Saturday, 29 December 2012

Salt Peter

They called him “Salt Peter” because it had been his job to salt and so preserve the herring. He'd worked at the fish market up until it had closed a few years ago, he'd become a character there, not a popular one either. Salt Peter always had been a loner, his past was shady and once he'd settled in the town from wherever he came, he made few friends, he just salted fish and scared small children and stray cats and dogs. A short, thick set man, balding and hunched up he avoided conversation and socialising. He just cut and salted the fish and then packed them in tight in the oak barrels for shipment. His constant exposure to fish and salt had whitened and roughed up his skin, it was a peculiar and condition, hardly easy on the eye. The salt had not just affected his hands and arms but also the skin on his face and head, he was almost salted himself with dried up tear ducts and skin like a lizard but the whites of his eyes seemed extra glutinous and luminous, the pupils more watery and any hair or eye brow that remained was ginger crusted like the toasted skin of a kipper. Peter was slowly salting himself into becoming the local bogey-man. A reputation he did not deserve by any behaviour or action but had gained simply by his deteriorating look and chosen profession.

“The most important of all movements are your bowel movements,” said Mrs Macsween. She was taking in an automatic stream of consciousness way to Peter. Peter was concentrating on slitting the fish and rubbing salt. “If your bowel movements are irregular or difficult then you need treatment, you need freedom. It's all in the diet and of course the clothing. Your bowels need space and relaxation of operate and if you fail to allow them that then there can be dire consequences, almost too terrible to consider. The bowel is the key to good help in fact if you think about your system it's all like a long hollow tube running through you with the bowel there, at the very end finally doing all that last minute processing to keep you going. That's why it pays to be regular and that's, as I say, down to good diet and relaxation. Are you getting this Peter?” Mrs Macsween was a widow. Her late husband had expired in a domestic episode when crushed under the cast iron end of a Victorian bed frame, it had been a tragic accident that sent shockwaves across the cobbles and through the small town. The drunken funeral took place on a grey December day, the stormiest one anybody could remember. Since that day she had formed a tempestuous on and off relationship with the slow witted but compliant Peter. The local gossips had a bean feast.

Peter looked down at his fish and continued working. “I pride myself on my strenuous and robust regime,” continued Mrs Macsween, “It's a combination of planning and discipline and that’s key to keeping a balance, a regular balance and don't be afraid to check yourself, don't ignore the details, you need to be aware of what is right and normal in your body, how it operates, look out for signs and of course regularity and constituency are a large part of that. I'm not going to talk about smell because that is quite unseemly but it's still worth considering, it's a factor. You need to take all the factors into account. That's important, know the normal and keep the rhythm, times and things. You know you should follow my advice, a man your age, there are health problems that you're storing up and your posture wont be helping”. Peter grunted and looked away. Mrs Macsween was talking automatically, like a expert at a symposium, lecturing and describing, oblivious to the audience, their response, their interest. She ploughed on through with her topic – taking the right kind of care of the bowels. “Anyway”, she was almost finished now, “ it'll soon be time for lunch, where will you be taking be?” I'm not sure if Peter quite knew what he was doing but he quickly drew out his knife and sliced into Mrs Macsween like she was a wriggling fish. Then he applied the salt, then he put her into a barrel and shipped her along with another prepared consignment. I don't quite know where her final destination was and as for Peter...well nobody ever knew. All they found was a small white pile of Potassium Nitrate on the preserving room floor.


Her hand was deep in the inside of the handbag, the cold silk lining caressing her wrist on the way down but she hardly noticed that. She was touching that single pearl earring, rubbing it between her thumb and forefinger. The hard shining pearl, there in the dark innards of her bag, hidden, known only by her. It was a faintly erotic and compulsive act that, as the rhythm grew, she could not stop. It fed some hunger and she did not want to stop. there was this clockwork, inner compulsion, a deal she had made with herself to carry on, to continue. She looked out there, across the street, out into space, away from her immediate surroundings whilst deep inside that bag she still rubbed on that pearl. Over and over and warmer and warmer the finger tip heat grew though the pearl stubbornly stayed as cold as it could, as if the bag was some icy deep freeze impervious to her touch. She liked that thought and held onto it as the pearl kept on rolling between her fingers. Like a mantra for the sense of touch. The strange inner warmth and peaceful assurance that comes with the comfort of repetition, the comfort of repetition, hypnotic, like a pearl, rolling between the fingers.

