“You two going to a dressing up party?” Alex asked his two acquaintances who he only really knew by name from college, Drew & Drake.
Drew & Drake were a great duo because of their names. Unfortunately for them and you dear reader, they weren’t Drew & Drake the calm, collected suave detectives two names like that would make just ultra cool! Nah. Drew & Drake were just two best mates who were unemployed who wore sweatpants because they’re comfortable. Neither were they a brand of whiskey though they often smelt like they were.
“Well?” Alex gestured with his palms open in question.
Drew spun around in his pink flamingo costume, “What?” He looked at Alex blankly.
Alex pointed to Drew which didn’t help Drew because Drew knew he was Drew.
Alex rolled his eyes, “The fucking costume!”
realisation crossed Drew’s face, “Oh, you could say that.” He nudged Drake.
Drake turned around in his penguin costume, “It’s sort of a party, yes.”
“Can I come?” Alex beamed.
Drew & Drake exchanged glances, Drews flamingo beak collided with Drake’s round penguin costume. “Don’t think it’ll be your scene,” Drake explained.
“Why not?” Alex crossed his arms and looked across the road with a petulant expression on his face.
“Because…” Drake’s face screwed up hard in concentration.
Drew nudged Drakes penguin costume.
“What?” Drake flapped.
Drew pointed down the road at the hearse, “Here he comes.”
Drake followed Drew’s finger and sighed.
“I guess it’s time to say goodbye,” Drew swallowed down a knot in his throat.
More people emerged, and Alex’s eyes had widened, “I wish I’d never asked. I’ll guess I’ll be going about my business!”
Drake shot him a glance, “Yea, mind your own business next time, we don’t even know you that well!”
“God put me here to ask you these questions, so I did, my question has been answered, but I only have…” He watched as the place swelled with yet more people dressed as parrots and penguins and a few budgies but mostly a sea of pink flamingos. “More questions,” His eyes narrowed as he crossed the road to get away from them.
The bells rang out like a weapon of soul destruction; humans having been primed to know it meant goodbye.
Alex watched the procession of pink and a few other colours here and there with a brow raised and a chuckle rising in his throat despite himself.
Cars rolled by and the passengers stared out the window wondering what on earth was going on, one driver who saw his wife’s perturbed face chortled and joked, “It’s global warming. All these birds are emigrating to strange places.”
As the pallbearer’s carried the coffin through a path, the sea of people created it looked even more surreal. The pallbearers were dressed in smart suits but had owl masks covering their faces.
Someone stopped by Alex to watch, his dog pulling on the lead. “What the…”
Alex turned to the stranger, “It’s certainly….” Alex scratched at the stubbed on his face with a perplexed look, “Something…”
The little dog barked at the crowd of people dressed strangely.
The stranger looked horrified, “I better go,” He started his face pale.
“I don’t think they’ll mind a dog barking….”Alex started to say but the man had swiftly shuffled away pulling his dog along as it kept turning around to yap at the procession outside the church doors.
The vicar stood at the front of a statue of Jesus on a cross, light came shimmering in through the coloured glass behind him.
“Frank was a…” The vicar rubbed a finger on his collar, “an eccentric,” He said as he looked out at the sea of faces and beaks. “Frank lived life to the full, and though he has gone now, he will forever be remembered as a humorous, genuine, kind man.” The vicar scanned the faces and beaks around his church, “There is a lesson that can be taught by this kind man and that is not to take life too seriously. He’s known for a few sayings like, “Your arse…ahem pardon my french, is at the bottom of you for a reason, it’s the last thing you put down!””
The mourners mumbled and nodded their heads.
“And, “Window cleaners are the spies you should be most afraid of.””
The mourners chuckled.
“And one of my favourites,” He peered over his glasses, “I must forewarn there is bad language here, but for the sake of respect I shall quote him exactly as he says it, “A fork in the road gives 3 choices. Either you choose one of the prongs, you go back, or you don’t use the fucking road.””
The crowd laughed once more, and Drake turned to Drew, “That’s our Frank.”
“That’s the Vicar!”
Drake shook his head and rolled his eyes, “No I meant…” He sighed, “nevermind!”
As they swarmed out of the churches gaping mouth and onto the pavement outside, ‘I like birds’ by the Eels played.
