The agony of choice (a dystopian tale)

There was always talk of the world outside the confines of the bubble wall. A massive transparent protective dome built around the city. The chatter comprised of memories from the old world and whether others had managed to scramble to safety. Most of the citizens were content with the life they had fashioned around the circumstances. Time ticked over slowly since the war but in the calmness of almost total destruction the people learned to cope. The overlords provided for the masses as long as individuals remained useful to them. Everyone with in the confines had been hand picked for their multiple attributes. Covering the basic needs for survival and suitable candidates to rebuild a stable community. Some skill sets had been hard to come by. Modern life had become mechanised and pushed the fundamental physical labour jobs to the back burner. Rendering them surplus to requirement. Luckily some people had maintained a more traditional approach to life keeping lost skills alive. This made them important commodities now.
The majority of the original citizens believed they were lucky to have survived. In the old days everything had gotten chaotic. The world leaders openly began to seemingly lose their minds. Random rich men and woman pushed themselves into positions of power proclaiming themselves rulers. Confusion was the order of the day back then fed unending pot of fake money created by the banks.The people of earth could not tell who was genuine within the media shit storm unfolding before their eyes. Truthfully most preferred not to get involved and happily trod on in rose tinted ignorance. The farce evolved becoming more absurd with many turning a bling eye to the looming danger.
In hind sight the survivors could see it was all preordained. A ludicrously played out sham shielded everyone from what was happening behind the scenes. Feeling enraged and frightened the people decided to try take control by backing political front runners unqualified to be in power. Mere puppets playing their part in the largest mind control experiment ever undertaken. Little did the people know that this had been the masterplan all along and they played into the hands of the overlords. Inevitably causing the start of their own self destruction.
Two generations had now grown up within the confines of the bubble. A few underground rebellions had began to sprout with limited success. These citizens had access to rare texts from the old world. Most of the human history had been wiped out and many survivors hated talking of the past. A new history had begun the day the warheads were fired. Luckily a band of forward thinking educators within the protected zone had foreseen what was coming. They collaborated in a secret mission bringing important tomes from far and wide hiding them in a bunker for safety.

A group of specialists went out on a ground breaking expedition beyond the wall once. State of the art suits protected them from the elements. The atmosphere outside the protective bubble however beautiful with its array of coloured sunsets and rises was said to be highly toxic. Pictures were beamed back to every available screen and there was much rejoicing and wonderment of the spectacle. The possibility that life could exist outside the great bubble was very exciting. Rebel sceptics said the whole expedition had been faked, that it was impossible to pull off. The belief was that it was another power play to keep the masses subdued. The rebels tried to prove there was a massive residual radioactive belt which could not be penetrated with the materials at scientists disposal. They believed that camera equipment and film would not work in the conditions they were meant to be exposed to.They even examined the pictures in fine detail picking out anomalies and irregular shadows to prove the expedition had been staged. The majority of the citizens ridiculed them in favour of staying true to the overlords. After all in their eyes they were the true saviours. Exposing the truth was going to be difficult. Resources were limited which weakened the effort. The strength of the overlords was great with their propaganda machine working at full pelt. A never ending stream of obedient workers keeping the cogs well oiled. To scared to step out of line.

‘What was the real purpose behind this show? What is it they have in store for us?’

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The agony of choice (a dystopian tale)

United in the ‘Tradgic’

It has been a week since I stayed up into the early hours of the morning to cyber witness the final concert of the Tragically Hip via a live stream. Gord Downie who has inspired a nation with his in depth lyrics and thoughts came out to say good bye in the most profound way. At first I felt the crowd seemed awkwardly subdued possibly a weird feeling of ‘Shit this is it… The end of the end’. Sure the music and legacy of the band will remain cemented in culture for ages but sadly on a less intimate level. I cannot help but admire what Gord did with this part of his time on earth. In true poetic fashion he had something to say and did it with style.
It is difficult to describe how I would react when properly faced with my own mortality. It is an enivitable stage of life that everyone will experience at some point. With some of us it will happen quickly and we will almost have no time to think. In near death experiences they say everything slows down. Possibly giving you time to make peace with yourself before leaving the plain of life as we know it. The more prolonged pre death experience really bothers me. Most often it manifests itself in diseases like cancer where the person is presented with a timeline. I have witnessed plenty of lives plagued by that timeline and figure the most common denominator is the question. Will I be able to die with dignity?

Another factor thrown up by this death march is the need to have everything in order and sometimes to leave some kind of legacy (a tiny foot print in the vastness of time). In human terms I refuse to believe anybody wants to slip out unnoticed. Many sadly do but all of us need to feel everything is worthwhile. Call it a mild form of vanity if you will. From the outside looking in it seems easier for the person whose fate has been sealed by the timeline. Once they come to terms with what is about to happen. A strength presents itself bedding in as they make peace in their minds and begin to move forward. Sure there will be spates of severe melancholy but it is all about setting up for the the inevitable. The ones left behind often struggle to mend the hole left by loss and the hurt may dissipate but it never really goes away.

A friend of mine has been fairly recently diagnosed with cancer. Initially we never really got into the bones of it. In the early days there was probably too much for him to process and the time scale given was short. We chose to briefly ignore the news and continued on as if nothing had happened which was difficult considering the emoting going on in the back of my mind. Thankfully the disease has been controlled better and the timescale has been prolonged by a few years.A few weeks ago we met up for a day out. The further into the day we got the more beers we consumed the closer we moved toward the elephant in the room. It was the small things that he started to notice more. The greenness of the trees, the beauty of his surroundings and the warmth of the sun on his face that became more heightened. As most of us bash through life at an ever increasing rate of knots we often forget the little things that make this world great. I tend to focus on the shit, get bogged down by media, become bitter about what I have not got. Most of all I forget about what I do have. The less materialistic things that are after all the essence of humanity. Lessons are dished out constantly if the time is taken to listen for them.