You can say what you like about sex, it's always on the human or animal mind in the same way that god is. Sex is a silly, simple little word for a complex world of feelings and circumstances, always on the loose, tasty sweet and sour, stewing up nasty little storms, brewing up clouds and imagined outcomes. Set and unset situations, holding tight and letting go. Functions and looks and far away strangers, awkward and untouchable, rolling it all between the fingers, rolling it and never quite letting it go. She was thinking how in the city everyday she could rub against too many to find that sense of sex but she had found that now and it was all too big. It had to be reduced and distilled down to something much smaller and easier to handle. Tight and private, like the pearl in the handbag, a very personal pleasure, a very private moment, a point of focus stretched to the limit and then enhanced by the applied constant comfort in the repetition of that touch.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

On the Silk Roadway

So this is pretty much as it was told to me: “It seemed like a pretty stupid idea but he felt compelled to carry it out. It was a growing, throbbing kind of obsession. A feeling that he needed to capture, hold, sustain. Even if it was only a temporary fix it would be better than doing nothing. That was the thought and he was driven now to carry it out. He was uncomfortable in the shop, that in itself was ironic considering that it was a distinct discomfort that he wished upon himself. He braced himself and awkwardly wandered into the lingerie department and there was confronted by a baffling selection of ladies tummy and hips control pants. The sizes were of course a foreign language as were the shapes. He stared and tried to aid eye contact with the other shoppers, all of whom were obviously female. He took a silent deep breath, selected three odd sized pairs, all in black and headed to the check out. Of course nobody really took any notice of him or his choices of garment. Each female shopper remaining indifferent and detached in their own personal bubble. The girl at the check out hardly said anything but as he handed over the cash his heart was pumping and his palms and forehead sweating with unfamiliar and almost painful embarrassment. He relaxed visibly as the pants were stuffed into a green bag and effectively disguised as ordinary and insignificant shopping, as if anybody cared. Soon he would be home.

So what was the point? Why tight pants? Why the obsession? Harry had asked himself those questions many times and there never was a proper or sensible answer. That block of feeling couldn't be shifted, that notion of not quite right, that horrible sweated out heat and pressure, the gnawing and unfathomable need, one that stood against all that's normal or acceptable. The notion of being cursed. Harry wanted to be castrated and that was a pretty tough little fact to share. Right now he couldn't figure how that might happen but he just wanted to feel how it might feel. That was why he was wearing the too tight control pants right now (one pair had done the trick). They were tightly compressing his parts right now and though it was not the real thing it felt like...progress towards that imagined, elusive and unknowable state. He thought of himself as gelding, a horse, cut to become more manageable, more compliant, a better kind of horse all round. That was a part of it but Harry couldn't really get to the core of what he wanted or needed other than that he desperately had to have that big cut done.

Here in Doncaster his ideas were safely buried in the most private of places, his own churning head. Maybe in California or Thailand it would've been different, there might have been contacts , expressions, outlets, help lines and darkened rooms where there was discussion. Here he was a plain call centre worker, a voice and keyboard click, insurance advice and sales. On and off he switched himself but then in the spare, hungry moments the obsession arose again and again until it seemed like the only thing that mattered. It seemed that until he'd been done, cut and mutilated he'd feel incomplete, if that made any kind of sense. Like a man who wanted to lose an arm or a leg or an ear, surgically removed or pickled or buried at the bottom of the sea. How can a physically complete man man feel incomplete until he is physically incomplete? That paradox haunted him, troubled and tortured him and drove him. The tight pants produced a feeling, a temporary fix, a stop but there was no resolution here. Something else had to happen. Something that was real.

So Harry kept himself lost himself in daydreams and fantasy, he found cushions of comfort in here, worlds where boundaries had blurred and possibilities were stretched. There were days when it was all straight forward heterosexual sex that was there, calm and predominant, possible without the balls and the spray but all accepted just as a quirk. Mechanically smooth and easy, he imagined. Clean and free from care for both the partners. Harry did worry what any woman would really think, how would she react? Turn on or turn off? There were lots of tastes out there. He stepped across the deconstructed after sex small talk as if it was an alley covered in broken glass. It was a bizarre conversation that he'd design and savour. His justification, his longing, his past experience, the tough road that had turned him this way, it could perhaps be understood. There was maybe a tiny part of a female fascination to exploit, an acceptance, a desire to try and experiment, to feel out the freakish performance. It would be one time only and then never again, so he thought, and there was a strange comfort in that.