Shortie and lanky stood across the road from their target. The rain spat at the collars of their topcoats. Shortie puffed on his cigar, his hands dug deep into his coat pockets.
“How’re we gonna do this?” Lanky asked as he lit a cigarette.
Shortie bit down on his cigar and shifted it between his lips, “The usual.”
Lanky smirked taking the cigarette from his lips between two fingers, “There is no usual with you.”
Shortie turned to look over his shoulder at him, “Wipe that smirk off your face!” He turned back to their target.
The women inside the building were none the wiser of their future assailants standing across from them. They chatted over the sounds of music and hair dryers with the women sat in front of them as they cut their hair.
“You can’t go in there,” Lanky pointed with the cigarette between his fingers.
“You’ll stand out! You’re a local, and you’re a short fucker!”
Shortie turned to his accomplice, “You don’t talk to me like that, Mucker.”
His hand raised so fast Lanky didn’t have time to respond before the slap hit him sharp on the cheek, “You hear me?” Shortie said with his cigar clenched between his teeth.
“There was no need for that!” Lanky cried rubbing his face.
The slap was hard enough to little a temporary red mark which Lanky felt no qualms to moan about.
“Shut it, mucker!” Shortie said as he stared across at the hairdressers. “What do you propose we do then, smart arse?”
“You’re so full of ideas you,” Shortie whistled full of sarcasm.
“I don’t see you coming up with any!” Lanky hissed through a haze of smoke. “Anyway,” Lanky dropped the end of the cigarette on the ground and twisted the bottom of his shoe on it, “I thought we didn’t hurt women?”
Shorties mouth dropped open as if to say something before turning into a scowl, “We don’t!” He dug his hands even deeper into his pockets. “I don’t want to hurt them, I won’t hurt them. But you know who their boss is!”
Lanky’s face twitched in anger, “Yea,” He looked across at the hairdressers now with hate in his eyes, “Yea I know.”
“I know what we could do,” Shortie started.
Lanky stared the building across from them down not so discreetly. Shortie turned on his heels and walloped him.
“Jesus!” Lanky rubbed his face again staggering a little, “What was that for?”
“Being a little bitch,” Shortie shook his head, “You know what for!” He rolled his eyes, “Take Lanky, he’s discreet as they come!” He shook his head again, “Discreet as they come, my arse!”
Shortie raised his hand, “Are you asking for another slap?”
Lanky stepped back a little and shook his head, holding his hands up in appeasement.
“Anyway,” Shortie began, “I’ve got an idea.” He rubbed his hands excitedly and ushered Lanky back up the street to their car.
“What is this plan of yours then?” Lanky asked impatiently in the passenger seat.
“Well,” Shortie gripped the steering wheel and listened to the ticking of his indicator. “We’ll find other men the same height as me!”
Lanky bit back a chortle, “And where are going to find these short fuckers?”
“Never you mind that!”
“I will mind!” Lanky frowned, “It’s my ass on the line as much as yours!”
They sat in silence as the car jerked forward and out of the space at the side of the road. Lanky turned the radio on to fill the silence.
Shortie concentrated on the road with his cigar still clenched between his lips.
Lanky fidgeted in his seat with huffs and puffs of breath in boredom.
“Jesus Christ, Lanks!” Shortie spat.
“Can you sit still for a second in your life?”
Lanky shook his head, “Nope.”
“Anyway,” Shortie turned the radio off, “Want to hear my plan?”
Lanky was eager to hear it, ready to lap it up like a lapdog.
“We’re gonna find some shortie muckers like me,”
Lanky couldn’t help himself, “From the Short Gangsta Society.”
Shortie turned his neck to face Lanky so fast he could’ve given himself whiplash, “How did you know?”
Lanky’s mouth dropped, “Wh…What?” He shook his head in disbelief.
“How did you know about the Short Gangsta Society?”
“You’re looking at the fucking founder of it!”
Lanky laughed, “Oh I see you’re pulling my leg!”
Shortie frowned, “No.”
Lankie stopped laughing abruptly and looked at Shortie sheepishly, “You’re…You’re serious?”
“Of course I’m fucking serious!”
“Shut it, Mucker!” Shortie pulled into the drive of a big mansion.
Their footsteps on the hallway floor echoed.
