Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vignettes

Charles Blake has been an operative for too long. He's sick of China. He's over the food, the smell, the pollution the incessant chatter, crowded streets and over zealous control. He's bored with looking down on a sea of Asian faces in a land so far from home. Day in, day out, covertly listening, reporting, transmitting. This is not the James Bond life he'd envisaged when he first joined.

He sits in his Beijing hotel room, listening to conversations.  A crumpled cheap, made-in-12-hours, suit jacket slumped on the bed. His creased shirt is showing perspiration stains as the ceiling fan cranks slowly above, its draught hitting the bald patch on the back of his head with sticky air.  He longs to be back home, sitting on the verandah with an ice cold beer and a red hot woman. Neither prospect will come to him soon enough. The windows are closed to keep the breath-sucking pollution from his already tarred lungs. Everyone smokes here. He's a 2 packet a day man and it's clogging up the works. He lights another and adjusts his headset.


Nothing new, trade deals, financial information, the formation of commercial alliances, the depositions of traitors, until today. Loud and clear. There's a new development and it's not a pretty one. Two voices. Now this piques his interest to the point where tiny hairs rise on the back of his neck. The prospect being both exhilarating and terrifying.  He can identify the official but not the other voice. He hears mention of Hezb-i-Islami-Gulbuddin and remembers the kidnapping of Chinese workers in Lal Masjid by extremists in 2007. Why are they talking to each other?  His multi-lingual capabilities don't fail him as he hears "uranium", "weapons grade", "Taliban" . . .it doesn't take him long to figure out that high grade uranium intended for Chinese power stations is going somewhere more insidious.

Still sensitive about recent tension over the kidnappings of Chinese workers in Swat, the agency has been concerned about China's support of militants in exchange for safe passage. It's always been feared that China might make deals with known terrorists in order to ensure the safety of it's assets.  They've already made noises about building nuclear reactors inside Pakistan but Blake knows that it's highly likely they'll also ignore the international nonproliferation guidelines and help with the development of a stronger nuclear capability. But help whom? The Taliban? Jesus, this is some revelation. He's on the blower. He wastes no time in alerting his superiors.  Investigations begin with the highest level of security. Operatives within the sub-continent are activated. Plans are made.

 ***
Amanda Fishbourne began her work with UNICEF just three years ago. A petite and pretty blonde with a heart of gold and a desire to do good in the world. All dreams and philanthropy. Finding herself in the North West Frontier Province in the border mountains of Mingora wasn't quite the snuggly brown-baby experience she was expecting.  After three years of hiding indoors from Pakistani Taliban bombing, children are returning to school. Amanda's looking forward to the arrival of her cohort. The two of them will help 88 young girls to read, write and finally become literate. All she knows is his name and whispers it longingly "Richard". She has a photograph attached to his resume. It's been a while since she's seen a white face beyond the ruddied and bloated persona of her supervisor and this face, well this body, looks pretty decent.  It's easy after six months of preparation to entertain fantasies and she frequently has 'conversations' with her yet unmet team teacher . . few of them about teaching. Untouched for a while, she has the photo pinned to her dingy mirror where on cool nights she leans a forehead, eyes closed with Richard's body metaphorically pressed against her back and fingers explore her own softness and bring her pleasure in a country so devoid.
 ***  
Gul Famis 14 and bursting to attend school. But for the kindness of strangers, a new school house has been erected, books provided and a teacher supplied.  Soon she will learn the liberation of language, the power of the written word and will take her first step towards literacy.  She maintains her Islamic garb to and from the refugee camp and school, still afraid of recrimination if she should show skin. It's ultimately preferable to a life of slavery and early marriage to a man old enough to be her father.
She was only 12 when Hazadin asked her father if he could 'have' her.  She'd cried and begged but her father would have none of it. She was of marriageable age and Hazadin a good prospect. Her sister's had all been 'married off' and the burden of cost removed from the family. Gul was the last and forced into the arms of the abusive Hazadin. His arms were what terrified her, pinning her down, hands over her mouth. Strong and brutal. His arms supported the hands that beat her, the hands that groped her yet ultimately the hands that fed her.  