I have read a few of posts on social media pertaining to ‘The Hip’ gig. How almost a whole nation shut down for a few hours to witness a dying mans legacy being played out before their eyes. Some people calling for the band and particularly Gord Downie to be honoured by the country in someway. Upon reading some of the comments I was flabbergasted by the negativity of some people.
Some suggesting that getting cancer and writing a bunch of songs did not warrant being honoured by the country. I say to theses people ‘ Open your eyes, cut out the cataracts of doubt that cloud your vision. Here is a man with his band who have managed to unite a massive amount of humans together from all over the globe to share something special. If you take the time to listen to the lessons strewn through the songs it may make you a better person. Surely that has to stand for something.’

Yowzer!
#tragicallyhip #gorddownie #openyourmind #poeticmind #everydaysaschoolday #cbccanadaimage

United in the ‘Tradgic’

Eyeballing Achilles (Tales from back of house)

Jen stood in front of the mirror alone. Naked as the day she entered the world. The reflection bouncing back filled her with disgust.
‘Who would want to tap that?’ She asked out loud as she cast a critical eye over every part of a body she hated. The sagging weighty tits. The flabby belly which now hung so low that it obscured her unkempt bush.
‘Is this really me?’ she questioned.’ What happened to that fresh faced girl filled with beautiful promise?’
Surely this was some cruel trick being played out on her. All the negativity in her life had slowly stalked her as prey. Finally pouncing to devour her in fat. Jen never saw it coming and desperately wanted to cut it all out. Suck it up into a magic fat munching contraption. She was convinced that if she squeezed hard enough the dense lard around her midriff would melt and seep out through her pores. Jen looked at her lower arms where the small cuts and burns of kitchen life were now concealed by tattoos. Back in the day these injuries were displayed as badges of honour and she wandered round like some proud self harmer. She grew out of this phase, eventually covering them with a more artistic form of scar tissue. They say that tattoos often tell a story of your life mapped out in ink.
‘Mine is just a story of misery and bollocks.’ she muttered as she surveyed the macabre images adorning her body. The once soft inviting skin of her lithe inner thighs now flabby with the epidermis thick and rough. Surely it would create reverse beard rash on any unsuspecting beau daring to dive headfirst into that nether-region. The most devastating injuries lay behind the eyes. Jen could see the damage of every insult and trick she pulled to push her way to the top. Success had brought loneliness. The personal sacrifices she had made over the years had left her high and dry. The people she turned her back on were gone and all that was left was a band of superficial acquaintances who would never really know her inner soul. In Jen’s minds eye the lives she had trod on to prop herself up there were beginning to rot . As the ropey pedestal began to decay from the bottom up Jen could feel the inertia of the wobble building up slowly as she prepared to crumble with it.
Jen always had an interest in food. She was an adventurous kid and was open to trying new flavours. It seemed like a natural progression for her to move towards a career in the kitchen. Jen did a stint at college but frankly was bored with it. She had learnt a lot more working a few shifts a week in the local pub than she ever did at cooking school. Being headstrong Jen stuck it out. She wanted to be the real deal so persevered through the slow meander of the course and walked away with the qualification.
Jen decided to head for the city to find work. She believed they took food more seriously there and opportunities were plentiful.
‘ I need to cut my teeth in bigger establishments.’ Jen convinced her parents who had always lived rurally. ‘ I have to go somewhere that is offering a faster paced lifestyle. Work with proper chefs who are at the top of their game and can teach me the art to great food.’ she continued.
The catering industry was on the cusp of a food revolution which was becoming more apparent in the media. The rise of the celebrity chef was underway through more column inches in glossy mags and TV air time.
Starting at the bottom Jen was pushed onto the pastry section. The kitchen was dominated by males which she found irritating at first. Chefs appeared in mainstream media romanticising about how they were inspired to cook from a very young age via mothers and grandmothers. “Where were these women were now? How come they raised these boys to be ego driven, chauvinistic wankers.” Jen wondered.
‘Chef can I join the main kitchen.’ Jen asked the Head chef one day. ‘I don’t want to be a pastry chef. I’d rather be over there at the grill.’
‘Look here girl!’ the Chef snapped at her.’ We are not in your fuckin’ Wendy house now! Making mud cakes for your dollies is a thing of the past.’ he continued condescendingly. ‘ You go where I say!..For now that is in pastry. When you prove you have the drive I may give you the chance in another section.’
“What a dick.” Jen thought feeling embarrassed as she burst into tears.
‘That’s why women fail in the kitchen.’ said the chef. ‘You are too emotional. There is no room for tears in my kitchen. Go and sort yourself out. You may return when you are ready to work.’
At the time Jen almost walked out but that prick actually did her a favour. The first layer of armour began to mould itself in. Ironically years later this particular head chef would have an emotional melt down. Eventually loosing face in the media. Even sobbing on the local news after being caught for drug induced house breaking and shop lifting. The adrenaline rush of catering had began to wain on him so he found his fix in drugs and petty crime.
Most chefs tried to bypass the pastry, they were afraid of it. Pastry requires patience and an in depth understanding of precision. It is not for everyone. As luck would have it the head of pastry was a talented guy. A mad cap German who was strict but a real workhorse who led his little sub team from the front.
‘ To be in this industry.’ He addressed Jen in a thick accent.’ You either have to be MAD, STUPID or GAY…Which one are you?’ he questioned before roaring into a loud cackle straight out of the depths of Bedlam. He was clearly one of the mad ones. Turns out he was gay as well but definitely not stupid. At the time Jen felt she was incapable of defining herself on this scale but edged towards the mad side. These beginnings formed a stable grounding for the progression up the ranks for Jen and she began to learn loads about the science behind food production.
