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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spectrum of creativity

Because you write does not mean you are special. For every alive human being, there is not one who does not have original and poetic thoughts. Perhaps not all the time, but to those few souls who do spend time and effort to twist and blend their their ideas and opinions together to make astonishing reading, it is still a formidable avalanche to complete against others.

Which is why it is absolutely necessary for you to give yourself the best chance you can by obeying 'the mostly unspoken rules'. Which are thankfully simple. If, as a creative writer, you believe that you are beyond the mundane and the quotidian, that you believe, if on only the merest level, that you wish to work at a more thoughtful pace, with less artistic compromises and that you will not bow to the 'money changers at the temple', preferring to dedicate yourself to idealism, then, unless you are a remarkable genius, you will fail.

Every item, word, sentence, paragraph, letter and script which leaves your hands must be, not as perfect as you can make it, but perfect. Period. For that which you send out says everything about you. On some level, the recipient will have the ability to 'read between the lines' and if you have not given the piece enough thought or care, they might come to believe that you are lazy, self-indulgent, scatter-brained or any other number of ugly conclusions. Certainly they might arrive at the conclusion that you might not be good (fun) to work with. Remember, if nothing else; everything you write says something about you.

Learn the proper rules of the language in which you are writing, become a skilled grammarian, use a Thesaurus and never believe you are good enough to not need one. Develop respect and humility for all you write for. Learn manners. It’s a simple enough premise. Treat people like you yourself would wish to be treated. Like you, although they are not special, they believe they are.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Death of a loyal friend

I remember carrying her back from the kennels; it wasn't a whisker ago either. Maude was alive then. As well as Bobby, and Saul our tabby. How the poor feline hated her at first! I never thought I'd see the day when the two of them were to be found together, enjoying the heat of the fire, apparently watching television! The pup was a wee thing to begin with; a sprat of a creature, thin with nobbled bones sticking through her young and taut fur. A dreadful sight, and a wicked damnation on the farmer who allowed the puppy and her brothers and sisters get into that morally repulsive condition. Rot in hell may he.
When not annoying Saul, as she grew, she felt sweet towards humans despite the treatment she had suffered at the hand of one of us. Maude used to bath her about once a month, and we were convinced she loved our attention. But never a bark she uttered. Her way of convincing us that all was not as it should be was to growl softly, and widen her delicate brown eyes. Her temperament was one of silence, one to which we could talk, as if she understood. But now, with Maude long in her grave, Bobby, lost to us at sea and Saul, the only other animal she had tolerated in the house, long since, I suppose, turned into glue, my dearest companion had leukaemia.
She was six thousand and fifty three days old when we made our final trip together to the People's Dispensary. A suitably dull, thunderous and dangerous day. Young Tom, my next door neighbour's boy helped me place her into the cab, but then I told him he could go no further . A frivolous boy, but that day he understood why and where we were going. An aura of sadness pervaded, but we left him nevertheless. I saw him recede into the distance, and felt a chill as I realised that that was a forerunner of what I would soon have to do.
The vet understood. He was a personal friend, and knew his business. Simon had given her her first round of shots, and had especially cared for her when, in her seventh year she was pained with kidney stones. As I waited in the grey waiting room, her head on my lap, her eyes occasionally flicking upwards to see if I was looking at her, paying her my usual attention, I felt so much complex guilt it was impossible to decode or describe. I pulled so gently at her little terrier ears and felt blocked; in all ways. Close to tears, to distraction, to hell, I had not felt as much when Maude, my only sister, had been lowered into that old Victorian cemetry in that mangy old casket.
I was called, and she managed to walk in with me. Simon knew why we were there, and he very gently lifted her onto the table. He did not speak, but retreated into the shadows, and we were left alone for the last time. I kissed her gently between her eyes, and felt her warmth and in return, she offered a slow lick on my cheek, and then laid her head back down between her paws, her eyes still occasionally flicking up towards me.
Aware of Simon's time, I spoke a last few soft and gentle words, telling her that I loved her, and that I would always love her. There was an unspoken communication between us, and I believe, however impossible it may seem, that she understood. She did not murmur as the needle entered, but I held her right paw and stroked her soft head until, within seconds, her brown eyes closed quite peacefully. Then the last breath and life left her. I was bubbling, and fixed with emotion but I did not cry. It was peace for her; no more awful pain. She was gone; my perfect playmate, chum and companion was dead.
I do not remember reaching home, but when I did, I could smell her and only then did my personal dam break. Much later, after the storm had turned westward, to softer horizons, I gathered her toys, her lead, her basket, my many photographs and placed them in a box. This I stored in the attic, after which I wrote my diary. It was a miserly entry; ruthless and mean, and sadly did not reflect the love I felt or the emptiness and loneliness which was beginning to close, tighten and envelope me; Rose was put to sleep today. Alone again.

Molly Cutpurse

The love that has no name.