And so she ran. From an irate father and a misogynistic husband. Today she's beginning to see a future and a life away from the bombs and cruelty.   Government buildings long abandoned due to border incursions now form makeshift schools for children like her. Children who've fled, children who have never lived without the reverberation of violence in the background. Children who have had to grow up before their time. At last there is hope.

 ***
Lt. Cdr. Tony PolessoAPG-65 and AN/APG-73 airborne radars with long-range, all-weather, lookup and lookdown capability. Put him in heaven discussing dual UHF/VHF radios, one KY-58 secure radio, and a two-way Link 4 capability.  It's his wet dream to play with the Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) capabilities for passive detection and ranging. Yep he loves his F/A-18, its power, performance and deadly capability. His bird can fly unseen at 36,000 feet and fly at Mach 1.7. Its weapons load is awesome with two wingtip stations for Sidewinders, outboard for air to ground and two nacelle fuselage stations for AMRAMs. Today he's on a mission to prevent a nuclear trade and he's armed and dangerous with 17,000 pounds of ordinance. His map coordinates are set and he roars into the setting sun towards 35°23′N 72°11′E / 35.383°N 72.183°E / 35.383; 72.183.
 ***
The classroom is in full swing, books at the ready and eager voices singing alphabet songs while Amanda scrawls vowels upon the white board. Gul pauses, something in the air distracts her, it's not a sound or a breeze, it's something tense and disconcerting, something she's 'felt' before. Amanda too looks skyward as if the ceiling were invisible but too late. Incendiaries land and panic grips as the blast wave increases and shrapnel spits in all directions piercing skin and walls like butter. The fireball roars and due to the low ceilings, implodes within the low pressured atmosphere. Screams are silenced and rubble stills amid the descending dust. Fifteen innocents are dismembered and charred. The dreams of one pretty teacher and 30 hopeful students explode into atoms and are never realised.

***
PA Christine Newcome has been summoned to the Map Room to take minutes. She's been warned, that what she his about to hear must remain within the room and that only the salient points need be documented. She wipes her security card permitting her entry into the bowels of HQ. She's aware of the importance of the task and the commotion behind the door. Straightening her jacket and tight pencil skirt, she enters the frey.

The assembly is frantic. A cacophony of discussion as operatives argue over who's fault it was and how blame can be shifted. How the media should be briefed. "It's a fucking disaster, that's what it is!" yells an exasperated Nathan Grey, hands pressed hard against his cheeks in total disbelief. Heads will roll and his will be the first to sit at Madam La Farge's feet, to account for their humongous error of judgement. He's responsible for oversighting the careful selection and elimination of the target. "How could we have got it so wrong?  A teacher and fucking children?"

"But the map . . " his colleague is cut short, "Shut the fuck up you moron . . . it's out of date." Sheer disbelief behind his eyes, "We hit the wrong fucking target!"
 

Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "The Map Says We're Fucked" 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beneath Orion's Belt

Knowing how to love is as elusive as the stars. They gaze upon the mortal world, some long-dead but shining still.  Some exploding with new birth, like new love, they beckon, tantalise with cold heat. Shimmering and silent.

Speak to me. Talk to me. Share with me your secrets. Talk of love and life, discord, and despair but speak. Supernova silence burns the map of her human heart.  Show me your passion and your pain. Share feelings and your angst. Talk loud, be honest, shine. But stars do not speak, nor does he. Voices muted in the void of space and time and distance. They don't.  He may well be living on a star. She no longer hears him.

If space is such a noisy place why can't she hear the stars? Why can't she hear his voice?

