skeleton story

Stella and her belly were doing flip flops, as in she was practicing that shoe shuffle dance so popular at bluegrass festivals in her flip-flops and failing miserably and her stomach, God bless it, was a tightly wound as a Jack-in-a-box.

Daniel was filling the saddle-bags in an intricate pattern, weaving each item so everything needed for the road trip was accounted for. He looked up at the sky, the beautiful blue sky and brilliant sunshine polar opposites to how he was feeling. A damp, grey day in England was how he felt. An uneasiness was eating into his core.

Brian picked up Star and they rode over to Stella’s. The radio mic was on but neither spoke. The chasm between them could not be seen, as Star clung to Brian’s back, but it was palpable to them both.

The four friends rode all day on their way to Telluride, stopping off at Grand Junction for the night. Most of it spent in silence as they slept in sleeping bags like sardines in the tiny motel room. Daniel only spoke to say not a bad time from Fort Morgan.

Brian said he was sorry when he tripped over Stella. Star did not speak at all but was sick twice. Stella kept going into the bathroom to practice the dance, she wished she had her fiddle but they had decided not to unpack the instruments.

By this time tomorrow with Daniel on mandolin, Stella on fiddle, Star on banjo and Brian on bass, their four voices, (high lead, tenor, baritone and Star’s beautiful dissonant soprano) harmonising their own material on the Elks Park Stage, they would know if “Blow the Vault” could become the next big thing.

Just like they dreamed of last year when they lost Virginia and Virgil on the journey over from Fort Morgan, they hadn’t performed and spent the next twelve months rejigging the set without two guitars and without their best friends.

skeleton story

The two handbags sat between them. The mother and the daughter. Abby looked across at Cheryl-Ann, so much to be said but silence was the only conversation. Cher was nervous, she hadn’t meant to put her bad down next to her mom, she wanted to pick it back up and move it to her left side. She picked at balls of fluff on the underside of her cardigan whilst twisting the end with her thumb, she wished herself away to another place, another time, another seating arrangement. She wished she could talk, really talk to her mom.

The stilted conversation began, “so, how’s college, Cheryl-Ann?”

“Umm, okay, I guess,” Cher gave up fluff catching and launched into full defence stance, the arms of the cardigan over both hands tightly wound around her tiny middle.

“Did you have luncheon yet? Sylvie made pie, I’m sure there is some left,” Abby asked politely, as politely as if the pastor was round for tea.

“Oh I stopped on the way, got lunch at a diner on the road some place. Is dad home?” Cher was becoming more nervous as the seconds ticked slowly by, stealing glances at her handbag, daring it to get off it’s lazy behind and walk.

“No. Father is in the city today. A big presentation at the office, I think he said,” Abby girded her loins or whatever is girded on the formidable female frame that was Abigail Pearce  Clinton-Johnson though feels as fragile as a fly in a web, “Cheryl-Ann, I know you have your own life now. You are at college and you’ll probably be bringing a young man home at some point. It’s just that. It’s just that father, my husband, Jack, your father. Well he has decided not to be married any more. I have the papers here, they came yesterday. He didn’t say a word. It is terribly civilised, don’t you know?”

Abby fumbled for her handbag, knocking Cher’s to the ground, spilling open, with all the information she had brought home to show her mother. Or leave it in the letter tray as she left on Sunday evening.

“Oh!” They both said together. Then it was Cher’s turn to rush and gush out the verbal diarrhoea she had been practising all the way home. “Mom, there are places you can go. You don’t have to live like this. Just because you and daddy are practically royalty round here, it doesn’t mean you have to live here. You can leave. I can help you. I have friends who work with women like you, victims of domestic abuse. Mom, it happens to loads of women, but some of them get out. Get out now before daddy thinks of a better settlement than divorce. Love you mom.”

The two women, brought up so politely and civily jumped up, bawling their eyes out, hugging like there was no tomorrow. How many familial cycles were broken that day? Abby and Cher became good and real friends as a result of handbags being inappropriately placed.

skeleton story

Living vicariously through her characters, she was content. The outside world was too painful to be in, so she sat in semi-darkness with the blinds almost closed, laptop on knee playing the same role playing game she had been playing for over a year.
She met people on line from all over the world and chatted to them in real-time whilst their characters either fought or quested together. She was dying but she didn’t want to focus on that. Of course if she got up and went out into the pinpricking world she wouldn’t be dying as much and could reverse the process. She couldn’t do that, all she could do was breathe in and breathe out, any movement more than that was too much. She had a catheter and a colostomy bag so she had no need to move. Once a day a carer came in and removed rubbish, replenished supplies, dusted around her, and changed the bags. Once a week a cleaner came in and vacuumed around her, opened the windows, lifted the blinds and cooked her a meal. Her body violently reacted to “real” food but she still ate it. The rest of the time her food was made up of aerosol cheese, corn chips, tortillas and dips, biscuits, crackers, gallons and gallons of soda. Cigarettes and wine finished each meal, each meal finished the previous meal, a vicious circle of eating, drinking, smoking, chatting and playing, it had no end.
Her heart did it’s best to keep a steady rhythm, her lungs did their best to inflate and deflate regularly. Her kidneys did their best to flush the bad bits out, her liver sat like a beached whale getting flabbier and less able to do it’s job. Each part of her intricately designed body craved oxygen, exercise, vitamins, minerals and everything needed to live. She lived vicariously through her characters as she bounded toward death.

skeleton story

…running, running away, running toward. He ran mile upon mile, his mind in turmoil. There was no wall, physical or mental that stopped him. He ran on. He had within him the one piece of information, the vital snippet that would unravel the banking system, that would bring down the government, that would start a war between the two biggest nations, that would stop this civilisation in its tracks, that would bring a wave of anarchy that would go around the world.

He had no plan except to run, whichever way his mind turned he could see only destruction, he could only see annihilation and so he ran. As he came towards the cliff path he suddenly had a plan, he could not keep the information within, it would eat him up and as he looked at the gathering sunset he ploughed on. Running always running, he ran off the edge and screamed the secret to the sea as he plummeted to his death.

The banks opened the next day as they had every other day, the Government did its business and the earth continued turning on its axis. His heroic death went unnoticed.

skeleton story

The noise, I hate the noise in subway trains, I hate the squealing of rusty brakes on rusty tracks. Since glasnost there are no workers to grease the tracks. I hate the noise of youth, no longer in the groups of my youth, now tribes determined by drug use, music preferences and orientation, not forgetting wealth. I hate the noise of wealth most, when we were all communists, we all had the same.

Yes some of us had more same than the others, but we all had important jobs to do. My job, I was in charge of an internment camp on the outskirts of Moscow, to the east, in a forest near the town of Balashikha. I lived there, in Balashikha with my wife. She was in charge of a factory there. We had more floor space than the neighbours because of our jobs.

And yet here I am in the middle of Moscow, freezing because the heating doesn’t work and when it does work it leaks, and every one has pets now and the noise of them is incredible. I’d kill the lot, like in the old days, a prisoner who couldn’t be kowtowed, we just dropped them off the roof, job done.

There is too much softness now, too much America, too much noise. At my camp, in the forest, it was peaceful, there was no noise, there was no ….. life.