As a girl Jen found gaining respect in the industry a hard nut to crack. She felt she had to work much harder than the rest of the boys to be noticed.
Jen was tenacious and energised so went full ball. She had more to prove in this testosterone stew. She pushed harder, drank harder and took more drugs than any of the guys. She had her fair share of sexual fumblings. Her athletic build and attractive looks did not go unnoticed by horny boys in the main kitchen. At the time she felt that dishing out blowjobs, hand-jobs and drunken, drug fuelled bonks was the way in. But it backfired as she discovered the guys were after one thing. Once the conquest was over interest dwindled. Through the hedonistic haze Jen had failed to see she was merely becoming the kitchen bike. That was until one day everything boiled over. A particularly disgusting chef Rodger tried to come onto her in the changing room. His pants were down round his ankles before she could fend him off. This walking stink bomb pushed Jen up against the wall and held his fore arm up against her throat. The hand of his free arm was fumbling around trying to push into her knickers. Jen could feel his hot smelly breath on her face and she wanted to puke. He was taller and stronger than her but she held firm managing to grab a turning knife that was lying on the shelf. His expression changed to one of panic when he realised Jen had the knife jammed up into his scrotum.
‘I’ll cut your fuckin nuts out one by one if you come near me again.’ Jen snarled. ‘If you go telling anyone about what just happened I’ll do you for being a sex pest you slimy cunt.’
‘Please…Don’t…I didn’t mean it.’ said Rodger as he began to sob.’ I just like you that’s all. I just wanted to be with you.’ he continued. ‘ The way you talked to me last night…I thought…’
‘ Listen here you dumb fuck!’ Jen replied still holding the knife in the same spot trying not to think about the now limp penis resting on her hand.
‘ You will never be with me. You are a repulsive piece of shit. When it comes to shit you are lower in the rankings than a fucking dog turd.’ she continued as she felt her hand and legs getting wet with warm liquid as Rodger began to uncontrollably piss himself.
‘ You pathetic sad excuse for a man.’ Jen taunted. ‘ A little girl got the better of you hey. Making you piss in your own pants. Why don’t you run back to mummy and get her to change your nappy you fuckup.’
The chef left with his balls intact but dignity shattered. He disappeared on his split that day and took his knives with him never to return. Rumour had it that he took his own life days later. Jen managed to distance herself from feeling guilty about what she had said to him.
That night Jen got the call from the main kitchen.
‘ That fuckin’ twat Rodger has gone AWOL and I need someone on garnish section tonight.’ said the chef.’ Get yourself in there… Dan talk her through the prep and service.’
She was in.
From that day on things fell into place fairly quickly and movement up the ladder was swift. She had a brain and knew how to use it. The blokes never got to grips with her manipulative ways and she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. When she reached management level she ruled with an iron fist and had bigger balls than a lot of the guys. Timid young boys were broken down and disappeared to the toilet never to return.
‘I might need to phone a plumber soon’ she would jest as another chef disappeared. ‘That shit pipe must be backing up with the amount snivelling twats that have flushed themselves down it.’ she continued as everyone in the brigade jeered. ‘The kitchen is no place for Nancy boys! I’m only interested in the mad fuckers who can deal with suffering. Fit in or Fuck off.’ she would add. Jen had created an inner circle of chefs who formed the backbone to the brigade and the rest were treated like cannon fodder. Poor bastards battling to stay alive in the trenches of service. Once an unsuspecting head popped up out of the protection of a section and the person began to flail around in no mans land they were blasted to hell and gone. At this stage the person had two outcomes either they would heal their wounds quickly and recover or be snagged up in the barbed wire. A sitting duck ready to be obliterated.
Jen’s talent was so sought after that often these beastings would be over looked and swept under the carpet. It was just part of the territory. As long as the punters were filling the restaurant and loving the food who gave a fuck right?
Goose bumps began to form all over her body as Jen stood there reflecting on her past. She found it difficult to picture the future feeling lost with no hint of which way to turn. After years of dishing out abuse Jen had eventually realised that treating people harshly was counter productive. The supply of young talent began to dry up and she was left with a team of bitter and twisted twats that bickered constantly. The world had changed and youngsters where not interested in being treated like dicks. Sadly the straw that finally broke the camels back came out of Jen trying to help. A young man had joined the team as a Kitchen porter. His command of the English language was low but he delved into the work quietly and with out fuss. A few weeks went by and his manner began to change. The boy became more withdrawn and skittish. Jen tried to find out what was wrong and called on a waiter to translate for her. It turned out the boy had run out of the medication he was taking for a mental condition. Jen decided it was best to send him home to his parents for help. There and then Jen booked the flight for him and sent him on his way. The boy thanked her for what she had done and tearfully left. He never made the flight. A flat mate came home to find him lying on the bed in a comatose state. By the time the ambulance arrived it was to late the boy was gone. Jen was just a cook yet in her job she was required to deal with multiple personalities .She tried at best to keep them ticking over together in order to get the job done. Jen wondered if she could have done more?
Jen looked deep into her eyes and was appalled to recollect the souls she had failed.The regret was painfull to handle and she watched herself weep as she felt the demons wrapping around her heart began to squeeze.