Moist grass, damp against her skin. She lies naked in the balmy night. Tan blinded by starshine and the gibbous moon.  Humidity oppressive, breath short and tears sliding sideways, fluid sparks pour into her ears. Lying prone, face skyward staring at the cosmos. She sees Orion's Belt but not The Plough.

Cold winter chills his exposed feet. He lies, sore and slow within the crispness of dawn. Withdrawn and sullen, insular but safe. Neglecting those who love him. Retreating in repose. Rugged up, prone on a makeshift bed. Pale skin denied sun's rays. He sees Orion's belt but not the Southern Cross.

How close they are in a universe expanding, how distant when lexicon denied. She misses his soothing voice. He is annoyed by hers.

He's lost, he's sad, he's purposeless. She is lost, she's sad, she needs to talk.

Earth turns and Solaris' light warms her body Earth turns and he nuzzles the duvet in the dark, pats his dog and sinks into selfishness.

Perhaps as night falls,  he will see Orion. Perhaps tonight he'll see the stars that shine in both hemisphere's and remember. Perhaps tonight he will choose to speak.


Posted for the Tenth Daughter of Memory "The Map Say's We're Fucked"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Good Book

Two books. One a book of Fact, the other a book of Faith.  Two tribes. For one, knowledge is king, the other remains ignorant in the promise of bliss and wait for the fulfillment of prophesy.  Fact, fiction, each follower convinced their volume is Truth.

Soap box sermons to the blind, obedient servants all. “Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait His return. He will keep you strong up to the end. He will keep you free from all blame on the great day.”   Heads nod in smug agreement, for they shall be saved, hastened to the cloud and live in everlasting glory.  It is written. He waves the Good Book with passion in his heart, great confidence in his soul, "Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you wait for His return. He will keep you strong right up to the end, and He will keep you free from all blame!”  Yet blame was theirs in causing the inevitable.

Men of letters know their future and it lies not at the hand of God or in His book. Information must be shared. Proficiency is required, knowledge retained as legacy. Their fate lies in their own hands, not in the palm of the ethereal. Cognitive of their lot hastens preparations. Salvation will not serve them, substance shall.  They make haste with provisions and the secreting of tools. Precious resources are garnered along with books of Truth. Other prophets preach shallow, but intelligent men will be apprised.

Atoms are reduced to shadows. Life blown down like raging matchsticks. Dust lofts in violent thermals and absorbs incoming light. Enveloped in the dark, they seek illumination. Pre-tribulation Rapture for the Faithful. But it does not come.

Just as time gone past, disabled coexistence, draws lines where none should be and builds a fortress between them. One tribe rules by fear, the other liberates through knowledge. For it is written.

"What is it?"  asks the child. An ancient reads and thumbs singed pages with gnarled hands, tender as a lover.

"It's a Sea Turtle", Arm encircles the unrecalcetrant child.  Turn the page. " . . .and that?"
"It's an Octopus." 

Illustrations explained offer meaning and purpose. Words speak volumes, knowledge. They learn together, the survivor and the curious.
 " . . and that?"
"A sextant. Used by sailors long ago."  
The book connects the pre and post apocalyptic world, elucidates, informs. It is his prized possession.

Turn the page. Head fills with lexicon,syntax, nouns and verbs, participles past and present. Conjunctions swim as definitions twirl their Dervish dance. Turn the page, each offers hope and illumination in a world of frigid darkness and lost hope.

"What is it?" asks a child. Another ancient burns a book. Tearing pages in a rage. Sacrifice denied redemption. "It's fuel. Rubbish founded on fable and mythology."
"What was it?"
"A book of idioms and prophesies. False hope, blind Faith and disappointment."  Only ash ascends. He is left behind.
"What did it say?"
"We shall be  swept into the arms of God."


God vapourises hope of deliverance from Earth's sinking ship.
He remembers words spoken to flocks long roasted on the spit. More lambs to the slaughter.
  
"Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass . . ." 
Hollow words from an empty book.