“Shoes off!” Shortie told him as he undid his own laces and carefully placed his to one side.
Shortie led Lanky to his living room.
In the middle was a grand fireplace with a sheepskin rug laid in front of it.
Lanky sat down on an L shaped leather sofa and Shortie across from him on an old brown leather chair. “So I’m going to get a team of men the same height as me,”
Lanky nodded in agreement as he listened.
Shortie cut and lit another cigar, “and then we’re going to,” Shortie knew this bit was sure to get a laugh so he readied himself for it, finding it a little amusing himself, “We’re gonna dress up as women.”
Lanky’s mouth gawped open, “you…”
“I’m not kidding,” Shortie said with a chuckle.
Lanky frowned and looked at him, his face contorting with question.
“Oh I’m for real, but it don’t mean it aint funny!” Shortie slapped an arm of the chair and laughed.
Lanky forced a laugh while he gauged his companion’s reaction, when his fake laugh only catered to further Shorties own laughing he started to laugh for real till tears ran down his face, “You’re gonna…” He couldn’t speak for laughing, “Dress up as women?”
“Yes,” Shortie smiled a short, sharp smile then a foreboding looking crossed his face.
Lanky stopped laughing abruptly and looked Shortie in the eyes.
“We’d all be a good height for that.”
Lanky had to bite back more amusement, “But for the other differences like your voices, muscles, fat, built…” He continued on.
“Are you saying there is only one type of build for women?” Shortie shook his head, “You’ve read too many Nuts magazines!”
“Just because you’re wife…”
Shortie scolded him midsentence with a look.
“Sorry,” Lanky grimaced. “So,” Lanky nodded his head toward Shortie, “You’re all going to dress up as women then?”
“Then go in there and ransack the place!”
“And if someone catches you? As soon as you speak, you’ll give yourselves away!”
“I’ll put on my best woman’s voice!” Shortie smiled.
“Go on then.”
Shortie cleared his throat, “Okay,” He cleared his throat again and jutted his neck out from his collar like a chicken, “Okay,” He cleared his throat once more.
“Oh for fuck sake stop stalling!”
“I’ll have you know I’m not that kind of lady!” Shortie said in a voice that sounded more like a teenage boy whose voice hadn’t fully cracked. He tried again, this time trying to go higher, “I’ll have you know…” His throat hurt from the effort, “I can’t go any higher than that!”
“Well, this plan already looks good!”
“Fuck you, Lanks!”
“Mrs Ashton,” a small male voice queried.
Mrs Ashton looked around looking rather weary, “who speaks?”
She asked nervously
“Dr Perez.” He answered
“Where are you asking from?” She asked with a frown
“I’m here, just look down.”
Mrs Ashton lowered her chin, did a double take
To see Dr Perez standing at her toe with a grin.
“You’re….” she stifled a scream, “you’re Dr Perez?”
“Yes, follow me.”
She considered turning round and walking straight out
But she followed anyway despite her doubt
“Okay, just lie down over there.” He pointed to a bed.
She lay down and placed her ankles on the stirrups
“I must admit, I’ve never been more nervous,” she tried a little laugh
But the little man had already gone under her gown
And with a little giggle he was acting the clown
“I love this job.” He beamed, “gigantic vaginas,” he guffawed
“Excuse me!” Mrs Ashton exclaimed.
“It’s okay, just a little humour, no need to be be ashamed!”
Holding her vagina open with a speculum
He shone his torch down and shouted, “hello,” and then repeated the word, “hello, hello, hello,” His voice getting quieter with each hello to resemble an echo. He laughed and slapped his thighs, “I’ve always wanted to do that!”
Mrs Ashton began to get a bit fidgety, “stop that! Take your job seriously!” She hissed.
“I’m sorry love,” The little man said, “if you don’t mind me saying,” he began, trying to get into her good books again, “you’ve a lovely vagina.”
Mrs Ashton wasn’t sure how to respond, “um…” she suddenly smiled “thanks!”
“All looking very good down here,” he reported, “hello?” He began again with a little snigger, “hello, is anyone in there?” He shone his torch down once more and to his surprise a voice called back, Dr Perez stepped back, “Jesus, I didn’t fucking expect that!”