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Eyeballing Achilles (Tales from back of house)

Shanghai surprise (Tales from back of house)

Rossco jolts awake and surveys the room. For a split second he forgets where he is but then looks at his watch now smashed and useless. The blood flowing from the gash on his arm has stopped now. However not before it seeped into the strap and dried into a thick layer of skin on his wrist. There is no time to feel sad or nostalgic. His Dad had handed the watch down to him before he died. The watch had become the start of a family heirloom. Rossco’s family were not that well off and heirlooms seemed to be reserved for the rich, but the piece was a good one. The quality is irrelevant as the connection is deeper than value. Rossco enjoyed ticking along to the same time his dad worked to for all those years.
‘Shit we’re still here.’ he curses softly. Suzie he girlfriend is cuddled into his chest and sleeping. The hard empty bath tub they are huddled up in is taking its toll on his skinny body. At least Suzie had calmed down now as she had been hysterical. Her voice became hoarse with all the screaming. Rossco hears voices outside in the hall way, one of them deep and possibly familiar. He decides not to shout out. Drawing attention to himself at this moment may be counter productive. Besides it is better that Suzie remains in her unconscious state for now he thinks.
‘Why the fuck do I let myself get into theses situations?’ he scolds himself for being a sucker for a night out on the drink.

It all started so innocently with a easy Sunday night service at the restaurant. The added bonus was that they finished early. Suzie cashed up her tables and sat in the bar area waiting for Rossco and ‘Big Ben’. They didn’t call him Big Ben for his time keeping that was for sure. Ben wasn’t tall in stature either however he was strongly built and carried himself with the swagger of a taller man. That seemed enough to warrant the nickname. In the past Ben ran with a gang of football casuals and earned his stripes as a hooligan on the back streets of the city. During his time with the gang he had developed a serious habit for drink and drugs which he was now trying to curtail with fluctuating results.
Kenny the new Kitchen porter had finished mopping the floor so the three friends invited him to have a drink to which he gladly obliged. Ben ripped out a bottle of wine from the rack and downed it in a oner. Burping and laughing at his gawking audience.
‘ It’s been paid for… ‘he said as he caught a glimpse of Suzie’s questioning look. ‘I over charged those dipsticks on table ten.’ he explained. ‘The twats deserved it the tight fisted bastards… Never left a tip.’
‘ What the fuck man.’ argued Suzie. ‘ You ripped them of with the wine before they had a chance to give you the tip… That’s bollocks man.’ she added.
‘ Aaahhh straight little Suzie. Power to the people and all that crap.’ teased Ben. ‘I could tell they were skinflint cunts the minute they walked in the door… All laaa dee fuckin daaa with their suave gear on. Fuck’m they never checked the bill anyway. I’m innocent, me lud.’ he continued as he put his hand on his heart and bowed his head towards her.
‘ You’re such a prick at times.’ said Suzie. ‘ It’ll catch you out some time… Good and proper.’
Kenny sat quietly and scoffed at his pint of beer.
‘Let’s move on out for another drink .’ Rossco suggests . ‘ I need to take the edge off. I feel a bit uptight tonight.’
‘ Suzie needs to cradle your balls more.’ blurts out Ben now pissing himself laughing.
‘ You perverted dickhead.’ shouts Suzie. ‘ I do plenty ball action thanks very much. And if Rossco could cut out his fuckin’ drug binging for a while I am sure his tension will be restored to normal levels.’ she adds. ‘ Not that it’s any of your fuckin’ business anyway.’
‘ Oooohh get you.’ mocks Ben reaching for another bottle of wine. There was no point in trying to stop him. Ben’s tolerance for booze is strong but things could get nasty very quickly. Especially if someone tries to come between him and the booze.
‘ Kenny! You coming with us yea?’ asks Ben.
‘ Eeeeehrrr… maybe I need to head off.’ says Kenny rather nervously.
‘ Listen. That’s not really a question. I’m telling you, you need to come with us.’ says Ben giving off a little wanky passive aggression.

Two hours later it was closing time and the four buddies stumble out of the bar. Kenny had come out of his shell and the nervous edge was now obliterated.
‘ Come round to mine for a night cap.’ invites Kenny.
‘ Why not.’ says Rossco feeling like he needs complete oblivion to sort himself out.
‘ Naaa.’ complains Suzie ‘It’s pissing with rain and I need to be in early tomorrow.’
‘ It’s cool.’ says Kenny ‘ We’ll get a cab. Besides I have got a bit of Ching back home. That’ll give you a lift for the morning.’
All the guys are already looking for cabs so Suzie caves and goes along for the ride.

The cab ride is about five minutes through winding back streets. The windows steam up quickly and the rain is pretty heavy so visibility is poor. The three friends totally lose their bearings.
‘Where the fuck are we?’ asks Rossco when he steps out of the cab looking at the semi derelict buildings around him. ‘This is a shithole! No offence Kenny.’
‘ My flats okay.’ assures Kenny ‘ It’s a bit of a rough street granted but I’m trying to get back on my feet after a few set backs.’
‘Set backs?’ questions Ben.
‘Yea I had a few problems. Nothing I can’t handle now.’ answers Kenny.
The three visitors are thankful it is darker in the corridors of the tenement block. They try not to think about what the spongy floor consists of as they follow Kenny towards his flat door. Short blasts of music and a cacophony of shouts and shrill screams echoes around the stair well. Like walking into “Bedlam” a sense of unease begins to creep in. The flat itself is clean and tidy, fairly sparsely furnished but comfortable. Surprisingly once inside the lounge area the noise is dumbed down and every one puts the last few minutes of mild tension behind them.
Beers and whisky start to flow followed by weed and some coke lined up on the small wooden box that doubles as a makeshift table. It is placed in the middle of the room and everyone digs in at leisure.
‘Wow this is my idea of heaven.’ chortles Rossco. Enjoying the hospitality of their new best friend. Suzie has relaxed a bit and passes out on the lazy boy chair in the corner of the room. Ben admires the array of weapons displayed on the walls. Old pistols, rifles, daggers and a beauty of a Japanese “Samurai” sword hanging over a boarded up hole where the fireplace should be.
‘ Where did you get all this stuff?’ asks Ben. ‘It’s amazing and must be worth a fortune.’
‘ I don’t really like to talk about it.’ replies Kenny. ‘ Lets just say I was owed a debt and I collected on it.’ he adds. ‘On the subject of debt. You guys need to shell out some doe for the gear you are having.’
‘ Ha Haaa nice one Kenny.’ jokes Roscco feeling really wired. ‘ You’re so funny.’
‘ I’m being serious.’ says Kenny the tone of his voice changes to being low and menacing. His facial expression has gone from being open and warm to a hard grimace . ‘ You fuckheads expect to get a free ride? Come in, use my stash and expect not to give me something back in return?’
‘ Okay settle down Cochise.’ says Ben ‘ Lets not get too worked up here. I’ve got a good buzz going here which I don’t want to spoil.’
Kenny grabs the sword off the wall and unsheathes the blade. ‘ FUCK! Now you’ve done it.’ shouts Kenny.’ I need to draw blood now. And it’s not going to be fuckin’ mine.’
Ben instantly springs up and makes a dash for the front door.
‘ Get the fuck out! Save yourselves!’ Ben hollers as he opens the door and flees.
‘Ben you Cunt!’ screams Rossco ‘Wait for us!’ as he tries to grab Suzie. She is out of it and in a deeper sleep than he thought. They are both trapped as she wakens to the nightmare. They both huddle together and begin to sob. Kenny is mumbling to himself now and has worked himself into a frenzy. He grips the sword with both hands and begins to swoop the blade down in a chopping motion.
Roscco manages to gain his composure and tries to reason with his captor as Suzie goes into shock and begins shivering uncontrollably.
‘ Look Kenny I need to get Suzie home… Lets talk about this in the morning…No harm done hey.’ Rossco pleads. There is no response from Kenny and Roscco is not sure he is getting through the manic stare.’ Okay. We are sorry. We misunderstood and I promise you will get what we owe.’ Roscco continues. ‘ It’s just I don’t have money on me. In fact I have nothing till Friday when I get paid.’
‘ I don’t believe you.’ snarls Kenny. ‘ What’s stopping you from doing a bunk and leaving me in the shit. Besides Mervyn is going to want his money…He’s not big on credit. He just owed me a favour that’s how I got the gear on tick.’ he adds. ‘ Mervyn’ll be round in the morning…He can deal with you two then.’
Suzie starts screaming for help but in this God forsaken shithole crawling with junkies she is wasting her time. Rossco attempts to stand up and puts his open hand out to indicate his intention. Kenny swipes the sword at Rossco and catches his lower arm. It is a glancing blow but the blade is sharp and cuts a gash in his forearm. He jumps back in fright, falling over the box table and slams hard against the wall. Rossco is dazed for a few seconds but recovers to see the tip of the sword pointing between his eyeballs.
‘ Get up!’ commands Kenny. ‘ You two can sleep in the bathroom tonight. It’s the only door that locks.’ Kenny ushers his prisoners through into the bathroom and locks it behind them.
Rossco grabs a small towel and wraps it round the wound to stop the bleeding. He then opens up a bigger towel and wraps it round the shivering love of his life. Trying to keep her warm.
‘ Why the fuck did Ben ditch us?’ Rossco questions. ‘ Surely he wouldn’t leave us here with this nut job?’ he did not expect an answer and Suzie begins to sob even harder. Rossco decides to try get Suzie more comfortable so he sits in the bath so she can lie on his chest. Eventually her breathing becomes less erratic and she falls asleep.