Abandoned, Faith gives in to Truth. His tribe is lost. No souls ferried to the cloud. Left to perish with the sinners. Belief destroyed as pages burn. No whistle or trumpet sounds. Isiaah's children stumble, blunder and all are broken in the coming.  No Rosh Hashanah, no salvation. No redemption for children of Zion.  It is they who have slumbered in the dark of ignorance.  All are left divided yet equalised by fear.

"I need a good book". Gold leafed Gideon turns to black and paper pulp to ember.

This is an entry for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Websters p. 983"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Urban Spinster

Ellen isn't the type to take on just any man. Nope, she'd had her first love, her great  love, even what she thought was her last love but after a few gin and tonics, a boring night in and RSVP ads sitting in her side bar, she takes the plunge and builds an online profile; Tall, brown-eyed, fulsome figure. The bubble forms "No wait; better be honest here, a little overweight."  Interests; arts/theatre, food, travel. Easy.  What she wants in a man; considerate, good humoured, financially independent, no short men.  Ha! What she really wanted was a tall, hairless German, tanned and capable of making love like a thrashing machine. Shit, it's worth a go.

Headline: "Spirited, attractive, looking for companionship, travel and an ongoing relationship."  She ticks the right boxes slaps up a headshot just big enough to display some teasing cleavage and it's done.

Emails pour in. Fat men with beards, nerds with ROFLCOPTER T-Shirts, the bald with big egos, even women wearing sensible shoes. Far too many hearts and smiley emoticons. Sex in the subtext and urgency in their pants. She's looking for someone to have dinner with, a movie partner, someone to show her how to use the manual settings on a digital  SLR.  A man who knows his way around a kitchen and doesn't regard a vacuum cleaner as an alien instrument of torture.

Her choice for the virgin liaison is a well-lit beach cafe. She's emailed Henry and conversation flowed. Nice enough. Has dogs, grown children. Divorced. His photograph is pleasant. Perfect, until he walks through the door as overwhelming nerves and the instant urge to flee rise like bile in her throat. Her flight response overcome only by good manners.

"Ah, Henry I presume?"  The lame attempt at the Livingstone/Stanley greeting she immediately regrets. His face looks like his profile. His height is right but he looks a little older. The protrusion of a slight beer belly beneath a casual collared shirt tucked neatly into his well-pressed camel pants, made a little more obvious by seam-pressed, belted trousers. A thought bubble announces, "How come men just put on a little weight and  I have to contend with cellulite and the onset of cankles." Bubble bursts.

He wears polished brogues,  odd given that it's 38 degrees. Hair is greying and wildly coiffed.  His skin denied sunshine is white and smooth with slightly ruddied cheeks. His brow oozing perspiration. He's nervous and in a rush. He's been to the library she assumes, an ancient volume of Webster's tucked tightly beneath his wing. Left arm defensively positioned across his chest, massaging the closed pages with his thumb. She empathises with his anxiety.

If he'd had a volume of Nietzsche she'd have thought him intellectual. Lonely Dove, a butch romantic. The Lonely Planet Guide perhaps a potential travel companion. Even a copy of Discworld and she'd have at least thought him mildly interesting but a dictionary?  Laid lovingly on the table during their preamble, his fingers dally on the luxury of its recesses, massaging its cover as if it was a prone cat purring. Brushing each embossed letter with a tenderness that was frankly, disturbing.

Compounding her own anxiety is Henry's lisp. She is after all judgmental and considers it a flaw. Ordering a '. . .thide order of wegeth and thweet chili thauce with thour cream" was just too much. She surpresses giggles then the yawns as he waxes lyrical about his love of the written word. "Well, an etymologitht thtudies the derivation, or hithtory, of wordth. A linguitht thtudieth how language is formed, tho it could be thaid that a linguitht thtudieth how wordth are uthed,"

She mocks him, "Hmm cunning linguists?"  That one leads the conversation into an entirely new direction as the timid beige man confesses that he swings both ways. The bubble announces "Shit, didn't see that coming!" She loses sensitivity, leaves $50 on the table heads for the door. Should have ticked the 'straight' box.

