The Boat

My brother had this boat. It was quite a nice boat, as far as boats go. I’m not sure where he got it from. A boat seller, I suppose.

He had no idea how to sail, or even, as far as I could tell, how to row.

Every weekend he would wheel it out of his garage and onto the drive and wash it, or repaint it, or varnish it, or any number of other entirely pointless jobs designed mostly, if not entirely, to delay the moment when he would have to commit the thing to water and demonstrate, in public, the extent of his own incompetence.

His house burnt down one autumn, struck by lightning in a late and lonely thunderstorm. He lost everything, even his cat.

The cat wasn’t hurt, but he never forgave him, and ran away across the street and moved in with a neighbour, hissing in horror whenever my brother tried, forlornly, to claim him back. The sadness in his eyes on these occasions was heartbreaking. In my brother’s eyes, I mean. In the cat’s there was nothing but the fury of betrayal.

Everything else was covered by the insurance.

He moved in with me for a while, while his house was being rebuilt, and it was tolerable at first. But slowly he started filling up my house as the insurance slowly coughed up replacements for all his possessions, and to be honest by the time he moved out it was a bit of a relief. There’s only so many times you can sit in a living room filled to the brim with new TVs, bikes, computers, sofas, cupboards, plates and clothes, before the claustrophobia starts to seep into you and you dream, each night, of being crushed alive under an avalanche of pots and pans.

He never reclaimed the boat.

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Notes:

1. Written on September 27th, 2017

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Tale #35: The Lonely Man’s Tale

I was, O Lord, deep in thought in the garden of my house one afternoon when I was awakened from my slumber by a calling from above.

A cat sat in the cherry tree and it said down to me, “You look all alone. Would you give me some dinner in exchange for an afternoon of my company?”

And of course I said yes and the cat leapt down from the tree and settled on my lap. And she purred as I stroked her and the afternoon passed in contentment for the both of us.

As the sun began to set the cat leapt from my lap and went through the back door and into my house. Inside, I found in my kitchen not the cat but an anteater. It was a huge beast, and with its long snout it snuffled through my cupboards and opened up my jars of sugars and sweets, and with its long tongue it licked out the food within until the jars were spotless and clean.

Once it had finished eating the anteater turned to me and said, “You look all alone. Would you give me somewhere to sleep for the night in exchange for an evening of my company?”

And of course I said yes and the anteater sat at the kitchen table and together we played cards for the rest of the evening. And time passed pleasantly for the both of us.

As the clock chimed midnight, the anteater played her last hand and said goodnight and got down off the chair and went into my bedroom.

Inside my room, I found not an anteater but a woman lying in my bed. And she looked up at me and said, “You look all alone. What would you give for a night of my company?”

I said, “All that I own,” and she pulled back the covers and invited me in.

The next day, O Lord, I was alone again. And I was deep in thought in the park of our town when I was awakened from my slumber by a calling from above.

A crow sat in the peach tree and said to me, “I watched you all day, and I watched you all night. If you would give up everything you have for a dream of a woman, what would you give to truly end your loneliness once and for all?”

And I said to the bird, “I may have given her all that I own, but not all that I have, for I still have my heart. And to truly end my loneliness, it would not be enough to give it away. It would have to be taken.”

The crow listened to what I said. She hopped down from her perch and opened my shirt with a swish of her wings and with her beak she cut open my chest and tore away a tiny sliver of flesh from the corner of my heart. Then she took wing and flew high up into the sky.

And, O My Lord, I followed.

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Notes:

1. Written May 27th, 2016

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blood

There was blood in the garden
thick across the stepping stones
and paving slabs
echoes of a fight here last night
or the aftermath of one elsewhere

between
what?
cats
and foxes
cats
and birds
cats
and cats

or a hedgehog perhaps
dragged out of the dead leaves
beneath the bamboo
carved open
by tooth
and claw
and carried away
from this fenced-in prison
to someone else’s lair

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Notes:

1. Written on September 15th, 2017

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Trick Or Treat

I’d never been trick or treating before. It wasn’t really a thing when we were kids. Instead of trick or treating you’d just run around in the dark throwing eggs and flour at each other over the park until the park keeper chased you away.

There was nothing more frightening and exhilarating when you were 14 than the beam of the park keeper’s torch sweeping through the trees and all of us scattering away into the night.

So this year, as my 40th birthday treat, we decided to go trick or treating. Proper trick or treating, with costumes and little buckets for the sweets and everything.

The most terrifying thing I could think of was being a teenager again so I was dressed up as myself from 1992: long greasy hair, a ned’s atomic dustbin t-shirt, an awkward straight limbed stance, a neck dotted with shaving cuts, several thousand suicidal thoughts per second.

My sister was dressed up as some sort of cat, and my mother was dressed up as the log lady from twin peaks.

The log lady isn’t frightening, I said to my mother. She said “Well, you can’t hear what the log’s saying.”

“I suppose,” I said, and shrugged in non-agreement agreement.

Cats aren’t frightening, I said to my sister. She scratched at my eyes and bit my throat out and then dragged me back to the house and left me on the doorstep for my father to find.

I didn’t really have an answer for that.

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Notes:

1. Written on September 9th, 2018

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