She sat, twisted; in an ancient rusty wheelchair that was probably as old as she; this woman in her late fifties. The wheelchair alone betrayed her status, no high-tech aluminium here. Some wood, dirty dry spokes and worn grey paint. But it suited her, this suffer of Parkinson's disease.
She stared. At what, only her distraught husband knew. Her eyes, like her almost white hair were dry; not lifeless but dry in the sense that they understood nothing. She gazed across the large hall to the golden cross, her focus unchanging when anyone passed in front. She could have been seeing into the future or the past as far as I could tell.
She looked relaxed. Except for her hands and wrists, the former, which continually shook, and the latter that cruelly bent back on themselves. Her head hung to one side, her bottom lip glistened with transparent drawl. A white towel lay on her sunken chest.
We were in church. A Tuesday coffee morning, but I'm guessing that she did not know that. He knew that. Her huge brute of a husband, in looks only of course. I'm guessing a one-time bouncer or a boxer. Almost certainly an ex convict. I look for spirituality in his face, but see none. A face that, in its time, had almost certainly made the acquaintance of a multitude of Essex fists.
Nevertheless, where anger and panic once resided, now only tenderness existed. It was clear to all that his concern was only for her. Where had they met? How had she quietened his life? Made him fall so much in love with her? Where had that happened? Such un-opened history.
His suit was poorly made, his shirt un-ironed, a plain blue tie messy with a breakfast, and he needed new shoes. He was a plain man now as well; something of the ego had diminished him. He neither smiled nor frowned but there was panic around his eyes. Panic probably even he was not aware of yet. Although about the same age as his wife (I could see their tokens of love around their ring fingers) he had no hair left and his spectacles were broken in three places. What was their history? Marriage in the seventies? Thinner, hipper, trendier? How has time brought them to this?
His clothes were props now. Props brought at the many local charity shops, as was her simple floral patterned dress, obviously purchased for her as no woman in charge of her own mind under the age of sixty would have considered it. And no earrings or adornments of any kind. Not the sort of things in which he had an interest.
Occasionally, he swung a huge arm out, grasped his cup and passed it under his bland and stale-looking red moustache and drank but, when he was not doing that, both his huge hairy hands were touching hers, trying so absolutely, but in vain to keep them still.
They pampered and pawed, stroked and caressed, knitted and uncrossed, and all with unimaginable, unbearable tenderness. Here truly was a man learning to be another man, and with a woman lost to him. Here was a man who once whispered in his wife's ear, ‘Tienes mi corazon’ - you have my heart. A phrase learnt when honeymooning in Latin America and never forgotten.
They remained like that, facing the alter, while I finished my own coffee, and I wondered what the next ten years would be like for them, more him than her I will admit. For she had already left the marriage, and the life cared for by social services. Although when a sunbeam illuminated her face, her jarring neck twitched gently upwards to meet it, but I've a feeling it was an automatic response. Her fingers never ceased their eternal muscular chatter.
Who would he become after his darling wife died? How would he spend his time? Something told me there were no children. Something told me most of him would die too.
They exuded poverty on every level, but they were a queen and a king as far as I could imagine. A half an hour later, about to get my bus, I strolled through the shopping precinct, and came upon them once again, this time outside Boots.
He was on his knees, his face the subject of immense sadness and concentration as he held a straw to her mouth dipped into a can of inexpensive cola. They were silent, and I wondered about their last conversation.
I pretended to window-shop, but the more I watched, the more impotent I became. I was not the only voyageur; shoppers glanced too, but the man was oblivious to all except her needs. I do not have a name for that type of love. But I have never received or given it.

The hospital ward

I hover, Saturnine like, my scary but welcoming scythe bright over the ward of the dying. I would call them wretched creatures but they are not despite what the eye sees. Saline drips from needles and eyes over soft and wrinkled white skin and I do not hear their broken voices and recognize each one from their strong youths. Is it possible that these people once shouted? Once lifted babies to their breasts? And strong, strong arms and legs. In a moment of forever they once were. Young and cheap by the dozen. Now they lay exhumed, their station in life beyond repair. We talk and they have to listen, nodding with every single prayer.
In still chairs they sit, covered with matting cloth while television bores its vacuous signal into their unfilled brains. A clutter of once precious weeds now fit for not one good thing. They have been altered and altered still by experiences and that attracts me. I mention their pitiable bodies just once. Row upon row of them in a shelter that used to house the young. Behind each, a fiery light burns and it is that which summons me.
When awake, they cough but I do not attend to them. They plead for medicine, for peace but I do not hear them. They pray for courage but I do not issue it. They plead for chemicals to numb the fire but I have none. They mumble as best they can but no sense issues from them. They have taut stretched skin interspersed with needle bruises and some are left alone for hours in their own dark shit.
There is no pattern and no order left for them to explore; just a continuum. What pity must we share before we care, isolated and frameless. They wait for me, past hope, hanging by a silver thread. Yes, my Saturn arcs his way across the sky and sees each in turn, scooping them up day by day, hour by hour in an inevitable battle against the birth of them. Yes, still they come, mask-like and piteous. But we love them still.