With illusions to nowhere
everyone thinks they’re somewhere
Arthur sat on his log with a frown upon his pale freckled face, “We need to get back to nature.” He pondered out loud after hearing such phrases from many adults.
“Is that so?” His father replied, brushed his hand over his beard, “Why where have we been?”
With that Arthur looked to his father with a puzzled expression and the fire crackled between them, reflecting on their faces. “Nowhere.”
His father too was now considering the phrase his son had just said, in deep thought he looked to the flames as if the answer would be in them. “Exactly.” He said, finally.
“What?” Arthur asked, still perplexed.
His father flicked his knife over the wood he had been whittling into a teddy bear for most of the afternoon, “It’s as you say, we’ve been nowhere, son.”
“Nope,” Arthur shook his head, “I still don’t get ya!”
“Well,” his father closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, “How can we go back to something we never even left?”
The boy considered this for a moment and rested his chin on both of his hands, “But,” He started, “You’ve said it yourself.”
His father frowned, “I was foolish.”
“How so, dad?”
His father once again stared into the flames, as if the flames were an oracle that could give him any answer he needed. “Well, I guess,” He frowned trying to find the words, “Well, look at it this way, have you seen a Beavers dam?”
“Yea.” Arthur sat hunched forwards, eager to his father.
“Do you remember them termite mounds?”
Arthur’s eyes lit up, “Yes! I remember them!”
“And you remember that documentary on the TV about the bower birds nest?”
“Yes! I remember all that, dad! I remember!”
“Well, that’s what humans are doing.”
Arthur’s face scowled into the flames, “I just don’t get ya!” He shook his head, “The termites made them mounds, the bower birds made them nests, and the Beavers made those Dams!”
“And we humans built our nests and all the other things we have created for better or worse.”
“But,” Arthur kicked “We have houses! Not nests!”
“Same thing.” His father remarked.
“But, like,” Arthur paused in thought, “TVs! They aren’t natural.”
“So if something is man made it’s, therefore, unnatural?” His father asked.
“So what are we humans then?”
Arthur frowned, “You just said what we are, we’re humans!” Arthur sighed and looked down at his shoelaces, “Anyway most of what people have made have been destructive.”
“It may well have been,” His father put down his knife and studied the teddy bear he’d whittled, “Doesn’t make it any less natural.”
“But nature is beautiful.” Arthur argued, “To be destructive is far from natural!”
“But destruction is part of nature.” His father reminded him.
“So what does this mean for us?” Arthur asked with a worried expression on his face.
“What do you think it means?”
“I think it means we can’t help ourselves.”
“We can,” He picked up his knife again and shaved a bit of the teddy bears ears that was sticking out too much, “we just need to stop perpetuating the illusions that having houses made from bricks and electronics in our home means we’re not part of nature, or beyond nature. Then, perhaps we’d be more conscious about our choices.” He studied the teddy bear again and smoothed his finger over the curves, “Do you think your little sister will like this?”
“Yea, dad,” Arthur replied but with a far away look that had glazed over his eyes.
“I’m just dreaming of saving the world.”
“Naturally.” His father uttered softly.
At the crack of dawn, he always wakes me up! “Look, Blake, I don’t want to wake up with Dawn’s arse crack in my face!” that’s how I sometimes respond, referring to the earliness of the hour. Bloody Dawn, she orchestrates a choir much too early for me come spring! But no, not for Blake. He’s up and ready, shaking me in the bed like, “Wakey, wakey! Rise and shine!” He opens the curtains revealing Dawn’s crack.
“It’s the best time to see all that life!” he beams and kisses me on the forehead. He’ll insist on going for a walk, he loves walking. But, let me make one thing clear about Blake, he walks like he’s floating. I don’t know what he does, but it’s like the land responds to his quiet step, and he tames it. The wildlife responds much the same way, for example, squirrels don’t chatter nervously and shake their bushy tails ready to pounce and run off up the trees. No, it’s like as Blake approaches the squirrel somehow knows, ‘he’s not threat to me, he’s a dear friend.’ The birds know it too, they don’t go off in a sudden flurry of flight. Sometimes he’s stopped walking, and I have continued on in my own world only to find him missing from my side when I turn around he’s stood there shaking his head and laughing at my ignorance.