Lisp:. Lisp \Lisp\ (l[i^]sp), intransitive verb [imperfect & past participle. Lisped(l[i^]spt); Lisping.]
n. word used to describe an entire group of male homosexuals, such as a herd of cattle or a school of fish.
The other day I was walking through the mall, when I was blindsided by a lisp of gays. I followed them to Pottery Barn though and got some great decorating tips.

By the time Paul's on the horizon, the cool of winter has descended. They meet for fun at the Ice Bar wrapped in fur and sipping vodka from frigid glasses. The union is pleasant and so it's on to dinner. He's slim, medium height, face glows with summer tan. "Perhaps he holidays abroad or on the north coast," the bubble ponders before the revelation that he's a marine biologist who field trips way up north.  He's sporadically in town consulting at the Aquarium. A man who drops in and out has enormous appeal and she envisages weekends and disappearances into the sunset. No socks left on the floor. No shavings in the sink. No toilet seat left up.  Well lubricated by Cockfighter's Ghost she's cajoled back to his room. Once through the door he presses her hard against the wall and kisses her with such force she begins to question judgement. His cephalopodic tongue seems intent in exploration as tentacle fingers rush clumsily with voracity and urgency. "This is gonna be over before it begins" the bubble notes. Foreplay is feverish.  "Whoa, whoa, take your time!" she objects and withdraws a forearm from beneath her skirt. He apologises and explains it's been a while and he's out of practice. He thought he'd lost his mojo and his opportunity. He's in luck. She's feeling horny and not wasting the intensifying pleasure she's feeling between her legs. Just wants to slow it down.

"I guess we're both a little out of practice but this isn't the way it's done," she whispers. Slightly perplexed, the octopus is turned back against the wall. She pins his wrists to his side and begins the kiss. First small, gentle teases, taking his top lip in hers. Then with slightly parted lips she turns her head.  Noses press gently as she explores his mouth and tongue. Breasts against his chest, nipples erect, inviting.  She pushes slightly forward. Tongues collide without their former force. All is going well as they unbutton and unzip. Moving clenched from hallway to bedroom, sinking upon the bed, she withdraws the kiss and peruses the human landscape with whom she is entwined. The man has the smallest penis she's ever seen. A stub, a snub and it's not going to work for her in any way shape or form. The sex is terrible. His hands like retarded tentacles are everywhere and anywhere. Efforts to guide fingers into pleasure zones are fruitless. She barely feels the penetration when it happens but notices the premature ejaculation when it does.  Next time she'd consult an octopus before fucking one.

Octopus \Oc"to*pus\, noun. [New Latin expression. See Octopod.].
Foreteller, fortune-teller, predictor, forecaster. From the octopus called Paul, who correctly predicted eight games, including seven Germany games, during the World Cup 2010 season. You need not be an octopus to forecast tomorrow's weather
Max is a rigger at the refinery. Now here's a manly man. Strong arms, stocky build, good height. Hair is a plus. She imagines him in a hard hat, blue singleted and glistening with crude.  All muscle and testosterone.  He's polite enough if a little inexperienced. A home boy at heart. No epicurean but enjoys a well done steak. Attractive in a leathery, five o'clock  shadowy way. She likes his arms all tanned and sinewy and enough bulk for a firm hug.
 
Unencumbered apart from an ex who'd ripped him off, (the bitterness still surfacing like the head on his beer) she likes Max. Salt of the earth, she likes earthy. His conversations honest and straight down the line. She likes straight down the line. Particularly the line from his collar bone to the buckle of his belt. Pecks designed for touching and belly hard as steel. 