The voices are getting louder and argumentative, the booming voice of Ben is clear now.
‘ Thank fuck he’s back! ‘ exclaims Rossco. Now standing up and waking Suzie in the process.
‘ We’er getting out of here.’ explains Rossco. ‘ Get yourself together yea. Ben is back and he’s going to save us.’
‘ BEN…BEN… We are in here Ben.’ shouts Rossco.
‘ YES! I know now shut the fuck up.’ comes the reply. ‘I’ve got a situation going on here… Stand clear of the door.’ instructs Ben. Just at that moment the blade of the sword comes stabbing through the door followed by the sound of smashing glass. There is a deep thud and a bit of shuffling. The next thing there is a roar from Ben as the door is blasted open using Kenny’s noggin as a battering ram.
The two captors are relieved at the sight and jump over the slumped up body of Kenny to freedom.
‘ The Key is in the lock.’ says the grateful Rossco looking at Ben who is trying to catch his breath.
‘ But that way was much more fun.’ replies Ben grinning while he admires his handy work. The blood tricking down his forehead doesn’t seem to bother him.
Ben drags Kenny’s limp body to the toilet and shoves his head down the bowl and pulls the flush.
‘Take that you junkie prick.’ says Ben. ‘ And don’t bother turning up for work tomorrow or ever right.’ he warns. ‘Do you understand? ‘ questions Ben. ‘ I need to hear the affirmative… I’m not walking out that door till you agree to never cross our path again, scumbag.’ Ben waits for an answer which is not coming. ‘ As a matter of fact leaving town would be a great idea.’ adds Ben. ‘ Are you reading me loud and clear?’ he pulls Kenny out of the bowl.
‘Yes…I…Get you.’ answers Kenny while spluttering on toilet water.
‘And due to my night being inconvenienced by your little spate of bullshit. I will consider our tab of goods to be wiped clean.’ orders Ben. ‘ And don’t bother getting your dealer prick involved either. If he comes looking for us I will deal with him in the harshest manner possible.’
Kenny nods in acknowledgement of the instruction.
Ben turns to his two friends ‘Let’s go.’
‘ Should we call the police?’ asks Rossco. ‘ He did hold us hostage after all.’
‘ Forget it my man. Chalk it up to a bad trip.’ answers Ben. ‘ Plus tell me how you are going to explain to the Fuzz the reason you happened upon this gem of a joint hey?’ questions Ben sarcastically. ‘The punishment has been dished out. Besides if he can’t pay that dealer the law of the street will figure out something much sweeter.’

Yowzer!

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Shanghai surprise (Tales from back of house)

Lucinda Lovage and her Loopy Lemonade

Lucinda Lovage is the youngest member of her family. She has a brother Jack and sister Katie the oldest child. Lucinda’s brother and sister look after her a lot as Mum and Dad work different shifts. Lucinda hates lemons. At least she thinks she does. She is reminded why one day when the whole family sit down to watch old home movies.

‘ How cute baby Lucinda.’ Katie squeals as a piece of film starts. ‘ I remember this one.’ she continues. ‘It’s the one when we went off on holiday and had a great picnic on the beach.’
In the film Lucinda is sitting happily playing in the sand. She loves the beach and still to this day enjoys building sand castles. Great big ones where princesses rule and enjoy huge banquets of cake.
‘Ha haaaa. Watch this bit.’ says Katie getting very excited and twitchy. She is looking directly at Lucinda waiting for the reaction. On screen Dad hands Lucinda a slice of fruit which she now knows is lemon and she eagerly munches into it. There is a burst of laughter as everyone watches Lucinda’s face as she tastes the bitter lemon. It is a look of shock and disgust as Lucinda realises it is not a sweet orange and her whole body shudders as she bursts into tears. Every one his howling with laughter at her funny face.
‘ Rewind it!’ screams Jack. ‘ I want to see it again. But in slow motion this time. ‘ Jack is frantically looking for the remote control. The family are so busy laughing at Lucinda that they don’t realise she is in a big huff.
‘You are all cruel!’ blurts Lucinda. ‘ I cannot believe someone would play such an evil trick on me.’ she is now at the point of tears. ‘ I’m leaving and going where people love me.’ she says as she begins her angry stomp out of the living room.
‘ Lucinda….Honey.’ Mum calls after her as she tries to slam the door. The problem is that Dad still has not fixed the bobble in the carpet so the door never closes. It just makes a”ffffftttt” sound as the door jams on the raised pile. Mum comes out into the hall where Lucinda sits on the stairs fizzing in anger with her arms crossed. Lucinda can hear her siblings still sniggering behind the door.
‘ That’s enough now.’ Dad says to them. ‘ Lucinda’s upset and needs a bit of time to calm down. Besides I have not shown the real good stuff with you two in it.’ he continues.
‘ Lucinda darling.’ says Mum. ‘ It’s all a bit of a laugh. There is no real harm done. We all do silly stuff at times and we didn’t mean to hurt you. Can you forgive us?’
Lucinda thinks about it for a second. ‘ Yes I can.’ she says. ‘ It was kind of funny anyway. But don’t make me eat lemons again.’
Everyone cheers as Lucinda and Mum return for some more home movie magic. Lucinda is happy to be part of a loving family even if they do silly stuff at times.