Some fantasies went too far; overcome and tied up by Amazons or the fanatical wives of Nazi officers, six foot six, dark hair and eyes, wielding knives and razors, handcuffs and silk scarves, determined to set the world straight on their twisted man hating terms. He was overcome, bound and knocked unconscious. They screamed themselves into a tribal, primitive and hateful frenzy. All shadows and shapes and dancing around. Then at the climax they ritually castrated him with their terrible razors and threw his balls out of the cabin window where they were devoured by hungry Alsation dogs. That played in his head in a endless loop somedays, oddly Technicolored but bloodless and painless. He sensed his own eyes spinning in his head as those images trolled on past. Like a woozy alcoholic nightmare played out in slow motion that turned back on itself in a loop of replay and time slip. Those Amazon's had their revenge time and time again, on the top of a bus, at the call centre desk, in queues and lines and checkouts, in a quiet bar and in the darkest nights. Hot and dirty and played out to the last reel but never truly consummated. It was a life, a kind of life and maybe, most of the time no kind of life when a slow uncontrollable torture runs on and on in the background all the time.

Harry grimaced, pressed himself to try to catch the version of normal that he'd chosen for himself. His daily rituals and compressed body parts mirroring his compressed aspirations. He took to the internet, drew in garbage, digested it, the faux researching was skimmed but kept disconnected. There were others out there, crazy groupings, cults and madmen. It was impossible to fathom it and Harry didn't trust anybody with his secret. It was all to too crowded here in his head, too precious and personal, too painful. Then there were the rare days of denial and forgetfulness. The castration passed away like some grey cloud, his head cleared and he functioned, for moments there were blue skies and pedestrian thoughts. Sports or politics, colours and food and pretty women. These days were few and fewer and Harry sensed a precipice edge before him. Here he was again, sucked into the narrow neck at the middle of the egg timer and then swamped and overcome and ready to fall. He looked at the phone, he pondered mental health help lines, doctor appointments, opening up to a stranger. Not possible, too costly was all he could think.

He browsed knifes and surgical implements on line, he looked at the procedures, medical reasonings, illness and injury, it was all stretched pink flesh and gory detail. That would all pass however as he journeyed through that pain and some sense of pleasant grief (he imagined) until he was set right into his own personal, ideal perfection. Existing in the secret shadow as the conflicted yet vigorous rare human gelding. For somebody special he would form up to be that desirable curiosity and unique experience. He contrived more disguised and improbable solutions and he began to build yet another more dangerous dream. He cloaked himself in ideas and drew up the details, like planning a gym or diet regime that built a perfect body. A one off, shit or bust opportunity. All the risk was his but the outcome could give him his desire. In fiction and in the red tops there always was a willing German surgeon or scientist somewhere who would rescue the tortured soul. He wondered if maybe somebody, somewhere had built a machine...

It was about a year after the pants purchasing outing when the headline and newspaper story caught Harry's eye. “Mystery man found dead on the street was a Mozambique refugee who had fallen from an aircraft landing at Heathrow.” He read the awful details and then noticed, down below that in a black and white tab box his eye was led to another. “Ex-Soviet scientists fix pervs with 'snap you later' ball burster technique”. The article told how a Russian scientist now residing in Switzerland was selling a tiny, self contained castration device to “clients” in the Far East. This one-time use machine, no bigger than a two cigarette packs apparently snapped on and then snapped off and simultaneously stapled, cauterized and sanitized the wound. You then disposed of the whole thing. It was soon to be available for sale on line for use in wider veterinary applications, mainly goats and dogs.

Harry filled in the application form very carefully, the delivery address and the price, 55 Euros plus delivery. Of course he'd lied about most of his credentials and was pretending to be a goat breeder curious to try the device. He clicked the order button and off it went. A week later the carton arrived complete with French, German and Flemish instructions only – no English for some reason. Harry's fingers trembled as he handled the small shiny surgical device. There was the red switch, two settings, a battery compartment (three AAAs) and most tantalisingly of all the opening. It was still all innocent enough looking, no obvious blades or teeth or sharp edges, just an aperture about the size of a cigarette pack and that red switch. Nervously Harry tried to read the instructions. He studied the diagrams and he explored the details and a film clip on their web site. It all seemed straightforward enough.”