They have drinks on the verandah to mellow the mood. He gently strokes her arm moving from shoulder to elbow and wrist before hands wonder along her inner thigh. Eyes close, she swoons as  fingers connect with that often disappointed, yearning spot. He presses lips on hers. Awesome kisses for one so rough. She takes it all and comes, standing, steadying herself. Left arm outstretched against the cool bricks. His breath still on her neck, he guides her to the bedroom, and fumbles for the light. The brightness forces open closed eyes and she surveys the scene.  A bed shaped like a Space Shuttle, Toy Story wallpaper and matching continental quilt, made more ridiculous by the plethora of stuffed animals hanging precariously on a teddy chain. "Is this your kid's room?"
"No mine, why?"  The bubble screams !!"*(.?**!!! before it bursts and she begins to laugh.

There's no surpressing giggles. As his trousers hit the floor, she straightens her dress. It's all so fucking hilarious. She is now consumed by, knicker-wetting, laughter. He's confused as she blurts out, "Max, I'm sorry! I just can't do this with all those teddy's eyeing from the corner and Woody on the bed!" Further amused by the pun, she wipes a slightly running nose and smears jovial tears with the back of her hand in a futile effort to gain control of her hysterics. She leaves. He sits on the edge of the bed and cries tears she doesn't see. Plucks a Panda from the teddy chain and rests it comfortingly in his unsatisfied crotch.

sex·tant  (skstnt) n. A person who prefers sex with stuffed animals or blow up dolls rather than a person.
"A man was having sex with a blow up doll"
"Man, He's a sextant

She doesn't consider herself a racist but when Marlon's email arrives, she almost forgoes reply. Swarthy skin and a slightly flattened nose gave his aboriginal heritage away despite piercing blue eyes. She'd never met an aboriginal, let alone dated one. "What the Hell" chastises the bubble.  "Can't dance, can't sing, can't paint" the bubble's out of control.  He's shorter than she thought. Skinny calves protruding beneath cargo shorts, two sizes too big. His T shirt's black with a cliched aboriginal flag emblazoned on the back. Shocks of salt and pepper shiny curls mass upon his head. He looks younger in the flesh which pleases her no end and smiles like Ernie Dingo as he saunters into the pub. She's driving so he plies her with lemon lime and bitters in the shady beer garden. He is passionate and animated, intelligent and interesting. It strikes her as incongruous that a city man has such a yearning for country. They click, they definitely click.  Life is good. Lunch is long. This one could be a keeper.

It isn't until she walks him to his car that she realises he's not made a single inquiry about her.   All he knows she's volunteered. The mirror cracks. Smoke dissipates and a facade is revealed. He turns, "Here comes the date question" bubble postulates. Or perhaps to plant a farewell kiss but no. He hands her a pamphlet and asks for a 'donation'. The foundation he represents  is 'networking' via dating sites to increase public awareness. Desperates like her typically have disposable income and he's found them generous in the past. She is Jesus betrayed and he her black Judas. She's left twiddling metaphorical thumbs.
"Go make some fuckin' beads!" she spits, turns, leaves.

Turtle: noun, plural -tles, ( especially collectively ) -tle, verb, -tled, -tling.
Well known saying for when you make an idiot of yourself. Clasped hands with thumbs twiddling. 
Sadly the hand gesture you make for this  Turtle, is actually the American sign language sign for 'platypus' 
"That's not a turtle you moron, that's a platypus"
"Shit."

And so it ends. She, content in solitude, no cunning linguists, Chelonya Midas, Cephlapods or nautical navigational tools. The site is unsubscribed, events put down to experience. She clicks on Urban Dictionary just for shits and giggles:

Spinster \Spin"ster\, noun. [Spin -ster.].
1. A first name, as in cougar who likes to eyeball younger men.
2. Anyone with the name "Audrey"
3. A woman whose ovaries are becoming dehydrated and may soon fall out.
"That woman's on the prowl again...Can you say desperate?  Dude, was she one of those Spinsters??

This is  an entry  for Websters p983 on The Tenth Daughter of Memory