At school Lucinda is learning about different places in the world and how some children live alone without family in poverty. Often some of the kids her age have to live on the streets. They never go to school because they need to find a way to survive. Lucinda loves school and being with her friends. She could not imagine it any other way. Lucinda decides she is going to try help them by raising money.
‘What kind of thing can I do to raise money?’ Lucinda asks Mum.
‘Well think of some thing you are good at or enjoy.’ replies Mum. ‘ It needs to be something that is not going to cost you much either.’ Mum adds. ‘The more you spend on the project the less you’ll have to give. Plus you have already spent your pocket money.’
‘ Ohhh… I think I understand.’ says Lucinda. ‘ What can I do that I enjoy and am good at?’ she asks herself out loud. ‘Drawing?..Maybe not there are so many good pictures out there. Baking maybe?.. Hmmmm that might take up too much time and I need help with the oven.’
It is a very hot day and Lucinda sits looking out over the garden desperate for a refreshing drink. She looks out over the beautiful plants a trees growing outside when Bam! The LEMON tree. Her greatest fear “aaaaaargggghhhh” but it has free fruit.
‘That’s it!’ Lucinda cries out.’ Lemonade! I could add extra sugar to take away the nasty taste.’
Lucinda has heard about lemonade being very refreshing on a hot day but never had the courage to try it.
‘ I need to put my fear of lemons behind me.’ she decides. ‘ Those children must live in greater fear everyday. They would laugh at me if they found out I was afraid of a fruit?’
Lucinda gets to work. Katie agrees to pick the lemons from the tree as the branches are prickly and higher up. She manages to coax Jack into fetching a bag of sugar that Mr.Green kindly agreed to donate out of the local shop.
Lucinda borrows Mum’s yellow gloves to protect her hands from the lemon acid as she squeezes out the juice with all her might. Luckily Mum has a mechanical juicer which helps. Although it makes a frightful mess.
‘ Now I have mixed the sugar and lemon it’s just a bit of water.’ says Lucinda feeling chuffed.
She puts on a brave face as she tastes the drink.
‘Uuuuuuugggghh!’ cries Lucinda as she runs to the tap to rinse her mouth out. ‘It’s too sour. ‘ she says sadly. ‘ And I have used up all the sugar…No ones going to want to drink that.’
Lucinda is about to walk away and give up when she spots Mum’s Elderflower cordial on the shelf. Mum made a few weeks ago and it has plenty of sugar in it.
‘ I am not sure if lemon and Elderflower go together.’ says Lucinda with a little doubt. But she is in a crazy kind of mood now. ‘ It’s a bit loopy but here goes.’ She pours a bottle of syrup into the bowl and adds a bit of water. It is time to taste it. ‘ Wow that’s it! Perfect.’
Lucinda draws up a sign “Lucinda’s Loooopy Lemonade. Donations needed”. she takes some plastic disposable picnic cups, a small table, Granny’s old table cloth, some ice donated by the freezer and a chair. Lucinda thinks setting up shop at the end of the driveway would be a good spot. Besides there is a big tree which makes plenty of shade.
Business is slow. Most of the people are inside hiding from the heat.
‘ Wow this is difficult.’ says Lucinda feeling a little tired out. ‘Where are all the people?’
No sooner have the words come out of her mouth when a big car stops in front of her. The window rolls down. It is Mr.Barr the man who lives in the big house at the end of the road. He owns a great big juice factory.
‘ Hello Lucinda!’ Mr.Barr greets.
‘Hello Mister Barr.’ She answers.
‘ How is business?’ He asks.
‘ Not very good.’ she says looking a little sad.’ Everybody is inside and all my stuff is to heavy to carry door to door.’
‘ What are you raising money for.’ asks Mr.Barr.
‘ Poor children.’ she answers. ‘ Some of them are all alone without a family, a school or even clean water to drink.’ she adds.
‘ That is terrible.’ says Mr.Barr looking concerned. ‘ As it happens I am on my way to a meeting and need some refreshment.’
Lucinda pours a cup and takes it to the car. Mr Barr has a sip of the cold drink.
‘By Golly!’ exclaims Mr.Barr. ‘That is delicious. It has a very clever name as well. My tastebuds have gone all loopy.’
‘ I came up with it all on my own.’ says Lucinda proudly.
‘ Let me make you an offer.’ says Mr.Barr. ‘ I would like to take this juice to my meeting.’ he adds as he pulls a wad of crisp notes out of his pocket and hands them to Lucinda.
‘ Wow!’ says Lucinda looking at the pile of money in her hand.’ This will help a lot.’ she says finding it hard not to grin too much.
Later that night the door bell rings. It is Mr.Barr.
‘Lucinda.’ He says. ‘ How would you like to produce your “Loopy Lemonade”at my drinks factory?’
‘Eeerrr…Yes!’ says Lucinda feeling nervous and excited at the same time. ‘I’d love to.’
‘ I am so happy you said yes.’ says Mr.Barr smiling. ‘ And the best part is that the profit we make on each juice will go to your poor children around the world. Making sure they get looked after.’
‘ Hooray!’ screams Lucinda with delight. As she jumps up to give Mr Barr a big hug.
‘What a loopy day.’ says Lucinda as every one laughs and claps with joy.

Yowzer!

#newwriting #charity #lucindasloopylemonadeimage

Lucinda Lovage and her Loopy Lemonade

Image Conscious

I take a keen interest in the art of photography and the printed image. In my secondary school days I had the opportunity to help a friend of mine out as an assistant. We worked on a couple of family projects. I loved the magic of the dark room and the chemical process involved. I considered perusing photography as a career but in those days we where encouraged to find ‘real jobs’. I became an observer, appreciator….Dabbler.

