later in life?

Answer: It’d happened when she was young.

Question: How old was she when she realised she was different from everyone else?

Answer: About 6 years of age.

Question: Had she discovered any advantages of her situation?

Answer: None she could be sure of.

Question: Was getting a good fitting hat, a problem?

Answer: Yes, headscarves were favoured.

Question: What was it like to kiss on an x and y axis?

Answer: Did I want to try?

“Do I want to try?” I couldn’t believe my luck, “Really?”

“Here,” she said, motioning with her hand, “move a little away from the table.”

I did as I was told and as the chair legs scraped across the wooden boards, we both screwed up our respective faces, wincing at the uncomfortable sound.

“That’s better.” she said, after positioning herself on my lap and sliding her arm around the back of my neck. I placed my hand on her knee to add stability, while my other arm travelled around her lower back and finished, resting on her hip.

“There, this is good.” I said, satisfied with the completion of the manoeuvre. “Right; down to business then.”

“Look, I know you said you wanted to try the kiss on the x and y axis, but to be honest, it’s better if we both pucker our lips slightly.” She puckered her lips slightly, to demonstrate.

Gazing into her right eye I smiled, before moving in closer while holding my breath. As I did this, an involuntary reflex caused my head to tilt in an indecisive manner, first one way and then sharply to the opposite side. I could see her smooth, glistening lips puckering up, drawing me onwards to my goal.

Yet somehow, the intended objective was derailed as my mouth crash-landed onto the tip of her nose, slipping across her nostrils. In a vain attempt to correct the trajectory, I jerked my head sharply away to the left and plunged forward again. This time, with eyes closed, my lips landed squarely on her medial cleft. Much to my relief and exercising outstanding deftness, she grasped hold of my chin between her thumb and index finger, giving it a gentle wiggle, until both my top and bottom lip finally slid over hers and suction took over.

Taking breaths between kissing, she whispered to me asking “What do you think, are you enjoying yourself?”

“Of course I am,” I replied, “You’re out of this world.”

Shortly after this, I lost consciousness, feeling the strength dissolving away from my bones as she held my head between her hands and with one swift movement, rested me gently onto the table top.

Imagery of this incredible woman, filled the next few hours of a delirious dream.  As seated, North African musicians produced a rhythmic, looping and hypnotic drone, her body moved swirling through the flickering haze of leaping flames. In the pungently perfumed air all around her, glowing embers floating up from the campfire danced with flying insects drifting across the twilight sky. Finally, the sound and vision melded together into a blur and I found myself awake, once more.

While establishing focus, I was able to make out her form, standing proudly in front of me, her chest pushed out and displaying a broad smile across her face. Why hadn’t I noticed what a gorgeously engaging smile she had? What’s more, her eyes sparkled with a pure sense of joy and excitement. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? I kept asking myself. As my sight cleared it became blindingly obvious, she had the most perfectly balanced facial proportions I had ever come across.

Then, raising both hands to rub my eyes, I felt instead the knuckles simultaneously twisting into the jowl of cheek and sleek widow’s peak where hairline meets forehead. In response, gripped by cold fear and a terrifying sense of fright, I spread out my hands across my face, fingers frantically searching the seemingly unfamiliar bone structure and order of my features.

“W-w-what, have you done to me?” I stammered.

“Well, it is rather difficult to explain,” she replied, admiring her handiwork, “I guess you could call it a complicated kind of swap. You have what I had and I have what you had. You’ll be fine with it, I could tell when we met.” She gave me a reassuring wink and continued, “I have been waiting a long time, for the right person to come along.”

After a short pause, she turned to leave the cafe, taking one last sideways glance at me, and then she was gone.

 

 

(photo credit: Mahyar Tehrani)