Truly I don't quite know what happened next. I was told that Harry did try to use the device and whatever the out come lived to tell the tale...but simply chose not to tell. It just might be that when he got to the point, all systems go, ready to get that (?) thing, achieve that seemingly unattainable state, press the red button, something else kicked in, some other instinct. I don't know for sure. I do know that Harry quit his job at the call centre and headed east, back packing towards the Silk Road searching for a Buddhist teacher, or so some said. An odd thing for a guy his age to do but then again he was pretty odd anyway.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Confused by God

Today there were many things I didn't do. I could try to list them and examine the reasons why, in these areas I failed to...well do anything. Missed opportunities, some with good reasons, others down to laziness, forgetfulness, willfulness maybe. So those things were not done and now they are now there in an imaginary pile, somewhere close by. Of course that's only today's pile, there's also yesterday's pile and the day before and so on. There's a whole mountain of my undone things out there. Then there's your pile and yours. And God sees them all.

So, anyway one day God was out walking, looking around, checking on how things were going in the world. No big surprises, lots of fucked up things. As usual his chosen people, the Jews were whinging and playing up, the Christians and followers of Islam were quite prickly, various other cults and types too, but so were the Arabs, so were the European tribes, the Chinese, the Africans and Asians were also at it. The USA and South America were a confusing blur. It was all quite dispiriting. Then there were endless media and political debates and disagreements, business deals and trickery, downright criminality and here and there (and more prevalent than you might think) pure evil. God tended to get annoyed with the pure evil stuff. It operated and succeeded at all levels, from the school playgrounds to boardrooms to torture cells and in bedrooms and battlefields. There was a lot of it about.

The trouble was that God couldn't really get to grips with all this stuff. A long time ago he'd cut a deal and declared himself to be... well out of it. He'd agreed with himself (a very powerful thing to do) that he wouldn't interfere. He'd just observe from a distance and that observation would go on for a while until (and he couldn't quite remember all the details) a few significant events occurred and those, in the right order, would act as a trigger for him to go into action and wind things up. So every day he wondered around looking at all the major and petty wars, all the crimes and accidents, all the sparks and fires and then did sweet nothing about them.

At first he'd been indifferent, people fought and quarrelled but that was about it. They believed in magic and other things, they dabbled and did some bad things but it was all on a small enough scales not to make much of a difference. Time passed, he continued with his walks and every day, degree by degree, as history unfolded and people got”clever” it all just became close to intolerable.

“I'm just pissed with all of this,” said God. “The world is an unholy mess, everybody does stupid things, they don't learn from their mistakes and frankly all the religious types are the worst. What are those people thinking and why do they always have silly hats and ridiculous costumes and what's with all the singing and chanting and praying? Do they really think I get off on that and that I'm actually listening to all that drivel? Just because I can be everywhere that doesn’t mean I'm open to listen to every banal utterance, no matter how sincere and well meant it may be. Give me a break!”

So there I was thinking of my pile of ignored and outstanding things and how God might well regard it. A complete set of royally troublesome thoughts really and I'm still inadvertently bothering a beleaguered and confused God. Meanwhile God's still out there, walking and observing, occasionally counting up things, secretly wanting to swat the human flies that circle around him screaming for attention like drunken beggars and, with a patience that can only be described as divine or crazy still managing to ignore the clamour.

“Those people think I really love them, they think it's OK to do whatever, behave appallingly and that in some magnanimous way I'll just forgive them all and they'll go to heaven. I've no idea how that idea came about. They're all mortal, they're human beings, they're one up from apes, they're all going to croak sooner or later and then it's curtains but do they believe that? They've bought into a myth and fairy tale that says they'll live on in spirit someplace in the ether. Well I don't remember ever saying anything about that...or did I? I forget sometimes and they just never shut up.” God wheeled away from the clamour, hands behind his back and began to whistle some Mozart, he whistled and smiled. “That kid knew a thing or two, I'm actually quite proud of him but as usual it all went wrong for him. Nice tunes though.” He walked on and then stopped and thought a little, “I'm not really happy with the three score and ten, I think I'll do something about that...”