Photographers are quite philosophical people. Well at least the ones I have come into contact with or read about are. There is an in depth connection between reality and snapping a picture of it. Yes we may be able to replicate that moment but on our timeline it will never be repeated. Our weekend or daily selfie takers and social media protagonists could be pulled into the fray. The philosophy of image is at work here whether they are aware of it or not. I enjoy taking and posting pictures but can hardly class myself as a photographer. I am however fully wrapped up in the power of the moment and what it brings to my party.

I can’t fully remember being very young and most of my childhood memories are supported by photographic evidence and the stories behind them. Apart from my immediate family circle I grew up in minimum contact with related family. We lived far apart from each other so everything I know about them during brief encounters is supported by pictures. I enjoyed the days where as a family we would sit around and go through old photos. My favourites were the old Kodak prints. These were build from stern stuff. Real heavy duty thick card where each print had a mini image attached to it. The pictures felt good in the hand and pretty tactile for paper. The negatives were something to behold in their own right. Each strip safely cocooned in a plastic sheath.

The camera was present a lot in the early days of family life. Even when my brother half fell through a fence my dad was constructing. He was clearly terrified of falling further back onto the ground but was left to dangle as a picture was snapped before the rescue. He was not in any great danger at the time. But I still found it interesting that the first instinct was to reach for the camera. Huge gaps of visual information about my life have blurred and some has faded. The strong memories I do have are emblazoned in my mind as photographic pictures. The first album cover I remember was Sgt. Pepper’s lonely hearts club band. In my minds eye it was white with the iconic Michael Cooper photographic collage on the front. Years later I owned a copy of the album in CD form which had a red back-round. I wondered whether my memory had fooled me by connecting it with the name of another famous Beatles album. Never the less the visual impact engrossed me and I stared at it for ages.The family name written in ball point pen in the top corner (after all it was being taken to a house party never to be seen again). Years later whilst going through my Beatles phase I would scold my parents for being so reckless. I like to think there is still an album out there with my name on it although it has to be said my Beatles phase has wained a tad.

Photographic documentation of events is important to me as it cements the history in. What I photograph or what I see in a photograph is what I remember best. On most occasions a visual image is a believable one. After all they say the camera never lies. Although people do, so image manipulation is real and needs to be considered. We are constantly subjected to a barrage of visual stimulation and our brain edits a lot of it out. And who can blame it. Even when we are not consciously looking, our subconscious mind is constantly taking mental pictures including the periphery. This all needs filtered and sorted into order of importance.

Recently I read stories about the pictures never taken. Missed opportunities, blatant decisions to show respect to the subjects or even the pure fact of wanting to feel fully present. We cannot deny that the camera as a mechanism has the capacity of creating a barrier between the operator and the subject. It is easy to forget that there is another person present at the moment a picture is taken because we cannot see them. If we push that thought even further in the context of a selfie or picture taken on a timer. The camera becomes personified and then becomes the observer for that moment. Great photographers have the capacity to draw me in and give me an experience as if I am fully present. No matter how they make the picture or what the subject matter they manage to capture a moment of reality. This is particularly difficult when it comes to portraiture. The most famous to me Bailey, Leibovitz or Rankin manage to make their subjects appear fully present. However I’d like to see the pictures that never made the cut. I have a thing for the flawed. I enjoy looking at perfect images but often prefer the ones that are a little defective.

From behind the camera a photographer can choose to keep a safe distance from a subject. At times even emotionally remove themselves as merely an observer. In the hands of the wrong person, particularly in sensitive matters the camera can be a dangerous, degrading tool. Once the picture has been taken the cameras job is done. It then falls to the photographers conscience to expose or not.

Photography has never been as accessible to so many people before. The majority of us have a camera with us all the time and so much life is currently being documented. News reaches us almost instantaneously through various media outlets. It blows my mind when I attempt to think about how much information is being stored. Even more frightening is how much of our lives are conducted via a screen. Privacy is being encroached on and our image is constantly appearing on some form of visual platform. Whether it be a picture on social media site or CCTV monitor. Who would have thought a clever little box would become such a powerful tool.

Yowzer!

#newwriting #kodak #magicmoments #imageconsciousimage

Image Conscious

Bath time for Bonzo (tales from the back of house)

‘Tom! The industry is full of cunts!’ the older man said.
The two figures were out in the back service lane. A cold cloudless sky bathed in full moonlight hung overhead. Frost had begun to form on a pile of palettes left by the delivery drivers where they now sat. The coldness soothed the burning sweat rash on the older mans scrotum and inner thighs as he sighed with relief. A refreshing contrast to the intense heat of the kitchen. Tom the younger boy had managed to pull himself together and his tears had subsided. A mind numbing cloud of skunk floated round them, lethargically trying to disperse. The soothing crackle of the weed overpowered the winding down cacophony happening behind the heavy black door.
‘It’s just your capacity to deal with them that changes.’ the older man continued.
‘I never expected it to be like this Chef.’ Tom said in a nasally snivel. ‘I thought it would be more fun and enjoyable…I mean the chefs on TV seem to have a great time.’
‘And why do you think that is?’ questioned the Chef.
‘I don’t know.’ answered Tom
‘Because they aren’t dealing with shit like this…That’s why. Sure they do day to day stuff but have transcended to another level. They get to step back off the stoves for bit and do the good shit by spreading their own cooking gospel. Not many chefs get to go there I’ll tell you.’ said the Chef. ‘Think of our work like going to war. A relentless one where the enemy just keeps coming. The trouble is the enemy changes constantly. Shape shifting into different forms. One moment it could be a supplier or team member letting you down, a boss screwing you over to hustle an extra buck. The next minute it’s dickhead customer out in the restaurant who morphs into the floor staff. Simultaneously there is a whole cluster fuck of shit going down all around you. A brigade of hot, sweating, pressurised chefs wading through the quicksand of service trying to pull each other through. All you can do is hope there is enough ammunition prepped in the fridge to fight them off with.’ explained the Chef as though this rant had been well rehearsed during sleepless nights.
They sat in silence for a while listening to the sounds of the streets and the low hum of the extractor fan on the roof.