“You had the chance to see so much life!” He’ll say walking or floating as he does towards me, “You’re what I call a bird plough,” He’ll put his hand on my shoulder and squeeze it reassuringly, “But so is so much of the human race!”
I always raise a brow at him like he’s insane. Initially, I meant it, now it’s just habit.
We’ll sit down at a bench, usually at his request. He’ll be sat there for ten minutes all calm and serene but by this time I’m usually ready to get up and walk some more, but he remains seated, and I ponder how he can sit still in the same spot for so long! Especially when he does it in the winter, or in early spring when it’s still cold as fuck, excuse my French.
“It’s a bit cold.” I’ll remark and start rummaging in my pocket for my gloves.
“Take note of the male Blackbird to the right of us, but be subtle about it.” He tells me eagerly.
I shift my eyes to the right, and there is Mr Blackbird perched precariously on a branch.
“Now take note of Mrs Blackbird ahead of us, a worm in its beak.”
I look ahead at the grassy verge, and Mrs Blackbird has a worm wriggling in its beak. I’d wonder to myself what relevance it had to anything. But, he’d just remain silent and just scanning the scene like he always does. I try to watch his gaze, but he can be very subtle about where he’s really looking. A woman with is pushing a pram with one hand while holding a phone to her ear with the other, and a kid running ahead of her. Occasionally she stops in her tracks, gesturing with her hands to some guy called Gary on the phone, who is, ‘pecking er ‘ead man!” Their obliviousness to those that surrounded them sent both Mrs and Mr Blackbird flying away, to which Blake turns to me and says, “Bird plough.”
I roll my eyes, “You can hardly blame her!” I shook my head, “A kid running lose, a baby and someone on the phone!”
He smiles, “So what’s your excuse?”
Bloody git he is! But he’s my git, and though I roll my eyes at him nearly every minute of every day. He can be mildly irritating, but isn’t everyone? Plus there is a side to him only I actually see, though it’s not a happy sight I’m afraid. See the thing about Blake is, he has the most intense bouts of depression I’ve ever seen. He deals with it by using humour and watching the birds.
I’m just saying all this because, well, I’m about to marry him and well, I guess I must really love him! Because I’m currently dressed as a flamingo. Yes, I didn’t take it seriously when he said to me, “Wouldn’t it be surreal to get married dressed as ostriches or flamingos?”
I said it would be surreal and laughed. But now here I am, and I’m still marrying the bleeding git!
Calloway pushed the blade further into the ground with the step, leaning his body to use all his weight, “ya know,” he started, grunting, “what your problem is?” a cigarette bobbed up and down between his thin lips as he spoke
Max watched the blade cutting into the earth, “What?” He asks, arms folded.
“Ya still holding out for hope.”
Max cocked his head to one side, “Having hope is my problem?” He scoffed.
“Uh huh.” Calloway grunted and leant into the handle, “Let that hope go, boy.” He flicked ash onto the earth beneath his feet, embers flickered orange and then gave up.
Max disagreed, shaking his head. “A bit of hope is what a man needs.”
“Nah, Max.” Calloway let the shovel drop down to the ground with a thud, and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief, “We all die in the end.”
“Morbid.” Max rolled his eyes.
A flicker like the embers from his cigarette sparked in Calloway’s eyes for a moment, “What do ya think I’m doin’ ‘ere? Digging for goddamn gold?”
Max looked at the hole Calloway had been digging and sighed with irony.
“The world needs the hopeless.” Calloway drawled on, taking a swig from his bottle of water.
“The world needs more hope, that’s what it needs.” Max said adamantly.
Calloway waved Max’s words away casually, “This world is just a big cosmic joke.”
“Well I for one,” Max dug the toe of his shoe into the ground with an irritated kick, “think there is something more to all this.”
“Something more? Something more than what?”
“Than this!” Max gestured with his hands open in front of him, signifying everything.
“You know why the world is a cosmic joke?” Calloway asked, picking up the shovel again and heaving the blade back into the earth.
“Because it’s all a big accident, blah blah. You’ve told me all this before.” Max faked a yawn.
“There is irony everywhere.” Calloway said matter of factly.
“What are you on about, Cal?”
“There is more hope to be found in the hopeless.”
Max scowled, “That makes no sense!”