‘Times have changed now but the fundamentals still remain. You just have to read Orwell’s “Down and out in Paris and London” to see how has not moved on.’ the Chef continued. ‘A few years ago the catering industry seemed to be a dumping ground for the academically challenged. Bands of so called ‘under achievers’ lumped together and sent off for years of hard labour. Throw in a few academics in or fresh from university who can’t find a real job. Let me tell you that’s an interesting personality clash in one melting pot. The savvy ones make their way up the ranks and a few become complete jobs worth bastards.’ he added.
‘Do you regret it?’ Tom asked.
‘Me?..Sure I do.’ the Chef replied. ‘I have been doing this for half my life. The enjoyment has gone and the rules have changed turning it into a minefield of legislation. I try not let it consume me though. If I had it all in front of me in my next life I hope to fuck part me remembers this pain and warns me off.’ groaning as he altered his seating position.
‘Should I do something else and leave?’ Tom quizzed.
‘Ha haaaa!’ blurted the Chef. ‘Sorry my man this is your path. I will help you as best I can if you stay but fully support your decision if you leave. It’s your call man not mine.’ squinting his eyes as he takes a puff on the joint.
‘Here have some of this.’ said the Chef as he offered over the now tiny roll up.’ It’ll take the edge off. But I must warn you if I catch you taking anything stronger I’ll gut you like a fuckin’ pig you understand.’ the Chef looking Tom sternly in the eye.
‘Yea sure.’ replied Tom.
‘Dude you need to promise me.’ the Chef said seriously. ‘I’ve seen too many talented young people slide down the slope to deprivation. It starts off as a bit of fun. Work hard play hard bullshit and before you know it. Baaammm!’ warned the Chef as he clapped his hands together for effect. ‘Hell I used to be able to party all night. Get my head down for a couple of hours and then pump out a full day in a sweat box. Only to do it all again repeatedly.’
‘It must have been good fun at times?’ enquired Tom.
‘It was in parts. But for every high I experienced I had the counter blow lows. Stress dreams in which I was constantly failing. In my dream every time I solved one problem another would arise instantly. I ran round like mad sorting things out with the Chef’s voice booming in the background. Fighting fires, dealing with gas explosions, doing service for hundreds of people all on my own while the place was burning down. I would wake up exhausted with my nerves shot to bits.’
‘Wow that sounds terrible.’ said Tom feeling rather uncomfortable. Was this degrading into a bizarre therapy session?
‘One time a number of years ago.’ began the Chef. ‘I was part of a great team. We were tight like an army platoon. For a time nothing could break us. We chomped through enough shit sandwich together to bond us like brothers. Sadly we could only sustain it for so long. Chai was a great cook but he could not function with out the weed. He had been deprived of oxygen at birth so the left side of his body was a bit limp. He hobbled around like a mad Orc with his massive bulk and crazy hair. He never let his body hold him back though, he loved the fight. But without his pre service pipe he was useless so we turned a blind eye.’ Tom was hooked in big time and listened intently as the Chef continued. ‘Unfortunately Chai was an adrenaline junky and got caught going through customs with a bunch of acid taped to the inside of his belt buckle. The other was “Lex” as in Luther from Superman. They both had bald heads and we thought it was hilarious to call him Lex. He was a goofy bastard from the wrong side of the tracks. He genuinely wanted to turn his life around. We hired some real dodgy fuckers at times just to have a team. Some made it while others dropped us in the shit. Try telling a pisshead that getting beasted in a kitchen daily is a better option to the Dole. Lex worked and tried really hard but did stupid shit. Once he reached up to get a tin of olive oil of the top shelf. He was too short so the tin tipped over and a stream of oil drizzled down his bald head into his face.The twat thought he got away with it until he turned round and everyone was pissing them selves laughing. His old life came back to bite him though. He owed money to some junkies who chased him out of a club one night. He tried to get away by jumping over a wall which turned out to be a bridge on the other side. He fell 40 feet down a steep embankment cracking his head off the pavement below. Luckily someone found him a little while later and called an ambulance. Lex survived but his noggin was bashed so badly that he was never the same. Jif had prospects handed to him on a silver spoon when he was adopted by a rich family. Never the less with bad school grades and crap attitude he ended up cooking. Again he was talented and it came easy to him. You just had to show him once and he was off like he’d been doing it for years. Jif got involved with a bunch of toffs looking to hustle cash out of student club goers. They found recipes for drugs they could produce cheaply in the bath. Jif could hardly read a recipe for a fuckin’ jam sponge never mind a complicated chemistry formula. He joined the bathtub chemists anyway. I figure he was mainly a guinea pig for trying out the product. I watched him staring at a tile on the wall for fifteen minutes once. One of the Commis pointed it out to me. I just left him to see how fucked he really was. Turned out he was pretty far gone. Eventually it got even worse and he couldn’t remember fuck all on the check board. He was given an ultimatum and chose the drugs. We never saw him again and I can only hope he eventually saw sense.’
‘Why do you do it?’Tom asked.
‘I had opportunities to get out.’ answered the Chef looking a little dazed now. ‘I was young and vulnerable a bit like you. I was weak and stupid so took the wrong advice and stayed in. Lying to myself until it was too late.’ he continued a little forlorn. ‘For a while I was bitter and turned into self destruct mode. Eventually I met a girl and we had a child which changed me. Everything I do now is for them…Plus I feel a sense of duty to do right by the youngsters. Show them another path. The less dickish path with less ego and more mutual respect and learning from one another. I figure while I’m still in the trade I need to try do the right thing by the poor sods who end up here with me.’
‘Wow. Thanks.’ said Tom. He wanted to hug his boss but thought it may be inappropriate. Two slightly stoned chefs hugging in a skanky lane might look a bit odd he thought.
‘No problem.’ said the Chef as he looked at the young man and smiled.’ And by the way. This stays between you and me right. I can’t have those fuckers in there thinking I’m too much of a soft touch.’
‘Absolutely. Yes Chef!’
‘Okay then. Fuck off and clean down. I want to go home.’

Yowzer!

#talesfromthebackofhouse #bathtimeforbonzo image

Bath time for Bonzo (tales from the back of house)